Recently Gavin Wuerth who started Louisville / Burgaw MMA Fightclub, one of the first MMA gyms in American history in 1993 posted on Facebook a commentary on how the Olympics hurt judo and why BJJ needs to learn from this mistake. The response were overwhelmingly supportive of this sentiment so I contacted Gavin and asked him to elaborate on his thoughts. Below is his response as this week’s blog.
In a misguided attempt to impress television advertisers wrestling was actually cut from the Olympic games altogether but has been tenuously reinstated as a temporary sport through the next cycle where its likely to get cut completely to be replaced by an “extreme sports” clone that has more advertising appeal to young hip demographics with money to burn.
Over the years grappling sports have conceded more and more of their techniques because they were ultimately deemed boring… a perfect example is the figure 4 leg hold in wrestling (an important hold that was considered boring because it slowed the action) and “negative” gripping in judo because it reduced the likelihood of a big throw by holding off an opponent who will be likely to make a mistake in an attempt to throw the person using the cautious approach.
The profit-minded have deemed cautious grappling boring and much prefer the hyperactive kamikaze style approach. In the modern IJF version of Judo contestants are literally habitualized to receiving a penalty within 30 seconds oftentimes comically applied to both athletes in what more or less constitutes a “harassing” event designed to force the athletes to become more aggressive and less cautious. Even more tragically a disturbingly large volume of contests are ultimately decided by penalty accumulation rather than Judo techniques. It’s pretty disappointing to see a gold medal handed over because one athlete committed more attacks than the other literally out hustling their opponent rather than taking them to their ground and securing a dominant position.
Advertisers have always been putting pressure on grappling sports to produce more exciting action and the public wants to see big arcing throws not complicated tedious groundwork so these sports have made great strides to eliminate anything that inhibits the arcing throw largely in the guise of “stalling reduction” in a misguided attempt to please the advertisers. Many coaches are concerned about the safety of young athletes as these contests have changed into a scramble for more and more big impactful throws, while this isn’t so concerning at the upper skill levels its potentially dangerous at the beginner level because youngsters just starting out will be stepping on to the mat with a new focus largely devoid of the original ethos of Judo and wrestling which was to win the takedown and secure a finishing hold or pinning technique rather than the big impactful throw which was supposed to be a beautiful rarity that wiped out all minor scores in an awesome “knockout Style” scoring ethos but now the advertisers want the big knockout in every single bout. They have become too greedy and this greed is very likely to make our grappling sports more dangerous because athletes will spend more time in the air and less time on the ground in a desperate misguided attempt to pander for advertising dollars thus destroying the grassroots efforts to maintain these sports that are heavily contracting, especially in the critical American Market.
It’s not surprising to see Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu taking over the grappling world largely because of brilliant marketing through the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) where we now know that the original Gracie Jiu Jitsu opponents were handpicked to be liable to the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Style and the fact that it’s a much safer less impactful style of grappling with literally zero emphasis on heavy impactful large arcing throws. Just imagine the average mother watching her child engaged in modern sport Judo or wrestling versus scooting around on the ground in a standard Brazilian Jiu Jitsu match? The fact is parents just won’t allow their children to get involved in a sport that has that level of impact and intensity much preferring the simple and safe style of scooting around on the ground. What’s even more ironic is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is simply a type of judo, if taught as a martial art judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are literally undistinguishable because they are precisely identical however, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu people have taken their style to the bank while American Judo has completely disappeared only existing in a tiny enclave or two literally living off the underbelly of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA.
In the early days of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu it was painfully obvious to anyone with a judo background that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was nothing more than judo groundwork, I literally used to joke with people that they paid $100 an hour to learn Judo from a Brazilian at the seminar. The Kosen style of Judo has been practiced in Japan from the early days and is literally identical to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu however isn’t as marketable to the television audience as IJF Judo largely thanks to the absence of big impactful throws. Judo and wrestling still have a decent following worldwide but the American Market is practically negligible and it is the primary driver of the advertising swag dollar they lustfully dream of. These days we’ve seen the normalization of mixed martial arts that was originally considered a terrible display of violence back when it was called “No Holds Barred”.
In the early days of mixed martial arts Brazilians and American wrestlers dominated but these days we are seeing more and more fighters taking over the sport who come from the old Soviet bloc Africa and Asia… places that focus on wrestling and judo with absolutely no Brazilian Jiu Jitsu…There’s a very good chance judo and international wrestling will be “reinstated” as the best grappling arts for MMA and self-defense thanks to the efforts of phenoms like Khabib whose background is literally steeped in freestyle wrestling, judo and it’s Russian counterpart sambo. It feels like grappling sports are getting another chance at survival thanks to the warm underbelly of mixed martial arts but in order to draw any kind of American advertising dollar they need to remember a few basic tenants of sports entertainment however, it’s critical they don’t betray their original ethos as a martial art.
These days we can see Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu making that mistake by allowing the ridiculous “butt scooting” technique that makes the sport embarrassing to watch in mixed company. Naturally “butt scooting” only works in sport Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition and would otherwise be a major liability in any other crossover skill especially street survival martial arts thus betraying its original roots. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialists are literally disappearing from mixed martial arts competitions because the “sports style” of their martial art is so “unapplicable” to real conditions. At this point in history old school Asian rules MMA (Pride FC “soccer kick” style) is the ultimate test of any grappling sport… if your grappling sport has any liability for Asian rules MMA it’s betrayed its roots and needs to get back to the basics…It’s not terribly ironic to see the overemphasis on sport destroy Brazilian jiu jitsu’s effectiveness in mixed martial arts the same way sport focus has destroyed the effectiveness of judo and wrestling.
Whenever we turn a martial art into a sport and try to sell it to a television audience producers and advertisers become the ultimate gatekeeper… if you can’t please them you’re not going to get your grappling sport on television but there’s a chance mixed martial arts popularity and internet video could change the dynamic of power however we must remember the primary lesson these grappling sports failures have taught us… never betray your roots! Here’s a great Wall Street Journal YouTube Video from the about the situation.
More on Gavin Wuerth
Today, Burgaw MMA is a 100% free community martial arts club where one can train in a wide variety of disciplines. Coach Gavin is a certified record breaking wrestling coach/ founder of Comrade Russian style Judo/ Sambo club/ MMA, NAGA, and kickboxing competitor. They offer a no pressure noncompetitive friendly environment just across the street from the Pender County Sheriff’s office in historic Burgaw, North Carolina. For more information contact; Burgaw MMA Fightclub, 600 Freemont St., Helena, NC 28425, (786) 514-8511, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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