GJJ vs BJJ
Having trained Jiu Jitsu in New York City since 2002 I’ve witnessed a microcosm of its evolution in NYC and its expanding community here. Jiu Jitsu (by way of Gracie Jiu Jitsu) came on the map after UFC 1 - driving the message to all serious martial arts practitioners that they need to work on their ‘ground game.’ Simply knowing how to punch and kick wasn’t going to cut it. Post-UFC 1 adopters were martial artists already proficient in some form of fighting and looking to supplement their skills with ground fighting. Tough Jiu Jitsu training wasn’t such a high barrier of entry because these adopters were already experienced in the ‘sink or swim’ mentality during their years of hard training.
As Jiu Jitsu grew in popularity over the years following UFC 1, NYC was then introduced to grappling competitions, possibly because New York State was the last state to legalize Mixed Martial Arts. Jiu Jitsu practitioners would naturally gravitate towards sport Jiu Jitsu as a m eans of satisfying their competitive drive. As competition Jiu Jitsu increased in popularity, so did NYC begin to attract sport Jiu Jitsu organizations and sport Jiu Jitsu focused teams. More than two decades later, Jiu Jitsu, as a stand-alone martial art outside Mixed Martial Arts, has grown in popularity, by way of sport competition and is now commonly known as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (aka BJJ). New adopters are no longer the experienced martial artists from other styles, adding Jiu Jitsu to their fighting repertoire, rather these new adopters have chosen Jiu Jitsu as their first martial art system. Their lack of fighting experience leaves vagueness on how their Jiu Jitsu journey will be shaped. The popularity of sport Jiu Jitsu has overshadowed the two approaches to Jiu Jitsu: Self-defense Jiu Jitsu (commonly referred to as Gracie Jiu Jitsu) and Sport Jiu Jitsu (commonly referred to as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu)
What’s the difference between Gracie Jiu Jitsu (GJJ) and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ)?
Originally from Japan, Jiu Jitsu made its way to Brazil through tough man competitions at carnivals, and popularized by the Gracie Family in the 1920’s. The Gracie’s further enhanced it to fit their needs and developed it as a complete system of fighting, which includes striking and weapons self-defense. To learn Gracie Jiu Jitsu is to learn self-defense against an opponent with natural advantages such as size, strength, weight, weapons, etc. The Gracie’s proved its efficacy showcasing its superior technique by staging challenge matches with other forms of fighting systems. Today, the submission-grappling component of the system has moved to the fore-front diverging from the Jiu Jitsu system created by the Gracies, and into its own sport. Because of its relatively new phase in its evolution, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is widely accepted simply for its submission-grappling sport. So – is Gracie Jiu Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu synonymous? What’s the difference?
While Gracie Jiu Jitsu IS Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu IS NOT Gracie Jiu Jitsu. The difference rests in the context and the goal of the training program. Because the focus is self-defense, its [GJJ] delivery system of learning emphasizes the foundational techniques that will prepare the practitioner to be ‘street ready’ in a short period of time. GJJ utilizes competition sparring as the modus operandi to further develop timing and proper execution of techniques against a resisting opponent. Whereas Brazilian Jiu Jitsu programs focuses on the most efficient way to win competition, in practice and in tournaments. Simply put – Gracie Jiu Jitsu uses sparring competition (as a means) to achieve its goal of perfecting one’s self-defense skills. And for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners - winning competitions IS the goal.
The Gracie Jiu Jitsu filter.
With the exponential growth of BJJ practitioners in the world today and technology as a sharing platform to distribute new Jiu Jitsu knowledge, there are thousands of grappling techniques modified and created yearly. GJJ and BJJ overlap in a lot of these fundamental techniques. However, Gracie Jiu Jitsu is curated by way of the Gracie Jiu Jitsu filter – 3 rules that determine whether techniques should be practiced or discarded.
Filter #1 – Energy Efficiency
Is the technique energy efficient? The use of leverage and timing to defeat natural advantages the opponent may have such as: Brute Strength, Athleticism, Size, Weight, etc.
Filter #2 – Natural Movement
Does the technique use natural movement? A layperson should be able to apply the technique.
Filter #3 – Street Applicability
Will the technique work in a real fight?
Gracie Jiu Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu overlap at Filter #1 but begin to show its differences in Filter #2 – Natural Movement. For instance, the use of rubber guard requires above average flexibility in one’s hips and knees. Or applying flying triangles and armbars require an exceptional level of athleticism. And Filter #3 – Street Applicability. Techniques emphasized in Gracie Jiu Jitsu training considers the threat of being struck by a punch, kick, knee, headbutt and whatever assaults that are present in a real fight. BJJ’s focus on competition success, has a less strict parameter when procuring techniques. Because competition does not allow striking of any type, the practitioner can incorporate techniques that may not work in a real fight – but highly effective in competition.
Gracie Jiu Jitsu or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – which is better?
While my answer may be PC, it really comes down to the practitioner. One thing both forms of Jiu Jitsu certainly have in common is that Jiu Jitsu is for everyone. For an individual looking to practice a sport that’s a cross between wrestling and chess, you have BJJ and you’ll love it! For the individual who wants to learn how to defend him or herself, Gracie Jiu Jitsu is the best system of self-defense for you.
The challenge for people starting their Jiu Jitsu journey is that most won’t know the difference. Like others and I before me, you’ll see a martial art that uses Energy Efficient techniques which is impressive on its own but lack the experience to consider whether Natural Movement and Street Applicability is a priority – for some, that may make all the difference.