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 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu  

When I was in high school, I somehow acquired the ignoble honor of being the most picked on boy in school. I don't know what cause this - I was not small and didn't look like the traditional guy getting sand kicked in the face in the Charles Atlas ads. When I showed up at North Dallas High School, it wasn't two days before I had been threatened or challenged by several upperclassmen. This happened over and over throughout high school, which usually ended with me getting coerced into a fight. There was one time where I was at a basketball game and a man in front of me turned around and hit me in the face. It turned out that the person next to me had repeatedly hit the guy in the shoulder every time he got up to cheer, but the man thought I was the culprit. One time I was walking out of a hotel with three guys, when the one in the middle was antagonizing the one on the side opposite me. The one on the end tried to slug the one in the middle and hit me right in the face.

The irony of all this is that all those guys that egged me into a fight were boxers, and some very good boxers. The only problem with their bravado was that they didn't know that I was a wrestler and had participated in amateur grappling many years at the YMCA. This was in an era before wrestling was a school sport and I was the only boy in Dallas under 19 that knew how to wrestle (at least that I knew of). The fights would all go the same - they would swing and I would take them down, turn them on their fronts and pummel them on the backs of their heads until they gave up. During all those fights, I never got hit, except possibly glancing blows on the top of the head. Unfortunately, every time another boxer heard this, they wanted to try their hand and I was faced with another challenge, usually by someone that was bigger and tougher and better boxer than the last. In one night, I had five fights, two times with a truck driver, two times with a group of four guys and again when I caught one of the four guys alone. Needless to say, I didn't do well against the four guys together, and still have scars on the back of my head from a bowling pin one of them had. You might ask why I fought the four guys twice -- and that is hard to answer without admitting I was stupid. After the first beating, I rounded up a bunch of friends and went after the culprits.

When my friends saw the bowling pins they fled post haste, leaving me to fend for myself again.   After high school, I decided to make friends with the world and somehow the challenges stopped, and I found little use for my wrestling skill. Then one night in a hard style Japanese karate class in Los Angeles, there was a visiting Nidan (second degree) black belt teaching us how to fight against multiple opponents. I was chosen, along with several other white belts to attack this Nidan and see what we could do. He would not hit us hard, but when we got hit, we were scored dead. I simply got behind the Nidan, wrestled him to the floor and, on his stomach, he was unable to do anything. After three repeats of this activity, I was pulled out and told I couldn't participate anymore. The senior student said that it was disrespectful and I was told to forget this type of activity, if I wanted to learn karate. I actually felt humiliated about this redressing.

By the time I started teaching karate, I had basically put grappling in the back of my mind. The only time I used it was that sometimes when I tested students for their black belt, I would tell them to attack me as the last part of their test. I was not trying to embarrass them, only to show them that here they were, black belts, and now had to really start learning to protect themselves. Other than this, I had put grappling aside. There was just too much left to master in karate, much less worrying about how to fit ground fighting into the arts. The only time I had to use it in the last few years was at a kickboxing seminar when a black belt opponent popped me in the mouth after the referee called break. It made me so mad, I tackled him, picked him up, slammed him on the floor and incapacitated him showing him how he had no ability to do anything. He screamed and hollered, but could do nothing until I let him up. Our affray cooled down when we both realized that we were not taking advantage of the entrance fee for the seminar. He continued to castigate me, until the seminar was over and he came over and acknowledged that he was effortless to do anything on the floor.

There have been three major upheavals in the martial arts since the 1950s. Originally, the oriental masters were invited over to the US by servicemen that had taken karate in Okinawa, Taiwan, or Okinawa. While many different styles flourished, the basic ingredients were generally the same -- kicks and punches in a linear fashion. Then, sometime about 1968, Bruce Lee stood up at the Long Beach International Karate tournament and challenged any martial artists to real fights. He and his newly developed eclectic style, Jeet Kune Do, revolutionized the martial arts. Later, kickboxing added a new dimension, with the non-contact fighting replaced by all out aggression and full hand and feet pads. A few years later, pressure point Tuite came on the scene with Master Oyata demonstrating the ability to knock someone out with light blows to the nerves in the body.

Then, a few years ago, the loss of a plane ticket turned the martial arts community on its ear, like nothing before. Rorian Gracie was visiting relatives in Los Angeles from Rio de Janerio and he lost his airplane ticket. He was befriended by someone that found out that Rorian was a martial arts Jui Jitsu instructor in Brazil. In exchange, Rorian agreed to show him some of his skills and a new era in martial arts was born. Rorian was the grandson of a Scotsman that went to Brazil to live. A Japanese master taught Rorian's ancestor how to do judo and jui Jitsu. After the Japanese master left, the Scotsman used his head to utilize and improve what he had learned to be effective in real street fights. As I related in the story above of my high school days, boxers and fist fighters never respect grapplers and the elder Gracie was challenged many times, always unsuccessfully. His opponent would take a punch, Gracie would duck and grapple him to the floor and proceed to put him into submission holds. What he had learned was that if you choke someone for 8 seconds, they will pass out. There is nothing more debilitating that to wake up and see you opponent hovering over you. Gracie also perfected the arm bar, where you grab a guys hand, put your feet over their shoulder and lean back and try to wrench their shoulder socket apart. Chokes and arm bars have a common denominator -- they hurt bad enough such that the opponent will give up-- no matter how big they are, and how small you are.

The Gracie family started conducting national tournaments in Brazil, where there were no rules and no pads, except that you couldn't poke in the eyes or bite. The Gracie school took on challengers year after year. No matter how many times they won, there would always be a puncher/striker that would think that they could beat the Gracie boys, who usually weighed under 180 pounds.

When Rorian published his no-rules challenge to ANY martial artist in the Black Belt magazine, many people came to his dojo to accept the challenge. One kick boxer was so humiliated that he required that his face be blacked out on the video tape. Then, Art Davies got involved with the Gracies and helped promote The Ultimate Fighting Challenge (UFC). The UFC would be conducted inside of a 20 foot octagon shaped ring with fenced in walls 5 feet tall. Two opponents would enter the octagon and fight until one gave up or was knocked out. The entire tournament consisting of 16 contestants was conducted in one night, which might mean that the winner might have to fight several of the bare-knuckle fights in a two hour time frame. Also, there was no weight limit - there were contestants from sumo, judo, boxing, karate and the weights ranged from 175 pounds to 400 pounds. Ironically, the fighters that weighed over 375 pounds usually were defeated within seconds. In the first four UFC tournaments, Rorian's younger brother, Royce Gracie won with either chokes or arm bars.

When I saw the Gracies fighting, I knew immediately why they had an advantage -- that of grappling over kicking and punching. However, it was not until I trained with the Gracies that I fully understood what they had done. When you see Royce Gracie, you feel sorry for him. He has skinny arms, almost no chest and his butt is not big enough to keep his belt up. What the Gracies do to make up for this lacking of size is capitalize on leverage. Archimedes said that if he had a lever long enough, he could lift the moon. The Gracies have become masters in arranging their bodies into levers such that their chokes threaten to squeeze their opponent's head off and arm bars or leg bars provide the same pain at the racks did in medieval times. I outweighed Royce by 40 pounds but he was able to play around with me like a baby, without using a lot of effort. When I felt his choke or arm bar, I would have to tap out immediately.

For photos, see Working Out With Royce Gracie

BJJ schools have sprung up all over the US. I used to travel to Los Angeles to workout but now there are three schools in Orlando. I worked out a couple of years with Marcio Simas, a fourth degree black belt in BJJ. I was as proud of passing a BJJ blue belt test as I was on advanced karate black belt tests.

There have been cases where punchers/kickers have won the UFC matches. However, for the most part, it was because they spent a long time learning the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) tactics.





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