Archive for the ‘Gracie BJJ’ Category

Is Jiu Jitsu Changing? Springfield MA


What if I told you the answer to that question might be “no”. Most people would say that the answer can’t be “no”- not now at least, not after the evolution that has occurred over the last decade. You can point to the exponential growth of competition and it’s competitors, the availability of high-level instruction, the prevalence of video instruction, and a growing group of professional jiu jitsu athletes as proof that the sport has advanced far beyond where it was just 10 years ago. But, all of those things are elements of the sport, not the jiu jitsu. So again I’ll ask the question, has the jiu jitsu actually changed?

There is no doubt jiu jitsu techniques are hard to hide in this day and age, and that new positions and techniques are available like never before. Now with live streaming of every major event, and YouTube, there are no more secrets, so it forces everyone to evolve and grow. But are the fundamentals that win championships any different than they were 10-15 years ago? Earlier this year when we were out in San Diego visiting Master Royler Gracie, he shared something with us that was sort of eye-opening. He told us that the approach he would take to competition now would be no different than the approach he took in 1999 (discussing technique and strategy). Now you are more than welcome to form your own opinions about this topic, but I can tell you that Royler was very sincere in this sentiment.

Let me submit an argument that perhaps you don’t always have to learn the “latest” techniques (although there is nothing wrong with this) to compete at the very highest level in this day and age. The case would be that jiu jitsu in it’s pure unadulterated form can be learnt and applied the same way today in competition as it was in 1999, and that in fact, jiu jitsu’s effectiveness is not changing, merely it’s competitors.


Exhibit A: Royler winning the Mundials in the late 90′s


Exhibit B: Kron winning the Pans in 2008 with relatively similar, and equally fundamental BJJ


Exhibit C: Roger Gracie,  one of the most dominant competitors in the last few years

I understand completely that it is pretty absurd to suggest that jiu jitsu isn’t changing, especially given what you see the Mendes Bros., Miyao Bros., and other high level competitors doing on the mats, but I would simply like to suggest the idea that jiu jitsu is not evolving beyond it’s own effectiveness.  The premise of this article is that fundamental jiu jitsu is never changing, even though the execution might look different.

How can this benefit you? Don’t always concern yourself with learning everything that’s out there. Learn  proven technique from qualified instructors, and focus on application. All jiu jitsu works, old and new. So study all the above videos, there si something we can all learn from each of them.



MMA in Springfield MA: Roger Gracie Returns To The Octagon In July

Roger Gracie Returns To The Octagon In July

The BJJ in MMA legend, Roger Gracie, will finally return to MMA action after an 8 month layoff. The jiu jitsu ace has recently inked a deal to train out of the Blackhouse gym in California with guys like Anderson Silva and the Nogueira brothers. Following his bout with King Mo, Roger has decided to move down a weight class to welterweight. He will be taking on another relative new-comer to the welterweight division on a Strikeforce card set for July.

Roger Gracie has been penciled in to take on UFC-veteran, Keith Jardine. Roger GracieJardine is fresh welterweight himself, fighting for the first time in that division against current champion, Luke Rockhold.

Keith Jardine has never been submitted in his MMA career, but he’s also never faced a guy like Roger Gracie. Jardine is a classic ‘stand and bang’ type fighter who will be in deep waters if the fight hits the ground against a guy like Gracie. Jardine’s wrestling is decent, but I don’t seem him being able keep this on the feet for the duration of a 15 minute bout. As soon as this hits the mat, I expect Roger to work his game to perfection.

Although the bout has been set, there’s no official date for the event. It’s expected that Tim Kennedy will be gunning for Luke Rockhold’s belt on the same card, but that bout has not been confirmed.

If you want to train MMA in Springfield MA, there is only one place, Team Link.

Rodolfo Vieira vs Andre Galvao, final absoluto 2012 Abu Dhabi Pro, courtesy of New England BJJ

courtesy of western mass bjj

Rodolfo Vieira vs Bernardo Faria, semi absoluto preta Abu Dhabi Pro 2012

courtesy of westernmassbjj

What does “technical rolling” really mean in a Western Mass BJJ school?

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) instructors will often tell their students to roll “technically.” What does this really mean? It is rarely articulated and explained.

At its core, jiu jitsu is all about leverage. A tiny person can defeat a much larger opponent in spite of an incredible strength discrepancy through the use of simple Newtonian physics, concepts all schoolchildren learn at an early age. Simple enough, right?

However, where things become a little tricky is in the implementation of leverage. How do you actually become proficient at applying leverage in situations you might otherwise find incredibly stressful?

When you are doing “live rolling” (sometimes called randori or newaza, depending on your background), the objective when trying to execute a technique should always be to use virtually no strength when attempting to apply the technique. If you are using a significant amount of strength in order to achieve your position or submission, you are never going to be certain that you are using proper technique. Further, when your strength is matched or exceeded by an opponent when it really matters- in a self defense or competition setting- you may completely fail if you’re relying on being stronger than your opponent.

On the other hand, if you start attempting to execute a technique with virtually no strength applied, and it works, try it again with a similar level of effort applied to the movement against a different partner, or simply ask your current partner to give you some resistance as you apply the same technique again. If you can still get the move, odds are that you are using proper technique.

This strategy may make for an uphill battle in the short term, but in the long term, you will not only have a deeper understanding of grappling, you’ll also have a lot more training partners who appreciate your style!

Western Mass BJJ asks, “how does the rear naked choke work?”

Above is the a photo that takes a look at how the choke was applied and at the balloons and tubes used to measure neck pressure and airflow in the University of Calgary study.

Using a choke hold is one of the best ways to win a fight. Mixed martial artists, grapplers and regular civilians have proved this over and over. In particular, we regularly see a submission hold called the the rear naked choke being used to win official bouts between amateurs and professionals and potentially dangerous unofficial fights between civilians.

The rear naked choke is applied from behind the opponent with one arm being wrapped around the neck and the other arm cinching the hold tight to create pressure upon the neck and threaten unconsciousness. The manner in which a rear naked choke is applied can come off as rather brutal to onlookers. Most times, the person in the choke hold is visibly struggling to get free and grimacing like the Hamburglar stole their lunch.


Jim Miller submits Melvin Guillard with a rear naked choke at UFC on FX 1. (Photo by Josh Hedges,Getty Images)

Due in part to the visual imagery, this particular choke has been the target of several small-scale studies over the years that attempt to explain exactly how the choke operates in rendering people unconscious. A University of Calgary study recently came out in November of 2011 that has some intriguing research in what allows a rear naked choke to put someone to sleep. The article has been out for some time and nearly got lost in the deluge of biomedical publications that come out every so often. However, it was brought to the collective gestalt of MMA and grappling followers by Rener and Ryron Gracie, who found a Force Science article commenting on the actual study (unfortunately available to most as an abstract only).

Fortunately, I have some friends at my grappling gym with medical research skills and got ahold of the full study. As a result, we at Bloody Elbow get some spiffy science explaining how the rear naked choke (called a Vascular Neck Restraint) worked on 20 men and 4 women. Even if they are Canadian, it should be interesting and widely applicable to all humans.

Hit the jump for the science talk.


Before we begin, the study is called “Mechanism of loss of consciousness during vascular neck restraint” and was co-authored by Jamie R. Mitchell, Dan E. Roach, John V. Tyberg, Israel Belenkie and Robert S Sheldon. The study comes out of the Departments of Cardiac Sciences, Medicine and Physiology and Pharmacology at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. The Journal of Applied Physiology published it on November 17, 2011.

As the initial picture shows, the researchers had Captain John Warin, a “certified Vascular Neck Restraint instructor” and member of the Calgary Police Service, apply a particular type of rear naked choke (famously used by Anderson Silva to submit Dan Henderson) to 24 healthy police officers, who’d all provided written consent beforehand.

The people to be choked out (chokees) were outfitted with a fluid-filled balloon system to measure neck pressure on both sides of the neck and with heart monitors clipped to a finger, airflow-measuring tubes under the nose and their height, weight, age and gender were recorded. The mean weight of the men was 202 lbs and the mean height was 5’11”. For the women, the mean weight was 165 lbs and the mean height was 5’7″. The researchers told everybody not to drink any caffeinated beverages after midnight of the day before.

The chokees were seated to keep them still and in roughly the same positions as each other. Captain Warin applied the choke hold in basically the same way each time, using the same arm and physical positioning to deliver approximately the same pressures upon the chokees.

To measure the effectiveness of the choke, the researchers accepted a tap out, had Warin let go after 20 seconds of the choke being applied or when the researchers deemed the person was unconscious. The determination of the point of unconsciousness was done by having a person sit in a chair across from the chokee and wave an object around, which the chokee had to follow with their eyes. Once the eyes stopped tracking, the person was deemed to be unconscious and the choke let go.

Warin applied the choke in a way that cut off the carotids and left alone the windpipe. He is right handed, so the right arm was used in all chokes to encircle the neck. The researchers measured a stop in the flow of air during the choke, but it was due to the chokees holding their breath. Nobody complained of windpipe damage after the study was done and nine chokees mentioned slight tracheal compression, while one complained noted slight residual neck pain after the choke was released.

Sixteen people stopped tracking that object being waved around and were deemed unconscious. The mean time of being choked out was 9.5 seconds, although one person went out at 1.6 seconds.

Four people tapped out. The mean time was 11 seconds, although one person stopped just before the instructor was going to let go at 22 seconds. One person tapped out at 0.7 seconds. The temptation to call this person a wussy should be leavened with the knowledge that these chokees are not trained grapplers and the choke was being applied with considerable force.

The remaining four out of the twenty-four chokees did not tap out or go to sleep after roughly 23 seconds of the choke being applied. The carotid artery measurements showed that 70% of their right arterial blood supply to the brain was stopped and 40% of their left arterial blood supply was stopped. For the other twenty, the figure was roughly 80% in both arteries. The researchers could not explain why the four did not tap and speculate that anatomical differences might be an underlying cause.

The researchers found no measurable Valsalva effects (people passing out because they couldn’t breathe) and no measurable baroreceptor action (the body recognizing that blood is cut off and telling the heart to slow down).

The coolest part of this study is quoted below:

Ocular fixation with VNR was commonly associated with brief periods of myoclonic jerking and, in some subjects, the eyes turned upwards. Many subjects reported a narrowing of the visual field with color changes or having entered into a dreamlike state. Importantly, recovery occurred almost immediately on release with no observed or reported negative side effects.

In almost a throwaway moment, the study notes that those with a larger neck went to sleep faster. They speculate that the greater amount of body tissue in the neck allows for better compression of the arteries, but that is probably a whole new study in its own right.

The researchers conclude by saying something along the lines of “Within the confines of this study, this choke hold is a pretty safe way for police to put people to sleep or get them subdued. Be careful when applying to unhealthy or older people, although you probably should not do that to them at all”. That common sense approach to this good science is good news for those who want to show the safety and practical nature of martial arts choke holds to the naysayers out there who get worried over a grimace.

To learn how to perform this move and start trianing – Click Here

The First American to Earn a BJJ Black Belt

Craig Kukuk was the first US native to achieve the rank of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt (1992) by Royler Gracie. Kukuk is also the co-author of one of the very first Jiu Jitsu instructionals, the “Renzo Gracie – Craig Kukuk Brazilian Jiu Jitsu” a historical piece of footage that helped advertise Jiu Jitsu in America in a time when the sport was not yet spread countrywide.

Craig Kukuk Jiu Jitsu

Lineage: Mitsuyo Maeda > Carlos Gracie > Helio Gracie > Royler Gracie > Craig Kukuk

Weight Division: Super Heavyweight (100kg/221lbs)

Craig Kukuk Biography

Craig Kukuk was raised in California, United States, becoming a high school wrestler before joining the Gracie Academy in the 1980’s. Craig got very involved with Gracie Jiu Jitsu, learning from Rorion Gracie for many years, earning all his belts up to brown belt from Helio Gracie’s son.

By the time Kukuk was ready for his black belt, Rorion advised Craig to visit Brazil and train there to gain more experience. It was in Brazil where he trained at the original Gracie Academy in Rio de Janeiro. This is the place where great champions such as Rickson & Royler Gracie learned much of their fighting knowledge. There in Brazil Craig received his black belt from the hands of Royler Gracie thus becoming the very first American black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Upon his return to the US and after a short spell being an assistant instructor of Rorion Gracie,  Craig decided to move to the East Coast. There he opened a few gyms in that area. Shortly after Craig brought Renzo Gracie to partner up with him at his New York gym they two formed a strong partnership and together they launched one of the most successful Jiu Jitsu instructional at the time, the aforementioned “Renzo Gracie – Craig Kukuk Brazilian Jiu Jitsu”. It is rumored on the internet that this instructional and the fees involving this video effort were the root of the break-up between the two instructors at the time. Though the actual reasons behind this bitter separation are still somewhat of a taboo subject within the BJJ community.

Craig has most recently created  On-Line private classes in submission grappling and BJJ and currently devotes most of his time to these classes and his academy in Boise, Idaho.

If you want to start working towards your BJJ black belt in Western Mass

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