Gracie Self Defense and “Aliveness”

The thing that first drew me to training in Gracie or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was its undoubtable effectiveness in unarmed combative situations.  All martial arts have their strengths and weaknesses, but jiu jitsu has continuously proven itself as the most effective martial art when faced with stronger, faster, and more athletic attackers.  However, there can be some downsides to any grappling based art.  How do you handle multiple attackers?  There are strategies that a jiu jitsu stylist can implement to handle these situations, but that’s not truly the topic I’d like to tackle today.

The Helio Gracie self defense methods include striking and weapons defense.  In many jiu jitsu schools across the world, these techniques are becoming less and less the focus of training.  There are a few instructors, however, that make it their mission to keep Helio Gracie’s system alive.

The system is composed of situational responses to scenarios involving unarmed attacks (punches, grabs, etc.) and weapon attacks (to include stick/baton, knife, and gun).  Here’s a couple of examples:

There is a stark difference between these defense techniques and the usual free-sparring training method (rolling) used to increase reflexes and auto-responses (Boyd’s concept of implicit guidance and control) to your opponent’s full resistance.  In fact, the self defense techniques have a feel of WWII-era combatives to them that is undeniable.  The problem from my perspective is that they do not add an element of “aliveness” to them which makes the more sportive aspects of jiu jitsu so effective.  For more on aliveness read through Matt Thornton’s Straight Blast Gym’s philosophy.  This aliveness is critical to the development of real skills to be utilized and called upon when needed in the most dire of circumstances.  This should be kept in mind when further evolving and developing training methodologies that build upon the spirit of Helio Gracie’s self defense method.

There is an example of this aliveness that was shared by the Gracie Academy a while back.  It was something that I had not seen before, and showed an example of how the concept of Gracie Jiu Jitsu self defense should evolve to create this aliveness when training weapons defenses.  In the video Rener Gracie removes a training knife hidden inside his gi and begins attacking his rolling partner with it mid-roll.  It was an interesting exchange and created an increased level of realism in how an attack might occur during an assault.

An interesting video that shows the dynamic nature of knife attacks:

As you can see an attack can occur in the blink of an eye.  An change to the training methodology is warranted in order to increase the preparedness for such an encounter.  Aliveness is the answer.  Consider Matt Thornton’s explanation of this core concept of his from the link above.  It could be what is missing in your self defense training, armed or unarmed.

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