Until the early UFC brought the world’s attention to the unique style of jiu-jitsu developed by the Gracie family, the art and sport were largely unknown outside of Brazil. The exposure of the art was combined with the technological revolution of the Internet and allowed the art to be spread in a way that had never before been possible before in human history!
This lead naturally to numbers of black belts from Brazil to start to migrate to different countries (most notably USA) where there was a high demand for instructors. The stated goal of Master Carlos Gracie Jr. is his vision to establish a Gracie Barra school in every city in the world. At first thought, this seems like an impossible goal! Yet, a quick glance at the GB world school locator, we see an amazing spread of the art all over the map.
Just as Royce Gracie and the early UFC were the first exposure of brazilian jiu-jitsu for many of the earliest practitioners of bjj, bjj continues to “piggyback” on the massive popularity of mixed martial arts. Known as one of the three main disciplines that combine to form modern mixed martial arts (wrestling, striking and brazilian jiu-jitsu / submissions), mma fighters continue to seek out instruction from bjj blackbelt coaches. Most mma teams will employ a specific coach for the jiu-jitsu and watching televised mma events, we can spot well known bjj coaches in the corners of the professional mma fighters.
Mma is but one smaller aspect of bjj’s popularity in terms of its impact and future throughout the world. I personally have been hired by mma teams to coach the mma fighters Bjj black belt and former UFC fighter Ricardo Almeida had a quote in Gracie Mag to the effect that although mma was exploding in popularity globally, it created SPECTATORS, not PARTICIPANTS. But that bjj offered a way for the new fans to get involved in an aspect of training and enjoy it in their own lives.
For the majority of normal people, putting in a mouth guard and entering the mma cage several times a week for tough training is simply not realistic.But for those who are professionals in other areas of their lives, they can learn the arte sauve and find expression for their competitive drives on the mats of the jiu-jitsu academy.
In a recent conversation with a new student at GB I inquired as to what made them decide to start learning bjj? They answered that they had a full time career and family responsibilities and were a huge fan of mma. But when they examined the available training options, they said that getting punched in the face (in striking training) was not appealing to them; wrestling training was largely confined to college competition teams. That left bjj as the most accessible way for them to get involved and enjoy training.
If we look at bjj beyond the training of professional mma fighters, we see a tremendous opportunity for people of all backgrounds to make jiu-jitsu training a part of their lives.
The GB “Jiu-Jitsu for Everyone” Philosophy: “It makes the GB People believe in that ideal which goes beyond training a small group of talented individuals and turning them into world-class athletes. The vision calls us to embrace and understand the latest methods of teaching and instructions so anyone can come to our schools and learn the art of Jiu-Jitsu.”
This author been teaching bjj classes at GB Calgary, Canada for the last several years and recently completed the ICP4 GB instructors training course. Having traveled through several countries in Asia, I developed the goal to move abroad and teach bjj in one of the Asian countries where the demand was high for a black belt instructor and yet no qualified instruction was available.
“I accepted an offer from Taipei, Taiwan from an existing mma/sanda school to run the bjj program and bring the skills and teaching methodology of GB to this part of the world.”
There are many fighters who come to the classes but most of the students are career people and college students who just want to learn the incredible art and get fit and enjoy the jiu-jitsu lifestyle. Some of the bilingual students will translate the English instruction into Chinese Mandarin language for the students who do not speak English. The students are highly enthusiastic for each class and their hunger for knowledge is voracious!
As mma and bjj continue to expand globally, the vision of Master Carlos Gracie Jr. of a Gracie Barra school in every city in the world will step by step come closer to becoming a reality.
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Taipei, Taiwan