Despite a shared attention to the application of physical force against limbs and heads, Krav Maga and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu demand entirely different mental and emotional states to be performed well. For all its technical intricacies, Krav Maga is essentially a matter of counteracting unwarranted aggression with an overwhelming aggression of one’s own. When in doubt, simulating a whirlwind will substitute for proper combinations with the fists. Which is another way of saying there are no proper combinations with the fists: any combinations will do.
But in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, an art form based on the subtle manipulation of joints and the cerebral attunement to the intricacies of leverage and its influence on the human body – what a gambler or a pool player might call the “playing of angles” – control and patience and awareness of patterns are valued above all else. Muscling your opponent around might work in the short run, but eventually exhaustion, and craft, will get the better of even the strongest brute. It’s hard to imagine a teacher of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu telling a class to act like a cat that’s struggling to avoid being thrown into a bath, as one Krav instructor recently advised during a demonstration of the best way to free oneself from a bear hug. Flailing and clawing are generally frowned upon in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
This is one of several reasons why so many people find mixed martial arts so unlikable. If haters of cage fighting aren’t busy going on about the amount of blood mixed martial arts fighters seem to spill, they’re attacking the boredom of watching grown men turn each other into pretzels through incremental grappling maneuvers. Detractors say MMA fights are either 1) too violent; 2) not violent enough; or 3) both too violent and not violent enough. Arguing points 1 or 2 are matters of personal taste, but beware the man who feels comfortable arguing point 3. Such a person (and they do exist) is ideologically opposed to the whole idea of mixed martial arts as sport and cannot be convinced otherwise. He wants to shut the whole operation down in the name of preserving civilization. He believes, as former presidential candidate John McCain does, that it is “human cockfighting.” He is not to be trusted in business dealings, political debates, or matters of the human heart.
It’s been said many times that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is like human chess – each movement opening the door to dozens of other movements and counter-movements, and so on, some of those counter-movements as predictable, or rather inevitable, as death. There are simply certain things you have to do when someone is applying a certain kind of pressure to your arm or leg or neck. Years of experimentation, and broken bones, have borne this out.
Take a sequence coaches teach their newest students in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools from Rio to Belem to Austin:
Starting from your back, you wrap your legs around your opponent, locking him “in your guard.” You then isolate one of his wrists, and by way of a series of hip shifts and leg sweeps up and over his shoulders, you move in for an arm bar, whereby you pull his wrist and shoulder down while simultaneously pushing his elbow up, resulting in what one could only call a lingering unpleasantness that, when left to linger too long, leads to what one could only call a broken arm. The smart Jiu-Jitsu player recognizes such a move, however, and slips his vulnerable arm out through his antagonist’s legs. But doing so leaves an opening for the offensive fighter to change position, grab onto the second arm, close his legs around the defender’s neck, and go for a triangle choke, which cuts off the blood flow to the carotid arteries, which is just as bad as it sounds. Se
nsing this choke coming on as well, fighter number 2 then stands up to relieve pressure on his neck, at which point the first Jiu-Jitsu player swings one of his legs back around the others head and locks in yet another arm bar, this time while hanging upside down from his victim’s head. From an arm bar to a triangle choke and back to an arm bar, all in the span of 10 seconds. I learned that mo
ve two weeks ago from one of the Jiu-Jitsu instructors teaching at Fit & Fearless as part of a new affiliation with the Pedro Sauer Jiu-Jitsu Association. I’ve been looking to practice it on friends and strangers ever since.
An eight-degree black belt, Pedro Sauer studied at the feet of Helio Gracie, who developed Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, which is the foundation of modern mixed martial arts. No one gets into a cage anymore without knowing how to do the move I just described and dozens more like it. Fighting these days without knowledge of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is like fighting blindfolded and half-drunk.
For those many of us for whom Krav Maga has been our one foray into the world of martial arts, $59 gets you an introduction to this quieter, more deliberate, more temperate approach to causing great bodily harm to your fellow man.