My thighs were sore going into tonight’s class, probably from all the X guard I have been doing. I exhausted myself on Tuesday, so my main goal tonight was to use less energy during sparring. I think I largely succeeded. I can feel my guard game improving with each practice, even if by only a tiny bit. If you read my posts regularly, you can probably tell that I have become obsessed with BJJ. Part of my obsession comes from the fact that I trained in Judo for so long. Why hadn’t I learned some of the basic things I have since learned in BJJ after having practiced Judo for 10 years? Despite what some would have you believe, BJJ is most certainly not an acronym for “basically just judo”. How did one man, Helio Gracie, figure all this stuff out (in an era before YouTube I might add) all by himself? Actually, I’m not convinced that he did. I never quite bought the official Rorion Gracie version, which says that Carlos Gracie learned jiu jitsu from Mitsuyo Maeda, a graduate of the Kodokan, then taught it to his brothers, including Helio, who modified the techniques to suit his small frame. There are more than a few problems with this version of events. For one thing, from what I can tell from old video clips, Carlos was smaller and lighter than his brother Helio. Also, according to the Valente brothers, Helio Gracie had studied Judo with a Japanese immigrant named “Tada” while he was a young man. How much of Helio’s technique originally came from his brother Carlos, how much came from Tada or some other source, and what new moves, or modifications to old moves, did Helio contribute? Which moves or strategies, if any, came from the sons of Carlos and Helio, all of whom began grappling practically at birth? We may never know the answers to these types of questions for sure, but I have recently come across a book that I just started reading that explores the early history of grappling in Brazil. I just began reading it, but as I suspected, the real story is far more nuanced than the “official” history put forward by either the Gracie Academy or the IBJJF.

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