What is Old School BJJ?

What is old school BJJ and why would you want to be part of something that some say is outdated?

No one likes old things. Look at your grandma over there; she’s always telling you the same stories over and over. Most of them about you, how much she loves your smile and pinching your cheeks. How can you like that? Am I right? LOL I hope not! But get what I’m saying?

Old school. Back in the days. When things were new and exciting. The grass was greener and the sky was bluer. That was when I stepped on the mat for the first time- at the age of 34. A long time ago. I was lost and nervous. I did a little bit of taekwondo as a kid, plus I watched all of the great action movies from the 80’s. I’ll be...okay?

As the instructor took the mat, we all bowed in. That was the only part that was familiar. We warmed up, did drills, takedowns, throws and the technique for the day. We all sat around the instructor, and this was the part that really stuck with me. Mr. Keaton looked around and said, “this technique is so old that it’s new again”. That’s what you’re teaching? Same old stuff? I want the new flashy kick ass moves, I thought.

But then I thought about it. So old it’s new again. What he was saying is that the old stuff had been forgotten, because of the new fancy moves. It’s old school, it’s not flashy. It’s solid, to the point and it’s so to the point it’s downright rude. After the class, I was hooked. And I couldn’t move my arms. I sat in my car for 15 minutes before I could hold the steering wheel.

I started looking up info on BJJ. You know what I found? It’s all old school. There was this little guy who was like Yoda, Helio Gracie, teaching guys to kick ass back in the day. But it even goes back further to medieval Japan. And Helio, along with his brothers, incorporated the character of the old samurai code of bushido into their version of jiu-jitsu.

So old school BJJ, in particular Gracie BJJ, is not only about technique. Oh no, my friend, when you step onto that mat, it’s a test into a lifestyle, a way of life, a code. And you will be tested. How strong are you? What will break first, your body or your will? Can you take a joke, or tell one? Are you willing to help your partners and set your ego to the side? There’s a whole lot more, but I don’t want to take away the mystery. After you pass the testing, you’ll be in the inner circle. It’s not a team, it’s not a club and it’s so secret you probably won’t even know you’re in it. That’s old school jiu-jitsu; the guys and girls on the mat become part or your family. And there’s loyalty between you and your new family. Just like family, no one is allowed to beat up on your brothers and sisters...but you. The motto is “My enemy would love to choke me. My friends do.”

Trust. It takes a lot to put down your guard and let someone throw you, choke you, twist your arms and legs into unnatural and painful positions, etc and you do this over and over. And over. Trust is a big part of old school BJJ, and you get to trust your teammates. Only the ones with honor and the fortitude to put in the work will survive.

So if having a strong body and will, along with loyalty and honor is “old school”, then I wouldn’t have it any other way.

~’til Valhalla,

Vincent Tabscott