BJJ Metamorphosis?

Over this past weekend I was among the many who watched the inaugural Metamoris event in which several of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s superstars faced off in one on one “super fight” style matchups. The format was simple (on paper), all of the super fights consisted of a twenty minute round with the only means of winning being to submit your opponent.

As much as I’d like to give my thoughts and do a breakdown of all the matches, I feel the need to address the match which has drawn the most controversy. The match in question is that of Ryron Gracie vs Andre Galvao. Yep, I’m jumping on the bandwagon folks!

First a little background on each athlete. Ryron is the grandson of the legendary Helio Gracie. He is a full time instructor along with his brother Rener at the Gracie Academy in Torrance, California. Ryron hasn’t been very active on the competition scene over the past 10 years. Andre is a multiple time BJJ and Submission Wrestling World Champion who is very active on the competition scene. He is the head instructor of Atos, one of the strongest BJJ competition teams on the block right now, working with many of BJJ’s top competitors including the infamous Mendes brothers.

The Showdown

Both competitors approached the elevated competition area in an enthusiastic and fun manner. Galvao danced to the beat of the live drum band as he made his way to the stage and Gracie walked confidently onto the platform head held high with a giant Cheshire smile on his face.

Shortly after the match began Ryron attempted a foot sweep takedown which nearly caught Andre off balance however he recovered and took Ryron to the mat with a takedown of his own. From that point on until about 2 minutes prior to the match’s finale, things were pretty one sided in Andre’s favor and it was clear that Gracie was sticking to his mantra of “Keep it playful”. It didn’t appear he was putting up much of a fight at all, as Galvao was passing his guard with ease repeatedly appearing to dominate him in every position. If this were an IBJJF event, Andre would have been winning by and impressive point deficit!

The Message

During Galvao’s onslaught Gracie maintained a calm look on his face as he warded off the incoming barrage of submission setups and attempts, recovering position and nearly sweeping Galvao a couple of times later in the match. For most of us who train it was crystal clear that Ryron’s gameplan was to show that regardless of position, he couldn’t be submitted, he could survive, and the in the process wear down and frustrate his opponent. This really shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone paying attention. After all, throughout the event little (not so subtle) hints were being dropped by the lead commentator Rener Gracie, Ryron’s brother, as to the true purpose of Jiu-Jitsu being for “self-defense”.

It was also very clear throughout the broadcast that the event was a platform to showcase Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. If it wasn’t obvious to you at first, it was after watching the Gracie University commercials, Helio Gracie tribute video, and listening to the commentary of Rener. The format of the event was designed to be a perfect vehicle to display their family’s Jiu-Jitsu philosophy in live action via Ryron Gracie, similarly to how Royce was used to expose the world to the art via the UFC.

The Conclusion

During the last quarter of the match it was clear that Galvao was a little frustrated and tired. He was breathing heavily and even decided to pull guard a couple of times. Ryron, sensing this went on the attack with approx. 2 minutes left in the match. However it was a case of too little, too late. Maybe a little of the time defending and giving up position may have been better utilized for prevention and going on the attack earlier?

Andre reached down deep and pushed through, maintaining his pace and superior position until the end of the match. Gracie used the post-match interview to say that was what Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was about, survival and self-defense, and that he proved he could hang with the top BJJ competitors in the World. A clearly frustrated Galvao said that the rules were obviously created to benefit Ryron and that he’d be happy to do a re-match with his rules. Andre continued to try to make his case for why he felt he was victorious, however the language barrier was in effect and his comments were interpreted as him being a “sore loser”. Ultimately the match was a draw and now the subject of mass speculation.

Closing Thoughts

Let me preface this with the following statement. I’m a big fan of both Ryron Gracie and Andre Galvao. In fact, Ryron opened up his academy to me and I’ve had the honor of rolling with him in the past. I know Andre as an acquaintance through my coach Giva Santana. He has known him since he was a young boy just starting BJJ. Both are great people and amazing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners which I have the utmost respect for.

As much as I understand the message that Ryron was trying to paint, deep down, I was irritated. I was irritated that what he did during the match was labeled as “self-defense”. In my opinion the ultimate goal of any BJJ practitioner should be to attain a level where you are preventing being put in a bad spot to begin with whenever possible, instead of allowing yourself to be put there intentionally to display your awesome defensive skills. That is just as much a form of stalling as someone maintaining side control and holding their opponent for 5 minutes without transitioning or attacking. That was precious time that could have been spent being preventative and going on the attack!

With that said, I understand the message, however I don’t agree with it being labeled with the broad term of self-defense. If it were self-defense you would have to consider strikes, weapons, and multiple attackers when deciding how to position yourself. The ultimate form of self defense is to avoid being placed in a bad situation whenever possible. Odds are, if you walk to a mini mart in downtown Compton at 2am, you are knowingly putting yourself in a situation where trouble is more likely! I believe that if Ryron had wanted to, he could have played things differently and more than likely would have done very well. I believe the outcome of the match would have been a Draw regardless, however if he would have stuck with the originally claimed purpose of the tournament, which was to attack and go for the submission, it would have limited the chance of controversy.

So the question is this, did Metamoris change the way you look at BJJ? Do you train for sport or self-defense, and was what we witnessed really an accurate display of how self- defense should be defined? No matter which side of the fence you fall on this one, I guarantee it got you thinking! Maybe that was the purpose of the controversial nature of Ryron’s gameplan, was it intentional, maybe….

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5 thoughts on “BJJ Metamorphosis?”

  1. Good points brought up Coach, and I agree mostly. To me, surviving a match ( not tapping ) with Andre Galvao would be an accomplishment in itself. In the agreed rules match/fight, you accept whatever happens, learn from it, and move on. I do see this as a re-introduced message from the Gracie family, that this is the ultimate self defense martial arts, and they have been waiting for the perfect vehicle to do so. Mission accomplished on that part.

    Now to be fair, in a different organization, the outcome would probably be different. For the sake of curiosity and argument, i’m sure everyone would like to see the same match up, under more standard rules. The stalling type tactic that Ryron used, in this specific scenario, to me sounds impressive ( no I have not seen it, yet ). I think Andre is a monstrous competitor and I give him a lot of credit for what it sounds like, was expending a large amount of energy attacking. To me it’s impressive because if I put myself in Ryron’s Gi, I am just a white belt versus an ocean of technic, experience and conditioning.

    Anyways, it sounds to me that Metamoris was created to put Andre and many others at a disadvantage, and give a Gracie practitioner the advantage ( of not losing at least ). With all that said, I still think it’s a very entertaining format for BJJ and I even think it’s a worthy challenge to the entrants. You either tap out your opponent or you don’t win, eliminating the “win by points” scenario. It’s a different format and guys like Andre are going to have to change their game plan if they want to be succesfull.

    Imo, I think things like Combat Jiujitsu ( ala Eddie Bravo ) and Metamoris should exist, along with all the other BJJ tournaments, ADCC and so on. You can never truly embody and recreate the perfect self defense scenario, but each organization brings parts of it to the table. We need these safe testing grounds, whether or not it caters to one individual or not. Agree or disagree, it’s just how I see things.

  2. Thanks for writing this Coach Foster.
    As much as I love watching technical breakdowns of jiu-jitsu moves, I equally enjoy hearing/ reading what Black belts think on the many aspects of BJJ.
    From the gi or no-gi issues, to what jiu-jitsu is to them, to their personal journeys, etc.
    I find it invaluable to get a peak into the minds behind the men and women who put in the time and effort to become black belts and the knowledge they have gained along the way.
    Cheers,
    Jason- GV Grapplers Assoc.

  3. I agree – their goals were different. Andre was trying to win, Ryron was trying not to lose. Those goals create different outcomes. I also read that point of view about Andre’s English here:

    http://leaahh.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/metamoris-lets-beat-this-dead-horse/
    “For people who are getting angry over Galvao’s so-called “arrogance” after the fight: you try standing up in front of a massive audience and speaking your second (or third, or fourth) language.”

    I remember reading about what Helio said to Saulo in Jiu Jitsu University “You’re a world champion, but I don’t think you can beat me.” – because “He didn’t say he would escape from my position or that he would do anything else. He said he would survive.”

    And I don’t think “survival” is appropriate for when you enter a competition.

    1. I agree! The way they sold the event concept implied the goal was to encourage the win by submission, not to see who could survive the 20 minutes.

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