Much has been said already all over the World about this match, myself wrote briefly on the post just below this one in our team’s blog, but after watching the match again I decided to write a bit more. All reflects my point of view and nobody’s else, and I hope that it goes as contructive to all involved and to every BJJ practitioner that cares about understanding the sport, its essence and evolution.
In Metamoris 3 much was at stake, not only for the fighters but also their own styles and philosophy as well as their technical, tactical, physical and mental skills.
In a 20 minutes match that can be won only by a submission, the strategy clearly is not the same as in a normal 10 minutes with points and advantages of normal comps. So I believe both grapplers made their game plans, and worked hard before the fight so they could get what they wanted.
I remember Royler in the 90’s as one of the best strategists ever, he almost always managed to impose his game against most of his opponents, but had tough and close matches against top level guys, notably Master Ricardo De La Riva, Alexandre Carneiro “Soca”, Leonardo Vieira and Leonardo Santos. Even in some of those that he won but should have lost, it was clear that he was the name to be beaten in the -67kgs division. We can easily say that in BJJ, he was one of the most prolific Gracies, fighting more matches than any brother or cousin in his generation.
Eddie Bravo was virtually unknown by the brazilian community until he beat Royler in the ADCC 2003, in Sao Paulo. As he advanced to the semifinals, he faced Leo Vieira, who simply walked through him. At this point he realised he had done what he wanted, he beat a legend by submission and as the first american to do so, he would have his 15 minutes of fame. He simply walked out of the third place match on the next day against Alexandre Carneiro, who faced Royler again, as he was already vindicated.
After that, he used this win to sell books, videos, a new system he called 10th planet, and used the podium to proclaim the “benefits”of weed and started behaving like a superstar. Fair enough, he did a great job, he qualified to ht biggest No Gi comp at his time, won against a Gracie and now could relax and teach his stuff. On the subsequent years I saw lots of people trying to do electric chairs, lockdowns and also rubber guard. I never bought the whole idea to be honest, as a Gi guy that always loved basics and all details of the game, I discarded most of his stuff, not because it came from a funny american guy who nobody heard of before, but mostly because I do not have the flexibility to do rubber guard (like 80% of the people I teach), and my half guard game system was already working well without a lock down and I competed mostly in the Gi.
One thing was clear to me already at that time though, by watching Leo Vieira fighting against him and others to win ADCC after ADCC. The secret is not much which techniques you are using, but how well you move and transition, specially when you find resistance. While Eddie Bravo hyped himself to exhaustion, Leo made school and a younger generation that either trained with him or with people that applied the same concepts, started another revolution in BJJ, a silent one in the start, but one that transformed the game forever. I never trained with Leo Vieira but was a big fan of his and watched him winning Gi and No Gi tournaments for so many years that in my mind his name comes always when people ask me who are or were the best grapplers ever.
If we just watch the comps of the last 5 years, the speed, balance and change of direction that most grapplers nowadays use to win their matches is very much like Vieira’s game, regardless of them doing berimbolos, leg drags or more basic moves, one thing is undeniable, the most successful fighters in the ground are very dynamic, some are more flexible or strong, but balance, speed and precision are fundamental attributes to win in any set of rules or time limit.
What I saw in the Royler Gracie X Eddie Bravo match was a slow paced match, which is normal considering they are not in their 20’s, where clearly Bravo imposed his game plan, having some chances to submit his opponent and proved the effectiveness of his half guard game, which is really good and has many good variations that he played well, against a Royler that seemed to be stuck in the 90’s forever, with a very static guard pass with the knee through. When faced resistance, he simply carried on and tried again the same thing, despite not working. This goes against one principle in BJJ, the path of the less resistance. When someone has a very good game, either you believe yourself to beat that or you move the game elsewhere. Instead of realising that his pass was not working, he kept insisting until he got swept. From that second, one can see that he lost it and was only reacting. As he grew more frustrated, he got swept again and was only not caught thanks to his flexibility and resilience.
It was a good display from Eddie Bravo and he now can retire and sell even more books and videos than ever. Even the grudge started by Royce will benefit him and he would be a fool not to use it to project his name and his system.
But now my twopence. While Royler got stuck in the 90’s, Bravo is stuck in the 00’s too. His system is good but since the times of the ADCC, Leo and many others that came later, were moving the BJJ forward and he did not see it happening either.
Fernando Tererê, Marcelo Garcia, André Galvão, Rafael and Guilherme Mendes, Rodolfo Vieira, Leandro Lo, Keenan Cornelius, Myiao brothers and Marcus Buchecha just to mention a few, simply took the game to another level, using so much speed, balance and change of direction that even the basics have a different flavour, and another dimension was added when people started to roll underneath their opponents all the time to take the back directly, bypassing the guard pass and aiming for the most dominant position, the back take (think berimbolos and its variations).
This (r)evolution of the sport left behind Royler but also Bravo, and the fact that he did a great job last week will not change that or even slow down the pace of this change. As more and more coaches are getting familiar with the drilling process needed to improve their students speed, coordination, balance and ability to move left to right to left again each time they find resistance, this is spreading all over the globe and its consequences can be seen in each comp, including Metamoris (brilliant performances from Zak Maxwell, Rafael and Guilherme Mendes prove my point).
Not taking anything from Royler or Eddie, they had a memorable match that will enter BJJ history, but a for myself, I will not start training or teaching electric chairs or “vaporisers” tomorrow. Rather will work on my movements, improving balance, speed and accuracy and get inspired by this new generation of grapplers that are winning not two matches in 11 years but each and every competition they enter, taking the sport to a level never seen before.
To wrap it up, I want to say that is wrong not to punish the athletes when they stall, and that applies to 50/50, or double guard pulls, or any position when there is not enough moving from one or both grapplers, and a return of the old rules that gave 2 points (not an advantage) to the first to claim top position would be very welcome. But berimbolos and leg drags came to stay, they are the real future of the sport, of course without neglecting the true tested basics or Bravo’s system. All is good when drilled a million times, but what these young guns show is that the essence is to move fast with precision and balance, changing sides whenever an obstacle is found.
My goal with this post is not to discredit anyone’s game or strategy, but to look at the big picture of the sport instead of one match, and which direction Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Grappling are taking in this decade.
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