The martial art/sport of Brazilian jiu jitsu has been continuously growing for the past 15 years, gaining clear momentum over the last 5 of those years. The expansion is now seen in countries where other combat activities such as Judo and Ju-Jutsu (traditional or Japanese Jiu Jitsu) once ruled the grappling landscape. This is particularly evident in Europe where the Ju-Jutsu leads have slowly infiltrated BJJ associations such as in Germany and Greece. This is also valid for Japan where the Ju-Jutsu Federation has taken a strong interest in Brazilian jiu jitsu, championing BJJ’s inclusion in the 2018 Asian Games, by associating with the UAEJJF. We also see Brazilian jiu jitsu very strongly advertised on the International Ju-Jutsu Federation’s website.
This support shown by the Ju-Jutsu contingent is only natural. As the public interest drives away from the more traditional styles and into BJJ, these associations (who are backed by government funding) need to adapt and get involved, sometimes with genuine interest in the sport, and other times for fear of losing public money. Chico Mendes, leader of Checkmat’s European department – one of the leading grappling teams in the world, said about this JJxBJJ symbiosis:
“Ju-Jutsu has been trying to rival our Jiu Jitsu for a long time (…) they often use resources, which they get from their governments, to ride on Jiu Jitsu’s back. In Many countries they even buy black belts from crooks in our martial art who sell it to them, which is sickening.”
Mendes’ biggest quarrel at the moment is with the German Jiu Jitsu Federation (BJJBD – Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Bund Deuchland) which has paired up with the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation leading Chico to veto his team’s participation in the Munich Open on February 21st, 2016.
A few years ago the leading figures behind the BJJBD launched a similar endeavour which was quickly blocked by the top German teams for its extreme policies. They have now risen from their own ashes, but according to Chico, instead of improving on past mistakes they have gone above and beyond any reason and continue damaging the sport.
One of the biggest points of the dispute is the belt promotion instituted by the BJJBD. The German Brazilian Jiu Jitsu federation has adopted a system similar to that of Judo where students have to pass a test to get promoted. The test is set as a large workshop type event, with evaluation being supervised by a group of black belts close to the federation, and without the student’s coaches input, while being also open to anyone from any martial art.
“When I sat down with the IBJJF to expose the problem, they were against the German Federation” Chico said, “Their gradings are open to guys from martial arts backgrounds… If they get paid, obviously. The funny thing was when the president of BJJBD had the nerve of saying that the student’s coach is the one that promotes, but they sent open invitations to all my affiliate academies and forgot to put my invitation in the post”. Mendes went on to say that “After all these lies produced by the German Federation, Checkmat has vowed not to enter any tournament organized by BJJBD. I am waiting for the IBJJF to rule their plans for the future, but as of now, none of our gyms and students will be affiliated with them.”
Why is this a big deal, you might ask? Checkmat Jiu Jitsu is one of the strongest and biggest teams in Germany with Chico Mendes supporting 4 affiliate academies and Jackson Sousa 2. The team slamming the door on the federation leaves BJJBD’s stance weakened without the support of an institution in a sport it is attempting to lead. In his ending statement to BJJ Heroes, Chico Mendes said:
“Let it be clear that I do not intend to take on any post in the federation, nor do I want to get involved with federation politics. I want to raise the profile of Jiu Jitsu in Germany and help Checkmat maintain it’s post as the biggest team in the country”.