Incorporating Other Martial Arts into BJJ

One of the tenets of JKD is that one should keep an open mind with regard to other styles. After all, “absorb what is useful, reject what is useless” is a classic Bruce Lee quote.

In general, I find that most BJJ practitioners are relatively open minded when it comes to learning from other styles. Since BJJ hit North America it has been infused with techniques and strategies from wrestling, judo, sambo, shootwrestling, etc. For the most part, these additions have made it a richer, more effective grappling system

But what about other, more obscure martial arts? Let’s take aikido for example, an art that a someone once described as being only useful “for restraining aged professors, run amuck.”

Predictably, I think that aikido CAN contribute something to BJJ and/or submission grappling. One of my favorite sneak attacks is a wristlock that comes straight out of the aikido repertoire (and I get everybody with it at least once).

And for proof that I’m not the only BJJ black belt who thinks that traditional Japanese martial arts can be applied in a ground grappling context, check out Roy Dean’s “Art of the Wristlock” video.

And why stop there – what about Indonesian Silat? How about trying to adapt some techniques from Indian Vajramushti or from Mongolian jacket wrestling?

A long time ago I wrote about how I first learned the omo plata armlock from my Silat training. For a short time I thought that I was the only person using that technique in BJJ.

(You can tell that this is an old article because my training partner Vlado is still a purple belt in those technique photos…)

Well of course I soon found out that I was NOT the first person to use that armlock on the BJJ mat. In fact it was already an established technique with many different applications, ranging from submitting your opponent, to sweeping him, to setting up other submissions. My point is that I got a head start and an alternate perspective on this technique by trying to apply what I had learned in other martial arts.

Interestingly I recently published an article by John Will on the ancient Indian art of Vajramushti. Turns out that they ALSO use the armlock that we call omo plata (check out the photo to the right!)

The bottom line is that there are only so many ways to twist somebody into a pretzel to make them say “uncle.” Over the millennia there have been hundreds of thousands of martial artists in other styles who have done some serious R&D on what works. Learning to grapple does involve a lot of self-discovery, of course, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel entirely on your own either.

Issac Newton once wrote “If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” I encourage you to accelerate your own progress by standing on the shoulders of giants too. Just keep in mind that some of these useful giants are outside the art of BJJ!

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