A very controversial subject currently in the Jiu-Jitsu community is this new trend of grapplers claiming, “American Jiu-Jitsu”.
What is American Jiu-Jitsu? Better yet, is there such a thing as American Jiu-Jitsu?
The main argument I keep hearing against the trend is, “Americans haven’t really added anything to Jiu-Jitsu”. So, the term American Jiu-Jitsu is essentially theft to the name and that it should remain Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The counter argument to that is usually, “Well Brazilians stole it from Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, so it’s the same thing.”
The conclusion is for you guys to make on your own, but I will put my opinion out there for whatever it is worth.
American Jiu-Jitsu absolutely exists. Keenan Cornelius is a born and raised American who has revolutionized the lapel game, especially with his own creation, the Worm guard. The worm guard is taught all over the world now. Keenan himself has proved its effectiveness in high level competition against some of the best Gi grapplers ever.
“I don’t feel that there is anything being practiced in the United States that differs from what is being practiced in Brazil or anywhere else for that matter.” – Robert Drysdale
John Danaher, a man from New Zealand, moved to America and has created one of the most talented and successful submission grapplers of all time, Gordon Ryan. Professor Ryan has taken the entire submission grappling world by storm with Danaher’s systems. First, it was the leg attacks that nobody could stop. Now it is the back attacks that seem to be unstoppable as well. To say that Gordon Ryan has contributed nothing to Jiu-Jitsu as a whole, is bordering on denial.
In my opinion, one of America’s largest contributions to the sport of Jiu-Jitsu is wrestling. Take a competition like ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club) for instance, which is arguably the highest level of grappling in the entire world. A legendary American named Mark Kerr won double gold at ADCC in the year 2000 using pressure and wrestling to take out everyone on the way to the absolute title. Jiu-Jitsu isn’t void of wrestling, but it isn’t a secret that wrestling isn’t a strong point of “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu”. Over the last 10-20 years we have seen massive improvements in the wrestling aspect of grappling brought on by American wrestlers dominating using that part of their game. I would call that a contribution.
History, it matters.
However, I don’t believe history matters only when it fits your narrative. Many are claiming that by calling Jiu-Jitsu, “American Jiu-Jitsu”, that they are trying to erase the past teachings and improvements made by Brazilians. Those claiming this are obviously neglecting to acknowledge that the origin of Jiu-Jitsu comes from the Japanese culture. Maeda taught Carlos Gracie who taught Helio Gracie. Helio is said to be the one that revolutionized Jiu-Jitsu and created “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu”.
But where does the chain of teaching stop and the name of that nationality stops holding weight? Never. The history of it all will always matter. As the sport grows, we must grow with it. That is why, for me, it will always be Jiu-Jitsu.