Inverted Gear Blog
At this point the term “creonte” is almost exclusively the property of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Whether we like it or not, it is now a permanent part of BJJ culture. The term has become synonymous with a traitor, someone that changes allegiances. Creonte was coined by Carlson Gracie Jr. after a character in a soap opera he used to enjoy.
This is not a post about loyalty or jiu-jitsu politics.
Instead, I want to do more to flesh out this jiu-jitsu term. Have you ever wondered what was the name of the telenovela that Carlson liked so much? Perhaps more important, what did the original Creonte looke like?
A few weeks ago I was chatting with my friend Matt Kirtley about the term creonte, and we wondered if we could find the actor that played him. This turned out to be a fascinating rabbit hole.
After an IMDB search failed us, I asked Google to search for “telenovela brasil Creonte.” And there we learned that the soap opera—or telenovela for us Latin folk—was called Mandala. Mandala aired in the biggest TV station in Brazil, Globo, in 1988. It aired in the coveted 8pm slot, “novelas das oito.” This is a big deal in South America. It’s right before the 9pm news and has the highest ratings.
Mandala was a modern take on Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. You know, the Greek tragedy about the guy cursed to kill his father and marry his mother. All the characters from the tragedy were Brasilianized into Edipo, Creonte, Jocasta, etc. Creonte, much like the Oedipus character Creon, is dislike by many and eventually murdered. Check out this scene for some amazing 80’s South American telenovela acting:
Creonte was played by two actors as there is a 25 year time gap in the story. Gracindo Junior is the main actor, and Marcos Palmeira also played the role. Gracindo Junior is still acting and directing and is one of the most well know Brazilian telenovela actors.
Researching telenovelas was just another weird internet thing for Matt, but for me it brought back memories of watching the 8pm telenovelas with family in Chile. Putting a face to the term Creonte might not be historically impactful, but it brings more life to one of jiu-jitsu’s classic stories.
Then again, if you trained long enough and follow the classic take on jiu-jitsu loyalty, you’ve probably put more than a few faces to the term creonte.
There is never a shortage of things to argue about in the grappling community. It seems like whenever we aren’t rolling on the mats, we’re taking sides on one debate or another. One of the most recent and heated discussions has been about rule sets, specifically pitting the concept of submission-only competition against rule sets that award points. Avoiding taking sides is difficult, but I am going to attempt to avoid feeding into the dichotomous nature of the larger argument. To put it plainly, I think both point and submission only rule sets are worth having.
Submission-only events have gained a great deal of traction in recent years, largely for the action they provide and the finality a submission offers to viewers. So while I love submission-only events and have competed in them myself, I feel the point system deserves a defense.
The free space to express grappling that submission-only creates is excellent, but alongside that free space should exist a slightly more structured environment that emphasize some aspects of grappling that submission-only tends to leave behind, such as positional control and takedowns. Left to its own devices, the metagame of submission-only could easily evolve into a game where position matters very little. While aggressive submission hunting is good to have in one’s game, it is important to remember what set Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu apart from other grappling arts was its emphasis on positional grappling.
Before you get up in arms that position always matters, consider for a moment the rise of leglock-centric gameplans, many of which have gotten attention for their performances in submission-only match-ups. In those matches, we see a great deal of guard pulling and a relentless hunt for heel hooks, oftentimes with little interest shown in advancing top position.
While it is something of a trope in modern jiu-jitsu to invoke the argument of “in a real fight,” it is important to remember that jiu-jitsu competitions are a martial sport and as a result should keep a foot in the basic concepts that made it a successful martial art in the first place. The mount, for example, isn’t highly sought after in submission-only because in no-gi few submissions can result from there, but is scored very highly sport jiu-jitsu criteria because of the value it provides in combative situation.
This keeps the art grounded in the realities of not just submission grappling but also the inclusion of strikes to a lesser degree without the need to actually pummel each other on a daily basis. The basic philosophy of jiu-jitsu is well represented by its scoring system: a takedown occurs, the bottom fighter looks for sweeps, top fighter looks to pass, both try to attain a dominant position and then a submission.
Submission-only gives grapplers a chance to explore and evolve outside that game, playing in concepts like limb control; using kimura grips, the crucifix, or leg entanglements to control and then submit their opponents. The point system allows for exploration and evolution within the basic philosophy. The advent and growth of pressure guard passing or the berimbolo sweep, for example, likely would not have occurred without point competitions. And as reviled as the berimbolo is by those in the jiu jitsu community that focus on self-defense, no matter the rule set some sport specific strategies will develop, submission only is not immune that.
The tendency of submission only competitors to sit straight down and not even seek to contest takedowns and to utterly sacrifice position, such as Sergio Hernandez pulling North/South against Eddie Cummings in an effort to avoid leg locks at EBI 7, make perfect sense in the context of submission only, but are strikes against the idea that submission-only results in the most “realistic” style of grappling.
Submission only and point tournaments serve as balances to each other, creating different arenas for experimentation. This is not to say point systems are above critique. There are very real problems with the rule sets used by many point tournaments. The rules have been largely static for years and point tournaments have fallen prey to creep of athletes learning to game the system in the same spirit that submission-only competitors game their rule set. As a result the rules of point tournaments are badly in need of reimagination to encourage a more aggressive style of grappling that is grounded in the root philosophy of jiu-jitu.
First, advantages need to be done away with. The need for a tie breaker is very real, but creating a ‘minor point’ system has given athletes a path to victory in a match without actually achieving a successful technique in a match. The intent of advantages is understandable. In a match where both athletes are aggressively seeking dominant positions and submissions, advantages reward the more active, aggressive grappler. But now it has become a common strategy in closely contested matches to rack up advantages and then prevent points from being scored, meaning that the athlete’s best strategy might be to prevent activity rather than pursue it.
Removal of advantages would force athletes to once again focus on finding submissions and accomplishing actions worthy of points. There is still the possibility of stalling, but that can be addressed by harsher stalling penalties. Negative tie breakers are very useful as penalties as well, which is why disadvantages still have a role to play. An increased use of disadvantages in the face of stalling and a shortened process for actually penalizing a staller with negative points would help address the possibility of stalling or passivity in matches.
Other tweaks could be made, such as a minor penalty to pulling guard to encourage slightly engagement on the feet or shortening black belt matches from 10 minutes to 6 minutes. Some of these steps have been taken by some point tournaments; Copa Podio has 6 minute matches and aggressive stalling penalties, FIVE Grappling did away with advantages, and the ADCCs have very open submission rules as well as penalties for pulling guard. The results have been highly entertaining point matches that reflect a more complete style of grappling than those in more restrictive point rule sets.
We need both formats, and both formats can still be improved. Revamped point rule sets working alongside submission-only competition would create an excellent pair of laboratories for jiu-jitsu to develop, grow, and evolve as a sport whilst staying true to its martial roots.
About the Author: T.P. Grant
T.P. Grant has written for Bloody Elbow, FloGrappling, and FloCombat. He is a brown belt with Team Redzovic and dabbles in Sambo and Judo as well.
A gameplan can be one of the greatest tools for a grappler, especially competitors, but there are right and wrong ways to build one. Follow this advice the next time you revise your gameplan:
Build mini gameplans and sub-systems
Your gameplan will be more useful as a collection mini gameplans rather than a single 99 technique long chain. By chunking your techniques and combinations into clusters, you will have an easier time both thinking of how the modules fit together and representing them in your visual flowchart.
- Back attack system revolving around acquiring a seat belt grip.
- Open guards that connect to each other to combo sweeps and submissions.
- Standing guard pass system with answers to specific guards if needed.
- Submissions-as-positions strategies for armbars, triangles, kimuras, omoplata, etc.
Stay open to new additions
Your gameplan is not set in stone, not matter how many hours you spend mapping it out in FreeMind. It will always be evolving as you improve, learn more, and run into new problems to solve. You will always be discovering new techniques and positions you’d like to work on. Your gameplan can help you prioritize which to focus on first, and how they will fit into your existing knowledge base. Be willing to return to a technique you didn’t quite like the first time, because (assuming it’s a good technique), your earlier gameplan may not have had a good spot for it yet, or your skill level was not high enough at the time to fully appreciate it.
Trim the fat and cut the fluff
Developing your unique grappling style is not just about addition, but subtraction. Your gameplan can become bloated, especially if it’s mostly a mental exercise or a list of techniques you wish you were good at. Cutting out “nice to have” techniques can be tough but you will benefit from simplifying your decision trees and simplifying what you should work on in your practice time.
Account for Murphy’s law
Gameplans are built on the premise that you are mostly getting to do what you want, only branching as you run into problems and solve them, but always progressing towards you winning. Reality is rarely so kind. You should probably go back to the sub-system step and do that for all your escapes from bad positions. Survival, defenses, and escapes are not sexy, but they will keep you alive until you can get back on track.
Techniques are not all that matters
Techniques are basic building block of a gameplan, but BJJ is not just about knowing a bunch of techniques. The further you progress in BJJ, the less it becomes about collecting techniques and the more it becomes about refining the ones you already know, as well as developing less concrete attributes like intuition, timing, sensitivity, good instincts, and awareness.
Become a generalist with specialties
Early specialization as a beginner or intermediate grappler is tempting because it offers the promise of cheap success. As a competitor, this is especially appealing because it can be easier to “become a black belt” in one technique than it is to become a black belt at everything. Many upsets by lower belts competing against black belts come from hyper-specialized gameplans. How specialized you become is up to you, but I recommend you keep broadening your skills so you do not eventually find yourself becoming a one trick pony. You want a few secret weapons hidden up your sleeve, but you also need to be prepared for whatever the world throws at you.
Work on skills outside your primary gameplan
During your day-to-day training, especially when no big competitions are coming up, you should be open to working on techniques you do not yet consider part of your “A game.” Work on your “B game” and even C, D and even E games. Experiment and explore unfamiliar positions in rolling. You can always tighten up as you ramp up to compete or when you want to cut the fat.
Making up a gameplan does not make it a reality
What you put on paper does not matter until you put it into action. Use your gameplan to direct your drilling and training time. Now that you have it written down, it’s time to go put in the reps and the hours of mat time.
We are exploring the stories of grapplers sponsored by Inverted Gear. Last time, we talked with Carlos Saquic Pérez about balancing a demanding career with intense jiu-jitsu training. In this installment, we talk with Jose Mazariegos.
At 19, this purple belt’s passion for jiu-jitsu gives him an enormous work ethic, allowing him to conquer his ADHD and getting him accepted into Princeton. When Jose is not studying at the prestigious Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs—with the goal of becoming part of the United States intelligence community—he’s training with Emily Kwok and Marcelo Garcia and collecting medals at tbig tournaments.
How did you discover Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
Jose Mazariegos: I was very hyperactive as a child. I had ADHD, and my mom really wanted me to have an outlet. She enrolled me in soccer. I was supposed to be the next Lionel Messi. That was her plan. Well, I tried that for about a year – it didn’t work. I got into several fights in school and I was failing most of my classes. She told me to find something else. So I picked up track. During one of my runs with my team, I passed by a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu dojo, Team Silva. There was a little tournament going on. I saw a little guy (about 140 lbs) go up against this super big guy, probably twice his size. I thought: He’s going to get crushed, there’s no way he’ll survive. About two minutes into the match, the little guy did something with his feet, and the big guy was tapping. Loudly. And that was it.
I’d never seen anything like it. The closest thing was probably WWE. I was amazed but didn’t tell my parents because my mom really frowned upon fighting in any way. The next day I went back to talk to the professor, Manuel Reyes. He was the guy I’d seen the day before. I told him: I’m 13 years old, I don’t work, I have no money, but I really want to learn this and I really want to be just like you. Manuel nodded. He told me he would teach me for free, on one condition: I’d have to help out with the kids class, stick around for the adult class, and stay to clean up afterwards. I did that for about six months. I went there every day, without fail.
When did you get your first taste of competition?
JM: About seven months in. That was also when I had to break the news to my parents. I asked my mom to take me to one of my ‘school events’ – which was actually my first competition. She had no idea. When we got to the venue, I finally told her I had enlisted into something called Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. And that I really wanted her to see me fight. She exploded: “Oh my God, you didn’t tell me? That’s so dangerous, you’re going to break something!” But I stepped on the mat, fought, and was very lucky to win. At the same time, during the previous months she’d noticed I was doing way better in school. I was calmer and more focused, because I had discovered my passion.
So, how did you end up at Princeton?
JM: The idea of going to college never appealed to me, and my parents weren’t really into all of that. They just wanted me to have a happy life. So I’d planned to either be a professional jiu-jitsu fighter or to join the navy. At the same time, I always got good grades. It was my English teacher who really encouraged me to take my SAT’s, and he helped me to apply to a bunch of colleges. He saw something that I didn’t realize I had. I told him about my jiu-jitsu and military plans, but he thought that was going to be a waste of talent. I believed him.
To my surprise I got acceptance letters from a few colleges, and one of those was Princeton. I didn’t know anything about Ivy League schools or what that meant. My teacher went nuts when I told him. I asked: Dude, is this good news? Did I win the lottery? But when I found out that Princeton was on the other side of the country, I sort of freaked out. I didn’t want to stop training. My teacher calmed me down, and told me that Marcelo Garcia’s academy was reasonably close – like 80 minutes away by train. I also found out that there was an affiliate academy only a few miles from campus, ran by one of Marcelo’s black belts, Emily Kwok. I looked her up, and that sealed the deal for me. I was going to Princeton and also train jiu-jitsu full-time.
That sounds like a huge step.
JM: It was. I had to get used to a totally new environment. It was my first time being away from home, and I spent most of my hours training. As an academic subject, I had chosen molecular biology, just because it sounded interesting. Not the best choice. After my first class I realized that wasn’t for me – way too difficult. It took some soul-searching to find out why I was even there. My first semester was a weird, unbalanced time. I entered my first east coast tournament, but my head was in different places and I lost my first match. That had never happened. I had a lot of doubts and thought about quitting.
But I finally made the decision to really go for it. I figured there should be enough time for everything – academics and jiu-jitsu – if I just schedule it. So I switched my major and got into the Woodrow Wilson School for International Relations, with the hopes of one day working for one of the US intelligence agencies. I’m sticking to that route. And I train as much as I can.
Walk us through your typical day.
JM: I wake up around 7am to go for a run. I do track workouts by myself and train with the Princeton Running Club for my explosiveness. After that I go to class at 9am. I have lunch, I go for a bike ride, and then I go lifting. After that I go to another class, do a little bit of homework and have some food. Then from 6 to 9pm I train jiu-jitsu at Emily’s. On Monday’s my classes end at 2pm, so right after I jump on the train and travel to Marcelo Garcia’s academy in New York City. I train there until 9pm. I do that twice a week, Monday’s and Friday’s. When I get back to Princeton it’s about 11pm, and I do homework until about 1 in the morning.
That’s the ideal situation. But when it’s a brutal week I have to stay up and study until sunrise. With maybe only a few hours of sleep – or none at all. Then I do it all over again. Yes, it’s crazy. But I love it. I might go to bed really tired, but every time I wake up I know it’s going to be a great day. It’s also an awesome feeling when you go out to compete and you ask yourself the question: Did I do everything I could to prepare myself? If the answer is yes, you know that even if you lose, you gave it all you had.
Where does competition fit in?
JM: I try to compete at least once every month, ideally twice. I just love it. I got third place at the Pan-Ams last year – I lost by an advantage to the guy that ended up winning the whole thing. And I’ve reached the quarter final of the Worlds but didn’t have that extra push. This was all in my freshman year, when I was still figuring out who I was, finding a balance between academics and jiu-jitsu. Now, in my sophomore year I have a really strong mindset. I’m extremely motivated, and I know what to do.
What is your most memorable win?
JM: Probably winning nationals at blue belt. When I entered I had just turned 17 and made the cut by eight days. I was a kid going up against 26-year olds in a stacked division. Their power was unbelievable. I had never trained with people that strong. Thankfully I had really good cardio, so my game-plan was to tire everyone out. Hopefully at the end I’d have a little more left. Which I did. Now I have my sights set on winning the Pan-Ams and the Worlds at purple belt featherweight. For the long term, I really want to get to old age and still be able to get on the mat. I’m not just in it for the medals. I love the spirituality of jiu-jitsu and the confidence it’s given me. Hopefully in the future I’ll be able to inspire the generation after me. I’m not sure what my life is going to look like after college. But I know that wherever I’ll be in the world, I’ll find a place to train.
Who are you idols in jiu-jitsu?
JM: When it comes to the bigger names, aside from the Mendes brothers, I really admire Cobrinha. He’s probably 36 and still places at the Worlds in the adult division. You just have to give him props for being such a beast. Then there’s obviously my first professor Manuel Reyes. He’s an awesome person. Whenever I go back to California we train together. He’s always complaining he’s getting too old, but he’s extremely technical and teaches me great things. I’m really lucky to have started my jiu-jitsu journey with him. Other than those people, I really don’t follow the jiu-jitsu scene as much as I’d like to. I’m more focused on developing my own game and not copying someone else’s. I’m mostly studying what Marcelo and Emily have to offer. Of course, they’re both amazing.
What do you admire about Emily Kwok?
JM: Even outside of jiu-jitsu you immediately notice that Emily’s just an extremely driven person. Talk to her for five minutes, and you realize she’s a natural born champion. Her teaching is very meticulous and detail-oriented, which makes sense because she has always trained with people double her size and double her strength. So she needs those details. Emily can teach a basic position, like a scissor sweep, in a completely different way than you’re used to seeing it. And you can pick up something new. Every time she leads a class it’s very inspiring. When I came to Princeton last year she was five months pregnant. She was still doing all the warm-ups, drills and light sparring right along with us. I asked her if she needed to take it easy. But she said: “Oh no, it’s all good. Just don’t put knee on belly.” I was an 18-year old huffing and puffing along, and she was still going at it. Very awesome.
Is there an overlap between being good at academics and being good at jiu-jitsu?
JM: Actually, my experience has been almost the exact opposite. Sometimes people that are very analytical tend to overthink jiu-jitsu. But it’s meant to be a simple, functional martial art. Sure, it’s important to have your grips in certain places. But when you overcomplicate things, you lose the essence of jiu-jitsu. When I train, I’m not in my academic state of mind, I’m in completely different zone. On the mat, I’ve learned to look at things in my unique way. When you train, you realize jiu-jitsu is different for everyone. The point is to discover your own game, and to have that work for you. Being a college student doesn’t give you a clear advantage in that process.
What keeps you fascinated by jiu-jitsu?
JM: This art has brought out the best in me. And I’ve seen it bring out the best in everyone. It’s such an intense experience training together with your friends, leaving everything on the mat. You can’t compare that to academics. You won’t see your college professor writing a math equation on the blackboard, sweating, crying tears of joy. I’ve known some of my friends for over twelve years, and I’ve trained with some people for six months – and I know them better than my longtime friends. Not only because of the sheer proximity of jiu-jitsu, but every time you roll you’re putting your life into the other person’s hands. That trust is huge. When I train, I learn more about myself and more about my limits. And I feel those limits are meant to be broken.
About the Author Daniël BertinaDaniël Bertina is a journalist and writer based in the Netherlands. He holds a black belt in BJJ under Marcos Flexa of Carlson Gracie Amsterdam. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @joyofirony.
Val Worthington is taking questions about jiu-jitsu and life. Submit yours here and it could be featured in the next installment!
Question: If you could go back and do one thing differently in your jiu-jitsu experience what would it be?
This question both piques my interest and fills me with dread. It piques my interest because it takes me down Memory Lane, past experiences and challenges I will remember for the rest of my life. It fills me with dread because it takes me down Memory Lane, past experiences and challenges I will remember for the rest of my life.
Here is the short answer: If I could go back and do one thing differently in my jiu-jitsu experience, I would approach my learning more like a child approaches life. I have heard it said that the jiu-jitsu belt ranks correspond to stages of human development in terms of how much technical sophistication and wisdom/maturity about training we can reasonably expect. In this analogy, white belts are small kids, blue belts are grade schoolers, purple belts are teenagers, brown belts are young adults, and black belts are mature grown-ups.
Of course we adult jiu-jitsu students have already gone through these stages, but that gives us the opportunity to be deliberate about how we approach our learning in jiu-jitsu—and if I had it to do over, I would tap more into my inner kid.
I would recognize when to be my own authority: As a rule, young children are far less concerned about social judgment than adults. They wonder, imagine, investigate, and love with abandon. They are present, and they are more concerned with exploring what might happen than with what others will think of them for wanting to know. They do not care about being “bad” at something—they do not even really know what it means.
For my jiu-jitsu training, this idea would have translated into me playing more and worrying less about winning or about what other people thought, the latter something I did all too often as I was coming up through the ranks. I hesitated to take chances, try a move just to see what would happen, or work on my weaknesses, all because I had a problem with looking inexperienced. The thing is, I was inexperienced, and if I had it to do over again, I would have embraced my inexperience as the relatively low-stress opportunity it was to explore and play.
I would recognize when to respect authority: Of course, a child’s playful nature can also wreak havoc if left unchecked. It can lead to Magic Marker scribbles on the wallpaper, not to mention much worse. It is only over time that kids can shoulder increasing amounts and kinds of responsibility, so adults must ensure that kids have enough leeway to grow and challenge themselves, but not so much that they can harm themselves or others. This is why adults do not allow kids to have candy for dinner or ride the dog like a horse.
In jiu-jitsu, this idea translates into respect for the experience and knowledge of instructors, as well as the fact that we do not know what we do not know. I was never knowingly disrespectful, but I definitely thought I knew more than I did.
I cringe now when I think about the many times I drilled a move twice and then stopped to chat with my partner, confident I had nailed it. I was also the person who in the early years of my training dismissed takedowns, no-gi, or competing, despite my instructors’ insistence that they were important. I told myself this was because I was not interested in those aspects of jiu-jitsu, though everyone except me seemed to know that it was actually because I was afraid.
Sometimes kids do not grasp why adults are making them learn school subjects or eat their vegetables. As adult jiu-jitsu students, we have choices, and if I had it to do over, I would choose to listen more to my instructors, even and especially when I did not want to.
I would recognize when to question authority: When children get older, they start to realize that the adults in their lives are not perfect or all-knowing. They start to understand the difference between right and wrong and to assume more responsibility for speaking out in favor of the former and against the latter. They ensure that their actions speak just as loudly as their words.
Jiu-jitsu practitioners do not need to wait until their “teenage years” of training to be mindful of what they should reasonably expect from their instructors and vice versa. Our instructors deserve respect for their expertise in jiu-jitsu, of course. However, it is unfair to them for us to assume that they are experts in anything other than jiu-jitsu, just as it is unfair to us for them to assume they have any authority in our lives other than what pertains directly to the mat. Achievement and belt rank in jiu-jitsu do not equal integrity and ethics, and while many black belts and high-achieving grapplers do display these characteristics, it is not automatic.
If I were to go back in time, I would spend more time guarding against hero worship and looking to my jiu-jitsu instructor as a model of how to live my life. This is not to say that one person’s choices for his or her life are inappropriate—just that those choices are not necessarily appropriate for me. I would make a much bigger point of recognizing where my instructors’ authority and expertise began and ended—I would remember that no one has a black belt in everything.
Thanks for the question!
About Valerie Worthington
Here, in no particular order, are some of the things that define me: parents who are psychologists, a childhood spent in the New Jersey suburbs except for a year my family spent in Germany, studying English literature and learning theory, always trying for the funny--not matter how self-deprecating, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a martial art I have been training for almost 20 years. I travel a lot and enjoy snacks just as much. I am reasonably intelligent, but this is undercut by my love of irreverence and childish humor. I am also the author of Training Wheels: How a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Road Trip Jump-Started My Search for a Fulfilling Life.