Have you heard about open source software? Its core promise is that its source code is freely available to anyone to use or modify. Let’s think about Brazilian jiu-jitsu as software. As I write this article, there is an amazing wealth of information at my finger tips. I can go on Google and chances are I can find an instructional for any sub, sweep or pass I can think off. This was not always the case! Before Youtube soared to popularity and the advent of paid membership BJJ websites, our access to this kind of information was very limited. For the early American pioneers of BJJ, the only access they had was going to Torrance, CA and learning from the Gracies. Can you imagine being an East Coast white belt during those days?
Access to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu knowledge is amazing now. There are academies everywhere, great books on the subject, a plethora of monthly magazines, and more technique videos that you can possibly watch in one sitting. Whatever you are on the market for is covered. Self defense? Check. Basic closed guard? Check. Escaping side control? You got it. It's very possible for a group of guys without access to an instructor to get together to train and learn jiu-jitsu. Is this optimal? Of course not, since it will take much longer for them to improve and get to a blue belt level than if they had formal training at an academy, but it’s possible and that is amazing.
Now, the most interesting part to me is the second part of the open source promise: the ability to change the source code. Whenever innovation happens in jiu-jitsu, that is precisely what’s happening -- we are changing the source code.
As jiu-jitsu progresses more and more, its source code is altered. We change how we do things, even basic things like where we put our hands during back control. The over-under seat belt control was not always the norm. For a long time, double unders was used as it gave better control because you could grab both lapels. Marcelo popularized the seatbelt during his early ADCC runs. Something we now take for granted was once considered revolutionary. Looking back at the history of BJJ, you can find many examples of this, such as the darce/brabo choke, half guard, open guard, and even the basic triangle choke.
No-gi becoming popular has changed things as well. Eddie Bravo has his own grappling software, and guys like Reilly Bodycomb, Ryan Hall, and Garry Tonon have changed the way we look at leglocks. In the gi, things like the berimbolo are a staple of competition jiu-jitsu, whereas five years ago very few people knew what it was.
I remember training and competing 8 years ago when x-guard and deep half guard were the new things. Before Marcelo popularized it, many people have never seen this position before. Fast forward to 2015, I can pull up any of the thousands of videos on Youtube and get a pretty good idea what I need to do. If I want to go a step further, I can sign up for www.mginaction.com and learn from the man himself.
Most new students take this for granted. I remember seeing Wilson Reis pulling off some trickery from deep half guard in a local Grappers Quest back in the day. I was fascinated and wanted to learn it. I asked my instructor with no luck. I asked my friend that trained at different academy, but no luck. There were no instructionals available on it at the time. So I went to Youtube in all of its grainy low def glory and watched all the matches I could find of Wilson Reis, Jeff Glover, and anyone else that played half guard. It took a while, but with the help of my instructors and training partners, I got a pretty good idea and started to hit sweeps from there. I look at old matches now and I see I made a bunch of mistakes that I have cleaned up since then. But that’s how it used to be! Now you can ask most blue belts and purple belts and they have a pretty good idea how to get into deep half guard and sweep a few different ways.
The forward progress of jiu-jitsu is incredible in the digital age. We're past the days of making fun of "Youtube jiu-jitsu." You can watch a live stream of the top competitors in the world competing, and see a breakdown of their gameplans by the end of the same day. The explosion of high quality online instruction and the open exchange of techniques puts the source code of BJJ at your finger tips. You just need to get on the mats and use it!