No School Like Old School


Jahred Dell – Articulate BJJ

As someone who struggles to reconcile post-modernism with learning & innovation, I try to be optimistic about the fact that there are still (or at least might be) genuinely new things out there. Innovation and discovery are so different today than over the last millennium; we’re continually spurred forward by the increasing speed limit of the information highway and collective neural network that is the internet. I still find myself wondering if there is anything left that is yet to be done.

We see this time & time again within a martial arts context too with certain techniques falling in and out of fashion on what seems like a never-ending carousel. Leg locks? Been done before. Berimbolo? Been done before.

Nothing new is being “invented”, just rediscovered. Despite being developed extensively by them, the entire concept of the Guard was not ‘invented’ by the Brazilians, it has been an existing position since the earliest iterations of Judo. 

As the cycles change, it’s always interesting to see the impact that previous discoveries have on the meta-game. What impact do ‘New School’ techniques have on competition? How quickly can the arms race of technique catch up to counter techniques finding success? Many would argue that the ‘Old School’ has these answers. Seeming reductive in their simplicity, we see the time tested basics and fundamentals always shining through: closed guard, sound passing, heavy pressure… these ‘basics’ or Old School approaches are still the sound staples of some of the best grapplers to ever grace the mat.

Roger Gracie, Xande Ribeiro, even Leandro Lo and Buchecha exemplify many of the soundest fundamental aspects of jiu jitsu and wider grappling principles; sound basics, strong positions, heavy pressure and exceptional fundamental grappling minds.

As someone who was not exposed to the wider lore and history of grappling until the end of university, much of my understanding and practice has been informed by a continuing study of the history of grappling. As a bit of a history nerd, I’m always absorbed by genesis; the source of a thing. The unfortunate reality is that this is often paired with the muting realization that all of the exciting innovations being made in grappling are simply re-iterations of innovations made historically.

Kimura traps? Used by wrestlers since the Ancient Greek times. White figures are depicted on funerary vases wrestling with black figures in scenes of games and festivals. It has been suggested that these figures were Greek wrestlers competing against dark skinned Nubians from the Nile region in the 8th century BC. Trust me, just because there’s a DVD doesn’t mean the person discovered it. Leg locks? I’ve seen friezes of centaurs (mythical creatures) heel hooking victims that have been dated to the Bronze age.

The point I’m trying to make here is that no technique is invented, it’s just been rediscovered. Everything that is possible already exists, it just takes a change of paradigm to come to the fore sometimes.

Thanks for reading.

Jahred Dell

Both a Kiwi/ South African, Jahred Dell has worked as a freelance sports journalist, is a published poet and is currently a practicing High School Teacher. Jahred also runs a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu blog called Articulate BJJ which he began in 2017.



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