Book Review – ‘The Templars: The Rise and Fall of God’s Holy Warriors’ by Dan Jones

You may wonder why I chose to review this book for Conflict Manager magazine, probably not if you have read my article in this edition. First let me tell you how I got this book.

We have all our kids, partners and grandchildren round for the day a week or so before Christmas and have a big party. We have a Secret Santa and this book was my gift from Santa this year (technically last now).1

I took it on holiday with me and read it in sunny La Palma in the Canary Isles. It turned out to be a gripping read, a real page turner. The Knights Templers were formed in 1119 to protect Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land, they took oaths of chastity, obedience and poverty, they saw themselves as God’s holy warriors.

This book expertly charts the rise to a position of tremendous power, influence and wealth of the order to its demise a little over 200 years after they were founded. The book uses a multitude of evidence from original and secondary sources both Christian and Muslim to chart the vast conflicts and power struggles of the time in Europe, north Africa and the middle east with Jerusalem at the heart of it all.

The scale and level of brutality is epic, conflict of incredible scale is beautifully described as are the levels of butchery, betrayal and valour. I have read other material on the Templars and can say with confidence this is the very best I have read.

Anyone interested in the clash of civilisations between fundamental Islam and the west needs to read this to get a well researched historical context. There are a long list of themes that this book touches on, religion is the obvious one, politics the next but if you think identity politics is new, you might find this tells you otherwise.

So a big thank you to Secret Santa.

1 For those who do not know Secret Santa works as each person buys for one of the others, in our case up to £25, a gift but the receiver does not know who bought theirs.

Review by Garry Smith

Exercise Your Mind and Your Zygomatic Majors – Garry Smith

I love reading, I always have. My mum taught me to read before I went to school, it has been a source of pleasure throughout my life. From fiction to non-fiction I devour books, I eat the words with my eyes and digest the content with my brain. 

Yesterday I was reading ‘The Ape in the Corner Office’ by Richard Conniff and I was barely a chapter in when I had to text a female friend with a new ‘fact’ I had found. The new ‘fact’ was that a human females zygomatic majors are thicker than those in a male, in contrast to males being on average 15% larger and more muscular than females.

The zygomatic majors are the muscles running from the outside of the eyes to the corners of the mouth, we use these to smile. Most of this smile muscle is made up of fast twitch fibres, 90%, so smiling is a rapid response. The muscles used to frown are only 50% fast twitch fibres meaning a smile has evolved to be quicker than a frown.

Smiling is our oldest and most natural expression, and like other facial expressions, it evolved for a function, as a means of responding to the people around us and influencing their behaviour. Primatologists connect our smile to the ‘fear grin’ in monkeys and date its evolution back at least thirty million years. In a group of macaques, for example, the approach of the alpha may cause a subordinate to cringe and nervously pull back the corners of the mouth, exposing the clenched teeth. It’s a signal meaning, ‘I’m no threat’.” Richard Conniff.

Conniff considers if women are genetically better prepared to smile or if the extra muscle is a “by-product of smiling surly males into a less bellicose frame of mind”. Before we descend into the rabbit hole of evolution versus social programming let me explain why this really interests me.

It is because I teach self defence. The starting point of self defence for me is avoidance. After avoidance comes escape, then defusion and only, seriously only if there is no opportunity to avoid, escape or defuse, the use of force may have to be employed. Reflecting on a few confrontations in the last ten years, rather the multiple confrontations, fights and battles of my younger years, I realised I now employ a different tactic, I go deadpan. I do not think I show any emotion, of course this is entirely subjective so I cannot say for certain, I also stay calm and not allowing the monkey to take control..

Well I think I do, trust me I have experienced many amygdala hijacks in the past and let the monkey brain have free reign, so in my personal evolution I have now managed to, mostly, prevent this happening. To do that requires knowing what is happening in the first place. That is why I read and read a lot.

I am fascinated in how we function as social animals. Most people are locked into the daily struggle to get by, the luxury to think, to reflect on what we are and how we came to be this way is replaced by the game show, reality TV and trivia, escapism is the order of the day. But the pursuit of knowledge is escapism too, continual personal and professional development should be our goal. The other day I bought 3 ebooks for my Kindle:

  • ‘Violence of Mind: Training and Preparation for Extreme Violence’ by my friend and CRGI colleague Varg Freeborn,

  • What Doesn’t Kill Us: how freezing water, extreme altitude, and environmental conditioning will renew our lost evolutionary strength’ by Scott Carney and Wim Hof  as recommended by Mark Hatmaker.

  • ‘Life at the Bottom’ by Theodore Dalrymple as recommended by Marc MacYoung.

That is my next holiday sorted.

Sat on my bookshelf there are actual paper books waiting to be read:

  • ‘The Passionate State of Mind’ by Eric Hoffer.

  • ‘The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health and Disease’ by Daniel Lieberman.

  • ‘Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst’ by Robert Sopolsky.

  • ‘Rules of Engagement: A Life in Conflict’ by Tim Collins.

  • ‘Voices of the Foreign Legion: The History of the world’s most famous Fighting Corps’ by Adrian Gilbert again recommended by Mark Hatmaker.

Each one is a source of information and inspiration, each one a source of enrichment and education. For those of us who assume the responsibility to educate others it is our duty to continue to educate ourselves. I have always been a passionate autodidact and, I hope, a critical thinker. I owe it to my students to be the best I possibly can be in order to provide the best training I can for them.

I see lots of moaning on social media about the problems in the unregulated nature of the self defence and martial arts industries. I agree with most of them, but apart from bitching about the guy down the road or setting up another quango governing body type organisation, I see little in the way of solutions.

Well how about trying this.

  • Do everything you can to get better and better, accept you are not and never will be the finished article.
  • Join together with others who share your passion to improve and feed off one another.
  • Discuss, debate, argue and be prepared to be wrong.
  • When you find something new that improves what you already have embrace it, adapt, evolve, its what we are designed to do.

I have a favourite quote from Edward De Bono:

What is the point of having a mind if you are not prepared to change it.”

Adaptation is the key to evolution, this is true of the individual and the species sapiens. Our social world is complex and continually changing so why would you want to stand still? So read, expand your mind, challenge and grow your intellect and as you do so you may find yourself using those Zygomatic majors a little more often.

Tiger in the Sheets, and in the Streets? Will That Drive Your Man Away? – Mirav Tarkka

Is it just the looks that count?

When I ask men “what makes me sexy in your eyes”? I hear everything except comments about my body. It is not your breasts, legs or other physical features that make you sexy, it is your confidence. From the Mona Lisa to Marilyn Monroe and Angelina Jolie, to women whose beauty isn’t that “clearly out there” (like me!), if you are confident, it passes layers of cellulite, fat or so called “ugliness”, you will be attractive, because a woman who is confident in herself, loves herself, is in control of her life and her surroundings, and doesn’t wait for prince charming to save her, is sexy. Now, what does that have to do with self defense?

Can he handle you?

When a woman takes “a man’s role” and trains herself to be able to protect herself and her loved ones, many things can happen to the man’s mind: he feels emasculated. Isn’t he the one supposed to protect her? He feels less of a man, but at the same time he also admires her, and trusts her more to be able to do that job. Men’s reactions to this vary but the problem today is that most men feel less of a man instead of pure admiration because of their weakness and fear caused by their life experiences. This is contributed to by factors like the media, parents, socialisation and so on…. resulting in a man maybe trying to take away your power (in radical terms: becoming an aggressor, humiliating you, belittling you and so on) which in his mind can be compared to a “fight” reaction. On the other hand there can be the “missing man”. Every strong woman has had loads of those. Men who escape when feeling overpowered. They might find another woman, an intense job, or just act very coldly. They become absent; missing. Sex becomes horrible, almost as if you are forcing him to have sex with you. He isn’t there any more.

Beauty in the eye of the beholder

There is the rare man who would admire your increasing power and journey, and encourage it. You become like 2 race horses, riding side by side, regardless of whether the man was sitting on top of you before (you are the horse) trying to control you with his power, and then fell off your back because you wouldn’t surrender. The 2 race horses do it cheerfully, encouraging one another, admiring, persuading to continue, to grow! (or go!) He finds you as sexy as possible, and you do too, and the sex- the sex is incredible. A fascinating, breathtaking , powerful sensation, instead of the half asleep one you had before (the missing man).

A woman who is powerful, and empowered does that. What do you prefer? To live in a secure “comfort” zone where your prince charming is with you because he feels “on the top” but the minute the game changes he is gone? It is not real? Or to be with someone who lets you be who you were meant to be? Free, strong, sexy?

Lose the fear factor!

There is another, perhaps surprising connection between sex and self defense. A person who practises sd has less fear of death, knowing there are less chances that would occur. A study I did as my theses for my psychology degree showed that the more there is a fear of death, the more casual sex appears. Casual sex can be amazing, yes, but it doesn’t have the debt a real and good sexual relationship has, because to be in sync with your partner sexually, he has to know your body, your likes and dislikes, as so do you. As you reach your peak of sexuality, you start to understand that you can have more than just a physical orgasm, you can have an almost spiritual one, with the right partner. It is rare, difficult to find, but not impossible. And you don´t find it by “trial and error”, you find it by getting to know that person on a deeper level. The better, deeper sexual relationship happens with the more steady relationship (monogamy). Now, the less fear you have of death, the less partners you have (your need to leave children after you is lessened) therefore the sexuality and sexual connection is increased. You see, it is scientific! So if you practise self defense, you fear death less also on a subconscious level, therefore have better sexuality in your life.

And that, my friends, is yet another reason why you should learn to protect yourself. Just for the sex of it!

Think You Know How to Stop School Shootings? Think Again! – Erik Kondo

School shooting are a problem. Solving this problem requires some type of approach. Here are some commonly discussed and debated proposed solutions in no particular order:

  • Pass stricter gun laws making it more difficult for potential shooters to obtain high powered weapons.
  • Pass stricter laws on gun magazines making it more difficult for shooters to kill so many people.
  • Arm teachers with guns so they can fire back at the shooter.
  • Pass stricter background checks to make it more difficult for potential shooters to obtain weapons.
  • Make it easier to legally take weapons away from people who are deemed to be mentally ill or dangerous.
  • Train students on how to respond to active shooter situations.
  • Provide students with bulletproof backpacks.
  • Make schools more secure from unauthorized entry.
  • Make classrooms more secure from attack.
  • Eliminate male aggression in society.
  • Provide more resources for mental health.
  • Parents provide more discipline for their children.
  • Identify potential school shooters through tips.
  • Put metal detectors in school entryways.
  • Install more security cameras and monitoring equipment.
  • Provide teachers with Less-than-Lethal weapons such as tasers, rubber bullets, bean bag shotguns, chemical sprays, etc.
  • Teach students how to fight back against active shooters.
  • Enact stricter punishment such as the death penalty for school shooters.
  • Put mobile bulletproof backboards in the classrooms for students to hide behind.
  • Instil children with more family values and morals.
  • Stop glorifying violence in TV, movies, video games, and the media.

There are three Primary Methods to deal with a self-defense problem. Each one can be used separately or in combination with the others.

  1. Stop or limit a person’s Intent to do harm. Where Intent is defined as desire or motivation or ill intent to do harm.
  2. Stop or limit a person’s Means to do harm. Where Means is the ability or capability to do harm.
  3. Stop or limit a person’s Opportunity to do harm. Where Opportunity is the circumstances in which it is possible to do harm.

A person requires all three to cause harm. Therefore, stopping or limiting one Primary Method will stop or limit the harm.

All the above listed individual solutions fall into one or more of these three Primary Methods.

Each one of the three Primary Methods can be performed in one or more of three-time frames of:

1. Prevention (before the event),
 Intervention (during the event), and
 Mitigation (after the event) with varying degree of effectiveness depending upon the circumstances.

Therefore, there are nine Primary Method Time Phases to deal with school shootings.

There are Three Viewpoints to view school shootings:

  1. As a Systemic Problem where school shootings are the result of widespread societal and cultural factors.
  2. As a Situational Problem where school shootings are the result of a certain confluence of factors on a situational basis.
  3. As a Personal Problem where school shootings are the result of individual factors of the person(s) involved.

Therefore, the nine Primary Method Time Phases can be viewed from one or more of these Three Viewpoints. That makes for a total of twenty-seven (3 x 3 x 3) categories of different approaches for dealing with school shootings. Each of these categories of approaches comes with its own set of advantages, disadvantages, assumptions, truths, and falsehoods. In other words, for every approach that is effective, there can be twenty-six examples of where this approach doesn’t apply. Given the complete lack of unbiased data, evidence, and expertise on the subject due to the relatively low number of incidents, people select approaches based on their pre-existing favorite solution.

  • If you hate guns, you will say that gun control is the solution.
  • If you love guns, you will say more guns is the solution.
  • If you are for Capital punishment, you will say that the death penalty is the solution.
  • If you think that male aggression in a problem in society, you will say that eliminating male aggression is the solution.
  • If you think mental illness is a problem in society, you will say that more mental health resources are the solution.
  • If you manufacture bulletproof products, you will say that more bulletproof products in the classroom is the solution.
  • If you think that kids are out of control, you will say the more parental discipline is the solution.
  • If you are in the business of teaching self-defense, you will say that more student/teacher training is the solution.
  • And so on.

And every one of you will be correct in some manner AND incorrect in some other manner. For every example of why your pet solution will work, there are likely to be more examples of why your pet solution will not work. There is also the fact that no school shooting is the same. Some are mass casualty events. Some are few casualty events. And some are threats and fights gone wrong. Therefore, an effective approach needs to also take into consideration the various types of school shootings.

There are tens of millions of students in the United States. There are tens of thousands of schools ranging from elementary schools to universities. Given the relatively few number of incidents over time, you have minimal data to base your solution on.  How do you know your solution will not make the problem worse?

Solving the problem of school shootings requires more than applying your pet ideological solution to this complex problem. Solving complex problems starts with open-minded thinking. If you think that you already know the answer, you are most likely wrong. if you really want to stop school shootings, stop promoting your ideology and start looking at the problem with an open mind. Otherwise, you are a part of the problem.


Internet Warriors – David Melker, Avi and Ishai Nardia

The Backfire Effect: Why Facts Do Not Win Arguments

What should be evident from the studies on the backfire effect is you can never win an argument online. When you start to pull out facts and figures, hyperlinks and quotes, you are making the opponent feel as though they are even more sure of their position than before you started the debate. As they match your fervor, the same thing happens in your skull. The backfire effect pushes both of you deeper into your original beliefs.

Many Martial artist claim I am not an internet warrior, but in the modern era internet wars are common. Unfortunately, the internet warrior uses the safety of distance to slander. People with big egos and flexible morals who like to criticise others whilst simultaneously stand on their shoulders just to appear a little taller.

Internet wars are often between open minded teachers that will try any idea and closed minded teachers. The latter will shut themselves, and more sadly their students, from opening their mind as its scare them that their students may find that there is more than one solution to a problem. An open mind is a mind that is receptive to new ideas and information as opposed to a closed mind that will reject ideas and is stuck in ‘my way is the only way’ mode.

Many martial artist that believe that what they do is best and only way, sometimes this comes from arrogance but it can also be caused by an inferiority complex. This is where cognitive dissonance kicks in and to observers manifests itself as what is called the Dunning-Kruger effect.

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein people of low ability suffer from illusory superiority as they mistakenly, (deliberately), assess their cognitive and physical ability as greater than it is.

It occurs where people fail to adequately assess their level of competency, or more specifically, their incompetency at a task and thus consider themselves much more competent than everyone else. This lack of awareness is attributed to their lower level of competence robbing them of the ability to critically analyze their performance, leading to a significant overestimation of themselves.

In simple words it’s ‘people who are too stupid to know how stupid they are’.

The reverse also applies. Competent people tend to underestimate their ability compared to others and this can lead to experiencing impostor syndrome.

With the above cocktail of factors lead to a fertile ground for internet wars and many times I heard friends say I am not an internet warrior. However, a warrior is a warrior no matter what or where the battlefield is, a physical place or cyber space.

Take for example Socrates the Soldier – Most people think of Socrates (470-399 BC) as a, old philosopher. People are often surprised to learn that Socrates was in fact, also a decorated military hero. Renowned among army veterans for his courage on the battlefield and for his extraordinary endurance and self-discipline. Some scholars believe that it was actually Socrates’ heroism at the Battle of Delium that catapulted him to fame in Athens.

In the Book the Republic he set the first solider or warrior problem.

Solider thinking; if we assault and win we can do it even without me any way, as some will lose life even when we win, if we lose why should I risk myself? I better stay behind and we call this moral issue ” fix your shoe ” as one droop and tell his friend I will just fix my shoe and join you.

The moral and warrior code did not start today on the internet but for sure the internet can be a platform for discussions that are legitimate and helpful The sad reality is that most internet warriors are only their to slanders and criticise others and if they get an answer they they do not like they run hide behind backfire effect.

Some people take pleasure when others fall or fail, the Germans have a word for this, Schadenfreude; is the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another.

Some martial arts will have Based their skills on statistics (not necessarily facts) and statistics are like bikinis, what they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.

Internet warriors can go as far as character assassination using the power Google as a weapon to try take someone better than them out of the game.

Quite often these internet wars are witnessed by many bystanders, many of who are simply voyeurs enjoying the spectacle, whilst others are scared to get involved.

Let’s keep open mind and good attitude on the internet and educate our self as that is the value of having an open mind.

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Aristotle.

Observations on Brazilian Jiujutsu (from a Pragmatist’s Perspective) – Peter Jones

As I type this, I’ve committed to the decision to cease training in Brazilian Jiujutsu after three years. The reasons for this decision are varied and unimportant, but that I’ve made a conscious decision to draw a line has given me cause to stand back and reflect on the experience.

Some background: For as long as I can remember I’ve trained in multiple martial arts, feeling that no one art has all the answers. In my youth this was solely opportunistic; I attended the clubs that opened in my small rural home town. Aged 18 I moved to university and trained in the arts that were available. Some years later I opened my own club, but I also started training at a club that opened in the venue that I trained. In recent years I’ve looked at my weaknesses or deficits in skillset and taken up arts specifically to address them. And so I came to Brazilian Jiujutsu.

In truth I’d considered BJJ in the past but I’d been put off, ironically by a member of the club that I would subsequently train at. In extolling the benefits of training in the club, he bragged that someone ends up in A&E every week with a fracture! Eventually I reached a point where I needed a challenge and wasn’t getting in the mat time as a student that I wanted. In part I probably also ran out of excuses. And so I took up BJJ.

Of course the experiences and views that I present here are mine and mine alone and are of one BJJ school. However, I’d dabbled in BJJ and grappling before and have friends in other schools. I think there will be little to disagree with here. And so I present the observations that I made. The emphasis for me and my training these days is on pragmatism and so these are the eyes I look through.

Injuries are Common

Martial arts is a contact activity. Injuries happen. I love it when Rory Miller’s pre-seminar safety talks include “hands up who here gets out of bed in the morning without their body creaking,” knowing full well that maybe one arm will go up and that’ll belong to a teenager. But in all my years of training I’ve never seen such a bunch of broken people in one changing room. Right now I suspect I have a partial tear of my left medial meniscus, my left elbow doesn’t want to fully extend, my neck goes “clunk,” my back hurts from a spine hyperextension that was supposed to be a choke, both thighs scream when I walk and my right big toe doesn’t bend due to an untreated fracture that’s become fused. And I’m a typical example!

Former UFC fighter turned Osteopath Rosi Sexton says there are only two types of grappler; those with neck injuries and those about to have neck injuries. BJJ practitioners are experts in finger-taping and joint-supports. As a pragmatist this is hardly good self-preservation.

There are Styles, but they’re called “Teams”

These days we’re used to styles – Goju Ryu, Shotokan, Wado Ryu, Kyokushinkai and so on. Conversely we don’t have ryu or kan of BJJ. Actually we do. We have Gracie Barra, Checkmat, Atos and so on. And let’s not get started on Tenth Planet!

In my view this is an interesting similarity to the classical ryu of Japan. They all expect total loyalty and a degree of secrecy. They all have their trademark techniques and tactics. They often have their own terminology too, which can be cleverly mysterious. Consider the “redneck choke,” so called because it leaves the recipient with a red neck! And let’s not get started on Tenth Planet!

In my view their expectations for devotion to their instructors goes a little too far at times.

Human Chess

The analogy of “human chess” is fair. Strategies are innumerable. Sacrifices (of position, of a grip) allow for greater victories. No experience of play is ever too much. Everyone moves in different ways. Watch for being taken from behind!

It’s Unforgiving

Right from the first class I was getting arm barred and choked. No let-up for the new guy. Most training partners won’t give a rat’s ass about your injuries. No gradual build-up to account for fitness. This isn’t wholly a bad thing. It teaches sheer determination and relentlessness. Where it is a bad thing is the number of students that fall quickly. And also how hard it is to train through injuries. I nearly quit early on. What kept me going was just sheer bloody-mindedness. I’m a black belt. I’m not going to quit!


Creonte. It’s a Brazilian Jiujutsu term for someone who has left a team and gone elsewhere. It can be likened to “traitor.” Early into training in BJJ I hosted a former UFC fighter in my dojo. That person happens to be a BJJ brown belt with another team. I’ve known them for years. I only latterly discovered that as I’d advertised the seminar as a “grappling” seminar, it was fine but if I’d advertised it as a BJJ seminar then I’d likely have found myself unwelcome in my team!


I think this is an American term but here it applies. It’s so frustrating. We know that size, weight and strength are significant advantages. That’s why there are weight classes. It takes significant skill to overcome that advantage. Add to that a lack of control of weight and you have someone frustratingly difficult to fight and that’s potentially quite dangerous.

So what do you do about it? Tell the instructor that you think they could be the cause of injuries? Hell, no. That makes you look weak or whiney. No, you protect yourself, learn how to defend to minimise injury risk. Someone will rise to the challenge of fighting the knucklehead. If you can beat them you can beat anyone. Some will do their best to avoid fighting the knucklehead as it’s just not worth it (see injuries are common.)

However, I am left with the confidence that I now have the skills in the domain of ground fighting to better an unskilled attacker bigger than I. Leaving aside all of the variables associated with real-life self protection such as weapons, multiple attackers and so on, if I can fight the heavier knucklehead, then I should fear no one.


I took up BJJ to learn new skills and address a hole in my game. I knew it was 90% sport and accepted that. Helio Gracie always intended BJJ to be a method of self-defence. YouTube shows us Rener and Ryron Gracie’s work on making BJJ applicable for civilian self-defence and for Police.

In three years I didn’t do ANY BJJ that wasn’t entirely sport-orientated. Not one lesson. Not even a nod towards it. Nothing. It would seem that this is normal. And I’m left frustrated, wanting more from my three-years training.

Time Outs

You can’t afford to take time out of training. With even just a few weeks off, your training partners will have become vastly better. Sure we get a little rusty with some time away from the dojo but in BJJ the effect is magnified.

It’s Demoralising

We have great sessions where everything goes well. That baiting to set up the submission that we’ve been working on goes amazingly well. We flow. No-one can touch us. We’re the hammer.

Then the next lesson we’re the anvil. The newbie nearly submits us. We get the knucklehead. Nothing works.

Another scenario is that we’re up against a higher grade with “slick” transitions. They just seem to do nothing with any effort but they negate everything we have with ease. Their Jiujutsu is to be admired, but we just wish they weren’t so good.

Grading” is a Dirty Word

Grades / grading / belts / promotions. Don’t talk about it. Just “trust the process.” Well after three years my conclusion is that actually I don’t trust the process. The process involves unquestioning devotion to the instructor (see There are styles…) and no idea of what you’re actually supposed to be learning or what your standard is.

Personally I like clearly defined objectives, be it a coursework deadline, a competition, a project or a grading. But we mustn’t ever say that. Oh no. A lot of students of BJJ are very happy with this and that’s great. A lot actually come to BJJ because they don’t like the traditional approach of regular grading.

But if you ask your instructor, your professor, about it, then expect to go down in their estimation. Even asking what you should work on in order to earn promotion will likely give you the raised eyebrows.

You Don’t Know What You Know

In any other art I could clearly state the kata that I’ve learned and been graded on. I could list the throws that I knew and been graded on. I could list drills that I’d practiced. I knew what I knew. On leaving BJJ it feels like I know nothing.

This clearly isn’t true. In various times of practice I’ve found myself pulling off techniques only learned in the BJJ dojo. In pragmatic free drills where I’ve found myself on the floor I’ve suddenly discovered that actually I did learn the double-leg x-guard sweep and can effectively execute it to bring my attacker down and also get to my feet. It’s just there’s no published syllabus or specific measured objectives.

It’s Rewarding

Interestingly, much of my observation has been negative but those comments can be seen very positively too. Physically, it provides an incredibly good workout. Psychologically, the difficulty in finding success means success gives a greater high. Socially, the team belonging can be a great moral boost. For all of the issues that I’ve cited I actually do miss training for the reasons I give here.

They Don’t (Typically) Respect the Concept of Pragmatism

I ruffled quite a few feathers over this. Several members of my club believed beyond doubt that BJJ was the only real martial art of value and it was undeniably the best for self-protection. I never doubted the benefits of it. Physical fitness, determination, technique, live practice and solid principles were massively beneficial. However when I cited realities of violence such as weapons, multiple attackers, furnished surroundings, surprise attacks and so on I just met a barrier of denial and insults. When I suggested that rather than learning BJJ to defend yourself from the clichéd dark-alley attack, the student may be better off avoiding the dark alley, I might as well have grown a second head such was how radical my thinking was.

I know, there is much good pragmatic BJJ work out there. Sadly I’m yet to encounter it.

One prominent BJJ practitioner advised me that in their view the best art for physical self-protection was rugby. They have a good point and I admire their open-mindedness and honesty.

So, what conclusion can I draw from all of this? BJJ was something I came to both love and hate. Dragging myself to the club was always hard and took immense discipline. I got injured. My wife hated me doing it. And yet I miss it. There is no doubt that I got a lot from it, although probably not what I was expecting or seeking. Currently I’m starting to appreciate how BJJ fits into my own Jujitsu (note the spelling difference) syllabus and objectives. I’m finding the value but it’s taking lot of filtering to gather the bits that I want and can use. Is there value in the pragmatist learning BJJ? Well yes, but look closely at what the club offers. Be selective. Keep my words in mind.

I hope these observations are of interest to the prospective Jiujitero and I can imagine the BJJ veteran reading this and nodding with a wry smile.