Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is marketed as one of the most complete grappling arts you can learn, consisting of take-downs, sweeps and submissions from guard and passing and submissions from top position. However, is there value in training in other grappling arts? We spoke to 2 grapplers with experience in both Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and another grappling art. Sophie Cox, a double Olympian in judo, and a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Purple belt, not only is she a successful judoka but she recently won Gold at the World Masters at purple lightweight. Representing wrestling, we spoke to Scott Smith, an American High-school Wrestler and Jiu Jitsu Blue belt, an IBJJF European Silver medallist in the master’s lightweight division, recently winning double gold at the IBJJF Amsterdam Open.
Double Olympian in judo, world judo masters champion, UAEJJF World Pro Blue belt champion, IBJJF European Champion master 1, IBJJF World Masters Purple belt champion master 2. Judo Coach at multiple BJJ Academies.
FME - Hi Sophie! First of all, how many years of experience in judo and BJJ do you have?
Sophie - 30 years in Judo - age 6-18 as recreational/competitive junior. 18-23 as international part 1, 28-31 as international part 2. The rest as recreational/part-time competitor/coach (current). I’ve been training BJJ for 5 years.
FME - What first attracted you to judo originally, and what is your proudest moment competing in judo?
Sophie - The physicality through the games and fitness exercises. The competitiveness. The social side. Tough to choose but probably representing Team GB 2012
FME - And what attracted you to Brazilian Jiu jitsu and again your favourite achievement?
Sophie - The opportunity to train and be a student again whilst learning something new (and useful!), still pushing myself physically and still enjoying the social side. Also, I saw the cross-training potential before most people and have been transferring the skills into judo since I started.
FME - How have you had to mesh your disciplines ?
Sophie - The rules of the ‘game’ are different - sport BJJ and sport Judo are quite different and I’ve had to learn to play to the rules. I’m much more confident/ruthless in judo newaza now and I use my speed and confidence on my feet when competing BJJ. There are a good number of similarities in terms of principals such as leverage, grips and base but I had to unlearn some habits from judo such as giving up the back and the triangle specifically. In judo you have to transition quickly in newaza so you don’t have the time to be as deliberate as you do in bjj.
FME - How has your judo/wrestling background helped with your Jiu Jitsu?
Sophie - Having confidence on my feet and getting grips. Being able to move with speed and ‘feel’ the opportunities. Being physically quite tough and used to ‘fighting’. Having a good side control and base! Having a good level of basic chokes and armbars.
FME - What benefits can judo training give to Jiu Jitsu athletes?
Sophie - Basically as above. Mostly confidence in takedowns and fast transitions. Plus attacking the turtle.
FME - Who in your opinion mixes judo and bjj the best?
Sophie - The obvious would be Travis Stevens - he used his BJJ to help him get an Olympic silver medal. And he studied it mainly because of Flavio Canto who mastered both sports and gained a bronze in Athens 2004.
FME - What’s your favourite accomplishment in both bjj and judo?
Sophie - BJJ I think Gold at Abu Dhabi Worlds although master’s Worlds was pretty special as well. Judo - Bronze at the Paris Grand Slam was awesome because of the atmosphere plus Bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. But also, still going at getting my 5th Dan!
American Highschool Wrestler, BJJ blue belt, accomplishments - IBJJF European Silver Medalist Master lightweight. IBJJF Amsterdam Open Double gold medalist. Wrestling Coach at Factory BJJ.
FME - Hi Scott! Introduce yourself, how many years of experienced do you have in wrestling and BJJ?
Scott Smith - 12 years of wrestling and 8 years BJJ.
FME - What first attracted you to wrestling?
Scott Smith - My two older brothers and sister did it so it was a natural progression. At school if you were short you did wrestling if you were tall you played basketball!
FME - What attracted you to Brazilian Jiu jitsu?
Scott Smith - I liked wrestling and grappling and it looked like something I’d enjoy. I like the nuances of it and the gi allows me to slow the game down which for someone who is older means I have longevity in the sport.
FME - How has your wrestling background helped with your Jiu Jitsu?
Scott Smith - Using my take down skills from wrestling has been helpful, and my top control is a lot more developed.
FME - What benefits can wrestling training give to Jiu Jitsu athletes?
Scott Smith - I think grit, toughness and it teaches you how to endure discomfort and work though it.
FME - Who in your opinion mixes wrestling and BJJ the best?
Scott Smith - Saulo Ribeiro, I love the way he incorporates take downs and his scrambling ability, his brother Xande also does well incorporating wrestling into his Jiu Jitsu. I think with NoGi and especially ADCC we see a lot of Jiu Jitsu athletes adding high level wrestling into their training!
FME - In your wrestling career have you got any accomplishments you’re proud of?
Scott Smith - making the high school wrestling team as a ninth grader
FME - In your Jiu Jitsu career what is your favourite accomplishment?
Scott Smith - Taking silver in the 2016 IBJJF European Championship as a masters blue belt. Also just last year taking double gold at the IBJJF Amsterdam Open helping Factory BJJ team take a team trophy in the process!