Grappling and Ju-Jitsu are an integral part of modern day Mixed Martial Arts and there are many innovators and experts that fans are aware of, but many that fans may be clueless about. Fans have heard the pioneer’s names over and over and the credit is well deserved. Names synonymous with Ju-Jitsu such as Royce Gracie, Renzo Gracie and newer breakout stars such as Demian Maia, Dean Lister, Jake Shields, and Shinya Aoki are names that are associated with some of the finest grapplers in the ranks of several Mixed Martial Arts organizations. But there are world class grapplers who have continued to innovate, adapt and improve upon the endless opportunities that exist when a fight reaches the ground. Here are some of those gurus and what they have offered to the evolution of the ground game in Mixed Martial Arts and Ju-Jitsu.
Kyra Gracie- Kyra Gracie is of course a member of the legendary Gracie clan. Kyra has made waves in the grappling community due to the fact that she is such a decorated champion in what was usually a male dominated sport. Kyra is a 3 time 3x World BJJ Champion (2004, 2006, 2008)5x Pan American BJJ Games Champion (2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007), 5x Brazilian BJJ Champion (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004), 2x ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club) Submission Wrestling World Champion (2005, 2007). Kyra is closely associated with the Gracie Barra camp and the Renzo Gracie Academy. Kyra has become a female figurehead for grappling much like Gina Carano is for MMA and has attracted many fans to grappling competitions. Kyra’s uncle Renzo has recently stated that Kyra is currently training to enter MMA competition which would be a welcome surprise to the female ranks.
Marcelo Garcia- Garcia is a true revolutionary in the art of BJJ. Garcia is a black belt under Fabio Gurgel and has done much in his career with much more to accomplish in the future. Garcia has a much decorated grappling record with three consecutive wins in the Abu Dhabi Combat Club’s World Championships in the 66–76 kg division in 2003, 2005 and 2007. Marcelo also placed third in the absolute (open weight) division in 2005 and gained second place in 2007. Marcelo was also awarded most technical fighter twice (2003, 2007) and was also given an award for best fight in 2005. This past year (2009) Marcelo finished second in his weight division. Many talented grapplers and MMA fighters have fallen to this talented Brazilian such as Kurt Pellegrino, George Soriropoulos, Jake Shields, Robert Drysdale, Demian Maia, Andre Galvao, Diego Sanchez, Renzo Gracie and Shinya Aoki. Garcia has brought about several innovations for the ground game the most important being his new website. The site MGinaction.com allows members to view live classes all taught by Garcia as well as access to a whole library of technique demos. Garcia also has a library of real life grappling and tournament scenarios so a user can switch between learning a move and actually seeing it performed in a combat situation.
Dave Camarillo- Dave Camarillo has been a lifelong martial artist dedicated to his craft. Dave is a decorated Judoka (Judo Player) whose family was active in Judo since he was a youngster. Dave had the privilege to train with many world class Judokas including some from Japan and many Olympic Judo fighters who actively compete. A freak knee injury left Camarillo unable to train throwing and stand up grappling with his Judo partners which left him limited to the ground game. At this time the UFC was making waves in the martial arts community and the word of Royce Gracie’s dominating Ju-Jitsu had Camarillo curious. Camarillo used his opportunity to train with Ralph Gracie and soon became very talented on the ground. Dave has fought and won in several grappling competitions and was awarded the most technical American Ju-Jitsu fighter by the legendary Rickson Gracie. Camarillo is now a decorated BJJ Black Belt as well as a top notch Judoka. Camarillo used his talents in both arts to create his own hybrid style that is correctly named Guerilla Ju-Jitsu since Camarillo is famous for his show-no-mercy style. This unique blend of arts lends itself well to his students at AKA (American Kickboxing Academy) such as Mike Swick, Josh Koscheck, Cain Velasquez and Jon Fitch. Dave’s Guerilla Ju-Jitsu style lends itself perfectly to MMA because it works very well with transitions between aggressive takedowns, throws and devastating submissions.
Robert Drysdale- Robert Drysdale is a very game Ju-Jitsu fighter with a vast experience in the sport. Drysdale has trained BJJ in Brazil initially with Maromba Club and eventually team Brasa Jiu-Jitsu Club. Robert has taught Ju-Jitsu all over the world in countries such as Mexico, Germany, the UK as well as the US. Robert has had great success in his grappling career- 1st place in the Abu-Dhabi Submission Wrestling World Championships - Open Division (2007), 3x times BJJ World Champion (IBJJF/CBJJ). Robert has several impressive wins but none more impressive than his convincing win over Marcelo Garcia. Garcia had beaten Drysdale twice but Robert rallied back to finish Garcia with a convincing D’arce choke. Drysdale has also been instrumental in training MMA fighters with an already talented ground game to be even better. Drysdale has trained the likes of Randy Couture, Wanderlai Silva, Frank Mir and Forrest Griffin.
Eddie Bravo- Perhaps the guru of all gurus is Eddie Bravo who perhaps has done more for the ground game then any MMA fan is aware of. Eddie is a name fans may have heard of due to his commentating on MMA broadcasts as well as breaking down the grappling replays for the UFC announcers. Everyone praises Joe Rogen for his vast knowledge of the ground game which is all thanks to Eddie who has been Joe’s BJJ coach since the beginning. Eddie is a BJJ black belt under Jean-Jacques Machado and is a very accomplished grappler. Eddie’s most prolific win was definitely against Royler Gracie when Eddie was still a brown belt. Royler at that time had never lost a grappling match and it was certainly the highlight off Eddies grappling career when the triangle finished Royler in the 2003 ADCC championships. Eddie has since developed his own system called 10th Planet Ju-Jitsu. Eddie is a true pioneer who has paved the way using the no gi system which is priceless when speaking about MMA. Many traditionalists insult Eddie for casting his gi aside but I liken him to Bruce Lee meaning he strips away the inessentials and uses bits and pieces from several different systems to make his system that much better. Eddie has also made another huge contribution to the ground game by creating the rubber guard. The rubber guard can be seen in almost every grappling competition as well as in MMA competition. The creation of the robber guard is simple but also genius. Eddie being a smaller individual wanted to create a way to be on the bottom with a fighter in his guard without the worry of being hit. The rubber guard also opens up for submissions and is an extremely valuable tool in or outside the cage. Eddie has also come up with other memorable moves such as the twister and the electric chair but possibly his best quality is his humility. Eddie is one of the few BJJ practitioners that gives other grapplers credit where it is due he is not trying to be a glory hound. Eddie openly applauds anyone who adapts and adds to BJJ as an art. Eddie has trained several top MMA fighters such as Jason Chambers, Dan Hardy, Shinya Aoki, Demian Maia and George Soriropoulos. Eddie is a true innovator who is always creating and giving back to the sport of Ju-Jitsu and MMA.
These names may not be mentioned on every UFC or Strikeforce Pay per view that happens but understand that these are the men who continue to innovate which keeps us learning and seeing new and exciting moves on the ground. If you are a true fan of the sport educate yourself about the ground game it is truly an exciting aspect of fighting keeping men waged in a war of human chess.