The Brendan Schaub vs Ricardo “Cyborg” Abreu debacle at Metamoris 2 on June 9, 2013 was an embarrassment to Brazilian jiu-jitsu. After Ryron Gracie vs Andre Galvao at Metamoris Pro I wrote about my personal default Brazilian jiu-jitsu strategy – “Frustrate and Annoy” – likening it to Ryron’s KeepItPlayful.com. However, I have to clarify that while Schaub’s performance was indeed frustrating and very annoying, it wasn’t the Frustrate & Annoy strategy endorsed by The Jiu-Jitsu Vortex.
I was camped out beside the Elaho River during Metamoris 2 and was excited to watch the event once I got home. The first sign that things were amiss was this gif, followed quickly by:
Ri-god-damn-diculous. The match was so bad that it kickstarted my imagination and I envisioned Dana White paying Brendan Schaub a hefty bonus to put in a ridiculous performance meant to embarrass not only the Torrance Academy Gracies, but grappling in general.
While watching the equally irritating post-fight conference and hearing Cyborg talk about being frustrated, I was hit with the ugly realization that my Frustrate and Annoy jiu-jitsu strategy article might condone Schaub’s performance. It almost does, although I like to think that it redeems itself at the 11th hour:
6. Remember to attack! Frustrate and Annoy is rooted in defense, but if you aren’t actively looking for openings to escape and/or mount an offense you’re out to lunch.
Henry Akins on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Strategy
Rickson Gracie black belt Henry Akins is a Jiu-Jitsu Vortex favourite, so it was encouraging to see him post the following statement in the Henry Akins Invisible Jiu-Jitsu Facebook group on June 27, 2013:
“This philosophy was beat into my head during the years training with Rickson: ‘Always try to make yourself comfortable in uncomfortable situations, and once you are comfortable there, let it get worse and see if you can still be comfortable. Train yourself to be invincible. Being invincible does not mean you can beat everyone, it means you cannot be beaten.’ These words have been etched in my mind and ingrained in my soul, it’s a never ending journey.”
Akins is a Rickson Gracie black belt, so it isn’t surprising that his jiu-jitsu philosophy aligns with Grandmaster Helio’s, which, as mentioned in the previous Frustrate & Annoy article, corresponds with competition strategies used by successful and influential sports figures like Vince Lombardi and Greg Jackson.
- If you can’t be beaten, you can’t lose.
- If you don’t make mistakes, your opponent can’t score.
- When your opponent gets tired or frustrated, they’ll make mistakes.
- When they make a mistake, make them pay.
This is great for life-or-death combat, but less good for combat sports that are expected to double as entertainment for the general public. We’ve seen the effects of this in the grappling world already. Once upon a time professional wrestling involved real submission wrestling. It was called “catch as catch can” – or just “catch” – wrestling. However, the long matches bored audiences, who cried for action. The result? WWE.
Early judo resembled Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but once it was incorporated into the Olympics and TV ratings became important, rules were modified to promote throws (nagewaza) and minimize groundwork (newaza). It will be interesting to see whether the powers that be in Brazilian jiu-jitsu will be able to come up with a set of competition rules that makes BJJ enjoyable to the general public without castrating the art.
So Brendan Schaub’s irritating Metamoris 2 performance was definitely not the Frustrate and Annoy strategy endorsed by The Jiu-Jitsu Vortex. What are some good examples?
Exhibit A: Ryron Keeps It Playful – Like Chucky from Child’s Play
As discussed in the original Frustrate and Annoy strategy article, I enjoyed this match. The key difference between Ryron’s performance and Schaub’s? Ryron didn’t run. He kept moving forwards with a goofy grin reminiscent of a murderous doll. KeepItPlayful indeed – like Chucky from Child’s Play. Galvao was far and away the aggressor of the match, but was the tide switching by the end? 20 minutes was way too short to tell.
Exhibit B: Anderson Silva vs Chael Sonnen II – UFC 148
When talking about the Frustrate and Annoy strategy, a dynamic fighter like Anderson Silva is probably the last person to come to mind. But watch his guard and half guard work. Despite spending a lot of time on his back against Chael Sonnen, Silva’s ability to frustrate Sonnen’s offense was what enabled him to survive long enough to mount his own attack.
Exhibit C: Bernard Hopkins vs Kelly Pavlik
It’s often helpful to examine a situation from the outside. Many Brazilian jiu-jitsu lifers are boxing fans, so let’s go over there. Remember on October 18, 2008 when crafty veteran Bernard Hopkins deconstructed the heavily favoured Kelly Pavlik? Hopkins’s masterful performance of footwork, defense, and counterpunching shut Pavlik down completely. Continually taking damage and unable to land a significant number of meaningful shots, Pavlik grew visibly more frustrated and desperate as the fight went on.
Exhibit D: Nonito Donaire vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux
The Nonito Donaire vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux match on April 13, 2013 was another example of a Frustrate and Annoy-style strategy applied to boxing. Donaire was supposed to win this fight, but Rigondeaux was too slick. Like the Hopkins-Pavlik fight, it was footwork, defense, and counterpunching that were the deciding factors in this fight, not offense. It wasn’t a general crowd pleaser, but boxing purists appreciated Rigondeaux’s technical boxing showcase.
Nonito Donaire vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux fight video
And that’s that. Frustrate and Annoy is a careful, conservative, self defense-oriented style of jiu-jitsu. It does not mean running around like a dingdong a la Brendan Schaub and making people question the value of supporting the grappling / Brazilian jiu-jitsu scene by spending money on a pay-per-view.