Whether someone should cross train different martial arts used to be a hotly debated topic amongst traditionalists, but with the growth and popularity of mixed martial arts and before that fighting systems such as Jeet Kune Do Concepts, cross training between martial arts is much more acceptable now, as students of the fighting arts realise that they can benefit from knowledge and techniques gained from training other arts.
At one time or another, many Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioners consider cross training in other martial arts. Some may want to incorporate a striking art, such as boxing or muay thai into their training to help them become more of an all round martial artist. This is especially the case if their main reason for training is self defense. If a BJJ student is looking to cross train another martial art to complement their BJJ, then they have a number of grappling arts to choose from.
If a BJJ student looks to cross train in another grappling art then the first one that will come to mind will probably be Judo. Of course it is well known that Brazilian jiu jitsu evolved from Kodokan judo, but while BJJ developed into a devastating ground fighting art, judo has more of an emphasis on throws and trips than the groundwork that BJJ is renowned for. Judo does have ground fighting techniques, known as newaza, but it is nowhere as extensive as the techniques found in BJJ. Although BJJ and judo do share some techniques when it comes to ground fighting, the arts have evolved differently, especially when it comes to sporting competition, as judo has changed a lot from the original art to the Olympic sport we know today.
For the BJJ student, it is training judo’s trips and throws that will really help his or her training when it comes to their stand up game. As Brazilian jiu jitsu is so focused on the groundwork element, takedowns can sometimes be neglected, but cross training in judo can help the BJJ practitioner develop a solid stand up game. One thing that the BJJ student should be aware of is that a judo match can be finished with one good throw, so not every throw that is taught in judo is going to end up with you gaining a good position on the mat, so it pays to be selective in what techniques you use in your game. Another benefit that you can gain by training judo is that you can become more decisive in both standing and on the mat. In a judo contest fighters are stood up if neither are active enough, so it pays to think and act quickly, so this can be in contrast to BJJ where fighters often adopt a more patient approach.
If judo can help improve a BJJ students game while wearing the gi, then wrestling is another combat art that has a lot to offer the BJJ student, especially the No-Gi grappler. Wrestling has been trained in US schools for decades and many BJJ practitioners had their first experience of the grappling arts training wrestling at school. But what can the BJJ student who has never wrestled gain from cross training in the sport?
Wrestlers have always had a very strong takedown game, hitting single leg and double leg takedowns seemingly at will. On top of that, wrestlers are also masters at defending take downs as well. How many times have you seen a mixed martial arts fighter with a wrestling background defend a takedown attempt from an opponent, then takedown the opponent themselves moments later? A skilled wrestler is going to have the ability to dictate when and how the fight goes to the ground and that is a skill that all BJJ fighters could benefit from.
Wrestlers are often accused of relying on using their strength more than good technique and this may be partially true but it is a trait that can benefit a BJJ fighter. Training in wrestling will help you develop a very strong top game. It is where wrestlers really flourish as you will never see a wrestler fighting off his back. Again, if the top game is your thing, time spent training wrestling will add to your game.
Sambo is the Russian combat sport that was originally devised for use by the Russian military. It is another art that utilizes joint locks and chokes to submit opponents, though there is also a Combat Sambo which also incorporates an element of striking, so it is more similar to MMA. Sambo has a reputation for being a fighting art that incorporates a lot of devastating leglocks to submit opponents and that is what draws BJJ practitioners to it. In BJJ tournaments leglocks are not allowed until purple belt and some academies do not start training them until a student has reached the rank of blue belt. So someone who decides to incorporate sambo into their training can add an array of leglocks to their ground fighting arsenal.
If you think that your Brazilian jiu jitsu will benefit from cross training another grappling art and the extra training will not interfere with your BJJ mat time, then it is an option worth considering. Even if you do not commit to an art as seriously as you do BJJ, it can still help you become more of a complete grappler.
About the author: Glyn Howells is a writer and a student of BJJ. He works for www.martialartshop.co.uk, where a full range of martial arts training equipment is available.