Opening Close Guard by Drysdale: my thoughts

So to preface I’ve always been a bit of a history of BJJ nerd. I always found the Helio narrative a bit hard to believe as it sounded like so many other martial arts mythology tales. I’ve read all 3 choque books and pretty much read all that is out there in regards to the real history of BJJ. I was excited for Drysdale’s documentary to come out but since it’s been years and nothing I decided to buy the book. Some thoughts I have upon finishing:

1 - as much as I wanted to like it, the book is incredibly boring. There are interviews with prominent people, but even more of boring “behind the scenes” filler. I can dell Drysdale wanted to put together a story behind the film, but honestly nobody gives a shit reading about how you were behind schedule or why certain members of the production team quit. We only want substance and there was a clear amount of material that was not.

2 - if this movie/documentary does eventually get released it will be horribly boring. So many of the interviews I was wondering, why would he ask these stupid ass questions and not things that more accurately fill in the story.

3 - he was wasted time interviewing people that add nothing to the story, while making excuses as to why he didn’t make the trip to interview someone who is far far more important. The whole time i was reading I kept thinking, this is about as amateur an operation as you can get.

4 - there is little to nothing that someone who has already read the choque books wouldn’t already know.

5 - I was surprised at how knowledgeable Pedro Valente was about BJJ history. He knew things most BJJ people including most Gracies, don’t. Such as Carlos primarily being a student of Jacyntho Ferro.

6 - I actually did come away with a bigger respect for Helio and his role in BJJ history. Sure, he has issues and problems, but his stubborn resistance to the changes that were occurring in Judo at the time are a significant point at which BJJ was able to preserve what it was and continue to evolve in a different direction. Likewise I realized that even though George was a more active fighter in the early days, he basically disappeared by 1940 and really isn’t responsible for much of BJJ as we know it today.

7 - for the first time I started to feel a little sorry for some of the Gracies that have long parroted the Helio/Rorion narrative. Like when he’s interviewing Royce and presents him with evidence that some of the things he’s been told didn’t happen that way, he’s like “well, that’s what he (Helio) always told us.” It was the first time I started to think that many of the people we consider to be authoritarian resources on BJJ history, really don’t know much at all other than what was passed down word of mouth from Carlos or Helio. If someone started showing me evidence that things my dad had told me about his past were false or exaggerated, I wouldn’t know how to respond either. It’s not like I ever went to the library to do detailed research on the topic. So it was kind of sad. After all, as much as I’m interested in these things, even I have to admit it really doesn’t matter who Carlos trained with or whether Helio has went around telling lies about just watching Carlos and modifying everything to create BJJ, just to boost his own status. Carlos and Helio were both very flawed humans, but if it weren’t for them BJJ would have likely just disappeared as everyone followed the changes in Judo and we would all be doing sport Judo now.

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We have vastly different takeaways on the book, i enjoyed it immensely. I do historical research for fun, so i’m a bit of a nut though. Starting in on my handa bullshit has cleared many a thread

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Thanks for the review.

The revelation that Luis franca was listed in several newspaper articles as a student at the Gracie academy was worth the price of the book. Franca was the instructor of fadda, which shoots that lineage to hell.

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So the fadda lineage is officially part of the Gracie lineage? Did he receive his black belt from them? Very interesting

Thats the weird thing about Franca/Fadda they used the Black belt but the Gracies were still using the white-light blue-navy belt until 1967

The whole Maeda mishegas is almost certainly because the Gracies didn’t want to give credit to another Brazilian person.

This is called “jumping your teacher” and it is common in all sorts of martial arts lineages; people often don’t claim their actual teacher, they claim their teacher’s more famous teacher.

As time goes on, more and more people “studied directly” with with Wong Fei Hung, Yip Man, Bruce Lee, Kano, Young Sul Choi, Funakoshi, etc. Many times, the less famous, less glamorous students of these famed instructors, get omitted from the lineage.

It’s a LOT cooler & more marketable to have “studied with Bruce Lee”, than it is to have “studied with a guy who studied with Bruce Lee”.

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I agree that was a significant point that I don’t think we have seen elsewhere. It might make you feel like you’re in the cool crowd to point out other people didn’t come from the Carlos lineage, but in reality 95% of everyone did.

It should also be pointed out that journalistic integrity was sorely lacking during the period, so newspaper articles can’t always be taken on face value without several other sources of corroboration.