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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teaches strength over technique

Published: November 30, 2007
Section: Features

1130077.jpgYou’ve got a guy’s behind planted squarely on your face, his arms wrapped around your feet, and he has complete control over whether or not you break a bone in the next two seconds. What do you do?

Come to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club and you’ll find out how you can reverse the situation, or, if impossible, when to give up.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a form of martial arts where two people wrestle one-another mostly through grappling (gripping) and ground-fighting – with the idea being to obtain a position of dominance over the other person so that his or her body is completely at your mercy. That person can either submit (give up) by tapping the floor with his or her hand, or attempt to force the other person to lose the dominant position.

“It’s a lot like chess,” explained Ben Bar ‘10. “Instead of trying to pin the guy down, you try to get the other guy to give up…you get him in a position where anything you do will injure him and he doesn’t want that.” David Nash added that the sport is unique in that position, not strength, wins the competition. “You’re not getting hit in the face…it’s a physical game with many ways to win.” “It’s guile over strength. Yeah, if you’re 250 pounds and all muscle you can get your way out of anything, but that’s like running through a wall when there’s a door there,” explained Dan Goodman ‘08, President of the club. “If it’s pure strength vs. pure technique, technique will always win.”

Currently, the club’s five regulars and scattered part-timers train under coach Greg Pomfred, a professional fighter in many sports leagues, including the Aggressive Submission Grappling League. Although Greg is a slimly built fellow, whom Goodman noted probably cannot bench press as much as he can or do other “stereotypical” strength tests as well, Goodman laughed when asked whether Pomfred was capable. “If the two of us were to fight one on one Greg could easily kick my ass.”

Assisting oftentimes is Joe Lauzon, a professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter from Hawaii. Lauzon has won many competitions in martial arts fighting, and his prowess has earned him the titles of “World Fighting Lead Grand Prix Champion,” and according to, “2004 fighter of the year.”

Though the club is professional in nature and is coached by some pretty capable people, no one is excluded from joining and anyone can become a good fighter with a little bit of training. “Everyone has something new to bring to the table,” stated Goodman. “It’s very creative, and people have different ways of approaching the sport.. We’re not here to hurt you – we learn together.” Nash added “you’re learning grappling through grappling. You’re working hard, you’re sweating…it creates a different kind of friendship.” And if someone doesn’t know when to submit and is in a position to become injured, “you be nice, let him go, or apply the hold until he passes out..just kidding!” Bar smiled, noting that if done right, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a civil sport. Nash’s favorite move is the “leg lock,” whereby one person attacks another’s legs from the flying (standing) position in an attempt to instantly submit him.

No one has ever gotten injured by failing to submit, though a couple of freak accidents have occurred where an ankle or knee was bent the wrong way. “It’s a safe way to work out frustration,” Goodman expressed. “People don’t want to get hurt doing something and they don’t want to just learn a bunch of BS that they can’t use. [Brazilian Jiu Jitsu] is the best of both worlds.”

The reward to becoming an effective fighter is self evident once you’ve reached that level. “I’m always against a larger guy. And I’ve beaten him a lot,” said Bar. “BJJ works, and it’s surprisingly safe.”

People interested in joining are warned to wear either tight or scant clothing, as anything can be torn most likely will be torn, and there is lots of scuffing and tension. “But,” Bar added “some people are hesitant to come because they’ll get completely destroyed. That’s not what we do though. We accommodate everyone…the whole point is to teach others.”

Brandeis’ Jiu Jitsu club meets from 8-10 on Tuesdays and Fridays in Gosman Sports center. More information can be found at