After reading ADCC world champ Robert Drysdale's new book "The Rise & Evolution of BJJ", I had a few questions for him.
I found the book itself to be one of the best DOCUMENTED books on the history of the art. Of course there are great historical books by Reila, Rickson, Kid Peligro, and others, but those books don't show their sources so it's hard to ascertain how much of it is fact or fiction.
Robert, being a history major in college, is meticulous about listing his sources. This makes for a very (imo) accurate, albeit sometimes less flattering account of the history of jiujitsu.
That being said, I was still left with a few curiosities after reading Robert's book so I reached out to ask him:
BJ: Why did you feel a need to write 2 books on BJJ history and culture?
RD: I have a long passion for the humanities and history in particular. I know it’s a common assertion, and perhaps even a cliché to say, that knowing your history helps you understand the present, but I truly believe this is the case. Plus the journey of discovery is very interesting and fascinating. It made me appreciate BJJ and a whole new way.
BJ: what was the biggest revelation you gained from the research?
RD: For the second book I think it was being able to clearly identify the moment when BJJ became ground oriented. I found astounding that it took them 45 years to create a methodology that today we take totally for granted. We are talking 45 years where there was no clear distinction between groundwork and take downs. And then in 1975, boom, things change dramatically. And basically the brand of BJJ we are practicing today. It’s pretty much born around that time. Obviously, also Carlson’s role in all of this as well as the very interesting political scene of the early 90s in Brazil. In fact, now that I think about it, that is probably one of the most interesting aspects of the story, and I wish I had dived into it a little more. But maybe I can do that in a second edition.
BJ: have the writing projects affected the way you think about your own training?
RD: Yes, it made me better understand how Martial Arts evolve and the importance of the culture and methodology. Obviously, the techniques and the rules determine the arts evolution, but being aware of how important, cultural norms, and the emphasis on a given methodology can also shape the art Made BJJ a lot more interesting from a coaches perspective.
BJ: if you could have brought someone back from the grave to interview about BJJ who would it be?
RD: That’s a very good question and it’s hard to pick only one person. But I think rolls. All these guys that have passed are super interesting, but I don’t think there’s much on rolls other than secondhand accounts. Would have been interesting to see the dynamics of BJJ in those days from his perspective.
BJ: Do you have any plans for another book?
RD: Yes, I am currently brainstorming the outline for a book on coaching, one on mind set for fighters as well as a historical novel about the shaping of BJJ. Most likely centered around the events from the 1960s and 70s. With a political backdrop of Brazil being under a dictatorship. I think it’s a fascinating piece of history. I’m just not sure how long it will take for me to write it because I’m so busy. But that’s what’s been keeping my mind busy.
If you haven't read Robert's latest book I highly recommend you do! It's an incredible resource about the history of the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Get yours right here!