In BJJ, especially competitive BJJ, the use of judo has proven itself to be invaluable, especially for champions like Ronaldo Jacare, Xande Ribeiro and Rodolfo Vieira. As time goes on, the need for judo in one’s BJJ game has become increasingly necessary. So the question is, how does someone implement judo into their BJJ regimen when time is limited and one can’t commit to training both sports full-time? This is where Master Sylvio Behring sheds some light and shares his vast knowledge on incorporating judo into a BJJ game by recounting his growth in judo and how he eventually combined it with his progressive learning system.
“I started Judo when I was 17 years old. I was already a purple belt in jiu-jitsu. When I started university, I wanted a scholarship, so I went there on one for judo. It was very interesting for me. My father sent us to sensei Ney Wilson, who is the head of the Brazilian confederation now. Then from him, my brother and I moved to George Medhi, who was an amazing sensei. He helped us grow our game in judo and jiu-jitsu.”
Shihan George Medhi was considered one of the top judokas in Brazilian history and for Sylvio and his brother Marcelo, the training conducted by Medhi was very intense.
“Every time we had to go there, our heart rates were so high. It was a challenge for us but we were happy sharing the mat with so many good guys. Later I stayed with one of his black belts, sensei Freitas, who was responsible for introducing judo to the Gracie family on master Carlos’ side. This included Carlinhos, the Machados, Renzo and others. All those guys were his students and received their judo black belts from him, but not under the official federation. When I go to an official school, I have to wear my brown belt.”
As Sylvio progressed as both a BJJ black belt and a judoka, he began to develop his own system of teaching based on his observation of his BJJ master Alvaro Barreto. The first epiphany for the progressive system came when he was watching Master Barreto teaching a private lesson:
“He was the perfect teacher and was able to properly stimulate the technique of every student. It didn’t matter what belt, what gender or how athletic, he could adapt himself to teach virtually anyone and get the best response. When I was watching that, I said to myself that if he can do it, so can I. But to bring it to the group classes, I had to create a system. It was impossible for me to develop the students if I didn’t create an atmosphere where people could work on developing themselves.”
Basing the progressive system on the teaching methods of his instructor, Sylvio developed a system that focused strongly on basics and not only showing students the proper technique, but also allowing them to feel the technique.
“If I mount someone and transfer my weight on the wrong side to make it easier for them to get out, I’m not really engaging them. What I want is to put the weight on the proper side and allow the student to feel the escape with the proper amount of weight on him. You start with a little, a responsible amount of pressure, the way Master Barreto did it. I had white belts learn it quickly and also teaching it because it’s so basic.”
Eventually, within the progressive system, a student learns how to break the system that was taught to him because in jiu-jitsu, nothing will always happen exactly the way you are taught. There are endless possibilities for different outcomes.
“First you learn to go from steps one to ten. But then, you jump from step to step in any direction, eight to four or two to seven. Otherwise you will always be a robot trying to go step by step in a certain order. Randomness is the next step of understanding for the students. They begin to understand action and reaction. But everything is still kept simple. When I teach you something, don’t come back to me a few months later with exactly what I taught you before. Show me what’s new, what did you figure out and improve about the position? There has to be a challenge for the mind.”
The methods Sylvio uses for the ground are also applied to his teaching of judo. Sylvio likes to focus on a select few basic techniques, learned from Master Barreto, that are important for BJJ competition to always give the aggressor an advantage. The techniques include: o-soto-gari (major outside clip), ashi-barai (foot sweep), ouchi-gari (major inner clip), kouchi-gari (minor inner clip), tomoe-nage (stomach throw) and one of the many hip throws.
“With o-soto-gari, it’s funny – o-soto-gari itself is not a good throw for jiu-jitsu. However, o-soto-gari is the move that everyone does the most. How many times have you gone to a tournament and seen beginners go for o-soto-gari without even knowing it properly? All the time - everybody tries it. So I have to teach the proper way to do it, in order to teach the proper counter. So what I do now for my students, in the progressive system, is to follow the same steps for judo. I use the same concept for both kids and adults too.”
Sylvio likes to use the ‘Yamashita’ way of learning judo, which is not teaching a technique on its own, but rather, he prefers to teach the technique with movement so that the partner can feel the technique and learn other connected moves at the same time.
“What I do, is organize rounds of randori (light sparring) so that you learn how to walk with your partner, and by this, you learn ashi-barai with the stepping. Then they learn ouchi-gari, then a hip throw and then tomoe-nage.”
Sylvio explains that tomoe-nage is a special throw because it’s a good way of combining guard jumping with a throw attempt. If the throw fails, you can at least retain the guard.
Always the traditionalist, Sylvio teaches all his techniques with the Japanese names and uses traditional methods when teaching all the throws incorporated in his progressive system, making sure that his students are ready for all possible situations.
“I choose what to teach depending on what works for the student. If he likes hip throws, and is good at it, I will keep showing him hip throws. Counter attacks, defense, basics, tai-sabaki (leg work) and practicing basic techniques with movement, not statically on the spot. I still teach more advanced techniques but only once I see a strong level of understanding of the basics. Grip breaking is important too.”
It is a system like Sylvio’s, dedicated to upholding traditional judo, that raises BJJ athletes with well-rounded technique. Focus on a few basic throws is all one needs to develop a solid judo game in BJJ. But as Sylvio hinted, the secret is in the approach; the student must be taught to evolve on their own – no easy feat. However, a goal like this is always worth striving for.
Words by Darren Wong
Photos by Matthew Soroka
Japan's Daisuke Sugie to face Vitor Shaolin in LEGENDS Supermatch at Grand Slam Tokyo on July 29th, 2018
Abu Dhabi Grand Slam® Tokyo will witness the return of the Legends series with Japanese black belt, Daisuke 'Amazon' Sugie who will face ...
Felipe Pena: 4-time World Pro Champ, Eyes The IBJJF World Championship
Black belt wins triple crown and now prepares for the IBJJF WorldsPhotos by Ane Nunes/ Gentle Art MediaIt was three weeks, three tourname...
Abu Dhabi World Pro 2018 Results
After an action-packed week of matches at the Mubadala Arena in Abu Dhabi, another season of UAEJJF competition is concluded. In a specia...
10th Anniversary Edition of the Abu Dhabi World Pro Championship
This year, the UAEJJF's Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship celebrates an important milestone; its 10th anniversary editi...