Brazilian jiu-jitsu has a problem: it’s not becoming as popular as it should be. This is because of two reasons: firstly, it lacks a proper single and central governing body, and secondly, it’s not being spread publicly on the proper platforms. Today, we’ll focus on jiu-jitsu’s current position in media.
Internally, jiu-jitsu is doing well. YouTube is packed with all sorts of instructional videos, documentaries, and interviews. There are several magazines available for practitioners to buy to enhance their knowledge of the sport. This is all great and dandy, but guess what? All these things are for people whom already train jiu-jitsu – they are already part of the community. The goal for a fledgling sport like this is for growth and expansion into every nook and cranny in the world. Although it has done this to a certain degree, the scale is still very small in relation to almost every other major sport in the world. Jiu-jitsu is not expanding as quickly as it should as it has not been able to penetrate properly into the mainstream media, specifically TV and film.
Before some of you declare the UFC and Red Belt counter arguments, here is why these are irrelevant for this case. MMA and Brazilian jiu-jitsu are two totally different sports. This is both on a physiological and marketing level. Sure, UFC fighters train jiu-jitsu as part of their preparation. However, the jiu-jitsu you see in the UFC is specialized for MMA.
When spectators view this, they still have no clue what BJJ really is. They just think it’s the ‘ground game’ or wrestling – it doesn’t attract most of them to start training. Of course, there are those that got hooked on BJJ from the early UFCs when Royce Gracie represented pure BJJ. But now, new spectators do not get the same exposure.
What needs to happen is for some sort of show to really break out to the mainstream and demonstrate to people what the sport is about. It shouldn’t just be about training and submitting, but also the lifestyle and camaraderie that is developed. Perhaps an adventure show with one of the more charismatic jiu-jitsu champions could have a lasting effect on a fresh audience. Traveling and training could be the strongest aspects to attract newcomers outside of the physical benefits of BJJ.
Film is another very powerful media outlet that could help catapult BJJ around the world. Red Belt was an attempt at this, but unfortunately it wasn’t commercially or critically successful enough to do that. The fact that it was made does deserve a lot of credit and respect. In order for something like BJJ to appear strongly in movies, there has to be more quality films made that feature the sport and art. One good example is what Rocky did for boxing. The movie was about Rocky, not boxing, but it got people motivated. More than a few people have probably started boxing because of the Rocky movies.