BRAZILIAN JIU JITSU COMMUNITIES
AN INTERACTIVE WEBSITE ABOUT BJJ AND VISUAL ANTHROPOLOGY
ABOUT THIS SITE
Welcome, This is an interactive website that looks to explore Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) and visual anthropology. This exploration will be a critical and reflexive journey. There will be an analysis of some selected BJJ documentaries that speak to the community dimensions of BJJ practises. Alongside this, there will be a discussion of visual anthropology, looking at how visual (audio) mediums translate anthropological knowledge.On this site there is also an ethnographic portion, relating to an interview with one of my bjj coaches. The development page looks at the visioning process of making a short documentary. There is also a reflexive commentary about creating the site. The website is a student project for a visual anthropology course. Thanks for visiting!
What is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) has a rich history, intricately connected to Japanese martial arts. Its concrete roots however, as it's name implies, are located in Brazil. These roots are intimately connected to the Gracie family. Gastao Gracie and Carlos Gracie were pioneers in creating BJJ as an effective self defence system. Jiu-Jitsu translates from Japanese to English as 'gentle art'. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a grappling based martial art with a central theme of controlling a resisting opponent. This is often achieved through ground oriented fighting and techniques. Two unique features of this craft are the ability to effectively fight a larger, stronger, and more robust opponent and fighting efficiently, from the position of being on your back. BJJ in recent years has become popular for myriad reasons; as a combat sport, fitness, stress relief, mental health, and more. Often BJJ academies and clubs are structured with belt systems, beginning with white through to a black belt. Belts reflect an individual's BJJ capabilities and in turn their devotion to the craft. There is a vast wealth of techniques in BJJ which can be learnt and fine tuned, these techniques can be implemented in complex combinations with acute attention to detail. Many of these techniques focus on leverage. BJJ has gained notoriety through the UFC (Ultimate fighting Championship) organisation and the mainstream sport of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts). BJJ has also become an official sport of its own with governing bodies creating competitions. BJJ is quickly spreading across the globe with many innovative practitioners developing and preaching the multifaceted benefits of the sport. BJJ is in many senses, an individual sport, however it is inherently social and team based as people need each other to practise with and share knowledge. Moreover, all over the world, communities, families, and groups share knowledge of BJJ and form unique bonds and cultures.
WHAT is visual anthropology?
Visual Anthropology is a sub-discipline, sub-focus of wider Anthropology. Anthropology, briefly speaking, is a broad discipline studying human kind, in a multitude of fashions, through various techniques and methods which look to celebrate and understand human behaviour in all its diversity and complexity. Visual Anthropology like BJJ has a rich history, with many innovative practitioners aiding it's development and re-creations across it's journey into the contemporary world. One of these innovative practitioners is Sarah Pink, who has dedicated time passionately practising and outlining the theoretical and methodological guidelines of Visual Anthropology. Pink describes the discipline as:
The anthropology of the relationship between the visual and other elements of culture, society, practice, and experience and the methodological practice of combining visual and other media in the production and representation of anthropological knowledge" (2006, p.144).
In today's technological era with complicated, fast-paced media landscapes, Visual Anthropology as a way to translate and frame anthropological knowledge can be productive and meaningful in applied and activist contexts. Many forms of visual content can be viewed with the tools and lenses provided by the theoretical underpinnings of the discipline, so in turn many visual formats have levels of ethnographic authenticity in representing people's lived experiences around the globe. Alongside this, Visual Anthropology opens windows of opportunity for productive reflexivity, the idea of understanding our own assumptions and world-views.