When I first started properly training BJJ in a class and not just printing step-by-step instructional pages from the internet and bringing them to try in my judo class, things were not like they are today. Finding an affordable way to learn the grappling art on your own was damn near impossible. My first set of instructional tapes, in fact, were Kimo’s “Fierce Fighting” series from Panther Video (which were mostly educational thanks to Joe Moreira doing the BJJ tapes), cost me around $160 for a nine tape set. I caught that as a special, normally it would have been around 30-40 per tape and up. Finding a good book seemed to be the best option, but in those early days of MMA before the big TUF boom happened, good luck getting one. Thankfully, I managed to find one eventually.
Released back in 2003 by Human Kinetics, “Mastering JuJitsu” is the original BJJ textbook for the masses. Written by Renzo Gracie and John Danaher, this book became my “go-to” for learning outside of class, and opened up the flood gates for my deeper understanding of grappling and love of MMA as a whole. Does this book still hold up a decade later? Let’s find out!
Weighing in at over 230 pages, “Mastering JuJitsu” covers the fundamentals of BJJ, including takedowns & throws, guard passes, sweeps, and (of course) plenty of submissions from a variety of positions. You also get a history lesson on BJJ and the early days of MMA, as well as a quick rundown of what to expect when you compete in both. You might recognize a few familiar faces in the book too, as Matt Serra and his brother Nick appear throughout it in the photos to demo moves, as well as Shawn Williams. The book is filled with BJJ black belts and Renzo’s top students showing you how to beat your opponent in a dominant manner.
The book is mainly written by John Danaher, who treats BJJ as a science as much as he does a martial art, and breaks down every move with a critical analysis that would make Greg Jackson jealous. Compared to the MMA instructional books that I have reviewed in the past four years of doing this site, some might find this book heavy on the text, although there are plenty of photos. Seeing as how this was one of the earlier BJJ books on the market, pundits would be right to say there is far more writing than other books. The pay-off is the amount of knowledge that you are getting in these longer explanations, a kind of detail that we rarely get in books out there today.
Techniques are broken down not just with physical moves, but strategy on when and why to use them, as well as how to use them more effectively. Danaher’s combat theory and philosophy shines in his explanations, and Renzo’s skills glow just as much when demonstrating them. This book was also one of the first ones I remember seeing that referenced fighters not in the book to showcase a certain technique, like sections on Randy Couture to discuss the clinch, or Chuck Liddell’s strikes on defending and preventing a takedown from an opponent. These real-life examples are scattered liberally through the instructional and add a lot of interesting depth to the techniques and how you can use them in your own game.
Like many MMA instructional books, there is a small section on self-defense. Unlike many MMA instructional books, this part is actually useful and discusses the differences between BJJ and a street fight, as well as how to apply what you know in that sort of situation, and the moves to do it. You might be surprised to see strikes covered with as much detail as they are in this section, but frankly, it’s another reason why I love this book so much. “Mastering JuJitsu” gives you everything you need for every situation with precision and detail, and leaves you wanting more – and you will want to know more.
You can order “Mastering Jujitsu” on Amazon.com for under $14 and is absolutely worth picking up. This book was highly influential to me when I first started, and I still see the value in it today. “Mastering JuJitsu” is perfect for any level, and while it might not have flashy moves in it, it has what works and how to do that the best damn way possible. Is the information outdated? Not at all, especially as the sport has grown so much in the ten years this book came out, it seems even more necessary since it will take the fundamentals of your game and make them rock solid. Since it is an older book (although I prefer to call it a modern classic), the price is perfect, so there is no better time to pick this up than now!