The world is overflowing with entertainment options. There is perhaps nothing more popular than action blockbuster movies. As a martial artist, you find yourself examining each fight scene with a more critical eye.
“That wouldn’t work.” “That’s not how you do that move!” The little voice in your head is screaming every time a fighting faux pas takes place on screen. Instead of shaking your fist at Hollywood for misrepresenting your beloved sport, consider that there are ways to see your favorite martial arts on screen.
While John Wick or Captain America might pull off the occasional Jiu Jitsu technique, your favorite BJJ athletes are showcasing their talent in some great documentaries. There’s nothing stylized about them. Rather, just insights and demonstrations of Jiu Jitsu from some of the legends in the sport. Here are a few Jiu Jitsu documentaries to watch.
Choke is a chronicle of the life and career of Rickson Gracie. As the son of Helio Gracie and one of the modern patriarchs of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Rickson had his family name to live up to and a legacy to help forge.
The documentary was made in 1999 and feels very “of its time” in its production. However, you might find that to be charming or fun. Where the movie finds its strength is its focus. While other Jiu Jitsu films might cover a wide array of subjects or people, Choke remains centered on Rickson and the events that surround his martial arts lifestyle.
From his family life, to his training regimen, to his fight career, Choke examines every aspect of Rickson’s life. Choke is a great documentary if you want to understand a piece of the Jiu Jitsu legacy, while also learning to build your own mindset for competition. The entire film is free on YouTube.
Jiu Jitsu Vs. The World
If you could sum up Jiu Jitsu Vs. The World in a tagline, it might read something like: “Jiu Jitsu is pretty cool. Here’s why.” This documentary pulls back from a singular athlete and delves more into the culture of Jiu Jitsu. Dozens of legendary Jiu Jitsu athletes, gym owners, and everyday practitioners lend their insights and love for the sport.
Jiu Jitsu Vs. The World acts as a good advertisement for the fun and benefits of Jiu Jitsu. It is an accessible film even for someone who has never done Jiu Jitsu. You don’t have to be “in the know” to enjoy or be inspired by the film.
If you have a friend who you’ve tried to convince to start Jiu Jitsu, try showing them this movie and let them hear and see what many others are saying and doing in the sport. The entire film is free on YouTube.
The Hurt Business
The Hurt Business focuses more on mixed martial arts. You can think of this documentary as Jiu Jitsu Vs. The World for MMA. It’s an in-depth look at the history and personalities around MMA.
However, The Hurt Business, as its name suggests, is far more harrowing than its Jiu Jitsu counterpart. While many fighters and commentators discuss their love and admiration for the sport, they also discuss the costs of pursuing it.
Many aspiring fighters discuss broken dreams, while other successful fighters reflect on the health consequences of achieving their goals. The Hurt Business is equal parts history lesson, MMA commercial, and mindset motivator.
Roll: Jiu Jitsu in SoCal
Roll: Jiu Jitsu in SoCal is another documentary from Eat Films, the same production company that created Jiu Jitsu Vs. The World. As the predecessor, Roll still feels like a celebration of Jiu Jitsu, just on a smaller scale. Roll very much feels like a prototype for its spiritual sequel, but that just gives it a more focused narrative.
Roll is the story of Jiu Jitsu in southern California and how its popularity there would influence the culture of the sport as a whole. The film focuses on a few veteran black belts in the area, such as Chris Haueter.
Like any veteran, these black belts share the stories of their Jiu Jitsu journey and what they think of the evolution of BJJ today. The film is relatively short and is currently available for free on YouTube.
Stuart Cooper Films
This entry might be a bit unfair, but you’ll be glad to have more high-quality Jiu Jitsu content. Black Belt Stuart Cooper might be the closest thing the Jiu Jitsu community has to its own Werner Herzog.
On Cooper’s YouTube channel you can find a wealth of Jiu Jitsu content including seminars, ADCC coverage, and a few short films. Cooper’s videography highlights Jiu Jitsu in such an effective way because he is an active participant. His passion for the sport is displayed through the high production value and tone of his videos.
What you see in the big-budget action movies is pretty cool, but isn’t very realistic. With Jiu Jitsu you don’t have to choose between stylized action and reality. There are several documentaries out there that showcase the history, practice, and evolution of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Check a few of them out if you’re looking for a history lesson on the sport, or maybe just a little inspiration.