We have reviewed plenty of BJJ instructional books before, and there is certainly no lack of them these days on bookshelves. Most of them carry a familiar name on them (usually ones that end with “Gracie” or “Machado”) or have an MMA fighter endorsing it and lending his body and name to the product. Plenty of times, we see books written by people that most of us have just not heard of, but perhaps we would if we were deeper in the specific art form. Today, we are taking a look at a book written by a man that most grappling aficionados know, but one that I have just been introduced to in paperback form.
Released by Human Kinetics, “Essential Brazilian Jiu Jitsu” is a pretty self-explanatory title for this instructional. Written by Marc Walder, a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt who hails from Great Britain, this book covers your basics and some advanced techniques of the grappling arts with a gi. What separates this one from the herd of other BJJ books on the market? Read on to find out!
Weighing in at under 130 pages long, “Essential Brazilian Jiu Jitsu” comes in physically smaller than the majority of other grappling books I have reviewed, but size does not always matter. The book covers a variety of positions and techniques utilizing the gi, including escapes, sweeps, guard passes, takedowns, and submissions and their combinations from all over the place. There is also an unusually large section on escaping headlocks, which is actually quite informative, just odd at a first glance.
The book is filled with lush full-color photos (more than 250 in fact) to visually demonstrate each technique. Most moves take up a full two-page spread, and feel like you are looking at posters instead of a book (especially thanks to the smart graphic design elements in the pages that tie them all together cohesively and make them very appealing to a viewer). The writing is easy to understand and detailed, breaking down each step next to those great photos. Not many instructional books spend as much time as this one has on its appearance, and this one really went all out to make it look spectacular. You can see in the picture above and below how the graphics work to make this book feel more complete and like an experience rather than just reading, which some people (despite buying a book) might have a hard time doing.
One of the downsides of this book is how short it is. While the techniques are all useful and very strong, there are just not a lot of them. Since most of the techniques are two-page spread, and not every page in this book is a move, that means there are only about 50 moves or so covered in the whole book. When you consider that these are covering the multiple topics listed earlier, that means you are getting just the bare bones on those items. It’s my only complaint, and it is a pity that this book was made so small that we are missing out on a lot of potential.
One nifty thing I want to mention is a glossary in the back of the book that lists contact info for various things related to grappling, including websites, merchandise and supplies, gyms, and competition sanctioning bodies. I have not seen that in a BJJ book before, and it was a welcome addition to see, one I hope other instructionals will include.
You can order “Essential Brazilian Jiu Jitsu” on Amazon.com for under $16, a good price for a good (albeit short) book. The biggest disappointment about this book is the short length of it, which may have been why the designers of the book chose to lay out the pages in the dynamic way they did. Overall, the book feels like an intensive crash-course in BJJ that delivers a lot of good info in with a great look and feel, it just feels like it should be much longer than it is (and I do wish it was longer). I hope Marc writes another book soon on BJJ, as I will definitely pick that one up, and you should take a look at this one as it has a good amount of slick moves that makes this a fine addition to your book collection for beginners and advanced students alike.