The UFC announced its first fight card in mainland China later in 2017. This will have an echo, introducing BJJ to over a billion potential fans. You read that correctly: over a billion people in the world’s largest country!
There are existing BJJ schools in the major cities of Beijing and Shanghai that have been around for years. But for most BJJ fans in China, it is still in the early stages of growth.
I visited a BJJ academy in the city of Guangzhou, China, where Vinz Wong runs Roller Jiu-Jitsu and is helping to sow the seeds of BJJ in the world’s most populous country.
I asked him how many black belts there are in China now?
“Approximately 25-30 black belts handful of Brazilian and Japanese origins are teaching in the largest cities in China. The first truly homegrown Chinese black belt should be graduated in the next few years.”
Vinz opened a small but modern BJJ academy six months ago after three years of training BJJ under a Brazilian coach from Checkmat.
The growth of BJJ is seen in the tournaments. For example first tournament Vinz attended had around 50 competitors.
Recently a major tournament in Hong Kong had over three hundred competitors, with many brown and black belts from different countries in Asia competing in the advanced division.
I asked Vinz how he planned to grow BJJ in a new market. He said he was looking to introduce jiu-jitsu to elementary schools. Cooperation with schools bring BJJ classes to the attention of young people and their parents.
“The Chinese students enjoy to meet at the academy, talk with friends, exchange some techniques, and learn the art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The culture of the schools is less rivalry between schools and more sharing the love of training jiu-jitsu.”
The Chinese online BJJ community is primarily through Wechat, a Mobile phone app that allows users to access news about BJJ events held in different cities.
Alice Xie is a blue belt who is crazy about BJJ. “When I first started, there were few people training. Only two girls in the academy and mostly foreigners. Now more and more Chinese and women are training jiu-jitsu.”
“A lot of people still don’t know what it is. I try to explain but they don’t understand. They ask me later ‘How is your tae kwon do training?'” Alice laughs.
Why should Chinese women try jiu-jitsu?
Alice answers, “BJJ is for everyone. Even though you are smaller, you can use your technique to defend yourself.”
“I got addicted to this because there are tons of what if…what if? You can learn something new every day from each roll.”