The sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has become increasingly popular overthe past decade, with dedicated gyms once hard to find, now all over the globe.
This gain in mainstream appeal is largely due to the martial art’s dominating success in MMA (Mixed Martial Arts). The roots of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can be linked back to 1914 when Esai Maeda, a pupil of the founder of Judo, migrated to Brazil. Maeda was responsible for teaching Carlos Gracie the art of Jiu-Jitsu and Judo. Carlos then taught the art to his brothers and in 1925, the first Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy was opened in Rio de Janeiro. As fate would have it, the weakest of the brothers, Helio Gracie, weighing in at 135 pounds, had to make many modifications to the techniques in order for them to work for his body type. It would be these adaptations, which focused on leverage and creating a positional advantage, that later became the core principles of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The primary objective of Jiu-Jitsu as a sporting martial art is to defeat one’s opponent through one of many submission holds. These submission holds consist of various joint locks and
chokeholds, which force your opponent to concede defeat and “tap out”. The tap out in Jiu-Jitsu is equivalent to the knockout in striking-based martial arts. Even though the primary goal in Jiu-Jitsu is to submit your opponent, serious injuries are a rare occurrence. It’s common to have muscle strains and aches, but because the majority of training takes place on a wrestling mat, it can be considered a low impact sport.
One of many benefits of training in the discipline of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the intense physical workout provided. A typical class will consist of a 20-to 30-minute pre-workout where students perform training drills, plyometric movements, sit-ups, push-ups, and takedown drills prior to the daily lesson plan. At the end of instruction, the students will engage in live sparring. The sparring in Jiu-Jitsu presents a controlled strategic session where students use technique and problem-solving to overcome their opponent while receiving a vigorous workout. A typical match in Jiu-Jitsu sparring lasts 5-10 minutes and you’re expected to eventually work your way up to 4-5 matches in a row. The physical benefits of Jiu-Jitsu are amazingly well-rounded. The sport tests you in every physically imaginable way. And as the total duration of sparring sessions can last 30-45 minutes, it also provides an outstanding cardiovascular workout in addition to muscular fatigue. The unique positions and movements involved in the sport also increase flexibility, balance, and help enhance overall athletic performance.
One of the biggest misconceptions with the sport has to do with the sparring aspect. Sparring is not a competition but a form of practice where there is a mutual understanding amongst practitioners to try not to hurt each other. Both are working to help each other improve. From an outside perspective, it’s difficult to understand the playful nature the game can have. Better players in Jiu-Jitsu are able to flow their movements and strategically set up reversals and submission holds without using a lot of power and force. The matches have a chess-like feel as students use trial and error to figure their way out of submissions and pins. It’s this aspect that makes the game so addicting for so many people.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is NOT only for younger athletes and those interested in combat sports. In fact, eighty-percent of our student-base trains for fitness and as a hobby while the other twenty-percent compete in grappling and MMA competition. The age demographic of typical Jiu-Jitsu clubs testifies to this fact with a range between 4-to 65-years-old amongst students of both sexes. It’s understandable for people to be hesitant and feel a bit intimidated when starting out in the sport, however in reality, sports like Jiu-Jitsu are full of some the nicest people you’ll meet. Perhaps it’s the stress release and ever-humbling nature of combat sports that really change people for the better. It can even be argued that the mental and emotional benefits found are far greater than the physical ones. Jiu Jitsu teaches the skill of problem-solving solving under stress and within a changing environment, to deal with the crux of a problem, and adapt to solve the situation presented. It’s hard to imagine a better metaphor for life.
Those interested in learning more about the sport of Jiu-Jitsu as an alternative fitness program should try an introductory class. Most Jiu-Jitsu clubs have programs for beginners and orientation classes designed to help anyone at any skill level. And you don’t need to be in great shape to start the sport as classes are designed in a progressive nature to allow new students to gradually advance and gain conditioning as they go. Think of Jiu-Jitsu as a marathon, not a sprint. It requires time, commitment, and patience to master. So, why not get started NOW!
Having earned his Black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 2009, Sean Apperson is head instructor at the renowned Paragon Academy in Santa Barbara founded by Ricardo “Franjinha” Miller. Apperson is also creator of the company JiuJitsupedia.com. Apperson is now in the process of becoming a Black belt in Judo.