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Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, commonly known as BJJ, is a martial art that focuses on the use of ground fighting and grappling techniques to subdue and submit opponents. It is widely recognized as one of the most effective forms of self-defense and has become increasingly popular over the years, with practitioners all over the world. In this article, we will explore what Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is, the benefits of training it, why it is suitable for all ages, and how to get started with this martial art.
What is Jiu-Jitsu? (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu)
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that traces its roots back to feudal Japan when samurais practiced a fighting style known as jujutsu that revolved around throws and joint manipulation. In the early 20th century, Japanese immigrant and jujutsu student, Mitsuyo Maeda was sent by his master Jigoro Kano to spread the art he had developed known as judo, or “the gentle art. As he traveled across Europe, the United States, and various parts of South America, Maeda picked up catch wrestling techniques, which he added to his arsenal.
In 1916, Maeda found himself in Brazil, where he gave a demonstration of the art at a circus in Belém. A local businessman and partner in the circus, Gastão Gracie witnessed this demonstration and asked Maeda to teach his teenage son Carlos the art, in order to instill a sense of discipline. Carlos decided to dedicate his life to learning jiu-jitsu and alongside four of his other brothers, developed what came to be known as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
Further distinctions which made Gracie Jiu Jitsu separate from the Japanese Jiu Jitsu Mitsuyo Maeda taught evolved when Carlos began teaching his younger brother, Helio Gracie. Helio Gracie was sickly and often suffered from poor health, so Jiu-Jitsu needed to allow a weaker person capable of defending themselves from a stronger assailant. As a result, Helio would focus on developing the trunk or dō-osae position, which although existed in judo was rarely used.
Although the trunk or guard position appears to the outside eye to be less dominant, it can be used to secure a more dominant position or even a submission hold. Gaining a dominant position for control of an opponent is something that jiu-jitsu focuses on, as once in a dominant position, practitioners can use various movements, such as joint locks and submission holds, to subdue their opponents. Due to the experiments conducted by Helio Gracie, the art also emphasizes proper technique and leverage, allowing even smaller and weaker practitioners to successfully defend themselves against larger and stronger assailants.
Other Jiu-Jitsu masters such as Luiz França and Oswaldo Fadda would play a part in developing what became Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by allowing anyone regardless of social standing or financial position to learn the martial art. However, it would be the Gracie family that opened the first jujitsu academy in Rio De Janeiro and their teaching which allowed the art to flourish in Brazil.
The Gracies would also promote the art through competing in early mixed martial arts events known as vale tudo (anything goes) fights, sometimes defeating judo practitioners, boxers, and other martial artists along the way. Carlos Gracie, his brothers, and their sons, such as Carlos Jr and Rorion Gracie would spread BJJ throughout Brazil and beyond, through, to the extent that it has developed into its own sport, with its own world championship. Fights at this high level are not dissimilar to a game of human chess, with many athletes attempting to out-think their opponents and prove they have greater technique.
The popularity of BJJ would skyrocket as a result of MMA. When Renzo Gracie went into business and developed the Ultimate Fighting Championship in the early 1990s, mixed martial arts presented the opportunity to show the world the efficacy of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu over other martial arts. His brother, Royce showed that BJJ could allow a weaker person to defeat larger attackers regardless of their opponent’s strength. Whilst BJJ is still considered a gentle art due to its lack of strikes, it is still used extensively in mixed martial arts.
Today almost all MMA fighters practice BJJ to some extent, even those with wrestling expertise. The techniques have allowed Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners to become world champions in virtually every mixed martial arts organization.
Whilst it still has similarities, BJJ is now a distinctly different art to judo as throws are less commonly used, in favor of takedowns, more akin to tackles seen in sports such as American football or rugby. Additionally, judo in its sport form is significantly less focused on fighting on the ground than its Brazilian descendant.
Benefits of Training Jiu-jitsu
There are numerous benefits to training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, both physical and mental. One of the primary benefits is self-defense. Whilst it is always favorable to avoid getting into a fight, sometimes these situations appear to be unavoidable.
The techniques taught in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are designed to be practical and effective in real-world situations, making it an ideal martial art for those who are concerned about personal safety. At the white belt level, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners learn how to defend themselves against a variety of attacks, including strikes, chokes, and grabs, both on their feet and on the ground.
Studying martial arts instills a sense of meaning and stillness many people feel they lack in today’s confusing, fast-moving world. Whilst the path from white belt to black belt is long and arduous, it can provide an incredible sense of satisfaction. In the time spent on the mat, martial artists find themselves finding lifelong friends in the other students and the excitement of competing in the sport. Training BJJ gives you a great reason to visit the beautiful country of Brazil or even immerse yourself in Japanese culture too!
For many, BJJ isn’t easy and you effectively have to “get comfortable being uncomfortable”. Almost all martial arts instruction takes a while to “kick in” and ground fighting can feel very unnatural to many people. As a result, those who practice BJJ often find themselves with increased mental toughness and concentration.
Of course, if you intend to compete in mixed martial arts, learning appropriate grappling techniques is a vital part of the sport. MMA fighters transfer the skills honed on the mat to the cage, particularly those developed during no-gi (the traditional Japanese martial arts garb) sparring sessions.
Self-Defense Using Jiu-Jitsu
One of the primary reasons people choose to train in a martial art like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is for self-defense purposes. The art is designed to be practical and effective in real-world situations, allowing practitioners to defend themselves against a variety of attacks. BJJ practitioners learn how to control their opponents and take them to the ground, where they can use various techniques to subdue them.
Unlike some other martial arts, BJJ encourages you to practice the techniques in live sparring known as rolling, conducted in virtually every class. Whilst injuries aren’t unheard of, rolling is generally much better for the brain than the sparring conducted in striking martial arts. Grappling on a mat tends to be safer than standing and exchanging blows with one’s opponent.
One of the key concepts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the idea of leverage. By using proper technique and leverage, a smaller and weaker practitioner can often successfully defend themself against an opponent even if they are considerably more powerful. The art also emphasizes the importance of remaining calm and focused in high-pressure situations, which can be essential in self-defense situations.
Physical benefits of Jiu-Jitsu
In addition to self-defense techniques, BJJ is a full-body workout and offers numerous physical benefits.
Grappling provides increased cardiovascular health. BJJ is a physically demanding sport and martial art that requires a lot of endurance. Training to achieve this endurance strengthens the heart and lungs. The ground fighting techniques practiced in live sparring also engage various muscles, particularly core muscles essential for stability and balance.
This balance is further solidified as BJJ focuses on proper posture and body mechanics. Students find their balance and coordination to vastly improve. As students progress in their training, they find these two things will develop so they can stay centered in fights or competition. This can help prevent injuries and improve overall body awareness.
Another key indicator of health and fitness is flexibility, which through stretching and mobility work is deeply enhanced. A more surprising benefit is that BJJ can improve bone density through impact and resistance training, consequently reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
Regular exercise tends to promote better decisions in our daily life such as healthy dietary decisions and abstinence from drugs or alcohol.
Overall, training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is an excellent way to improve your physical fitness and overall health. If you’re looking to lose weight, build strength, or improve your cardiovascular health, BJJ can be a fantastic way of pursuing your goals.
Why Jiu-Jitsu is suitable for all ages (to an extent)
To some extent, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is suitable for students of all ages. If you’re a child, teenager, or adult, you can gain all of the health and self-defense benefits from spending time on the mat. The art emphasizes using technique and leverage to overcome the opponent’s strength, making it accessible to people of all sizes and abilities. Many BJJ practitioners continue to train well into their later years, as the art can be adapted to suit individual needs and capabilities.
There are a variety of reasons for this. BJJ is a relatively low-impact sport compared to other martial arts, such as boxing or kickboxing. Even through engaging in sparring, there is less risk of serious injury or brain damage. Grappling techniques can be performed without causing too much strain on the joints or muscles. For this reason, older individuals to practice BJJ without worrying too much about sustaining serious damage and parents won’t have to fork out for pediatrician bills.
BJJ techniques can also be adapted to suit different body types and physical abilities. This means that people of all shapes, sizes, and fitness levels can practice BJJ and still be successful. With smart training and the employment of proper techniques, older practitioners can use leverage and timing to compensate for any physical limitations such as arthritis. Class shouldn’t have a negative impact on a child’s physical development.
BJJ requires a great deal of mental focus and concentration, which can be incredibly beneficial for older individuals looking to keep their minds sharp, or de-stress from the anxiety of modern living. The mental focus can also help children learn discipline, problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making skills.
Sports of all kinds provide an opportunity for people of all ages to socialize and connect with others who share a common interest. Children, they can develop lifelong friends, whilst older individuals who may be more isolated and in need of social interaction can find company through this new hobby.
While BJJ is suitable for all ages, it is important to remember that older individuals should approach training cautiously and always consult a healthcare professional before starting a new exercise program. Additionally, they should take extra care to warm up properly before training, listen to their bodies, and avoid training with overly aggressive partners.
If you are a parent looking to enroll your child n a BJJ class, do a search in your area for classes specifically designed for young children. Schools such as the Carlos Gracie Academy and Gracie Barra which Carlos Gracie Jr started are known for a syllabus designed to make children bullyproof. The academy has classes focus on developing fundamental skills and building confidence through fun and engaging activities. These classes typically focus on games and drills that teach basic movements, such as forward and backward rolls, shrimping, and technical stand-ups. Kids will also learn to work with partners and develop teamwork and social skills and there are “time outs” for breaking club rules.
Most BJJ schools hold child safety as a top priority, with coaches emphasizing proper technique and safety protocols. Kids are taught to control their movements without employing excessive force, helping minimize the chance of injury. Children are also paired up with partners of similar size and skill levels, ensuring
It’s important to note that children’s safety is a top priority in BJJ schools, and instructors will always emphasize correct technique and safety protocols. Children will be taught to control their movements and avoid using excessive force, which helps to minimize the risk of injury. Additionally, children will be paired up with partners who are similar in size and skill level, which ensures that they can practice safely and effectively. After all, a kid in a BJJ class isn’t trained to be a savage MMA fighter but to be a disciplined BJJ practitioner.
Ultimately, the age at which a child can start training BJJ will depend on the individual child’s physical and emotional maturity, as well as the specific requirements and policies of the BJJ school. Most schools which take children as students start around the age of five or six. Parents should talk to BJJ instructors and do their own research before enrolling their child in classes to ensure that their child is ready for the physical and mental demands of the martial art.
Getting Started with Jiu-Jitsu
If you’re interested in getting started with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, there are several things to consider. The first step is to find a reputable gym or academy that offers martial arts instruction. Look for a gym that has experienced instructors and a good reputation in the community. Whilst it helps if the “professor” is a black belt, it is not a necessity if the coach is talented and welcoming. Many gyms will offer a free trial class, which is a great way to see if Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is right for you but it’s wise to remember that it sometimes takes a little bit more than one class for things to click.
For those with absolutely no grappling experience, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can feel like drowning on the ground. However, it’s best not to apply too much pressure on yourself. Even renowned jiu-jitsu masters such as Leandro Lo struggled when they began.
You’ll likely find yourself at the bottom of the rung when you first start training. The belt system in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is similar to other martial arts, with the belt’s color indicating the practitioner’s level of skill and experience. The belt progression is as follows: white, blue, purple, brown, and finally black. Those who have held a black belt for years may obtain a red or “coral” belt, but there are only a few of these individuals on the planet.
During your first few classes, you’ll likely focus on learning basic techniques, such as the various positions, how to protect yourself from chokeholds and other submission holds, as well as escape them. As you progress, you’ll learn to execute these holds yourself and but it’s important to take your time and focus on learning these basics, as they will form the foundation of your future training.
The more you develop, the more you’ll learn advanced techniques and find out ways to employ them in live sparring with other students. Sparring is undoubtedly an essential part of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training, as it allows you to put your skills to the test in a controlled environment. It’s important to always train in a safe and controlled manner to avoid injury, so keep an eye on the aggression levels of both yourself and your sparring partners.
In its brief history, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has had a detailed and interesting life as a martial art. It’s hard to say if Gastao Gracie ever envisioned the heights of popularity that it has been elevated to by its use in the sport of MMA Renzo Gracie would later pioneer when Maeda first began teaching Carlos.
Whether you choose to take up BJJ for self-defense, to get in shape, to compete in events like no-gi submission-only tournaments, or to become a well-rounded MMA fighter, there are undoubtedly a plethora of great reasons to take some classes.