Thanks to the increasing popularity of mixed martial arts, more and more people are starting to appreciate the intricacies of grappling and the ground game.
Even if you don’t have any ambitions of becoming a professional cage fighter, you’ll find that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) has plenty to offer.
1. It’s (obviously) great for fitness
Of course, any activity that gets your heart rate up and those sweat glands working hard is good for you. But BJJ as a sport is immensely well-rounded. Not only does it give you a full-body workout, its many varied drills also help develop coordination, balance and agility - motor skills that would be beneficial for your everyday life.
2. It teaches you valuable self-defence skills
Never mind the perennial debate in the BJJ community discussing the merits of “sport jiu jitsu” versus that of “street jiu jitsu”. Many BJJ gyms actually incorporate a self-defence aspect into their training programmes.
You may learn, for instance, how to escape when someone has you in a bear hug or a chokehold, or how to launch an attack when you’re lying on your back. Hopefully, you won’t ever have to use these in real life, but they’re always good to know.
3. It’s useful for people of all shapes and sizes
This point might not be made entirely clear to you until you watch a 50kg woman choke out a man who has 30kg on her; a not-uncommon sight at a BJJ gym.
As a smaller person, you might find yourself initially always squashed under someone much bigger and heavier than you are. But as you pick up more skills and technical knowledge, you’ll soon find yourself less afraid of sparring with larger training partners. Smaller people may also have an advantage in some ways – the smaller the hands, the easier it is to slip them under someone’s neck for a choke!
4. It builds discipline and confidence
Unlike the striking arts, where sparring is only introduced after you’ve trained for awhile and have gained some basic skills, you’re usually encouraged to start sparring—also known as rolling—right from the beginning of your BJJ journey.
While scary and disheartening in the beginning, because you’ll be tapping more times than you can keep track, sparring is the only way to put the skills you’ve picked up to the test. And when you finally pull off that move or submission you’ve been drilling, you will experience an unparalleled sense of achievement.
5. It gives you a mental workout too
There is reason why BJJ is always referred to as “human chess”. For each move you attempt to execute, there are many more to counter it. As you progress, you’ll learn to think a few moves ahead, rather than just focusing on your next one.
The sport itself is always evolving, with high-level practitioners constantly inventing new moves (and counter-moves); even high-level black belts are known to attend BJJ seminars held by other black belts to learn from them.
6. It’s a great way to make new friends
The BJJ community is, by and large, a friendly and welcoming one. Students with higher-level belts are usually happy to share their knowledge with beginners and give them feedback after a roll.
Within the community, there’s a common saying that goes: “as long as you have a gi—the traditional BJJ uniform—with you, you’ll be welcomed at any jiujitsu gym anywhere in the world.”