If you are looking for a martial art that blends striking and grappling, boosts your fitness levels, and offers the chance to learn a host of brand new skills in one class, then jiu-jitsu may be the perfect choice for you.
In short, jiu-jitsu is a martial art that combines grappling techniques with striking movements. The goal is to gain control over your opponent using leverage and joint locks.
Whether you are getting ready to take your first class, or are simply curious to learn more, read on to learn all you need to know about jiu-jitsu, including the amazing physical and mental benefits you could enjoy right from the moment that you first enter the gym.
What Is Jiu-Jitsu?
Jiu-Jitsu, (pronounced “hyeo-jee-tsee”) is literally translated as the ‘soft art’ or ‘gentle way’ in Portuguese – a name which may initially seem at odds with a tough, fast-paced martial arts practice, but the word jiu-jitsu itself comes from the Japanese pronunciation of the term gi, which is the traditional clothing worn by practitioners.
Jiu-jitsu in its current form was developed in Brazil during the 19th century and today, it has spread around the globe and is practiced by millions of practitioners worldwide.
The original history of jiu-jitsu can be traced back much further; with some experts believing that the practice can be dated back to the Buddhist monks of India, over 4000 years ago, who needed a way to protect themselves on travels and pilgrimages without resorting to inflicting harm.
The practice is then thought to have spread to feudal Japan and was used as a form of hand-to-hand combat in battle, including in the 16th century when it was used as a form of self-defense by samurai warriors.
Others argue that the origins of the sport date back even further, citing evidence of grappling techniques, holds, and throws found in Ancient Egyptian and Greek cultures, as seen from discovered artworks and archeological finds.
Ju-Jitsu as we now recognize it seems to have arrived in Brazil in the 19th century when a world-famous practitioner by the name of Mitsuyo Maeda began to teach and practice both judo and jiu-jitsu – at the time, these were combined into a single practice and discipline.
Three students from Maeda’s school, Carlos Gracie, Helio Gracie, and Oswaldo Fadda, would go on to create what we know today as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
These days, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a unique style of martial arts and is one of the most popular sports in the world.
In Brazil alone, there are more than 1 million practitioners. Outside of Brazil, the number of practitioners is estimated to be about 30 million.
Today, there are more than 200 schools practicing jiu-jitsu all over the world.
In addition to being one of the most popular forms of martial arts, jiu-jitsu has been adopted by law enforcement agencies across the United States and Canada.
How Does Jiu-Jitsu Work?
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is an effective self-defense system that focuses on controlling your opponent through leverage and joint locks.
To do this, you need to use your body weight to apply pressure to your opponent’s joints and muscles. This allows you to control them and make them submit to your will.
Jiu-Jitsu is based on three main principles:
When you attack someone, you must first get close enough to hit them.
If they move away, you lose the opportunity to strike. By using your own weight, you can pin your opponent against a wall or floor, immobilize them and take advantage of their lack of mobility.
Once you have pinned your opponent down, you can start applying force to their joints and muscle groups.
You can use your legs to trap them between yours and the ground, or you can wrap your arms around their waist to choke them out.
When you apply leverage and force to your opponent’s joints, you can lock them up so they cannot move. This makes it difficult for them to defend themselves and gives you the upper hand.
There are many different ways to perform a joint lock, but here are just a few examples:
- Leg Lock – When you place your leg behind your opponent’s knee, you can lock them up by pushing their foot towards the ground – this will render them totally unable to move.
- Arm Bar – When you grab your opponent’s arm and pull it towards your chest, you can lock him up by pulling his shoulder backward, meaning that they are unable to throw a punch or get leverage to hook you back.
- Triangle Choke – When you wrap your arms around your opponent’s neck, you can lock them up by pressing their chin into your forearm – this will usually force a submission as there is nowhere for them to go.
- Rear Naked Choke – When you put your hands under your opponent’s armpits, you can lock them up by pulling their head back with your elbows, rendering them immobile.
- Side Control – When you hold your opponent’s side with your arm and leg, you can lock him by pulling him towards yourself; this gives you almost total control over their body.
- Mount – When you stand on top of your opponent, you can lock them up by putting your knees on either side of their hips – when performed correctly, this will mean that they cannot get back up, or gain the leverage to move for a counter-attack.
The key to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is learning how to control your opponent without hurting them. It is important that you learn the correct technique in order to avoid causing injury to your opponent.
Why Should I Learn Jiu-Jitsu?
There are a number of advantages to learning Jiu-Jitsu, and these include:
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu teaches you how to protect yourself from attackers who want to harm you. The techniques used in BJJ are designed to keep your attacker at bay while giving you time to escape.
The advantages of self-defense should not be overlooked; if you know how to defend yourself, then you can stop an attack before it starts.
Learning Jiu-Jitsu will help to improve your mental health.
Learning new skills and improving your fitness levels will give you more confidence and make you feel better about yourself – you will be amazed at how quickly you improve and grow, and the physical benefits of exercise will also have an incredible impact on improving mental health and wellbeing.
Learning Jiu-Jitsu also improves your mental strength and helps you deal with stress better. Through training, you will be able to improve your focus and concentration.
When you train in Jiu-Jitsu, you will develop flexibility in all areas of your body. Your muscles will become stronger and more toned, which means that you will be able to do more things than ever before.
This includes being able to bend down and pick something up off the floor, and even doing push-ups! It will not be long before you start to see and enjoy the benefits of this in daily life, even outside of the ring.
When you train in Jiu-Jitsu, you will build strength in every area of your body. You will find that your core becomes stronger so that you can carry out any movement with ease.
As well as this, your upper body will become stronger and more capable of carrying heavyweights, making you much more powerful overall.
As you practice BJJ, you will develop improved balance, which will allow you to perform movements with greater efficiency.
You will learn how to maintain your balance during different types of movement, such as jumping, rolling, and falling. This will enable you to perform many different types of moves with ease.
As you progress through your classes, you will begin to notice that you are becoming more coordinated and agile.
This will come as a result of practicing the various techniques used in BJJ, including locks, sweeps, chokes, throws, and escapes. By developing good coordination, you will be able to change direction faster and react quickly to attacks.
You will begin to feel more confident after just one class. When you first walk into a gym or martial arts school, you may worry about what other people think of you.
However, once you enter the room, you will soon realize that everyone is there for the same reason as you. They want to learn how to defend themselves, and they want to improve their lives by learning new skills.
Once you get over this initial fear, you will gain confidence and begin to enjoy the experience – there are few places where respect and camaraderie are felt more strongly than inside a martial arts gym.
A New Perspective On Life
You will begin to look at life from a different perspective. Instead of thinking about what others think of you, you will concentrate on what you need to do to succeed.
You will begin to understand that no matter who you are, where you live, or what your job is, you can always learn new skills and improve your life.
More Control Over Emotions
Because you will be concentrating on controlling your emotions when you train in Jiu-Jitsu, you will begin to control your emotions in everyday life.
You will learn how important it is to remain calm and collected under pressure because if you lose your cool, you could end up getting hurt.
Because you will be exercising regularly, you will begin to see improvements in your health. Not only will you have better physical fitness, but you will also have increased energy levels throughout the day.
As well as being a great way to stay fit, Jiu-Jitsu also builds strong muscles and burns lots of calories – and, as an added bonus, you will also burn more calories than you would if you were walking or running.
Greater Self Esteem
When you train in BJJ, you will begin to realize that you are capable of achieving anything you set your mind to.
Because you will be surrounded by people who share the same goals as you, you will start to believe that you are worthy of success. You will begin to feel like you deserve the best, and you will work hard to achieve your dreams.
Finally, you will begin to make friends with people who share similar interests to yours.
You will find yourself spending time with people who are not afraid to express their opinions, and you will become closer to them as a result.
You will also develop friendships with people who support each other’s efforts to reach their full potential.
Traditional Jiu-Jitsu Versus Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
The two most popular styles of Jiu-Jitsu today are Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and traditional Jiu-Jitsu (TJ).
The main difference between the two is that TJ focuses mainly on ground fighting while BJJ concentrates on throwing techniques. Many schools teach both types of Jiu-Jitsu, and some students prefer one style over another.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJP)
The term “Brazilian” refers to the country Brazil, and the name was given to the style of Jiu-Jitsu developed by the Gracie family in Rio de Janeiro.
It is based on throws and takedowns and relies heavily on leverage and balance. The focus is on using the opponent’s weight against him/her rather than trying to overpower them.
Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (GJJ)
Another form of Jiu-Jitsu developed in Japan, this style is known as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. This style emphasizes throws and holds, and has been adapted to suit Japanese culture. It is now taught all over the world.
Traditional Jiu-Jitsu (TJ)
This type of Jiu-Jitsu is usually referred to simply as “traditional”. It is very similar to GJJ, although there are slight differences. It is often used for self-defense purposes and relies on strength and speed rather than technique.
Which Style Should I Choose?
The best style of jiu-jitsu will ultimately depend on your aspirations and goals, as well as your personal workout style.
Each style has its own pros and cons; if you want to learn to defend yourself from attacks, then you should choose Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
If you want to improve your grappling skills, however, then it is probably best to stick with Gracie jiu-jitsu, as there is a much heavier emphasis on this.
If you want to learn how to throw your opponents, then Traditional jiu-jitsu may be the best choice, as this focuses largely on holds and throws.
How Do I Learn To Fight?
There are several ways to learn to fight. One of the easiest methods is to attend classes at a local school.
Many schools offer free lessons or introductory sessions where they can show you what they do, and give you advice about how to get started.
Another option is to sign up for a private lesson with an instructor.
These lessons cost money but they are more effective because you have the opportunity to ask questions and receive personalized attention and ensure that you are learning the necessary techniques safely.
No matter which style you opt for, jiu-jitsu is a great way to improve your fitness, boost your skills, and ensure that you have all you need to take care of yourself should the occasion require it.
Why not head to a gym for a class today – you could be lighting the fire in a lifelong love of fighting, and inspire an incredible new skill that offers plenty of bonuses for your overall health and wellbeing.
About The Author: Ahmed Mir
Ahmed Mir is the founder of MMA Boxx. After a weightlifting injury redirected his athletic journey, Ahmed discovered a passion for mixed martial arts (MMA), immersing himself in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai.
Beyond the mat, Ahmed lives in Thailand and is a seasoned entrepreneur, earning recognition in notable publications such as Entrepreneur, Legal Zoom, and The Washington Post.
As the visionary behind MMA Boxx, he’s dedicated to fostering a community where enthusiasts can explore the world of MMA.