Getting your body into a healthy shape can be hard. It’s not just because diets are no fun, but because exercise can be laborious. If you never played a sport, don’t like lifting weights and aren’t into running (who is?), exercise is often a chore.
That’s where martial arts like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can help. Jiu-Jitsu is fun, teaches you self-defence skills, and is great for your mental health: and it also happens to be a great workout for your whole body.
In other words, it’s not a chore. When it comes to fitness, nothing is effective unless it’s sustainable. Actually liking and looking forward to an activity, like martial arts classes, is a huge asset.
If you’re intrigued by the idea of martial arts, here’s what you need to know about BJJ and its health benefits.
What is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu all about?
In short? It’s about taking an opponent to the ground and submitting them. Jiu-Jitsu is not like the fight scenes you see in old Kung-Fu movies: Unlike Kung-Fu, Karate and Taekwondo, there are no strikes in BJJ classes. You don’t learn how to strike, you learn how to grapple.
In Jiu-Jitsu, you learn how to subdue an aggressor on the ground by establishing a dominant position. You’ll learn to get to positions like mount, where you’re on top of an opponent in a way where they’re unable to strike you, and back control. You’ll also learn a bevy of submission holds you can apply from these positions; armlocks, shoulder locks, chokes and leglocks.
BJJ differentiates itself from other disciplines by focusing predominantly on the ground. Judo and wrestling, two other popular grappling martial arts, put more emphasis on taking your opponent to the ground. Jiu-Jitsu is mostly about what happens once you’re there.
There’s a huge fitness implication in this. Most martial arts injuries occur for one of two reasons: A slam gone wrong or an accidental blow to the head. BJJ features takedowns, but not to the same extent as Judo and wrestling, which drastically minimizes that injury risk. And, as noted, there are no strikes in BJJ, so you don’t have to worry about a roundhouse kick to the temple.
This means that BJJ practitioners with some experience can spar hard with each other. After you’ve been training for around 6 months to a year, it’s possible to train at 100% intensity without an escalated risk in injury.
BJJ Health Benefits
As you may imagine, training against fully resisting opponents is an enormous workout. Here are some BJJ health benefits to know about:
Strong core: Of all the parts of your body, Jiu-Jitsu uses the hips the most. Proper hip movement is crucial for many techniques, both offensive and defensive. You’ll move in ways you never have before, so be prepared to work parts of your core you never even knew you had.
And, of course, you’ll work your arms, shoulders, chest and legs too. It’s a whole-body affair!
Get what you sweat: Every class at Gracie Botany features a warm up, technique review and 15-30 minutes of sparring. Expect to work up a good sweat during the warm up, and then a lot more during the sparring.
The first half of the class will work your aerobic cardiovascular system, while sparring is anaerobic. Jiu-Jitsu tends to flow between bursts of intense activity followed by slower periods – moving explosively to establish position, then slowing down as you put weight down on your opponent, for instance. In this way, sparring can be closer to sprinting than jogging. Either way, it’s a big workout.
Stronger inside and out: BJJ isn’t just good for your body, but your mind too. The reason? It’s hard. Failure is a regular part of martial arts: You’re going to be submitted a lot, and things you try will often not work. But, just like your body gets stronger after it’s pushed, BJJ makes you learn perseverance, resilience and humility.
Stress relief: Ask anyone who trains at Gracie Botany and they’ll tell you the same thing – BJJ relieves stress. Because of the acute focus it requires, it’s almost a form of meditation. There are many days where life’s stressors get you down, but they have a magic habit of melting away when you’re on the mats.
If you’re willing to give martial arts a shot, come into Gracie Botany in Sydney’s eastern suburbs for a free trial class.