Facebook/Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg. Baseball great Barry Bonds. Actors Tom Hardy, Keanu Reeves and Jonah Hill. Airforce colonels, housewives, kids and average Joes–what do they all have in common? They’re donning a kimono, tying a belt around their waist, and practicing a martial art called Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. What’s the story behind this fitness craze? Is it a high-intensity workout destined to leave you with bumps and bruises, or can anyone–young or old–do it and remain unscathed? Here’s a deep-dive into this bold workout, courtesy of Project Bold Life!
(Maybe the idea of getting roughed up while working out is unappealing. That’s fine. Here’s a Project Bold Life story on the health benefits of putting your feet in the grass.)
What is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or BJJ, is a martial art that uses many grappling-based techniques and focuses on the skill of controlling an opponent to force him to submit. Unlike boxing or karate, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu movements are ground-based, and akin to wrestling for dominant positions to render your opponent harmless.
Controlling and overcoming an opponent of greater size, strength, and aggression is the gist of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In using more skillful leverage, grip, and position, practitioners can subdue their opponents without throwing a single punch. In addition, people training in this martial arts discipline gain a deep understanding of the capabilities and limits of the human body. It can be an intense, full-body workout that taxes the heart and lungs more than sprinting, while also taxing the mind with a seemingly-endless collection of moves and countermoves like a game of kinetic chess.
“Jiu-jitsu is personal efficiency to protect the weaker, which anyone can do. It is the force of leverage against brute force.” – Helio Gracie
Jiu-Jitsu for Self-Defense
Many people learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu not just for its health benefits but for self-defense. With Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you use leverage and techniques to pressure your attacker to give up without relying on brute force. But what truly makes Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu effective for self-defense is its realistic training and live sparring. In a typical class, students are practicing moves against each other using full resistance to the techniques. This practical approach allows students to develop and utilize self-defense skills under pressure.
Many Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu techniques are also versatile and highly adaptable to any situation. The versatility of this martial arts discipline is also one of the reasons why more celebrities practice it. Besides fitness and sport, the movements and techniques help actors prepare for their fight scenes in a movie or show project.
The Ways of A BJJ Practitioner: Training and Benefits
Although many new practitioners use Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for health and exercise, competition is a significant part of the BJJ culture. The founders developed rules emphasizing safety while permitting quintessential BJJ moves, like joint locks and chokes.
In the field of fitness and wellness, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is becoming a quick favorite by many because practitioners can enjoy them no matter their age, gender, or fitness levels. Consistent training with Jiu-Jitsu provides people with better cardiovascular health, increased muscle mass, and strength, improved joint flexibility, and enhanced mental clarity and concentration.
In addition, it also offers mental health benefits. There are only a few studies on this topic, but practicing BJJ helps you understand your limitations, ground yourself, and reduce stress. Due to the sport’s rigorous training, your body releases more endorphins (the hormones that make you feel good). That means you get a “runner’s high” after each workout–yet you don’t have to worry about stressing your knees or being chased by the neighbor’s dog!
“Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a grappling combat sport that has intermittency as its core element; in other words, actions of high, moderate, and low intensity are interspersed during matches, requiring a high level of conditioning to support optimal levels of performance for the total match time.” – Francisco Javier Díaz Lara, Associate Professor, Universidad de Navarra, Department of Nutrition, Food Science and Physiology
The Dangers of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
The foundations and principles of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu guarantee physical and mental improvement, but it comes with certain risks. Mishaps can happen, even with Jiu-Jitsu masters, due to its physically and mentally demanding training regimen. Many practitioners risk the following injuries:
- Head injuries
- Neck and spine injuries
- Shoulder injuries
- Elbow and wrist injuries
- Hip and groin injuries
- Knee and ankle injuries
However, despite the taxing training, fatigue, and soreness, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu conditions the body to its best form. It also helps the practitioners to understand their body’s needs, strengths, and limitations.
Certainly a Bold Workout!
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is growing in popularity, and much of that growth is because it shows there’s more to overcoming challenges than using brute force. With BJJ, practitioners learn how to solve problems with patience, persistence and thoughtful analysis–traits that can carry over to other aspects of life. While the sheer physicality of it means it’s not an endeavor for everyone–you have to not mind being in tough positions–it’s certainly a Bold workout!
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