Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (“BJJ”) can be an extremely rewarding and challenging hobby. BJJ began in Brazil when a visiting diplomat from Japan began teaching Judo to Carlos Gracie Sr. and his brothers as a show of gratitude for their hospitality and help in getting settled in Brazil.
One of the brothers, Helio Gracie, was more frail and weak than his larger, stronger brothers. Because of his physical limitations, he began to modify the techniques that the Japanese diplomat taught to use less strength and more leverage to submit an opponent after securing a dominant position.
In BJJ, submissions are either joint locks or chokes that cause the opponent to signal he is beaten by "tapping out" (tapping his hand on any surface) or yelling out in pain. While submissions are present in the more traditional Judo, groundwork is limited as the action is focused on standing grappling.
In BJJ, groundwork is the focus, with dominant position on the ground leading to submission being the driving philosophy of the art.
Modern BJJ has changed very much from the original techniques taught by Helio. While Helio focused on self-defense in the street, the rise of tournaments in the 1970s brought about what is known today as sport BJJ.
Both types of techniques are valid and considered part of the larger art, but sport BJJ has grown far more popular, with over 2000 competitors entering the “Mundials” (world championships) annually.
Sport BJJ tournaments focus on pitting competitors against one another of similar experience and skill levels, in order to determine who the superior grappler is. The titans of the sport train as professional athletes, often training in excess of 30 hours per week, including conditioning, sparring, and strength training. These men are black belts and have trained for many years to get to the top of this very competitive sport.
Like striking martial arts, competition allows people to test their skills against others in a controlled and relatively safe environment. BJJ is not without risk, as injuries occur often. Proper treatment is important to continue practicing the sport.
One other aspect of BJJ that is significantly different from other martial arts is the slow progression of belt promotion. There are only 5 belts in BJJ: white, blue, purple, brown and black. The average time to progress to black belt is about 8 years, with departures in either direction possible due to more intense or less intense training, or breaks in training due to injury.
A black belt is a symbol of perseverance as well as knowledge. Anyone can practice this beautiful art. If you have any interest, walk into the nearest BJJ club and take a class, you may be shocked at just how much fun it is!