Wondering what Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is all about? Curious to give it a try, but know next to nothing about it? Don’t panic. We all start somewhere! This article will give you a tiny peek into the world of Jiu Jitsu and why so many women are growing to love it.
What is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
To put it very briefly, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or BJJ for short, is a martial art that involves grappling (ground fighting) and focuses on using joint locks and chokes in order to submit an opponent. While it is related to other martial arts, BJJ is unique in that it allows for smaller opponents to use leverage and technique to submit larger opponents. BJJ is growing in popularity as a sport, but is also helpful as a form of exercise and self-defense.
To gi or not to gi?
Traditionally, Jiu Jitsu practitioners have worn a uniform called a gi. The gi consists of a kimono-style jacket and baggy pants. The uniform is designed for practitioners to obtain grips on sleeves, pants, collar, and lapels. There are some pretty amazing and creative submissions that can be developed using the gi. No-gi Jiu Jitsu is done without the gi and practitioners usually wear some combination of tightly fitting top and shorts or leggings (sometimes both). There are some gyms and schools that specialize in only no-gi Jiu Jitsu and focus on grappling without using fabric to grip. Without a gi, takedowns and submissions look a little different since gripping the opponents clothing is not allowed. Both gi and no-gi have their pros and cons and you will find a variety of different answers from people about their preferences on which one they like to train more of.
Like many other martial arts, BJJ utilizes a belt system in order to show rank, experience and ability. While there is a general order of how belts work for adults (white, blue, purple, brown, black, coral, red) each gym promotes its members however the professor or association deems fit. A blue belt at one gym may be on a completely different level than a blue belt from the gym across town, but there is a general understanding that both practitioners are a bit above beginner’s level. There is no major regulating body for the belt system, so that is why it varies.
Customs and courtesies
Most gyms will have students bow upon entering or exiting the mats. This is to show respect for the gym, the sport, and for teammates. In a formal class, the instructor will usually have students line up according to belt rank and then begin class with a bow as a whole prior to beginning warm-ups or instruction. At the end of a session, the class will also bow out together. Across the globe, a hand slap and fist bump”signals the start of a roll (BJJ version of live sparring). This is done by (you guessed it!) slapping hands with your opponent, then making a fist and bumping each other’s fist, and beginning the roll. It’s also pretty common to do this after the roll as a show of good sportsmanship. If you haven’t figured it out by now, this sport is big on respect and honoring your opponent, because without the other person’s willingness to participate, there would be no one to have fun with!
Drills & Rolling
While every school and instructor has their own spin on how to teach BJJ, most schools will teach a series of movements in each class then have people partner up and try out or “drill” the movements with each other. These can be submissions, escapes, sweeps, or other movements. Some schools do not allow white belts to roll and others do. Usually, if a school allows rolling, it will come after the formal instruction. Rounds can last several minutes at a time and may involve switching partners. This all depends on your school. The great thing about BJJ is that you can actually practice what you have learned in live rounds without seriously injuring people (if you’re careful!)
Well, there you have it! A brief introduction into the world of Jiu Jitsu! Hopefully this gives you just a tad more knowledge than you started with! If you find the right gym and group of people, you just might join the rest of us crazy people who have found great friends and a unique hobby in this rewarding sport!
Danielle is a blue belt at National Martial Arts in Norman, Oklahoma. She is a veteran, military spouse and social worker. Jiu Jitsu has brought her the best friendships. When she’s not training, you can find her spending time with her family. She hopes to one day start a non-profit program using BJJ to help people work through the effects of trauma.