What is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a martial art, self-defense system, and a combat sport. But to many people like me, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is much more. It's a lifestyle. 

Most people consider martial arts such as jiu-jitsu – violent where a bunch of meatheads gather around to beat each other up. Well, that isn’t the case.

The goal of martial arts isn’t to see how much you can hurt someone, but the goal is to build character. My training teaches me discipline. It allows me to control myself both physically and mentally. My everyday challenges parallel the ones I struggle with on the mat.

When my training is going well, I find peace and harmony with the rest of my life. Everything in life doesn’t seem so hard when I’m training against someone who is trying to tap me.

But what exactly is Brazilian jiu-jitsu? Why has it become my entire lifestyle?

If you don’t train jiu-jitsu, it makes it difficult to understand. People have said to me, “What are they doing? It looks like they are just hugging each other on the ground.” One of my favorite things about jiu-jitsu is “if you don’t know jiu-jitsu, you don’t know how to defend jiu-jitsu.” Anyone can recognize a punch or kick, but not everyone can appreciate the subtleties of someone setting up a chokehold or joint lock.

Jiu-jitsu is all about using the least amount of energy for the maximum results to either control or restrain your opponent. Or even to kill your opponent.

Another great aspect about jiu-jitsu is you can stop your opponent without actually harming him. You need to judge the threat level. For instance, if my drunk uncle began to get out of hand at a family BBQ, I would stop him with minimal effort and hold him down. But I wouldn't harm him. If it were someone trying to take my life then yes I would harm him. I would fight with the force necessary to protect myself, and if need be severely injure the person assaulting me.

Jiu-jitsu is the Gentle Art. If you ask most practitioners, they would disagree with that statement. But it's the Gentle Art. The way I practice the art is not to strike but to use grabs, sweeps and holds to beat my opponent. In doing so, I learn how to beat up my opponent without actually causing physical harm unless I choose to – with a submission, a finishing hold which results in him tapping.

Say a family member or friend was so drunk they were out of control. My intention is not to hurt that person, but to restrain him – than jiu-jitsu is perfect. I can control him and stop him with the incredible body discipline jiu-jitsu gives you. 

If a small woman needed to fight a much larger man that was trying to abuse her – jiu-jitsu is perfect. It gives the weaker person the ability to gain leverage, power, and skill to break their opponent.

The ‘tap’ is an essential signal to my training partner. It means to let go of whatever you’re doing. Tapping prevents any unnecessary injuries from happening when training. Yes just like any other sport, the occasional injury occurs. But with control, clear communication, and proper training partners – the risk of harm is slight.

There's a saying in jiu-jitsu, “tap a lot and tap often, you learn more when you tap." When I tap in jiu-jitsu, I say, “I give up, you win. Or hold on, something is wrong. I don’t want to get hurt.” So it’s crucial that all training partners understand that when you tap – they are to stop what they're doing.

If you ever train with a black belt or highly skilled jiu-jitsu practitioner, you will know the feeling – every move becomes a mistake that leads to another trap. When you don’t know jiu-jitsu, all your instincts are wrong. For example, the most common grappling technique is the headlock. But if you know jiu-jitsu, you know the headlock is practically useless and only gets you into trouble against a skilled grappler.

Tall or small, jiu-jitsu makes us all equal. Jiu-jitsu is the only martial art that focuses on where most fights end up, on the ground. Jiu-jitsu teaches what I call, “avoiding the fight inside the fight.” I wouldn’t fight fire with fire, but rather I would fight fire with water. So I wouldn’t fight where my opponent is strong but where I am strong.

Jiu-jitsu gives me the ability to use proper body mechanics and technique to gain leverage over my opponent. It’s considered the chess game of martial arts, where you gain the superior position over your opponent. You take away all their options until you put them into a submission (choke or joint lock), which ends the fight.

During all this training, jiu-jitsu develops into a lifestyle from the clothes I wear to the choices I make. I don’t go out drinking and partying all night if I have to train early in the morning. Eating habits begin to improve because I want to be fit to train. I enjoy activities that are more fitness oriented to compliment my jiu-jitsu.

Jiu-jitsu is more than just an activity that I do. It's a way of life.

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Zach Green
Philadelphia, PA
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