Here’s the thing about Jiu Jitsu. It’s kinda like a language. Except, you can’t learn it by whispering pronunciations of strange sounds. You can’t pick it up by reading about it. It’s something you need to learn by doing. Physically doing. That’s what’s so attractive to me – it’s the direct translation of resilience.
Jiu Jitsu (say it like this; joo jitsoo) is a martial art that is based on grappling. It’s what you see the fighters doing on the ground, for the most part, in the UFC. Jits (short for Jiu Jitsu) is sort of like wrestling. There’s no striking in Jiu Jitsu like you would see in boxing or karate, but it’s nonetheless a very combative sport. Because we’re not risking the concussive problems associated with getting hit in the head, our training can be very intense. By that, I mean that we often have the chance to spar or actually grapple with our training partners. And, because we’re not hitting each other, we can grab at each other with near fight-level intensity.
Matches in BJJ (non-competitively called ‘rolls’) are finished when one combatant submits the other. Submission occurs when one partner ‘taps out’ to the other by physically tapping them, the mats or vocally shouting ‘tap!’. This happens when enough pressure, pain and discomfort has been applied via limb locks, strangles and pressure. Fun eh?
A family from Brazil
A separate though similar martial art, Japanese Jiu Jitsu, is less widely practiced when compared to it’s Brazilian cousin. Most people are referring to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu when discussing ‘Jiu Jitsu’ broadly. It came to North America by way of a single family. For the most part, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s lineage can be traced back to a handful of men from the esteemed Gracie family.
They developed techniques that sprung from Judo (another grappling martial art that is known for big throws) that focused on the fighting from the ground – you’ll hear BJJ people often say that ‘most fights end up on the ground’. Now, this bite-size look at BJJ legacy condenses decades of advances into a few sentences. But, for today’s purposes, just know this – when we’re talking about Jiu Jitsu on this post, we’re talking about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. That’s in large part thanks to a handful of guys from the Gracie family, who brought it to North America in the 70’s.
Since then, BJJ has spun out to serve several different styles of grappling. There’s leg lockers, heavy pressure guys, floaty jits players and wrestlers among a handful of other tags that can be appended to the more popular ways to express Jiu Jitsu. See, I’ve picked out that word carefully. Martial arts allows for expression in a way that nothing else in my life really does.
Martial Arts. Study and Show.
Perhaps my favourite part of martial arts as a practice or life skill is the split between it’s study and show. The word ‘martial’, to me, suggests that the first thing a new fighter can do to fully immerse themselves in the subject of Jiu Jitsu is to formally study it. There are thousands of hours of instructional videos. Some, you can pay to play – their secrets held behind pay walls on sites like BJJ Fanatics. Others are widely available on YouTube. You can read on everything from how we can take lessons on the mats into the business world to Tao infused books of BJJ philosophy. I might suggest to the new BJJ practitioner the purchase of a journal to track their progress and actually write down techniques for inspection while off the mats.
Next, Jiu Jitsu allows us to act intentionally. We can choose our best way forward, aim directly and move with singular focus toward submitting our training partners. That, to me, is one of the purest forms of expression I have ever encountered. It’s the amalgamation of all of our effort. It’s all the road work, all the weightlifting, all the frame-by-frame breakdowns on YouTube and all the hours on the mat. Moreover, it’s expression in the face of immense struggle. Afterall, jits is a reflection of our lifestyle.
On and off the mats.
We have a phrase at our little club.
We practice hard feelings on the mats so we know what to do with them in real life.
Sometimes, we get into the ring (physically, mentally, emotionally) without being as prepared as we could be. It may be that the preparations we’ve put in isn’t enough to stem the constant waves of pressure. Or, if we felt prepared when we slapped and bumped into a match, it’s possible that what stands in front of us just got the better of our best effort. Either way, Jiu Jitsu fundamentally prepares us for one specific requirement, on and off the mats.
A relentless force is unstoppable by definition.
There are lessons in Jiu Jitsu that can and have filled the pages of novel length books. Toward the components that make up our experiences on the mats, I think there’s one quality that transcends the rest. For me, that’s the roots behind attrition. It’s the endurance required to lead. Jiu Jitsu, for me, empowers it’s participants to continue.
Grappling is hard work. Like all sports, it lends to a handful of common injuries. Unlike most sports, however, the losses are felt so thoroughly because you have to actually submit to your opponent. The physical wear is one thing and, I figure, the easiest to understand. If you watch a few Jiu Jitsu matches, you can see where things could get dicey for your shoulders when an opponent sinks in a deep Americana lock. The beginner’s morning certainly feels the ‘I’ve been hit by a train’ effect of their first night on the mats. But, the emotional toll of jits is under emphasized in most circles.
Like most of our emotional struggles. Under mentioned. Cast to the side but plainly obvious.
Grappling is resilience.
When you step on the mats for the first time, you’ll be navigating fear. Everybody will explain this differently, and even the muscled big-body brutes among us will have their own version. At the bottom of those words are a similar feeling among all first-time grapplers; anxiety. You don’t yet speak the language. It’s hard to figure out where to put your hands and everywhere you do put your hands feels like a mistake as they’re snatched and stuck into weird positions. When you start Jiu Jitsu, you don’t know what to do and there are violent consequences for that – and that, generally, is a pretty scary place to be.
After you’ve been rolling for a while, you’ll edge up against another wall. Some of your techniques are working. You might be tapping the new guy. But, despite your absolute best efforts – you won’t be able to get some people the way you want it to work out. That creates a fascinating divide between two types of people. Here, some people continue.
Most people quit.
In my own Jiu Jitsu journey – as ‘fitstagram influencer’ as that sounds – I’m a purple belt. I’ve been at it for 7 years. In the short amount of time I’ve been on the mats, learned one thing overall. Jiu Jitsu is the actual process of persevering against overwhelming odds. The time, effort, pace and cadence required to continue in Jiu Jitsu is something very few people possess. But here’s the best part; it’s something you can train to be actively better at.
BJJ allows us to detect the difference between pressure and danger. Danger is what we tap to. It’s what will hurt us if we don’t back off. Pressure is different though. It’s where resilience is really born.
Pressure is just what we do, twice a week, every week.