While the art has its origins in the Japanese martial art of judo, it took Brazilian practitioners to turn it into the popular sport it is today, championed in large part by the Gracie family in particular. Thanks to their promotional efforts and the widespread usage by their students in formal and informal competitions around the world, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (or BJJ) is now a cornerstone of modern professional competitive combat training.
Essentially, jiu-jitsu is a grappling art in which no strikes are thrown (except as a feint, meant to cause the opponent to react). The practitioner uses his opponent’s own limbs and clothing against him in an attempt to subdue him enough for the opponent to surrender, or “submit”. The various techniques used in BJJ involve rotating and/or pulling on joints in such a way as to cause pain without necessarily damaging the body, though the moves can certainly cause extreme damage if carried to their fullest extent. There is a large library of movements at the student’s disposal, and many advanced techniques simply build upon earlier lessons
Contrary to what the casual observer might think, the emphasis in learning jiu-jitsu is not on strength, but rather on flexibility, speed, and remaining calm under duress. Practitioners often refer to the “chess game” between two opponents, as each one tries to outmaneuver the other into making a critical mistake and giving a limb up to be manipulated.
From a fitness standpoint, it’s a great workout. Unlike the striking arts like karate or tae kwon do, students often practice at full speed and using full movement, so one always receives the full combat experience. This obviates the “stage fright” that sometimes occurs when students have only practiced forms without actual sparring. As flexibility is important, students are always encouraged to be limber, and the cardio benefits are undeniable. Lastly, BJJ promotes a calm mind under pressure, which is a trait to be desired in any situation.
(Image via nasjograppling)