A beginner’s guide to Brazilian jiu-jitsu

The New Year is a great time to take up a new sport or discipline: Steve Hankin tells us more about Brazilian jiu jitsu, an exciting martial art that is growing in popularity across the UK. Find out more and sign up for some lessons!

Brazilian jiu-jitsu, or BJJ, is a martial art and combat sport based on grappling, ground fighting and submission holds. BJJ focuses on taking an opponent to the ground, controlling said opponent in a dominant position and then submitting them either though joint locks or chokeholds. 

BJJ is closely related to Judo. In the 1900s a gentleman named Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese Judoka, was sent on a mission by Judo creator Jigoro Kano to spread the word of his martial art across the globe. Maeda learned the catch wrestling style seen in the UK and started to develop his own style of ground fighting and would often compete with boxers and streetfighters to test his skills.

He later landed in Brazil and by chance started teaching what would be the pioneers of Gracie Jiu Jitsu, which is what we now refer to as BJJ. They were two brothers called Carlos and Helio Gracie. 

Through time the brothers and, subsequently, their sons tested themselves in vale tudo matches or no holds barred matches that would often highlight the effectiveness of BJJ. This came to fruition in the early 90s at the first ever Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) where Royce Gracie, son of Helio, dominated the opposition. The world was in awe, a skinny, small, unassuming young man from Brazil beat every single opponent he faced, despite the opponents being double the size of him! From then, the world was been captivated. It is now one of the fastest growing sports in the UK and the world. 

BJJ is fantastic as it is quite literally physical chess. It is a thinking mans art. It is meditative as in that moment, nothing else on earth matters. It gives the weaker, smaller man a fair fight. It gives the shy loner confidence that she never thought she had. It helps people lose weight and gain fitness and resilience. In time, you become part of a brotherhood (sisterhood) a family! It has a similar drop out rate to the UK special forces, therefore in many ways, represents life. If you just keep training and showing up, you will achieve.

What I love about BJJ is that it is seriously legit. There are several martial arts that quite frankly, just do not work, We have seen the effectiveness of BJJ time after time. 

There are only 5 belts meaning you can be at the same level for up to 2/3 years! And on average it will take an individual 10 years to reach black belt status. In other martial arts you can reach black belt in half the amount of time! Its hard, long and arduous, but at the same time that’s what makes it so special. Above all, it teaches you to be comfortable being uncomfortable. 

There are some fantastic podcasts on the subject, Joe Rogan for example is a huge advocate for BJJ being a black belt himself. We are seeing more and more celebrities and stars take it up such as Tom Hardy who regularly competes, Guy Ritchie and Russell Brand to name a few. 

It is hard to explain in words, my advice is give it a go!

Injury prevention:

Like most activities or sports that people take part in. It is easy to just do the basics and leave it there. However, it is very important to strengthen the machine. For example, the amount of running injuries I see as a Physio the can be prevented by doing simple strength exercises is crazy. The same goes for BJJ, do not just rely on doing the art itself, you must have a good and sensible strength routine that nurtures the joints that you aim to do 2- 3 x per week. Stay tuned to my shoulder coach page as well as the Technique socials in the coming weeks and I will show specific exercises and ideas to help prevent injuries.

Local clubs:

I am biased being part of the Carlson Gracie family, namely the Surrey branch (SMAC), so any Carlson Gracie gym in and around London is a must try. We are also very lucky as Londoners to have Roger Gracie on our doorstep. He is widely considered the greatest BJJ athlete of all time and has HQ in the west of London. Find a club near you – they normally offer a free trial class. Turn up, give it a go with an open mind and I promise you, you will not regret it. I have made friends with people that I never would have met if it wasn’t for BJJ. It has levelled me out and improved my mental health during my lowest of times and given me a humble, quiet confidence. 

Get in touch for further advice

If you have any questions about Brazilian jiu jitsu, or sport-related injury prevention, get in touch with our team at info@techniquehealth.org.