Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

A few months ago, I stumbled across a martial art that really piqued my interest. Many people are very aware of mixed martial arts because of the popularity of the UFC aka Ultimate Fighting Championship. Some of the most important techniques used in MMA are Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu techniques. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu focuses mainly on grappling and ground fighting. It is not only known as a martial art but also a sport that people use for staying in shape and to build good character with discipline. 

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s origins begin when a Judo expert named Mitsuyo Maeda left Japan and arrived in Brazil in 1914. There, he trained a man named Carlos Gracie, who became a student of Maeda. Carlos learned from Maeda for many years and then taught his own brothers the techniques he learned. The techniques then spread across generations. The Gracie family is still to this day an important part to the sport. When the UFC first started back in 1993, Royce Gracie was the first to win the event. This is when Brazilian Jiu-jitsu started to become popular but showed that a smaller fighter was able to defeat a much larger and muscular opponent.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s main difference to other martial arts is that it mostly performed on the ground and involves little striking. Instead of striking, techniques such as chokeholds and joint-locks are used to win a match. One reason it is becoming such a popular martial art for someone to learn is because size does not matter for the most part. It utilizes leverage and technique, instead of strength and large size to defeat an opponent. This is one of the main reasons I was interested in it, since I’m not really a big guy and was intimidated by other combat sports. 

Depending on the type of training, some people wear a gi, which is a cotton jacket and trousers with a cloth belt to keep it closed. The belt used to hold the gi together is usually a specific color to indicate the ranking of the student. White belt is the lowest rank someone can have, while black is usually the highest. Usually a student must be at least 19 years old and have spent 1 year as a brown belt before they can receive a black belt. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can also be performed without a gi, which is how the UFC fighters compete. Some believe that by using a gi, it is easier to grapple because they act as “handlebars” to grab an opponent easier.

There are not many negative aspects health-wise with the sport. Unlike most martial arts there is no striking or hitting, so it less likely for any brain damage such as concussions to happen. Since most of the training is spent on the floor, skin infection can be a problem. Conditions such as ringworm, herpes and staph infection can occur. To prevent this, it is important to shower with antibacterial soap after training and making sure the training mats are sterilized correctly. Another possible health risk with training is that a condition known as “cauliflower ear” can happen. This is when the ear receives trauma and becomes swollen. This causes the ear to become deformed. Wearing headgear that protects the ears from damage can easily prevent this. The sport also utilizes submissions that could cause injury to those inexperienced or not disciplined. Being choked unconscious can happen if someone does not tap out. Tapping out is when someone taps their opponent to indicate submission.

With my recent interest in the sport, I decided to ask some people who train in the sport. Randy Bailey has been training in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu for 15 years. I asked him why he originally decided to train and why he enjoys it. Randy states, “ I originally started doing karate as a kid but I got bored with it. I came across a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor who convinced me to try it out. I loved it right away.” Randy continued to say, “When it comes down to it, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is like a physical chess match. You have to think of what your opponent’s next move will be and counter it. That is what I love about it.”

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu has also gained a big following with women. I talked to Nicole Costa about why she decided to start training. Nicole told me, “I was bored with normal cardio at the gym and decided to try something new. My boyfriend at the time was training and told me that women train too.” She continued to say, “I was surprised how sore my muscles were after my first class. It has kept me in shape and is actually fun to do.”

Eric Cortez, just recently joined a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class at his local gym. Eric told me, “I have only gone to a few classes but I’ve really started to enjoy it. It is intimidating at first but everyone in the beginner class is new to it as well, which made it less scary." He continued to say, “It is definitely something that I will continue to do since I feel like I’m doing something positive for my body and mind.”

With all the positive comments I’ve received from people who train in the sport, I plan on attending classes this summer. If you are looking for a new activity that can keep you in shape physically and mentally, then you should give Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu a try as well.


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