If you are reading this, there is a high probability you are familiar, even if not intimately so, with the term “Jiu Jitsu”. You’ve overheard it in a bar, by friends, you have kids or grandkids who do it and so forth. It is quite possible you’ve even seen it and done some research or even gone so far as to try it. Regardless of the weight the words carry to you, most people have heard the words somehwere, yet few share anything beyond a superficial understanding of it. The same cannot be said however, with all activities. While athletic pursuits tend to share many interrelated and underlying characteristics besides the apparent or obvious facts of the matter (Examples: Basketball the goal is to put the ball in the hoop, golf the ball in the hole, soccer the ball in the net, etc) the goal of Jiu Jitsu often remains rather ambiguous to the viewer. When seen up close it can resemble wrestling or some grappling variation of a combat sport (sambo, judo). Yet upon closer inspection you can begin to make out the absolute efficiency and effectiveness, grace and power, control and devastation when performed at the highest level. These facts become especially obvious with a trained practitioner against an untrained one. In a matter of second, with minimal effort, the highly trained will begin to take control of their opponent and submit them. Oftentimes, while hardly even breaking a sweat. He or she can likely create this outcomerepeatedly with a low probability of serious injury to their opponent while bringing their opponent to a maximal state of fatigue and exhaustion. Without feeling like you were pummeled or tackled with strikes, you will rapidly be exposed to your breaking point with relative ease. This is all done by leverage and timing, which allows a smaller weaker opponent to gain the upper hand easily and effectively against a much bigger and stronger opponent. There is a saying that “knowledge is power”, however, I find a more accurate phrase to be that that “knowledge without application is useless”. Such is more than evident in Jiu Jitsu, as someone one said, “it is not what you know, but what you can apply”. Knowledge is the mere beginning of discovering the truth in Jiu Jitsu which can turn out to disprove your original hypothesis. In a sense, it is the true scientific method on display, the more you learn, the more conclusive hypotheses you might form, which you can then go about experimenting with. Here you will find empirically what works, what doesn’t, how to approach someone big, someone fast, someone aggressive and so forth. You will also see that there is exist some fundamental rules, rules that once learned, can also be broken. Over time you will come to know, that the way you think about Jiu Jitsu is almost entirely different than the way you had originally perceived it. You will find that it is very much about having not only more knowledge than your opponents, from techniques to tactics and the high level of precision and timing with which they must be executed, but also a certain degree of psychological and physical components that make up high level combat sports. They range from toughness to strategy and even body awareness or physical strength. This makes the entire experience a lengthy learning endeavor.
Regardless of your initial understanding, or lack thereof I might add, you will eventually see that the best of the best all havefound a way to win with what they have. This even goes as far as someone with a hand deformity such as world class competitor and champion Jean Jacques Machado who is missing four fingers in one hand, or Jacare who beat Roger Gracie in the finals of the Absolute Class (any weight) after having his arm shattered by Roger in the match, most recently Felipe Pena who had his elbow dislocated by Erberth Santos only to come back and win via submission from the back. Overwhelmingly, these people consistently show that they are both technically superior and stronger (or at least have found a way to make themselves feel strong) than most of their counterparts. This makes Jiu Jitsu one of the ultimate tests of wit, perseverance, strength, precision, intelligence and a strong mind and body. Unlike boxing or MMA (mixed martial arts), you can also do it for a very long time. My parents who are both seventy now, are still able to train recreationally to stimulate their mind, strengthen their muscles and bones while having a good time and socializing with a variety of people with a variety of backgrounds and ages.
On the surface Jiu Jitsu can appear very strange, if an uninformed observer were to walk by an academy or dojo and see grown men in gis (uniforms or training kimonos) rolling around on the ground, hugging each other, it can be hard to appreciate what is involved, particularly the lethality and effectiveness of Jiu Jitsu to control and dominate another human in a one-on-one situation. If you were however, to participate in a class, you would find that the base level of fitness needed perform basic Jiu Jitsu movements with your own body is relatively high, and even higher when it comes to performing movements on your partner, especially if there is a significant size advantage, even without any resistance on their part. Now when it comes to drilling (performing techniques with varying degrees of resistance from your partner) you will find it to be incredibly demanding in terms of cardiovascular, muscular endurance, strength, and flexibility. Keep in mind, that this is all before sparring (fighting to get dominant positions that you could inflict damage on them from such as a mounted position, or a joint lock or choke that would cause them to submit or tap out), something that is not the most suitable for beginners, mostly when done with other beginners as they lack the capacity to control each other and the chance of an inadvertent injury is expectedly high. After participating in your first class or week of classes you will learn that while the level of fitness required was very high, those with a lower level of fitness but high level of technical and strategic ability seem to be able to breeze through most activities in contrast to an incredibly fit person. Here we find ourselves at the conclusion that much of your success in Jiu Jitsu comes from your ability to move efficiently and effectively through the use of properly timed techniques which provide you leverage (the advantage or upper hand). Jiu Jitsu is also about assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent and being able to direct all your strengths towards their weaknesses. This will change opponent to opponent and demand that you spend a lot of time learning new techniques and strategies that you may refine in training to properly hone them against various partners (tall, short, stocky, skinny, flexible, etc). The more you know, the more you can apply, which makes you all the moreversatile against a wide array of opponents. You will hear many people compare Jiu Jitsu to chess, due to the amount of thinking, studying and understanding concepts and patterns that is necessary to become successful. It makes the art a very attractive endeavor for those who are not athletically inclined, due to the amount of intelligence that is necessary. Over time, those with the most knowledge who have spent their time training and applying what they have learned are the ones who ascend to the top of the food chain on the Jiu Jitsu mats. If you aren’t convinced, find a local Jiu Jitsu academy and see for yourself!