Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, brought into the spotlight in the 1990s by Royce Gracie’s meteoric rise through the ranks of Ultimate Fighting, is a martial art that focuses on grappling and ground techniques rather than impact.
Although it is primarily a fighting style, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can also be an excellent exercise program that promotes core strength, aerobic fitness, lower blood pressure and improved flexibility as well as mental health.
While it is still recognizably related to its parent art of Japanese Judo, there are many differences which make Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu a style that is distinctly unique.
Loosely translated, Jiu-Jitsu means “the yielding way”.
In practice, this means that the focus of Jiu-Jitsu is using your opponent’s strength against him. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu isn’t a passive martial art by any stretch of the imagination, but it focuses more on the redirection of your opponent’s force than it does on the initiation of force in the form of punches and kicks.
Health Benefits of Jiu-Jitsu
Like most martial arts, a key part of Jiu-Jitsu training is overall health. The ability to perform martial arts effectively is highly dependent upon being in good shape, and the training regimen for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu focuses on ensuring that your body is in the best shape that it can be in.
Below are five health benefits of doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
1. Increased Aerobic Capacity
With its focus on grappling and ground fighting, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners use the entire body when performing. As an exercise program, this means that every muscle from your neck to your toes receive a vigorous workout when practicing Jiu-Jitsu.
It is a strenuous martial art which involves pushing your muscles, heart, and lungs beyond the point where you would stop in a normal workout routine. As you push those limits, your muscles require more oxygen in order to perform correctly.
This leads to faster heart rate, deeper respiration, and higher blood flow; all of the requirements for a great aerobic workout.
2. Improved Core Strength
The repetitive use of the muscles is necessary for building strength, and as mentioned before Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu uses every muscle in your body.
Muscles become stronger as they develop minor tears and are repaired through the cellular processes of your body, leading to thicker and stronger muscular fibers.
Be careful though, over-training can lead to muscle knots in your legs. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that you drink plenty of water. Getting enough magnesium is also a good idea.
Jiu-Jitsu training is a dependable and relatively safe way of building strength throughout your body without developing the “muscle bound” look that is associated with weightlifting.
3. Lower Blood Pressure
As with any muscle, the more you make your heart work over an extended duration the stronger it gets. A stronger heart means that more blood can be moved with less effort, lowering the force that is exerted on your arteries with each beat of your heart.
This force is what medical professionals refer to as blood pressure. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, with its requirement for whole-body strength, provides consistent cardiovascular exercise and leads to a stronger heart and lower blood pressure.
Typically, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class will last for one to two hours with roughly three-quarters of that time being spent on rigorous training. This translates into 45 to 90 minutes of quality aerobic and cardio exercise; just about the optimum time that is required to encourage a healthy heart.
4. Improved Flexibility
Unlike other martial arts, where flexibility training is focused on certain portions of your anatomy depending on whether the art is mainly focused on punches or kicks, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu depends on flexibility in your entire body due to the grappling techniques that are used.
As you practice Jiu-Jitsu your joints, muscles, and tendons will develop more flexibility and improved range of motion which will lead to a lower chance of sprains and strains in your everyday life.
5. Better Mental Health
Regular exercise is a fundamental part of improving mental health. Some of the most serious issues that we face in today’s modern, fast-paced world are stress and anxiety, both of which can be controlled or alleviated with physical activity.
Physical activity leads to increased levels of norepinephrine, which is a chemical that moderates your brain’s response to stress in general.
Physical activity also releases endorphins into the bloodstream, which create the euphoric feeling that is commonly referred to as a “runner’s high”.
Many mental health experts recommend exercise for patients that are depressed or feeling “blue” because of this effect. Meanwhile, exercise leads to better physical condition, better self-esteem, and a positive self-image; all of which are key parts of emotional and mental stability.
Studies have shown that regular exercise can help to offset or even prevent the effects of degenerative mental conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and other later life cognitive disorders.
Strenuous physical activity boosts the level of chemicals that prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, a key part of your brain’s memory and learning functions.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, with its focus on a full-body workout, is one of the best exercise regimens for improving not only physical health but also mental health and acuity.
How to Get Started With Jiu-Jitsu
Now that you’ve seen the benefits of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for your overall health, you are likely wondering how to get started in this once obscure martial art. Luckily, most decent sized towns and cities have a Jiu-Jitsu school today. However, as with any learning experience, the quality of the school is just as important as the location.
Before contracting with any school or teacher, ask if you can watch a class from the sidelines. This will give you an idea of exactly what kind of teacher you will be dealing with as well as allowing you to decide if Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the right martial art for you.
If you need Jiu-Jitsu gear, I reccomend checking out Amazon’s selection. They have gi’s for all shapes and sizes.
Jordan Bryant is a blogger, jiu-jitsu practitioner, and a coffee enthusiast. I happily share my experiences along my martial arts journey while trying to inspire others to start theirs. You can catch me over at BJJ Informer.