Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
BJJ is the fighting without the getting hurt.
The basic idea is to get to a better position than your opponent (such as you sitting on his chest while he's flat on his back), to maintain that position (through balance, control and genius) and then to win from there.
In a real fight, you could of course use that superior position to punch your opponent several times in the head, but in BJJ we choose to win in a less aggressive manner - using armlocks, shoulder locks and chokes instead.
In essence, these "locks" consist of bending or twisting your opponents limbs in such a way that it hurts - or it would hurt if you were unfriendly enough to do it really hard. For example, you could try to extend the elbow further than the elbow likes to go - obviously they won't like that! Or you could rotate the shoulder further than those tight shoulder muscles of theirs are comfortable being rotated. Great!
In actual fact, you could bend, twist, or hyperextend any limb or joint you want - the legs, the ankles, the neck, spine, and even the hips and groin are potential targets - but for various reasons (not least being safety), until you're at least a bit more experienced we only apply chokes, bend the arms and rotate the shoulders.
All this doesn’t have to be as nasty as it sounds – and that’s one of the great things about BJJ and the use of submissions in general. If Uncle Ted is getting a little out of hand at cousin Bob’s wedding, you may well find your Dancing Lemon Ninja Death Punch to be a little inappropriate… as would a regular uppercut I should imagine. But the ability to gently, considerately, safely and effortlessly control his body and movements until he calms down … well that’s perhaps more useful.
The force applied to the joint can be increased or decreased as the need dictates and thus some of these holds are not too different to the compliance holds the police use to control, but not hurt, their "victims".
Winning Fights Nicely
Obviously, if you were to hyperextend your opponent’s arm really hard or twist his shoulder really far without any regard for their screams of pain or their pleas for forgiveness you would surely break their arm or knacker their shoulder. So, for our purposes, we apply these submissions with slow, considerate and gentlemanly consideration, gradually increasing the force until our training partner thinks "Uh-oh!" and decides to quit.
They can signify this “uh-oh” at any point by tapping your body a few times, saying "yup", "right", "uh-huh" or something equally conveyant of how amazing you are... and then you've won. Yippee! It’s all very gentlemanly and sportsmanlike.
If you're as hard as nails or if you’re very flexible, you might quit later. If you're more sensitive or if you're stiff as a board, you'll quit sooner. Either way, everyone stays nice and safe and in the finest of health.
With chokes, it's the same deal except you try to choke your opponent. You do this by squeezing round the neck (not gripping their throat, of course; that's just plain nasty) until, again, they decide to tap. More experienced people are quite undeterred by chokes as long as they're getting at least a little bit of blood to their brains; others like to quit a bit sooner. Everything's always done to your level and once again it's all safe as houses. Friendly, safe-houses at that.
The merits of BJJ should be fairly obvious as a self-defence tool.
Firstly, the emphasis on gaining a dominant position separates it from the vast majority of other martial arts who'll happily have you just bash away at your opponent from anywhere regardless of who has the positional advantage. With BJJ you learn to get to a superior position first - and in terms of self-defence, this is always going to be handy.
Secondly, as was already noted, it doesn't take a huge leap to add strikes to that dominant position. If you have the balance and control to stay on top – and if you have sufficient control of your opponent to slowly and considerately apply a submission – then strikes are largely there for the taking.
Third, it's not that easy escaping from beneath balanced, skilled, awesome and potentially heavier people sitting on top of you. It takes practice and technique and, of course, by training jiu jitsu that's just what you'll get. So, if you're interested in self-defence, you'll be pleased to know you'll very quickly be able to escape from the most terrible of positions. On top of that, of course, it's good to know that once you've escaped to somewhere safer and more dominant, you will have the skills to stay there.
Fourth, again, should you find it totally necessary, the opportunity/ability to break an attacker's arm or choke them unconscious might also be considered handy for all those dark-alley situations in which you keep finding yourself. And let's face it, if you're well practiced at getting submissions on your training partners (who have a bit of insight into what you’re likely to do), it’s surely just going to be child’s play to get them on untrained alleyway muggers - especially if they haven't warmed-up yet.
Don’t be scared, be happy
With all this in mind, it should probably be made clear that in our classes you won't find us prattling on about "self-defence situations" or following every technique with the enticing words "of course, in the street..."
We don't fill you with fear so you feel the need to keep coming in case otherwise you’ll die, we don't believe there's a bad guy round every corner and if there is - in Edinburgh, at least - he's unlikely to have a gun.
Instead, we work on the principle that predators hunt prey. By training jiu jitsu in our lovely, friendly environment you'll grow to be a tougher, more confident version of yourself. You'll still be the same lovely you but you'll be able to kick ass. You’ll know it. We’ll know it. And it’ll show.
This contrasts with those who would turn you into a face-ripping, eye-gouging self-defence thug, trained to go to Code Red whenever he's touched on the shoulder.
And it works...
There's something about seeing a small girl genuinely - I said *genuinely* - defeating a big, heavy guy who is *actually* trying to beat her that makes you think, "hey, this shit works!" It's even more inspiring when you can do it yourself. And that too builds confidence.
And the point is that if you're confident and if you're actually fairly tough ... you're probably no longer prey.
A (doubtless inaccurate) BJJ History
In the early 1900s a Japanese chap who was well known for his judo/jiu jitsu/fighting skills went over to Brazil. He ended up teaching his skills to a big ol' family called the Gracies. Apparently it's very interesting that they were of Scottish heritage.
Many years later, in 1993, BJJ exploded onto the martial arts scene when members of the Gracie family put on a show called the Ultimate Fighting Championship – The UFC. As you’d inevitably find in any Jean-Claude Van Damme movie, it was a competition pitting exponents of the many different martial arts against each other in a no-rules competition. In short, BJJ kicked ass and soon everyone wanted to learn it - well, everyone interested in being a good fighter.
For years thereafter there were all kinds of discussions about how the relatively little Royce Gracie had done so well against all those big strong boys. What came out of all that chat was the realisation that a) how you train is often more important than what you train and b) you should probably change how you train to make sure it really works. A lot of people didn't listen.
What do I mean? Well, let's go back a bit...
Given the Gracies were a big ol' family of about 20 or so brothers and cousins, it's interesting to imagine how BJJ developed...
They were probably originally taught the techniques in a traditional Japanese style. This generally seems to consist of lots of bowing, and a whole lot of technique drilling.
For example, Bob throws a punch quite a bit to the left of Jim's face and leaves his arm extended out there for a while.
Jim "blocks" the punch and grabs hold of the arm while Bob acts surprised.
Jim then applies a lock to the arm and throws Jim tidily to the ground.
Jim pretends to be stunned from the fall, so Bob pretends to knock him out with a single punch and then applies yet another lock on his motionless body just in case.
It's all over, Bob just won the fight.
These days, because the instructors have watched a lot of Van Damme movies, they tell you that "in the street... that's how it would go down.
Well… if you practice enough". And so, of course, you practice that dance - and several others - a hundred or more times. Marvellous.
Chuck a video in here. DEFINITELY!
However, with 20 or so Gracie boys getting up to Gracie boy antics, it's not hard to imagine that, what with sibling rivalry and all, they would probably have rumbled for real once in a while - or even fairly often for that matter. At that point the aesthetic presentation would have gone right out the window along with all the tradition and assistive partnering. Punches would have been thrown directly at the face, arms withdrawn, throws resisted and falls found not to be quite as debilitating as they were led to believe.
The thrown/struck sibling, failing to find himself totally stunned or his attack completely nullified. would, at best, cry; but more likely he would simply commence his own counter offensive. Techniques, as I've said before, are not that easy to get on a resisting opponent and a win's not a win until your opponent thinks so too.
So, with 20 or so Gracie boys all rumbling each other and "fighting" for real, it seems likely that they would have quickly realised a few things:
a) In terms of striking, the bigger, stronger siblings always had the advantage. The only way a younger, smaller sibling could dominate would be to take the bigger one to the ground and use gravity to even out the fight.
b) In general it's actually not that much fun being hit in the head no matter how big you are. So, again, if you want to be hit less, it's a good idea to restrict your opponent's limbs by hugging him close. And if you're going to hug someone close, you might as well do it while sitting on top of them.
c) The majority of the fighting would therefore take place on the ground.
d) The sibling fighting from the top position would generally have the advantage. But, as it's sometimes hard to get there, it's handy to know how to win from the bottom.
e) Getting techniques you’ve practised on a compliant partner to work on someone who's resisting pretty hard is waaay more difficult than you'd imagine. Things are very different when you're actually fighting compared to when you're drilling moves in a compliant fashion.
f) Punching your big brother with your little hands will probably i) hurt your hands more than it hurts him, ii) get you in trouble for not being able to use your hands to do your homework.
g) Submissions are the easiest and most painless way to get a convincing win.
How it's trained
The main thing that makes BJJ so good now is the way it’s trained. It's the training "for real" that means you actually get good. It's because you have to put your submissions on a *resisting* opponent that gets you good at them. It's because the guy you're sitting on is *genuinely* trying to get out of there that gets you skilled and balanced enough to stay on top.
On a daily basis you get to see if the techniques you're learning actually do work against people of different sizes and body types. Of course after all these years of training like this, most of the techniques that don't work have been cast aside and ignored so what you'll really be doing is learning the adjustments and details that will enable you to get them to work on all different sizes and body types.
And that's why instead of just rolling around with your siblings - no matter how big your family - you should come train with us.
We've enhanced the training even further than most BJJ schools so that by the end of every class, whatever you've learned that day, you should be much more likely to get that technique to work on a real, resisting opponent. That’s right, you will get noticibly better every day you train.
And what's best is that you can do so without getting bashed around.
We learn in a relaxed and friendly environment, we don't bow or call anyone sensei; we just play and get good at jiu jitsu really, really fast.
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