Sure it’s not an easy journey but jiu-jitsu often times changes its practitioners mind, body and spirit for the better. Often times beginners find themselves on a mat in a new and unique environment, surrounded by guys and girls wearing heavy gis. It’s not uncommon to feel self-conscious, overwhelmed and even want to run away immediately.
It’s only natural to be initially intimidated. It can seem daunting at first. After all, It is a martial art. However, more often than not jiu-jitsu practitioners are quick to welcome on newcomers who are respectful and eager to learn into their ranks. In addition to a myriad of mental and physiology benefits, training in jiu-jitsu offers immense physical benefits.
Looking in from the outside jiu-jitsu appears to be easy. But this thought quickly vanishes when a person steps on the mat and rolls for the first time. It’s normal for new students to even struggle through warm-ups in the beginning.
The reason for the increased difficulty is jiu-jitsu is neither an aerobic or anaerobic exercise.
Some coaches feel grappling may be more aerobic, while others are convinced it skews more anaerobic. The truth is it’s a hybrid mix. We can look to the typical five to seven minute sparring session to help solidify this concept.
For example, have you ever tried to sprint or bike at a high clip for over five minutes? It’s almost impossible. This same rule applies to jiu-jitsu. You can only grapple at a high output for short bursts before you slowly begin to fade. Your anaerobic system makes use of fast twitch muscle fibers as jumping and sprinting. Sometimes you will need to engage your anaerobic system, whether you’re ‘sprinting’ to scramble from a bad position or avoid a submission. However, other times you will rely on your aerobic system.
The aerobic system is the most commonly used in jiu-jitsu. It provides energy for low intensity activities that last anywhere from two minutes to a few hours. Your aerobic system will be activated during warm-up, training and even during sparring sessions as you cycle between the two.
Even people who maintain a diligent cardio regime still struggle in jiu-jitsu. While running on a treadmill or jumping on a bike are great exercises they aren’t equivalent to grappling. When you do any sort of cardio on your own you dictate the pace. However, while sparring in class you’re forced to react on someone else’s terms. Either you are setting the pace or you’re on the defensive reacting to your opponent’s movements and playing catch up.
Sparring also known as ‘rolling’ is a hybrid workout of cardio and weight training simultaneously. It doesn’t matter how good you are your opponent’s body is constantly acting like resistance. Whether you’re trying to make space from your opponent or stand up in someone’s guard. Your opponent’s body weight is the resistance. In truth, jiu-jitsu is a form of resistance training.
Finally, most people are lacking in one area. People tend to stick to what they are good at. For example, if I prefer strength training, then all I will want to do is lift weights rather than long distance running. However, when the time comes to sprint, I am going to come up short. On the other hand, jiu-jitsu makes use of both the aerobic and anaerobic systems giving a more balanced workout.
The Structure of a BJJ Class Promotes Weight Loss
The structure of a BJJ class is a such that you get a chance to work out your entire body in both an aerobic and anaerobic exercise.
The Warm Ups
Every teacher and gym is slightly different. Some coaches warm-up light while others start class with a heavy conditioning session. Typically, all jiu-jitsu classes start with a group warm-ups such as running laps, doing push-ups, crunches and a few additional training drills like forward and backward breakfalls and shrimping.
While classes differ slightly in their approach to warming up the goal is to engage your muscles and joints to prevent injury later on. These exercises will mimic jiu-jitsu specific movements and help you break a sweat.
After warm-ups, it’s time to learn and drill. During this time you get partnered up with a more skill jiu-jitsu practitioner and begin going over the lesson for the day. It’s during this time the instructor shows new techniques and you practice them with your partner. During drilling and learning new techniques you are actively engaging your body in a manner that offers a low intensity total body workout.
Typically, jiu-jitsu stresses ‘position before submission’:
Position = relative positioning of your body compared to your opponents.
Submission = an action that causes your opponent to surrender, ‘armbar’, ‘choke’, ‘ankle lock’ etc.
The Sparring Session
During the final section of the class you will get the opportunity to do some free rolling / sparring. This serves as a time to implement what you have learned during class and offers a serious workout. Generally after your first several lessons you won’t know enough to submit people but it is a great time to implement items you’ve trained in class.
Sparring in jiu-jitsu offers a chance to go live with techniques but also offers a serious workout. Some schools start with timed rounds, but also allow you to continue sparring with no time limits after class.
Jiu-jitsu offers immense benefits for your cardio, strength and overall health in general. It’s a physically demanding martial art that pushes your heart and lungs beyond the point where you would normally stop. This allows you to break through your physical plateaus. Also, sense jiu-jitsu is a grappling based martial art the risk for injury is generally lower than other martial arts.