Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu -or just BJJ- is a combat sport that has grown in leaps and bounds ever since its inception in the early 1900s. A kind of mixed martial arts (MMA), BJJ was born almost by chance. When Esai Maeda migrated to Brazil -which was still a colony then- little did he know that his innocuous status as a Japanese jujutsu champion in his homeland would soon be elevated to near stardom decades later.
A Little History
Upon befriending Gastao Gracie, Esai Maeda proceeded to mentor and teach his son Carlos the ways of martial arts. Inspired, Gracie’s sons went on to open the very first Jiu-Jitsu school in Brazil. Mystery somewhat surrounds the emergence of BJJ, however, it’s strongly believed that Carlos’ brother Helios -being short in stature- adjusted the raw Japanese Jujutsu techniques in order to gain a superior advantage over his bigger built opponents, hence the art form it is today. Years later, Helios’ son migrated to the United States where the adapted art was popularized and well received. So essentially Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a sport that not only has a strong tradition but is quite refined as well.
Even though BJJ was openly accepted among the culture of rival contact sports in the United States, its reception was rather slow in the beginning. What was perhaps the biggest deterrent to its reception was that it placed more emphasis on ground fighting and other pseudo techniques such as grappling, which at the time, were unusual forms of combat. BJJ as adapted for people with a small physical frame focuses on absorbing superior physical advantage by using grappling techniques such as choke-holds. On the ground, it is easier to force a larger opponent into submitting than trying to strike him down. So in effect, BJJ is a kind of mixed martial arts.
Unpacking The Bare Basics
BJJ mainly uses submission techniques to overpower an opponent. It’s therefore fair to say that, as a beginner, you will first have to learn the basics of getting your opponent on the ground. The next learning curve is mastering the art of dominating your opponent once on the ground. You’ll then be taught how to apply various grapple holds in order to force your rival into submission. BJJ is a physical sport that requires agility, endurance, and physical strength. So just because it’s suited for people of a short stature, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work out and stay in good shape, in fact, you must!
However, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a lot more complicated than pinning your opponent to the ground. More often than not, martial arts is all about maneuvering and counter-maneuvering. You won’t always be on top. As such, BJJ also teaches various techniques to counter the strikes and submission holds of your rival.
It is customary in the world of martial arts to rank players according to belt colors, and BJJ is no exception. Rankings are meant to reflect a player’s progression in terms of practical skill level and overall knowledge. In descending order of weight and significance, the following belt rankings are prescribed for payers and practitioners:
* White belt: This is for beginners. Whilst there are no requirements for this belt classification, it has become common practice for training academies to expect players to be expected to display elementary defensive and attacking proficiency prior to recognition.
* Blue belt: With this ranking comes more intensive technical training and in-depth mat-time.
* Purple belt: Once you attain to this level you can then train and tutor others. At the very least you must have been a blue belt for 2 years.
* Brown belt: This is the highest rank you can obtain as a mixed martial artist. A minimum of 5 years of training is a pre-requisite.
* Black belt: Also of similar standing to a brown belt. This signifies that a person has mastered the arts and is now an expert. Most UFC players -if not all- have this under their belt. It has 6 different levels of expertise.
* Red/Black (Coral belt): Alternating belts for more skilled martial artists. It is common for a holder of a coral belt to be referred to as ‘professor’ to indicate the status of this belt.
* Red belt: To attain this you must -in addition to being an expert- be influential in the sport to a professional extent.
BJJ is an interesting sport with an equally compelling history. However so, safety is always key to a discipline that has the potential to injure and even disfigure.