What is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

Jiu Jitsu is a “grappling” based martial arts, meaning concentrating on clinches and holds. In a traditional sense Jiu Jitsu is sometimes considered a “soft” martial art where one redirects an opponents energy, as opposed to a “hard” martial arts, when gathers there own energy to unleash it with precision.


More so, I think of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as a way of solving a problem. Specifically that problem is what if someone physically confronts me? That physical confrontation can escalate to many different levels.


The training in the Academy involves a sort of physical confrontation, albeit in a friendly way and in a strictly controlled environment.


Some students may choose to participate in competitions and tournaments outside of the academy. This adds an additional degree of intensity and unknown factors, in a still controlled environment where sportsmanship is highly regarded.


Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) requires a high degree of proficiency in Jiu Jitsu as well, and although much more intense with the addition of striking and other disciplines, is still a sporting contest with rule and referees and the like.


Self defense is an aspect of physical confrontation as well, in which one can be presented in a completely uncontrolled situation with no rules or pretense of sport, and survival is the only goal.


Jiu Jitsu is simply a way of solving the problem of physical confrontation, no matter what form it takes.


Jiu Jitsu is more than just a series of individual techniques. Just because someone learns a specific technique, it doesn’t mean they are practicing Jiu Jitsu. Many martial arts actually share common techniques. What sets Jiu Jitsu apart is mindset and context first. If I am using Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to solve the problem of physical confrontation than I keep these three things in order: SAFETY. POSITION. FINISH.

“One of the great things about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is that it destroyed a lot of the myths and formal trappings that held back traditional Martial Arts, and replaced it with something much more practical and realistic”

SAFETY. My first priority is to make sure I am safe. As the Grandmaster Helio Gracie put it, as long as you are still in the fight. As long as you haven’t been injured, incapacitated, or surrendered, then you always have a chance of winning that fight. I rather like that quality of Jiu Jitsu, that is truly a self defense art first.


Training in Jiu Jitsu is an at times strenuous and at risk art. Even under the best of circumstances there is always the chance for injury. Those who train in Jiu Jitsu will tell you that the reward far outweighs the risk. One important aspect of training is to make sure that one understands how to train in a “safer” way, meaning that they recognize how to minimize their risk for both short term and over the long run.


POSITION. There are a number of important positions within Jiu Jitsu such as the Guard, the Mount, the Clinch, etc. There are a number of sub positions and variations of each of those main position such as “Closed Guard”, “Open Guard”, “Spider Guard”, and so on. That is not important just yet. What is important to know is why Jiu Jitsu places such an emphasis on the importance of position.


Through the use of position, one simply increases their chances of keeping themselves safe while increasing their chances of gaining a finish. The superiority of a position will often trump other aspects such as size, strength and athleticism.

Of course, much of the hard training in Jiu Jitsu is knowing what to do when one is the inferior position as well.


FINISH is simply our way of ending the encounter. Most of the time when we say finish we are speaking of submission holds: chokes and strangulations (there is a difference), major joint manipulations, competition legal and illegal holds. However if we remember the possibility of different scenarios, a finish could well be a knockout blow. If we are thinking of self defense sometime running away is the best possible finish.

You can summarize Jiu Jitsu even more succinctly by saying that it is about establishing control over an opponent or a situation. What you quickly find out is that control over your self is the first thing you need to master. In this way Jiu Jitsu as a martial art transcends the physical combat aspect and teaches some valuable life lessons as well.

“Safety is always an internal responsibility first. Look to yourself for safety first. Don’t depend on the kindness of your opposition, the rules or any exterior force to keep yourself safe. I might trust my training partners with my life, but I never place myself in situations I don’t trust.”

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the Martial Art in which technique, leverage and timing can overcome aggression and raw force. The first tenet of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is Safety. Safety may have many different definitions to different martial artists, but whatever your take is the goal is to have you continue you to trail and increase your health and well being.


The Grandmaster of the Art, Helio Gracie, famously emphasized the safety aspects of his brand of Jiu Jitsu. The Martial Artist should keep himself safe, because as long as he has not been incapacitated, injured, or forced to submit, then there is always the chance to prevail in the encounter.


It should be noted that the submissions that Jiu Jitsu is rightly famous for are designed to cause serious injury or incapacitation and should always be handled with care. The act of “Tapping Out” is therefore to prevent the injury from occurring. Because Jiu Jitsu is first a self-defense art, defense against strikes also needs to be addressed as well, although it is trained and sparred with far less frequency than the sport versions, awareness of the self-defense aspects should be at a minimum maintained.


Any rules and customs at Heroes Martial Arts are simply based on common sense and common courtesy. The one hard and fast rule every student is made aware of from the beginning is that any submission applied in training must be applied with enough control and timing that an opponent or partner has ample opportunity to tap out before getting injured. While advancement in Jiu Jitsu is very much an individual growth process, training is always within a group and establishing trust is in your training partners is very important.

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