Why you should train jiu-jitsu (or some other "real" martial art)

"Where there's discomfort there's fear. In these very tough positions you're in a little piece of hell. And through this daily suffering, you learn to survive in these situations. You have to find comfort in uncomfortable situations. You have to be able to live in your worst nightmare. Jiu-jitsu puts you completely in the moment where you must have complete focus on finding a solution to the problem. This trains the mind to build that focus, to increase your awareness, your capacity to solve problems. Sometimes, you don't have to win. You cannot win. But that has nothing to do with losing." -Rickson Gracie

This is why I continue to train jiu-jitsu. At a good school you'll do a lot of live grappling (we call it rolling). You get choked out, arm barred, leg locked and put into plenty of other uncomfortable situations all the time till you get used to them. Then you start learning how to defend. Then you find yourself submitting people. Then a new guy comes in the gym and you realize just how effective this stuff is when you feel like you can do whatever you want to them. Things that I would have tapped to in a heartbeat 6 months ago I find myself escaping now. Guys that used to crush me when I first started tell me how tough I am to submit now. The high level guys that used to toy with me actually have to try a little bit now. I've only been doing this for 6 months so I don't consider myself good by any stretch of the imagination but I just keep improving. It's like anything else. Apply yourself and you will get good. It takes lots of time and work, though. It's uncomfortable. It's inconvenient. It's frustrating. It's humbling. You can get hurt. It also gives you a sense of achievement. It makes you stronger. It will get you in shape. It won't make you invincible but it will make you feel a lot more comfortable in uncomfortable situations. Jiu-jitsu won't just make you better at handling some guy who jumps you in a dark alley. It will make you better at handling all types of bad situations.

If you're interested in looking for a place to train I suggest you start by looking for an academy that teaches Gracie jiu-jitsu. I train under Relson Gracie. I would, of course, recommend any school listed on his website over all others. If you can't find a Relson school that's convenient then just keep a lookout for a few things.

First of all, there seem to be a few different types of schools. First are the schools that teach "tournament" jiu-jitsu. For these guys competition is what it's all about. You'll learn jiu-jitsu here. They'll just focus more on how to win competitions. They're all about the sport. Maybe they'll have a token self defense course. Maybe they'll only teach self defense to women and/or higher belts. These schools are fine but in my opinion they're more about getting recognition for their school by winning tournaments than anything else. When they get a ton of people registered at a local tournament and they're winning every division then it attracts a lot of attention.

Then there are the McDojos. These are the guys who are just in it for the money. They give you a free week/month/whatever and then want to hard sell you on a big contract when your trial is up. You know...after you "get to know" everyone at the gym and it starts to "feel like home". Then they charge you hundreds of dollars to test for your belt after 6 months and want you to pay more to take the "higher level classes". The longer you train with them the more you pay. If you feel like you're getting quality training and you're happy with what you're paying then there's no reason not to stick with a place like this. I'd just suggest trying out some other schools if you find yourself in a situation like this. A lot of times the training seems good because the people training there have never really trained anywhere else.

I prefer the type of school that I train at. It's not overly expensive. When it's time for a new belt we just get it the next time Relson is in town. The main school is in my instructor's garage. He also does some classes at a few other places. His students are allowed to attend the classes that he teaches. This gives us the opportunity to train with a lot of different people. We spend a lot of time on self defense and wrestling takedowns. Being good at jiu-jitsu is worthless if you can't take the fight to the ground. Competition is encouraged but no one cares if you don't want to compete. We're all really just about getting better at jiu-jitsu. Whatever style you choose to study, that should be the primary focus of your school.

So you don't have a jiu-jitsu school that's convenient. Now what? There are plenty of martial arts disciplines that work in real life. Kickboxing and boxing are both really good. The best part of both is that if you're training at a good gym you'll get to spar a lot. Did you read the quote at the top of this post? He's talking about a sparring match. If you spar a lot then you'll get used to getting hit, you'll just start reacting correctly naturally and you'll get more and more comfortable. That's the key to being good at fighting. Just get comfortable in a situation where you know you're about to get hit/arm barred/thrown/etc. If you feel confident that you'll know what to do when someone tries to hit you in the face because you've done it a million times in the gym then you'll usually have a huge advantage over the dumbass that's trying to hit you in the face.

When I first started doing this stuff I was sparring at my kickboxing gym with my head coach. I kept dropping my hand trying to low block his leg kicks because of some crap that I learned in Tae Kwon Do when I was 15. He kept telling me to stop dropping my hand to block his leg kicks. I kept doing it out of habit. Then he faked a low kick and damn near knocked me out with a kick to my face. That was a lesson well learned and I have since forced myself to forget everything that I ever learned in Tae Kwon Do when I was 15.

Just because you "spar" at your academy/gym/whatever doesn't mean that you're learning anything. In fact, you might be learning some really bad habits. Some obvious rules like no intentional groin shots, no eye gouges, no other cheap bs are pretty obvious but if you're in a gym where you're learning to hit someone then you should practice trying to actually hit them when you're sparring...and you should spar a lot. When you're practicing ripping someone's arm off or choking them out during class then when it's time to spar you should actually try to do it and, once again, you should spar a lot. It's like anything else. Practice makes perfect. Perfection is just that much harder to attain when you're getting hit in the face. But if you can get there when someone wants to smash you then you can do it anytime you want. That's why I train jiu-jitsu.


Ryan said…
Everybody has a game plan until they get hit. Folks who have been hit more than a few times realize they are not going to die and it is not the end of the world so they can keep fighting their plan. Folks who haven't been hit much get all scared and hesitate and try to protect theirselves and thus do not fight their plan and often keep getting hit.
That pretty much sums it up.
I personally prefer Judo and Karate to Jiu-Jitsu.
Mark said…
Traditional martial arts are a waste of time for self defense.

Bjj, Thai boxing, full contact stick fighting, Greco Roman/Collegiate wrestling, and boxing are the way to go.

Basically, the general arts that combine to make up MMA are what people interested in self should focus.
Mark said…
Judo isn't to bad. Karate will likely not do well in a real world attack. I have over 30 years in martial arts training and instruction, don't rely upon traditional Asain martial arts.
Optimal Cynic said…
While some traditional martial arts neglect to address "real world" self defense, keep in Mind that several prominent MMA fighters have successfully used traditional martial arts: Such as Lioto Machida: Karate, George St Pierre: Karate, Karo Parisyan: Judo - all traditional Martial arts. While they have incorporated other combative skills into their repertoire you can hardly argue that their traditional martial arts have not played a foundational role in their career, but that is isolated to sports.

Solely relying on any one art to gain a complete understanding of contemporary self defense situation is limiting and dangerousThe statement Karate will likely not do well in a real world attack is subjective blanket statement. Are you referring to multiple attackers, a knife attack, bar brawl, hand to hand combat?

BJJ or Wrestling would do little to address a knife or multiple person attack either, does that make a waste of time?

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