Jiu-jitsu often tries to sell itself as the martial art that anybody can learn. And yes, to a certain degree that is true. It is at its core a unique and very intelligent self-defense system designed to give the weak a chance against the strong.
Jiu-jitsu is based upon timing, leverage and good technique. You don’t necessarily have to be strong, fast or flexible to learn the basics and be able to stand your ground in a real self-defense scenario. As you go deeper into the realm of sport competition, of course athleticism becomes more important. But if you are interested in learning self-defense, being able to handle yourself in a conflict and protect your loved ones, you don't have to be an athlete.
Besides the knowledge of self-defense, practising jiu-jitsu in a school offers many other benefits like health & fitness, stress relief, making new friendships, … But this has already been discussed in a previous post.
But is jiu-jitsu really a good martial art or sport for everyone? Let’s have a look at 3 main reasons why jiu-jitsu maybe is not your best pick.
1. you are not fond of - or scared of - physical contact with another human being.
Let’s face it, there are few sports where physical contact is so extreme as in jiu-jitsu. We lie on top of eachother, trying to choke eachother out.
Truth is you cannot learn how to fight by shadow boxing. You cannot learn how to swim without getting wet. So maybe this is a threshold you need to overcome to truly discover the beauty of the art. A good instructor is aware of this problem and will slowly but gradually teach you to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations.
2. you have an ego-problem and hate to lose against a smaller opponent.
First of all, when you enter a jiu-jitsu class, leave your ego at the door. You know nothing, there is nothing to prove. Sparring against a high level grappler will make you feel like a baby. There is nothing you can do, even if you have years of experience in another martial art. Yes, jiu-jitsu is that effective! Just enjoy the moment and have fun! Enjoy being a white belt because that is the safest level. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Deep down inside you actually know you know nothing. So stop pretending and step out of your comfort zone. That is the way to g(r)o(w)!
“The big, strong, tough guy goes to class, and he keeps getting tapped by the skinny, technical guy. It begins to change him. It makes him humble. That’s what jiu-jitsu does to you. It makes you humble. – Relson Gracie”.
Second of all, there is no winning or losing in a jiu-jitsu sparring session. There is only winning or learning. In other words: wouldn’t it be boring if you could easily defeat all of your training partners with brute strength? That’s right, I use the word “training partner” and not “opponent”. Sparring should be friendly, safe and controlled and is meant to enhance skill of both parties involved, defensively and offensively. It is not meant to bolster your broken ego.
Highlighting this no-ego mindset is top priority for a jiu-jitsu school that incorporates sparring. It creates a safer and more fun environment where everybody can thrive and where you are allowed to make mistakes and not getting injured in the process.
3. You are not interested in proper technique and just want to workout and sweat.
Jiu-jitsu is very technical. To be able to spar safely, you need to learn technique first. If you want to be able to control a larger and stronger human being, you need to learn technique, step by step, in detail. If you don’t care about why you are doing what you’re doing, jiu-jitsu is not for you.
A common issue is that jiu-jitsu is overwhelming in the first few months. You learn a lot of moves that you can hardly remember the next day. After a few months everything will fall in it’s place and you begin to understand the system and principles behind the moves. Everything starts to make sense. But you need to have patience, something a lot of people nowadays don’t have.
So yes, there is a slow return on investment in doing jiu-jitsu compared to working out in the gym where you already feel some changes in a few weeks time. This is also why some people are better suited for let's say kickboxing. In kickboxing you have the feeling you learn faster in a shorter amount of time. But on the other hand, it is very limited in grappling techniques and in aggression scalability when it comes to self-defense.
But if you manage to grind through the first few months, I promise you that a wonderful adventure is ahead of you. The deeper you go into jiu-jitsu, the more fun and interesting it will become. With proper and safe technique and the right training methods you can make jiu-jitsu as intense as you want. If you don’t sweat at the end of a jiu-jitsu class, you did something wrong. Jiu-jitsu can make you stronger, faster, more flexible … AND teach you how to defend yourself at the same time. Hitting a heavy bag will not teach you how to fight.
A lot of people that never make it to jiu-jitsu class suffer from one of the above mentioned problems, or a combination of. But if you don’t fall into one of these categories, jiu-jitsu is a good choice for you! You don’t have to be a “fighter” to learn how to fight. Jiu-jitsu will teach you how to end a fight in the most peaceful way possible, without throwing a single strike. Who doesn’t want to learn that?
Some might ask: Why should you learn self-defense? How big are the odds that you will be attacked on the street? I often make the comparison with first aid. How big are the odds that you encounter someone who is having a heart attack? Yet, you feel much more confident having the knowledge to know what to do if a situation like this would occur.
Let me tell you this: “it is better to be a warrior in a garden, than to be a gardener in a war”.
Author: Kris Damen