BJJ stands for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which is a martial art used for self-defense. This combat-based sport uses a form of fighting which uses submission, controlling your opposition by grappling them and using different ground-based techniques.
The aim is to dominate your opponent by using aspects such as choke holds or locks, on the ground, rendering them helpless, until they have to submit. This is usually done while wearing a BJJ Gi but No-Gi Jiu Jitsu is also extremely popular.
It was developed by the Gracie brothers in the Twenties, who modified the traditional Judo martial art which they had been taught themselves. They created their own techniques and renamed it Gracie Jiu Jitsu.
Once the techniques were adopted worldwide, and combined with other traditional Judo moves, BJJ was recognised as an official combat sport and is now one of the essential martial arts used as part of MMA practice.
The growth of BJJ as a sport
The Gracie brothers contributed hugely to the growth in popularity of the martial art, when they moved to America to teach it, and helped to found the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in the early 1990s.
Following successful UFC wins using BJJ techniques, it has become a key part of MMA and tournaments specialising in BJJ have sprung up around the world, in line with other popular grappling sports such as wrestling.
It has also grown in popularity as a form of exercise and way to get fit, aside from the competitive tournament element, with many people taking it up for that purpose, as well as using it for self-defense.
Part of the attraction of the sport is that it uses leverage and weight to bring the opponent down to the ground, which means smaller participants with the right skills are easily able to defeat much bigger opponents.
The training programme focuses on self-defense but it is considered a way of life for practitioners as well as promoting fitness and focus. Sparring bouts are a common part of training and practice sessions for all involved in BJJ.
The techniques used in BJJ
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is distinctive from Judo due to the focus on ground-grappling and full contact fighting throughout the bouts, although some of the techniques are similar. BJJ includes Judo throws and takedowns, but also combines the use of takedowns commonly used in wrestling or other grappling sports.
The aim in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is to get the other person onto the ground as quickly as possible. This then removes any advantage they might have in size or strength. Then it’s up to the fighter to use the right techniques to try to keep the opponent down.
A number of moves are used after the opponent has been grappled to the ground, to get them into a position to submit. The aim of the BJJ fighter is to become the dominant one and keep their opponent in submission.
It’s also important to be able to guard yourself against the manoeuvres which your opponent will use to try to regain the upper hand during the fight. Looking out for sweeps, side controls and mount positions to keep your opponent down.
It has been likened as a game of physical chess because the ideal dominant position results in the opponent having no choice but to completely submit, or face potential choking or injury. In this case the dominant fighter wins.
The main difference between BJJ and other martial arts is that there is no emphasis on techniques such as standing, striking and throws. It’s all about the work carried out on the ground and the takedowns used.
What does BJJ training involve?
Training using BJJ is generally focussed on drills against partners who don’t resist, so that the practitioner can practice certain techniques over and over again, to enhance their skills. Full sparring also takes place to develop fighting skills and techniques.
Some sessions include one student defending themselves against multiple attacks by practicing all of the taught techniques, then taking turns to be part of the group of attackers, so all the students get to experience both sides.
Drilling alone is also common, where practitioners try out techniques by drilling the moves in isolation, until they have them mastered, then try them out on a partner who is submissive from the outset.
BJJ has developed over the years into a professionally recognised martial art, featuring as part of MMA and in league with other grappling sports, which has led to a growth in popularity for training within this martial art.
Thanks largely to the Gracie brothers, this ground-fighting technique has spread around the world, appealing to a much wider audience and appearing in global sports competitions in its own right.
Whether for competing in competitive tournaments, learning self-defense techniques which really work, or just as a unique and fun way to get fit and exercise, there is something for everyone at every level within the BJJ world.