So, after giving you some really basic tips and food for thought in previous installments of Geek Jitsu, I feel like it’s time to share something more personal and dear to me: the sport that keeps me healthy. In one of the very first articles of this column, I told you that you should find a way of exercise that is fun and challenging, and the poison I picked is the gentle art known as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In this week’s Geek Jitsu, I’ll tell you what it’s about, what keeps me fascinated and why you should find a gym close to you.
I don’t want to give you a history lesson here, mostly because there are several other places that got extensive write-ups about the origins of BJJ. Still, it’s important that you know where this art comes from. As the name suggests, BJJ was born in Brazil and is a form of jiujitsu, a Japanese martial art. Unlike its Eastern source, BJJ is highly focused on ground combat and grappling, ignoring kicks and punches in favour of elaborate chokes and submissions. Unlike related sports like wrestling, BJJ focuses more on the right execution and technique than on strength. This has to do with the founder of modern BJJ, Helio Gracie.
Helio Gracie had to adapt classic jiu jitsu and judo techniques to fit his frail body, and he succeeded in this. His knowledge of leverage and pressure is the foundation of BJJ, which makes the sport suitable for a large amount of people. A popular joke amongst BJJ practitioners is that God first created man unequal, and then man created jiu jitsu to make everyone equal. Trust me, you will believe this once you have been manhandled by a man half your size and weight.
This is just one of the things that fascinate me in this sport. Next to making size, weight, strength and speed just secondary factors to your success in this art, BJJ also has a certain grace. When you watch two guys fighting in a match, you might just see two brutes trying to choke the living hell out of one another. But I beg you: look closer, and observe. In many matches, you will see fluid transitions from a bad to really good position. You will see feints and tricks, and people who are able to bend in ways you thought were impossible. Even when muscle meets muscle, and raw power is unleashed to make way for a technical escape, there is a certain beauty to it.
Even more beautiful than watching BJJ is actually practicing it. In the beginning, you will feel like a retarded shrimp spazzing around. After about two years of training, I still feel like a shrimp, but at least the spasms have turned into somewhat controlled movements. My point here is that, though it takes a lot of time to master, BJJ is rewarding and progressive in nature. Even after a few weeks, you will notice small changes in your movement, your coordination and your thinking patterns. That’s right: this sport requires you to think. It’s called “human chess” for a reason: you need to make the right moves, and be two steps ahead of your opponent. When in a pinch, it’s mostly technique and knowledge that will get you out of it. In a way, BJJ combines physical prowess with intellectual capacities, to create a martial art that stimulates both the body and the brain.
So, why should you try it? Well, for all the reasons mentioned above. BJJ is perfect for everyone: small, tall, heavy, skinny, weak, strong, fast, slow…you name it! If you have a gym anywhere near you, see if they offer trial classes and give it a shot. If you do, share your experiences here. If you’re already a geek rolling on the mats, and even if you’re not so geeky, also tell me your stories. Do I have any BJJ brothers and sisters here?