Training in Jiu-Jitsu for the last two years has been a great learning and fitness regimen for me. For many people, including myself, who have health issues, chronic pain, bad joints, etc. can benefit from non-high-impact exercises. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is one of the few martial arts that can be trained at a 100% rate with your training partners, resulting in a greater learning experience, and less chance of injuries. The magic ingredient for this is the ability to ‘tap’ at any point while rolling and training. All other base martial arts, especially the striking bases, do not allow for students to engage in a 100% full effort training regimen, it would result in far too many cuts, concussions, and broken bones.
The health benefits of training jiu-jitsu are great for anyone at any age. My wife and I have been taking our son to the kid’s sessions since he was 5, he just turned 7 this past August, and not only have the physical benefits been a great success but also the structure they teach and discipline, and anti-bullying lessons throughout is wonderful. Sometimes he will say he is too tired and does not want to go, but after he gets there and starts rolling around with the other kids, he always leaves with a smile on his face and eager to show everyone what he learned during his lessons. These same benefits are applicable to everyone, at every age. Jiu-Jitsu will teach you to be confident in your success, humble in your mistakes, physically stronger with your effort, and mentally strong in facing your fears in training in a combative sport. It’s a game of persistence and inches, quick thinking and problem solving, you are working every muscle in your body including your brain at all times when you begin to competitively roll.
For the older students worried about their knees, or back issues and things of that nature: The most pressure you will put on your joints will most likely be in warm ups, while doing squats, runs, break falls, and other conditioning exercises before you get into actual training, drilling, and rolling with your teammates. At Straight Blast Gym East Coast in Wareham, MA the coaches there have a dedicated program for those over 40 in the gym, that specifically works with each member with any limitations they may have; such as reconstructed knees or hips and how to alter positions accordingly without causing any increased discomfort.
Since I turned 23 (for the past 11 years) I have been suffering with congestive heart failure and a chronic pain condition called CRPS (Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome), which is in my right leg and is extremely severe. But while at SBG, after talking with my coaches and my training partners, I was still able to train and roll at the same pace as everyone else. It causes me less pain than jogging for 2 miles on a treadmill, and I get to work with some of the best athletes in the area and learn from them. During one of my first private lessons, Coach Stephen Whittier is the chief instructor at SBG East Coast, gave me some great tips for working from guard and utilizing my feet and hands more than relying on leg strength. Everyone can find a way to utilize the techniques in jiu-jitsu and the health benefits are astronomical, especially compared to only watching the UFC from your couch.
Talking with my cardiologist and general physician, they were both greatly supportive of my decision to train in jiu-jitsu, especially after conveying to them how much pain I was in after taking 3 mile walks each day. My knee just can’t handle the impact of that anymore. It is recommended that if you do have any serious health problems that you always talk to your physician before starting any training or exercise program; and always let your coaches know your condition and any ailments you may have; they will do everything they can to accommodate your needs to make your experience a good one. Benefits range from losing weight, gaining flexibility, adding core strength and improving overall mobility. Mental strength is also another often overlooked factor that is greatly improved during training. This sport teaches discipline, how to deal with stress and being in an uncomfortable position, and how to stay in control of your emotions and stay calm.
Some may come to release their frustrations after a bad day as well, but again, this is a great sport that you can train 100% at and be confident in because you can ‘tap,’ and then begin your drilling session all over again. If you think you maybe too slow, in too much pain, or your health keeps you from doing other ordinary exercises like running and weight lifting, it is worth going to your local BJJ Gym (there are over 35 SBG gyms globally, check them out) and asking to take an introduction class.
Words by James Gesner