No, it’s definitely NOT the same as muay thai, and while it is one of the components of mixed martial arts, it’s also not the same as “training UFC”. So what exactly is Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ)?
1. It is a martial art and self defence system that focuses on grappling and ground fighting
The goal of the sport is to submit your opponents via chokes or joint locks. There is no striking (punching or kicking) involved in BJJ.
2. It’s said to have its origins in India as far back as 2000 BC
It was practised by Buddhist monks who developed the style of fighting when they realised they could not rely on strength or weapons. It then slowly made its way to Japan and China.
3. It was brought to Brazil by a Japanese immigrant called Esai Maeda
Master Maeda emigrated to Brazil in the early 20th century where he met and taught jiu-jitsu to members of the Gracie family. The Gracies then went on to open schools and spread the art across Brazil, and till today, BJJ is still very much associated with the Gracie family.
Several members of the Gracie family emigrated to the United States in the 1980s, and are credited for the eventual worldwide popularity of BJJ, thanks to Royce Gracie winning a series of early Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) competitions. The UFC pitted martial artists of different styles against each other, and Royce’s ground-fighting techniques often proved superior against opponents who were merely well-versed in punching and kicking.
4. BJJ can be done with a kimono (often referred to as a “gi”) or without
Most BJJ practitioners would be hard pressed to say that one style is better than the other, simply because they’re so different. Grappling in a gi tends to be slower and more technical as you have more grip options, such as the sleeve, collar, and pants. With greater control, you have more options with which to submit your opponent during a grappling session (also known as a “roll”).
In no-gi BJJ, you’d usually control your opponent by grabbing their neck and joints (such as the elbow and knee). However, without the aid of the gi, it’s much easier for your opponent to slip out of your grip. As a result, no-gi jiu-jitsu is often faster paced than jiu-jitsu with the gi. Certain chokes are also more effective and can be applied more quickly without the gi.
Most instructors will advise their students to train both in the gi and without so they become more well-rounded grapplers.
5. BJJ is a sport highly suitable for women and men of smaller stature
The amazing thing about a sport that focuses on ground fighting is that any strength or size advantage your adversary may have is a non-issue when you go to the ground. Women and men of smaller build who have the skills and technical know-how will be able to effectively neutralise an unskilled larger opponent.
6. Related point: It’s great for self-defence (the video below is a must-watch)
For women who wish to learn self-defence, it really doesn’t get much better than BJJ. During your training sessions, you’ll learn how to work from “inferior” positions such as attacking while on your back, escaping when someone’s sitting on you, and more – all very useful if you ever find yourself having to engage with someone on the street (although I seriously hope the day that you have to fight someone on the street will never come). A lot of techniques you’ll learn in class also won’t require the use of physical strength to be applicable.
7. BJJ is a sport that welcomes anyone and everyone
My foray into martial arts began with muay thai for about two years, then boxing for another two years after that. I’ve trained in my fair share of gyms in Singapore and around the world, but have always found BJJ classes to be the most friendly and welcoming, even when I was a complete newbie. The more experienced practitioners are always eager to teach and show me techniques, shout instructions at me during a roll, drill with me a little longer after class was over, and give me advice on the mistakes I had made, and help me improve my game. The sport LOOKS intimidating, but it is anything but because of the family-like atmosphere that is fostered and encouraged at many gyms.
8. BJJ is now hugely popular in Singapore
There are many gyms in Singapore that now offer BJJ programmes, compared to five years ago. The “culture” varies from one gym to the next, so if you’re on the lookout for a gym, I suggest doing a trial class at each to see which gym’s “vibe” appeals to you the most. Some gyms offer one-hour classes; while others go on for 90 minutes. Some gyms also place a heavier emphasis on strength and conditioning than others.
I train at Equilibrium MMA, which is located at *Scape. I picked this gym for a number of reasons:
- The classes run for just 60 minutes. I can zip out for a lunch class without it affecting my schedule for the rest of the day. While some people prefer longer classes, I like that I am not bone-tired the next day even when I go all-out for the full 6o minutes. If I’m in a more “hardcore” mood, I’ll simply stay for the next class.
- It’s close to my office. When you start learning BJJ, convenience should be one of the things you take into serious consideration. If you want to improve quickly, you’ll need to be consistent and committed in attending classes.
- It is very women-friendly. I believe there are currently around 10 women of various belt ranks training at Equilibrium.
Other gyms in Singapore with BJJ programmes:
- Trifecta Martial Arts
- Jiu Jitsu Lab
- Evolve MMA
- Fight G
- Impact MMA
- Transcendence MMA
- Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Singapore
- Juggernaut Fight Club
05 Dec 2016