The Part Time Grappler – Introduction

A guide to starting (and sticking with) Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

“Just keep swimming…”

Dory – Finding Nemo 2003

“The most effective form of self defence.”

If you’re reading this book I can (I hope) safely assume that you know something about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. You are probably considering starting, or you’ve just started, and the title of this book spoke to you. Either way, it might be useful for us to have a quick look at what Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is and why it has become so popular, especially for those who may have no idea what is is about.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (also known as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu), or more commonly abbreviated as BJJ, is a fairly young martial art, having been developed from Japanese Kosen Jiu-Jitsu in the early 1900s. Depending on what version of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu history you believe, the first Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school opened in Brazil in 1912. That makes Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu less than 100 years old.

In the early 1980’s in America, Rorion Gracie, a member of the Gracie family from Brazil (one of the largest families of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which they branded Gracie Jiu-Jitsu) brought the effectiveness of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a fighting system to the world through the Ultimate Fighting Championship or UFC. Now more of a sporting event than a legalised street fight, the UFC showed the world that the small, skinny, younger brother of Rorion, Royce Gracie, could use the skills and techniques of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to defeat larger, stronger and more athletic fighters from other martial arts styles. Soon after the first events, thousands of people in the United States, and around the world, went looking for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools to learn ‘the most effective form of self defence’ in the world.

Now that we have a common background, let’s look at why I wrote this book.

The purpose of this book is not to go into the history and development of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I’ll leave that to other, more in depth volumes. Nor is this a book on techniques, or how to master the path from white to black belt. The purpose of this book is to look at, after you decide you want to start Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, how to make the most of your training (and non training) time, so that once you start, you are able to maintain a long and healthy obsession with the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

To understand why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has become so popular over the last 30 years or so, we need to understand the mindset of the people who choose to practice the art. I’ve had the privilege of training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at various schools for over 10 years now and I’ve found that there are usually three types of people who decide to train in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

The first type of person are those who want to learn to defend themselves. They have no real experience of fighting (except perhaps to have been on the receiving end of one) and they want to learn how to fight back if they are attacked. They may or may not know of things like other martial arts, the UFC or Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) but usually they have no idea. They may or may not already follow some kind of fitness or exercise programme.

The second type of person (of which I fall in the category of) are those looking to learn an effective form of self defence. They are have a lot of the characteristics of the first type above, but they have also tried other martial arts styles and found them either lacking or ineffective. They have seen Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at some point in time or heard of its effectiveness as a system of self defence and they want to try it out. Often they will have some opinions about the effectiveness of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and may require a few object lessons to drive the point home.

The third type of person are those who want to be Mixed Martial Arts (or MMA) fighters. They dream of one day signing a UFC contract and fighting on the world stage. They appreciate that to be an all round fighter they need to have a good ‘ground game’. They probably also practice some form of striking art, like kickboxing or Muay Thai. They definitely have a physical fitness and/or exercise programme, and they often train more than double what a person from the first two categories does.

As you can see, these three categories cover a wide variety of people. This book is aimed at the types of people who fall into the first two categories, because, more often than not, both of those types of people also have day jobs and families, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training is just one part of their lives. They are the “part time grapplers” that the title of this book refers to. As part time grapplers, it might be easy to start, but over time it becomes more difficult to keep up a good pace of training. This is made even harder when people who typically fall into the third category, and get way more training time in, tend to outstrip you on the mat.

As such, it is to those people that I speak to. As we move into Chapter 1, I dedicate the title of this chapter to these people, because it is the most important piece of knowledge any part time grappler needs to understand: Here be sharks!!

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