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Do I have to be in shape to do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions about starting Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and it’s also one of the main mental hurdles preventing people from getting started. That’s right, we’re saying mental hurdle, rather than physical. Without having practiced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or other Mixed Martial Arts, it’s totally fair to wonder whether or not you need to be extremely fit so that you can keep up with the class on your first day. The short answer, and the good news, is that the best way to get in shape for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is simply to practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, If that seems intimidating from a Martial Arts outsider perspective, let’s explore the idea further so you can reassure yourself and, most importantly, start your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training sooner than later. 

New Movements and a Steep Learning Curve

Nearly everyone who starts Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is going to be massively challenged in the beginning, no matter how “in shape” they were previously. This is because the movements in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are different to other forms of exercise, including other types of Martial Arts and MMA. When you start your first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes, even the basic warm-ups will challenge your body in new ways, and they may seem quite difficult if you’ve never done them before. Most likely, if you keep showing up to class, you’ll get used to them quickly and find that they challenge you less and less. 

When you’re first starting out in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, you may not be “rolling”, live grappling, in the first few classes anyway (but you might!). That said, being good at rolling is not really about how fit you are. It’s more about how efficiently you learn to use your energy and move your body so you’re not wasting your strength with lots of extra movements and flailing around. As you start learning more technique and fine-tuning your movements, you’ll gradually move more efficiently, waste less energy, and get less tired. The more you train in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the fitter you’ll get as well, so you’ll also get less tired from that aspect as well. This means, you will need to increasingly train harder over time in order to keep challenging you

Even if you see other newcomers joining their first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes and they are already “in shape”, it’s almost certainly fitness derived from a totally different type of training than you’ll do in BJJ. While they may have some strength and endurance advantages, they will still need to get used to new types of movements. However you arrive, you’ll find Jiu Jitsu challenging both mentally and physically in the beginning (and likely forever). So, if being in shape is your issue, you may as well start Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and start getting in shape doing BJJ type movements from the get go. You can always work some cross training into your schedule once your body gets used to training. 

Basically, you’ll get in shape for BJJ by doing BJJ.

 

Mobility, Strength and Cross Training in General

Once you’ve started regularly training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, you’ll start getting used to the new movements and you’ll find that you can push yourself more as time goes on. This is a good point in your Martial Arts training to start incorporating other types of exercise and cross-training, rather than trying to do it all before you start Brazlian Jiu Jitsu. 

One of the most important, and most underrated, aspects of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is joint mobility, especially in the hips and knees. Many BJJ practitioners skip over mobility training because it doesn’t feel like “exercise” and therefore won’t get them “fit”. Working on your mobility will not only allow you to get into more positions and perform more techniques with greater depth and accuracy, but it will also help you move more efficiently and will protect you from injuries that may stop you from training or working out altogether. 

You can also incorporate other strength and conditioning, calisthenics and other types of Mixed Martial Arts that will give you better strength, endurance, agility, and body awareness that will assist you in moving more mindfully. 

 

Enjoying the Practice, Not just a means to an End

Another thing to remember is that Brazilian JIu Jitsu and Martial Arts in general aren’t practiced only for performance or for getting fit, even if those are your ultimate goals.. A major part of it is actually having fun. People do Jiu Jitsu because it’s really enjoyable! It’s challenging for your mind and your body and there is definitely a strange aspect of twisting limbs and getting choked out that you will actually like. And you’ll be training with other weirdos who like it too! You can start enjoying Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (and being challenged by it) without being in shape. 

Your personal goals will also dictate your level of training, and which types of cross training will be appropriate for your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practice.For instance: If you want to join BJJ to compete, you’ll need better fitness and stamina to perform at high level. However, no one can start competing at a high level if they haven’t started training BJJ and stuck to it for a long time. So even if you’re “out of shape” and you want to compete in BJJ, it’s way better to start training while you’re out of shape, and get the training time started while you get in shape, rather than putting it off until you’re “fit”.

In general, the best workout is one that you’ll stick with and do regularly. BJJ is really fun. If you try to get fit by doing something you dont like before you start fun training, you may never get to the fitness level you think you need because it’ll feel like a chore, and then you’ll never start Martial Arts. Believe it or not, you can train and enjoy Jiu Jitsu even while you’re out of shape. 

 

What you can do now to get started

Start BJJ today, just get it rolling.

If you want to support your progress and fitness, implement some lifestyle changes as well.

Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating adequate high-quality fat and proteins, increasing your electrolyte intake, timing your carbs during heavier cardio days, staying away from processed junk food, and making sure you have enough rest time to heal any minor injuries or tweaks. Definitely consider incorporating training for mobility and joint health.

The main point is, come as you are, just start. Different body types have different advantages in BJJ anyway so you may learn more aspects of this Martial Art by starting at a different weight and body composition. You definitely don’t need to be in shape to start, in fact, you can start with a goal to get in shape by doing BJJ.

The idea that you can’t start Brazilian Jiu Jitsu until you’re fit is similar to saying you can’t start going to the gym until you’re fit enough to work out. This belief will prevent you from excelling at anything.This is a mental exercise as much as a physical one. Begin BJJ and simply do what you can, challenging yourself to do more gradually. Try every warm up, try every technique. Do whatever you can in rolling. Get tapped out, get tired, come again and keep trying. 

If you live in or work near the suburbs of Collingwood, Fitzroy, North Fitzroy, Abbotsford, Carlton, Richmond, Melbourne, Clifton Hill, Brunswick, Brunswick East, Thornbury, Northcote, give us a call today and get signed up for your first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Wrestling or Kickboxing intro class.