Are BJJ and judo hard on your body? Are you going to get injured? Are you going to hurt your knees, shoulders, back, etc?
If they are dangerous why do them?
Well, first I will answer the question if judo or jiu-jitsu is bad for your body based on my experience training which has been oh maybe 5.5 years or so of pretty steady training.
I estimate I have over 300 hours of judo practice and about 1400 hours of BJJ practice.
Watch this video to hear my experience on how hard these martial arts are on your body.
So did you watch the video yet?
So if they are hard on your body why do them?
Well, like many things in life there is a good side and a bad side. Let’s now look at the good side.
- It’s fun
- You’ll learn a lot
- Get high! (natural source of drugs)
- You’ll get a great workout
- You’ll probably make some friends
- Learn self defense!
- It might change you
Jiu-jitsu is fun
It can be scary, difficult and sometimes it sucks, but…
It’s usually a lot of fun because for one it’s a game. Sure, it’s self defense, but it’s also a game and most people like games. Think you’re not a competitive person?
Competition is your very nature!
Think of it like checkers or Scrabble or chess.
Actually people compare jiu-jitsu to chess, but I never played chess so I couldn’t relate. It’s like you make one move and I can make one move. If you do this then I can do that. What I can do is dependent on what you do.
In the beginning you don’t know what to do, but you learn slowly.
It’s fun to learn new moves and new ways of using your body. Basically you learn solutions.
The learning is slow, but you will gradually learn solutions to the problems that you are having on the mat.
In the beginning you don’t know anything and you lose a lot. It’s tough! You’ll get submitted a lot and discouraged, but remember it happens to everyone even black belts.
Through trial and error you learn.
Free hits of dopamine
Jiu-jitsu can be very addicting. Like I told you already it’s fun to learn. But it’s really fun to win! And winning in jiu-jitsu is catching someone in a submission or it can feel good to do a sweep, escape or some other dominant position too.
In judo it could be a throw, pin, submission, sweep, etc.
Now if you are new chances are that will take time before you get anybody in a submission because… you are new.
But when you do you’ll get a little a shot of dopamine that will probably keep you coming back for more.
It feels good.
What happens when you get tapped out?
Ahhh, it doesn’t feel as good, but you get to reset and try again or if you don’t tap out you can go to the hospital and get some kind of shot from them.
Hehe, that’s my dark humor…
Also at the end of class you’ll probably feel better than when you went into the class. I can’t tell you how many times I had a hard time getting to class. I didn’t feel like it and I wanted to stay home, but I pushed through it.
And almost always I felt better once I started and then even better at the end of class.
You’ll learn that this is a skill.
And that’s cool.
Yes, strength and size matter, but so doesn’t skill. And jiu-jitsu/judo is something you can learn. Chances are that you will meet a higher belt who can tap you out and they will be smaller and weaker than you!
You’ll be like WTF!
“That guy or girl who is like 50 lbs less than me just got me.” It hurts your ego a bit, but it’s cool.
That will give you faith…
Because then you realize that this isn’t just a brutal game of people trying to out muscle one another.
Well, wait sometimes it can be like that, but that’s usually at the lower skill levels. Strength matters, but remember that skill can overcome strength.
I remember KRS-ONE saying something interesting once. It was something like…
“What can you do without technology?”
In this day and age we are so dependent on computers and phones and other electronic gadgets.
They are cool, but how about you? What can you do without technology?
One of your answers could be “judo” or “jiu-jitsu”!
You’ll probably get a great workout
Now I don’t mean you’ll get buff or ripped because of it alone, but chances are you’ll get a great workout.
What kind of workout?
I’d say mostly cardio.
Will you get stronger?
Probably somewhat and you might get some muscle tone if you do it frequently, but I wouldn’t expect much. At first it’s difficult and like anything new you will feel pain, soreness and be short of breath.
Remember that first day of soccer, basketball, skiing, snowboarding, ____ (fill in the blank)?
It’s kind of like that.
However, with time your body will get used to it.
Now what’s practice like?
It depends on the school.
Often it’s something like: warm up, technique, drilling, and sparring.
It can depend on the school a little as to what sort of warm up you will do. I have trained in some schools that do an extensive warm up: push ups, sit ups, jumping jacks, bear crawls, squats, burpees, hip escapes, forward rolls, falls, walking on your hands, cartwheels, running, skipping, sprints, carioca, stretches, etc.
But where I am training BJJ now in Japan we hardly do a warm up. It’s mostly techinique and then sparring. Where I am training judo now there is a light warm up on your own, newaza sparring, uchikomi and then randori.
So it will depend on the school.
The real workout to judo and jiujitsu is the sparring. That’s the core of the workout. You’ll work up quite a sweat through that especially if you spar many times in a row.
I like to do that if possible because if I stop and rest my mind gets too active and I start thinking too much and getting scared to spar. Perhaps it’s anxiety. And maybe I don’t want to get cold.
I am more of a slow twitch guy and I can last pretty long, but don’t have much power.
In judo sparring is called randori and in jiu-jitsu it’s often called “rolling”.
You’ll sweat a lot and it’s good
Here’s how sweating is beneficial:
- Helps your skin
- Relieves stress
- Good for your heart
- Improves circulation
You know what? I think that there might be more benefits because jiu-jitsu sparring in a fairly intense manner is kinda like taking a sauna.
Now I can’t say it’s the same, but I bet it has some of the same benefits.
You’ll probably make some friends
Grappling is an up and close personal thing. It’s hands on and it’s full contact. You’ll meet a lot of new people from different backgrounds. You’d be surprised. You might think at first glance that it is a bunch of meatheads rolling around, but no you’ll meet all types.
In my class today there was a barber, doctor, artist, fireman, a few office workers, and some others that I don’t know well!
Learn self defense!
This was my primary motive for learning jiu-jitsu. Either judo or BJJ can be good for that. It can depend on where you train, but I’d probably say that judo is a little more well rounded though because it includes throws and newaza. BJJ classes can include throws or takedowns, but most of the time (90+%) it’s ground techniques.
But don’t expect to learn either one fast.
I say give it a year at least (a few days a week) if you want to learn it for self defense.
It takes time.
It’s been 5+ years and I am still learning and improving although as I said it’s hard to see.
Check out this video and story about how I used judo and jiu-jitsu in a street fight.
It might change you
I don’t want to say that it will change you and it’s this great character or personality building thing to do. I have no idea on how it will affect you.
But I think if you stick with it then you’ll at least learn something about patience.
I remember when I first got into it. I remember watching Youtube videos and getting inspired.
I think I wanted to change myself and become more of a confident person.
Now I have to be honest.
I don’t think I am anymore confident. I know I have learned a lot of techniques, but am I better?
I had one teacher (Sensei Palacio) say, “everyone else is getting better too” so that’s part of the reason you don’t see your progress.
Has it changed me?
I remember my first teacher Romelo Melo saying one wise thing after about a year of training. He said something like, “Ian, if the old you walked in that door today you would be able to kick his ass.”
I liked that.
That’s competing with yourself.
And even though it seems like we are competing with other people we are also competing against ourselves, maybe our older selves.