The Art of Jiu Jitsu: from quick transitions through positional hierarchies, devastating arm and leg locks, and tightly applied chokes and strangles make for an incredibly exciting sport.
But we’re here to argue that Jiu Jitsu is more than a sport – Jiu Jitsu ought to be viewed as an art form.
What is Jiu Jitsu
If you don’t have any idea what we’re talking about, read this article titled “What is BJJ?” on our blog. In that article, we explain the basics of Jiu Jitsu, saying that it is…
“Two individuals simulate fighting to the death by using knowledge of positional technique, biomechanical leverage, and strategy to outsmart one another. Once a choke or a joint lock is considered worthy of ending a fight, the losing fighter submits by tapping their opponent (symbolic of giving up), and is let free of the hold – only to slap hands and begin the dance again.”
At the deepest level, Jiu Jitsu is an amazing martial art that teaches people about self-defence, personal growth and individual well-being. Also, the art develops many important life skills in its students, such as perseverance, discipline, and stress management.
But there is something that seems to separate Jiu Jitsu from other sports and from other martial arts. What is so special about the art of Jiu Jitsu, and why should you love it as much as we do?
The Art of Jiu Jitsu
Merriam-Webster defines the word art in several different ways, two of which apply very well to Jiu Jitsu.
- Skill acquired by experience, study, or observation
- The conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects
There is no doubt that martial arts, particularly Jiu Jitsu, require individuals to be skillful through study and repeated practice. But the second definition speaks to the creative, cognitive, and artistic components that make the foundation of Jiu Jitsu.
Often praising Jiu Jitsu’s aesthetic flow and beautiful movement, UFC commentator, comedian, and podcaster Joe Rogan (who also has black belts in BJJ from both Eddie Bravo and Jean Jacques Machado) describes Jiu Jitsu as “high level problem solving with dire physical consequences.”
Here are 3 main reasons why you should view Jiu Jitsu as an art, and after reading we’re sure that you’ll understand why we love the art so much – and why you should too!
1. Jiu Jitsu is like Dance
Rhythm, timing, flexibility – Jiu Jitsu shares a lot with dance. Watching high-level Jiu Jitsu with the right eye is like watching a beautiful dance between two very skilled professionals.
It is amazing to watch the exchange of positions, the deliberate movements and transitions, and the physical and mental coordination that are required to be on the mats and on the dancefloor.
Indeed, movement is at the core of the art of Jiu Jitsu. But the fluid sequences and methodical maneuvers are what make it like a captivating choreography, and is one of the reasons why we love the art of Jiu Jitsu so much.
2. Human Chess
With so many grips and positions available, the lightning quick, high-stress decision-making that is at the heart of Jiu Jitsu brings comparisons to the game of chess.
Limbs, lapels, submissions, sweeps, passes, reversals. Fatigue, fear, confidence, injury.
Jiu Jitsu can get complicated, and when two skilled individuals are exchanging grips, positions, attacks and counters, chess becomes a perfect analogy for the strategy, skill, knowledge, and mental fortitude required to succeed.
When you look at Jiu Jitsu from this cognitive point of view, the art suddenly seems so much more graceful, deliberate, and difficult. A newfound appreciation can come from changing perspectives about the art, and thinking about Jiu Jitsu as human chess is one to do so.
3. Go with the Flow (State)
As deliberate and methodical as Jiu Jitsu strategy and technique can be, individuals often report accessing a flow state while training or sparring.
Movements come naturally, your sense of time is altered or lost altogether, and you have a razor sharp, yet somewhat relaxed focus on the task (or opponent) in front of you.
Rickson Gracie, one of the greatest Jiu Jitsu practitioners of all time, has spoken about the relationship between flow state and practicing the gentle art on more than one occasion. Below is a quote Rickson from the documentary Choke.
“The most interesting aspect of jiu jitsu is – of course, the techniques are great – but the sensibility of the opponent, sense of touch, the weight, the momentum, the transition from one movement to another. That’s the amazing thing about it. You must allow yourself to go on autopilot. You don’t know exactly where you’re going until the movement happened because you cannot anticipate what is going to happen. You must allow yourself to be in a zero point – a neutral point. Be relaxed and connected with the variations. Flow with the go.”
Love, Appreciate, Practice the Art
Jiu Jitsu is more than turning your partners into human pretzels. Beyond the tangled lapels, chaotic scrambles and surprising submissions is an exciting and intricate art.
With Jiu Jitsu growing and gaining so much popularity in recent years, the question is when, not if, the sport will become mainstream.
One factor that may contribute to Jiu Jitsu’s ascent to mainstream sport status is convincing large groups of people that Jiu Jitsu is more of an art than a combat sport. Highlighting the cognitive and artistic aspects of Jiu Jitsu makes it more appealing for those who don’t train and may not be familiar with combat sports or martial arts.
The art of Jiu Jitsu is an amazing thing, and we’re here to share it with the world.
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