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What is BJJ?

Lucy Dunnet, BA Chinese (Modern and Classical)


When I tell new people that I am off to ‘BJJ training’, more often than not I receive a confused, slightly surprised look in response, and it is clear that a variety of curious and not so PG thoughts are whizzing through their brain. I then have two options, either the serious explanation of what BJJ is, that it stands for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, also sometimes referred to as ‘human chess’, and it is a grappling-based martial art derived from both Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Judo, whose central theme is the skill of controlling a resisting opponent in ways that force them to submit. Or the not so serious explanation, that BJJ is ‘like wrestling, but with a lot more BDSM’ or simply ‘aggressive yoga in pyjamas’. Those people who think that I have misspoken and added on an extra ‘J’ to what I am doing, usually prefer the second explanation.

BJJ is one of the fastest growing fighting arts in the world, and for many practitioners, it has become more than merely a martial art or a sport; it has become a way of life. BJJ is something everyone can benefit from, no matter your age, fitness level, or fighting lust. It improves your self-confidence and general well-being, both physically and mentally.

BJJ is one of the fastest growing fighting arts in the world and for many, it has become a way of life.

Additionally, you become part of a world-wide, tight-knit community of like-minded individuals, all eager to help and support each other. Here at SOAS BJJ, even after just one session, you will see that all of these things are true. Our instructor has unmatched enthusiasm for both BJJ and his students, and training has enriched many of our lives both inside and outside of SOAS. In the fast-paced and stressful environment that most of us feel surrounded by, I have found BJJ to be one of the most effective and enjoyable stress-relievers. As pointed out by American psychologist and BJJ brown belt David J. Ley, “when you have a two-hundred-pound opponent sitting on top of you and trying to choke you into unconsciousness, it is psychologically impossible to devote mental resources to worrying about the rent, school or work.”

Whilst some people train just for fun, as a means of weekly exercise, or to learn self-defense techniques, we also have many people aiming to compete competitively. On Sunday, November 11th we entered our first University BJJ league competition as a SOAS BJJ team and came away with two gold and two bronze medals. But most importantly we came away with a heightened sense of comradery, competitiveness, and determination to continue to beat other university BJJ teams!

If you haven’t already come to try out one of our free classes, do come down to the SOAS basement gym on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays at 13:00.

Photo Credit: Lucy Dunnet



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