GB: This is a pretty common question before a new student commits to signing up and trying jiu-jitsu classes. If one is not sure what to expect from jiu-jitsu classes, they wonder if some time working out, stretching is necessary before joining group classes.
It is just as common for former students who have been absent from regular classes for some period of time to delay their return until “they get back in shape first!” This is usually because they are apprehensive about jumping back into training with their old training partners and finding they have been left behind. While this might be natural, it shouldn’t prevent one from getting back into bjj class.
So to answer the question “Do I need to get in shape before I start jiu-jitsu?”
The short answer is “No”.
The long answer us that the best way to get in good physical shape for jiu-jitsu is by….training jiu-jitsu! Why? There is a principle of fitness training for perfomance enhancement for any physical task called “specificity of training.” That is to say that the best way to improve a type of physical skill in a specific area is to:
A) Perform the skill itself – in our case actually doing jiu-jitsu on the mat.
B) Secondary would be performing an exercise that most closely resembles the sport or skill that we are trying to improve.
Yes, general level of fitness is preferable to nothing at all. The Gracie Barra class warm up include several general calisthenics for the purpose of general strength and endurance in addition to warming up.our muscles and joints.
Master Carlos Gracie Jr. is an advocate of climbing the sand dunes around his Florianopolis home (see video) as a favorite means of exercising his cardiovascular and building leg strength and muscular endurance for the guard. Close to the original Gracie Barra in Barra de Tijuca in Brazil is the famous Pedra de Gavea rock where countless jiu-jitsu fighters exercised their hearts, lungs and muscles climbing the trail – also a favorite activity of Master Carlos.
That said, the BEST way to get up to speed for the physical demands of rolling in jiu-jitsu IS by doing jiu-jitsu. Because fitness for jiu-jitsu is different than fitness that we demonstrate on the machines in the fitness club.
We have all witnessed highly conditioned athletes from other sports quickly become exhausted when rolling in jiu-jitsu class. It isn’t all about having big biceps or even a six pack abdominals.
Timing and recognition of positions help us to be more efficient in our physical expenditures. I like to call the capacity to execute sports specific movements like bridging and shrimping “mat fitness”. The specific strength to execute ground grappling moves. The best way to get that type of stress is in jiu-jitsu class.
Another way to develop mat fitness is by drilling moves for repetitions in class. You will stress and super compensate your muscles in the exact way that you will be utilizing them in rolling.
So back to our original question about if you need to get in shape before coming to jiu-jitsu?
No. Just stuff your kimono in your gym bag and get yourself into class. The best time to have started training jiu-jitsu was 5 years ago. The 2nd best time is today!
See also on Gracie Barra : White Belt – The Most exciting Time In Your Jiu-jitsu
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Saigon, Vietnam