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BJJ: Health benefits of martial arts training

The Sutherland Shire is blessed with some of Sydney’s best beaches, but fitness is about more than a summer body. With most of us spending more time than ever at home, health is more important than ever. And martial arts is great for health.

The Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) we teach at Gracie Miranda is a terrific self-defence system, but we also believe BJJ to be a fantastic fixture in a healthy lifestyle. It’s a thorough full-body workout that can help with fat loss and muscle gain and, just as importantly, aid your mental health.

If you train martial arts or have talked to people about it, you’ll know that it’s a lifestyle as much as a hobby, and it’s one that promotes all-round wellbeing. We’re lucky in NSW to be able to take part in community sports like BJJ, and shouldn’t waste that opportunity.

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Get what you sweat

A lot of people who come to Gracie Miranda to dip their toes into BJJ quickly become addicted. BJJ is not easy, but it is incredibly rewarding to slowly work out positions and mechanics. We often see students begin training once or twice a week — which is totally fine if that’s all you can manage — to four or five times a week.

The result? These practitioners end up getting five days of great exercise in without even noticing. That’s because the exercise in Jiu-Jitsu is incidental: Most of us step on the mats to learn self-defense techniques, not to sweat. But trust us, you will sweat!

This is different from running, cycling or weight lifting. There’s no doubt that these are effective forms of exercise, but an hour on the mats flows by much quicker than an hour on a treadmill.

BJJ is also a workout unlike any other. Each class starts with a warmup that gets your heart rate up before the sparring begins. Once you’re rolling, you’ll find yourself using your whole body. From your toes to your hips (especially your hips) to your forehead, everything gets used. There’s pushing, pulling, exploding and holding.

The dynamic nature of BJJ makes it excellent for weight loss — you’ll burn plenty of calories, that’s for sure — and will certainly help with muscle gain.

A break for mental health

Ask any experienced grappler and they’ll tell you: A BJJ routine is key to their mental health. Extended periods off the mats usually result in a slump in mood, too.

This isn’t unique to martial arts. All forms of exercise release endorphins and are beneficial to feelings of wellbeing. Yet there are particular qualities to Jiu-Jitsu that make it extra effective.

It’s a complex sport, with thousands of techniques and an emphasis on timing. When sparring, you have to be in sync with your body and your training partners’. This gives grappling something of a meditative quality.

You’ll often find that after class you haven’t thought about the outside world for over an hour, because you’ve been so focused on what’s happening on the mats.

You can understand how, at a time like this, that’s extremely valuable.

Health off the mats

As noted, Jiu-Jitsu is a lifestyle as much as it is a hobby. So what other healthy habits mesh well with martial arts training?

There are two obvious ones: Eat enough to fuel your body, including enough protein and several servings of vegetables per day, and sleep enough to let your body recover. These are essential for long-term success on the mats.

Then there’s yoga. Running for improved cardiovascular performance or weight lifting for better explosiveness will both help your game, but possibly the biggest benefit will come through yoga.

That’s because BJJ and yoga share some key features. They’re both about learning to be comfortable in uncomfortable positions, and they both require controlled breathing.

I mentioned above that running can improve your BJJ game, but this is only partially true. Your endurance on the mats will be equally informed by your fitness and your breathing. This is particularly true for new grapplers who, in the heat of sparring, breathe in too much and breathe out too little. White belts often gas themselves out just from inefficient breathing.

Then there’s the restorative effect of stretching on your body. BJJ is fantastic for your health, but it can also put pressure on your joints. Stretching out after class, or during yoga, will immensely help with recovery and injury prevention.

If you’re interested in adding martial arts to a healthy lifestyle, feel free to come into Gracie Miranda for a free trial.