January is the time of the year when most people think seriously about doing the things they’ve always wanted to do. For some, that’s joining a gym or a sports team. For others, that’s taking up martial arts classes.
If you’re on this page because you’re interested in beginning a martial arts journey, that’s great! If you’re a little confused as to how to start, that’s normal. Picking which martial art is best for you can be intimidating. Where do you even start?
Gracie Miranda is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy in the Sutherland Shire. Naturally, we’re biased in favour of Jiu-Jitsu – our coaches wouldn’t have practiced the martial art for over a decade if they didn’t believe in it. But we understand that when it comes to martial arts, there is no “one size fits all”.
Here’s what you need to know about choosing a martial art.
If you already know you’re interested in training BJJ, come into Gracie Miranda for a free trial class.
Grappling vs. Striking
The first thing to understand is the fundamental categories of martial arts: Grappling and striking. Perhaps more than any other question, you have to decide whether you care more about learning to grapple or learning how to strike.
BJJ, for instance, is a grappling martial art. There is no striking in Jiu-Jitsu. It’s entirely about wrestling someone to the ground and applying a submission hold on them. As a contrast, take Taekwondo. It’s a strike-based martial art – so don’t expect to be learning how to shoot a double leg takedown.
Different martial arts have different claims to fame depending on how they innovate within either a grappling or striking framework. Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling and Judo are all grappling disciplines, yet each prioritizes a different aspect of the game.
Wrestling is all about pinning your opponent’s shoulders to the mat, so it prioritizes explosive takedowns and slams. In Judo, the goal is to throw your opponent to the ground. Jiu-Jitsu is special because it allows the battle to continue once you are on the ground. It teaches students how to be dangerous in any position, from standing up straight to lying with your back on the ground. For that reason, it’s become widely practiced in MMA circles.
MMA and self defence
Another key question when deciding on which martial art to pick is: What goal are you trying to achieve?
Even within the same martial art community, people train for drastically different reasons. At Gracie Miranda, for instance, some people are interested in becoming MMA fighters, while others are more interested in developing self-defence skills. Others still are chiefly concerned with staying in shape. Martial arts offer avenues to do all three.
If you’re training with MMA in mind, you’ll obviously need to study a mixture of martial arts. With that said, BJJ is the bedrock of modern MMA. Royce Gracie used Jiu-Jitsu to dominate in the UFC in its early years, which is a big part of why it’s become so popular. You’ll need at least some BJJ to be successful in MMA, though you’ll need to back it up with a striking art like kickboxing.
Second, self-defence. Many who train multiple disciplines, like Joe Rogan and Navy Seal Jocko Willink, have praised Jiu-Jitsu as the most valuable self-defense system that doesn’t involve weaponry. This is a controversial point though, as practitioners of martial arts have long argued about which is the best for self-defence. Other disciplines, like Krav Maga, are respected for this too.
When it comes to self-defence, however, it should be noted that no discipline is perfect. There are always tradeoffs. The criticism grappling arts like BJJ that’s often made is that it’s hard to defend yourself against more than one opponent. That’s true, but it’s hard to defend yourself against one opponent no matter what discipline you practice. Striking arts do give you more space to do so, but there are other downsides – like the risk of breaking your hand if you punch someone without wearing gloves.
Fitness and fun
Then there’s fitness. BJJ is a tremendous full-body workout, as every class ends with 20-30 minutes of sparring. But it would be a lie to say that Jiu-Jitsu is the best martial art for fitness. In fact, the explicit point of BJJ is that you use leverage and timing instead of explosivity and power. Martial arts that put value on explosivity, like wrestling and kickboxing, are best if your sole goal is to improve your cardio.
The upside for Jiu-Jitsu, however, is that it works for people of any body size and any fitness level. You need to be explosive and athletic to succeed in wrestling, but the same isn’t true for BJJ. Those attributes certainly help, but refined technique and an understanding of timing and leverage trumps athleticism. That’s the art of Jiu-Jitsu: No matter what your body shape or size is, you can find a way to make it work for you.
In Sydney’s Sutherland Shire and interested in martial arts classes? Come into Gracie Miranda for a free trial.