Weve all heard stories about obese people training Jiu Jitsu and losing substantial amounts of weight and getting their lives back on track. Anyone who has trained for an extended period of time has seen the benefits of training on their body and the bodies of others. It is fascinating to explore what changes training Jiu Jitsu can cause in the human body, and by what mechanism it brings about those changes.
When watching people roll movements often can appear much easier than they are in practice. Much of what we do requires engagement of core muscles on a level not seen in other martial arts, which is a big factor in why we become so much stronger. Think of what is needed to execute a simple shrimping motion: we must learn to engage many parts of our bodies simultaneously in order to be successful.
Another part of our physical being that changes is our understanding of pressure and weight distribution. I wrote an entire article exploring this, but the bottom line is the ability to use pressure and weight distribution to control another persons movement is an athletic feat that we can build upon regardless of our age when starting to train, and can continue building upon as a lifelong exercise.
Grip and hand strength are utilized in most of what we do when training, so dont be surprised if over time you notice people having a harder and harder time getting away from your grip. If you ever meet a high level black belt who has been training for a long time, look at their hands, it is likely that every aspect of their hands will look like its built for war.
We lose weight over time because the stresses to which we expose our bodies during training raise our metabolism. At the same time, we very often pack on muscle mass as a result of an improved diet (and in some cases an augmented exercise regime). Many people start training with weight loss in mind, and many of us realize after our first few tournaments that we are better off dropping into a lower weight class.
We also get much tougher. Situations that may have made us tap out our first week of class become routine and perfectly acceptable. We become willing to push ourselves harder and our pain tolerance greatly increases. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing because as we age our likelihood of injury increases.
We also begin changing the way we physically carry ourselves on the mat. For example, overtime our susceptibility to mat burn on our feet goes down. Also for men who choose not to wear a cup, certain protectiveness develops over time that didnt exist before. These changes are not to our bodies as much to our awareness of our bodies.
If you train for any extended period of time your body will change. You will be stronger, tougher, and more mobile. These are just some of the gifts that Jiu Jitsu can give you.
Emil Fischer an active blue belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training with Strong Style Brasa. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete page at