Jiu-Jitsu: Sport or Lifestyle? Disciplines of Jiu-Jitsu Impacting Global Fitness Trends Globally

For millennia, martial arts have been an integral part of people’s lives, providing multiple physical, mental and social benefits. As martial arts have begun to rise in popularity, people have been keen to discover new ways to explore these practices – and the next big thing is Jiu-Jitsu.

Gaining celebrity interest

Even celebrities such as Adriana Lima, Gigi Hadid, Mark Wahlberg and Bakheet Saad are advocates for the benefits of boxing, and Taylor Lautner is a passionate Karate practitioner. MMA and combat sports are having quite a moment in the spotlight: once relegated to dark, gritty fighting gyms reserved only for the dedicated few, they have finally started to find their way into the more mainstream public, as an increasing number of people have realized the enormous range of benefits they can offer both within the gym and beyond.
Jiu-Jitsu is currently the fastest-growing sport in the world. Thanks to the ever-increasing popularity of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) – and the role that Jiu-Jitsu plays within it – this sport has been given a new lease of life.

The Origin of Jiu-Jitsu

The roots of Jiu-Jitsu date back to the dawn of human civilization, and it has become phenomenally popular in the hearts and minds of the martial arts community. Its philosophy is based on two pillars: the first is the use of mental strength to gain an advantage over opponents. This helps not only in resisting strikes, but also in avoiding hostile situations and ultimately overcoming them. The second pillar is the use of unarmed combat to improve fitness levels, flexibility, self-discipline, focus and composure – applying discipline and focus to also help in setting and achieving targets. Jiu-Jitsu shares some common roots with other martial arts. India is the birthplace of the sport, and Buddhist monks developed and refined its features. They focused on balance and strength to limit the use of weapons that were used at the time.

It then found its way to China and Japan where it attracted a lot of attention, participation and popularity. Japanese Jiu-Jitsu techniques are known as “The Gentle Way,” and are based on the core values of loyalty, justice, morality, serenity, humility, honor, self-confidence and respect. Despite the emergence of various martial arts like Aikido, Karate and Judo, Jiu-Jitsu retained the true spirit and values of the original art.
In 1915, a Japanese fighter named Mitsuyo Maeda gave Jiu-Jitsu demonstrations and exhibition fights that quickly popularized the sport in Brazil. He settled in the city of Belém and helped new Japanese immigrants to settle in the community while also teaching Jiu-Jitsu. One of his best students was a teenager called Carlos Gracie – the son of Gastão Gracie, who was a business partner of the American Circus in Belém.

Carlos Gracie soon became renowned for his skill, defeating opponents who were physically stronger than him. In 1925 he opened the Gracie Jujitsu Academy in Rio de Janeiro, the first academy of its kind, and helped to spread Maeda’s philosophy.
Between 1940-2004, the Gracie family won many tournaments against physically superior fighters. For the Gracies, Jiu-Jitsu was more than just a martial art; it was a way of life. They refined the techniques of Jiu-Jitsu into a national sport that became known as ‘Brazilian-Jiu Jitsu’ and is practiced by martial artists all over the world.

Physical and mental benefits

Unlike many other martial arts – or indeed, a majority of other sports – BJJ doesn’t require opponents to be the biggest or fittest in order to become a champion. Instead, people of all backgrounds – from every age, fitness level, and size – can succeed in BJJ, using a combination of grappling and ground holds techniques that redefines the concept of strength. In fact, it’s so inclusive that in 2017, the UAE hosted the Abu Dhabi World Para Jiu-Jitsu Festival, the first-ever major international event involving athletes with a range of disabilities.

Naturally, Jiu-Jitsu does keep its practitioners fit – it teaches people how to control their strength and exert it in the most efficient of ways, utilizing technique to do so while building up muscles and stamina over time. There are also plenty of benefits to BJJ beyond the physical, for everyone from children and juniors to adults and even older practitioners.

First, it helps to establish a stronger sense of mind-body awareness. The sport teaches its practitioners the importance – and benefits – of discipline, perseverance, and respect, and that it is possible to achieve what you previously thought impossible if you dedicate yourself to it firmly enough – and that no matter what your background, size, or age is, we can all be champions if we only have the drive. In turn, this also teaches humility, since it serves as a regular reminder not to underestimate others due to an initial or superficial first impression. Initially, it’s a step outside of most people’s comfort zones – but that’s precisely why it’s good for them: it teaches practitioners how to redefine their boundaries, push (and smash) their limits, and to be patient. Physically, Jiu-Jitsu not only gives your entire body a great workout in terms of both cardiovascular ability and strength, helping you build muscle and burn fat, but all of that rolling around on the floor is also great for your joints and ensures its athletes will stretch out more than they might in many other combat sports.

Support and growth of Jiu-Jitsu in the UAE

The UAE government has been such a keen supporter of this sport. His Highness, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, is a fan and has helped to champion Jiu-Jitsu and spread the passion for it on a global scale. Jiu-Jitsu’s place in the UAE is now an official government project, and thanks to this support – and the investment and infrastructure that has come with – Abu Dhabi is now considered the worldwide capital of Jiu-Jitsu and is positioned as a global hub for the sport. Jiu-Jitsu is also now the UAE’s national sport.

With the help of Abu Dhabi Education Council, Abu Dhabi Sports Council, and the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation, Jiu-Jitsu is now part of the curriculum in more than 150 government schools (benefiting more than 100,000 boys and girls). There are more than 20 official Jiu-Jitsu centers under the supervision of the UAEJJF and over 600 Brazilian coaches that run these in the UAE.

The UAE National team

While the UAE has an exceptional amount of individual talent, its teams have also been steadily conquering the world of Jiu Jitsu. The UAE National Team has now made it a standard to bring home numerous gold medals from championships around the world, inspiring yet more national pride that only serves to further fuel the passion for the sport and the life lessons and philosophies it helps to instill in the UAE’s society. In 2017, the UAE Jiu-Jitsu U-15 team took home 18 medals from the U-15 World Cup in Montenegro – 8 of which were gold, while in 2016, their 27-athlete delegation claimed 24 medals at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam World Tour in Rio de Janeiro, of which 15 were gold and 4 were silver. At the first Asian Jiu Jitsu Championships in Turkmenistan in 2016, the UAE National Team claimed 8 medals – 3 golds, 3 silvers, and 2 bronzes – while most recently, they brought home a whopping 67 medals – including 23 gold – from the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam London.

Celebrating a Bronze Jubilee

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship, which is now recognized as the largest and most prestigious of its kind from around the world. This year’s championship will take place from April 16th to 28th at Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Arena, and will welcome top athletes in the sport from all over the world. This year’s competition will be more than just a celebration of the very best in the sport itself, but a celebration of its unique relationship with the UAE – and indeed, the national pride that has become so closely interlinked with it. If you aren’t already clued in on what Jiu-Jitsu’s all about, it’s time to get involved.

Those interested in signing up for the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship can do so online before the 10 of April on UAE EVENT
Follow the latest news and updates on players on the Abu Dhabi Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship app UAEJJF, now available on iOS and Android.


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