By Coach Joanna, World and European jiu-jitsu champion and Roger Gracie black belt
People are drawn to martial arts for all sorts of reasons. Maybe they want to learn to defend themselves, gain some confidence, or just get fit. But often they are put off because they worry that classes may be intimidating. This is particularly the case for women. But I would encourage them to try, because the benefits go far beyond anything you might imagine.
I got into martial arts just because I thought it looked cool and I wanted to be able to defend myself. I was a big Jean-Claude Van Damme fan and I started trying loads of different things like kickboxing, aikido, judo, Thai boxing and wrestling. I wanted to try all styles to make sure I wasn’t missing out.
When I start started Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) I really fell in love.
It just fitted with everything I was looking for in a martial art. It was great for allowing my competitive side to come out, and I immediately signed up for tournaments, winning my first one after I’d only been training for two months.
I started young, but because I have, that doesn’t mean you have to, I have students of all ages.
Competing is only one aspect of BJJ. I have been teaching for years now and seeing the transformation in the lives of my students is far more rewarding than any trophy. Some women come to train because they have been abused, or have felt physically threatened. Training gives them the confidence that they know what to do in a confrontation. But it also gives them an inner strength as they start discovering what they can do, rather than what they can’t.
A lot of women have told me that they didn’t think they would have enough physical strength todo martial arts. So this is my biggest point when teaching females, how to tackle someone much bigger and physically stronger.
This really is the core of jiu-jitsu, using technique to overcome brute force.
Jiu-jitsu has this amazing way of strengthening your ability to deal with difficulties you encounter in other areas. I have students who have suffered from severe anxiety, others who have had problems with alcohol and a whole host of other issues.
Many times I have seen how focusing on training gives people the power to fight for the things they care about and stay away from these problem areas.
But aside from that, jiu-jitsu is just so fun. Yes it is a martial art, but the reason people keep coming back is how fun the classes are and how good you feel afterwards. As for being intimidating, it’s not really the case. Jiu-jitsu clubs can be one of the most welcoming places you can imagine. Most of them will cater for different groups – from absolute beginners to advanced, with separate classes just for females. So whatever age you are, or whatever size or shape, you should give it a go. Whatever your reasons for choosing jiu-jitsu, the ways it can improve your life are endless.
Joanna teaches at the Roger Gracie Academy and Elevate Martial Arts and Strength. She was talking to Richard Holt. Photo by @maggieleft