Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art and combat sport that focuses on grappling and ground fighting with the goal of gaining a dominant position and using joint-locks and chokeholds to force an opponent to submit or give up.
BJJ encourages free sparring against a live, resisting opponent (also know as “rolling”). Practitioners therefore have the opportunity to test and develop their skills under realistic conditions, while minimizing the risk of injury.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu emphasizes ground fighting techniques and submission holds involving joint-locks and chokeholds also found in numerous other arts with or without ground fighting emphasis. The premise is that most of the advantage of a larger, stronger opponent comes from superior reach and more powerful strikes, both of which are somewhat negated when grappling on the ground.
BJJ permits a wide variety of techniques to take the fight to the ground after taking hold of your opponent. Once the opponent is on the ground, a number of maneuvers (and counter-maneuvers) are available to manipulate the opponent into a suitable position for the application of a submission technique. Achieving a dominant position on the ground is one of the hallmarks of BJJ, and includes effectively manipulating one’s body to defend from bottom position then moving into a dominate position from top. This system of maneuvering and manipulation can be likened to a form of kinetic chess when utilized by two experienced practitioners. The submission hold is the equivalent of checkmate.
The majority of submission holds can be grouped into two broad categories: joint locks and chokeholds. Joint locks typically involve isolating an opponent’s limb and creating a lever with the body position which will force the joint to move past its normal range of motion, generally referred to as hyperextension. Pressure is increased in a controlled manner and released if the opponent cannot escape the hold and signals defeat by submitting. Opponents can indicate submission verbally or they can tap out (i.e. tap the opponent, the mat, or even themselves, several times, with a free hand). A choke hold, disrupting the blood supply to the brain, can cause unconsciousness if the opponent does not submit soon enough. A less common type of submission hold is a compression, where the muscle of an opponent is compressed against a hard, large bone (commonly, the shin or wrist), which causes significant discomfort to the opponent. This type of lock often also hyper-extends the joint in the opposite direction. Chokes are a common form of submission. Chokes typically involve constriction of the carotid artery. This type of choke cuts the flow of blood to the opponent’s brain, which causes a rapid loss of consciousness without damaging any internal structures. Being “choked-out” in this way is relatively safe so long as the choke is released soon enough after unconsciousness. However, it should not be practiced unsupervised.
Training methods include technique drills in which techniques are practiced against a non-resisting partner; isolation sparring where only a certain technique or sets of techniques are used against full resistance; and full sparring in which each opponent tries to submit their opponent using any permitted technique. Physical and cardiovascular conditioning is also an important part of training, as BJJ is a physically demanding sport.