Looks like I'm going out this year with an almighty bang, if by bang I mean, you know, signing up to get a total butt kicking at a martial arts academy!! Well I'm never one to shy from a challenge, so here I come Tsar Fight Club for your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class.
If you're not already across it, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or BJJ as it is commonly known, is a martial art, combat sport, and a self-defense system that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting.
According to Tsar Fight Club, BJJ is a martial arts discipline that was initially formed as a break away from Judo. Now seen as a martial art in it's own right, BJJ is now also a sport, a method of training physical fitness and a building character in young people.
So it basically goes like this, you and your opponent may start standing up or on the ground and the idea is that through a series of grappling, submission and choke holds, joint locks and swift movements you can defend yourself and/or overpower them. I'm just going to say straight out, it is a VERY close contact sport. In fact, I spent the first half of the class just getting my head around the intimacy of the positions. But I quickly got over it though when I realised that a) nobody else cared and b) my competitive instinct kicked in.
I should probably state right now that I'm most likely about to use a bunch of incorrect terms to describe what we did during the session. But seriously I was shown so many things, by the end of the class my adrenaline was pumping and my head was buzzing. Here goes, I'll try and do it all justice!
Tonight's BJJ class was a tight knit bunch of men and women, of all ages, who welcomed me with open arms. Seeing as I was a bundle of nervous energy, having them all be so nice was a welcome relief...I mean how bad can it get?
We started with a warm up that involved forward rolls and cartwheels (I was in my element), even though trying to do them in the heavy gi was proving to be somewhat less graceful than normal. We then partnered up and did this drill that consisted of picking each other up as well as doing sit ups with our legs wrapped around our partners' waist, Now I'm all for picking other people up, it's kinda my thing after many years as a cheerleader throwing smaller people around. But this time someone had to PICK ME UP...whoa I was definitely not in my element now! Bravo to the very accomodating Ryan who managed to not once, not twice but repeatedly pick me up and make it look so easy.
We moved on to practicing some defence holds on each other, and as the numbers were uneven I elected to rove around the class, when two of the girls pulled me in to their group and let me try. That was very cool. Then Steph walked in and the numbers were even...and I had a partner...yay! Oh and did I mention she's a hugger, we hit it off immediately! Steph took me through the drills and showed me lots of other tips and techniques.
By the time we got to the next section of the class I was feeling a bit more confident...emphasis on 'a bit'. Because it was now time to run some drills, basically you just jump in with who ever is free and you fight until one of you submits. Gender and size are not a factor...you just get in there and grapple. This just got a new level of intimidating. Of course all my male and female opponents were so helpful and showed me different holds that I could use on them. It was exhilarating!
At this point in the class, I was so sweaty but I was used to the feeling of the gi. My whole body was burning and I was pretty sure I'd be sporting some gnarly bruises tomorrow. But my competitive nature was craving a win, so I was eager to learn more and more.
We wrapped the class by learning some take downs, which is how you get from standing up to the floor. That was fun! I'm reeling from all the new terminology like...side control, full mount, arm locks (which you MUST tap out of coz they are full on, see pic), closed guard, half guard, open guard...and so much more!
But more than the words, I'm leaving with a really profound respect for the strategy of BJJ, it's a clever sport and one that requires you to not only know your strengths but to find out your opponent's weakness...very quickly! More importantly though as a woman, knowing even just some elements of BJJ could make a very big difference in a real life situation where an attacker has you on the ground.
I was even more impressed with how the students all understand this. They have a deep knowledge of technique and are happy to share that information with a newbie like me. What a crew! I can see why they all stayed around after class chatting and joking with one another, I spoke with co-owner Lorenzo Nigli and he reiterated just how important it is for them to foster great connections with their students and even though the nature of the sports they teach are fairly hard and intimidating, their members are certainly far from it.
Want to know if you can Find Your Fit with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
Here's my five speedy takeaways from my time at Tsar Fight Club...
1. The uniform, called a gi, takes a little getting used to. It's heavy and the fabric is thick, which makes sense when you're grappling around on the floor. But prepare to sweat bullets in it and feel like you're wearing armour. Training sessions at Tsar Fight Club involved sessions with and without gi's.
2. Size doesn't matter! The beauty of this sport is that it promotes that any stature is able to defend themselves by using leverage and good technique. This was evident when I swiftly had my ass handed to me by an ridiculously talented 14 year old girl, Abbey, who was probably half my size!!
3. The nature of BJJ focuses on close up grappling and in particular, ground fighting. If you're not comfortable with people invading your personal space, than this may not be for you!
4. Expect to push through some mental barriers, both in your fitness ability and in your strategic thinking. BJJ is kind of like chess. You need to be thinking one move ahead while preparing for something all together different to occur.
5. For a sport that involves physically overpowering your opponent, this was actually the friendliest group of participants I have met. Everyone greeted me warmly, introduced themselves and taught me a technique and move.
Check out all the classes on offer at Tsar Fight Club by visiting their website and take advantage of their FREE 7 day pass.
Oh and check out their Instagram and Facebook pages too for lots of action shots of the Tsar Fight Club community in action.