Cecil Burch is spot-on here.
I recommend Capital MMA in the DC Area for my local readers.
I highly recommend signing up for Cecil’s newsletter and his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for Dummies book.
I have written in previous posts how we have so much to train for when we take a realistic appraisal of what is needed to truly be prepared in a self-defense scenario.
We have a lot to cover and we all struggle with finding the time to fit it all in as efficient a manner as we can. It is a daily effort.
Unfortunately, life often gets in the way of all our plans. For example, recently, I had a family medical situation occur that caused me to have to put most outside things on hold for six weeks to help take care of someone. My regular training plans were massively disrupted because overnight, I literally went to almost no free time. Trying to fit in all the usual items was not possible and I had to look to compromise. I had to get as much in of all the needed skill sets as possible in the limited time I had. What did I do? I focused almost entirely on Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.
Why did I make that choice? For one, I actively teach it both in traveling seminars as well as multiple times a week and therefore need to stay on top of my game. However, even if I retired from teaching tomorrow, I would have made the same decision.
The most obvious initial answer is that it works as a method of defense against attackers. That is a well proven statement that is only argued by those with an agenda that has nothing to do with truth, or who are blinded by their own prejudices. If I find myself on the ground against an attacker or attackers, nothing prepares me with the essential actions like BJJ does. What a lot of people miss is that it also prepares me if I am still standing but entangled with an opponent. Many fighting authorities talk about the need to stay on your feet and not get taken to the ground. One of the best ways to ensure that can be accomplished is to be able to negotiate the entanglement through proper head, elbow, hip and foot position, good hand control, and keeping the level of your hips below your opponent. Not only can you practice those things standing, you can do a lot of the work horizontally on the ground and it transfers to the vertical plane. More added value while doing BJJ!
The next reason was that it is one of the finest ways of training your fitness to fight. Want to know that you can engage in combat on the street against someone for an extended time (because we do not know how long the attack will go on – seconds, minutes, hours, who knows?)? Well then, fight someone for long rounds on the mat. If you can do that in the training environment, then you most likely have a good chance to do so when you need to protect yourself. Your cardio will stay at a combative level, and all that hands on work against another resisting partner (who often times may outweigh you by 50 or more pounds) will give you some functional strength work as well. What about mobility? Train jiu-jitsu for an hour or two and your joints and spine and hips will move as much as a dedicated mobility/flexibility workout.
BJJ also gives me a sporting outlet if I so choose. Rather than being an armchair quarterback, I prefer to be under stress and active. Even into middle age I like to keep my game as sharp as possible and nothing does that better than competing against an unknown opponent who has the same skill set as you. And competing in front of an audience or on an internet broadcast pay-per-view, or on a DVD gets you used to pressure. It is not exactly the same as a life or death struggle, but if you can’t perform in a non-threatening pressure situation, how are you ever going to know for sure you can perform when your life is on the line?
And another reason is that if you are fortunate to find the right BJJ School, you will have a social support circle unmatched anywhere else. There is something powerful in the bond you develop with your teammates that arises out of the shared effort of trying to make the other person tap time after time, and the ego crushing that comes from it. We all win, and we all lose, and in that understanding comes a new family. That is not something I ever found in a typical fitness gym, nor is it something I have ever experienced on a shooting range, outside of Craig Douglas’ ECQC course, which has more in common with a BJJ class than most typical handgun coursework.
And finally, it is the best stress relief I have ever found. When you are in the middle of a round of “rolling” (i.e. sparring), the only way to survive is to focus 100% on what is happening at that moment. Everything else in my life – job problems, financial issues, personal issues – has to be left outside when you step on the mat. It is like a perfect moving Zen meditation. The only thoughts are totally in the “now”.
Watch this match between two of the best super-heavyweights in the world. Notice how there is so much movement and energy and, yes, art, all happening at one time:
So, for all these reasons, I feel like BJJ is the single best bang for the buck activity you can do to become a better person, as well as a safer one. This is not to say that it is an excuse not to do other types of training, but if you find yourself in a place where you have limited time, look to BJJ for the best bang for the buck.