Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
What It Is: Most martial arts can be broken down into two categories, ‘striking’ (where you hit people) and ‘grappling’ (where you throw them around). Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (or BJJ) is a grappling martial art that was developed around the idea that a smaller, weaker person can defend themselves against a larger opponent through the successful application of grappling techniques that will allow them to get their opponent to the ground and, once there, defeat them by using joint locks, chokeholds, and other submission techniques. However, training for BJJ won’t just teach you these techniques – it’s also an incredibly effective way to do both cardio and resistance training, as well as develop your strength, endurance, and flexibility.
What I Thought: If you’re looking for a ‘drop in/drop out’ kind of activity, BJJ is not for you. It’s an incredibly technical martial art and is probably better suited to people who want to learn a skill more than it is to people who just want a work out. Having said that, getting to understand how all these different grapples and submissions work and how they all interact with each other is incredibly satisfying when it starts to click. Also, if you’re learning martial arts with the eventual goal of training for MMA in mind, it’s worth remembering that BJJ is one of the most popular disciplines in MMA and at least a passing knowledge of how BJJ works will be required for you to perform well.
What It Is: A ‘striking’ discipline, Muay Thai is known in its native Thailand as ‘The Art Of The Eight Limbs’ because it is characterised by its use of the fists, elbows, knees, and shins. It’s grown in popularity in the West since it’s been used to great success within the UFC and can now be practiced as a part of MMA training or as a martial art in its own right. Much like BJJ, training for Muay Thai is a great way to work on your cardiovascular conditioning, but it’s also a brilliant way to train your leg and core strength, as well as increase your hip mobility.
What I Thought: By far the most enjoyable of the three combat sports I tried out, Muay Thai training was exciting, engaging, and challenging. I’ve never done any ‘striking’ training before but found this surprisingly accessible, although my lack of experience meant that I was paired with a 15 year old for the sparing section of one of the sessions I attended, who proceeded to knee me in the chest far harder than I was expecting. Also, the shorts are dope and I really want a pair.
What It Is: Even if you’ve never watched a combat sport in your life, you know what MMA is by now. Combining both grappling and striking, MMA (or Mixed Martial Arts) brings together fighters who have trained in a variety of disciplines to combine those techniques in a match.
What I Thought: This isn’t for beginners and we were genuinely foolish to approach this like it was. MMA combines the speed and ferocity of a striking sport with all the technical difficulty of a grappling sport, meaning it’s only really appropriate for people who already have a grounding in at least one of the two. The training was intense, difficult, and honestly pretty intimidating. Having said that, if you do know how to handle yourself, this is amazing training for keeping yourself in shape and pushing your martial arts ability to the next level.
Thank you to London Fight Factory for the training. If you’re looking to take up any of these combat sports and need a place to start, their beginners classes are perfect no matter your age, skill, or gender.