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Why You Won't Get in Shape Before Starting BJJ
One of the most common things people say when you ask them to come try their first BJJ class, is "I'm not in shape. I need to get into better shape before I try my first jiu jitsu class." Whether they are truly out of shape doesn't really matter, what does matter is why is this such a common "reason" for someone to delay their first class and how do we overcome it or help others to overcome it? Let's figure out how to put this excuse to bed for good.
What does "getting in shape" even mean? Does it mean losing weight? Increasing strength? Building muscle? Improving cardio? Or a mix of all of them? Whatever it means for the specific person and whether it is true or not, how likely do you think it is that the person is going to put together a plan and act upon it? Not very likely. This excuse for not trying BJJ creates a hazy, indefinite buffer between them and the mats. For whatever reason, they feel self conscious and know that this excuse will buy them enough time that you will hopefully forget that you even asked. Let's look at a few ways you might overcome this excuse. Because putting this hurdle in front of actually training BJJ, if that truly is our goal, is a waste of time and diverts our progress in a less than satisfying way.
Workouts are just workouts
If you are truly looking to get into better shape, there are literally hundreds of ways to achieve that goal, from fitness classes, body weight exercises, cardio machines, weight training, etc. Each of these will make you feel better and improve your health, but at the end of the day what is the overall purpose of these workouts. Their benefit is somewhat singular as great as the benefit is. Workouts are just workouts.
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BJJ will kill multiple birds with one roll
BJJ on the other hand can serve the same purpose as these workouts. Training jiu jitsu can involve elements of cardio training, strength training and also flexibility. The practice of the martial creates the need for you to learn how to maximize all of these elements and properly manage them using both your intellect and your physicality together in unison.
BJJ training will teach you self defense principles. There are few other workouts that will give you the skills that jiu jitsu offers. So while you're improving your strength, cardio and flexibility, you are also building potentially life saving skills.
BJJ is an art built on efficiency, learning to utilize leverage to overcome strength and power. This sense of efficiency also shows itself in how multi-faceted the positive benefits are. In a typical 60-90 minute BJJ class, you will find your cardio taxed, your muscles stretched and fatigued and plenty of calories burned. The positive benefit per minute ratio for BJJ far exceeds the average workout program.
BJJ will take you outside your comfort level
One of the most important, but perhaps least discussed benefits of jiu jitsu to share with your friend who is stalling with the "get in shape" excuse, is the fact that BJJ has a very unique way of always pulling you out from under your current comfort levels.
From the outset of the class warm up, to learning a new technique that perhaps you've never done, all the way to live training at the end of the class--even the most mundane class will find ways to test you, challenge you, perhaps even break you, but in the end you will walk out into the parking lot stronger both physically and mentally than when you arrived.
There is something both humbling and empowering knowing that you can tap or be tapped multiple times during a class. When you spend your spare time with a group of friends agreeing to try to choke and break limbs, what can the rest of your day do to you to stress you out? Your hobby is playing a game with potentially deadly techniques. Think about that. Let that sink it. Your comfort level will begin to grow exponentially.
So should you or your friend delay starting BJJ until you are in better shape? Absolutely not. You will get in shape by stepping on the mats, when you combine your training with a sensible diet. In addition to all of the benefits you will get from the "exercise" portion of training BJJ, from improved flexibility, strength, and endurance, you will also gain immense confidence by better understanding self defense principals that could potentially save your life.
"Getting in shape" can be a fairly long endeavor depending on your starting point. Why not kill multiple birds and start training BJJ right away. By stepping on the mats, you will begin moving towards that goal without really having to think about it. In a one hour class, you will improve your fitness, move towards your weight loss goals, gain confidence, learn self defense and build friendships that will potentially last you a lifetime.
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