benefits of mma

(Ben Green)

Whether or not you have actually watched a televised MMA fight, I feel confident that those who have even heard the colloquial term “cage fighting” perceive it to be a pretty bloody and violent sport. I completely understand why you wouldn’t necessarily want to watch two people reshaping each other’s faces, much less become a participant, but I think the one thing that we can at least all agree on is that fighters are in excellent shape, more so than just about any other athlete.

“If only there was a way to train like a fighter without actually having to fight people,” I can hear some of you say. “I wish I had abs with which to wash my clothes on and hang them to dry over my boulder-shoulders.” Well, you are in luck because this article is about to give you some words of encouragement.  

A major component of MMA is jiu jitsu (oftentimes referred to as Brazilian jiu jitsu or BJJ) which has experienced a surge in popularity over the years with new gyms opening all across the world. There are no punches thrown in the sport, and it is something that people of all ages can get into at any time. It’s basically submission wrestling, and a lot of gyms and tournaments allow children as young as five years old to get involved in the fun.

Jiu jitsu is human chess. You always have to anticipate your opponent’s next move and be thinking of how to react accordingly. It teaches you how to remain calm under intense situations and evaluate whether or not you’re actually in danger or just in an uncomfortable position, and how to effectively escape the situation.

“My single most favorite thing is that I can always learn new things. Closely following that is that it really does require you to think and plan ahead,” said Tim Allen, a computer programming major at Lane Community College. To him, one of the biggest surprises since starting jiu jitsu has been how much it has helped him get his life under control. “It really has helped me in all aspects of my life and I wouldn’t be the same without it,” he said.

A lot of people I have talked to over the years about MMA-related training expressed concerns that they’re going to get beat up on the first day or that they feel the need to “get in better shape first” before trying it out.

The first concern I feel is the most important one. You will never get hit with a kick or a punch if you simply choose not to. Nobody is ever forced to fight at any time, especially on the first day. Gyms won’t even let newcomers do any type of potentially harmful physical contact until a few months in, and that decision is largely contingent on the person’s physical ability and overall goals.

“Honestly my favorite thing, and the thing that surprised me the most has to be the BJJ community. Going in I had my prejudices towards martial arts in general… but I was so very wrong. Everyone is incredibly friendly, respectful, and patient and it’s a very welcoming environment as well,” said David Huckaby, a student at the University of Oregon focusing on social science and criminal justice. “I would recommend jiu jitsu to anyone who is getting burned out on their normal workout routines.”

The second concern about not already being in good enough shape is one that will never subside unless you actually step foot in an actual gym and try it out for yourself. A swimmer gets in shape by swimming just as basketball players get in shape by playing basketball. A boxer who is able to fight for twelve rounds will be out of breath in three minutes if he gets taken to the ground, just like someone who only trains jiu jitsu will be out of breath during the first round of a boxing match. An athlete gets in shape for their respective sport by mostly training in that sport.

“I would recommend it to people who like a challenge and are looking to try something different to stay fit or learn a new skill,” said Sophie Lang, a physics major at the University of Oregon who trains at Art of War MMA in downtown Eugene. “I was a bit hesitant to try jiu jitsu on account of how close and personal it is and the idea of having to grapple with new people intimidated me. I was surprised at how supportive and helpful everyone is at Art of War. Coming in as a completely inexperienced and timid individual, I appreciated the coaches’ ability to recognize where I was at as a student and break everything down.”

If you’re tired of the monotonous gym routines or looking for a confidence booster by learning how to adequately defend yourself, then it will be worth your while to pay a visit to an MMA or sport jiu jitsu gym. The results will almost certainly surprise you.

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