Shrimping-Out of Life: Benefits of Rolling within Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

By: Carlos Soto
October 23, 2017

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Anyone with young children knows that sleeping the night is often a luxury. Either a four-year old comes tumbling into bed at three am, or a seven-year-old has a nightmare and you need to calm him down and put him back to bed. Before I started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I used to be able to go right back to sleep rather quickly. As of late, however, I find I have the energy to work better the next day no matter how little sleep I get. Having been involved in Jiu-Jitsu now for about six months has left me with more energy than I have ever had and I find myself sleeping more peacefully.

The second I have a quiet moment away from work and family and life, I also find my mind gravitating to the sport-the moves I recently practiced, failed attempts to complete moves while rolling or grappling, a laundry list of items to remember such as grips, leg positioning, elbow placements, head placements. And then it hits you like a train, what if I start to combine these two moves to cloak my intended submission or sweep? They tell you when you start Jiu-Jitsu that the evolution of these thought processes is normal- everyone goes through a version of this. And what I am finding is that this focus on such an intricate activity drives my overall ability to focus in other events.

In analyzing my desire to understand BJJ, I uncovered that a lot of this is exacerbated by a curiosity around the physics of rolling. This sport is about the careful and delicate balance of weight and pressure appropriately placed or absorbed to achieve a desired effect. And nothing captures the process better than seeing advanced levels roll, or spar.

Before describing the advanced levels it’s important to note that although six months may sound like a long time to be active in a sport, for BJJ I am still in my infancy. Unlike many martial arts where within three to five years you can be classified as a higher-belt, it’s common to still be intermediate at this sport after that same tenure.

As writer and BJJ enthusiast Frank Curreri  explains during his informative Ted Talk , the belt system within BJJ seems straightforward but when mixed with the level of complexity of the art, this causes long periods of time to go by before one can advance within its practice. Less colorful than in other martial arts, adults are classified as white, blue, purple, brown or black belts. As you pass from one belt to another you generally receive a stripe for a duration of tenure and at the end of four stripes you may test for the next belt. As a result of this rigor, the art’s complexity, and the degree of seemingly mundane amount of technical data that one must memorize and invoke within a sparring session, failing to achieve a belt promotion is a common phenomenon.

Mastering Physics

Sitting through an advanced class at a reputable academy illustrates this point perfectly. The first time I did so, I expected these juggernauts of the mat to start with explosive actions and strong movements. Instead it’s a calm ascent with periods of long plateaus between aggressive climbs. Between long pauses and breaks, discussions fill the room. Sounds describing the specific techniques pepper the room silenced only by the arresting strike of feet and hands on the mat from an occasional neighbor exploding to seek a submission or a better position.

In the distance of my first advanced class I saw our head instructor, Lucas Lepri, rolling against two opponents who were alternating sessions with him. Lepri continued straight without a break for over 30 minutes and these sessions expressed a tempo and gentle technique that clearly separated them from the others within the room.

Lepri won each match without a break and by achieving submissions with every opponent he faced. It was a lesson on the physical pressure and the conservation of energy that makes advanced, BJJ practitioners masters of physics. And

inspires other like me tucking-in kids at three in the morning to wake up early and get back on the mat.

Shrimping Out of Life is a blog by Carlos A. Soto as he attempts to survive Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu while attending the Lepri BJJ premiere Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training center in the Charlotte metro area- a member of one of the most dominant teams in the history of the sport, Alliance Association Jiu Jitsu.