BJJ Class; What an Experience!

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
27 Feb 2010


I’ve been learning a new martial art lately that I’ve alluded to at times – Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). Our association has adopted jiu-jitsu training as part of our curriculum so even though I don’t need it (as I’ve already attained rank), I decided to widen my martial arts horizons.


In this post I’ll discuss how jiu jitsu relates historically to the kenpo that I practice and some background on what grappling is today. I’m going to have some fun because I have always been one of those guys that does not like ground fighting. I mean when I wrestled in school – boy was that a lot of work compared to striking. Here is an overview video of BJJ.



The Gracie’s have done a lot to promote BJJ, their own version of jiu-jitsu from Japan. Jiu-jitsu in Japan has historically been a combination of fighting arts and family favorites such as choking, locks, flips, striking and some weapons. BJJ was derived from Judo/Jiu-Jitsu and soon seemed to overtake its parent arts as well as most other martial arts. The Gracie’s fought many styles of martial arts to promote BJJ and did well. Here is a look at the end of UFC 1.

The rest is history as BJJ became a widely known and well respected marital art after that point. In this post about the history of kenpo, I traced how kenpo/kempo I study traveled from China, Okinawa, Japan, Hawaii, and the United States (and beyond).  In Japan, kenpo and  jiu-jitsu were intertwined but as kenpo migrated, much of the grappling was minimized to a few techniques. So it seems re-integrating the grappling into kenpo is the natrual order of things and why our organization supports this view.

As I mentioned, I am going to have a bit of fun here and take the devils advocate. When I started taking karate lessons I did not want to learn wrestling; I did that in school! Plus only people who did not know how to fight (punching and kicking in my estimation used to be fighting) resorted to just wrestling! Hmmm… I’d bet I am going to get a few comments about this.

I mean in my experence fighting (as a bouncer for 2 years – 1978 & 1979), I only ended up wrestling one guy – a friend that my manager made me kick out of the bar – we started to come to blows but transitioned to wrestling because we did not want to hurt each other. I’ve fought boxers, karate guys, wrestlers, and plenty of pissed off bigger guys that wanted to take my head off. Never did I have to resort to wrestling to win the fight.

So what about the myth that most fights will end up on the ground? In my case of about 100 fights – that is a myth! Whew! I got all of that out of my system. Switching back from the devils advocate to reality mode.

I would bet that I did not ever fight a good jiu jitsu fighter when I was a bouncer. I don’t think there was much of BJJ around back then – at least I did not know of it so for me to seemingly mock ground fighting above seems sort-sighted to say the least. One thing I’ve learned over the years is just because one might not have run into something before does not mean it does not exist or a method of attack could not happen to you!

So what do I think today? After watching a lot of MMA lately and having taken about five BJJ classes – I am coming to believe that I want to know how to fight on the ground incase I ever end up on the ground in a real fight!

That brings me to the “What an Experience” comment in the title. As I mentioned I used to wrestle. In wrestling you use moves designed to get the other guy pinned on the ground. In wrestling I did not have to worry where my arms or legs were. If I was on bottom in wrestling, I was in trouble.

In BJJ I have to think about how not give away limbs for locks while I am trying to jockey for position. I know little yet but I still have a bit of wrestling in me… I just have to watch out as I am moving around because I can get choked, or locked and if fighting someone good – it will seem to be one attack and then transition into something else while I am defending against the prior attack!

One thing is clear – BJJ is going to take a lot of practice and to that end I have bought a mat for my garage. My buddy Mark and I are going to start practicing the moves in between classes so we can get more out of the lessons.

I hope you have enjoyed my look at BJJ and my take on ground fighting. Know that now I have the highest respect for grapplers and please let me know if you have any insight that will help me while I am studying BJJ!

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16 Responses to “BJJ Class; What an Experience!”

  1. Martial Arts News 2.28.10 « Striking Thoughts Says:

    […] Zimmer gives jujitsu a try! Our association has adopted jiu-jitsu training as part of our curriculum so even though I […]

  2. TheMartialArtsReporter Says:

    Hey John,
    Great post. Appreciate that you share your BJJ experience.
    I think it’s great to widen one’s horizon and to “empty
    one’s cup” on a regular basis.
    Kudos, my friend.
    .-= TheMartialArtsReporter´s last blog ..Last Week In Review February 2010 At =-.

  3. Matt Klein Says:

    Love the video with Royler and Helio Gracie. Think my next trip will be to Rio! Believe that the key to success in ground fighting is to continually spar on the ground. For every attack there is a defense, and the more attacks you know, the better you will be able to defend. Our 2nd degree Black Belt gradings include 3 rounds on the ground.

  4. slideyfoot Says:

    As you asked for advice, I’ve got a long list for those starting out in my BJJ Beginner FAQ.

    Also interesting that you found that the ground didn’t crop up much when you were a bouncer: Geoff Thompson appears to have had a similar experience during his ten years on the door.

  5. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Thanks Tiger – it is a lot of work but I’m still in the game. :)

    Hi Matt, That should be a fun trip! I think our organization is heading that way too. Just getting some of the old salts up to speed now.

    Cool Sidney – thanks for the link – I’ll check it out. I’ve started reading your blog and it good to see your perspective.

  6. slideyfoot Says:

    Heh – Sidney. That’s one I haven’t been called before. :)

  7. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Sorry Can… I just took a look at your name (I extrapulated)… reading too fast… I guess your last name is not Foot! :)

  8. slideyfoot Says:

    No worries, made me laugh. I’m used to people doing all kinds of crazy things with my real name (I’ve had people call me Khan, Jan, June, even Ian), but Sidney was an entirely new one to me. 😛

  9. Pat Says:

    The Gracie family has been a good group to work with. They are very patient, helpful and have the technique to get the job done. I have trained in Jui Jitsu since 1991 and it sure is a lot of fun. Helio sure had it even in his later years. Nice post.

  10. Austin Self-defense Says:

    That was a nice video of Helio and Royler Gracie. I was on a trip in Hawaii in 1991 and met a guy that told me about a Jiu Jitsu class at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, so I with him. The first time I saw Relson, he walked into the big room we were at with a big branch of Bananas, tossed it on the floor, and began hugging and greeting everyone – he is a great guy.
    He invited me to his home (full of Surfboards) and he showed me some videos of fights in Brazil (later became the “Gracie in Action” tapes, and – – WOW! I was hooked!

    To save on plane tickets, I began going to Carson Street in Los Angeles met the other brothers. Rorian told me to go to Colorado and watch Royce fight – I went – and there I was at UFC 1.

  11. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hey Austin Self-defense! Thanks for sharing your experiences with the Gracie’s. I’ve not had the pleasure but I really like how they apply themselves to their art!

  12. SenseiMattKlein Says:

    Your comment got me thinking, Austin Self-defense. I have been to Rio, Brazil and loved it, Would like to go again, but this time maybe train a bit with the Gracies’, Machados’, or other group. Do you or any of John’s readers have any experiences there? Our organization in Sydney is starting to incorporate a lot more grappling and mma style techniques into our program.

    Your comments John about jockeying for position ring true with me. Position is key, and it is really a chess game on the mat. Love it!
    SenseiMattKlein recently posted..Teaching Children Martial Arts- My Guest Post at Martial DevelopmentMy Profile

  13. Ian Says:

    Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is one of the craze today and I want to learn it too… I have heard so much about it and maybe someday I will enroll a class just to learn the techniques. It is always good to train not just to fight in a competition but for self defense as well. Self protection should be the concern of everybody and self defense is something we should practice in order to avoid violence.
    Ian recently posted..3 Reasons Everyone Should Learn Self DefenseMy Profile

  14. Greg Says:

    Great Site and great article. I have been training BJJ for about 3 years and it has worked wonders for my confidence and fears, both on and off the mat. It also puts you in great shape.
    Greg recently posted..NLP Technique To Deal With A Grappling Tournament LossMy Profile

  15. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Ian, Hope you are able to take a class… not that I have taken a few – I have way more respect for MMA guys rolling around the mat instead of “fighting”… it is not as easy as it looks. :)

    Hi Greg, I remember back wrestling in school… everyday I was sore but boy did that get me strong. I have the utmost respect for ground fighters. You cannot simply hang back out of the striking distance to catch your breath.

    Thanks for stopping by guys.

  16. San Jose Jiu Jitsu Says:

    I have been taking Jiu Jitsu for a while now all over California and one of the best places I have trained at was Institute of Martial Arts San Jose Jiu Jitsu program. Caio Terra is one of the best Jiuu Jitsu Instructors in the world and his other instructors are both high level black belts. If you are in the Bay Are of California you should definitely try it out they give you a free week trial. Jiu JItsu will change your life.