Skip to content

What is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)? An Overview Guide (2023)

Did you know that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is not just a martial art but also a way of life? It’s a fascinating hobby that combines physical fitness, mental discipline, and strategic thinking. A great way to pass time when you’re bored, too!

Whether you’re looking to learn self-defense techniques, compete in tournaments, looking for a new hobby, or simply stay active, BJJ has something to offer for everyone.

What is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? A beginner's guide to Tae Bo, 2 people in martial arts uniforms grappling on the ground

What is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Originating in Brazil in the early 20th century, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was developed by the Gracie family as a modified version of traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. It focuses on ground fighting and submission holds, making it an effective martial art for self-defense.

Over the years, BJJ has evolved and gained popularity worldwide. It has become a staple in mixed martial arts (MMA) competitions and is practiced by people of all ages and fitness levels.

Today, BJJ has a thriving community with dedicated academies, regular tournaments, and a rich history that continues to shape its techniques and strategies.

Two men mastering the basics of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in a gym

Equipment Needed

Embarking on your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu journey is an exciting venture, and having the right equipment can significantly enhance your experience.

Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned practitioner, here are the essential items you’ll need to fully enjoy your training sessions:


A Gi is a traditional martial arts uniform that is a staple in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training. It consists of a jacket and pants, crafted from durable fabric capable of withstanding the rigors of training.

The Gi not only serves as attire but also plays a vital role in technique execution and defense.


Safety should always be a priority when engaging in any martial art. A mouthguard is a crucial piece of equipment that helps protect your teeth and jaw during intense sparring sessions.

It’s a small investment that can prevent potential injuries and ensure a smoother learning journey.

A woman in a blue jiu jitsu uniform is practicing a kata following the Beginner's Guide to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Protective Gear

While not mandatory, incorporating protective gear into your training regimen is highly recommended.

This category includes knee pads to cushion your knees during groundwork, elbow pads to protect your joints, and a groin protector to prevent serious injuries.

These items provide an extra layer of safety, allowing you to train with confidence.

Additional Accessories

To enhance your comfort and performance during training, you might consider investing in a few additional accessories.

These include rash guards, which help to prevent skin irritation and infections; grappling shorts, which offer comfort and flexibility; and finger tape to support your fingers and prevent injuries.

While these accessories are not mandatory, they can certainly elevate your training experience.

Budget Considerations

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can be enjoyed by individuals with varying budgets. When it comes to acquiring equipment, there are options available for every price range.

You can find affordable BJJ equipment online or at local sports stores that cater to martial arts enthusiasts.

Remember, the most important factor is to choose equipment that suits your needs and ensures your safety during training.

Two boys in black karate uniforms practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
GiDurable fabric jacket and pants for trainingMandatory$60 – $200
MouthguardProtects teeth and jaw during sparringMandatory$10 – $50
Knee PadsCushions knees during ground workOptional$15 – $50
Elbow PadsProtects elbows during trainingOptional$15 – $50
Groin ProtectorShields against potential injuriesOptional$15 – $50
Rash GuardsPrevents skin irritation and infectionsOptional$25 – $70
Grappling ShortsOffers comfort and flexibility during trainingOptional$30 – $70
Finger TapeSupports fingers and prevents injuriesOptional$5 – $15

Gis in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: A Breakdown

In the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), the Gi, also known as a kimono, holds a place of significant importance. It is not just a uniform but a tool that aids in the learning and execution of techniques.

Here, we delve deeper into the various aspects of a BJJ Gi:

Material and Durability

A BJJ Gi is crafted from durable materials such as cotton or a blend of fabrics that can withstand the rigorous pulling and grappling that characterizes this martial art.

The fabric is often thicker compared to those used in other martial arts, providing longevity and the ability to endure intense training sessions.


A traditional Gi consists of a jacket, pants, and a belt. The jacket is designed with a thick collar and reinforced stitching to resist tearing.

The pants are usually loose-fitting, allowing for a wide range of movement, and equipped with drawstrings to secure them in place. The belt not only keeps the jacket closed but also signifies the wearer’s rank in BJJ.

Importance in Training

Wearing a Gi during training is essential as it allows practitioners to learn and execute a variety of techniques that involve gripping the fabric.

The Gi facilitates techniques such as chokes, joint locks, and throws, which are fundamental aspects of BJJ.

Moreover, training in a Gi helps to build strength and technical precision, as it requires practitioners to apply techniques with a higher degree of control and resistance.

Choosing the Right Gi

When it comes to selecting a Gi, comfort and fit should be your primary considerations. A well-fitted Gi should not restrict movement and should allow for easy execution of techniques.

Additionally, different academies might have specific guidelines regarding the color and style of the Gi, so it’s advisable to check with your instructor before making a purchase.

Beginner's Guide to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, 2 men wrestling

Care and Maintenance

To ensure the longevity of your Gi, proper care and maintenance are crucial. It’s recommended to wash your Gi after each training session to remove sweat and bacteria.

Avoiding high temperatures when washing and drying can prevent shrinkage and preserve the fabric’s quality.

Estimated Cost

The cost of a BJJ Gi can vary based on factors such as brand, material, and design. Generally, you can expect to pay anywhere from $60 to $200 for a good quality Gi.

It’s a worthy investment, considering the pivotal role it plays in BJJ training.

The Gi is more than just a uniform in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu; it’s a fundamental part of the training experience, aiding in the development of technique and skill.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned practitioner, having a reliable Gi is a must for a fruitful BJJ journey.

Why It’s a Good Hobby to Try

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu offers a multitude of benefits that make it a worthwhile hobby to try:

  • Personal Benefits: BJJ promotes discipline, self-confidence, and mental resilience. It teaches you to stay calm under pressure and think strategically.
  • Community Aspect: BJJ has a strong sense of community, with academies and online forums where practitioners can connect, learn from each other, and build lasting friendships.
  • Educational Value: BJJ is a constant learning process. It challenges you to adapt, problem-solve, and continuously improve your techniques.
  • Health Benefits: BJJ is a full-body workout that improves cardiovascular fitness, strength, flexibility, and coordination. It also helps relieve stress and boosts mental well-being.
  • Creative Outlet: BJJ allows you to express yourself through movement and technique. It encourages innovation and creativity in finding solutions during sparring sessions.

See also: 173 Things to do When You’re Bored!

Pros of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

  1. Self-Defense Skills: BJJ equips individuals with effective self-defense techniques, focusing on leverage and technique over brute strength.
  2. Physical Fitness: Regular training in BJJ promotes physical fitness, enhancing strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health.
  3. Mental Resilience: BJJ helps in building mental resilience as it teaches individuals to stay calm and think strategically under pressure.
  4. Community and Camaraderie: Being a part of a BJJ academy often fosters a strong sense of community and camaraderie among practitioners.
  5. Personal Growth: The journey through different belt levels in BJJ encourages personal growth and development, fostering traits like discipline, patience, and perseverance.
  6. Versatility: BJJ techniques are versatile, incorporating both striking and grappling techniques, making it a well-rounded martial art.

Cons of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

  1. Injury Risk: Like any contact sport, BJJ carries a risk of injury, ranging from minor sprains to more serious injuries, especially if not practiced with caution.
  2. Time-Consuming: Achieving proficiency in BJJ can be time-consuming, requiring years of dedicated practice to reach the higher belt levels.
  3. Cost: BJJ training can be costly, with expenses including academy fees, equipment, and tournament registration fees potentially adding up.
  4. Physical Discomfort: BJJ training often involves physical discomfort, including sore muscles and bruises, especially during the initial stages of training.
  5. Complexity: The vast array of techniques in BJJ can sometimes be overwhelming, especially for beginners, requiring a significant investment of time and effort to master.
  6. Limited Striking Training: While BJJ is comprehensive, it has a heavier focus on grappling techniques, which might leave practitioners wanting more in terms of striking training.
Beginner's Guide: Two men mastering jiu jitsu moves in a gym

How to Get Started

If you’re interested in starting Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, here are some steps to get you on the right track:

  1. Research: Begin by researching the basics of BJJ, its techniques, and its philosophy. Reliable sources include reputable BJJ websites, instructional videos, and books written by experienced practitioners.
  2. Basic Training: Look for local BJJ academies or gyms that offer beginner classes. These classes will provide you with a solid foundation and help you understand the fundamentals of BJJ.
  3. Joining Communities: Connect with the BJJ community by joining online forums or local meetups. This will allow you to learn from experienced practitioners, ask questions, and get valuable insights.
  4. Setting Up: Acquire the necessary equipment, including a gi, mouthguard, and any additional accessories you prefer. Prepare a suitable space or find a local academy where you can practice safely.
  5. Practical Tips: Start slow and focus on mastering the basics. Be patient with yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help or guidance from more experienced practitioners.
  6. Seeking Help: If you encounter any challenges or have specific questions, reach out to the BJJ community or your instructors. They will be more than happy to assist you on your journey.

Techniques of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a martial art with roots deeply embedded in judo and other martial arts, has evolved significantly over the years, incorporating techniques from various disciplines including wrestling, sambo, and Japanese jujitsu.

This evolution has led to the development of a rich and diverse set of techniques, each with its unique application and strategy.

In this section, we will explore the different categories of BJJ techniques that have set this martial art apart from its predecessors.

Takedowns and Throws

Judo Influences

BJJ has absorbed numerous takedown techniques from judo, including popular throws such as Tomoe Nage, Sumi Gaeshi, and Osoto Gari.

These techniques form the basis of BJJ’s takedown strategy, allowing practitioners to gain a dominant position over their opponents.

Wrestling Takedowns

Apart from judo, BJJ also incorporates effective takedown techniques from wrestling, including double leg and single leg takedowns, ankle picks, and knee taps.

These techniques add a dynamic aspect to BJJ, offering practitioners various options to bring their opponents to the ground.

Chokeholds and Strangles

BJJ is renowned for its diverse range of chokeholds and strangles, which are designed to incapacitate opponents effectively.

Some of the popular techniques in this category include:

  • Rear Naked Choke
  • Triangle Choke
  • Guillotine Choke
  • Ezequiel Choke

These techniques focus on restricting the blood flow to the opponent’s brain, forcing them to submit.

Joint Locks

Joint locks are a critical component of BJJ, focusing on targeting the opponent’s joints to force a submission.

Some of the popular joint locks include:

  • Armbar
  • Kimura
  • Omoplata

These techniques apply pressure on the joints, causing immense pain and forcing the opponent to tap out.

Guard Variations and Guard Passing

The guard is a fundamental position in BJJ, with various variations such as closed guard, open guard, and butterfly guard.

Additionally, BJJ practitioners learn techniques to pass the guard, including side control and knee-on-belly positions, to gain a dominant position over their opponents.


Sweeps in BJJ are techniques used to reverse a disadvantaged position and gain a dominant position over the opponent.

Some popular sweeps include:

  • Scissor Sweep
  • Flower Sweep
  • Pendulum Sweep

These sweeps require a combination of timing, technique, and leverage to execute successfully.

Whether you are a beginner looking to learn the basics or an advanced practitioner aiming to refine your skills, understanding these techniques is essential in your BJJ journey.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Ranking System (Belts)

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), the ranking system plays a pivotal role in illustrating a practitioner’s progression, skill level, and experience.

The system is delineated through a series of colored belts, each representing a different stage of a BJJ student’s journey.

Here, we explore the various belts and what they signify in the world of BJJ:

Belt ColorLevelDescription
WhiteBeginnerThe starting point for all newcomers, focusing on learning the basic techniques and principles of BJJ.
BlueIntermediateSignifies a deeper understanding and proficiency in BJJ techniques. Students at this level begin to develop their own style and engage in sparring with more experienced practitioners.
PurpleIntermediateMarks the transition to an intermediate level, with practitioners showcasing a well-rounded knowledge and the ability to execute complex combinations.
BrownAdvancedIndicates a high level of expertise, with a focus on fine-tuning and mastering skills. Brown belt holders often take up teaching roles, mentoring lower-ranked students.
BlackExpertRepresents a deep mastery of BJJ, with practitioners often taking on significant teaching roles and contributing to the community’s growth.
Beyond Black Belt (Degrees 1-10)Master and Grand MasterSignifies continued dedication to BJJ, with practitioners progressing through various degrees, showcasing their experience and influence in the BJJ community. The 10th-degree black belt is reserved for the most distinguished figures in BJJ.

White Belt

The White Belt is the starting point for all newcomers to BJJ. It represents the beginning of the learning journey, where students are introduced to basic techniques, positions, and BJJ principles.

The focus at this stage is on building a solid foundation and understanding the fundamentals of the art.

Blue Belt

As practitioners progress, they attain the Blue Belt, which signifies a deeper understanding and proficiency in BJJ techniques.

At this level, students begin to develop their own style and start to spar with more experienced practitioners, honing their skills and strategies.

Purple Belt

The Purple Belt is a milestone that marks the transition from beginner to intermediate level. Purple belt holders have a well-rounded knowledge of BJJ, showcasing technical proficiency and the ability to execute complex combinations.

This stage often involves refining techniques and developing a deeper understanding of BJJ concepts.

Brown Belt

Reaching the Brown Belt level indicates a high level of expertise in BJJ. Brown belt practitioners have a comprehensive understanding of techniques and strategies, with a focus on fine-tuning and mastering their skills.

At this stage, students are often involved in teaching and mentoring lower-ranked practitioners, sharing their knowledge and experience.

Black Belt

The Black Belt is a testament to years of dedication and hard work. It signifies a deep mastery of BJJ techniques and principles.

Black belt holders are seen as experts in the field, often taking on teaching roles and contributing to the growth and development of the BJJ community.

Beyond Black Belt

After achieving the black belt, practitioners can continue to progress through various degrees, represented by stripes on their belt.

These degrees signify continued dedication to the art, with the highest achievement being the 10th-degree black belt, a rank reserved for the most experienced and influential figures in BJJ.

white, yellow, orange, red, green, blue, brown, black belts all in a line, black background

Belt Promotions

Belt promotions in BJJ are significant events that mark a student’s progression. Promotions are awarded based on a combination of factors including skill level, time spent at a particular rank, and contribution to the community.

It is a personalized process, with instructors assessing individual progress and determining when a student is ready to advance to the next level.

The BJJ ranking system, represented through its belts, serves as a roadmap for practitioners, guiding them through their learning journey and illustrating their progression in the art.

It fosters a sense of achievement and motivation, encouraging students to continue growing and evolving in their BJJ practice.

Comparisons to Other Similar Hobbies and Activities

When exploring “what is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu”, it’s insightful to compare it with other martial arts. Here, we briefly discuss the focus, goals, and benefits of BJJ in relation to other popular martial arts:

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu vs. Wrestling

BJJ and wrestling both demand high physical intensity but focus on different fighting techniques. BJJ, practiced in a gi, emphasizes submissions and ground control, fostering a collaborative learning environment.

Wrestling, usually practiced in a singlet, centers on takedowns and pinning, promoting a competitive training atmosphere. Both offer effective self-defense applications, with BJJ focusing on ground defense and wrestling on takedown defense.

A man and woman engaging in rooftop boxing

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu vs. Boxing

Boxing and BJJ are high-intensity sports that offer different benefits. While boxing, practiced in gloves and trunks, focuses on striking techniques and promotes cardiovascular fitness, BJJ emphasizes grappling techniques and fosters strategic thinking.

Both sports have a strong community focus, with boxing offering a more competitive training environment.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu vs. Judo

BJJ and Judo are closely related, with both being practiced in a gi and having a steep learning curve. Judo, which focuses more on throws and takedowns, helps in developing balance and coordination.

BJJ, on the other hand, is more grounded in submissions and ground-fighting, enhancing flexibility and endurance. Both martial arts foster a respectful and disciplined community.

Silhouette of a man wearing muay thai gloves and a dog at sunset

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu vs. Karate

Karate, a striking art practiced in a Karategi, offers a moderate learning curve and focuses on speed and precision through punches, kicks, and knee strikes. In contrast, BJJ, practiced in a gi, emphasizes close-contact grappling and submissions, building mental resilience and problem-solving skills. Both martial arts cultivate a disciplined and respectful community.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu vs. Muay Thai

Muay Thai, known as the “Art of Eight Limbs”, is characterized by its powerful strikes using fists, elbows, knees, and shins, a contrast to BJJ’s focus on ground control and submission techniques.

While both are high-intensity martial arts requiring excellent physical conditioning, Muay Thai builds strength and stamina through striking techniques, whereas BJJ develops technical skill and physical conditioning through grappling.

Both foster communities that emphasize respect and toughness, nurturing skill development and physical conditioning.

A man wearing martial arts gear kicks a kick in a boxing ring

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu vs. Taekwondo

Taekwondo stands out for its high, fast kicks and striking techniques, a stark contrast to BJJ’s emphasis on ground-fighting and submission techniques.

Though both martial arts are high-intensity, Taekwondo develops agility and leg strength, particularly through its focus on kicks. BJJ, on the other hand, enhances flexibility and strategy, offering a steep learning curve grounded in ground techniques.

Both martial arts foster discipline and respect within their communities, emphasizing personal development and mastery of techniques.

Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Embarking on the journey of learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can be both exciting and daunting. As with any martial art, it presents its own unique set of challenges, especially for beginners.

Here, we delve into some of the common hurdles newcomers might encounter and offer guidance on how to navigate them successfully:

Feeling Overwhelmed by Techniques

Challenge: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a complex martial art with a vast array of techniques and positions to learn. Beginners often find themselves feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of techniques available, which can sometimes hinder their progress.

Solution: To counter this, it’s advisable to focus on mastering a few fundamental techniques at a time. Break them down into smaller components and practice them repetitively until they become second nature.

Seeking guidance from experienced practitioners and taking notes can also be beneficial. Remember, the journey of BJJ is a marathon, not a sprint; take your time to build a solid foundation.

Dealing with Physical Discomfort

Challenge: BJJ is a physically demanding sport that often involves close contact with others. Beginners might experience physical discomfort, including minor injuries and muscle soreness, especially in the initial stages of training.

Solution: To mitigate this, gradually build up your physical conditioning and flexibility through regular training.

Beginner's Guide to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in San Diego, California

Listen to your body, take breaks when needed, and communicate any discomfort to your instructors. Incorporating a proper warm-up routine, focusing on flexibility exercises, and maintaining a balanced diet can aid in reducing physical discomfort.

Moreover, learning the correct techniques to fall and roll can prevent many common injuries.

Adapting to the Learning Curve

Challenge: BJJ has a steep learning curve, and it’s not uncommon for beginners to feel like they are not making progress, especially when sparring with more experienced practitioners.

Solution: It’s important to keep a positive mindset and understand that everyone progresses at their own pace. Setting small, achievable goals and celebrating your progress can help maintain motivation.

Additionally, regularly attending classes and actively seeking feedback from instructors and peers can facilitate a smoother learning journey.

Navigating the Social Dynamics

Challenge: Like any community, the BJJ community has its own set of social dynamics. Newcomers might find it challenging to integrate initially, feeling out of place or unsure about the unspoken rules of the dojo.

Solution: To overcome this, try to be open and receptive to the culture of your dojo. Engage with the community, participate in social events, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Building relationships with fellow practitioners can enhance your learning experience and make your BJJ journey more enjoyable.

Remember, every practitioner was once a beginner, and the key to success in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is persistence, patience, and a willingness to learn.

I hope this expanded section provides a comprehensive view of the common challenges and solutions for beginners in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to add or modify.

A man is mastering jiu jitsu moves in a beginner's class

DIY Tips and Tricks

If you’re looking to enhance your BJJ experience, here are some DIY tips and tricks:

  • Cost-Saving Tips: Look for second-hand BJJ equipment or consider making your own gear, such as homemade grappling dummies or training mats.
  • Creative Ideas: Experiment with different training drills, create your own BJJ training videos, or design personalized BJJ-themed merchandise.
  • Tutorial Resources: Explore online platforms like YouTube or BJJ instructional websites for DIY projects, technique breakdowns, and training tips.
Keywords: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, BasicsModified Description: Two men practicing basic Brazilian Jiu Jitsu moves in a gym

When practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, it’s important to keep legal and safety considerations in mind:

Legal Aspects: Check local laws and regulations regarding self-defense and martial arts training. Some areas may require permits or have specific rules for practicing BJJ.

Safety Tips: Always warm up before training, listen to your body, and use proper technique to avoid injuries. Additionally, ensure that you have appropriate health insurance coverage.

Emergency Contacts: In case of any emergencies or injuries, have the contact information for local medical facilities or emergency services readily available.

man looking confused, looking at laptop, has questions (FAQ)
bruce mars xj8qrWvuOEs unsplash scaled


Here are some common questions beginners have about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu:

What are some popular Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu techniques?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu techniques include joint locks, chokes, sweeps, and escapes. These techniques are designed to help you control and submit your opponent.

Are there BJJ classes for beginners?

Yes, most BJJ academies offer classes specifically tailored for beginners. These classes focus on teaching the fundamentals and gradually introducing more advanced techniques.

Are there Jiu-Jitsu tournaments I can participate in?

Yes, there are numerous Jiu-Jitsu tournaments held worldwide. These tournaments provide an opportunity to test your skills against practitioners from different academies and gain valuable experience.

How often should I train BJJ?

The frequency of training depends on your schedule and personal goals. However, consistency is key. Aim for at least two to three training sessions per week to see progress.

Can I train BJJ without a gi?

While the gi is an integral part of traditional BJJ, there are also “no-gi” classes available that focus on grappling without the use of a gi. It’s a matter of personal preference.

A woman in a blue jiu jitsu uniform beginning her journey on the floor


Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a hobby that offers a unique blend of physical fitness, mental discipline, and personal growth.

By taking up BJJ, you’ll not only learn effective self-defense techniques but also develop valuable life skills.

So, why not give it a try? Start your BJJ journey today and experience the countless benefits it has to offer!

See also: 7 Key Benefits of Hobbies


Sharing is caring!

What is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? A beginner's guide to Tae Bo, 2 people in martial arts uniforms grappling on the ground