Until a few days ago, my only reference for Jiu-Jitsu was that scene in The Matrix where Neo first learns how to fight. Because technology hasn’t advanced enough to upload training programs directly into our brains, the rest of us need to go somewhere like RISE Mixed Martial Arts and Jiu-Jitsu to learn this Brazilian martial art. Thankfully for us, RISE is an extremely supportive and fun place to start.
Adapted from Japanese Kodokan judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu focuses primarily on grappling and ground fighting. According to Alex Hays, assistant instructor for the RISE children’s program, it was popularized by famed Brazilian martial artist Helio Gracie, who used Jiu-Jitsu to defend himself against his bigger and stronger older brothers.
“You use leverage and angles to be able to defeat someone who is much bigger and to control the person,” Hays said. He’s been practicing the stand-up form of Jiu-Jitsu since he was a child, but he’s only been learning the ground art for about six months. It’s a fluid, low-impact practice, which means less risk of injuries, and it’s effective for self-defense because of the strategy involved.
“Gracie’s whole idea was to get close to somebody, get ahold of them, control them, and make them stop. It [gives] people a sense of certainty. You know exactly what to do and you’re not too intimidated,” Hays said.
Even if you’ve never set foot on a mat, you can drop into the fundamentals class any time. There are certain ranks, from white belt to black belt, and there are plenty of beginners. Hays referenced a lesson from one of his instructors when explaining the fundamentals of Jiu-Jitsu. It’s a lot like learning a new language: first you learn the ABCs, then you learn a few words and so on.
“Once you get the basic words down you start to form sentences and have conversations with people. In brown belt you’re starting to be more poetic with your words, or you can start having arguments with other people. Black belt is usually winning the arguments,” he said.
Jiu-Jitsu is all about communicating with your “opponent,” and it’s really team-oriented. Hays said you can always count on people who practice at a higher level to help those who are less advanced, instead of trying to defeat them. After every class, which typically lasts an hour, students have the option to drill or spar. People are often game for staying and working on a new move with you.
“Repetition is key. It’s not about how much you know, it’s about how much you’ve practiced it,” Hays said.
Who You’ll Find at RISE
There are quite a few regulars, and Hays knows each of them by name. He described a couple students as introverts who are not normally social but connect with others over a common interest: martial arts.
“You may have different beliefs, you may have different ways of living, but when you’re in class you’re equal martial artists just training together,” Hays said. He believes that practicing martial arts is a great way to stay fit, but it’s also life-changing.
It may be awkward at first—most of us aren’t used to getting that close to strangers—but Hays said that after a few sessions you’ll feel more relaxed and your moves will flow better. This will help you defend yourself off the mat, should you ever need to.
“[Class] kind of teaches you, programs in you that, when you get in a heated situation… I’m going to relax, I’m going to focus, I’m going to execute,” he said.
When you enter the building, you’ll see a sign that reads, “No shoes or ego on the mats.” If you’re interested in learning Jiu-Jitsu but you’re nervous about who and what you will encounter, Hays urges you to be brave. Everyone is there to learn, just like you.
RISE offers Jiu-Jitsu for adults and children, as well as Muay Thai and Mixed Martial Arts. There are special rates for low-income families, veterans, and college students. For more information about their classes and to learn about the free 30-day trial, contact RISE at 541-286-4729 or stop by 1750 SW 3rd Street.
By Anika Lautenbach