Learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is difficult for everyone to begin with, but it can often seem as though some people naturally pick up certain sports like BJJ quicker than others. While there is something to be said for natural athletic gifts like raw strength, speed, cardio, and flexibility; these differences can often come down to prior experience instead. It makes sense when we’re talking about prior grappling experience of course, it’s obvious that someone with a background in Wrestling or Judo is going to have a lot of transferable skills when they take up BJJ. But aside from that, there are a number of other sports which have a lot in common with BJJ and past experience in them can help you develop your BJJ quicker too.
5 Surprising Sports That Help With Learning BJJ
These 5 sports are all ones that may not seem as though they have much in common with BJJ to begin with, but upon closer inspection the similarities become more clear. After a few years of experience in these activities, even just as a hobby, you’d expect to see practitioners develop specific skills that turn out to be transferable once they hit the mats. You can test this out in real life too, by talking to those teammates that seem to succeed in BJJ at a quicker pace and seeing if they have a background in any of these.
Rock Climbing Builds Grip Strength And More
Rock climbing is one of many sports that have a physical crossover with BJJ, as rock climbers will develop fantastic grip strength that is far above the average person. The benefits of having above-average grip strength in BJJ are so vast that many competitors will actually use specific tools or exercises to improve it. One of the best ways is to use those grips to support your own body-weight, usually done through the use of pull-ups, which is the primary goal of rock climbing.
The main difference in rock climbing is that the sport is incredibly dynamic and encourages the development of that grip strength through a wide range of motion rather than simply pulling. This helps replicate the way that grips are used in BJJ, because the opponent is pulling against you in a dynamic fashion. When rock climbers graduate to more difficult walls, there’s also an added element of body manipulation that helps to develop an understanding of exactly how the body moves.
Board Sports Are Common In BJJ For A Reason
Board sports are incredibly beneficial to grapplers and surfing in particular is actually often practiced by a number of competitors. Surfing is similar to snowboarding, skateboarding, and all of the other variations of board sports in the way that it relates to BJJ. They all encourage the development of a fantastic sense of balance and the ability to fall without sustaining damage, as posting out a hand when falling off a skateboard at high speed is perhaps even more dangerous than doing so when being thrown.
The ability to balance in top positions or when standing is something that most new starters struggle to develop at first, but coming in from a background in board sports can help speed up that process. Alongside this, learning tricks on any board also helps develop the kind of leg dexterity that can take new starters years to properly use in training. Understanding how to manipulate boards to turn in a predetermined way requires a similar level of leg dexterity as playing or passing guard often does.
Gymnastics Has More In Common With BJJ Than Most Others
Gymnastics has more skills in common with BJJ than most other sports, and gymnasts can find that their ability to adapt those skills to BJJ can almost feel like cheating. For starters, a lengthy background in gymnastics will often develop a fantastic amount of body awareness that can’t really be found in many other places. Gymnasts need to know where their body is in in space at all times because an error could result in injury, that then allows them to make intentional movements much easier than most.
There’s actually a fair amount of crossover between the movements used in gymnastics and those used in BJJ too, as many of them rely on the same body mechanics in order to work. Much like board sports, gymnastics also requires the development of a high level of balance in order to pull off a lot of those movements but with the added benefit that there’s often a some degree of flexibility required to succeed as well.
Breakdancing Is Already Being Used In High-Level BJJ
Breakdancing is very similar to gymnastics in the way that it requires an extraordinarily high level of bodily awareness, helping people to learn how to make specific movements. Although the movements used in it don’t have as much in common with BJJ as gymnastics movements do, there is still some small amount of crossover. That downside is actually traded off for the increased level of dynamic movement involved, as breakdancing often requires more complex patterns.
Breakdancers will often develop a very high level of flexibility too, something that can come in handy when playing certain types of guard. This can be seen in the most prominent examples of high level BJJ competitors transitioning from breakdancing, 10th Planet black belts Geo Martinez and Richie Martinez. Both of these men are prominent users of rubber guard and among the best on the planet at it, something that can come a lot easier to someone with a background in breakdancing.
Rugby Helps Develop Wrestling For BJJ
Wrestling is undoubtedly better than all other sports when it comes to using a background to start no gi BJJ, but there’s one other sport that develops similar skills. It can be difficult for BJJ practitioners to learn how to take down opponents given the nature of the sport, but Rugby players will come into it with a lot of transferable skills. Given that Rugby already involves high-speed tackling and dragging opposition to the ground, a little bit of grappling training can quickly turn Rugby players into fearsome wrestlers.
Not only that, but the play in Rugby doesn’t stop once contact is made and it encourages players to fight their way through tackles to stay standing or continue driving forward. This ability to maintain forward momentum is huge when it comes to re-wrestling or scrambling to top position, something that can be incredibly valuable in BJJ. Rugby players will often have the ability to win the majority of scrambles they find themselves in, and have seemingly endless cardio as a result.
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