Does practising BJJ make me a badass?

Updated: Dec 21, 2019

Yes it does.

Post done!


OK so being as I’ve got to write something…

In my previous post RE: powerlifting, you will have heard me mention my Sensei. When I first mention him, people generally ask “your who”?

Then I’ll explain that he’s my martial arts instructor and mentor.

Then comes the big one: what is BJJ? followed by sexual insinuations. Every time.

A meme describing what different people think Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu consists of
One martial art - many perspectives

So, what is BJJ?

BJJ (the abbreviation for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu - so get your mind out the gutter) is, in a nutshell, an on-the-floor based defence system in which practitioners use their opponents’ weight, strength and movements against them in order to submit them via chokes and joint locks.


Where did Jiu-Jitsu come from - isn’t it Japenese?

Created by Bhuddist monks in India a reported circa. 4000 years ago, Jiu-Jitsu (meaning ‘the gentle art’ in Japanese) has has been referred to as the oldest martial art.


“These monks developed movements based on balance and leverage, in a manner that would avoid reliance on strength and weapons” - [Kron Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy]

A meme saying: One does not simply learn Jiu Jitsu
It's too technical to be simply 'learned'

It was later adopted by the Japanese Royal Guards (knows as Samurais) when it later found its way through China and Japan, before it split into different styles, including Karate, Aikido and Judo. These Samurais generally fought on horseback, but Jiu-Jitsu empowered them in the event that they found themselves on foot and disarmed.


So what is BJJ...? (sighs)

I know - we already asked this question - but back story is important...in this case.

To race through and not bore you with all of the details, in 1914 Esai Maeda (Japanese Jiu-Jitsu champion) migrated to Brazil, and with the help of Gastão Gracie (a scholar and politician) he became very active in establishing the Japanese immigrant community.

By way of thanks, he taught Gracie’s son Carlos the martial art.


Carlos taught his four brothers and in 1925 they opened Brazil’s first Jiu-Jitsu academy.

The Gracies’ (notably Carlos and Helio) refined the art throughout the years that followed, focussing on submission ground fighting which allowed smaller contenders to defend against larger attackers.

A small man trying to take down an enormous man
Please remember - there needs to be some kind of momentum when taking this law of BJJ to extremes

Then came the 1970s, when Rolls Gracie further refined the art; he incorporated wrestling and devised the earliest point and rule systems for Jiu-Jitsu competition.

Roll on the 1990’s when Rorion Gracie took to Los Angeles, in a bid to showcase the Gracie’s fighting system to the USA.

Meme: the look of new white belts watching the technique
We've all been there! Photo credit: @bjjmojo

Rorion alongside Art Davies came up with an event called ‘The Ultimate Fighting Championship’ (UFC): various martial arts styles were put against each other, thus enabling contenders from different martial arts disciplines to battle against each other - the aim being to prove the credibility of their sport and positioning their martial art as the best.


The first UFC (1993) was dominated by Rorian’s younger brother Royce; compared to the other competitors who easily outweighed him he was a small contender. Nevertheless, he capitalised on the other contestants’ lack of groundwork knowledge and defeated four opponents in a single night.

Joyce Gracie having his arm held up in victory by the referee
Royce Gracie - victorious in the cage. Photo credit: www.jiujitsutimes.com

It was Royce’s victories that spurred the huge interest in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that was to follow, and reinforced BJJ’s status as a global martial art.

At the time of writing, we are approaching UFC 244 and BJJ is still evolving. It is still heavily applied in MMA, and in my opinion, BJJ will not stop evolving.

Althea and UFCs Dustin 'Clean' Denes
The UFC's very own Dustin 'Clean' Denes. And erm...me

So back to my point - does practising BJJ make me a badass?

Well that’s kinda why I got into it - I kinda wanted to do something badass at least, if not become one. Even though I started later in life than I wish I had, I always wanted to do a martial art. 3 things spurred me to go ahead and learn BJJ:

  1. I was considering doing the London Knowledge, and after hearing stories from my Dad and his other cabbie mates about passengers running off without paying, or attempting to steal their cash float, me and my bestie decided that I should stop fart-assing around and go learn a martial art so that I could twist up these wrong doers before they got to do any wrong. So to speak.

  2. I knew that one day I'll be sitting in a rocking chair, knitting a cardigan for someone (who won’t ever wear it) and reflecting back on my life. I didn’t like the idea of those reflections consisting of ‘shoulda, coulda, wouldas’ so I went ahead and tried it.

  3. My bestie said she would try it out too (Dad didn’t call us ‘battie and bench’ for nothing). She didn't come, but knowing that she was 'going to join' motivated me...I'm still waiting hun...

When I first rocked up to class, there were NO females participating. Nevertheless, the reception was extremely warm and I can say that I was blessed with the forum to train with a group of ego-less, considerate gentlemen. There was one who made clear on day dot that one day I’ll thank him for not going easy on me. And he was right.

I know there were whispers when I went to change but they weren't of the negative kind. They were probably trying to work out how to grapple with me without breaking me!

I competed at the NAGA (North Americal Grappling Association) United Kingdom Championships in April 2015. I still have a long way to go before I feel comfortable competing - honestly speaking, I absolutely hated it, but the encouragement and commendations that I got for even entering definitely made me feel badass.

I got a Bronze medal, which is great and all that but I actually hated competing - I am still a work-in-progress, and I guess it’s an item on the list of things that I need to get over on my journey to black belt. It sits just above my arachnophobia - so at least I stand a chance at overcoming one of them...

Besides, 'black belt model' kinda has a ring to it.


On the 28th April 2016, I got my blue belt. Then life kinda got in the way - I was juggling too much and something had to give. I will get back on the mats as soon as I can, but for now I’ll continue to run my mouth about my skills and put it to the test on every living being who will allow me to.

My first time wearing my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blue belt
The first time wearing my blue belt - a feeling that can not be bought. (Post-rolling messy hair = imperative in BJJ pics)!

So am I a badass?

The answer is subjective, so here are a few qualities that I have acquired on my BJJ journey:

  • I can make you choke using one forearm

  • If we happen to be on the floor [I mean, why wouldn't we be] and you extend your arm, I could more than likely render it useless (for a period of time)

  • If you say the wrong thing to me while giving me a piggy-back, I could [effectively] choke you out in seconds

  • Do you know what to do if a stranger pops out of nowhere and tries to drag you away by your wrists?

  • Core strength (trust me, it's not optional)

  • The workouts, self improvement and continuous development - priceless

  • A few failed attempts at trying to contain your gases during sparring renders you a human being who doesn't cry when one happens to slip out in 'real life'. Don't judge me - you try keeping it in when brown belt whatshisface gets you with the ol' knee-on-belly (and that is a thing)

  • A Sensei: not to be mistaken simply for martial arts instructors, Sensei's are mentors, rooting for you to become the best that you can be; we're a blessed bunch - not everyone has one of these...jus sayin...

  • The list goes on...

Althea and her Sensei posing in their Gis after a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class
Me and my Sensei @MadPigFilms

Aside from the balance and self discipline that BJJ has given me, it has also allowed me to be part of an amazing community that can only be understood and appreciated by those who belong to it.

Bruise on inner bicep, acquired from Jiu-Jitsu training
Wear that BJJ bruise like a trophy

It's amazing to be a part of a group of people who are all rooting for each other to succeed - admittedly by constantly submitting each other. I have been accused of being a bit of a ruffian after all - and I own it.

Remember - each tapout is a learning; that's something that can be applied to life. BJJ is DEEP man...

A group posing for a photo after a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class with Distin 'Clean' Denes
Chop certified by the great Dustin 'Clean' Denes himself

My only question to the non practitioners out there: why do you insist on confusing BJJ with Karate, and making weird noises and hand movements whenever the topic comes up?

That, I will never understand.

And nor will Gwen Sheldon; her piece ‘For the last time, I don’t do Karate: an open letter’ is defo worth a read.

Meme: when you tell someone you train Jiu Jitsu...and they start making Karate hand gestures
No. Caption. Required.

Thanks for reading and hopefully gaining some more insight into the many facets and components that merge to form me as a model.

If you want to learn BJJ in an ego-free envorinment, check out Croydon BJJ (www.croydonbjj.co.uk)

Remember, my website is much more than just a modelling portfolio x


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About the author [that would be me]:

I am a Senior Project Manager by day; by night (aka any other time), you can find me lifting heavy metal things (aka powerlifting), threatening to dust off my belt in the name of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (I will make myself re-worthy of my blue belt), or finding ways to get infront of a camera and labelling it as modelling in some way shape or form.

I put this blog together as an add-on to my modelling portfolio, and it reminded me of how much I love to write. I will continue to write as my model portfolio grows, just so that you can get to know the real me.

Althea James model x


REFERENCES:


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