A recent survey of 5,000 adults in the UK suggested that through lockdown people had put on an average of 3kg in weight – not to brag, but those are rookie numbers compared to what I’ve managed to gain. In short, regarding my weight and fitness I needed to take steps (not literally of course, I can’t run for more than 10 minutes without, well… just wanting to stop, it’s boring) so now in an effort to turn the tide, I cycle until my legs are pure lactic acid and I signed up for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) classes.Advertisement
So if I were to tell you people were wrestling and trying to choke each other unconscious on Church Street you might think, “Okay what else is new?” However, if I were to tell you people were doing this in a supervised and safe environment for sport at Sukata Preston with no police presence whatsoever, would you consider this a viable way to lose weight?
For the uninitiated, BJJ is a ground based martial art with submission holds and an emphasis on gaining a dominant position. Sounds easy, right? Well no, not really. It’s sounds like an extremely technical and challenging pastime and at the ripe old age of 39 I wanted to find out if I could make it through a session without embarrassing myself.
As with most gyms, the first true battle is the punishing war of attrition between the cleaning regime and the compounded musk of a roomful of adults sweating profusely. Fortunately, as I climb the steps to Sukata I can happily report it still has that ‘new gym’ smell, without too much lingering mustiness. Facilities were clean, with a changing area, shower and toilet along with a separate changing stall for the body conscious.
After a couple of false starts tying my white belt, the session began. Janio, the affable head coach, leads us in a quick warm up. The very light jogging I could cope with but, I’m ashamed to say, around six minutes in my body sounded the alarm; during a sprawl exercise my core muscles acknowledged their discomfort and assured me they’d continue acknowledging it for the next two days.
After the warm up we practised a few basic techniques (this was the fundamentals class for beginners). Sadly there’s no class more basic than the fundamentals class so my – very – understanding training partner patiently accommodated all my attempts to execute the techniques we’d been shown. Happily, Sukata is still a relatively young club (they officially opened this July as an offshoot of an existing Chorley-based club) which means smaller class sizes and more one-to-one instruction where required.
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That said, when it works, the mechanics of BJJ are fascinating; when Janio explained the correct hip position for applying a certain chokehold it went from feeling like an over-enthusiastic seasonal hug from a drunken relative to someone literally applying a vice to my trachea.
The last 15 minutes of the session were dedicated to sparring or ‘rolling’. With this being my first session, Janio assured me I didn’t have to take part but I was keen to get stuck in with the three techniques I’d practised. So we began a series of rounds, changing partners every five minutes. I learn that one of the things you don’t want to hear from your sparring partner is “Yeah, I work as a bouncer and I’ve really been focused on my powerlifting just recently”. That was a challenging five minutes.
Oddly, being the oldest and least experienced person there didn’t seem to work in my favour quite as much as I’d hoped but I think I acquitted myself reasonably well. Whilst I had to tap-out on a couple of occasions when I couldn’t escape being pinned or throttled, no-one was too enthusiastic in their grappling and the emphasis remained on safety. As a form of exercise it’s hard to say exactly what muscle groups were being worked while we rolled, though it’s one of the few exercise classes where I’ve actually been gasping for breath so exercise was most definitely taking place.
So is BJJ for you? That largely depends on how prepared are you to spend your free-time clamped in someone else’s armpit. If the answer is ‘somewhat prepared’ then this very well might be what you’re looking for. Also, if you’re looking for a holistic exercise, then trying to stop someone from hyperextending one of your limbs or elevating you from the ground via your windpipe will certainly give hitherto unheard of muscles a fantastic workout in your attempts to stop them; if nothing else it’s an awful lot more engaging than the last spinning class I went to.
Sukata Preston is located at 130 Church Street. For more information about bookings and timetables visit the Sukata Preston Facebook page.
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Have you tried BJJ, or do you fancy trying it in future? Let us know in the comments.