First off, I want to say that I’ve trained crossfit, and it’s a fantastic fitness protocol. It’s insanely hard on the body and that’s a good thing because that means results! But you need to have a coach there to make sure that you are doing things with proper form. Without a coach you are going to get hurt. Which leads me to my first point:
1. There’s Just A Lot Fewer injuries in BJJ…
In both MMA and CrossFit, there is a limit on the frequency and the intensity one can train. Daily for BJJ and about every other day with crossfit, though some athletes train as much as 2x per day, due mostly to the types and number of injuries one can suffer from mishaps in the training. The biggest difference between the two sports is the frequency and the number of injuries that occur.
Crossfit you risk torn muscles, blowing out joints, torn ligaments, smashed feet from weights, and rabdo – or Rhabdomyolysis (eek).
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can result in over rotated shoulders, torn rotator cuffs, torn ligaments in the knees, rib, neck and spine injuries when you are training with someone who is trying to seriously hurt you (which you shouldn’t be training with anyway).
MMA can have all of the above injuries because of the nature of the conditioning and the fight sport nature plus black eyes, missing teeth, and concussions.
Because there is no intentional striking in Jiu Jitsu there is a much lower risk of concussion and bruising of he face, though it is possible so just be careful with your training partner. You don’t want to injure them or you won’t be able to train with them as much.
2. What’s the Science Say about this?
According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, which was designed to look at the frequency of injury in CrossFit athletes during routine training, 97 of the 132 people who responded to the survey (or nearly three-quarters) reported getting hurt during CrossFit training.
Most injuries involved the shoulders and spine, and a total of 186 injuries were reported; nine leading to surgeries.
In grappling sports this just isn’t a factor. Wrestling, BJJ, judo and japanese jiu jitsu don’t have this level of risk and one can often train 4-7 times a week without risk of over training or serious injury.
BJJ gyms often offer classes 2x a day, once at lunch and once in the evening. And seasoned BJJ’ers train can train daily (sometimes even twice a day) by learning in instructional class and through practicing technique in a sparring situation (aka: rolling).
The gentle art is gentle for a reason. You can get a full workout in, practice technique at slow or fast speeds, and walk away knowing that you made improvements all without risk of serious injury. People from all walks of life can train often and improve without having to worry about taking weeks off for surgery or recovery and even if you are injured, depending on the severity you can still train or still improve your mental game by studying, watching and journaling.
3. Better one on one instruction
Its rather scary how someone with two hammers, a tire, and a squat rack can open up a ‘Box’ and not get sued… How can someone say that they are a professional when they have a weekend of certification and training?
At least at big box gyms trainers spend weeks and months going through certifications and often have multiple years of experience before starting their first group workout session. Most crossfit gyms, or “boxes” as they are called, are setup by someone who has trained for a few months or years and then gone through a weekend certification course.
At BJJ schools, instructors are often referred to as professors and have trained in the art of BJJ under a certified black belt for as many as 15 years before receiving their black belts. Often you will have colored belts instructing class and the minimum number of years even a blue belt has been training is usually 2.
This means that white belts are being taught the most fundamental techniques and are instructed on how to apply the technique in a slow, safe environment before going and applying it in a live situation.
Group classes at a small school can number in the handful, and in larger schools can reach the mid 20s. I’ve never been to a school with more than 30 students training at a time, and keep in mind most of the time when learning new technique everyone is partnered up so it is really only about 15 pairs that the instructor will be monitoring at any given time not the 50+ students in a group crossfit workout…
So if I’m going to pay $100+ a month for a gym membership I’d prefer to get small group instruction from an instructor who has real credentials, not just a weekend warrior with a certificate.
4. Leave the macho at the door
Unlike virtually every gym in existence BJJ is different.
Yes you get the occasional outlier gym; however, every place that i’ve trained the people have been friendly, willing to take it slow and show me the proper technique, and have been eager to help me learn and grow.
Most MMA gyms, crossfit clubs, and box fitness clubs i’ve been to there always seems to be this vibe of testosterone fuming through the air, where aggression and getting it out is the sole reason why people do these activities.
You’ve never met a more chill person than a Brazilian, on friday, after they’ve had a hard roll and are ready for some tea with friends. It’s because unlike in traditional fitness, where if you don’t reach a certain weight, finish under your WOD personal best, or beat your opponent, then you’ve failed.
BJJ is different. It’s about learning and growth where each roll teaches you another lesson and it’s a lesson even a white belt can teach.
Which leads me to…
5. Learn Life Lessons: Humility, Control, Dedication, Patience
Most people can’t handle getting tapped out by someone who is (a) weaker (b) smaller (c) female or (d) less experienced than them. Yes I said female. See, men, think that they have to be big and strong, hence why MMA gyms and big box gyms (such as golds gym, LA fitness, and 24 hr) and crossfit communities are swarming with guys who are testosterone ridden and ready to lift and punch things.
When these same testosterone junkies join a BJJ school and learn just how inferior their muscles and lack of technique is to a seasoned WHITE BELT whose been on the mats for 6 months or less, often times they quit to never return. Of those who stay, they begin to learn about humility, self control, dedication and patience in ways that they’ve never been exposed to before.
Rolling in BJJ can be one of the most challenging things some people have ever done, but its one of the most rewarding experiences because each person who rolls with you is giving you a gift, the gift of knowledge, of education, of a unique experience that you never would have had if you didn’t get to sit down with them and roll it out.
For this, there is a lesson in every roll. Now what is that dumbell or that pulp bar teaching you again? And you can get ripped in bjj… so don’t say it’s just for the fitness.
6. Functional Movements, Flexibility, and Lean Muscle
Its one thing to be muscular and another to be strong and limber.
Most people who train jiu jitsu often find themselves losing weight and getting in better shape, but this is really just a by product of the style of training itself. They develop muscles which function in day to day life and often realize fewer herniated disks (from lifting too much), torn ligaments, tendons, and pulled muscles.
I’ve met dozens of Crossfitters, and have several friends who started training crossfit since its big boom in the early 2000s, and have seen over the years quite a few injuries occur while training at their local ‘box’.
Though it is good practice to cross-train in any sport with the occasional weight lifting workout, to develop and maintain muscle strength, I personally don’t believe it’s necessary to train with weights 5+ times a week, that’s a bit in excess.
7. Learn to Utilize Leverage
It’s commonly thought of that women in our society are weaker and inferior. Men who are not viewed as ‘big’ or ‘strong’ are often thought of as lesser dominant.
It the art of Jiu Jitsu, a weaker participant can operate under the radar and can leave an attacker unconscious, injured or in jail. Such is the case with a woman in Cheltenham England who was awarded $740 for choking out her would be assailant. You can read the full report here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/11617129/Female-kickboxer-knocks-out-sex-attacker-who-pounces-as-she-walks-home.html
Another woman, weighing a mere 105 lbs, is asked to perform a simple side control of much larger opponent, and inadvertently renders him unconscious. Video below.
Wether your a 160 lb male, or a 120 lb female, or even a 220 lb body builder, the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu applies practical knowledge to develop real world skills which can be directly applied to life or death situations.
Important* I do want to draw a distinction between Jiu Jitsu for sport and self defense. They are not the same, and don’t think that a couple of classes in BJJ means that now you are ready to defend yourself. If you see a knife, run, if you see a gun on their hip, run call for help. It’s better to be safe than dead. But if someone tries to attack you and you have no weapons then it’s better to have the knowledge than to lack it.
8. You Can Train Until You Die Literally…
Because Jiu Jitsu is such a low impact sport, with little strain on the knees and joints, you can literally train into your 90s. That’s what founder of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Helio Gracie did. Helio founded and pioneered the techniques we use in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and has since trained thousands of students personally on the gentle art and has personally trained nearly his entire life. Helio stayed involved heavily in the growth and development of the sport up until his death in 2009 where he lived to the ripe old age of 95.
He started training when he was 16 years old and has racked up over 80 years with the sport, how many 90 + year old cross fitters do you know who aren’t in a wheelchair or now with a knee replacement?
Sure, if you just want muscles now and don’t care about the pain you will be in in your 50’s, 60’s and 70’s then why not keep doing that over head power clean, or that max weight pull up. Single leg weighted squat? Why not? Who needs knees when you’re 60 you can just use a wheelchair right? Or just buy new ones.
9. BJJ’ers are just more laid back
My last and final point.
Though there is competition in BJJ, most practice for the other aspects of the art, and it shows.
Brazilian jiu jitsu, like many other martial arts, is rooted in history yet is still rather new in comparison to some of the more ancient arts like Tai Chi, Kung Fu and Japanese Jiu Jitsu. All these martial arts offer different methods to the same path, the path to deepening understanding of the body, the mind and the spirit.
Because competition is not the soul focus of BJJ, many participants view one another as partners in their development, challenges to make them grow, and their biggest asset.
Ralph Waldo Emmerson remarked “ I have never met a man who was not my superior in some particular way”, and he was right, there is a lesson to be learned from everyone we meet, and it is this idea that circulates in the BJJ community.
To Wrap it All Up
So if your interested in injuring your lower back or shoulder, then why not try crossfit? But if your interested in learning practical life skills, some self defense, with spiritual benefits, in a low stress environment, then why not try Brazilian jiu jitsu? Where the instructors have years and years of experience and can offer more than just lifting advise.