Jiu-Jitsu and CrossFit

Written by Oliver Alwes

My brother Elliot’s experience with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has been awesome to witness. I enjoy watching him compete in tournaments knowing the amount of work he puts into it. Since BJJ is a sport, it’s natural for me to draw comparisons between my brother’s approach to training and how NOVA athletes pursue their training goals.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a physical chess match played out on the ground, the goal being that a person grapples with an opponent for position, ultimately trying to force the opponent to submit with a joint-lock or chokehold. Competitors wear a uniform known as a gi, consisting of a heavy cotton jacket and pants, with a colored belt that signifies rank much like traditional martial arts. This gi can help a BJJ player control their opponent and can even be used in chokehold submissions. However, much like kipping pullups or toes-to-bar in CrossFit, the constant gripping of the gi does a number on the hands, and players often need to tape up abrasions on their hands and feet.

Like Crossfit, BJJ places emphasis on technique. A minor deviation in positioning could mean a CrossFitter is missing their PR snatch attempt in the gym, or a BJJ player gets reversed by an opponent into a bad position on the mat. My brother is cognizant of this, given he is a teenager often grappling with adults stronger than him in practice. He writes down his training experiences faithfully in a journal in order to improve his game, similarly to someone keeping a progression log in CrossFit. It’s inspiring to see him do something diligently like that, and see the results when he subs a grown man with relative ease in competition.

Getting to that level of confidence involves experiencing a lot of discomfort, like gassing hard while fresh opponents are being put in against you during sparring. Try to brainstorm how you can push yourself even just a little bit more than you normally would. Would facing someone and trying to keep up with them during the WOD help? Get a plan going and take action!

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