By Coach Leah Taylor
The image that comes to mind when most people think about weight training is something like this:
The reality is that bodybuilders must work every single day for years to attain such a form. Even if the person supplements with hormones, they must still be incredibly disciplined with their diet and lifting routine. It is definitely a lifestyle and not something that can be achieved accidentally.
I have had many women tell me that they don’t want to become bodybuilders. They are afraid that they will become “bulky” from all of the muscle that they will instantly build by lifting weights.
I even encounter men, who are dedicated to a sport, such as jiu jitsu, but do not feel that its worth it to spend the extra time strength training. They feel that the time could be better allocated to honing that skill.
This is a philosophy that holds up very well until a significant injury occurs. In every sport, there are repetitive movements, often on only one side of the body. Over time asymmetries in terms of strength and flexibility occur. Injuries follow when force and speed are added to this unstable foundation.
Personally, I have had two knee surgeries and a pretty significant neck injury. Most black belts in jiu jitsu have a similar list.
Jiu Jitsu for Life
I have noticed that lack of strength training stops many students from progressing. They reach a point in which they know what they should be doing, but they can’t do it at the proper time or can’t frame with their upper body and move their weight away.
Knowing what to do in a match and being able to physically do it are two different things. It is not critical to be able to lift crazy amounts of weight to do jiu jitsu. However, it is necessary to be able to move your own weight away from another person. Jiu jitsu is not designed around increasing strength of an athlete. Lifting is.
Base and Posture
No amount of fancy moves can compensate for bad posture. Our base and posture are the foundation for all of our jiu jitsu. They are the roots of the tree.
Our posture throughout the day heavily affects how others perceive us. I always thought that this was a personality trait, but it is also dependant on whether the person is strong enough to hold themselves in good posture for hours at a time. Weight training makes this so much easier, on the mat and in life. As our core strength increases, standing or sitting with a straight back become more a matter of consciousness than ability.
Our base is how well we can stay on our feet or in whatever position we are trying to maintain in jiu jitsu. The orientation can get crazy. I have noticed a marked difference in my base since I have started lifting consistently. It is the one thing aside from hours and hours on the mat that I think can improve a player’s base.
Coach Chris Haeuter is often quoted as saying, “It’s not about who’s good, it’s about who’s left.”
He is speaking in terms of those that can mentally and physically handle the stresses of jiu jitsu long term. I understand that far better now than I did when I first heard it. Poor physical condition is often the determining factor in who’s left.
I am stronger now than I have ever been in my life. My naturally mobile joints finally feel stable. I truly wish someone had introduced me to weightlifting long ago. Despite the fact that I was an athlete all through high school, I never encountered a woman that lifted weights until I worked at a gym. I think that this is a trend that is changing for the better.
I invite people of all walks of life to come in to try our program. We have carefully cultivated an environment where everyone can be comfortable training regardless of their starting point, and we can cater workouts to your fitness goals. All you have to lose are your limitations.