I can imagine when most jiu-jitsu practitioners start training, there is a bit of relief that at least the possibility of obtaining massive head trauma while practicing the art is slight. Still, if you are going to practice the art of violence, you should be open-minded to study all aspects of violence and learn when to use it. We all have heard that quote, “90 percent of fights end up on the ground.”, and it is true, but we can learn a lot from other martial artists that can help improve our jiu-jitsu.
The first martial art that I practiced was Kung-Fu when I was fifteen years old, and even though it might sound hilarious to most of you reading this, there are lessons and techniques from Kung-Fu that I still use in my jiu-jitsu.
I practiced kickboxing right after that, and every time I get back into it, I always feel like I’m in the best shape of my life. As Bruce Lee said, “If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there. You must go beyond them.” I try to practice that quote in everything I do.
Striking Is A Different Workout
The cardio in striking is a lot different than the cardio in jiu-jitsu. Striking is a sprint, and grappling is a marathon. Of course, you can rev up your grappling intensity to exert more energy, but most people need someone to motivate them to do so.
As a smaller guy, I use my footwork and head movement a lot to avoid taking damage. The more I move, the more intense my workout becomes, and the faster my metabolism functions. It’s an all-body workout because you are working out your arms, hips, legs, and shoulders when you strike.
Striking Increases Your Body Awareness
If you are short, you learn to fight short. If you are tall, you learn to fight tall. Controlling your distance is a big deal in a fight in general, but it’s more of a focal point in the striking game. Those with a longer reach tend to fight longer while implementing a jab to control their opponent’s distance when the smaller fighter keeps their guard up and tries to move in and out of the pocket before they get hit and take damage. As a grappler, I like to grapple small. Inverting, attacking the legs, keeping my elbows in to protect myself from getting submitted, and finding an opening to attack or get better positioning.
Other than body awareness, it heightens your combat IQ. You’ll realize what type of style your jiu-jitsu is. Many high-level sports jiu-jitsu competitors train for certain rule sets, and of course, they won’t have to worry about strikes. But, if they get into a Combat Jiu-Jitsu match and have never received a strike previously, It’ll change their game entirely.
Striking will give you more confidence
Learning to strike will make you sure of yourself no matter where the fight ends up. Nobody that trains really wants to get in an altercation. We actually train to avoid it by learning to use the weapons we have so we don’t have to use them. It’s way easier to throw a combination before attempting a takedown than just keeping your guard up and moving forward, and you don’t want to ruin your new pair of jeans butt scooting your way out of an altercation.
Lots Of Great Grapplers Are Also Strikers
Great jiu-jitsu practitioners in the early days of Mixed Martial Arts who are also very technical strikers like Kenny Florian, BJ Penn, and Matt Serra used their jiu-jitsu as a last resort if things didn’t go their way on the feet. In the semi-finals of the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Kenny Florian had to face the heavy-handed Chris Leben.
Even though they were each other’s main training partner, Chris Leben still underestimated Kenny’s size and striking experience. He thought he was only a jiu-jitsu guy that would only try to take the fight to the ground. The Roberto Maia black belt surprised Chris Leben with his razor-sharp elbow strikes, and that battle ended via a technical knockout in the 2nd round.
Another excellent example of using their striking as a secret weapon was when Matt Serra won the UFC Welterweight Championship by knocking down Georges St. Pierre in the 1st round. This fight was the biggest upset in UFC history. He had the legendary coach, Ray Longo, a lifelong martial artist who specialized in boxing, kickboxing, and Muay Thai, in his corner. So, of course, Matt Serra was winning all of his fights in “The Ultimate Fighter Season 4: The Comeback” out grappling his opponents.
Obviously, now leading up to his title fight against Georges St. Pierre, the champion thought that the challenger’s game plan was to take the fight to the ground, but to his surprise, Matt Serra went forward with a jab to the over-hand right and finished him.
The art of fighting is all about playing chess while your opponent is playing checkers. The more you can add to your game, even if you are not a fighter, the better. This world offers more than a lifetime of lessons to be learned. So why not start learning every aspect of self-defense?
Having an open mind and trying new things can be scary, but it’s always worth it. So, if you are ever curious about your gym’s striking program, give it a try!
Gian Carlo is a 10th Planet Blue Belt and a comedian from Puerto Rico. He currently resides in Albuquerque where he trains under “Nasty” Nate Harris, and hosts 2 podcasts (Unemployed Commentators & The Shoot)