What is Jiu Jitsu? A Lesson for Travelers

by | Mar 7, 2016

What is Jiu Jitsu? Why should I learn it?

These are the main questions I had not more than a month ago when I was invited to China to take part in a 3 month full immersion Jiu Jitsu course.

Now here I am, in Dali, China… and loving it! I’ve been training heavily 5 days a week. It’s been challenging, both physically and mentally. I am still quite far from feeling like a Jiu Jitsu master, but i’m seeing immediate improvements and I now have a much greater understanding of the art and history of Jiu Jitsu.

Let me explain what I learned about Jiu Jitsu so far, and what a full immersion course entails.

So… What is Jiu Jitsu?

Jiu Jitsu is a martial art, combat sport, and a self defense system that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting. This system relies heavily on the use of body leverage and positioning to efficiently wear down and trap opponents. Opponents are often submitted using various arm/leg joint-locks or chokeholds.

Here’s a video of me demonstrating (on my instructor) what I learned after my first week:

Why Did I Come?

Curiosity… If you’re a regular follower of my life/blog then you’ll know that I live my life one adventure at a time. I want to experience it all. I like to fully immerse myself in different cultures, lifestyles, activities. I’m constantly taking bits and pieces of each experience and adding it to an ever-growing life experience and broadening my knowledge of this wonderful world we live in.

For those new to this blog, here’s a list of my 15 Best Travel Experiences of 2015.

When I was offered a chance to be one of the very first students at this new Jiu Jitsu academy in exchange for telling my story, I jumped at the opportunity!

Why China?

The Jiu Jitsu school i’m attending, Gracie Jiu Jitsu Immersion China is the only school of its kind offering a full-immersion program. The program prides itself on their 3-month course. We are currently being taught the 36 main Jiu Jitsu moves. We will repeat these lessons 5 times, in various combinations. The goal is to master these Jiu Jitsu moves, which is one of the main requirements for obtaining a blue belt… Pretty cool!

Interested? Here Are The Details…

The price is pretty incredible, only about $1,000/month. That includes:

  • 4 hours of training per day
  • 1 hour of fitness
  • 1 hour of yoga per day (I’ve been practicing yoga for over 8 years now, so this was huge for me)
  • 3 meals per day
  • 3 freshly laundered uniforms (Gi’s) each day
  • Private room in the coolest hostel in Dali, Jade Emu
  • 3 hours of Chinese lessons per week
  • 1 week hiking in one of the most beautiful regions of China, Tiger Leaping Gorge

The school itself is located in Dali, one of the most popular destinations in the Yunnan Province of China. This old town is a walled city dating back 937, which is sandwiched between 13,500 foot (4,100m) peaks and a 25 mile (40km) long lake. It’s gorgeous, tranquil and has a little something for everyone.

This is my view every morning from right outside of the Jiu Jitsu training hall.

What is Jiu Jitsu?


After Two Weeks, How Do I Feel?

I just finished my first two weeks of training. I’m happy to say I feel amazing. I was extremely sore the first week, but I feel my body slowly adapting to this lifestyle. I’m eating healthy, staying extremely active and getting plenty of sleep. It feels really great to have a stable routine. It’s actually the first time I’ve had a routine in 1.5 years. It will also be the first time I’ll be in one place for more than 1 month. It feels great to unpack my bags for a bit and act like a “normal” person again 🙂

Our schedule for the next 3 months:

What is Jiu Jitsu?


This is where we eat our meals. The Chinese typically eat family style, so we share all our dishes. The Chinese food found in America is not actually Chinese food, I quickly learned this. Real Chinese food is incredible!

What is Jiu Jitsu?

Can You Jiu Jitsu?

YES, ABSOLUTELY YES! If you’re clueless about martial arts (like I was a few weeks ago) then you’re probably thinking this is a sport that only the super fit meathead-adrenaline-junkie type can do.

I assure you, it’s not.

Jiu Jitsu was highly influenced by a man, (Hélio Gracie) who was born with a mysterious illness that made him small and frail. He developed a system that doesn’t rely on size or strength. Gracie Jiu Jitsu, unlike other martial arts is great for people of all shapes and sizes.

I’m currently training with 3 Americans in their 20’s, and a British girl in her 30’s. None of us have had any experience with martial arts before. Honestly, we’re all pretty out of shape.

Who Should Learn Jiu Jitsu?

  • Women who want to learn self-defense.
  • Travelers going around the world and putting themselves in weird situations.
  • Skinny/small guys that want a confidence boost.
  • Someone who wants to get into better shape.
  • People who need an outlet for their aggression.
  • Anyone who wants a mental or physical challenge.

What is Jiu Jitsu?

Brief History of Jiu Jitsu

Modern Jiu Jitsu aka Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a spin-off of Japanese Judo. In the early 20th century Japanese Judo master, Mitsuyo Maeda moved to Brazil and taught Brazilian brothers, Carlos and Hélio Gracie everything he knew. The brothers refined and adapted Jiu Jitsu over their lifetime, eventually creating what is now known as modern day Jiu Jitsu, aka Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), and Gracie Jiu Jitsu (GJJ).

Gracie Jiu Jitsu

The Gracie family has popularized and trademarked their branded Jiu Jitsu training techniques. Over 40 Gracie family members have helped create a Jiu Jitsu organization, which is comprised of hundreds of certified training centers spanning 6 continents.

Legendary Grandmaster Hélio Gracie

Helio Gracie learned traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu techniques from his older brother, Carlos. In the late 1920s, he began to modify these techniques to accommodate his frail physique with the objective of developing a system that would enable him to defend himself against larger opponents. He spent much of his life adapting the moves, he proved his art’s effectiveness by routinely defeating larger and stronger opponents, some of whom outweighed him by as much as 100 pounds. As a result, Helio’s techniques quickly became the new expression of Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil and set the stage for a worldwide revolution in martial arts.

To learn more about this course please contact Gracie Jiu Jitsu Immersion China.