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In this day and age, people aren’t content with one-dimensional workouts. They’re more inclined to find a fun activity that challenges them both physically and mentally, and maybe even one that teaches them a skill in the process.

By now, almost everyone is probably familiar with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) because of the ever-growing popularity of mixed martial arts.

When BJJ first came onto the scene in America, there was not a whole lot of mixing going on, and Royce Gracie exploited that to prove the effectiveness of his family’s art by winning the first couple of Ultimate Fighting Championship events. He was the smallest guy in the tournament and won with ease.

That magic of BJJ, according to instructor Timothy Hart, who runs Gracie 360, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school in Mt. Airy, is that “you can be smaller and still defend yourself against someone a lot bigger than you, a lot stronger than you, and a lot faster than you.”

It relies on technique over speed and strength.

Primarily a grappling art, the goal is to achieve superior body positioning so you can apply chokes and joint locks that will force an opponent to “tap out.” Tapping out is an indication of submission that cues the referee to stop the fight.

On the street, however, it is more likely to be used to subdue an assailant until the police arrive, or put the person to sleep long enough to get away.

It may sound dangerous, but BJJ is really quite safe so long as practitioners remember to tap. There are no strikes, so you can train 100 percent with little fear of injury, which better prepares you if ever you find yourself in a physical altercation.

“I recommend it to everyone. The purpose of Gracie Jiu Jitsu is for self-defense,” Hart said. “You also burn a lot of calories, build strength and increase flexibility all at once.”

It’s an incredibly multifaceted exercise.

Some people train to compete, but the majority of practitioners are hobbyists, who, according to Hart, are drawn to the art.

“It’s a more full-bodied, functional workout than just sitting on a machine and lifting weights,” Hart said. “There are more body weight exercises, with fluid motions, and you’re not on a stationary machine isolating one muscle, which ultimately is better for your body.”

Despite all this, some people still expect a BJJ gym full of aggressive “meathead” types, which deters them from joining. On the contrary, Hart is proud to say that Gracie 360’s students are all humble, friendly people who are eager to learn and willing to help other succeed.

“Our Jiu Jitsu program is for anyone,” he said. “Right now, our youngest student is 13 years old. You’re not walking into a place that’s like something out of ‘Fight Club.’ It’s more of a friend club or a family club than anything.”

Women and children concerned about stepping on the mat with larger men need not worry. A core lesson in BJJ is that everyone has advantages and disadvantages.

A bigger person might be slower than a smaller opponent. An aggressive person will most likely tire quickly or overextend him or herself, which leaves that person open to attacks.

As in life, there are multiple ways to tackle an obstacle: There is a counter for everything and everyone.

The fun part is figuring out how to capitalize on your strengths to overcome an opponent. After a while, it becomes so much fun that you forget you’re also getting in the best shape of your life.

Gracie 360 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & Boxing is located at 7112 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia.

Visit www.gracie360.com for more information.

http://lansdale.patch.com/articles/the-jiu-jitsu-lifestyle