It may seem that you need to be flexible for BJJ, as its a sport that puts you in positions that seem difficult to be in if your not flexible, but do you need to be flexible to excel at BJJ?
I decided to research the internet to find out for myself.
In BJJ your game plan is going to vary depending on your unique body type, and how the various strengths and weaknesses of the body change your game plan. Fundamental BJJ moves like the armbar, need more timing and placement than flexibility, you do not need flexibility to excel in BJJ
Bernardo Faria is a multi-time world champion black belt, and is not flexible! So in this article, I will explain why you can still do BJJ being inflexible, and how you can train your flexibility for BJJ!
Why You Don’t Have To Be Flexible To Do BJJ
Now flexibility has a lot of benefits in a lot of aspects in life, as it reduces your injury risk and makes you more mobile, but it is not a prerequisite for BJJ.
All the fundamental BJJ moves, such as the triangle and armbar rely more on timing and placement than flexibility. If you have a heavier guy in a triangle and they have their weight on you if your inflexible and have a poor technique you are in a dire situation.
But if you practice good form and was able to build frames to create space between your knees and chest, you can still maintain that triangle and choke him out! Having flexibility can cover up poor technique in BJJ and good technique makes up for being inflexible! Having both is the perfect combination.
A lot of BJJ moves can be done by an inflexible person with slight changes, it’s all about knowing what the move does and changing how you position your body to achieve the purpose of the move.
For example, if your knee cannot go to your chest because of tight hip flexors, you can put your arm across your chest which expands the chest moving your knee closer to your chest without the needed flexibility!
Now modern BJJ has changed to require more flexibility, the perfect example being Eddie Bravos 10th planet rubber guard but flexibility still is NOT a requirement to succeed.
Henry Akins a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Rickson Gracie(one of the best BJJ practitioners ever) talks in the above video why you don’t need to be flexible
Henry says BJJ unlike other martial arts like Muay Thai you don’t need physical attributes like speed, power of flexibility to succeed.
I’ve seen this myself as I regularly have to tap out to people 20 pounds lighter than me and BJJ is the only combat sport were a significantly smaller person can defeat someone a lot heavier using excellent technique
For an inflexible person to excel they need to use frames to create distance, a frame is a part of your body that is used to create and maintain space in open guard it is your legs.
When someone is trying to pass your open guard, rely on your frames, and when they got too close use your feet to create space between you and your opponent.
Now Eddie Bravo the founder of 10th planet Jiu-Jitsu has stated that he won’t give someone a black belt unless their knees hit the floor from a lotus position, but 10th BJJ requires a lot more flexibly than other disciplines of BJJ, and anyone can become flexible with hard work and dedication.
How Can You Improve Your Jiu-Jitsu Flexibility?
When stretching to improve your BJJ game, a good rule is to stretch twice a day to improve your flexibility, perform dynamic stretching before training, and traditional static holds stretching after training. This will reduce the risk of injury and help deal with muscle soreness in BJJ.
Getting flexible for BJJ can be done in as little as 10 minutes a day check out the video above by Lu Strength & Therapy on a quick routine you can do for your BJJ.
I bet your thinking okay your need to stretch, but how do I structure my stretching routine? This is why Yoga for BJJ is fantastic and a lot of h BJJ people in my gym and BJJ practitioners the world over swear by it. Check out Yoga for BJJ for BJJ specific stretching routines to work on your problem areas.
The best way to become flexible is to be consistent with your stretching routine, doing that 10-minute routine every day for 1 year will make a MASSIVE difference to your overall health and mobility, I guarantee it
I recommend stretching twice a day, my preference is a quick 5-minute routine when I wake up and a longer 20-25 minute routine before I go to bed, this relaxes me and get a fantastic stretch for my muscles as they are loose from being active in the day.
I will list the best stretches for BJJ and other martial arts with embedded videos on how to perform them.
This stretch is super popular in Muay Thai as well as other martial arts, if an inflexible person can do Muay Thai check my post here.
This stretch is excellent as it opens up the hips which are important for every martial art, I recommend holding this stretch for around 2 repetitions of 20-30 seconds.
You can even dynamically flap your knees like a butterfly wing and get a stretch on the hips, this stretch can be done throughout the day.
King Arthur Stretch
This stretch specifically works on your hip flexors, lower back, and quads and it will be very challenging and even painful if you have tight hip flexors from working a desk job.
It’s quite a common stretch in YouTube mobility videos and I’ve done it many times. Like the Butterfly, stretch hold the pose for around 2 sets for 20-30 seconds on both legs to feel the benefits.
This exercise is fantastic as it works on mobility and gives a strong stretch to the hamstrings at the same time! It is superb for mobilizes your ankle and knee joints and as you progress you can even add a KB or dumbbell to increase the difficulty.
If you don’t have a pair of dumbbells your missing out as they are highly effective for getting yourself stronger in BJJ, buy a pair for a fantastic price on Amazon here.
Throughout the day around 2 sets of 10 reps are fine, if you have tight hamstrings then this movement is AMAZING and I cannot recommend it enough.
Why Doing Yoga Is Amazing For BJJ
Yoga and BJJ are fantastic together as Yoga improves the control and balance you have on your body, and improves your flexibility. Also, Yoga will improve your breathing and overall body strength which are key for success in BJJ.
Yoga and BJJ go together like being thirsty and wanting a sip of water, if I had to pick any exercise to do for the rest of my life it would be Yoga, for not only it’s physical benefits like improved breathing but also the fantastic benefits it has for improving mental health.
Now, doing Yoga is not a necessity to improve in BJJ but the greater range of motion you receive from Yoga will improve the control of your body, and you will have more options in certain positions and can use your new-found flex-ability to get yourself out of bad situations.
Eddie Bravos system mentioned before has a required level of flexibility so doing Yoga opens up all the different systems of BJJ to you. Why limit yourself being inflexible?
Yoga Improves Your Balance In BJJ
Balance is super important in every martial art as it makes you harder to sweep(go from top position to bottom) and gives you more control of your own body and more understanding of controlling your opponent’s balance.
Read this article by BJJ world on why balance is so important.
Certain yoga poses as the crow and headstand will greatly test your balance, they might seem impossible to perform at first but like everything you will improve with practice over time and this will greatly translate into your BJJ game.
Yoga Increases Your Strength For BJJ
Some Yoga poses require a lot of relative upper body strength and the core(abs) are heavily involved, core strength is key in BJJ as a lot of poses will make your abs burn so keeping them strong is important.
I recommend training your core between 4-6 times a week in short INTENSE sessions, see the video above for a grueling abb workout by Athlean X. I’ve done this routine many times and I promise you, it NEVER gets easier.
Yoga Is Amazing For BJJ Breathwork
Being able to control your breath is very important in a sport where the objective is choking your opponent until they submit, as you will gain a massive advantage in BJJ if you can breathe properly.
Controlling your breath is a key element in Yoga and it relates to the mystical chakras in Buddhist Philosophy, check the video above for breathing techniques that will transform your BJJ.
I’ve rolled with people who technically are WAY better than me but they could NOT control their breath, it is super vital to remain calm and breath even when on the defensive as it helps bring oxygen to the brain and muscles.
It’s surprising y that everyone who does BJJ doesn’t practice Yoga, but I can guarantee if you start a Yoga process everything in your life not just your BJJ will greatly improve.
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