The Game of Physical Chess

the-game-of-physical-chessThere is a reason many of the participants in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (“BJJ”) are doctors, lawyers, and successful business owners. BJJ is a fitness game of chess played in a fight with the winner being the most intellectual player.

BJJ, also known as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (named after one of the pioneers: Helio Gracie), was born in 1882 as an adaptation of Judo, with an enhanced focus on moves that empower weaker and smaller people against bigger and stronger opponents.

Athletically challenging, an aerobic and anaerobic activating exercise; BJJ is a great strengthening workout for the entire body. It is a learned skill of combat and self-defense, resulting in far more than just a simple form of physical fitness.

Thadeu Vieira, Owner of Vieira BJJ (located in the Westfield Sarasota Square Mall near Sears) states, “Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a fantastic work-out, intellectual challenge and a wonderful source of self-defense for everyone. I encourage men, women and children to try it at least once or twice for the physical fitness, fun and self-defense. You will be addicted!”

Boxing against a bag and kickboxing against a matted post are enjoyable fighting-types of work outs. However, most participants in boxing and kickboxing classes do not actually want someone to punch or kick them in a sparring match. Punching a bag is very different than actual person to person contact.

The main difference in BJJ is no one is punching or kicking you; therefore, it is less intimidating than sparring. It is a person to person fight that can be accomplished by anyone, at any age, at any fitness level. Moreover, hitting and kicking a bag will not always help defend a person if they are personally attacked.

The main focus of BJJ fighting is on the ground.

The fight begins with the two participants standing, with multiple options to take the opponent to the ground. Both individuals are trying the techniques they know best to get the other person on his back. The person with the most skill and knowledge will be the one to get the other one on the floor, size is a small component of who lands on the ground first. Once on the ground, the real fight begins. Each fighter is attempting to successfully execute various offensive and defensive moves without the use of punching or kicking.

Three taps are available to all participants at any time, insuring there is little opportunity for actual pain or injury. A fight could include a knee to the other person’s abdomen, flipping from bottom to top with skill and technique (regardless of the size or strength of the person on top) and chokes with the arms, legs and with the Gi (the outfit worn in BJJ).

What makes BJJ a game of physical chess is that the more moves a person knows and can execute, the better he will be in a fight. But it is more than that. A person can know all of the techniques, but the moment there is an actual fight; the mind and body become overwhelmed causing them to be forgotten. BJJ trains the fighter to build muscle memory helping the body to act naturally during a fight. An even more skilled fighter will know what move will be executed next by the movement of his opponent; therefore anticipating future moves and strategizing the best way to win.

“Jiu Jitsu is similar to Chess in that students first have to learn about the basic positions, attacks, escapes and counters before they can “play” Jiu Jitsu. Once the student has a handle on how to play, that’s when they can start working on strategy.” Sonny Parlin, Owner and Head instructor of Gracie Bradenton.

Sara Blackwell is a fitness freak, author, professor of law and lawyer. You can contact her at