Why Every Man Should Do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

The following is a guest post from Brock McGoff at The Modest Man. Every now and again we all need to try new and uncomfortable things. Read on for Brock’s own experience…

A couple of years ago, I was working in a small company in downtown Washington, DC. Like many other young guys, I was working 8+ hours a day and enjoying at least one happy hour every week. I was also going out on the weekends, drinking sugary lattes every morning and eating out a lot.

I had a gym membership, but I was totally bored with my usual workouts – a warm up on the treadmill, 45 minutes with various machines, some bodyweight exercises, etc.

Side note: This was before I discovered free weights and power lifting, which is WAY more exciting and rewarding than weight machines and ellipticals.

The boredom at the gym, plus the long hours at work and my somewhat busy social schedule, led to my gym time being gradually phased out.

I was out of shape, tired and soft.

Lacking the motivation to get back in the gym, I started thinking about other ways to get (and stay) in shape.

Having grown up in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles generation, I always wanted to take karate. As a kid, I make “weapons” out of sticks and rocks and run around the neighborhood perfecting my flying head kicks. (Luckily, I never had to test them in battle).

But I never got to take lessons, and I always regretted it. That is, until one day a couple of years ago when it hit me:

“You’re an adult. You can do whatever you want!”


So I did what any degree-holding 25-year-old would do: I turned to the internet and started researching. It turned out that one of the best places to learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Thai boxing was right next to my office. I’ll never forget my first visit…

It was a true Fight Club moment. I walk down a sketchy street to an even sketchier alley. The gym is in the basement of an old church. Standing at the top of grimy old stairway leading down to the entrance, I could hear the pounding of fists hitting bags and the slaps of palms frantically tapping the mat.

I felt a surge of adrenaline rush through me, which I hadn’t felt in a long time. I was nervous but ready. I walked in and got my ass kicked, thoroughly.

Two years later, I’m totally addicted to jiu-jitsu. I’ve even competed locally and trained overseas. In a nutshell, here’s why I love this martial art:


1. It’s a Great Workout

Grappling is basically high intensity interval training. Most classes begin with a wrestling-type warm up – jogging, push ups, crunches, burpees, jump rope, stretching. Depending on what school you go to, this can be a pretty hardcore workout by itself.

After learning some new techniques and drilling them with a partner, you typically spend 30-60 minutes “rolling” (this means sparring) with various partners. Here is where jiu-jitsu is different from other martial arts:

You can spar at full intensity. Since there is no striking (punches and kicks), and the goal is to get your opponent to tap out via choke or joint lock, you can go all out without getting hurt or hurting someone else.

What does this mean? It means you get 4-10 rounds of maximum exertion separated by 30 second rests. And because you want to win, you tend to push yourself that much further. You’ll feel it the next day, I promise!


2. You’re Learning Something New

The thing that bothers me about going to the gym is that you’re not really learning anything new. Sure, you’re improving yourself by getting stronger and leaner, but you’re not walking away with new and useful skills.

With an extremely practical martial art like Brazilian jiu-jitsu, you are learning how to defend yourself in a fight. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use what you learn outside of practice and competition, but it’s good to know that you could if you had to.

Recently, a random stranger tried to get in my car while I was stopped at a red light. Luckily, I locked the door at the last second, so all he could do was yell at me through the window. But if he did get in, I knew exactly what I would have done. Before jiu-jitsu, I would have been scared and ineffective.


3. It’s Primal

This is more abstract than the first two points, but ask any fighter – there’s something about facing off against another man in unarmed combat that is so human, so manly, so natural.

There are no excuses on the mat. It’s you trying to impose your will on the other guy. There’s no ambiguity. If you lose in training, you’ll be forced to tap out. If you lose on the street, you could be seriously hurt. This isn’t kickball. It’s a different kind of competition than team sports, academics, etc.

Men have lost touch with this primal urge to fight, to prove themselves. Once you start training in submission wrestling, I guarantee your confidence and energy will increase. You will also become a more calm person and not get rattled as easily. Most of the fighters I know avoid real-life confrontations at all costs. They have nothing to prove because they know what kind of damage they could do if they had do.


Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Is Great for Smaller Men

I’m 5’6” and 130 lbs. I have an athletic build, but I’m not ripped (like Brad). And you know what’s cool? The founder of BJJ, Carlos Gracie, was just 5’8” and 158 lbs. Not exactly linebacker material!

carlos_gracie_abCarlos back in the day

BJJ takes into consideration one simple fact: most fights end up on the ground. That’s why the first objective is to take your opponent down. Once you have someone on the ground, their height doesn’t matter, and their weight matters much less. A choke is a choke, regardless of size.

Most sweeps, submissions and escapes rely on technique and leverage, not strength. A lightweight BJJ expert will make quick work of a heavyweight novice.

For these reasons, I especially smaller guys to train in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Of course, everyone will benefit from it!

Is BJJ Right for You?

There’s only one way to find out. Find a local gym, and go to a trial class. Almost every school let’s you check out a class or two for free, so you really have nothing to lose.

My only advice is to stick with it. A lot of guys never make it past white belt because, hey, it’s really hard work. It hurts. But if you get over the initial hump where everything is confusing, you’re always banged up and constantly tapping out, you very well may develop a lifelong passion. Plus you’ll be a little more badass than you were before!

Disclaimer: I’m not saying you should cancel your gym membership to focus on BJJ. In fact, once you get into grappling, you will probably want to eat better and lift more, just to get that edge on the mat. One good habit always begets another!


Brock runs The Modest Man – a blog dedicated to helping short men dress better and feel more confident.

33 thoughts on “Why Every Man Should Do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

    1. Hey Michael,

      I would highly recommend the academy I go to – Maguilla’s BJJ Academy. It’s in Silver Spring (or Wheaton, really). Maguilla is one of the best black belts on the East coast.

      If you are in Northern Virginia, I’d say check out Ryan Hall’s school. It’s called 50/50 (his favorite position).

      If you’re in NW DC and don’t want a long commute to train, BETA Academy is solid. I trained there for a year and learned a lot. It’s a little corporate, though. They lock you into a contract.

      Definitely come by Maguilla’s academy for a free class one of these days (hit me up for details).



    1. Agreed. You really can’t compete in mixed martial arts without at least an intermediate understanding of jiu-jitsu. Most of the top UFC competitors are purple belts or above, or collegiate wrestlers.



  1. Jujitsu is by far the most practical martial arts I know. I could be wrong, but self-defence techniques use a lot of Jujitsu moves.


    1. So true. If you watch the very first UFC event (UFC 1), Royce Gracie used jiu jitsu to effortlessly beat out all the boxers, kick boxers, etc. (including Ken Shamrock). After that, everyone started paying attention to BJJ and studying submission grappling.

      For self-defense, it’s very practical. The only problem is it’s a very one-on-one activity. If you were to get attacked by a group, you’d be better off striking than grappling.


  2. Hey Brock, great article man!

    I’m curious, what do you do in the gym now to aid your BJJ training? I just started BJJ this past week, but I also want to lose about 15 pounds. Not interested in “bodybuilding” but burning fat, packing on lean muscle & improving my core for BJJ


    1. Hey Josh,

      These days, I don’t have time to hit the gym too much AND train BJJ, so in the limited time I have to workout, I like to do crossfit type exercises and some power lifting.

      I did the Stronglifts 5×5 program (highly recommended), but mostly I’ll just run to a park, do pushups and pullups, and run home. I find that a solid hour (or longer) sparring session makes for great cardio/interval exercise, and it’s fun, so need need to hit the gym everyday (for me, at least).

      That said, if you want to lose 15 pounds, it would probably be easiest to start in the kitchen. I’m no expert on diet, but I bet Brad could help!



  3. hey! were did u get the first picture from this post? it is my academy in Ecuador and was surprised to see it! cool post, please give credits for picture. cheers


    1. Hey what’s your name? My friend took that photo (along with a bunch of others) when I was training there last November. Did we train together? I was the the gringo hanging out in Cuenca for a couple of months.

      Hope the academy is doing well!

      For anyone who is wondering, this photo is from Alliance Jiu Jitsu in Cuenca, Ecuador. Instructor Freddy is the man! Very cool training facility, too.



  4. I’m 5’3, 129 lb purple belt, thanks for shedding light on the subject regarding Bjj being tailor made for smaller guys like myself.


    1. Hey Cesar,

      I’d bet on a 129 lbs purple belt over a big guy with no BJJ experience any day. It really levels the playing field. Thanks for the comment!



  5. I’m 5’3, 129 lb purple belt, thanks for shedding light on the subject regarding Bjj being tailor made for smaller guys like myself.


  6. Anyone reading this article and thinking you’ve waited too long or are too old for this sport i can assure you that you are mistaken… I found jiu jitsu at 37 yrs old having been a rugby and ice hockey player my whole life… 6 yrs later at 43, I train 4-6 days a week, Im in better shape then I was at 25 while playing top tier rugby in the US, I compete at the highest level frequently (IBJJF, Pans, ect), my 12 yr old son trains as well as my gf of 3 yrs… no excuses!!!


    1. Great point. I’ve been embarrassed on the mat by guys in their 50s and 60s and older. It’s all about skill and work ethic, not age, size, gender, etc.

      Very cool that your son is training! I’m definitely going to put my kids in jiu jitsu classes from a young age.



  7. If you are looking for an academy on the Maryland side of things, you should check out college park mixed martial arts. It has morning and evening classes without having to wreck your wallet. The instruction is very hands on and it has a real community atmosphere. The head instructor is just 115 lbs, so he understands grappling from the small guy’s perspective. http://Www.cpmma.net


  8. I have been doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for 8 months and I am a blind diabetic and I absolutely love it has changed my life forever. Everything you have said was a valid point and I went through all this just have to be headstrong and get over it and do it


  9. BJJ sucks. Filled with egos and is now pretty much a social club with people making stupid memes and groups on facebook. “If life gives you lemons, train hard!”. It’s the new crossfit; Ok but the people make it annoying.


    1. Caveman,

      Sounds like you had a bad experience somewhere. I know there are schools that cater to big egos, overly competitive people. These seem to be the places where injuries happen…

      I haven’t had this experience with any academies I’ve trained at (in the DC area or elsewhere). Hopefully you’ll keep training!



  10. I agree that every one should train Jiu Jitsu and I recommend it to family, friends, and acquaintances constantly. The article, however, was sexist. The title alone suggests that women have no equal role in the sport, which is complete nonsense. And, yes, Jiu Jitsu is great for “smaller men”, but just as much it is a fantastic sport for any woman out there. The beauty of this martial art is that virtually anybody can learn it and use it.


    1. This is another prime example of stupid women just looking to stir the pot whenever they can. Seeing how mainstream BJJ has become I’m sure they will cater to all the egg shells stupid bitches like this put out for people to walk by.

      You come into an article for men and want to change it to fit your feelings and needs, typical feminist “gender studies” stupidity. BJJ is shit.


    2. I’ve been beaten up on the mat by plenty of women. Like smaller men, women seem to develop really sharp skills instead of relying on brute strength.

      This article isn’t sexist (I wrote it, and I’m not sexist). It’s just written for men, which is fine. It would be sexist if it was called:

      Why Every Man Should Do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (and Why Women SHOULD NOT)

      …but it’s not!



  11. Good article! And bjj is great fun however i have to disagree with the favt that a mans weight doesnt matter whwn you go to the ground. you weigh 130 lbs. I am 66’7and weigh 230 lbs. If i.kount you,you will know weight makes a big difference! 🙂


    1. Fair enough. But I’ve seen some smaller guys hold their own or even dominate bigger guys. For example:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBdTZC3FkXg (this one is awesome)

      Of course you could find plenty of videos of big guys crushing little guys, but BJJ is definitely one sport where size matters a little less (as opposed to, say, football or basketball or boxing).



  12. This is a great article. I’ve been training BJJ for 8 years and will never stop. There is one addendum to this article that I would make: BJJ makes you a better person. This is best put by UFC commentator Joe Rogan in a speech he made after finally receiving his black belt after 15 years of training.

    It’s peppered with profanity but is still one of the most eloquent descriptions of why BJJ is so great.


  13. Dear meat head, i mean caveman. If you were to practice under a legit practioners and not with these “I got my black belt in a year” $10 a month “throw some blankets down on my garage floor” UFC fanboys that learned everything they know from youtube videos. Leave your ego at the door or have it broken on the mats. Your like the typical male, “I’m so badass” then gets his lunch money takin by a 14 year old kid. Its more than a social club, it becomes a family. Its not just about memes and fb goups, its about the relationships you gain. I would rather see that on fb than people drunk/trashy.
    To Al sharpton, i mean rebeka.. The title suggest all men should consider Bjj, you made an assumption because he didn’t mention the female aspect. Why don’t you go ahead and throw race in there too if you’d gonna descriminate.
    Caveman, if there were a bank that takes a dollar and hands you $100 back, wouldn’t you share it?


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