Jiu-Jitsu Class Structure and Ginástica Natural / Yoga for BJJ

5 min read
If you’re new to Jiu-Jitsu or a long time practitioner, here is quick rundown of what to expect when stepping on the mats at a new GYM

Jiu-Jitsu Class Structure and Ginástica Natural / Yoga for BJJ

If you’re new to Jiu-Jitsu or a long time practitioner, here is quick rundown of what to expect when stepping on the mats at a new GYM 

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Photo by: ginasticanatural.com

While the class structure may vary from gym to gym in Jiu-Jitsu, certain practices are standard throughout. With the current COVID-19 pandemic still upon us, some of these practices have been modified, and others have been introduced as adaptations to the current conditions. Here we will look at the most common training methodologies, as well as some other forms of exercise practitioners could use to supplement their Jiu-Jitsu training.   


The bow in, bow out, and Jiu-Jitsu line up 

Despite being considered a traditional martial art, Jiu-Jitsu is relatively more modern and laxer in its practices. Some academies will encourage their students to bow in and out of the mats upon entering and leaving, but only some. Most academies will have their students line up (in order of belt rank), facing the professor at the start and end of each class. 

Photo by: Shei…. Line up at UCF BJJ

Optionally, academies will include frames or images of Grandmaster Helio Gracie on the wall, and possibly Grandmasters Carlos Gracie and Carlson Gracie as well. Both professor and students will pay homage to the grandmasters, bowing to them at the end of each class.  

General class structure

Aside from some of these formalities, the meat and potatoes of a typical class are more consistent. Most will include a warmup, followed by technique or drills, and rolling to end. Some classes will also consist of “specific” or situational training before full rolling rounds commence. 

Situational training example

To elaborate, specific training can be from any given position or situation in Jiu-Jitsu. For example, with the full mount, one partner would start with the mount. The top player’s goal is to keep the mount and work for a submission, while the bottom player is forced to survive and escape. Once this round is over, the partners switch between top and bottom, and the roles are reversed. 

Photo by: Duncan Graham… Gezary and Martina training

This type of training is particularly beneficial for Jiu-Jitsu because it forces practitioners to engage in scenarios that otherwise might not occur during regular rounds of rolling. The positions are often based on the techniques shown during the class, so students will have the opportunity to test them out on a resisting partner shortly after to gain a realistic feel.

Open Mats

Although technically not a type of class, “open mats” are ubiquitous within Jiu-Jitsu culture. An open mat is basically a time when the mats are free for students to roll or drill as they please. This type of training is very informal. Open mats might be included as part of an academy’s schedule, and some gyms might even host open mats that are open to non-members as well.     


Covid-19 Jiu-Jitsu training

As alluded to previously, COVID-19 has thrown a curveball into the logistics and legality surrounding how Jiu-Jitsu can be practiced in some areas. The very nature of Jiu-Jitsu is not conducive to physical distancing, and in regular practice, heavy breathing would likely increase the viral load. In some states or provinces, students have been encouraged to keep the same partner for the entire class and have their space on the mats taped or marked off to help distance from other partner pairs. 

Additionally, grappling dummies have been more incorporated mainly as a training modality, either in group classes or through online training. With the advent of Zoom classes, grappling dummies are a more readily accessible alternative, especially for individuals who live independently.       

Ginástica Natural and Yoga for BJJ

In addition to grappling dummies, other forms of contactless training have been implemented to replace and/or supplement traditional classes, both prior to and during the pandemic. Namely, forms of exercise that involve stretching, mobility, or a movement flow are popular for Jiu-Jitsu. 

Ginástica Natural

One such example is Ginástica Natural, which was developed by Alvaro Romano. Ginástica involves many different full-body movements, ranging in difficulty, and does not require any weights or accessory equipment. Some of the exercises in its system are similar to animal movements, and some are similar or identical to movements someone would use in Jiu-Jitsu. 

Diaphragmatic breathing exercises are also incorporated, something the legendary Rickson Gracie was also known for. Ginástica can be practiced both indoors and in nature, such as on the beach.

Watch this Intro video from Ginástica Natural:

Yoga for BJJ

As the name implies, another solo movement-based system is “Yoga for BJJ,” designed with the Jiu-Jitsu athlete in mind. Much like Ginástica Natural, it involves a range of different movements and isometric holds. 

Yoga for BJJ was developed by Swedish-born Jiu-Jitsu competitor Sebastian Brosché. Brosché caters much of his programming to the inflexible with categories such as “Yoga For Rocks” and “Yoga For Boulders,” as well as niche categories like “Yoga for Desk Rats.” Both Ginástica and Yoga for BJJ can be learned through both pre-recorded videos and instructor-led live classes.     


To put it bluntly

In sum, Jiu-Jitsu in modern-day practice lacks many of the formalities you would see in other traditional martial arts. Even across different academies or associations, there is a range in the degree to which formalities are enforced. 

Intertwined with this is a variance in the way classes are structured. Throughout most gyms and at its core, Jiu-Jitsu places great emphasis on students rolling against a resisting partner. This realism lends itself towards Jiu-Jitsu’s roots as a system of self-defense. 

Other supplementary or online forms of training might help, but nothing will ever replace Jiu-Jitsu in the way it was intended to be practiced. To put it bluntly, train Jiu-Jitsu if you want to get good at Jiu-Jitsu! 




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