Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Ground Grappling for the forward thinking

How tough are you? How many people can you beat up, knock out, choke out, or submit?

If you care about the answers to those 2 questions, stop reading right here and give Dana White a call to join the cast of the next Ultimate Fighter.

On the other hand, if you’re interested in functional martial arts training and don’t exactly like the thought of being the World’s Most Dangerous Arthritic, then keep reading.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been struggling with my own transition out of the college boy years and into the life of a professional and family man. In addition to my martial arts training & teaching, I’m a Chinese Orthopedic Medicine clinician and a faculty member at Yosan University. I also spend a great deal of my time using kettlebells for the rehabilitation and prehabilitation of patients and clients.

While I was at UCLA, it didn’t matter as much if I was a little injured. In your early 20’s, things get hurt, but most things heal relatively quickly. A tweaked neck, a twisted finger, or a sprained ankle were only minor inconveniences, since I didn’t have to rely so heavily on my body for my living and for the care of my family.

Now that I have a 16-month old son and a clinical practice that revolves mostly around what some term “Chinese osteopathy”, I need every part of me to be in fully functional order and strength. If I’m in pain, I can’t provide proper care to my patients, as some of the therapeutic treatment techniques require physical strength for me to execute properly. And of course there’s no way I’ll be able to pick up and hold my son if I’m hurt. If you want to see a grown man cry, tell him that he can’t pick up his own child when the child is smiling and running towards him at the end of the day.

Why do I bring all this up? Well, if you looked at the title of this blog entry, you might find a clue.

Most of you know that I love Combat Shuai-Chiao. It’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had doing martial arts. I love being able to launch someone into the air, and be launched into the air without sustaining injury. I also love the Shaolin striking arts, especially Sil Lum Fut Ga.

However, it’s undeniable that ground grappling is a piece of the combative puzzle that few, if any, arts have mastered as deeply as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. While I like learning BJJ techniques and ground grappling, I freaking hate being injured! Now while some of you testosterone-teabagged individuals are screaming for more pain like a metalhead gone berserk, the rest of us who love functional martial arts and love functional longevity even more know that we need to find a balance between what elevates our combat skills without crippling our bodies.

The ancient Chinese were pretty good about that sort of thing. If you look at most of the complete Chinese martial arts systems, there are fundamental exercises that build strength, flexibility, and agility. The movements of these exercises directly correlated to the movements performed during the execution of the fighting techniques. The fighting techniques were taught in a systematic progression as well. Focusing first on footwork, the instruction continued to emphasize agility and mobility, while also increasing leg/root strength and balance. Agility and mobility gave the student the ability to achieve superior positioning. From an advantageous position, any attacking techniques thereby required less force and speed to achieve a greater result – combative success, with maximal skill/strength/coordination building, and minimal risk of injury!

Roy Harris, perhaps the most forward-thinking grappling instructor I’ve ever met, saw the high incidence of injury among BJJ students and grapplers, and devised a plan almost identical to the ancient Chinese formula. If you check out his BJJ Over 40 App, you’ll see the mind of a real master at work – giving everyone a safe, effective, and progressive road map to grappling proficiency without the headbanging aggression and brute strength that is so often associated with Jiujitsu. It’s easy to poo-poo all of the techniques you see him demonstrate on the app if you’re already a purple belt or higher, but if you want to teach your students how to train safely and minimize injury while still building skill, check this out!!

I know you won’t regret it!!!

Dr. Mark Cheng, L.Ac., Ph.D., FMS, TRX Sports Med, Sr Instructor SFG
Director / Sifu – Chung-Hua Institute