The Yoga of Martial Arts

Posted on January 20, 2016 by Chandra 1 Comment

The Universal Principles of Jiu-jitsu

In one of the ancient texts of India, known as the Bhagavad-Gita (Chapter 1, Text 1), it has been told;

dharma-kṣetre kuru-kṣetre

samavetā yuyutsavaḥ

māmakāḥ pāṇḍavāś caiva

kim akurvata sañjaya

O Sanjaya, after my sons and the sons of Pandu assembled in the place of pilgrimage at Kuruknshetra, desiring to fight, what did they do?

I have sometimes heard speculation that the word Jiu-Jitsu comes from the Sanskrit word yuyutsavaḥ (युयुत्सवः), meaning ‘desiring to fight’. This case becomes even stronger if we consider the mutation of phonemes as the language moves East — ĵuĵutsabaḥ (যুযুৎসবঃ) in Bengali. However, if we look at the etymology of the Japanese word jūjutsu (柔術), meaning ‘gentle skill’, we come to know a lot more about the nature of this martial art.

It can, nonetheless, be argued indefatigably that Jiu-Jitsu has its ancient origins in India. From ancient times the grappling arts have been a much honoured part of Indian culture. Many accounts tell how the wisdom of India travelled across Asia and made its way as far as Japan via the Silk Road, particularly with the transmission of Buddhism. After circling the globe — via Brazil — this gentle art has found its way back home, now being rediscovered in a small town called Nabadwip by some young and enthusiastic students.

“Learning Jiu-Jitsu requires as much mental activity as it does physical and the children have brought the benefits of that with them to the classroom, which is great!” Banti, head teacher at Golden Avatar, extolls the merits of Jiu-Jitsu.

For several months now, the students of Golden Avatar have been learning Gracie Jiu-Jitsu from an online source.

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Currently 15 students are learning one or other of the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu courses, and many more are quickly becoming interested. For the younger students,there are the ‘Gracie Games’ — a fun and engaging program meant to build confidence and develop motor skills and strategies which will help children neutralise aggression non-violently when confronted with bullying. The older boys are learning the ‘Combatives’ program. Building on the skills developed in the ‘Gracie Games’, the older boys learn how to further develop skills and strategies that help them diffuse a potentially violent situation and to safely and effectively defend themselves if such a situation is inevitable. The most important is the ‘Women Empowered’ program, learned by the senior girls. As the name suggests, this program aims at empowering women with strategies and techniques which will give them many options when confronted with the possibility of sexual assault. Unfortunately, this is a very real threat for many of the girls here at Golden Avatar, as well as across the sub-continent; thus great importance is given to this program.

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The benefits of Jiu-Jitsu reach well beyond the realm of self-defence, as Banti and other teachers have noted. Indeed, Jiu-Jitsu is a way of life, much in the same way as yoga. It is a complete and integrated system of education for the mind and body. Given this similarity in its principles to yoga, it seems Jiu-Jitsu is quite at home here in India.

To give a few examples, if we are to accept both disciplines in their fullness, we find many similarities. Firstly the consideration of diet in both disciplines implies that the key role of diet is to maintain the balance of good health, especially in terms of efficiency in digestion. Therefore there are some restrictions in terms of diet in both disciplines. The importance of restraint from intoxication, the practice of celibacy to maintain strength and focus and the virtue of non-violence are all understood in both disciplines. As far as mechanics go, both discipline focus on movement which is natural and efficient — movement of the whole body in unison and development of core strength are key features of both yoga and Jiu-Jitsu. Both disciplines also address the subtler mental aspects of the self — yoga through breath control and meditation, and Jiu-Jitsu through the intellectually stimulating chess game which is part of the journey toward mastery of the art.

The benefits of both are not only physical but also intellectual, emotional, moral and ethical. We choose to have our students practice Jiu-Jitsu not only for all these benefits nor simply because it is fun and engaging for the students, but also because of the high standard of pedagogy implemented in the online programs. Understanding the learning process is an integral part of education, and we only have to look a little into the history of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to understand why the art is so well preserved.

Helio Gracie, the founder of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, was a true teacher. In brief, the history is that he would watch his brothers train and eventually teach traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, but because of physical ailments, he was himself unable to train. Once when one of his brother’s students came to learn, he demonstrated the techniques he had learned simply by observation. The student was so happy with his explanation of the art that he then became an honorary instructor and began to practice the art. As he attempted to apply the various techniques he had seen, he found that his physical ailments limited his application, thus he modified them to use leverage and positioning to neutralise an attack. Indeed, Helio had understood the essential principles behind the technique, and had not been confused by the form of the techniques. With a scientific mindset, Helio Gracie went on to develop the most effective approach for (or method of?) un-armed self-defence. He embodied an approach to learning the art which is to understand the principles, and knows that for each person the techniques may have to be adjusted to accommodate their unique physical make-up. Indeed, he has created an art that works for any person to defend oneself against violent physical attacks.

It is this approach of focusing on essential principles rather than getting bogged down in trying to remember facts and figures that makes Gracie Jiu-Jitsu such a pedagogically advanced art. By this approach, students become responsible for and learn to direct their own learning, a benefit which embodies the highest ideal of teaching. It is this kind of thinking that we try to encourage at Golden Avatar with the hope of creating a rich culture of education for the future generations of Nabadwip.

The social benefits outweigh the martial benefits of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, To quote Renner Gracie, the grandson of Helio Gracie; “If everybody did Jiu-Jitsu, the world would be a better place.” I agree!


One Comment

    2 years ago

    I was so happy when i saw that this kind of institution growing up in my city specially holy city in the world Sri Nabadwip Dham. I would like to do something for this or get in touch with this great initiative. And i believe these things should be appreciated by Indian Govt and aid will come up and obviously God will be with your team. Wish my best wishes to your team for a prosperous future ahead and surly the Golden Avatar Trust will bring up to the World one day just keep it up.


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