With the majority of the world shutting down due to CoVID-19, jiu-jitsu practitioners are forced to make due with a lack of mat time by upping their online training frequency. While a number of instructors have began to adapt to mass closures by creating online training modules or expanding on their current ones, a critical aspect that is missing from not attending our local academy is the ability to build-up a good sweat. Watching and drilling techniques at home can only go so far, one thing that may be slow to return once academies open back up is our gas-tank, our ability to get through an entire training session without needing to take a round off.
A little over a year ago the Gracie University Women Empowered program braintrust of Eve Torres Gracie and Victoria Parsons Gracie, wives to Rener and Ryron respectively, came up with the idea of filming a fitness video geared around jiu-jitsu movements to coincide with their release of the Women Empowered 2.0 DVD. Not unlike the spirit one might find in a TaeBo video back in the day, the content of the FITJitsu program defies the belief that this is a women-only workout.
Enough can’t be said about the wealth of fitness experience that each woman brings to the table. Victoria, having performed for many years as a professional dancer touring globally with some of the biggest A-list acts on the planet, brings a unique aptitude and biomechanical understanding of natural body movements to the mix, being a constant proponent of adjusting one’s movement pattern to fit their body. Eve is known to many as a former WWE superstar, having fought under the bright lights of the multi-billion dollar company for the better part of a decade. She brings high-level dance experience to the mix as well, having been co-captain of the girls dance squad while attending USC in addition to performing as a dancer with the NBA shortly thereafter, until she joined the WWE. Both women are highly active at the Gracie University teaching Women Empowered classes and continuing to develop the ever expanding curriculum.
The FITJitsu program, currently available along with other programs on the Gracie University website at 20% off, comes with a 15 minute introductory lesson for new beginners. Basic jiu-jitsu movements used throughout the workout program are broken down in this section. Eve and Victoria show how they execute a fundamental bridge, hip escape, base stance, base shifting while standing, as well as discussing how to properly heist your hips during a base standup from guard. This is an indispensable primer for anyone undertaking the program for the first time, it helps them get to know the instructors and the types of movements that are to be performed.
The 41 minute workout subsequently includes a section each on stretching, warming up, footwork, lower body, core, ground work, and a cool down. Many of the patterns and movements in the first couple slices take on a Vinyasa-like flow, borrowing staple movements you may see in a yoga class or a warm-up line at your local gym. The movements in the first slice are continuous, mixing in shoulder rolls, neck rolls, leaning to either side to open up the latissimus dorsi, moving into a swan dive, opening the hips up to the ceiling, flowing into a sit and reach and finishing in a butterfly stretch.
5 minute in, and I’ve already broken a good sweat.
The second slice begins, one entitled ‘warm-up.’ I smirk at the irony, proceeding with prudence.
Making sure to stand-up in base, always and forever, we begin the next
8 minutes mixing together moves that come directly out the Women Empowered curriculum, including wrist releases, front choke defenses, and super slaps. What’s emphasized is the importance of base, stability, core involvement, done at a comfortable pace. Like any jiu-jitsu training session, this is a complete body workout regardless of what slice we are in, thus moving into the third slice of ‘footwork’ is really an expansion of what was already entailed in the warm-up.
By this point I’m panting. I pause the video to document the moment, grab a sip of water, then continue on.
The footwork slice runs six minutes, feeling more like a classical workout video from days of old as any other. A major difference though is how the women target specific jiu-jitsu principles in their explanation of the moves, expanding off that by incorporating an array of elbows, slaps, and head clinches. A point they emphasize is that if someone were to come behind you and try to drag you away, your base should be such that it makes you immovable. From there, the sequence continues as they drop to a four-point stance, identical to how one would go for a kneebar from standing. After a round of burpees and standing break falls, they begin a slice on kicks.
Now keep in mind, I did taekwondo for a few years as a kid, but I was hardly a kick aficionado. You could say that the height on my kicks was borderline anemic. I had in fact become notorious throughout the academy for having the most hilariously low ‘high’ kicks at the school. My concerns are mitigated as Victoria and Eve explain that what they are looking for here is moreso proper balance, control, and hip involvement than sheer height. This makes me feel slightly better about myself as I laugh at the memory, sportively sweating through my shirt to keep up.
They begin lunges and I fall into a jovial state, thinking I might actually make it through this. Little do I know, core workouts are next.
They begin with walking out onto our hands on all fours then walking back, walking out to planks and holding, transitioning to push-ups. There is an astute modification suggestion made where one can keep their knees on the ground instead of a regular push-up stance. Side planks and side plank pushups are next, coupled with leg kicks from said positions, transitioning back to a plank, finishing with a child’s pose. At this point, I turn my yoga mat upside down to make it less slippery.
Next begins the groundwork, standard jiu-jitsu movements that have great application in rolling. After working through sit-through’s coupled with base get-ups, low kicks from supine rocking up to a power kick, bridges similar to how one would perform a bridge and roll, my favorite part of the workout commences as they delve into closed guard movements. The sit-up sweep, kimura, guillotine, and triangle choke are all inextricably linked, the movements for them are directly adjacent to one another. The emphasis on hip elevation and abdominal involvement is continuously stressed. The slice ends after a spell of stage 5 punch defense, shrimp escapes, bicycle kicks, and ‘cross-collar choke’ sit-ups. The cool down entails a comprehensive lower body stretch, making sure to target the IT band, glutes, quads, hamstrings, adducters, abducters, and all the musculature surrounding the hips and low back.
Whether you are alone, with a significant other, sibling, friend, or roommate, male or female, there does not appear to be another instructional out there that will enable you to build up a sustained aerobic and anaerobic workout from the comfort and safety of your own home while staying true to the movements of jiu-jitsu. To be able to feel comfortable at that ‘fork in the road’ of a position, the middle ground, the gray area, this is the true value I feel I’m gaining by undertaking FITJitsu training. This is an area that I hope to not lose ground on once academies open back up, this is the skill set that I know to be indispensable in allowing me to play human chess at the highest level possible upon return. We can study jiu-jitsu technique videos all day and know where we need to go in a roll but if our bodies can’t respond to our mind’s demands in kind, we become inherently limited in our application of the art. Despite being branded as a ‘Women’s’ product, the application for this instructional is universal and borderline essential as an aerobic exercise tool aligned with improving your technique, particularly in times where mat time supply is scarce.