Brazilian jiu-jitsu expands, benefits athletes outside of fighting

Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali was introduced to Brazilian jiu-jitsu in 2007. He wanted to pick up the art and decided to train with Rener Gracie, the grandson of Heilio Gracie, the creator of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Hali, a three-time NFL Pro Bowl player, spends each summer training with Rener in Southern California and has noticed a big change in his performance on the field.

“It helps with my leverage while playing football and being able to get around offensive linemen faster,” Hali said.

With his goal to apply pressure on the quarterback, Hali has to get through offensive tackles. In doing so, Hali uses the same exact hand techniques he learned in jiu-jitsu that he uses during NFL games to get offensive tackles off him, get past them and sack opposing quarterbacks.

During his first week of intensive training, Hali learned about base, control, timing, conditioning, technique and confidence.

While not everyone can travel to Southern California to train with the Gracie family, some people have opened schools and jiu-jitsu clubs worldwide. The KU Jiu-Jitsu club was formed in 2008 and practices three times per week.

Many Ultimate Fighting Champion competitors over the years have added Brazilian jiu-jitsu as part of their arsenal in hopes that they can be more successful when they fight. But jiu-jitsu, created by Heilio Gracie in 1914, is becoming more mainstream outside of the UFC and Mixed Martial Arts.

Senior Christoph Goessing, the head coach of the KU Jiu-Jitsu club, is familiar with Hali’s activity in training with the Gracie family. He watched the 17-minute video of the montage uploaded last month by the Gracie family when they trained with Hali this past summer and was impressed to see an athlete outside of fighting enter the jiu-jitsu world.

Christoph Goessing (bottom) tries to get off the ground and reverse positions with his opponent before practice at KU's Jiu-Jitsu club

Christoph Goessing (bottom) tries to get off the ground and reverse positions with his opponent before practice at KU’s Jiu-Jitsu club

“It can help you be very successful when it comes to fundamentals in sports physically,” Goessing said. “It’s a good way to build yourself up athletically.”

Cody Dean, a senior at the University of Kansas, wished he had jiu-jitsu training throughout high school while competing as a wrestler. Dean said jiu-jitsu would have helped him with his leverage and given him better ways to pin his opponents.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from with your size, shape or form,” Dean said. “Anyone can fit in it and learn it and really make use of it in physical activity.”

Cody Dean (bottom) trains with Abhi Shashikumar before practice at the KU Jiu-Jitsu club.

Cody Dean (bottom) trains with Abhi Shashikumar before practice at the KU Jiu-Jitsu club.

Goessing is active in jiu-jitsu competitions and tries to recruit people to do jiu-jitsu. His biggest selling point is that anyone of any size can do jiu-jitsu and be good at it.

“It focuses a lot on technique and it favors a smaller opponent, which I am,” Goessing said. “Jiu-jitsu is the most effective and efficient form of self defense.”

Throughout his time being involved with martial arts, Goessing has found that jiu-jitsu requires a serious mindset, but can also create a fun environment for those who train.

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