‘Blood, sweat, and tears’— that was my first impression of Brazilian Jujitsu (BJJ) before I stepped on the mat. According to an article by Essential Jujitsu, the word “jiu jitsu” derives from the Japanese “柔” meaning “gentle” and “術” meaning “art”; essentially, jiu jitsu is the “gentle art”. BJJ is a predominantly ground-based martial art, using the principals of leverage, angles, pressure, and timing, as well as knowledge of the human anatomy, to achieve a non-violent submission of one’s opponent. Unlike other martial arts that focus on strikes and/or kicks, jiu jitsu focuses on close-contact “grappling” holds and techniques, as well as the application of chokes and joint-manipulations.
I had the honour of interviewing my BJJ coach Apryl Eppinger at Absolute MMA in sharing her personal experience in BJJ.
Thank you very much for agreeing to participate in this interview— we look forward to your valuable insight!
What inspired you to start BJJ? At what age, where, and why did you start?
I had retired from being a full-time track sprint cyclist at the age of 27 and realised I missed having the structure I had as an athlete. So, I knew I needed something else I enjoyed staying fit and healthy with. I knew a friend had joined Absolute MMA to train BJJ and she had encouraged me to try it. So, when I retired from cycling, I waited one week before going to Absolute to try Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I did my first class and was instantly hooked. I’ve never looked back since.
What have you enjoyed the most about BJJ?
For me, it’s a combination of both the physical and mental challenge of the sport and the endless technical knowledge you can acquire. But the people I train and spend my time with make it even more exciting and enjoyable. A great training environment with genuine people makes a huge difference to my time on the mat.
What was the biggest struggle that you faced when training BJJ? How did you overcome it?
As a beginner, I’d say my biggest struggle was ego and learning to be calmer, more controlled. I feel it has changed as my journey has progressed. Many other times, it has been injury, but also ego again. Learning to be calm and patient, to adjust my perception and training. The smaller struggles like injury I have overcome. But I have always been working on bettering myself as a student, teacher, and person.
How has BJJ changed your lifestyle in general?
BJJ for me has become my job. Before, it was a beloved hobby and now, I able to do it every day. I think about and talk about it. I feel happier and healthier. I feel as if I can figure out problems better and it’s helped me create some wonderful friendships.
Do you think it is worthwhile for all people to try BJJ?
Everyone can try BJJ! But like many other things, we all have activities that speak to us and suit us individually, so realistically, not everyone will enjoy or love it in the same way. But it’s definitely worth a try, and after all, you might just surprise yourself and find new friends or a new hobby.