The dojo, set at the heart of our London Academy, is the spiritual home of Brazilian Jiu jitsu – BJJ for short – at Fight for Peace. This is where, on Wednesday and Friday evenings, martial artists gather to hone their unique craft under the guidance of coach John McFadyen.
Brazilian Jiu jitsu is famed as being the ultimate martial art, the form of combat that can defeat all others. This was confirmed by the martial art’s preeminence in the early Ultimate Fighting Championship tournaments of the 1990s, and through the exploits of Rio de Janeiro’s Gracie family, who developed this form of combat in the mid of the 20th century from its roots in judo.
Today, BJJ is an indispensable tool for any mixed martial artist, and is a standalone sport in its own right. As one member of the fabled Gracie family, and arguably the greatest proponent of the sport, Rickson Gracie, famously said, “BJJ is perfect, it’s humans that make the errors.”
Fight for Peace Jiu jitsu player Mohammedally Shustari has been practicing the sport since 2019 and talks passionately about the benefits it brings to him and his life:
“When you are actually rolling with someone else…it’s kind of therapeutic because you’re not thinking about anything else in that moment other than protecting yourself or engaging with that person.”
“It’s kind of like chess, I like the planning of that and the mechanics of that. My favourite part of Jiu jitsu is learning new submissions, and learning the art of transitioning and setting up attacks.
BJJ sessions at Fight for Peace follow a familiar pattern, beginning with a warm up, moving into learning technical skills, and then having the opportunity to put these into practice in controlled sparring with partners. The aim is to build a toolbox of skills and techniques that ensure that you can defend yourself and ultimately submit your opponent through joint locks or chokes.
One of the key things about BJJ, known affectionately as ‘the gentle art’, and one reason why it is so renowned around the world, is that the size of participants is largely irrelevant, with smaller fighters able to outmanoeuvre and gain leverage over larger and stronger opponents.
Helio Gracie, for many the founder of BJJ, was reportedly able to develop the techniques of the sport so effectively precisely because he was physically smaller and less strong than many of his fellow martial artists. He therefore needed to develop techniques that built on the leverage and natural advantages of those with a smaller stature.
Of course, what BJJ has in common with other martial arts, and what makes it such an important part of Fight for Peace are the lessons we gain through training, learning and developing in the sport. For Mohammedally this means discipline, and confidence:
“With any martial art, the main thing it gives is mindset and discipline, and having a moral compass which is the most important thing…The confidence to speak, the confidence to express yourself- that will translate.”
“If you can conquer that in the gym, you can conquer that anywhere else in the world.”
Brazilian Jiu jitsu sessions take place every Wednesday and Friday 6.30pm-8pm at Fight for Peace, and are open to anyone aged 14-25 years old, from beginners to more experienced athletes. Coach John and the team are always keen to welcome new members to the classes!
Photo credit: @lmstudiography