Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Shanghai

OCA Contributor Emma Rosensaft reviews Shanghai BJJ and their martial arts classes.

Last summer, I began studying martial arts. My original interest was learning practical self-defense, so I took up krav maga—an extremely deadly form of martial arts used by the Israeli Defense Force. Most maneuvers in krav maga consist of blows and strikes to your opponent delivered from a standing, upright position.

But, since most real-world fights are taken to the ground– meaning that at least one of the people involved is no longer standing—it is extremely useful to learn ground fighting skills in order to protect yourself. For that reason, the academy where I studied krav maga (which is the Krav Maga Academy in downtown New York City, which I would highly recommend) also offers ground fighting classes. Although the ground fighting they offered was a hybrid of a bunch of different types of martial arts, it primarily consisted of Brazilian jiu jitsu.

During these classes, you would learn how to efficiently traverse the ground on your back; constrain your opponent’s ability to move; and subdue your opponent with chokes, arm bars, and other positions where you apply pressure to your opponent’s joints to cause extreme discomfort. Brazilian jiu jitsu, and ground fighting in general, differ from most forms of martial arts in that they are focused on the maneuvers I described (chokes, arms bars, etc.), which are referred to as “submissions,” rather than strikes (punches and kicks).
In addition, Brazilian jiu jitsu/ground fighting are focuses on how you fight when you are not standing up and how to take advantage of the opportunities you have to subdue your opponent when your opponent is not standing up. In practice, Brazilian jiu jitsu/ground fighting looks a lot more like wrestling than karate or taekwondo.

I really took a liking to ground fighting. Whereas my krav maga classes mainly consisted of taking turns holding pads while partners punched and kicked, Brazilian jiu jitsu/ground fighting classes involved a great deal of one-on-one fights where you actually had to respond to an offensive opponent. As a 5’2’’ (1.5748 meter) 140 pound (63.5 kilogram) woman, I found becoming increasingly able to win fights against and physically subdue much larger men immensely satisfying.

I knew I wanted to continue studying martial arts during college. I didn’t pursue martial arts during my first semester as I wanted to try other activities and adjust to college life, but I took it up as soon as I arrived back in Shanghai after the winter break. Someone at the Krav Maga Academy informed my about a Brazilian jiu jitsu academy in Shanghai, so I decided to investigate the possibility of studying there. I signed up for a free trial class at Shanghai Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (SBJJ) and I absolutely loved my experience there, so I bought six months of unlimited classes and the uniform (a gi).
At SBJJ, classes usually have 12-30 people. The format of each class depends on the instructor but usually there is a 5-10 minute warm-up, which can consist of partner activities, skill reviews, or body weight exercises. Then the instructor usually demonstrates a technique and the students break up into pairs and practice the demonstrated techniques. Classes are all taught in both English and Chinese—the instructor will always give directions in both languages, and there are a mix of Chinese and foreign students. After attending a certain number of classes (I think 13), you advance a level by earning a stripe on your belt, and after you earn a certain number of stripes you have the opportunity to take a test to advance to a higher belt.

Many of SBJJ’s locations offer several beginner classes every week in addition to a weekly review class and an all levels class. At the Puxi Main Academy, women and students receive a discount on classes, and all students have free access to the studio gym, which is equipped with several weight-training machines and punching bags—so you really get a lot for your money. In addition, SBJJ jiust started offering women’s only classes at the Puxi Main Academy from 3:15-4:15 on Saturdays. These classes focus on specific techniques for defending yourself against bigger and stronger opponents.

Although the Puxi location is a bit far from the Jinqiao dorms (I need to leave the dorm an hour and fifteen minutes before class in order to have enough time to get there in time to change into my gi without rushing), I think the classes are well worth the trip and I usually manage to get a good amount of studying done on the subway ride there. And the Puxi academy is closer to the Academic Building than the dorms, so it saves time to go there right from school.

The SBJJ Website can be found here

This article was written by Emma Rosensaft. Please send an email to to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Shanghai BJJ

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