Is Jiu Jitsu a Team or an Individual Sport?

By Christal Montoya

Jiu Jitsu is a sport that consists of several dichotomies and it often seems like they are constantly pushing against each other. For example you have pressure and counter-pressure, gi and no gi, top game and bottom game, old school and new school. One of the most interesting of these dualities is the team versus individual aspects of jiu jitsu as a sport. For the most part, BJJ can be looked at as an individual sport. If you’re someone that competes, when it is time to step on the mats, it is just you out there. However, this doesn’t discount the fact that to a certain extent it was a team effort that got you to that point.

BJJ isn’t a team sport in the way that basketball or football is. You’re not on a court or field working with your teammates to earn points but it is nearly impossible to progress and improve without the help of a team. You need at least one other person to drill with and a coach to guide you and teach. Yes, you can buy a grappling dummy and use that for training. There is also a deep well of jiu jitsu knowledge to be found on the internet. There are so many videos on YouTube and you can also subscribe to whatever online course your favorite black belt offers but it doesn’t make up for actual time spent in class with your coach. A grappling dummy isn’t the best substitute for an actual human person to drill with; it doesn’t fightback or give resistance. However, the other students in your class do fight back and give you resistance when you drill and roll with each other. Each new person you roll with during free roll helps you get better by giving you a new puzzle to work around specific to their game.

If you’re one of those people that becomes obsessed with jiu jitsu and trains every chance you get, it’s likely that you’re spending anywhere from 8-12 hours a week training with these people. It’s inevitable that you’ll form bonds and even friendships with them, not necessarily all of them, but the time spent together creates your team. Even though competing is very individual and as mentioned above, it’s just you on the mats, there is nothing like the feeling of having your team cheer you on during your matches and it’s just as exhilarating to cheer your teammates on. Having a team there for you creates a support system that is there for you: win, lose, or draw.

The feeling of inclusion that comes from being part of a team is great. That being said, the way you approach jiu jitsu is very individualistic. You can be someone that pursues it as a form of exercise, a hobby, a series of challenges or a goal to attain. The time you put into your training along with your attitude and intentions are all choices you make as an individual. So yes, jiu jitsu is a team sport but the guiding force behind each person’s journey is very specific and individual.