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I’m a big fat guy in Orange Park, FL. Can I do BJJ/jiu-jitsu? Should I do BJJ/jiu-jitsu?

Short answer:

As a former big fat guy, yes, you can. You’ll have to make a lot of adjustments and work very hard, but you can be just as, if not even more, successful than other beginners that are fit. All you have to do is (a) consistently show up, (b) work with your coach/professor on a progression plan, (c) DON”T QUIT. As long as you keep coming, you’ll eventually become the person that you desperately want to be. Remember, in 5 years, it’s not who reached their potential……it’s who’s left.

Too long, didn’t read answer:

So, as a recovering huge fat guy, I’m able say that you CAN do BJJ/jiujitusu despite your lack of athleticism. I started practicing BJJ when I weighed nearly 300lbs and, five years later, I’ve managed to keep the journey alive. I’ve even lost nearly 85lbs and I continue to get fitter by the day. If I can do it, then anyone can do it.

However, as a fat person, you’re going to face challenges that your fitter teammates will not experience. For example, you might face a few of the following challenges, including:

  • You may have serious trouble completing one repetition of the simplest warmup exercises.
  • You may have serious trouble getting through the class warm-up exercises.
  • You may not even be able to complete an entire class because you become exhausted easily.
  • Your Gi might be so big that you feel like you just wrapped yourself up in a tarp and made holes for your limbs (I definitely felt this one for quite awhile).
  • You may have crappy teammates that make jokes about you crushing them under your girth, fat shaming you into avoiding sparring.
  • You may have teammates that avoid sparring with you because they don’t want you “laying” on top of them.
  • You may not be able to last more than one round of sparring and you find yourself constantly gasping for air.
  • You may find yourself feeling like a turtle on its back every time that you’re taken down or swept.
  • You may worry about crushing smaller sparring partners underneath you, which you worry will discourage them from wanting to spar with you in the future.
  • You may find yourself becoming jealous of the all the cool, aerobatic ninja moves that your smaller and fitter teammates seem to be able to effortlessly perform.

And, you’re probably thinking, “Wow….that sounds like it sucks….why would I even want to think about doing this?”

I can tell you, from experience, that you want to do this and deal with these challenges (no matter how crappy they seem to be), because your life outside of the gym will dramatically improve over time. BJJ is a simply a vehicle to change your life for the better. And, before you ask, I’m not suggesting a few weeks of BJJ will change you from a couch potato that worships at the altar of Netflix into a guy that surfs right before every BJJ class and sucks down raw Agave by the gallon. Simplistically, practicing BJJ will encourage you to try to become a better version of yourself; physically and mentally.

For example, live sparring, night after night, teaches you to manage your impulse reactions from negative emotions (panic, pain, fear, anger, etc.) and promotes mental fortitude (patience, endurance, determination, perseverance, and resiliency). Mat time forces you to bear pain, master panic, defeat disappointment, curb arrogance, and develop an indomitable spirit. Over time, you find that the lessons learned from BJJ have bled over into your every day life. After all, if you can learn to survive a five minute round with a grown man pressing on your diaphragm and tugging on your limbs while you’re helpless to stop him, then you can certainly deal with your boss’s disrespectful shenanigans during your 40/hr a week shift at the cube farm. If remain calm and intelligently defend yourself while a grown man attempts to choke you, then you’ll find yourself remaining cool as a cucumber when someone tries to goad you into an argument.

Similarly, training and sparring encourages a healthier lifestyle. Not only are you surrounding yourself with people that support a healthier lifestyle, but BJJ slowly becomes your “why” for weight loss and fitness. Unequivocally, after a few weeks of BJJ, you’re going to be desperate to increase your chances of beating that annoying 145lb blue belt that effortlessly steals your soul like a Dementor every time that you roll together. You know that you need to be faster, to be stronger, to be more flexible, and to develop better stamina to have a chance at beating that guy. So, when the time comes for you to make your usual McDonalds run at 1am (….yeh….the midnight shift at Mickey D’s and I were almost like family), then you’re going to at least think about staying home and drowning your hunger with carrots. Trust me, as you go to rush out into that dark night in search of diabetes and a momentary serotonin fix, a small voice in your head will remind you about that Dementor in a Gi. You’ll soon come to find that you want to tap-out that guy more than you need that Triple 1/4lb-er meal with an apple pie. Overtime, the impulse to choose martial arts success over poor lifestyle habits will grow even bigger. Eventually, you’ll wake up one day, years later, and find yourself eating an egg-white omelette with oatmeal before your Saturday morning open mat.

Consequently, today’s an excellent day to start training. Your size doesn’t matter. The will to act is all the matters; the drive to be better tomorrow than you were today. Yes, as a fat person, it may be more painful for you in the beginning than it will be for fitter individuals. However, in the end, those very same obstacles will serve as the crucible through which you’ll re-forge yourself into something harder and stronger than you could have ever imagined.

Sending you vibes of positivity,

Arthur Belarde                                    Andrew Bell
Head Instructor                                  Assistant Instructor & Time Traveler
1105 Park Ave                                      1105 Park Ave
Orange Park, FL 32073                     Orange Park, FL 32073