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FAQ - American Jiu-Jitsu @ MIT


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Welcome to the American Jiu Jitsu @ MIT Frequently Asked Questions Page

Welcome potential Jujutsoka! This is the American Jiu Jitsu page created by you and dedicated to your questions and concerns. If you have any questions not answered on this page, or on other pages of our site, please send them to, the Jiu Jitsu instructor's mailing list.

Common (and Some Uncommon) Questions and Answers:


I do not have an athletics card, can I still join?

Sorry, but only athletic-card holding MIT students, alumni, affiliates, faculty, staff and family may participate in a club sport at MIT. For athletics card information, please see the Athletics Department website.

Why is American Jiu Jitsu better than other martial arts at MIT?

It isn't. No martial art is 'better' than another! Each person must find their own favorite art. Anyone who claims that one martial art is truly superior to another martial art is not a true martial artist. Anyone who studies an art, in the hopes of becoming skillful in that art and does so with their full heart and spirit is truly an amazing individual. American Jiu Jitsu focuses on self defense. If you are interested in learning self defense, then American Jiu Jitsu may be for you. However, we always suggest that you look at all your options while at MIT... there are lots of them... to make sure you find the environment, the art, and the people that you want to learn with and from.

I used to do martial art X, will my belt rank transfer?

Unless your previous martial art rank was from an American Jiu Jitsu Federation dojo, your rank will not transfer. However, we have many club members who were/are practitioners of other martial arts such as judo, kickboxing, tae kwon do, Isshinryu karate, Shorin Ryu Karate, and wrestling. Students with prior martial arts experience find that many skills transfer quickly- it's not as difficult as starting from scratch. Martial arts is a life-long learning process, so come add to your knowledge!

Can I just come and watch?

Absolutely! However, it will be tremendously more fun and informative to take off your shoes and hop on the mat to practice with us. We will always invite you to train with us (yes, even on your first day). We are a fun group... we don't have lots of formalism, so please come, watch, and if you find the spirits willing, partake.

I hear that some martial arts at MIT are very strict and heavy into discipline - how strict are you?

We are not strict, nor are we disciplinarians. We do expect every student to respect every other student (actually, we hope that all students learn respect for everyone -- martial artist or not). On the mat, we have a couple of rules... some driven by tradition, some driven by safety. Don't worry about violating such rules... you will learn them with time. Basically, it comes down to this: (1) make sure the instructors know where you are, and who you are working with, (2) use common sense, and (3) be respectful to everyone on and off the mat.

Is there a Jiu Jitsu PE class?

We are not currently offering Jiu Jitsu PE. If you'd like to see club sports receive PE credit, please petition the Athletics Department.

How will I have time to study Jiu Jitsu with the phenomenal work load of MIT?

It's magic... you just do. Most people find that Jiu Jitsu helps them study more effectively.

What makes American Jiu Jitsu different from other Jiu Jitsu organizations?

This is a fairly difficult question to address thoroughly. There are LOTS of Jiu Jitsu schools out there. Some focus on self defense, some don't. It is easier to say what we do than to tell you what other organizations don't do. We practice self-defense... this means we will do whatever necessary to defend ourselves (strikes, kicks, chokes, lockups, throws, sweeps, blocks, weapons, weapon defense, arnis, ground-fighting, etc...).

How long will it take for me to earn my black belt?

Before I answer this question, I should say a couple things. Many people see the attainment of the black belt as the highest degree of mastery in a martial art. Many see the black belt as their final goal. I would counter by saying that your black belt signifies your true start as a student, that your black belt is just the beginning of your training. The path to the black belt, and indeed the path beyond is what is most important (otherwise, you could just go out and buy a black belt... they cost about $4 at a martial arts supply store). Having said that, having such a goal is still important, and it can take as little as 4 years (intense training) to obtain. But, normally, it takes between 4.5-7 years to earn your shodan (1st degree black belt) in American Jiu Jitsu. It takes a little less time to earn your blackbelt in our club than in many nonacademic clubs due to how intensely we train. We meet 4 times per week, and practice for about 2 hours per day. An example schedule might be 8 hours per week x 40 weeks per year x 4.5 years = 1440 hours of training (most people approaching their black belt test have many more hours of training than this). A black belt signifies not only your skill as a martial artist, but as a trustworthy, reliable friend to the club, to the art and to the community. It signifies that you are a student, a teacher, a mentor and have earned the respect of all your colleagues through your demonstrated respect for them.

Is there any hazing involved?

No! Absolutely, positively NO! Hazing is never tolerated! Hazing is a disrespectful, harmful practice that can only ever backfire. American Jiu Jitsu Club at MIT is founded upon the principles of mutual respect... we are here to have fun, to be safe and to learn.

How much does Jiu Jitsu cost?

The cost varies from summer to semester. We get some money from the institute to help lessen our cost to students. Taking the JiuJitsu Introductory Self Defense (if offered) is absolutely free (included with tuition). Spring and Fall Club dues are $30 per semester for present undergraduate and graduate students ($60 per semester for alumni and other MIT Affiliate members). Summer dues are $20 for students, $40 for other MIT affiliates. IAP is free. Like any sport, there are also equipment costs (such as a martial arts tunic (GI), which run about $50 - these should be purchased the moment you decide to join the club, but are not required for your first few classes). Our costs are quite reasonable (they are much better than reasonable actually). To get the same education from a nonacademic dojo may cost from $1,000-$2,000 per year! Dues are paid at the end of the term.

I am a spouse (or domestic partner, significant other, etc...) of an MIT student. Can I join the MIT American Jiu Jitsu Club?

Absolutely. You qualify as being an MIT Affiliate - just make sure you have an athletics card.

I am a student at an area university, can I join the Jiu Jitsu club?

Unfortunately, MIT no longer offers access to the club sports program to students from other colleges. The one exception is Wellesley, which has a discounted yearly pass agreement with MIT. However, as a Wellesley student, you must be currently enrolled in classes at MIT or work for MIT to be considered affiliated and therefore allowed to participate. For those unable to participate with us, we suggest you visit the Links page for other local programs.

What are the benefits of American Jiu Jitsu?

Ahhhh.... there are too many to list... but lets ask some of the students currently taking Jiu Jitsu... (Actually, I have asked... and they are currently sending me their responses).

What other Martial Arts are there at MIT?

There are LOTS of martial arts around MIT. There is American Jiu Jitsu, DanZan Ryu Jujitsu, Shotokan Karate, Isshinryu Karate Do, MIT Karate, Kodokan Judo (the MIT Judo Club), Numerous Tae Kwon Do clubs (3 of them as of last count), the MIT Boxing Club, the MIT Fencing Club, the MIT Kendo Club (Japanese fencing), Yoga, the Kokikai Aikido and Aikikai Aikido clubs, and a Gung Fu group. I am sure there are more... but I can not think of them off the top of my head. It is truly an amazing martial arts community... so many styles, so many points of view, so much knowledge and so much experience!

Do you practice with any of the other martial arts clubs at MIT?

We have a good relationship with the MIT Judo Club. They are a great group... and if you are more interested in sport than self-defense, they might be a great option for you!

Do you practice with clubs outside of the academic community?

Indeed. We have regular seminars from the Taiho-Jitsu folks, as well as an open invitation to various Jujutsu clubs in the region to practice with us (and us with them). We occasionally practice with the Thedorou Jiu Jitsu school, and have students and professionals from outside the MIT community who practice with us.

I have rank in Jiu Jitsu (or Jujutsu, Jujitsu, Aiki-jitsu, Aiki-jujutsu, or another jitsu / jutsu), can my current rank transfer to the American Jiu Jitsu Club when I get to MIT?

We accept rank from any American Jiu Jitsu dojo (school). However, it is fairly rare that there is a direct transfer of rank from another form of Jiu Jitsu (jujutsu) to ours. At the same time, we recognize the knowledge and expertise you have gained from the other schools in which you have practiced. This may mean swifter promotions, but it also means emptying your cup (being able to accept different approaches to techniques you may have already learned). As an example, one of our best students has a 2nd degree blackbelt in another form of jujutsu, and a 4th degree black belt in a similar art, but he is a red belt in American Jiu Jitsu. We recognize his vast expertise, and amazing abilities, but at the same time he is still a student (and quite willing to empty his cup). We have several students who have received black belts in Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Gung Fu, and other martial arts -- the skills they learned in those martial arts have nicely complemented the skills they learn in Jiu Jitsu.

I have no rank, nor have I ever done a martial art before, what can I expect? What should I do when I get there?

Fun. A friendly environment. A non-confrontational approach to learning. A hands-on, interactive self-defense learning experience. When you come, introduce yourself to anyone with a high rank (someone wearing a brown belt or a black belt). Take off your shoes and step on the mat. When class starts (the instructor asks everyone to line up), line up in the back row. If you can not see, make sure the instructor knows, and he/she will accommodate you. Oh, and come with an open mind and a desire to learn.

I am looking for a Navy SEAL level of physical fitness training, will I get it with Jiu Jitsu?

Only if you want to... but you will not get it on the mat. Jiu Jitsu can supplement your training, but we are not here to give you a heart-grinding, blood, sweat, and tears workout! We do workout, but that is not our primary focus. Our focus is self-defense.

I hear that Jiu Jitsu involves lots of ground work, how can that be a good self defense?

We do learn how to defend ourselves from the ground (ground fighting)... but the mainstay of our art is stand-up techniques! For a single attacker, when weapons are not involved, ground fighting can be advantageous. For a multiple attacker scenario, being on the ground will probably ensure your defeat. Although we spell Jiu Jitsu, J-I-U J-I-T-S-U, we do not focus on ground-grappling techniques like our Gracie (Brazilian) Jiu Jitsu cousins. "Jiu Jitsu" was the original accepted romanization of the currently accepted "jujutsu" when the art first appeared in the English-speaking world... we've kept the spelling.

What will I learn from the first class?

How to defend yourself.

How long does it take to master Jiu Jitsu?

A lifetime.

I remember Keanu Reaves saying in the Matrix: "I'm going to learn... Jiu Jitsu?" Can I learn Jiu Jitsu through a similar sort of memory transfer to my brain?

We're working on it. But, until then, you will have to work hard, be open, be willing in spirit and body, and be persistent.

I've heard that traditional martial arts have no place in street survival and self defense... are you 'traditional' martial artists?

Yes and no. We still use lots of traditional techniques (nearly 2000 years of refinement can't be all wrong). At the same time, many of those 'traditional' techniques have been modified to be more effective in a modern street defense environment. We use whichever weapons and techniques we need in order to ensure that our families, our friends and ourselves remain safe and unharmed. Kicks, strikes, locks, chokes, limb destruction... whatever is required to quell an attacker, is what we learn.

What is a Martial Art?

A martial art, to paraphrase Mr. Webster, is "any of several arts of combat and self-defense..." More specifically, a martial art is any composite of method, technique, philosophy, and ideology that defines a system of physical and mental training for the purpose of combat, self defense. In modern day parlance, the term martial art has been applied more broadly to sports that have a martial heritage and to schools of training that have limited self-defense applicability, but that encourage meditation and peace. We fall under the self-defense category.

What is Jiu Jitsu?

Jiu Jitsu translate to 'gentle art.' In no way is this art gentle on the person who might try to harm us or our loved ones (though it can be, if we choose it to be). It is very gentle on the person defending from an attack. This means no matter your size, strength, or build, you will be able to defend yourself. You can ask any of our students what 'Jiu Jitsu' means, and you will get a different answer from each. But, 'gentle art' is the technically correct translation.

You know, I really like Jiu Jitsu, but I want to practice other martial arts as well... are there any you can recommend?

Try them all. Martial arts that are most similar to Jiu Jitsu include: Judo, Aikido and Karate.

Knowing that there are tons of martial arts clubs at MIT, I want to study them all? Is that possible?

There is a common term for those who 'study' many, many martial arts and do not take the time to become proficient in any of them - it is a vulgar term, so I will not say it here. I suggest that you find an art (maybe two) and stick with it (them). Most arts take until your first black belt (or equivalent) before you can make a truly educated decision about whether you want to study the art for the rest of your life. Go around to all the clubs, see which you like... then make a point to stick with one. 6 months in a martial art does not a martial artist make. To become a martial artist takes a tremendous commitment. Do not take such an undertaking lightly.

Do you spar in Jiu Jitsu?

Yes and no. We practice *practical* self-defense... many of the methods we practice would cause an attacker serious physical harm if it were to be done full-force (bones might break, joints would unjoint, and our attacker would likely loose consciousness or possibly worse). However, we do practice with each other in a way that gets as close to a possible self-defense scenario as possible, without risking permanent injury to one another. We also grapple for real, but do not throw connecting strikes while we practice (unless we wear appropriate protective gear). So, if you ask: "Do you spar?," I would say what we do is a mixture of sparing, kata, situational awareness and scenario generation.

Do you break boards in Jiu Jitsu (how many)?

If you want (as many as you want). However, we do not make it a point to break boards. (If you do break boards, please recycle them afterwards.)

I am not sure that I can spare enough time in my schedule to practice Jiu Jitsu... what are your thoughts?

While we practice 4 times per week, it is not required that students attend all classes. To make progress in Jiu Jitsu, we suggest that you come AT LEAST once per week. However, we do suggest that you come to at least 2 classes per week if you want to make satisfying progress. Of course, if you can... come to as many practices as you can safely and comfortably attend.

What types of weapons do you practice with (and against)?

We practice to defend ourselves against knives (we use rubber or wooden knives... no real weapons are allowed on the mat) and to defend against an attacker with a handgun (we use imitation rubber ones, in class). We also learn to defend from, and use *any* impact weapon. We do this by using wood escrima (sticks). Such sticks can represent any blunt, extended weapon -- anything from an umbrella to a baseball bat to a crowbar.

I know that some American Jiu Jitsu Dojos have very good competitive grappling teams, does the MIT Dojo have a grappling competition team?

The American Jiu Jitsu club at MIT does not currently support a competitive grappling team. Our focus remains on instruction in self-defense. To support a team takes tremendous resources, and is often only beneficial to a small number of club members. Therefore we do what is beneficial for the majority of club members, which is to focus on learning self-defense. While we occasionally practice competitive-type grappling, it is merely for the benefit of physical fitness (it is a fun, intense, and extremely effective way to work out) and to develop ground-based situational awareness.

Is Jiu Jitsu useful in learning how to defend against sexual assault and coercion?

Yes. Absolutely.

I know that the MIT campus police teach RAD (rape aggression defense), what is it? Does Jiu Jitsu teach rape defense as well?

We teach self defense. Rape defense is a subset of self-defense. The RAD class taught by the MIT Campus Police is an effective rape prevention course developed by RAD Systems. RAD, as taught by the MIT Campus Police is a 12-hour, women-only self-defense course. It is NOT a martial art. If you want a more thorough, well-rounded self-defense education, we recommend taking Jiu Jitsu. We do not want to conflict with the MIT Campus Police by offering an official, specialized, rape-defense class... but by learning Jiu Jitsu, you will learn all forms of physical self-defense, and mental awareness. American Jiu Jitsu at MIT instructors have given rape defense classes at Harvard, Simmons, MIT, and Manhattan.

I hear that Jiu Jitsu relies solely on antiquated throws and joint locks... how can that be street effective?

That is a common misconception. We 'rely' on anything that might be effective in stopping an attacker. This includes all sorts of strikes as well as modern throws, joint locks, limb destruction, etc... We teach the same type of material that you would learn in advanced armed and unarmed combat courses in the military and in advanced police training.

How many instructors do you have?

See the bios page. In addition to those listed, we have several guest instructors who teach and train in many other styles of jujutsu and related martial arts.

How often do you have seminars?

We average 2-3 per semester. Seminars are an excellent opportunity to learn new skills, perfect old ones, and see and hear a different perspective in the martial arts.

How much of Jiu Jitsu is 'mental' vs 'physical'?

Much of what is learned for the lower Jiu Jitsu belt ranks would be classified as physical techniques (but not all!). Before we teach you how to reliably and confidently defend against an attack with just your voice and your attackers' perception of you, you must learn how to physically disable an attacker. You will learn ways to control an attacker using your wits over your brawn continuously during your Jiu Jitsu education. As you progress toward the higher belt ranks, approaching your shodan, you will learn that the physical aspects of the art and the mental aspects of the art are indeed one and the same -- they can not be separated into such well-defined categories.

After MIT, will I be able to continue study of Jiu Jitsu?

Absolutely... there are hundreds of Jiu Jitsu (jujutsu, jujitsu...) dojos all over the country, and indeed, all over the world. American Jiu Jitsu currently has seven dojos in the north east, but is rapidly expanding to cover the continent. With the background you gain in American Jiu Jitsu, you will be able to study under almost any martial art with some degree of familiarity. And, you will fit in well at most any Jiu Jitsu dojo, independent of their 'style.' In most places, Jiu Jitsu is taught as a practical system of self-defense... it has been said that there are truly no 'styles' in Jiu Jitsu... that instead each 'style' is just an extension of the massive body of knowledge and expertise that is in whole, Jiu Jitsu.

I am a bit hesitant to start a martial art. It all seems very intimidating. Do you have any words of advice?

Try not to be intimidated. Most any martial artist, and almost every dojo will welcome you to come and watch their practice. We are certainly no exception. Come to some of our practices (and those of other martial arts around MIT) to see if you like the environment. Make sure you feel comfortable in the environment... if you don't feel comfortable, move on to another martial art or another dojo until you find one you like. Of course, any new situation will create a little intimidation. Coming to MIT the first time was certainly a little intimidating for me. Going to my first Jiu Jitsu practice was as well. I felt awkward; I certainly felt that I knew very little, and I was very much unsure of what exactly was going on. But, like any art or any skill that one practices, it soon became natural, exciting, fun and very much *not* intimidating. Every new environment creates a little consternation and little anxiety... don't worry, you will soon overcome it and become a better person for it.

Has Jiu Jitsu helped you in your career / schooling?

Yes!!! Absolutely!!! Definitely!!! I can safely say that without Jiu Jitsu, I would not have succeeded at MIT. Jiu Jitsu helped build my confidence, helped me to develop interpersonal skills, and allowed me to perform optimally in all the other aspects of my life. Jiu Jitsu is awesome... the people are awesome (I have gained more friends from Jiu Jitsu than from any other aspect of my life)... and the academic training environment is phenomenal.

I am looking for a fight club, so that I can prove myself and become king of the world... is Jiu Jitsu a good place to start?

No. Don't set foot in Jiu Jitsu if these are your intentions. You will be disappointed. Our purpose is to teach self-defense, not mindless fighting.

I want to be on the American Jiu Jitsu Club at MIT Student Mailing List (to get important e-mail about practices, club events, etc...). How do I get on it?

E-mail us at

I have a disability, is there anyway you can accommodate me for you class?

Absolutely! We will accommodate everyone as best we can. We will adapt techniques to emphasize your abilities, and help ensure you prosper as a Jujutsoka (one who practices Jiu Jitsu). If you have a disability, please let one of the instructors know. Let them know of any physical limitations you might have. Safety is our primary concern, so let an instructor know before class starts so that we can ensure your safety.

I have a medical condition (like asthma), should I do Jiu Jitsu?

This is not a simple question to answer. Check with your doctor before working out with Jiu Jitsu. Many of our students have asthma to varying degrees of severity, but are able to control it through knowing their own limits and the use of an inhaler. Never work out with the Jiu Jitsu club without notifying an instructor of ANY medical condition (this includes asthma, strains, sprains, recurring dislocations, broken bones, a deviated septum, respiratory problems, sickness, infection, muscle spasms, heart or circulation problems, scrapes, large bruises, cuts, open wounds, dizziness, a history of shock or convulsion, loose teeth, etc...). It is rare that we will exclude someone from practice due to a medical condition, but it can happen (we may ask for a doctor's note, we may have you rest for a couple days, etc...). Safety is our number one priority... both for you and the members of the club. If you do not feel like talking to us about your medical condition before class, go ahead and e-mail the head instructor (or call).

What type of safety precautions are taken while practicing Jiu Jitsu?

The main job of all the instructors is safety... second is to make sure students enjoy their experience... and third is to teach. Without safety and without a friendly environment, who would want to learn -- or rather, who could learn effectively? To ensure safety, all students are closely supervised by qualified instructors. Students learn very early on how to fall without getting hurt, how to 'tap' to ensure that their training partners know when to stop a technique, and how to read the intentions of their own bodies. We require that students tell the instructors about any medical conditions which could adversely affect their training (or the training of other students). We require that students clean their GIs regularly, and maintain good hygiene.

Instructors, at a minimum, are required to maintain their first-responder CPR and First Aid certifications. The American Jiu Jitsu club maintains a thorough first aid kit. The athletics department has physical trainers on staff to assist with any injuries, as well as copious amounts of ice. We practice seconds from the MIT Police Department (which is staffed by EMTs) for quick response in case of an emergency. We have an extremely good safety record. But, like any contact sport, occasionally minor injuries may occur (strains, sprains, etc...).

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