Getting Low

Fighting on the ground – and raising your confidence – with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu


When David beat Goliath, he used Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). Although it’s a martial art that focuses on ground fighting, BJJ’s core principal is that a smaller, weaker opponent can defeat a bigger, stronger adversary through the use of leverage and technique. Students learn joint locks and chokeholds that are used to “submit” opponents, but the greater intangible education is awareness on the ground that can prove critical in self-defense situations.

BJJ’s unique skill set make it a fundamental pillar of the modern mixed martial artist, and many of those athletes pass through the doors of Tim Burrill Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (TBBJJ) in North Providence. An accomplished black-belt instructor, Burrill is also a coach and mentor to many of the region’s amateur and professional fighters – from rising stars on the local circuit to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) veterans. But you don’t have to be a fighter to enjoy classes at TBBJJ, and at any time the mats are filled with a melting pot of students.

Many of those students are like Katie Moore, a waitress by day “with no athletic background to speak of, aside from semi-regular trips to the gym” who stumbled upon BJJ classes through co-workers four years ago. “I started training twice a week and gradually worked my way up to training every day. While being physically the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, the rewards of jiu-jitsu – both physical and mental – greatly outweigh the frustrations that come with ‘tapping out’ or having rough nights at the academy.”

Although female participation is small (but growing), Katie is not swayed by the gender mix. “I love training with guys. In terms of self-defense, training with men makes it more practical and realistic. I’ve also found that while some men rely on muscular strength, my smaller size has forced me to rely mainly on technique.”

For anyone looking to compete, there are many regional grappling tournaments that are open to all ages and skill levels. Katie shared her recent experience: “I considered competing for quite some time, but the first tournament I did was this past fall. I was nervous, excited, apprehensive and every feeling in the world before I competed for the first time. But I ended up taking first place in my division. After the tournament, I wanted more!”

Choking people until they’re dizzy won’t usually win you friends, but on the mats it has a strange way of bonding participants. Students learn to apply potentially dangerous techniques in a safe manner that protects their partner – a trust-building exercise that everyone honors. Katie sums it up best: “BJJ has done so much for me. It builds confidence and it’s great exercise. I’ve also formed great friendships with so many of my training partners. The BJJ community is a strong one, and it’s full of standup individuals who value trust, loyalty and respect.” 


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