We train barefoot on soft mats. Few dojos (places where we train) are permanently matted, so putting the mats out is usually part of the warm-up. After everyone is on the mat, we use the tradional Japanese way of greeting, a kneeling bow. Then the warm-up begins.
Normally taken by an experienced grade (person with a coloured belt) or the instructor, the objective to get muscles warm and working efficiently, and prevent strains and other injuries that can be caused by cold joints and muscles.The warm-up combines aerobic/cardiovascular exercise designed to get the heart-rate up with stretches specific to the muscles used in jitsu. It normally lasts about 20 mins. You can expect to be sweating at the end of the warm-up, but not completely exhausted.
Ukemi (falling over)
It is usual for the session to start (after the warm-up) with breakfalling (ukemi) - this is where you learn how to fall over without hurting yourself. Ukemi is always tailored to your level of ability, and as with everything in a jitsu session, you will never be asked to do something which is too dangerous for you to do given your level of skill. You’ll begin by learning to fall from a kneeling position. Leaping
over small buildings comes much later on in your career.
The rest of the session
The rest of the session will be structured according to what the instructor wishes to teach on that day. It is quite common for sessions to begin with everyone training together, then the lower grades train separately from the higher grades so that techniques more approporiate for individual skill levels can be taught.
Jitsu is made up of techniques which fall broadly into the following categories:
* Joint locks
These techniques are rarely taught in isolation as Jitsu is all about being able to combine many techniques effectively. For beginners, it would be normal to learn (for example) a throw, a strike and a joint lock at the same time, while higher grades will have the opportunity of concentrating on strikes, locks and throws whilst learning strategies for dealing with multiple simultaneous attackers - and you thought the warm-up made you sweat!
Throwing is the thing that makes many people think that training at Jitsu must be painful, but we really are careful - all that ukemi (breakfalling) you do at the start of each session is designed specifically to make sure the throws don’t hurt. Because most fights end up with both people on the floor, we spend a fair amount of time learning how to control and restrain a person on the floor - these techniques range from the traditional Judo hold-downs through to more modern techniques.
The first weapons you learn to defend yourself from are fists and feet, but as you progress different weapons are introduced - beginning with things like plastic bottles (which don’t hurt when you mess it up) and working up to things like baseball bats (which do hurt!). As with everything in Jitsu, you will not be asked to defend against something if you do not have the skill to do so safely.
At the end of the session, after a warm-down (stretching exercises), and again we end by saying goodbye with the tradtional Japanese bow. Then it’s time to leave the mat (and usually put the mats away) before heading off to the pub.