SPRING HILL, TN (WSMV) -- Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is said to be one of the most popular martial arts in the world. A quick search on Google Maps reveals more than a dozen gyms that teach the practice around the Nashville area.

As a health and wellness junkie, I went to a local gym that teaches BJJ, to explore why it’s so popular. What I found was a group of ordinary men and women who are learning how to inflict some serious bodily harm, but they say they’re getting much more than that.

Chris Miller in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class

Chris Miller in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class at Gracie Barra in Spring Hill

At Gracie Barra in Spring Hill, the class is made up of teachers, doctors, firefighters, even housewives, people of all backgrounds and fitness levels are stepping into the gym, and they’re coming out feeling physically strong, emotionally confident, and better equipped to deal with the mental challenges life presents.

“If we only had people that made mistakes and didn’t blame everyone around them but looked at themselves for why that mistake was made, this mat does that for you,” said Dr. Joe Spinell, an emergency room physician at Skyline Medical Center, who’s been studying Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Gracie Barra for years.

Like the other students, Joe is learning a variety of hand-to-hand techniques, designed to cause an opponent to “tap out”. These techniques are called submissions, because they’re designed to make you surrender, for fear you’ll pass-out from a chokehold, or suffer a broken limb.

“It sounds very painful, but it’s not, because we catch and we hold, and slowly we squeeze like a snake. I’m giving you the chance to say stop,” said Reginaldo Almeida, a third-degree black belt from Brazil who teaches the class. “Nobody is trying to yank each other’s arm. It’s not like that.”

Like Joe, Reggie believes most of the benefits from the class are psychological.

“We have lots of benefits, but I’m just going the say the most important is self-confidence,” Almeida said.

Gracie Barra’s motto is “Jiu Jitsu for everyone”, and while that might sound ridiculous, this anchorman tends to agree. Admittedly, this was not my first time practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. After giving it another shot, I didn’t find it to be dangerous and at no point was I worried my arm would snap or I was going to black out, unless I allowed that to happen to myself.

One thing is for certain, it’s an incredible workout.


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News 4 Today Anchor

Chris Miller joined News4 in 2012 as the anchor for News4 Today.

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