When people get involved with BJJ, they start to look for strength and conditioning methods very soon after. For the regular Joe, training grappling for the sake of it, strength and conditioning can help stay injury free and with a sufficient gas tank to roll. For professionals, conditioning is a large and very important part of the puzzle. That said, where most people, amateurs and professionals alike go wrong is the choice of methods. Standing on a Pilates ball with weighted clubs and swinging like a scarecrow is certainly not specific for grappling. Going too specific is also not enough, despite what Marcelo Garcia might claim. So, should you lift weights, do gymnastics, run, swim or do Yoga? Or simply do more BJJ? Well there’s an option out there that combines most of these. have you ever given Ginastica natural a try?
Just after Conor McGregor exploded on the MMA scene so abruptly, so did everything related to the man. One of the aspects people were amazed to find out was his conditioning. Conor did (and probably still does) something most people never associated with combat sports. With the help of a guy named Ido Portal, Conor spends a lot of time practicing the so-called natural movement. Natural movement is essentially BJJ drills, animal drill, and acrobatics on steroids. This explanation does it absolutely no justice but it’s not wrong either. However, just a short YouTube search away is none other than the legend, Rickson Gracie, part taking in a similar style of exercise during his prime. What Rickson did, though was Ginastica Natural, something a fellow Brazilian named Alvaro Romano came up with.
Ginastica Natural translates as natural gymnastics. If you think this involves training on gymnastic rings while in nature you’re way off the mark. Ginastica Natural is, in essence, a hybrid training method involving a lot of Yoga, Gymnastic floor work, and freestyle movement. Since the founder was also a BJJ practitioner, there are plenty of BJJ drills like shrimping and Granby rolls included in this methodology. This makes it by far the perfect supplemental training choice for grapplers because of an number of reasons. Let’s look deeper into what Ginastica natural brings to the table.
Alvaro Romano is BJJ black belt under Rickson Gracie. before getting his black belt from him though, Alvaro trained with Rolls up until his death. He also spent some time training with Carlos Gracie. SO, in terms of his BJJ pedigree, Romano is definitely the real deal.
Born in a very poor part of Rio de Janeiro, Alvaro was a typical Brazilian kid, spending most of the time outdoors. He did all the usual activities for the time, running on the beach, surfing, climbing trees. He liked it so much that he even enrolled in University, studying physical training. Romano discovered Hatha Yoga soon after and started to incorporate it into his training methodology. He wanted to create something new and effective, which he ultimately achieved. Training BJJ with none other than Rolls Gracie taught Alvaro much about ground movements and drills. he added that to the mix as well, coming up with what we know today as Ginastica Natural.
Alvaro went on to spread his newfound methodology all across Brazil. HE not only managed that but also spread his trade to the USA. A huge roster of distinct BJJ and MMA athletes used his knowledge to get in top shape for competition. Roger Gracie, the Ribeiro brothers, Anderson Silva, Vitor Belfort and a host of others all benefited from training Ginastica Natural. To this day, Alvaro, along with his son Raphael, still teaches Ginastica classes in San Diego.
Ginastica Natural is a full body training system that works only with your body weight. There’s no need for any additional tools or equipment. All that you need is space, preferably ample amounts of it. The nature of this training system is unique in the manner in which it incorporates different athletic skills. Strength, conditioning, explosiveness, a range of motion, flexibility, balance, and coordination all get the same attention. Not only that, but you can train and develop all these capabilities simultaneously.
For people training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the benefits of such a training system are more than obvious. First of all, Ginastica is a low impact system, meaning you won’t get exhausted like lifting the weight with a max effort method, for example. Furthermore, ti is very easy to integrate into your routine, and you might even end up doing it at your academy. Since Ginastica has a lot of movement patterns borrowed directly from BJJ, you get to train very specific movement patterns. Those patterns are supplemented with a lot of other moves, some acrobatic, some more strength oriented. In all, your body needs to work as one to overcome being in mechanically disadvantageous positions. Very much like in BJJ.
Making Ginastica a part of your BJJ lifestyle is also not difficult at all. Namely, Alvaro’s system is divided in stages, each progressively harder than the previous one. This means that you can start off easy, and work your way up. As you become more proficient, you can start using the earlier stages as specific warmups before class, reaping even more of the Ginastica benefits. Anybody, regardless of age, weight, experience, and athletic abilities can safely train Ginastica.
You’ve probably never thought that breathing techniques could lead to better conditioning. That old saying “train smarter not harder” really has something behind it. Alvaro’s system is based heavily around age-old Hatha Yoga breathing practices. Remember that funky stuff Rickson did in his “Choke” documentary? Well, that’s Ginastica Natural.
Knowing how to breathe under pressure is a crucial trait for any grappler. Ginastica is the only conditioning methodology that helps you develop this skill as well. When you breathe without much thought about it, you’re only puffing up your chest and using the top od the lungs. Leaving the lower parts of the lungs out of it leads to diminishing your lung capacity. It can be reversed, but it’ll take time. Ginastica will teach you how to breathe from your diaphragm up, using your full lung capacity. Even better, it’ll teach you how to breathe calmly when executing complex full body movements. It’s as close to Jiu-Jitsu as anything can come.
Despite better conditioning, regular breathing practice helps immensely with anxiety. This can be very useful before the competition, or simply before rolling. Breathing also helps recovery, thanks to the increased oxygen levels. The beauty is that you can use Ginastica Natural breathing on its own, or as part of the complete training system.
If you still feel like you need more than just Ginastica, you can always throw in some kettlebell work into the mix. There’s no need to go and pay a coach on a monthly; basis. Just pick up Mike Perry’s “KB Essentials – An Instructional Guide To Kettlebell Training” DVD.
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