What is the perfect physical exercise regiment to compliment your Jiu Jitsu training? I don’t know. The answer that is true for one person, is not going to be true for another. Physical conditioning is as individual as somebody’s BJJ game is. However, just like in BJJ, there are certain foundational elements of physical training that tend to give everyone a certain benefit. When it comes to priming your body for the rigors of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training, a bodyweight-based system of flows dubbed Ginastica Natural seems to be the perfect fit.
What is Ginastica Natural?
Ginastica Natural is a calisthenics training methodology that was developed by a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt named Alvaro Romano.
A student of Rolls and Rickson Gracie, the physical education professional Romano sought to develop a system that allows practitioners to train for longevity and health, rather than just physical activity.
He came up with a system that is a combination of Hatha Yoga elements, BJJ-specific motions, gymnastic exercises, and natural movements. The end result is a bodyweight training method that allows anyone to practice it without the need for equipment and facilities. The method is also extremely beneficial to combat athletes, with Romano himself having helped who is who of MMA and BJJ athletes in their greatest achievements.
Ginastica Natural Exercises
The Ginastica Natural method consists of two main aspects – physical training and breathing. They are closely intertwined, but for the sake of presenting the methodology, I’ll focus on the physical exercises first.
The method employs different elements, which you do at different intensities. It is unlike most other forms of bodyweight strength and conditioning training, because it doesn’t happen in a linear fashion.
Ginastica Natural exercises have you moving in three dimensions, flowing in between different types of training elements. It goes beyond just repeating exercises for time or reps. The flows include both strength exercises as well as stretching moves, mixed in with Jiu JItsu movements, tumbles, jumps and animal-like motions.
The exercises take place both on the ground, standing and in transition between the two levels.
The physical exercises are organized according to the individual’s needs and desires. While there are exercises that are fundamental, and are thus taught separately, the ways to combine them into flows are endless. It is pretty much like BJJ and allows for a person to use the method to address very specific physical needs and goals.
The second portion of Ginastica Natural are breathing exercises. These are mostly borrowed from Yoga, although Alvaro Romano has also deliberated on the subject with Rickson Gracie, who is known for his love of different breathing training methods.
Breathing as part of Ginastica is done before training, during all the exercise flows and after the completion of the movements.
The first breathing sequence primes the body for training and delivers as much oxygen as possible into the lungs. Breathing through the exercises is rhythmic and follows the flows, interchanging between shallow and rapid breathing and deeper, more protracted breaths.
The final breathing methods are all about bringing down your heart rate and calming the body in mind, increasing focus and attention.
One thing that many people seem to like about Ginastica Natural, and the founder also recommends, is doing the training in an outdoor setting. Beaches and green meadows are usually the venues of choice, but pretty much anything with a soft enough surface to tumble on will do the trick.
A huge reason why Ginastica Natural is done outdoors, apart from the fresh air, is that it requires quite a lot of space for the flows. The dynamic and individual nature of flows means that you need to move in different directions at different times, although the end goal is to end where you began, similar to doing a Kata in Karate.
Training outdoors allows for unrestricted movement, which is not always available in a gym setting, That also happens to be one of the major drawbacks of Ginastica Natural training – it is difficult to use it in big groups on small mat spaces.
How does Ginastica Natural Fit Into BJJ?
The sole fact that Ginastica Natural employs Brazilian Jiu Jitsu movements is not enough to make it the perfect physical training regimen for BJJ. What really makes it stand out is the fact that it’s versatility makes it applicable to different aspects of BJJ training, and the individual nature of practicing it mimics the individual approach grapplers have to BJJ.
One of my favorite ways to use Ginastica Natural flows is as a warm-up for BJJ classes. There are different elements that you can teach to people quickly, and you can combine them into flows that will ensure maximum body and mind engagement in a short period of time. You can also adjust the flows to fit the group of people on a mat space of a specific size.
Personally, I find that people love the versatility of Ginastica Natural movements as warm-ups for Jiu Jitsu. There is also the opportunity to switch them up constantly, removing the boredom factor and keeping the warm-up fresh, yet highly specific to the training that follows.
Gymnastics remains my number one choice for strength and conditioning training for BJJ and MMA. Given that Ginastica features lots of gymnastic-inspired movements, it can also be a very efficient method to improve the overall conditioning for fighting.
That said, I do think it is not enough to get you to fighting shape n its own, but it does play a huge role, simply because of the fight-specific movements and the non-rhythmic nature of the flows.
The breathing exercises are extremely useful for conditioning, teaching you how to control your breath under pressure.
Post Injury Mobility
If you’re coming back to training Jiu Jitsu after a long time off due to injury, you can tailor a Ginastica Natural flow to target the affected muscles, tendons, and ligaments, specifically nurturing them back to the full range of motion.
Specific Movement Refinement
Another one of my preferred Ginastica Natural applications is teaching it to complete BJJ newbies. It helps people to learn basic Jiu Jitsu movements in a fun and dynamic way and offers a training methodology that is unique to the sport.
Even season grapplers can use it to polish some more demanding movements that can be used in rolling, like cartwheel passes or multi-inversion setups.
Ginastica Natural is a great way of introducing interesting and very specific physical training into your Jiu Jitsu routine. While all your conditioning does not have to be based on the methodology, it definitely has a place in every grappler’s strength and conditioning program. Moreover, it offers a fun warm-up and is great for injury recovery, among many other physical and mental benefits.