Living LifeWise: How I Got Into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Living Lifewise Sunday, February 23, 2014 Written by

Living LifeWise is a regular column provided by LifeWise Ambassadors – LifeWise employees whose healthy choices are helping them live better lives. Today’s column is provided by LifeWise Ambassador Chris Arceo.

I was introduced to martial arts at a young age, and it has been the backbone to my fitness regimen ever since. My passion for Brazilian jiu jitsu, a full contact martial art sport with roots in Japanese jiu jitsu and judo, grew through its key distinction to other martial art practices: a focus on sport, physical fitness and character development – in addition to the art.


As a boy, my family would go to Grandma’s house to hang out and watch Kung Fu Theatre.

Dad was the commander of the remote, but I didn’t mind. I was a young Bruce Lee, willing to spar with anyone to develop my up-and-coming skills. When given the choice of where to go out to eat, I always opted for an Asian restaurant just so I could collect chopsticks (which, of course, would eventually turn into my nunchuks). 

I remember watching the first UFC match in the early 90’s. A young Royce Gracie, much smaller and not intimidating in the least, won the entire tournament. Marching in with his family and donning a white kimono, he annihilated the competition and introduced the world to Gracie Jiu Jitsu. That competition ultimately ignited my passion to compete, just like when I watched kung-fu with Dad.


A few years ago, I started Brazilian jiu jitsu at the Edmonds BJJ School in Edmonds, Wash. The school is an affiliate of the Gracie Barra system under professors Griff Sombke and John Sylvester. There, I found the perfect combination of convenient proximity to work and home, cost, and of course, camaraderie.

I’m not going to lie, I was a little intimidated when I first started out. I thought we would be punching and kicking each other on the first day. Thankfully, that was not the case.

As ironic as it sounds, Brazilian jiu jitsu is actually known as a “gentle art.”

The goal is to gain position on your opponent to get them in a compromised spot so they will submit. Submissions can come in the form of a joint lock or a choke, which all have fancy names too numerous to list here. Once you’ve submitted your opponent, they will either tap, take a nap, or something might snap. I know that seems harsh, but if you train at a reputable school, thankfully, those cases are rare.

If you’re familiar with wrestling, then you know how quickly you can run out of breath. Brazilian jiu jitsu gives you a similar high-intensity cardiovascular workout. I even ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle half-marathon, just by training with Brazilian jiu jitsu. I don’t advocate doing that solely, but if you’re looking for a good form of exercise, Brazilian jiu jitsu is a great, fun way to get it.

I’ve been training for 3 years now and I’m only a blue belt. You would think after years of watching kung-fu and nunchuk-making, I would have mastered the sport. Luckily, Brazilian jiu jitsu is a fitness activity I can develop my abilities in for years to come. I encourage you to find a healthy pursuit you can take with you through life as well – I’m sure thankful I’ve found mine.



Chris Arceo, a married father of two and LifeWise systems engineer, is starting out on his fitness journey. He recently completed his first Olympic distance triathlon along with two half marathons. Chris is confident this will be the year he no longer breaks his New Year’s resolutions – thanks to the inspiration of his family and his newly built workout cave.