TAUNTON – Leave it on the mat.
According to Jair Morselli, owner and senior instructor at Real Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Taunton, this is a common phrase in the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, loosely interpreted as working hard, breaking through the stresses of the day, and finding fulfillment in training.
“Some people come here after all the stress at work and leave it on the mat, they say,” Morselli said recently between a series of youth and adult classes on a Monday night.
“Leave it on the mat and go home in a better mood. Just like the runner high.”
Although Brazilian jiu-jitsu, or BJJ for short, is competitive by nature, Morselli says only a small percentage of his students are there to compete. Most students take to the mat to improve themselves, whether it’s physical fitness, weight loss, or stress reduction.
And new trainees are flocking to the sport in large numbers as jiu-jitsu is widely regarded as the fastest growing martial arts discipline in the world.
“There are many reasons people come here,” Morselli said. “Community comes first. They come in and work out and hang out and make friends. There are people who come to lose weight and then fall in love with the sport. Most people train, but they don’t compete. People of all ages, some starting in their 40s and 50s. Anyone can do it.”
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Thanks to a recent move to a new, larger space at 60 Main St. downtown, Real BJJ Taunton is better able to accommodate its rapidly expanding roster of students with an expansive mat area that takes up much of the 5,000 square foot facility.
Morselli, who has taught BJJ in the area for more than a decade, including eight years at Real BJJ Middleboro, says the school has outgrown its former home on Merchant’s Lane in Taunton. Space had become so cramped that Morselli was seeing numbers drop at his Monday and Wednesday night adult sessions, Real BJJ Taunton’s most popular classes.
“In the other room we had about 1,000 square feet of mat space and we had about 40 to 45 people there on a busy night. And we just didn’t fit in anymore. So now we’ve moved to a slightly bigger location.
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“It’s great. We used to not be able to do takedowns in the old building because there wasn’t enough space. People were bumping into each other and I noticed that some people stopped showing up and my classes on Monday and Wednesday started to get smaller.
“Now everyone is back, everyone is happy, lots of space for everyone.”
Now, Real BJJ Taunton has 3,000 square feet of mat space, more than enough to accommodate packed adult classes and three ages of youth classes.
What is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
Brazilian jiu-jitsu, sometimes known as Gracie jiu-jitsu, is a derivation of judo adapted and practiced by the Gracie family of Brazil in the early 20th century. Later, the Gracie family brought BJJ to the United States, and today, BJJ is at the forefront of the martial arts and mixed martial arts world.
Jiu-Jitsu is classified as a grappling art as opposed to a punching art. The main idea behind this discipline and one of the great benefits of BJJ is to provide smaller, weaker students with a method of defense against a larger opponent or attacker. Jiu-Jitsu students learn to “take the fight to the ground” and use leverage and weight distribution to demonstrate control of an opponent, or use a variety of holds, locks, and submission techniques to defeat an opponent.
By bringing it to the ground, new Jiu-Jitsu students receive a unique workout, as opposed to more traditional workouts that involve standing or running.
“It’s a lot of core exercise,” says Morselli. “If you think about it, when your back is on the floor, you’re engaging your core muscles heavily. If you’re not used to it at first, it will hurt a bit. It takes a little while, but you get used to it.”
It’s certainly a physical workout, but with experience, doors open to a more cerebral experience, combining physical ability with quick thinking and a deeper understanding of the craft to gain the advantage.
“Every move is like a customs game,” Morselli explained. “You have to gain that next little inch to get to the next position. One thing that fascinates me about Jiu Jitsu and the reason so many people stick with it is that I’ve been doing it since 1996 and I’m still learning things, always learning new things, because it’s so dynamic.”
Originally from Sao Paolo, Brazil and now based in Berkley, Morselli opened the BJJ school on Merchant’s Lane just before COVID hit in March 2020. More precisely, just a few days before the pandemic-related closure this spring.
“We had to close literally two days after I opened. We’ve had a tough few months,” he said.
“Hopefully this is our last stop. We have a lot of mat space, we’re adding more classes. Things are going well now.”
Today the registrations explode and the timetable is expanded.
Real BJJ Taunton offers a student competitive team, a Brazilian top team and competitive and non-competitive classes seven days a week, including 6 and 12 hour weekday classes and a growing number of weekend offerings. For the most part, students of different abilities and belt levels train together, with the higher belts working one-on-one with new and developing students.
The cooperative, community element of Jiu-Jitsu is a big part of the training plan.
“If you have a higher belt, work at least a few minutes of your workout with a lower belt every night to help someone,” Morselli said. “If I have 10 higher belts and each of them gives someone else five minutes of practice – they still have 55 minutes to practice hard on their own – but if you can give just a little bit it helps the new guys… it’s huge.” , build confidence, learn some new techniques. It’s a very cooperative sport.”
Children’s classes are a popular offering at Real BJJ Taunton, with classes broken down by age group: 4-6, 7-9 and 10+.
With just a few skills, kids can get on the mat and engage with an opponent. The training is inevitably physical, and Morselli says it’s not uncommon for a once-shy, reserved young student to gain renewed confidence through a bit of intense grappling and mastering new techniques.
“It’s a fun thing, but the kids are pretty resilient. Very rarely do we have children who cry or anything like that. It looks rough but…
“And at nine and under we make sure they always have a coach watching them when they’re fighting. For the bigger kids, age 10 and up, we let them wrestle because they understand, ‘Ok, that’s an armbar, that’s a tap.’ With the younger kids, there’s always a trainer there because if you put him out and put out the armbar, the trainer is right there to stop it – ‘okay, that’s enough time.’”
Taunton Daily Gazette Editor Jon Haglof can be reached at jhaglöf@tauntongazette.com. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to the Taunton Daily Gazette today.