THE BENEFITS: BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU AND GRAPPLING
There are three essential components to Mixed Martial Arts (MMA): kickboxing, wrestling and ground game. Grappling essentially encompasses wrestling/ takedowns and ground game. Unlike striking and extreme wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu allows you to spar and learn continuously with little physical damage because you can just "tap" to stop and restart.
With boxing, kickboxing and wrestling, it is hard to practice continuously as those are heavy impact and you can only take so many slams, punches or kicks to the body. Instead, jiu-jitsu sparring is usually composed of 5 minute rounds. This means in a 30 minute session, you can easily get in 6 rounds. That is 6 rounds of sparring, 6 rounds of learning and 6 rounds of improving all within 30 minutes. This is why jiu jitsu appeals to an older crowd. It is a great way to get in shape and do cardio without running on a treadmill and without heavy impact to the knees, back and shoulders.
THE DIFFERENCES: BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU VS OTHER MARTIAL ARTS
Martial arts is like music: there are many genres that have evolved from each other and it's always changing. For Jiu-Jitsu, there is often confusion around what separates Japanese Jiu-Jitsu from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Karate, Sambo, etc. Japanese Jiu-Jitsu is a self-defense encompassing striking, judo and ground game.
However, as the Japanese emigrated to Brazil, they brought the practices of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. One family, the Gracies, asked to be taught Judo, but focused mainly on the ground defense aspect. From there, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was formed and primarily focused on the ground defense and submission fight strategy instead of striking. It allowed one to subdue someone larger or stronger. For more, check out this full article on the origin of jiu-jitsu.
WHAT YOU SHOULD LOOK FOR IN A BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU PROGRAM
Comfort. You should always be looking for a gym where you feel comfortable. Comfortable with the instructors, students, policies, culture, etc. If any school makes you feel uncomfortable because you have to sign an annual contract, buy their gis and uniforms or roll too hard with people you do not want to spar with- then leave. Seriously. It doesn't mean that gym is bad, it just means it isn't the right gym for you.
| Be weary of the annual contract: While Jiu Jitsu can be life changing, it is still a hobby for many. What other hobbies make you sign an annual contract? You're looking to get in shape and learn some new martial arts, not sign away your options for a full year.
| Don't be bullied into merchandise: Ask your gyms if they require you to purchase a uniform (e.g. "gi") from them. If you are not allowed to purchase a gi from online or use an old one, then this place sees you as a money machine and not as a person.
| Only compete if you want to: Competition is great. You learn so much preparing for it and doing it. However, it should always be your choice. If any gym shames you because you don't compete, that is not a culture you want to add to and promote.