The Pole Dance-BJJ Connection: How They Relate
Updated: Jan 8
You would never relate Pole dancing and BJJ, but there are some connections you have to see!
The one word that comes to mind when I think about pole dancing is “sexy”. For me, I’ve always thought of sexy strippers, twerking their asses, and people making it rain on them. I was first introduced to the fitness side of pole dancing when I had a session for my 23rd birthday (don’t try and figure out my age, people!) and I realized that it wasn’t only about the sexiness when I couldn’t hold myself up. I got more into pole dancing in Shanghai because of my friend and pole dancing instructor Johanna Spee, owner of Zero Gravity Pole Dance Studio, who made me one of her first pole dancing guinea pigs. I got to know more of the technique and fitness of pole dancing with her instruction. In my quest to be softer and more in touch with my feminine core, this is one of the ways that has helped a lot while improving my strength and flexibility.
Pole dancing is quite hard in some respects but when I began to see how pole and BJJ relate, things became a lot easier. You might be thinking “pole dancing is about being sexy. BJJ is the opposite of that. How could they possibly be related?” Well, I figured out some of the parallels and want to share them with y’all.
You might be surprised and how much they relate. Check it out:
In BJJ, if you’re doing gi, you know that grips are important in getting the move you want to do or to the transitions you’re trying to make. This of course happens when you’re grabbing on to someone’s clothing. Although in pole dancing, you’re not grabbing onto anyone and even if you were there would be barely anything to grab on to, grips are also very important. When going to pole class, I was surprised at how many different grips there were and how important they are in performing basic skills and more intricate pole tricks.
Although certain grips are quite hard for me when I do pole (need to do more though…) I noticed how important they were and related to BJJ. There are specific bases for grips and then you can adjust to what you need… just like in BJJ. In addition, if you don’t grip properly in pole dancing you can hurt yourself like in BJJ. For example, if you grip inside of someone’s gi pants in jiu-jitsu, you can get your fingers twisted up and injured. In pole dance, if you don’t grip properly, you can fall and really hurt yourself. So, noticing all this, I really pay attention to how I grip.
When you have someone pressuring all their weight on you when you’re grappling, you gotta put in your frames in order to get out and actually move. In pole dancing, frames almost do the same thing except you don’t have a big sweaty person on you preventing you from performing your move. Being close to the pole is what prevents you from doing your tricks, believe it or not. In pole dancing, your frames help to keep space and distance from the pole to give your body space to move. Like in BJJ, you can do an elbow frame, straight arm frame, shin frame or sometimes all depending on what transitions you’re going to do.
The connection to BJJ for me came when I was trying to climb on the pole. My body came close to the pole every time which made it hard for me to get up because my legs had nowhere to move. The elbow frame that I had reminded me of when you need to make a frame in order to prevent people from getting close to you and pretended the pole was that person I didn’t want close to me. The combination of framing with my legs and arms made it A LOT easier for me to move up and down the pole.
Rolling (the non-sparring one)
BJJ of course is all about being on the floor. Inverting is necessary for performing moves and it keeps you round in order for you to transition properly. For proper rolling technique for you to not injure yourself, you need to roll over your shoulder or base with your hands so you don’t hurt you neck. Turns out, the same goes for pole. You would think you don’t need all those rolls considering you’re dangling in the air all the time so you wouldn’t have to worry about being on the floor. But all that sexy can happen anywhere, including the floor. A lot of pole dancing includes floor work where you can roll around, away, or towards the pole to incorporate it into the whole routine.
I first noticed this connection when Johanna showed me a floor routine and told me to be careful of my neck because she didn’t want me to get injured. I told her about BJJ warmups and how this concept is super important. Then I proceeded to do the roll that was part of the routine perfectly. I can’t say much about the other moves in the routine, but at least I was able to make that one roll look sexy enough.
Need for flexibility and strength
Maybe this section is obvious for all sports, but I REALLY noticed the parallels between BJJ and pole when it comes to flexibility and strength. For both sports, you don’t need to be super strong or super flexible, but it really does help a lot when you are. Having flexibility in BJJ means that you can move your body and hips easier when it comes to certain techniques and overall mobility. It also means that you’re not getting submitted as easily in certain moves. In pole, flexibility makes certain moves not only easier to perform, it makes it look better as well. A split in the air looks a lot better when your legs are fully extended. In both pole and BJJ, flexibility prevents injury.
Strength also isn’t the most important in both sports, but it really helps in getting things done. Obviously in BJJ, having strength makes it easier for you to overpower someone and helps in restraining your opponent. Having strength in pole dancing makes it easier for you to perform the more tricks without getting tired quickly. It’s also important to know where and when to apply your strength in both. For example, in BJJ if you’re stuck on the bottom, it makes no sense for you to thrash and go crazy if you’re pinned. In that case, it’s better to use your frames to work and get out. Pole dancing relies on strength for certain pole tricks, but you wouldn’t want to use strength throughout the whole routine because you don’t want to get tired and you do want to add variety to the moves.
BONUS: Lack of clothing like no-gi
According to some of my no-gi friends, no-gi is the most realistic between gi (kimono) and no-gi grappling (you can argue in the comments). Just thought that it was funny that in order to be effective in both no-gi and pole you need to be half-naked. Sometimes the outfit is the same in both sports for men and women: shorts or spats, sports bra, or just topless if you’re a man. Some people would argue that in both pole dancing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu being bogged down by clothing makes it lose its appeal. But it’s up to you and what you think.
Pole dancing is a sport I’ve been enjoying for a while. It is an awesome way to combine strength with femininity. Although both pole dancing and jiu-jitsu have elements that make it hard to grasp for me, in some ways, seeing the parallels made it easier for me to understand and relate both to each other which makes it really fun all around.
Would you try pole dancing? What other parallels have you seen between pole dancing and BJJ? Let's chat on Instagram