Jiu Jitsu is amazing. One reason why it's amazing is because it can be so many different things to so many different people.
To me, the "magic" of Jiu Jitsu (*) is when done correctly, it feels effortless. And when its done incorrectly, it's hard, physical, and exhausting. The principles and techniques of Jiu Jitsu allow a smaller, weaker person to use leverage, positioning, and technique to control and submit a larger opponent. At it's highest form, Jiu Jitsu is human chess -- a never ending flow of challenges and riddles to over come. I love the competition. I love the challenge. I love the fact that it's always different. No two matches are the same. (Warning: Jiu Jitsu is HIGHLY addictive ... ones you get hooked, there's no breaking its hold. I first feel in love with Jiu Jitsu in 1993, and simply can't imagine my life without it.)
* footnote: ... other magical components of Jiu Jitsu --> it's a great workout, it keeps me healthy and feeling good (physically, mentally, and emotionally), and it brings an endless string of super cool people into my life.
When trained correctly, Jiu Jitsu is the only combative art that large numbers of people can do beyond the age of 35. I firmly believe that Jiu Jitsu should be done in a healthy, sustainable manner. Said another way, if you're training intelligently, taking time to be kind to your body, and training in the right environment, a person should be able to roll until they're 75 years old. (Jiu Jitsu for life! ! !)
There are lots of interpretations of Jiu Jitsu. Therefore, to help beginners understand some of the dimensions of Jiu Jitsu (this is not a comprehensive list), let me share a few ... to give context:
Self Defense Jiu Jitsu: Many argue this is the origin of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu - self defense. Self defense, to me, means understanding that there are no rules, that anything can happen (you don't know if bad guy is carrying a weapon, high on some drug, and / or mentally imbalanced), and that your ultimate goal is to survive and protect the ones you love. It should be simple and effective. One should seek to evacuate / escape to safety at the earliest possible moment.
Sport Jiu Jitsu: A rule driven sport that has a point and penalty system. The intent behind the rules are competitors' safety and a clear structure to win. As with any rule systems, there are strengths and weakness. The expectation is interaction between the two competitors and dynamic engagement throughout the entire match. In the past 10 years the popularity of sport Jiu Jitsu has skyrocketed as seen be the prolific increase in tournaments throughout the world.
Jits with hits (Vale Tudo, Pancreation, and MMA): Many argue that adding hits changes the way Jiu Jitsu is played. The imminent threat of being hit in the face or taking a kick to the body changes how an athlete will grapple. Jiu Jitsu is the ground component / foundation of much of what folks see in today's MMA.
Grrr Jitsu: Jiu Jitsu that is too dependent on athleticism, muscling moves, and "weak" pain compliance tactics. This is usually done by big, strong guys who are primarily focused on winning at all cost vs. learning good technical Jiu Jitsu.
Joy Jitsu: Jiu Jitsu that a person does for the joy of it (I like to refer to it as "grown-up recess or romper room" / it's play time). They roll for the experience of rolling and don't get wrapped up in winning and losing. Instead, they want to experience the flow and creativity that comes from trying to do the best Jiu Jitsu in a relaxed, soft-focused kind of way; postive, fun, and enjoyable.
These are just a few of the ways you can look at Jiu Jitsu. It not to say that one is particularly better then the other (though Grrr Jitsu isn't thought of too highly by most). Being aware of these dimension of Jiu Jitsu may help you answer the following questions:
Why are you training?
For Fun? For safety reasons? To compete? To be healthy?
What do you want to accomplish through your Jiu Jitsu training?
Learn a cool sport? Become a police officer? Compete in a tournament? Hang out in a cool environment with interesting people?
How long do you see yourself training Jiu Jitsu?
6 months? Until you earn your blue belt? Until you feel as though you could defend yourself against most people? For a life time?
Hopefully this will help give you context and things to consider as your travel down the path of your own respective Jiu Jitsu journey. Enjoy the journey! ! !
Keep doing ... daily ... forever.