The physical benefits of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, indeed all forms of grappling cannot be overstated. I’ve seen students lose weight, improve cardiovascular health, gain strength, and become better overall versions of themselves. However, the mental health benefits may yet outweigh the physical. Here are just a few of the most obvious examples I’ve seen and experienced in my 9 years of Jiu-Jitsu and 4 years of wrestling before that.
1 – Temporary Relief of Anxiety and Depression: Although only a temporary fix, I’ve heard dozens if not hundreds of renditions of the following statement. “It’s awfully hard to be depressed or anxious when someone’s trying to choke me, I just have to be in the moment and deal with it.” If you’ve never experienced clinical anxiety or depression this statement might seem confusing or even misleading, but to those of us who have it’s almost universal. Grappling acutely decreases anxiety and depression exponentially. We don’t always know how to explain it, but in the moment, when we’re practicing our art, the rest of the world seems to fall away, even our traumas and demons.
2 – Overall Dampening of Negative life experiences: We’ve all been there, a fender bender, an argument with a loved one or spouse or parent or even child. The dog chews brand new drapes, or that drunk guy at Applebee’s won’t stop being a lush in your general direction. It happens. But when you’re a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, these things are always just a LITTLE less serious. To borrow a famous line from a movie we have all seen but aren’t supposed to talk about, after Jiu-Jitsu the rest of your life will get its “volume turned down”. That is to say bluntly, once you’ve had a few fast strong black belts trying to choke your lights out for a few months, you’ll stress a lot less about quarterly estimates or that upcoming family event with the in laws. It’s just not on the same level as training day in and out with talented training partners who push the pace and make your heart do the Macarena every time you slap and bump.
3 – Community – Just about any philosopher or Professor of Psychology would agree that humans are social creatures. Jiu-Jitsu provides a social construct that is healthy and inclusive that appeals to a wide variety of socioeconomic groups across the board because of its refined but simplistic structure. Everyone is welcome, but no one is treated special. Everyone has to earn the belt around their waists, and you absolutely can not be fake, at least about your Jiu-Jitsu. You can not put on a black belt and pretend to be one if you are not; we will find you out in a day or two. You can not walk around with an ego; you will be humbled eventually. And frustratingly (and refreshingly) the only way to improve is hard work, dedication, and time. What a fair thing in such an unfair world.
Wrapping up, Jiujitsu is an activity that benefits the body without question, but it’s the mental health benefits that really keep most people coming back again and again, year after year. I highly encourage you to go try a class if you haven’t already. You won’t be disappointed.
– Coach Jon, Underdogs Jiu-Jitsu, a Sapateiro Affiliate.