There's lots of talk on BJJ over the past few years, and its popularity is showing no sign of slowing down. And for good reason too: as one of the most prominent self-defense martial arts out there, BJJ has earned all the respect and recognition it now enjoys in the combat sports community.
There's more to Brazilian jiu-jitsu than that though. Although it's predominantly a physical sport, it's known to have myriad benefits on your psychological well-being.
Today we'll be looking into just what BJJ can offer you in terms of your mental health, and how it can help you keep yourself happy, healthy, and sane.
What Is BJJ?
BJJ is among the most popular martial arts in the world. Despite being incredibly technical and highly intense, it can be practiced by anyone, no matter their age, gender, size, or level of physical fitness.
The fact that BJJ is this accessible to everyone is by design. As a self-defense martial art, it teaches people how to defend themselves, yes, but it goes a step further than that.
By emphasizing grappling and powerful submission holds, BJJ allows smaller, weaker fighters to defeat larger, stronger ones. It's one of the rare martial arts where technique really does consistently trump strength. It's no wonder it's so well-known in the self-defense world!
To this end, BJJ will teach you proper body positioning and leverage, which you will be using to gain the upper hand in a fight.
Effective application of these techniques will allow you to immobilize an opponent, shift a battle to a much more favorable for you, and force your opponent to submit.
Apart from its many wonderful benefits when it comes to self-defense, BJJ is also just an incredibly rewarding activity that will greatly boost your overall level of fitness. That's on top of teaching you valuable lessons about concentration, commitment, and discipline.
BJJ's popularity has surged in recent years, in no small part thanks to exposure from the UFC and Bellator MMA, but it's been at a steady rise even decades before, when Royce Gracie popularized it by defeating combatants from other martial arts in numerous competitions.
As it stands, BJJ is a powerhouse of a martial art. It's popular, useful, and effective, and it deserves all the renown that it gets.
Does BJJ Affect Mental Health?
Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and martial arts in general, are understood to positively influence mental health--and research supports this.
A study conducted in Abu Dhabi, United Emirates, showed that the introduction of BJJ in a classroom of male sixth-grade students led to a vast improvement in their emotional well-being.
They portrayed much less hyperactivity, had much greater focus, and they felt they were better able to better externalize their problems, at least compared to more traditional physical education classes.
Participants also reported an increase in overall self-esteem, especially after taking part in regular training sessions.
Although it isn't mentioned in the study itself, part of this result can likely be attributed to the intense physical and mental challenges in the sport itself.
When we perform typically pleasurable activities, like exercise, our body releases healthy endorphins which allow us to feel good about what we're doing.
This kind of physical strain in a safe, controlled, and risk-free environment also helps regulate the production of cortisol, reducing our overall levels of stress to more manageable levels.
Now, obviously, the average jujitsuka isn't a six-year-old from Abu Dhabi, but you don't need to take it from them alone. You can look into the thousands of jujitsukas who have felt the firm mental health benefits that BJJ provides.
Mental Health Benefits of Doing BJJ
Like we'd just mentioned, physical exercise helps regulate the body's production of cortisol, a hormone which is responsible for stress.
Although this is true for any kind of physical activity, what makes BJJ particularly effective here is its incredible intensity. It's normal for you to feel sore and beat up after a good session at the dojo, which isn't always possible depending on the kind of exercise you do.
Discipline and Mental Fortitude
BJJ will teach you how to lose. I wish there was a way to sugarcoat this, but the simple truth here is that losses will be incredibly common for you in BJJ, regardless of who you are or how good you think you might be.
But that's a good thing. The more you get used to failure, the better you'll realize that it's okay to fail. It's healthy even, because every failure also brings with it an opportunity to learn.
That's the kind of mindset you can expect to foster in BJJ. You'll be directly addressing your anxieties and fears, and you'll be boosting your mental toughness by treating every loss not as an excuse to give up but as a way to improve.
There is a common saying in this sport, after all: when you roll, you either win or you learn. It may sound like a silly, corny adage, but it's nothing less than the truth.
It's a bit counterintuitive to suggest that BJJ can teach you confidence, right after we've just said BJJ will teach you how to fail. But if you think about it, it actually makes sense.
If you treat every loss as a learning opportunity, then you'll constantly be finding ways to grow and improve. This means you'll be learning a lot, and the more you learn, the more likely you'll be able to succeed eventually... which means the more confident you'll be!
There's also the obvious fact that BJJ keeps you fit. That doesn't directly do anything for our psychological well-being, but studies have proven time and time again that there is a positive correlation between physical fitness and confidence, which in turn can help us with our mental health.
If you keep at it in BJJ, then you'll find your body thanking you in all sorts of ways. You'll find that you look better, feel better, and that you're prouder of who you are. That's not something that's easy to come by!
We haven't even looked into everything that BJJ can do for your psychological well-being. If we tried to list them all down and explain everything, we'd probably reach a pretty unrealistic number of pages.
But that just speaks volumes about just how wonderful BJJ can be for your mental health. Its effects are numerous and easy to notice--from reduced stress, to improved mood, a sense of achievement, patience, and all the way to confidence. It's just hard to go wrong with a sport like this.
Looking to check out other great self-defense martial arts? Check out krav maga here!