When most folks who are thinking about starting Jiu Jitsu are asked what they feel are the primary benefits of training, they typically respond that it would be a great way to get in shape without having to go to the gym. This is certainly true.
However, after training for 14 years and coaching for 4, I can tell you with certainty that the psychological benefits of training are far more life changing to the majority of practitioners. And when combined with the physical benefits, Jiu Jitsu is likely the single best activity anyone can do to improve their life overall.
Jiu Jitsu helps us regain the mentality we lose after childhood
When we’re children, possibilities are limitless. But naturally as we grow older, many of the things we once aspired to don’t end up happening. We quit some things, we don’t work hard enough for others and our interests naturally change. Having not achieved the aspirations of our youth, it is not uncommon to define ourselves by negative characteristics as an adult in order to justify not working for the things that will ultimately make our lives easier or more enjoyable…Oh, I’m (inherently) financially irresponsible. Oh, I’m not good with technology. Oh, I hibernate in the winter. Oh, I’m not a morning person. Oh, I’m just not athletic…So on and so forth. We become victims of our past failures. Because we have failed in the past, we give up going forward before we even try so as not to let ourselves down.
Then you start training Jiu Jitsu. At first, it’s a frustrating mess. You are trying to make sense of a bunch of foreign concepts, move your body in ways it’s unfamiliar, and at the same time you’re getting tapped out by folks half your size. It seems like it’s gonna be just another failure in the books.
Hopefully though, you have a coach that pushes you beyond your own self-imposed limits and motivates you to continue training. Finally after five, six months or maybe a year when you still feel you suck, a big meathead noob twice your size stomps through the door all tough with his chest puffed out and you slap a triangle on him and tap him out Holy shit! You’ve actually learned Jiu Jitsu! Maybe you’re not tapping out blue belts, but you’ve made significant progress in something that at first was likely the most difficult thing you’ve ever tried.
Now, your perception of what you can achieve changes entirely. Suddenly, a whole host of things become possible that you would have shrugged off before. You strive to improve your relationships or drop ones that aren’t healthy. You’re reinvigorated to excel in your career. You start saving for retirement or experiences you’ve always dreamed of. You’re a new person. You don’t acquiesce to failure anymore.
You're a new person. You don't just acquiesce to failure anymore.
Turns out that your new friend Can-Do-Charlie, has a BFF named Connor-Confidence. They’re always walking down the halls giving each other secret handshakes. It’s super annoying. But by golly, you’ve submitted a grown man in combat! You’re a fucking bad-ass. Now, when someone bumps into you on the street, or at the bar or on the playground, you don’t look down like sissy and say sorry. Instead, you look them in the eye and politely say, “pardon me.” You’re respectful. You’re not instigating a confrontation. But you’re prepared to assert yourself and stand your ground if you have to.
Of course Can-do-Charlie and Connor-Confidence aren’t the only two cool kids on the block. They have another friend from a different school that their mom doesn’t let them play with but they don’t tell her named Simon-Stress-Relief. Simon-Stress-Relief doesn’t care how much the world is weighing down on you, how difficult your day was or all your complaints. Why? Cause Simon knows that when someone is trying to choke you out, it’s evolutionarily impossible for you to worry about your wife nagging at you, or your boss treating you like shit, or that you had to put a little extra on the credit card this month to pay your mortgage. Whether you like it or not, you need absolutely all your mental resources to coordinate learning new techniques and to keep yourself from getting submitted.
You have to be 100 percent present.
This is called ACTIVE MEDITATION, and it has a whole host of physical and psychological benefits just like traditional meditation. Unlike traditional meditation, you don’t have to focus your ass off to block out all the baggage, it just happens; You get the same benefits of traditional meditation AND you’re getting stronger, faster, more mentally resilient and better at Jiu Jitsu at the same time! Simon-Stress Relief and Charlie-Can-Do often fight over whose more important. Usually Connor-Confidence has to break it up before there is a clear winner.
Simon-Stress-Relief doesn’t ride solo though. Meet the last of the group: Oscar-Oxytocin. Together, Oscar, Simon, Charlie and Connor rule the playground as The Furious 4 (psychological benefits of training jiu jitsu). Oscar-Oxytocin is the real rebel of the crew. He shops at Hot Topic and paints his fingernails black and the other kids really wanna make fun of him but he trains Jiu Jitsu and he’s confident AF and he’ll choke you out so no one does. He knows most folks go about their day with so little physical contact as a hand shake. He also knows this is unhealthy and unnatural. Mammals are physical contact oriented creatures. I mean, our species are defined by the fact we suckle our momma’s breast as a baby for cryin’ out loud! Jiu Jitsu requires you to drill and spar with a training partner in close physical contact through the context of intense, physical survival. Physical contact releases a hormone called oxytocin. Sparring releases testosterone and both have a whole host of psychological and physiological benefits including anti-depression, growth and recovery and a close connection with your immediate surroundings.
So yes, Jiu Jitsu will get you in sick shape, but it will also improve your focus, decrease depression, relieve stress, and motivate you to accomplish things you would have never otherwise attempted. And the best part is that these are not the goals. They’re just secondary byproducts of trying to improve your Jiu Jitsu!
What do you guys think are the most significant benefits of training? Comment below and let us know and please share if you know folks who you think would be interested.