Written by: Denise Tayanc
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is so much more than just a sport – it is a lifestyle and will transform your life for the better. While Brazilian Jiu Jitsu may have entered the public eye due to the incredible success of Renzo Gracie in the early days of UFC – where he was able to consistently submit larger and stronger opponents – jiu jitsu has grown into more than just a sport or a martial art, it is a way of life for many people because of the incredible benefits that come along with training in “the gentle art.”
But what exactly are those benefits? Isn’t Brazilian Jiu Jitsu just for people that enjoy MMA and wrestling? No! The advantages to training BJJ spill over into all aspects of life, from making new friends to drastically affecting your health and longevity. Here are 8 benefits you will experience within the first few months of starting training.
1. Weight-Loss and Getting in Shape
One of the first differences you will notice after you begin training is how easy it is to lose weight and keep it off. Jiu jitsu works every muscle in your body so you will notice a difference almost immediately. And the best part is that you will not even notice how hard you are working! One of the most difficult aspects of training for weight-loss is that too easily we focus on how much time we are on the treadmill or how many calories we have burned. But with Brazilian jiu jitsu, your mind is focused on technique and facing off against your partner instead of staring at a blinking screen of information. In fact, many of the top athletes in the sport actually came to jiu jitsu as a way to lose weight and then discovered a deep love for the sport and made a career out of it.
The first time you step on the mat at a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy you will immediately be aware of how little the average person knows about basic self-defense and the ineffectiveness of our basic instincts. Not to worry! The fundamentals of jiu jitsu are also the basics of self-defense. It is a common misconception that striking will win out when two people get into a brawl, but in actual altercations, punching is not nearly as effective as closing the distance and controlling your opponent. That is why many law enforcement officers go through specialized programs that were developed from Brazilian jiu jitsu techniques. The reason is because many times, the safest way to diffuse the situation is through BJJ techniques. Of course, the first defense against attack is confidence and knowledge – which you gain and develop as you continue your training.
3. Stress Relief
If you’ve ever seen the pictures people post after training BJJ, there is always one thing in common – a huge grin! That’s because jiu jitsu is an excellent way to alleviate stress from work and life. Even when you come in to the academy with something weighing on your mind, it is quickly forgotten once you begin to roll. And the aggressive nature of jiu jitsu allows us to let off steam in a controlled atmosphere. Feeling upset with your boss? Frustrated with your partner? The jiu jitsu mat acts as a therapy for many people – a third space where the only things that matter are learning a new technique and trying it out in live sparring. Suddenly the problems we face off the mats don’t seem so insurmountable.
4. Making Friends
Another surprising plus to joining a jiu jitsu academy is the friends you will make. It must be something about rolling around on the ground trying to attack each other that really brings people together. But seriously, Brazilian jiu jitsu is a life-long journey and without even realizing it, we spend months, and then years learning and growing with our teammates. Jiu jitsu extends far beyond the training mat, with people traveling to tournaments together, having potlucks and belt promotions, getting to know one another in-between rolls and techniques. Ask any black belt how long they’ve been training and why they keep training and they’ll tell you it is the people you meet and the friends you make. There is no “jiu jitsu type” and it is common to find people from all walks of life – from professionals such as doctors and lawyers to full-time jiu jitsu athletes to parents and business owners and people from every imaginable background.
It may sound counter-intuitive that working out intensively will make you feel more energized than not, but it is true. According to science, watching television or checking social media, while seemingly very passive activities, are actually not relaxing at all. In fact, doing a sport or other physical activity not only relieves stress but is re-energizing. That is why most academies offer early morning classes – professionals find they are better prepared for a long day after having a good workout in the morning. It is common practice among successful people to start the day with a vigorous workout. Students benefit tremendously as well since physical activity actually aids in studying and helps students to focus more and learn better. So take a break from the books and from the desk and find your way to the mat. You’ll find that you will actually have more energy than if you had not trained!
6. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
As you continue your journey along the jiu jitsu path, your mind will begin to open as you better understand both techniques and your own body. Like any sport, technique and strategy are keys to success – and Brazilian jiu jitsu is not any different. Many practitioners compare BJJ to a game of chess, and for good reason! Although jiu jitsu is a martial art and therefore very physical, you cannot discount the mental aspect. It is your mind against another’s and each move determines the outcome. Because of this, we must develop our critical thinking and problem solving skills. What will your next move be? How will your opponent react? Like chess, those at a higher belt can think many moves ahead and the key is to build that mind-body connection.
7. Humility and Patience
Just like in life, you do not always win in Brazilian jiu jitsu, and sometimes class can be very frustrating when we feel like we are not improving. But we need this challenge as well; otherwise how will we deal with the inevitable disappointments and set-backs we face in life? Although jiu jitsu is an art that allows smaller practitioners to win against larger, stronger opponents, sometimes things do not go our way. In these situations, we learn to address our ego and improve our ability to handle adversity. This develops the strength of our character and our patience. Jiu jitsu is not a straight uphill climb to black belt, but a series of improvements and plateaus. It is during these plateaus in our progress that we work on our humility and patience. Without it, success is elusive – both in life and in jiu jitsu.
8. Having fun!
The best part of training in Brazilian jiu jitsu is how much fun the martial art is! There are numerous pictures of people 70, 80, 90 years old that still come in to train. BJJ is a sport you can continue to train throughout life and many people, even though they never compete, continue to show up to train because of how happy it makes them. Walk into any academy and ask a random person why they train, and they will tell you how addictive and fun the sport is. There is a quality to jiu jitsu that keeps people coming back. It is a mix of the effectiveness of the martial art and the culture of BJJ that creates the perfect atmosphere to learn and improve yourself. If you haven’t already, find a school nearby and get started! It is never too late to start having fun.