Getting choked, arm-barred or leg-locked by a stranger might not seem like an obvious way of improving your mental health. However, these are all submissions used in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu which I believe to be an excellent way to improve your mental health.
One way in which the martial art can improve your mental wellness is that it is a very physically demanding and full-contact sport. This means it places a lot of demands on your fitness. It has been scientifically proven that exercise releases endorphins that makes you feel better, improving both your mental and physical health. Another aspect of this is it will help you get in shape. It’s well documented that having a healthy body weight goes a long way to improving your mental well-being.
A second way that Jujitsu helps combat mental illness is the confidence gained from setting manageable goals and achieving them. Unless you have experience in another combat sport, when you start BJJ you won’t know anything, and this will be pretty obvious to you in your first few sparring sessions, where you will get very good at “tapping out”.
However, as you learn, you’ll soon notice an improvement in your performance. And although you might not be able to beat an experienced ground fighting opponent as a beginner, within a few months you will be a much tougher opponent. It’s worth listening to your instructor or BJJ practitioner who may even be an expert in other martial arts like Wing Chun, Kung Fu, Karate Muay Thai or Judo.
This will eventually be recognised through the sports grading system which, like many traditional martial arts, you receive stripes on your belt to move up the rankings. This can bring a great sense of achievement.
Knowledge and skills in the martial art will improve confidence as you get to spar. Sparring is where you give one hundred per cent effort to defeat or submit your opponent. This will allow you to test your skill against others on a regular basis and lead to improvements in your takedown skills.
The process of sparring and losing as well as winning will build resilience and will carry over into other areas of your life and you’ll soon find yourself taking on more challenges. If at times your stress levels reach an unquantifiable level, whether it’s your boss, colleague’s gossiping or your partner nagging about the rubbish not being taken out, BJJ could be the answer to that release.
This gives you the ability to take out your stress on some poor, innocent, unsuspecting opponent or, even better, if you can get the source of your frustration to attend sparring sessions with you (I wouldn’t recommend forcing Jujitsu upon them involuntarily as this could lead to a court case and a stint in the clink). Jokes aside I think you get my drift, as Jujutsu can be a great way to relieve yourself of stress and it’s absorbing enough to forget your worries for a short time.
As already mentioned, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is a full-contact sport in which you try to choke or apply pressure to your opponent’s joints until they “tap out”. Surprisingly this is a great way to build friendships. There’s something about repeatedly sparring a fellow student and helping them to improve, while also improving yourself as well as trusting someone to release you when you “tap out” is a great way to develop friendships.
Most martial arts gyms are friendly, welcoming and supportive places with knowledgeable instructors. It really makes for an ideal place to extend your social circle. Just make sure you regularly wash your gi (jacket and trousers you wear while training). Getting to know like-minded people can be a great way to improve your mental health and friendship circles.
I’d highly recommend attending it for a month to see whether it’s for you and try to find beginner classes so you are not too overwhelmed.
What is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a ground fighting martial art, where the aim is to achieve an opponents non-violent submission. It’s believe to have originated by Indian Buddhists monks to protect themselves.
Back in 1915, world famous 4th dan Kodokan judoka Otávio Mitsuyo Maeda emigrated to Brazil from Japan. There he taught Judo to Carlos Gracie who pioneered Brazilian jiu-jitsu with his brothers Oswaldo, Gastão Jr., Jorge, and Hélio, and the Gracie family have continued to be black belts in the martial art.