The Most Surprising Ways Jiu-Jitsu Improves Your Mental Health.
There’s no mistaking the physical benefits of Brazilian jiu-jitsu (“BJJ” or “jiu-jitsu). A high
intensity workout, the practice of jiu-jitsu improves cardiovascular health, increases strength,
and aids in weight loss, leading to sizable gains in overall fitness.
But one, possibly less obvious, benefit of BJJ is the powerful impact it can have on mental
For victims of anxiety and depression, or those that struggle with low self-esteem or lack a sense of belonging, jiu-jitsu can be a critical tool on the path to better days. Let’s take a closer look at how jiu-jitsu promotes a healthy mind as much as a healthy body.
Exercise And Mental Health
First and foremost, jiu-jitsu strengthens the mind by developing the body.
The connection between physical activity and improved mental health has been long
established and grounded in research. Regular exercise – just like the kind you’ll find in a typical
BJJ class – has proven, positive effects ranging from improved sleep quality, to decreased
anxiety, to increased mental alertness.
To be sure, jiu-jitsu is an excellent activity to strengthen the body and, therefore, the mind.
Classes often start with some light jogging and active drilling to warm the body up, followed by
instruction and careful practice of technique, and end with “rolling” – BJJ’s term for safe,
controlled sparring. In all, this provides a challenging, full-body workout.
And because jiu-jitsu is a skill that one never stops trying to master, it’s a form of exercise that
individuals are more likely to stick with, always wanting to improve and learn more, all while
becoming the healthiest, fittest version of themselves.
Overcoming Obstacles And Reaching Goals
Jiu-jitsu also improves mental health by providing a safe environment to overcome challenges
big and small.
As adults, we can easily forget the gratifying sensation of facing, then conquering obstacles. Stuck in a cycle of all work and no play, we can all-too-often put ourselves on the back burner,
never giving ourselves the time or space for self-improvement.
Ask yourself: When was the last time I felt a sense of accomplishment, of a job well-done in the
face of challenges?
Jiu-jitsu is an activity that necessarily brings about constant growth and improvement.
For example, many first-day BJJ students find themselves struggling to perform the unique set
of body movements the art requires. A week later, those same students can not only perform
the movements but apply them to a partner. A few weeks after that, they are implementing
techniques against resisting opponents.
This happens on a larger scale, as well. Men and women from all walks of life might start jiu-
jitsu feeling unathletic, having not tested their bodies in ages, only to find themselves, after
months or years of training in BJJ, to be a transformed individual that is not only physically fit
but also confident and fulfilled.
This process of continuous growth, of overcoming obstacles, is one that repeats itself
throughout the entire jiu-jitsu journey, from beginner to master. Whether you dream of
competing in BJJ or just practicing in the gym, rest assured that you will follow this path of
That sense of personal development and accomplishment works wonders to improve mental
health, giving practitioners realistic goals and the skills and self-confidence to meet them.
It’s All About Confidence
Whether its the benefits of regular exercise or the sense of accomplishment, jiu-jitsu ultimately
improves mental health by boosting overall self-confidence.
The confidence gained through BJJ goes well beyond losing weight or sporting washboard abs.
It’s an activity that has the power to transform how we see and carry ourselves.
Consider, for example, the 40-year-old mother of two who has never seen herself as an athlete
and struggles to maintain a regular fitness regimen. She has trouble keeping up in her first few
jiu-jitsu classes, but soon sees a transformation in her body as she grows more and more
interested in learning the ins-and-outs of the art.
Fast-forward several months, and that same woman is not only much healthier, but now able to
control and even submit men that are twice her size. She is an inspiration to her children, who
watch her do incredible things on the jiu-jitsu mats. Armed with new-found confidence and an
ever-expanding knowledge of jiu-jitsu, she feels powerful and strong unlike ever before.
Consider another example. A 30-year-old former high school athlete hasn’t competed in
anything in years, allowing himself to gain weight and is in desperate need of a healthy outlet
during his free time.
When he first starts BJJ, he feels awkward, yet humbled by what the smaller, more experienced
students can do to him. He quickly sheds excess weight and is soon reminded of the athleticism
that laid dormant in him for years. He finds comraderie at the gym, bonding with other students as he once again feels like he is on a team. Before long, he is competing in jiu-jitsu tournaments, feeding his competitive drive and testing his skills in the process.
These types of success stories repeat themselves time and time again. Simply put, jiu-jitsu
breeds self-confidence that bleeds into every aspect of life.
The transformative power of BJJ is special because it requires no unique skills, no specific body
type or age, and no particular athletic ability. No single individual is better equipped to enjoy jiu-
jitsu than another.
Instead, reaping the mental health benefits of jiu-jitsu requires one thing: showing up.