Specific factors make Jiu Jitsu particularly suited for enhancing mental wellness.
Jiu Jitsu isn’t a small phenomenon. More or less, there are about 500,000 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners in the US. The international organization, IBJJF, has hundreds and thousands of likes and followers. It’s a game with simple rules: without striking your opponent, place them in a position where they are forced to “tap out” lest they be injured or rendered unconscious or otherwise unable to continue fighting.
The most common strategy to win this game is to wrestle to a superior position then use your arms and legs to control your opponent while you place pressure on the arteries in their neck or hyper-extend one of their major joints. You can do this again and again because it’s easy to tap out when it begins to hurt, with a good amount of time before injury could occur.
At first, you may ask, how does this assist mental health?! Some people have the perception that BJJ is a violent sport. However, high levels of BJJ competition show that the rate of injury was an average 25 individuals out of 1000. To compare, college football games have a rate of 36 injuries per 1000. This is in regards to competition, and practice in all these sports is significantly less risky than actual competition.
Rather, there are two big areas where Jiu Jitsu has specific, significant benefits that contribute to mental wellness and stress relief:
Immediate Somatic: Jiu jitsu looks a lot like the natural play of many animals. It’s an inherently enjoyable physical activity. This playful, engaging activity is an excellent source of exercise. Physical contact with others fulfills a human need. Touch sends a powerful message of comfort and as a result, stress relief.
Immediate Psychological: People who train know they feel much different, and better, after training than they did before. BJJ as stress relief is similar to, but distinct from, the feeling of ultimate focus that can be had while training. If you’re holding on to anger or resentment, rolling can be an excellent way to get those feelings out in a constructive atmosphere. Also a source of flow, BJJ promotes a state of being where sense of self is lost and one’s mental process becomes seamlessly identified with the activity. Flow is marked by the absence of boredom, anxiety.
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