Jiu-Jitsu Therapy: Grappling Our Way Towards Better Mental Health


You can call it jiu-jitsu therapy, a grappling escape, mat therapy, submission snuggling or whatever you want. The fact is, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training is going to make you feel better about yourself. And it is not just a short term fix. Namely, in a world where mental health issues are a real problem, having a way to emerge victorious by doing something you truly enjoy is somewhat of an unbelievable task. Well, you can believe in BJJ, and in the power, it holds to help you overcome everything, but most importantly, your own self. 

Mental health awareness is becoming more and more of a big thing nowadays. It is not that mental health issues have never been around. It is, however, the fact that the percentage of people suffering from them is at a staggering high. Luckily, we are getting more and more aware that the modern lifestyle is impacting our minds in a very unforgiving manner. In that sense, going to therapy is no longer (or shouldn’t be, at least) a stigma. Apart from regular therapy, you now have options to do meditation, dancing or art as therapy, psychodrama and a bunch of other therapeutic activities. Or, you could opt for Jiu-Jitsu therapy. And when I say Jiu-Jitsu therapy I do not refer only to the short-term endorphin fix you’re getting after every training.

Modern LIfestyle And Mental Health

Modern lifestyle is hard, even for the best of us. The levels of stress that people have to endure on a daily basis, for example, are unreal. In most cases, people are not even comprehensive about how much stress they’re actually enduring. The effects of it, however, are more than apparent. In some, they tend to be as obvious as physical manifestations that merit a doctor’s visit. However, they can be much more subtle, and potentially, much more devastating when they affect our mental health. And the effects of stress on our minds are much more common than those on our bodies.

52993309 2567985923230453 3438943776620412928 n - Jiu-Jitsu Therapy: Grappling Our Way Towards Better Mental HealthBut that’s not even scratching the surface. Ailments like depression, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, ADHD (particularly in kids) etc are pretty much running rampant throughout society. Although we can’t claim that they’re all due to stress, there’s certainly a correlation. All of the above are just the tip of the iceberg.

The pressure we feel nowadays, whether it is personal, professional or both is another major contributor to mental problems. We often end up amassing such an emotional build up that it has to come out somehow. And mental issues like those above are very often the only outlets. As I am not a mental health professional, I will not dare dwell deeper into the mental illnesses that plague our society. I’d much rather look more into Jiu-Jitsu therapy as a viable solution.

It’s worth noting that our physical state also plays a huge role in our mental health status. How we perceive ourselves is crucial to staying positive and content. Being overweight, tired, eating badly etc all have consequences on our minds.

The Psychology Of Jiu-Jitsu

As a martial art, BJJ has a very deep psychological side on top of the vast physical one. We all know how addictive BJJ can be, and it turns out, it can have a profoundly positive effect. For example, the way we spar in Jiu-Jitsu is often referred to as rolling. In essence, it is playfighting on the ground, something that we’re hardwired for. Most mammals engage in playful fighting, which allows us to have meaningful physical contact with others while staying active and engaged.

Speaking of engagement, BJJ offers a huge benefit in the form of neural activation. Let’s use a practical example. When you’re going home from work or school, do you always drive/walk./bike along the same route? Well, if you do, then you’re not engaging your mind. Choosing a different route every time means you’re building new pathways in your brain and engaging neurons. However, there are only so many paths you can take as per our example before you run out. In BJJ, you never run out of different pathways, even if it is the same move or sequence every time.

Another huge thing Jiu-Jitsu therapy offers is the perception of comfort. Being uncomfortable in life is hard and prolonged exposure can lead to panic attacks, anxiety and a host of mental health issues. Well, you won’t find another way to learn how to become comfortable in utter discomfort, while staying completely safe, as you do in BJJ.

There are many other aspects to the psychological side of Brazilian JIu-Jitsu. Important ones include the ability to focus on one present task and clear your mind of the everyday clutter. There’s also the massive confidence boost training martial arts bring, as well as the opportunity to express your individuality in an unhindered manner.

Jiu-Jitsu Therapy For The Win

2vc7zv - Jiu-Jitsu Therapy: Grappling Our Way Towards Better Mental HealthLet’s look into therapeutical aspects of training Jiu-Jitsu. We’ll start it off with a real-life example. In Hamilton, Canada firefighters decided to swap the usual “going to a bar” routine with Jiu-Jitsu therapy. They enrolled in a Judo And BJJ class to help them cope with stress and give them an emotional outlet. This came after a period of prolonged exposure to extreme stress at the workplace. Suffice to say, it worked.

With Jiu-Jitsu, one main thing that people get is routine. Going back to something over and over again to experience positive benefits in return is highly rewarding. When that something gives you the chance to blow your aggression, become a part of a community, be as much psychologically active as you are physically, then you can rest assured that your mind will be as healthy as your body.

Speaking of which, it is precisely this unique mind-body connection that is behind the secret of Jiu-Jitsu as a therapeutic modality. First of all, you take part in the primal practice of playfighting for dominance. Our bodies get to work in ways in which modern humans have completely forgotten. On top of it all, we’re in a safe environment, where nobody is looking to strike, hit or injure you in any way. Moreover, at all times, your mind needs to be engaged and active. You need to focus on every little detail and use your powers of deduction to try and be one step ahead of your partner. It is the perfect way to reintroduce your body to your mind.

No two BJJ rolls are ever the same, which keeps things flowing and removes. This leads to constant self-improvement which is not only addictive but helps you resolve a lot of mental health issues you might be facing.


Be certain to always talk to a professional whenever you feel your mental health deteriorating. Whenever you’re not unsure whether you’re’ in trouble you should make it a point to go and talk to a mental health professional. However, “conventional” psychotherapy methods and even stuff like dancing and psychodrama are not your only option. Instead, consider combining them with Jiu-Jitsu therapy for a profound positive effect.

Remember that training Jiu-Jitsu doesn’t have to be a scary experience. IF you’re not into large crowds or working with a bunch of people at first, you can always go for privates. Also, remember that competition is also not a requirement for training BJJ, so do not use it as an excuse. All in all, you need a positive habit in your life and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ticks all the boxes!

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