Most of us are familiar with the physical benefits of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu; you become stronger, more flexible, your reflexes improve and much more.
Though these are all fantastic benefits to a sport that we all love, most of us find more solace in the mental benefits. Jiu Jitsu provides a safe haven for stress reduction, physical contact with peers, and a way to improve self confidence. Those that practice Jiu Jitsu come to crave the rolls and adrenaline rush of competition; if you are one of those people, and want to know the science behind why you’ve become so enthralled with this sport, keep reading!
Face-to-face interaction is so important for humans, yet we are trending farther and farther away from making it a daily priority in our lives. Technology advancements and busy schedules have led us to put socialization as a low priority. The first mental benefit of jiu jitsu is directly related to the fact that the sport is very physical; contact is necessary and encouraged.
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This direct contact releases certain neurochemicals, such as oxytocin, that explain the fast connection we often feel with our fellow teammates. Who knew that putting on your gym pajamas and practicing rear naked chokes with your friends was releasing such an important hormone?!
Another chemical response we have on the mats is the perceived threat to survival. During a match our bodies take the submission attempts by your partner as real, and can go into ‘fight or flight’ mode. During these periods, adrenaline and cortisol flood the system and we experience the rush of competition. Our heart rates increase, we suddenly become more focused and aware of our surroundings and our reflex timing improves.
You feel superhuman! This phenomenon is most famously known as a “runner’s high” and occurs when the brain releases Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). BDNF is a protein that produces a euphoric feeling, making us feel more energetic, focused and happy after working out.
The most commonly sought after mental gain from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the ability to stay calm in strenuous situations and keep a clear mind. This ability is often referred to as mindfulness, and is an incredible feat when achieved. To be able to feel the surge of energy and fear in your body, but still think clearly while reacting sensibly is something that most people cannot pull off.
This enables people to feel like they can keep themselves safe if under attack, no matter the size of their opponent; giving them a new sense of confidence. Self-confidence can help address bullying in school or at work, how people deal with past trauma, as well as support a healthy attitude about your own body and mind.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a rare sport, not only for it’s applications in real life but because it gives incredible access to basic human needs. We crave contact, friendship, mental clarity and challenges; Jiu Jitsu provides an environment for all of these things plus some. What do you think? Are you surprised to learn why your original once or twice a week Jiu Jitsu fundamentals class quickly turned into rolling six days a week? How has the sport helped you improve yourself?
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