If you think back 10-15 years ago, Brazilian jiu jitsu schools were hard to come by. If you did see one, you probably didn’t have a clear idea what it was. Fast forward to the present and you have at least three or more schools in every city. You even see jiu jitsu programs inside of taekwondo and karate schools. Today, you’ll find hundreds of jiu jitsu schools in the Southern California area and growing popularity in just about every other country in the world.
How can we explain this sudden explosion in popularity? Many would say it’s due to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and bloody mixed martial arts that we now see on tv.
True, the UFC was instrumental in broadcasting jiu jitsu to its largest audience ever. But by watching the early UFC events, people still didn’t truly understand what jiu jitsu was all about. Until they tried it out for themselves.
After your first jiu jitsu class, you quickly learn that it’s not just about hurting people and overcoming someone with your own skill, will, and strength. If it was, jiu jitsu would not last or grow in popularity like it has. Instead, large amounts of people began to have positive, life-changing experiences through and while training.
There are probably a million ways in which jiu jitsu benefits us. Obviously, it helps us physically by improving our coordination, balance, flexibility, stamina, and toughness. Bodies are transformed to become more tone, strong, and lean. What was once an intimidating challenge during their first class becomes a routine exercise in their 10th class.
Jiu jitsu also teaches us how to overcome and adapt to our own physical limitations and age. It is a physical artform that is highly personalizable to the size, shape, physical strengths, and physical limitations of the individual. And as the student ages, he or she finds new, less physically demanding, safer, and more efficient ways to accomplish the same task.
But perhaps the greatest gift of jiu jitsu is its ability to help us mentally. By attending a class, one is able to set aside their stresses, worries, and obligations and focus on an activity that leaves them feeling exhausted yet refreshed, exhilarated yet calm, humbled yet powerful.
By attending classes consistently, students develop mental skills and build confidence in their ability to respond to the sudden, unexpected challenges of life. Students gradually learn to remain calm, keep their internal emotional reactions in check, and find the most rational and effective solution to problems.
Just like anything in life, having a support network to keep you going while you’re down is critical. Jiu jitsu provides that too. Instructors and coaches pull you forward in a positive direction, while your teammates look out for you, pull you up while you’re down, and share their own insights and experiences.
Taking all this into consideration, jiu jitsu seems to be a complete system for well being. It trains our bodies to be strong, trains the mind to be calm and adaptive, and provides a supportive infrastructure to keep us on a path of holistic wellness.