This is Your Brain on Jiu Jitsu: Mental Benefits of BJJ


Most of us have heard the term “Runner’s High”, but “Jiu Jitsu Joy” is every bit as real, even if it’s not talked about as much.

It’s a fact that most physical exertion can bring about a flood of hormonal and neural benefits that your body and spirit reap the benefits of long after the workout is over. But Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has an added bonus that pushes its “feel good” potential beyond other exercise methods…physical contact.

Extreme closeness is something that keeps many people from ever even trying jiu jitsu, and that’s a shame for many reasons, not the least of which is that we, as humans, need far more contact than our modern lives allow.

In his article for Psychology Today titled, The Psychology of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, clinical psychologist and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu brown belt David Ley says that although running and other intense physical exercise (including BJJ) release the protein Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor, or BDNF into your body, which causes the “high” felt afterwards, the close contact in jiu jitsu is also responsible for the release of the hormone, oxytocin. Often called the “cuddle” hormone, oxytocin brings about a heightened sense of contentedness and connection, and is probably one of the explanations not only for the euphoria that so many of us feel when we step off the mat, but also for the close bonds that can develop relatively quickly between jiu jitsu training partners.

In other words, you’re getting a deeply faceted physical “high” from jiu jitsu. One that might have more of an effect on your overall sense of well being than an intense workout done alone.

Ley goes on to say that other brain benefits can result from a jiu jitsu practice, including a sense of strength and accomplishment, and he believes that achieving these feelings in scenarios that might resemble negative past encounters could even be helpful for trauma survivors, especially women. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is designed to be effective self defense for smaller individuals, and seeing–and feeling–these principles work can be a freeing experience.

There are a number of reasons to try out Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, so if you’re curious, step out, and if you’re already a regular practiioner…keep it up.

Your body–and your brain–will thank you.