One of our readers, Anuar, reached out to me recently to ask me to write an article exploring how BJJ can help its practitioners be happier people. Given that I recently wrote an article exploring the effects of BJJ on the thought processes and psyches of its practitioners, this suggestion was timely, so Ill go ahead and explore this specific aspect of Jiu Jitsu psychology.
Specifically, Anuar brought up a concept called the PERMA Model. He supplied this website to define the PERMA Model:
The key description of this is These are the five elements Seligman found essential to human well-being: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment. Im going to go ahead and explore how each of these relate to the experience of training BJJ.
Positive Emotion: Doing the physical exercise associated with BJJ brings about the same endorphins that doing any other exercise will. The key difference is that BJJ allows us an opportunity to expend our aggression with fellow practitioners. After I train, I feel calmer and less aggressive because of the fact that I have just spent the past few hours trying to choke and joint lock my friends.
Engagement: Jiu Jitsu is addictive, and the more you do it the more you want to do it. The reason is the activity is very satisfying and engaging. From day 1 we are useful to our teammates. When one first joins a gym, more experienced members have an opportunity to impart knowledge; the act of imparting knowledge in itself is a learning experience. As we become more familiar with BJJ we become viable training partners, and eventually can help newer practitioners like we once were helped. BJJ is a lot of things, engaging is definitely one of them.
Relationships: This can be tough one. Ive been on teams that did not yield good relationships, but once I found a good fit I developed very strong bonds with my teammates. These relationships can be the strongest friendships we have in our lives because these are people we go to war with on a regular basis. I can think of few more intimate experiences than rolling, and the coach to athlete relationship is an intricate and amazing one as well, these are men and women who help us expose our human potential.
Meaning: I wake up every day and pack my Datsusara Battlepack with my gear. I then go to work, and at the end of my work day I head over to my gym. Then I do a different kind of work. This is my life. I have other activities that hold importance to me, but BJJ enters my thoughts very often. We need other pieces of meaning in our lives, as injuries happen and we need other things to do during our times off, and we need to cultivate relationships that exist outside of BJJ, but if you train seriously you know that eventually BJJ becomes part of the meaning of your life.
Accomplishment: This ones easy. Even if you never compete the experience of hitting a sweep or a submission is great for the psyche. Belt promotion is a great form of validation. And if you in fact compete, that can be the greatest feeling in the world. If you do BJJ you will feel some sort of accomplishment.
BJJ isnt easy. Its not for everyone. However, as Ive illustrated here it can be a great source of real and complete happiness. How does BJJ make you happy?
As an aside, Anuar did me a huge favor, he gave me reader feedback. I welcome reader feedback and article subject requests!
Emil Fischer is an active blue belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training with Strong Style Brasa and is sponsored by Pony Club Grappling Gear and Cruz Combat. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at www.facebook.com/emilfischerbjj and www.twitter.com/Emil_Fischer