Netflix’s upcoming survival competition reality series Outlast chronicles the journey of sixteen hardened contestants – each equipped with their own unique set of survival skills – who are parachuted into the unforgiving wilderness of Alaska. The rules of the game? Simple: do what you need to survive, but you must join one of four teams. Allegiances in the game can change at any time, so allies must be chosen carefully.
Among these sixteen wilderness survivors is Justin Court – a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, bowhunter, and all-around adventurer – whom I previously met during a training camp in Costa Rica.
While the myriad benefits of a jiu-jitsu practice have been well-documented, surviving the Alaskan wilderness isn’t usually the first thing we think of. What was it about the martial art that gave Justin the edge?
Well, for one thing, according to Justin, both wilderness survival and submission grappling are all about “embracing the suck.”
The one other combat sports practitioner in the cast is Nick Radner, a wrestling coach, who connected with Justin due to their shared sense of grit. “He and I connected because of the commonality of grit and the grind of wrestling and BJJ,” Justin explains to me. “Doing jiu-jitsu helps with getting comfortable being uncomfortable, and that definitely is applicable to the challenges of survival in the wilderness. It was constant misery – being cold, wet, tired, and hungry every day.”
So what brings a jiu-jitsu black belt off the mats and deep into the Alaskan outdoors?
“What motivated me was the challenge of it all,” shares Justin. “I wanted to test the skill set I’ve developed from survival training throughout the years.” Justin, who resides in Kentucky when he’s not adventuring around the world, has previously trained at two different wilderness survival schools in the bluegrass state: Nature Reliance School and Campcraft Outdoors. Both facilities are also owned, coincidentally, by jiu-jitsu practitioners.
“The interview [and] application process was lengthy,” says Justin. “From my understanding, they went through thousands of applications and narrowed it down to twenty, and then selected sixteen.”
To be one of the chosen sixteen was a surreal experience for Justin, who marvels, “The overall experience was wild. Myself and the other contestants were literally dropped into the Alaskan wilderness with only the clothes on our backs.”
Contestants had no say in resource logistics either – instead, according to Justin, showrunners did resource package drops at different locations on different days.
“It was the hardest physical, mental, and emotional endeavor I’ve ever been a part of,” confides Justin. “A part of me died out there, and yet a part of me was reborn. It tested me in every way possible.”
“The most surprising part was the vastness of Alaska’s unforgiving elements,” he adds. “It rained about ninety percent of the time, and the average temperature was thirty-three degrees. It’s the Tongass National Forest, and that place will eat you up, spit you out, and eat you again, if you are not prepared for it.”
Yet Justin, somehow, endured – and doesn’t regret the experience. “I would do it again,” he tells me, “but better, and even [more ruthlessly].”
He admits, however, that he could do without the literal starvation he endured out in the woods. “That was one of the hardest things to overcome,” he confesses. “I lost over twenty-five pounds, which is a lot for a guy my size.”
Does he think his presence on Outlast will inspire the show’s viewers to check out their local jiu-jitsu academy?
“In short, yes,” says Justin. “The average BJJ practitioner may understand my mindset to some degree because I definitely pull some black belt moves out there. Some may not agree with it, but I was playing to win, and sometimes that means taking necessary, calculated risks.
“So hopefully, that may spark some interest in someone to take their own risk and go check out their local BJJ gym. That first step is the hardest for some, but soon they’ll see how it can change their life.”
Still, he cautions his fellow jiu-jitsu athletes against signing up for a hardcore wilderness survival contest unless they’re well-trained to endure the worst elements of Mother Nature herself. “It takes a lot of training to understand the elements of survival,” explains Justin, who adds, “My main takeaway is that Mother Nature is definitely brutal, but human nature at its worst can be a nightmare. Combine the two, and it really starts to make sense of why we are the way we are as a species.”
For those in the jiu-jitsu community largely unfamiliar with reality TV, he encourages them to tune into the first couple seasons of Alone, the previous survival competition series produced by the creators of Outlast. “If they have seen it, they would understand the concept of Outlast, [which is the same], but with a team,” says Justin.
He believes that most BJJ practitioners will see quite a bit on Outlast that will feel relatable to them. “For the most part, anyone that trains BJJ knows about surviving – that’s pretty much what you do from white belt to blue belt, at least on the mat. The same mindset can be applied to surviving the outdoors.”
At the end of the day, he’s deeply grateful to have been chosen to compete on the show, an experience he describes as “life-changing.”
“BJJ has opened up a lot of doors for me that I am grateful for,” says Justin. “The show will be interesting, and all of my training on and off the mat definitely had influence in the tactics I used. Something I kept in mind while I was out there that I learned from David Goggins is the 40% rule. That stayed with me, and was a constant reminder in my head.
“Through suffering when I thought that it could be the end, the reality is that I was really only at 40%. When you come to terms with this, you realize that you still have a lot more in you. Most of everything you do is mental. And quitting was never an option.”
Netflix’s Outlast drops on March 10. Get ready for your next binge watch, and don’t miss your chance to see Justin Court in action!
Meanwhile, check out this sneak peek.
“I found Justin Court’s account of how his jiu-jitsu training helped him survive in Alaska’s wilderness to be truly inspiring. It’s remarkable to see how a martial art can translate into real-life survival skills, and it’s a testament to the physical and mental toughness required to master jiu-jitsu. As a fan of both reality television and martial arts, this was a fascinating read and really highlights the diverse benefits that training in martial arts can bring.” https://jo-koy.ticketsmodacenter.com