Reader Question: How do I explain Jiu-Jitsu to my family?

Reader questions are the backbone of what we do at Jiu-Jitsu Times.  They give us an opportunity to give back to the community that has given us so much.

I recently got an interesting question from one of our readers:

My family… They think I’m crazy for doing jiu-jitsu! I think they think it is karate or something.  My dad basically says it’s stupid ‘why would you fight people?’  How do I explain it to them?

I will do my best to answer this question from my own perspective and experiences.

For starters, whenever I interact with a doubter, even one of my own family members, I need to decide if I want to convince them that jiu-jitsu is awesome or simply end the conversation and refuse to re-engage with it.  For example, one of my brothers in law has, from what I can tell, zero respect for what I do, and I don’t think anything I could ever do would convince him otherwise.  So I don’t talk about it with him.  If I am talking about it with someone else and he tries to enter the conversation with one of his clever comments, I just nod and smile and refuse to actually engage him.

And my sisters?  Forget about it!

Most of my family has zero interest in my jiu-jitsu experience.

The reality is that what we do appears bizarre to the uninitiated.  There’s no getting around that.  We roll around with sweaty people in a non-sexual way on padded flooring in an attempt to learn how to strangle and maim people. This both fits into primal, basic human instincts while at the same time appearing highly aberrant.

Ultimately, when I want to actually engage someone in a conversation about jiu-jitsu who has never tried it, I explain that jiu-jitsu, on its most fundamental level, is the experience of learning to turn your body into a puzzle that can ultimately kill another person, while at the same time learning to treat another person’s body as a similar puzzle.  In that experience, we learn to be comfortable in situations where most other people would be uncomfortable. We learn to love our bodies, and we learn skills that will make us into lethal adversaries should we ever be put into the undesirable situation of being in a fight.

The experience of training has secondary effects of building close bonds between those who train, making the friendships found on the mat particularly tight and intimate, something that most people don’t get to experience.  There are various memes floating around that say something to the affect of “I have tried to choke most of my friends unconscious.”  The experience of suffering together on the mat builds close ties.

Another secondary effect of training is physical fitness.  We’re talking high-level athlete stuff.  Most blue belts I see on the mat are in amazing shape, and as a group we tend to age well.  Jiu-jitsu harms our joints over time, but the rest of our bodies truly benefit from the experience.  Weight is lost, muscle is developed and toned, and all this from an experience for which most people (non-jiu-jitsu friends and family included) have little to no respect or understanding.

I think if you offer someone this information, their reaction will determine whether or not you continue talking to them about it.  My mother, for example, has very little interest in my training, and kind of wishes I would stop.  And that’s fine; I just don’t talk to her about it, or if I do, I tell her about it in vague terms that she can understand.  “Yes mom, I won the tournament, I got a gold medal.  No mom, I didn’t get hurt, and I don’t think I hurt any of my opponents.  Love you too mom.”

Not everyone will understand or appreciate our experiences.  And that’s okay.  Those that do may eventually be people who step on the mat with us.  And that’s okay too!

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Emil Fischer is an active black belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training at Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts and Training Center near Cleveland Ohio ( and teaching at Ararat Martial Arts and FItness Center. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at and Emil is sponsored by Meerkatsu (, discount code EmilKatsu), Eddy's On Coventry, North Coast Cryo ( NottaRookie, YM ( discount code COOKIES), Defense Soap ( discount code COOKIES) Impact Mouthguards ( discount code EMILIMPACT), and North South Jiu Jitsu Underwear


  1. I think telling anyone that your a trained killer or something to that effect then you can assume they will immediately shut you off because you sound like a tool. I just tell people that its martial arts and it helps you become physically and spiritually in tune through discipline of the practice.


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