Social Anxieties And Jiu Jitsu

Flickr/Creative Commons: Sylvain

I was recently questioned on how to handle certain social anxieties while also having a love for BJJ.  This is often an over looked topic in our world.  How does someone cope with such disorders such as OCD, Social Phobia, and PTSD and still practice this art?

I, myself, do not suffer from any of these problems.  I have, however, been around a lot of people that do.  It is certainly something that needs a little extra special treatment from those directly around the individual.  Certain steps need to be taken first to properly begin in a social environment for the ones suffering from these disorders.

First thing is to educate, be upfront about the problem.  Tell your instructor what bothers you and the extent of your stress levels.  It is his job to help you fit in to the class and/or to provide you with a little help on the side to give you the proper instruction. Also educate your team, certainly in every crowd there is at least one person that has dealt with someone that may have suffered from the same problems.  He or she can probably help you in some way or another.

Second thing, start slow.  Jiu Jitsu isn’t built for everyone right off the street.  Maybe start with just the drills, then gradually work in to rolling once your confidence begins to grow.  Maybe even just do private lessons if the instructor offers them.  These can help stop the fear of embarrassment that comes from a group setting.  Maybe even ask if a friend can go with you to give you a familiar person to learn with.

Lastly, know your limits.  If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, tell your instructor, and call it a night!  Maybe skip the next class and drill at home instead.  There are hundreds of drills you can do at home and still improve on your Jiu Jitsu.  Don’t push yourself to the point that you are scared to attend classes.  Fear is the number 1 cause of failure.

As I said before, I am not a professional in this field.  This is just my advice, not everyone is the same and I know some cases are a lot more severe than others.  It can be managed though!  A Jiu Jitsu academy should be your family, for better and worse, we deal with each other’s problems equally.  Who better to help you than your family.  I recently heard someone say “Jiu Jitsu is 90% mental and 50% physical”, yes I understand that math doesn’t add up.  It is, however, true!

As for everyone else.  Be aware that this is a possibility!  Think twice before you make a comment about someone that is different than you!  You have no idea what demons they are facing just to make themselves step on that mat to begin with! They might need your help! Oss!!


  1. As someone who has worked for years with people on the ASD spectrum, has multiple mental conditions myself and have been training BJJ for the last 5 years, I find this article slightly ignorant. Although I agree with the general message that we must be tolerant of each other regardless of limitations, I believe that the writer portrays people with mental conditions as limited in their abilities compared to the average person. People with social anxiety or any other type of mental condition often thrive and are very successful when it comes to BJJ. This is because of the unique way of thinking that people with mental conditions have, and how that actually can provide an edge that most people would not experience. Also, I refer to mental conditions as, “conditions” and not “disabilities” because a disability is something that prevents a person from being able to do something… How is it a DISability if the condition makes the person MORE able? I think “disability” isn’t a good word to use because it has the bias that people with mental conditions are less able, which is not always true.

    Although some of the points are valid, I think this article would be better target towards beginners facing anxiety rather then any BJJ practitioner with a mental “disability”.

    When it comes to the concept of people facing personal limitations in any capacity when doing Jiu Jitsu, I do agree that it’s about finding the right environment. Sometimes certain schools won’t be a good fit for some people because of this, but ultimately it is up to the person to create the most productive learning environment for themselves… Which is very possible even if the person is facing an overwhelming limitation. I just want to say, isn’t that a big part of Jiu Jitsu? Learning to overcome your personal challenges and become the best version of yourself possible?

    I also want to commend the writer for having a very tolerant attitude toward others. I think that when it comes down to it, another big reason so many people with mental conditions thrive in BJJ is because of the inclusive and accepting environment the BJJ community fosters, and that’s all thanks to open minded tolerant people like the person who wrote this article.

  2. As a person who suffers from severe social anxiety, but lives Jiu Jitsu, I’d like to offer my own piece.

    I began Jiu Jitsu at the advice of my older brother whom I trust very much. I deal with moderate-severe social anxiety and most of that is directed at men and comes out when people touch me. Jiu Jitsu was a whole new world and I was terrified every time I went to class, but my brother loved it and I wanted to as well so I kept going.

    For 2-3 months I could not actually roll with anybody because I panicked and it was difficult to be comfortable with so many people so close to me.

    After that time frame, I noticed my anxiety slowly dissipate until it was almost non existent in my day-to-day life, but then I got injured and had to be out for a few months.

    My anxiety came back, so when I got back into Jiu Jitsu I had to fight that battle all over again.

    Basically I say all of this to say a person is not defined by their limitations. I’m living proof that a person can learn to cope with situations. Jiu Jitsu, for me, was a literal life saver because now I don’t have to walk around in fear that around every corner is somebody waiting or that all people are so bad. Jiu Jitsu helped reshape my thoughts from terror at people to confidence.

  3. I am a psychologist and BJJ brown belt. Your article was pretty good, but I would differ on one point. You suggested skipping class after being overwhelmed. Avoidance it what anxiety pushes us to do. If you lay off a few classes the anxiety will improve, but whatever is cueing the anxiety will get stronger. This is the devil that is paid in the backside with anxiety. I have noticed that many people with anxiety disorder thrive in typical training environment.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here