Why Jiu-Jitsu People Never Shut Up About Jiu-Jitsu

Flickr/Creative Common: Henrik Hovhannisyan

There are a lot of half-jokes about jiu-jitsu being a cult, and it’s easy to see where they come from. Whether you train jiu-jitsu or you’re a non-practitioner trying to understand why your friend or family member won’t stop talking about pajama wrestling and posting memes about being a wolf/shark/lion, you’ve probably noticed that BJJ has an… erm… interesting effect on people who train.

If you don’t train, it’s a bit baffling to see how a hobby can have such a profound effect on someone. People who are just weeks into training get attached to the martial art very quickly, and it’s often not that long before jiu-jitsu begins to dominate their social media feed. They may beg their friends to try a class (“Just one!”), and their entire lifestyle and friend group may start to revolve around jiu-jitsu.

Not everyone who tries jiu-jitsu will immediately fall in love with it. There are a lot of germs and sweat and close contact and pain and frustration involved in the sport. Still, when you take a closer look at what jiu-jitsu involves, it’s no surprise that so many people don’t just like it — they become obsessed with it.

If you can look past the germs and injury risk, jiu-jitsu is like a multivitamin for mental and physical health. It’s a highly social activity, but it goes beyond conversation and puts us in close physical contact with each other. It gives us genuine human connection in one of its simplest forms, and in a world where so much interaction takes place over screens, this contact is more valuable than ever. It’s no wonder that so many BJJ teammates become close friends or even enter relationships with each other.

It’s easy to see how jiu-jitsu is a great workout, but the mental exercise it requires is just as valuable. Just as there are former high school wrestling stars who excel in jiu-jitsu, there are also a ton of “nerds” who find success on the mats. Jiu-jitsu isn’t about who can lift the most weight or move the fastest (though strength and cardio will definitely help you out) — it’s about who has the better technique, who has more knowledge about how the human body works and fails, who can think a few steps ahead. It’s basically a workout for people who hate working out.

BJJ also has a number of ways of measuring “success,” making it a great option for both future world champions and busy parents alike. Like other martial arts, it has a belt system, but there are also plenty of local tournaments to test yourself in even if you never want to enter bigger competitions. Some people feel challenged enough by simply showing up and making it through a class, enjoying the journey that comes with achieving their desired level of fitness. No matter what you want to achieve through jiu-jitsu, you’re likely to find it if you keep coming to class.

What many people don’t expect when they start training is the emotional boost you get by learning new techniques and submissions (and hitting them on your teammates in class). Success in jiu-jitsu is very much earned, and there’s a lot of effort and failure that has to happen before achieving just about anything on the mats. There will inevitably be disappointment if you stick with it, but by continuing to show up, you’ll also get the sense of achievement that comes with pulling off moves that once gave you serious trouble.

Jiu-jitsu practitioners never shut up about jiu-jitsu because, well, it’s nice to be a part of something that gives so much to us. We want to share that excitement with others and get them involved, too. Is it a bit annoying? Sure. But once you also join the worldwide pajama wrestling cult, you’ll understand the appeal too.


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