I feel great! This is a sentiment often expressed by BJJ practitioners after a training session.
Despite grueling warm-ups, intense drills, and challenging spars, at the end of class there is usually a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. This is not surprising since physical activity has been linked to improved mental health. It stimulates the release of various neurotransmitters, such as endorphins and dopamine, which are responsible for increasing sensations of pleasure and reducing feelings of pain. In addition engaging in a physically demanding activity, such as BJJ, also boosts our mental health by increasing feelings of self-confidence and reducing levels of stress. Each of these physiological and mental responses contribute significantly to our overall well-being.
While it would be great if every session was flawless, it is inevitable that bad training days will be sprinkled in among the good.These challenging days can definitely cause you to question your sense of competence. However, continuing to show up, train, and face your challenges head-on allows you to build resilience. This is a key factor in cultivating self-confidence. Ultimately, boosting confidence has to do with challenging negative beliefs you have about yourself. Acknowledging your competencies provides you with the ability to handle difficult situations, bounce back from setbacks, and learn from each training opportunity. The more you train, the more confidence you will gain.
When you train regularly, inevitably you will notice improvements in your game, which contributes to your sense of accomplishment. Witnessing your own dedication and progress is incredibly empowering. Not only does it help you develop discipline, dedication, and self-worth, BJJ is a practical skill that teaches you how to defend yourself. Knowing that you can protect yourself and others goes a long way in boosting that feeling of self-assurance. Overall, the mental health benefits of BJJ allows you to capitalize on those “feel good” chemicals and gives you the opportunity to develop the skills to handle adversity. These skills can also be applied off the mats. They can also help increase your engagement with life, as well as lessen negative thoughts and reduce anxiety.
BJJ greatly reduces stress. When you enter the dojo, put on your training gear, and step onto the mats, you can press pause on everything in the outside world. You focus on yourself and your teammates. You have to be present in the moment when training BJJ instead of worrying about outside events that you cannot control.
When people say “Jiu-jitsu is my therapy”, it is often because they’ve experienced an increase in self-confidence and a decrease in their overall stress levels. These are just some of the personal mental health benefits that we can gain from training.
Mental health note: If you are experiencing levels of self-doubt that interfere with your daily functioning, result in prolonged low moods, or you are experiencing chronic stress, such as elevated heart-rate or high blood pressure, please seek help from a qualified mental health professional. Left untreated, intense self-doubt stress can have a serious impact on your immune system, mental health, and general well-being.
Ayesha is a purple belt and currently trains in Kuwait. She is a clinical psychologist, writer, educator, and speaker. Ayesha is the founder of She is Fierce, an organization that focuses on empowering women through Jiu-Jitsu, mindfulness practices, and written expression. In addition to being a psychotherapist, she teaches jiu-jitsu, leads empowerment coaching sessions, and runs journaling workshops. Her other interests include writing, cooking, traveling, weightlifting, and yoga. You can learn more about the work Ayesha does at sheisfierce.co.uk or on Instagram @fiercefitfight.