Is Jiu Jitsu an Antidote For Life

It’s undeniable that there is a certain type of magic that comes with jiu-jitsu. Some of the best technology in the world also falls in this category because its complexity beats the untrained eye.

My goal for this article is to apply what I’m trained in to expose some of the moving parts and mechanics behind this magic. Just like when you were a child and your dad could pull off some amateur lounge room magic that would put in a place of awe and wonder, Later on when you learn he already had the coin in his hand does it take away the way it made you feel?….certainly not.

My experience with the gentle art is brief but interacting with some of the jiu-jitsu community started to reveal some common threads. My goal is to provide some context about how many things Jiu Jitsu gets right on a more profound level than, exercise, community, the philosophy, self-defense and David can beat Goliath parable….

In the western world, we are looking at now 1/3 people will cross paths with mild or severe mental illness. It’s not by chance that JiuJitsu is a reliable way to not only move people to baseline but take them far North of “happy”… where real interpersonal performance begins.

Why Jiu Jitsu is an antidote to life, based on unified human nature and evolutionary biology.

1 Voluntarily confront chaos

The moment you walk into a class you have chosen to be there. You have voluntarily chosen to put yourself in chaos. Imagine the absolute hell you would be in if someone forced you into a class, sat you in a blue belt closed guard day one, and said ‘well have fun with that’ sounds ridiculous right? Well, that’s how most people try to manage their existence with expectations, assumptions, ignorance, avoidance, resistance, and a blatant disregard for their effect on others, then complain about the circumstance they’re in. Approach (volunteering) competes with avoidance if your psychological framework (substructure of where your thoughts come from) is to avoid hard emotions, tough conversations, and the universality of suffering you avoid life in its totality. It becomes easier to bring your own house down because you refuse to compete anymore, it’s easier to destroy yourself than be creative. The opposite is to approach suffering and voluntarily step into chaos, the internal shift is subtle but what’s happening under the hood is a completely different dopaminergic pathway rendering a reward system regardless of the outcome. Because you chose to train it doesn’t matter if you get submitted or your terrible open guard is always getting passed you will leave feeling satisfied. This all funnels back down to the simple truth that you chose to step into chaos, you cannot make this choice without treating yourself like someone you care about. The human experience is rigged towards suffering, if you avoid it, it grows, if you try to solve it, it grows… your only option is to volunteer for it.

2 Establish and maintain order

The idea of ‘order’ sounds like something to aspire to, it almost has a relieving effect but never skips the first word above (establish). Some people spend all their time and focus on the pursuit of circumstantial order never grasping the fact that establishing order outside of you is a myth. You can influence and leverage but never control, you have between 2-4% control of things outside of you. So before you go throwing stones and giving your wise counsel, Establish a base, put yourself together, and learn to choose your words carefully. The first stage of building an establishment is pain, not pleasure. before you maintain order on the mats you think another player is going to let you pass? no, you enter the game knowing you cannot control anything outside you and whatever force you apply to your opponent will be met with equal or opposite counterforce or used against you at their will.

Establishing order has nothing to do with circumstance and everything to do with character, control your character, establish categories to think in, approach the opponent knowing getting to the ideal position is a dance between making it happen and letting it happen.

Anyone in a psychologically compromised state has a craving for order but looks in places with there is minimal resistance only getting further away from the cause of suffering.

Diseases of the neuro-typical mind are an obsessive focus on expectations that you don’t control (i wish things where different but I’m not willing to change).. otherwise known as hell on earth.

3 constrain the beast

When you contemplate the fact you have multiple versions of you that show up in different environments you will understand there is a part of you that shuts down your potential, your ideas, your skills, your future. The truth is that we are all capable of extreme violence, it’s in our nature to be aggressive. Our operating system has evolved from the idea of exploring the world around us with as many versions of us so we can be as resourceful as possible. What do you think would happen when our basic human needs are now covered and that system turns in on itself to explore? This is the current state of most males over the age of 30. confused, guilty, shameful, and hyper-aggressive because it seems an impossible task to constrain a wild mind (the beast).

Once you establish order and pass the guard you must constrain the player underneath you. What is it like trying to constrain someone without establishing positional order? it is in that moment where you are most likely to be submitted or swept. So if you are trying to constrain your mind with the wrong strategy it will beat you into submission, relentlessly, without mercy until the next logical step in the mind of the beholder is to literal tap out.

The first time you establish your plan, pass the guard, and constrain the beast, at that moment you mean something. Does this have anything to do with self-love, self-esteem, or your human rights? nope, it has everything to do with the cessation of seeing yourself as weak. only from the burden of responsibility can you ever mean something. If you don’t mean anything you will never treat yourself like someone you value.

4 Justify suffering

For the first time you constrain the beast, all the suffering becomes worth it. A moment in time of clarity, control, direction, and dominance. You have just jumped the barrier into a group of people who understand the rules of a completely unfair game but you enjoy it. The Pareto distribution is now what you understand, the volume of the suffering will largely never equal the volume of meaning but it’s still justifiable. A month of sparring with belts higher than you is always worth it when you go back and roll with someone at your level that you can now impose your will on.

Can you actually do anything you want if you put your mind to it? NO. The automatic assumption is that if you follow the bouncing ball you can get anything (assuming the correct beliefs are in place) incorrect! You can have the correct beliefs and work on your skills all you want but if you cannot suffer in the equal and opposite amounts of what you want and justify it… life will consistently disappoint you. The beautiful thing about getting choked by a man 20 kilos lighter than you is that it’s justified via the rules you all agree upon when walking through the door for class.

Its the perfect display of culture. Culture in countries, business, and sports are simply the unspoken rules of the environment. If someone breaks an unspoken rule consistently they will either remove themselves or be removed by the community. Therefore simply bringing your body to cultures like jiujitsu and forcing yourself to stay and suffer, inevitably changes the way you see the world and your place in it.

5 you must negotiate your relationship with feedback

There is a specific reason I am steering clear of feedback cliches, they may validate someone’s current emotional state but they do nothing for real progress. , ‘learn from your mistakes’, ‘we seek failure’, ‘ I don’t lose I learn’, ‘everything happens for a reason’ etc. Let me show you.

– You learn a lot more when you get things right

– Seeking failure is always a bad strategy

– Never avoid the pain of loss by pretending you always learn something.

– You don’t always need closure through finding a false meaning, it only blinds you from the truth.

So the moment you can contradict a cliche it loses all its weight and practicality in someone’s experience.

Getting on the mats in class will force you into a place of feedback via losing position, getting submitted, getting injured, trying to get your body to do things beyond its limits, or repeating the same move because you are comfortable with it.

If you use cliches above it will decrease your ability to progress. Because of the nature of jiu-jitsu, identity goes out the window and the only measurement is how you handle yourself in each position. You have a unique space of purity where if you take anything personally it’s on you, this is why post sparring becomes a personal negotiation of choices and moves made. You are driving home replaying your rolls in your mind, building mental models of the perfect submission but in reality, you missed the timing, the angle, and the weight distribution. Your opponent knew this and anticipated the mistake of turning yourself against you just when you thought you had full control. So when your idea of order suddenly turns against you, you get the ultimate form of chaos. it forces you to reflect and negotiate a relationship with feedback otherwise you only go in cycles around the core problem…you and your choices.

Just like when the 2 business partners have been working together for 15 years and in a single moment one finds out the other has been stealing large amounts of money. What once seemed like order has become chaos beyond belief forcing an adjustment of beliefs.

“If you don’t have a connected relationship with the feedback you have given up the right to complain.”

You rarely hear anyone complaining in class, how this translates into life is abstract but relevant. JiuJitsu allows the perfect space for step 1. If an individual is at point A (current state) and wants to get to B(future state) the first step is to simply not be A. The purity of JiuJitsu eliminates segregation allowing feedback to not get muddied by personal judgment simply allowing people to NOT be at point A on their journey to B

6 Moments Of Mastery.

There are only 3 spaces you can ever live in. The past, the present, and the future. When you get buried so deeply in point 2 the past and the future becomes momentarily irrelevant, giving us some much-needed respite from our painful past or fearful future. Jiu-Jitsu has a unique combination of perceived vs actual risk. Enough risk to get you locked into what researchers call ‘the deep now’ a moment where time can dilate and you get flooded with 4 of the most potent ‘feel good’ neuro-chemicals we have. If you want to look back at the times you have felt your best and performed your best it will be in this state of total focus that precedes the ‘deep now’. At the heart of things, this is why Jiu-Jitsu is addictive, it’s a reliable way to recreate this brain state once again regardless of the actual outcome in the session. To get a little fancier than the term ‘addictive’ the correct term is autotelic, the activity seems like an end in itself, in other words, a constant solution. People suffer not because the world throws them a bunch of problems, people suffer because of the ‘meta-problem’.. the intrinsic knowing that a problem-less existence will never be a reality. So a few hours on the mats in a constant state of solution feels like home sweet home.

Don’t get this twisted, if you decide to dedicate your life to the gentle art because of the feeling it gives you, the meta-problem never goes away. Jiu-Jitsu has a real risk of becoming a place of avoidance, a place that makes you feel amazing in the short term in replace of doing the things you know you must off the mats.

9 Learn How Evil You Can Be

You may be reading this thinking it has shades of darkness in it. Well, you chose to actively participate in primal behavior. If you remove the unspoken rules of jiu-jitsu it escalates into ripping limbs off. The most efficient way to direct group behavior to a common goal is the myth of belief otherwise known as culture. Today we exist inside national cultures gradually stepping down to more granular local cultures such as companies and nuclear families. For the most part, this works exceptionally well except for the fact that we still have our human nature. Part of that nature is made up of different types of energy, status, power, sex, non-ordinary states of consciousness (NOSC), and of course our curiously dark side. If there is no place for these energies to go they will leak out into the everyday. Affairs, underground groups, the internet, drug trade, and acts of violence for a political aim. The list is endless, just look at any conservative or regimented territory and I can guarantee you they have a wickedly dark underground (a cough, the church, cough)

Whether we like it or not jiu-jitsu gives us a space to express this side in a controlled way. We can assert dominance, frustrate, taunt, create traps, and establish order with force or counterforce because of the understanding that others are trying to do the same, we entered into an agreement. Life outside the mats, this game isn’t as obvious and is done in shadows of offices, homes, and communities with dire consequences. Jiu-Jitsu teaches us ACTUAL morality, not meekness and agreeableness disguised as morality because of a selfish aim. When you learn how dangerous you can be, only then can you understand what is good.

the man who displays his sword but keeps it sheathed has a moral compass. The man who has no sword and aims to please everybody is dangerous and must not be trusted.

10 Understanding of relationship

Our brain has 3 distinct features that give us extreme resource management but let us down when trying to find cause and effect. Those 3 things are generalisations, deletions, and distortions. We group information into large headings ( generalisations) so we can categorise large data instead of individual phenomena. We distort everything that comes in around our current set of beliefs (confirmation bias) so we are not stuck in a constant loop of questioning what is right or wrong. Finally, we delete large sections of incoming data simply because of overload. There was a paper published where subjects had to count the number of basketballs passed around a court from a video screen. The correct number was 9 although halfway through a cartoon gorilla walked across the screen, 60% of people never saw the gorilla.

Without these functions, it would take us 8 hours to do the weekly shopping but it lets us down when finding the reason events occur in our world because of an oversimplification of events.

Our common understanding says that because of (X) I then get (Y)

For example, let’s use the common spousal argument. Woman asks man to grab milk on the way home, man doesn’t grab milk on the way home, women becomes agitated and proclaims his incompetence. Man is perplexed about the simple nature of forgetting the milk has become something very emotionally large. Man then says to his buddies ” its just milk” the fatal mistake has just occurred.

This most likely started a week ago when man wasn’t focussed during date night, Women drops obvious hints that goes straight over mans head, Women creates distance, man asks if ok?, women replies with “I’m fine”, Man thinks “this is a trap, run away” Man focuses on tasks and things, Women feels less devoted to, women ask for milk as test of devotion, man fails….. women assumes man doesn’t think her emotional state is valid, man thinks “its just milk” Man is idiot..

Every time you are submitted or lose a good position on the mats restrain from thinking you made only 1 mistake or it was only 1 thing that was out of order. This will inevitably lead you to slow progress, this approach is impossible to do in jiu-jitsu because of the fundamental system of passing the legs, establish dominance, constrain defense, submit. One of the positive symptoms of starting the gentle art is reflecting on the chain of events that lead to your demise or victory. You can trace this all way back to sitting in the car outside of class pre mediating what you want to work on vs playing the opponent at hand, it can be a simple thought 2 hours ago that got you stuck in that brutal triangle.

Off the mats, engage in reflection and a line of self-inquiry to eliminate excessive judgment and false cause and effect. Remember finding an expanded perspective is something that is earned not just stumbled across.

11 The Potential Downside.

My hope for the readers is to get some language and understanding of the intangible power of jiu-jitsu. Like anything that contains power it always has the potential to work against you.

I’m refraining from the Superman quote but it would fit perfectly. This is why when the Miranda rights are read by the police they say “anything you say and do can be used against you.”

This concept extends all the way out to everything you learn, feel, experience, and do can at one point be used against you. It’s important at this stage that I say I am yet to observe this explicitly but I have seen it in many other group think communities. Intuitively I sense that some people are at risk of overlooking the universal good of jiu-jitsu and adopting a tribe mentality of “I won’t engage with anyone outside of the jiu-jitsu community and if people don’t get it, it’s on them.”

There is a possibility, that without knowing, people can cut themselves away from the world because of a powerful sense of belonging. A sense of belonging is an incredibly powerful human need that once satisfied becomes an end in itself personified by phrases such as “I don’t care what happens as long as I can train.” “I just want a job that allows maximal mat time” etc.

Is there anything wrong with dedication and commitment? no, of course not. This level of analysis comes from a place of motive. Would you be ok if jiu-jitsu suddenly stopped? Could you still live the philosophy even if you never touched the mats again? This article wouldn’t be very useful if it only provided arguments for one side, although it seems obvious that there are an overwhelming amount of arguments for why the gentle art can be an antidote for life. The easy way to avoid this final dilemma is a fundamental principle of Jiu-Jitsu, avoid thinking it has to be one or the other, binary, black or white. You can be deeply embedded in Jiu-Jitsu culture while connecting and integrating with other groups without conflict.

It may be worthwhile saying it’s only once you can connect with all groups of people you are truly living the jiu-jitsu philosophy.



DeYoung, C. G., Quilty, L. C., & Peterson, J. B. (2007). Between facets and domains: 10 aspects of the Big Five. Journal of personality and social psychology, 93(5), 880.


DeYoung, C. G., Peterson, J. B., & Higgins, D. M. (2002). Higher-order factors of the Big Five predict conformity: Are their neuroses of health?. Personality and Individual Differences, 33(4), 533-552.


Roth, S., & Cohen, L. J. (1986). Approach, avoidance, and coping with stress. American psychologist, 41(7), 813.


Hayes, S. C., Luoma, J. B., Bond, F. W., Masuda, A., & Lillis, J. (2006). Acceptance and commitment therapy: Model, processes, and outcomes. Behavior research and therapy, 44(1), 1-25.


Jung, C. G. (2014). The archetypes and the collective unconscious. Routledge.


McGilchrist, I. (2009). The master and his emissary: The divided brain and the making of the western world. Yale University Press.


Luthans, F., Avolio, B. J., Avey, J. B., & Norman, S. M. (2007). Positive psychological capital: Measurement and relationship with performance and satisfaction. Personnel Psychology, 60(3), 541-572.


Kushner, M. G., & Sher, K. J. (1989). Fear of psychological treatment and its relation to mental health service avoidance. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 20(4), 251.


Fitts, W. H., & Roid, G. H. (1964). Tennessee self concept scale. Nashville, TN: Counselor Recordings and Tests.


Scheier, M. F., Carver, C. S., & Bridges, M. W. (1994). Distinguishing optimism from neuroticism (and trait anxiety, self-mastery, and self-esteem): a reevaluation of the Life Orientation Test. Journal of personality and social psychology, 67(6), 1063.


Reed, S. K. (1972). Pattern recognition and categorization. Cognitive psychology, 3(3), 382-407.


Rudolph, J. W., Simon, R., Rivard, P., Dufresne, R. L., & Raemer, D. B. (2007). Debriefing with good judgment: combining rigorous feedback with genuine inquiry. Anesthesiology clinics, 25(2), 361-376.