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Ideas on the Benefits of Jiu Jitsu for Military Veterans
A brief exploration on the benefits of Jiu Jitsu for veterans.
Some reasons to train are deeply personal. Some reasons are universal. The idea of Jiu Jitsu being therapy is a common theme within the community. While Jiu Jitsu has had a therapeutic impact on many of our lives, it seems to have had a particularly profound therapeutic impact on Jiu Jitsu practitioners who are military veterans.
One example of this therapeutic impact is for military veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. The Mayo clinic defines PTSD as “a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Most people who go through traumatic events may have temporary difficulty adjusting and coping, but with time and good self-care, they usually get better. If the symptoms get worse, last for months or even years, and interfere with your day-to-day functioning, you may have PTSD.”
PTSD in veterans can lead to divorce, suicide, unemployment and homeless according to the thinkprogress.org website. It is widely reported that twenty two military veterans take their lives daily as a result of PTSD.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is credited with helping veterans garner the tools necessary to deal with PTSD. One component of this may be that you need to be completely present in the moment for Jiu Jitsu. Thinking about anything else outside the roll will quickly lead to a tap.
Another component of this may be Jiu Jitsu’s requirement to keep calm in stressful situations. We explored this benefit in a previous article here. In Jiu Jitsu, one of the earliest skills learned is the ability to be clear headed in intense situations. If your opponent is attempting to strangle, arm lock, knee on throat or whatever, if you panic that ends all technique. You must analyze the position and calmly execute the steps necessary to escape.
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Certainly, exercise itself releases endorphins. Web MD describes endorphins relations to exercise as “When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.”
Without a doubt, there are other components to Jiu Jitsu’s positive impact on PTSD. As time goes by, I am sure there will be more studies conducted and the relationship will be further explored. By no means am I medical professional. These are just some observations that I have made based on my experience on the mats and in conversations with military veterans.
Secondly, Jiu Jitsu is also helping physically disabled combat veterans. The We Defy Foundation lists on their website that they redefine physically disabled veterans lives through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Rob Khan, Royce Gracie’s first black belt, has spent years creating a Jiu Jitsu program for physically disabled combat veterans. He refines and adjusts techniques around the veterans’ disabilities.
Perhaps the third benefit found for military veterans within the Jiu Jitsu community is a sense of brotherhood and community. Fort Valor’s website lists their mission as, “Fort Valor is a FREE, Veterans only community center. We succeed in helping veterans regain the brotherhood they are lacking when returning back into their community. We are the group that helps the veteran regain his/her capacity for pleasure, engagement, self-control and trust…”
Jiu Jitsu has had a profound impact on all of our lives. Yet, perhaps the most profound impact has been found in the Jiu Jitsu community’s military veterans. Jiu Jitsu has had a wide scope of impact for its military veterans practitioners: helping veterans with PTSD, redefining the lives of veterans with physical disabilities from combat, creating a renewed sense of brotherhood and community.
It is always an honor to step on the mat with those who have served.