The Magic Pill? It Just Might Be This Particular Martial Art

Fitness, problem solving, emotional intelligence, confidence, sense of community, accomplishment

You have the choice to do all of your communication without being in the same room as another person, the option to entertain yourself all hours of the day, and the ability to have everything you need delivered to your house, all while sitting on the couch. Is it a coincidence that depression, loneliness and obesity are on the rise in the U.S.? Dr. Laurel Williams, chief of psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital, says that people are worried about how busy they are and lack of community is leading to less of an outlet. Screen time helps people escape, but into a fantasy world that only increases the pressure of leading a “perfect” life. Is there some secret pill that will help increase your mood, introduce you to some new friends, and get you in great shape? Jiu-Jitsu might be the prescription for you.

I haven’t been training Jiu-Jitsu long, but when I first stepped onto the mat, I hadn’t been doing any fitness seriously for over a year. I was spending almost my entire day on a screen. I had been studying computer science and my free time was filled with digital entertainment. I was completely wrecked after just the warm-up. My gi weighed twice as much as it did when I started the practice, as it absorbed every ounce of liquid my body expelled. At the end of practice, the only expression of communication I could muster was a head nod. I won’t lie, it was grueling, but something in my brain told me that I needed to keep doing this.

After a couple of weeks, my body began to adjust. I looked forward to every minute on the mat. My conditioning increased dramatically and the intense expulsion of sweat didn’t begin until about halfway through the warmup. You’re pushed athletically and your body will feel great after adjusting. I believe it really helps with mobility as well. Rolling and crawling around on the mat is something that most adults just don’t do. The fitness aspect alone is a great reason to try out a Jiu-Jitsu class.

Besides getting in shape, Jiu-Jitsu definitely helps in areas of your life that you wouldn’t expect. You have to think under intense pressure while defending against someone trying to choke you out or tear apart an appendage. This transfers into everyday situations where the pressure of performing is on and time is limited.

I’m terrible at interviews and have an extreme anxiety when going into them. I recently interviewed for a position that was very interesting to me. On the morning of the interview, the anxiety began to creep in and the only thought in my mind was how I’m going to completely flub the first impression. I sat in my car for a while and tried to assess the problem. I thought: “why am I so nervous about this? It’s just talking, I am in way tougher situations every day at practice.” 

The thought process helped a lot. I figured if I can make it through the tough practices, I can make it through talking with some people in an office.

Jiu-Jitsu builds confidence, but humility is learned quickly. Before I began training, I thought that I would at least be able to hold my own against someone my own size or smaller. I was dead wrong. I was probably submitted 50 times in my first two weeks and defaulted to just learning to survive.

It’s really hard to not meet people while you’re training. Obviously, it’s extremely physical, and when you’re learning new techniques that are difficult or extremely taxing on your conditioning you naturally gain a respect for your training partner.

One thing I noticed, that in other ways of meeting people doesn’t usually happen, was no one asked me what my profession or job was until about a month into training. I found this very refreshing. On the mat, all that matters is being respectful of others and trying your hardest. It doesn’t matter to anyone what you do everyday or how many digits are on your paycheck. During practice, everyone is ready to learn, compete, and maybe suffer a little.

To get out of a funk, I believe you really need to find a sense of accomplishment; work hard to earn your time to rest. Whether you’re feeling a bit lost, looking for a new hobby, trying to get fit, or all of the above, I suggest you try out “the secret pill.”

*Disclaimer: This is  not a replacement for professional help when it comes to depression or other mental health issues.