So far, in this series on the positive psychological benefits of training in Brazilian jiu jitsu / BJJ, we have discussed the powerful brain chemicals that are released, the development of mindfulness, and the positive effects of physical contact. If you missed any of those, hop on back and check them out.

Today’s post discusses perhaps the most immediately tangible benefit of BJJ training: the community.

I’ve spent the last 6 or 7 years in the fitness business, which has involved me being in tons of gyms and BJJ academies. Something that I have become very sensitive to, and can pick up on pretty quickly, is the presence, or lack, of a strong community. I think this is a pretty underrated feature of a good gym. Gym buddies keep you coming back to the gym, when pretty much everything else in your life gets in the way. Gym buddies can give you valuable information, they can help you train, and they can encourage you to be your best. A good gym buddy can be the difference between success and disappointment.

In my various gym visits, seminars, coaching certifications and so on, I’ve been in tons of gyms. I can tell right away if the place has a legitimate community or not. Every martial arts academy I have visited, regardless of style, has had at least a decent community. Many have been special places, true families. Most Crossfit gyms do a good job of this, as do most yoga places. As many big box gyms as I have visited (Lifetime, 24hour, Bally’s), not a one of them has ever had a decent community. In general, BJJ schools have had the strongest, most positive, most helpful communities of students and teachers. What’s even better is that I could walk into any BJJ school anywhere and be welcomed. And so could you.

The reason for this is simple: BJJ is simply impossible without partners. And the better partners you have, the better your training will be, and the faster you will develop. BJJ is a very intense interpersonal battle for dominance, performed within a structure that keeps people from doing real damage to each other. The system of “tapping out” to signify defeat keeps people from actually hurting each other. You caught me, I tap, we go again. Instead of a fight, it becomes a game. Because I’m only simulating fighting for my life, I can actually celebrate the accomplishments of my teammates. I can appreciate the learning opportunity that their efforts present me with. As they improve, so will I. We often say at Alchemy that a rising tide floats all boats. The community at a BJJ academy helps with basic stuff like keeping you motivated and accountable (“Hey, where were you on Tuesday? You’re always there!”), but it also helps you improve.

On a broader human front, I don’t think anyone could make an argument that being a member of more powerful, positive communities is harmful. Especially in 2015. There’s just not enough of that. Perhaps that’s why people are so rabid about the BJJ schools.

 

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