Why Is BJJ So Addictive?
Why is BJJ so addictive? BJJ is so addictive because it releases lots of endorphins during and post training, is a great place to make friends due to the close nature of the sport, is challenging to your body and mind, requires you to think and act strategically and has concrete markers of progression in the form of belts and ranks.
22% of adult Americans say they often or always felt lonely or socially isolated. It can be tough to make friends and social connections in modern society when everyone is so busy and focused on interacting with their already established social groups.
BJJ is a great way to enter a new community and make new close friends. Due to the close contact nature of BJJ and the fact you can’t train BJJ solo you are forced to interact with your teammates. As fighting can be quite an emotional experience and you are placing your health in your training partners hands it is common for BJJ teammates to create strong bonds.
BJJ can be difficult and you and your teammates will often face uphill struggles. The fact that you and your teammates go through these challenges together can be a great foundation to build friendships.
You spend so much time around your training partners that it is inevitable that friendships will emerge. People on average train BJJ 3 times a week for 1.5 hours each session with lots of people training 2-3 times as much as this. Many people end up spending more time with their BJJ teammates than they do with other close friends or family.
BJJ Is Physically Challenging
BJJ is a physically challenging sport which requires close contact. These two factors result in the body producing chemicals and hormones which make you feel good, making you want to continue the activity.
Strenuous exercise causes your brain to generate a protein called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). BNDF protects brain tissue and creates strong and intense feelings of euphoria. BDNF is a major driver of the famous “runner’s high,” where you feel a sense of ecstatic joy and peacefulness. Due to the challenging physical nature of BJJ a large amount BNDF is produced resulting in you enjoying a prolonged sense of happiness and calmness which can last throughout the day.
Another hormone which is produced by training BJJ is known as Oxytocin. Oxytocin is often referred to as the “empathy” or “cuddle” hormone as it is released during close and prolonged physical content. Oxytocin has long been described as a warm, fuzzy hormone that promotes feelings of love, social bonding and well-being. It’s even being tested as an anti-anxiety drug. Due to the amount of “cuddling” which occurs in BJJ you can expect a sizable dose of Oxytocin.
BJJ Is Mentally Stimulating
People respond positively to mental stimulation. If you don’t use the brain just like the body it atrophies. BJJ has been described as physical chess due to the intense mental challenge it presents practitioners.
John Danaher in the video below gives a great answer on why BJJ is so mentally stimulating while expanding on the chess metaphor.
Progression Is Obvious
There is a lot of ambiguity in many things we do. It can often be hard to tell if we are making progresses in different areas of our life. Are we becoming better husbands, wives, friends? Are we becoming better at our jobs? The answers aren’t always clear.
Progression in BJJ is obvious and celebrated. If every time you roll with Johnny and he taps you 4 times like clock work but 6 months later he can only manage to tap you once a round, this is clear and obvious improvement. This progression is a source of achievement and something you can appreciate. These little improvements are obvious and occur regularly in BJJ. Another example might be you are struggling you to drill a new arm bar set up and then 2 weeks later something clicks and you now can do it effortlessly. These progressions give you little dopamine hits which are heightened when your teammates or coach acknowledge your improvement. It is a great feeling when your coach acknowledges your hard work and celebrates your progression.
The most obvious progressions in BJJ which are strongly celebrated are promotions. Promotions have strong positive effects on BJJ practitioners. Humans react positively to being rewarded for hard work and having their improvements acknowledged. It is no wonder that many people get emotional when they receive a new belt in BJJ.
BJJ Has Strong Rituals
Humans benefit from structure and routines. Many people either lack structure in their lives or they have created poor routines for themselves. BJJ offers people a strong and positive structure.
When you arrive to your BJJ gym you are going to greet your teammates and coach. Get ready for the training. Talk to your teammates. Stretch and warm up. Work on improving your BJJ technique. Practice your techniques on your teammates in a competitive situation. Then after training you will relax and socialise with your teammates.
This ritual may seem benign but you will be surprised at the positive impacts engaging in said routine regularly multiple times a week will have on your well-being. Humans thrive when they are following simple healthy routines which they then can base their lives around. Even if you are having a bad day and feel frustrated at your lack of achievements for that day the fact that you know you at least successfully went to BJJ will make you feel a lot better.
A Clear Hierarchy
Hierarchies promote group cohesion and happiness. Hierarchies help people navigate an increasingly complex society. In modern society many people are unsure where they fit in and often lack a group identity. This is compounded by the abandonment of the apprentice master system. Resulting in people lacking tangible mentors.
BJJ helps solve the aforementioned problems through having strong hierarchies. BJJ’s hierarchies are meritocratic and based on competence and skill. The belts in BJJ represent these hierarchies with White Belts at the bottom and Black Belts at the top. Lower belts look to higher belts for guidance and coaching. Higher belts look to lower belts as apprentices and take satisfaction in helping them achieve their goals and avoiding the same mistakes they did.
In BJJ lower belts line up after higher belts and are expected to make way for higher belts during sparring. The hierarchies in BJJ are not oppressive and are based on skill. The hierarchies in BJJ do promote group cohesion and do provide people who may be struggling to find their place in modern society with a home and some mentors.
A Break From Life’s Problems
Modern life is characterised by constant low level stress. It is becoming increasingly hard to escape this constant stress with the invention of the internet further inflamed by smart phones. People are glued to their phones and are constantly inundated with stress inputs whether that is an email from their boss at 9pm requesting a report, stock market alerts showing them money they have lost, Instagram notifications rubbing their face in things they don’t have or messages from their bank displaying their bleak financial situation.
BJJ offers a rare break from this constant low level stress. During BJJ for at least an hour you are forced to log off from your laptop or put down your phone. You are forced to interact with people in a face to face close contact environment.
The strenuous nature of BJJ does not leave room for you to think about life’s little problems. Fortunately your mind isn’t equipped to think about your work tasks or your upcoming bills when a 220 pound man is trying to squeeze your head off. The fact that BJJ requires 100% of your focus provides many with an outlet from their issues where they can for once live in the moment.
A Path To Self Improvement
BJJ provides people with a way to improve themselves whether that is physical or emotional. 66% of adult Americans are either obese or overweight. 50% of adult Americans said they had tried to lose weight in the last 12 months. Many people are seeking a way to lose weight and improve themselves.
BJJ is a great a way to lose weight. BJJ is intense exercise where you can expect to burn 800 calories an hour making it easy for you to achieve a calorie deficit and shed those extra pounds. When losing weight consistently exercising is key, BJJ is great fun so you are much more likely to continue doing it making it easier for you to maintain that calorie deficit compared to other boring forms of exercise such as running on a treadmill.
30% of Americans say they are scared to walk alone at night near where they live. This is heavily influenced by the fact that most Americans are not confident in their ability to defend themselves or their family in a physical confrontation. BJJ can help alleviate this fear.
BJJ is an effective form of self defence which has been demonstrated to work in street fights against untrained thugs and against world class athletes in MMA. By practicing BJJ you can improve your fighting ability and increase your confidence in defending yourself in a combat situation. The increased confidence you can derive from knowing that you can physically handle yourself in a confrontation can have positive carry over effects to many areas of your life.
BJJ is so addictive because it releases hormones in your body which make you feel happy and calm. The more you experience these positive emotions the more you want to train BJJ. BJJ also offers people a great way to make friends. As BJJ becomes many people’s social networks they become addicted to training BJJ as it becomes their primary way to socialise with friends. People are addicted to stimulation and challenge, BJJ is not only physically stimulating but also mentally.