Jiu Jitsu and Mental Health

Written by Professor Anthony Panos

Over the past few years there has been an increasing trend in high profile suicides, most recently celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. The announcement of his death rocked the world, but it also shook the Jiu Jitsu community. Anthony Bourdain was an accomplished blue belt and was outspoken in his love for the gentle art. His sudden death from suicide put a spot light on an issue that hits close to home with many BJJ students and teachers, mental health.

I have touched on the subject previously, noting that BJJ has helped many practitioners deal with a wide array of issues from anxiety to depression and to PTSD by allowing the person to face these issues on a tangible level. But just like all forms of therapy, it is not a cure-all. As a professor, i try to see the school as a second home, and all my students are family. We all come together with a common goal and interest and watch out for each other. We try to build friendships and repair damages in each others lives when we can. The art itself is therapy.

Having suffered through depression most of my life, this issue is personal. Jiu Jitsu saved me….it gave me a direction…it gave me purpose…it gave me something i didnt have before…a battle i could win. Jiu jitsu also taught me that i am not alone. Professors and coaches are just as much therapists as they are teachers. Training partners are motivators and friends. Competitors and rivals become the family you didnt know you had.

As i stated before, it is not a sure cure for every issue we face, but on the mats you are never alone. If you are facing a crisis do not feel that it is hopeless. Talk to someone, our ears may be cauliflower but they are not deaf. Our hands and bodies may be tired and sore, but they are never too weak to help you up. If your mat family is not enough to help, Use the resources below, do not give up or give in to the dark.

National suicide prevention life line: