BJJ as therapy: Martial Arts Studies journal, issue 10 out now

Issue 10 of the (free) Martial Arts Studies journal is out now. This issue marks a 5 year anniverary for the journal. You should read it and support it, because it’s the most important journal we have for martial arts, and if, like me, you’re back in some sort of lockdown, what else are you going to do with your time? 🙂

Find out what’s in issue 10 at the Kung Fu Tea blog.

Amongst the delights contained within is a great article by my friend/teacher/student/Professor/Sifu/Guru Paul Bowman about finding Brazilian Jiujitsu (BJJ), falling in love with it and then having to give it up because of the COVID 19 Pandemic. It contains some great insights into why we practice martial arts there.

Here’s a quote that caught my interest:

“Since every challenging BJJ roll produces the feeling of a fight for life, the end of a session is like the aftermath of a near-death experience, with all of the attendant exhaustion, elation, and camaraderie that goes along with surviving such encounters. A BJJ saying goes, ‘if you don’t roll, you don’t know’. This has a range of possible meanings, but prime among them is that those who have never trained BJJ cannot begin to grasp its appeal, its feel, and its profound psychological and emotional effects. In a very real sense, BJJ can easily be regarded as a kind of therapy. The question is one of who it is that needs BJJ as therapy, and why.”

The contemporary condition (whether figured as modern or postmodern) has often been characterised as one permeated by sedentary media consumption, work-stress, insecurity, work/life imbalance, information overload, consumerism and indoor living. The so-called ‘developed’, ‘Western’ world of consumer societies, neoliberal policies and deregulated economies, are acknowledged to be the cradle of ‘diseases of affluence’. Part of the background noise of this environment is generalised anxiety.
One biological feature of chronic anxiety has been said to involve the constant low-level ‘running’ or ‘leaking’ of aspects of the sympathetic nervous system – manifesting in the anxiety-sufferer’s inability to ‘switch off’ feelings of stress and anxiety [Nestor 2020]. Activities that directly stress the mind and body – such as intense exercise and extreme experiences – have been connected with ‘correcting’ this constant ‘leak’. The argument is that they may do so by, in a sense, giving the body a dose of ‘real’ (physical and/or psychological) stress, which thereby ‘reminds’ the body what stress actually looks and feels like. This thereby allows the organism to ‘recalibrate’ and switch off anxiety-producing chemicals in the absence of ‘real’ physical stressors [McKeown 2015; Nestor 2020]. Short-term, low-level doses of the kinds of stimulation that would cause lasting damage or even death in prolonged exposure is called hormesis, or hormetic stress [Hof 2020].”

Great stuff.

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