When looking to reduce stress and anxiety, activities like yoga, running, or other leisurely workouts may come to mind first. Probably missing from most people's stress relief shortlist is learning how to calmly fight your way out of a rear naked choke hold.
If you're unfamiliar with martial arts, it might seem a little counterintuitive - even a little crazy - to try Brazilian jiujitsu if you're looking for a calmer self, but that's exactly what happens to many men - and more and more women - who choose this martial art is a way to fight and become better at dealing with life's tough moments.
BJJ has a unique way of not only helping with stress relief, but teaching everyday people how to thrive under pressure and feel confident in their own skin.
Raquel Canuto, a six-time BJJ World Champion and owner of Hybrid Jiu-Jitsu in Las Vegas, is one woman whose life has been touched by martial arts, and her passion for the sport inspires many to climb out of their comfort zone onto the mats.
From Taping Out in MMA to Earning the BJJ Black Belt
Before BJJ stole Canuto's heart, the black belt suffered some losses from submission during her time in MMA and decided it was time to give BJJ a chance. It took Canuto a year to focus on Jiujitsu, fell in love with the art of BJJ and began dividing her time evenly between MMA and Jiujitsu.
Eventually, Canuto moved to Las Vegas to train better and be closer to all the big competitions. "It was the best decision I've made for myself," she says. And now Canuto is a six-time world champion – three of them come in the black belt division. Canuto began training for BJJ in October 2012 and became a black belt in August 2017 which is an incredible achievement.
While being a black belt is impressive, it is not everything Canuto has achieved in BJJ. The discipline has given her greater confidence, mental clarity and a passion for sharing the benefits of martial arts with others.
Here are just some of the benefits of Brazilian Jiujitsu.
Brazilian Jiujitsu relieves stress and boosts brain function while giving you a killer workout
Exercise boosts endorphins, which make your body and mind feel good, we know that, but the interesting part about BJJ is that not only does it provide a full-body workout, it also gives your brain a strength-training session. "BJJ challenges your critical thinking, problem solving and even your natural instincts," says Canuto.
During BJJ training you are constantly moving, thinking and problem solving while being surrounded by like-minded people. This is a winning combination that promotes stress relief and a sense of accomplishment within yourself, strengthening both your body and mind.
Even today, Canuto still has those stressful days when a day off seems like a necessity - but still works out. "I walked lighter, happier, and forgot everything I was dealing with." She says, and had a moment after class where she realized how completely different she felt before and after the mats — in the best way and way!
Brazilian Jiujitsu teaches you how to thrive under pressure
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Relaxing in stressful situations may seem impossible, but BJJ gives you the tools to be successful. When Canuto began training, her professor used an analogy that she will never forget. He said, "Being stuck under someone with side control is like life: you have to be calm, react correctly, and eventually you'll get out," she recalls.
Although being stuck on a mat can cause instant anxiety, in the sport of BJJ it teaches you how to stay calm in a stressful situation. "If you freak out, you might make it worse," says Canuto, which can be very similar to the stressors life can throw your way. "So, you have to stay calm, breathe and wait — Eventually the storm will pass," Canuto says. Very similar to life in many ways, Jujitsu offers a priceless tool that is born on the mat and used for a lifetime.
Anyone can learn how to defend themselves
Young or old, male or female, Canuto believes BJJ is for everyone, and the bonus: self-protection. "I think in the current times that we live in, it's important that women know how to protect themselves," she says. "t just physically, but the confidence it teaches you not to put yourself in situations that could endanger your well-being."
And you don't have to be a black belt to do that.
“Growing up I was very shy, shy and insecure. I found a lot of confidence through Jujitsu because I just knew I could take care of myself if I ever needed to.” Canuto says. "I walk into any room with my head held high because I have a skill that I can use when needed and teach others." She says.
Unlike other martial arts that only focus on one part of the fight, Jiujitsu covers all aspects. Attack and defend from a standing position, on the ground, when someone is behind you or when you are behind someone. "You learn how to get out of bad positions, get into good positions, and be offensive," she says, giving you everything you need to know to be successful in any situation.
"The culture of jiujitsu worldwide is kind, encouraging, respectful and so many other things that I needed then (and still need)," says Canuto. And if you want to try BJJ, Canuto recommends, "Find a gym and an instructor that feels good and can help you succeed in your Jujitsu journey." An important part of learning Jujitsu is getting a find a good place to learn and grow