The Side Effects of Jiu-jitsu

marikit uychoco bjj kma

Learning Jiu-jitsu has more side effects than you’d expect.

I’ve been doing Jiu-jitsu for a year and a half now, and aside from the major benefits of being healthier, losing weight, and feeling great, I wanted to write about how it affects me in a more peripheral (and maybe more important) level. So here goes:

1. I’m not scared anymore. Or at least, I am not as scared as I used to be. I cannot tell you how important this is. I mean, once you know how to choke a person from behind, using public transportation suddenly becomes reasonable and almost non-threatening.

2. I am able to speak my mind. This is pretty much related to #1, because once you lose a lot of fear, you are also able to function better, period. Yes, sometimes I feel insecure (hard for some people to believe that, I know), but because of BJJ, I can speak my mind without inwardly cringing or feeling afraid that the person will up and leave (abandonment issues). I just go ahead and speak, much like just going ahead and pulling guard.

3. I feel part of a tribe (a team? a family?). There is real sisterhood with the women you roll with in BJJ, especially if you roll regularly with each other. You respect each other on the mats, which translates to respect off the mats. In my gym, which is KMA Makati, I feel at home seeing my team mates rolling or stretching or just generally having a good time. In my head, when I am watching people grapple on the ground, I think of the term “the killing fields” and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

4. It has brought our family closer. Okay, maybe this only applies to families where everyone is doing BJJ (the four year old says he will be ready soon), but it means that when the boys are watching UFC, I actually understand what is happening (instead of inwardly cringing at the violence of it all) and I can actually talk about techniques. We get to know each other more, and I guess our personalities are reflected in the way that we roll; Arnell is all smart and intense; Daniel is strong and forceful; and Noah is tricky and fast. Me? I don’t know, but I am getting better.

5. Nothing seems impossible. As long as you can break something down in manageable chunks and apply it, you can do it. From BJJ to writing a book to finishing a PhD, nothing seems impossible anymore.

6. I appreciate my body more. Not because I have lost weight, but because of the possibilities a body can have, whether it is about grace, athleticism, or strength, the lesson for the almost-40-year-old me is that I have only one body, and it is an amazing machine that can change and become…better.

7. I found the calmness in the roll. That must sound so strange to people who don’t do Jiujitsu, it basically means that when I’m on the ground, grappling, I am not panicking, I am not afraid, I am not turbo-charged with aggression, I am simply wrestling with energies, finding weaknesses, knowing where to put my strength…Somehow I think this helps in real life, too, it’s just hard for me to figure out how…I just know it’s important.

The journey is different from everyone else’s. But everyone is on a journey, and everyone changes for the better. I don’t think that everyone who does BJJ are better human beings than the rest, but I can say that I am better human being because of BJJ.


This piece was originally posted as a Note on Uychoco’s Facebook Timeline, which you can read here.

Photo via Uychoco’s Facebook page

Marikit Uychoco

Marikit Uychoco

Marikit Uychoco started training Brazilian Jiujitsu (BJJ) in 2015 and has competed in a few competitions. Her whole family is into BJJ and her teenage sons were part of the BJJ National Team in 2016 (Juniors Division). She is also an Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature of the University of the Philippines, Diliman.
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