Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Fitness – 2 Rhode Island Case Studies

 Jiu Jitsu: The Path to Better Health

We live in some very interesting times these days. With people looking for more ways to lose weight than ever, there’s no surprise that some of these methods are mostly ineffective and sometimes just flat out dangerous.


We see all these commercials nowadays for all of these thermogenic fat-burners and coffee bean extract supplements that make you “burn fat in record time”. Not only can these methods be ineffective, but a lot of these products have not been evaluated by the FDA, which means that they could potentially be harmful to your body.


Thankfully, there are still some people who look to take the traditional path to better fitness. When I say traditional path, I mean that they are not depending on a magical pill to help them lose weight. Instead, they decide that training in something like the martial arts, particularly the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, is going to be their vehicle for reaching their fitness goals and their weight loss dreams. 


Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art, sport, and self defense system that focuses on leverage and movement to defeat a potentially larger opponent with chokes, arm locks, leg locks, and so forth. It might sound dangerous at first, but it’s one of the safest forms of martial arts and self-defense. Some people train for sport, others train for self defense, and others train because they purely enjoy it as a hobby. Either way, BJJ will give you superior physical and mental results compared to other activities or any type of weight loss supplements.


You might be saying to yourself, “So what, I can just join a weightlifting gym and get the same results”. Maybe you could if you really wanted to push yourself, but it rarely happens. People sign up for the gym, they go for a week or so, and then they fall off the wagon and settle right back into their old habits. I’ve seen it happen so many times before.

By starting your journey with jiu jitsu, you will have teammates helping you along the whole way. You will make friends.


They will give you feed back. Your coaches will give you feedback. They will teach you things you didn’t know about yourself. They will push you. They will help you reach your goals. They will help you build skills. They will help you become the best version of yourself you could possibly be. They will guide you on your journey. These things are some of many that you will not get by signing up at the local weightlifting gym. Let me explain a bit in detail:

The Physical Benefits of BJJ for Fitness

One of the most obvious results that one will see when beginning their BJJ journey is weight loss. The full-body exercises and movements will activate every different type of muscle fiber in your body, and within weeks, people start to see their muscle mass and muscle tone start to slightly increase.


Along with muscle growth, fat loss and improved cardiovascular health will become extremely apparent. Throughout the years, I’ve seen multiple people lose anywhere from 20-60 pounds during the beginning of their BJJ training. 


Just recently, we had a guy named Aderito join our gym. Within the first 2 months, Aderito lost about 20 pounds. He did not change his diet one bit in the beginning and was still able to shed that much weight. That’s about an average of a third of a pound per day! Soon after, his initial weight loss made him decide to change up his diet to supplement and help his BJJ training, and he is in the process of losing even more weight.


Here’s a picture of Aderito before he started training BJJ and a few pictures of him after his first two months. You can see the major difference that BJJ has made in the physical shape he is in (Check out Aderito’s before-and-after photos here).


Aderito is a perfect example of how BJJ can be one of the most effective tools for weight loss. Not only is Aderito losing weight, but he is becoming more flexible and functionally fit due to the movements and positions of BJJ. A lot of the positions are dynamic and will most certainly build dexterity and body mobility. Lastly, he has more energy throughout the day than he’s ever had before.


If that’s not enough, here’s another example of a fitness success story that took place in our gym not too long ago.

Meet Josh, a 30 year old who has been training with us for quite some time. Before Josh came and joined our gym, he was slightly overweight and was not exercising much at all. However, once he started training BJJ with us, he eventually lost over 40+ pounds. Here’s a before and after picture of Josh.


You might recognize him as the blue belt who was standing next to our friend Aderito in the previous picture, but Josh is the epitome of the fitness and weight loss benefits that BJJ can bring to people’s lives. Josh was around 215 pounds when he joined. He now walks around at a slim 170 pounds after losing almost 50 pounds! Josh has even become one of the coaches at the gym now, as he helps newer students like Aderito attain their fitness and weight loss goals, just like he did for himself. His wife has even started training BJJ with us and loves it!


One of the things that Josh loves about training BJJ is the energy and mental fitness he gets along with the physical benefits, which brings us to our next benefit of BJJ:

Body Active When Mind is Action – the Mental Benefits of BJJ 

Along with numerous physical benefits, people who are looking to begin training might not be aware of the many mental benefits that BJJ provides.


BJJ is often referred to as physical chess. Each movement you make, your partner has a counter to it. You will counter their counter, and so forth. Your body awareness becomes heightened as you strategize and methodically plan your next movement or transition. Not only are you physically exercising, but your brain is also working hard to solve the human puzzle.


While training BJJ, you are always learning and mastering new positions and techniques. Your brain is constantly active and channeling positive energy into the movements you are making. 


Because BJJ forces you to analyze positions and techniques in the moment, many people develop improved problem solving skills from training BJJ. 


These problem solving skills almost always transfer into different parts of life outside of BJJ.

People who train BJJ tend to have healthier egos, especially men. They are able to rid themselves of stress by exerting themselves on the mats with their training partners. Many people find that training BJJ gives them the mental clarity they need.


A typical BJJ training session will cause your brain to release certain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, the body’s natural chemicals that cause us to feel happy and put us in a good mood. 


Lastly, the camaraderie that comes along with training BJJ is like no other sport or activity. If you walk into almost any BJJ gym in the world, everybody will treat you with respect and welcome you. I happen to like this particual workout-labs article about BJJ and fitness titled "Why Every Man Should Do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu."


You will make many friends and share many experiences that will help you grow as a person along the way. The fact that some of the submissions and techniques involved in BJJ can actually be used to do serious harm to someone creates an incomparable trust between you and your training partners. If you get caught in a submission, then you trust your partner to let go when you tell them to. Having someone’s life in your hands creates a special bond that many other team activities cannot come close to offering. 


With the numerous physical and mental benefits that BJJ training can bring, there is one thing for certain: BJJ can help you become the best possible version of yourself, period. 


It offers so many things that other activities or fitness plans cannot, and has helped many people achieve their goals in life.

Everything learned in BJJ transfers directly into other parts of life, and helps people deal with parts if their lives that don’t take place on the mats. It’s a tool for self-improvement and will give you the strength to take on anything life brings you.


-Daniel Faggella


Daniel Faggella is a No Gi Pan Am Champion and head BJJ Instructor at Black Diamond MMA in Wakefield, RI. Growing up in North Kingstown, RI, Dan’s major passions have always been grappling, teaching, and reading. 

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