Jiu-Jitsu or Mental Health? Part 2: Tapping Out Isn’t Giving Up

4 min read
A blog series analyzing the parallels between Jiu-Jitsu and Mental Health… Part 2 How tapping isn’t the end and actually shows the opposite

Jiu-Jitsu or Mental Health? Part 2: Tapping Out Isn’t Giving Up

A blog series analyzing the parallels between Jiu-Jitsu and Mental Health… Part 2 How tapping isn’t the end and actually shows the opposite

Location: London, UK

You don’t have to look very hard to find the “surface level” benefits Jiu-Jitsu can have on your mental health. It can improve your fitness, increase your confidence, help you build a friendship group, test your brain, release endorphins and serotonin, and probably lots of other things that are really hard to spell. But while these are all irrefutable facts, it’s nothing we haven’t heard a million times before about almost every form of exercise.

Beyond the surface, though, lay some intriguing parallels that feel almost as if they were created by design. Jiu-Jitsu and Mental Health are so interchangeable you could be talking about either when saying philosophical phrases, such as: It’s a lifelong journey. There’s always someone better. Focus on what you can control. Tapping doesn’t mean giving up. (Don’t worry, I can explain that).

Photo by: Clemens van Lay

Over the next few weeks, we’ll break some of these subjects down and delve a little deeper into the fascinating similarities between Jiu-Jitsu and mental health.

Part 2: Tapping out isn’t giving up

I got choked out in beginners’ class once… during a drill. For some reason, my ego refused to let me tap. And so, I passed out. A few seconds later, I woke up covered in dribble, with a misplaced sense of pride that, over the following months and years (I’m a slow learner), was gradually squeezed out of me.

Sometimes we can feel like life is choking us, whether we’re drowning in self-loathing, crippled by anxiety, or slowly succumbing to the all-encompassing shadow of apathy.

If this is where you’re at right now, well, my friends, it’s time to tap. Reach out to a friend, reset, see a therapist, join a support group, talk to people, GET HELP!

Jiu-Jitsu is a team sport. The only way you can do it is with someone else. (This never felt truer than after a year of solo drills during lockdown). So is life, though. Life is a team sport. To get better, we must use the support of higher grades, mingle with people at similar stages to us, share our experiences, and above all, we must tap.

Every time we tap, we’re getting better, we’re getting stronger, we’re learning humility, and most importantly, we’re living to fight another day. When we tap, we’re saying we don’t know the answer to everything, but we’re acknowledging that if we do the right things, we can learn how to deal with it in the future, or better still, avoid the situation altogether. We’re giving ourselves the chance to walk away from whatever emotion we’re feeling at the time – be it stress, anger, annoyance, fear – and look at it later through a more considered lens. We’re giving ourselves the chance to reset before we do anything rash and hurt ourselves or others.

Photo by: Shei

Tapping is not giving up; it’s just the opposite. You’re saying you’re here for the duration. No matter how many times you get beaten into the mat, no matter how humiliated you feel, you’re going to keep showing up and doing what you can to get better… to be better.

To be more literal for a moment, if you do speak to a friend about how you’re feeling, it’s not just yourself you might surprise. Almost every time I bring up mental health – and I talk about it every day – someone says, “Oh mate, exactly the same thing happens to me.” Or “I get nasty panic attacks.” Or “My best friend took their own life a few years ago, actually.”

It opens up the flood gates, and before you know it, they’re talking to you about things they’ve hardly even discussed with themselves. They’re not sitting there waiting to judge; they’re waiting to be heard. People are itching, yearning to talk; they just need to be given permission. You have the power to give that permission.

All you have to do is tap.

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