Written by: Denise Tayanc
Even before we are born we begin to use our sense of touch – stimulating further development of our body and brain. Touch and tactile learning has been proven to improve brain function and cognitive development. And the long-term effects are seen in both our social and emotional development. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the perfect tactile learning activity because it utilizes all of your muscles and specifically develops the mind-body connection with both the hands and the feet. Techniques are based on proper physical movement paired with critical thinking. This unique sport allows for improved special reasoning in a safe environment that is perfect for brain development.
By increasing the tactile learning, we inadvertently improve our language processing skills, problem solving skills, and even physical recovery speeds. As for the psychological effects, positive touch has been found to be absolutely necessary for healthy emotional levels as well as reducing stress, pain, and even reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease. That is why getting your child involved at a young age will compound the benefits over time. It is no secret that children are interacting more and more with technology that stifles this tactile development as kids are less likely to spend time outside or even drawing with their hands. By dedicating several hours a week to a sport like jiu jitsu, children are able to burn off energy, develop coordination, and maintain a healthy hormonal balance.
The benefits of doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu do not end after childhood but continue on through the teenage years and are arguably even more important for high school and college students. In fact, the basis created with tactile learning and development translates into future academic success. While many students tend to abandon their extracurricular activities during exam times, this is actually the time where the most benefits are to be had by regular exercise. If students instead took regular breaks from studying to train, they would find that not only is BJJ stress relieving – allowing a student to better focus on studying without the added burden of stress – but it is also energizing as there is a kind of “runner’s high” experienced by jiu jitsu practitioners following training. It is an incredibly invigorating feeling of elation and contentment that can propel a student through another tough study session or carry them through an hours-long exam.
Counter to the common perception of the split between athletics and knowledge, training in a highly aerobic and anaerobic activity aids in brain function by increasing our tolerance towards strenuous activities. Everyone is familiar with study fatigue – when your brain begins to feel slow and foggy and it feels as though the studying is no longer effective because it is difficult to focus. However, with regular exercise, especially Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – which requires you to utilize both your brain and your body – we are able to increase the amount of time we can focus on a task without getting tired. When you first begin to train, your body will tire out almost immediately and you will feel the effects of a class for a few days afterwards. But with time, your body will begin to adjust and you will find that you are not as tired and sore after an hour of training as you were when you first started.
But how does that happen? Well, we have immediate-use sugar stores that we use for energy when we get fatigued and the best way to increase these available energy stores is through regular exercise. You see, your body begins to learn that you regularly need larger energy stores and slowly you are able to build your conditioning. After a few months of training, even a two-hour class is manageable. And the wonderful thing is that these stores can be used for both your body and your brain! That means that when you are in the midst of studying for an exam, your brain will use those energy stores you’ve been working on in your training so that you can continue to study and retain the knowledge.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is extremely beneficial both in childhood on through to adulthood. It is the perfect combination of sport and critical thinking that provides the most benefits to both a growing child and a high-achieving student.