Understanding The Feel-Good Chemicals Released When You Train Jiu-Jitsu

Understanding The Feel-Good Chemicals Released When You Train Jiu-Jitsu

Written by Gloria Coccoli, BJJ practitioner and widfery student. She started training Jiu-Jitsu at Ground Pressure Team Messina in Italy. Check out her great blog aroundtheju.

I’ve never denied my addiction to this sport, since the very first class.
That feeling of wanting more of it, counting days to come back training, that excitement during the fights and the way this sport suddenly came into your life wiping out bad thoughts, mood and problems, leaving instead that aura of complete fulfilling happiness.
And then there is the BJJ community. I’ve always wandered, how is It possible to bond so quickly with these people, how is it possible to find so many good and warm people on a mat of any country of the world?

It’s not just the daily ambition of self-improvement, measuring yourself always with people that can teach you something to add on your game, noticing you getting stronger and stronger, finding yourself surrounded by a “family” with the same goals as you.

Yes, Jiu jitsu changed your life, but also changed something in your mind.

Exercise and in our case, Jiu-Jitsu is the best medicine for a healthy mind and body. Regular exercise will not only benefit you physically, it can provide emotional and psychological perks as well. During Jiu-Jitsu, several different chemicals are released into the brain, with a broad range of positive effects. These chemicals are powerful mood- and mind-boosting substances.

Here are some of the chemical reactions that happen when you train Jiu-Jitsu:

1. Oxytocin .

The skin to skin, physical contact, that occurs practicing BJJ send signals to our brain that activates the release of certain hormones in our body. Oxytocin is one of them, also called the “hormone of love, trust and affection”, it increases curiosity and willingness to relate with another being, sense of calm and trust . This could be the reason why friendships develop so quickly between our BJJ community! It can also be awaken by mindfulness and breathing techniques (do you remember Kron Gracie and his respiration focus?) { the same hormone generates the women contractions during labour and activates a chain of chemical events to produce breast milk etc }


Literally the body’s own opiate. Its properties are similar to those of morphine and hero*n. Its produced in circumstances of stress, muscular effort, excitement, orgsm and pain. Together with Oxytocin, it flows in your blood stream and gives to our body an analgesic effect (this is why in sport injuries you may not notice any pain on the injuries part for some time) and addictive effects. This could help us understand our need of having more and more of it, thinking about BJJ for most of our time. { produced and released in HUGE quantity during labour, relieving the pain of the process and also inside the breast milk }

bjj chemistry

Noradrenaline, together with adrenaline & cortisol the “fight-or-flight” hormones.

These hormones work in exact antagonism with oxytocin, when one rises the other lowers. Sparring on the mats or during competition triggers our body to recognize a survival situation and relating on how much we are mentally trained to keep calm, they fasten our heart and respiratory rate, bring oxygen to our main body limbs (making it ready to run from danger or fight for your life), triggers the release of glucose into the blood stream and mental alertness. This explains why our mind is totally into it and our problems seem to fade. Normally when the body has enough of these hormones, it will down regulate their release. Without a proper balance we could occur in adrenal fatigue, high blood pressure, negatively changing our mood. This is what happens often during competition, compared to a “safe” environment like your own academy. The normal balance is also helped using breathing exercises and meditation/mindfulness, in other words being present with the moment, regaining air, strength and enhancing the concentration for the match. { Also during labour a proper balance of these hormones is needed, in order to regulate dilation, contractions and pushes }

​​ BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor), serotonine and endorphins.

BDNF is released during intense exercise and acts to generate, protect, repair neurons and promote neuro-plasticity (how easily your brain can adapt to and learn how to effectively complete new challenges). BDNF and serotonin have a reciprocal relationship. BDNF increases serotonin production and this is why exercise acts as a mood enhancer. Endorphins work as opioid receptors in neurons and interferes with the transmission of pain signals. Within 30 minutes of exercise endorphins result in a euphoric effect which might be the result of pain signal blockage allowing dopamine and serotonin to take their effect. Release of endorphins is addictive. More exercise is needed to produce the same euphoric effect (also called “runner’s high”) { Women can experience birth as sensual and pleasurable, and can enter a natural state of ecstasy also called Orgasmic Birth!

This is what I discovered studying midwifery, exactly where I’d thought about finding a clue in our BJJ addiction.

We found then an healthy, cheap, active way to be high using our own mind and sport!