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Communicating Concerns in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Training

Talking about Trauma in Jiu Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art that emphasizes physical closeness, trust among practitioners, and mental resilience. These aspects, while enriching, can pose challenges for students with trauma histories. The path to healing is often about regaining control and establishing boundaries, and effective communication is key in this process. This blog post explores how BJJ students can communicate trauma-related concerns or hesitations about their training, offering examples, techniques, and signs to look for in a supportive training environment.

Understanding the Importance of Communication

For individuals with a trauma background, certain elements of BJJ training, such as physical contact or the intensity of sparring, can be triggering. It's crucial for these students to communicate their needs and boundaries to their instructors and training partners. Effective communication ensures that training remains a positive, empowering experience, fostering an environment where healing can continue alongside martial arts development.

Starting the Conversation

Opening up about trauma, especially in a martial arts setting, requires courage. Here are some steps to initiate this important dialogue:

  • Identify a Comfortable Setting: Choose a quiet, private time to talk, such as before or after class, or schedule a specific meeting with your instructor.

  • Prepare What to Say: It can be helpful to rehearse or write down key points you want to convey. You don't need to share specific details about your trauma unless you're comfortable doing so. Instead, focus on your needs and concerns related to training.

  • Use "I" Statements: Frame your conversation around your feelings and experiences. For example, "I feel anxious during close-contact drills" or "I need to take breaks more often."

Examples of Communicating Needs

  • Requesting Modifications: "I find certain positions triggering. Could we modify these drills, or could you show me an alternative technique?"

  • Setting Boundaries: "I'm not comfortable with sparring today. Can I work on solo drills or observe instead?"

  • Seeking Understanding: "There are times when I might need to step out of class for a moment. I wanted to let you know it's a way for me to manage my anxiety."

Techniques for Effectively Communicating Concerns In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

  • Non-Verbal Cues: Utilize non-verbal signals, such as a raised hand or a specific gesture, to indicate when you're feeling overwhelmed or need a pause. This can be a discreet way to communicate your needs during class.

  • Journaling: Keep a training journal where you note triggers, progress, and areas of concern. Sharing these observations with your instructor can provide insight into your training experience and help tailor the approach to your needs.

  • Feedback Loop: Establish a regular feedback loop with your instructor. This can be a set time after class or a weekly check-in to discuss your progress, challenges, and any adjustments needed in your training plan.

Recognizing a Supportive Training Environment

Knowing the signs of a trauma-informed and supportive BJJ gym can help you choose the right environment and feel more comfortable communicating your needs. Look for:

  • Instructors Who Listen: Coaches should be approachable and willing to listen without judgment. They should respect your privacy and confidentiality.

  • Adaptable Training Options: A supportive gym will offer flexibility in training methods, allowing modifications to techniques or participation levels based on individual comfort.

  • A Culture of Respect: The overall atmosphere should be one of mutual respect and understanding. Bullying or dismissive behavior is a red flag.

  • Peer Support: Look for a gym where fellow students support each other's journeys. A strong community can be an invaluable source of encouragement.

Navigating Setbacks

Even in the most supportive environments, setbacks can occur. It's essential to recognize that healing is not linear and that having a difficult day does not mean failure. Here's how to navigate such moments:

  • Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself. Acknowledge your courage in facing challenges and recognize the progress you've made.

  • Seek Support: Don't hesitate to reach out to trusted friends, family, or mental health professionals when you're struggling. Community and connection are key components of resilience.

  • Reflect and Adjust: Use setbacks as opportunities to learn more about your triggers and needs. Discussing these moments with your instructor can help adjust your training approach.


Communicating trauma-related concerns in BJJ is a vital aspect of creating a safe and empowering training experience. By articulating your needs, setting boundaries, and engaging in open dialogue with instructors and peers, you can navigate the complexities of training with a trauma background. Remember, the right gym will prioritize your safety and well-being, supporting you in your journey towards healing and growth in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Your resilience and determination to communicate and adapt are powerful tools on this path, allowing you to embrace the transformative potential of BJJ fully.

Interesting in reading more? Check out Transforming Trauma With Jiu Jitsu  by Jamie Marich and Anna Pirkl.

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