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Understanding Trauma Informed Coaching in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Creating  trauma informed coaching environment in Jiu Jitsu

In the world of martial arts, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) stands out not just for its physical demands but also for the mental resilience it fosters. However, BJJ, like any other sport, is not immune to the challenges that come with coaching individuals from diverse backgrounds, some of whom may have experienced trauma. Recognizing and addressing these challenges through trauma-informed coaching can significantly enhance the learning experience for students, making the Jiu Jitsu gym a safe haven for all. This blog post delves into the essence of trauma-informed coaching within the realm of BJJ, outlining its importance and how it can be effectively implemented.

What is Trauma-Informed Coaching?

Trauma-informed coaching is an approach that recognizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery. It seeks to avoid re-traumatization by creating a coaching environment that is sensitive to the needs of individuals who have experienced trauma. This approach is grounded in five core principles: safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and empowerment.


Ensuring physical and emotional safety is paramount. For a BJJ gym, this means creating an environment where students feel secure and supported, free from judgment and harm. Coaches play a crucial role in establishing and maintaining this safe space through their actions and the gym's policies.


Trust is the foundation of any student-coach relationship. In a trauma-informed BJJ environment, coaches demonstrate reliability, clarity, and consistency in their interactions with students. Transparency in communication and predictability in training routines help build this trust.


Giving students a sense of control over their training experience is critical. This involves allowing them to set their own boundaries and make choices about their participation in various activities. Such autonomy helps rebuild a sense of empowerment that trauma often diminishes.


Trauma-informed coaching encourages collaboration between the coach and students. This partnership involves recognizing each student's voice and ensuring they feel valued and heard. It's about creating a communal environment where feedback is welcomed, and everyone's input is considered.


Empowering students is about recognizing their strengths and fostering personal growth. In a trauma-informed Jiu Jitsu gym, coaches focus on each student's abilities, encouraging them to take ownership of their learning and celebrate their progress.

The Importance of Trauma-Informed Coaching in BJJ

Trauma can significantly impact an individual's ability to engage in and enjoy sports like BJJ. Traditional coaching methods may inadvertently trigger past trauma, leading to discomfort, disengagement, or even distress. Trauma-informed coaching, on the other hand, provides a framework that is both sensitive and adaptive to the needs of all students, particularly those with trauma histories.

By adopting a trauma-informed approach, BJJ coaches can help ensure that their dojo is not just a place to learn martial arts but also a space where healing, in its many forms, is supported. This approach fosters a positive, inclusive community atmosphere that benefits all students by emphasizing respect, safety, and mutual support.

Implementing Trauma-Informed Practices in BJJ

Adopting a trauma-informed approach in a BJJ dojo involves several practical steps:

  1. Education and Awareness: Coaches and staff should be educated about trauma, its effects, and how to recognize signs of trauma in students. Awareness training can help create a more empathetic and responsive coaching team.

  2. Policy and Environment: Review dojo policies and the physical environment to ensure they support safety and inclusivity. This might involve setting clear guidelines for behavior, ensuring privacy in changing areas, and creating quiet spaces for individuals who may need a moment away from group activities.

  3. Student-Centered Coaching: Adapt coaching methods to meet the varied needs of students. This includes offering choices in training activities, allowing students to opt-out gracefully from certain drills or sparring sessions, and encouraging students to express their needs and boundaries.

  4. Building Trust: Establish trust through consistent, transparent communication and by demonstrating reliability and respect in all interactions with students. Trust also involves respecting students' privacy and confidentiality.

  5. Support Systems: Create and maintain a referral network of mental health professionals who understand the unique aspects of martial arts training. This network can provide support for students who may need additional resources beyond the gym.

  6. Continuous Feedback and Adaptation: Regularly seek feedback from students about their training experience and be open to making adjustments. This ongoing dialogue ensures that the gym remains a supportive and responsive environment for everyone.


Trauma-informed coaching in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu offers a comprehensive approach to teaching that respects and acknowledges the individual experiences of each student. By fostering an environment of safety, trust, choice, collaboration, and empowerment, coaches can create a gym where learning and healing go hand in hand. This not only enhances the BJJ experience for students with trauma histories but also builds a stronger, more inclusive community where everyone is empowered to reach their full potential.

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

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