Jiu-Jitsu and Society: Male Mental Health on the Mats

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  • 1 Liverpool John Moores University
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The growth in mixed martial arts (MMA) gyms worldwide, along with adjunct media discourse has been matched by the number of participants, characterized by the dedication and sacrifice imbued. These factors catalyzed this research which sought initially to understand the motivations of MMA gym members and the role that the training plays in their lives. Through an immersive participant ethnography lasting 3 years, the author trained, socialized, fought, and competed with members of an urban MMA gym in the United Kingdom. The findings focus on the subculture of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu existing within and alongside MMA and where men of diverse ages and creeds follow a path to improved mental health. Drawing from the salutogenic health model and the sociology of health literature, this paper shows that through membership of an MMA gym and dedication to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, participants embody a version of health that is closely aligned with Antonovsky’s theory of salutogenesis. This theory of health helps explain not only the dedication of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners and the growth of MMA more broadly but also posits a fresh perspective on the role of alternative physical activities in male mental health redress.

The author (J.T.Sugden@ljmu.ac.uk) is with the Liverpool John Moores University, IM Marsh Campus, Liverpool, United Kingdom.

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