How Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can make you a better comedian

Ever wonder why so many comedians do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? I know what you’re thinking: Because J** R***** (BIG eye-roll!) made it cool. While, yeah, I guess he probably did make Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu more popular, I promise there’s real value the martial art can bring to other areas of your life! 

You learn to laugh at yourself

In Brazilian jiu-jitsu, much like stand-up comedy, you will screw up. A lot. But that should never stand in the way of getting started.

You slip and faceplant onto the mat (spoken from personal experience); you bomb on stage. You execute a technique poorly; you execute a joke poorly. You get swept; you get no laughs.

Hell, I’ve even seen people fart while training, while in front of everyone. Just like in comedy, it seems our mistakes are constantly out there for everyone to see. 

Jiu-jitsu is an endless sea of little victories and not-so-little fuck ups. But perhaps the most challenging part about jiu-jitsu (aside from not getting your guard passed) is the mental game you end up playing with yourself.

They call jiu-jitsu human chess for a reason. Learning to laugh at yourself is an emotional skill you’re always improving while learning the martial art itself. If you don’t learn to laugh, you will take yourself too seriously and ultimately let your ego get in the way of improving your skill. Rolling with the punches (or in this case, the chokes) means learning to laugh at the number of times you clock someone in the face with your foot by accident. Or the number of times you watched a demonstration and immediately forgot every move. Or the number of times you forgot a grip when attempting to pass someone’s guard. 

Have you ever watched a comedian bomb on stage and gotten second-hand embarrassment when they don’t know how to handle it? Everyone has shit about them that’s funny. When you learn to laugh at yourself–especially when you’re in front of others–you not only convey authenticity to your audience, but you have more fun. This counts just as much on stage as it does on the mat. 


You get into some hilarious situations

Jiu-jitsu in itself is ludicrous. You’re essentially paying people to kick your ass. You’re rolling around with other people, their sweat (and yours) dripping into your eyeballs, your hair getting stepped on, trying to choke them whilst they try to throw you on the ground. That’s bananas! Not to mention, you’re dressed in what looks like a robe while all this is happening. It’s very chaotic. You have to be, on some level, a little bit wild to enjoy it. 

When I first started jiu-jitsu, I laughed non-stop during class. The physical positions I was put in were something I never experienced before. I couldn’t believe how casually everyone threw their legs over their heads or pinned each other down as grown adults. Even now, years later, it’s plain hilarious. 

And what are hilarious situations if not material?


You learn how to foster a community

In jiu-jitsu, you end up surrounding yourself with people that are better than you at the art form, in some way.

The same can and should be true for comedians. That may mean you’re surrounding yourself with comics who are better at one medium or technique than you, or you’re doing this by joining a community of working comedians like GOLD.

The truth is: you’re only as strong as those around you. In both art forms, it’s hard not to bond with those around you. It turns out that showing vulnerability while approaching new and difficult experiences is a great catalyst for friendship and mentorship. 


It’s empowering 

In general, it’s empowering to know how to defend yourself. But it’s especially empowering as a woman.

Jiu-jitsu is designed for (but not limited to) smaller people. If a big, strong person walks into a jiu-jitsu gym, the beauty of this martial art is that someone much smaller than their opponent, with less muscle, can put the opponent to sleep. 

So, picture this: You train jiu-jitsu for months. You’re used to being overpowered by some. But you’re a tough cookie, you still come to training, enjoy the little triumphs, you prevail after each class. A brand new guy three times your size walks into your gym. You guys roll (or spar). He’s panting, sweating, using all his strength to try and get past your guard, he’s getting visibly frustrated… and walks right into the beautiful triangle choke you set up. BOOM!

Do you know what I felt the first time I defeated a big guy who was way stronger than me?

You could not convince me I wasn’t Uma Therman for at least a month. Still! I’m still Uma. And I don’t even need swords. (Granted, shortly after I went back into the gym, I got submitted by someone smaller than me. But anyway.)

All jokes aside, jiu-jitsu can boost your confidence as a woman.

You prove to yourself how tough you are.

You’re getting in shape while also having fun, learning to defend yourself, and making friends. Confidence is not always easy to come by. But choking out a 180-pound guy that looks like Johnny Bravo makes going up on stage and making people laugh seem like a piece of cake. Even though, of course, it’s also very hard, being more confident doesn’t hurt your cause.

In the wise words of David Rose, now when someone tries to tell me I can’t do something, I simply say that I’m “very uninterested in that opinion.”

To quote another legend: Jerry Seinfeld once said, “Comedy is the ability to withstand torture.” Well, so is jiu-jitsu.