The Case for Jiu-Jitsu

September was Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and we ran out of time before running out of curated tips and hints for parents, so let’s just carry on, shall we? Incidentally, a previous post dealt with indoor ideas, so let’s add a postscript, in the form of a piece from someone who has researched the subject, titled “8 Best Active Video Games for Kids.”

Now, back to ideas which are not guaranteed to solve all of your child’s problems, but which have a pretty good pedigree, and a fighting chance of improving at least some aspects of their lives. Jiu-jitsu has been around for quite a while, and this martial art is recognized as way to prevent bullying, which is often a side effect of obesity; and as a remedy for obesity itself. One website says,

The key factors that lead to healthy weight are regular motion and exercise, which are natural for children, as they enjoy them rather than see them as a burden. That is why martial arts can be useful when it comes to childhood weight loss.

Those who recommend jiu-jitsu never fail to mention the positive values that it cultivates, including physical and mental self-awareness, discipline, and respect. They’re not just talking about kids striving for the approval of grownups, and whatever brownie points are available for that.

No, they mean that in the course of training, children have the opportunity to win the respect of their contemporaries. In a controlled environment, where nobody is in danger of being hospitalized, they can try out their strength and skills on each other, and prove their worth. This is the best kind of positive peer pressure. The following paragraph is key:

One other advantage of martial arts is that, comparing to other sports, the main focus is on the individual and not on the whole team. In other words, if a child has trouble with learning martial arts techniques, it has no impact on others in the team, so he or she will not feel exposed or uncomfortable.

By their abnormally excellent posture and confident movements, adults who studied ballet as children can often be identified at a glance. Similarly, the benefits conferred by martial arts training leave lasting traces. If a child puts in the effort, she or he can’t help but derive positive results. As the author of this piece notes,

Children taking martial arts classes have more self-control and self-respect as they transfer these values to other aspects of life and they handle stress more successfully.

Reduced stress equals less unnecessary and harmful eating behavior, and a reduction in stress-related consumption equals a reduction in obesity. And there it is, Q. E. D. Meanwhile, evidence indicates that bloat in the body often originates from wrinkles in the psyche.

A rare kind of solution

In the world of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Gracie is the name of royalty, and there is no better place than to find the reasons — seven of them — why the sport helps to end bullying:

1) Self-confidence repels cowards
3) Respect for differences
4) The bonds of friendship
5) Self-esteem balance
6) Help for the parents
7) Pressure release

The whole article is worth reading, so just an outline is given here, with a little extra detail towards making the final point. So now, back to #2:

2) An antidote to fear and insecurity

There are two main ingredients to bullying: fear and insecurity. The fearful is usually the victim and the insecure is usually the aggressor that seeks confrontation to hide their own feeling of weakness. The gentle art will teach kids to defend themselves when necessary and help them deal with fear. At the same time, it will address insecurity and help that aggressive kid to be more confident, polite and respectful.

Some adults look back on their youthful training with gratitude because it helped them avoid being targeted by bullies. Others acknowledge that the martial arts culture saved them from a very different fate — it helped them to avoid becoming bullies. By all accounts, jiu-jitsu is the solution that comes at the problem from both ends.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “How Martial Arts Can Help With Child Obesity,”
Source: “7 reasons why Jiu-Jitsu really helps kids deal with bullying,”, 02/03/16
Photo credit: on Visualhunt/CC BY

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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