It is impossible for me to quantify how much Jiu-Jitsu has given me. Through Jiu-Jitsu, I’ve found my voice; I have grown, and I have made friends who have changed my outlook on life. I often wonder: have I given back? Is there a way to pay it forward?
There are many ways we can pay forward as Jiu-Jitsu players. The best advice I can give you is don’t wait until you receive your black belt to make a difference. We can all take part at any level. But how do you find your calling and the proper channel to help?
Below is a list of some of my favorite Jiu-Jitsu-related nonprofit organizations working towards improving others’ lives:
Submit the stigma is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and awareness campaign within the Jiu-Jitsu community that promotes education, discussion, and support for mental illness and those who are affected. The goal is to make mental health as important as physical health–to make mental well-being a priority.
Jiu-Jitsu offers many benefits that help those with various mental disorders: physical activity to alleviate symptoms of anxiety/depression, it requires mental stimulation that can offset debilitating depression, it brings together all walks of life in a supportive, intimate atmosphere. The #submitthestigma campaign aims to promote these benefits and start the necessary discussion of mental illness.
I don’t think It’s necessary for me to tell you why this one resonates with me. If you have read any of my previous articles, it is easy to deduce why this one is at the top of my list.
Mission 22 supports the veteran community with three main programs: veteran treatment programs, memorials, and community social impact. Mission 22 provides treatment programs to veterans for Post-Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury, and other issues they might be facing. It organizes events and builds memorials to create social impact and awareness for these issues. Mission 22 serves combat veterans, those injured in training who therefore could not deploy, and victims of MST. As part of their vast array of programs, they offer sponsorships to veterans for Jiu-Jitsu lessons.
Based out of the UK, REORG works with people, mostly veterans, and first responders, who have a whole range of serious, life-altering physical injuries, as well as those suffering debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.
Their primary focus is helping the military, police or the emergency services transition back into civilian life without that void that leaves so many people depressed, alone, and seeking purpose. They often host tournaments, sponsor veterans with GYM memberships and equipment, and seek to promote significantly the sport so everyone can benefit from it. They even have A-List actor Tom Hardy as part of the team. Give them a look and see how you can get involved to make a difference with Jiu-Jitsu.
GISs 4 GIS
Founded in 2015, the goal of GIS 4 GIS is to make Jiu-Jitsu more affordable for oath takers… (anyone who has a job that requires the “Oath Of Office”). Like many of the other foundations in this list, they focus on Jiu-Jitsu as a stress relief solution for veterans and seek to get as many oath takers training the gentle art.
As the name suggests, they mainly focus on making sure people have Gi’s to train with and have even partnered with Origin to give our brave men and women some of the best Gi’s on the market… they of course, also accept lightly used Gi’s as well. So, if you have any old, lightly used Gi’s or available time, please contact them to see how you can impact people’s lives.
Invictus LEO is the brainchild of Ari Knazan, who received his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from Keith Owen; and Jason Rebsch, who is a BJJ black belt under Brian Marvin. They both have served the community as police officers and saw a need for their departments to adopt Jiu-Jitsu as part of the defensive tactics training. The goal of Invictus is to give actual concrete solutions for officers and departments so they can start incorporating Jiu-Jitsu into their use of force culture. Their belief is that all police officers should regularly train for real-world scenarios using Jiu Jitsu-based principles.
The reasoning is simple: Jiu Jitsu makes police officers safer in the field by teaching them the fundamental positioning and skills for real-life physical encounters. With their #BJJMAKEITMANDATORY movement, their aim is to get more Law Enforcement Officers training Jiu Jitsu.
Reform starts with each individual officer taking a role in becoming better, and Jiu-Jitsu is definitely a positive step in the right direction.
We Defy Foundation
The We Defy Foundation provides combat veterans coping with military-connected disabilities a long-term means to overcome their challenges through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and fitness training. The We Defy Team is comprised of veterans who are also jiujiteros. They aid disabled veterans to heal through Jiu-Jitsu. Many studies have shown the positive impact Jiu-Jitsu has on individuals dealing with PTSD, and WDF continues to prove those studies.
Tap Cancer Out
Tap Cancer Out is a Jiu-Jitsu based 501(c)(3) nonprofit raising awareness and funds for cancer-fighting organizations on behalf of the grappling community. They do this primarily through fundraising tournaments, direct donations, and merchandise sales.
Since its formation in 2011, They have hosted dozens of tournaments and have donated more than $3,500,000 to different beneficiaries, including: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.
A New Grip
The Mission of A New Grip is to help sexually exploited individuals as well as human trafficked survivors take back their lives and find their inner peace again using Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as a form of therapy and exercise.
A New Grip was founded by Law Enforcement Officer—and BJJ blue belt— Samantha Mullins, decorated brown belt, and Invictus LEO-sponsored athlete Christina Houck. Their multi-step approach combines introductions and education workshops in a classroom setting to answer any questions and discuss the importance of self-defense and BJJ. Followed by seminars combining Houck’s BJJ instruction as well as on-call trauma therapists, social workers, and various other teammates to gauge responses and create a safe learning environment.
In the final step, female Jiu-Jitsu instructors will conduct seminars and Q&A sessions to help the participants become more confident and answer any questions the participants may have. As with WDF, they believe through Jiu-Jitsu, they can help heal the emotional damage that has been bestowed upon these victims.
Disciple Dojo’s Refugeejitsu
Disciple Dojo is a 501c3 Non-Profit Organization based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Through their RefugeeJitsu and with the help of Project 658, they help refugee kids through Jiu-Jits, teaching kids and families how to protect and defend themselves from physical harm. They seek to build genuine friendships among them and to be a bridge between their families and the wider Charlotte community.
They also strive to provide the kids with confidence and a safe outlet for their stress, pressures, and anxieties they face as they grow up in a new country surrounded by people who often only see them as a burden or threat to their way of life. I have been fortunate enough to train with JM smith, who founded Disciple Dojo and had the pleasure of visiting North Carolina to teach one of the RefugeeJitsu sessions.
There are dozens of other notable organizations making every effort to improve our world through the passion we all share. I invite you to look at how much you have grown as an individual since starting BJJ; and I implore you to share that passion with someone who can benefit from rolling. To learn more about how to volunteer or help any of these organizations, visit their websites and make sure to follow them on social media.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Bjj, Grappling, Jiu-jitsu
Black Belt Magazine
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