BJJ Culture

Paying It Forward – Highlighting Jiu Jitsu Non-Profits That Do Good

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I can’t quantify in words how much jiu-jitsu has given me. Through it, I’ve found my voice; I have grown, and I have made friends who have changed my outlook on life. 

But, I often wonder: have I given back? Is there a way to pay it forward? 

There are many ways we can pay it 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. But, we can all take part at any level. 

Below is a list of some of my favorite jiu-jitsu related non-profit organizations working towards improving others’ lives: 

#SUBMITTHESTIGMA – Submit the stigma is a 501(c)3 non-profit 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, so mental well-being becomes a priority.

Jiu-jitsu offers many benefits that help those suffering from various mental disorders; physical activity to alleviate symptoms of anxiety/depression is the primary one. Jiu-jitsu requires mental stimulation that offsets debilitating depression and brings together all walks of life in a supportive, intimate atmosphere at the same time. The #submitthestigma campaign aims to promote these benefits and start discussing mental illness in a more open format.

I don’t think I need to tell you why this one resonates with me. If you have read any of my previous articles, it is easy to deduce why they are at the top of my list. 

Invictus LEO – Invictus LEO is the brainchild of Ari Knazan, who received his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from Keith Owen, and Jason Rebsch, a BJJ black belt under Brian Marvin. They both served their communities 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 real concrete solutions for officers and departments so they can start incorporating jiu-jitsu into their use of force culture. They believe 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, they aim to get more Law Enforcement Officers training jiu-jitsu. 

Reform starts with each officer taking a role in becoming better, and jiu-Jitsu is a positive step in the right direction. 

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 donated more than $2,250,000 to different beneficiaries, including The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

Mission 22 – 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 and organizes events to build memorials to create social impact and awareness for these issues. Mission 22 serves combat veterans, those injured in training who could not deploy, and victims of MST. As part of their vast array of programs, they also offer sponsorships to veterans for jiu-jitsu lessons. 

A New Grip – The Mission of A New Grip is to help sexually exploited individuals and human trafficking survivors take back their lives and find their inner peace again using Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a form of therapy and exercise. Jiu-jitsu was founded by Law Enforcement Officer—and BJJ blue belt— Samantha Mullins and 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. The organization also offers seminars combining Houck’s BJJ instruction and on-call trauma therapists, social workers, and other teammates to gauge responses and create a safe learning environment. 

During the step, female jiu-jitsu instructors 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 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-jitsu by teaching them and their families how to protect and defend themselves from physical harm. They seek to build genuine friendships and be a bridge between their families and the wider Charlotte community. They also aim to provide the kids with confidence and a safe outlet for the 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 I am looking forward to visiting North Carolina to teach one of the RefugeeJitsu sessions. 

There are dozens of other notable organizations making every effort to make our world a better one 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.

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 show the positive impact jiu-jitsu has on individuals dealing with PTSD, and WDF continues to prove those findings. 



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