The best sport for introverts? Brazilian jiu jitsu.

Team sports get a lot of attention, and that’s true pretty much anywhere in the world. Most school athletics, public or private, focus the bulk of their resources on sports that involve groups. The kids aren’t alone though–adults play pickup basketball games, play fantasy football at the office and get together for ultimate Frisbee on weekends. Tennis, golf and swimming get their time, but in most of the world, they’re the exception.

Carl Jung was one of the first to start talking introversion and extraversion back in the early 20th century, and today we stand with an estimate that about 50% of the people walking around on the planet are, in fact, introverted. Introversion and extraversion carry a lot of qualifiers around them (family dynamics, culture, gender to name a few), but to break it down most simply, when it comes to interacting with the outside world (i.e. other people) introverts are drained and extraverts are energized. The opposite is also true…time alone gets introverts going and shuts extraverts down. What’s that got to do with sports? Well, it’s a generally accepted fact that sports are good for people. Most of the talk around those benefits exist around physical health and focus on children, but let’s be honest, adults can benefit too and it goes deeper than a healthy body.

That said, not all sports are created equal. Those team sports we mentioned? Sure, introverted folk can benefit from them, but are they the best way of encouraging a life long relationship with physical activity and personal challenge? Do they best mesh with introvert strengths and push them in ways that are challenging, but considerate of who they are?

Martial arts overall, with their focus on individualized practice, reflection and personal development, are a good natural fit for introverts. BJJ though, offers some bonuses. The art inherently, has found a way to balance introversion and extraversion, in the forms of Japanese (a generally introverted culture) and Brazilian (a culture that values extraversion) cooperation. Every BJJ class is a real life exercise in finding value in both the world of the internal and the world of the external, something that many introverts, especially in Western cultures, tend to struggle with (language), both because of their own standards, and pressures from friends and family to change their behavior.

This is a topic we’ve just scratched the surface on, so we’re looking to hear about people’s experiences. Do you enjoy team sports? Have you ever been pressured to be more socially active at your gym? Are you an introvert looking to be more active but the idea of a team puts you off?


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  1. Anonymous
    July 29, 2013 at 4:50 am

    Labels like “introvert” and “extrovert” are often limiting beliefs. All are fully able to modify their own behaviour to suit whatever end they so desire, if only they recognize their own creative power.

    Move from sense receiver to self-observer to mitigate any new un-comfort you encounter in your new clothes. Repeat to build habit in new state and with the accumulation of experience be labelled as a prime example of whichsoever peer group your peers will most to mold you into. Thus shall begin anew their seduction of ideas, attempting along with their best examples to impose on your plastic mind a new belief structure, which you happily accept when hungry and happily shatter finally empowered and no longer served.

    The beauty of Jiujitsu lies in its ultimate utility. The ability to kill; as after all might is right.

    • GiFreak
      July 29, 2013 at 7:53 pm

      People are able to modify their behavior, but it’s highly debatable whether they are able to modify their orientation. Many people who find themselves marginalized, especially introverts in extroverted societies or families, find personality typing to be freeing.

      Definitely disagree that might=right. In a world like that, jiu jitsu is pretty much useless (since there are many things more powerful than any hand to hand combat). Might equals, well…might.

  2. slideyfoot
    July 29, 2013 at 11:52 am

    I’m definitely an introvert. To those who complain about the use of ‘labels’, I would argue it’s simply a useful categorisation for a dominant behaviour, rather than pigeon-holing somebody to ONLY that behaviour. I can act as an extrovert too, in the right circumstances (e.g., among friends), but my natural state is introversion.

    I find that jiu jitsu most lends itself to introversion through its depth of technique. For somebody like me who enjoys delving into fine detail, jiu jitsu is a perfect combination of a physical and mental challenge. You can spend literally years working on a single technique, or even just a component of a technique.

    On top of that, there are lots of other aspects to jiu jitsu that can be examined and researched in a similar manner. For example, its history, the culture of Brazil, or indeed learning Portuguese.

    Also, thankfully in a civilised society, might is very much not right. 🙂

  3. joejitsu
    July 30, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    The whole essence of BJJ from its creation and its evolution is to battle the ill notion that Might=Right. I will submit that if anyone believes in might=right, please stay away from bjj as you are a danger to yourself and others. Ooossssss.

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