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Research Review: Psychological, Physiological, Performance and Perceptive Responses to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Combats

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The purpose of this study was to investigate the psychological, physiological (metabolic, physical, and hormonal), performance and perceptive responses to a regional level Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) competition. Researchers hypothesized that during a BJJ competition a moderate activation of the glycolytic pathway occurs, followed by a drop in handgrip strength and fatigue of small muscle groups such as the forearms and shoulders. Further hypotheses included a low perception of exertion, a low salivary concentration, an increase in cortisol levels and a suppression of Immunoglobulin A (IgA) response. Finally, researches expected the profile of mood (POM) results would be similar to other combat sports presenting as an iceberg profile.


The experimental approach included 12 BJJ athletes (22.5+/-4.4 Years old: 74.5+/-4.8 kg: 2.8+/-1.2 years of sport practice). Inclusion criteria for this study included a previous level of BJJ experience equal to or above one and one half years of training, at least two month without inturuption, and a minimum frequency of three times per week. Data collection occurred during a BJJ regional level competition. All participants were informed of the procedures and signed informed consent forms. This study was approved by the local ethics committee.

Researches investigated biochemical samples including glycemic and -hydroxybutyrate. IgA an saliva samples were collected before and immediately after the fights in order to investigate salivary cortisol levels through an enzyme-linked imunosorbant assay method.  Sample preparation was performend with an ALPCO (Salem, United States) kit, in a spectrophhotometer Victor3 1420 multilabel counter, PerkinElmer manufacturer (Walthan, United States).   Maximal isometric handgrip strength was measured with a Takei Kiki Kogyo dynamometer (Johnson and Nelson 1979) before and after three non-sequential attempts on each hand with the highest value taken for consideration. Athletes were tested following the fight in order to assess their Rate of Percieved Exertion (RPE) (Borg 6-20 protocol) required to indicate areas and levels of fatigue.  Profile of mood state and competition anxiety levels were evaluated using the Profile of Mood States (POMS) questionaire and Sport Competition Anxiety Test (SCAT) respectively.


Statistical data was analyzed using Excel and SPSS 15.0 software. Data means (M) Standard deviation (SD), medians, percentiles  (25% and 75%) with a confidence interval of (95%) normality was assessed with the Shapiro-Wilks Test. A Parson or Spearman correlation coefficients were calculated in order to examine the association between variables. Significance levels were set at 5%. Data analysis concluded a significant increase in glucose, lactate and cortosol concentrations, indicting a substantioal activation of the glycolytic pathway. Significant reduction in isometric handgrip strength was reported in the dominant hand with a tendancy in reduction in the nondominant hand. Immune function was infered by elevated levels of IgA. Data futher indicated an iceberg profile of mood and average level of anxiety levels prior to competition. RPE data indicated competition as hard or very hard.


Brazillian Jiu-jitsu competion is comprised of numerous performance criteria. This study demonstrated the importnce of data analysis in competitive combatives. The investigated parameters indicate an interdependance of the physiological, psychological, and immunological factors on athletic performance. Results in this study supported the researchers hypotheses. The scope of this study investigated low level BJJ practictioners. The inclusion criteria identified athletes with relitively limited experience in the technical aspect of the sport. Moreover the performance markers investigated may vary based on the athletes overall training age as it relates to supplemental training sessions.  The population sample assumes all athletes identified in the inclusion criteria are not only equally trained in the techniqual aspect of BJJ but in the strength and conditioning (i.e. performance) aspects as well. This is simply not reality among the BJJ community. Most advanced BJJ players are quite novice in strength and conditioning. This can have a large impact on the execution of movement and the management of energy consuption during competition. Populations with less BJJ experience are often times even less expeierenced in strength and conditioning than the advanced players.  The psychological aspects of competion demonstrated in the POMS and SCAT indicated an average response compared with similar sports. This particular element of the investigation was well conducted and proved to be an effective measure of performance. No significant correlation was found between salivary cortisol, POMS or competition anxiety. A moderate negative correlation was however identified between the index of confusion and IgA salivary concentration before competion. This observation was an important finding and has the potential to warrant further investigation into the idea that psychological stress may affect the immune system. As such attention should be made, in perhaps additional investigations, to the relationship between elevated IgA, as a testable performance marker, and the likelihood of overtraining where subsequnt sickness and injury are likely occur. RPE levels measured in this study were considered relitively low compared to the blood lactate concentrations measured however simultaneously given a hard or very hard on the Borg 20 scale. It is somewhat difficult to assume based on this investigation the relationship between BJJ competition and the perforamnce markers studied that these results are standard among this athletic polulation. Unlike many sports where the athletic profile for a sport is relitively uniform among positions, the sport of BJJ is infinitely more complex. Athletes of a higher performance level, as indicated by the investigators of this study, can perform the same effort with less physiological stress and have a consistantly lower RPE. Additionally the level of play is not only based on a rank structure (i.e. white-red belt) but on stylistic influence which over the years has created variations within the sport that may affect performance markers.


This study outlined a solid foundation of which to build. It is recommended that futher investigations be initiated considering alternative inclusion criteria. I would recommend a comprehensive evaluation of performance characteristics among each belt rank as an initial investigation. This observational study would provide researchers a direction in which to pursue an effective performance stratagey. This observational study would ultimatly yield a needs alaysis based on five categories (1) technical (belt) rank, (2) chronological age, (3) training age, (4) competition experience, and  (5) strength and conditioning training age.  A follow on study, with an experimental design similar to this study, may address these categories individually investigating their psychological and physiological effects on the BJJ athlete.


Andreato, L. V., Franzói-de-Moraes, S. M., Esteves, J. V. D. C., Miranda, M. L., Pastório, J. J.,Pastório, E. J., … & Franchini, E. (2014). Psychological, physiological, performance and perceptive responses to Brazilian jiu-jitsu combats. Kinesiology46(1), 44-52.