Perhaps you noticed the slightly reddened eyes or hint of weed smoke on your training partner’s BJJ Gi.

Maybe it’s the dispensary sponsorship of your favorite local athlete that really brought it to your attention.

Or… possibly, you are the one with the reddened eyes and ‘essence of ganja’ on your attire.

Regardless, if you’ve been in the BJJ scene long enough, you’re probably aware of the major crossover between the Jiu Jitsu and cannabis subcultures that continues to explode in popularity and attention.

In many ways, BJJ and cannabis (aka “weed, pot, or marijuana”) go hand in hand.

Cannabis in BJJ

Image source: VICE

Until recently, both were counter-culture type activities that cater to folks who are not in the mainstream in one way or another.

Now, both activities are very mainstream.

In some ways, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and cannabis seem to be odd partners.

After all, BJJ is a combat sport that requires discipline, focus, and peak physical condition for the best performance.

Marijuana was until fairly recently an illegal drug with a mainstream reputation for producing burnouts, lack of motivation, and underachievement.

The ‘truth,’ whatever that means, is somewhere in between.

While cannabis is a drug that can have harmful consequences in certain circumstances, many people, athletes included, use it sustainably and relatively safely for recreation, medicinal value, and to enhance a given BJJ training session.

In some cases, competitive BJJ training will be demanding and require ultimate focus unhindered by any additional chemicals in your brain.

Other times, catching a good buzz before an hour or two of training can be a great way to maximize the enjoyment of your session and hit different flow states.

In this article, I break down cannabis in modern BJJ and discuss a few pros and cons of using cannabis in conjunction with your training.

So, sit back, spark one up (or not), and enjoy the article! 

Cannabis in Modern Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Given its decades long history of being very illegal, it was not until recently that cannabis could even enter mainstream discussions as something other than a very bad thing that you should never do, ever.

However, as more and more developed countries move towards decriminalization, medical use, and all-out recreational marijuana, high profile individuals at different levels of the BJJ community seem far more willing to be open about their marijuana use.

While bad boy counterculture names such as the Diaz brothers and Eddie Bravo never had issues openly talking about their weed smoking (or at least, none that they cared about), times are certainly different today than they were just 10 years ago.

These days, dispensaries and cannabis product brands across the United States sponsor both BJJ and MMA athletes under no uncertain terms.

On an even bigger note, in 2018 the High Rollerz BJJ promotion became the first tournament of its kind to be openly supportive of cannabis. 

High Rollerz

Specifically, the tournament requires, or at least allows and recommends, competitors to ingest cannabis before they compete.

Additionally, winning a High Rollerz bracket usually gets you some cannabis goodies, including pipes, bongs, and even large amounts of actual cannabis depending on which bracket you won.

Given that High Rollerz has now hosted events in multiple states with filled-out rosters, I’d hazard to guess we will see more promotions running similar types of events going into the future.

On a more subtle note, non-disparaging talk of cannabis use in BJJ gyms is on the rise, and you may even find a couple of the trainees toking up out back before or after class.

From the overt sponsorships and pro-weed BJJ tournaments to the softer, subtler social situations, the overall integration of weed culture into BJJ gyms is obvious to most BJJ folks training at regular gyms in major metro areas.

Benefits of cannabis for BJJ

Cannabis is here to stay in BJJ culture – but is it beneficial?

Truthfully, the best answer is it depends on who you ask.

Many “canna-athletes” self-report that cannabis helps their BJJ performance.

For example, in 2018 Kron Gracie discussed his heavy cannabis use with B-Real from Cypress Hill, saying “you can be a functional athlete and smoke weed,” among a few other fairly epic one-liners.

A 2020 article from Cannabis Aficianado discusses some top pro MMA fighters who openly support cannabis, including the famous Diaz brothers in addition to names such as Jake Shields and Sean “Suga” O’Malley, who now has his own cannabis strain.

It is worth noting that not all of the fighters mentioned above claim to use cannabis directly for performance benefits, nor do they all brand as canna-athletes.

However, between injury management, recovery, and of course, fun, many high-level martial artists are publicly supportive of cannabis use.

For pro athletes, the question of whether cannabis actually improves performance has legal ramifications, given that performance enhancing substances are frequently banned.

Recently, the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) determined that cannabis is not considered performance enhancing, which contradicts the World Anti Doping Agency’s (WADA) classification of cannabis as dangerous and performance enhancing.

This is good news for athletes subject to the NAC’s rules because it means they can decide for themselves if they want to use cannabis for recovery or perceived performance benefits, as opposed to having the commission rule it’s use out completely.

For us regular BJJ folk, smoking cannabis can be an enjoyable way to enhance the training experience. In our case, we set our goals and expectations for our training.

If you personally find being a little (or a lot) stoned during your training helps you get the most out of your BJJ, then, toke up (if it’s legal where you live, of course).

Downsides of Cannabis for BJJ

Nothing in life is free, and this certainly applies to using substances like cannabis.

Although cannabis feels good to many of us, there is no denying that it can affect working memory and learning ability.

While this may or may not be sufficient to hinder your learning of BJJ, if you find yourself too stoned to follow the directions, you are doing yourself and your partners a disservice and would be better served to train with a clear head.

Additionally, there is no denying that smoking anything will have some impact on physical performance. After all, your lungs bring in the oxygen needed to power your whole system during training.

Interfering with this by inhaling foreign matter, including smoke from cannabis, should be an obvious concern in terms of maximizing your respiratory performance.

Nate Diaz BJJ

While it’s clear that some athletes such as the Diaz brothers seem to have insane cardio despite their cannabis use, they may be the exception rather than the rule.

Furthermore, if you do a ton of hard training, you may mask the lesser downside of inhaling cannabis smoke by having a much greater overall aerobic fitness from your training.

Regardless, it is your personal choice to ingest things or not (if legal), but just keep in mind that smoking anything should be a concern when looking at optimal lung function.

Beyond the direct health effects on you personally, you should consider your training partners before hotboxing your car in the parking lot.

If your Gi smells like used bongwater and your breath is like an ashtray, you are punishing your training partner for your choice.

Furthermore, if you are too stoned to keep up in class either intellectually or physically, you should rethink how much weed you smoke before training.

Tips for using cannabis with BJJ

By now you have the gist of some major pros and cons of smoking weed for BJJ.

Assuming you decide you do want to partake in both activities (weed and BJJ), the following tips can help you avoid the pitfalls of weed smoking and still get the beneficial components.

  1. Consider using a vaporizer or edibles – this might be tough for you die-hard doobie smokers, but using a vaporizer or edible cannabis eliminates much, if not all, of the risk from smoking, including health and stinkiness factors.
  2. Know your tolerance – for the sake of your training partners and your own time, do not get so high before class that you cannot mentally follow practice.
  3. Mix it up – consider doing some training in a sober frame of mind in addition to your ‘enhanced’ training to ensure you get the ‘best of both worlds’ and know exactly how cannabis affects you during training compared to being sober.
  4. Make sure your gym is okay with it – while I don’t recommend going right up to a new coach and asking if you can show up stoned, before your first pre-class mind-melt session, you should gauge the vibe of your school to make sure you do not offend the instructor. Be respectful.

Cannabis in BJJ: the bottom line

With current trends, legal cannabis use is here to stay in BJJ.

As with any activity, there are pros and cons to smoking weed in conjunction with BJJ training that you should continually consider if you partake in these pursuits.

So, be realistic about your goals in BJJ and whether using cannabis supports or hinders them.

From there, relax, have fun with training, and toke up if you so choose!

December 15, 2021