High Rollerz: Can Brazilian Jiu Jitzu and Cannabis Work?
Brazilian Jiu Jitzu is complicated and takes a lot of patience to learn even the absolute basics. In fact, BJJ is easily the hardest martial art that I’ve taken part in. The intricate jungle of knotted limbs makes it stand out among the rest. On the mats, you’re battling with your awkward movements whilst also thinking about trying that really bizarre move you saw Bruce Lee do that time. Most of the things that you try at the beginning will result in being tapped and leave you cursing your misplaced limbs and inability to remember the simplest of moves.
So, how is it that most Brazilian Jiu Jitzu fighters that I know use cannabis? I’m not even talking after a class, I’m talking right before rolling; including in competition. How do they manage to balance a high whilst trying to have an extreme focus on their movements? Do they overthink the operation of their body? It’s a thing I’ve always wondered but failed to discover an answer to.
I couldn’t imagine taking cannabis right before a Kickboxing competition. It would be the last thing that I would consider. I can imagine feeling very fragile and much more unwelcoming to being hit by my opponent – I’d go as far as saying I’d probably feel a bit scared. Forget about what’s going to happen to my body, my mind would be in complete overdrive. “What if I hurt my opponent?”, “Should I even bother jumping for this kick? I’ll probably fall anyway”, “I wonder where the closest shop is to buy a packet of Doritos?”
I’ve spoken to some grapplers on the topic, but it’s never been fully clear to me how it’s achievable. I’ve done my share of research on the matter and came across a hugely impressive competition known as ‘High Rollerz’, which is essentially a BJJ competition that encourages cannabis to be used; even on the mats!
Athletes Brain on Mary Jane
It’s no secret at this stage that some athletes use cannabis and CBD products to help with their performance, or even for the aches and pains that ensue. Active ingredients in the cannabis sativa plant has more than 100 cannabinoids. However, there are 2 main components that we will talk about; CBD and THC.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the component that gives you the ‘high’ that casual users will look for. It usually makes the user feel a sense euphoria. Cancer patients have shouted to the rooftops about its benefits and has helped them with their appetite and nausea.
Whereas cannabidiol (CBD) does not make the user feel intoxicated and still reaps in the benefits of what THC can provide. It can also be used to treat a variety of things including;
So, I can see why athletes turn to CBD for pain management, but why cannabis in its fullness? Surely you’d feel too hazy and phased out to compete?
Athletes have said that under the influence of cannabis, their thought process seems to slow down and therefore can do more exercise without realising. There is a science behind this. Those that run will tell you all about ‘runners high’ as being one of the best feelings that you can experience. As a matter of fact, ‘runners high’ is not very far off of what a cannabis high does to your brain. Both are similar in the way that they are caused by endorphins and a neurotransmitter known as anandamide.
Anandamide stimulates a sense of euphoria, lessens feelings of anxiety and is your body’s natural high. In a recent study, researchers experimented on a group of mice. What they found was that after having the mice run, their levels of pain and anxiety decreased and anandamide levels increased. The most interesting part is that when researchers blocked their CB1 receptors, the levels of pain and anxiety shot back up.
What this essentially means is that the benefits of exercising is controlled by our endocannabinoid system.
Rolling High with High Rollerz
It wasn’t too hard to come across High Rollerz. Their popularity has shot up since their first official competition in 2018. There has always been a discussion on sports and recreational cannabis use. As it happens, there is a whole community of athletes that combine cannabis with mixed martial arts.
High Rollerz is a Brazilian Jiu Jitzu competition that’s dedicated to combining marijuana with the martial art. Co-founders Matt Staudt and Lonn Howard proudly demonstrate how their sub-only GI competition works. First and foremost, it was built to destigmatize cannabis for athletes to show that it is possible to function at exceptional levels. Competitors typically smoke before a match and then compete to win a pound of cannabis per category (purple, brown and black belt divisions). In fact, you have to smoke before you compete, that’s one of the rules.
Don’t confuse this for an amateur competition. The professionalism seems outstanding and the High Rollerz team of workers put in extreme effort into making this a polished and prudent competition.
They have great support and with Eddie Bravo (founder of 10th Planet Jiu Jitzu) as one of the main referee’s, the tournament has gathered huge interest. High Rollerz abide by EBI (Eddie Bravo Invitational) rules which state that;
The rules may seem bleak but in reality, the competitors are completely relaxed and don’t seem to fret; yet another benefit to toking before rolling. After all, they’re taking part in a one-of-a-kind spectacle. Brazilian Jiu Jitzu fighters speak of how superior High Rollerz is, and how it allows them to express themselves. The ban on cannabis for competitive sports is mostly worldwide and has put an end to a number of fighting careers.
Why Don’t Other Organisations Allow Cannabis Use?
Coming back to reality, cannabis remains a Schedule I drug under federal law. Arguably, the most famous platform for martial artists at the moment is within the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). With their anti-doping program, they have caught numerous competitors after drug tests have come back positive for marijuana (and plenty of other drugs). The most notorious of course being Nick Diaz who received a 5-year ban back in 2015 following his failed drug test before UFC 183. This is why High Rollerz is a safe place for cannabis users.
Cannabis is classed as illegal under WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) and most of the world abides by their rule-set. The agency ensures that harmonisation among competitive athletes is procured and protects sportsmanship by forbidding any kind of sports enhancing drugs.
Truth be told, cannabis is a sports enhancing drug. The reason that it is on the WADA prohibited list is that it reduces anxiety, increases airflow to the lungs by acting as a bronchodilator, and helps you to focus. Its help with pain and injury management is also taken into consideration. This is because when athletes encounter damage when performing, they don’t usually notice it until after the competition (after the cannabis has left their system). These simple reasons put a user ahead of other athletes and it’s deemed unfair.
However, there is a shining light at the end of this slightly shaded tunnel. WADA has officially lifted the ban on CBD as of early 2018 and other organizations quickly followed suit. Thus meaning that the UFC and the USADA have finally accepted its use.
It will be interesting to see how the attraction rate increases for High Rollerz as their competition grows in popularity. Be sure to catch updates on this competition here.