If you do jiu-jitsu and have social media, you’ve seen Drew Weatherhead’s work whether you’ve wanted to or not. A master of memes, Weatherhead is the creator of what is probably the internet’s most popular jiu-jitsu meme page, Because Jitsu. With over 90,000 Instagram followers and 36,000 Facebook followers (which probably include most of, if not all of your jiu-jitsu idols), Because Jitsu has established itself as a leader in BJJ-based humor, and its success is born from Weatherhead’s impeccable combination of passion and sarcasm.
Weatherhead’s journey into jiu-jitsu began with Karate, then Illustrisimo Kali (a Philippino weapons art). “I thought it would be more practical to train to use a knife for street defense,” he says. “Two years into that training, I started questioning the efficacy of interrupting a bladed attacker, let alone disarming someone intent on cutting or stabbing me.”
In 2007, Weatherhead was hanging out with a friend he’d met in Karate, but who was now known as “The BJJ Guy” (“That is to say, he owned a couple Marco Ruas VHSes from the ’90s and knew how to do armbars and triangle chokes,” says Weatherhead.) The friends started horsing around, and Weatherhead ended the “match” with what was essentially an Americana that he had learned from his time practicing Kali. Even though Weatherhead was inside his friend’s closed guard, the submission worked, and from that day forward, he knew he’d finally found the martial art for him. “For the first time in my five years of martial arts training, I experienced something pure. It wasn’t subjective or hypothetical. My opponent… admitted that I won against his best efforts. This was real,” he says. The next day, he looked up his local jiu-jitsu gym and began training that week. Three weeks later, he was competing. Eleven years later, he’s with the same instructor and two years into his brown belt.
Despite Weatherhead’s love for the art, he — like many of us who have been training for years — has also experienced frustration with it. About three years ago, an “inter-political mess” was starting to weigh on him and cause him to be “bitter” toward jiu-jitsu. “I wanted to lash out, and being Canadian, my most extreme version of that was sarcasm. So, initially, I started making and posting memes to poke fun at all the absurdities I saw in BJJ, politically or otherwise.” The memes were more relatable than he’d anticipated. Within a week, Because Jitsu had attracted 1,000 followers on Instagram, and Weatherhead’s perspective started to change. “My goal stopped being passive aggression and focused on making my followers say ‘heh’ as they scrolled through their feed a few times per day.”
Once just a “sh*t-poster,” Weatherhead now packs some serious smarts when it comes to social media. He’s noticed trends in how the type of humor carried by memes applies to our choke-happy corner of the internet, and he now has a hierarchy that he says consistently predetermines the success of any given meme. “Starting from the most well received to the least, the order goes like this: Relatable, situational, motivational, puns/wordplay,” he explains, adding that the fact that most of his memes are ‘relatable’ isn’t an accident (even though his personal favorite category is the one involving puns and wordplay).
Weatherhead says that his method for creating viral memes places visuals at the forefront. “The way I get the large majority of my material will be by finding pictures that catch my eye in a way that tells me, ‘There’s something in there.’ I almost never know what the joke is going to be when I first see the picture. But I can tell immediately that a picture has a joke somewhere in it,” he says.
Despite his undeniable wit and his self-taught social media skills, Weatherhead remains surprised at just how successful he’s become. “I actually feel guilty sometimes that I have more followers than legitimate world champions and major industry brands and moguls. I guess everyone needs levity,” he says. And it’s not just the sheer numbers that shock him, either — he has some legitimate stars that have opted into his daily dose of martial arts humor. “Being followed by people like Joe Rogan, Nick Diaz, Justin Wren etc… in my mind, I’m just a blue-collar dude from small-town Alberta with a cell phone! It’s very personally encouraging.”
Although he has a busy life, Weatherhead hasn’t missed a single day of posting since Because Jitsu’s inception. This streak has not only given his followers an incessant source of amusement, but it’s also provided him with a positive routine in his life. “What it’s served in a practical sense is giving me something to look forward to every day. Life is hard. It can suck some days in all sorts of ways. Making memes that people enjoy has become as much a respite for me as it is for them,” he says.
While producing a consistent stream of content obviously has its challenges, Weatherhead says that the struggles he encounters are mostly “minor.” He has multiple sources that he uses to find images that serve as the “backdrop to his humor,” which solves the predicament of how he could possibly come up with enough content to keep his followers (and himself) satisfied. But even though he puts out between three and six original memes per day, he swears that his process really isn’t that time-consuming. He does everything on his phone, and with each meme taking between five and ten minutes to create and upload, a day’s worth of content can be done in under an hour.
To put a proverbial cherry on top of all of Because Jitsu’s success, Weatherhead’s hobby has turned into something even more productive than a way to brighten people’s day. “One of the more surprising and justifying aspects that has come as of mid-last year was the realization that I can make money doing this!” he says. “That started with a blanket sponsorship by the great people at North South Jiu-Jitsu Underwear. It’s since transformed into my own product line. All from just making BJJ people laugh!”
One can safely assume that only great things are in store for Weatherhead and Because Jitsu, and he’s certainly pushing to make them happen. We can expect more of the same BJJ humor on the Because Jitsu Facebook and Instagram pages, and Weatherhead has created a Facebook group called Future Influencers to share what he’s learned about social media growth with others who hope to achieve his level of success. This is all on top of starting his own academy in Blackfalds, Alberta called Central Alberta Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (which will host its first class on June 5). Oh, and he’s also the promoter of the Submission Ace Championship, which is the largest sub-only jiu-jitsu event in western Canada.
Weatherhead also hinted at another “major project” that he’s working on and is “very very excited about,” but says that we have to wait a while before getting more details on that. “When it’s ready, I hope to make a MAJOR splash on the BJJ scene globally!” he says.
No matter how all these big plans play out, Weatherhead is grateful for everything that has happened thus far in his journey of jiu-jitsu and internet humor. “I just want to express to everyone who follows me how deeply appreciative I am for their continued and increasing support! Personally, financially, emotionally and spiritually. I can’t convey how huge this whole this has become to me and I don’t take any of it for granted!”