A Doctor’s Jiujitsu Journey

There are many reasons to train BJJ – the fitness, self-defence, meeting great people, and the fact that it’s just really good fun. My brief journey has already taught principles that apply beyond the mats, in particular about knowing how I handle stressful situations.

When you first roll, you don’t know what you’re doing. You thrash and try to use strength and aggression to overcome your partner. This is a bad idea. Bench-pressing them off you gives them access to armbars and exposes your neck. Violent thrashing drains your energy. You may panic, get angry or just want to stay in a state of denial, and overwhelm your mind to the point of fatigue, stress and ultimately, bad decision-making.

As you proceed, you learn skilled movements that wouldn’t instinctively come to you – the hip escape, bridging, spinning on your back. You learn the value of creating space, or ‘frames’. You start to unlock little pieces of the puzzle. Most importantly, you learn to recognise your own stress levels and emotional reactions to challenging situations – and the value of slowing down and breathing.

This is profound. Life constantly exposes us to challenging situations. Understanding how you react to stress, fatigue, and the impact of your emotional state is highly valuable. You can recognise when your thinking is being clouded by fatigue, anger, pain, overload or your own attitude to the threat of losing. And you can steer yourself back onto the path before you make a poor decision with lasting consequences.

I work as a hospital doctor and regularly get pushed past my comfort zone. Working long hours many days in a row in my environment is emotionally taxing. There are always multiple problems to tackle. There is never enough time or support. There’s noise, bright lights, interruption and sleep deprivation. These realities are fixed aspects of the system. What isn’t fixed is how you handle them.

BJJ helps me know when those factors are getting to me, affecting my frame or perspective – e.g. making impulsive decisions based on overload, overly risk-averse ones due to anxiety, or reckless calls when fatigue is stopping me from thinking things through; when ego and pride are clouding my judgement. When I need to take 5 minutes to pause and think, or get a second opinion before acting. And most of all, the value of just breathing.

A short time into my BJJ journey I can honestly say the practice of BJJ has helped me in my professional life. Training and rolling regularly have given me the means to gain a better understanding of my own stress levels and how to handle challenges, and not let my ego or emotions lead to poor decisions. If this is something you might find valuable, check it out – and like I said at the start, it’s a lot of fun!

-All credit for this blog post goes to N.W. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us!

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