and Sanity in BJJ*
by Guest Contributor
January 17, 2019 JST
of my earliest experiences in Grappling was meeting a senior black-belt
named Roberto Lage. He would have been in his late 40fs when I met him
in the city of Itu where I grew up as a child and where I first began
training. After rolling, Lage went on to compliment my skills (which
boosted my moral and ego since I was an eager beginner) and went on to
ask for my age, I told him I was 16, which seemed to surprise him. He
said he thought I was 13 (I was a small teenager) and in a joking
friendly manner said that the compliment should be cut in half (placing
my ego right back where it belonged). Lage followed this with some
advice that, although I remembered, I never took too seriously: gTake
care of your body.h
athletes know that the repeated push over the threshold of their
physical limitations come at a cost. Particularly those in combat
sports. As a young adult and competitor in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
scene, I knew that I would be paying this price one day but, at the
time, I simply didnft care. Life was good and I was on a mission and I
simply didnft care for any consequences. Over time, I came to compare
my physical health to a credit card. Itfs all fun and good-times until
the bill hits you. With interest, in the case of professional athletes.
notion that BJJ, or other impact-sports for that matter, are a
physically healthy practice, is ludicrous as well as deceitful. Selling
health has become standard business practice amongst BJJ gym owners.
When questioned, many BJJ instructors will tell you that it has benefits
to your cardiovascular and lung capacity. True, but this also overlooks
the fact that the same can be achieved after a 20 minutes light jog or
fast paced walk around the park (or even a swim for that matter) Without
the physical destructiveness of combat sports.
I hope this doesnft come across as an anti-BJJ piece in
any way. I simply feel the need to warn practitioners of the costs of such a
this out of the way, BJJ clearly has its benefits and they go well
beyond the self-defense and the physical exercise or even the
achievements that follow its practice. Its greatest benefit, in my view,
is the mental health (which is the health I am most concerned with) that
comes from its social environment and practice that makes BJJ so
beneficial. Additionally, I strongly feel that the benefits out-do the
negatives by a long margin. No regrets on my end.
Needless to say, that we all struggle with the consequences of
practice (those who practiced many years at a high-intensity level, more
so) and the health-industry has no shortage of options to supply the
demand. Even the term ghealthh has changed its meaning over time.
Had I ever asked my Brazilian grandfather what was meant by ghealthh
he would most likely been puzzled by the question. gHealthh to him,
probably meant that you were alive and not dying.
has always been a skeptic's martial-art, at least speaking on behalf of
my own experience. Belts donft necessarily establish the hierarchy and
onefs skill must be constantly verified where it matters most. This
skepticism was one of the traits that had originally enchanted me
towards BJJ. You have to walk the walk daily as well as back up your
rank against people constantly trying to outdo you on the mats. The gtatameh,
in this sense, becomes the lab where effectiveness is scrutinized daily.
Combat has taken it a step further and drastically changed the
perception the public and fighters have of combat. Traditional
martial-arts full of form, false-claims and unverified techniques, are
now forced to rethink their claims. Not all martial-arts are created
equal. Some, through much testing, go through the process of elimination
and selection that enrich its content and separate wishful thinking from
the reality of combat. The result is increased efficiency.
The same standard, unfortunately, doesnft always translate towards how
martial-artists in general views healing. In a recent discussion among
some friends the conversation came up. A friend of ours, a successful
MMA fighter and currently active had gone back to his hometown in Brazil
for a gspiritual surgery.h He suffered from an injury on this back
that wasnft healing at the desired rate. Suspicious of surgery
performed by doctors (or perhaps unable to pay for the cost of surgery
or insurance) he elected for the alternative route.
surgery was a success he said. The shaman had succeeded. As proof, he
said he felt better and the pain was going away slowly. I attempted to
argue with them, to no avail, that the body can heal itself. My friends
couldnft be convinced. They were unanimous that the
spiritual surgery had helped and thatfs all that mattered. It was
frustrating to say the least. It was entirely missed that the slow
healing fails to explain why the shaman with his supernatural ability
didnft heal his back at once.
I can relate. I recall when I tore my psoas during practice. For three
days I walked with a 45 degree lean to my right. I couldnft straighten
my back for anything in this world. After only one session of
acupuncture, my posture recovered a good 20-30 degrees in motion. But
that is my opinion, or rather how I remember (or want to remember) how
things went down. It is just as likely that the acupuncture had nothing
to do with my recovery. Many relatively minor injuries recover
spontaneously (or naturally) without any intervention. Without
scientific testing, there's no way to know what caused what to happen.
As someone once said, the easiest person to fool is yourself.1
of galternative medicineh will often construct a convenient
narrative around the practice and advocate well within placebo. Unaware
of their own bias, their advocacy has often more to do with their
identity as galternativeh than with factual improvement of their
overall health. Opinions, whether of a professional or not, are
meaningless when they donft stand the test of empirical testing.
And here lies the great fallacy of much of what is called galternative
medicineh or healing. The extent of its benefits is limited to either:
a) the bodyfs own healing ability; and b) the limitations of
scientific medicine. Furthermore, users of galternative medicineh
often make use of scientific medicine concomitantly with their
supernatural and alternative practices. Unfortunately, the credit for
such healings will seldom be given to the people who have lived their
lives behind books and in labs, but rather to the person who was
gblessedh with supernatural abilities.
claims of healing more often than not fail to pass the scrutiny of the
scientific method and its supernatural healing properties seem to come
with familiar limitations. I have yet to see any sort of spiritual
healing grow back a severed limb or rid the body of a virus such as
Herpes or HIV or even produce measurable effects on a simple blood test.2 It seems to me that the frontiers of spiritual healing
lay parallel to the frontiers of gah and gbh. Perhaps when
science pushes beyond this frontier (right around exactly the same time)
will the miraculous and supernatural step up their game. Practitioners
would certainly benefit from applying the same rigorous standards that
are used on the mats to their application of medicine. The results will
Richard Feynman said it here;
the idea is well-established in cognitive psychology. See also this
recent useful review here.
Acupuncture produces some effects, basically subjective, via
psychological anticipation of effects, but has not been found to produce
measurable objective effects due to the treatment (insertion of
needles). See here
for a brief, non-technical (but legitimate scientific) review.
to an anonymous reviewer for suggesting the links above.
(c) 2019, Robert Drysdale. All rights reserved.
views expressed in this article are those of the author and are
not necessarily endorsed in every detail by GTR.
Robert Drysdale articles exclusively on GTR:
on the Evolution of BJJ
Taught Oscar Gracie?
Gracie is Wrong
of book by João Alberto Barreto
Promotes Five Brazilians