BJJ VS chronic pain


The other day after a little chat with my coach, he encouraged me to share a bit of my personal experience and journey in Jiu-jitsu, which as short as it is, I think is quite special.

In 2013 I had a sports injury, which completely changed my life, from the ability to use my body at will, to the way I see the world and how I relate to people. Said injury happened when I was training Aikido, specifically hip throws. My practice partner and I, being black belts, knew how to perform the throw and how to take it. A technique that I had practiced hundreds and hundreds of times before went wrong at that time. I tried to lift my uke over my hip and something in my back popped; I immediately knew that I had injured myself. I took some time off from the dojo, painkillers, anti-inflammatories and took good care of myself. Days went by, and I was still in severe pain.

I knew that I had to see a doctor. And, since then, I have literally gone to dozens of doctors both in Canada and abroad. I've had every test done, bone scan, MRI, CAT scan, Xrays, you name it. Nothing wrong shows up on the results. But the pain is still there, and the answer is always the same; I should be fine. Nobody knows what's wrong, and nobody knows how to help me.

I had therapies of all kinds. To date, it has been seven years since I've developed chronic pain, which means basically having pain 24/7, it started in the back, but sometimes it is on the hips, sometimes the legs, or feet, others it is all together. A pain that does not allow me to have a normal life, with which there is not a single minute of respite. Enduring so much pain and so constant causes me immense fatigue, regardless of whether I am standing, sitting, lying down. All of this obviously has a severe impact on mental health, which I also tried to address with experts, without any success.

About two years ago, I decided that if I was going to have pain anyway, no matter what I did, I should try to return to my passion, martial arts. Aikido was impossible, for all the falls it implies, so I opted for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Despite never having trained ground techniques, I felt comfortable and refreshed with the gi on, my white belt, and knowing that I was very likely to get beat up.

The warm-ups and physical conditioning are torturous. I have certain mobility restrictions, especially in the hips, which are fundamental. But when it comes to rolling, something happens in me; those are magical moments, in which there is nothing, there is no pain, only the desire to fight, to give the best of me, to learn, to survive and, if possible, to win, which is rare, but that's perfectly fine.

I would dare to say that anyone who has ever rolled with me and has tapped me out, can always see me with a big smile from ear to ear, or hear a good laugh. I like it when I win, of course, but even in losing there is something beautiful; being pushed to the limit and fighting for your integrity until the last second has something truly special.

Completely contraindicated by all the doctors who have treated me, and despite the fact that it is definitely not a simple activity in any sense, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has been a better therapy than those recommended to me for years. Of course, it is hard on the body, but it is extremely rewarding after a good fight and giving your all. BJJ strengthens you physically and mentally, in addition to all the chemical benefits that happen in the brain. Fighting, feeling strong even if you are losing every time, but getting up and going after more is the best medicine; it is simply unbeatable.

After doctors and medicine failed me, I found my treatment on the mats.

In the current circumstances, due to COVID-19, I have spent almost a year without my therapy, my medicine, my Jiu-Jitsu, and I have resented it a lot in all aspects, physical and mental. Sadly, the government has imposed new restrictions that, although understandable, are severe. Especially for small gyms, where COVID-19 could cause minimal harm compared to the benefits that their members obtain.

We have become accustomed to confinement, to distance ourselves; you can live like that, I guess, no one would have believed it, but that's how it has been. Personally, I don't need much, I am fine with most places closed down, but it's extremely hard that what makes you heal is prohibited. I'm not just talking about myself here, I know that many practitioners channel their emotions or whatever hardships through training, that thanks to it they have given positive turns to their lives, that they can stay in balance, healthy in body and mind, focused on their goals, etc.

Despite what is commonly thought and what the government regulates, for me, Jiu-jitsu, the dojo and my coach are essential.

Eric Briceno.

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856 Brown's Line Etobicoke, ON M8W 3W2

(back door)

Tel: 647-464-8162

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