Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Homecoming and Claustrophobia

Holidays, sickness, family, laziness, they have all kept me away from BJJ for the last month or so.  Tonight I went back and it was just like a homecoming.  I was warmly greeted by my BJJ family.  I realized how much I missed them and they let me know I was missed.  It was great.  I had a a interesting experiences in class that I can’t go without mentioning.  It was a very eventful night. 

I came face to face with my old nemesis claustrophobia.  Mark, our instructor, was demonstrating what looked liked a reversed scarf hold.  I was the dummy.  I started to get claustrophobia.  We weren’t moving.  He was just explaining.  I had a few minutes, which seemed like hours, to think about what I was feeling.  I knew I wasn’t in danger and that Mark would quickly let go if I tapped.  But there inside of me was the panic.  It wouldn’t go away no matter how I reasoned with it.  I felt irritated that it was so primal and that I couldn’t banish it with the obvious fact that I was in no immediate danger.   I controlled it.  I didn’t tap.  What I learned in that short while was I will always have fear and I can master it.  I had a internal battle and won.  The war rages on.

Jiu-Jitsu is Life and Life is Jiu-Jitsu

5 Tips to Overcoming Claustrophobia In BJJ

There is nothing like being in North South with someone’s chest on your face to give claustrophobia or the fear of being suffocated.  You feel enclosed.  You are breathing hot moist air.  You desperately want to get out.  The next thing you know is your heart starts racing and your breathing with it.  What do you do to overcome this?  Here are the 5 tips I’ve gleamed and have started working on:

  1. Relax.  Easier said then done!  But I’ve found that I can reduce my anxiety by first reminding myself this isn’t life or death.  If it was he wouldn’t be staying on me in this position long before I took a huge bit out of his chest.  Think about something that will help you relax.  I try to think of something warm I like wrapped around me like a blanket.
  2. Control your breathing.  Once again, easier said then done!  If your opponent isn’t going to move then take that time to slow your breathing.  Chances are that is what he is doing too, resting.
  3. Find something to help you practice over coming it.  I have found that the hot moist air bothers me the most.  I can simulate that under a thick quilt.  I try to stay under longer each time.  I’m starting to develop more tolerance for the feeling.
  4. Improve your escapes.  If you have one that you get in all the time that causes you to feel claustrophobic then what better motivation to become a expert at getting out of it.
  5. Create Space.  When you are on the bottom that’s your job anyway.  It doesn’t have to be enough to escape at first.  You may do it just to get situated to wait for your opponents next move.  It may be just to make your opponent uncomfortable.  When you are moving around even a little you start to find pockets of comfort I’ve discovered.  If you stay still your situation is one dimensional.  Open up some other options for yourself by “wiggling” around.

Now not all cases of claustrophobia I understand are physical like mine.  Some require expert help.  I don’t presume to solve all cases in this post.  I’m just trying to as they say, cherry pick,  the easiest.  This is what is working for me.  I hope it helps you too.