Grief and BJJ

This isn’t really something people talk about, but I think it has pertinence in a lot of people’s lives and whether we like it or not, as much as we talk about leaving our personal issues off of the mat, it does effect our training and our time at the gym.

Grief can be caused by a variety of situations- it’s the sorrow of losing someone, either (usually) through death, or sometimes emotionally through say a divorce or break up after a long relationship.  Anyway, anyone who knows me is well aware that I hate talking about personal things (in general- it’s not you, it’s me, I promise), but I’ve had experience with both kinds since I’ve started in jiu jitsu. Well, I haven’t divorced anyone- two outta three ain’t bad, right? Anyway, the recent loss of a family member prompted this topic.

It’s interesting because we talk about what to do and how to cope with physical injuries- a dislocated joint, a torn ligament. Sometimes we do talk about how emotions effect our jiu jitsu, but more in the light of how to deal with the dejection of defeat: rarely do we talk about managing the very real and painful loss of someone close to us, and how to come back from that.

Obviously your experience may vary, but personally I have felt a bit of an internal struggle. Physically I’m fine- everything is in more or less working order, no different than it was the day before. Emotionally however the entire landscape has changed:again it could vary depending on what stage of grief you’re in and a variety of other factors, but let’s say for the sake of argument you’re in a place where it feels like that part of your brain that says, “hey, come on, let’s do this thing!” has decided to take a nap and/or has been wrapped burrito-style in a big, wet, heavy blanket.


The ultimate thing is that it’s ok to be sad: it’s ok to acknowledge these feelings. Bottling them up, ignoring them at best won’t make them go away, and at worst will end up creating a bigger problem than just dealing with them in the first place.

It’s also ok to take some time off of the mat: I would say just let your instructor know what’s going on. If you suddenly disappear that’s cause for concern, but I feel at this point everyone knows what it feels like to lose a loved one, and if you let your coach know what’s going on they should give you the space and time that you need. And if they don’t, it may be time to re-evaluate what kind of gym you are spending your time in.

When you feel like it’s time to get back to training, don’t just throw yourself into training just as hard as you were before. Again, experiences may vary but grief really isn’t something you can turn on and off like a faucet: it’s more of a thunderstorm that rolls in, and eventually out. Give yourself time to work back into the routine of things and most of all be patient with yourself: sometimes emotions can take a lot out of you, make you more tired than you may realize. Treat it like coming back from an illness such as a cold or flu- take it one step at a time before you go full speed ahead.

And finally understand that many people, including your teammates, have gone through the same thing. If you feel comfortable enough, talk to some of them- jiu jitsu is a community, and your teammates I’m sure do care. Or at the very least will be a little more understanding if mid-training you suddenly curl up into a ball and start crying out of nowhere.

How have you dealt with grief and training in the past? Let me know- otherwise, have a great day everyone.



Filed under bjj, jiu jitsu, jiu jitsu and health, Uncategorized

6 responses to “Grief and BJJ

  1. Pingback: June 3, 2016 - BJJ News

  2. Britton Calvert

    Before my relationship ended I often felt that jiu jitsu was the one other thing I had that mattered. Now that it ended, I realized that jiu jitsu is nothing compared to human relationship and will not meet my needs for intimacy and contact in any way like my relationship did (to some extent). I used to think maybe it would be cool if I were single and could train all the time but now I am single and train less.

  3. Evert

    When my mother got really ill, I started to train every day. Three days of jits and four days of other sports in a week. BJJ gave me the opportunity to burn my feelings of sadness and anger for her situation on the mat. That really felt good.
    She died over a year ago now and I am still in this routine. BJJ clears my mind and helps me how to learn to handle the tough things in life. It makes me feel good about myself.
    I’m 47 years old now, wish i had discovered BJJ earlier and hope to train for the rest of my life.

  4. onshorecurrent

    I find it hard to open up with my teammates about these things. Some i dobt care to share that amount of vulnerability and intimacy with and others are great supports. I recently against my gut dated a giy from my gym and he broke up with me and I didn’t realize it was coming. We both want to train at the club which I thought would be easy because I used to be able to shut off and train but once you have that emotional and deep intimacy and connection it makes the loss even more apparent and lonely. Especially when they are being cold and defensive at the gym for your 2-5 mins drill sessions. I think it get easier. Fingers crossed.

  5. Great article and thank you for sharing. It is an you say grief or dealing with matter external to the Dojo are difficult for some to express, especially on the mat.

    The other day a friend and student at my school was quieter than usual. When were sparing I tried to engage him lime we always, fun, jokes, techniques. But as an Uke you know when something is wrong with your partner. I tried to speak with him and eventually after a few days he was receptive and I was able to help. But I still don’t know what was bothering him.

    I don’t need to I just need to know my people are OK. I am very open person and have learned to do be so over time. I find that keeping in the sadness or the issue that is bother me only creates more stress and builds anger. Jiu-jitsu is our expression of who we are on the mat. When something bothers me I usually spar Sensei he we do a drill I have grown to call overcome yourself. Sensei will know something is wrong like an uke should, and we will spar until the anxiety has built up and my problem is interfering with my jujitsu. I have to choose tap because I am so upset and cannot figure a way out or remeber that my pain is temporary and it will just like my position. Calm myself and being to work. The first time I tapped. The second time I did not but I was I’m tears.

  6. BJJ Fiend

    Great post. Had a few things get in the way of training for almost a month, putting me in the wring headspace. I hope you’re ok now and have gotten through your grieving period 🙂

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