A sort of phobia

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By David Corrigan – Progressive Martial Arts Academy

Tonight, I decided to sit down and watch “Ultimate Gracie” on Spike TV.

This documentary tells a story that if you train martial arts and especially Jiu-Jitsu, you should have heard, read or seen many times over. About 25 minutes into the documentary, it gets to Royce Gracie’s first fight at UFC I vs. the champion boxer, Art Jimmerson.

Royce against Art Jimmerson, UFC 1. Photo: Susumu Nagao.

As I was watching the story unfold, I saw and then heard something that in my opinion explains a lot. I saw Art Jimmerson in the exact same position that James Toney found himself in against Randy Couture a few weeks back in the same Octagon – the Mount. In both situations, the boxer had absolutely no idea what to do.

In the James Toney fight, you could see the legs flat to the mat, which is an obvious sign that the person has no experience escaping the mount. So the question arises, if the world was introduced to Jiu-Jitsu back in 1993 when Royce mounted a boxer and won a fight without a single punch being thrown by the boxer, why are there still people, more specifically fighters, that do not train Jiu-Jitsu?

Couture finishes Toney. Photo: Al Bello/Zuffa LLC

Then Art answered the question for me. “It was a sort of phobia.” He tapped out because there was a 170-pound kid on top of him that he could not get off. It was just scary. Panic sets in and there is nothing left to do.

Luckily, his life did not depend on it and he had the ability to tap out! Despite MMA and Jiu-Jitsu becoming vastly popular around the world, there are still millions of people who have no idea how to handle themselves in a fight, and even more so on the ground. I firmly believe that one of the primary reasons is this phobia that was mentioned tonight on Spike TV.

I have witnessed in my time teaching Jiu-Jitsu, grown men submit because of this panic that sets in when one realizes that they cannot escape, even when no one is punching them! I will always remember my teacher, Pedro Brandao Lacerda, telling me that he was going to “think heavy,” and all of a sudden his side control literally felt like one hundred kilos!

I have tried my hardest to pass this on to our students at PMA, because I think this sort of claustrophobia is a very important obstacle to overcome in your Jiu-Jitsu training. My students luckily have recognized the benefits of continuing to train and overcoming this panic by learning to relax and escape.

Hopefully with time, more people will take the plunge and start training martial arts. If someone can overcome the phobia and fear of stepping out onto the mat, they will experience one of the most rewarding journeys of a lifetime. Have you started your journey yet?

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