Brazilian Jiu-jitsu offers many benefits that have resulted in positive enchantments in its participants. BJJ Brown Belt, Brandon David, is proven evidence of the positive results the grappling arts have produced. David’s life has been a continual uphill battle living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Unfortunately, his illness ramifications have created an endless challenge of mentally contending and coping with the hardships of the past. Fortunately, since his entry into Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, David’s participation has become a lifesaver in bringing balance, peace, fulfillment, and the skills to combat his continual battle within.
How did Brazilian Jiu-jitsu change Brandon David’s Life? David gives his testimony in this exclusive interview with MYMMANEWS.
The effects of PTSD, unfortunately, force an individual to carry heavy burdens of traumatic life experiences. Reflecting on your life, would you say this statement is factual?
Brandon David: “This is absolutely true for me. My story of PTSD is one of abuse, molestation, bullying, and rape that I started to endure at a very young age. It was compounded in my early 20’s by a stint through chemo, some radiation, and a few gnarly medical procedures. Everyone with PTSD has their own trauma history and with it a unique set of symptoms and triggers. Each traumatic life event chips away at your mental health to some extent, whether you realize it or not. For me, the trauma has given me the ability to endure farther than most in a lot of ways, but it has left me filled to the brim with anger and self-hatred as well as wildly emotionally unstable.”
How would you describe yourself before your participation in Martial Arts?
Brandon David: “A mess. I bounced from carrier to carrier, struggled with alcohol and hard drugs, self-harmed regularly, multiple suicide attempts, a couple of run-ins with the law, and even ended up homeless. While I had trained off and on throughout my life in various martial arts, I never truly found a place I fit. I even had a few amateur MMA fights early on, but they were motivated by rage/ego and did nothing to help my mental health. It was not until I found combat grappling and its combined sports in an aggressively competitive environment that I started to see significant positive changes in my life and mental health.”
At what point during that troubling stage did you become motivated toward making a positive change in your life?
Brandon David: “Through the love and compassion of my wife and a few friends that didn’t give up on me, I was able to sober up, find a job, and get off the streets. That said, I was still struggling hugely with undiagnosed mental illness. I was a walking ball of internalized rage waiting to explode, and to keep it all inside I regularly self-harmed. A lot of people think of self-harm as attention-seeking. At least for me, I didn’t want the attention; I just wanted the pain. It helped me keep all of the anger internalized and was how I would motivate myself to keep going with a smiling mask.”
What got you involved in Combat Sports?
Brandon David: “It was oddly my routine of self-harm that would eventually lead me to Combat Grappling and Jiu-Jitsu. A now cherished friend saw me regularly leaving work on breaks to go behind the shopping center I worked at to self-harm away from people. One day he saw me kicking and punching the outside of my car after whipping myself with a branch to the point I was covered almost head to toe in blood and changed my life forever. Despite the fact I was screaming, partially dissociated covered in blood attacking my car he came up to me and said something I’ll never forget ‘Jesus Christ dude if you need to get beat up that bad why don’t you come train with us and let us kick your ass.’ That single moment of compassion changed my whole life. The next day I signed up for my first Jiu-Jitsu school.”
What is it about Brazilian Jiu-jitsu that makes it a meaningful outlet, a perfect fit for Brandon David?
Brandon David: “On the surface, Jiu-Jitsu is a great athletic outlet and self-defense technique. For me, it is a far deeper connection and radiates profoundly through multiple areas of my life. As a rape victim, it helps me empower myself in a way few things can while providing me the tools to physically prevent almost anyone from ever hurting me like that again. The athletic benefits have helped me to stay healthy despite several severe health issues and even motivated me to change my diet for the better drastically. Most importantly, it has given me a place where I can go for mindfulness therapy. Because of my various mental health issues, it’s almost impossible for me to quiet my mind or meditate. The only ways I have been able to achieve a quiet mind require me to be close to death, and in a lot of ways, Jiu-Jitsu takes you there. That meditation or mindfulness, combined with the physical stress relief that I find when I step on the mats and roll, has been profound in helping deal with my PTSD.”
When did you start noticing a positive change within yourself?
Brandon David: “Almost instantly! Despite my Jiu-Jitsu journey being a bit of a roller coaster ride, I have achieved significant positive changes in my life. I find as long as I am training consistently, I have a drastically increased ability to deal with my PTSD symptoms.”
You have engulfed yourself in the BJJ Lifestyle, which has positively affected your life. A part of this lifestyle is being a competitor. What is your mindset when facing the challenge of competing against an opponent?
Brandon David: “I severely struggle with competitions. My lack of self-esteem and almost constant negative self-talk makes it extremely difficult to take a loss or achieve a proper competitive mindset. On top of it, my trauma history makes the physical aspects of the grappling competition both nauseating anxiety-provoking and triggering my PTSD. Lastly, if I am perfectly honest, I’m a little bit scared. Weirdly though, it’s also all of those aspects that draw me to the competition. Facing my fears/anxiety, stepping on the mats in competition, implementing my game plan, and pushing myself outside my comfort zone is what competition is all about for me. It’s through competing and rising to the challenge that I feel I achieve real growth as a person and newfound capacity to deal with my PTSD symptoms.”
Even while practicing Martial Arts, do you still struggle with PTSD? If yes, how does Brandon David combat those demons today?
Brandon David: “Despite training, I still struggle with my demons. Some days no amount of training will pull me out of my head, but that is very rare. However, as I consistently train, compete, and push myself to take positive actions, I see a significant reduction in PTSD symptoms.”
Throughout your journey, what is the biggest lesson you have learned about yourself that you never thought you would have discovered before BJJ?
Brandon David: “This humbling journey has taught me that I’m far stronger, both mentally and physically, than I could have ever imagined. It has helped me to become a better and more tolerant person.”
As you continue to grow, what do you see for yourself in the future?
Brandon David: “Foremost, my future in Jiu-Jitsu is about helping others to achieve the same growth and inner peace that I have found. I try to go out of my way to provide access to Jiu-Jitsu for people who otherwise wouldn’t have the means to train. As a teacher, I would like to continue to develop my unique style and work on my ability to integrate it with other systems. On a personal level, I would like to progress as a competitor while growing to be a better me.”