I’m addicted to grappling.

I go through withdrawal periods when it’s not available where I become ornery. I get a jump of excitement and enjoyment (dopamine) just watching grappling videos or getting ready to go grapple. I crave it. It’s a consuming part of my life that I have put before many other things in the past (including family, relationships, and school). When I was in college I actually used to build my class schedule around grappling. At the time it was called “dedication”, but that’s the same kind of attitude that says “rehab is for quitters.” If I don’t grapple for a few days straight I start to see a dip in productivity at work and begin to have more strained social interactions.

The only real difference between meth and wrestling is that meth probably won’t give you an eight-pack and a grip strength greater than your body weight (though PCP might…). Let’s face it, with staph and cross-facing I’d probably look like a meth-head if I didn’t wear a mouth guard, wash my gi after every use, and shower religiously after practice. Missing teeth and holes in one’s skin are still a risk. Oh, and it’s unlikely that my garage will explode because I’m addicted to grappling, but I probably will end up in the hospital more that you’re average crackhead.

So I’m addicted, but I’m addicted to an activity that’s far more likely to keep kids off the street and sober. When was the last time a street gang did a drive by because someone was wrestling on their mats? If you can answer that with a date I urge you to move somewhere with a lower crime rate in general. I don’t feel like self-control, discipline, or respect are intrinsic to martial arts. To be honest I think the tenants of Tae Kwon Do are a lie to get parents to sign their kids up. I do think that putting your kid in a structured activity where they have healthy social interactions is a stand-up suggestion though. It’s hard to be on the street pushing crack when you’re in the gym getting ready for a meet. Being involved in a sport will teach your kids to play well with others and give them a hobby they can talk about and share with friends. The fact that your kid could slap a flying mare on the school bully if push came to shove doesn’t hurt either.

Again, it’s not without its drawbacks though. I have my own supply of Durable Medical Equipment (DME). I own two walking boots, a set of crutches, knee braces, and a sling. I buy vet wrap in bulk three times a year to use on sprains. Every fracture I have ever had has happened within the last five years. This sport can literally kill you, but I wouldn’t quit in 100 years.

You learn to be more careful. You learn that invincibility and invulnerability aren’t related, and winning isn’t worth a broken neck. If you’re a big-ass comic nerd I’d recommend Invincible Ed. Imagine a kid who can’t die, but who can experience horrific traumatic pain and injury. That’s about how I felt last spring when my foot was in three distinct pieces. I was walking around on it for a full day before I scheduled a doctor’s appointment to have it looked at. I ended up being in a boot for 8 weeks. On that note, if you have any form of lower-body injury, an ER or Urgent Care is strongly recommended.

I haven’t broken a bone in almost a year. That’s quite a feat considering I was on an every three-month rotation for major injuries. I just don’t go with the guys who are dangerous any more. It’s become more apparent lately, to the point where my hiatus from judo this summer will be almost welcome. It’s no fun going to a class where you don’t want to work with half the people because you know they care more about touching your shoulders to the mat than keeping your knee in tact. At some level that becomes the responsibility of the instructor to talk to the individuals who are dangerous, but first and foremost, it’s your job to keep yourself safe. You are fighting after all.

There is no methadone for the grappling addict, but it is the prime example of that which does not kill you.


One thought on “Addiction

  1. It absolutely is an addiction. I structure FAR too much of my life around BJJ/BJJ tournaments/etc, but I figure I can only do this for a little while. Eventually, my body is going to say “you can play, but no more competition for you, woman. Leave me alone.” And until that happens I want to squeeze every ounce of fun out of BJJ/competition/grappling, haha.

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