Jiu Jitsu basically saved my life. And since then it has enriched my life and helped me heal and build amazing friendships. And I’ve used techniques I’ve learned since, to control situations that would have resulted in injury to myself or someone else.

I’m a paramedic in a large urban centre. I was in the back of my ambulance when my patient pulled out a knife. At the time I had learned some basic Japanese Jiu Jitsu self-defence techniques and I used what I knew to get the knife away. My partner then jumped in to help and we called for help but it took 10 minutes for police to arrive. It was a very long 10 minutes.

The incident happened physically very close to my home. My bubble of safety was burst. I felt unsafe at home and at work. I struggled with post-traumatic symptoms for a long time after the incident. But one of the key things that helped me was Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). I wanted to do more self-defence training. I saw Gracie Breakdown videos online and was convinced that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu would be the best art for me to learn. I found my way to OpenMat MMA, and started learning BJJ.

What surprised me the most was how great I would feel mentally after class. Many days, I would drag myself to OpenMat, feeling overwhelmed, sad, anxious and worn down. I would leave with a huge smile on my face, with a feeling of satisfaction and a sense of vitality that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I met and easily formed strong bonds with people from the gym, something that’s normally a challenge for me as an introvert. I went just to learn more techniques I could use to save my life or my partner’s life, and the unintended side-effect was a strong sense of community and belonging, an improved mood and a new passion.

Since then, I’ve used BJJ techniques a number of times at work. Sometimes in little ways, other times in big ways. The beauty of it is that it is a self-defence art that not only keeps you safe, but also keeps your opponent safe. As a paramedic, I’m very concerned about the welfare of my patient. When someone is under the influence of drugs, having a violent psychotic episode or is confused and violent immediately after a seizure, I want to be able to protect myself and my partner, but also keep my patient safe. With BJJ this is possible. It is truly an art of peace.

“To injure an opponent is to injure yourself. To control aggression without inflicting injury is the Art of Peace.”  – Morihei Ueshiba, The Art of Peace

I started 911BJJ.org with urging from my Jiu Jitsu Professor, Elliot Bayev. The intent is to build a community of first responders through the power of jiu jitsu. Our jobs are challenging and we need each other’s support and the mental and physical tools to be resilient.

I hope to see you on the mats!