Another great article from Easton student Aaron Michel!
The healing power of BJJ
By Aaron Michel
This spring marked the passage of my third year as a student at Easton BJJ in Boulder. While the experience has, and continues to, fulfill many of my goals such as improving fitness, mental attitude and my energy level, I have been granted another benefit, the rejuvenation of a crumbling body.
This is a story that goes back almost twenty years with a diagnosis of juvenile arthritis and multiple bone and joint deformities. Thus began a surgical odyssey that eventually left me with severe deterioration to the major joints of both of my feet (ankle and toes), leading to constant knee, hip and back issues as well. This condition increasingly worsened over the years causing me to reduce my level of physical activity, I was no longer able to perform basic physical tasks such as, kneeling, running and jumping (basically anything that put pressure on my feet) without terrible discomfort. During this time, I sought out many solutions to help combat this bone and joint degeneration. I was examined and treated by a multitude of medical specialists and chiropractors, I had custom foot orthotics made and spent time in physical therapy, and yet still I was losing the battle.
That is where I was three years ago, not anymore. When I began to train at Easton BJJ, I had reached a point of utter demoralization. The last foot specialist had made his recommendation for joint replacement surgery on both large toe joints. I had given up the hope that I was going to be able to somehow stem the tide of this physical struggle with my body. I decided that if I was going to be in constant pain and discomfort, there needed to be a better reason for it. That is what brought me in the door at Easton BJJ. I was looking for a good reason to be in pain.
However, quite the opposite has occurred. Over these last three years something unexpected began to take shape. Initially, the first few months where taxing on my skeletal frame work, adjusting to a way of exercise and movement that was foreign to me. But then things began to change rapidly, almost overnight I began to feel less joint pain in my worst arthritic joints, those in my toes. Even as I was exerting more and more stress upon them in training, the pain was becoming less severe. It seemed counter-intuitive, at least from the perspective I held before, that the increased physicality of BJJ would repair or improve joint health, but it has done just that.
In the past, I treated the arthritis and scar tissue as something to work around and not on. As the joints deteriorated, they became harder to work around and thus more stiff and painful. It was a downward spiral until I began BJJ. In mere months, years of reduced mobility and pain have been swept away. The stress and flexibility imposed on my troubled joints by BJJ has forced them to become more resilient. This has fed a new understanding of how my body works, and how important it is to challenge adversity and limitations. I owe this to Easton Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.