Successfully Dealing with Claustrophobia in Grappling

Once upon a time I had an MRI.

For those of you who’ve never had this diagnostic procedure, you start by lying down on a narrow board. Then they slide you into a narrow hole within a gigantic donut-shaped machine. And then you lie there, very still, for a long time while the machine scans your body using a gigantic magnet.

Have you seen the movie Avatar? It’s like the little pod from which the hero pilots his alien. Except the space inside the MRI is even smaller, and nobody has any furry blue tails.

After the procedure I chatted with the MRI technician. One thing she mentioned was that about 3 in 10 people have problems with claustrophobia in this machine, and about 1 in 10 people freak out and are unable to complete the procedure.

So if somewhere between 10% and 30% have problems with an MRI, then how many people have problems with claustrophobia in grappling? I’d guess it’s roughly the same number…

I’m not claustrophobic myself, and so this topic was largely off my radar until I found out that a friend and fellow grappler used to struggle with claustrophobia on the mats. And then a reader contacted me with the the same problem. And then I found out that I had a SECOND training partner who was also claustrophobic.

I did a bit of googling, and found out that there wasn’t too much sport specific advice on the topic. So I asked the Grapplearts readership for tips and advice on dealing with grappling-induced claustrophobia, and was stunned by how many other people face the same challenge (read the whole article on how to deal with claustrophobia in BJJ and grappling here).

But here’s the cool part: BOTH of my claustrophobic training partners have tackled this problem head on. And mostly dealt with it. And both of them have done very well in high level grappling competition. And both of them competed successfully in MMA, each with 10 fights or more!

From all accounts, claustrophobia is a horrible feeling. But I’ve seen first-hand that it CAN be overcome.

Not everyone is claustrophobic, but it’s fair to say that we ALL have our fears, challenges and perceived limitations. I’m proud to know these grapplers. They’re an inspiration to me.

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