Full Name: Jessica G.
Belt Colour: White
Professor: Drew Puzon and Josh Key
Short Term Goals: Win the Gold in a competition
Jessica is a perfect example of how anyone can transform their lives for the better despite the conditions. She has been broken both physically and emotionally with her past injuries but still manages to have a kind-hearted spirit to help others. In this article, we discuss methods on how to become a better version of yourself and defeat both depression and addiction. It's truly astonishing how much of an impact jiu-jitsu has on some people. With this amazing sport comes great friends and a sense of purpose in life. Check out her full story as we dive deeper into the problem of over-prescribing medications and how a freak accident could turn your life upside down.
How long have you been doing jiu-jitsu for?
a little over a year
Where do you train out of?
UFC Gym Frankie Edgar
Do you prefer gi or no-gi?
No-gi, because you have more room to play
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Have your instructors helped you in other aspects of life other than jiu-jitsu?
Yes, my coaches don't just help me on the mats, they can tell when you're off and not yourself, it's like they have a sixth sense. They always push me to be the best possible version of myself as a person and a competitor.
What are some lessons you learned from jiu-jitsu that applies to everyday life?
There is no place for ego on the mats or in life. It is important to be humble and not judge anyone. While training, even the weakest looking person can be the strongest, the same applies to everyday life. Never underestimate someone and treat everyone with kindness and respect. The world is an open mat and the people are my training partners.
How often do you train?
I train 5-6 days a week. I currently work full time and am in college full-time so I can only train in BJJ 2-3 times a week for 2-3 hours a day. The rest of the days I am working on my strength training and MMA.
What made you want to start training?
In 2013 I simultaneously broke 4 bones in my foot, tore my ACL, and meniscus. As a result, I had 3 surgeries. My first surgery was to repair the bones in my foot. I had 4 metal plates and 17 screws inserted. When I woke up from my surgery, I thought I was still on the operating table! I had never felt pain more excruciating. I was hospitalized for 3 days on a morphine drip because of the pain. My 2nd surgery was slightly better, my ACL was replaced by a cadaver ACL and my meniscus was repaired. The 3rd surgery was the removal of the plates and screws from my foot.
I was in bed for almost a year and gained 90lbs. I fell into a really deep depression and was being prescribed pain medication like candy. I developed a strong dependency on the pain medication and eventually lost my career because of it.
When I reached rock bottom, I sought help and found MMA. MMA eventually led me to BJJ and my life has changed for the better ever since. I lost all of the weight and have been sober for 4 years.
Do you plan on training your whole life?
They say a black belt is a white belt that never quit! My injuries have improved throughout the years but they are still there. Although some days my injuries prevent me from being 100%, I plan to continue training for the rest of my life. I eat, sleep, breathe jiujitsu. Even on the days I'm not training, I am watching videos or thinking of game plans.
What’s it about jiu-jitsu that makes it so addicting?
In addiction they say sometimes we trade one for another, trading alcohol and pills for BJJ seems like the best possible deal I could ever get.
Tracking my growth and progress is what makes it so addicting. Walking into the gym and saying hello to the members of my team and coaches, slapping hands, fist bumping and rolling, watching your teammates stop right after a submission to show you what you did wrong. I was a police officer for 4 years and felt very lost after the end of my career. I felt I would never find that camaraderie again. The job defined me and when I lost it, I lost a part of myself.
When I found BJJ, I found myself again. I understood that life is not about letting your career or martial arts or anything physical define you. It helped me find myself as a person. It showed me what I am made of and how even the most depressed person can find happiness again. Strength, reliance, determination, will power are only some of the many attributes I gained practicing BJJ. There is still so much yet to learn, so much growth that has not reached its full potential and that's what keeps me coming back.
What has jiu-jitsu done for your physical health?
Aside from BJJ, I participate in many Obstacle course races and 5ks. My orthopedic surgeon told me I would never be able to run again. Ever since I started BJJ, not only has my cardio improved, but my foot and knee injuries have significantly improved. I can bend my knee much better now. I have more mobility in my foot and have even run 6 miles.
Has jiu-jitsu benefited your mental health?
Before jiujitsu, I have been prescribed antidepressants and medication for my PTSD, ever since I started BJJ my doctor has taken me completely off all medications! I was to suffer from frequent anxiety attacks and have not had any ever since.
The worst place to be in is between your own two ears. BJJ takes me out of my own head. Even when my mind starts to wander, BJJ brings me right back because there is no time for being in la-la land when practicing BJJ lol.
If you could restart your jiu-jitsu journey, would you do anything different?
I would have started at a younger age. Being 31 and starting BJJ at 30 isn't the best situation but definitely not the worst. BJJ could be started at any age but I feel a lot of the hardships in life I have gone through could have been avoided if I would have started BJJ at a younger age.
Best 30th bday ever!!!
Additionally, life gets in the way more when you're older and sometimes I can't make it to practice because of work or a doctor's appointment.
What’s your advice for someone that’s never tried jiu-jitsu before but is interested in trying it?
DON'T QUIT plain and simple you will thank yourself later
Do you have any aspirations in jiu-jitsu?
Earning my black belt one day.
What’s your favorite move?
Triangles, all day
If you didn’t discover jiu-jitsu, where do you think you’d be now?
hiding in a cave very sad and lonely growing talons lol. In all seriousness, I think I would be okay but what good is it to be okay if you can be exceptionally great!?
Would you like to see the sport become more mainstream?
I've seen the sport become more mainstream little by little thanks to MMA and the UFC. My ultimate goal is to get good enough at BJJ and Muay Thai to fight in at least ONE amateur MMA fight. I really feel there should definitely be more women competing and practicing BJJ.
Have any of your training partners pushed you to reach your full potential?
Every person I have ever rolled with has pushed me to reach my full potential in one way or another. Everyone has their own style and I feel as if every time I roll with someone I learn some kind of a valuable lesson. Some training partners go harder using more strength, while others use proper technique, the great ones use both in my opinion.
Whenever I roll, I try to observe their strategy and become better.
When you were first starting, what was the most difficult concept of jiu-jitsu that you had trouble getting?
Not jumping into someone's guard. I still get yelled at for that by professors today lol
What makes you want to inspire and motivate others?
What caused your accident that left you with multiple broken bones and tears in your knees?
Did you regret taking the pain medication they prescribed you?
What would you tell someone that is trying to give up their addictions but is having a difficult time?
What made you want to begin eating healthier and do you believe a good diet is essential for the recovery and support of an active lifestyle?
How much weight have you lost since you started MMA/BJJ?
What's your advice for someone that is trying to lose weight but is having a difficult time?
What is it about running that you enjoy? Do you feel like it has helped your cardio for MMA and BJJ?
How did you find the motivation to pull yourself out of pain medication addiction and depression to begin living your life to the fullest again?
What would you tell someone that is currently battling depression right now?
Is there anyone that helped inspire you to keep training and never give up on your goals? Or was the ambition always inside of you?
When the journey is over, how would you like to be remembered?
Thanks for sharing your story! You are a true inspiration for proving that through hard work, perseverance and dedication, anything is possible. Sometimes horrible events were meant to happen to allow for growth and change. Without those hardships you wouldn't have started MMA/BJJ, perhaps it was all just a blessing in disguise. Keep up the great work and I can't wait to see where life takes you next. Osss!