How I Manage My PTSD As A Veteran With The Help Of The Jiu-Jitsu Community, Naturopathy, Family & More... | Timothy's Story
Submission Shark Community | Instagram: @timothymlocklear
Full Name: Timothy Mark Locklear
Belt Colour: White
Professor: Nolan Campbell
Short Term Goals: Manage symptoms related to my time in the military.
If you've been following these blogs/interviews, It should be quite evident by now that Brazillian jiu-jitsu has the ability to relieve PTSD in some practitioners. With a supportive BJJ team, Timothy Locklear has managed to thrive and tell his story in hopes it can help other veterans or anyone experiencing similar conditions. This is an in-depth look into the daily life, struggles and experiences of a passionate martial artist.
Make sure to check out this article as I'm sure it will provoke meaningful thoughts and discussions through this veteran's experiences. In this interview, we discuss topics ranging from naturopathic solutions, jiu-jitsu training, martial arts philosophies, personal PTSD solutions, optimizing your health and happiness and the importance of family and community.
How long have you been doing jiu-jitsu?
Where do you train out of?
Nebraska Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Fitness.
Do you prefer gi or no-gi?
I generally spend 70% of my time training inside the Gi, but I also really enjoy no-gi.
Have your instructors helped you in other aspects of life other than jiu-jitsu?
The coaches at my dojo take a personal interest in the well-being of their students. This aspect of my introduction to BJJ helped me overcome much of the social anxiety I faced when first arriving at the dojo.
What are some lessons you learned from jiu-jitsu that apply to everyday life?
Life can often be a training partner and an opponent at the same time. The pressure of everyday moments can feel just like a cross face from a solid blue belt, or traffic combined with being late and not sleeping well seems similar to a knee on the belly from a focused purple belt. Add to that the symptoms related to my time in the military, and it’s a sure-fire way to have a bad time.
Learning how to effectively balance the mind, the body, and the physical practice of both is a difficult task. Relying on the proven science behind physical contact, teamed with mental chess, has been the key linchpin for my mental and physical health.
How often do you train?
This can change from time to time, depending upon my health at the time, but this is generally what I work with and try to goal for:
15-20 hrs per week in the dojo.
4-6 hrs of Cardio/Sauna Yoga/running per week.
3-5 hrs of strength training per week.
What made you want to start training?
I have several veteran friends who have seen a huge change in their PTSD/Anxiety symptoms and I couldn’t resist. The draw of having a team, having a thing to focus on, was beyond irresistible.
The dojo gave me the ability to break out of the cycle of anxiety and PTSD that I was in at the time. The humans I met there, and later called my teammates and homies, did all they could to make sure that I and my service animal were more than welcome, that they WANTED me there. :-)
Do you plan on training your whole life?
If possible yes. After I’m unable to train, I hope to teach, instruct, and stay a part of this community. Many people late into their elderly ages have continued to contribute to martial arts in a positive way.
What’s it about jiu-jitsu that makes it so addicting?
Knowing that no matter how many times I tap, I will still continue to learn and grow. The feeling of pure joy after rolling for hours with your friends, and knowing that the next day can be filled with the same joy. Knowing that you are the master of your body, your game, and your development.
The only thing that stands in the way of my growth is me.
The never-ending game of chess that you will inevitably play for the entire time you are in and out of the dojo. It’s as if you’re playing a gigantic game of Call of Duty with millions of people, and we all have cheat codes, and bodily injuries to prove it. Instagram and Youtube have been transformed for me, into a world of possible moves, drills, and techniques that will someday lead to the mat, with my friends and training partners. It often seems too good to be true.
What has jiu-jitsu done for your physical health?
Since coming off of pharmaceuticals, switching to holistic medicine, and practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I have lost a hundred pounds, eat better, sleep better, focus better, and all-around live better.
BJJ specifically has helped show me weaknesses in my life that I otherwise would never have had the chance to see, and subsequently address.
Jiu-Jitsu provides many benefits including improving physical health & fitness. Check out this article about how Zaylen Crannell also managed to lose 100lbs thanks to BJJ.
Has jiu-jitsu benefited your mental health?
The stress and pressure of what is often referred to as “The Crush” can have intense and amazing effects on the brain. Pressure applied to my brain due to the effects of PTSD and my time in the military is similar to the pressure applied to my body when a solid training partner is doing his or her best to pass my guard or is on the hunt for a submission.
This contrast and comparison have helped me and others with mental health concerns, effectively work through tough spots that otherwise would be unmanageable, or inherently unachievable. How we deal with the pressure from our opponent, will often time mirror the way we deal with the troubles that arise in our brain.
Physical and emotional damage is easier to obtain than it is to understand, much less deal with correctly.
You'll never understand the medicine in getting crushed until you've done it. Some circumstances crush you without permission and others do so with your consent. There was this one time in the mountains of Iraq where it felt like the entire world was crushing me.
I think back often on that time and the weight of those rounds hanging off of my chest. I think about the feeling of suffocation and yet the absurdity and calm that can come at that very same moment someday.
One day, I'll get to do some jujitsu on a mountain where I live with my family and my cow and my dog and my birds. . .
Thanks, Jenn for being stronger than me when I'm a puddle on the floor. You are my rock, and continue to give me the hope I need to keep pressing on.
The daily stress of life, teamed with the overwhelming guilt, juxtaposed up against life, right now... .can be a pressure cooker waiting to explode on what or whoever gets in the way.
Dogs, BJJ, good friends, and intense discussion about the first three have had, and I hope will continue to have an amazing effect on the previously mentioned issues and problems 99% of the times I've used it.
Good night moon.
Be #SeeThru, be REAL, be a Glass House"
If you could restart your jiu-jitsu journey, would you do anything differently?
I would have been more planned and consistent with my note taking, and training schedule. However, looking back had there been a strict regime for me to follow, I perhaps would have been turned off to the idea, and never fully committed for fear failure.
The open and free nature of the training environment at my and many other dojos is and was a HUGE reason I love this community. Come as you are, train hard, come back. :-)
What’s your advice for someone that’s never tried jiu-jitsu before but is interested in trying it?
Find a dojo near you. Call them, and schedule the time to talk with the instructors.
Have long, intentional talks about ALL your concerns, fears, hopes, questions, etc. This will give you the chance as the student to get a feel for just what to expect from the person(s) you will be being taught by. Start with once a week, with a friend you trust, and a coach you’ve spent some time talking with and therefore feel comfortable with.
*Start conditioning NOW*
Meditation, Mindfulness, Sauna, Yoga, research, small strength training, running, kettlebell, etc.
This is a huge thing that has helped me better understand my body and how it reacts to pain, training, and focused conditioning.
Do you have any aspirations in jiu-jitsu?
I’d love the chance to offer some form of therapy for veterans and others struggling with PTSD. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) I have had the chance to see how the human body holds onto trauma, and how the mind makes it work. I’m by no means am a pro, but with a little time, and a lot of work, I can see that there is deep medicine in submission grappling with other humans on a regular basis, and I’d love to expand the access to veterans and their families.
What’s your favourite move?
I am in love with collar chokes using my or my training partner’s Gi and Kimura . . . However, I am just starting this lifelong journey, so I’m sure that will change with time.
If you didn’t discover jiu-jitsu, where do you think you’d be now?
I probably would have found some form of physical engagement and or activities related to martial arts.
Would you like to see the sport become more mainstream?
I would love to see BJJ come to the forefront of sports, and the new American “Past-time”. I doubt that will happen soon, given the average person’s proclivity towards running from anything that looks anything close to discomfort or hardship.
Have any of your training partners pushed you to reach your full potential?
The humans I have the joy of training BJJ with are some of the highest calibres of persons to have ever walked this earth. Far from angels, but close to salvific in many cases. They show me my vulnerable spots and do so with an efficiency that would make even the best person question their techniques. Without my teammates, I would be half the practitioner I am today.
When you were first starting, what was the most difficult concept of jiu-jitsu that you had trouble getting?
I had a very difficult time when I first started training, understanding the concept behind the saying: “Be like water”. I had grips, and I didn’t want to let them go! It leads me to be swiftly swept and submitted on such a frequent occasion that I almost lost all hope. In the end, It was the instruction from my coaches, encouragement from friends, and time on the mat that eventually helped me calm down and focus on the next position, transition, or submission.
"Don't get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot." - Bruce Lee
What makes you want to inspire and motivate others?
I often mention the inspiration and motivation I receive from others, but ultimately it boiled down to pulling up my own bootstraps and doing the work, no matter who was watching.
Seeing results and knowing that I have perhaps in some way made another person(s) life better for not having to experience ALL the hardships I went through, makes me feel very happy and satisfied. Even more than that, knowing that my friends and training partners are mentally and physically as tough as they need to be, is the biggest payoff.
Was there a difficult moment in your life where jiu-jitsu helped you get through it? If so, please explain.
Yes, as previously mentioned, PTSD and the issues I have related to my time in the military have been a constant source of frustration and pain. These two in conjunction with the normal stuff of life, ensure a continuous thread of news struggles to face and difficulties to overcome. Particularly, on days when I am not doing well, my training partners are always willing to be patient and gracious with me as I try to focus on the drills and not allow my issues to impede my training.
What would you tell someone that’s having a difficult time finding the motivation to live a healthier lifestyle?
Science shows that the chemicals needed to get, feel, and stay healthier and happier are proven to come as a result of extreme physical activities. It’s less about looking good, although that is a natural byproduct. It is more in my opinion, about the reward of success.
Achieving a submission that you’ve been drilling for weeks is a truly valuable tool. On the other hand, being submitted by the SAME submission over and over again can feel like torture that will never end. It will either break you, or you make you learn.
The motto I try to follow is simple and true: “Never Lose”.
The only options are winning, or learning. Both usually happen, but I am choosing to never lose and always learn.
Has there been a helpful educational resource that's helped you learn about how to live a healthier lifestyle? What were they?
The list of tools that I have used is longer than would fit in this short paragraph, but I would love to share a few:
“The Cow in the Parking Lot: A Zen Approach to Overcoming Anger.”
Author: Leonard Scheff
“The 4 hour Body, and Tools of Titans”
Author: Timothy Ferriss
“Zen Jiu Jitsu - White to Blue”
“Zen Jiu Jitsu: The 30 Day Program”
Author: Mr. Oliver Staark
“The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of 4 Meals”
Author: Michael Pollan
There is deep and historical medicine found in other tools such as Sauna and Cold therapy, deep breathing, kettlebell work, and Yoga. I could go on for days writing about the books, tools, and resources related to those three subjects that have changed my life, and my mind, so accordingly I will let the reader use google and find what fits them the best.
Why do you think natural medicine is suppressed in today's society while pharmaceuticals are advertised well?
The term “Natural Medicine” is broad and encompasses such a wide array of subjects, opinions, and issues, that it helps to narrow down our field of view a bit for the purposes of this article. As opposed to Natural Medicine, I would prefer to use the word “Naturopathy” defined as “The treatment of illness by using diet, herbs, exercises, etc., without using standard drugs or surgery.”
The first part of the word is “naturo” which is a verb meaning “produce naturally”. The second part of the word “pathy” from the Greek, where it meant “suffering,” “feeling”.
So a summary definition could look like this: “Treatment of illness using diet, herbs, exercises, and naturally procured medicines all from a place of compassion and mindfulness. “
Now that we have a definition outlined, we can move forward with why I believe that a more Naturopathic approach is often frowned upon, overlooked, or in some cases downright mocked as ineffective. Until recent years the entire medical community was silent about naturopathy, and it was dismissed as no more than wives-tales and snake oil.
In small and large health clinics around the country, we have heard from veterans that there is a rise in what the VA calls “Holistic Health Programs”. The way the Veterans Affairs office handles the clear demand for natural health care has taken a long time, but they seem to have answered the call in some capacity. Offering acupuncture, massage, Tai Chi, and other previously dismissed activities and therapies have become regular.
Yet as if in some way to intentionally contrast their efforts, they have continued to prescribe millions of veterans suffering from mental and physical illnesses billions and billions of pharmaceuticals that have been proven to cause a long list of side effects and an even longer list of lifelong changes in the person taking them. In 2013, the VA released a study that covered suicides from 1999 to 2010, which showed that roughly 22 veterans were dying by suicide per day, or one every 65 minutes.
Some sources suggest that this rate may be under-counting suicides, and that was almost 6 years ago. Those numbers are growing higher and climbing. The percentage of those deaths that could have been prevented is unknown, but how many of those dead veterans were prescribed pills that were supposed to help the very symptoms that likely lead them to the choice of their life.
Antidepressant medications are widely prescribed to try to decrease the symptoms of depression and to reduce the risk of suicide. However, these very same medications have risks that outweigh the benefits for more patients than they help.
The questions then become: “Why are they still giving them to veterans? Why would anyone still take them, knowing the overwhelming number of poor outcomes for veterans that take them? Why would a good doctor give a patient a substance that has been known to lead to death?”
The doctors have a duty to use the products of the companies with which they or their employers have the closest affiliation through either personal relationship or financial agreement. Therefore, if practice helps truly facilitate the health and wellness of a patient, then said the practice could present a risk to the previously mentioned relationship or agreement.
It would not be in the best interest to a Doctor to prescribe or encourage any practice or medicine that could in some way challenge the money coming in. In short, RX companies make money, while yoga and tincture companies scrape by.
What are your thoughts on meditation and yoga, and how has it benefited you?
Meditation, guided and solo inside a Sauna, teamed with basic, and some advanced Yoga movements have literally changed my life. I started the basic stretching as a result of my wife being so into Yoga and mindfulness.
Then I read some books about how our mind interacts with our body, (previously mentioned above) and made some changes to my daily schedule. Many persons in the past have spoken about the possible benefits of Yoga, meditation, and Sauna work, so I will not take the time to list them all here.
I will say it as simply as possible: DO the difficult things, as often as possible, at 8 or 9 times harder than your teammates/training partners/opponents. They are always going to be looking to oppose their game on you, and your goal is to simply avoid that and instead assert yourself, and your game into the mix and come out on top.
I run with a 30lb weight in circles, until it doesn’t hurt, then I step it up to 50lbs. After a few laps, I get tired and switch it up. Starting back over again with the 30lbs until it isn’t tough. I keep this up until I can’t think straight.
Then I step onto the mat for a BJJ warm-up, class, rolls, and then after class rolls! I try to mix things up as often as possible, but honestly, sticking to a solid workable pattern has been very effective for me.
I view BJJ as more than simply something I do as a result of liking it, but instead a thing I do as a result of ensuring I am likable by those who spend the most time around me.
My wife and kids can tell when I am lacking in mat time/Sauna Time. It’s like a good medicine that has very few side effects.
Are there any natural supplements you take regularly? How has it helped support your lifestyle?
Ashwagandha, Holy Basil, 5 htp, DHEA, CBD, Turmeric, L-Theanine, L- Tyrosine, L-Glutamine, Kava Kava, Lion’s Mane & Cordyceps Mushrooms, Kratom, and a variety of probiotics in liquid and supplement form.
For others going through PTSD, how can they overcome it?
That’s a tough question.
It’s truly a team effort, and even as I type those words, I can’t help but feel it is a bit trite...
There is so much work involved in fighting this issue given its elusive nature, and ability to impact literally every aspect of the individual’s life. It feels like you are being assaulted by your own brain at times, and your emotions are on a roller coaster ride that you didn’t seem to sign up for.
These feelings can leave those closest to the suffering person with little-assured certainty that anything can or would help. Thus amplifying the effects of these tsunami-sized waves of crap because not only does it suck, but now we are alone due to pushing everyone away.
It’s really a tough cycle to break, but I can say beyond any shadow of any doubt whatsoever, that stepping into a sauna to do yoga and meditation, and or on a mat to train Brazilian jiu-jitsu can and will have a positive effect on the individual facing PTSD.
There are smarter persons than myself who have shown the science behind why our bodies respond the way they do and produce the chemicals they do when we do these things, but just trust this veteran with a diagnosis of PTSD. I have not taken a single pharmaceutical in years and don’t plan to.
A dose that is less than half the size of an adult pinky toenail once or twice a day can literally shift the paradigm of many veterans on the verge of suicide. It's absolutely amazing to us that such a small amount of such a quality medicine can be the source of such harsh and unprecedented judgments.
When we talk about hard work & Natural Medicine, this is one example of what we mean. Helping veterans get access to this kind of life-saving medicine is just one thing that we would like to continue to do among an ocean of other important things.
Please understand that we are not at all advocating for the idea that cannabis is the only thing that can save a veteran, but instead suggesting that to make the assertion that a veteran should be treated in a way that would exclude cannabis for foolish reasons, would be a radical one and should accordingly be dismissed as ludicrous and harmful.
Over the coming weeks, we intend to talk more about the supplements that some of us take and how they help, and how we feel that other veterans should be taking these and other supplements to help address the many symptoms that they are facing each day. We should be able to choose from.
We are not doctors by any means but instead, we are simply a group of Veterans who have gotten sick of pharmaceuticals and decided to do something about it. We know that there are thousands of veterans out there, perhaps some of them on your friend's list, who are contemplating suicide today, and we know that is something that can be prevented with the appropriate kind of medicine and therapy.
There are many states in which this type of medicine is not simply slightly illegal, it actually in many cases carries the felony punishment similar to methamphetamine.
We would never encourage anyone to engage in an illegal activity that would put them or their family at risk. We often remind veterans that the list of resources and supplements that are legal is longer than the list of resources and supplements that are illegal. It is with that in mind that we say what we say when we say it.
What would you tell someone that wants to be in the military?
Count the cost, and consider agreeing to write a paper on the effects of a career in the military. Interview hurt individuals and folks who made it 20 years without a single issue and retire.
There is a broad spectrum of things that one can do for the US military, but one thing is sure: You are not yours. You are the property of the U.S. Government and thus are subject to said government. That’s a tough pill to swallow, literally, there are tons of pills to swallow and needles to take! ;-)
Should they pursue it even with the potential of PTSD and other injuries?
Only the individual can know if they are truly ready to take the leap into sacrifice and selflessness pushed to the extreme. Just be sure to pack your shower shoes, and keep your woobie safe.
Are there any similarities between the jiu-jitsu community and your military brotherhood?
Check out this article from another veteran/BJJ practitioner as he shares his insights on the similarities between the military and jiu-jitsu community!
I have found a fellowship of brethren and sistren that has surpassed that of both my military career and that of any religious institution I have previously been involved with.
The ability to simultaneously bridge the gap between awkward physical contact and uncomfortable verbal conflict via grappling is in my opinion unseen in any other activity/sport/group, especially for folks with PTSD/ Social Anxiety such as myself. I can simply smile, slap, pound, and roll. Let the chips fall where they may, and I’ll have fun the entire time. Unlike most social interactions for me! :-)
Do you train with your family? And do you believe more families should train together?
Yes, my entire family trains with me excluding my wife due to some current health issues. My son is only two, therefore he doesn’t have a Gi as of yet, but he’s already loving his time with dad on the mat, and looks forward to getting as active as his big sisters.
The ability to communicate, learn and grow together is essential for us as a family, and we all love the thrill of discovering new stuff together. We are also a family that schools together, so it simply adds another amazing aspect to their learning base.
For parents that are hesitant about putting their children into martial arts programs such as jiu-jitsu, what would you tell them?
Go and try a lesson WITH them! It’ll help you and they grow closer, and honestly, my daughters seeing me having my ass handed to me on a sometimes multi-weekly basis helps keep my ego low and my heart right. They know I am not perfect, and that I am permeable...But that I can learn, and am learning, and that I want them to learn alongside me.
Jiu-Jitsu can connect strangers together and make them life long friends but it can also make a family relationship stronger. Check out this jiu-jitsu family's story!
When the journey is over, how would you like to be remembered?
My smile, and my ethics.
Also, a few kimuras. ;-)
I am a man that has been pulled one way and another by every whim of the wind and have had to say “sorry” a lot! Thus, when I stepped into my BJJ journey, I did so reluctantly, cautiously, and quietly. I didn’t want this to be yet another thing I failed at and another thing I have to go tell everyone I failed at.
Instead, it turned into the best medicine for my depression, PTSD, social anxiety, sleep, weight loss, anger management, strength training, friendship beyond words, and a community of humans that have so far been amazing. I can’t wait for the next steps in my process, but I can say that if I stepped away now, I would have already learned a lifetime of lessons that I will forever be unpacking, and attempting to understand.
I can’t enough how excited and happy I am to hopefully be able to reach someone who is just starting or considering this as an option. There are so many things to say, but ultimately, nothing does it as much justice as getting on the mat.
With that in mind, I’d say everyone everywhere should read this book over and over again: “On Jui-Jitsu” by Chris Matakas
This book helped me see the philosophy behind BJJ, and just why it is that this art helps me so very much!
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Timothy! Your wise words are something many people can learn from. You're a very intelligent person with great insight on this topic and I'm sure it will help many others. I am really happy to hear you've found some relief from your PTSD through the jiu-jitsu community along with the other techniques mentioned above. I hope you keep fighting your symptoms and inspiring others along the way.
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