Grappling With Depression

When the first UFC event was held in 1993, many viewed it as a centuries-in-the-making experiment, an attempt to answer to the perennial question: what is the best method of fighting? A few hours into the event, the answer was clear—and it wasn’t kung fu, muay thai, or karate. Royce Gracie, a relatively unknown practitioner of a grappling style called Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), was able to defeat opponents of far greater size and strength. BJJ was the great equalizer. A craze was born.

More than two decades later, a growing number of practitioners are now using BJJ to fight against a different kind of opponent, one that’s invisible—depression. Josh Lazie, CEO and Program Director at Sea Change, is one of those people.

When Josh started Sea Change, he felt as though something was missing from traditional treatment. At a strange point in life himself, he felt like he needed something new, something beyond the daily grind. “I was working a lot, I was single, and I didn’t really have much else going on,” Josh tells me. After stumbling upon the legendary Jean Machado’s gym one afternoon, Josh started training immediately. As he spent more time on the mats, he began to feel more whole, more present. And he wasn’t alone.

To Josh, and to many other devotees of the form, BJJ is more than just a martial art; it is a microcosm of life. “When things get really heavy, and it feels as though you’re being crushed by life’s pressures, it’s just like being overpowered by a stronger opponent on the mat. You feel like you’re never going to be able to take a breath again. The only thing you can do is relax, control your breathing, and search for a way out. Because in Jiu Jitsu, as in life, there’s always a way out,” Josh passionately explains.

When someone struggling with depression takes to the mats, it’s not just the other opponent they’re fighting. It’s every negative thought, every overwhelming feeling, and every physical ache. Today, Josh knows that whoever or whatever the opponent he faces, there is always a solution.

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