Grappling with Claustrophobia

Recently the discussion in my weekly newsletter turned to the issue of claustrophobia, a topic with which I admittedly have no personal experience. Anyhow I was quite amazed at how much feedback flooded in to me, and I now think that this is a MUCH more common phenomenon than I ever gave it credit for being before.

Anyhow, I compiled all the stories, suggestions and information into an article that is now available at Please feel free to pass it on to anyone who you think might be afflicted with this condition.

I have been told in the past that Terere has claustrophobia - may explain the plane thing?

Thanks for being un-Matt Furey'ish and putting out a newsletter with consistently VALUABLE and USEFUL tips.

Your recent one on claustrophobia is especially interesting for the long contribution at the begining by Jeff Rockwell, which goes well beyond the limited subject matter of "claustrophobia" in a clinical sense, and deals with the hellish feeling we've all felt from time to time when side-mounted by a person a lot heavier than us....

There's a lot of good stuff in that newsletter for people who've never ever thought of themselves as "claustrophobic."

Two claustrophobic grapplers: BJ Penn and Rickson Gracie.

I remember hearing how Rickson had himself rolled up in a carpet until he learned to overcome his fear.

I don't know how BJ overcame his clausterphobia, I don't think it affected him while grappling however.

Whoa! That is shocking to read, Gumby. I had no idea.

And...Stephen Kesting is a huge asset to the sport.

Thanks for the kudos but you might want to hold off on them until I release the new format of my newsletter: nothing but viagra ads, hair replacement plans and can't-miss stock market investment advice... ;)

"I remember hearing how Rickson had himself rolled up in a carpet until he learned to overcome his fear."

I heard the same story.

I also heard that Terere had such issues, but I don't know any details.

It's funny, for the longest time I thought i was the only one that felt claustrophobic...I was actually ashamed of myself for being this way.

Great info!

When I first started BJJ in 2000 I would get a bit freaked out being under a a big guy. My instructor was a 270lb Brazilian black belt and could crush people in sidebody.

It only happened a few times, but when it did happen I felt like I had no control over my body.

Since I started BJJ again after a 4 year lay-off, it hasn't happened again. But I am not rolling with huge guys anymore.

I get claustrophobic. Breath control is what helped me.

Preach on, brothers, happens to SOOO many people, so many 'tough
guys'...the truth shall set you free...

It's a problem I have. Hard not to feel panic when someone is on top smothering me. Especially if they are impossible to move.

Damn somebody should do an instructional dealing with this problem and how to implement it to your game.

Maybe even a above 40 with claustrophobia dvd.

What helped me combat this issue was training learning to relax on the bottom.
Get a training partner, get on the bottom and let him start pinning you, don't try to escape, learn to relax, learn to breath, start with very little pressure and increase in increments.

What cdog suggests does seem to be a common method that claustrophobes have used to overcome this condition - lots of people suggested variations of it in the article cited above.

Like everything else in grappling, for real results, progressive resistance is usually the key. Also having good training partners who want to help you and are not judging you is vital...the mental relief of just not having to be embarrassed about it is huge and will make the entire process so much easier.

a buddy of mine who trains at rigan's said that after rolling, rigan makes them lie down & put their gi over their faces while they're resting. supposed to condition them to being used to that smothered feeling. i'm not sure if they still do this.