Military Veteran Overcoming PTSD Through Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Training
Death, Assaults, and War are amongst the abnormal experiences that causes damage to an individual physically and emotionally. The aftermath triggers a high level anxiety effect known as Post-traumatic Stress. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition developed after a person has experienced a terrifying event which physical harm occurred or was threatened. Its strangling power sneaks into every facet of your life which symptoms include disturbing flashbacks, depression, mood changes, and negative thinking.
Luckily there is a way to combat this problem. Martial Arts have served as an outlet to coping with this mental illness which has not only proved therapeutic but also a vehicle to positively rebuilding a participant's life. Robert Consulmagno has experienced more than one can ever imagine. Undergoing a series of traumatic events he is a living testament of strength, courage, and discipline as his participation in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu has helped him to harness his PTSD and achieve great feats as an athlete.
Post Traumatic originates from many stressors. For Consulmango the source arose from his childhood in witnessing unspeakable acts of violence within his family altering his life forever.
“I lost my biological father to suicide, seen my mother brutally beaten, held a gun in my hand at ten years old which my step father used to shoot my second step-father and then take his own life, and thrown down a flight of stairs by the same horrible step father causing me to be placed in a full body cast. I will never forget my mom waking me and my siblings to sneak into the back of a van to hide out because my step father was in his car with a gun ready to come into the apartment to hurt us.”
Looking to be part of something and escape the horrors of family life Consulmango joined the U.S Marines. Serving his country from 1991 to 1996 he was part of Operation Desert Storm stationed in Okinawa Japan and the United States. Sadly in the military his PTSD condition worsened as a result of numerous problems which was a replica of the life he left back home.
“While I was in the Marine Corps I was hazed a lot and everyday was a battle, “he recalled. Little did they know they made me worse.”
Those ordeals in fact made Consulmagno worse as PTSD placed his entire life in a stranglehold. Constantly living in paranoia, distrust with people, and having a negative outlook there had to be something that could introduce him to the positive features life had to offer. Previously competing in boxing like his great grandfather Mickey Taylor Consulmagno’s entry into Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Introduced to this grappling style of fighting he instantly became attached as his engagement was a mirror reflection of his tough past life only this time with different effect. The similarities were identical which covered the challenges life throws at its recipient. In that moment he knew he had uncovered something special that could help him.
“My first impression was wow; Jiu Jitsu is tuff as nails!” I knew from taking my first class that my striking skills were out the window and now I was a fish surrounded by sharks, but in a good way! I knew this would help me with my PTSD! “Jiu-Jitsu teaches you how to get out of bad situations. It mimics my life”.
Three years deep that curiosity of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu couldn't have been a better decision to pursue for the now 41 year old BJJ Purple belt. Living, breathing, and training on the mats has offered Consulmagno some peace from his inner turmoil. His skills as an athlete can't be ignored either as his dominance in BJJ competitions has racked him multiple local, national, and international titles making him amongst the top ranked competitors in the country. Robert's competing initiative has also gained personal fulfillment by going through that indescribable feeling doing something that is making him better.
“Honestly I really crave the rush from the fights!! Competing makes me feel alive again. I feel so free win or lose.”
There comes a low period in every person's life where some self-evaluation has to be made. You have be honest with yourself as to why you feel a certain way, what is holding you back, and most importantly what are you willing to do to make yourself better to restore peace in your heart ? Many people are bound by the constraining chains of failure, worry, and past experiences which create Fear. Yes it is an oppressive controller but it is more than anything an illusionist because once the problem is recognized it can easily be eliminated.
Even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has its weakness which has been exposed by Robert Consulmango. To think there was no hope for him but the life he is living today says otherwise through training in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Now at a peaceful place Consulmango is far from complete as he has new goals not only for himself but also the care of others.
“My goals are to attain my Black Belt, The Worlds, and someday teach people from all walks of life, “Consulmango revealed. I will continue to push the bar and inspire everyone!
Consulmango's story serves as a reminder who struggle with issues in their life of what happens when one attacks their fears and dare to believe they deserve better thus conquering the battle against themselves.
Robert Consulmagno BJJ Achievements
IBJJF Pan Ams No Gi -Gold Medalist 2013
4x time IBJJF New York Open Gi- Gold Medalist 2013-2014
IBJJF Boston Open Gi -Gold Medalist 2013
IBJJF Miami Open Gi -Gold Medalist 2011
Florida State Federation -Gold Medalist 2011
2x NAGA- Gold Medalist Gi
Philadelphia Good Fight- Gi Gold Medalist
Gracie Barra -Gold Medalist Adult Division
US Grappling Submission Only Gi -Gold Medalist
US Grappling Submission Only Gi -Silver Medalist Adult division
US Grappling Submission Only GI -Silver Medalist Absolute division
NAGA- Silver Medalist No Gi
Long Island Pride -Silver Gi Medalist Adult Division
Pablo Popovitch entered the 2012 NoGi Pan Ams as a favorite to win not only his weight class but also the open weight division. On Pablo's side of the bracket were Abmar Barbosa and first time Pan Ams competitor, Ezra Lenon. Pablo had a 1st round bye and popular opinion was that his first match would be against Abmar and then after the inevitable win Pablo would continue on to win the gold. In what was the biggest upset of the tournament Ezra Lenon defeated Popovitch 2 - 0 after beating Barbosa 10 minutes earlier.
BJJ Legends: Tell me a little about yourself and your training history:
Ezra Lenon: Started training in 2006 with Zack (Ezra’s older brother). He was a blue belt at time and taught me a lot of my fundamentals. After that I moved to Columbia, MO because American Top Team had the only black belts in the area. I trained under Kiko France and stayed there until they closed and I moved to St Louis a little over 2 years ago to teach at Finney’s MMA. In February of 2011 Zack and I both got our black belts from Kiko. At Finney’s I’m teaching classes 5 days a week to kids and adults. I’ve got 70 or so students between all the classes. My older brothers both train BJJ, Zack’s a black belt under Kiko and Levi is a purple belt under Scott Huston.
BJJ: How’d you manage to get your black belt so fast?
Ezra: I pretty much lived at Top Team. I was completely obsessed with training; I’d be there twice a day, six or seven days a week. I still train that much with conditioning a couple times a week, drilling two or three times a week and rolling daily with my students.
BJJ: When you saw the brackets and realized that you had two of the top guys in the world your bracket what were you thinking?
Ezra: Very excited. I couldn’t wait to test myself against this level of competition. I’m always looking to test myself and I’ve been following Pablo pretty much since I began training and knew that no matter what happened it’d be a good match up for me and would be a good match to watch. Also really excited about the absolute division but that didn’t work out because of my knee.