Braulio Estima: I had a paralysing neck injury months before the fight of my life

Published On: Jun 18, 2021

By three-times world jiu-jitsu champion Braulio Estima

The resilience that you learn in jiu-jitsu is a very useful lesson for the rest of your life. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a fair bit of success on the mats, but on the other side I’ve not been without my fair share of injuries, the worst of which was terrifying.

I fell on my head during a training session, causing a compression to my spine which left me on the floor unable to move. There was no pain, which was the most frightening part. and I had no idea whether I’d be able to move again.


My first thought was: will I ever be able to pick up my kids again? My second thought was: will I be able to fight again?


This was in 2010, the year before I was due to have a superfight with my toughest opponent, Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza (pictured, right). I had competed against him four times, and had never even scored a single point. But my game was coming on, and I was confident the fifth time was going to be my time.


But then came this terrible neck injury. Thankfully I regained movement in my limbs, buy I had destroyed two vertebrae and doctors told me I would not be able to do any competitive sport again, let alone martial arts.


This was devastating for me. Not just because I love doing jiu-jitsu, but because it is part of my identity, it is who I am. Doctors kept telling me ‘no’, but I kept going until I found one that said ‘yes’.


The fifth specialist I went to agreed to do pioneering surgery on my damaged vertebrae. The operation was a success, but it was just eight months before my fight. Which meant four months of rehab with no jiu-jitsu, then just four months to train and be in the shape of my life.

I approached it like any other injury, I listened to my body, went with the flow and just did what felt right. And on top did all of the usual rehab essentials of eating well and getting enough rest.

I came back and was able to beat Jacare, which felt incredible, not just to beat someone who had been so far ahead of me, but to have battled back from this dark place, to a place where I felt I had lost it all, to get back to where I wanted to be. And of course I could pick up my kids again.

Injuries have taught me a lot. Any kind of adversity teaches you a lot. It is how you deal with it that defines your character.


This approach to adversity is what I find so admirable about the work that Sam Sheriff and the guys at REORG are doing. Here you have people with real problems, who have been blown up fighting for their countries, and they are carrying on and staying strong. This is real resilience, and it is something we can all learn from.Browse All Articles

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