Photo via Instagram - mowglininja
"The competitive nature of Ninja Warrior is very different to BJJ in that we aren’t really competing against each other like in a roll. The focus is on the course and how we can beat the course, which removes a large element of ego, one thing I really like."
When Josh O’Sullivan was 18 years old, he suffered a traumatic injury during training that put him in a coma for weeks and off the mat for months. He has since gone on to become a two-time Australian Ninja Warrior alum, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and Australian Olympic Judo draft pick. O’Sullivan is the embodiment of determination and perseverance. We hope his story inspires you, too.
Grapplermag: How did your Ninja Warrior career start?
Josh O’Sullivan: I had just received my black belt. I had spent nine years competing in BJJ and was looking for a new challenge. I saw American Ninja Warrior on YouTube and started researching the sport. I watched every season chasing the heritage back to Sasuke starting in Japan where Ninja Warrior originated in 1997. It seemed like such a unique challenge requiring skills in gymnastics, rock climbing and parkour. I was hooked! It finally came to Australia in 2017 and the rest is history.
GM: Are there places nearby for you to train or do you have to build/improvise your own obstacles?
JO: It started out as improve, using the local park, lights poles and trees as my playground. I now run a gym in Narrabeen north of Sydney specific to Ninja. We have obstacles there to challenge the various elements of Ninja.
GM: How would you describe your experiences on Australian Ninja Warrior?
JO: Ninja warrior has been the exciting challenge I needed. The Ninja community are so supportive, much like BJJ. We are all striving to be better human beings. The competitive nature of Ninja Warrior is very different to BJJ in that we aren’t really competing against each other like in a roll. The focus is on the course and how we can beat the course, which removes a large element of ego, one thing I really like.
GM: Describe your injury from when you were 18 and the journey back to your current physical state.
JO: I was 18 when I found myself in hospital one day. It was a surreal feeling, I thought it must have been a bad dream. Fear struck over my body. I felt tubes, needles, cords coming out from everywhere. I remember thinking, ‘Why can't I move my legs?’ The nurses rushed over yelling, ‘He's awake.’
I asked, ‘What's going on? Why am I here? Why I can't I move my body? What’s happening to me?’ with panic in my voice. They told me I can't move my body because I've been in a coma for three weeks, I'm lucky to be alive and I'll need to stay here until I recover.
Photo via Instagram - mowglininja
Later I learned the stress from my home life combined with an accident training Brazilian Jiu-jitsu was the cause for my visit to St. George Hospital [in] Sydney. I spent the next year in a vegetative state, in and out of hospital, struggling with medical complications combined with the copious amounts of medications I was prescribed. This provided me with a choice to make. Was I going to live the rest of my life as a vegetable, living in my bed, in and out of hospital feeling sorry for myself and blaming the world for my problems? Or was I going to take control of my situation and ultimately change the course of my life.
GM: What advice would you offer to someone in a similar situation to the one you overcame?
JO: Don’t be afraid to accept help from those that offer it. Physical, emotional or spiritual. Having people around you that care is an important step in recovery. Accepting help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. It takes courage to want to better oneself.
Look out for the second installment of our conversation with Josh in the coming weeks.