A veteran spearfisherman who also happens to be a BJJ brown belt and instructor, 50 year-old Jerome Petersen, and his fellow instructor and friend, 40 year-old Josua Joubert, suffered an attack by an aggressive Leopard Seal just off the coast of False Bay Beach in South Africa. The incident itself lasted around half an hour and the seals continued to bite the pair throughout the duration, while they struggled to make it back to the shore. Alongside his experience in the ocean as a spearfisherman, Petersen attributes their miraculous survival in part to the pair’s Jiu-Jitsu experience and relatively high fitness levels.
It’s comparatively common for Jiu-Jitsu to save people from interactions with criminals, and for many it may actually be part of the reason they take up Jiu-Jitsu, but it’s incredibly rare to see it come into play during an animal attack, particularly a terrifying animal like the Leopard Seal. Rener Gracie even poked fun at the idea previously by pretending to grapple with a gigantic snake in a viral video. Of course the truth is no laughing matter and from the recounting of events that Petersen gave, it seems like a truly terrifying experience:
“I remember the attacks were just relentless and most of the time, my mind just blanked.”
“I remember, at one point, just giving up. This thing just kept grabbing me at the ankle and started pulling me down. But there was no time for fear, because if I had fear, I would be dead,” he said.
“So I just kept fighting, and the toughest part was the drowning because you’re trying to hold your breath and fight at the same time. At one point, it grabbed my hand and bit my hand, pulling me down again.”
“I have puncture wounds in my ankles and legs. My right knee has a very deep wound and I am severely bruised across my body and my arms. The bites happened when I struggled while being dragged down,” he said.
“I have been in bad situations at sea many times where I have been in very rough waters. I have never had a situation where I had to deal with this type of thing, this was a near-death experience.”
“I will return to the area again if I’m diving off a boat, but I definitely will not swim from the side of the beach.”
Jiu-Jitsu brown belt Jerome Petersen recently gave an interview with Rener Gracie which was uploaded to the official YouTube channel for the Gracie Breakdown, where he explained that BJJ saved him from the vicious Leopard Seal attack: