We all know doctors are champions. They are out there every day protecting our health and wellness and coming up with strategies to relieve symptoms and cure diseases. But how neat would it be if your doctor was a real-life world champion?
Such is the case for patients of Dr. Corinne Yarbrough, an internal medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. In November 2021, Dr. Yarbrough won first place in her division at the 2021 World Master International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Las Vegas, making her a bona fide world champion.
We sat down with Dr. Yarbrough to hear more about her recent accomplishment and discover how her journey with jiujitsu began.
What motivated you to get involved in jiujitsu and how long have you been practicing?
I have been doing jiujitsu for about three years. I initially started in the family class to support my son, who also trains in jiujitsu. I was not planning to get involved in the sport, but after I tried it, I “caught the bug.”
Initially, I found it to be a great release of stress and a phenomenal workout. I would often bring my stress onto the mat to work things out in an aggressive fashion. This has changed over the past couple years. Now I am in love with the sport, and I leave my problems behind when I train.
I try to focus entirely on my opponent, anticipating their moves and my counterattack. In fact, I fight much better when I am not angry or frustrated, so I no longer embrace those feelings when I am training.
What style of jiujitsu do you practice and why?
I practice Brazilian jiujitsu through the Gracie Barra organization where the motto is “Jiujitsu for Everyone,” meaning that everyone can benefit from the sport, not just elite athletes. My gym welcomes everyone — any age, body type and gender. I love this inclusivity. If they did not have this philosophy, who knows if I would have started in the first place.
What was your experience at the tournament where you won the title of world champion?
This was an incredible experience and possibly one of the hardest things I have ever done. I competed and won in a few smaller, local tournaments before, and that helped me to prepare for this bigger competition.
At the world master competition, I had three fights. I entered my first round knowing that if I lost, I would be out of the tournament. So, I gave it my all.
I tried to relax, but in spite of my mental exercises, I still felt very nervous going into the fight. I had planned specific moves, but in the moment, my body felt disconnected from my brain and a different instinct kicked in — all those hours of training became muscle memory that served me well.
I barely won my first round. My opponent’s defenses were very good. But in the end, my persistence helped me win.
Going back onto the mat for a second match seemed impossible. I was exhausted, physically and emotionally. My hands were cramping, and I felt sick to my stomach. But I pressed on, and the second match was over before I knew it.
Then I was looking at the third match — the gold medal match. My opponent got the takedown and was ahead. I was losing and feeling the urge to surrender. With less than a minute left in the round, it occurred to me, “Why am I giving up?! I might as well try.”
Coming from the bottom, I was able to push my opponent off me and then sweep her, which tied the match. Then, in the last few seconds, I drove my opponent onto her back, giving me the advantage to win the match. It all was very dramatic.
Are there philosophies from jiujitsu that you apply to your practice or to your work?
My main strategy and the secret to my success is simple: just show up. I ignore the little voice in my head that says I am not good enough. If I just show up, things work themselves out.
I have days at jiujitsu when I don’t do well, but I come back even if I did poorly the day before, even if I feel embarrassed, even if I am tired or busy or really am not in the mood to work hard. Because you cannot accomplish anything if you don’t show up in the first place.
I may not be the best jiujitsu fighter in my category, but I am the best of the people who showed up at the competition that day, and now I have the title of world champion.
And, yes, I apply this same principle to work. I show up even when I don’t feel like working, even if I have had a bad day before or am tired.
Any advice for those ready to try something new to improve their mental and physical health?
As a physician, I believe anyone can improve their health. I hope my patients can be inspired — regardless of where they are starting from — to make healthy lifestyle changes.
Can you share a favorite or funny memory from your jiujitsu journey?
My first day in jiujitsu was in a family class with my son who is quite good. The kids competed in a race where they “hip escaped” (a defensive movement done while lying on your back and pivoting your pelvis to your side and up) across the mat. Then it was the moms’ turn to race. At that time, I didn’t know how to hip escape properly. I was not wearing proper attire so my skin stuck to the mat.
All the other moms had finished, while I was only halfway down the mat. The coach, or “professor” as they are called, walked up to me and said, “It’s OK, you can stop now.”
My 9-year-old son was so embarrassed at my poor performance. During the drive home I asked him, “I know I didn’t do well with the hip escapes. Should I just quit jiujitsu or should I learn how to do it properly and then come back and try again?”
His response: “You should just quit, Mom.”