The Power of Jiujitsu Against Depression

            My intent for this post is to get members of the jiujitsu community, to see beyond the surface of jiujitsu. Beyond the belts, the shiny gold medals and even all the latest trends. To see the people around you and how the art can truly help others cope and even heal mental illness.

It would seem as though, I’ve had a grappling match with depression most of my life. Even as a kid, I’d go from smiling to having a wave of sadness wash over me. Of course living withcerebral palsy brings it’s own battles. Knowing that you’re not like everyone else in the world. Knowing where you belong in the world is as equally daunting. Truth be told, I’ve always felt like a misfit.

As a child, I went through a handful of surgeries, each requiring months to recover, taking me out of school and away from friends is in some ways worse than the physical pain. My one saving grace as a kid was learning how to grapple. It was my escape from even knowing I had CP, it was an escape from my mind and so much more.

Learning to grapple made me feel as though, I was alive and that this could all lead to a greater purpose. I’ve been a martial arts instructor since the age of sixteen, teaching very styles, disciplines and people from all walks of life. I love the arts. But the one art I love the most is jiujitsu.

I truly believe that it can change people’s lives for the better,  students and professors have the ability to use the gift of jiujitsu to change people’s lives for the better. The way some other arts cannot. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Rickson Gracie once said that sometimes as a teacher, you are sometimes a psychologist as well. In that sometimes you have to teach others to be calm, control their emotions and transcend the challenges of their lives.

As many may know, speaking up about depression or any challenge can take a lot of courage. It’s often what we are most willing to speak about that gives us healing and hope. Most of the time, my team mates see me with a smile on my face, sometimes the smile is real, but sometimes the smile is a means to hide the pain.

I smile and don’t let anyone see the fight going on inside me. Which is daily. But once I feel my GI and belt wrap around me. I know everything will be okay. For me, I love the human contact of Jiujitsu. Which I don’t get much of. I know that either when I’m learning a new technique or rolling with friends. The pain and sadness will leave me. Then- I can breath and feel that everything is right in the world.

Jiujitsu has taught me to breath. To breathe through the heaviness  of depression and even anxiety. To move and make space even when I am feeling smothered by life. There’s always a way out of a tough position.

My hope is that members of the jiujitsu community will look deeper into jiujitsu, and see the healing properties that it possesses. It’s not about the pursuit of gold medals, the stripes on your belt or how many cool techniques you can do. It’s about the people around you. Open your eyes, pay attention to your team mates, check in with the people around you. If you know someone is struggling, and you don’t know the words. Offer them your silence, your listening ear. Keep them rolling and moving forward in the journey. Am I completely free from the weight of my own depression? No, I am not. But Jujitsu has offered a healing, and am community that I have never had. And quite frankly, it is better than any medicine a doctor could offer me.

Remember, we are a community that exists to make each other better. Jiujitsu exists, not so much for the sake of violence. But to reveal the greatness that lives inside us all.      

The Reality of Knife Defense (From an Adaptive Perspective)

I originally tried to have the following entry published in a few magazines, but nothing came of it:

Having to defend oneself is a scary endeavor, even when some claim to have no fear at all when it comes to the possible reality.  One could have over twenty years over martial arts training under their belt, but simply because they are human means that they can be caught off guard the same way anyone can. This could be a myriad of attacks, and while  It’s not something we readily want to admit or think about, but it is true none-the- less. And yet, even in not wanting to think about these realities, I’ll submit to you that thinking about these realities, are part of what might actually help us to go home safely at night. You want to know what plays in my mind a lot? Being attacked by a knife, to make matters even scarier, being attacked by a knife while I’m in my wheel-chair or standing with my crutches.

I’m not simply talking about someone holding a knife to my throat, but rather pumping the knife in an out of my body and me not being able to do anything about it. Even with over thirty five of my arts experience under my belt, being an instructor under the Jeet Kune Do Grappling Association, which is very wide array of styles under one banner and a purple belt in BJJ, this reality still scares the hell out of me. Not only for myself but for others like myself. The type of cerebral palsy that I was born with, is very mild compared to some. Even with it affecting the right side of my body (I don’t have full mobility and use of my right arm) and balance in my legs. I can still work out and take care of myself fairly well. The problem is getting my body to react fast enough when it’s truly needed.

            As a youngster, I grew up learning various disciplines of FMA, learning all kinds of stick and knife attacks, flow drills and jaw dropping knife disarms. I say jaw dropping because as a kid, it was amazing to see how one could easily strip the knife away from someone or smack it out of the attackers hand. As I grew a bit older and was in college, I began to have what I’d call a Martial Crisis. Which really means that I began to doubt and question all that I have been taught throughout my martial arts journey. It was extremely uncomfortable to say the least, there I was sitting in my dorm looking up real knife attacks on YouTube. I was in a state of shock, never have I ever saw so quick and brutal attacks in my life. And most certainly, it was not flowing slice and dice that I was taught in Kali, no this was straight up violence and evil. Then I read stories of an elderly lady in a wheel chair who was stabbed to death a long with her care provider.

Reality set in, and I wanted to find options for myself and others, not so disabled people could become the adaptive version of Jason Bourne. But being able to provide a fighting chance. Yes, I’m deeply aware there are some people that won’t be able to defend themselves at all, while others may have a sharp mind, and little to no use of their limbs at all. Even still, if the mind still is working, then I want people to understand situational awareness and various pre-contact warning signs. For if a person with a care provider or friend can notice a person or particular context that seems un-easy that is a job well done. If, on the other hand, a person similar to myself is faced with such a scary and even reality, what then are we to do? In all my years of teaching adaptive self -defense, the most annoying statement I hear is “run-away”.

            Run away? That honestly makes me laugh, because even the most mild cases of CP can’t run all that well or fast. So, the idea that most knife attacks happen in close proximity and the understanding that people like myself are simply going to “runaway” is complete non sense. Even if I was attempting to turn away in my wheel-chair and get away, still my back is exposed and that’s a whole other nightmare. Then there’s “Just shoot’em” (yes I’ve heard that too). As one who is pro conceal carry, learning how to use a firearm is an area that I preach for disabled people to learn, as it is a great means of defense. However, to think that a person is always going to be able to access their gun or knife even, in a quick enough fashion is very detrimental and  misleading. If an attacker is already assaulting you, and your only means of defense your EDC, it’s going to really suck for you. I’ve even heard people say “Make space and get a weapon”. I can kind of get behind this, kind of. For if a person has the mobility and dexterity to make space against someone bigger and stronger than them, great. But guess what? Its still going to be hard! And what happens when you do access your weapon, and the attacker still manages to pin your weapon baring hand? What then? Do you have the skills to fight from there? These are all things that one has to consider in their daily training exploration.

So what’s my solution then, you ask? Controlling the limb baring arm as best you can, knowing that it will be the hardest fight for your life. If one is an wheel chair, the simplest option (and scariest) is to let the knife come to you,  most of the knife defense video’s that pertain to seated knife defense are about as fancy as most Kali demonstrations, I don’t trust them. And when it really comes to it, your going to going against real resistance. So trying to chase the knife baring arm, or redirect in mid air is rather stupid to me. In my training, what has worked is getting some sort of deep control of the arm and pinning it to your body or even wheel-chair. From there, is where we deal with energy, meaning that the attacker tries to pull his (or her) limb baring arm back. In which case (as I have found) you either have to go with the energy the attacker gives, which might mean falling to the ground with them, maintaining control and fighting your way to a better position, or at the very least maintaining control until help comes- if it does.

This is of course, is not without risk, the reality of the blade touching your body is very high. However, in our daily training we learn to not give up and develop emotional and mental resilience as every warrior should.         

                     

Enter Life’s Grappling Match

Life is more like a wrestling match, than a dance. We are to live not like the gladiator but like the pancrationist. For while the gladiator is killed if he drops his sword, the pancrationist is always armed with his own to hands. -Marcus Aurelius

I love this quote by Marcus Aurelious, frankly as a life long martial artist my heart truly gravitated to this quote. I’m a grappler at heart and a purple belt in Brazilian Jujitsu. Pancration was one of the world’s first and if not the oldest grappling system and predates Jesus Christ. Though I am a purple belt in BJJ, most people do not know that I am also a certified instructor under the Jeet Kune Do Grappling association, JKD was Bruce Lee’s personal philosophy (not a system) toward fighting, Bruce himself loved the grappling as well, and of the main systems in JKD grappling (among others) is catch wrestling. Which is many ways is an off shoot of Pancration. I share this because both catch and Pancration or both very brutal systems that are up close and personal- and in the clinch. They are not pretty arts.
When it comes to our lives, we can have a tendency to want our lives to be pretty and comfortable. With little to no complication or adversity. Admittedly, some have much more comfortable lives than others. Which is not wrong in and of its self, but when one has too much comfort, even the tiniest bout of affliction and discomfort can send a person into an emotional frenzy. Trust me I’ve seen it in my own life! So Marcus is saying, that as humans we have to be willing to grapple in life, to be able to be stronger mentally and emotionally. Sure, one perfectly aimed attack can finish the altercation without much effort, but that isn’t life as much as we’d like it to be. The sword is not without it’s place in life, but more often than not the battle happens up close.
Some swordsmen, even when they clash with their swords, they end up in a grappling match. Boxers can spend all day punching a heavy bag and looking sharp on focus mitts. But in a real boxing match guess what? They still clinch up! That means that we as humans better get used to grappling emotionally and mentally in life. Maybe even actually go and take some grappling lessons, so that you can know what the actual fight is like. Everyone has different things we are grappling against, for some it’s addiction to various things, for others it could be depression, anxiety, self- image, health issues numerous things could be added to the list. What that does then, is that it puts all on level ground, and even gives us the chance to be in the corner of others. We must come to grips with the reality that a lot of life is grappling and struggle, and that’s ok! Why? Because as humans we learn more in the fire adversity than we do elsewhere.
The grappling match is the way to almost everything we want in life! You want be a better person? You have to be willing to enter the grappling match.
If you want to lose weight, you still have to enter life’s grappling match. There’s no escape from it. Of course then, we can choose to hide and not enter life’s grappling arena, but by not choosing to do that you’re hurting yourself and selling yourself short daily. Never knowing your real potential as a human being. I’m not applying that you have to go through life on your own merit and strength all the time, but you do know have to know how to survive in life’s clinch. Because when it grabs on to you, it’s grip is a vice grip, and you will need to learn how to use base, connection and leverage to get out of its grip. In practice, when we learn to grapple from the clinch and we are fighting for position, it can seem like a never ending struggle, your heart beating fast and lungs burning. Yet, if you slowly learn over time, to not let your thoughts and emotions get the better of you. You have a victory that is one of the sweetest experiences in life. Will we win every grappling match in life? Not a chance, you will be tapped out and choked out more times than you can count. You might want to stay on the ground for a while, but find that deep inner strength to get back up.

Becoming A Man With Balls (Not Just Testicles)

Every man has testicles, but not every man has balls – George Bruno (Man in blog image)

I know that the above quote might be a bit bold and even provocative, but the words of Mr. Bruno truly resonate with me. As someone that frequents his YouTube channel, he as an older man has a ton of great things to younger men like myself. Young men and men in general need someone older and wise to speak into their lives and help them to develop into strong, confident and know how to conduct themselves in life.

When I heard the above quote, my first reaction was shock, as in there was no way he just said that. But after the quote circulated through my mind, the more his words rang truer as time went on. A lot of men have testicles, in the sense that they know how to have sex with countless women, or watch countless hours of porn and not know how or have any desire to commit to one woman.

Whereas a man with balls knows and learns how to control his urges, he learns to master himself and ultimately is able to give himself to a woman that he deems worthy. Men with just testicles are riddled with fear when it comes to facing the harsh realities and challenges of life. While men with balls are willing to be brave and figure out a way to overcome the adversity.

I’m sure that there are many more examples that could be given, the more important question to ask though, is how does a man become a man with not just testicles-but balls? That’s a great question to ask ourselves as men. As mentioned about, learning to control our sexual urges is a great start. Life is not simply where the penis goes, but learning to be a man that a deeper sense of self to him. Learning to control our urges is one of the best missions a man can embark on. It truly is worth it as time goes on. Another way a man can learn to live with balls, is to conquer his health. Stop eating the crappy foods, eat more steak and greens, do some sort of resistance training whatever that is. Build lean muscles, melt the body fat and learn to fast even if it’s for sixteen-eighteen hours a day. Your confidence will rise because of it.

Next, a man with balls learns to be alone. Not depending on women to fill his cup. A man with balls is at peace with himself and doesn’t need anything else to make him happy or have a sense of purpose and worth. This can take some time to master as well, but when as men we realize that we can be happy in ourselves, we are able to handle darkness far better when it comes hunting for us.

Men also- with balls are at peace with God. They are in right standing with the king of the cosmos and find all they are in him. I know that some of my readers don’t believe in God. But for me, being in right standing with God leaves a man knowing who he truly is and where his happiness truly resides.

Lastly, a man should know how to fight to some degree or another. He should have some skills in boxing or jiujitsu. Both sills together are an amazing combo, imagine hitting like Mike Tyson and having the ability to calmly restrain someone even using the most basic of BJJ skills. A man with these skillsets is calm and knows only to use physical violence as a last resort. He doesn’t go around puffing his chest out showing how tough he is.
These are only the tip of the ice berg, of how a man with testicles can become a man with balls. The purpose of this blog, is to get men to become the best men they can be. Not settling for mediocrity but conquering themselves and the vices that stand in their way.

The Importance of Situational Awareness

When it comes to self-protection, one of the greatest tools a person can get really good at using is situational awareness. Personally, I see situational awareness in two specific categories. The first is knowing thy self and two it’s knowing where you are at and what’s going on around you.
Knowing thy self comes down to the simple things, such as knowing your strengths and weakness. Knowing what makes you uncomfortable and so on. For example, I know that I am a left handed person, as such I know that most attacks will come from a right handed person. There’re, I need position myself in a posture that allows me to shield with my left side, should I need to defend myself.
Moreover, I know that walking far with my crutches or wheeling myself long distances with my push chair, often takes a lot out of me. So positioning myself near an exit should something happen is most preferred. This should be set in place for things like a fire breaking out and even an active killer situation. Again, knowing yourself, in all your strengths and weaknesses and having plans in place, will put you on a greater path toward personal well-being and safety. Next, in knowing your surroundings, knowing where you are at, knowing where your exits are in case of emergencies is crucial. But even more so, listening to what your gut tells you. More often than not, before something bad happens a person typically gets a bed feeling inside them.
Sadly though, this bad feeling that we get in our stomachs is often ignored. If a person keeps you an off feeling, or better yet the creeps. Listen to it, because that feeling is there to protect you. If a certain area you are in does not make you feel safe or looks sketchy, pay attention to that feeling. I would rather be wrong about a certain place or person at times, than put my own self in jeopardy. Most violent encounters can be avoided by early detection and over all avoidance. Now, this doesn’t mean don’t go out and have fun, but it means being aware. Scanning your environment, looking for things that look out of the ordinary, scanning for people that look like potential threats etc. I’m not implying that everyone be paranoid, but I am saying to be smart and use wisdom when out in public. Especially if you’re a person who has a disability. Other ways to improve your personal safety, is putting down your cell phone once in a while and paying attention to what’s going on around you.
I’m just as guilty, but we could all do better at this. Even if it’s in the name of building better quality relationships. Within the self- defense/protection industry, some say that we should maintain a 360 degree sense of awareness. I however believe that’s impossible and even impractical. For the simple reason that you can’t always maintain a 360 degree of awareness, especially if you are talking to someone in front of you. What I feel is better, and much more attainable, is to get a snap shot in your mind of where things and people are. This is far more of an easier practice. Lastly, always go out with friends you trust. Get them involved in formality plans that can help add to your personal safety. This includes all that is mentioned above, as well as even learning how defend a person that isn’t quite able to defend themselves as readily.
With this my hope is to make you safer, and to open your eyes as to why your safety matters. It’s up to you now, as an individual to choose your own safety every single day. For yourself and your loved ones. In my next blog, I will discuss how and why we should carry impact weapons on our person.

How CP Led to My Happiness!

“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?” -Isaiah 45:9, New Living Translation

Snapshots of My Conversion
As someone who was born with cerebral palsy, this was one of my hearts most loaded questions. After all I just wanted to know what it was like to be like everyone else. To be able to run, jump, walk and do the things that normal kids/ people did. Doctors told my parents that, one of two scenarios would unfold in light of me having cerebral palsy. One) I’d grow out of it and two) I wouldn’t be able to do much of anything on my own.

Thankfully my parents are very stubborn and refused to believe any of the doctors outcome. Over time I gained weight and strength, as well as finding escapes from the confines of my wheel chair and leg braces through being raised in the martial arts and strength training, thanks to my father.

Still though, as a young boy, I had to endure the pain of various operations on my legs, hips and spine. Each operation, requiring a year or more of recovery and thus not being around peers my age and being confined to a bed, with minimal outside interaction apart from going to therapy and the doctors. As a young boy, I couldn’t help but ponder the age old question: If there was a God, why did he allow me to be this way? Why so much pain and suffering? As a kid, I was raised with the concept of reincarnation, thus the probability that I could come back as a new person with a new person.

Yet even that I was very skeptical about, in all honesty, I didn’t know if God was real, good or loving. In short, until I was 17 years old, I was an agnostic and yet deep down I wanted there to be something more and greater than myself. I only was suppressing the truth, as the apostle Paul states in Romans 1:18, the biggest catch was that in my own heart, if he was real that I wanted nothing to do with him. What I didn’t know, what was that through all the suffering, anger, bitterness, jealousy, depression and envy. Was that the Lord, in his grace was already affectionately drawing me to himself.
What I Have Learned
He is always in control: As I have grown in my faith journey over the last several years, I have found immense comfort and joy in his complete and utter control over my life. The words of Ephesians 1:3-11 “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us[b] for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known[c] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. Simply put I interpret the words of Ephesians 1:3-11 to mean, that he was in control, that he knew that in the midst of such suffering and darkness. That he had already set me apart, not only to the praise of his glory but that I may be a living reflection of love and grace to the world.

I/we are loved and not mistakes: The father has loved me so well, through his son Jesus. When the holy spirit softened my hard heart, I quickly understood how wide and deep and how vast was his love for me. I was humbled in knowing, that when he fashioned me in my mothers wombs, that I was not some sort of divine-cosmic accident, but that even in spite of having cerebral palsy, I was still fearfully and wonderfully made.

And neither are you. Look to the gospel of John 9, Jesus’s disciples see a man who was born blind and automatically ask, why this man was born the way he was. Was is his sin or the sins of his parents? Jesus says neither sinned, but that this man, was and is this way so that his glory might be revealed through him. We must truly cling to these realties. For I do not believe that I, nor my cerebral palsy is a mistake, but something that had to go through the authority of God first and foremost.

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I am not a mistake and you certainly are not a mistake either, for God has great lavished such an amazing love upon us. And is not a stranger to our pain, but plunged into suffering for us on the cross. Therefore, our Lord is not someone who has to seem like a stranger in our pain and darkness, but is one who is our deepest anchor and hope. If you find yourself, as I have, in great darkness. The arms of Christ can and is your greatest comfort. Not every day will be sunshine and rainbows. But in him is true satisfaction, love and hope in spite of how great the suffering.

Rediscovering Discipline

For the past several weeks, I’ve been listening to a lot of Jocko Willink. He is a former Navy Seal and BJJ black belt under the legendary Dean Lister. I’ve found myself drawn to the fact that he talks so much about self-discipline, in fact, he says that discipline is freedom. I can remember being in college and getting up at 5 AM most every morning, usually because I was scared of waking up late and missing breakfast, class or whatever was on task for the day.

The fact that my father was in the military sure helped with this, and the fact that my mom, would have to get me up early to get ready for school only added to the fact that my body and mind would become accustomed to rising early and chipping away at the day. As a kid, I hated it, wanted to sleep in more and be a bit lazy. But eventually I got used to it. The early rise and grind is what would carry me through a huge majority of my life.

Because my parents disciplined me in such away, conditioned me to get the job done. Even when I didn’t want to. In college I would be done with assignments way before other people were. People would often tell me “I don’t know how you do it..” And at the time, the only answer I had was that God gave me parents to help train me to live in such a way. And that the Lord is faithful in waking me up each and everyday. Was I perfect at it, no way, in fact there were days when I would hit the snooze button once or twice.

Another way of saying it, was I went through the daily motions of life. I’ve always been taught that this was a bad thing, especially being a Christian. But Jocko says that you go through the motions and do it anyway.

Don’t feel like reading my bible? do it any way!

Don’t feel like praying? do it anyway!

Don’t feel like lifting heavy weight? do it anyway!

You’ll feel better having done it. Because the the things we don’t want to do, are the things we need to do the most. It’s how you get ahead in life and how you succeed. Living a life of discipline, I believe, is how we see a difference not only in ourselves. But others, meaning that we can greater help people wherever they are at in life. Living the disciplined life is how we combat our vices, the temptations, the addiction, the bad habits that only long to derail us.

Discipline wins the battle, discipline is wisdom. Discipline may very well be the voice of the grand commander and chief saying, “Hey, I love you, now get up, get on mission and get it done!

Discipline, from the Christian perspective, is not so much our own might. But His, but thats for another blog!images.duckduckgo

 

 

 

Letting Go of The Heavy Load.

Do you ever feel like you have to have it all together?

Do you ever feel like if you don’t have your act together 24/7, then you’re not measuring up?

I relate to both those questions, both in a physical and spiritual sense and for me they both intertwine with one another. In a physical sense if I’m not winning then I do not amount to much.  It doesn’t matter if it’s in Brazilian Jiujitsu or Crossfit. If I’m not submitting people and bringing home the gold medals, then I further down the mountain while losing the respect of my team and sponsors.

If it’s Crossfit, and I’m not hitting the huge PR’s in the gym, if I’m not making the fastest time in competition and make it to the podium. Then others are beating me out and taking that spot that I desired in my heart.   As an athlete, I believe that wanting to win is a right and healthy mindset, but when we put too much unhealthy pressure on ourselves, I think that we willingly put ourselves into a mindset of slavery that we were never meant to be in any way.

You see, performance should never determine our worth. Sure, we should have dreams and be motivated to complete those goals. The bedrock of our lives should be centered around the understanding that we are loved. Loved by God, our family, and friends. When our lives are based on our performance and what we can produce with our lives, then it isn’t loving. It’s a tireless effort to meet a standard we could never meet on our own.

When the love of friends, family, and even coaches is based on the way we perform. Then one might strongly consider that the problem has little to do with you and more to do with them.  If it’s a coach treating you this way, I highly suggest not giving them anymore of your time.

Secondly, this can esaily translate over to the spiritual mind set, in that if we constanly feel that we have to earn Gods love, approval and favor then we have a foggy perspective of who God is. As sch our view of God most be quickly cleared up. So often we feel that if there is a God, then we first have to clean ourselves up in order to even approach him.

That couldn’t be more of a lie, the truth is that we can come to him despite how many flaws we have or how dirty we think we are. God longs for you to come to him, you don’t have to carry around the heavy load that is in your soul. Freedom and hope are possible.

There is a vast difference between God desiring for you to better off then you were, out of a new desire to be less of the person you were yesterday and wanting perfection. God wants you to be a brand new creation, but he understands that you will fall down time and time again. He won’t stop loving you just because you fall or have a bad day. He will love you to the sky and back. You just have to let him.

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Reflection on Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month

 

March is cerebral palsy awareness month, I’ve made a few posts on FB but I thought that a full-length post would be  good as well. I have lived with cerebral palsy (cp) for 30 years now. Yes, I’m 30 years of age, but I don’t feel it or look it. For that, I can thank the genetics that is in me. Cerebral Palsy is a condition that I have, not who I am.

Cerebral Palsy may be an extension of myself, but it is not who I am. First and foremost I am a child of God, who is loved from the earth to the heavens. This is where my identity lies. God knew my small frame long before time began, he wonderfully made me and gave me worth and dignity.

Having cerebral palsy then is a way that he has gifted me to reach out to others. It has allowed me to empathise with those who feel lonely, hurt and rejected by society. I can honestly say that if I didn’t have cerebral palsy, I probably wouldn’t have as big as a heart for people as I do now.

If anything, I probably would be more selfish and self-focused than I already am. That being said, there are many dark days that come with having this condition. There are many days that I wish I was different or like everybody else. Meaning that I wish I could run, walk and sprint. There are days when I cry out to God wishing things were different.

In these moments of self-pity and feeling of  helplessness, I ask the “what if?” and “why me?” questions. We all ask these questions, so to an extent its okay, God can handle these questions. Cerebral palsy is in no way easy to live with, it has taken me quite a long time to be at peace with myself, God and others.

The biggest truth that I can leave you with is that God loves you and created you with passion and purpose and no one can take that from you. People may not understand what we go through, they may even make fun of how we are. But I fearlessly proclaim that you’re loved beyond anything you could ever long for. Even in the times when you feel most alone, the most rejected the most misunderstood you’re loved.

I’ll be honest, there have been times where I have wanted to die. Just to be free from this body full of scars, but some how God keeps this smile on my face. But I say again, you are loved . Never give up the fight. Chase your dreams. Don’t be afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve, be who you are.

Another truth I submit to you is this, you are not a burden. If people do not make time for you, if they do not take the time to get to know you. That is merely a reflection of them and has nothing to do with you. Futher more, do not be afraid to love, do not be afraid to speak hope and encouragement. I truly believe that we can be the change we want to be in the world.

It may seem like you get nothing back in return, but as it is quoted in the movie Gladiator: “What we do in life echoes in eternity”. Do not shy away from pushing yourself physichally, I have been doing Brazillian Jiujitsu for almost 6 years and CrossFit for almost 2-3 years. With both of these elements in my life, my body has never been stronger. Even when doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to do much on my own, even when teachers told me I wouldn’t amount to much. It is by Gods grace I am who I am.

The same reality can be present in your or own life, you just have to take that small step forward. That might require asking for help, swallowing your pride and letting others be your teacher. It might require you sitting down and discovering your dreams and who you are as a person. Regardless, you can rest assured that there is no glass ceiling over our heads precerebral_palsy_awarenessventing us from conquering the obstacles that stand in our way.

Be well my friends.

-Brandon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflecting On The Death of Ian

My friend Ian died last week, he was in the trenches with a battle against cancer. And sadly the ugly son of a bitch we call cancer won. I’ve always hated cancer and have lost a handful of loved ones as a result of it. When I first heard that Ian had cancer, I quickly lowered my head in prayer. Asking God to give Ian the strength to fight and joy to face each day.

I felt optimistic because other people were praying along side me on behalf of him. I knew Ian was a warrior. And I knew that my Lord was good. But man, I wasn’t prepared to say goodbye in my own. I first met Ian at the 2015 grapplers heart tournament in Brooklyn New York. A tournament dedicated to adaptive BJJ (Brazilian Jiujitsu).

There, I watched Ian bravely go into all his matches with all he had. Most of his opponents could move faster then him and had much more mobility then him. Yet he didn’t doubt, he didn’t fear he simply went head and heart first into the storm. Ian lost all four of his matches, but not once did he complain.

Something that I could very much learn from, I was of Ian’s opponents in the nogi division. One thing that caught my attention was how he held on to the very last second before tapping out. I remember kneeling beside him, making sure he was okay. His coaches came to check on him and the only thing that I could think was that this kid was as tough as they come.

Since that time, Ian has went on to touch thousands of lives. He even received his blue belt, a belt that is not easy to get. Ian would soon find a way into the heart of UFC champion Chris Weidman. Weidman would fly Ian and his family out to a UFC event that he was fighting at. Ian got to accompany Weidman on his walk out.

I’m sure Ian also got to the honor to meet other UFC fighters, and I’m also positive that he left a lasting impression on them as well. The truth is, you don’t have to know someone for long in order for them to change your life or at least impact it in a tremendous way.

When I met Ian, I observed a lot of his interactions with people. He was always smiling, never shy and always willing to mingle with new people. Something that I have always struggled with and envied of others. I never actually got to say goodbye to Ian when we were in NY, but knowing that he had quickly found a place in my heart. I knew that it was okay.

When I found out that Ian had passed away, I remember sitting on the floor of my college dorm. I re-read the posting over and over again in hopes that I was reading it to fast. But I wasn’t, my heart started to pound and my palms started to sweat. Soon the tears would follow. I put my hands over my face and cried harder then I have in years. It didn’t matter to me how long I knew him. When you go to war with someone on the mat, you build a bond that cannot be taken away.

I then put my head into a pillow and screamed, I felt a real connection with Ian. Not only did we share a common bond in Jiujitsu but we both had cerebral palsy. And in my eyes that made us family. There’re a few things that I believe that we all can take from the life that Ian lived:

  1. Live a life without excuse, there is no reason under the sun that we can’t better our lives. Be it physically, spiritually or emotionally.
  2. Learn to love others well, as cliche as it is you never know when your last day will be.
  3. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to be you.
  4. Don’t take your body and abilities for granted, our lives are gifts and we are meant to treat them as such.

Do your best not to live in fear, fear only holds us back from experiencing life to fullest. Do your best to find joy in all of life, this makes life far more enjoyable and helps you to live in the moment and one day at a time. That being said, this blog is for you, Ian, thank you for all you have done, thank you for the impact you have had on my life, thank you for what you have given to the sport of Jiujitsu and thank you for being who you are. I will never forget you bro.

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