I am here right now to share some truth and an inside perspective on how the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the craft of Mixed Martial Arts, and the community of people it’s brought together has helped save my life.
I could have never dreamed any of this up for myself. So many positive things have happened for me in this process, I feel like I’d be doing a disservice to not share the experience of my journey thus far.
Before I get started on what’s going on today, I’d like to share some of my past. My whole life I’ve felt misunderstood and like I wasn’t able to fit in. Like I was not good enough for the people around me. I always felt like I wasn’t good at anything. My younger brother out did me in everything. He was better at sports, got better grades than me, was always able to make friends so easily and I always felt like he was loved by my family more than I was. I was never like that.
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School was always an issue for me. I seemed to always find myself on the radar. Getting into trouble, not always having the best grades and always ending up in some type of conflict with a teacher or a classmate. Paying attention for me was a big problem. I could never stay focused or sit still. I would always get into trouble or yelled at by my teachers and my mom for it but I couldn’t help what was going on. It’s just how I was.
Once I got into high school I started to phase out of sports. Worrying to much about fitting in with a certain group of people with a certain social status, I got into things a young teenager should not have. To fit in with the group that “accepted me”, partying became a popular concern for me. School was no longer of importance. Drinking and drugs became a major part of my life and I ended up getting expelled.
Once I got expelled, my drive for anything better for myself or other people in life had completely started to diminish. Everyone I knew was going off to college, starting jobs, chasing their dreams and doing whatever it may have been in a positive way to better themselves. While this was happening, I was becoming addicted to drugs, and becoming a person I never thought I’d become. And doing things I never thought I’d do. I gave up on life and I became a very suicidal human being.
I ended up homeless. Pushed everyone out of my life. Didn’t take care of my hygiene. Wasn’t eating for days at a time. Could not hold a job. Could not sleep at night. Lost my license and my car. I had run out of options. I had nothing. I was nothing. I was a walking zombie.
Finally enough was enough and I decided to go seek help. I was a year and a half sober and out of rehab when I found myself yet again in a hopeless, depressed state of mind. Lost and confused. No direction and no purpose. I was in a mental state where I was crying every day and physically ill, down to 118 pounds, I knew I had to change what I was doing. Something was missing.
I’m not sure exactly what happened or what was said to me at some point to plant a seed but Mixed Martial Arts was calling my name. I remember being at work one day thinking about a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school down the road that I had tried a class at a few years prior. Normally I would be too full of fear and wouldn’t take a step forward to change but this day was different. I knew if something didn’t happen soon, I could die or live the rest of life miserable. So, I asked my boss if I could step outside to make a call. I remember pacing back and forth full fear wondering if I should make the call or not. I found strength that I normally didn’t have in this moment and called the guy that ran the school.
Answering the phone with a super calm, friendly voice a small weight had instantly started to lift off of my shoulders. Deep down I don’t think I wanted him to answer but he did. We had a conversation, I expressed some of my concerns and some things I have been through. He reassured me not to be worried and told me to come give it a shot. He told me if I didn’t like it that was fine but to at least come give it a shot if I was thinking about it.
I showed up on a Wednesday night. I had zero idea what to expect. There were three classes. A fundamental Gi class, an all ranks no Gi class and a striking class. I didn’t say a word to anybody. Completely uncomfortable. I felt like all of my insecurities were sticking up behind me worded on signs for everyone to look at. But everyone seemed so happy. Everyone was smiling. All shapes, sizes, and genders. The head professor was more than welcoming and told me to let him know what I thought at the end of the night. Nobody judged me. I was treated amazing by everybody. And helped out so much. The instructors took time out to make sure I was guided through the classes in the right direction. The first person I drilled with was much bigger than me. He let me know we were just learning technique and to not worry. We’re here to learn, not to hurt each other. I stayed the whole night and signed up directly after the classes.
I took off flying after that night. I’ve been training almost every day of the week for the past seven months. I’ve competed in two Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitions. It’s helped me in so many ways. I smile again today. I talk to people in class. I’ve gained multiple, genuine friendships. I eat multiple meals a day. I’ve gained 30 pounds and my physique and posture have changed dramatically for the better. I don’t cry all the time anymore. I’m able to handle situations that I used to have difficult times with, without giving up on myself.
There is people I have met there that are willing to help me if I need it. I plan things better. I’ve been at my job almost a year now. I pay all of my bills. I’ve gained many things back in my life. Like the trust of my fellows. Self-respect, self-awareness and self-love. I’m not depressed anymore and no longer have suicidal thoughts. I’m happy today. Sure, things happen in life and sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it, but you can control how you decide to react to it.
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Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and MMA as a whole has helped me become humbler. It’s shown me how to lose with grace and not be mad, but think about how you can learn to get out of the situation next time. It’s taught me patience. I’m less angry. I’m not depressed today and I’m excited to wake up in the morning and go out and try to make a better life for myself and others around me. It’s the best decision I’ve made to help better my life. It’s something I never knew I needed and I never could have dreamt up any of this. Who knew making one decision could open up some many doors and change my life in so many amazing ways?
I have purpose today. I was asked to help coach the kids classes. That right there is a reason for living. A reason to wake up and be a better person everyone moment. Not just for me but for them. I have children that look up to me and instructors and parents that trust me around their children. And a huge reason besides my health I don’t smoke cigarettes anymore. If I’m helping teach a young kid something he or she really loves and smell like cigarette smoke while I do it, they may think that’s ok to do themselves. That’s just unacceptable to me.
I’m accepted in the school. People allow me to be myself and don’t treat me as an outcast. They’re there to talk to me if needed or also give me my space. I finally fit in somewhere with a group of people who all love the same thing. So many people from so many different walks of life. And one thing brings us together.
I finally feel like I’m good at something. I’m able to keep growing through this process and learn about technique and life all at once. An extraordinary gift. Anyone reading this could benefit from starting up BJJ or continuing your journey if already started. I’ve seen it help so many people and it saved my life. I don’t know where I’d be right now and it doesn’t really matter. Because life is better and I keep growing every day. Today I have confidence. Today I have strength. Today I have love for myself and my peers. Gifts nobody can take from me. If they try, I’ll put them in triangle choke, hahaha. Thank you for reading everyone!
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