I had a rough year with injuries and it has made me stronger than ever mentally. When anyone else would have quit, I pushed on. I’ve even given myself the moniker of One Arm Bandit.
Earlier this year I had a hernia surgery which kept me off the mat for about a month. Then, as I was prepping for the Chicago Open my neck issues showed up again, this time with lasting implications. As most of you know I have lost signification arm movement and strength in my left arm due to a pinched nerve at my cervical spine. I also have a full SLAP tear in my left shoulder. It’s been a tough year. With all the physical issues, I have to say though, it’s been harder mentally. I have had to relearn to do many common things like brush my teeth and even eat. For those that don’t know, I’m left handed. Although even I’m amused when I spill a drink because of my busted arm, It has been very challenging. Even more so on the mat.
On the mat I have had to retool my game. I have a huge vulnerability and my concentration has been on protecting that weakness. Inherently it seems that people attack the left side a lot, and I am known for loving my half guard, especially deep half guard. My left side underhook gets dominated with a simple pummel, I can’t stop it, so I just needed to find a way. In NoGi it has been extremely challenging as there is no lapel or blouse to grab. So the answer? Don’t get stuck there. Only if life were so easy, right? This is where extra mat time with Professor Orlando and the entire team came into the picture. I have worked hard to find alternatives and transitions out of problematic situations. It’s always going to be a work in progress, but I have built a strong foundation to work my game from.
Today I feel confident in my ability to kick your ass even if it’s with one arm. I have worked my ass off. Yeah, I complain and chat about my injuries, a lot in fact. But what I want you and everyone else to take away is if I can do it with one arm, you have no damn excuse. If I can train 4-5 days a week with one arm, you should also be on the mat. When I am giving higher belts a run for their money because I want it more, I hope it motivates you! I no longer want to live in a world where I make excuses, and I expect the same out of my teammates and training partners. I thank God every day for being on the best team in the world. I am a Bulldog.
I am not one to dwell too much on stripes or promotions really. It’s a great marker of where your progress is. It’s based on your school and your Professor and at least with belts, they will be used to classify you in competition. Real talk? I’m not in Jiu Jitsu for a belt. That said, this has been the longest gap in my time training without earning that marker and it has certainly weighed on me. What can I do better? What am I not doing to get better? How can I improve my game? I search for answers and really it’s right in front of me. The answer’s always there. Train more, learn more. Stay on the mat and you will continue improving.
I earned my 3rd stripe this week along with some well deserving teammates who got their belts and stripes. I am proud of my team and our continual improvement. Lets all continue getting better and stop making excuses. The answer is right in front of us and it all starts with stepping onto the mat.
Merry Christmas to you all. See you on the mat.
One Arm Bandit