Jiu Jitsu changes lives

Below is a post from Gracie Wesley Chapel’s newest blue belt:

“Warning! This is a very sappy post and uncharacteristic of me.

If you have talk to me for more than 5 minutes, you know the Army was my life. Back when I was healthy and in shape. After my last deployment to Afghanistan followed by a medical retirement, I was in a dark place.

I’ve told the story about how my wife woke me up one day and told me she had signed me up for Jiu Jitsu. I left out the part where I was doped up on pain killers, muscle relaxers, plus pills for anxiety and depression. Compared to where I was then, I feel like a new person.

Getting my blue belt might not seem like a big deal, but it means so much more to me. I have to thank the coaches, Wrick Tomas, Eric Callueng, Jeff Morris, Denny Bowser, Ryan Montecalvo, David Manjarres Arbelaez, for their patience and all their hard work and pretty much everyone who has rolled with me and helped me along the way. And of course my wife, for tricking me into going to the gym and picking up my slack at home so that I can spend time on the mats.”

Miguel has been training with us for a year, he came with a little experience from his Army combatives training.  In the past year, he has lost 40lbs, his cardio has improved tenfold, and it seems like his injuries that forced his medical retirement from the Army have diminished.

I remember Miguel’s wife, Nieki, coming into the gym very clearly.  It was around noon,  I was working on some paperwork.
“Hi, I need to signup my husband,” Nieki said very as-a-matter-of-factly. (She is an Army Recruiter, I found out later lol)
“Um, do you want any information about our school and our programs,” I asked.
“No, he loved combatives when he was in the Army, he’ll be good,” Nieki said.

It was weird, probably the easiest pitch ever lol.  That evening Miguel was in class.  He about 270-280lbs and a little stiff, but we could tell he had a little training.  He could shrimp well and some of his movements were not of a fresh noobie.  After his first class his shirt was soaked with sweat, I asked him if he had fun.  Miguel was trying to catch his breath, but had a huge smile on his face.  He was very reserved at first.  But a week or two into his training he admitted that he was pissed off that his wife had signed him up and kicked him off the couch and made him go to class lol.  But he needed the kick in the butt.  I told him, she was awesome for doing that, showed how much she loved him.

As the months progressed, Miguel was dropping weight and opening up to us a lot more.  One tell-tale sign for me that he had the “Jits bug” was all the new grappling gear he was coming in with hahahaha.  He had new spats everyday for 2-3 weeks it seemed.  At one point it looked like Miguel and Bradley Miller were having a battle-off for who could get the newest/freshest grappling gear lol.  Miguel started sticking around after we’d all get done rolling.  He’d get in on some of the higher belts’ “brainstorming sessions” after open mat and pick everyone’s brain.

One day after class and everyone had got done rolling, I was getting ready to sweep the mats.  Miguel snatched the broom from my hands.
I looked at him, “WTF bro?!”
“I can’t have you do that coach,” he said, “Not when I’m around, I was in the Army remember?”
“I was in the military too fool, there’s no chain of command here, gimme my broom back,” I yelled.
“Nope,” Miguel said.
We finally came to a compromise, and since that day Miguel stays after every class, rolls longer than anyone at the gym, and helps clean mats.  What seems insignificant to other people, showed me a lot about Miguel’s character and values.

We started noticing a huge improvement to his jits about 2-3 months ago.  Cowboy and I decided to hold off on his blue belt for a while.  Miguel was training hard, and training smart.  Then he started doing private lessons with me to tighten up his game.  In the past few weeks guys kept coming up to me and telling how good he’s gotten, it became hard to hold off on his blue.

It was an honor for me to give Miguel aka Porkloin his Faixa Azul.  He has overcome a lot in the past year, not just in BJJ, but with obstacles in his life.  I have never met anyone with as much honor and integrity as Miguel.  I’m glad that Jiu Jitsu has had a positive effect on his life, as it has mine.  He is not just a student to me, I consider him my brother.