This was forwarded to me and I share it here.
As many of you know, I won the World Juijitsu Championship in my division and placed third in the open. Juijitsu is a full-contact grappling martial art exceedingly popular in Brazil where the World Championships are held. The style of juijitsu that I have studied is called Gracie Method, made famous by the Gracie brothers who won the Ultimate Fighting competitions several times. Before this, few in the US were familiar with juijitsu. The Gracies proved that juijitsu could trample karate, judo, boxing and any other form of fighting.
The road to victory is never short and in my case credit must be shared with many people who helped along the way. This is a little report on my preparation and last week's tournament in Rio.
To prepare, I trained three days each week with three different black belts. The first was Steve Maxwell, he and his wife D.C. are the owners of Maxercise in Philadelphia. Steve not only taught me juijitsu but made it his personal project to transform my body into a lean, strong, limber fighting tool. Hagis, another black belt from Brazil, reinforced many of the moves that I have learned over these past five years. With him I would repeat moves again and again and again until they became second nature. I also flew to California twice to train with Jean-Jacques Machado, a multi-champion black belt who also fights one-handed. As I was discovering, my blindness was less of an hindrance than the limitations of my left hand. For those of you that may have forgotten, my left hand has only two fingers attached to a fused wrist. Machado taught me many ways to overcome my limitations and use more of my legwork. So after six months of high-intensity training, I flew to Brazil for the competition.
D.C. Maxwell, Natalia Davis, Jamie and I flew to Rio together. All of us practice juijitsu. Once in Rio, we were met by Saulo Ribiera, a six time world champion who would continue my preparation for the match. He would also prove instrumental in coaching me through my fights. I worked out with Greg, a fellow blue belt juijitsu student who flew in from Ohio. After four days of training, the competition was at hand. I had only to focus on my state of mind. My body was ready, now to prepare my head.
It would all come down to five minutes on the mat. At the tournament I was joined by four more friends from the US: Marco, Anray, Nick and Noah. They along with other Americans, whose names we never got, joined in the cheering. My first hesitations came when I shook my opponent's hand and realized how large they were. My next apprehension arrived when his young 46-year-old body hit my 58-year old body on the mat. He was so strong and serious. This wasn't friendly sparring in the gym. But I performed technically better than I have ever performed. I even managed to get out of a triangle, a move where the competitor wraps his legs around your neck in an attempt to choke you out. I managed to stand up, stack his body, and produce enough pressure that he finally let go of his grip. Thanks to Saulo, I never gave up even though I was afraid that I might pass out. When I broke his triangle, it broke his spirit. After that I passed his guard, or for those who don't know juijitsu, I escaped his legs coiled around my waist. In the end, I won six points to nothing. The gold metal! The crowd roared and I got a standing ovation along with many hugs from friends. Even my competitor was gracious with his compliments. He declared that the better man had indeed won.
Next was the absolute or open, or the competition where size and weight is irrelevant. There were eight competitors. I had resolved previously that I would not fight these if I had won my division. I was still nursing a dislocated rib and feared further injury. But I found myself far less winded than expected, and I was spurred on by the cheers of my son. This match was very different. I had no sense of my opponent. We did not shake hands ahead of time. My first sense of him was when we hit the mat and I discovered that he must be at least 200 pounds. 30 pounds more than me! I lost that 5 minute round but managed to make him work for it. The winner, who had stormed through his division, now moved on to collect the gold medal in the absolutes. I collected a bronze. When I lost, the crowd cheered so loudly it was deafening. Unfortunate for the winner, the crowd neglected to cheer him as well.
After I collected my medals, many of the competitors and coaches came to shake my hand. They were shocked to see that my hands were also disabled. They looked at me with reverence. Some of the local young people also came up to have their picture taken with me. I was interviewed by a Brazilian magazine where I hope I inspired others to try harder. This is one of the achievements I am most proud of in my life.
I was not athletic until middle age. I didn't start training for juijitsu until I was fifty. I had always believed that I was not an athlete. I proved myself wrong. "I have found that whether you believe you can, or believe you can't. You are usually right."-Tony Robbins.
Again thanks to all of you who supported me both directly and indirectly. I will remember this forever.