Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: A lifetime commitment to self-improvement
By Conor Drury
Two steps forward, one step back
In 2009, I had it all it figured out. I was a blue belt in BJJ who’d been training for several years and had yet to experience a major setback or be forced to overcome serious adversity. I wasn’t always as disciplined as I should’ve been but I thought that was okay because I was still young and making progress overall. I expected the following years of my training to continue on the same path that the first few had. What I didn’t realize was that sometimes things can be thrown your way that you’d never planned for.
One day while doing some circuit training by myself, I felt a pain in my lower abdomen during a set of heavy dumbbell snatches. I didn’t think much of it at first and continued on through the rest of my workout. After a few hours passed with the pain only getting worse, I decided to go to the ER. This ended up being the first of many visits to medical facilities where my injury was misdiagnosed by doctors. I was told that I had only strained a muscle, it wasn’t a big deal and that I should just take a little time off before easing back into training.
My immediate reaction was that something didn’t feel right about what I was being told but I trusted the doctor’s opinion and did what he asked. After nearly a month of rest (which in itself presented a challenge as I was used to training at least a few times a week) I decided to go for a light jog one day. I knew after the first minute or two by the pain and discomfort I felt that my injury wasn’t one that was just going to repair itself by simply taking time off. This began a long process of attempts at physical therapy, MRIs, dealing with my insurance carrier when trying to see a specialist, etc. It culminated in a trip to a nearby sports specialist who told me that he’d seen NFL players forced to retire because of what I was dealing with. I’d sought out help for my injury literally dozens of times over a period of months in one way or another and after repeatedly being told that there was nothing I could do, I gave up.
Over the following months after that last visit to the doctor, I lived as unhealthy a lifestyle as I ever had. Without the ability to participate in the art I’d fallen in love with, I saw no reason to take care of myself physically anymore and it took a serious toll on me. I drifted away from the friends I’d made in BJJ and wasn’t surrounding myself with the most positive influences anymore. Only a matter of months after being in the best shape of my life and taking 2nd place in a BJJ tournament at 189 lbs, I’d ballooned up in weight to 300 lbs and was in constant physical pain. Around this point, I made up my mind that something had to give and I couldn’t continue on the way I had been.
I decided to start reaching out to doctors not covered by my insurance who might be a bit more proactive about finding a solution and lots of research, phone calls and e-mails to specialists out of the area followed. I eventually talked to one in San Jose who was able to tell me almost immediately that he was all but sure that what I was suffering from was a bilateral sports hernia which he’d fixed countless times before without issue. With support and help from my family, I traveled hundreds of miles north to pay for the surgery out of pocket in the hopes of finally getting back on track. It ended up being successful and I was able to begin the long and arduous process of losing the weight I’d gained on top of rehabbing my injury.
Time to get back
By the time I first started thinking about getting back to BJJ a few months later, I was feeling a bit better and I’d dropped the first 20 or so lbs. I was still somewhat hesitant and doubtful about my ability to get back to where I once was when I gave Michio Grubbs, the only BJJ instructor I’ve ever had, a call and told him that I was thinking about getting back on the mat. He was overwhelmingly supportive and encouraging, making sure I knew that the team hadn’t forgotten about me and would be there to help me every step of the way. It was exactly what I needed to hear and I instantly became much more optimistic about the future.
It definitely wasn’t easy and I hit a few more minor hurdles along the way but I’m now in better shape than I ever was before the injury and along with my friends and immediate family, I have my extended family at Excel Jiu Jitsu to thank for that. I’ve realized that not everything is going to go smoothly but you can’t let that discourage you. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, much like life, isn’t a sprint nor is it something that progress will always be consistent or readily apparent in. There are ups and downs, what matters is never giving up and surrounding yourself with the right people.
On the right path
“You get out of BJJ what you put into it” -Conor Drury
Looking back now as a brown belt in 2015 on the journey that has taken me to this point, I’m happy to say that I’ve learned from my mistakes and am exactly where I should be. It has become apparent to me that you get out of BJJ what you put into it, no more or less. I now look at every training session as an opportunity to learn, have fun and continue to make progress as opposed to something that I just need to get through if I want to improve. I try to push myself past what I’d previously thought possible instead of doing the bare minimum. These are all things that I think every person should get to experience, though hopefully while avoiding some of the obstacles that I had to overcome. If you want to be part of a team that will help you become the best version of yourself and realize your full potential in a friendly environment, come give Team Excel Jiu Jitsu a try.