Grasshopper: Deaf and Disabled, Bullied as a Child; How Brazilian Jiu Jitsu helped!

Grasshopper: How one man overcame bullying and his disabilities with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

David Robarge’s life has been a battle since early childhood. The 33-year-old, deaf since he was 5, has endured multiple car accidents, survived brain surgery, and, most recently, severely injured his hip after falling off a roof.

In addition to this, Robarge has been targeted by bullies because of his short stature and physical disabilities. Robarge believed that wearing two hearing aids made him more likely to get picked on by bullies at school, so he would remove one in hopes that it would curb the harassment he endured. Not only did it not stop the bullies, but he caused permanent damage to his right ear by not wearing the hearing aid.

As an adult, he became afraid to go out by himself and grew depressed. His depression and anxiety would have continued had it not been for a chance encounter on Facebook with Brian Ruscio, owner of Grappling Mastery, a local gym specializing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Brian Ruscio sent Robarge a friend request and invited him to visit his facility and try out Jiu Jitsu.  A year later, Robarge credits Jiu Jitsu and the Grappling Mastery team with changing his life. He has become a more confident person and is giving back by helping young kids learn Jiu Jitsu as well as how to deal with bullies.

Grasshoper from Tom Benitez on Vimeo.

David Robarge’s life has been a battle since early childhood. The 33-year-old, deaf since he was 5, has endured multiple car accidents, survived brain surgery, and, most recently, severely injured his hip after falling off a roof. In addition to this, Robarge has been targeted by bullies because of his short stature and his disabilities. Robarge discusses how Jiu-Jitsu has improved his quality of life and made him a more confident man.

“Grasshopper” is part 2 of a 3 part series by 63 year Old Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Artist at Grappling Mastery, Tom Benitez recently put his skills in photography and his passion for BJJ together to create this enlightening piece on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and how it can help prevent or overcome Bullying Problems, Depression, Lack of Confidence, Self Esteem, and other issues.

Watch Part 1 “Doc”

Watch Part 3

Military Veterans, PTSD, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Ted "Doc" Kendall, Navy Field Medic
We Defy Foundation
We Defy Foundation supports Disabled Veterans by providing High Quality BJJ and Fitness Training

63 Year Old Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Artist at Grappling Mastery, Tom Benitez recently put his skills in photography and his passion for BJJ together to create this enlightening piece on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and how it can help Veterans overcome or deal with PTSD and other issues.  This is part 1 in a 2 part series.

Ted “Doc” Kendall, a veteran combat medic for the United States Navy, recently discovered that Jiu Jitsu is an effective and life-changing therapy to help him deal with the PTSD he incurred from an IED attack in Iraq. Kendall has been training at Grappling Mastery, in Mount Dora, Florida, where he often attends multiple classes a day. The martial art gives him a much-needed outlet for his depression, anger, and frustration.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 11-20% of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. As a result, many veterans experience nightmares, flashbacks, and survivor’s guilt, along with a host of other symptoms. Veterans often have difficulty re-adjusting to civilian life after they are discharged. A report released in 2013 estimates that 22 veterans commit suicide per day.

Doc from Tom Benitez on Vimeo.

Ted “Doc” Kendall, a veteran of the United States Navy, discusses how Jiu Jitsu has allowed him to cope with PTSD he has as a result of being injured in an IED attack in Iraq.

Click here for Part 2 “Grasshopper”

Grappling Mastery is an Official We Defy Training Facility offering Free Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai Kickboxing Training to Disabled Veterans!

We were also featured in the Orlando Sentinel for being a pioneer of the We Defy Program in Lake County, Florida at our Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy in Mount Dora.

Army Medic, Tony Tindell in Afghanistan
Army Medic, Sgt. Tony Tindell in Afghanistan

You hear a lot of stories about returning Combat vets. They’re Angry, Drinking, Depressed or have PTSD; well I’m glad to say this isn’t me and there one very distinct reason for that, besides my wife; Grappling Mastery. I was still in Ghazni Afghanistan when I contacted Professor Ruscio initially. I explained my need for a coping mechanism upon my return and he offered to help. I’ve been training with Grappling Mastery for four month now, since returning from the battlefield. In addition to BJJ he taught me patience, diligence a bit of humility… Read More

Fighting with Disabilities in MMA and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt, Jean Jacques Machado

I’m reminded of an old wrestling poster that said “Any Body can Wrestle!” featuring a large heavyweight and a very small wrestler, both Champions.  This is especially the case in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu where many times it’s focus is to use leverage and technique to overcome strength and size.

But what about people with disabilities?

In my BJJ journey I’ve learned that many of the “guards” and other positions/techniques were often developed to overcome a handicap or injury that an athlete had.  From PTSD to a bum leg, amputees, partial hands, diabetes, suffering seizures, and being exceptionally weak are only a few real examples of disabilities BJJ and MMA fighters have overcome. These are some physical or mental disabilities that people may be concerned about.  I have also experienced parents with concerns of their children having ADD, ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia and other behavioral disabilities or special needs that they think might hold their child back from learning.  In many cases, I found it to be the complete opposite! Many times these are the children that excel and thrive in my kids classes!  Many adults and kids experience huge benefits from Grappling specifically pertaining to their challenges.  This is in addition to the long list of benefits of training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu every person who trains can tell you about.

In the following post I’ll be reviewing some of the most popular Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Wrestling, and MMA athletes that overcame their disabilities to improve themselves rather than letting it hold them back.

  • Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt, Jean Jacques Machado
    Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt, Jean Jacques Machado

    The first that comes to mind is Jean Jacques Machado.  Cousin to the Gracie’s, and a Black Belt under Carlos Gracie Jr., Machado suffered birth defects resulting from Amniotic Band Syndrome, which left him with only his thumb and pinky finger on his left hand. Despite this affecting his ability to grip in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, he won many National and International titles, including Gold in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Nationals for 11 consecutive years.  He also won a Gold in Abu Dhabi and earning the “Most Technical Fighter” award.

  • Kyle Maynard wrestling
    Kyle Maynard wrestling

    Kyle Maynard, born with congenital amputation, is a quadruple amputee who wrote the book No Excuses: The True Story of a Congenital Amputee Who Became a Champion in Wrestling and in Life.  Maynard began training in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in 2005.  He had his amateur debut fight on April 25, 2009.

  • At 19 years old, Roberto “Gordo” Corriea suffered a knee injury in competition and damaged the cruciate ligaments in his knee.  This injury lasted a very long time and prevented him from using one of his legs.  He didn’t let this stop him from getting better.  He overcame the injuring by working around it. Through his adjustments in his jiu jitsu game, he contributed to the development of the “Half Guard”, one of the most important positions in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu today!
  • Keith Miner, MMA fighter
    Keith Miner, MMA fighter

    In May 2000, then 19 year old, Keith Miner was feeding trees into a wood chipper when the driver of the truck it was on pulled forward without telling anyone. He tripped and his hand and forearm got caught in the wood chipper.  Right handed, but now without without being able to move anything past his shoulder, he had to learn how to do everything left handed!  He started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA, holding a record of 5-5 and becoming the first professional amputee fighter.

 

  • Tracy "Tra" Telligman, UFC Fighter
    Tracy “Tra” Telligman, UFC Fighter

    Tracy “Tra” Telligman was in a car accident crushing his ribs when he was only one and a half years old. Tra can be seen fighting with a deep recess in his chest because he is missing his right pectoral muscle and his right lung due to the accident! Telligman began training in karate when he was 8 years old, continuing until he was 13 years old, and then began boxing until he was 15. During high school he started training in jiu jitsu.  Tra Telligman has a professional Boxing record of 4-2 and MMA record of 7-5-1 and has fought some legendary UFC fighters!

  • Garrett Holeve, MMA Fighter with Down Syndrome
    Garrett Holeve, MMA Fighter with Down Syndrome

    Garrett Holeve, of Cooper City Florida struggles with Downs Syndrome and is also fighting to be allowed to compete in MMA.  On November  8, 2014 he earned a victory in his first sanctioned MMA bout.

 

“You expect great things from your children, but you learn how to be realistic with a child that has sensory problems early on. You learn their limits fast and try not to push too far past those too fast. Most people know my awesome fun loving son, but haven’t seen what it took to get there. He amazes me all the time, but on this day he really went past his limit and way beyond. He showed strength, heart, control, and above all respect. He put it out there on the mat then with the exception of a few heartbroken minutes he left it there and told me what he was going to work on in the future. I am proud to call him my son and I have seen the struggles we went through break through the clouds to a beautiful moment. It’s almost too much and I never though Jiu Jitsu of all things would bring this out of him. So thank you Brian Ruscio and Rita Rojas, you have given me something way more precious than any medal he could bring home.”
– Brandi Rust, Mother & Behavioral Health Tech.
“Building Champions On & Off the Mats!”