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Monday, July 20, 2015

An Itroduction To a Journey

The following words, are the start of what I hope to be an autobiography on my journey through Jiujitsu. Please feel free to read, leave feed back and share with others.

-Brandon Ryan


    Everybody grapples, they just don’t know it. My life was a grappling match from my very first breath, being born with Cerebral Palsy, a doctor informed my mother and father that I would not have the best chance for survival. I was born pre-mature at 4 pounds 4 ounces, the oxygen had been cut off from my brain due to the umbilical cord wrapping around my neck several times. That same doctor would tell my parents that I would never walk on my own, let alone complete everyday tasks like feeding and grooming myself. He also told my parents that I would “grow out” of this condition, it’s always interesting how doctors try and resemble the grand creator of the universe. Thankfully though, my parents didn’t take the doctors two faced remarks as gospel. My mom fought tooth and nail to get me to gain weight, and my dad worked tirelessly at trying to get my small frame more mobile.
Mornings were always a fight, especially when I was at the age of started kinder-garden, or any early stage of schooling. It was especially difficult for my mom to get me dressed in the morning, due to the fact that my limbs were so very stiff. Almost like someone trying to pin a limb down in a grappling match, but the opponent does all they can to resist and fight it off. But as any experienced grappler will tell you, if you try and force and submission that isn’t there, often times you waste needed energy and open ones self up to counter attacks and reversals. Often times I could see that my mom getting frustrated because my body would not cooperate with her, constantly it would resist. She would close her eyes and take a deep breath and continue to complete the task at hand.
    Cerebral Palsy in a nut shell, is a disconnect between the brain and the body. When my brain knows what it wants to do, the rest of my body reacts in its own way. As a result, miscommunication is the culprit. In spite  of the resistance my body would put fourth, my mom would persevere under the pressure.  Which is what you have to do both in stepping onto the mats and in life. Jiujitsu (as well as other grappling arts) are a reflection of life, the following pages will be a inward reflection of what Jiujitsu has done for me in all areas of my life. My hope is to serve people well in their own Jiujitsu journeys, regardless of the fact that one might be a seasoned black belt or just starting off. My deepest desire is that people discover that Jiujitsu is in its self, joy. It is a gift and something to be embraced and respected by all. Jiujitsu is part of what has made me the man that I am today, it has taught me lessons that I don’t think I could have learned unless I was on the mat.
    I long to pass something on to the next generation of grapplers, for I believe that there is a lot missing in modern day grapplers today, in character, honor and respect. The way of the Bushido (the way of the warrior) is missing. Through out my journey, people have stated that I’m “obsessed” with jiujitsu, and that might hold some truth, but until one actually see’s, experiences and understand what the art of jiujitsu can do for ones life, claiming it as an obsession only derives from lack of understanding . Jiujitsu can do much for a person, if you let it. In many ways Jiujitsu leads one down a road of personal self discover, it can reveal things inside you, you never knew were there.
It can unlock physical abilities you never knew you had, most importantly it can create a warrior spirit and give you the ability to endure in all seasons of life. This isn’t only my journey, but yours too. My hope is that as you read the following pages, may your heart, mind and ears be opened. In order that the spec of knowledge that I have on this knowledge, may be passed onto you, and thus passed onto the next. The same way a rock in a pond creates a ripple effect that can continually pass on.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Finding What's Real (And an update too)

Once again, its been a long time since I've updated this blog. I finished my first semester as a junior and in just a few days the second half begins. College is going by so fast. Since I last wrote, I have brought home another gold medal.

I competed at the 10th planet Omaha in house tournament, and won with a double wrist lock. Training is going well for my big tournament in April. That being the fist ever physically challenged grappling tournament, presented by Amazingly enough, it will be hosted at the Renzo Gracie academy in Manhattan. What a honor it would be to meet Renzo Gracie himself.    

I also am competing at another local tournament February 28th. Since I last wrote, I feel that I've gotten much stronger and aggressive. With that, I have found a new desire to win and push myself like I never have before. I'm only 30 years old, and feel that I've found my stride, or am starting to at least. 

Lastly, I have acquired my first Jujitsu sponsor:

As much as this blog is about my journey in Juijitsu, I want to take a break from writing about the tournament scene. I want to talk about matters of self-defense, as it mainly relates to others like myself who have Cerebral Palsy or any physical challenge they live with everyday.

I have been a life long Martial artist, I've had the honor of training with a handful of amazing instructors in various styles. At heart, I'm a grappler, the clinch and fighting on the ground is where I find I am most at home. However, the question I now am asking myself, is how am I going to defend myself standing up? That is, being attacked by punches, surprise attacks, weapons (Knife, stick or gun), how am I going to defend myself when I am using my crutches? Let alone in my wheel-chair or scooter?

As I mention before, I am a lover of the submission and clinch fight game. I have trained in a vast majority of stand up arts and understand their methods exceedingly well. So in theory, I know how to show and talk my way through stand up fighting methods when it comes to teaching. When it comes to teaching the self-defense class at my college, I show a technique from my knees and have my assistant instructor translate it for me standing up.

That teaching method however, hasn't come without criticism, a fellow student at my college apparently said behind my back that I shouldn't teach stand up fighting, simply because I can't stand up. While these words are harsh, perhaps the words are needed though.

Because, in all honesty, when it came to a real self defense situation I'd probably get my ass handed to me. That is unless I do something about it. Why am I trying to figure these things out now? 1) There is no better time like the present, and if I ever had to defend myself, I don't want to have my ass handed to me. 2) I have the dream of adapting a self defense program for special needs people as a whole.

The hope of it would be to make people with various physically feel safe, its easy to see that programs like this already are in place. But most of them, I find, are rooted in traditional martial arts. Not that I have anything against traditional methods. I just do not believe that when it comes down to an actual encounter, can actually save ones life.

What I would propose, is something more straight forward and nasty. This would mean the three C's method:

Cover: That is, useful methods of covering the head and body.

Crash: That is, using various cover methods to crash the attackers center line.

Clinch: That is, grabbing onto the attackers body in a dominant way, where you are in control and dictate the finish.

Obviously, after the clinch, one would add in dirty boxing strikes from whatever context the found themselves in. As always, physical violence should be a last resort, one regardless of physical limitations should learn how to have situational awareness and learn to talk their way out of an attacker. Or as Bruce Lee once said in the movie "Enter The Dragon" "You can call it the art of fighting, without fighting".

There would also be fire arms training, which is why I am taking the steps needed to purchase my first gun (something my mother isn't happy with). Not only do I want to learn to defend myself with a gun, but others who are like me as well. let's be honest, a gun is sometimes the best option if your house is being broke into or something of that context.

I know that a ton of research is in order, but that's why I'm taking the shots to the face now and learning all I can. The brutal truth is that we all must search to find what works for us in combat. There's no one size fits all answer.




Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ari Kay from Submissions 101 sent me the following message, after I reached out to him through email. I was very discouraged a few weeks ago and was seriously questioning my place in Juijitsu. This is what he said:

You are no disgrace to anyone. A blue belt in 10 planet is something to be very proud of. It's hard enough without having physical disabilities to get one. You are the inspiration.
Getting tapped means nothing. So what. Can you teach others? Is there value in Jiu Jitsu and what it has done for you and others? The importance is doing it, not winning.
I could care less if someone got tapped out. 1 time or 1000. We ALL get tapped. It's part of the journey. Keith Owen says you will be tapped out over 10 000 times on your way to black belt. It's called learning. You'll get harder to tap as time goes on. We all learn at different speeds.
Don't quit. Keep moving forward. Make a difference. Keep learning. THAT is Jiu Jitsu."

 I am truly thankful for his words, they have been a deep anchor for me as this journey continues. Every time that I have to crawl out onto the mats, I have to empty myself every single time. Why? Because that is how it has to be. I have to fight harder and be wiser about what techniques will work for me and what will not. Mostly, its the simple and basic things that I have the most effectiveness for me.

It just seems odd at times, because while the techniques seem to get more advanced. My game gets simpler. I love my chokes, leg/foot-locks and what arm-locks I can do. I think one of my biggest obstacles is that I want to be like everyone else. But the truth is, I can't be. I can't be as fast or as strong as everyone else.

I fear greatly being left in the dust, amongst the endless onslaught of techniques that keep popping up. Rickson Gracie once said that, you need five submissions and you need to practice them a thousand times. In my case that seems to hold much merit.   

... Not sure where I wanted to go with this, I guess I just wanted to get a few things off my chest.


Monday, August 4, 2014


            Jujitsu much like life is all about perspective.  Sensei Derek Stewart once told me that my fight would be harder then the average bear. Early on in my journey I realized that it would sometimes take me longer to understand how certain techniques would work with my body. When I first saw Master Eddie Bravo’s Rubber Guard, I thought to myself that there was no way I was going to be able to do that with my own legs. Let alone all of the other techniques that follow the Rubber Guard. But something inside me simply did not want to give up; I wanted to work as hard as I could possibly could at the 10th Planet Jujitsu system and find techniques that fit my body. Master Eddie Bravo once told me during a seminar he was once conducting to only do what I could do. That to me gave me a sense of freedom to self-discover. Master Eddie’s approach to Jujitsu has revolutionized my own mindset to Jujitsu, as a person living with Cerebral Palsy, I am not able to move as fast as I’d like, so naturally speaking Master Eddie’s approach to starting from a sitting position is almost perfect for me. I say almost because so of his techniques require leg strength that I don’t currently have yet. There is also less risk of being pushed backwards when starting from a kneeling position. When I was much younger I had no fear about starting from my knees, my body was much faster and I honestly did not care much about the well being of my body.  
Now that I’m a little “older” though, I fear my knees or ankles exploding on me.  One night at practice during a friendly roll, a guy in the gym pushed me backwards and I heard a pop in my ankle and knee (in my right leg) it hurt for a few minutes, but I was fine after awhile. My point is, the fear of having Cerebral Palsy and two blown out knees or quads was something I was not willing to risk anymore.
I want to be doing Jujitsu at least until I’m in my late seventies or early eighties. In order to do so, my perspective on not only jujitsu but also my life and body as a whole had to change as well. For starters , that meant that I swallow my pride  while on the mat. This largely meant that if someone got me into a submission during practice I would simply tap out. It’s no use being injured and not being able to hone my skills for months at a time. There’re are still so many people in the Jujitsu community that hold on to their pride, and for what? All they’ll have to account for is having something injured on their bodies and less time on the mat. Secondly, I had to improve my relationship with my body. For me that meant stretching in morning and the evening . Most people already hate stretching as is, but trust me, with Cerebral Palsy it hurts all the more.  But every morning the first thing I would do was stretching my neck, back, arms and legs. Stretching out my legs was the hardest part, when I first started my daily routine the pain that I would experience in my tendons and the back of my knees was very painful. But with time and proper breathing things got a bit easier as time progressed. Was I perfect in my daily practice? No, in fact I miss days in between largely because of my own laziness.
I also had to change the way I ate, I’ve always ate relatively healthy, but I wanted to be sure to take in my daily fruits and veggies. Further more I made sure that I still had my daily sources of protein, the only difference is was the amount I allowed myself to have.  There was a time in my life when I got tired of being physically small, I got tired of bigger guys dominating me. As a result I started consuming Crietine, a product that truthfully only balloons your muscles up so you look big. On top of that I would drink two-three large protein shakes a day.
The result, I then felt bulky and slow. The real problem I discovered was not related to my physical (outer self) but more so with my inner self. Eventually I got tired of being bulky and went back to being my skinny self.  Do I still try to strengthen my physical body? Yes, but I am learning to be content as I am while still trying to improve at the same time.   
-Copyright, 2014 Brandon Ryan

Friday, August 1, 2014

How to Keep Your Joy on The Jouney

I wanted to give some tools for keep your joy along the way on the Jujitsu journey along the way. These are not abstract suggestions pulled out of thin air, but philosophies that I have used in the entirety of my martial arts career.

1) Motivation: always keep this at the forefront of your mind, why do you do Jujitsu? Hopefully one would answer that they love it and it's fun. It helps you learn about yourself, where you need to improve and where you are succeeding. It should teach you to be kind to yourself, yes there are people who excel at this art faster than others, but so what? You are an original and were never meant to fill the shoes of another. If you want to excel at competing, do so. But do it at your own pace. If you simply want to improve your body and mind, do so. But only because YOU want to.

2) Thankfulness: I my honest opinion, I feel that thankfulness is something that is largely missing from society as a whole. As martial artists, we should always be thankful first for the ability to train and practice our art. Just the other day I got an email from a young women who could only use her arms. While she practiced a more traditional style of martial art, she noted that she wish she could half the things that I am able to do on the ground. After reading her message it was like getting punched in the gut numerous times, because even I loose sight of my own thankfulness more often than not.

3) Rome wasn't built in a day: I know the age old saying, but it's true. While there are very rare talents that pick things up very quickly and excel in rank. Not everyone is like that. It will take quiet awhile more often then not, to get where you desire. So, set small goals for yourself: for me, for the last few months I've been trying to hit an arm-bar in class that requires your opponent to stay kneeling with you. Most times though it was very hard to execute because a lot of people pull guard all the time. But after much frustration I saw my chance and jumped on it and got a tap. Secondly, if I can make it through a rolling session without getting tapped and keeping my balance in tact. It's a job well done for me. So, get some quite time and right down some small goals you want to accomplish,  maybe even share them with your team mates. Remember that while we like to think we can do everything on our own, we need each other. Be kind to yourselves, because while the journey is rough it is beautiful.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Smile-Jits... What's That?

There's something within traditional martial arts that I miss so very much, there was a time within martial arts history, where the Dojo was almost like a sanctuary of some kind. You kept it clean, students stayed after to clean it from top to bottom.

There is something about traditional martial arts (lets use Judo as an example) that didn't just build great Judoka's, but also instilled ethics and values within students. Traditional martial arts at one time in history was for lack of better words. Holy.

Again, with the Dojo being like that of sanctuary of sorts. Students did not use profanity in the Dojo, always showed up on time to class, was eager to learn and so on. The traditional values were not simply something to be present when inside of the Dojo, but also outside of it as well. It served as a compass for how one should conduct themselves in real life.

From my own vantage point, this is not something I've much of any more. I see the newer generation of Gracies still following the path of the Bushido (The Way of The Warrior), Sensei Erik Paulson is another (I know I talk about him a lot) and Sensei Roy Dean. I've never actually had the chance to train with him personally, but from watching him through different videos, I've fallen in love with what he has done with his school. The simple design of his school looks so peaceful. Further more the attitude of his students seems pretty top notch as well.

They don't seem to be out to hurt each other, but have such huge smiles on their faces even when they are being tested for their next ranks. Which brings me to the term "Smile-Jits." This phrase was coined when I was rolling with one of students after class.

She had me in the mount, and as I was working on not letting her have my arms. I look up at her and she has an ear to ear smile on her face. I said to her while protecting my arms "I love that you smile so much when you roll."

"Its fun!" she replied with excitement. That right there is the faint heart beat that needs to return within the Jujitsu community. So many people look so serious and stone faced when they train, and yes, there is a level of seriousness that comes if you want to excel within this craft or any craft. But the art of "Smile Jits" is something I want to spread to  as many people as possible.

As I always say: Jujitsu is a gift, and when something is a gift. It is easily enjoyed.

In the next blog I'll discuss a few ways to keep your joy on the journey.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Upates and New Goals

Wow, I suck at updating this blog.

Anyhow, lets get to the good stuff. I'm done with my second year of college. That means I have about three months off for summer, which means training full time. I compete next month (locally) I really want to bring hope another gold medal, maybe even two.

My workouts have been crazy, most days I put in over an hour of conditioning, followed by weights and Jujitsu. A huge goal I have on my radar, is to compete in the first ever Physically Challenged grappling tournament next year put on by The tournament will take place in April 2015 in the NY/NJ area.

This tournament will feature divisions dedicated to people who have Cerebral Palsy (like myself), the visually impaired and people who are amputees. I've been more motivated in my life. Let it be known right now, I WILL WIN my division, no one is standing in my way!

Currently I am working on getting sponsors and saving up what money I can to fly out there with my team.  I'm focusing on my basics, sharpening them and drilling techniques that fit my body and style perfectly. Can you tell that I'm pumped? Cause I am!

Lastly, I am hard at work on  Jujitsu memoir of sorts, this book will be dedicated to those in the physically challenged community. In hopes of creating a fire in the hearts of people to want to train Jujitsu. That way they may know all the great benefits that come from it. Don't want to give to much away though (ha ha) anyway, that's enough for now.. Gotta get ready to roll.

Brandon, The CP Grappler.