Great time at Grapplers Heart

So I had an awesome time at Grapplers Heart in NYC! I got to meet some great friends from social media for the first time, and I made new friends as well.
Watching all of those great Jiu-Jitsu players on the mat competing no matter their physical differences was nothing more than outstanding. This tournament has proven that once again Jiu-Jitsu is for everyone, and you don’t have to be the strongest or fastest to excel, you just have to have good technique and determination!
I brought home two bronze medals, but I didn’t go because I wanted to win anything. I went because I wanted the experience, I wanted to see my friends, and I wanted a good New York slice of pizza! (Which I totally pigged out on)
To everyone I competed against, thank you for the roll, I was honored to even crawl on the mat with you!
To everyone who I met, who cheered me on, and who supported my trip, thank you! It was an experience I will never forget!
To my friend, coach, trainer, and Sensei, Eric, thanks for everything brother. I could not have made the trip without you!
I didn’t take a lot of pictures, but Eric did, and I will post them below.

Here is all the pictures from the Grapplers Heart Tournament

Posted by Neil Brown on Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Update For The New Year

So it’s been a while since I have posted any kind of update. We all make grand plans that life sometimes get in the way of, and I am certainly a victim of circumstance! (and maybe a little bit of procrastination!)

After my last post in September I got very busy here at home, and then sick, and then busy again, and then BOOM! Holidays struck. I hope everyone had an awesome Christmas, and a Happy New Year! Mine was hectic, but good!

So for those that are curious, yes I am alive, and yes I am still preparing for the Grappler’s Heart Tournament in April. I have been doing lots of training, both weights and on the mat, and have continued with my better eating and weight loss.

To help facilitate the trip for my coach and myself, we have started a crowd funding account at GoFundMe, and would ask all to please share this post, and help me if you can make it to this first of it’s kind Jiu Jitsu tournament!

I plan on having an update video posted by the end of the weekend to fill everyone in with details, so please stay tuned!

GoFundMe Link:

Come follow me on the road to Grappler’s Heart!

I have been invited to, and have decided to compete in the Grapplers Heart tournament. The Grapplers Heart Tournament will take place April 25-26, 2015 at Renzo Gracie’s Academy in Brooklyn, NY. I have only 6 months to train and prepare, and I am inviting all of you to follow along with me on my journey of weight loss, better health, and better Jiu Jitsu!

You can find out more about the Grapplers Heart tournament here.

I will be posting weekly video updates on my progress on my youtube channel, so go subscribe to my channel and follow me on my road to the Grapplers Heart!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deKlf1gNRkU&w=560&h=315]

Weign in.. and something special coming soon!

Just stepped on the scales for the first time in months. As an ex-high school wrestler I have to make it a point to avoid the scales, because even now weighing in can become an obsession, and that just isn’t a good thing for your workout or your mind. I wanted to weigh in, though, to get a baseline for where I need to go from here for a special project. (coming soon, so stay tuned!)
What’s the verdict? with legs on I weigh 191 pounds. My legs weigh 12 pounds combined, so taking off that my actual body weight is 179 pounds!

I haven’t touched the 170’s in a healthy way since before I came home from the hospital. (I weighed 168 after my coma and limb loss. Feeding tubes will do that to ya!) Once I got home from the hospital and starting eating again my weight creeped up to the mid 190’s with legs off, but once I was able to walk again things got a little more stable for me, but I wasn’t losing weight, either.

That all changed once I got back on the mat training Gracie Jiu Jitsu! I am two years now back training, with on again and off again time due to illness and Behcet’s, and the on time has been time well spent! I feel better than I have in a long time, and losing fat and gaining muscle is just one of the many great by-products of the Jiu Jitsu lifestyle.

So to all my training buddies, my online GJJ/BJJ friends, and the wonderful mentors and legends of Jiu Jitsu that have honored me by following along with me on my GJJ journey, I say thank you! And to my friend and trainer Eric, I say…

PUSH ME HARDER! Thank you Sir, for helping me get back to me!

I will have a new project going very soon, so make sure you subscribe to my twitter, facebook, and youtube. All of which you can find links to up in the top right corner.

I’m in the healthy 170’s! Woot woot!

Neil

Never Forget… where we are now…

I wrote this on my public facebook page this morning, and thought it was worth a share on my blog:

At about this time 13 years ago I was sitting in my office in Central City, KY glued to the TV screen with several other employees. Less than an hour before I had been on the WK parkway when I heard on the radio that a plane had flown into one of the towers in NYC.
By the time I had gotten into the office talk had changed from tragic accident to possible terror attack, and that was soon confirmed by the second plane.
I watched in horror as I saw the back smoke, gray dust, and panicked people all about the landscape I had walked only 9 months before. MY wife at the time was frantic, as her father lived on Staten Island and had an office not far from the Towers, and she couldn’t get him on the phone.
The manager at the CNCY office at the time kept coming in and turning the TV off and telling everyone it was time to get to work, and we just kept turning it back on.
I saw firefighters, ladder trucks, and engines I had met in NYC and traded patches with on my trip from earlier in the year, and I would find out later that one of the stations there I spent time in swapping stories of fire and ambulance runs was nearly completely wiped off men and trucks.
As the day went on the Pentagon was hit, and a plane went down in the countryside well outside DC. I watched the two main towers fall, and later watched as the squat and wide building 7 came down, even though it had not been hit.
It was a horrible day that our country will never forget, 343 fire fighters didn’t make it home to their families, and countless other police and rescue workers put their uniforms on for the last time that day. Many sacrifices were made that day by honorable men and women who ran in when everyone else was running out. We can Never Forget what they did that day.
We can also never forget what has happened to this country after that day. Our liberties are slowly being taken from us, the news media no longer even tries to report news, only regurgitates official press releases from the government, and the foundations of this great country of ours is being eroded away, all for the sake of “safety and security.”
Since that tragedy 13 years ago I have seen many things that blur the lines as to what really happened, and what direction our country should have gone. Endless wars. The Patriot Act. the DHS. Freedom traded for perceived security.
Never forget the sacrifices made that day by the rescue workers and other heroes who sifted through the wreckage, but also never forget where we are now as the People of this once great republic.
where were you 13 years ago at this time? And more importantly, where are we now as a Country?

NubAbility All Sports camp was awesome!

So several months ago my Jiu Jitsu trainer and myself were selected to be wrestling coaches at NubAbility’s All Sports Camp. NubAbility is a camp for limb different kids and teens that teaches them to be competitive against fully-limbed opponents. The mantra of Coach Sam Kuhnert and Mama Jana Kuhnert is #DontNeed2 and let me tell you, I learned this weekend that is so true!

 

The amount of awesome spread out between all the limb-different coaches and student athletes was amazing. There were around 35 coaches and 70 campers, and every one pushed hard all weekend!

If you don’t know what awesome looks like, see picture below:

http://photos.thomasflock.com/Children/2014/NubAbility-Athletics-Summer/i-QmBbsj4/0/O/DSC_6700.jpg

I learned so much more about myself while working on the mats and watching all these limb-different kids just living thier lives and doing their thing. Some were amputees, and some were congenital.. Meaning they were born that way. Something I found interesting in most all these kids was the simple fact that they didn’t really have a concept of adversity. Their life was simply that, life, and they didn’t know any different. These kids normal we call adversity, their everyday we simply can not understand.

What I didn’t see anywhere was self pity. I had some of that when I lost my limbs almost four years ago, and after meeting these kids I feel so ashamed for the pity I allowed myself to wallow in. Sam told me when he first called me on the phone that this event would change my life, and I didn’t understand at fisrt what he meant. Now I do. These kids have zero limits, and just being around them brings that out in everyone else, limb-different or not. I am a changed man because of it!

I got the opportunity to work with professional MMA Fighter Nick Palmer, as well as former WWE Superstar Zach Gowen, the world only one-legged Professional Wrestler.  Both of these guys brought out the best in the kids, as well as myself and my friend and trainer Eric Myers. These guys know their stuff, and I suggest going and checking them out.

While at camp I had the pleasure of meeting limb-different strength trainers, soccer coaches, football coaches, basketball, dance, tumbling… The list goes on and on. all top notch athletes, all awesome coaches. Honestly, I felt a bit out of place! I was probably the least athletically inclined coach there! I lost all of my strength during my three months in the hospital, at one point I was so atrophied I could not roll over on my own. I have let myself get to a certain point in my strength and definition coming back, and then I simply said “Meh, that’s good enough for now.” But not anymore.

These kids have inspired me to get serious again about my strength, my endurance, health, and training when not on the mat. Next year when we bring Gracie Jiu Jitsu full on to NubAbility – Yep, that’s right… Mama Kuhnert told Eric and myself that next year it will be wrestling AND GJJ! – I hope to have improved my game immensly. Not starting tomorrow, but starting today!

That means better shape, better prosthetic sockets, and a a GJJ blue belt before July of next year. Those are my goals, and the very kids I will help train next year are my inspiration for it!

Eric Myers and I are planning on some fundraising soon to help coaches and student athletes alike get back to NubAbility, so be prepared to help us help these kids next year!

Thanks to everyone involved this year, and I am so glad to have met every single one of the coaches and athletes at camp this year!

Neil

Behind the scenes of a prosthetic fitting

A lot goes into getting a set of legs made.

 
Most of you will never know what it is like to have to go through this process,  but some of you have been through it multiple times! I am now working on perhaps my 7th set of prosthetic sockets in only three short years,  and I feel for my friends at Kentucky Prosthetics every time I have to come in.

 
As a bilateral amputee I have to go through the process twice,  once for each leg.  The average amputee is a single below knee amputee, but I am what I jokingly refer to as a “two for one special. ” Everything done for me has to be done twice.

When it comes to prosthetics the interface is the most important thing. You can have the latest and coolest electronic leg out there,  but if you don’t have a good fitting socket all you really have is a high priced paperweight.

On my most recent visit to Kentucky Prosthetics I asked Matt if I could follow him around in the shop and get a few pictures and video of the process, so the average person can see what kind of patience and craftsmanship must go into making a great set of sockets. Of course he said yes….  He learned a long time ago I don’t accept no for an answer!

Casting the limb is the very first part of the process,  and arguably the most important.  If the cast does not capture the perfect picture of the limb,  than the socket ill not fit properly.  Every different type of socket has it’s own casting technique as well.  Here I have been cast and then put under vacuum to get a proper “picture” of my leg.

Vacuum assisted casting
Vacuum assisted casting
image
ready for cast material

Once the castings have been completed they will be set up and prepared for pouring of a plaster material that will eventually become the basis of my limb castings. (shown above)

 

Each casting has to be poured and then set with a piece of hardware that will allow the casts to be set in a vice and and sculpted when they are set and dry.

So far all of this seems pretty old school, right? Why not take some high tech scanner and scan my leg into a computer and have a C&C machine make the cast? Well, Kentucky Prosthetics has the equipment to do that, but you must remember that every limb and every socket is different! If I had been cast with the 3D scanner, I would never properly fit into the sockets being made for me. High tech is great, but sometimes old-school is the only way to go to get a perfect fit!

Here is what the casting look likes when set:

Once the cast has been set and shaved a bit, it then goes through the process of being “pulled” into a plastic check socket:

After the socket has been pulled, my prosthetist goes through the lengthy process of pulling, trimming, and forming the plastic socket to a perfect fit.

Once all of this has been completed, he has to turn around and do the entire thing over again for my other leg! And this is almost the easy part… Once the sockets are done they have to be properly aligned, fixed, and then put on my Harmony P3 system and feet so the whole thing can be aligned to my walking.

This entire process started on a Thursday afternoon and finished early on a Saturday afternoon. That’s nearly two working days to get my fit just the way I want it. Perfection takes time, and old-school craftsmanship isn’t done in a few hours.

I am now waking around in the test sockets, just to see how they feel. Once we agree that the fit is what I want, those test sockets will be turned into a permanent set of very cool sockets that I shouldn’t have to change for a long time!

Thanks to my friends at Kentucky Prosthetics for all the hard work you put into keeping me walking!

Hope

Every month I write an article for the Abled Amputees of America website. This is my article from January, 2014, titled “Hope.”

Hope. Such a small and little word with large and varied meanings. As a triple amputee hope can seem like a pipe dream looking from the outside in, but I have a different understanding of hope. So many people see hope as a thing they have, as opposed to something they are given.

I choose to see hope as a small thing to find and then take, as something to get me through the day or whatever hard time I might be going through.

We all just came through the holidays… A time of joy, laughter, and time with family. For me though, the holidays – especially Christmas – was a time to feel a bit of misery. I spent the entire Christmas holiday rocking the worst head cold on record. I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t sleep, and my nose was either a faucet that wouldn’t shut off or a cavity filled with concrete!

I spent the entire time laid in bed, and the few times I was up I was in a wheelchair. When you blow your nose so many times you strain your inner ears it becomes a chore to try to keep your balance while walking on bilateral below knee prosthetic legs. What does my holiday misery have to do with hope? Simple, really.

I “had” no hope. I didn’t lay in bed sick with a hope that I would get better. I knew the head cold would run it’s course, and I would eventually get better – that’s simply how head colds work.

I was, however, “given” hope nearly every day. Be it the first time I got to sleep through the night and wake up not feeling like death warmed over, or when my son arrived from his mother’s house and came and gave me a hug and told me “Merry Christmas.” It was the little things like these that gave me a bit of hope

… A reason to believe that things were getting better.

That is how I choose to view hope, as a thing that is “given” to you, not as a thing you already “have.” I don’t pine over hopes and dreams, I look for the little things that simply tell me “things are getting better.”

I no longer have “hopes and dreams” about my future. Instead, I make plans and work towards them, and every day I find something that gives me a little hope that I am moving in the right direction. You might be a brand new amputee lying in a hospital bed reading this, or a seasoned veteran who has been living this life for years. No matter who you are, look for hope in the small things.

Because that is where you truly find hope, in the little things that tell you today is going to be better than yesterday, because it is.

Go out and look for a little reason to hope, because today is going to be a good day!

B Neil Brown
www.twofeetshorter.com

I train “down the road”

Recently I saw a post on Facebook that really turned my stomach, it was hateful and full of lies, and very derogatory towards the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu school I attend and work out at. The origin of the post came originally from a question asked on Lloyd Irving Jr’s page, and his question is here.

I will post the entirety of his question in a moment, but first I would like to state that I have the utmost respect for Mr Irving, and he has in no way insulted or or spoken ill of the BJJ school where I train. Someone else re-posted his question and then made their slanderous and untrue statement on their own page.

Here is the content of the post/question from Mr Irving’s page:

(Belt Promotion Question) How do you feel about guaranteed promotion timelines? Like no matter what happens when you hit X amount of classes you will get a stripe or new belt?

It’s probably great for business but one of the reasons there is such an off balanced skill set within belt levels these days.

It seems like someday anyone with solid skills for their level will be considered sand baggers. Lol

Does your school keep it old school or pass out belts easily for time?(you probably can’t answer that one) but how do you feel about timed promotions?

 

Now, as you can see, Mr Irving posted a valid question about a real issue in BJJ today, which is promoting through belts at some academies when a certain time has been reached, regardless of whether or not that promotion has been earned or not.

This question is not upsetting to me at all, what is upsetting that someone could share that post on their own page just so they could make this selfish, ignorant, and untrue statement:

Everyone of my students know that I’m not a belt factory R standees R very high. And people quite and go to the school down the road and get there next two and three belts right off the bat. That tell me alot and my students who still trains with us. So a true martial artist does not worry about the belts and knows the belts will come in time and training ! Thank you ! OSS !

I realize the above comment is hard to read, firstly for it’s own venomous and self-serving content, and second for it’s grammatical, spelling, and prose errors.

but let me just break it down. this person asserts that they do not run a “belt factory” (which is what Mr Irving’s post/question truly refers to) and that often students of that school quit and come to “the school down the road” and suddenly earn up to three more belts in a short period of time. Let me assure all of you that follow my blog that I would never attend a school that does not give out promotions based on skill, training, and knowledge, as well as appropriate training times.

Mr Irving’s initial post used the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu belts in it’s picture, and the post was specifically about BJJ. In the nearly two years that I have trained at my school I have yet to ever see a former grappling student from “up the road” come “down the road” and start training in BJJ here.

Hasn’t happened. I would also like to note that while I have seen a few well deserved stripes awarded at the dojo that I attend, I have yet to ever see my instructor hand out a promotion belt. Would you like to know why?

Simple. In the Pedro Sauer BJJ Association, black belts are the only instructors who are allowed to tie on a student’s new belt, and they will not do that until the student has passed a test that includes more than eighty different moves, plus the student has to have trained an appropriate amount of time. And the time is not just an arbitrary number thrown out, it is given so the student has a chance to learn a bit of humility before he is promoted. See, a blue belt that doesn’t respect what that belt means is nothing more than a blowhard who knows a few moves.

My instructor is a proud brown belt second stripe, and has earned all of his belts since purple or so directly under Master Sauer. He did his blue belt level training under a man named Royce Gracie, but I don’t know if anyone has heard of him or not 🙂

I realize that martial arts is a very convoluted and back-stabby business, and there will always be schools that want to trash and bad-mouth other schools, but this is ridiculous. We are not allowed to speak negatively of other schools inside the dojo I train, because my instructor has no use for running down other people in that way. It is counter-productive to honing your craft in BJJ. honestly, I will probably get a stern talking-to about this post from my trainer, but I have followed his rule to the letter here; I haven’t bad mouthed another school, I have simply explained how belt rankings in a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu accredited school affiliated with Master Pedro Sauer work.

And while I was at it I refuted a few falsehoods in the process.

The world would be a better place if we all trained more and bad-mouthed less, some people just don’t have their priorities in order, and that’s a shame.

If you do train, make sure you know your instructor’s lineage, and that he is certified and verified, Here is a good list of accredited and verified on the PSBJJA page. My school and instructor is on it, and it is the only school in the county that is certified to teach Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

Becuase of my instructor and school I have personally trained with Master Pedro Sauer, Professor Jorge Jimenez, Professor Allan Hopkins, and multiple time UFC Champion Royce Gracie just to name a few. We learn from the best so we can be the best.

If you train up the road ask yourself this, what masters/professors/black belts of BJJ are you getting to train with?

Me, I’ll keep on training down the road here at the Gracie Jiu Jitsu school.

see ya on the mats guys!