Congratulations to Chris Cephus for earning his BJJ Blue Belt! OSS!
The story of B Neil Brown, one stripe white belt:
B Neil Brown with BJJ legend Royce Gracie
I have been asked to share my story many times, by many people. When WBBJJ asked me if I would like to share it, I knew I had to do something a bit different. First off, thank you for allowing me to share; being asked by you is truly an honor for me.
“I am a grappling amputee, and this is my grappling perspective. This is where I have been, and where I am going.”
I was a wrestler in grade school and in high school. Those are the institutions that made me fall in love with the grappling arts (I graduated high school in 1991). I was never considered the greatest, and I will tell anyone who asks, that I think I was mediocre compared to most of the guys on my small team. I would break bones and blow out knees, but I kept at it until high school was over. I came back for a year or two when I could, to help our coach with the team. Then, all of the sudden, life began catching up with me; and I found myself with work, and a family to attend to.
I had to take a break from wrestling.
I grew up in fairly rural Western Kentucky. I became a father and eventually found a career in the pest control industry. I have earned my credentials as a certified entomologist. I spent a lot of time traveling for my company. On the weekends, I would work part time at the fire department, as a fire fighter and EMT.
Twelve or thirteen years had passed since I was on the mat, when one day I ran into an old friend from high school (a fellow wrestler) and he told me about this awesome grappling sport called Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I was skeptical because I had gotten old and fat. According to my buddy, that didn’t matter, because his trainer was a guy that loved to train ex-wrestlers.
I gave it a try, and I was hooked.
The first six months or so I trained with Sensei Eric Myers. I dropped thirty pounds, and was tapped out (submitted) more times than I care to remember. It took me the entire six months to get out of the wrestler’s habit of never willingly putting your back to the mat. Yes, I paid the price — but I loved every minute of it. Shortly thereafter, I began hearing about Eric’s new Brazilian Jiu Jitsu trainer (a guy named Royce Gracie, whom I had never heard of) and heard him speak with more pride about the BJJ blue belt he had earned from him, than all his other previous martial art black belts combined.
Work had me on the road, so I trained on and off for the next two years. Eventually I gained an orange belt (about the equivalent of a 4 stripe white belt in BJJ) in the Japanese style of Jiu Jitsu.
The fun finally came to an end when work moved me too far away to train regularly. I would be lucky if I could drop in to hit the mats once every few months. Eventually work would move me even further into South Central Kentucky, and I finally had to give up the mats. It would be in that far away town of Bowling Green, KY, where I would end up nearly losing everything.
In September of 2010 I came down with a sore throat. It wasn’t much of a bother. I was popping cough drops to keep it at bay. Two weeks later, and after several trips to the doctor, I was sick as a dog laying on my couch. I had finally had enough, and I did what any grown man of thirty seven would do. I called my mommy and told her that I was sick, and to come get me so that I could be sick on her couch, not mine.
That call probably saved my life.
My condition worsened. It hurt my throat to swallow. I couldn’t breathe. I could barely move. Doctors kept giving me medications and sending me home, but nothing seemed to help. Around the 30th of September I was told that I staggered into the kitchen where my family was at, sat down in a chair, and whispered “I need help.” I don’t remember that, or anything else, until I awoke from a coma nearly three weeks later.
It turns out my sore throat had actually been a MRSA infection, and had spread to my lungs and blood stream, causing sepsis. I was told that somewhere between the ER and the ICU unit, that I had died and been brought back. My body was sick with infection so an experimental medication was used to try and fight the sickness coursing through my body. The reason being was that I was going to die anyway; so it couldn’t hurt to try.
The medications worked; at the cost of both of my legs, and all the fingers of my left hand. When I awoke from the coma (in incredible pain) my fingers and feet were black and had no feeling in them at all. Once I was stable enough to be transferred, I was sent to Louisville, KY, to one of the best hand surgeons in the nation. It was there (in November of 2010) that I would have both of my legs amputated below the knees, and all, or parts of all, of the fingers on my left hand taken.
It suddenly became time to walk the long road to recovery, and to experience many setbacks. But, by October 2011, I was walking on prosthetic legs; without the aid of walker, crutches, or cane.
I set a lot of goals for myself around that time; things that I wanted to do again that I had been told I would not be able to (riding a two wheeled motorcycle again, putting on my bunker gear, fighting fires, and even getting back on the Jiu Jitsu mat). I was told all of those things might be out of reach for me, but it was my prosthetist (that’s “leg maker” in laymen’s terms) who really lit the BJJ fire under me. You see, the very first day I ever stood up and took steps on my new prosthetic legs, I told my prosthetist that I would be getting back on the mat.
His response was, “Well, I don’t know about that.” That was all it took for me to decide that I would. I hate being told I can’t do something, and my leg guru knew it. To this day, I don’t know if he was being honest with me, or prodding me into trying.
It would end up being April of 2012 before I was able to find my old trainer Eric. We became friends on Facebook, and it was there that I explained my situation and asked him if he would allow me onto his mats. Working with a triple amputee was something he had never done, but he was willing to give it a try.
That first day back in the dojo and on the mats was an emotional one for me. There I was, a freaky looking guy with no legs and no fingers on one hand; crawling around on his hands and knees on the mat. We all wondered how things might go, but we were ready to give it a try. Eric partnered me up with someone to roll with, and told me to try a simple arm bar. It definitely felt awkward, but muscle memory kicked in, and I had my partner tapping.
Eric’s only response was, “You got this, no problem. You can still do it.” And that was it, just like that I was back on the mats.
Transitioning back into training was a bit tough, and it was sometimes hard to find anyone that would roll with me (everyone thought they would hurt me). I was also still recovering from the trauma of losing my legs, so I had a lot of down time where I couldn’t be on the mats.
Another setback was when I was told that my Japanese Jiu Jitsu orange belt, while earned, was of no use to me. Eric’s academy was now under Pedro Sauer’s Gracie system. My orange belt was put away, and I started out fresh again as a BJJ white belt. In retrospect, it was the best thing for me, as I had to learn everything all over again anyway now; sans legs. It did hurt my ego a bit when we would line up at the beginning of class to show respect, and I was again down at the far end of mat, with all the noobs. However, I quickly learned, that egos can heal.
I have accomplished a lot since my illness took my limbs. I have gone back to college after a twenty year break to get my degree in Physical Therapy, so I can help other amputees. I sold my old Suzuki muscle bike, for a more timid (still two wheeled) motorcycle that I ride. I have also done some volunteer work at the fire department. The most important accomplishment of all though, is getting back on the mat, and training my beloved grappling again.
B Neil Brown performing a modified berimbolo
Between prosthetic problems, and plain old amputee problems, it would take me more than a year to get my first stripe; but I got it, and I earned it. No one thinks a thing about slapping hands and having a sparring session with me, and I tap out my partners about as often as I get tapped out. I don’t really keep count, because I always learn more from losing than I do winning, and the worst day on the mats is better than the best day laying in a hospital bed looking down at where your feet once were.
My name is Neil Brown, and I am a triple amputee one-stripe white belt under Brown Belt Eric Myers with Team Pedro Sauer. I trained today, did you?
Thank you B Neil Brown for being one of the earliest fans and friends of WBBJJ! You are a constant inspiration! Best wishes to you in your future endeavors! OSS!
Our guest for the second installment of White Belt Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Private Sessions, is arguably the most outspoken BJJ persona; none other than Kurt Osiander.
“Kurt Osiander is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt, a grade he achieved training under Ralph Gracie’s tutelage. Osiander is one of the cult heroes in the BJJ community, having been an active competitor since the mid 1990′s, Kurt Osiander’s straight forward personality and witty comments expressed in his video blog (Kurt Osiander’s Move of the Week) have given us well recognized phrases such as “shut up and train” and “you f****d up a long time ago”, which turned the Ralph Gracie Academy instructor into one of the most beloved personalities in the sport especially within the YouTube generation.” – via BJJ heroes
Below is one of our favorite Kurt Osiander videos that we like to use when describing his prolific character (as we mentioned earlier, Kurt is a tad on the outspoken side, so be aware that you may come across a few expletives in his videos).
WBBJJ: What brought you to BJJ?
Kurt Osiander: I started about 1993. A friend of mine from high school, Cesar Gracie, came back from Brazil. In LA he showed me stuff on the front porch of my old house and I was like, “What are you doing?” and he said, “It’s my family’s martial art.”
I’m like “Show me something”, and he showed me the Mata Leao (Rear Naked Choke). I said, “I have to learn this s**t.” After that as soon as I could, we started training in a friend of mine’s living room, moved all of his furniture, put down some gymnastics mats and killed each other before the academy opened up. In the early days, the first academy was over here in Pleasant Hills, over here right in the suburbs, out of the city. That was the first academy, and it got so busy so fast, that we had Ralph come out. Back then I got my blue belt through them, and they opened up a second location in 1996 and that’s when I started to train exclusively with Ralph. The rest is history. In 1998, San Francisco opened up and I was posted here.
WBBJJ: What should White Belts do more of? Less of?
Kurt Osiander: Lower belts should be doing a lot of basics. Because if you notice, when guys that are pretty fancy get stuck in a very basic position, they don’t know how to get out. It’s because they never find themselves there. And when they do find someone who can put them there, they’re f****d. As a white belt, blue belt and up until this day, I always do my basics and then I drill. I drill a lot. I drill a lot of moves. Different moves on different days. I do both sides and I drill for about an hour with the class and then we spar. I was talented at other sports, when I started I was really talented at soccer, so I came from an athletic background and my Dad always told me, “you can outwork talent.” So in my experience with Jiu Jitsu, I got good, but you know. I wasn’t one of those natural guys that got really good. I worked really, really, really hard and to this day I work really, really, really hard to be as good as the really talented guys.
WBBJJ: What should lower belts be doing less of?
Kurt Osiander: Juice. They should probably not do steroids. They should probably not be worried about the really fancy stuff that the black belts are pulling and concentrate on what their abilities can do. To this day, my game is not that fancy. If you see Ralph’s game, it’s not that fancy. We are really accurate at what we do. I think they should worry less about being really flashy and be really, really tight and really precise. That’s what I think is better than flashy. Flashy needs a lot of space. Flashy needs a really talented person with extreme flexibility and/or strength.
WBBJJ: If you could go back in time and give White Belt Kurt guidance, what advice would you give?
Kurt Osiander: Oh man, I would have started physical preparation sooner. To shave down (some weight) because I was a little chubby when I started, well, I was really chubby actually. I came to that realization the first time I ever lost. I got tapped by one of my good friends in a competition at the U.S. Open. I was just not as strong or as fast as the guys. And as soon as that happened, I’m like “Man, what’s missing from my game, I train all the time, blah blah blah.” Luckily we had a really good friend of the Academy who Ralph knew from Brazil, from the neighborhood and everything, who had moved up to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado; Fabiano Brasil. He started doing the physical preparation for the competition guys, the serious guys and the guys who were going to do MMA, which I went on to do afterwards.
WBBJJ: For you, what’s been the hardest part of the journey?
Kurt Osiander: The hardest thing I encountered was preparing for MMA. The camp was just brutal. Getting ready for a fight is so much worse than the actual fight. That was some of the hardest s**t I ever did. Train everyday, all day long. And get your ass kicked all day long for like six to eight weeks.
WBBJJ: In tough times what has helped you get through and allowed you to persevere?
Kurt Osiander: A lot of it has to do with the way Ralph brought me up. We don’t f*****g give up. We don’t surrender. That’s it, so we’re really mentally tough. You’ve seen some of the quotes that Ralph has made like “If I go to Hell, the devil will be afraid of me because I’m a Ralph Gracie black belt.” To kill one of us is going to be pretty f*****g tough. And our physical preparation Coach Fabiano is like “What? Are you going to give up? Is that what you’re going to tell your enemy? Are you going to tell him you give up?” When you say that to us that’s when you reach down really f*****g deep and you go, “f**k that” and you keep going.
WBBJJ: If you weren’t doing this what would you do?
Kurt Osiander: I don’t know. I don’t think it would have been a good direction. I was not heading in a good direction. The thing is I was partying quite heavily and doing Jiu Jitsu. I was going through some bad s**t, a divorce and s**t, and was doing drugs excessively. At one point, it hit the bottom and I was like “F**k, this is bulls**t. If you get me out of this bulls**t, I’ll do Jiu Jitsu everyday!” And so that’s pretty much what I have been doing til this day. I do Jiu Jitsu everyday, and I try to help everyone and make a positive impact on everyone around me, unless they are my enemy and in that case; I try to impact them very badly.
WBBJJ: What do you tell someone who says they want to do BJJ and then gives the standard excuses, time, money, etc?
Kurt Osiander: I get a lot of people that say, “Hey can I come in and clean the Academy?” I tell them, “I already have my sponsored fighters and they’re elite guys that train all day everyday, and that’s why they have a scholarship here. They also help in the academy. Basically they’re my cleaning crew. They’re my f*****g assistants. They do whatever is called upon for them to do. I don’t have enough time.” There are f*****g five to six classes a day here at the Academy which I give, so if you can’t make the early morning, there’s a later morning, there’s a midday, there’s an early evening, and there’s a late evening. So it’s a matter of want there, so if they don’t want to, they’re not going to make the time for themselves.
WBBJJ: Favorite activity besides BJJ?
Kurt Osiander: I like to go shoot guns. I don’t go hunting. I go to shoot guns to get good at shooting things; people, animals. I collect ancient weapons and study ancient civilizations and warfare and tactics and all that crazy s**t.
WBBJJ: What’s on your IPOD? CD Player?
Kurt Osiander: There’s a lot of really heavy music on it. Currently I have been listening to a lot of Lamb of God, because they’re just so f*****g clean and heavy, it’s awesome. I listen to YOB, Necrosis, which is an old-time band but they’re f*****g still heavy. I listen to Sepultura, Pantera, Testament. I listen to a lot of the old metal day bands. And then a lot of the bands have made a comeback, like Death Angel, who have put out a f*****g recent bunch of f*****g awesome albums.
WBBJJ: What was the last movie you watched?
Kurt Osiander: The last movie I watched from start to finish, was “The Unexpected Journey”; the Hobbit Movie.
WBBJJ: If you could train with someone living or dead who would that be?
Kurt Osiander: If I could be taught by them, it would be Carlson Gracie. That’s old school. That guy made some f*****g guys that are still to this f*****g day so f*****g good and making such good product. It’s quite impressive. Carlson or Rolls Gracie, how about that?
WBBJJ: Any final thoughts?
Kurt Osiander: I want to thank all of my sponsors: Shoyoroll Kimonos, Q5, AfterGlow by Biorhythm, Bauerfeind, and On the Mat Fightgear. That’s about it! Man, please try to make it out to the KO Finisher which is coming up on February 16th and it’s down in Anaheim, the mecca of Jiu Jitsu, so we’re looking for a big turnout for people who want a fight to the finish.
Interview by Todd Shaffer WBBJJ
“HOW BRAZILIAN JIU JITSU IS SAVING MY LIFE” – By John George
(Training partner of Todd Shaffer, of WBBJJ.com)
There are two reasons why I have decided to make Jiu Jitsu a part of my life. The first reason came from a realization one night while at work. I am a police officer, and aside from myself, I have to keep co-workers and citizens safe. Not knowing how to defend yourself puts those aforementioned individuals at risk. I have been attacked on numerous occasions while on the job, and luckily I have not been injured as a result. This one night in particular, I was called to a residence to look for a wanted person. The homeowner let my partner and I into the residence, and we began to search for the wanted male. Our search took us to an upstairs bedroom and eventually to a closed closet door inside of the bedroom. I opened this closet door and there was the wanted male standing in the closet. I instructed the male to exit the closet and when he refused to do so, I extended my arm to grab him and to place him under arrest. It was at this time that the subject lunged toward me in an attempt to tackle me. The fight was on so to speak, and it ended with me on top and him under arrest.
Moments after the attack I began to relive it in my mind. I was continuously thinking about the event and wondering why it happened. Although I could not figure out why it happened, I understood something pretty clearly. I was out of shape, and I really don’t know how to “properly” protect myself from someone who knows how to fight. It was at that moment I told myself that I would take my friend up on his offer to come down to his Jiu Jitsu Academy. (The subject was considerably lighter than I was at the time and I couldn’t help but to ask myself, “What if this guy was as big as you are and knew how to fight?” and “What if this guy was as big as you are, high on PCP and knew how to fight?”)
That realization was the start of my Jiu Jitsu journey and that leads us to the second reason that I started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu; overall health. I needed to lose weight. I was nearing 280 pounds, and looked nothing like “Arnold”. I would tire easily and often, and my stomach started arching near my chest; not good. I ended up at Rozzi’s Self Defense Center (Ribeiro Jiu Jitsu) where I was met with open arms. Everyone there was accepting of the new student, and were also very helpful. I showed up for a good workout (and believe me that is what I got) but by the end of the night, I started to see the other reasons that make Jiu Jitsu sacred in my mind. I saw patience, I saw humility, and I saw perseverance. My first class had ended, and I knew that Jiu Jitsu and I were in for a long relationship. Two years later, I have lost 30 pounds and have managed to keep it off. The stress that is relieved after live sparring is unprecedented. I am stronger and more flexible than I was when I first started, and my mental health has improved as a result too. I started my journey with two set goals in mind; to be safer and to be healthier. Those goals are obtained, but not yet complete.
The more I walk this road that is Jiu Jitsu, the more other things start to become apparent. Jiu Jitsu never lies to you, and will remind you if you start to lose your humility! There are many things that I have gained from this art. Being a competitive person, I now have a sport that I can train for, and try to be successful in. In this regard I can also set my personal competition goals, the meeting of which, further fuels my desire to learn. I view landing submissions or having an advantageous position during sparring as a litmus test on how far I have traveled on this road; not as a gauge to determine how much better I am than my partner. My wanting to tell our school’s white belts, my mental and technical errors, is another fine point about this art. You want to make your new brothers and sisters more technical, and more understanding of our craft. You will also want to mentor new students by using Jiu Jitsu in life examples as well. The natural desire that comes with the learning of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, to eventually want to teach it to others, is certainly magnificent in its scope. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has granted me the opportunity to see myself, and others, grow. All of this adds to what makes BJJ, exciting and rewarding, every day of the year!
In life, you should want to display certain values. I am a father and a husband, and I want to serve both roles as virtuously as possible. Jiu Jitsu has taught me about attitude, dedication, respect, family, loyalty and honor. If those six words do not embody and validate everything that I have said within the body of this narrative, then I don’t know which words will. Those six words are the commandments that were bestowed upon me when I started to wave the Ribeiro flag. More importantly, those six words have helped me to be safer and healthier in my life. These stripes on my white belt tell me of where I have been, where I am at, and how much further I yet have to travel…
…and thus far, the journey has been glorious!
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