Long time lurker here. I have read a decent amount of posts in this subreddit addressing “how BJJ changed my life”, and an understandable number of skeptical folks who question the sincerity of this. I wanted to share my own perspective on the subject, and maybe help those who are hesitant to take the plunge and start training.
I was born with Poland syndrome, a congenital anomaly involving the pectoralis major on one side and ipsilateral (same side) arm. This syndrome ranges in severity from barely perceptible to devastating (kidney/brain/heart/lung anomalies, absent fingers, gastrointestinal anomalies). I am fortunate that my version of Poland syndrome is somewhere in the middle; I have obvious asymmetry between my right and my left, especially the muscles of my right arm, but I’m able to use my fingers, and I’m otherwise pretty healthy. Nonetheless, I’ll never be able to bench press or curl much, and I was made fun of mercilessly growing up for my very apparent deformities. Needless to say, lack of confidence was an issue throughout childhood.
Fast forward to my late 20’s, and I have secured a decent job, a stable relationship, and enough disposable income to live comfortably. I work out the parts of my body that I can, and stay in good cardio shape. Despite this, I’ve never felt comfortable in my own skin. I’ve always felt like an “other,” like people pitied or were disgusted by my appearance.
Several months ago, my best friend had recently gotten into BJJ and recommended I give it a shot to boost my confidence. After listening to a lot of Joe Rogan podcasts and overcoming my fear of looking like an idiot, I started going to a local school. I was fortunate enough to start at the same time as some other folks, and had people of my skill level to succeed and fail with.
How did BJJ change MY life? Most importantly, I found that absolutely nobody gave a shit about my Poland syndrome. I got (and still get) choked the fuck out on a regular basis by anyone above me, and I manage to submit or stay even with people at my training level. People roll hard with me, and I absolutely love it. I don’t need two fully functional arms to land a good triangle. BJJ showed me that even if I’m not playing with a full deck of cards, I can make my physical limitations work for me. I’m not delusional; I’ll never be IBJJF world champion, but I’m a hell of a lot better than when I started.
TL;DR: People respect a crippled person who can choke them out.
Written by www.reddit.com/u/dadftendirekt
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