Learn from Suffering: 3 Ways to Turn Adversity into Greatness

learn from suffering

Back in 2004, I was in the beginning stages of my journey in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as I became more interested in the art of grappling I began exploring other combative arts to help add to my game. One of those was the art of catch wrestling made famous by a gentleman named Farmer Burns.

Upon doing a Google search I found one place that taught classes out of a local community center near my place. The first month was an eye opener as I was getting submitted left and right by everyone at the club. Not surprising since I was a fresh beginner with no experience in grappling.

At the same time, I began learning the intricacies of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, each day I was practicing diligently, sparring with the higher belts many whom outweighed me by 40 pounds or more. After a few months I started to get pretty good at a few techniques, one of them called the triangle choke.

Soon afterwards, I began tapping out some of the more senior students at the catch wrestling club with the triangle choke. Most took the submission fairly well while one particular individual seemed a little frustrated a newbie was able to get him. About a week later I caught this individual in the same choke this time he responded by picking me up and slamming me on my head.

I never forgot the sound of my vertebrae cracking all the way from head to my mid back, like a pianist running his fingers down the piano from the highest key to the lowest key. While I laid on the mat, all I was thinking was did I break my neck, and do I still have feeling in my legs. After the initial shock that someone could be so stupid to risk my long term health to satisfy his ego, I became angry at the individual. Not only was the maneuver senseless but also dangerous and illegal.

I spent the next 6 months rehabbing through physical therapy suffering from headaches to numbness down my left arm. It was a constant reminder to me of how precious life could be, how we take things for granted every such as the ability to walk to the corner store, to see the color of the blooming flowers outside, or just having the ability to breath without assistance.  I’ve known people who have lost their ability to walk from senseless preventable accidents. Luckily for me I was spared that fate, although years later I am not completely 100% healed as I do get occasional weakness in my arms. I’ve decided not to be bitter over the incident but rather chalked it up as another life lesson from my martial arts journey.

These lessons were:

  1. Never let others control your fate or destiny in life.
  2. Dedication and commitment of a champion’s heart is when they are willing to continue and rise to overcome a challenge when all seems hopeless.
  3. Champions and top performers don’t complain, or whine about what they deserve in life. They thrive on challenges as an opportunity to learn about their weaknesses, finding ways to plug the holes, learning new ways to do things.

It’s been over 10 years since my injury, you would think the experience would have led me to quit martial arts due the risk of possible future injury, but I chose to use that time to embrace the opportunity to better myself. I began to study holistic medicine graduating with a diploma in manual osteopathy something I would have never have done if it weren’t for this experience. It not only expanded my knowledge but opened up other opportunities to work as a health practitioner, or write and speak on the subject of wellness.

Human suffering is often the best ways to learn something new. Suffering happens to each of us in one form or another in our lifetime. Take the opportunity to identify the lesson that came with it to ensure it never happens again. Instead of joining the majority ranks of the “poor lowest me” group. Look at the change as a gift or blessing, offering you new ideas, insights, and advantages to create a better life for yourself.

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