How One Phone Call Changed Everything

September 22, 2023

Bryan (aka, “Gaga”)

Why is it easy to dwell on painful memories? Perhaps we’re hard wired to do so in order to adapt to a scary world. I can think of a very unpleasant evening (or more precisely, a painful decision that I made) like it was yesterday.

About four years ago, it was raining, dark and cold and I was dragging my left foot after a difficult jiu jitsu class that evening, limping from my car to the front door of my house in a great deal of both physical as well as emotional pain due to a personal chapter in my life that everyone goes through at one point or another.

I can still smell the rain on the pavement.

For some reason, despite everything on my mind, I wondered aloud which kind of pain is worse: emotional or physical, or if the two can be rightfully compared.

Rarely in life is there an “apples to apples” comparison, or so it seems.

* * *

When I was born, my left foot was born quite deformed, a club foot, so to speak. Thankfully with the help of medical intervention, 98% of the time, I can walk just fine, hike mountains in Madera Canyon and even learn grappling such as jiu jitsu. Although technically my foot is somewhat structurally weaker than my right, for the most part I’m not even aware, thanks again to the medical treatment I received as a child.

To this day I’m not sure how I aggravated my foot that evening, either through hiking too long on a recent hike or some other mishap. It wasn’t necessarily from class, I’m certain, as my foot was already more fragile than usual and any twist or turn might have aggravated it.

Despite the amazing moral support and attention provided to me by the instructors, and despite my past success with a similar art many years ago, at this moment I was really struggling learning much of any jiu jitsu techniques at all. And while I can’t say I was “embarrassed,” so to speak, nonetheless I was growing quite self-conscious as well as increasingly frustrated with myself.

With the combination of all of the above I then decided it was time to try something else for exercise and/or for self-defense – the two most important reasons for me at the time to try jiu jitsu in the first place. The decision to quit was the very painful decision that I remember quite clearly.

A few days later I shared some of my concerns to a staff member who listened patiently to me and encouraged me to continue – I remember the conversation quite clearly just as I can already hear the cynics who might say it was just a means to keep me as a paying member. But in this case you could tell her concern was sincere and it still stays with me to this day as a positive reminder how just a simple phone call can make all the difference to encourage one another. (Thank you, Tina!)

* * *

Thankfully I took Tina’s encouragement to heart, and after making some adjustments thanks to a custom orthotic in my left foot, it healed after 60 – 90 days and with some hesitation I decided to return. Sure enough I still struggled, as I do with any new skill, but I kept going.

Even though likely the oldest student among the ranks, I then managed to attend five and sometimes six days a week. And while I still struggle on occasion, I’m now at the point where learning jiu jitsu is no longer as difficult and I’m actually having FUN – something I wasn’t sure was even possible given how long it takes me to learn any skill, including this one.

What projects or opportunities have you found too difficult to continue? From my perspective, there’s nothing “wrong” with ending an activity that doesn’t bring enough rewards to merit the time and/or energy required. But an important lesson I learned is that if I’m going to quit an activity simply because it’s too hard at the moment, I’ve now learned to dig deep and ask myself if there’s another path other than giving up on one of my goals.

To be sure, I’m even more appreciative of taking classes at Alliance. The rewards to me personally including the number of real friends I’ve made have only increased over time – a real plus, above and beyond actually learning jiu jitsu.

And more importantly, I have my teammates, instructors and staff to thank, and especially the phone call that helped me decide to return.