United Brachial Plexus Network, Inc. • Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & Muay Thai with a BPI
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Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & Muay Thai with a BPI

Posted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 7:11 pm
by Tanya in NY
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai with a BPI

When Amber was almost 4 years old, we enrolled her in ballet classes as a form of play therapy for her right obstetrical brachial plexus injury (ROBPI). She continued classes until she was 9 when she announced, “I don’t want to dance anymore.” A mother’s heart was crushed with those words. Her father and I felt it was important to participate in some form of play therapy as formal PT or OT was not an option at school or with our insurance carrier. I had been doing Muay Thai kickboxing for about 6 months at Dojo1 Martial Arts Academy as a form of fitness, so we discussed her giving this a trial. Amber walked in there excited, fearful, and anxious at the prospect of trying something new with disregard to her BPI. She wasn’t worried whether her arm would function well enough to complete the class, but rather her concern was over it being a new situation for her. See, she’s always been so unruffled by her right arm’s abilities or lack thereof. I on the other hand worry FOR her so I spoke with her new coaches briefly with her permission. I gave them the basics to which they seemed bewildered as to what a brachial plexus injury was, but surely willing to let her do what she can do and willing to encourage her to do all she can do just like any of the other children in the class.

Amber’s first Muay Thai class was completed and a smiling, sweaty child emerged from the room wanting to do it again! Excellent I thought! A couple months later, the head coach decided to combine the Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) children’s classes into one program to which Amber was infuriated about. See, Muay Thai is the art of 8 limbs. It encompasses utilizing your hands to punch, elbow and knees to strike with, and kicks with your legs, but there is no activity when someone is pushed or falls to the ground. You simply wait when your opponent is on the ground for them to stand back up before resuming activity. In BJJ, the majority of the activity is on the ground, “rolling” as it’s referred to. Rolling looks similar to the layman like wrestling moves with chokes, sweeps, and locks until someone “taps out” or you win by points in the allotted timeframe for competition. She wanted nothing to do with this for varying reasons, and I immediately started stressing about what would (could) happen if another child grabbed her right arm in an armbar or it became twisted in some manner. Would years of OT and PT be wiped away? Would her surgery at age 2 years be undone? Would she lose the phenomenal function that she’s strived to gain for so long? FEAR engulfed me and ANGER engulfed Amber.

Amber faced it head-on after getting over her initial fury. She pushed through that emotion and gave it a go, only to find out that not only was she fairly good at it as she has long, lean legs to use advantageously, but she liked it...no, LOVED it! Does she struggle to do some moves as demonstrated? Absolutely! Does she strive to grip her teammate’s gi and hold on with her right hand only to have it slip away? Most definitely! Is she almost always the last one completing bear crawls because her right hand cannot be placed flat on the mat but instead she has to knuckle it to finish? Painfully so! Even so, does she like BJJ and Muay Thai? Unquestionably! In about a year’s timeframe, she has advanced to a grey belt with one stripe at the dojo and is looking forward to her first competition grappling tournament this year. She is now ranked even higher than me in BJJ! I am so proud of her efforts, her accomplishments, her ability to put herself out there in an uncomfortable position and conquer her fear. I learn from her in many ways, as can many of us.

Tanya Jennison, proud Mom

There are some images attached if you'd like to view them (just click the image to make it bigger). If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at tanya@ubpn.org at anytime.

Re: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & Muay Thai with a BPI

Posted: Wed Mar 25, 2015 8:05 pm
by Carolyn J
I AM SOO PROUD OF AMBER!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *Heart* 8-) ~gramma C

Re: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & Muay Thai with a BPI

Posted: Fri Sep 25, 2015 1:30 am
by Cassy11
That's a very inspiring story. Such people achieve a lot in their lives.
Amber did a very good job!