My ankle got mucked up a bit on Tuesday while fighting for a takedown. It got me thinking about my first injury on the mats.
What do I remember?
I remember the old academy in Elsa, TX. For those of you who do not know (most of you, I presume), Elsa is one of the poorest cities in the United States. In fact, I would venture to say that most of my readers have never seen the face of poverty as it can be seen in Elsa.
The school was a white-walled number, small, reminiscent of an old thrift store which had, for one reason or another, gone out of business. Two-thirds of the available mat space we had was covered with tattered, black puzzle mat pieces which had long ago stopped fitting together. The final third was matted properly and, if class was small enough, everyone would try to stay on that side.
My cousin and I had gotten into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu together. He had wrestled in high school and had a certain aptitude for the training. I did not, and could just never beat the guy. All the same, we were competitive as shit.
This was August 2006 – if I remember correctly – and we had both been training for about six months. So we started one of our matches which, naturally, would be fought until the death. What else are two competitive family members to do? And as was nearly always the case, he got top. Then he passed my guard, transitioned into north-south, and secured an americana. Damn it. Back in those days, it was as easy as breathing for him.
But I refused to surrender.
Why? Because I’m a flexible guy. My flexibility is going to save me, as it has so many times before. “Actually, my arm comfortably bends like that.” He’s beginning to apply the submission. “Nope, that submission does. not. even. bother. me.” Twist, twist, crank. “In fact, is it even possible to finish an americana from north-south? Can I get a ruling? I bet it’s not. He’s trying to do something that does not even work.”
Then came a long, sustained wrenching. Wrist pinned helplessly to the mat, the ligaments and tendons in my arm could resist no longer. My elbow gave one last push-against, before relenting and being thrown passed any sensible angle. I heard and felt two very distinct pops, like the snapping of celery. In my arm.
But it did not really hurt at the time, to be honest. The three of us figured, maybe, nothing had happened. Maybe my arm really is made of rubber. Maybe I really am Mr. Fantastic.
Maybe the popping was the sound of my arm breaking the fucking laws of physics.
Well, I woke up in the morning and the whole ‘not injured’ delusion was quickly dispelled. My arm could not extend beyond 60 degrees, and my fingers weren’t working. They just would not. Oh, I’d tell them to extend or move. But nothing would happen. Incidentally, that day was the first day of the fall semester. I still remember having to take notes with my left-hand in my Contemporary Philosophy class. It was awful.
But I was 20 years-old at the time, so the injury healed quickly. In particular, my fingers were usable in a few days and back at 90% in less than two weeks. My arm regained most of its flexibility back in six weeks, and I was back on the mats a microsecond after that. Why? Well, the first step was to heal. The second step? Avenge the loss!