This is an all too common feeling for those in the disabled community. It’s natural to look at what you can’t do instead of what you can. Plus, society doesn’t help. As a wheelchair user myself, I know first-hand how the world looks at someone with a physical disability as incapable. But in my opinion, that’s what makes it the most fun. We have the opportunity to shock the world and do the “impossible”. But too often we receive opinions as facts. “If it hasn’t been done before by someone else, how could I do it?”. It all has to start with you no longer agreeing with the world that you’re incapable.
Every great achievement was once seen as impossible. Lighting a house with electricity, flying a plane, running a 4-minute mile, or my favorite example.....disabled individuals doing “able bodied things” better than those with able bodies! Stop what you’re doing and look up two names. Kyle Maynard and Anthony Robles. These are two men I have looked up to for many years. They have conquered sports that I have dedicated many years to myself such as wrestling, powerlifting, and Brazilian Jiu jitsu. But these men didn’t just show up and learn a few tips for fun, nor did their able-bodied opponents give them special treatment and let them win. These men decided to laugh at society’s view of limitations and made the world second guess what we can accomplish in less than optimal circumstances.
Let me start with Anthony Robles. A man who needs no introduction in the brutal world of NCAA wrestling. He was a 3x PAC 10 champion, 2x All-American, and an NCAA national champion with an undefeated record his senior year. He did all of this competing at the highest level of college sports, against able bodied opponents, with just one leg. He was born with this condition. The first time he hopped on the mat to compete, a parent in the stands started laughing at him thinking it was a joke. Everyone felt bad for him because of his disadvantages. Fast forward a few years to when he was the best college wrestler in the nation. He had opponents speaking out against him saying that his missing leg was an advantage! It was one less leg for them to grab. And he was so strong that these outspoken opponents felt he should have to wrestle in a heavier weight class. Anthony took what the world saw as a disadvantage and figured out how to maximize his strengths until people thought he had an unfair advantage! Think about how ridiculous he made these people sound....Complaining that a man with one leg has an unfair advantage over them in a combat sport! This is what makes Anthony a true legend on and off the mat. He made the decision to believe in himself, even if no one else did. Which led to him becoming one of the most dominant wrestlers in NCAA history by his senior year.
Anthony’s fitness records:
Bench press: 310lbs at a body weight of 125lbs.
100 neutral grip pull ups in 2 minutes.
6-minute mile on 1 leg and crutches.
The other person I feel is a prime example of what can be accomplished despite not having the best circumstances is Kyle Maynard. I could write about this guy for days! He has done just about everything you can think of! One of the best high school wrestlers in his state, a purple belt in Jiu jitsu, climbed a mountain, wrote a best-selling book, broke a powerlifting record when he was a teenager, got an interview on Oprah, and competed in an mma fight.....all of this without having hands or legs. Everything this man has done completely contradicts what society thinks a man in his condition could do. How could you do any of these things without even having hands? Kyle didn’t assume the world was right about his limits and found a way. You can look him up in countless videos, interviews, and read his book about how he overcame doubt, discouragement, and every other hurdle that one would expect when trying to conquer something “impossible”. And what you’ll find is a similar way of thinking as Anthony Robles. They don’t listen to the opinions of others. They find out for themselves. They recognize their situation as opportunity instead of a disadvantage.
So in conclusion, this is the message I want you to grasp. The opinions of people have nothing to do with you or your potential. You have no idea what you are capable of until you try. And not just try once. You have to be willing to fail, analyze what you could do better, and then repeat that process relentlessly until you have a breakthrough. Yes, discouragement, frustration, and failing will be a constant part of the process. Anthony Robles and Kyle Maynard experienced failure millions of times before they had a breakthrough. But they knew failing doesn’t mean you are a failure. Failing takes courage. To have the courage to fail means that you truly want success bad enough to have it one day. Coming from one ambitious wheelchair user to the one reading this, or to anyone else reading this that questions what they can accomplish in life, you can do so much more than your insecurities think you can. But those accomplishments hide on the other side of your doubt and fear of failure. It’ll be a long road for you. I won’t sugar coat it. But I promise you, win or lose, the fight is worth it.
Tyler Brey is currently available for online fitness training.
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