I don’t have health insurance. Now, this isn’t a post on politics or a complaint about my employer. I have just found for my personal situation that it is more economically feasible for me not to pay for health insurance every month and this has been my situation for the last 6 years. People say,” Isn’t that dangerous doing what you do for a living?” Well… I no longer fight competitively and yes there is some inherent risk anytime you participate in any sport. But I don’t think what I do is dangerous because I’ve learned how to mitigate risk especially since losing my health insurance when I was 26.
“Protect yourself at all times.” I have heard these words so many times especially in my competition days but this is one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned in martial arts. I do this every time I train, especially when I’m rolling or sparring someone for the first time. I don’t open up my game or play around with someone who hasn’t earned my trust yet. I go to a super defensive, tight, counter fighting style of sparring in both grappling and striking. This is to protect myself so that I’m never putting myself in a position where I could get hurt from negligence. This might sound mean or rude from the outside but I have to. My job is physical. If I get hurt, I can’t work.
By the same token, I’ve had to check my ego at the door. I can’t be bothered with whether I win or lose on the mat day in day out. Every time that my ego gets the better of me that has usually been the time that I’ve gotten hurt. Whether it’s taking a couple punches that I shouldn’t have taken just to give a shot back, letting a submission go too far before tapping or getting folded up when rolling because I didn’t want someone to pass my guard. (By the way that’s when I broke my ribs…just saying) So I tap, lose position, or manage the distance. Whatever I need to do to protect my body so that I can come back the next day and do it again.
I also have to listen to my body and work around my injuries, not through them. If I have learned anything from my coaches and instructors it is that you have to take care of your body because you only get one. I’ve all them get hurt and some of them work through. Then 4 weeks off turns into 3 months off then becomes a year off. I can’t let that happen because I can’t afford it. I recently dislocated my finger over two weeks ago because of a freak accident when I was rolling, it happens. I have not rolled or sparred during this whole time. I have to let it heal and I can’t afford to let it get hurt again. My body is too precious to me and it is how I make money.
This has also affected the way I teach and what I teach to my students. I have a tendency to teach moves in Jit Jitsu that are low risk and high reward. I like to teach striking in a way where I take less damage and focus on counter fighting. This way I can spar and roll more often, which is the fun part anyway. I also feel confident giving my students these techniques and tactics knowing that they will be able to protect their bodies as well, especially kids.
I noticed this concept when I filled in for a day for Jiu Jitsu at my gym. I was teaching some moves and talked about why I do the techniques a certain way. Then I said, “train like you don’t have health insurance because I don’t.” That statement has always stuck with me since I blurted it out almost two years ago. I never want to take my body for granted. It is a gift and I only get one. I know it’s hard to not want to train hard all the time, suck it up, work through an injury, and go to war every night on the mat. But I can’t because I can’t afford to. Even if I was to get health insurance I don’t think I would change the way I train. Martial arts is a marathon, not a sprint and I want to make it to the finish line.