Meet Amaris

Meet Amaris

Amaris first walked through the doors of UPMA nearly four years ago. I immediately noticed how shy she was, that she lost her balance easily and was afraid to try new things. Amaris suffers from regular and sometimes severe seizures. As a result, she can be shaky, often lose her balance, and has a developmental delay.
I remember the first time I asked her to punch a focus mit. She said to me, “But my hand is shaking”. I assured her that it was alright and encouraged her to punch it anyway. She was also very concerned about doing rolls because she sometimes becomes dizzy. Again, I assured her that we all get dizzy occasionally, but the trick is to just wait until you aren’t anymore. I offered the same guidance when she would frequently lose her balance. What do you do when you lose your balance? You stop and you catch it of course. Then, you continue with what you were doing. You see, these were all obstacles that she never knew she could overcome. When she was provided with the opportunities to prove to herself just how much she was capable of, the flood gates blew wide open and it was absolutely amazing to witness.
Today, you would almost not recognize Amaris. Her self-confidence has grown tremendously. She wants to try everything! Aggressive takedowns, bring it on! Spar with the boys, let’s do it!! compete in her first ever Jiu Jitsu competition, can’t wait!!!. Just this past April, Amaris competed in the Grappler’s Heart Tournament. She fought a very tough opponent and despite giving a valiant effort, she lost. However, that didn’t stop her from having the time of her life. After her first match, she jumped up with a smile on her face, ready to go again. And she did. After each match, she ran off the mats with a big smile on her face and with arms wide open ready to hug her coaches. She even stuck around for an amazing seminar after the tournament. I am confident that when the next opportunity rolls around, she will be the first to sign up.

Amaris after her first fight

Amaris after her first fight

In addition to her gains in confidence, Amaris has achieved enormous growth physically and mentally as well. Her balance has improved by leaps and bounds. She can perform back to back multi directional kicks without falling over. Those limbs that she was so afraid to use because they were shaking, have since increased in stability and coordination. Her mother tells me that before participating in martial arts, she had trouble with depth perception, something that has also improved. Even her memorization skills have increased, surpassing all expectations. In addition to all of that, she has also gotten much stronger physically (nothing brings a smile to her face like seeing her coaches wince when she hits those pads).
Students like Amaris are the reason that UPMA exists. She has not only gained skills that should benefit her the rest of her life, she has also had the chance to experience things she never dreamed to be possible. The smile on her face coupled with that exuberant giggle of hers, are things that I will cherish forever.

Grappler’s Heart Tournament

The 2016 Grappler’s Heart Tournament has come and gone. What an amazing experience it was. Jiu Jitsu fighters from all over the US and even one from the UK came to compete. For more than half the athletes, it was their first time competing.
What made Grappler’s Heart so special? It wasn’t because there were big names like Galvao or Cornelius. There were no flying armbars or flashy finishes. It was the heart and determination shown by each athlete. It was the thought that went into every movement to adapt it to the athlete’s abilities. It was the fact that these warriors put it all on the line for the chance at a gold medal. There were no excuses, only hard work, blood, sweat and tears. Well, maybe not tears. Every single person left the gym feeling exhilerated and accomplished. All of them ready to compete again.
UPMA brought two athletes to compete. Both Nolan and Amaris fought their hearts out and both took home a silver medal. It wasn’t the medals that made the day. It was the look on their faces and the feeling of accomplishment that they left with that day. After losing her first fight via armbar, Amaris jumped up with a big smile one her face, ready to go again. When asked what he liked about competing, Nolan said “Getting to test yourself against other people at your level”. Wow. Most adults I know don’t have an outlook that positive.
Hopefully, this is the first of many events for Team UPMA. We are in the process of helping the fine people at Dream Jiu Jitsu form a category for people with special needs at an upcoming tournament. We hope to add to our list of competitors, with the ultimate goal of finding a suitable opponent for each and every one of our students. Everyone should have the chance to test themselves against someone else at their level.
Thanks, Nolan!