Vision without Eyesight: BJJ Champion Jeff Mata
Like many sports, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has a tendency to produce inspiring stories.
As someone who started Jiu Jitsu as a way of regaining strength after a bout with cancer and chemotherapy, I’m a sucker for those stories.
I probably wouldn’t recognize him if I bumped into him on the street, but I admire João Gabriel Rocha as a fellow cancer survivor who didn’t allow his diagnosis to derail his life or his Jiu Jitsu career.
To that list of inspiring stories, we can also add the account of Jeff Mata.
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Mata has always been a fighter, but he was no longer able to pursue his first love of boxing after he lost his eyesight in 2008.
As anyone can imagine, the loss of his sight was traumatic for Mata. He had to move back in with his parents, and he was suddenly dependent upon family and friends for everything. The experience sent him into a deep depression that only abated when he realized that he could regain some of what he lost.
His blindness meant an end to his boxing career, but there was another martial art still open to him: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Having decided to study Jiu Jitsu, Mata’s path was still not smooth. Before finding an academy that would take him, Mata was rejected by two other dojos. And he had to endure a 2.5 hour bus ride each way when he went to train.
In Jiu Jitsu, Mata’s blindness was not the disadvantage it had been in boxing, and he has attuned his senses of hearing and touch to make up for what he cannot see.
Today, Mata insists it was all worth it. As a three-time world champion, Mata now spends some of his time as a motivational speaker, encouraging others to persevere when faced with challenges.
As Mata himself likes to say, “I lost my sight, but gained my vision.”
For more on Jeff Mata’s story, click here.
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