Break from the past
July of 2003, shortly after a leap of faith that landed me in the motherland of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, was a devastating month for the path of life I had chosen to create. Having been accepted onto the just formed Gracie Barra Combat Team, with a taste for Rio and new purple belt under John Machado, training was everything. Commitment was 100% and there was a great force of motivation behind me to achieve the goals set forth in reaching MMA’s greatest stages in Japan.
A clear path in front of me with what was needed to make everything happen, until … Less than two weeks after my moving to Rio de Janeiro I was caught completely off guard with injury, breaking my ankle in Wrestling practice. Stubbornness in refusing to believe the loud crack of my fibula was a break had me walk out of the academy after training, telling my coach and team mates I would need a day, maybe two to recover from a sprain. A full week later with a foot and ankle swollen to disproportional sizes, I walked to a near by clinic for x-rays. The results brought on emotions of anger, disbelief and confusion. Looking at a picture of my spiral fracture that would require surgery, time away from the mat and postponing goals, I did not want to believe.
Taking a leap of faith requires 100% commitment and that is exactly what I had given, with no back up plan. A commitment that brought me to a new life in Rio de Janeiro, that had only just begun. The full time training schedule spread through six of the seven days a week was now out of the question. By the doctors words, after the surgery it would be months before my bone was completely healed and I could walk without crutches.
Those first days seemed like months and the three months after my first surgery seemed like an eternity. Hopping up stairs on one leg and running around on my crutches to stay in shape did not cut it. Following my return to the academy with doctor’s approval in October of 2003, complication after complication prevented a full recovery from ever coming to light. Infection, screws backing out and cutting my skin from the inside out, heavily damaged tendons leaving my ankle loose. That without touching on the muscle atrophy and loss of strength not only in my leg but my entire body from lack of training. As these complications seemed to become more and more of a obstacle I began discussing removal of the plate and screws from my leg with my doctor. The doctor had assured me that the plate would not bother me and that it was to be left in permanently. After a number of discussions it was decided that the material would be removed and an operation was scheduled for April of 2004.
As a foot note, my original operation was performed in a private hospital and I was under general anesthetic. Removal was on the doctor’s account and scheduled in a public hospital, with local anesthetic. During the operation, as my doctor was having difficulty removing the screws and plate, now covered in calcium deposits. Smoke visibly rose from my open leg as the electric drill stripped out the screws; my body jarred as a hammer driven chisel chipped away the excess calcium covering part of the plate. The doctor then phoned another doctor on his cell phone during the operation to tell him it was difficult to remove the material. He then proceeded to asked me if I would be alright to leave the plate and screws in, assuring me that there would be no complications and I would be able to return to competition, with a full recovery. Trusting my doctor I agreed.
One month later I was on the mat, again complication followed complication, beginning with scar tissue on the incision ripping open during my first training session. The injury never fully allowed my training to return to anywhere near what it had been. Through the remaining time in that first two years of Brazil, training never progressed past the point of hit or miss with consistency or quality.
Some time later (in 2006) training finally did begin without any serious complications. During that time I had returned to the US for a year long duration and during that time ran into friend and training partner Paul Schreiner, who along with Garth Taylor motivated me to get back to training Jiu-jitsu. Not to forget Eric Owings insight from abroad, helping me to regain that motivation deep inside. On Garth’s mats and in the UCSC Jiu-jitsu classes I began to get back my rhythm in training. From there the path I had once stuck to with all of my determination was once again in front of me.
X-Ray from 2011 showing material covered in calcium deposit, attached to Dennis Asche's fibula.
It took until until 2006 from July of 2003 to make my way back to Rio de Janeiro and my path to black belt. Although the chronic aches and pains persisted, I never saw it as a reason to complain as there are many people, many athletes in the World who have come back from or dealt with much worse. Never the less, since that break from the past, my 100% has never been the 100% I know and remember.