Grappling, not grieving: Neil Brown's journey to the tournament

Grappling, not grieving: Neil Brown's journey to the tournament
Published: Apr. 23, 2015 at 11:26 PM CDT|Updated: May. 3, 2015 at 11:56 PM CDT
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MADISONVILLE, KY (WFIE) - It is said that determination can drive a person well beyond their limitations. One Kentucky man is living proof of those words.

Neil Brown rolled into practice wearing sneakers but he cannot train in those shoes. He changed into his uniform and he got to grappling.

"Jiu-jitsu really helped me," he said. "Work through the issues anyone would have after being in the hospital for three months solid, laying on your back, unable to move."

In 2010, at the age of 37, he got sick. The doctors diagnosed him with a MRSA infection and they rushed him to the emergency room.

"Apparently, I was clinically dead and they had to bring me back," says Brown.

After being in a coma for three weeks, he woke up.

"It felt like someone had taken icy, wet boots and slipped them on my feet because my legs and my feet were cold and they hurt. It was just pain. It was just all pain," says Brown.

The medication used to save Neil's life killed both of his feet and the fingers on his left hand, but it did not kill his spirit.

"Jiu-jitsu was one of the things that I was told, 'You probably are not going to be able to do that,' and so, of course, I puffed my chest out and said, 'Yes, I am.'"

He reconnected with his coach, Eric Myers, at the Myers Martial Arts studio in Madisonville. He returned to the mat with a winning attitude.

"He's wearing these pylons and these prosthetic legs," said Eric. "I said, 'What the heck happened to you?' and he goes, 'Well, I am back and I was wondering if you could train me.'"

"I just dove right into it," said Neil.

Neil and Eric train together three times each and every week. They practice a variety of different self-defense moves.

Neil says he plans to use them against the other competitors, who are physically like him, at the Grapplers Heart Tournament in New York City on Saturday.

"The win is irrelevant," said Eric. "The loss is irrelevant. He is taking jiu-jitsu to a whole other community and most people would not expect it."

"We may have less limbs but we can still get on the mat and rock it," said Neil.

Neil is unable to work right now.

If you would like to help him defray the cost of his trip to the tournament, you can make a donation by visiting his Go Fund Me account.

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