Three Disabled Grapplers Who Prove Jiu-Jitsu Is For Everyone

Have you ever worried you were not good enough for jiu-jitsu? Have you ever felt you were too old (in which case, you should read this), too out-of-shape, or just not cut out to be the next Andre or Angelica Galvao.

I know I did.  As a middle-aged, nonathletic man in a world full of hard-body, twenty-somethings, I suffered with inferiority complexes of my own on the mats.     

Yet whatever hurdles I have jumped to earn the blue belt wrapped snugly around my waist are nothing compared to what some jiu-jitsu practitioners have had to overcome. 

From lost limbs to conditions that would discourage most of us from even considering combat sports, disabled grapplers are forced to tread a much harsher terrain in order to achieve and surpass the distinguished rank of Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. 

Their efforts are more than simply admirable, though, because they show us all that jiu-jitsu truly is for everyone.    

While I would love to mention them all, brevity demands otherwise, so here are three of them.              

Jean-Jacques Machado

Jean-Jacques Machado

If you do not know who Jean-Jacques Machado is, then welcome to your first day of jiu-jitsu.    

Jean-Jacques is one of the most famous and dominant forces in Brazil’s “soft way.”     

Though stricken with a birth defect that left only a thumb and little finger on his left hand, Machado’s grappling career spans over a quarter century, and he holds championships too numerous to list for an article of this length.      

Machado has many notable students, including 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu founder, Eddie Bravo; UFC color commentator, Joe Rogan; and Bruce Lee’s teacher and student, Dan Inosanto.     

Jean-Jacques Machado holds a red-and-black coral belt, a rank he received back in 2011 from none other than Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend, Rickson Gracie.   

He also endorsed Chuck Norris’ third-degree black belt.   

Aaron Broverman

Aaron Broverman

Aaron Broverman could have let his cerebral palsy get in the way of his jiu-jitsu career.  Instead, he used his condition to make the art more inclusive for the disabled.    

The Grappler’s Heart Tournament  is North America’s first Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournament for disabled grapplers.  In 2015, Broverman not only competed in this history-making tournament, but served as a member of its Board of Directors. 

As if that were not enough, Aaron also writes for Fightland, one of the most popular combat sports publications in the world.          

You can read some of his work here


Sean Fong 

Sean Fong

Some things in life figuratively cost an arm and a leg.    

But for the Fiji-born Australian, Sean Fong, that is literally what life cost him. 

Fong lost his two limbs in a train accident when he was only seven years old, but that has not stopped him from setting swimming records or hitting the jiu-jitsu mats two to three times a week.      

“With jiu-jitsu for me, it’s almost like a religion,” Sean told interviewer, Antony Robinson.  “It’s a really soulful experience.” 

Fong, who trains out of Gracie Barra Sydney, considers himself a naturally competitive person, and believes that competing in adulthood has helped him make up for the times he was excluded from sports as a child. 

Sean is also not a fan of the word “disability” and refuses to see his two missing limbs as an excuse to wallow in self pity. 

“I don’t think, because I’m missing two limbs, that it really affects the quality of my life in terms of me being happy.” 

You can watch all of Sean Fong’s amazing interview with Antony Robinson below.    

If you or someone you know is a grappler with a disability, the Jiu-Jitsu Times would love to share your story.  Please email me at  so we can set up an interview.


  1. Ian Edge… Bilateral above knee amputee, Kyle Maynard…quadruple amputee, Matt Betzold…leg amputee, Ronald Mann…leg amputee, Nick Newell… Arm amputee…This list could go on for a while.

  2. These articles really do inspire people to try what they’ve been told theyd never be able to do. I hope you reach out to fellow female adaptive athletes!! A lot of young disabled women out there who would benefit seeing it.



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