BJJ Perseverance Series: Gregory Hassman

6 min read
How Jiu-Jitsu helped put a man back on track, overcome the odds stacked against him, and use his weakness as a strength!

1leggreg posing with his instructor

BJJ Perseverance Series: Gregory Hassman

How Jiu-Jitsu helped put a man back on track, overcome the odds stacked against him, and use his weakness as a strength!

Location: Lake Nona, FL.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Photo by: 1leggreg

If ever there was a man who can say he walked through hell and came out the other side, it is Gregory Hassman, known on the jiu-jitsu scene as 1LegGreg. With my idea of writing a series of articles on perseverance, Greg was high on the list of individuals whose story I wanted to tell. But first… I had to hear his story myself. When we first connected over typical jiu-jitsu things, I had no idea that I was interacting with a person of such incredible tenacity. Life knocked him all the way down, but Greg got back up again. 

Down the rabbit hole 

On September 16th of 2006, Greg was in a car wreck that crushed his leg. He was in and out of the El Passo, Texas hospital for about fourteen months. They put metal into his leg, he underwent several surgeries, and was introduced to opiates during this time. After a history of alcohol and meth, he eventually moved from opiates to black tar heroin. Greg describes himself at this time as a “drunken, drugged up mess.”

One day, about fourteen months after the wreck, Greg woke up, and everything hurt. His eyelids hurt… everything. He had developed a deep bone infection, and that is when his leg was finally amputated. He spent years without a prosthetic because, as he put it, “You don’t need two legs to drink. That is all I was doing… feeling sorry for myself and getting the world to feel sorry for me. The world was my enabler. No one questions a one-legged guy and why he’s getting hammered at eight in the morning.” 

Prior to his amputation, it was blatantly obvious that his leg was horribly infected. He explained that any sane and sober person who looked at it knew it was rotting off. But it was of no concern to Greg himself. Still, once he had the operation, amputation felt like freedom. He no longer had that literal anchor. However, afterward, he was still on crutches, drinking, drugging, and self-medicating to the extreme.


Get the hell out of dodge 

Four years later, Greg went home to visit his mother after not seeing one another for several years. The first thing she said to him was, “Gregory Michael, your eyes are fucking yellow.” After getting checked out, he found out he had acute liver failure. He contacted an old friend who told him it was time to get the hell out of dodge. She drove down to pick him up and brought him to Santa Fay, where he got into a sobering center. It turns out, he explained, that there is a tremendous sober community in Santa Fey. There, he found a strong connection between physical and mental health. 

For the first time in his life, Greg began to take care of his body. Initially, he biked everywhere because he didn’t own a car for the first few years there. Then, some friends got him into rock climbing. It was a lot of fun but very challenging with one leg. Sometimes even hiking to where they would climb was incredibly difficult. They would go to places where only climbers go… just goat trails, really. And Greg had a significant disadvantage. He explained that women are naturally better climbers because they’ll climb with their legs. “Dumb apes,” as he put it, “want to do pull-ups the whole way.” He got in competition with himself, always chasing that next letter grade, trying to climb to a higher level.

The friend who had driven him to Santa Fey was very involved in martial arts. Her whole family did boxing, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu. From the time she met him, she had encouraged him to try jiu-jitsu, and he believed this would be impossible. One day, after a particularly rough day of climbing, she told him to show up at a particular place and time because he was going to try jiu-jitsu. He showed up and fell in love. For a while, he tried to balance rock climbing and jiu-jitsu, but after a bit of time had passed, he gave up climbing. 

An advantage in jiu-jitsu 

Greg feels that the community that comes with jiu-jitsu would be challenging to explain to those who do not train; it is almost spiritual to a degree. This community provided him with many things he needed in his life. One fantastic thing that jiu-jitsu did was make Greg comfortable with his stump. When he was climbing, he always wore shorts that were long enough to cover it. He never let people see it. His stump is healthy, he explained, and for that, he feels blessed. Some people have stumps that look burned or scared. Still, he always thought it looked weird… until he started using it as a weapon. Now Greg no longer feels self-conscious about it.

It took him nearly a year of training to start using his stump. One day, a black belt pointed at his stump and asked, “Why the f*** aren’t you using that thing?” Greg immediately shoved it into his throat and realized it was very effective. He can use it to make space. It’s a short lever that is hard for people to control but easy for him to weave. As a knee shield, it is hard for people to beat, and if they do, it is easy for him to swim back in. He does stump on belly. He does a baseball choke when people pass where the leg isn’t. And when they do pass, all he has to do to regain guard is put his stump in just a little. There are definitely challenges, such as a non-existent standup game. But on the ground, Greg definitely found his advantage. 

An unexpected journey

About a year ago, the friend who helped Greg get sober passed away. She left behind her husband and two little boys. So, Greg decided to move to Albuquerque, NM, to help them return to normal life. He planned to move back to Arizona but was unexpectedly offered a teaching position at a brand new Gracie Barra school. Greg felt that the community was itching for something extraordinary to do, and he had many students eager to learn. He is proud to have a lot of female students at his school… at his first promotion, two-thirds of those promoted were women.  

Greg has had a few opportunities to work with people who are missing body parts and really enjoys it. He worked with one kid who was twelve, and Greg tried to hammer it into his head that he has a real advantage. And once he figures that out, he can destroy people. 

Greg’s story is truly one of good samaritans, perseverance, and finding new meaning in life in no small part to Jiu-Jitsu. If you know someone who is depressed or not really living but just passing through life, do them a favor and signed them up for a Jiu-Jitsu class TODAY!!

Also, Read: BJJ Perseverance Series: James Hazel HERE



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