Who has never felt like life was being unfair? Everything seems to be going so well, then things change suddenly, from one moment to another, and you have no idea what happened. It’s like you were in a fight, easily winning and, after a little slip, your opponent grabbed your back and applied that perfect attack. In that very moment, giving up seems to be the easiest option and the one which could take you away from that situation. But in life and in the mats, giving up means losing to yourself. And losing to yourself is the worst of the defeats.
Ana Laura Cordeiro (27), 1st degree black belt, responsible for GB Upland, CA, also faced one of the hardest strikes that life could hit her with: being prevented from competing in Jiu-Jitsu – as she remembers, “I started to feel a constant and increasing pain just after the 2009 Pan-American. It was such a hard shock, because in one week I was training 6 days and in the other one, I was in bed, without even being able to move.”
There are stages in life that seem to take forever to finish. While we cross them, we suffer with many oscillations. In one moment, it seems that necessary energy was finally recovered, and then we suddenly see ourselves about to fade again. This period, or rather the fight Ana Laura had to face, lasted four years.
“I got very upset. I thought it would be a passing thing, but the pain would persist and it remained that way for more than a month. I remember that when I could drive once again, after the crisis lessened a little, I realized how fragile our life is. Thereafter I started to value the simple things like driving, running, working out and even the simple act of sitting. I remained for four years with many difficulties to perform any of these simple actions and, of course, training Jiu-Jitsu once again would be such a big achievement,” said this fighter girl from the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais.
It was a big learning period. Away from competitions, Ana Laura did not leave the gentle art behind. She found another way to stay connected to what she always liked to do: Teaching. “If there’s something that helped me a lot in my “victorious” return to the championships it was my school. I owe that to my students. Even being unable to train, I have never stopped teaching, and this gave me a huge amount of confidence for my return. You know that saying, “the blessing in disguise”? Somehow this injury made me more focused as a teacher and owner of the gym. My husband Rafael Novais and I, opened the GB Upland in 2010 about at the same time that I had stopped training and competing. I totally focused on the growth of our academy which now has been working quite well for four years.” said Ana.
Teaching classes but away from the competitions. We know that an injury can hurt far beyond the physical side. A serious injury can mess with the psychological aspect and life of a person who has always participated in tournaments. Staying out of them and facing the recovery process to return 100% is not as easy as it may seem. The first part of her return began in June 2013 in a quite different place from those she was used to attending: the operating room, as she recalls “Even without knowing for sure whether or not I would get back to training once again, let alone to compete again in a fast-paced and high-level, I started my fight there. I was terrified about all of that. Needles, anesthesia, ICU (Intensive Care Unit)… After I managed to overcome this fear barrier, the other things were easier. The World Championship, as well as any other tournament that I participate, winning or losing, will be totally worth it, simply because I am there competing!
After everything I went through, I think I became a better competitor than I was five years ago. Today I am more experienced.” – Ana Laura Cordeiro
“After the storm comes the calmness” – there is no better saying than this common Brazilian one to describe the comeback of Ana Laura. After the surgery, what was only a possibility became a reality: the return to training. Going back to that ‘four-years-ago’ routine was impressive. Body and mind of our warrior were no longer used to the hard beats from the championships. “In some moments the pain seemed to send signals that it was still there, but the doctor said it was a “psychological” pain. He advised me to continue with the training and said that the pain would go away, or rather I would forget it. It all worked! After everything I went through, I think I became a better competitor than I was five years ago. Today I am more experienced. I learned not to put too much expectation only on the results. When I’m on the mat I’m very excited, even better if I can impose my game pace. It’s all about the enjoyment without the famous “pressure” that many athletes feel. “Pressure” is something I just want to have on my hip (laughs). It is not something that simple to control, but that’s when the great fighter stands out.”
And she did stand out. Recently, Ana Laura returned to the competitive scenario and already won the gold medal at the 2014 World Championship (IBJJF). This is her 5th gold medal at the World Championship, two in blue and purple belt categories and the other ones in the black belt. Besides other conquests in her career, like the Pan-American.
For the future, many seminars on Brazilian soil and maybe the not-yet-reached objective of the Brazilian championship victory next year. There are many titles, but what really mattered for the life of this warrior as her greatest victory is summarized in her own words: “If there is one very important thing that I learned during that time without being able to train, it was to value the good and simple things in life. Being truly happy for just being healthy, be willing to get up and go fight for what satisfies you and makes you happy. You have to try to overcome the challenges that life imposes on you, because nobody can do it on your behalf! And whenever you face a difficult moment, try to see the good side of things, even when that “good side” is not so obvious. If we do this, life becomes lighter and a little easier. Always fight for what you believe in, and never give up!”