BJJ Feel Good

Blind Jiu-Jitsu Fighter Tearing It Up in Austin Texas

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a type of martial arts that takes patience and focus. It allows fighters to successfully defend themselves against opponents larger and stronger than them. It is also allowing one Austin resident to show everyone how his determination might be his strongest move on the mat.

Growing up in the 1980s in El Paso, Mike Sanchez latched onto anything and everything that involved wrestling or fighting.

“I would sit on my dad’s lap and watch WWE, Lucha Libre and New Mexican Pro Wrestling,” Sanchez said. “I could sit there and tell you which wrestler was which.”

Sanchez also grew up with something that caught his entire family off guard.

“Cancer tumors attacked the retina part of the eye,” Sanchez said. “I’ve been blind since I was two.”

Sanchez was born with retinoblastoma, causing him to have multiple eye surgeries as a baby and lose his sight in the process.

“Both my eyes are prosthetic,” Sanchez said. “They’re not my normal eyes. People say you can’t really tell.”

But for Sanchez, what started as something he liked for entertainment value eventually turned into a sport he was competing in.

“The mats back there have always been my home,” Sanchez said. “I just felt like it was natural. It came natural to me.”

Not being able to see has never bothered Sanchez when wrestling. In fact, he said this has been a way for him to get away from everything going on in his life.

“I might be stressed out over something or might be having a bad day, but once I step on those mats to train or compete, I’m happy,” Sanchez said. “I’m at home.”

After wrestling in high school while attending the Texas School for the Blind, Sanchez decided to make a bit of a change as he grew older and focus on martial arts — specifically Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

“The transition and Jiu-Jitsu have just been so much easier,” Sanchez said. “You are at the same level as somebody else while you’re rolling. You don’t have to see your opponent; you just feel your opponent at all times.”

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