Coming Back From Injury Mentally
Consistency is key when it comes to being great at anything. Have you ever looked up to someone and wondered how is that they’ve never been brought down by anything? Why can they do anything and everything? They never seem to struggle. Their identity is always intact. Or so I thought. My personal identity is strong but at some point, things happen where you may question or need to change your identity especially with a sports injury. How do you come back from an injury mentally? This is the come back story of Ryan Wagner’s identity.
My name is Ryan Wagner.
Ryan Wagner, bboy Napalm and martial artist
Many in the hip-hop dance community around the world know me as Bboy (most people know this term as “breakdancer”) Napalm and in my community as Mr. or later, Master Ryan.
I started my training in martial arts at 7 years old. I earned my black belt around 11. Started teaching martial arts at 13 and bboying (breakdancing) at the same time.
I focused all of my teenage years on being the best martial artist and instructor I could be while at the same time, every free moment I had from that I spent dancing so I could be one of the best competitors in the bboy scene. It’s all I wanted to do and I was so happy doing it all, the dancing, the martial arts, and the teaching.
By the time I was 20 years old I was managing a martial arts school, winning almost every martial arts tournament I entered, and was considered one of the best bboys in the USA.
Naturally, I felt on top of the world. My belief system was that no matter what it was that I thought, I can accomplish. If it came to my mind, I will create it. In most cases this was true.
A turn in events
By 22 years old, I earned the rank of Master in Tang Soo Do (which is quite young). Just 2 years after that at 24 I was buying my school from the current owner who was also my life-long mentor in the martial arts and in business. It was exciting times! Any challenge that presented itself I could easily knock down.
The month before I was buying the school I was being flown to Marseille, France to compete in one of the biggest 1 on 1 stage competitions in the world at the time. I went, and that is a story in itself.
I was very sick when I went, got left at the airport overnight, was told by security I was not allowed to sleep and there was no place to grab food or drink. Lots of fun, let me tell you! That set me up to win… right?! Well, I won the competition.
Learning the hard way about my injury
I came home and as I always did, I analyzed the footage, found areas to improve, and went to work. I ended up over-training and taking on a groin pull on my left adductor longus muscle in the groin area.
At this time I had committed to competing at a competition in Maryland at Johns Hopkins University. Now, most people would say if you are injured like this, you do not go and make it any worse. For someone like me, I needed to learn this the hard way. You see, I have a belief system, if I make a promise, I either get it done or I die… and I have no intention of dying. So I went to compete with the groin pull. Competing with a sports injury is a gamble.
I got a body massage on the day before the competition. I got to the event early, I played the game smart. Going to get real warm. Proper stretch, lots of movement, feel the floor out. I can do this. I do everything sick, not sick, problem, no problem, I always come out with a win to improve upon or a loss to learn from. No problem, baby, just another day. And… yet it was anything but another day!
How I obtained my sport injury
I get called up, it’s a 2 round battle. Pull off my first round, feeling froggy, feeling good. No issues. The second round I go in with some of my crazy spin moves in bboying we call these power moves.
As I am spinning a feel a tug on the area that is pulled, I decided quickly to throw one final big move so I can win this battle, tell the judges to give it to him, and pull my name out of the brackets. When I went for this final big move I tore my adductor longus in half.
The way I can describe this feeling is you take a piece of an orange and you grab it on both sides then you twist and pull it apart watching all the fibers of juice pockets pull apart. That, my friend, is how it felt. It is a sports injury that you never want to have. And this happened a month before I was to take over this company where I am a one-man show teaching something that takes being physical! Fun times.
After visiting the hospital and surgeons and this guy and the next. It turned out surgery was not a necessary option. I was to rest and let it heal.
The lesson from my injury
What would happen from here? A decision was made. My decision was that this was an opportunity for me to put all of my focus into the business. Make it better than it’s ever been and truly make this school a huge success.
What did I do? I bought the school, on May 1, 2010. May was the greatest month the school had ever seen in terms of business since the day my mentor and I opened it in November of 2008. From there I would grow the business so much that we outgrew the space I had for it. In June of 2012, I moved us to a space that is over 3 times larger.
2012 would also be the year I felt comfortable enough to step back into the competitive dance scene. I would spend the next 3 years into 2015 being one of the best on the planet again, winning many competitions all around the globe.
Until October of 2015 when I would injure my inner leg muscle on the opposite side and that would send me into a whole different world of opportunity for understanding and growth. My sports injury doubled.
I had to keep pushing, could I come back stronger from my injury?
When I write this story or tell it I am very proud of my younger self. Our thoughts affect our emotions and behaviors and naturally, that goes vice versa as well our behaviors and emotions affect our thoughts.
Although, I certainly had some negative thoughts. I didn’t allow them to stay long. I got focused on my behaviors and my work ethic and the positive thinking of what can I actually do.
From there I simply went to work on what I could do. What I was able to do was create success in new ways while I couldn’t compete and create success in the way I was accustomed to.
Coming back from my injury mentally
Another thing that I take from my story is we have to be careful about how we identify ourselves. If my identity was only attached to be this physical being that wins dance and martial arts events. Perhaps, I would have been more broken when I could not move well for 2 years. Instead, I said, “What else can I become?”. I became a great small business owner and have really made an impact on my community. This, my friends, is a much bigger impact than me just making myself feel good winning competitions.
Identity is important to each of us. Having confidence in your identity gives you confidence in your work. Your stride is complete. Someone whose identity is intact is confident in themselves.
My sports injury story is a long one. To me, my identity wasn’t always known. I only felt like my complete self recently at 27. But through trial and error, and wisdom your identity can be shaped and improved as long as you never give up. Keep it up, and always ask for help. You’re always changing and always improving. For more stories like this one, check out the links below:
Ryan Wagner is an entrepreneur out of Bensalem, Pennsylvania. He gets tremendous joy out of helping people achieve Black Belt in his Leadership Academy as well as tacking challenges in different business endeavors.