Learning To Walk While Competing In Jiu-Jitsu – The Life of Nick “The Tornado” Turnbo

nick the tornado md crutchesNick “The Tornado” Turnbo is a competitive athlete who lives with cerebral palsy. In the fall, he plays baseball with Challenger Baseball in of Franklin County, Missouri. But Nick’s true love lies within Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Nick was first introduced to jiu-jitsu through watching MMA fighting, so he started training at a local facility with weights. Similar to wrestling, jiu-jitsu is mainly a ground sport which allows Nick to compete at a high level with able bodied athletes in a similar weight range. “It’s like a combat sport but you’re not really like throwing punches or anything. It’s like mainly joint locks and submissions, so you’re not striking,” said Nick.

Nick has been lucky enough to train with Sam Richardson once a week for an hour to prepare for his competitions. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Nick has been training at home for the past year. He competes in different tournaments every year including the American Grappling Federation where he is cheered on by some of his favorite fans! He got the nickname “The Tornado” from a former UFC fighter (and friend), Josh Sampo.

“When I walk into the building, Josh would say ‘I feel a breeze coming on… Oh wait it’s just Nick the tornado.’”

Staying active is especially important for Nick as his cerebral palsy affects his muscle tone and can create tightness in the arms and legs. “His cerebral palsy is mainly in his bottom extremities or his legs, ankles and feet, so he has lots of tightness and has had a couple of surgeries to try to loosen that out,” said Nick’s mother, Patty. “Typically, one is born with cerebral palsy due to brain trauma.”

Living with cerebral palsy has created mobility challenges for Nick. He has tried European-style forearm crutches but did not like them because they didn’t give him the support he needed to feel safe. Nick has explored multiple mobility aids, but recently purchased the M+D Crutches as a new form of mobility support. “I use the M+D Crutches because I have cerebral palsy and I used a walker for a while, but I have also used forearm crutches before, and I didn’t have very good balance.”

Nick discovered the M+D Crutches when surfing YouTube for people with cerebral palsy. He noticed a video of a M+D Crutch user, Nikki, who lives with cerebral palsy taking her first steps of freedom! Read more about her story here.

“With the M+D Crutches, I actually have better balance!”

Like many people who live with mobility challenges, just the simple act of walking without assistance can sometimes be challenging. “He has never really walked very much with his forearm crutches by himself without me being behind him holding onto him. So, we are trying to get him used to the M+D Crutches, but he does like the fact that he puts his arm in the cradle,” said Patty.

Like preparing for jiu-jitsu competitions, Nick also trains with his mother to walk on his own. “We are trying to practice walking every night, just back and forth with him. And once we’ve walked back and forth a couple of times, he can walk a straight line and do maybe 25 or 30 steps by himself.” Nick has posted some inspiring videos of him walking on his own on Instagram. After posting the video of him walking on Instagram, one of Nick’s grade school teachers saw his post and ended up purchasing a pair of M+D Crutches to help her recover from her surgery.

“Walk This Way” with Nick “The Tornado” Turnbo


Nick has built a noticeable following from popular athletes

Nick has made large strides in creating awareness for people who live with cerebral palsy, especially within the jiu-jitsu community. Many top jiu-jitsu athletes are advocates for Nick and give him shout outs during post competition interviews. Nick uploaded an awesome video to his YouTube channel of some of his favorite athletes giving him a shout out.

He still uses his walker as an option and prefers his M+D Crutches when walking shorter distances. “I am looking forward to him using the M+D Crutches more! Currently, he uses a reverse walker which is a walker that is open in front. The reverse walker helps him stand up straighter also.” said Patty.

Some of our users purchase the M+D Crutches because of the practical “hands-free” mode that enables the user to use their hands without setting down the crutches. Like many, Nick is still getting used to the crutches and hopes to use the “hands-free” mode as he gets more comfortable with the crutches.  “I have seen that hands-free mode on the videos, but I have not actually done anything with that part of it yet.”

Another feature he likes is the M+D Crutch Feet. “He likes the bottom of the M+D Crutches because the rocking motion makes them feel secure. He says he feels more stable with that, so I’m thinking we might have a better chance of him actually freely being able to walk around with the M+D Crutches,” said Patty.

To learn more, watch more of Nick’s competitive jujitsu videos on his YouTube channel and consider following him on Instagram!


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