A Tribute to the gentle giant Brandon Kessinger

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On Tuesday night, July 5,2011, We lost a very dear member of our team.  Brandon Kessinger, the purple belt that I would often refer to as the “Gentle Giant” passed away, he was 30.

Josh Johnson & Brandon Kessingre, UFC Louisville, March 2011

Kessinger I will carry you with me every training session, every tournament, and especially this upcoming fight. You were always so supportive of me even when I’d go and pout and put myself down.  His visitation is being held at JC Kirby & Sons funeral home, 820 lovers ln, bowling green, ky from 10a-8pm today. His funeral will be at Hillvue Heights church tomorrow morning (July 9) at 11 a.m.

Today I had my hardest roll to date..and it will probably the hardest time i’ll ever have on the mat. I went to Owensboro after his visitation to try to train/sweat out the pain and I was getting along well and then an hour and a half into it I got up from a roll, stood up and it just hit me like a ton of bricks. I just sat at the side of the mat, head in my shirt and cried in memory of my friend, my brother. I can’t explain why or how i became just overcome with grief.  I started to think of all the things he showed me, all the times we’ve rolled, all the laughs, tears, and blood, all the heart to hearts in and outside the gym. I took two rounds to get some of it out and then one of my favorite Nice Guys pulled me back on the mat and told me to just roll, even though I couldn’t see past my tears to just go through the motions. I tried, I really did, but all I  felt like doing was turtling up with my head on the mat so no one could tell I was crying. Maybe my tears would be hidden by the sweat and the heat. But we did it anyways, I sobbed, but after a few minutes my tears died down some and I began to simply work through it as best i could. I just tried to move and think, “Butterfly guard, underhook, overhook, hips, move your legs, just move anything…”  I tell you what, two weeks ago I lost someone who once owned my heart, and whose heart I had as well. A man i loved very much. Three days ago I lost a member of my family. We may not be blood, but we might as well be, for I care for him as if he was my brother. I had no idea after these past few weeks that I could feel anything else.  I was certain that I had cried every tear, cursed any and everyone and that i was certifiably numb.  The pain of losing someone like him is surreal.

There are so many things I could say about Kessinger, but the one thing that was universal is that not only was he an awesome person to train with, he was even more enjoyable off the mat. W went to his visitation last night and this morning and it was a hard task.  It’s really unbelievable. I know that doesn’t make sense because i’ve cried all the tears, went to see the body twice, conversed and cried alongside his mother and family and yet it still feels like at any moment we’ll wake up and i’ll hear that laugh.

It’s weird how many times a day I think of him, my jiujitsu brother.

In our association We are one big family and I hope it brings his family comfort to know that he had (and still has) an extended family that loves him dearly and are always here to help in whatever way we can.

I can’t begin to describe how incredibly hard it’s been to say goodbye to the gentle giant. It was nice to walk in his viewing room and see that they had his tournament medals and one of our teammates had given up his own blue belt in his honor.  I found great comfort in reminiscing with teammates and having a few moments to speak to his mom. I see now where he got his sweet and kind ways from.  Even though she’s going through excruciating pain she held each one of the guys, spoke comforting words to each of us, and even shared a few embarrassing stories from his childhood.

As much as it hurt to be there I must admit that it felt good to see and talk to all the people who shared in loving him. I feel that he is at peace.  If I’ve learned anything from Garic passing two weeks ago it’s to give up on the “Why”, and simply make my peace and accept the fact that my good friend, and awesome training partner is gone.

Kessinger's purple belt promotion.

I mentioned earlier that Kessinger was a purple belt under Josh Johnson (luiz palharres).  He was a big man to roll with as well, he towered over me and had legs and arms the size of my head lol. Upon first sight he seemed intimidating to roll with. I mean c’mon, a man of his size with his experience, but he was so encouraging and helpful.  I knew that he could smash me easily with no effort on his part but he always let me work. In the past year alone he worked more so with trying to get me more comfortable with leg attacks. I have a weak stomach for the heel hooks, and I would wince when he tried to show me a reverse heel hook.  I’ll especially miss the look on his face he’d give me whenever we’d roll and my legs would be bent backwards and sideways because I’m so flexible.

I keep thinking over last monday (June 27) . That was the last day I saw him, the last day he trained. I keep thinking about that flutter of excitement I got when I saw he was training, it had been a few weeks since he had last trained.  He had been in and out due to injury and illness and he seemed really well.  He seemed happy and ecstatic to roll with long time friends and training partners Jared Wright and Joe Baize. They all have so much technique under their belt it was entertaining to watch them at the corner of the mat exchanging thoughts, ideas, and critiques.  There was even a moment where Kessinger had caught Joe (brown belt) with an ankle lock and he simply couldn’t believe that he had done it. He told a few of the guys that he had thought that joe had ‘given it to him,’ but even joe tried to convince him that he had earned it.

He was the type of person that you’d hope and wish was at class because whether it was live takedowns or showing techniques you know you were going to take something with you after class.  What was even better was getting the chance to spend time with him outside of the gym. One of my fondest memories was when we went to see the UFC in Louisville this past March.  The drive there I really got a feel for the sweet and traditional man. I remember how surprised he was to learn that I made the first move and asked my current bf on our first date.  He couldn’t believe that I’d do such a bold thing.  Like i said i could go on for days explaining just why he was the Gentle Giant. He cared for everyone, and always referred to his friends as his ‘good friend’ or his ‘good guy friend’.

Kessinger & Sean Westcott

I will miss joking about how my guns were bigger than his, i’ll also miss getting excited text messages from him because he finally learned how to change his facebook profile picture.  I can only wish that I had the chance to be with him more in the past few weeks, to show him just how much i enjoyed him in my life.  It will be incredibly hard to go back into the place where I last saw him…to train in the place where we shared blood, sweat,  and tears.  One team, One purpose.  We lost an incredibly valuable member of our family on Tuesday.

Here are some of my blog posts where I featured techniques that he showed in class and times that we rolled. Rest in peace Brandon Kessinger, you have no idea how much you are loved and how much you will be missed.

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Comments
2 Responses to “A Tribute to the gentle giant Brandon Kessinger”
  1. Megan says:

    Shakia, I don’t know what to say. You and your gym are still in my prayers. It’s so great that he was remembered so fondly by friends and family. It sounds like he did well with the short time he was given.

  2. shakiaharris says:

    thank you. it’s been a hard pill to swallow and even harder this saturday as we go on to compete..or in august when we go to fight and he’s not in our corner cheering us on. With time it will not hurt so bad..or so i hope

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