The stories you’d hear if you sat down for even an hour with Stephen “Pesadelo” Hall are endless. They aren’t war stories or long jokes, or gossip but very personal triumphs that the Jiu-Jitsu black belt has had to endure. The 42-year-old is able to pass on lessons from personal experiences that only make him a perfect role model for those he encounters along the way of his Jiu-Jitsu journey.
On Saturday, Sept. 7 at the American Nationals, the GMA member from Dallas, TX won his division and immediately kissed the patch of a little girl’s face directly under his right shoulder after his hand was raised. The picture was that of a four-year-old girl named Aubri Guinyard-Coverson who became a role model for him in a very unlikely way. The four-year-old passed away from cancer in June but it was her courage that remains with Stephen as he faces his own cancer treatments.
In February, Pesadelo BJJ was torn apart by a fire and he has since worked on recovering his academy. Prior and even as of late, he enders surgeries to keep his body well and able to continue training and competing all over the world. From his hand to his head, back to his neck and knees, the multiple incision marks each tell of triumphs that he overcame with his faith and the importance of courage as little Aubri showed him.
Here is the story as told by Stephen of a brave little girl to which he dedicated his most recent win:
“Her name was Aubri Guinyard-Coverson. She was the daughter of one of my students named Catherine. Catherine came in to try a class and said she would be back, but I didn’t hear from her for a long while. When she came in next she brought Aubri with her. Aubri was really interested in training but her illness prevented her from being able to fully. That said, when she would come in, she would play as if she had no end to her energy and really showed everyone in the gym what real strength was. If not for her cute little bald head and her tube in her nose you would never know she was suffering from the battle as she was.
When I had a relapse and needed to take treatments, she told me everything would be ok, and told me, “All you have to do, is think about the next time we will play, and it will be over quick, and then we can play again because everything will be ok!” (Wisdom of how to face struggle from a three year old!) She may not have gotten to go through the belt of the gentle art, but she was a black belt at life when she died June 29, 2013. I was lucky enough to see her the day she went home to God. It hurt to see how it took her beautiful smile away. I left to go to get her a kimono and have everyone sign it to give to her, but only a couple hours after leaving, I got the call that she passed.
Watching her, made my own battle insignificant. She was infinitely more strong than I, and no matter what happens on the mat, I know she is watching. So until I get to see her one day again, any time I have trouble to face on the mats or off, I will be thinking of the next time we will play and soon it will be ok! This American Nationals medal is for Aubri. I am certain that I would not have made it without her. Thoughts of her and her strength have pulled me through injury, pain, bouts of sickness, the loss of my gym, and I know that her example is one I still have yet to live up to. Today I just won a medal. She is the champion!”