Even with two fully functioning hands, my Street Fighter skills are embarrassingly woeful, so obviously there's no question that the number-one ranked Chun-Li player would beat me hands down. What's surprising is the fact he would do it, quite literally, with his hands down.
26-year-old Michael Phillip Begum, better known by his tournament handle BrolyLegs, was born with a rare disease called Arthrogryposis. Essentially, his brain did not tell his body's muscles to grow, heavily restricting the use of his limbs and preventing him from performing most routine daily motions we take for granted. His father, now passed, engineered a wheelchair for Michael which doubles as an electric bed. "He helped me overcome many of my daily struggles," Michael remembers.
Michael's father also introduced him to video games, bringing home a Nintendo Entertainment System. His parents, not knowing what their son was capable of, encouraged him to give it a try. At just 2 years old, Michael learned to use his face and tongue to manipulate the controller's buttons.
Living with this condition is a constant reminder of one's limitations:
"My daily life involves with me rolling from room to room, depending on my brother and provider to lift me into the tub to shower, and onto my electric bed."
But Michael is resolved to focus on what he can do, and what he can do is play Street Fighter.
BrolyLegs Is Born
When he entered the competitive fighting game scene, Michael found that, rather than a hinderance, his disability turned out to be a psychological advantage:
"When I started learning Street Fighter I learned through people telling me I was nothing, that I'd never be good at this game. It really drove me. Yeah they were my friends, but I needed that to encourage me to be better."
His opponents looked at Michael and thought 'Is this a free win, is this a buy?' This only drove him to become better. He wasn't there to soak up pity. "I'm here to knock you out," he said.
He took to playing Chun-Li as his main character, becoming a formidable opponent. BrolyLegs is currently ranked 687th overall in the professional Street Fighter world rankings, placing an impressive fifth in last year's Absolute Battle 6 tournament.
Michael hopes to inspire other with his miraculous story:
"This may sound corny, but I believe I was put on this earth to teach others like myself that despite my disability, I am able to overcome them. I want people to know this about me, and that I am a man of dignity and respect. I also know that if people can look past my handicap, they could see me as their equal."
Check out the man in action below:
In refusing to let himself be defined by his condition, Michael has achieved something his father could only dream of, and is a living testament to fact that anything is achievable with the right attitude.