Fighter Series: Who is Keaton Shumard? – Sanabul Skip to content
Fighter Series: Who is Keaton Shumard?

Fighter Series: Who is Keaton Shumard?

Keaton Shumard is a dedicated Jiu Jitsu student living with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a genetic disease that can be life-threatening.  Those living with CF produce a thick and sticky mucus because of an incorrectly functioning CFTR protein, instead of a slippery mucus that protects the linings of organs, tissues, and pathways in the body (airways, digestive tract).  Since the mucus is thicker and stickier, it can build up over time and block the passageways of the body.  These blockages can lead to infections and damage to organs of vital body systems needed to function (respiratory, digestive).

Diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at only 6 months old, Keaton has been fighting for nearly his entire life.  The variation of CF that he has is Delta F508, which directly affects his digestive and pulmonary systems.  Growing up, he credits his parents with the maintenance of his health and says they helped him to get the disease under control as best as they could.  Despite the great attention to detail and care from his parents, Keaton still faced issues with his lungs (capacity, susceptibility to infections) and pancreas, which caused him to be extremely limited in his breathing and overall size as a kid.  “If I had to give a quick summary of CF during my childhood, it would be like trying to live a normal life but always being dragged down by the ball & chain that is my disease, and as I got older unfortunately I let that chain take hold of me.”

Growing up, Keaton commonly had a bad cough and would stay away from public events to avoid getting sick.  He also took on some mental challenges like depression, as a direct result of dealing with CF.  The treatment, therapy, medicines, and maintenance he needed to live constantly reminded him of the disease he had (which at the moment has no cure) and led to a further decline in his mental health.  As his mental health worsened, so too did his physical health.  His respiratory issues intensified and he fought off a bad infection.  He says that these issues were only stabilized because of the amazing job that his parents did with his condition as a child and the advanced medicine he took.  When he was in high school, the science revolving around CF evolved to the point where Keaton started seeing drastic improvements in his health.  

Today, Keaton still has to take around 20 pills per day, be very careful about avoiding sick people, and not overexert his lungs during training – a much better situation than the one he faced when he was younger.  While his situation is more complicated than this, he says that he can live a fairly normal life.  Keaton says he is extremely grateful and understands that not everyone with Cystic Fibrosis is as fortunate in life, which is why he feels obligated to spread awareness for CF and speak on behalf of everyone who battles it on a daily basis.

Like many who live with the disease, Keaton describes CF as a “constant dark cloud”, always following and looming over.  In every aspect of his life – working full time, relationships, competing in sports – the dark cloud was present, always making him doubt himself.  Up until recently, this dark cloud has always had negative effects on his confidence.  With BJJ, these effects have been lessened.

Keaton started his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training after talking with a customer named Dave (who is now his friend and training partner) at work.  He saw Dave wearing a shirt from a martial arts gym and asked him about it.  This gym offered BJJ, MMA, and JKD and after receiving a card with more information, Keaton decided to try a class out.  From watching Chuck Liddell in the UFC with his brother as a kid, to listening to Joe Rogan frequently recommend Jiu Jitsu, Keaton finally began his martial arts journey.  

Similar to countless other people who train, he realized that martial arts training was incredibly beneficial for his health.  After his first BJJ class, Keaton said that “I knew this was something I would love.  From that point I was hooked, and the more I did it, the more it became apparent I had to improve my health to get better at Jiu Jitsu…I dove head first, training 3 days a week, then soon it became 4/5 days a week.  Between fixing my diet, getting active, and being better about actually taking all of my meds, Jiu Jitsu is why my health turned around.”

But Jiu Jitsu didn’t just give Keaton a good way to exercise and learn effective self-defense techniques.  It helped him to expand his support system, something he stated that he was incredibly grateful for.  He found a sense of community with the people in his gym.  As stated before, the shadow of CF makes its way into every aspect of patients’ lives.  For Keaton, BJJ was no exception.  “I constantly doubted myself and didn’t have any high expectations for what I’d be able to achieve and to be perfectly honest, I had horrible anxiety regarding competing in Jiu Jitsu.  It wasn’t until my coach Sean Sutton at Cincy MMA inspired me and gave me the confidence to believe in my own capabilities with my Jiu Jitsu.  CF for me, created this mentality of constant doubt, but thankfully the people around me (personal life and gym) have seen past my CF and pushed me to go beyond my own set limitations.”  

In addition, training in martial arts has led Keaton to instill greater self-discipline.  To be able to train Jiu Jitsu, he needs to make sure everything related to his CF is taken care of to the fullest extent possible.  And he does exactly that.  He has managed his nutrition better, consistently maintained his preventative care for CF, and taken charge of his mental health, since starting Jiu Jitsu.  

For anyone wondering if they should start Jiu Jitsu, take a look at what keeps Keaton coming back to the gym.  “I love the physical workout of Jiu jitsu, it makes me feel great.  The ability to truly take a deep breath is something I cherish, but more than anything I love how mentally difficult it is.  It is so challenging for me, and it takes 100% of my attention while I’m there, but the constant grind and struggle of Jiu Jitsu is intangible in terms of the benefit for my mental health.  Proving to myself what my capabilities in Jiu Jitsu are, has given me the confidence to drive for more in the rest of my life.  This is something I would never give up.”  

There is always hope and through action, anyone can improve their life for the better, no matter how difficult a situation may be.  He is living proof of this.  Despite not taking proper care of himself for a few years and then losing a substantial amount of weight, he never gave up.  He took responsibility for his own actions and worked hard to better his life.  The resilience and hard-work that Keaton Shumard has displayed throughout his life is very inspiring and proves that we can always succeed in the face of adversity – we just need to gather the courage and take the necessary actions to do so.

Currently, Keaton is preparing for his next BJJ tournament at NAGA on July 15th.  Outside of training and work, he enjoys spending time with his fiancé Lydia and their pets (dog and two cats).  If there is anyone out there with CF or any other diseases that would like to speak with Keaton, he says he would be more than happy to be there for you (@keatonase is his Instagram).  

Learn more about Cystic Fibrosis here