I can remember seeing a copy of black belt magazine as a small boy with a ninja on the cover, and begging my dad to buy me a copy of it. He relented, and I read it till it literally fell apart. A fascination bloomed, and it lasted, undiminished for nearly thirty years.
I started in the martial arts at the age of 6 with Tae Kwon Do under Robert Summers in North Carolina. I can remember putting on a Century Gi and for the first time in my life I felt like a part of something greater. Even as a young man no one style seemed to have all that I wanted. I was enthusiastic about anything I could train in, and loved all the martial arts I came across, and got to explore. The Korean martial arts progressed in to boxing, wrestling, jiu jitsu, kendo, iaido, krav maga, wing chun, and anything I could find. I wanted to spar all the time, to test things, to understand them. The greatest moments of my life were spent covered in sweat, laughing around a mouth guard.
I joined the Army Infantry in 2000, and was posted to the famed 101st Airborne Division. I would later deploy in first wave to the invasion Afghanistan in 2002, the invasion of Iraq 2003, and Iraq again in 2005. I served with some of the finest men America has to offer and count myself lucky to have shared their company. Returning home is hard, and like most veterans I found myself without a place in society. Confused and angry I started down a darker path until one day I passed a martial arts school and remembered my old child hood passion. I set down the bottle, and picked up the gloves again. I found the camaraderie I had been missing, and nothing had changed, same high fives, same laughter, new mouth guard. The martial arts saved my life.
I understand that “what works and what doesn’t” is a hot debate in the martial arts world, and its true that some things work better than others in a fight. The true benefit of martial study is that the practice of them can save you…from yourself. It can provide, strength, discipline, focus, values, lifelong friends, and laughter. It’s a purpose, a path, a way of life, and Ive never regretted a minute of it. So, in closing, regardless of style, go to class, work hard, love the martial journey you are on, SPAR!, make friends, and live the adventure! Let me know how it turns out!
OH!...and if you’re a dad out there? Buy your kid that magazine. You never know where it will take them…