Tag Archives: getafterit

Fear

Fear.  It can stop you in your tracks.  Hold you with an iron grip.  It will impede your growth if you let it.  It comes in many forms, but today I will write about the kind of fear that holds you back from achieving your goals and dreams.

Have you ever thought about why you do certain things in life but avoid others? So many of us choose to do nothing rather than face uncertainty.  We often feel it is better to stay where we are than to risk failure or embarrassment.  The irony of this train thinking is: the more boldly you go after what you want and fail, the better your chances at future success will be.  Our failures help us on the path to success.

We avoid certain situations by making up all kinds of excuses.   When I first wrote my book I was asked to speak in front of a law enforcement conference.  They booked me for 90 minutes, so I would speak for an hour and the rest would be a question and answer period.

I said yes right away because I had gone undercover with one of the detectives who asked me and I didn’t want to look chicken.  I had never spoken in front of a crowd.  I don’t even remember speaking in front of a class in high school.  I had no idea what I was going to say.

I went to Youtube and I watched a few people speak. I bought a how-to book.  It was a couple of months off so I pushed it to the back of mind.  When it was only a few weeks off I started getting real nervous.  I started thinking to myself, why did I agree to speak?  Maybe I could play sick, etc. I actually thought about calling them and canceling. I pushed that all aside and made some note cards to use.  The day of the speaking engagement arrived and when I arrived there were, even more, law enforcement officers than they had told me would be at the event.  I was scared I would get up there and choke.  I was afraid that those people would laugh at me because I never went to college or learned how to speak in front of people.

I saw a couple of detectives that I had a history with.  We had been adversaries years ago when I was a criminal, but today they were joking with me.  I watched an FBI Special Agent speak before me, and he told a great story.  I tucked my notecards into my back pocket, took a deep breath and got out there.

That day I sold three cases of books and I even sold the one I had stuck under my car seat without a cover.  I could have sold more books, but I was out.  I ended up speaking for two hours total, and it only seemed like a quarter of that because the time went so fast.

It worked out better than I could have imagined.  That day gave me confidence that I could do anything.  I came to realize we all have the fears and that by embracing them and moving forward, it makes us stronger.

We each have certain strengths and weaknesses.  What if, instead of always building on our strengths, we learned to chip away at those weak areas?

I was speaking to my army friend last week.  We were talking about working out.  He has tried out a variety of fitness programs, ranging from Jiu-jitsu to just weight lifting.  He settled on Crossfit a few months ago.  He recently had to change to another gym, because the one he had been going to closed.  This new gym was farther from his home and bigger, with a lot more people.  He was nervous about going there to train.  He took a class on weight lifting, and he met some cool people.  He found out the other people he met were nervous just like him. He was really glad he pushed himself into going.

We all express fear and discomfort in different ways. Some people act tough, others laugh and others may cry.  I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone this week.  Take that risk, face your fear, and find out what you are capable of.

Isaiah 41:13

For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

2 Timothy 1:7

For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline.

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

1 Peter 5:6-8

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

 

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Lessons from a Dojo

Martial arts have been a very big influence in my life.  When I was in sixth grade I heard about Red Dragon Karate, and wanted the chance to learn it.  Instead, I found myself in Military school.  After that, I ended up in Irvine, California. There my father found a place for me to learn Martial Arts.

That place was a Martial Arts Supply company in Santa Ana named Musashi Martial Arts.

The owner, David Miller, was ahead of his time. He was a former kickboxer who had written a book about the business of Martial Arts. He held kickboxing, Kali and Jeet Kune Do classes in his warehouse.  

One of the teachers was a man named Ted Lucaylucay.  He was the first student from Dan Inosanto’s school allowed to teach Jeet Kune Do.  Dan Inosanto was very close to the founder of Jeet Kune Do, Bruce Lee – and he had learned directly from the source.

I loved every class.  I followed Ted from that school in Santa Ana to a place in Huntington Beach, where he opened up his own little studio.  I trained with him until he moved away to Washington.  I have never forgotten any of David or Ted’s training.  My problem was that I didn’t always implement their instructions.

After Ted moved away, I began to train in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an offshoot of Japanese Jiu Jitsu, which has been around in various forms since the 1400’s.  It was brought to Brazil in the early 1900’s as “Kodokan Judo”  where it was taught to the  sons of Gastao Gracie by a Japanese man named Mitsuyo Maeda. The Gracie brothers modified it and adapted it to its current Brazilian form.

In the art of Jiu Jitsu there is no immediate payoff. You will get tapped, also known as “submitted” many, many times during every practice.  Unlike other martial arts that teach form against mitts or pads and often without any opponent at all, Jiu Jitsu is always taught against an opponent.  As a beginner, everyone you train against is better than you. This taught me humility, patience and how to relax when faced with crushing strength.

I was already trained to relax when punches and kicks were coming at me – but the oppressive grinding, smothering claustrophobic hold of a Jiu Jitsu opponent is another thing entirely.

You cannot learn one move and expect it to work on everyone you train against.  You have to adapt it to your body style and to your opponent. It is a game of human chess and in order to excel, you must think many moves ahead.

In Jiu Jitsu, technique prevails. I had to learn to let go of my anger, because there is no place for it on the mat. Strength is important, but not as much as technique.  You will always encounter someone bigger and heavier.   It is an art where there is no room for “I know but..” You have to listen to your coaches or you will not progress.  You must be able to perform, there is no faking it on the mat.  Those who do not put in the work fall behind.

When I walk into a gym or a Dojo for the first time, I always look for the best person and that will be who I work with first.  In order to become a better fighter you must go against those who are better than you, and learn from them.

Jiu Jitsu has a belt system of promotion.  Belts are blue, purple, brown and black, each of which represent an advancing stage in your training.  I never trained in a commercial gym where they had monthly belt tests, we always trained until our coach felt we were ready, and only then were we given a new belt.  In a real Jiu Jitsu gym, a belt acknowledges that you have put in the time and hard work necessary to be at a certain level.  Each belt represents years of hard work and daily practice.

I have met many people over the years that I would not have met if not for Jiu Jitsu.  The mat is not about winning a match, it is about you and what you can do to improve yourself. It teaches you that you can overcome any obstacle in life with hard work and determination. I have learned that it does not matter what you do, where you came from or where you are today.  If you are willing to put in the hard work you will see results.

I’ve heard it said before that some Christians believe that martial arts are not compatible with Christianity because of the involvement of Eastern Mysticism in the past.  I firmly believe that God used Martial Arts, and Jiu Jitsu in particular, to bring me back to Him.  I cannot tell you how many Christians I have trained with over the years.  Their words, lives and actions all served as a testimony to me.  Whether it was sitting me down to talk about faith after practice, saying a team prayer before a match, or just being an example in the way they carried themselves.

Now, I am the one one ready to share the Good News on and off the mats.

In today’s instant gratification society it is not normal to commit to training in a sport or an art for many years. For me, Martial Arts has been a lifelong pursuit that has had an effect on every aspect of my life.

What is the special thing that motivates you? What do you have a passion to become great at?  Are you willing to put in the hours, days, weeks and years of training?

1 Corinthians 10:31

Therefore, whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 9:26-27

Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.

Decisions & Identity

 

Taking responsibility for your actions is the first step towards changing your life’s path, and yet, after those first few steps, there is life – staring you in the face again.  Tomorrow, next week, five years from now – you alone must continue to make good decisions to stay on your new path.  Along the way, you will face let downs, failures, and setbacks.  Don’t let those times define you or your future.

Life After the Army

My Army friend from the last two blog posts is now retired.  When the structured life of the Army became a thing of the past – his deployments were over, the men he was responsible for were home living their lives – he found himself looking for a new identity in his life. One day, he started looking for that identity in a bottle.

Many people turn to a bottle of alcohol, pills – prescription or not – or even food as a means to numb pain.  The familiar mind dulling power of alcohol was a choice my friend made because it allowed him to temporarily forget the pain of the past and blur out the struggle ahead of trying to return to a “normal” life after his life of service.  The problem is, each day brought the same problems and the same pain.

He explained to me that after his retirement from the Army, he was depressed.  He thought about ending it all at his lowest point.  Statistics show that every single day 20 veterans commit suicide.

Thankfully, his survival instincts kicked in and reality hit him.  He had a loving family, he had lived through deployment, and yet there he was, feeling sorry for himself.  He sat there and was completely honest with himself. He was at one of those places where the next choice he made would again affect the rest of his life.

Looking back on his life, he realized that when he was given things. he always ended up failing in the end.  But, when he worked for something, he always succeeded.  He knew the path to overcoming depression and creating his new identity would be hard, but he knew it would be worth it to recover.

A Champion’s Identity

One day a few years back when I lived in California, I walked into the gym to get a workout in with the fight team.  At the gym, that day was a man named Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, a professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter.  He was not well known in America at that point, but internationally and in Japan, he was a big star in the fighting world. My coach told me that I was going to train with him that day.

Mo and I became friends and we used to go get something to eat together after fight team practice. He signed with Strikeforce MMA, and after one fight he was going to fight Gegard Mousasi for the light heavyweight championship belt. He took his training seriously.

He won that fight live on network TV and a few days later we were enjoying a meal together.  I was surprised by his calm demeanor.  He had just won the championship belt in a major promotion, so I had no idea what to expect.  He was the same man I knew before, except he had become a world champion.

Mo lost his championship belt in his next fight, handing him his first loss as a professional fighter. Once again we were out eating a few days later, and he was still no different.

“Losing is no big deal, sure I want to win, but everyone loses. In my life, I have had more wins than losses, so I never worry about it or feel sorry for myself.  Tomorrow is another day.  I think about all those who will never have a chance like I have in life.  When I win I just go to my hotel room and watch TV, I don’t want to be out celebrating. If I lose, I go out and share the time with everyone else.  It is the losses that make you, not the wins.  The wins are easy.  It is coming back and picking up the pieces and getting right back to what you love.” – King Mo

He explained that all those titles he had won didn’t mean anything. He has no idea where any of the belts or medals even are at this point.  What he cares about is the ability to compete, because that is what he loves, that is his identity. And, in the bigger picture of life, what he believes really matters is your family and those who are close to you.  He then went on to say that having compassion for other people is another part of his identity.

He walks it like he talks it.  We had another conversation a few weeks ago, just after he lost a fight to Cro Cop in Japan, and he told me he was already back working on his craft.

My Identity Crisis

While I had wanted an out from the increasing pressure of wearing a wire for the FBI for eight straight years, there was still a part of me that was crushed when the FBI told me I was not going back to Brooklyn, my days undercover were over. The Mob was my identity, I didn’t know who I was without it.

I had a few weeks alone in Canada to really let the reality of life sink into my mind.  I was frightened, not at the prospect of someone coming after me, but because the real world was an unknown. I had not been around regular people much since I was a teenager.

I would then have another two years in protection to really think over my life.  I sat alone for most of those two years, thinking about my past and worrying about my future.  I was determined to take my fresh start and make life work the right way this time.

I have fallen, I have made bad decisions along the way, and I will fall again.  Each time I learn from it and I become stronger.  I was only able to change myself up to a point.  Then the day came that I let God into my heart, and now I no longer have to make the journey alone.  He has the power to change and guide me.  Now I live with faith instead of fear.

Matthew 6:34

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Ephesians 2:10

For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has gone, and the new has come.

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. – C. S. Lewis