Tag Archives: inner strength

The Battle Within

The other day I began to think about the thoughts that drive my life.  In my mind, there is a constant internal conflict going on.  It is mostly in three areas of my life.  The first is when I think that something will be fun and yet I know it will set me back.  The second is when I make a decision and then spend some time trying to talk myself out of it. The third is when I feel my old angry self begin to make a comeback.

Sunday I was listening to a sermon in church which was thought provoking. Pastor Arol was addressing how Christians should interact with people they disagree with.  It brought up my past feelings.  My world was always black and white, cut and dry.  I would judge incidents based on the facts that I was aware of and then make a decision.  I would also very quickly let hate for the opposing party cloud any further thinking on the matter.  

When I was writing screenplays we would give our hero internal conflicts and he would work them out over the course of the script.  Life is not as simple.  There is no limit to the conflicts we have going on at any one time.  I wonder how many others have these constant battles going inside themselves on a daily basis?  

I am currently involved in another group at church that meets once a week.  We read a workbook and study the Bible weekly as we answer questions about ourselves and our thoughts.  One of the main tenets of the book so far is that we are all sinners, we are not perfect and yet God still loves us.  A very good point it drives home is that I cannot change another person, nor should I try.  The only person Kenji can change is himself.

I have found on my journey of self-improvement this last decade, that working on myself is hard and yet it is not impossible.

I am able to control my own thoughts and situations.  I no longer let what I feel is fun or pleasurable distract me. In a few days, after whatever it was has passed, I have learned I have missed nothing.

I have decided that I will no longer let anger rule me.  I am working at taking a mental step back, putting myself in others’ shoes, and trying to feel what they may be feeling or thinking. It is tough to love your enemies, but I will continue to try. I am a work in progress.

The battle inside will go on, but the fact that I am aware of it and I am spending time re-educating myself helps me make better choices. I will never be perfect and yet I know I can be better.
1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Philippians 2:3-5

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

 

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A Change Of Pace

It has been two years since my wife and I made the decision to relocate to the Midwest from Southern California. It was actually a decision that came fairly easy, because we were both ready for change. We thought about it, prayed about it, and things fell into place quickly.

We set the move date, loaded a moving truck up with our belongings and sent it on its way across the country.

We arrived at the farm on July 1, 2015.  It was the first time I had ever seen it – the place where my wife grew up. A farm that had been in her family for over a hundred years.

I had two things on my mind. The first was to unwind after the long drive, and the second was finding a gym where I could train martial arts. A friend of my wife’s family stopped by that day and invited me over to his farm the following weekend to help butcher broiler hens.  I was trained on the spot and soon our freezer was full of delicious farm raised chickens.  I hadn’t realized that you raise some chickens to eat, and another kind to lay eggs.  There was so much more to learn.

After googling local MMA and Jiu Jitsu gyms, I found one nearby and headed over to check it out. That day was the first time I thought maybe I had made a mistake moving to the Midwest.

I introduced myself to the man who ran the gym, and asked if I could train.  He invited me back for a Jiu Jitsu session later that night.  When we returned, he was extremely rude to both my wife and I.  I didn’t realize what had changed in the past few hours until he confronted me about being “a rat,” and told me that I wasn’t welcome in his gym.  This was after he made me wait an hour to speak with him.  Apparently, he had googled me and felt I wasn’t worthy of his gym based on my past.  What a welcome to my “fresh start.

It turns out, that was the best thing that could have happened to me.  It forced me to rethink about the things that were really important. It took me out of my comfort zone, but looking back now I can see how much I was forced to grow.  

The next week I found a great gym with talented fighters who were not interested in my past, but in how I trained as a fighter.  They have always treated me well and I like the guys I have gotten to know there.  

My wife had a clear vision of what she wanted to accomplish and she headed back to school.  I knew deep down what I wanted to do – open my own gym and write- and in reality, I could do both wherever I was located.  

I have been passionate about three things in life consistently: Martial Arts, fitness, and writing.

The word passion is overused a lot today, so I will explain what I mean by it. To participate in each of the arts I love I was willing to put in the years it takes to become proficient in them.  To me one of the greatest attributes of all three “hobbies” – Martial Arts, writing, and fitness – is that you are never great, you can always improve.

I was introduced to Martial Arts in the 1980’s when I had just turned 13 through David Miller and Ted Lucaylucay. David owned Musashi Martial Arts Supply which was an equipment wholesaler. He also taught kickboxing to a few people at his warehouse. I met Ted through David and I was soon taking Jeet Kune Do at Ted’s Dojo in Huntington Beach.  In those days I would ride my bike to both places which would take over an hour.  I had to settle for boxing after David and Ted stopped teaching because there was no other place to train back in those days.

Throughout my teens, twenties, and early 30’s I trained sporadically when life wasn’t too crazy.  I later started training Mixed Martial Arts and I found out I really liked Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In 2005 when my life stabilized after two decades of craziness, I began training Jiu Jitsu twice a day.  I came to the conclusion that I wanted to take it up a notch, so I started training with the fight team at Joker’s Wild in Orange County. It was there that I met a lot of future world champions.  During that time of my life I would get to work by 4:30am so that I could leave to train at noon and again at night.  I never turned down an offer to train with any fighter, because I knew that was the way to improve. When I entered the gym I would look around. Whoever was the best, that was who I would train with that day.  I cannot begin to count all of the black eyes, bloody noses, bruises and injuries I have had over the years, but I never quit.

I have a lot to say about a lot of things so writing has always intrigued me. There is nothing better than a great storyteller who can bring you into the world they are writing about.

I never took the time in school to learn anything useful about writing, so I had to do it the hard way.  I started writing a blog around the year 2000. It was called Crimeman and it almost cost me my life.

After that, I used to write on legal pads and in binders, but it was just thoughts with no direction.  Once I decided to really tell my story, it took about four years of hard work to get the book Breakshot into a form that could be further shaped and edited.  That book was rejected by publishers close to a hundred times before it found a home.

Breakshot brought me into Hollywood where I learned to write screenplays. I wrote seven over a period of years and to date I have only sold three.

Looking back my life has been a rollercoaster ride because I was always in search of the next thing. Once here in the country, life slowed down there were fewer distractions.

I knew I had to rededicate myself to my endeavors. I began to write every day on a schedule that I set for myself.  The words began to flow from within and I realized that I no longer wanted to write about criminals and their world. It no longer held my interest.  In fact, it brought me down. So I began to write about what it takes to make changes in your life, and other topics that did hold interest for me.

Training people in Los Angeles was easy for me. If a client did not meet my standards I could always find another.  In the gym, we had a constant stream of new clients. In Illinois, I had to rethink my approach and learn some patience when working with people.

It was in this process that I learned a lot about myself and what I really like to do. I found out that while I enjoy training people that fight or want to fight, it is those people who will never fight that I enjoy training the most. I found that I can help those people change their lives through their experiences in the gym.

It seems like so much more than two years have passed since I have started over in the Midwest.  I have grown and learned a lot.  My wife says I have changed a lot (for the better).  I have truly witnessed what God can do in my life.  I have seen God close some doors and open others.  I have worked hard and have met great people. I am looking forward to my future.

Ephesians 4:22-24

To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

 

The Turning Point

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I wrote about my friend who went into the Army to change his life last week, but how did the first of many turning points in his life come about?

In the 1990’s my Army friend’s mother passed away.  This threw his life into a tailspin because he had largely relied on her for his lifestyle.  With her went the business, the house, the cars etc.  He still tried to live the same lifestyle and it did not work. He ended up with no car working at a hotel where he cashed his paycheck and carried around the cash in his pocket.

One week he was robbed and he couldn’t pay rent to the friend he was living with, and as a result, he was kicked out.  He moved from place to place.  He knew his chaotic lifestyle was not working to get him ahead, and that it was time to make a drastic change or he would end up on the streets.

He faced his fears and took that first step: walking into the US Army recruiting office. He was then forced to tie up loose ends before going to basic training. It was there that he began to understand what his previous choices had done to his life.

Another friend of mine changed his life around completely in the last few years.  He came to this country from the Ukraine with his parents and they settled into the close-knit Russian community in Hollywood. He was soon part of a Russian gang, doing and selling drugs.  He was taking up to thirty painkillers a day along with anything else he was given.

He started doing armed robberies for the rush and to hustle up money.  In his words, “The devil took over for awhile.”  He was picked up on a weapons charge and it cost his parents around a hundred thousand dollars in lawyer’s fees, but he continued on the same path.

The pills and drugs distorted his thought process, until one night at a rave he nearly overdosed on a mixture of strong drugs.  He describes that experience as being in hell for many hours.   When he finally came home he found his mother reading the Bible and crying because she thought he was dead.

Something clicked inside him that day, and he knew that he would be dead unless he turned his life around.  The guy he did armed robberies with had his house shot at one night and disappeared.  Many others in the Russian community had died from drug overdoses.

He knew that he needed to go to school, establish a career and help his parents pay off the debt. He realized that all of his problems were the results of his choices, and that all the pain his family was dealing with was because of his life actions.  A lot of us never take into account how much our choices affect others, both directly and indirectly.

He took the first step and threw away his pills.  He went cold turkey – no rehab, no group, just stopped.  It was a difficult six months, but after he got over the withdrawals he knew that he could accomplish anything that life threw at him.

My friend Andre, on the other hand, has made good choices since he was very young,  but things haven’t always been easy for him.  He grew up with a father that did cocaine and gambled, never paying much attention to him.  If Andre had turned out bad, it would have been no shock to anyone.

There were key turning points early in Andre’s life. One was when he wanted a BMX bike so badly and his father laid out a challenge for him that seemed impossible for him to accomplish.  When he met the challenge, he decided there wasn’t anything in life he couldn’t accomplish.

He made a decision that he would never do anything his father would do or did, so that he would not end up like him. Andre used his father as a reverse role model.  If his father drank, he never would.  If he gambled, Andre would not.

He went on to get a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and an master’s degree in Social Ecology, both from the University of California at Irvine.  He kept his eye on his end goals, and he uses his story to encourage others and has been a huge encouragement to me personally.

Andre’s Ted Talk, if you would like to see more of his story is here: http://tinyurl.com/TedX-Andre

Regardless of the hand, you’re dealt in life, our current circumstances boil down to our own choices.   It is difficult to accept and many never do accept it, because it is just easier to blame others or bad luck.

My life has had many turning points, and one I remember happened at an Italian Restaurant in Culver City, California. I was at what is called a “sit down” in the mafia world.  It is where two higher ups decide your fate. At the meeting I was told that I was now out of an operation we had going on.

I was so mad that when I left the meeting I was planning revenge.  I felt that I deserved to remain part of the operation and that they were stealing from me by taking it away – nevermind that it was all stolen money, to begin with.  As I analyzed the situation and looked back on everything I was invested in and angry about, I began to see my life for what it was – a series of bad choices that had left me an angry criminal.   I had wasted my life and I knew that I wanted out of it altogether.

It would be only months later that the FBI offered me a way out.  I began to make different choices.

God had another plan for my life, I just didn’t realize it yet.

No matter who you are or what your life has been like in the past, our lives are shaped by the choices we make. Throughout our lives, there will be many turning points where life can become something else.

Big changes in your life can grow out of very small seeds of the choices you make.

Matthew 13:32-32

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.  Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

Inner Strength

G0010193.JPGThe strength to overcome what you know is not right.  The strength to face powerful opposition without giving up.  This is not physical strength, it is inner strength.

Like physical strength, we must exercise our inner strength it if we want to improve it.  We use our inner strength in both good and bad experiences throughout our lives. Most of our victories in life are the result of putting our inner strength to work, and it is tested in tragedies and turmoils that are never far from those times of triumph.  There is no escape from pain, so we must use the hard times to grow our inner strength.

When it comes time to develop our inner strength, it is easier to be more like water than steel.  We find the path of least resistance and head that way. I’m here to encourage you to take the difficult path instead.

It is often said that life is what we make it. I have come to learn that there is a lot of truth in that statement.  If we wake up and believe that this day will be bad, it very likely will be.  On the other hand, if you think of all the positive that will happen during your day, even a bad day can turn out pretty good.

Your inner strength has the possibility to change both your circumstances and your attitude.

Can you fight on after being dropped flat on your back? Can you not only stand back up, but finish strong? Can you decide to change and then follow through with it?  If you can, you have great inner strength.

If you feel your inner strength needs work, start by realizing and admitting your weaknesses.  Own your weaknesses, and work on them.  With dedication, you can turn them around into strengths.

I thought I had great inner strength, but it turns out I was fooling myself.  I realized just how weak I was in many ways once I surrendered my will to God’s.  I had viewed religion as a waste of time, and I had viewed myself as “in charge.”  Today I look forward to the quiet time when I can pray and connect with God.  My relationship with God gives me the inner strength to make the right choices, because he provides strength when I am weak. The best part of this? His strength is available to anyone who believes.

John 1:1-51

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

2 Peter 1:5-8

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Titus 2:12

Training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,