Tag Archives: inspire

Why Details Matter

Sometimes I like to just hang back, watch people to see what they do and how they act.  If you pay attention you can easily determine why some succeed and others fail at certain endeavors.

It has become easy for most of us to skip over the small details in life.  We live in a quick on the go society.  In reality every detail, no matter how small, matters. I have the luxury of hindsight because I am able to look back on my life and determine why I was successful at certain times. I can also be sure of why I failed at other incidents.  It comes down to the details.

Why are Vincent Van Gogh’s works of art so amazing and thought provoking?  After all anyone can paint a starry night.  In reality, very few can capture the mood and feel with a brush.

Last week I watched a championship fight between two fighters at the top of their game.  One of them was hit by a huge hook and right away he came back with a wicked cross.  The hook seemingly had little effect on the one hit.  Two still pictures reveal the reason behind it.

The hook was “winged,” which means the hips were not used and it was only a palm strike.  He didn’t hit with his knuckles, but his opponent did use his hips and turn over his punch.  Those tiny differences made the difference between being able to walk through a punch and being thrown against the ropes.

How many times do we fail to take each step we need to accomplish our goals? Are we using our hips to throw our hooks (hypothetically), or are we just slapping with our hands? I have been and am guilty as the next person when it comes to cutting corners.  I used to never worry about the small things, I always figured I could go back and fix them. This faulty way of thinking has cost me a lot over the years.  I think about all the time and heartache I could have saved myself and I realize how ignorant I had been.

We walk through life without realizing that God has provided us with everything we need to live a prosperous life of fulfillment.  It is hard because we cannot see the big picture or the final outcome. This is where faith comes into the picture and helps us get through the rough periods.  The good news is, that even though we can’t see the future, our job is not to blindly walk in faith, he has given us clear guidelines of how we should live in the Bible.

Our lives are made up of thousands of tiny actions that take place every hour of the day and night.  A chef cannot put a culinary masterpiece on the table without careful attention to each of the ingredients.

I listen when someone is explaining something unfamiliar to me and I absorb the information.  If I don’t understand something, I will ask questions.

I make every effort to do whatever task I set out to do right in the first place. I know I will fail at times, but I learn and I never continue to make the same mistakes again.

How could paying attention to details make your life easier?  The next question is why are you not sweating the details?  When we cease to learn, life is over.

Matthew 7:7-8

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Proverbs 13:4

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

 

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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,

 

My Fitness Journey

I first started taking fitness seriously in 2005.  That was when I had finally had enough of not being fit.

Our creator provided each of us with a billion dollar machine when we were born, yet most of us treat it like it is an old junker.  I know this to be true of me – I have been through my share of ups and downs over the years with my body.

I have expressed my love for the martial arts a number of times before.  It was through Jiu Jitsu that it had become clear that I needed to make drastic changes or I would not be able to participate any longer.  At the time I was getting beaten, hurt and felt like crap all the time.  I had always lifted weights and did some form of cardio, but I lacked in either the diet or conditioning part of fitness. I was unwilling to step out of my comfort zone and take in new methods of approaching fitness.

I was stuck in the 1980’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding workout mode, which would be fine if I wanted to be a bodybuilder, but I wanted to have an athlete’s build.  I am short, stocky, bulky and look puffy if I pound iron like Arnold.

It just so happens that at the time I was about to start investing in my well-being a lot of information was becoming available on the interweb. I spent a lot of time reading material, researching everything I could find on training, strength, conditioning, and diet. I had to use my B.S. filter a lot because while there is a lot of great information, there is also a lot of bad.

It was then that I purchased my first kettlebell. It was not what I was used to at all, it was hard to grip, awkward and unwieldy.   

I am sure all of you have heard this statement or might have even spoken it. “I hate cardio.”  I have said those words many times.  I did, however, walk and/or hike every day depending on where I was in the world.  It is a good base, but not what I need for endurance or the energy burn of Jiu Jitsu or kickboxing.

And so, I became one of the zombies you will see at any big box gym in every city, town or village on a cardio machine: reading, watching tv, talking etc. I would spend hours on them and still I was getting smoked during practice because you cannot get functional cardio doing a repetitive session on a machine.

It was then I met Krzysztof Soszyński who was a UFC fighter at the time. He started training everyone at Reign Training Center in his KSOS system which was circuit training that mimics what we experience in an MMA fight.  It opened my eyes to unconventional methods of training.

The weight came off me and I really started to have a lot of endurance.  My cardio was through the roof.  I learned a lot from him while he was at Reign Training Center. When he was away at a fight or doing promo for the UFC I taught his classes using his methods. I had taught privates before when I was at Joker’s Wild, but I never took any money. One day after class a woman asked me if I would hold boxing mitts for her, and when we were finished she handed me some cash.  It was at that point I became a trainer.

I was training Jiu Jitsu under Lars Wallin in Los Angeles at LBS 4 LBS Boxing at night a couple times a week.  If I had a day off or I was in town early I would stop by and see Lars.  He is also a personal trainer who trains a lot of high-end clients. Lars also worked with his cousin Magnus Samuelsson who was a long time competitor and winner of the World’s Strongest Man competition.  Lars had a lot of really great training methods that I was able to learn and utilize.  Lars was always able to smash guys who were much bigger than him with his Jiu Jitsu, so I was willing to pay attention.

My friend Wade who trained with Lars and I told me to meet a guy named Justin Fortune.  It was my time spent at Fortune Gym where I was really able to put things together.  I learned the mental aspect of boxing and combat sports from both Justin and the legendary boxing trainer Macka Foley.  The first time Macka told me he was going to work on my mental boxing skills, I thought to myself, “Why can’t I just hit mitts and throw punches.” It did not take long for me to realize how valuable Macka’s lesson were to me and anyone who I would go on to teach.  

It was Justin Fortune who taught me how to work with fighters and how to pull the best performance out of others. Justin was a former powerlifting champion from Australia who became a heavyweight boxing contender. After he retired from boxing he worked with Freddie Roach as a strength and conditioning coach for many champion fighters.

I was able to watch Justin train boxers, kickboxers, MMA fighters, actors and regular people for over six years. I asked him many questions and sometimes he would just give me advice. There are a lot of trainers who went to school or took a class, but there are very few who take the time or have the opportunity to learn under the direction of current working top tier trainers. This experience opened my eyes.

I had been in pretty good shape for several years at this point, but I only pushed myself to peak shape if I was going to fight or compete. Afterwards, I would binge on whatever I felt I’d missed.  One time, after a fight, I ate a gigantic blueberry tart from an Armenian bakery all by myself.  Candy corn was another weakness, and trust me, when it hit the shelves every fall I was there stocking up.

It was not long after I became a Christian and I was praying for guidance that I began to see things more clearly. I felt that I needed to be more in control of my behavior and take better care of my body. I started cutting things out of my life that did not fit into the new life path I was on.

Two years ago I cut out sugar in many forms especially foods containing high fructose corn syrup (candy corn!). Alcohol was no problem for me to cut out, because I did not drink. It is amazing how much better I felt once so much sugar was out of my life. I had never realized the ups and downs of my emotions were so driven by food until that point. For me, there is no such thing as going on a diet, I had to make a lifestyle change.

Thinking back on all the people I have trained alongside over the years, including the world champions in various sports, they all have something in common: they all put in the work, day in and day out. They stick to the plan and make no excuses.

I love to hear the success stories of people I have trained with and trained over the years. Recently, a Hollywood director friend named Christian sent me a picture of all the clothes he was donating because he has lost so much weight.  

I then heard from a guy I had a talk with one night many years ago in the parking lot of LBS 4 LBS named Kenneth. Kenneth was over three hundred pounds at the time. I told him about my journey up to that point and I encouraged him to keep up the work.  We would see each other at the gym over the years and I would always speak to him.  He was shrinking fast and he even became a personal trainer!  When I moved to Illinois he started a website www.fatboyshrink.com and I still keep in touch today.

All of these people and experiences have really energized me to pursue my own fitness journey.  I studied and became certified as a personal trainer.  I spoke to coaches and researched as much as I could.  I began to refine and expand my training methods.  I found out about Rock Steady Boxing for Parkinson’s and I went to Indiana to get trained so I could start that program at my own gym.

I pray every day for guidance, that the right doors will keep opening to lead me to where I’m supposed to be.  I have noticed that there are very few options for people over the age of forty when it comes to fitness.  They can go to a big chain gym and hit the machines.  They can get a trainer who is in their twenties with very little life or work experience.  Or they can go the discount rate at the YMCA.

When I began training in Jiu Jitsu I noticed that older people would want to train, but without the physical conditioning, they would always become injured. So, when I trained clients I would focus on their strength, mobility, and balance together with their Jiu Jitsu skills training.

That is where I am today. Fitness does not have to be an endless session of weights or cardio machines. I want to encourage everyone, regardless of age or diagnosis to find a sport they love and work on it.  Commit yourself to taking care of the body God has given you.  Once your mindset is right, and your body is strong, there are no limits to what you can accomplish.  We have a saying in our Rock Steady Boxing class, “Sharp Minds, Strong Bodies, Fight Back.”   This is my fitness journey and I feel like it has only just begun.  Where will yours take you? You too can fight back against the chains holding you down.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Hebrews 12:11-12

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees.

 

Act Two

Did your life seem to be right on track, and then it ran right off the rails?  Modern life is filled with pitfalls such as divorce, losing your job, sickness and the list goes on. It is filled with distractions that would like nothing more than to keep us from moving toward our goals.  We have to keep moving forward.

Forgiveness is something frequently discussed in terms of the people close to us, but we often forget to forgive the closest person of all: ourselves.

It’s good to look back on your life and acknowledge your past mistakes and learn from them.  It’s also important to forgive yourself for them so that you can move on with your life.

No good comes from putting your life are on pause to live in the past.  We cannot go back and change the things that have happened. What we can do is move on, refusing to repeat the same mistakes.

I can remember the night very vividly, yet it was already almost two years ago.  Fortune Gym, the gym in Hollywood where I had worked for six years, threw my wife and I a going away party.  As I looked around at all the people in attendance, it hit me hard how much I was going to miss them all and how much I was actually going to be missed.

One of the people at the party was a young man I had met at the gym about two years before.  We had chatted briefly and I had taught him a little Jiu Jitsu.  The next time I saw him he told me he had read my book.  He knew someone in the book, so we had a good laugh about it.

Over a two-year, period I trained with him often.  One day I had a talk with him about his line of “work.” He was selling large quantities of pills and marijuana.  I was worried about him because he had not yet been arrested for anything, but he was playing a dangerous game and it was bound to happen.  You commit crimes, you will get caught.

I told him that it may look good and it may seem like easy money, but in the end you will pay the price.  I could see he was unsure of what to do with his life, but I could also see that he took note of the message I was trying to get across.  A few weeks later he had an unrelated legal scare and was facing some serious problems.  The legal problems ended up going away, but I am pretty sure it helped guide him toward making better choices in life.

Although I haven’t seen him since the party, I speak to him about once a month on the phone.  Thanks to social media I can follow the things he is doing with his life. He opened a music studio, started managing talent and even started his own music label.  He got a chance to live his life differently, and he took it.

A second chance is always there if we are willing to sum up the courage it takes to change.  It is never easy giving up what is familiar no matter how wrong it is.

I left Brooklyn, New York and drove to JFK International Airport on a cold November morning.

I parked my car in long term parking and took the train into the terminal. I knew deep inside I was not coming back.  I had two suitcases and a laptop. I knew life was about to change for me, but I had no idea how much.  In that moment, I was just relieved for fresh start.

That was twelve years ago.  I still had many lessons to learn and places to live before I reached where I am today.  I had to learn to forgive myself, to forgive others and to accept God’s forgiveness and plan for my life. Leaving Brooklyn was only the beginning of my second chance.

I have been reading the Gospels this week.  It is clear to me that Jesus took those that were considered broken and gave them new purpose and everlasting life. He even forgave Peter after he denied him in public.  If we know someone who denies Christ, who are we to give up on them when Jesus did not give up?  Who are we to shun away people who may have not done the right thing in the past, if Jesus did not do that? How can we hold our past against ourselves when he does not?

America is the land of second acts, it is still the best place in the world to reinvent yourself.

I am over a decade into my second act, and I am still learning new lessons and moving forward every single day.

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.

 

Pursuing Your Passion

Years ago I wrote a book and I sold the movie rights to FOX studios.  They wanted a screenplay written. I had never given much serious thought to writing a screenplay for the big screen or the small screen.  After writing a book and being approached about a screenplay, I thought, “Hey, that’s what I want to be in life – a screenwriter!”

They asked me to write it with an Academy Award winning writer.  The writer invited me to lunch at their home.  It was an informal lunch eaten around the pool with the producer of the project and myself.  I was grateful to have the opportunity to learn from successful Hollywood individuals, so I thought the best course of action was for me to keep my mouth shut and take it all in.

I learned the writer, like me, had never gone to school for writing.  I learned the producer had built up an international production company in Scandinavia and sold it for a huge profit, then moved to Hollywood and started a new company in a new country.  Instead of retiring, he started over and continued to work hard.

During my time working with both of them, I was given a crash course in writing for a studio.  It was like a private lesson in screenwriting.  Looking back now I can see that I was already losing interest in writing for Hollywood, the more I learned about the business.  What I thought I had wanted, I was realizing was not my passion.

Even though I was unsure about my next steps in life, I learned valuable lessons and kept pushing forward.   In the end, my show was not picked up by Fox, but I learned enough to write my own western screenplay and sold that to History Channel.

Through my contacts on that project, I was able to secure a writing/consulting job for a movie production company in Stockholm, Sweden.  I grew up immensely while going through this Hollywood period of my writing career. The screenwriting work was a chance for me to work with people from all walks of life.

People like to talk about overnight success.  I learned that successful writers toil away for years before they get an opportunity to shine, and even then, they may end up losing it all.

Projects will come and go, but the people you work with along the way are important, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.  Work hard on every project, big or small, and always go above and beyond.

We each have our own paths with unique wants and needs.  If we follow someone else’s path we may have limited success, but it is fleeting.  We are all on our own journey, and as long as you keep learning from every opportunity and developing your skills, no project is a failure.

Opportunities often come in life when we least expect it, and they often come from unexpected people or places.  Work hard, keep a positive attitude, treat everyone with respect and pursue the passions that God has put in you – and you too will fulfill your purpose in life, even if you aren’t sure what it is right now.

Philippians 2:3

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,

Ecclesiastes 3:1

   There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 

Grateful For My Life

It has been an unusually busy week for me.  Nothing like the go, go go of New York or Los Angeles, but it was more than the regular schedule I have become accustomed to in rural Illinois.

Part of my old world collided with my new world this past week.  On March 31, 2017 my friend King Mo Lawal was coming to town to fight Rampage Jackson in Bellator 175 at the Allstate Arena in Chicago. I first met Mo many years ago at Jokers Wild Fighting Academy one day during a fight class. I was told that day that I would be working with him, which was a huge step up for me. We trained a lot more over the following years.

As his trip to Chicago approached, we made plans to meet up when he arrived in town before his fight.  He had told me to bring my gear because we might train.  I arrived at the hotel and left my gear bag in my car since I wasn’t sure what our plans would be.  Right when I walked into his room he asked me if I had my stuff, so I went back out to grab it.

Soon we were inside the “blue team” training room.  It was nothing more than an empty conference room that had wrestling mats laid down wall to wall.  He had his coaches from American Top Team there, and he had Jeff Mayweather started running him through some boxing drills.  They had him do three minutes of boxing followed by three minutes of wrestling with me, back and forth.  It was a surreal moment for me.  Here I was wrestling with the headline fighter for a Bellator fight in front of coaches from one of the premier mixed martial arts gyms in the world – in Chicago of all places.

It got even stranger for me when I looked up and saw former UFC champion Matt Hughes watching us.  After we finished the training session Mo had a press interview to do and I ended up sitting next to him for the interview.  Dinner came next, where I found myself speaking with the matchmaker of the Bellator promotion as well as Royce Gracie, the man who really brought Brazilian Jiujitsu into the mainstream.

The next day I drove back up to the city again to train with Mo.  This time I brought an Illinois friend who is a casual MMA fan with me.  I was worried that he would be bored, but we ended up having a great time.  When we were hanging out with Mo I was watching to see if he was affected by the upcoming fight – less than twenty-four hours away.  Was he stressed?  He was not.

We sat around talked about old times, people we know and politics.  “King Mo” is the character the fans see in the cage, “Mo” is the guy his friends know.  Mo cares about others and is a genuine person.

Driving home later that evening I thought about my life, and all the old memories of helping other fighters prepare for big fights.  I realized I missed the time I spent hanging out with my fighting friends, but not the life that came with it.  I found myself very happy to be headed home to my new life on the farm and the nearby town of eight hundred and thirty-seven people.

I thought about all the things that fell into place in throughout my life to bring me to this place.  I have been truly blessed in life by being in the right place at the right time.  I was able to recognize that and make the most of my situations.

This past week somebody posted an old picture on facebook and I was in the background. It brought back some memories both good and bad of my past life. While I am not proud of many decisions I have made in the past, I am thankful for where they have brought me today.

The army friend I’ve often written about on this blog posted a picture this past week that was taken when he was deployed in Afghanistan, laying against a dirt berm, geared up with his M4.  He wrote, “You know, I kind of miss this. I remember vividly this moment and being so tired. It seems a lifetime away and I have almost completely disconnected myself from this old me.”  I too have disconnected from my old life. I recognize who I was then, but it no longer seems like me.  I have changed.

I was written about in the local papers this week.  This time, the spotlight was not due to my past.  The article was about what I am currently working on.  It made me realize just how grateful I am for my life.  My past has brought me here, to this place. Training with top coaches and athletes for all those years has prepared me for this important endeavor.

This time I am not fighting for money, I am not training an athlete for a big fight or an actor for a big role. Instead, I am using all those skills to train up a new team of people to fight back against Parkinson’s disease and all the degenerative effects that come with it.

I am so blessed.

Philippians 4:11

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

 

Life: The Continuous Journey

Our lives are constantly changing.  We are ever changing.  In fact, millions of cells are dying in your body right now and being replaced as you read this blog.

I find it ironic that when we are young learning is stressed, but as we grow older many people no longer see the importance continuing education.  Many motivational and life coaches stress the importance of reading so that you continue to learn.  To me, this is just common sense.   When I finish one book it will usually lead me to another.  I always take away something new from each of them.

My life has been a continuous journey of change, and I love the challenge.  I constantly find something that I feel I could do better.  It might be the way I treat people, or maybe one person in particular.

It takes courage to leave our comfort zone. Getting started on a new path can be uncomfortable, if not downright painful.  When we examine our lives we can see that each small endeavor we have undertaken has added to our journey.

My own life has had many periods of plateaus where I stopped for a bit, learned what I could at that destination, and then moved on. History is one of my favorite subjects to study, because life repeats itself over and over again. Most of what we read is about in the news is the lives of politicians or the super wealthy or successful, but the truth is every person will experience life’s ebbs and flows on some level.

William Barclay Masterson was born in Canada in 1853 into a family that would include five brothers and two sisters.  They moved and settled on a farm in Sedgwick County, Kansas.  After very little schooling William left the farm at seventeen years old with his brothers Ed and Jim in search of work. They found work on a ranch near Wichita, and they worked there until they learned they could make two dollars and fifty cents per bison hide.  That began William’s Buffalo hunting period.  He and his brothers would be a part of one of the great battles with the plains Indians. A number of tribes joined forces to wipe out the trading post of Adobe Wells. At least seven hundred Indians descended on the small trading post at dawn, but William and his brothers, along with a man named Billy Dixon held them off from the store.  Billy Dixon shot an Indian off his horse from almost a mile away with a single shot Sharps rifle.

William and his brothers then helped grade railway beds for a short time before moving on.  William was later hired by General Nelson A Miles as a scout against the Indians.

William went on to become a professional gambler, working in the boom towns of South Dakota.  He started working in law enforcement in Dodge City, where in 1877 he was elected county sheriff.  He worked as sheriff, in a number of small towns across the western United States in the coming years.  He had become friends with President Teddy Roosevelt who ended up appointing him Deputy U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of New York, a job he would hold until 1909.

It was at that point William, now known as “Bat Masterson” became a national sports writer for New York papers.

Bat Masterson lived an eventful life in the American West, but he did not stop there.  When the west began to lose its luster, he moved to New York and began to write. He remained a well-regarded sportswriter until his death in 1921.

Many people take long winding paths to their goals, but one thing they all have in common and that is they are willing to change.

Take Saul of Tarsus, who was an educated Pharisee.  He studied the law and was very respected in his community. He had begun to attain the fame and notoriety in his time by persecuting the followers of Jesus.  He even went on a journey to Syria to help get rid of followers of Christ there, and that is when he had a fateful meeting on a road.

At that point on his journey he changed and his life completely, and his way of life before no longer mattered.  He even gave up his Jewish name Saul and took a Greek name, Paul.  He spent the rest of his life spreading the Gospel of Jesus and learning to live the life God intended for him.

What will you do with your life?  Are you willing to change?  Each of us must follow our own path, but one thing is for certain. We can never be content with just existing, we must constantly keep learning and growing.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

2 Timothy 3:7

Always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.