Tag Archives: jiujitsu

Baggage

Many of us carry around way too much weight. I am not talking about those extra pounds on the midsection. I’m talking about the dead weight of emotional baggage we drag through life.

Most people do not want to face or hear the truth. That is the way society has trained us. It is not our fault…. all of our problems are because of…  Insert a cause here. If only I had this thing or went to these places or I had a better family or a better job, or a better spouse. If all that fails, blame it on the government of the only truly free nation in the history of the world.

When our problems surface, others may tell us that we should go see a professional who will give you a prescription for whatever the newest drug is today. Yet, despite the blame and the drugs, at the end of the day, we still have the same baggage.

What we carry around could be very visible, or it could be very well hidden inside of us.  

Have you ever watched someone explode in anger? Do you believe that it is a one-time occurrence? On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are others who try way too hard to be a good person or overly helpful. Their emotional baggage is always there, just below the surface.

 We have to address what causes anxiety inside us.  No matter how far we run from it, it will still be there.

In my old life, I used to live in Newport Beach, California. When things got hot from law enforcement, I would take off to my condo in Palm Springs, California. While there I would relax, head out into the desert, sometimes hang out with other bad guys. Then I would come back to Newport Beach where the problems still existed, but were no longer in my face.

I did this for most of my adult life. I would shuttle between South Florida, Southern California, New York and many other destinations.  All I did was stay a step away from my problems.  What I needed to do was stay in one place, face my problems and deal with them.  

The number one task at this point if we wish to free ourselves from the dead weight that drags us down is to identify it. Make a list. Think of your life like a trip into outer space where you can only take the essentials with you. Your life is the suitcase. You must choose each item carefully, deciding if you can live without it or not.

Once this is finished we must decide what we will do about the baggage you no longer need to carry.  Our emotional well being is our own responsibility. There is never a time to place blame elsewhere or ask someone else to do it for us. There will be few things in life we have control over, but the good news is we can control our own emotions.

I have a friend that grew up in the life.  He came from a family that I will call Mafia royalty.  He had all the perks when he was young and more when he came into adulthood.  He never gave life a second thought because he was able to live well.

It all came to an end well over a decade ago and today he is paralyzed by his former life.  He never developed the skills to live, to be a normal human.  No matter when I speak with him, it is always the same issues. He will remain stuck in emotional quicksand until he steps up and takes responsibility for his own life.

I understand why my friend and others cannot climb out of their pits of despair. I have been there.  Admitting to ourselves that our baggage is holding us back gives us power to let it go.  It is a constant battle for me. I constantly find old habits creeping up on me.

My blessing was the day I realized that I could let go of my burden by not living for myself, but by God’s will. That was the day my eyes were opened and the emptiness left my soul. The best part of all my soul searching is that I know where my problems stem from and I no longer let them affect my life. It is not easy for me at all, so through trial and error, I have eliminated triggers in my life.  I have learned to live in the now, yesterday has passed and tomorrow has not come.

It is time for all of us to live a more fulfilling happy life, by letting go of the extra baggage we carry with us.

Ephesians 4:31-32

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Proverbs 28:13

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aftermath: Rebuilding Your Life

We have all heard the saying, “Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you are ready to change.” This is something that I know first hand. I also know others who have gone through the same experience.  In fact, most of us will have to rebuild our lives at some point in life.

It may come from an unexpected loss, the death of a loved one, a job, or it could be our own self-destructive behavior. It does not matter the cause, because the outcome is the same. A life in shambles, the feeling of no hope, bitterness, and blame. You can feel the walls of despair closing in on you as depression sets into your life.

Life seems overwhelming and we become frozen in place, shut down.  For some, it sends them into a self-medication period or an overeating binge.  All the while we distance ourselves from friends and loved ones.

When you find yourself at rock bottom, It is time to examine your life and figure out what has brought you to this place. Make a list, because when you write it down you can easily decide what is most important. You can also devise a plan to begin the journey of rebuilding.

A good approach is to begin by controlling what you can.  We can all control what goes into our bodies. Alcohol and drugs will just bring us down, even more, the problem still exists but now our minds are clouded.

What we eat also has a huge effect on how we feel.  If we eat sugar or foods heavy with fats, we will feel it. Excess sugar will cause us to hit highs and then come crashing down feeling worse than ever.  Unhealthy food will make your whole system feel sluggish.  Cut it all out. We do not need them and once our system begins functioning better on healthy fuel, we will not miss them.  Challenge yourself by being strong and watching your food intake.

The more you start to take control of your life, the better you feel.  It is time to make commitments with some new habits. A lot of hugely successful people start the day early with some exercise. I am not suggesting that you begin with a gym membership.  We must crawl before we can walk, so start small.  Try walking around your neighborhood every day for thirty minutes in the mornings, without distractions and without stopping.  I am not talking about a treadmill! Get outdoors where the weather and terrain varies daily.  Use this alone time to think about life and plan your day.

After a series of events in my life, I found myself all alone in a place I had never been. I was depressed and fat, with no idea what I would do with my life from that point forward. The first day I shut myself inside the hotel suite and felt sorry for myself. I didn’t want to face reality. My old life was no more.  The people I knew would never and could never be a part of my new life. I had brought everything on myself because of my actions, so the only person I could blame was myself.

I decided that I should begin walking every morning for an hour. I was out the door before light that second day. I walked every day for the rest of that first week. After my walk, I would come back to the suite and watch TV.  Eventually, I ventured across the street after dark to a huge bookstore and bought some books and a notepad.  I developed a routine.  Walk, read, write about my life and eat fresh unprocessed food.  After that first week, I found a Mixed Martial Arts gym and I started walking past it every day.  Martial arts had been an important part of my early life, but it had been a few years since I had been in a martial arts gym. I checked out the class schedule and thought about joining.  It took me almost a month to finally decide to walk into the gym.  When I did, I decided on a whim to take a class.

The class gave me over an hour a day when the only thing I could think about was the class. My head was clear and focused when I trained. I developed a new schedule.  I would walk every day for an hour, come back and watch two shows, then go take a class, read a book for learning (history, science, etc), eat lunch, work on writing the story of my life, and later read another book for pleasure. This routine pulled me out of the hole I had dug for myself.

Writing about my life laid bare the fact that all of my problems had been caused by the choices I made.  I started a list of things that I had to change, and believe me it was a huge list. I started working on one of them at a time. I am still working on the list and it grows all the time.  I have found that I gain confidence every time I conquer a personal dislike.  People might feel my life is too regimented and strict, but it is actually freeing.

Find something that you can get into.  Something that allows you to forget about your problems and clear your mind for a time, even if you can see no immediate benefit.

When you develop a new routine, make a pact with yourself that you will not stop for a month.

Write about your thoughts and problems.  Keep a diary, even if it is just a short e-mail you send to yourself at the beginning of each day. This is enormously helpful and it is between you and you alone.

As I was writing this post, I counted at least five times that I have hit bottom and started to rebuild my life. The best thing to come out of those experiences is that I have tread familiar ground repeatedly. I do not know what the says about me, but at least I know what choices I no longer wish to make.

I spoke to two others about the aftermath of their destructive lives.  I asked them both what helped them come back from the brink.  One told me that when he was doing his thing it was about him.  When it all came crashing down it affected those close to him.  He let everyone down. He had support and he decided that he would take it and better himself.  The second person told me he realized he was a grown man and if he did nothing he would be wasting his life. The life he had was no longer part of the equation, so he started one step at a time and day by day it got better.

Ephesians 4:28

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

2 Timothy

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

 

Self-Made Prison

Life is either a marathon or a sprint.  Regardless of the length, we do not know when the race will be over.  Yesterday is the past. Whether it was good or bad, today is another chance to get it right.   Our attitude, beliefs, actions, and fears have brought us where we are. Many of us have built up walls in our lives. We see the world in a certain way, and we tell ourselves that they are barriers to keep out the unwanted, but in reality they are prisons.   

Some of us think of a water glass as half empty while others see the glass is half full.  Neither is wrong.  A positive outlook, regardless of what we face, will help us as we move forward.  Nothing in our lives is permanent, change will always come. Bad attitudes magnify the negative and destroy hope.

Have you ever felt, that something may work for others, but not for you?  I have on more than a few occasions.  The problem with my thinking was that I was not willing to open up to new methods or ideas.  I was stuck in the mindset that my long held beliefs and preconceived notions were always right because I had been there before.  What I really had to learn was that the old way life played out that way because of the way I went about it. It was time for me to stop passing the blame and stop the never ending cycle I was on. It is never easy, but you must retrain your mind to stop with the negative thoughts and keep working to get out of your cell.

Every morning there is a new problem.  Leaving the house brings a new set of challenges. Do we stay home? Feel sorry for ourselves and cry? Turn to a vice to ease the suffering momentarily?

Evaluate everything and start with the things that you can fix now.  Come up with a game plan.  No journey is complete without a map – a route and a destination. Accept the facts and no matter how uncomfortable it is, face them, because each of holds the key to set us free from the walls that are holding us back.

The biggest and most formidable wall in life is fear. The fear of failure always looms.  The fear that we will go too far and be left alone.  The fear that we are just not good enough.  The fear that we do not have what it takes.  The fear that we will not be accepted by our peers.  All of these seem real, but the truth is we have built them up in our minds. The more we dwell on them, the more powerful they become.

At one time, I lived in a constant state of fear.  I had a fear that a normal life was for everybody except me. The fear paralyzed me and kept me from growing or reaching for my goals.  We can either become prisoners bound by our own outlook, or we can change our thinking.  It will be hard, breaking habits by retraining your mind, building new habits and learning all take time.

Saul of Tarsus is a man I have brought up before.  He grew up Jewish and by all accounts, he was set to be one of the great ones. He had a prejudice against Christians, and believed that they were wrong about Jesus and his way of thinking was right.  He went after the early Christians with a vengeance, even sending some to their death. It was not until he was blinded by Jesus himself and later regained his sight that he was freed from his self-made prison. He went on to accomplish great things that we still benefit from today.  He wrote fourteen of the twenty-seven books that make up the New Testament of the Bible.

It’s time to let go of the preconceived notions in your life that are keeping you locked up, and move on to accomplish the great things set out for you.

Galatians 5:1

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:13

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Priorities In Life

If you really want to do something in this life, you will find the time.  It all comes down to priorities.   I learned this early on in life.

I decided as a kid that I wanted to learn and become as good as I possibly could at martial arts like Jiu Jitsu, boxing, and kickboxing. I made time for my training every day, and some days I would do two-a-days.  My passion has not waned for it, even now, four decades later.

It affected my life outside of the gym.  I stopped going out late at night so that I would be in better mental shape when I trained.  I ate right, so I could physically train at my best. I went out of my way to find the best people in the area, trying different gyms, meeting new people who were also passionate about martial arts.  I surrounded myself with people who would help me improve.  Many people never want to challenge themselves, so they only train with people on the same level. To learn you must move outside your comfort zone.

When I made the decision to grow closer to God, that became a new priority in my life, and I had to make time for it.  Before I started attending church, I used to spend my Sundays either prospecting for gold or hiking in the mountains and deserts around southern California. Once I started attending church, that was no longer an option.  I knew the IMG_3652 (1)church was more important to my spiritual growth.  I decided that I also needed to join a Bible study, to learn from others who could teach me more about the Bible.  I dedicated another night of the week to those classes.

There are lots of ways to make more time for your priorities.  When we moved from Los Angeles to Illinois we decided we were not going to have cable anymore. I thought I would miss it a little – I liked getting the UFC fights and watching certain shows.  Instead, I learned that I had wasted a lot of time on that distraction, and could make better use of my time.  Now I have time to read more books than I used to.  I take my dogs on more walks than I used to.  I get more done each day and I sleep better.  It’s amazing what I have time for now that I got rid of the extra nonsense.

What are your priorities? What will you accomplish if you use your time for what is most important to you?  As a trainer and an athlete, I encourage you to try hitting the gym instead of watching sports on television, and you will be surprised at the benefits that come your way physically and mentally.  As a Christian, I encourage you to invest in your spiritual life in the Bible and at church.

 

1 Timothy 4:8

For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

2 Timothy 1:7

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.