Tag Archives: Kickboxing

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.

 

Does Ethnicity Define Me?

 

minidoka

Camp Minidoka, WWII

 

I am half Japanese, and thanks to a DNA test I recently took, I also now know I am 13% Lakota Sioux.  My ethnicity is a part of my story, my heritage.

My father was born in America, but his mother and father were both born in Japan.  They emigrated from Japan legally at the turn of the century. They became farmers and had to lease land because at that time it was illegal for Asian immigrants to own land in America or to become naturalized citizens.  Property laws were written to exclude everyone but white immigrants and those of African descent.  My father and his sister were born in America, so they were the first US citizens in my family. The family built up a profitable agriculture business on the leased farm land and also exported GE appliances to Japan.  My father attended the University of Washington from 1939 – 1941 until the US entered World War II in 1941.

In April of 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which cleared the way for the deportation of Japanese Americans to internment camps.  Soon after, 120,000 Japanese (of whom 62% were American citizens) were relocated to concentration camps.

They gave these camps names like “Camp Harmony” which was located in Puyallup, Washington at a fairground.  The Japanese were only able to bring the things they could carry with them to the camps.  Many people lived in animal stalls of the fairgrounds or in makeshift shanties, which provided poor shelter come winter.  Their homes, businesses, and land were lost.   Family heirlooms such as swords and paintings left behind were taken by the Americans representing the United States Government.

My father and his family would end up at Camp Minidoka in Idaho.   My grandmother died in that camp.  My father, along with a number of other fighting-age Japanese Americans volunteered for the Army, which was the only way to be allowed to leave the camp until the war ended.

The war ended in 1945, and at that time the Japanese were free to leave and move to where they wished.  Many would start over in new places since their homes and businesses were taken from them.  Many who left the camps vowed never to speak Japanese again.

They worked hard to rebuild their lives. Even after the war, Japanese were prohibited from buying land in many states until 1956.

 

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Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

My father rarely mentioned those times to me.   Despite prejudices he encountered, he was successful in his career after the war.  He introduced me to the Japanese culture from a young age, but it was always made very clear to me that we were Americans.

 

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Massacre at Wounded Knee

 

 

When I hear people say the worst mass shooting in American history was at Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida, I wonder where they learned their history.  On December 29th, 1890 at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota over 500 US Army and members of the 7th Cavalry opened fire on 350 Lakota Indians in their camp. They killed 300 Sioux, many of them women and children. The Cavalry dead numbered only 25, many of which were killed by friendly fire from their own Hotchkiss guns. As a reward for the mass slaughter of Lakota Sioux, twenty of the US soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest award given to those in the military service.

These stories are a small part of the struggles of my ancestors, but they do not define me or dictate my future.  I am proud of being mixed race.  No derogatory words towards my heritage can harm me or derail my dreams.  If someone looks down on me because of my ethnicity, I know that I cannot change the way they think. That can only come from within them.  I can choose how I will act, how I will react, and how hard I will work for my dreams.  

Every ethnicity has a story of struggle at one point in their history.  The only way we can make this world a better place is to work on our own behavior.  While the setbacks are a part of our story, they do not define or limit us unless we let them.  The best way to combat prejudice is with success.

Galatians 3:82

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

 

 

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.

Fitness & Faith

 

 

Moving from Los Angeles was exciting and scary all at the same time.  I knew I could always train people while I wrote on the side.  I had no idea if I could still sell anything I wrote, being so far away from Hollywood and all the producers.  

I love the martial arts and I love strength training.  In Los Angeles,

DCIM100GOPRO

Old School Boxing

I worked for Justin Fortune, a former boxer who fought Lennox Lewis the heavyweight champion who knocked out Mike Tyson.

Justin is a world class trainer who excels at strength and conditioning.  He is very sought after by elite athletes in combat sports. He trains Manny Pacquiao before his fights. I learned a lot from Justin and from all the top-ranked talent that came into his gym. Justin would pass off clients to me that he was too busy to train.  He gave me fighters and actors who I ended up training for a long time.  

One time Justin passed off a young kid named Santiago who was training for a film role.  He was not understanding the proper form for punches or the footwork, but he was willing to put in the time each day to get better. As I watched his boxing and physique improve over time, I also noticed his demeanor and confidence change.  Seeing someone change in front of my eyes was great.

My ministry as a Christian is helping those around me achieve their goals through physical health.  Ministry is about each of us helping those that we can, in ways that we are best equipped to do so.  I started training people in our basement and outside. My approach is simple, I teach each person like I am teaching a professional.  I explain it, show them, and if they choose to listen I show them some more. If they just want to get in a workout and aren’t interested in learning proper technique, I back off on technique.  Usually, after a time, they will also want to improve their form. I introduce them to a strength and conditioning program that is based on the programs we used for conditioning fighters in Los Angeles.  Each person can go at their own speed and level.

After the big move, I wanted to start training people again in the Midwest.  I knew it would take some time to build up clientele.   Not long after moving, I was sent this link to a video about a gym named Rock Steady Boxing that teaches boxing for Parkinson’s patients. You can see an improvement in the quality of life after a few weeks in every patient who trains.  I called them and tried to get into one of their weekend training programs, but they were booked until late in the year 2016. I added my name to a waiting list and received an email in March of 2016 that someone had canceled and they could fit me in that month if I was available – which I was.  

The three days I trained at Rock Steady Boxing were life changing for me because I was taught about the disease by leading doctors, researchers and professors in the field, and I worked with actual Parkinson’s patients.  One of the men in my group, Daniel, had just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.  I could see that it was weighing heavy on him.  Daniel was a pastor in the south who wanted to learn the Rock Steady Boxing program to help others while he helped himself.  Daniel had no boxing or training experience, so we partnered up and I helped him as much as I could.  I showed him how to hold focus mitts and to throw punches.

I worked with many patients over the next few days and I saw the same thing in every one of their eyes.  I saw hope!  It was the first time since they were diagnosed with Parkinson’s that they could do something to help themselves.  A way to improve their health and fight back.  I watched and trained them as they joked and laughed. I was excited to find a way to branch out my ministry – this was something I could do and be proud of doing!

I started training my first Parkinson’s patient just over three months ago, and the changes have been amazing.  He is stronger and his balance and coordination are off the charts now.  I have him doing complicated footwork drill and he can keep up. The bonus is that I train his wife at the same time and she has also seen some amazing gains.  Rock Steady Boxing gym always trains the spouse or caregiver alongside the patient, and they are referred to as “the cornerman.”

In my regular early morning fitness boxing classes, I recently gained another mature adult in my class, and I can see she is also making gains.  When we get older we tend to think there is not much we can do. Wrong!  There is much more that can be done, you just have to approach it in new ways.

Many people, believers, and non forget about their health or put it on the backburner.  They forget that we must all take care of our bodies. God calls us to take care of the bodies he has given us so that we are strong enough to do his work.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Or 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.
Rock Steady Boxing:

http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/boxing-program-trains-patients-to-beat-parkinsons/

A Warm Welcome

In California I had slipped into that comfortable pace of life where I was not doing as much as I should or could have been doing.  So we decided to leave Los Angeles behind, took a leap of faith and headed 2072 miles away, to a farm I had never even visited before.  I have lived in big cities all my life.  The times I had moved away from California in the past to live in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Fort Lauderdale, I had always kept a California home to return to.  This time was different.

We arrived in Illinois a few days before the moving truck.  In my travel bag I had a mouth guard and some training gear – gloves, shin pads, mitts.  It had been a week since I had trained last at Fortune Gym in Hollywood, where I had trained 6 days a week for over 5 years straight.  We started looking up nearby gyms where I could begin training in the Midwest.   Jiu Jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, and MMA are all a way of life for me.  Though I had left behind my gym and training partners, I had not lost my passion for staying active as a fighter and would need to keep growing as an athlete and training regularly with people who could improve my skill.

The first gym I found online in a nearby town looked promising.  We drove over and met the owner mid-morning.  I introduced myself as Kenji, and we talked about the gyms I had trained at and the professional fighters I had trained with, and who we might know in common.  He invited me to return later that night for some sparring when his MMA fighters would be there to train.

I came back for a class that evening and waited on the side of the gym for him to finish with a kid’s class he was teaching.  He finished the class and began walking around talking to other people, avoiding me.  After waiting another thirty minutes, I went up to him as he was talking to some people, and he asked me to wait and he’d be with me in a bit.  He had me wait over an hour before he would speak to me. I was new to town, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  As I waited, I talked to some other fighters who were warming up in the gym.

Eventually, he walked off the mat and I tried to speak to him again. He was angry and raised his voice, asking me my name.  I told him my name was Kenji, as I had told him earlier.  He said, “Kenji GALLO?” I answered yes – as that was the name everyone I had trained with as a fighter knew me by.  We hadn’t discussed last names, but I wasn’t trying to hide anything from him about my past.  Kenji and MMA trainer from Los Angeles, who used to teach at Fortune Gym and Reign Training Center is not too hard to find on Google.  He told me to leave, accused me of lying to him and trying to trick him, and added that rats like me weren’t welcome in his gym.  I thanked him for his time and left.

What a welcome to Illinois!  I really missed my California gym and friends at that moment.

The way I reacted to the owner of the gym was not natural for me.  In the past, I always thought I needed to teach somebody a lesson when they were out of line.  That never worked out well for me. You can not fight every perceived wrong. This is part of life, and you had better get used to it because it will happen often. All you can control is how you react to a given situation.

When I walked away, it was amazing how at peace I felt.  His goal had been to punish me for who I was, yet I realized that in reality, he had done me a favor.  The funny part of the evening was how worked up my wife was – the normally calm and collected one.  She had waited with me and witnessed this all unfold.  I told her I knew this was not the right place for me to train, and that God had something better in store for us.

The next gym I decided to try in the area was just the type of place I like to train – and I have been there ever since. The people are professional, I have made friends and I have become a better fighter.

The good news is, no matter how bad your past is, God knows every detail of your life and still welcomes you with open arms.  He is capable of changing you for the better, and has a great future in store – regardless of the difficult people you will run into.