Tag Archives: martial arts

The Artist We Slayed

Each of us is born with a gift.  We are all artists capable of creating great works if we nurture our talents.

Painter, writer, sculptor, athlete, musician, actor. Talent alone will only take you so far. You must work your craft relentlessly and never stop improving.

So many of us live a life much like an uncompleted to-do list.  We are always planning, seldom accomplishing.  Why do we give up our pursuit of a plan? It’s painful to not be good at something.  Our minds tell us we will never be good.  We do not want to face criticism. All of these outside influences are not the real problem.

We alone hold the key to the door that impedes our way. Fear breeds more fear and that in turn acts to paralyze us. We keep telling ourselves that it is just not the right time or next week I’ll start, but we are only defeating ourselves.

It is all a form of self-sabotage, just like booze, drugs, meaningless relationships, overeating and anything else we use to fill the void. These detours give us a short burst of pleasure followed by a longer crash because we still have not advanced towards our goals.

I know a lot about being my own worst enemy.  It took me some years to come to terms with this because as you can imagine I have plenty of excuses.  I would keep telling myself and anyone who would listen that it was not my fault, that it was beyond my control.

In truth, I was afraid of working hard towards my real ambitions because they seemed far from ever happening.  Instead, I was content to grab what I could for immediate gratification. This is what I like to call low hanging fruit, it may not be the best but it was temporarily filling.

The artist you slayed long ago can be brought back to life. We all possess the tools necessary to complete the job. It will require a well thought out game plan with a definite beginning and ending. We also have to accept right at the start that anything that can go wrong will go wrong.  The closer we get to creating our masterpiece the more life will throw impediments in our way.  

We may never be an artist like Michelangelo, a wordsmith like Hemingway or a filmmaker as great as Akira Kurosawa, but we can create our own art for others to enjoy.

We are all craftsmen for the Lord. He gave us the gifts so that we would use them to emphasize his glory. It is time to leave the nonsense behind and use the talent we have been given to make the world around us a better place.

 

1 Peter 4:10

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

 

Romans 12:6

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Failure

There is no escape, no way to hide.  It will find all of us at one point or another during our lifetimes.  It has been said that a book of failures would be a great book to read, so that we could learn from other’s mistakes.

Have you ever noticed that there are never any “failure seminars”?  There are plenty of speakers on the topic of success.  You can catch a motivational seminar online or in a conference room in a hotel most any weekend.

I have failed at so many things I could not even list them all here.  The good news is, I took a valuable lesson away from each one.  One of the best thing about pushing yourself hard and ultimately hitting your goals, is that our minds tend to gloss over the periods of heartbreak and failure, focusing instead on our successes.

One day I decided to take up a new hobby: prospecting for gold in the mountains and deserts of California.  I really did not know much about it at all, but when my wife and dog and I hiked in the mountains we had seen several people panning for gold in the streams and it got me interested.  I started reading everything I could about gold prospecting and the history of the gold bearing regions in California.

The next weekend, instead of heading off on our usual hike, we packed our lunch, a few shovels, and some tools we had picked up for gold panning.  We headed to the East Fork of the San Gabriel River.   We parked our car and hiked a mile or so up a path along the river.  We found a giant boulder and I started digging out buckets of dirt and passing them to my wife who would pan it out in the water.  We dug for hours and found nothing, not a trace of that elusive gold.  We did have a great time! Our dog fished in the river, we enjoyed the sunshine, cool water, amazing scenery and our hike.

We went back to that river many times.  Each time we dug deep holes and found nothing but black sand and tiny gold flakes in our pan.  One day, an older prospector came by our hole to chat.  He told me where I should dig based on his experience.  Later that day we found a small “picker,” which is what you call a tiny gold nugget that is big enough to pick up with your fingers.

We were doing almost exactly what the 49ers did during the gold rush.  Instead of iron pans, we used plastic pans, and unlike them, we were not trying to make a living from it.

It turns out that most of the gold is still there, undiscovered.  The early miners took the easy gold that they could find near the surface. It is back breaking labor with little payoff to keep digging and looking for the deeper gold. I enjoyed it because it was a challenge and a treasure hunt.

We graduated from panning to setting up a sluice in the water. The next stage was learning how to metal detect in the Mojave desert – which meant getting out there in the early hours before the temperatures rose.  Hunting for gold nuggets in the desert with a metal detector is called “nugget shooting.”  We joined the Prospector’s Club of Southern California, which gave us access to claims all over the region.  Then I graduated to operating a dry washer in the desert.

I learned to love the peace and quiet of the dry, desolate Mojave desert.  We started finding “color” almost every time we went out.

I wanted to find a good sized nugget with my metal detector before I left California, but it was not to be.  On my last attempt before moving, a solo trip early in the morning, I saw some fellow prospectors find a gold nugget just a few yards away from where I was looking.  I guess you could say I failed because I never found that fist-sized nugget I was seeking.  Instead, I would say that I gained some useful knowledge and made some great memories.

Prospecting mirrors so much of what we do in life.  Each one of us is seeking some kind of treasure.  There’s no guarantee you will find that big nugget.  Successes and failures: they all come with valuable lessons.  I look back on the hours I spent digging dirt holes and wandering the desert not as a failure, but as some of my favorite memories.

My friend Mark and I spoke about the topic of failure this past week.  After a successful high school and college wrestling career at Oklahoma State, where he was a two time All-American, Mark began his mixed martial arts career with the WEC (World Extreme Cagefighting).  He did well enough to be picked up by the UFC when they bought the WEC.

When I first met Mark, I noticed that he carried himself differently than most of the guys I knew, and he was open about being a Christian.  Mark was not pushy with his faith, but he was setting an example by the way he lived and he was always ready to lend a hand to anyone who needed one.

I trained with Mark for his first fight in the UFC, which he lost.  It was a bad loss, but he was back to training within a week.  Mark Munoz went on to have a long UFC career and while he never won the belt, he always left the ring a winner.  He was voted as “the nicest guy in MMA” by the UFC.  I learned from Mark that in MMA, a loss does not equal failure.  When you keep fighting, improving and moving forward, you are succeeding, regardless of what the outcome of any one fight may be.

Mark told me that if you have a fear of failure you will fall backward.  If you embrace it, you will take away a valuable lesson.  We all fail.  We have to learn from it and keep moving forward.

Resilience, Adversity, and Desire: A real champion in life, whether you are fighting in a cage, prospecting for gold, or trying to get a promotion in your job, is the person that shows resilience even when they fail.  Adversity is something to use to make us better, not break us down.  We will all face it, but how we view it and push past it will define us.  Desire is what will make you get up each day with determination: study harder, work harder, train harder.

Mark also reminded me that what we speak about every day is what we become, so choose your words wisely.

 

Romans 5:3-5

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Proverbs 24:16

For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

Luke 6:45

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

 

Lessons from a Dojo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 10:31

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

1 Corinthians 9:26-27

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

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.