Watching a camera crew arrive at our hotel in Orlando was surreal; surreal in a good way. We had travelled over ten thousand physical miles to this but in terms of emotions, experience, adversity and triumph it felt more like ten million. I had been the victim of bullies for most of my childhood and teen years; as I grew into a man the bullying became violent assaults. Mostly I had endured alone until my salvation arrived in the form of my wife. With her support, I became serious about learning to stand up for myself and serious about Martial Arts. Serious enough to become a 5th Dan Black Belt and kicking my ever increasing agoraphobia into touch, serious enough to write a book about my experiences…little did I know that writing that book would lead me to this, a swanky hotel lobby in the U.S.A. sitting with my family waiting for the Film Crew to set up and begin the journey of the movie ‘From Bullied To Black Belt’…you couldn’t make it up.
Whilst what is written here is on the subject of Martial Arts, the advice on offer can be applied to all walks of life by people wanting to better themselves and achieve the achievable…because it’s all achievable. There is nothing we can’t do if we are willing to face our ‘Shugyo’. I was talking to a student of mine recently who had an important belt test coming up. She confessed to me that as she was getting higher up the grades, she was really feeling the pressure. She also confessed to having taken a dislike to sparring. After listening to her carefully I gave her my opinion. “It’s difficult isn’t it?” I both asked and stated. The student looked at me like I had two heads but it was difficult to say anything different because quite simply it is difficult. “The better we get at something the harder it becomes to progress”. I told the student and let it sink in. Then I gave her the good news. “The thing is, the harder the tests, the bigger the rewards. Some people will get to your stage and that’s that for them and they are fine with that, but by the very fact that your are asking me questions about your next step means you must really want to find out what it is like to move up the ladder. It means that you aren’t done yet. I’ll tell you shall I, the tea up here is a lot sweeter.”.
Before I was three years old I had been lost in the woods and in a separate incident fallen down a drain where I remained for quite some time before being found and rescued by neighbouring housewives searching for me. When I was five I was spat at, name called and beaten by a fellow, vicious classmate. By the time I was six I became very drunk on a family holiday abroad, spending the next day badly hungover. The mayhem, drinking and attracting violence stayed with me for most of my years before I fell to a condition known as agoraphobia. I binned all four afflictions when I found Martial Arts and beautiful love in the form of my wife and three children.
Then as I entered my thirties, those afflictions (minus the agoraphobia) returned. Violent men led to me to heavy drink which bought back the mayhem. Martial Arts and my healthy passion for the fighting world disappeared and my family almost followed until I found myself lying in a hospital bed on the brink of a disastrous adventure from which I may not have recovered. ‘Not again’ I thought to myself ‘Not again.” No more would I let mayhem take from me what was mine. It was time to climb out of the drain….and so I did. I have been called a failure…I am seen as a Father, I have been called a spaz…I have been successful, I have lost and I have won, I have been hated and I have been hugged but perhaps most importantly I have been called a waster and yet I have been named Warrior. I’ll leave you to judge as you read the book An Everyday Warrior, but hold on…it gets bumpy.
An Everyday Warrior is available here
In my own experience I have plenty to be afraid of. This has ranged from schooldays when I was bullied, threatened with knives spat at and beaten up (this was by the teachers). Generally, this kind of adolescence led in later life to cause anxiety disorder, leading to the condition known as agoraphobia, resulting in me staying in-doors, and shrinking my comfort zone. After some years, and plenty of research and help, I was able to conquer my fear of the outside world and embark upon a martial arts journey. Later on, fear was bought on by the thought of and taking part in tough gradings, hard courses, full contact sparring with professional boxers, grappling with European champions. Teaching at seminars, opening my own gym, effectively going public and being there for all comers to see and/or take on. Appling for membership as an instructor to possibly the most prestigious self-defence association in the world, with some of the world’s top instructors at the helm. Worrying that they wouldn’t accept me and then feeling fear when they did. Now I would have to prove that I could instruct, would have to travel away to train under some of the best instructors in the World.