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.
Ushered into a room, placed in front of cameras and lights, it was hard to believe I was hearing a Film Director shout ‘Action!’ and encourage me to tell my story. I spoke from the heart, knowing that these next few hours could impact our whole lives. It was difficult recalling the young kid who got spat at, punched and kicked but seeing my own children on the other side of the camera, smiling and proud made the words flow. An hour went by and I was off the hook…my turn for a break as they put Julie and our daughter Luka through their story. The morning flew by and suddenly we found ourselves enroute to a Martial Art Academy to film some action shots.
As we sped through Orlando along the I4, the sun shining and a car full of happy people, I couldn’t help but reflect to my first Karate lesson almost 35 years before and how I had very nearly bottle it, how I had stood outside that Church Hall listening to the action inside and just wanted to go home…how glad I was now that I didn’t. Arriving at Pound 4 Pound Fitness was a moment I won’t forget. We were taken inside a studio that made my own Academy look like a postage stamp. A Cage, a full size Boxing Ring and an area completely devoted to punchbags (about 20 of them) made this the most impressive Dojo I had ever seen and we had it all to ourselves. Quickly changing into our Uniforms, my daughter and I exchanged a look; ‘How good is this’.
This young lady had accompanied me throughout the U.K. helping me teach and at my side for almost every training session I did and now her hard work was paying off too. My two sons cornered for us, water, towels, change of tshirts, you name it they had it ready. That day I could not have been a prouder dad. As we stepped into the ring to warm up and then film, I have to admit I had a moment. No longer was a seven years of age getting bullied but here I was ten thousand mile from home about to do my thing, sparring, padwork, grappling, defences, all in sweltering heat and filmed over many hours but we were determined to do good and I think we did.
Finally time was called and we had time to shower before heading back for more interviews. Although we were all feeling it now, we finished as fresh as we started on pure adrenalin. Closing the day sitting back in the hotel bar with the film crew was just…well, just great. They left shaking our hands and promising to send us the footage within the week before publishing it throughout the world to promote the movie.
I thought waiting for a Belt Test was hard but this was the longest wait ever until the day arrived when the email came through and hours of hard work condensed into minutes popped up on the screen. Our room was quiet as we watched and I think this was down to emotion because there it was, raw truth and warts and all…I think we did ourselves proud. Our next step is to wait for the short film and then the feature but what a ride this had been, from the emotion of bearing your soul to the physical challenge of training for hours under such heat and cameras but I wouldn’t have swapped it for the world…and to think I nearly went home. Now sing it like you mean it.