This excerpt is taken from Simon’s book An Everyday Warrior (a true story) and tells of one of the first times he truly had to answer for his father’s sins when at the age of just 17, after a gig with his band he received a chilling late night call to say men were coming for his dad. Simon writes as he remembers the incident some 23 years later when in an almost identical situation, he is told people who his dad has upset are on their way to the family’s factory to deal with the situation. Simon sits alone in his office and recalls the encounter from many years ago.
In the hour that I did wait, fear and I sat together again, and we looked back at the amount of times this kind of event had happened to me. And then I remembered the first time I had picked up a baseball bat with the sole intention of using it to protect myself and my family. I reminisced as I sat there, waiting;
I was seventeen years old and was becoming more and more aware of how my father’s world worked. I wanted little part of it and was happy spending my days working and my nights drumming in a local band. On the evening in question, we had played a gig at a local nightclub and it had gone well.
It’s fair to say I was happy arriving home late that night, a couple of pints inside me and the accolades of a small crowd ringing in my ears. The next set of ringing I heard would stop me dead in my tracks and send a cold shiver up my spine.
My wife Julie bought me this beautiful book as one of my presents for my 50th birthday. It is for writers and gives 642 one line sentences or questions and you have to do the rest…write about it. At first I didn’t know how it worked. Do I write as a third party? The answer was just write. Do I write as myself? Just write. Do I write fiction or fact? Just write. And so I wrote. It is the most beautiful gift I have ever been given and I really enjoyed my first page. It stretched my imagination and capabilities. Here is the third thing ‘I wrote.’
The Worst Thanksgiving Dish You Ever Had;
Jeez an easy one. Ma and Pa were at it again. The old man drinking too much watching the game before the bird is even out of the oven. Ma sees red and pulls the plug. The bird freezes to death. No point even setting the table as we hear mum in the kitchen yank out the corkscrew on her third bottle of Blue Nun. Before we move to the next level I spare my kid brother the blushes of hearing her curse under her breath. With that kind of language Blue is the only Nun she will ever be acquainted with. I steal a glance at my snoring, farting pop. He is out for a least another three hours. Turning to my baby bro (huh, ‘baby’. He is ten and has seen enough for a fifty year old).
“Come on kid, I’m buying.” He doesn’t reply, just zips up his parka and we hit the cold city streets in search of nutrition.
Simon on From Bullied to Black Belt.
“When I first started writing From Bullied to Black Belt I seriously never dreamed of the journey it would take me, take us as a family on. Inspired by my friend Geoff Thompson who encouraged my writing when hearing of my story I set up office in our loft and armed with my first computer (4MB if you please) looked at the blank screen, at the cursor flashing and wondered “What do I press to make it work?”
My first scribble was an article called ‘F.E.AR. False Evidence Appearing Real’, and I found myself shocked when Bob Sykes at Martial Arts Illustrated published it over six pages along with photographs. Geoff phoned me to congratulate me and ended the call with the words “So now you are going to write a book.” I laughed at his joyous humour until he turned serious. “No Simon, now you are going to write a book. If you can write an article you can write a book. There is a book inside you.”
More than a little shell-shocked I shared this news with a family member who scoffed. “Good idea, now get back to work.” A certain someone wouldn’t take this negativity though and when I returned home from the factory that night my tea was not on the table as usual. It was in the loft on my desk next to a glass of wine. As I took it in my wife Julie shouted from downstairs, “I can’t hear any writing be done!” And so it began.
How many of us start Martial Arts for the same reason? Really, deep down did we aspire to be the next Cage Fighting Champion? The next big screen star? The next Hall of Famer? I don’t think so. I think most of us sought salvation, salvation from the hands of the bully. It probably took all our courage (which we didn’t think we had) to walk into the dojo for the first time. It probably took more courage to make the visit a second time, and so on and so on.
When we made that move we more than likely looked to the end of the line and saw the Black Belts and thought “Wow! That’s is what I want to be.” And why not? The Dan grades of before were awesome. The early days were filled with people who knew what they were doing, people who could motor when need be. They were to be looked up to and respected. Not a McDojo in sight.
Hard work producers excellent results, cheap trinkets don’t.
Somewhere along the way our beloved Martial Arts lost its way. As the elders of the village grew older, the young guns took their place and we witnessed the hordes of people making their way to the front of the Black Belt queue, cash in hand with adulations waiting to be paid. But then the training became too hard and the same cash people realised it was easier to visit the local snooker hall and with beer in hand, played their frame.
To quote from a film based on a friend of mine “I’m here to wobble.” Wobble meaning feel fear, trembling legs, dry mouth and racing heart. We all wobble, we all doubt, we all lack that certain confidence at times of our life no matter man, woman or child. Let me explain in terms relevant to myself, terms I understand; martial arts. How many of us, I suspect the majority have had that period whether yellow belt or black belt when our enthusiasm fades and doubt sets in? We can’t seem to face the dojo. It is then we need to face it most, it is then we grow from it and again this is everyone regardless of age. The following is a true story told by another friend of mine. I heard it a while ago so the details are a bit sketchy but the thread is the same; My friend ran a dojo and one of his junior students had a crisis of confidence. He made excuse after excuse but the bottom line was he wanted to stop training over self-esteem issues. He had three months of his contract left (personally we don’t do contracts) so his mum, who desperately wanted him to continue, used that as both the carrot and stick. She insisted he saw the contract out as she had paid up front (white lie). She assured him once it was fulfilled he could quit and play football. What do you know? A month later he had fallen back in love with his martial arts and there was no stopping him. He got his mojo back. Some years later he achieved Black Belt, competed and went on, as an adult to become a full time instructor with his own dojo. He still teaches to this day and inspires many around him. Imagine if he had been allowed to quit, if he had just hidden away? Good on his mum for not letting him, her persistence and desire for the child to do well paid off dividends. It’s okay to be afraid, it’s okay to have the odd doubt as long a it doesn’t derail us. Take a deep breath, keep your guard up and your best foot forward, go ahead and wobble. It’s not so bad.
Simon Morrell is a United Kingdom based author and martial artist (6th Dan Black Belt.) His book From Bullied to Black Belt, a true story is to be made into a feature film. You can visit him at here
A Talk With My Panic Attacks, a Chat With My Fear
by Simon Morrell.
As I drew out of the grips of agoraphobia, I realised my fears were internal. Certainly external matters helped those fears along but when I got down to it I realised most of the problem lay within. Most of my fear was in fact my inner opponent and usually started chatting as I felt a panic attack coming on. He tried desperately to beat me and strange as it seems, also helped me recover as I replayed a conversation with my friend fear when he asked how he affected me so much. Here, I try to explain to him the damage he could have caused. He is quite smart in his reply.
I told him; “I remember one of the worst attacks you ever launched was in fact also one of the earlier ones. I was driving alone to my parents for Sunday lunch, my wife having set off an hour earlier to help set up. Summer meant it was hot…”
Why Me? Inside a Bully’s Mind.
Because you are black, you are white, you are Oriental, hell you aren’t Oriental. Because you are fat, thin, have bucked teeth, walk with a limp or maybe you don’t walk with a limp. Your family has money, you are the poor kid at school. You come from a happy family or a broken home. More than likely because you can’t make eye contact. Not making sense? That’s because it doesn’t. Bullying makes no sense whatsoever. A bully will inflict pain and havoc without any valid reason at all. Sometimes the bully is suffering him/herself but that is not my concern.
My concern is for you, the victim. Don’t waste any time trying to get into the bully’s mind, it is a fruitless exercise. Don’t try and emphasise with your tormentor. Instead concern yourself with how you deal with the problem. Dealing with it doesn’t mean changing the way you walk, altering your accent, denying your family. It means taking on a role that will build your confidence because I have learnt this much; a bully will not, dare not take on a confident person. They thrive on the weak and will go out of their way to source the kid who can’t make eye contact. The kid who wanders the playground alone too shy to make friends makes easy pickings.
Be driven, be inspired, but be……
Now that you have embarked upon your journey to success (and the fact that you are reading this, or indeed any other likewise book means that you have started that journey) means that you will need fuel for the said journey.
Now better writers than me have and will continue to, write about the importance of diet to sustain us and they are quite correct. However, as well as the food we put into our bodies, fuel can also be taken on board as a mind and spiritually nourishing diet.
We need to be both driven and inspired toward our goals and this chapter will, hopefully, show you how to spot the difference and best utilise the two.
I’ll start with driven, and I make no apologies if this sounds judgemental. Each person chooses how they live and behave. This section isn’t about me judging certain factions of our society nor is it to suggest that they aren’t happy with their chosen path. It is merely to show how their way drives me on. Continue reading
As always this article is written to help people not to brag. It is written to acknowledge negativity but tip my cap toward positivity and it is written in the hope to inspire not to gain favour with readers. Also, despite its title and implications, this is not a football story or a glorification of my beloved Liverpool Reds so angry Madchester lads and the Blue people of Merseyside can put down their pens in anger. There is no need for letters of complaint as this is a true tale of failings, dreams and triumphs, the three constants we have in our lives.
As a young man I harboured ambition but lacked courage. Ambition without said courage is like a car without an engine…nowhere fast. Knocked about by bullies and with a dad who mocked ambition (who are you to?…insert as appropriate) ambition was futile. The worm almost turned as a teenager with my discovery of Martial Arts and Boxing. I was, so I was told ‘talented and could go far.’ That disappeared as quickly as it came when my Karate Instructor beat me up in a factory carpark. For beat me up read punched me to the floor, kicked me, and dragged me back up again only so he could knock me back down. Such a proud international Karate man he was.
I remember the first time I was bullied. Five years old, rake thin, timid, buck teeth and a shyness that bordered on being ill. My tormentor cared not as he cruelly hurled abuse at me much to the joy of our class mates. As the day drew to a close I slept fitfully praying there would be no more of it the following day but sadly it went beyond that. A day became a week became a month became a year and I became so week that the year became many.
I became a victim of all that wanted to vent fury on me. Childish punches escalated into violent assaults as the skinny kid grew into a skinny teen. Sometimes the beatings were by a solo attacker but more than once the attackers were several in numbers and as I was knocked to the floor kicks stunned my head. For some though it was not enough and a knife was bought into play. Luckily I escaped and survived and through it all hid my horrors from my parents…most of the time.