A cold rain fell onto me as I stood on the sidewalk, watching the contents of my martial arts school being loaded into a moving van. It was December 2009, and after twenty years of teaching, my school was for the first time just closed. I’d trained thousands of students, including fighters who had held world titles. I’d been the adopted disciple of a world famous teacher, traveling with him and sharing his exclusive circle of friends. I’d published articles, created instructional DVD’s, been featured on national television. But at that moment, it all seemed to be over. We weren’t moving. The contents were simply going to a storage facility on the west side of Manhattan.
My wife helped me load a few more personal items into a rented car. She initiated a conversation, asking me “so are you going to teach on Monday?” Then she abruptly stopped, aware that I didn’t have an answer. I had no idea what I was going to do. I was also over $100,000 in debt at the time. But 2009 will forever remain in my mind for yet another reason, we had lost a child. 2009 was the year I seriously considered killing myself.
Pretty serious stuff, yet I sit here today writing this. Just three years later, I received a plague from an industry body congratulating me for having one of the top performing schools in the country. I also added a number of new victories in combat sports and yet another MMA championship title to my school’s list of accomplishments. Today, I actually have the largest and most successful school I’ve ever had. I am also out of debt and quite happy with my life.
In retrospect, this had not been the first challenge in my life. It wasn’t even the most serious. At the age of six, I had been diagnosed with Leukemia. Of course, I didn’t know this at the time, but 50% of the children diagnosed with Leukemia at that time died. My father, a medical doctor, knew this and when I was adult I would hear about how my father had gone to my grandparents’ house to cry and throw things. Those children that survived weren’t exactly expected to lead a normal life either. The chemotherapy and radiation treatments resulted in nerve damage. I am medically not supposed to be able to lift my knee above the height of my waist. Fortunately, no one told me this, so I never knew I was doing the “impossible.”
I came to a conclusion a while ago, it is how you decide to tell your story. I could give you this laundry list of bad luck and tragedy and leave it there for you to sympathize with me. Or I could continue the story and inform you that I overcame each and every one of these challenges and came back better, stronger and more focused. My childhood illness was just the beginning of my journey. It was the inspiration for my worldview, which I want to share with the world.
MORE TO COME