Something to think about…

According to my very first white belt certificate that takes pride of place on my office wall, I started training in the martial arts back in 1986, some thirty two years ago. Things were a lot different then. There was no fast track to Black Belt, no training in t-shirts (we couldn’t even roll the sleeves up on our white suit) and no separate classes for adults and kids. Classes were hard, often boring, incredibly repetitive and very disciplined. Of all the classes I took part in, the ones that stand out in my mind some thirty years on are the ones where I am standing in line punching and blocking the air for the full duration of the class (“block and back, and block and back, and block and back” — for an hour).

I remember learning to walk, Tae Kwon Do style, up and down the hall, over and over again. If someone couldn’t get it, we’d all have to remain perfectly still while the instructor singled this student out until they got it. If we dared to drop our guard (and were caught) we received a punishment. Not only that but I was a teenager, the worst age to be at for ‘stickability’. Even back then, before computers, PlayStation, the internet, Facebook, Snapchat, 1,000 TV channels, downloads, uploads and everything else that youngsters of today have got to keep them from leaving their homes, people still had a hard time sticking at things. If a martial art school had 20 students, it was doing very well.

My parents divorced when I was 5 years old leaving my mother to bring up two children. There was no way she could afford to pay for my training so while all my mates were out on a weekend having fun, I was washing up pots and pans in a local pub kitchen so I could pay for my own training. Despite all of this ‘hardship’ I never once took the easy way out and quit… and you know what, I’m so glad of this because it taught me one of the most valuable lessons in my life. You see I was never academically gifted at school however through thirty plus years of blood sweat and tears in the martial arts I’m now in the most envious position of all…… job is my hobby and I love it.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I get up at 6am each weekday and I’m working by 6.15am. I stop to train around 7am, take the kids to school and then it’s back in front of the PC until pick up time. Then it’s lunch and down to Blaze where I work once more until 9.30pm. But it’s not work really, it’s fun. The opportunity I have to share my knowledge with people, help change their lives in the same way that someone helped change mine is a gift. It’s a gift I often try to pass on to other people, particularly our junior students who are starting on the same path that I was on a long time ago and if I can help to change one child’s life for the better, then it will have been worth it.

But you know what, a lot of people just can’t be bothered. I often hear how people want to get fit, achieve that six pack, earn loads of money but the problem comes when they have to work for it. Most start off with great intentions but once the honeymoon period is over, they inevitably quit leaving only the most determined, the most persistence to continue on alone. I could have quit many times too. I learnt to fly a few years back. It’s yet another tick box on my bucket list (along with getting my black belt, starting my own business, writing a book, owning my dream car, and too many more to mention) and I had to pass eight ground school exams. I’ve completed them all with flying colours.  Not bad for someone who didn’t do great at school. But I wouldn’t have achieved this had I quit martial arts all those years ago. I know this for a fact because the lessons I learnt, the determination I developed and the persistence I applied all those years ago have gone on to carry me through all the hardships, all the struggles and all the times when most people would have given up.

I’m living proof that hard work, persistence and perseverance far outweighs anything else and I’m telling you this not to impress but in the hope that one person gets it and decides after reading this that no matter how tough something gets, no matter how hard something is and no matter how tempting it is to simply quit and move on to the next thing (and I’m not just talking about your training now) that never quit, never die attitude can be applied to anything you do.

I’ve achieved some amazing things in my life and met some great people along the way and I still have loads more to do but I know one thing for sure — had I taken the easy way out all those years ago and simply given up when things got tough, I would probably still be stuck in that kitchen washing pots and pans for a living.