How has your training made you into the person you are today?
At a young age, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a condition that was not fully understood at the time. I had difficulty with controlling my emotions and couldn’t manage my anger well. I also carried a lot of fears; from my fears of lightning (loud, sudden noises), the dark, dogs, and heights, to my fears of trying new things. I was also slower paced in my ability to learn, and teaching me in the conventional way was near impossible. Still, my family believed in my potential.
My chances of being a martial artist looked slim however, as both my mother and I were worried about finding the right school, and about how it would work with my emotional instability. As I grew into my early teens however, by chance I received an invitation from a close friend, who was having his birthday at FMAC. We stepped into their doors for the first time, and got a sense of the atmosphere. After the day of the party, I proceeded with the free trial I was given, and began my training. Our first impressions were positive, and from then on I continued with my training, I was here at last.
I still remember the nervousness I felt when I became a yellow belt, the one thing I was uncertain of was being able to perform in front of a massive audience, with the whole thing being recorded. I overcame it however, when it was finally my turn to stand up, and the rest of the night went by easily. Before I knew it, I was facing new challenges, like when I broke my first brick, after being encouraged by my friend, to when I put on the black uniform and began to pursue sparring and weapons training.
One of the biggest turning points in my development however, was during my intermediate ranks, when Dr. Len was giving one of his talks. He said, “My patient asked me, ‘when will I no longer be afraid of lightning?’. I told him, ‘Whenever you choose not to be.'” His words were simple, but since then they’ve left a mark in me. I realized then that what I was training for was something greater than just a childhood aspiration; it was to find my own potential, and learn to overcome the obstacles that I was challenged with.
Finally, I made it into the black belt prep classes, where I began to face some of the biggest learning challenges in my life, as my forms and techniques felt a lot more complicated. Admittedly, part of me wasn’t sure if I could keep going, part of me wanted to give up, and I felt overwhelmed. Even still though, I knew I was just going through the same cycle that I had with my previous belts; a difficult start, followed by a strong end. I ended strong, and finally became a Black Belt. It was at this point that I had changed entirely, my uncontrolled anger became more patient and tranquil, I’ve found the courage to face the fears I’ve previously had, and I sought to face new and different challenges in life. I no longer hide away when dogs are around, or when there’s a storm (Even if I feel a bit nervous at times). I’ve taken up walking everyday, without minding the sky going dark. But more importantly, I’ve become better with people. FMAC didn’t just make me a black belt, they’ve transformed me into a better person.
Which Black Belt Character helped you the most growing up?
I can’t say any of the characters were unimportant to me, but the one that speaks to me the most would have to be Perseverance, with Self-Control following as a close second. Because of my disorder, it was easy to want to give up when learning something different, and growing up I can remember hearing different things being said to me that were synonymous with Perseverance. In the long run, if I hadn’t developed this character, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and would likely be, or close to what I was before.