Your Strength Lies In Your Weakness

At the end of most Karate classes…I like to say what’s on my mind. Give a small speech to the students about something that’s popped into my mind during the session, the day or the week. It might be something to do with current news events, training, and sometimes just life in general. I do try and keep it topical and relevant…but you know…my mind wanders at times.

This week I spoke to the class about the importance of competing. In our style of Karate, I really don’t think you can say that you are a Kyokushin exponent unless at some point you have fought full contact. I understand the juniors to some extent as its not just theirs (and most of them want to) but their parents choice.  The adults however…there can really be no excuse. Nope…none. I do understand that it may be a scary thing for some….but in reality that fear needs to be faced. If not….then perhaps Kyokushin isn’t the style for you.

In reality it’s not all about the fighting, although it does give all your training a new perspective. The fighting doesn’t instantly make you tougher or better, but what does is all the training you then do in preparation. It’s about the overcoming of that fear holding you back. Going through the nerves and the times you want to back out. It’s about the people in your corner and support of your team. It’s about the humility in loss and the confidence garnered through victory. The lesson lies in pushing yourself to do something outside of your comfort zone. So….if there is all this to gain how can there be a real excuse not to do it. What motivation or inspiration could you need ?

I recounted how at the tournament we travelled to in Griffith last year, that a student was competing in his wheel chair. And then…how a video had recently been shared on facebook showing a male that had lost the use of his legs…get onto the competition mats to compete in BJJ. His team mates basically helped him out of his wheelchair and onto the arena. Amazing and inspiring stories. There’s loads of those type of stories around on the internet if you choose to look.

And it’s not just Martial Arts. Most people have seen the Paralympics, I’ve seen videos of Crossfit competitors with missing arms and legs, and all manner of inspirational movies of disabled people achieving what some able bodied people can’t. In the end I think it all comes down to how much you ‘want’ to be able to do something. And if the will is enough – you will find a way.

What is better than watching a video, or hearing a story about someone though, is seeing it in person. I’ve asked permission from this member of our dojo to share his story briefly and I am so glad that he said yes.

Not everyone knows or has met Tailem. He’s a quiet kind of guy. He joined our Kickboxing class a little under a year ago and then a bit later found his way into the BJJ class. At his first class I noticed that he had a large build, and initially I thought he was perhaps an ex gymnast. Then of course…me being me…I just asked. It was probably something like….” Hey…what do you weigh…You look pretty big….and do you lift ? ” I wasn’t rude…just matter of fact.  That’s when I found out that Tailem was a Powerlifter. I had also noticed something else…..but didn’t really get a chance to talk to him on his own that first class.

I later asked him about his hand , and the fact that he had difficulty putting on the left glove. I had seen something like that in a hand before….in my stepfather after he had a stroke many years ago.  I was taken aback when Tailem explained his situation. Immediately he had my respect. You see…..Most people would come into the dojo and make excuses straight away for something like that. I hear stuff all the time (and I’m not putting anyone down…it’s just for comparison) like..Oh my leg is sore today. Or ….two years ago I fell off my bike and have a sore back so I ‘m not sure I can do everything or even I play the sax so I can’t punch without gloves and wraps in case I hurt my hand. But this guy walks in….sais nothing about his dis-ability and just trains.

There are those I am sure that have looked at Tailem’s physique and assumed he’s “on the juice” etc. What they don’t know however is firstly that he is not. That’s a whole lot of time at the gym and chocolate thick shakes !  Secondly that they are looking at someone who at the age of 9 years old, suffered a brain abscess that caused the left side of his body to be paralysed. Only through countless hours of dedication to rehabilitation as a child,  visits to hospitals, doctors, physio and chiropractors, and time and patience of his parents did Tailem regain the use of his left side to the point where he surpassed what was originally diagnosed as possible.

Obviously the limits and disadvantages that this placed on Tailem as a young boy was difficult. Sport just didn’t come as easy and there were feelings of inadequacy surrounding his appearance which is difficult enough for most people already. Not feeling comfortable or able to be as active this then led to weight gain…and from there the spiral into an eating disorder. Then….Tailem discovered the gym and found a way to build himself into the strong and capable man he is today.

Since then….Tailem went on to hold 6 powerlifting records (and is right now training to grab another one this year) , and last year won a bodybuilding competition.  Of course…..each training day when the jab doesn’t fire as fast as the cross,  or he can’t grab the gi to lock a hold in BJJ with one hand is a constant reminder…but he doesn’t let that stop him.  I’m really proud to have members like that at the dojo, and I look forward to one day seeing him on the martial arts competition mats. I think….with an attitude like his…there is nothing he won’t be able to do if he wishes.

I’m sharing this story because I think it shows you how you can turn your weakness into your strength if you try hard enough. If you want to change bad enough,  and you want it bad enough then there are no excuses. Only solutions to find.

Osu : Never Give Up

With respect.

Click Here To watch Tailem’s Bench Press Record Video

After the operation
In hospital after the operation
Mr Teen Australia 2015
With his friend and trainer for the comp
On Stage. Mr Teen Aust 2015
On Stage. Mr Teen Aust 2015


Significance : 2014 Formal Awards Night Speech

Welcome to the 2014 Formal Awards Night.

Thankyou Anthony for your introduction and I’ll say thanks on behalf of Nivo for saving him from having to make another speech tonight ! J

I think this year it’s clear that we are going for the “quality over quantity” approach. This time last year we had double the amount of attendance and I have learnt a valuable lesson: Run the event in November before the craziness kicks in! There were a lot of people that wanted to attend and couldn’t make it due to other events they were required to be at….and I know it’s a busy time of year.

So….I know you have put aside your time and your money to be here tonight, and I really want you to know how much it means to me that you are in fact here now… I put every effort into making this a special night for all and I hope you enjoy yourself and feel that your investment was worthwhile.

I know I read directly from the paper…’s because I have to, to keep my mind on track………….So many thoughts per second , per minute…those that train with me know what I’m talking about. So…. Please forgive my lack of eye contact!

This year…..I planned on my speech being somewhat shorter than normal. A bit like me – Not huge……however to the point and mostly on target.

So let’s get straight to the point. ‘Significance’.

It’s an interesting word don’t you think? And I like words. What’s cool about words is that they are just that. Words. But a little like Rissoles and Mum’s cooking on the movie The Castle…..”It’s what you do with them”!

It’s not the word itself that gives it meaning…but those which come before and after.

IT’s not that they are said…it’s how and by who.

We all know that you can be told the same thing many times, but someone will just put it slightly differently….or perhaps your frame of mood will alter the way the meaning comes across and all of a sudden this “thing” being said resonates with you. Amazing.

I think this theory can also be applied to martial arts techniques.

IT’s not the punch, the kick, or the arm bar…’s the block that came before, allowing that punch to get through. Or maybe the slight footwork manoeuvrer that allowed you to land that kick…or the patience and foresight to sit and wait for your opponent to falter and move his grip so you could apply that choke. It’s knowing the basics and being able to put them together which creates the poetry in motion.

But….more than knowing the basics…I think what’s more important is understanding the ‘why’.

I remember I used to drive my high school math’s teachers crazy as I was always asking why. I would be told to just select the appropriate formula and apply to reveal the correct answer. This frustrated me no end because in order for my brain to understand which formula was the right one to use in the first place…I Needed to know why! Aaaaarrrghhhhh……it was a viscous circle and….Oh anyway. Enough reminiscing.

In Martial Arts it’s important to listen to your master. Your Sensei, Your Coach, Your teacher. Whoever that person is that is imparting their knowledge to you.

They have put time and effort into learning. Sometimes years of dedication. We must respect this and know that the reason we are here is to learn from this person something which we do not already know.

Or …maybe we do know….but need this person to push us and correct us, and guide us and make us fitter and stronger and better.

For this to happen however and in the shortest space of time, we must not question their instructions or judgement. We must follow and do as instructed.

What we should strive to find though is the why. Sosai said that all questions can be answered in training. Of this I am sure. Some answers come quickly…and others take much time. Some require patience and others are a quick and brutal lesson in a tournament situation. Regardless of how the answer is revealed though…..we need to strive to understand the meaning behind the lesson. We must push ourselves to discover the Significance.

Running a dojo is a hard business. I trust you all enough to say that Sometimes it’s tough enough that I doubt that It can continue. Then my ‘why’ kicks in…the knowing to my very core that running the dojo is all I ever want to do.

I have no plan B.

I have invested everything into those four walls where so many good things happen.

Peoples lives change. I know this because people tell me. You don’t always see it when you are up that close. Like you don’t notice your own child growing but then someone they haven’t seen for a while shows up and is astounded at their size!

It’s been a strange couple of months where lots of old students have either returned to training or have visited and written some just amazing letters to me. These thing’s strengthen my resolve, booster my confidence and remind me why it’s so important that I do what I do. Why all instructors do. It’s reminded me of the dojo’s Significance, not just to me….but I imagine to all of you here tonight and definitely to those that are still apart of the dojo but not able to be here.

I have also been made aware that even to those not still active members of EMAA….that passing through our doors has put them on some pretty grand detours in life and been a significant and meaningful part of their journey. That’s a big Wow for me.

I asked you all to bring along an item tonight. Something that was Significant to you. I’m gonna quickly open up the Mic to anyone who has something they would like to share………….

I want you to talk to each other tonight. Put down your phones and ask each other about these items and see what kinds of things come up.

I hope it’s an interesting journey ………I hope you hear some cool stories…but most of all it’s thinking about what to bring that I hope leads you to question yourself on some basic life concepts. What gives meaning to your world? Who are you? What are you supposed to do and Why?

I’m still working on this….but I honestly believe 100% that when you know your why…….and focus only on that….then the HOW shall be revealed to you.

And then when you DO your Why……You will be Happy.

One last thing……on your place-cards…you are probably wondering why there is a pen. I am sure you have heard the expression that the Pen is Mightier than the sword. Do You know why?

So you have been given a special gift indeed.

Use it well.