"Your calling is where your greatest joy meets the world's greatest need."
Do you remember your first hero? Whether a fictional character or a person in our lives, our heroes play a large part in shaping who we become and the inspiration we have to lend to the world. As a child my heroes included my father, Bruce Lee and The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. What do they have in common? They are heavily involved in the Martial Arts and it was their influence that led me to dedicating my life to teaching as well as practicing those arts, specifically Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and American Taekwondo.
The benefits of Martial Arts are countless. The beauty of it is that anyone, regardless of age, gender or skill level, can partake. It's incredibly unifying and is one of the only tools I've found that brings my mind, body and spirit into alignment. It has many physical benefits such as helping with self-defense, overall strength, flexibility, injury recovery, sleep and weight loss. Its social mental benefits include working with others in a positive community, naturally remedying attention deficiencies and even assisting in healing certain brain injuries. Who wouldn't want to experience such a total workout? I have many thank you cards, testimonials and verbal confirmations that marital arts, including Jiu-Jitsu and American Taekwondo is not just a series of exercises but instead a practice that integrates mind, body and spirit in a unique and life-changing way.
My father started teaching me about martial arts around 3 years old as a fun thing to do together and to help prepare me for sports such as football and baseball as many aspects of martial arts training are related to other sports. After a childhood of learning from him, I joined a martial arts school at the age of 16. After countless commutes driven by my mom, my friend’s moms and my brothers, I was offered a job as an instructor. I started teaching at the age of 20. I continue to teach and train to this day. Currently, I am a 4th Degree Black Belt in American Taekwondo and a Brown Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I've been training, teaching, competing in and promoting martial arts for 4 years as a 4th degree and hope to graduate to 5th degree and achieve my Master Rank in May of 2019.
When I was 23, I met my fiancée Lyndsay and we knew right away that we were meant to be and build together. At my previous martial arts school of employment, she helped with things ranging from building decorative walls and painting, to answering the phones, to bringing more adults into the programs and classes through marketing and promotion. She took the classes and grew to love the Martial Arts. We, as well as the owners, students and fellow teachers at the school really started to feel like a family and that feeling radiated outwards to the students and the community, as evidenced in their love for and dedication to both the practice and the school itself. It was something we had all built together and everyone involved was proud to be a part of it.
September 2016, when we learned that Lyndsay and I were going to have a child, the following nine months were an exciting and chaotic blur. Along with preparing to be new parents, we moved from our apartment in Saint Paul. This was necessary due to rules of limitations regarding the number of people per-room in an apartment unit. This was all during the 8th month of Lyndsay's pregnancy, in March of 2017. We chose a beautiful townhouse in Oakdale and made the move quickly; in the same month, we both had to buy new cars due to factors out of our control.
In April of 2017 Lyndsay gave birth to our amazing, vibrant little boy Leighton. He is healthy, strong, full of life and our little family is our world.
After several years of being employed with my former school, life, in all its infinite change, brought complications between my employer and the Jiu-Jitsu School they were affiliated with. We all decided that I would create a new system and curriculum, as I was the resident expert in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I knew time was limited so I was hard at work even throughout our hospital stay after Leighton was born.
As we were experiencing all of this change and new joy, I returned to the school I worked for after paternity leave to find that some difficult and unfortunate decisions needed to be made to save the school. We all agreed to sign contracts. My portion included the need to create my own company, take ownership of and operate the Jiu-Jitsu program as well as a significant decrease in Salary. The start-up costs, on top of having a child, buying a townhouse and new vehicles, depleted my savings and I had to rely mostly on credit; however, I didn't waver because I was working towards the realization of saving the school for all of the students, owners and my family.
We seemed to be picking up speed when the wind got knocked out of our sails yet again. Six months later, an owner of the school felt it was necessary to resign. The remaining employers made an offer to sell the school to me. This would have been a grand opportunity for me to keep teaching my students and continue cultivating our martial arts family. But, with a new baby and greater responsibilities, I just couldn't pull it off financially. I would need a business loan. I drew up financial documents and business plans to present to financial institutions and brokers but during that time, every corner I turned ended up being a dead-end.
While I was making these appointments with Business Development Centers and working as hard as I could to figure out how to save the school my family and I had helped build, I learned that it was being sold to another buyer and my termination would be effective at the end of April 2018. You can all imagine what it was like to be so close to a dream only to watch it evaporate in mid-air. It was with great devastation and a heavy heart that I walked away from the place that my family and I poured our lives into for almost a decade.
Despite the odds, thankfully, my passion has kept me going. Over the span of several months We've been continuing to work as hard as ever. Interviews with Business Development Centers, speaking with Real Estate Agents and traveling around to find potential locations for the Martial Arts school is just naming a few challenges that we've overcome. The willingness to work hard and our support network had led us to a great opportunity. On October 21st 2018, We singed the lease to United Jiu Jitsu's new home! I wish to continue teaching my students, expand the business and utilize my seventeen plus years of experience to help better myself and others.
Teaching and practicing the Martial Arts isn't just a job or hobby to me, it's a true calling. I hope you can see why I am so dedicated to it and that you are inspired to help me rebuild and hopefully someday, join, such an amazing family and community of fellow Martial Artists.