I grew up in a small farm town in the Midwest. 3,500 people. Yep really small. Families are there forever. Lots of people never leave the area. One girl I went to school with told me recently she had never been away from our hometown for more than three days. That actually stunned me and made me think about my fortunate life. Don’t get me wrong I love where I grew up. I still live not to far away in another small town because I love the life here. Raising m kids in rural life was important to me. It’s great to come here after traveling the world. What’s allowed me to go all over and still go all over? Martial arts, and not just for fights like you might be thinking. The physical benefits, places I’ve been and foods I’ve gotten to try all part of this lifestyle. You can benefit from it as well even if you never step in a competitive ring. Read on.
Certainly as a pro fighter I was able to see a great many cities but it goes deeper. In later years as an instructor I took my team all over the country (still do) for sport karate tournaments. As a trainer I get to travel for mma shows and Muay Thai as well. Seminars and training camps. The cities I’ve hung out in, restaurants that I’ve eaten at are all because of this. Private back rooms in China town in Chicago for off menu spicy squid, unreal experience. Homemade pizza in Brooklyn from somebody’s Italian grandmother. Can’t beat it. Nepalese cuisine in Indianapolis? Yep in a private room and it was awesome. French dishes in Canada that I have no clue what they were but the bread was insane. All of this from my fighting and training career, but there is more without being a fighter. So much more and you can beat the experience.
Just in training, without going on to be a fighter I would have had cultural experiences that I would have ever been part of otherwise. Let me explain. When I was 16, I started working in a clean up shop at a car dealership. I had been training in karate for several years and had been a black belt for not quite a year. I had been fighting in bare hand full contact set fights that my sensei was getting for me. I didn’t grow up with money so it was an easy way to pick up date night cash for a young man like myself (not exactly legal but oh well). I had gotten a bit of a name around because of this and I was also a bit full of myself. Bad combination. The other guys I worked with in the shop were all from Laos. One who was pushing 50 at this time hadn’t been here very long. Spoke very little English. Watching me move and mess around with kicks, he began to tell me about Muay Thai and that he was a Thai fighter in his homeland. I didn’t really know what it was and figured he was crazy.
So, we sparred and after he kicked the crap out of me like I was nothing he agreed to train me. Yes it is what allowed me to eventually become a pro kickboxer but that friendship with Seng was way more. I learned their culture. I heard the stories of their escapes from Laos and you seriously couldn’t make a believable movie out of it. Amazing. The spicy dishes, incredible spring rolls and terrible smelling and tasting fermented dishes. All available to me because I trained with them. Not from being a fighter but through training and building relationships. The parties and hearing the different music, learning how to do their beautiful dance they do together. All because of this lifestyle we call martial arts.
Getting to sit in kitchens with people from all kinds of cultures and races and see how their family cooks is worth the price of admission. More than the fancy restaurants or beautiful hotels (in those are great too!) These experiences are the ones I cherish. Soul food in a St Louis family home. Cajun in New Orleans and Lao in Elgin all came from this life. It taught me new and healthy things to work with.
Yes getting to stay in beach front Hilton in Florida for a week paid for because of a fight is great, but these experiences are really meaningful to me. I didn’t have to fight to get them, just train. It’s a bonus for business as well. After years on Wall Street I wanted to get back to creative work as well as have more time to teach/train/travel for those things. Martial arts gave me the contacts as well as a known name to move quickly. Getting paid to mention/wear/promote companies and products has come from martial arts. Being part of the lifestyle. Yes having been a fighter helps but seriously only about four people remember me. It’s being part of the lifestyle. Getting paid to stay at The Wynn for a week and eat and promote restaurants on social media is a pretty cool perk. Truly from martial arts.
If something can give you confidence, physical conditioning and life long friends it is a pretty great thing. If it also teaches you about other cultures and allows to see new places and try new foods its awesome. If it takes you all these places and makes business connections and potentially a livelihood then what are you waiting for. Get going now to start training!
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