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We all have goals, aspirations, and dreams. No matter what our station in life, our circumstances, or where we find ourselves, it is one of the basic human conditions to want to aim high, to aim higher.
Sometimes with certain people those dreams might seem an impossible one, they may seem so far away from our current reality that it may be easier to give up. Don’t. Do not give up on your dreams because there is always a way. It may be tough—in fact, it will be tough, but it will be worth it.
So how do we obtain the seemingly unobtainable? Well, we must first resign ourselves to the fact that we are going to have to do things we may not want to do in order to get to where we want to get. We must also take on board that sometimes we take baby steps, sometimes the dream requires giant leaps. Sometimes something in between is required. Think of dipping your toes in the water.
When we first decide to enter the water (dream/journey toward our goal) we usually don’t just jump in head first. We put our toes in first to see if the water is to our liking. If it is, we submerge a little bit more until we are swimming. We then look back and it feels like an age since we first dipped our toes. The swim is the achievement, the securing of our goal and the realisation of our dream.
My own personal goal was to obtain Black Belt in Karate. Actually, scrub that, my actual goal was to gain enough confidence to put a stop to the horrendous bullying and exposure to violence that I experienced and endured as a kid and young adult. Karate was simply a way of achieving that.
So, I summoned all my courage (I had little) and entered the dojo for the first time. What I am about to write and explain, you can transfer to any goals, tasks, and aspirations you may have. It may take a little bit of imagination and application on your part, but the principles of what I say are the same.
You see I realised that a Black Belt is usually a very confident person. They have to be to get to where they are, but they don’t have to be naturally confident to start with. That comes with the journey and every test they past, every hardship they endure.
As I watched this cream of the class from the sidelines, I envied them, their skills, the at ease manner, and their respect for self and others. They were everything I wasn’t. They were also everything I wanted to be.
I realised I couldn’t just jump into their pool, that elitist area of the dojo that others were not allowed to tread (I later found out that wasn’t true; the Black Belts were usually the most welcoming, friendly, and helpful people you could wish to meet).
So, I took my first steps. I started from the bottom (actually, it was the other side of the dojo floor) and got my head down, set about working on my dream. I knew little about the grading system (progressing), but when it was explained to me, I think I got it almost instantly.
If you don’t know, Martial Art grading systems are the very epitome of a step by step journey. You train for three months (generally) and then take a test for a belt. The first belt usually being yellow, and there can be any number of tests before black, usually between nine and 12.
Obviously, each test is harder than the last—the essence of progression. This is when I realised that I was going to have to do things I didn’t want to do (fight) to get to where I wanted to be (Black Belt).
My journey took longer than it does for most people. Injury, circumstances, and commitments slowed me down, but what slowed me down the most was my very own fear. I don’t mind admitting to you, the reader, that I would on occasion make excuses not to train.
There may be somebody at the dojo who would "give it to me" (better me in sparring), a session may be a particularly daunting one, a subject I struggled with or I may have just let my demons get the better of me.
Whatever my reason not to train, I knew in the back of my mind that someday I would achieve my Black Belt. I just had to keep reminding my self of the small steps, and so, I returned to the dojo floor, each time my resolve growing stronger. My attitude forged by inner/outer battles.
I used each step as a lesson. After gradings came competition and fighting opponents in front of large crowds. I was an agoraphobic, a person who suffered massive panic attacks in public and feared the outdoors. Even stepping into a sports centre to watch a competition filled me with fear, so taking part in one seemed as likely as a trip to the moon. But it was a trip I took. I had to in order to get "better."
The fighting was like the grading themselves—one step at a time. Starting off in an absolutely no contact game of "tip" for points terrified me, and yet, after some years I found myself fighting international champions in full contact bouts—many, many miles away from the comfort of my own home.
And so, step by step, little by little, my confidence grew. It had to, I was putting myself out there so much that it was only natural that some good would come of it.
Later on, when my Black Belts were achieved and my confidence at a place it had never been before, I returned to my first love: Writing.
A very influential figure in my life encouraged me to share my story and asked me to write a piece for him to review and submit to a magazine he was involved in.
I wrote the six-page piece (F.E.A.R., False Evidence Appearing Real) and sent it to him. Then I sat back and waited for the weeks to pass for his answer. However, his answer came back in less than 24 hours. He simply said, “Wow Simon, you are a writer. If you can write an article you can write a book.”
I reeled at his suggestion, but as someone I trusted impeccably, I believed him. I just didn’t know how to go about it. Then I remembered the grading system—step by step, belt by belt, chapter by chapter. Actually, article by article.
The thrill of seeing F.EA.R. appear in a national magazine prompted me to write more. I know a book wasn’t within my reach, but I knew it could be. From memory, I think I submitted and had published, eight or nine articles before I set the blank page of my book (From Bullied to Black Belt) in front of me, and yes, I went about it chapter by chapter, never being afraid to review, rewrite, or restart when I wasn’t happy with what was in front of me.
My writing went the same way as my Karate and I found success in it (six books, articles in major publications including the Huffington Post, USA version). It was all down to the same formula. Little by little by little, and then sprinting to the finish line when required. Sometimes a chapter could take several weeks, sometimes I would finish three of four in a single sitting.
So, when setting your goal, when starting your journey, lay out your plans. Don’t try to win the heavyweight championship of the world in your first fight. Don’t try and secure the CEO’s job on your first day at the office, and you probably don’t want to surpass Picasso with your first attempt at the canvas.
Accept it might be a slow process, but prepare for the days when you seem overwhelmed and swept off your feet, because patience and perseverance are two of your keys. Work hard, work honestly, and work diligently. If you fall one day, then make sure you get up the next. If you don’t quite make the cut one week, then strive to do so the following week. Then try and better that.
And always remember this great question and answer I heard from somebody some time ago. It was this:
“What is the best way to climb Everest?”
“One day at a time baby, one day at a time.”
Ground Fighting: A Real Test of Character
As I grew comfortable with the range of fighting that suited me most (stand up, punching and kicking), I realised I still needed tests to grow.
A friend introduced me to grappling/wrestling, an extremely tough (and literally no escaping) form of fighting. In the video here, we show a very small clip of my students undertaking an escape from the floor drill.
This was done after an hour of wrestling drills. My respect for my students knows no boundaries. They are awesome.
Just some of the books I have written...
As I grew with fighting, I am now growing with writing. My story can be found in the books From Bullied to Black Belt and An Everyday Warrior, whilst Kia!!! The Karate Handbook for Kicking Kids was written as a subject very close to my hearts: Children's self-defense.