I’ve been in a lot of fights. I’m not talking professional career here. I’m talking elementary school.
There were multiple reasons but mainly it was because I really stood out. I was a white kid living in black neighborhoods. I changed schools quite a bit too so I was constantly the “new kid”. Not to mention I was a skinny, geeky looking dude who was a physical threat to no one. That might not seem like a bad thing but the places where I spent my early childhood were pretty violent, even my school teachers would hit you. Not being tough looking sucked.
One of the things that I learned early on was that if someone said something, even a little bit derogatory about you, you basically had to punch them in the head. Even if you thought that maybe they could kick your ass. If you didn’t get physical, it never stopped. Fighting kind of did solve everything for me.
If I had to fight then I had to become a better fighter. There weren’t any gyms or martial arts schools for me to go to and there wasn’t any youtube.com either. The school library was my only option. The school libraries where I lived sucked. I would always go to the sports section and look for karate books. If there were any available they were usually crappy looking, hand drawn, black and white illustrations.
Then one day, I came across a book on the making of Enter the Dragon, a film by martial arts legend Bruce Lee. Not only were there pictures of Bruce Lee actually kicking and punching but they were in full color. I could actually learn something from this book, I said to myself.
The more I flipped through the book, the more I wanted to be Bruce Lee. A skinny dude like Bruce Lee could kick a lot of ass and I was inspired. There were many times where I imagined I was him, practicing his footwork and style in my bedroom.
I looked at that book over and over until I wore it out. I practiced constantly and even awarded myself an imaginary green belt! The way I figured it was that I was better than a white belt but not as good as a black belt. Green belt was the middle belt from what I could tell in my karate books.
But all of that practice paid off and I was getting pretty good. Except the day I threw my first kick in a fight after school. It was a disaster. Not only did I fall down when I kicked the kid but kicking was considered “sissy shit” where I lived. I was picked on about that kick until I actually knocked the wind out of a kid in a fight with it. That story may make it to my blog someday.
Anyway, my family eventually moved to an area where they actually had a school that taught Bruce Lee’s martial art, Jun Fan Gung Fu – Jeet Kune Do. It was legit too. Sifu Kevin Seaman ran it. He was certified to teach Lee’s art by Guro Dan Inosanto. Guro Inosanto was not only a good friend and training partner of Bruce Lee but he was also one of Lee’s martial arts Instructors as well. It was a dream come true.
Now there were 8 of us living in a house at that point and you didn’t get things like martial arts lessons. It just wasn’t financially feasible for my Mom. It didn’t really matter to me that she couldn’t afford it, I was already hustling night crawlers on the corner, gum and candy at school, newspapers in my neighborhood, and anything else I could get my hands on for a profit. I paid the tuition myself at 12 years old.
I eventually became a certified Instructor with direct martial arts lineage to Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee certified Dan Inosanto who certified Kevin Seaman who certified me. I’m currently one of Sifu Kevin’s highest ranked Instructors and oversee 4 martial arts schools across New York State ( CNY MMA ).
Finding that book all those years ago was the tiny spark of inspiration that I needed to discover that I could do anything that I put my mind, body, and soul into. I was inspired to improve and keep moving forward despite my environment or my situation. It’s a very valuable lesson for me. Maybe it will be for you too.
This video below is a mix of Bruce Lee’s cinema fighting and his philosophy put to music. It’s so good. Check into it.