Valentine's Day 2015 - Follow Your Passion - 14/02/2015
Valentine's Day 2015 I was on Weymouth beach, Dorset, UK with my wife Rachael and our two dogs. We were having a hot chocolate at a cafe overlooking the sea and the beautiful cliffs of the Jurassic coastline. It was a little windy (hence the sound quality of the video) though the sun was shining and we were feeling great.
My mind drifted back to 15 years earlier when I first went to Weymouth with my wife and 3 month old daughter. I had been to Weymouth many times before but Valentines Day 2000 was the first time we had visited as a young family.
I decided to make a short video as advice to those of you who, like me back then, were struggling with life's pressures and not knowing whether you are doing the right thing.
Since the first time I watched the original Karate Kid film in 1984, I knew all I wanted to do was martial arts. Back then it was Karate I wanted to study as that was what the bullied character Daniel Larusso in the film was studying. I could relate to his character as I was being bullied, not so much physically, but emotionally and being of small stature I felt I needed some martial arts knowledge to defend myself should the need arise.
I studied various forms of martial arts throughout the 1980's though it was not the training in the classes that really developed my skills at that time. It was the hours daily I trained in my parents' garage where I had set up a home dojo with punch bags, speed balls, carpet underlay as matting and numerous other pieces of fitness equipment.
Along with all the physical training, I was an avid reader of Eastern philosophy, Zen, Taoism, meditation, self hypnosis as well as collecting a massive number of martial arts books. Basically I was a 13 year old freak. A freak who knew what he wanted to do with his life. Practice and eventually teach martial arts.
Reading Bruce Lee's books on his personal methods of Jeet Kune Do and seeing pictures of his best friend and training partner Dan Inosanto only encouraged me further. Bruce emphasised being yourself, going against the grain, researching your own truth, absorbing what was useful, rejecting what was useless and adding what was specifically your own. There was an honesty to his teachings which I could relate to. I was already against the grain, being a 13 year old practicing martial arts like a monk and performing daily self hypnosis sessions were certainly not the norm!
Ultimately I wanted to be involved with Guro Dan Inosanto, Bruce Lee's number one student. It seemed so far away. So unreal. So impossible. Though I kept my vision, my goal, my dream. I wanted to be like Bruce Lee so I began studying the style of Kung Fu he studied whilst he lived in Hong Kong, Wing Chun. I had been disillusioned with the training offered in church halls and community centres around my local town so I had to travel London's Chinatown to learn this style of Kung Fu. I was 16 by this time and every Sunday I would travel by train to London and do 2 hours training. This was all paid for by an evening cleaning job I had Monday to Friday.
Eventually I became disillusioned with the training I was receiving (much like Bruce Lee had) and decided to leave Wing Chun, continuing my training alone in my garage. I then read an article about a guy named Bob Breen who was a student of Dan Inosanto and taught in east London. I attended a seminar at his academy held by a little known actor named Donnie Yen. It was great meeting a Hong Kong film star though getting the timetable and prices for Bob Breen's academy was more exciting!
I joined immediately and had finally found a place that I could call home. I was studying for my A-levels at a local Grammar School at this time but, like most of my childhood, I did not feel there was a place for me there. Remember I was the one who would leave his friends playing football, run home to train for an hour in the garage, then return to his friends to continue doing what they, the "normal" ones were doing.
It wasn't long before I wanted to leave education and get a job so I could train more. I will never forget the conversation I had with the Headmaster of the Grammar School. He asked me what I wanted to do. I replied combat sports, to which he scoffed and said there is no future or money in that and I should get into banking. Almost immediately he picked up the phone and, being well known in those circles, began calling local banks and financial institutions! Nothing could have been further from what I dreamed of!
Fast forward to the present day. I am an Instructor under the legendary Dan Inosanto. I run my own martial arts academy. I have been a British, European and World Champion in a variety of disciplines which allowed me to travel the globe and further my studies in martial arts.
All this was possible because I never gave up on my dream. I listened to my heart. I followed my passion. This is the best advice I can give to anyone reading this.
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All the best, Neil.
(click here to watch on YouTube)