I’m Not a Ninja, But...

Don’t let cancer keep you from your reaching your goals, ever.

Since I was a kid, I have always been interested in martial arts. I can remember watching Kung Fu Theater with my dad. It was a little fake. After all, you had these Kung Fu masters flying through the trees—but at 6 years old, people doing Kung Fu and jumping into trees was pretty impressive.

When my parents realized that I was way too small for my age and loved Kung Fu masters flying through trees, they did the only thing that made sense, they started me in a karate class at our church. It wasn’t exactly a hardcore UFC type of class, but then again, I was 6.

Within just a few months, I was hooked. My dad eventually bought me a punching bag so I could practice my kicks at home. In between playing army, collecting G.I. Joe men and a little bit of cancer related activities, I practiced karate. I often was very unrealistic and thought that one day I’d figure out the whole jumping into trees thing, but at the time I had to settle for almost getting my green belt.

Fast forward to when I was 17 years old. That is when I started Aiki jujutsu. Wow, it was no joke. This was a hardcore class. I met some of the toughest guys I’d ever met—and those tough guys threw me around the dojo. After being at the school for a few years, I had my fourth diagnosis of cancer. I would need to choke this thing out before I could do anything else.

After my bone marrow transplant in 1998, more than 10 years went by before I thought about getting back into jujutsu. Those 10 years were filled with everything from being hit head on by a drunk driver, to heart infections, an infected port, a minor heart surgery and I’ll just stop right there. It got crazy. Eventually, in 2010, I decided to give jujutsu another shot, at the same school. I’d always wanted to reach my first level (Shoden) black belt. Even with all of the medical issues I had experienced, it was a goal of mine.

When I started back to jujutsu, I’ll just be honest, I was not anywhere close to being prepared. I was thrown into a mix of Marines, soldiers from nearby Fort Benning, GA and other tough guys who again, threw me around like a rag doll. But because of the rigorous exercises we did in our dojo, that had no air conditioner, I was able to get into much better shape. I greatly improved my cardio, breathing issues, coordination and majorly strengthened my body overall. It was literally life changing. A couple of years into it, I finally made my goal. I earned my first level black belt. However, to this day, I still can’t jump into trees.