I've been a fitness nut since 1990, successful self-employed IT specialist since 1994, volunteer instructor of taekwondo since 2004, online blogger since 2009, founded the non-profit MARTiAL YOU in 2011, been producing instructional taekwondo videos since 2012 and most recently have taken on the world of writing in 2014 with my soon to be self-published novella called “JULIANDRA.”
Though I have accomplished many things, I’ve had my share of ups and downs just like everyone else. Life isn’t always easy street, but I do my best to overcome obstacles and work towards achieving goals to realize my dreams. Sometimes I succeed, many times I fail and fall flat on my face. No matter what though, if I want to achieve something, it becomes part of my world, I focus on it and cannot let it go.
Occasionally, I do have distant dreams or aspirations, you know, the ones that you think you will get around to, but they seem so far away that, well… you just never do get around to them. Like wanting to be in a band jamming on a guitar or getting the Nobel prize for finding a way to produce free energy. You know what I am talking about. Martial arts was one of those distant or seemingly distant dreams for me. A dream I've had since being a child watching Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris fight it out on TV.
After watching the good guys and bad guys battle it out, I used to go into my parent’s garage, stack things up and try to kick them down. Of course I did the poses to, the "whoowahhhh... karate chop" poses that kids do, when they really don't know what they're doing but think they look cool doing it. Yeah, those were awesome times. Growing up, I had always wanted to learn a martial art, but they seemed so elusive and mysterious to me and just like many other people do, I pretty much told myself I could start tomorrow. Tomorrow kept getting further and further away. Pretty soon, I was 32 years old and still hadn't learned anything about martial arts! Sure I was working, exercising to stay in shape, and had other small hobbies that kept me occupied, but in the back of my mind… I still wanted to be a martial artist.
Those martial arts figures I grew up admiring, helped in some small way to keep me aspiring to become more than I was, and I can tell you that especially for a kid like myself who did not come from a great family structure, it's nice to have that aspiration ingrained in you.
My early youth was riddled with family chaos, from divorced parents, a bank robbing step father, to my mother’s various drug dealing alcoholic boyfriends who placed her in the hospital on quite a few occasions with a domestic beat-down. I consider myself lucky because somehow I lived through my youth without being abused or killed in the process. To this very day, I can think back about everything I've witnessed and everything I went through, and I know in the back of my mind, I held those moral tenants of my favorite martial arts movie heroes in high regard. For some reason the attributes of the good guy stuck with me and they still do today.
August 11th 2000, lucky me wrecks a motorcycle while turning on a gravely patch of road. A friend of mine and a family member who witnessed the wreck, say I went about 15 feet into the air while spinning in circles before falling and slamming into the ground. Lucky me again happens to slam down onto a huge ant pile. Yes, I had a helmet on and that is probably why I am alive today. During my aerial display, I remember thinking that this was it. This was the last thing I was ever gonna do.
Suddenly the ground stopped my fall and I was simply motionless for a short time, not aware of exactly what had happened. That "unawareness" quickly wore off and pain set in as I realized life wasn't over, but probably wouldn't be the same for me anymore. Turned out, I was very fortunate to land in that soft ant pile. I escaped with only a broken colar bone, a feeling of utter stupidity and a whole lot of ant bites.
I had plenty of time to replay that wreck in my mind while recovering in the hospital and at home once released. I thought quite a bit about the things I wanted to do in life. All those things there was supposed to be plenty of time for. I made an internal decision and as soon as I was healed up, in December of 2002, found a martial arts school during my work travels and without hesitation went in and joined immediately. The school was called Taekwondo USA and that, my friend, was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life.
In three months’ time the study of TaeKwonDo had changed me from an introverted individual into an outgoing and active practitioner of martial arts without me even knowing it. Not only was I learning cool new skills but I was challenged to teach those skills to others by example or explanation. I remember practicing for hours every day after class when I got home just trying to master small movements, basic kicks, blocks and strikes that I did not fully understand. Everywhere I went I think I kicked something and moved around like I was sparring an imaginary person. I attended classes five days a week for as long as they were available and until the school I joined sadly closed.
I continued my training with a great Black Belt instructor named Brian Bean of CPC School of Self-Defense, in Corinth Maine, and eventually was able to test for my 1st Dan (1st Degree) Black Belt. Throughout the entire process of learning and testing, I was also continuously instructing and helping other students. Climbing the ranks as a student was a wonderful and challenging experience, but nothing has changed me more than teaching.
By teaching what I knew, I began to understand even more the reasons for doing techniques a certain way and for what circumstance it would be implemented. A side effect of course was the inherent ability to communicate directions and explain how to do something to others in order to help them understand a procedure or movement. I began to refine my communication skills and learned to articulate thoughts better and better.
By 2004, I had become an official volunteer instructor at the Bangor YMCA and began teaching and coaching some awesome kids and adults. I also remained active as an instructor with CPC School of Self Defense and in 2006 helped instruct students in a Taekwondo Program at Eastern Maine Community College with another Black Belt named Bruce Boyington.
Later, in May of 2008, I tested for my 2nd Dan (2nd Degree) Black Belt! Yes!! And, in 2009, I assisted in girls self-defense courses at Old Town High School with an awesome friend and Police Officer at the time, Jason Zalva. The program was fantastic and gave the students a chance to learn basic ways to avoid and fight back against potential assaults.
As mentioned in the opening paragraph, in 2011, July to be specific, I created and founded the non-profit, MARTiAL YOU. The non-profit was another dream of mine that came to be from my personal experiences and benefit from the practice of Taekwondo. Martial arts was more than some hobby or a thing done on the side to me, it was life altering and I wanted everyone to have a chance or opportunity at least to try it. MARTiAL YOU was the mechanism to promote martial arts and also help to generate that opportunity.
After achieving the rank of Black Belt in a martial arts system I once didn't even know existed, I look back at all the hard work, all the challenges, all the rewards, and realize that I have only begun to understand what it is to be a martial artist, teacher, coach and humble human being. To those who may embark on the lifestyle change that is martial arts, I say stick with it, and never give up or become detoured from the path you have chosen. The rewards are the greatest when the challenges are the hardest.
Below is a playlist of various videos I have created for taekwondo and martial in general through my efforts with MARTiAL YOU
I am forever grateful to all the awesome instructors who played a part in helping me become a better martial artist and a better person. In no particular order thank you:
by Shawn Hill
( Mr. Hill )