This is one of those posts that I’m not sure I should even write.
There’s been a lot of those as of late. In fact, if you were to dive into the drafts of KataNerd you would find 30 ideas just sitting in digital limbo. Some of them just a title and then meaningless splashes of letters on the screen. But some of them have titles like “you probably shouldn’t publish this” or “Nope”
And those are the ones where I type too fast and with less punctuation than normal (except for those commas!) I make spelling mistakes and Grammerly gives up an hides on my task bar because the post isn’t about making sense, it’s about getting the feelings and the emotions out. It’s about making the page look like something else until I feel like myself again.
If I was a painter, it would be my “Jackson Pollock” phase.
There are days that it works and I leave the desk/couch/floor/vaguely flat surface that can support my laptop and move into the rest of my day feeling a bit lighter.
There many more that it doesn’t and I wander away with a vague feeling of shame and see if coffee can make the travesty of syntax and grammar that spawned from my fingers somehow better.
But this post, this one scares me. So, to go by the adage that, for better or worse, I’ve lived my life by for the last decade or so. “If it scares you, it’s probably the right thing to do.”
That guy up there was 5 months out of a crazy relationship, moving from the small town of Ashland, WI to Milwaukee, and had spent the entire summer working outside for the DNR (Hence the OH SO TAN). He had quite the laundry list of events and mistakes behind him, and was positive the next bit was going to be smooth sailing. WKC Worlds in Ireland was right around the corner, Nationals and Qualifiers were soon. And being 25 was working out pretty well.
This is where Morgan Freeman would say something like. “And then, things took a turn.”
Little did he know that the next bit was going to be one of the hardest, most rewarding, exhausting, heartbreaking, transformative, beautiful, horrifying, character building, soul crushing, spectacular and ridiculous non-stop roller coaster of events that culminates with me. Here.
Wave to him, he’s a bit dumb, a lot hopeful, and working on the principle that faking it until you make it will solve everything.
He’s not totally wrong.
All of that aside, he had good intentions, solid motivations and some pretty cool ideas that I still stumble across in random journals (those gosh darn tornadoes never stopped).
Also, he thought he was hot stuff with the whole karate deal. My, oh my, young man. There have been oceans I have learned and SO MUCH humble pie served since I was you.
Anyway, there’s never a way to know how things are going to fall, or in what strange ways. But it never hurts to look back on where we were. If, only for a moment. Sometimes, you’ll be surprised by what you find.
5 Major Events
If I’m being honest, there’s been way more than five. There’s been thousands. But here’s the ones that stick out the most.
“But wait, Corey!” You might say. “You’re missing some pretty big ones! Madison, Marriage, Cats, and Cars. There’s been so many other things!”
You’re right, invisible person. There have. There have been SO many things. Heck, in the past year. Not to mention the past six. But, we’ll get there.
- I Got Fired.
And it wasn’t like the movies, there wasn’t a dramatic moment where I was able to stand on some sort of platform and make a statement about integrity, then walk off to the slow clap of the approving janitor.
I was called up to the office and told that I was being let go, as I just wasn’t doing well enough.
That young and vacant guy up there had a few definitive ideas of what a new job was about. He was completely and utterly wrong. There was a miscommunication of expectations, and just a general lack of follow through and support.
From all sides.
Looking back on it, it was one of the best things that happened to me. But in the moment, it was one of the most resounding failures I’d ever experienced. Also, this happened a week after I came back from WKC Worlds in Ireland where I won Gold. The dichotomy there is…beautiful.
- Karate Happened.
In some ways, this could be the footnote to almost every page in the book of my life.
“He had an intensive period in his life, then karate happened. And it was good.”
The change here was karate really started happening. I had been running forms in parking lots, back yards and flat bits of earth for years. But I hadn’t been learning. I hadn’t been pushing in the way that was going to create anything new. I was just polishing old skills. Over and over.
There were reasons. I had lots of excuses. But ultimately, I needed to step away from making that the primary focus of my life. I mean, I made up for it later. but my early 20’s I was trying to find something. And for whatever reason I didn’t think it was in the martial arts.
So, I get fired on a Friday and I walk downstairs to the desk I need to start packing and make one phone call. On Monday I start working at the Black Belt Leadership Academy.
I was sore for the next two months.
I would struggle getting out of bed in the morning. My feet/calves/toes/everything hurt and it was completely glorious. I got to learn a new curriculum, a new way of teaching, and eventually it became a home with the best family I could ask for.
- I went to Grad School.
I had been talking about writing and trying to do more with it for years. I thought I was pretty good. And then I went to Grad School.
The good news is I’m not nearly as bad now.
Grad School was me pursuing a dream for the express reason of wanting to be better at something that brought me joy. It was one of the first times I made a significant goal, non-martial arts related, and pushed for it. It was exciting, and fun, and I made some amazing connections that have led to some pretty cool opportunities (Looking at you Bending Genres, SportMartialArts.com, and Getting Stamped).
I learned a lot more about story, and I got to read a lot. It gave me an excuse to write and permission to feel ok about it. It’s how this blog came about and it’s where I started my “novel”
No, I have not finished it. I have, however, hidden it in a metaphorical drawer and loudly sing LA-LA-LA every time I walk past it.
So, that’s fun.
I had always traveled for Karate. But I reached out to SportMartialArts.com and asked if they wanted anyone to write things for them about tournaments. I also gave them some samples of this blog to prove I knew how to type. As I said in that email, I’m at quite a few tournaments anyway. So I might as well get more involved.
And all of a sudden I was doing a lot more travel. I was in Quebec, Florida, D.C., Detroit, and California. I was having a great time and writing, taking photos, shooting video and just generally really getting to know everyone.
Pair that with a move to Team AKA and some eye opening training sessions with Sensei Sharkey, and I had a few goals for my NASKA season. Something I’d never really tried to think about. I never thought I was good enough.
The last three years have been full of one of the most competitive and supportive communities I’ve been privileged to be a part of. Yes, we fight, bicker, and push each other all the time. But that NASKA-fam is a different level of crazy, and it’s incredible.
The ability to travel, and the permissions I’m allowed through SMA have given me a freedom and a confidence to move though this world in a way I never would have dreamed of as that tan idiot up there.
I was all of a sudden becoming the person that I sort of wanted to be when I was 12. It was a heady feeling. I just needed a Jeep Wrangler to round out the dream.
*Spoiler: I never got a Wrangler
- Black Belt Leadership Academy.
BBLA has been a touchstone moment in my life more than almost everything else on this list. From working with Sensei Weinberg when I was 13 (I was the teacher, oddly) to the incredible group of people that I now get to lead, teach, and celebrate the martial arts with, BBLA has changed my life in so many ways. It’s afforded me opportunities, friendships, relationships, and family that I couldn’t have ever imagined.
I own it, now. I have a staff that I’ve hired, and a heck of a team that makes BBLA the incredible place it is. We’ve grown, moved, started a tournament, hosted seminars, and generally pushed each student to their personal best. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve laughed a lot, and every time I step on the floor I still earn something new. And it’s usually nothing I would have expected.
With the quarantine and lock down, BBLA went through one of it’s toughest periods.
As did we all.
But BBLA is still here. And we plan on being here for a long time.
It’s one of the great joys of my life to know that I’m a part of something bigger than myself. And despite the headaches, lost sleep, frustrations, and thousands upon thousands of phone calls and emails, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Because, you see, this here list is a countdown.
There’s a story I want to tell, and it’s going to take some time and thought to tell it. I could give you one, incredibly long post.
Or I can do it in a few more pieces.
Just wait until you see 4 and 3.