By Chris Smith – FJJA

Three months into the New Year, with spring just around the corner, it’s time to evaluate how my “Annual Written Goals” are coming along. Every New Year I take time to set goals for the coming months; I have found that if I don’t, I tend to lack concrete direction and get less done in the year.

Typically I try to be “realistic”, weighing out goals against what I have always thought of as the scales of conservative ambition. In years past this has worked out well for me; conservative goals, a little work to keep myself moving in the right direction and inch by inch… well you know the rest.

This year I have approached my goal setting with a little more vigor than I normally do. I built a very ambitious list for 2004, more so than any of the years past. My goal list is a hodgepodge of spiritual, family, physical and financial goals all of which will and are requiring more discipline than I am used to as well as some fairly uncomfortable emotional decisions on my part.

If achieved or even if at the end of the year I find myself well on the way to achieving these goals, I will feel well compensated for the additional physical and emotional coinage I spent to get there. So what’s the difference this year? Why the big push to get more stuff done, reach a little higher than I normally would? Why am I stepping out of my comfort zone?

Part of my goal list last year was to rethink the way that I approached my physical condition. A few years ago I was diagnosed with diabetes. It’s a common enough illness that unfortunately is not treated with the respect it deserves. Killing a full half of it victims by the insidiously slow attrition of pulmonary and vascular health, it leaves the vast majority of those remaining with associated long-term complications that affect almost every major part of the body. Diabetes contributes to blindness, heart disease, strokes, kidney failure, amputations, and nerve damage. Not something to take casually but interestingly enough, I meet diabetics all of the time who simply neglect proper treatment because there is no immediate need to worry about it. Diabetes kills over the course of months and years, not days and weeks.

Personally, I took the diagnosis seriously; it was a real wake up call. Frankly it scared the hell out of me. I was 36 years old, an amazing 80 lbs over weight with outrageously high cholesterol and triglyceride levels. As my Doctor put it, I was “Walking towards the light, a prime candidate for pulmonary disease”. All I could do was shake my head and wonder how I had let this happen. I really didn’t know. I had ALWAYS been in excellent physical shape but somehow I allowed my life to be consumed by my work, and day after day of sitting in a cube, writing software and managing computers (my occupation) had lead to lifestyle that was so out of balance that my body simply stopped functioning correctly from the neglect it received.

The day I was diagnosed was the day I started to make positive changes in my lifestyle. I immediately stopped working 60-70 hour work weeks. I started to watch what I put into my body and spend time at the gym. Over the course time I began to see results, lowered blood sugar levels, more energy and better overall health. I was pleased with the progress I had made but still very disappointed in myself for allowing this to happen in the first place. I was also having a really hard time losing weight and just didn’t feel as healthy as I thought I should given all of the work I was doing. I felt and still feel that I owed it to myself to makeup for the years of mediocre to downright poor health and physical neglect. We only live once after all, so why take the cheap seats.

How I going to fix this? I choose to make it a point to get into the best possible physical shape I could and at the same time attack the other areas of my life that I had allowed slip into disarray. Don’t get me wrong, my life was not an absolute mess; it was just a mediocre mess, a life half lived because I forgot to bring the INTENSITY to the table that was necessary to compel me to work hard and be disciplined and successful with EVERYTHING in my life.

First I did a little personal reconnaissance, assessing my diet / exercise habits and talking with my Doctor about it.

She suggested that.

1) I had likely screwed up and slowed down my metabolism by eating too few calories for too long; making my body think that food was scarce. Once again, a balance issue.

2) There is a rather aggravating relationship between Diabetes, Insulin and weight loss, the scope of which is too in depth to cover here and I’m not sure I fully understand it. It is enough to know that it makes losing weight MUCH harder than one might think and I was in this endless cycle that diet, medication and exercise were failing to control.

Nice, really nice. It was about this time that I started to loose my hair, mainly from pulling it out in frustration.

As a kid I was exposed to an “Old School” Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido Do Jang. The people who ran the Do Jang could hardly speak English, all of them Korean and Vietnam War veterans. They were deadly serious about the way they practiced because to them it was a “Martial System” they had employed professionally, not something “to do” on Monday night. I had been told that their system was a derivative of Japanese Karate and an ancient Korean Martial System (or group of “Kwans”) named Hwarangdo, similar to Bushido. These people made a huge impact on the way I view life and as an adult, when I started to look for a more complete and balanced exercise regimen I thought of them, starting a 4 month long search to find a Do Jang that personified that “Old School” martial spirit. I quickly found that what I was looking for was lost to a world of commercialism. I don’t mean to be critical of the typical martial arts school, it’s not my place nor do I possess the technical expertise necessary to offer a meaningful critique, but what I saw in school after school was nothing like what I was exposed to as a kid. The most obvious difference aside from the red and blue foot pads and head gear was the lack of seriousness in how they trained. The Koreans I had met didn’t talk about work or chicks or the weather when they trained; they just trained and trained hard.

Things change.

I started to look at other martial systems and in most cases found the same thing. After a couple of months I was getting a little discouraged. As a fat guy, it was sort of like looking for clothes at Wal-Mart, nothing fit right.

In early August I decided to checkout Jujitsu. The first school was an hour away AND “sports oriented”, I quickly decided it was not my style; the second was a Tae Kwon Do school that also taught Jujitsu, too many red and blue foot pads, again not my style. Then I stumbled upon the Florida Jukido Jujitsu Academy. Amazingly enough, just a short drive away and the first conversation I had with the Sensei was very low key. He didn’t try to get me in to sign a contract, he didn’t talk a bunch of smack about his school or “style”, and as a matter of fact he asked that I wait a couple of weeks to come to class. The school was attending a seminar and would not have time to spend with a new student until they got back.

From the first night as an observer I knew I had found the right place. I quickly realized that Sensei Rego didn’t hype his Jujitsu style because he didn’t have to, these guys were INTENSE, very INTENSE and Jukido spoke for itself. It was all there, discipline, tradition, stunning technique. I knew I was home.

Six months have passed now and I am slowly becoming acquainted with Jukido. I recently tested as a new Hachikyu and my Sensei asked me the question; “What is the most important thing you learned so far in Jukido”. The answer was obvious and automatic; it was the lessons regarding INTENSITY.

Maybe I wouldn’t have recognized this if Jukido came easy to me but it has not. What I have found is this; making hard decisions regarding my training and indeed life itself is like standing on the edge of a cliff. You can either stay in your comfort zone or you can step off the edge and see where it takes you. I have found that every time I stand at the precipice of indecision, considering an INTENSE effort to do my very best verses a half hearted attempt during Jukido practice and take the step, I am changed as a person, little by little and in so find it that much easier to make and win those same decisions and challenges in life itself.

INTENSITY lends itself as the fulcrum for applying a sort of practical and personal Jushin to life. I believe that adopting this perspective holds the promise of allowing a person to live a very powerful, productive and fulfilling life both inside and outside the Dojo.

Every task we meet in life is governed by how we approach it. This includes relationships, our spiritual life, business, play, Jukido, everything and when the basic but challenging lesson of INTENSITY is applied to any of these components in life; one is able to squeeze them for all they are worth.

So how has the principle of INTENSITY affected me personally; well I’ve lost 30 lbs, started a new business and am working on a second one. I am on track to quit my job this fall or winter – maybe sooner but that’s not the plan. My relationship with my wife is better than it has been for long wile, not that it’s been bad, my Wife is awesome, but like anything else, you’re moving forward or stagnating. I’m growing spiritually as well, being more disciplined with my prayer life and “putting my money where my mouth is” in terms of being the type of person I know I should be. Jukido is coming along nicely, most notable, what was stunningly horrible Ukemi waza has turned into reasonable tolerable Ukemi waza. I can finally take a dozen or so throws in a row without needing to take a half bottle of aspirin afterwards. When I first started the class I couldn’t do 50 jumping jacks, now they are the least of my problems ;).

So to wrap this up, I’m feeling INTENSLY good nowadays. Every time I feel myself slowing down I can hear Sensei Rego shouting… “test your spirit” and I do. My 2004 goals are right on track and I am confident that I can achieve ALL of them by INTENSLY working towards them.