A while back, I had the good fortune to connect with Simon Payne who is one of the oustandingly cool and interesting guy. I know a lot of people want to do meaningful thins with their lives, but are scared to take risks. Simon saved a small amount of money and just jumped off into the void... and it worked. I hope his story inspires you like it does me, here's Simon -
My story begins when I decided to quit my job, sell most of my things and move to Philippines to study original martial art called Kali (also known as Escrima or Arnis). For those who doesn’t know it, it’s a kind of fencing but with rattan sticks. It’s an offensive, fast and extremely effective martial art. The training includes even fighting with steel blades, knives and many different weapons including bare hands. I’ve been studying the modern version of Escrima in Czech Republic for last 8 years and before that historical and sport fencing.
I've always had rich imagination and before arriving in the Philippines I assumed that everyone would know where to find where to find some Escrima schools. I dreamed about finding some old skilled grandmaster that would teach me.
I decided to travel to Davao City which is in the south of Philippines. I knew that my friend John will be there at the same time. I didn’t know him in person but that was my only contact. He was just starting a company there. Looking back at my decisions I obviously didn’t use my brain as much as other people would. If I did, I’d choose bigger city like Manila or Cebu which are well known for martial art schools.
I searched using pieces of information from web but it wasn’t helpful, most information were outdated or useless. I wandered the streets and asked people for any leads. Sometimes at night searching trough dark corners and shady streets where I felt uncomfortably insecure. Sometimes I’d find an abandoned gym where someone used to practice but they must have moved somewhere else.
The breakthrough came when my friend John offered me help and let one of his assistants in his company do the research for me. For someone local it was just a matter of a few phone calls and I received updated information including places and times of practice of several schools. The very next day I went to visit first of them.
I was full of foolish expectation and excitement. I arrived to the training place early and it was still empty. I was sitting there in darkness inside the large yard of a Chinese high school where the practice supposedly took place. It didn't seem real. I felt like in some old movie. The place had strange atmosphere. Some time passed which seemed like forever and just as I thought no-one would come I've noticed an approaching silhouette of a guy with rattan sticks appearing over his shoulders. My heart skipped a beat! I was finally in the right place at the right time. It was just the first school on my list but I had a strong gut feeling that I'm on to something big.
I would have been grateful just for the chance to stand in a corner and watch the lesson, therefore I wasn't too much disappointed when they told me that I can't practice with them. I was not invited, I was a stranger. They have strict rules. It made sense but I didn't go this far to give up easily. I spent the whole lesson watching and talking to one of them about their system and principles. After the lesson I joined them in a small dirty bar just around the corner. We sat there for hours and talked, shared stories and tales about old Escrima masters, our experiences in martial arts, tournaments, training methods and much more. I told them about my journey and my search for Escrima school. I was surprised how much I have in common with those guys and even more amazed by what I can learn from them.
At the next lesson I received some good news. I was offered an invite to join them in practice. It meant that from now on one of them has will became responsible for my actions and my initiation in the group. Also I was finally allowed to practice with them. That was a great honor and incredible opportunity. I’ve found what I was looking for!
They call themselves Mandirigmang Kaliradman. I realized this later but I didn't just find any fighters. I've found true warriors. One of the best. I admire their attitude and devotion to training. They are amazing group of friends resembling more a family than a martial art school. Their friendship resembles a true brotherhood. They stick to together and look for each other. It’s exceptional group that consists of people from many different social circles, some poor some rich, some who came trough harsh times but they all share the same values, morals and high level of martial art skill. They put unprecedented emphasis on form and especially on speed and power of the strikes. Which is something that I was about to experience in my initial lessons when some of my illusions about my own skills felt apart.
I still have to prove myself in the training to become true member. It's been a month since my arrival. My training is hard and challenging. Not just physically but also mentally.
I often feel dragged down just by myself. I feel like I don’t want to go but I always force myself anyway and attend every lesson. Every lesson is a challenge.
You have to learn how to handle your emotions. Especially during the training. I’ve seen a guy expelled for openly showing his anger when he struggled in a simple exercise. You must not let your ego stand in your way. It’s even harder if you already have long time experience like me. My self-confidence in my moves ans skills suffered greatly but for a good reason. What I need is to overcome myself, try to change some of my old habits and movements that are hardwired into my body. It takes a lots of hard work.
I’m at the point where I need to forget some of my old martial arts training. It’s intentional because I need to create some space for something new. I’ll merge techniques and skills later. Now I need my mind to be completely open to absorb as much as I can.
Heat and sweat are ubiquitous even at night. I have ugly bloody blisters on my hands after every practice. One must get used to the pain and must never let the weapon out of the hand. I use a lot of tape to fix my hands to be able to practice. But my new harder skin is already growing.
So many things have changed in last few months. There are still many other challenges that I need to face if I want to stay here in Philippines for a longer time and practice. I'm not rich nor lucky. I just decided to follow my dreams. I feel confident about what I do as never before. For the first time in my life I’m exactly where I wanedt to be and in full control of my actions.
I'm not rich nor lucky. I just decided to follow my dreams." That about says it, doesn't it? Simon previously wrote a guest post here about Jan Hus, a pretty badass Czech historical figure. You can check out Simon Payne's blog to follow his adventures - he's a pretty incredible guy.
And remember - the big takeaway here is, "What the hell are your excuses again?" Simon quit his job with a small bit of cash in hand and flew to the Philippines without even knowing where he was going to train or how he was going to find the gym/trainers he was looking for. I'm not rich nor lucky. I just decided to follow my dreams."
Most people start feeling bad for themselves when something goes wrong in their life. The way I see it, something going wrong is an expensive lesson I already paid for - might as well take it.
A few years ago, I was doing squats in the gym with bad form and a fairly large amount of weight. I had two plates on each side and the bar... that's 4x45 + 35 lbs if I remember correctly = 205 lbs. That was fine, I had legs like tree trunks back then. But I had slightly bad form - when you do squats, you're supposed to push your ass backwards, not bend your knees forwards. Slight difference, but it wears on the cartilage.
One day my right leg started to buckle. I was in a power rack, and what you're supposed to do is drop the weight. But y'know, you don't necessarily think about that when your leg starts to buckle. So I threw all the weight onto my other leg and pushed up hard to re-rack the bar. Ripped some of the cartilage in my knee. Rehab, massive amounts of anti-inflammatories, and I have to stretch 5-10 minutes each day or my leg starts to hurt. Doctor said knees never fully heal, so it'll cause problems on and off forever. Ouch, kind of a bad thing to have happen in your 20's.
Last year, I was doing some Krav Maga. We were doing dry run drills of where you'd aim if you were hitting the other guy. These were common, but my shadow sparring partner was a little bit too macho and going really hard and fast and pretty close to me. Whish A fast elbow uppercut, almost connecting. Whish. Close again. But I didn't want to speak up, y'know, we're training martial arts here, not being soft.
About the time I turned 40, I realized that the dream of retirement was just that. I would not be able to putter around my house, filling my days with chores and projects that I had designated years before as something I'd do when I "retired".
Circumstances and choices of both my own doing and not; have created a future for me that will undoubtedly require I continue working in some way, shape or form for the rest of my days.
Truth be told, I never planned to really retire anyway. I have too many hobbies and interests that replaced the more traditional lists of chores and projects designated for the coveted some day of "when I retire".
At the core of my being, I'm an entrepreneur. I love the process of creation and problem solving. Which caused me to run a business years ago. I'm also a Martial Artist. As far back as I can remember into my childhood, I have been infatuated, enamored, obsessed (choose any or all of those words) with the Martial Arts. Black Belt theater was my Saturday Afternoon companion. Commercial breaks were my opportunity to practice flying kicks down the hall or kip ups on the carpet.
So, back when I turned 40 (not that long ago), I realized I needed to build something now, that I could do into and through those encroaching "golden years". Something that I was passionate about; something I would never tire of or think was a "chore" put off for retirement.