"You've got to follow your passion. You've got to figure out what it is you love--who you really are. And have the courage to do that. I believe that the only courage anybody ever needs is the courage to follow your own dream" Oprah Winfrey. Ever since I can remember, martial arts has been my passion. Growing up, people ridiculed me and put me down for doing what I loved and pursuing my passion. They stopped talking to me when I won world championship titles and told me I could never make it and make it big. Well, proving them wrong and overcoming those obstacles was not easy, but I did it. At the age of 6, reality began to set in for me. It didn't matter how much I begged or what I did, my parents were not going to drive me to the other side of town for classes. But I never gave up and I never gave in, even back then. I was inspired. Inspired to be just like the great Bruce Lee, not only in the sense that he was, by far, the greatest martial artist that has ever lived, but also in the sense that he did all he could to help others and do for those who had nothing. He was determined to change the world. As for me, I kept on my parents for 2 years until a Karate Dojo opened up right here in my hometown. The agreed to enrolled me, I saw my chance, and I ran with it!
I train an average of 5-6 days a week for at least 2-4 hours a day and I have been at it for the past 9 years. Throughout my training I have endured things that most people will never go through in a lifetime. I’m only 17. My Sensei (karate instructor) came here directly from Tennessee and was the toughest coach I have ever had. If my stances were not low enough, he would kick my legs so hard that the stance would automatically go low. If I wiped the dripping sweat from my face, I would have to do push ups until he said stop, and if we did it again it was double what we did before. Yes, this kind of training is extreme and painful, but it is what I love and what kept my drive going. I can distinctly remember at just 9 or 10 years old Sensei would fight me like he fought the other adult black belts, and it was brutal. Painful. A true test of body mind and spirit. I fell on my butt and got knocked down numerous times, and have had black eyes, bruises and broken bones, but through it all I always got back up and tried again. In competition, I've won some and I've lost some, but I always learn something. This is my passion. It's in me. I do what I love and I love what I do.
Still today, even though I have achieved amazing success, I am met with obstacles, big ones. And when I look them in the eye, sometimes it's intimidating. It's ominous. And, if I let that feeling creep in, I feel as if I’ll never be able to overcome them. And I let that feeling last for about a minute. And then I push it aside and remember who I am. But I do. I just do. For me, "I can't" is not a part of my vocabulary. I refuse to say "I can't." I don't say "I can't" because what I can't really means is, "I don't want to."
Even as a child of just 10 years old, there were those who taunted me and wanted to see me fail. Not just my peers, but adults too. Well, I proved them all wrong. The first big achievement was in middle school when I went to China to train with Jet Li and Jackie Chan’s coach, and again when I won my first 2 World titles in 2006. It wasn't always easy to dig deep, hold my head up high and keep pushing forward, but I did. And look at me now! Now, I made my very first martial arts dream come true. And I'm only 16! I am a black belt! Now, I am an 8 time World Champion and I hold many national titles. I don't say that to brag. I say that to prove that with hard work, dedication, determination, you can make your dreams come true. And I'm all the proof you need. Now, I have a new goal. Now, I will work hard to reach others and share the lessons and hard times that I have endured to inspire them. I want them to know that they can do anything that they set their mind to if they are willing to work hard and NEVER give up.
I'm a regular kid, from a little tiny town in rural Michigan. A regular kid from the midwest U.S.A. But I'm also a kid who dared to dream and dream big. I dared to work hard, look the obstacles in the eye, and I made my dreams come true, and I’m not stopping now. This is just the beginning for me.