20 years. I still can’t believe it. My dad used to always tell time flies and it will be here before you know it. I never believed him. When I was contemplating separating from activate duty in military I remember him telling me to stay in and 20 years will be here before I knew it. I could have retired 6 years ago! I lost track many people told me to soak up every second with my kids because time flies and they will be grown up before you know it. I feel like they were born just yesterday and here they walk as teenagers. High school feels like the not too distance past and I find myself some 30 years removed. Man, time flies.
20 years ago on the Tuesday after Labor Day I opened the doors to Mid-America Martial Arts. The early days are so vivid in my mind…and not always for good reasons. I remember the excitement and enthusiasm for this big idea I had in my head. Ever since the days of my first karate classes I dreamt of have my own dojo. The black belts were like gods to me and the thought of one day being the master of my own dojo was something out of a Bruce Lee movie. With about 8 months left on my active duty service commitment I took my life savings, maxed my credit cards, threw caution to the wind, and opened MAMA.
I had been running a club on the base and naively assumed two things: it would be just as easy and all of the students would follow me to the new venture of mine. Wrong and wrong! The harsh reality was I knew far less about business than I thought but I was driven by the idea that if you build it they will come.
There were many lessons learned over those first handfuls of years (they have not stopped btw) and I really learned how to stretch a dollar. When I look back at photos of the gym’s early iterations, I chuckle and think what was I thinking?! I mean, I know what I was thinking I laugh now at why I was thinking such. Live and learn, right?
I think about all the things that kept me up at night in those early years. Most silly to me now. I still stay awake at night, just different worries…and a few of the same.
That age old hypothetical question, if I could travel back in time what would you say to yourself. I often ask myself if I could do it all over again would I change anything. Hindsight is always 20/20 and it is too easy to see your mistakes after that fact. While I might have a little more money in my pocket (and maybe few less sleepless nights), I am not sure I would change anything.
MAMA is what it is today because of all the things I did right and everything I did wrong. Lifelong friendships and bonds have been created on those mats and continue to be formed. How can you put a price on that? I am incredibly proud of what it has become, the people that make up our community, and memories it has provided me.
I echo my social media post: thank you to every student that ever walked through our doors and allowed us to share the martial arts with you, thank you to my coaches and staff for keeping me on the narrow and being present for our students, and thank you to anyone who ever supported MAMA in any way.
Everyday Is Training Day. Reap What You Sow!