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THE BREAKFAST A IONS ONS OF CHAMPIONS MIGHT JUST BE RICE


Copyright Š 2012 by Ryan Bow. All Rights Reserved. Every effort has been made to trace ownership of all copyrighted material and to secure permission from copyright holders. In the event of any question arising as to the use of any material, we will be pleased to make the necessary corrections in future printings.

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No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, transmitstributed, or tra ted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or ret retrieval retr system, without written permission of the publisher ublisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles icles es or reviews.

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Cover Design by Dianna Little lee

Published by Kaminari Martial Arts Academy, L.L.C. inari Dojo Mixed Mar

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2035 28th St. SE E Suite N Grand Rapids, apids, MI 49508

Website: site: te: http://www.kam http://www.kaminaridojo.com/ http://www.ka p Email: info@kaminaridojo.com fo@kamin @kamin

ISBN: 978-0-9884690-5-1

First Edition Printed in the United States of America 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


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THE BREAKFAST A IONS ONS OF CHAMPIONS MIGHT JUST BE RICE RYAN BOW


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I would like to dedicate this book to my father, Amen Yvon on Bow. w.


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ABOUT THIS BOOK

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very now and then a story unfolds folds olds that ccha challenges you to re-consider the trials, rials,, tribulations and struggles in life, re-assess, ess, ss, and ultimately count your blessings as you face giant ant nt obstacles head head-on with boldness and strength. This iss that story.

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7KLVERRNZLOODVN\RXWRSDXVHDQGUHÁHFWRQWKHFKDO\RXWRSDXVHDQGUH RXWRSDXVH lenges you’ve faced and compel you tto never give up. This story, like lived it and wrote it, is that ke the man who li liv of a champion n in every sense.

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It is the he true inspiring tale ta of a young man told at an early age by y doctors that a ccyst on his brain could require major surgery. rgery. That he should avoid any form of head trauma as it could ould cause permanent brain damage. And yet, what does this boy do d when he grows up? Ryan Bow relocates to Japan, enters a Dojo one day, and successfully becomes a Mixed Martial Arts Champion. Ryan’s amazing tale will challenge your concept of humanity, make you question your priorities, and stimulate the compassion within. This is about one man’s struggle to survive in a Japanese culture that has little tolerance for AmeriFDQVZKRUHIXVHWRMXVWÀWLQ


You are about to discover with Ryan that sometimes success isn’t always measured by the size of your house or paycheck, but by tragedies and challenges you’ve gone through and the manner in which you somehow overcame those horrendous circumstances. This inspiring book will provide you with a look behind the scenes of mixed martial arts. For sure, it deals with tragedy, perseverance and faith; but, at its core lies a story about beating all the odds.

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Ryan Bow’s life journey aims to inspire nspire ire everyone rreading it never to give up. We should embrace mbrace the overwhelmoverwh overw ing truth that perseverance and faith th in oneself is truly the binder that holds the pages of life together.

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Come with us now along phenomenal path to suclong this phenome cess, and live life through rough ugh the eyes of an MMA insider. /HDUQZKDWUHDOO\JRHVRQLQWKHPLQGRIDÀJKWHUDQGKRZ JRHVRQLQWKHPLQ the world of MMA really works. MA and Ultimate Fighting F

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After reading eading ding this book yyou will discover that only by slaying your giants and battling through doubts and frustraba tions can you ultim ultimately land in a place of tranquility and ultimatel happiness. piness. ness. 2QÀQLVKLQJWKLVERRN\RXZLOOQHYHUDJDLQVHHWKHVSRUW ÀQLVKLQJ QLVKLQJ of mixed martial arts in the same way. Please begin by turna ing the next few pages to glimpse the real world of Mixed Martial Arts Champion: Ryan Bow.


CHAPTER 1

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Devastating News

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t was on February 2nd 1979 979 9 when my mother mot moth frantically rushed to the hospital ospital because her baby, who wasn’t due to be born days, was workrn n for another 43 dda ing to a different agenda. a. A combin combination of fear and anticipation drove her to the hospital wa ward that night, and my father knew it.

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The next day, February 3rd, A Amen and Diane Bow would JHWWKHLUÀUVWJOLPSVHRIPHDSUHPDWXUHEXWKHDOWK\5\DQ ÀUVWJOLPSVHRIPH JOLPSVHRIPH Christopher pher Bow. At least leas they thought I was healthy. world over a month before I was due by I entered this wo way off Grand R Rapids, Michigan. The glorious event took Ra place at 8:29 ppm on a Saturday night. My parents’ lives would never be the same again.

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My mother had grown up privileged in a home full of love and compassion, always having a lot of support from 1


The Breakfast of Champions Might Just Be Rice

her family. She never wanted for anything, simply growing up like many other middle class kids: dreaming of someday meeting the perfect man; having wonderful children; and then living the American Dream. This was in direct contrast to my father. While Dad’s parents would confer the same love and compassion offered by my mother’s, they were certainly not blessed with the same size bank account. While Mom was off trying on new clothes lothes for the upFRPLQJ VFKRRO \HDU 'DG ZDV OHIW WR VWUXJJOH ÀWWLQJ UXJJOH ZLWK À into the current batch of hand-me-downs. downs. owns. His upbringing, upbrin and Mom’s, were clearly worlds apart. art. While many of their dreams embraced the same aspirations goals, his route spirations pirations and goal goa WRWKH$PHULFDQ'UHDPZRXOGEHÀOOHGZLWKPDQ\PRUHSRWXOGEHÀOOHGZLWKP OGEHÀOOHGZLWKP holes and detours. Both my mother er and father were amazing people who were destined for or a great life. The They quite simply never gave up, believing that no matter wh what life dished out in the way of obstacles, es, love ove and hard work would forever overcome such hurdles. astonishing events on the pages that folurdles. The astonis low clearly learly prove the they were right. My in Ypsilanti, Michigan and they both y parents llived li loved watching atchin the seasons visit each year like invited guests. There was no place else in the world they would rather have lived. They had met at Ypsilanti High School near the end of their tenth grade years where my father was also an excellent high school wrestler. Good enough, in fact, to earn an invite to the Olympic camp. Finances, along with a few other issues, cruelly rendered him unable to pursue the dream of training alongside our country’s best and brightest wrestlers. 2


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It was a huge disappointment, but my father was never one to dwell on the past or let roadblocks slow him down. If something didn’t go his way he simply shrugged it off and got on with life.

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As fate would have it on one cold wintery afternoon in November, Dad happened to be brushing up on his History in the study hall and happened to sit next my mother’s good friend Sandra. He could have never imagined d how ho that simple choice about where to plant his feet on crisp aftern that cri cris noon was going to change the course off his is life forever.

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He looked over at Sandra and their heir eyes met in aan awkward way. He was never known wn as a “talkerâ€? but bu he wasn’t timid either. The two of them and, as the story hem em got talking an JRHVWKHUHZDVDĂ€IW\FHQWEHWWKDWP\IDWKHUZRXOGQ¡WKDYH HQWEHWWKDWP HQWEHWWKDWP\IDWK the nerve to call my mother for a ddat date. Of course Sandra would lose that bet. et.. In fact, durin during summer break that year my father called almost every day. Before long ed my mother alm almo he was hooked ked d on her. Dad forthright when it came to pretty girls, ad wasn’t very fort but hee eventually wo worked up the nerve to ask Mom out. The wor two off them date dated through most of High School as well as their years Michigan State University. rs at M Mom and Dad would graduate together on June 19th of DQGRQ$XJXVWQGRIWKHVDPH\HDUZRXOGRIĂ€FLDOO\WLH the knot in Ypsilanti, MI. They would both go on to be schoolteachers in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as well as the most wonderful parents a \RXQJER\FRXOGKRSHIRU,VD\WKDWEHFDXVHWKH\Ă€OOHGP\ life with love, support and unrelenting dedication to me. 3


The Breakfast of Champions Might Just Be Rice

My early years growing up were fantastic to say the least! Not only was my family middle class but I was an only child, meaning that my parents had a tendency to spoil me a rotten. I didn’t realize they were spoiling me at the time, but whatever they were doing my life couldn’t have been more perfect. I could usually do no wrong and when ,GLGWKHSXQLVKPHQWGLGQ¡WXVXDOO\ÀWWKHFULPH7KDWVDLG although a spoiled child, I was a very well-behaved one – if that makes any sense.

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Growing up in such an environment, had no t, one thing I ha frame of reference for was a highly important sense of mportant nt one: a sen hardship. As far as I was concerned, ned, ed, life was good for me, so life must have been good forr everybody.

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My father was the football wrestling coach at Ototball and wrestli wrestlin tawa Hills High School taught English class, ol where he als also ta loved and well-respected pected by all his sstudents. My mother, meanwhile, taught Union High School. The two ght French at Unio of them were very involved in bboth school activities and everything in n my y life. Att least until on week before Christmas, 1983. one w

,ZDVRQO\ÀYH\HDUVROGZKHQP\PDWHUQDOJUDQGPRWKHU ZDVRQO\ÀY ZDVRQO\ÀYH passed away way from fro breast cancer. Needless to say this was a gut-wrenching i experience for the whole family, and it hit my mother especially hard. In fact it was so overwhelming that she would later be told it triggered a bipolar (manic depressive) condition in her. After the death of her mother, Mom would battle depression her entire life. Some days she would be as happy as can be while others would be so bad she couldn’t pull herself out of bed. 4


Ryan Bow

Her condition worsened to the extent that it seemed she was out of control of her actions at times and needed to be hospitalized. I can recall on one occasion her carving the words “HATE� and “DEATH� into her skin with a kitchen knife and my father frantically consoling her to save the situation. Somewhat inevitably, incidents like this meant she had to quit working and be hospitalized.

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While in the hospital, Mom sometimes went through shock therapy and had to be retained in a straight-jacket -a raigh raight-j truly horrible situation for all of us.

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Despite all this turmoil, my fatherr held the family to together. Dad continued to work hard coaching oaching ching wrestling aand made sure he and I went to visit my hospital as often y mother in hospi DV SRVVLEOH 6KH ZRXOG ÀQDOO\ QDOO\ DOO\ EH UHOHDVHG DDQG RYHU WLPH would learn to control her mood swings. er occasiona occasional moo

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I wasn’t aware of it then, but I learned that growing up around this kind d of an illness can cause disconnection in young children; to understand people’s ldren; dren; an unwillingness unwilling problems. It could also hav have been one of the reasons I always felt elt the need to “get awayâ€? someday. Along with that came an unwillingness to I was young. Al even try understand her disease. Instead I just wanted to ry y and unde get away. But we held it all together and life went on. Dad wanted to start me out wrestling at an early age but once I saw the movie “The Karate Kid,â€? I knew what kind of wrestling I wanted to do. And it wasn’t rolling around on some mat with a guy in tights. It was called‌ “Karateâ€?! Even though I was only six years old, I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up and when I made my mind up to do something, I usually did it. Watching that movie inspired me in ways I can’t even explain. The plot consisted 5


The Breakfast of Champions Might Just Be Rice

of a young boy who, against all odds, was able to triumph and win the day. And not just win the day, but win it with style and raw emotion. I recall that usually when my father was coaching at wrestling matches, my mother would stay home and take care of me. This was very hard on Mom, but she always took it in her stride and somehow got everything done.

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Eventually, though, the schedule becamee too m much, the strain of it having an effect on our family. Consequently, ly. Conse Conseq my father stopped coaching wrestling to spend time at pend more tim home. Both my parents made it a strong be trong point to always alw in my life and, more than that, to my life. I o be a big part of m think their love and commitment part in shaping ent played a big pa the man I have become, giving priceless strong founving me the pricel pricele dation upon which to build uild ild my success succe in the most fearsome of professions.

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I was always growing up and nevays more ore of a leader lea er much of a follower. I attr attribute this to how my parents attri brought me up,, but it was aalso a strong personality trait that belonged grandfather. ged to my gran grandfat My grandfather was a World War II Veteran and I was always proud roud of that. He grew up in the South during very hard times. A As we all know, such hard times can be a valuDEOHZD\RIÀQGLQJRXWZKDWZH·UHUHDOO\PDGHRI+HRQO\ had an 8th-grade education but made a good living in spite of that. He owned and ran his own business which consisted of two barber shops; one in Ann Arbor and one in Ypsilanti, each being very successful. Like my grandfather, I was always more interested in setting the pace rather than trying to keep up with everybody else. He was a great inspiration in my life. 6


Ryan Bow

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As a young boy I was interested in all the things other little boys are interested in; running, jumping, just having an all-round good time. But where I began to differ was on the one occasion that a friend of mine, Dave, invited me to do some sparring in his front yard. Since he had been studying Taekwondo for some time the opportunity to try out new moves on me was irresistible. I didn’t mind since I was always interested in the martial arts anyway. Better still, it was like being in the Karate Kid movie. ovie I knew I ovie. wouldn’t be much of a sparring partner for Dave yyet yet, but I still wanted to see what I could do; after Ralph fter all I’d seen R Macchio (Daniel-san) kick butt more ore than a hundred times in the movie, so I was prepared..

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We punched and kicked even though most d for hours and ev of my strikes never found und nd their mar mark, my interest was once again peaked. By the kicking my butt he time he was through thr th all over the yard, for good. It was on that d, I was hooked ffo front lawn that at I realized even with my limited knowledge and skill, I wass still able to be b competitive against Dave and make a few good moves m myself. Sure he landed everything and I landed next-to next-to-nothing, but I was still good. I could next-to-n feel itt inside and it triggered something almost primeval in PH,MXVWODFNHGDQ\DFWXDOWHFKQLTXHZKHQLWFDPHWRÀJKWVWODFNHG WODFNHG LQJEXWWKDWFRXOGDQGZRXOGEHÀ[HG WF I attended Ottawa Hills High School in Grand Rapids, MI. At 14, my parents allowed me to join a martial arts school called Chan’s Kung Fu School, where I began learning Wing Chun and Judo. This was my dream come true. )LQDOO\,FRXOGDFWXDOO\OHDUQKRZWRÀJKWOLNHWKHJX\VRQ WHOHYLVLRQDQGLQWKHPRYLHV7KLVZDVWKHÀUVWVWHSWRZDUGV realizing one of my greatest dreams. 7


The Breakfast of Champions Might Just Be Rice

At the time Bruce Lee and anything Kung Fu was all the rage. Sure the Bruce Lee movies were dubbed and the voices never matched up with those crazy characters, but that didn’t matter because it was all about the kicks, the punches and the moves. I had to say goodbye to Ralph Macchio because once Bruce Lee came on the scene, there was no doubt ZKRZRXOGZLQLQDÀJKW

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To my delight, I then discovered a martial arts teacher from Hong Kong teaching right there in my hometown. In y hom home my young impressionable mind, just being g from Ho Hong Kong gave him tremendous credibility. Hee wass SiFu Sam H Hing Fai Chan and the thought of training teacher sent g with such a teach chills up my young spine. This was also the year that I saw 0L[HG0DUWLDO$UWV 00$ IRUWKHĂ€UVWWLPHDQGIHOOLQORYH IRUWKHĂ€UVWWLPHDQ RUWKHĂ€UVWWLPHDQ with it.

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Suddenly everything I wanted to be hing I always thought thou th ZDVZLWKLQUDQJHRIP\\RXQJWUHPEOLQJĂ€QJHUWLSV,WUHRIP\\RXQJWUHP IP\\RXQJWUHP ally was like Christmas time I thought about learning hristmas every tim the Martial Arts. rts. My father and I quickly quickl ordered Pay Per View for the upquick coming where Royce Gracie would win the touring ng UFC clash wh w nament, for the second time that Brazilian Jiu-jitsu ent, nt, proving fo was thee most ef effective art in the sport. It was right after ZDWFKLQJWKDWĂ€JKWZLWKP\GDGWKDW,EHJDQP\MXGROHVWKDW sons. Christmas had come early. As with everybody else at the time, I was very eager to learn more about this martial art and particularly zealous in incorporating it into the Kung Fu and judo skills I was learning. A friend of mine, Nick, a fellow Wing Chun student, would practice the moves we saw on television with me for 8


Ryan Bow

KRXUVRQHQG:HGLGPRVWRIWKHSUDFWLFLQJRQWKHà RRULQ his living room, but that didn’t matter to me. I was committed to the sport and with that commitment came a burning desire to practice and perfect my techniques every chance I got. I was going to be better than Dave, Nick, Ralph - even better than the great Bruce Lee himself some day! And nothing was going to slow me down! Some plan, huh?

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Then, in 1996, something would change g happened that w my life. Forever. Not in a good way.

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Something was wrong with my brain. It was not that I bbra wasn’t thinking right ight ght but somethi something else — something far more deadly. Itt could have ende ended my dreams of ever becoming a great martial artial artist. I had ad been working aat a local pet store, Chow Hound, DWWKHWLPHZKLFKZDVDFWXDOO\WKHÀUVWUHDOMRE,HYHUKDG  KHWLPHZKLFKZD WLPHZKLFKZ On myy way home from work one afternoon my vision must f have become blurred or distorted for a few moments become ome bbl cause I somehow managed to sideswipe another car without me even seeing it. As you can imagine it freaked me out badly because I never even saw the other car coming. My mind swelled with fear and my heart stopped as I felt the crunch of metal on metal and the squeal of brakes on the pavement. It was as though the other car had simply dropped down from the sky because I never even saw it. I panicked and made a quick decision that I would soon regret. I ended up speeding away from the scene out of fear and confusion, but the 9


The Breakfast of Champions Might Just Be Rice

damaged car followed me home and the gig was up. This was completely out of character for me so I was devastated. What was happening and how did I hit an invisible car? Crying hysterically, I screamed out that I never saw the car, had no idea where it came from and that it wasn’t my fault. I pleaded with my parents and stressed my innocence. “I swear,” I yelled out, “I never saw the car!”

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I kept saying it over and over again and ndd I could coul see the concern in my parents’ face. They knew knew I new w me and kn wasn’t a liar; at least not on matters such as this. In ffact I was so adamant about it that my parents would be arents rents thought it w a good idea to have my eyesight that’s what we ht checked. So tha that did.

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It was then we discovered blind. In covered overed I was peripherally peri fact, I had been so since birth. Ther There was zero peripheral vision on the leftt side eye, which was why I never ide of either eye saw the car. Really never saw iit it!

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This strange ge condition actually led my parents to seek advicee from a neurol neurologist. We discovered that because both neurologi of my experiencing the same handicap, my proby eyes were exp lem with vision was someplace in my brain. That was ith my vis visio the last thing we wanted to hear! After all, anytime a doching w tor says something’s wrong with your brain, you know it’s serious. But at least a lot of awkward moments in my life now began to make perfect sense. Suddenly I realized why I would constantly be bumping into things for no apparent reason. Like the time I was speaking with one of my friends at school as we leisurely strolled down the school hallway. We were just talking when for no apparent reason I walked 10


Ryan Bow

straight into a trash can, dumping it over and spilling half-eatHQVDQGZLFKHVDQGHPSW\VRGDFDQVDOORYHUWKHà RRU7KRVH mishaps had happened so often that my friends would often tease me about it and make jokes. They all thought I was just FOXPV\EXW,ZDVQ¡WDQG,NQHZLW,WZDVIDUIURPWKHÀUVW time people would underestimate me.

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I wasn’t happy about hearing the doctor’s news, but like I said: it sure did explain a lot of things. And sometimes, nd so certainty where there was previously doubt ubt bt can wo work wonders for the mind.

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But that certainty would only y come once I kne knew where the trouble had originated. So man of o there I was, a young yo ÀIWHHQ\HDUVVLWWLQJLQDGRFWRU¡VRIÀFHZDLWLQJWRXQGHUJR RFWRU¡VRIÀFHZDLW FWRU¡VRIÀFHZDLW an MRI. I can’t even begin egin gin to tell yyou how scary that was.

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At the forefront nt of my anguished mind was how this setback might affect ect my martial arts art training. I also had no clue about how claustrophobic be lying inside a circular austrophobic it would w machine resembling some something out of an old Sci-Fi movie à LFN7KHWKLQJHYHQPDGHJURDQLQJDQGEX]]LQJVRXQGVDV 7KHWKLQJHYHQP 7KHWKLQJHYH it circled rcled led around me like some orbiting space station. It was tight and claustrophobic. Had the MRI lasted any longer, nd claustr I’m sure a pa panic attack would have ensued. After about 45 agonizing minutes, the ordeal ended. We went home and waited for what seemed like a lifetime. While we speculated on those test results and tried to decide what to do, I continued to train at the kung fu school as hard and vigorous as ever. I ’m not sure now that was the best thing for me to be doing, but I couldn’t just sit around and wait for bad news. 11


The Breakfast of Champions Might Just Be Rice

I had a good friend and sparring partner, Duncan, who was ten years my senior. We would always go at each other pretty hard whenever we sparred together.

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I remember a few days after my testing, just before working out together, that I happened to mention what was going on with in my head. I vividly recall the look of shock and FRQIXVLRQWKDWà DVKHGDFURVVKLVIDFHOLNHDOLJKWQLQJEROW Thinking back, I shouldn’t have been surprised d at all by his reaction, but suddenly Duncan tried his hardest to hit rdest dest NOT NO N me when we sparred. I knew exactly where here ere he was coming co from, but I loved to spar and knowing that my opponent was never going to strike back‌ well, itt just wasn’t the ssame.

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One day the news dropped from the sky. ed like a bomb fr The testing was complete. The results were in. They made for bad reading. I had a large cyst. On m my brain. It would possibly require surgery gery in months, if not n weeks.

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It would be a tricky cky operation with all sorts of possible side-effects. The odds were ha hardly stacked in my favor. After er some deliberation, deliberatio both my parents felt it best to deliberati hold off on the opera operation for as long as possible as they also operatio wanted second opinion. ted ed to get a seco They conta contacted a well-known neurosurgeon who looked into my prognosis further. We discovered that something RIJUHDWLPSRUWDQFHZDVZKDWWKHF\VWZDVÀOOHGZLWK7KH VXUJHRQH[SODLQHGWKDWLIWKHF\VWZHUHÀOOHGZLWKEORRGD rupture could mean certain death for me; however, if the cyst ZHUHÀOOHGZLWKVSLQDOà XLGWKHRXWORRNZDVEULJKWHU When further testing revealed the latter to be true, my GDUN FORXG ZDV ÀWWHG ZLWK D WHPSRUDU\ VLOYHU OLQLQJ  7KH neurosurgeon also said that had we known about this when I 12


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was born, I would not have lived a normal life. I would not have been able to play sports because most kids who have a cyst similar to mine have some form of cerebral palsy.

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It was a frightening time for all my family to be sure, but in hindsight my parents were looking out for me and made the best decisions possible. We were also told that I must have had a stroke when I was in the womb and that it was nothing short of a miracle that I wasn’t left handicapped in and some way. That was good news too. But how could coul I poscou sibly put that in context at the time? I wass a martial art artist!

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Far from a reminder to count myy blessings, all this thi news meant was that in the activity I loved to do, I w was handicapped in a big way. Suddenly nly I realized that I would be at a tremendous disadvantage fought. Not only ge every time I fo would it be because I didn’t dn’t see thing things cclearly from my left side, but every punch, ch, every kick and every blow I sustained would affect my y equilibrium uilibrium in a ggreater way than it would affect my healthy althy lthy opponent. The Th possibilities of what could happen to me by getting pun punched, thrown and kicked in the head numerous were also too monstrous to contemumerous times we w plate. e. That was too grim to be ignored was as at the prognosis pro prog obvious ass th the sky is blue. But ignore it I did. Although engagement in MMA could leave me with permanent brain damage due to a ruptured cyst, I wasn’t willing to give up on my dream. Even if it meant being left crippled and unable to fend for myself. Life had just thrown me a giant curve ball. +RZ,GHDOWZLWKWKDWEDOOZRXOGGHÀQHZKR,ZDVDQGZKDW, would accomplish. Despite the defect in my brain, I had the heart of a warrior. Just like my father. I wasn’t going to let a few roadblocks hold me back from where I wanted to go. I 13


The Breakfast of Champions Might Just Be Rice

would pursue my American Dream no matter how terrifying the potential cost.

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, DGPLW , ZDV VFDUHG WR GHDWK %XW , ÀUPO\ UHPHPEHU lying in bed at night thinking that dying in the ring would be better than not pursuing my dreams. I wanted it so badly, HYHQDWWKHULVNRIVDFULÀFLQJP\OLIH,QKLQGVLJKWWKDWNLQG of thinking was very naïve, but it’s how I felt at the time.

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THE BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS MIGHT JUST BE RICE  

THE BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS MIGHT JUST BE RICE