What you are about to read here happened by accident after I started blogging, trying to be helpful to my Japanese friends in the gym who could not speak English.
I attribute getting attacked with a glass bottle to the head when I was 15 to where I am today.
After that, I started doing karate, but at 6’2″ weighing 148 lbs, what I desperately needed was the gym. That would come much later.
Moving to Japan for karate
After graduation, I decided to go to Japan to continue studying karate for what I thought would be a year, but I ended up staying.
I found out that the headquarters the Shodokan Aikido school was just 10 minutes cycle from my house, so went and trained every day. Being with the world’s best was addictive and distracting — the 15-year-old boy inside of me was trying to turn himself into Jason Bourne.
On holiday in Goa, India the one year, I pluck up the courage to talk to a girl on the beach. The conversation inevitably turned to my training and she said, “You know, you don’t look like you work out as much as you do.”
This was a serious kick in the balls, but it was the truth. I started to look into nutrition and training more seriously.
How I ended up writing about nutrition and training
Unfortunately, turning to popular internet sites, I fell right into the jaws of the internet fitness industry.
For the majority of my mid-20s, I was wasting hundreds of dollars on supplements each month and wouldn’t leave the house for more than three hours without my protein shaker for fear of losing muscle.
Then one day, a friend showed up to the gym completely ripped to shreds.
He told me he had been eating just two big meals a day, not doing any cardio nor taking any supplements.
This blew my mind, but it really shouldn’t have — I was getting my information from sites dependent on advertising and sales revenue.
I was angry and started writing in English and Japanese. I wanted to help others not go down the suffocating path I had been on.
One reader asked for help, so I started coaching online and have been doing so ever since.
My Current Professional Roles
I now wear two hats in my professional life, both focussed on changing the fitness industry for the better.
🇯🇵 In Japan, people know me as the guy behind AthleteBody.jp, which is the most trusted and widely read fitness information site in the country.
We educate the coaches and personal trainers of Japan by translating books, and curating the best information available in the English speaking world, and putting articles on our website for free. We’re responsible for bringing the hugely popular Starting Strength barbell training book to Japan.
My coaches and I speak at seminars and conferences here, including the NSCA, but we work mainly online where we can have an industry-wide impact.
🇬🇧 In the rest of the world, people know me as a blogger, fitness author, podcaster, and online training and nutrition coach.
I’m a co-author of the highly-acclaimed Muscle and Strength Pyramid: Nutrition and Training textbooks and have written a book on the specifics of making dietary adjustments, The Diet Adjustments Manual. I’m fortunate to have had my work translated into 7 languages.
For the last nine years, I have worked online, full-time, coaching male strength trainees. You’ll find over 500 testimonials and 100 client result pictures using the exact methods I write about in the guides. It is my hope that they encourage and inspire you.
No matter how far you have to go, believe in yourself, and rest assured that a dramatic transformation is absolutely possible, and just a case of consistency over time.
The RippedBody.com Story and The Creation of Our Japanese Site
I’m often asked for advice on building a business online. The truth is that many of the things that happened were down to lucky breaks and then a lot of hard work to try and capitalize on them. I’ve collected up all the articles I have written over the years concerning the development of the site as a business. They are all entirely unedited, and I hope you find them entertaining and possibly useful if you are looking to do something similar. 🙂
- Why I paid $10k to make us a .COM
- The Muscle & Strength Pyramid Books – Now On Sale
- Inside The Mind Of A Diet Coach
- Don’t Make It About The Money
- The New Japanese Sister Site
- Getting a Visa and Attending My First First Fitness Summit to Meet My Mentors
- ‘Funny’ things that brought me to Japan
- I grew some balls today…
Why I paid $10k to make us a dot COM
Written July 2016
Because that’s what it cost after I negotiated the price down… is the answer. But why I’d decided to do so despite the cost and how I wrestled with it is the story.
This name change is an emotional move for me but definitely a positive one for our community. I thought the .jp domain would help me get more Japanese readers five years ago when I was writing in both languages, trying to bridge the information gap between the English-speaking world and Japan.
I failed so badly it was comical…
- I didn’t check whether people here would understand what “ripped” meant,
- I didn’t do my basic research to find that no Japanese people wanted to read a site that was in multiple languages,
- And it took me a year of getting no Japanese traffic before giving up and splitting the Japanese content off onto a new domain, Athletebody.jp.
“You will fall on your arse on your way to success…” I’m sure a wise man once said.
I certainly have.
Now to the reason for the name change…
I looked into buying Rippedbody.com a couple of years ago, but there was someone squatting on it, they wanted $20k, and I couldn’t justify it. But I decided that this is the way forward for the site to grow into a lasting brand. So with the help of a friend who knows about these things (Sol Orwell) I negotiated the price down to just under $10k. Expensive, but after careful consideration, I figure it will be worth it.
Here are my reasons: Brand protection and longevity, trust and credibility, ‘shareability’.
I’ll elaborate on the latter two.
Shareability: Our site, Rippedbody.jp has become what it is today because of you taking the time to comment on the articles (which told me how to re-write and improve them), and you bothering to share them with your friends. But I haven’t made it easy for you by keeping it as a “.jp” domain. It’s just weird to western ears, hard to remember, and even I felt awkward saying it to people.
Trust and credibility: I am just one of many fitness related websites. For new people to the site first impressions count. I am just a dude at the end of a keyboard in some mysterious place, ultimately asking them to either buy my book or hand over hundreds of dollars for coaching. Why should they trust me?
Here’s my theory on that: If people see the ~20,000 comments I’ve answered consistently punctually over the last 5 years, the love that’s gone into the articles, and the attention to detail that I pay to my work, they’ll come to trust me and maybe buy from me. But for that to happen they have to actually read it. If I lose them at the outset because “.jp” is easily forgettable or hard to trust, I lose the game. I’ll never know where I could have been had I changed the name over earlier, but I can start right now.
Sure, I’m taking a chance here, and I have no metrics to prove any of this, but just in my gut, it feels right.
Note that I said grow not, “sell out.”
You have permission to punch me in the face should I start selling advertising space with dodgy supplements or gimmicky products at any time in the future.
So, from today you’ll see that the site and all articles end in “.com.”
I’ve set up the redirects so all .jp links will work, but I’ll lose the social media sharing stats, and google rankings will take a temporary hit.
I have one small favor to ask: if you’ve been so kind to link to me on your own website in the past if you could take a minute to change them on your site to “.com” that would really help me out with google rank.
Now For Nostalgia
Here’s how the site looked in that first year, September 2011:
Embarrassing, but goes to show you don’t need something highly polished to get started if your heart is in it and the content half decent.
Eternally grateful for your support, which keeps me doing what I love to do. I hope you enjoy the upcoming articles on the site by myself and a few friends. – Andy.
Upcoming Articles (draft titles):
- “Optimizing the client tracking system” – The improvements I’ve made in this area of the client work I do this year.
- “Arming the lay public against charlatans and fraudsters in the fitness industry” – Alan Aragon.
- Bryan Krahn’s take on “How to do a damn good job coaching online.”
- “How to use RPE in your training to maximize yer gainz.” – This is an email course I’m just finishing up with Eric Helms.
The Muscle & Strength Pyramid Books – Now On Sale
Written December 2015
So, some good news. The Muscle & Strength Pyramid books that I’ve been working away on for the last four months with Eric Helms and Andrea Valdez are now available.
If you are interested in accessing the exact breakdown of how Eric Helms, one of the world’s leading natural physique and powerlifting coaches, gets the results for his athletes that he does so that you can apply it to your own nutrition plan and training, then make sure you check these books out.
The Nutrition book runs 130 pages, the training book is over 170 pages, packed full of programs. They are available individually, or as a set, and we’re offering free lifetime updates for people who choose to get both.
We’ve been fortunate enough to have Alan Aragon, Lyle McDonald, Mike Zourdos, Greg Nuckols, and Bret Contreras read them and provide feedback before their release to make sure they are on point. I’m very proud of what we’ve put together, and I hope you take as much away from them as I did in making them.
Download a free 50-page sample, watch the full video lecture series for free, or find out more about purchasing them here.
Inside The Mind Of A Diet Coach
Written August 2015
The last four years have been something of a rollercoaster journey for which I have you, the RippedBody.jp readers to thank.
Whether you have actually hired me or just sent me an e-mail to tell me your story and say thanks, whether you have peppered me with questions in the site comments, shared on Facebook, or just simply silently lurked and clicked through my articles – I am grateful because it has all helped to keep me fed, watered, motivated and doing what I love.
I’ve taken the last 6 months off from coaching to work on improving the information on the site. This break is turning out to be a little longer than I originally anticipated as I have been getting a little carried away having fun with it, and before coming back to the coaching I wanted to really give it my all and give as much back as I can.
I’ve emptied my head – my coaching systems and philosophies – into a book for those that may be interested.
I’ve called it, ‘The Last Shred: How to Adjust Your Diet Like a Pro to Achieve Single Digit Body Fat‘, my first proper book in four years. It’s written on what I feel is one of the most important and yet underrated topics, something that separates those that are successful from those that aren’t.
This is written for those coaches that asked me to teach them but I had to decline due to lack of time or a system in place for it, and for the serious trainees that can’t afford coaching, don’t want to wait for me to become available, or want to learn how to do it themselves. – This is a way to get access to what’s in my head for a fraction of the cost of actual coaching.
The Last Shred:
How To Adjust Your Diet Like A Pro To Achieve Single Digit Body Fat
63 pages, 7 data analysis & coaching decision explanation videos.
Now, there are a few of things I’d like to point out:
- This is definitely not a mainstream book, it’s never going to be on any bestseller lists as there are simply too many nerdy details. I’m writing it cause I want to help, and I’m charging to make sure that the information is respected and put to good use. You may find my choice of the phrase “giving back” somewhat amusing given that I’m selling it, but the amount of money I’ll make from book sales compared with what I could earn from coaching for the same time investment is peanuts in comparison. Also, I am being exceptionally open to explaining exactly what I do and how I do it.
- I take pride in my work. This is going to be my flagship book. I have worked hard to make this first edition great, bouncing it around some industry friends to get feedback for improvements before bringing it to you. However, it is not a finished product and I feel it never will be – I learn new things every day, I evolve as a coach, so I’ll update and improve it over the coming months and years and these updates will be free to those that buy it.
- Lastly, if you do buy it and it fails to live up to expectation, tell me how I can improve it for you in a future edition, or just ask for a refund within 30 days and I’ll get that done without question. I’ll take it on good faith that people won’t abuse this.
You can find out more details, view a couple of sample chapters, and get your copy here. I’ve put my heart and soul into it and I hope you find it as exceptionally useful and immediately applicable as intended.
The next things I’ll be working on are a training book collaboration with Eric Helms and Andrea Valdez to help Eric turn his ‘Muscle and Strength Training Pyramid’ & ‘Muscle & Strength Nutrition Pyramid’ Youtube series into books. (Listen to the last 5 minutes of this podcast if you’re interested in finding out how that came about.). I’ll then get to revamping the training sections on the site, and after that, I’ll come back to the coaching – there is no set date for this yet though.
Thanks again, Andy.
Don’t Make It About The Money
Written October 2014
“Nice guy, not the kind of person to change an industry though.”
Reading these words didn’t sting as you would imagine. I realized there was truth to them and felt the comment was fair. They came from a man who had single-handedly lit a rage-fuelled fire in me that lead me to quit my stable government job and plunge headfirst into this business.
I’m talking about Martin Berkhan. I didn’t think that there was a possibility he would be wrong about that one day though.
Let’s wind back 8 months to May 2011.
I came across a post of Martin’s regarding translation requests, basically saying that “yes it is fine, but do a good job of it.” He added the following:
“But – most importantly – you’ll be doing your part in the fight against broscience. And that, my friends, is doing the Universe a big favor that will yield good karma in all eternity :D”
I’d seen how full of shit the industry in Japan was and I wanted in.
I spent that summer in Starbucks, wrestling my way through his 8000-word post, “The Top Ten Fasting Myths Debunked.” It nearly killed me but I knew this would make a difference and that kept me motivated. I showed a Japanese friend. It was shit, and rather than the minor edits that I had imagined, it needed to be completely rewritten.
My heart sank but I wasn’t going to give up. I did a deal with a friend’s wife to redo it for me for $600, and two months after I started I published it and waited.
No one came, no one even cared.
My choice of domain name, ‘Rippedbody’ didn’t help matters for sure. – Funnily enough, a torn body isn’t what people are really looking for I discovered, even if it did have the .jp ending.
Now I’m pretty sure that if it hadn’t been for the positive response from the English-speaking crowd to my own articles on the site at that time I would probably have quit there and then. But with this came guilt, as I felt I was getting attention that I didn’t deserve. Those visitors to the site were only here out of interest in the articles I had written about Martin’s Leangains method.
Martin, though, was encouraging. The mails were short and direct, but there was a kindness there and that sealed it for me – I had made a promise to spread his work and I was going to keep it.
Fast forward 8 months to January 2012.
I’ve paid for a few more translations to be done in the interim, which still no one cares about. I’ve made a very nervous phone call to Mark Rippetoe, who after his own shit-tests turned out to be very cool with the idea of me translating some of his articles.
We were still only getting around 50 Japanese readers a day though.
It was about this time that Martin’s popularity peaked. He became unable to respond to the swell of people wanting his attention and people started unfairly criticizing him for it. Desperate for more information, people started to look for others that could answer their questions and started to (wrongly) compare him to I. Though I did my best to publicly distance myself from such comparisons (one example), I’m sure it (rightly) irked him nonetheless. That’s when someone mailed me with a screenshot of a comment Martin had made in some Facebook thread:
“Nice guy, not the kind of person to change an industry though.”
Now I was starting to realize around this point that to do the mission of fighting the broscience justice, to live up to my promise to Martin, I was going to have to work at it full-time. I had already started to think broader than just his own work. I handed in my resignation letter and published the fact in the post, “I grew some balls today…,” effectively committing me to the action. I also rather cockily wrote, “I’ll concentrate my full-time efforts on trying to spread good, solid nutrition and training advice in Japan. I want to make ‘Berkhan’, ‘McDonald’, ‘Aragon’ and ‘Rippetoe’ part of every gym-trainer and serious gym-goer’s vocabulary over here.”
There was a terrifying mix of excitement and nervousness as I clicked the publish button on that blog post, but I knew that if I didn’t give it a try it was something I would regret forever.
Why Translations are important.
You see for us native English speakers, if we think something is suspicious sounding – the latest awesome supplement for fat loss or muscle growth for example – we can just spend a little time googling around to see through the scam. We take this ability for granted.
But it’s not the same for those that can’t speak English to a high enough level. In Japan this is >99% of the Japanese. And as the commercial incentives to translate and publish this information simply aren’t there, this leads to an industry filled with even more nonsense, and people get screwed all the time because there is no counterbalance.
We’re now a good two and a half years down the road and a lot has happened since.
- I created a new site for the Japanese sections, with a name they could understand, AthleteBody.jp.
- I’ve taken on a full-time member of staff, Ken, grooming him over the course of several months to make him believe in the mission completely enough to quit his job and translation school.
- We’ve gained permission from everyone we could want to do article translations, flying out to meet people where necessary to build up enough familiarity and trust. – Alan Aragon, Mark Rippetoe, Martin Berkhan, Eric Cressey, Lyle McDonald, Eric Helms, Greg Nuckols, and Sol Orwell – thank you for believing in what we are trying to do. We will do you proud gents.
And though it’s been a long road getting here with some very dark days along the way, finally, if we keep working hard at it, it looks like we are poised to become that broscience counter-balance here in Japan.
AthleteBody.jp View Stats (Our sister site)
We think that these reading figures put us firmly as Japan’s most popular fitness site, something that I never dreamed possible when we began.
This was made possible by you.
I don’t know where this will lead from here, but I’m excited. We’re kind of flying on the underpants gnome theory of business at the moment, as that site doesn’t make any profit as few people seem interested in hiring an online coach here (yet). And I stubbornly refuse to host affiliate links, advertising, or supplement sales which certainly doesn’t help. But with 6000 clicks per day, we’ve definitely built up a lot of karma in the bank if not money. And all this is only possible because of your support because the expenses of that site are covered by the small percentage of readers that choose to hire me on this one.
And that promise to Martin? Well, his Leangains is now fairly widely known (you get ~8,500 hits in a Japanese google search), he has spawned his own fan blogs & there is even a Reddit style forum. People still cling on to the 6 meals a day myth, but we put a dent in that this summer when client Katsunobu won his Masters Class competition eating just two* meals a day. (*Which wasn’t necessary but I wanted to prove a point. Japanese people, in general, will only believe or trust that something is applicable to them if it is done by one of their own. Which is a whole other topic for another day, but I digress.) Mark Rippetoe’s articles are always popular and Alan & Eric’s recent meta-analyses went down a treat. There is more to do than we have the time and capacity to handle, but people love it.
Client Katsu taking 1st in the Masters Class (Full interview)
I have come to realize that I don’t need to be genius-level smart to have an impact on the industry – passion and a stubborn will mixed with a bit of luck might turn out to be enough. Obviously, I hope that we can get the Japanese site to the point where it can cover its own expenses. But I’ll be doing it in a non-sleazy way. It’s poised to do some good things if we keep working hard at it.
If you’re thinking plucking up the courage to ask someone you look up to if you can translate their work I’d encourage you to go for it. People that aren’t in it for the money, but have a deep and genuine passion for what they do will nearly always respond positively. You have nothing to lose in asking and may even gain friendships with people who you consider mentors that you never thought could happen. While you don’t have to go to the extremes that I have gone to, put your passion for it first, and trust that the rest will figure itself out along the way.
On the English side of things, I finally feel like I have my own voice in the industry, albeit a small one. But it feels good.
The broscience battle continues. All the greats are on board. I’ll keep you guys posted with how we get on. Thank you most sincerely. – Andy.
The New Sister Site
Written August 2012
What with not a single soul in Japan knowing what ‘ripped’ means, and all the English script being off-putting to the Japanese reader, making a sister site was the only way for us to move forward seriously here.
“Bringing The World’s Latest Nutrition and Training Information to Japan”
…is what the banner reads and if you have a quick look on the left side-bar there will be a couple of faces you recognize, and more to come. The idea is to spread the work of these mentors of mine; I know if presented in the right way they will help people here as much as they have influenced my own way of thinking.
It’s already a huge buzz to see a couple of Japanese blogs pop up about people trying the Leangains principles, to see that people are searching for “Leangains” and “Rippetoe” in Japanese. My dream is for this new little site to grow enough awareness to make a Japanese edition of Starting Strength possible, to overhear a conversation about Leangains in the gym, to give Alan Aragon traction for his Research Review here…
This hasn’t been an easy decision for us to make. We lose all the google link love, and the Facebook page likes and Twitter follows start at zero again. However with your support this last year it’s made it that much easier, and I could not have persuaded Ken to come join me in this adventure without you. If you have a Japanese friend you’ve been trying to explain things to, you now know a place to send them. 🙂
I’d like to dedicate this website to you the readers, to my mentors, and my clients. Whatever the future brings it was you guys that were here at the beginning and made this happen. – It won’t be forgotten.
So without further ado, here she is:
Regular posts coming soon. Thanks for reading.
Getting a Visa and Attending My First First Fitness Summit to Meet My Mentors
Written June 2012
I apologize for the lack of posts these past 3 months. The truth is I was advised not to. It was one of the many hurdles I’ve had to leap over in a quagmire of red tape, trying to get a business visa. It’s been a roller-coaster of emotions that’s had me on the verge of tears. The good news is that I can post here freely now and there will be much more frequent updates.
You needn’t read anymore of this post as there is nothing useful for your diet in here. However, if you’d like to read about the visa fun and games, why my honestly nearly screwed me, and my first trip to the States, then that story is below. Oh and there’s a caption contest with prize!
The fun and games of getting a Japanese investor visa
With quitting my job that left me without a visa to stay in Japan. If I were an employee for a company it would be a very simple deal, however, I wanted to do this independently so I’d have to sponsor my own. This was much easier said than done.
The investor/business visa is the hardest one to get. It would mean I’d have to pay considerable money and go through a lot* of hassle (*way more than I knew at the time) with no guarantee of my application being accepted. “Online coaching” and being internet based would be a tough sell, I was told.
I’d need to write up a full business plan. I’d need to rent an office [regardless of the fact that I didn’t need one.] I’d need to make company signs and take photos of that office and have an official, legally binding rental contract. I’d need to prove that I’d paid tax and have none outstanding. – Unfortunately being honest with my taxes turned out to be a mistake.
I had declared all my income thinking this was the right thing to do, however, it turned out to be a breach of my current visa terms which prohibited other, secondary income. I was told that it would probably get me refused and I’d have to leave Japan. -I nearly threw up right there on the lawyers desk; all the hard work might be lost.
Everything else therefore would have to be perfect and even then it would be a gamble as to whether I’d be accepted. I was told I shouldn’t update the blog or take on any Japanese clients until everything was sorted, or better yet none at all. -That would be 2-3 months.
However I’d come this far, I had to see it through.
Off to the States
17th May, 2012
Two months and a lot of running around later over an inch of paperwork had been prepared (all in Japanese). I submitted it into the immigration office hours before stepping onto a flight to the states to go to The Fitness Summit in Kansas City, which turned out to be exactly the medicine I needed for my stress. It was great to finally meet people I’d so far only been in touch with on the net.
The highlight for me was probably at the end of the Q&A when the speakers shared their career highlights. Funny and inspiring, Alan’s story of getting a call from WWE star Steve Austin was pretty awesome and definitely something to aim for.
Looking around the room that day I had to conclude that the obesity epidemic in the US is a myth. -Everyone seemed very fit and healthy to me! 🙂 Jokes said though, throughout the whole visit including the subsequent trip to San Francisco, stranger or no everyone was really friendly, and I can’t wait to find an excuse to go back to the US.
Back In Japan
Three long weeks after getting back I got a letter telling me to come to the immigration office, and after a one-hour line-up I found out my visa had been accepted. The relief I felt at that moment was so great I nearly cried. I felt lighter. I went straight to the gym to deadlift.
In light of the above, Kengo, who’s been helping me with translations, decided to quit his job and join me to try and spread things in Japan. We’re currently working on a new, Japanese-only site (more details and reasons when it’s done) and will separate the two from now on. (Ken being Japanese, for him to quit his company means I clearly have ninja-level persuasive powers; so beware if you ever meet me.)
I’d like to say a special thank you Hideki Yoshida for “officially” renting me his dojo to use as my office in east Osaka.
To anyone in a similar situation, I’d highly recommend Shawn Wallace and the team at Z’xent Pro who helped guide me through the business set-up, visa application procedure, and translate everything. They were very professional.
I am now the president… of a blog!
‘Funny’ things that brought me to Japan
Written February 2012
“There is something to be learned from a rainstorm.
When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road.
By doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet.
When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you will still get the same soaking.
This understanding extends to all things.”
author of “Hagakure – The Book of the Samurai”
The journey that led me from Birmingham to Osaka, to nutrition essentially comes down to three moments of my life that changed things forever.
- A glass bottle smashed over my head when I was 15
- A book called “Angry White Pyjamas”
- A truck driver hitting me in the street four years ago.
There’s going to be nothing of practical use for your physique goals in this post as with others, so unless you’re interested in the above things don’t waste your time reading.
The Glass Bottle
I went to a good secondary school (11-18 yrs old in the UK) that was unfortunately in a very shit inner-city area. The gates and fence were steel and 12 feet high and other than the general “roughings up” that go on at a boys school, what happened within the confines of those fences was a different world to the one outside.
I recall being a bright-faced, innocent, naive suburban kid standing at the bus stop witnessing my first mugging the same week I started at the school, wondering what the hell was going on. I didn’t know to run away, I just stood there lost in the drama that was going on before my eyes. There were literally countless muggings and other incidents that took place just outside those gates during my time at that school, but the sense of danger wasn’t ever real enough for me as fortunately, nothing really bad happened. “Get home without getting your shit stolen,” became a kind of game.
But then one day something changed that.
I was standing at the bus stop in my “nice” middle-class neighborhood with some friends when the 107 bus pulled up across the street. There was a sound of smashed glass and I turned to see a kid jump out the back window of the top deck of the bus, as a group of around 20 of his drugged-up mates piled off. Ignoring them didn’t help as I found out when one of them came up behind me, and I ended up with a beer bottle smashed around my head. -They had come into the nicer neighborhood for “softer pickings” you see.
Later that evening as I sat in the ER having stitches I was completely disgusted with myself. I had run away from my friends. I left them there. Of my five friends, three were girls and I just ran. Luckily the girls were fine, they weren’t touched. But the feeling of shame I still have to this day.
The fear didn’t go away for years. Only something very small compared to what some other kids have to deal with in ghetto neighborhoods in America, for sure. But to me at the time, perception being everything, it rattled me.
I remember for the next two years whenever I left school early (and so wasn’t walking in a crowd) I walked to the school bus stop with a big steel ruler I had stolen from the design-tech department shoved up my sleeve. Fortunately, I never had to use it, nor did I have to “run for it” again for the rest of the time at the school, but I knew at the time it wasn’t going to fix the fear, and if cornered, what then?
I got into Karate. The teacher was a hard-ass but his attitude was well-intentioned and came from his own unfortunate real-life experiences. Disgust with oneself was a strong motivator. I continued to practice, gained a little more confidence back and the fear started to subside.
Now, looking back I’m thankful to that boy that decided to come at me with the bottle 13 years ago. If he hadn’t done that, I might never have set foot in a dojo. The karate would never have turned into a deeper interest, and I might not be sitting where I am today. I can now laugh about it all. – a broader perspective shows them to be mere trivialities compared to what more unfortunate kids go through. I went to a great school with awesome teachers. We had warm loving families to go home to which I imagine the kids that robbed us didn’t. Belongings aside, I think the worst thing I heard of happening was a broken nose or broken ribs from a “kicking”. We had a good education and we were lucky.)
When I went to Uni I made the shocking discovery that quite apart from what I had been conditioned to, people were generally quite nice and it was quite fine to be nice to people.
“Softer” surroundings, parties, or distance, for some reason I stopped going to the dojo for my first two years. But after coming up with what we (my three-course buddies and I) decided was a clever, minimal-effort strategy to pass with a respectable grade, (we realized that with certain elective courses we could ignore half of the course material, study just the interesting stuff and only reduce our chances of passing by ~10%), I had more time on my hands and so started up again. By mid-way through my final year, I was attending classes every day at a city-center dojo. I was over my fears but I loved the training, the teacher was great, (a legend in fact – Eugene Codrington) as were all the people there.
It was about this time that my course-mates were applying for jobs that I really didn’t give a shit about and couldn’t imagine myself doing when someone handed me a book called “Angry White Pyjamas”, by Robert Twigger. It was violent. It was hilarious. And it put stupid ideas in my head.
I ditched the graduate job search, found something in Japan, and was on a plane within 3 months of graduating, heading to Osaka (“because it was big but not as big as Tokyo”). Due to schedule conflicts, my Karate training dropped to two sessions a week.
After a couple of years, I was still enjoying the training but I realized that the Karate had only given me the skills to hurt someone rather than subdue them. And more than anything I wanted to have enough control so that I would have options if someone came at me again.
I went down to an Aikido dojo that was in a neighborhood next to mine, and through pure luck, it turned out to be the international headquarters for the one style, Shodokan, that emphasized practical application through fighting rather than just form. This meant I got to learn from some of the best guys in the world.
I was soon training 6 sessions a week Aikido and 2 sessions of the Karate. I was mad for the martial arts. Like many there, my life started to revolve around the training, and in the winters trying to get my ‘dogi’ washed and dried in time for the next session became a real daily mission. After about 2 years of this I was still shit at both the Karate and Aikido, but enjoyed the training and so didn’t really care. I never experienced the joys of having all the skin rubbed off my knees like Mr. Twigger in the book, but I did get a thorough understanding of his hate of 正座 ‘seiza’, the painful kneeling position which we had to endure for seemingly hours on the grading days. (See picture.)
Despite all that training I was still not ripped in any way. So I took a 6-month break to do a “getting ripped” experiment with a friend, Jeremy, doing the 6 meals a day thing*. We were hitting the gym 5 days a week, one hour of weights and one hour of cardio. It worked. Unsurprisingly, we got shredded (see picture right), but all the effort nearly killed us. (*We’ve both smartened up since then.) Mission success: I could go back to the dojo.
But then on the 8th of August 2008, a truck driver’s rear door swung open as I was standing in the street. I put out my hand so it didn’t take my head off and my wrist was broken. After a week of having a cast on and not being able to do anything, I was going crazy. So I squatted, gripped the cast between my feet, and pulled as I stood up with all the force I could bare. I went back to the doctor and put the cast calmly on his desk and politely asked if he could set me a new one with the angle a couple of degrees further so I could still “Smith-Bench.” -He wasn’t amused.
I didn’t know it at the time but that truck incident ended my Aikido career. The cast came off, but I couldn’t really bend it despite all the physio after. It’s left me with a permanent injury where I can’t put any pressure on my wrist in a bent position. (Think push-ups -I can’t do them. Too painful.)
The martial arts were done but I could still lift weights as long as I used a straight wrist. I had finally had a taste of what it was like to get shredded. I liked it. But I knew there had to be a better way, a smarter way to do things. I suddenly had a whole lot of free time on my hands and my obsessive nature needed an outlet to ‘geek-out’ on. – My journey into nutrition began.
It took me a while, but eventually, I sifted through all the crap and found the people that teach us the “good stuff”, those whom I try to pay respect to on this site. You could probably call that the fourth point on the road. If you’re read anything else on here then you know the people I’m talking about as there are links to their work everywhere.
Steve Jobs would call these four moments in my life, “dots”.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path; and that will make all the difference.”
Notice any dots of your own?
Thanks for reading. I know this one was a bit more personal but hey, we’ve all got stories.
“There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
Indeed, hindsight is a wonderful thing and gives a much different perspective.
I grew some balls today…
Written Jan 2012
It’s done. I finally handed in my resignation letter, quitting my secure, cushy government job that has given me a stable income and afforded me lots of free time for the past 6 years and there’s no going back.
I feel like a missionary standing on the shores in feudal Japan in the 1600s. -A funny image but scary thought.
I’ll concentrate my full-time efforts on trying to spread good, solid nutrition and training advice in Japan. I want to make “Berkhan”, “McDonald”, “Aragon” and “Rippetoe” part of every gym-trainer and serious gym-goer’s vocabulary over here.
Nearly every day I find myself wanting to put my foot through my TV because of some misinformed idiot preaching bad diet advice. And every day I see people being taken through the same ineffective, cookie-cutter machine routines at the gym; innocent and blissfully ignorant people being milked of their money. I’ve had enough of my own silent, smug thoughts in my head. Thoughts will help no-one, actions can count.
I’m quite nervous right now.
I’m not going to make any friends doing this. I expect to eat a lot of shit from the Japanese training community, supplement industry, and bloggers relying on supplement-sales income. I’ll be ignored, laughed at, ridiculed in the forums by most… all stuff the guys above suffered through to help us these last 5~10 years, something I and many others are grateful to them for. This is a country where older equals wiser and I’m 28. I’m at a language disadvantage which I’m going to have to work very hard to get on top of fast, and I’m going to have no-one to support me due to this barrier.
I don’t know quite whether this is going to end up in a heap of flames with me having burned out my savings on translations* (*with permission of course) or whether I’ll be able to make a go of it. I just hope that by putting good information first I’ll attract the right open-minded crowd and the word will spread from there.
I’m sure as shit not about to tread the road to riches, but I feel good. I’m happy. Never been happier. I believe in what I am doing. I know I can help a lot of people here.
I finally grew some balls today. Wish me and my new set of balls good luck.
Thank you for taking this trip down memory lane with me.