Throughout my life I’ve found myself with various titles; student & mentor, son & dad, unemployed & business owner, stay-at-home dad & weekend dad, Buddhist & soldier. Of all the things I’ve been and of all the roles I have to assume at any given time, the one that stays consistent to all contexts and scenarios and the only one in which I seek a personal identity in is Man. And this is why I specialize in working with men. Because whoever and whatever else they may have to be in their lives, what underpins it all is what they are ‘made of’ as men.
I haven’t lead a perfectly-lived life. I’ve made mistakes in every area of my life and have had many unique experiences. At the age of 32, I have already experienced marriage and divorce/separation (both as a child and an adult); the birth of my children and the death of a parent; being fired and starting businesses; childhood trauma, violence and aggression, living with and caring for a terminally ill loved one, and more. And most of these experiences were had before the age of 25.
What largely qualifies me as a life coach, is that I’ve lived and have extrapolated essential life-lessons from these experiences that I now pass on to others.
Working with the Body
My mum always wanted to get me into gymnastics. She saw how active I was and was willing to find the money to send me to classes. But I didn't want anything to do with that girly stuff, especially not after I saw The Karate Kid. And that was it, aged six, my life would never be the same after discovering this film that was essentially about a scared boy looking for a father figure. I could relate. I started karate lessons and for every day after until my early twenties, I would immerse myself in the martial arts. This later became more functional and less traditional as I got involved in tactical combatives and eventually developed an unarmed combat system that I continue to teach to both professionals and the general public.
And so I have been training my own body in various ways almost my entire life; teaching myself basic anatomy and physiology as it applied to fighting and later to postural correction, strength training and injury re-hab. When I decided to take the Level 3 Personal Trainer course, I was pleasantly surprised at how much of the material I was already familiar with. Especially after working for a wellness and nutrition company for several years.
When I started training clients in self defence and fitness, I found myself addressing various issues they had with their body such muscle imbalances and faulty movement patterns. In looking into the origin of their dysfunction, we would sometimes discover that they had been carrying themselves a certain way due to identities they adopted earlier on in their life.
I would change the way men stood and carried themselves in order to make them look less like a potential victim for would-be muggers or bullies and in so doing they would develop confidence in other areas of their lives.
When I later discovered the subject of Bioenergetics, I found it rang true with what I had already learned through working with people's bodies - that emotions manifest in various ways in the body and then these physical habits in turn ingrain the emotion into the personality. I now change people's psychology largely by changing their physiology.
I'd say I started 'reading' people at around the age of five in order to make sense of some of the behaviours I was exposed to. It was at this age that my parents divorced and I started to go to school with some interesting characters whose dads were in prison. Being half Asian and with a weird name in what was then an almost entirely white environment got me some unwanted attention.
In my late teens, I couldn’t help but notice a distinct pattern of people opening up to me and sharing their problems. I later found myself offering alternative perspectives which would then guide them to making various positive changes.
I've always taken a massive interest in what makes people do the things they do (especially to themselves) and so my reading of personalities never stopped and my self-learning in various areas of psychology and practices such as neuro linguistic programming (NLP) later become more formal study of the Robbins-Madanes Training material which covers areas of Ericksonian therapy, strategic family therapy, human needs psychology, neurolinguistics, psychology of influence, strategic studies, game theory, and others.
I got my first proper computer with internet access at around 14 years old when the internet was still pretty new to people's homes. Apart from immediately using it to search for the things you'd expect from a teenage boy, I remember some of the first things I started searching (no 'Googling' back then) was Shinto, Buddhism, Taoism and Zen. Through my obsession with the martial arts I had inevitably encountered meditation and Eastern philosophy and religion and needed to expand my understanding.
By the time I was 19, I was involved in a school of Japanese Buddhism and later become a 'Young Men's Division Leader' for a particular organisation (I didn't stay long and have never been anywhere near a formal religion before or since).
I've been involved in various practices but being a pragmatist, I've retained only what I can verify actually works to create real positive changes in people in a reasonable amount of time. These include elements of chi kung, yoga and Zen.
I learned a lot about responsibility and unconditional love when fatherhood took me by surprise in my early twenties. Twice. I lived as a family man for 6.5 years - including over a year of being the stay-at-home parent - until separating from the children's mum.
Having a head-strong but empathic super-hero of a boy and a light-hearted and intuitive princess of a girl, I've been able to see the actual creation and development of the very masculine and feminine qualities that I have studied to understand so well that I now educate others on.
Transitioning from living in a home filled with the sounds of children to finding myself again living alone with my cat and having to discuss 'access' to my own babies was an intense period of growth that has actually taken my parenting to a whole new level and is in part what pulled me towards becoming a men's life coach.
I've discovered the parallels in mastering intimate relationship dynamics and the qualities required as a parent to create happy and emotionally secure children and enjoy working with men who have kids for this very reason.
Rites of Passage
Rites of passage can be seen as important rituals in almost all cultures throughout history in which a man in some way 'officially' becomes a man. Before I ever looked into this, I think I felt the need for a rite of passage almost my entire life and in hindsight can see examples of where I had tried to create this for myself. These have mostly been in small ways, but there have been a couple of bigger ones...
When I was 18, I travelled to the Philippines to immerse myself in the native fighting arts. I stayed there for two months and trained intensively. Apart from the training itself, challenge came in the form of culture shock; this was my first time travelling, and I was alone in a developing country whose economic and political challenges were in your face as soon as you got off the plane. I saw poverty and injustice that kept me awake at night. I came back from that trip with many stories, including one in which I almost got kidnapped . Most notably though was the Brown Belt I brought back with me. On my last day, I had my 'grading' in which my skills were tested and I was pushed to my physical limits and taken through an initiation ceremony that involved being hit (a lot) with the belt I'd just earned. My hands and feet bled that day. The following night on the plane home, I had my 19th birthday and when I got back was never really the same (in a good way).
While that experience served as a rite of passage, I can't say I was thinking of it too much in that way at the time. Years later, however, I would seek a challenge that was very deliberately for personal growth and again centring around a birthday...
Lying prone in leaf-litter, twigs and moss, I could see my breath condense in a cloud in front of my face. It was almost pitch black as the moon failed to penetrate through the trees with visibility down to a few meters in front of me. Although I knew our position was likely to be attacked, I was having to fight to keep my eyes open as I lay on 'stag' (sentry duty). The buttstock of my rifle was now the most comfortable pillow in the word as my cheek lay resting on it. Illuminating my watch with it's tactical green light, I saw it was just after midnight. When I glanced at the date in the top right corner of the display, I realized what day it was. Happy frikkin' birthday, I thought. No way was I going to tell anyone though. Not after what we did to the last guy in our section who had a birthday, Ha! My family were under strict instructions not to text me happy birthday while I was in Basic Training for this very reason.
Joining the Army Reserves ticked a lot of boxes for me. In psychology speak, the move to join up fulfilled all six of the 'Six Human Needs'. On the whole, though, it was something I had to do for me and my own identity. Serving was something I'd wanted to do almost my entire life and my original attempt to go in straight out of secondary school went pear shaped (and caused a life crisis that was the platform for a period of intense personal development). If I didn't do it now, I never would. I've taken a lot away from my military experience. Being older and already coaching people when I signed up, I've milked the learning experience for every drop I can so I can in turn strengthen others. The British Army produces heroes and has done for hundreds of years. During my training, I was intensely curious to see how they went about doing this and I now apply the massively high standards to my work. It is also an organisation that is built with the same masculine energy I now help men reveal in themselves.
Before becoming a life-coach, I had already had experience of creating rites of passage for others through conducting gradings in my self defence class. Using methods inspired by my military experience, I have taken men from feeling incapable and vulnerable in their personal safety to being confident in their ability to deal with all levels of conflict after having gone through an intense series of tests on their day of grading.
Male Role Models
I didn't really have any positive male role models for the first few year of my life. While I have been healing my relationship with my dad for the past year and we now serve each other, I can say that his presence (when he was present) in my first few years on this planet was far from positive.
I've come close to going 'off the rails' in my youth when I was younger, but by whatever grace, I developed what we call a 'key question' very early on in life that has shaped the general path that life has taken. These can be positive or negative and the quality of the question you ask determines the quality of the answer life responds with. My question was "How can I be a better man?" despite still being a boy.
And the answer often came in the form of mentors. None have been perfect and each have taught me valuable lessons in different aspects manhood that they themselves were strong in. I've even had the pleasurable but strange experience of returning the favour in coaching these same men later on in areas where they had lost some strength.
There was my brother-in-law and Guru who showed me that you can live with an open heart and still be a masculine male. My uncle who demonstrated what it looks like to be the supportive, protective presence within a family unit. My boss who became like my big brother and who showed me the value of hardness, fairness, tenacity and will power and also taught me a thing or two about women! There have been many others, but these are the most prominent to me. There is also of course, my dad. Who taught me lessons in life that are difficult to put into words.
Apart from people who are physically in our lives, I also encourage men to model themselves on those they admire who they perhaps don't know in person. The world has produced hundreds and hundreds of inspirational men who have taken it upon themselves to document their genius, hard work and values. You're unlikely to find them on TV very often these days unfortunately. But in this information age, their books and books about them and documentaries telling their stories can be downloaded or accessed in seconds.
When it comes this area, I have been there! The ups and the downs. The good, bad, and embarrassing. And the emotionally unhealthy.
I have been observing how couples work since my parents divorced when I was 5, but my serious interest in relationship dynamics came after my first horrific breakup when I was 21, in which I felt compelled to take a deeper look at myself. Several years later, after another traumatic breakup, I took my studying to the next level and have been on the path to complete relationship mastery ever since. What I have learned through experience now helps other couples and single people get what they want in their love lives.
I'm grateful to share my life with my amazing lady, Raquel. Her support in my mission to strengthen others never, ever, ever ceases to blow me away. Personal development and life-coaching is central to our relationship; we went as friends and colleagues to a Tony Robbins seminar and after intense bonding experiences were more than friends several days after. We both have our own separate paths in personal growth that intertwine and bring us together. It's an amazing experience to witness somebody else's massive growth and feel them get stronger and stronger in supporting yours.
We have worked and continue to work incredibly hard at our relationship not only for ourselves but so as to provide an example to my clients and of course the kids who love her dearly and get enormous value from her unconditional love for them. They share a beautiful relationship that is the centre of my life.
Being able to offer a life such as ours to other people is more fulfilling than words can describe.