Chris Millares, Amerikick
That was the day I quit, gave up, stopped, threw in the towel and knew that I was ABSOLUTELY DONE teaching martial arts! I wanted nothing to do with it! I was retired and excited to hand in my letter of resignation.
“Ok Chris! I’ll bite, you crazy human. Why did you quit?”
Thanks for asking 🙂 … Let’s Go!
The kid’s name was Ryan. He was 7 years old, had an innocent look like a disney character penciled by Walt himself. Ryan was (in technical Chris terminology) “a little stud”. Clean cut, well dressed by 2 parents who loved him dearly. The optics of this little man forecasted a career on the movie screen.
Full disclosure, I could envision Ryan rocking out the lyrics of “You’ve lost that loving feeling” to Scarlett Johannson in a future TOP GUN flick!
Speaking of TOP GUN… I used to tell TC (Readers note: TC is what I call my boy Tom Cruise. We try to hang once a month at Magerks Tavern in Horsham, PA) , “It is what it is TC! Out with the old and in with the new. It’s time to hang it up. The Mission Impossibles were amazing and the masses loved you in Cocktail with Elizabeth Shue but to quote the great Bob Dylan, ‘These Times Are A Changing’ and Little Ryan is on deck.”
Okay! To the one person reading this, gullible enough to believe that I actually hang out with TC on the monthly, among GEN POP (what I call the general population)… I don’t. I took a creative license and made that shit up! But it doesn’t change the fact that Ryan was a “little stud”!
As with certain things in life, looks can be deceiving. Ryan was the ultimate juxtaposition of the optics. Plain English – the kid was a nightmare, a maniac, aggressive, rude, angry. He was like the cat character in one of those Shrek cartoons or STiTCH gone bad!
He was awful! A problem child on and off the karate mat which consistently left teachers in a state of trance and post traumatic stress.
It was so tough teaching this kid!
“How tough?” You ask.
I started wearing a groin up when it was clear that Ryan was going to front kick a part of the male anatomy with all of his strength and follow with a peace symbol strike to the eyes (speaking of juxtaposition) during EVERY CLASS HE ATTENDED!
Ryan brought push pins to class and hid them inside of his uniform. When the instructor asked the kids to sit down, legs crossed, he would place one of the pins underneath an unexpecting student and yell “booby trap… HA HA! I got you dummy.”
Once on a tenacious Tuesday, a new instructor asked him to demonstrate a kick combination. Ryan looked, smirked and replied, “Shuuuut up fool!” Then laughed like Dave Chappelle after a comedic rant!
And, who can forget season 2, episode 5 of Ryan? The class was doing line sprints. Ryan ran out of the gate and 2 bags of CHEEZITS, YES, CHEEZITS, the friendly children’s lunch time snack, flew out of his uniform and blanketed the training floor like some kind of Call of Duty Carpet Bomb. HHHOhhhh My Goddddd! “Feel my wrath, dummies,” Ryan shouted!
What 7 year old child uses the word WRATH??? I’ll tell you who. It was Ryan, the little, innocent Tom Cruise 2.0!
Ryan was the worst student I’ve ever had!
To our credit, we tried everything… 💯
Take away stripes on the karate belt. Check! ☑️
Take away the whole karate belt. Check! ☑️
Kicked out of class. Check! ☑️
Parents took away Pokemon Cards! Check! ☑️
Parent, Teacher Conferences. Check!☑️
Personal Training Sessions On The House. Check! ☑️
3 Strikes and you’re out. Check! ☑️
Check! Check! Check! And yes, more Checks! Did I mention Check? 😎
Ok. Let’s chill for a second.
More breath work.
At this point you probably feel like this story just took a random turn into transcendental meditation.
It hasn’t… I promise. A little trust. Stay with me. Inhale. Exhale.
One more deep breath because…
…this is where MY LIFE AND CAREER WOULD NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN. This was the pivotal moment when I grew up and grew up fast.
The part of the story that I left out until now is that Ryan experienced a tragedy as a very little boy. Ryan was 7 when I was his karate teacher. The tragedy had taken place 3 years before his family ever signed him up for karate. He experienced something a little boy should never have to go though but he did and this is what happened…
Ryan was 4 years old and staying at his aunt and uncle’s house. They were nice enough to babysit so Ryan’s mom and dad could go out for date night.
A kiss on the forehead from mom and dad, a “goodbye,” “behave for uncle Mike and aunt Julia,” “one more hug before we go Ryan” and “another hug for good luck.”
This would be the last time that 4 year old Ryan would hear those words uttered from mommy and daddy. On the way back to pick him up, there was a devastating car accident, Ryan’s parents were rushed to the ER that night and passed shortly after.
Memories from a little boy’s short 4 year window with mom and dad would be the only memories he’d have for the remainder of time.
What was next? How do you possibly pick up the pieces and move forward?
Timeout! Real time update:
- Right now at 2:34 PM on a Sunday – this writer, me, Chris M, just left the laptop on the dining room table, walked into the living room and hugged both Chrislets: Christian Anthony was playing Madden football on XBox 360 and Lila Rose was playing with a slime kit that we bought from Target earlier today.
- A mentor and friend once taught me, “happiness occurs in those little moments, seconds and flashes as an oasis in the middle life’s work” I wrote that down and won’t forget.
- I’m back on the computer now… Let’s finish the story!
What happened next? Well! From that moment on, Ryan would be raised by “UNCLE DAD” and “AUNT MOM,” the loving couple who was babysitting that night.
A simple, family favor changed, in an instant, to become an unbreakable commitment for a lifetime…
A lifetime commitment to give little Ryan, Tom Cruise 2.0, the best life possible…
… nothing short of LOVE in its purest form.
It’s the type of love that overruns inspiration showered bookshelves with the artistry of brilliant authors, unparalleled creativity, uplifting pages, sans serif font styles and elegantly designed book covers.
“Uncle Dad” and “Aunt Mom” could easily have been the title of this story but it’s not and there’s a reason why. Stay with me.
Let’s rewind to the “Check Section” for a second! ⏮️
“Take away stripes on the karate belt. Check!
Take away the whole karate belt. Check!
Kicked out of class. Check!
Parents took away Pokemon Cards! Check!
Parent, teacher Conferences. Check!
Personal Training Sessions. Check!
3 Strikes and you’re out. Check!
Check! Check! Check! And yes, more Checks! Did I mention Check? 😎”
One afternoon, out of the blue, Uncle Dad came into the karate school and wanted to talk. “Yo Chris! What’s up big guy? Got a few minutes?”
“Of course.” I shot back! I liked Uncle Dad. Still do. He’s a genuine, hard working guy with interesting things to say.
A genuine person in a world filled with: filters, personification, the “how great I am tales,” and the incessant face noise of EVERYBODY wanting EVERYTHING from you all the time is always an incredible change of pace. 100%
I dropped my boxing gloves, walked off the training floor and sat with Uncle Dad at a small table we had in the parent lobby. He handed me a coffee that he scooped up from Wawa, settled in and then hit me with it…
“We’ve been spending a lot of time with the child psychologist and I think we’ve got something. Up until now, we’ve been taking things away from Ryan when he misbehaves: stripes, belts, pokemon, video games, screen time, check, check and check!
She (the child psychologist) said ‘Ryan lost everything a little boy could possibly lose after the accident. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ELSE ON THIS EARTH THAT WE COULD TAKE AWAY TO HELP CHANGE HIS BEHAVIOR. HE ALREADY LOST IT ALL.’
Chris. I think all of us have been approaching this the wrong way!”
That was it, the mindset shift, the event, the flash of insight that awakened like one of Jackson Pollock’s pieces finally coming to life. That was the exact moment in time when it happened.
I quit teaching karate forever that day and started teaching KIDS!
The next day, Ryan came to class. It was a little different this time. We didn’t yell at him, take things away or check, check, check!
“Ryan. I know you know how to do it but the other kids in class don’t. Can you be the leader and set the example for the other kids to follow?” “Yes sensei!” He replied with an affirming grin! No more punches to the male anatomy or claws to the eye. Ryan kicked ass that day and every day that followed.
Ryan earned an Amerikick Black Belt after 3 and a half years of training. He stood on stage at the Black Belt Extravaganza to receive his belt from Grand Master Dennis Tosten (our founder).
Uncle Dad and Aunt Mom were at the event, in tears as any proud parent would be!
Whoa! Deep breath… 🌬️
One last thing… Then I’ll leave you alone 😉
I was telling this story to one of my best friends, right before the summer. I don’t remember why it came up. It just did.
A few hours later my cell phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number but still answered.
Rare in Chris’s world because if I don’t know who’s calling, I don’t pick that shit up! I’m not interested in your sales pitch, surveys, home security systems or ways to save on car insurance. I’m happy to leave that to GEICO and the very handsome lizard to figure out!
Anyways, I picked up the phone and it was Ryan. “What’s up Sensei Chris? It’s Ryan! Do you remember me?”
Isn’t it interesting when that happens? One minute you’re talking to your best friend about someone and the next minute, they call you. ❤️
Anyways, I picked up the phone and it was Ryan. “What’s up Sensei Chris? It’s Ryan! Do you remember me?”
Me: “Yo buddy! Of course I remember you! What have you been up to?”
Ryan: “I’m in the NAVY!”
Me: “Like David Goggins? The Seal? The guy who runs all day?”
Ryan: “No, not a Seal, but I have been serving our country.” (slight chuckle)”
Ryan Again: “That’s not what I called to tell you though. I’m getting married down here in Florida and I want to invite you to the wedding. It’s a year out, but we want to tell people close to us now…
I know I was tough but I still remember all those things you used to teach us ‘All it takes is all you’ve got’ ‘Leadership is an influence thing, that’s it’ ‘What you put in is what you get out’ I never forgot. You were one of my favorite teachers ever.”
I was floored… Almost didn’t know what to say but I did bounce back like Rocky Balboa in round 5.
Me: “Buddy. I never thought I’d have the chance to tell you but you’re hands down the most inspirational student I’ve ever had. You were the reason I quit teaching karate and became obsessed with teaching kids! If my son if is half the man you you’ve become, I’ll feel like I succeeded as a dad!”
Ryan: “So you’re coming to the wedding right?”
It’s like he totally missed it, dismissed it or maybe he did register it. It was all good, I was happy to hear from this young kid who was CRUSHING IT!
And the conversation went on…
Most people think of a coincidence as a random, unique event at an oddly placed moment in time. It’s not! A coincidence refers to 2 things in nature that “coincide”. They were meant to collide, meet at some specific point for some specific reason.
This call was just that, a coincidence that served as a reminder of why I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.
Thank you for that Nick! (Whoops! I slipped and told you his real name. Don’t worry. He won’t mind☺️)
Okay! One more thing. I swear! A question actually…
Expedia, Travelocity, Booking.com or a straight up visit to the airline website… Where is the best place to book a trip to Florida next year? 😎
Chris Millares, COO Amerikick