I wrote this a while back and never had a chance to share. Rob wanted me to write this up for his site but he wanted a more condensed version. However everyone here knows I'm a wordy mother fucker, so I refused. LOL But I still wanted to put this up and give Rob the props he deserves.
The paths that life presents to us are many. Some walks along these chosen paths will be trivial, and some will be life changing. For better or for worse, the paths that we choose will mold and shape who we become, and how we see the world and the people around us.
In the summer of 1989 I would make a decision to walk a path that would forever change my life.
A year before, my very best friend who was like a brother to me had been killed in a motorcycle accident, and my parents had divorced. My father and I never had a close relationship so when my mother left him, I departed with her. I now found myself living in a small two bedroom apartment with my very pregnant sister, a mother who was trying to finish nursing school, and another sister whose life was fairly nomadic. I spent my days sitting in a tiny bedroom playing Nintendo, watching movies, and smoking cigarettes. My existence seemed pointless and hollow. I never contemplated suicide, but I often wondered if I had any purpose for being on this planet. A black cloud of depression hung over my head constantly, and any attempt to fight it seemed futile. I felt like I had no way out.
One day at the store I picked up a martial arts magazine and thumbed through it while waiting on my mother to finish grocery shopping. I had taken martial arts for several years before and had an interest in doing it again. Inside that magazine I came across an interview with a young guy teaching Ninjutsu, named Rob Bascue. At the end of the article his phone number and address were given. He was in Albany, Oregon. You don't have to be a geographical wizard to probably know that Oregon and Mississippi are a couple of miles apart. Nevertheless I bought the magazine and called the number when I got back to my sisters apartment.
Over the next couple of weeks Rob and I talked and figured out how we could work things out for me to come out there and train. I would stay at his parents home and rent out a bedroom and train there in the basement studio. For money, I would pawn my double bass Yamaha drumset. This would buy the Greyhound bus ticket and give me the cash that would take me from north Mississippi to Albany, Orgeon. Four days of riding across the country at a mere 14 years old, all by myself.
On the surface this seems like a dumb idea to anyone on the outside looking in. But for me it just made sense. Even if were only temporal, I would be leaving behind a life of depression that was eating away at me. For a while I could focus on something else. For a while, I could be someone else.
Selling my parents on this idea took some time but after they talked with Rob for a few weeks everyone got on board with the plan. I did my 4 days on the Greyhound and arrived a very crusty, but happy, citizen at the bus stop in Albany. Rob's brother Ron was waiting on me and drove me to my temporary summer home with Rob and his folks.
I don't recollect the first time I actually met Rob, but that is probably due to the fact that all I could think about was getting a shower when I arrived. I do remember being teased about my very long hair and my deep southern drawl.
I arrived on a Sunday. And training started bright and early the next morning. Rob informed me that we would be going to the gym to lift weights. I had done a little lifting while playing football but nothing serious for sure. Rob shoved some orange juice in my face and said "let's go."
Rob had a Toyota truck that had been lifted several inches and it was quite difficult for me to climb into. Little did I know this difficulty would increase 10 fold over the next couple of days. We hit the gym and Rob told me we would be training chest. He motioned me over to the flat bench where I had difficulty pressing the empty bar. At roughly 110 pounds I was hardly the epitome of strength, even compared to my contemporaries. We did set after set of flat bench press and then we moved over to the incline press where we repeated this same behavior. We did several more exercises after that and I was exhausted. Chain smoking 14 year olds that play Nintendo all day don't have the kind of strength and endurance you'd think they have. No, I was in fact in very poor physical shape.
Standing in a pool of my own sweat, I was informed by Rob that we would go eat lunch.
We met his girlfriend out for lunch and much to my displeasure I was informed that after lunch we would be heading right back into the gym to do something called "back". It was just day 1, and things were already full of suck.
We returned to the gym to do a whole host of exercises for "back". After that we returned home for me to get my butt handed to me the rest of the day. Rob put me in every class, from the raw beginners to the most advanced. He made me spar against him and well, pretty much everyone who came into class. Beat down after beat ensued. Chain smoking 14 year olds that play Nintendo all day don't fight as well as you'd think they could. My previous years of martial arts training did not serve me well.
I crashed out early and awoke the next morning to the sound of Rob's voice telling me to get up, that we had to go to the gym. I tried to get up, but I found out that I was completely paralyzed. I literally could not move anything. My body felt as if it had been hit by a convoy of 18-wheelers. Rob's mother eventually came up and helped me out of the bed. I ran a hot bath and somehow managed to get down into it and soak for a while. My break was short lived and Rob was soon yelling from outside the bathroom door to hurry up.
As we exited the house, I spied his Toyota truck and knew that getting into that thing was going to be awfully painful. And you can't imagine how right I was. I groaned and whined as I climbed into this stupidly high truck and wondered why on Earth he needed such a vehicle. Rob would only shake his head and laugh at me.
At the gym we would do legs. Squats, and all kinds of other squats and leg presses were done and I hated them all. Just like the day before, we left for lunch, only to return. This time it was to do arms. And just like the day before, we returned home where I participated in every class. I got my butt handed to me over and over again. Except this time the butt handed to me was incredibly sore. Getting hit throughout the entire body by kendo sticks when you are that sore is a pain that is hard to describe. So is getting kicked, and punched, and thrown around on a viciously sore body.
Was I really paying money to do this?
This pattern repeated itself for the couple of months. But soon, my constant soreness dissipated, my reflexes improved, and after a while I was no longer getting my butt handed to me all the time. Now it was only like 95% of the time.
One day in the kitchen Rob's mother remarked at how fast I had improved, then got into a fighting stance to tell me she could still take me. I flexed my arm playfully at her and for the first time in my life, I actually saw a muscle. But this time, it was on MY body.
This might not seem like much to the average guy, but for me it was exhilarating. The work I had been putting in had actually manifested itself in a way that was visible to the eye. It was tangible. I could see it, I could demonstrate it. This gave me a sense of joy I had never felt before. I was hooked. Much like I had been hooked on cigs and Nintendo, I was now hooked on lifting and training. And the harder, the better.
Summer ended and I left Oregon and returned home. My nomadic sister remarked at how big I had gotten. More importantly, my attitude was different. Everyone commented on it. No longer did I sit in my tiny room smoking all day and playing video games living under a dark shadow. I got up and ran each morning, did push ups, dips, sit-ups, and worked on my Ninjutsu. My mother graduated nursing school and we moved into a home. In a storage shed there I found an old bench and two 25 pound dumbbells. I would call Rob and ask him what exercises I should do and he would tell me, and explain to me how to do them. Rob always made time for me even though he was busy growing his school.
Years went by and Rob and I eventually lost touch, but I never quit training. And because training became my focus, it helped me in my life in regards to good decision making even in my youth. I had quit smoking, and never got into drugs or drinking because I knew they would negatively impact my training. Becoming as big and as strong as possible was my obsession now, and anything that would negatively impact that would not be allowed in my life. My confidence soared as I got bigger and stronger and improved in my martial arts. That dark cloud that I had known for so long had been swept away, and I looked forward to new challenges in every aspect of my life. I felt like there was nothing I couldn't accomplish if it was something I really wanted to achieve.
My parents would later remarry, and we moved to Louisiana. There I was able to join a real gym and would meet the love of my life and the most wonderful woman in the world. 16 years and three kids later we are still like newly weds. And if not for my lifting and training, I never even score a date with this beautiful woman. She only agreed to meet me through a mutual friend because he told her I was a bodybuilder (even though I am a powerlifter!). And once we did start dating, one of the things that endeared her to me was how grounded I was. I didn't like living in the bars or partying every weekend. I trained hard and spent time with my family and watched movies on the weekends. We went out to eat and went shopping and really got to know each other. This may seem dull or boring to some, but it gave me the love of my life and a foundation of quality that most people never find in a relationship. That's worth more than any high you're ever going to get off of drugs, I can promise you that. Without training, I am not that person. I have no idea where or what I would have been, but it would have cost me more dearly than I could have ever imagined.
I watched my nomadic sister destroy herself in a life of drugs, alcohol, and crime. I saw many many friends do the same. I saw more friends lose their lives over the years, many which could have been avoided if only they had made better decisions.
I reflect back on my decision to go across the country and stay with Rob as possibly the single most important decision I have ever made. It truly turned out to be one of those life altering paths. And I am grateful everyday of my life for it.
It takes a special person to be willing to take in a very troubled 14 year old kid, show him some tough love, and help him turn his life around forever. There are a lot of things that people can give you in life, but few people will ever give you anything that you can be eternally grateful to them for.
So when I found a certain Ron Bascue on Facebook I contacted him, and he gave me Rob's number and told me how much Rob would love to hear from me. It's a pretty awesome feeling to be able to call up the person who helped change your life, 21 years later, and tell them just how much what they did meant to you, and how thankful and appreciative you are for the lessons learned from them. But that's exactly what I was able to do. It was just as awesome to hear how blown away Rob was.
I also bet it's be a great feeling to know that at least once in your life you changed someones ability to more often than not, choose the right path, rather than the wrong ones. And that's what Rob gave to me. I will always be indebted to him for that, and my hope is that I can give that same gift to someone one day, or have, and years later can hear about it the same way Rob heard about it from me.