In the previous episode, “Embracing the Impossible“, you learned how a rebellious, scrawny Italian kid from Queens (yours truly) fell in love with martial arts because of “The Karate Kid” movie. Oh, the power of the 1980’s Hollywood.

Today’s chapter catches up with our ninja hero, bravely stepping off a cliff and free falling through a bottomless void of…

Pitch Black Chaos

Sure, high school is a tough, often super awkward, transition for almost everyone.  But for me, it was all that plus an incredibly powerful rite of passage through self-destruction, violence, and drug abuse. I’ve always been extreme and loved pushing my physical limits – I was the kid that would climb to the top of trees, jump down huge flights of stairs, and get an amazing buzz from duking it out with the older kids – and karate had helped channel my abundant energy.

But when I stopped training Karate (because I passed my black belt test—what a childish way to celebrate) and got cut from the basketball team freshman year (back off! The whole team was recruited that year), that energy didn’t have any focused place to go. And it started to erupt, colliding head-on with my teenage angst. “Who am I really? How do I fit into this world? Do I really want to blend in with a civilization that is this messed up and diseased?” These were the questions that tormented me regularly.

Ok, those were just some of the questions… other ones were “Why am I so awkward around girls? I’m too scrawny, how will I ever get them to like me? And why are the mean ones so hot? Or is it the hot ones so mean?” Ha ha.

At age 14. I'm "small-boned".

At age 14. I’m “small-boned”.

High school was a super wild time for me, and I feel unbelievably grateful I made it through without completely screwing up my life At the same time, I learned so much about myself, my limits, my abilities, and my ignorance. And most of all, the absolute power of surrender.

Looking back now, it seems like I had a death wish, yet at the time I truly felt compelled to be wild, it came from such an authentic place inside of me.  Indeed, a part of me did have to die – the wild child inside of me – I just didn’t have any elders and mentors around to help guide that process. Into the darkness, without a light to guide me…


Age 18. Self-portrait. Spring Break in Cancun, Mexico. – $3,000 of narcotics sold. Imagine my sweet ass in a Mexican prison. My guardian angels were working overtime.


To this day, I don’t fully understand what propelled me so violently through my teenage years. Perhaps it’s what some psychologist call “my shadow”, the darker aspects of my psyche: hatred, anger, ignorance, and victimhood. Maybe I inherited it from my family, ingested it from our culture, or was just born with it. If I was going to survive, I’d have to find a way to integrate this dark part of myself in a healthy way.

Perhaps this process is actually quite normal, it’s just my style has always gravitated towards the extreme.

Sacrificing My Inner Victim

After years of struggle, I one day summoned the strength, looked in the mirror, and said “I am not a victim of circumstance.  It’s not everybody else’s fault, it is entirely my fault. I am creating this self-destruction, for some reason, and if I am creating it, that means that I can stop it.  And I don’t know how I will stop it, but I swear with all my strength I will find a way.”

Up Next: Ninja Rebirth…

Part. 3: Ninja Rebirth finds our young ninja hero emerging from his cocoon of darkness, picking up the pieces of his life, and using those pieces to create a beautiful and meaningful personal mythology. But what kind of magic does it take to turn “mistakes” into opportunities? The ninja kind. Duh.

Have you ever considered there’s a victim that lives inside of you? Have you met her/him? What are the lies it tells you about yourself and your world? Go ahead and light up the comment, I dare you! When you speak truthfully on behalf of yourself, you do so for all ninjas that read your words.

As always, TrainDeep.



Photo: Julieta Cervantes

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