Finding Inspiration and the True Meaning of Martial Arts

by Keith Gehshan

Six months ago I attended a wedding reception and was seated next to Cory an eleven year old boy. I was immediately drawn to his infectious smile and the happiness radiating from him. As it turns out we have a lot in common. We’re both UFC fanatics, we agree that George Saint Pierre is the greatest MMA fighter of all time and get this, we both practice martial arts. He told me when he grows up that he wanted to be a fighter and that no one would ever be able to mess with him then. Cory lives with some challenges that a lot of us take for granted. But I saw no signs of this in his attitude. His bigger than life personality, and exuberance were overwhelming. He showed me some of his combinations as he perched forward in his wheelchair, throwing his hands with Ninja-like focus and I thought to myself this kid is a warrior. For the next few days I couldn’t stop thinking about Cory. He was so inspiring and motivating to be around. It was then that I decided to sign up for the COC. I wanted to challenge myself, I wanted to have the warrior-like spirit that Cory embodied.
Over the next several months, I trained hard. I pushed myself to exhaustion in class and doubled up on sessions when time permitted. I restricted my diet so I could make the 170lb division, which proved to be no easy feat in and of itself. Even on vacation I trained, running up a mountain with my wife and doing yoga to gain flexibility. I was determined but more so, I was inspired.
On the day of the tournament, like most competitors, I was extremely anxious. I arrived early so I could weigh in and have time to rehydrate. I spent the next few hours walking around with nervous energy until Cory and his family arrived. I got to hang out with him for a while before my fight. I thanked him for coming out to support me and his reply – “anything for a fellow fighter.” Immediately, I felt relaxed with a renewed sense of confidence. I ended up fighting for third place against a high-brown belt. It was pretty even going into the second half of the round, a real back and forth battle. I looked out and saw Cory cheering and I thought to myself there is no way I’m losing this match. I bit down on my mouth piece, dug deep and pushed forward and in the end got my hand raised by the ref.
After receiving the medal, I quickly placed it around Cory’s neck. Seeing his eyes light up was one of the greatest moments I have ever experienced. He gave me the motivation and determination to compete and it didn’t matter that I hadn’t won. I had embarked on a journey to challenge myself, live out of my comfort zone and be like Cory and for that I succeeded far beyond a 1st place finish. I thank Cory for showing me what a true warrior is all about. Osu!!
BY: Danny Michelson