Are you ready to Live Like a Champion in 2010?…

An inspirational message from Master Tom Callos as he starts his “Live Like a Champion Project” in 2010.

The Live Like a Champion Project, with my friend, student, and now coach, BJ Penn, begins January 1, 2010 –that is, in just a few days. The concept behind the project is, of course, to live like a champion –and to do it for a solid year; as if we were getting ready for the Olympics or our own World Championships or, as this is a version of The Ultimate Black Belt Test, for our own black belt rank-test.

Now let me explain why this is an important undertaking and why it could quite possibly be a model for all of your belt tests, for your philosophy and approach to studying and teaching the martial arts, and for every year you live.

On a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best possible rating, what kind of life do you want to live? At what “level” do you hope to appreciate your loved ones? Your health? The preciousness of each moment? How about the taste of a carefully prepared meal, the softness of a bed, the joy of a sunrise, the feeling of being in love, the symphony, the run, the great book, and the feeling of a newborn baby in your arms?

On a scale from 1 to 10, when it’s all over –and it will all be over someday –how aware do you want to have been?

To be a champion, like BJ Penn for example, you must know how to prepare yourself; then you must know how to step into that ring, on that day, and perform at your peak, despite the obstacles and despite the fear. That one day can shape an athletes life. Hours and hours of preparation, pain, sweat, and effort –all to perform at “level 10” on that amazing day and for a very short period of time.

So, let me ask you: What is more important? Your life and each day you have –or the World Championships? And do you want to live at your very best, your most aware, on one given day in the future –or would you like to be a champion of life, of the here and now?

Living at level 10 –that is living like a champion.


As a teacher and practitioner of the martial arts, “The Arts of Self-Defense,” I must ask you which of these two things are a bigger threat:

—-The bully; the masked assailant; the attacker; the opponent, or;

—-Living, day-to-day, without an appreciation and/or an awareness of just how precious and fleeting life is?

To live like a champion is to work at living fully –fully aware, fully appreciative, fully engaged, fully connected, and living, now. If you have a goal that compels you, if you have a mission, if you have something worth paying attention to, worth “putting your energy into,” isn’t it your own life?
So many people live –but don’t really LIVE; so The Live Like a Champion Project is a “new” approach to being a martial artist –and a martial arts teacher. It suggests that the work is for now, for this moment, and this moment, and this moment. We train for our health, for those we love, to fulfill our potential, to appreciate our gifts, to cultivate a life lived at level 10.

This is a kind of self-defense training that just might be worth the money charged for the lessons. This is the kind of training that might just save your life.

I Don’t Know What Will Happen.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in The Live Like a Champion Project. I don’t know how hard it will be to get members to apply themselves to their own training? But I do know, as a teacher, that I intend to make “the lesson plan” about LIFE. We may do a lot of push-ups, fight a lot of rounds, pay close attention to 1000 meals, engage in a 1000 acts of kindness, and do 1000 community projects, but in the end it’s all about living somewhere near our potential as human beings. It’ll be about kicking our own asses out of “the comfort zone,” and living with gusto, with courage and goals and passion.

Go ahead, wake me up every morning with a bugle! Slap me once at breakfast to remind me to pay attention. Stop me if I don’t comment on the color of the sky or the feeling of your hand or the taste of my food or of the pleasure of putting on my uniform and stepping onto the mat.

Bring me a list of people who have really lived; let me surround myself with people who served, who understood, who tackled projects that caused them to stretch and groan and stumble under the weight of it all. Pinch me, no, SLUG ME –if I let another day go by living in a coma of complacency.

I’m not ready to die while I’m still alive. I’m going to LIVE like a champion –and die trying.

I’m glad you’re here to live too.

This year we begin our practice anew. This year we start again and again and again. This year, a year that will never repeat itself, we’ll seek to live in a way that shows respect for ourselves and others. We’ll engage, we’ll try, we’ll pay attention, we’ll get up off the couch, out of the office, off of the mat, and we’ll LIVE.

Now how’s that for a World Championship?

Tom Callos

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