Breaking Barriers

I am a marital artist. I have been on my journey more than 25 years. More than anything that means that I have chosen to live by a set of principles; commit to teaching and training; and to care for the people in my life. My journey has been both challenging and fulfilling to degrees which I could only have imagined at the beginning. It is my passion and makes me a better husband, father, professional, teacher, student, and all around person. It gives me a framework from which to draw on courage to push past difficulties, face adversity with confidence, and turn fear into strength. In other words, it is the foundation for how I break through the barriers presented in my life.

Breaking Barriers is also the name of a very special program I have been a part of for a number of years and it exemplifies so much of why I love martial arts and the people in it. A few years ago over lunch, a good friend and client, Pete Schoemann, was asking me about my martial arts school (which is usually the prelude to a long conversation).  Without hesitation I went into the passion I had for marital arts and the love I had for my school. He was interested in finding something that he could do with his two sons, both with Autism. I told him that I thought it was a perfect scenario to help in so many ways. Soon thereafter, Pete and his whole family had become an intricate part of DC Turnbull's Martial Arts.  As they progressed in their studies and training, his oldest daughter Katarina proposed that they could begin a program targeted specifically to people with “special needs” – and thus the Breaking Barriers program was formed.

In so many ways, martial arts is about breaking barriers, in this case it has deeper meaning to people that may have even more significant barriers in their day-to-day lives. The program began modestly with the Schoemanns and one other student. However, it didn’t take long for people to see and come to the program. With the outstanding support provided by instructors under Grand Master David Turnbull, today the program boasts more than 20 students, with a variety of special needs and all achieving amazing results. Some of the students have severe situations and some mild – all of them are taught to value themselves and others through the tenets of courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and an indomitable spirit. They are also afforded a team of instructors and a program that sets the goals and pushes them to break through the unique barriers they may face. Parents and family members are quick to point out a number of benefits from self-confidence to behavior, better focus to communication skills.

Every time I am blessed with the opportunity to teach the Breaking Barriers class, I grow and learn more about life, people, and myself.  More importantly, I get to participate in helping someone break through and become more than they may have imagined. As an instructor, I have held boards for students, practiced forms, done push-ups, and celebrated achievements in many classes. For the times it’s been with the martial artists in Breaking Barriers, there is a unique sense of appreciation, wonder, and energy.

I would love to see more people benefit from this program and there is an event coming up that will help the program in its funding.  On April 9th, the Breaking Barrier students and their families are hosting a martial arts tournament at Seminole High School.  If you would be interested in sharing with someone that might benefit, perhaps be a sponsor or just attend, jump over to their website:

There are some universal ideas that we can all take from this program as well. Take some time to reflect on how you can engage with others to help break through a difficult situation or challenge.

  1. Recognize that everyone around you is facing challenges in their lives and will need help from someone…that could be you.

  2. Dream big and set achievable and measurable goals to get to your dream.

  3. Know that you will learn from everyone if you are humble in your instruction.

  4. When you instill confidence in someone, they can achieve anything.

Finally, let me introduce you to a few of the students as they share some of the barriers they have “broken” through – along with a few boards -  as part of their martial arts journey. These are some of my heroes.