5 Lessons From a Cancer Warrior

I don’t consider myself a professional writer.  I’m just a guy who is passionate about sharing strategies that have personally helped me as an athlete, in my training career, and in my life in general.  That’s really all you can do to try and help others with the tools you have at your disposal.

It just so happens that one of the primary ways I share my experiences and knowledge is through writing.

So with the burden of trying to keep a “professional writer” image gone, I’ve kind of always envisioned writing as putting down on paper the types of conversations I’d have with you if we were just hanging out at a bar as friends.  It’s way more fun, and I believe, more effective that way.  We can lose the pretentiousness and just get down to sharing some strategies that we’ve learned through our experiences, and think will help each other out moving forward.

Sorry, that’s why you have to put up with da locker room language and teenage humor.  Just ignore it/skip over it.  I can’t help myself.

This approach is good and bad for you.  It’s good because you won’t get the normal bullshit from me that you sometimes see in our industry.   It’s bad because sometimes I stray off topic, and go beyond the world of sports bras and jock straps.  But I hope you have some kind of a life outside of the gym, man.  And if I think something can help you outside of the glamorous world of Ken & Barb & Carbs, I’m going to share it.  Why not?

This is one of those posts.  So if you hate da philosophical stuff, log out and check back another day. I’m sure I’ll have another “how to get your 6-pack” article up soon.


August 6th is my dad’s birthday.  He would have been 76.

For four years, my dad faced some kind of challenge every single day in his battle against cancer.  Yet he kept putting one foot in front of the other, marching on, and fighting with a warrior’s spirit.  He was the most honorable, courageous man I’ve ever known.

But unfortunately, not all tales have a Hollywood ending.  About a month ago, my dad passed on.  Sometimes the real life ending is hard – its really frickin’ hard to be 100% honest — but it’s also what ultimately teaches us the most valuable lessons in life.

the warrior spirit
Lessons live forever (source)

When he started his treatment, I originally set out to inspire my dad with a few words of encouragement.  Over the last few years, he has inspired me, and everyone else around him, infinitely more.

I’ve had time to sit back and reflect on what kind of man he was, and the many lessons his life and his fight taught me along the way.  They helped me put things in proper perspective.  They helped me break some bad habits I’ve formed living in Y2K – stressing about relatively meaningless shit, feeling entitled, looking for quick fixes and the easy way, whining, etc. – character traits those of even a generation ago would see as shameful, and a warrior would see as despicable.

Most importantly, they helped me face my own challenges and struggles in life, head on.  I hope they somehow help you too.

You don’t have to be battling cancer to benefit from these strategies by the way.  You can take these lessons and apply them to whatever challenges you are facing in life – in fitness, health, your career, your relationships, getting laid, etc. Your personal battles are the most important battles in the entire world to you.  I get that man.  You don’t really give a shit about me or my dad.

But I feel that these strategies can give you good weapons to attack whatever struggles you are dealing with at the moment. And if life is rolling for you right now, awesome.  Holster them for another day.

Lesson #1 Don’t Complain About Your Circumstances.  Embrace the Challenge.

What IS is more important than WHAT SHOULD BE.  Too many people are looking at “what is” from a position of thinking “what should be”…no matter what some people will say, barriers are not the experience of any one person, or any one group of persons.  They are the universal experience.   — Bruce Lee

You have every right to be scared, angry, jealous, bitter, frustrated, or resentful when things in life aren’t quite going your way.  You have every right to feel sorry for yourself, and to curse the world when your situation sucks.  But at some point, you will have to just drop it all and play (and win) this game of life with the hand you’ve been given.

cancer motivation
Any hand can win if you play it right.

Whether our circumstances are God’s plan, an act of the gods, fate, pure coincidence, good or bad luck, or whatever else you believe in is of no real significance.

Because one thing is for certain man – you can’t change the reality of the situations and challenges you face no matter how much you wish things were different.  But you can change your reactions to them, your actions to improve or overcome them, and your every day state of mind to better deal with them.

Sure my dad had a few bellyaches and grumblings from time to time.  But given the situations he faced and the side effects he experienced, I would say the ratio of complaining to taking action was very small.  I think he knew that complaining about your circumstances is just wasted energy.

I like to think I’m like a ronin, a wave man – being flexible, adapting, rolling with whatever comes, being like water, etc.  But my dad truly was The Wave Man.  He just dealt with what came when it came.  And unfortunately, the shit just kept coming.  It made no difference.  He embraced every challenge in the warrior’s Way.

Actually, it was amazing to me how the dude never really lost his trademark smile through it all.  With IV’s sticking out of him and having to talk through a trachea tube, he still managed to crack a joke and a smile from time to time.  As death came for him, he laughed in its face.

What the hell is so bad that you can’t do the same?

You know how your story started and where it’s at right now.  Go out and write yourself a happy ending.  Happy ending?  Yes please…hahahahhahaha!!!!

2. The Only Real Secret Formula is Accountability + Action = Results

There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself. – Miyamoto Musashi

Remember, there is no fate but what we make (Sarah Conner, Terminator 2).

no fate but what we make Terminator 2
Thank You Carolco Pictures for a rocking Linda Hamilton!

This is a continuation of the first lesson.  What’s the antidote to letting life push you around and complaining about your circumstances?  Taking both personal accountability and action.  Every time you are about to complain about your circumstances, just take an action to change them.  It shifts the focus away from the things you can’t change onto the things that you can.

Listen man, I don’t know how your personal story, or even my own, is going to play out in the end.  But I can guarantee you one thing – doing nothing is the worst possible option of all.  Nothing ever changes.  No situation ever improves by sitting on the sidelines of life complaining about how everyone has it better or easier than you.

That’s true for both the short-term and long-term goals that you may have.

The Old Timer and I never really had the sit down, father-to-son, do this or that type of lectures.  And I never needed them, because he taught me more about life and what it means to be a good, honorable, and courageous man then I could have ever asked for – not through meaningless words, but through infinitely more meaningful action.

He was one of those leaders and teachers by example, which I think is the best kind.  Anyone can tell you what to do.  Few can actually show you.

And dammit, he was a true cancer warrior.  Tests, treatments, dietary intervention, exercise, occupational therapy, etc., he didn’t just say he was going to fight.  He took action and fought.

As is the case with anything in life — including his cancer battle and your own personal struggles — it is not what you read, think, analyze, plan, calculate, or talk about in this world that brings results.  It is all about what you DO.

When in doubt, when your world seems like its caving in on you, when you seem just as about as far away from your goals as you can possibly be, just put one foot in front of the other, and as Bruce Lee said, keep walking on.

Make one definitive move towards your goals daily.  Constant improvement. The road to any destination in life starts with a single step, and is finished by continually putting one foot in front of the other.

If you just sit around whining, you won’t get anything except probably a boil on your ass the size of a grapefruit.

3. Focus on the Task at Hand

If a retainer will just think about what he is to do for the day at hand, he will be able to do anything.  If it is a single day’s work, one should be able to put up with it.  Tomorrow, too, is but a single day. — Hagakure.

I’ll never forget sitting alone with my dad after a family party talking about his treatment plan.  He said, “Well, it’s either going to work or I’ll be out of here.  So I might as well give it a chance to work.  What’s there to be worried about?”

I remember I had been stressed out about something that day.  Once his words hit my ears, I immediately felt like a schmuck.

We live in a modern world where we are all over-stressed, anxious, and flat-out scatter brained.  Distraction is all around us.  It is the norm.  It’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of this modern shuffle.  I’m guilty of this often.  I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel like I got a cartoon going on up in my head.

How to stay focused
Hack Away the Unessential

What ends up happening is we do a bunch of things with mediocrity, yet accomplish nothing of great value.  Or we burn out and look for escapes, distractions from the chaos that has become our life.  Sometimes it takes a slap in the face to calm down and concentrate.

We need to narrow our focus, especially if it is something as important as, I don’t know, literally fighting for your life.  And isn’t trying to improve your life somehow (fitness, finances, business, relationships) also a figurative way of fighting for your life.

So you have this major goal you want to achieve.  Take a brief look up at the mountaintop, the end goal.  Give yourself a day to completely freak out, panic, and stress.  But then regroup, because the truth is, if you want to maintain some semblance of sanity, you just can’t worry too much about whether or not you can actually make it up that mountain.

Don’t overanalyze so much that you become so paralyzed with fear that you never take a single step.  And don’t wait around for some magic pill-like carpet ride to transport you there with no effort or sacrifice.  Prey like that get eaten by sharks.  Put your head down, and start walking up the path.  Do something man.

You’re either going to make it up or you aren’t.  Don’t let lack of effort be the determining factor.

That’s what my dad did anyways.  He focused on each task he had to do, for a single day, then the next, then the next, and so forth.  I think that’s the main reason why he lasted way longer than any of his doctors originally predicted.

One of those tasks was even a sponge bath from an attractive nurse.  See, you never know what fun may come if you just start off along a certain path.

4. Do Your Duty

 By thinking you must complete the job you will run out of time.  By considering things like how many men the enemy has, time piles up; in the end you will give up.  No matter if the enemy has thousands of men, there is fulfillment in simply standing them off and being determined to cut them all down, starting from one end.  You will finish the greater part of it. – Hagakure

I don’t believe anyone should be forced to do anything they don’t want to do in life.  That’s one of the freedoms that most of us take for granted here in America.  We have the right and the privilege to choose whatever path we desire.  Some have a much harder road than others, for sure.  But ultimately, for most of us, what we decide to pursue in life comes down to choice.

If an athlete doesn’t think he can endure grueling training sessions, if he can’t stand a little pain, if he doesn’t want to sacrifice some of the luxuries of the average, and if he doesn’t want to challenge himself against great competition, he shouldn’t choose to try and be a champion.

But if he does make that choice, he owes it to himself to dive in, put forth his greatest effort, and leave his heart and soul on the battlefield.  That way, when he walks away, he will have no regrets regardless of the outcome.

If you are just going to “half-ass” it, or just go through the motions because theoretically that is what you are supposed to do, you might as well not even start.  Find something else you are more passionate about.

My dad knew that fighting cancer was an even more daunting task than trying to become a champion in sports.  He knew he would have to sacrifice, persevere, endure, and face insurmountable obstacles and odds (stage 4, terminal cancer). So it certainly would have been understandable if he had decided to walk away and not fight, right from the outset.

But once he decided to pick up that sword and fight, he owed it to himself and everyone else around him to give it his best effort.  And that’s exactly what he did.  He did his duty, he did what he promised to do, and he went out like a hero, fighting until the end.

5. Treat Everyone Like Family

If every man would help his neighbor, no man would be without help. – Bruce Lee

I guess that’s why he got along with my wife and da other Hawaiians in our extended family.

My dad welcomed everyone into his home with open arms.  He made everyone feel loved, accepted, and as part of the family right away.  He even had a way of making pieces of shit feel like they were something special.  And if he could help you out, he wouldn’t even think twice about it.

My dad had friends from a variety of ethnicities and walks of life – engineers, entrepreneurs, housewives, construction workers, cooks, gamblers, fishermen, etc.  I think one of his buddies was in a biker gang?

He would go out fishing with the old timers one day, and the next day (when me and my brother were playing around town in a rock band) he’d show up at a ruckus nightclub and hang out with all of our friends at the bar like the Most Interesting Japanese Man Alive.

That’s why the credo on this site is and always will be: we don’t care who you are, where you’re from, who you pray to (or if you pray at all), where in the world you’re hanging, who you’re banging (as long as legal and consensual), etc.  If you’re down with fitness, physique, warrior strategy, or Da Beach mentality, then we’re down with you.

I don’t know man.  I think most prejudices stem from archaic traditions, lack of knowledge, lack of good sex, jealousy, and most often, lack of self-confidence.  If you are truly comfortable with who you are, where you come from, and what you’re doing, and you’re getting laid regularly, why would you give a shit about someone else’s origins or path (as long as they aren’t taking advantage of or hurting anyone)?

Do your thing, let others do theirs, and if there is some overlap, embrace the connection.


I think the saddest part of losing my dad is I won’t have someone like him around to show me the Warrior’s Way in life.  Yeah, I can read books and watch movies and whatnot.  But he was one of the few that lived it.  Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to carry out the lessons he’s already shown me.  It’s probably enough for a mere mortal to last a few lifetimes.

You know, I was going somewhere with this damn blog post. Sorry it became so personal.  Oh yeah:

1. Moving forward, this blog will forever be dedicated to my old man.  I’ll miss you my friend.

2. One of the last things he said to me was, “keep writing. I like it.”  Fucking guy.  Like I didn’t have enough on my plate already trying to live up to his legacy.  He had to throw that one at me at the end?

Well, I didn’t want my first official project after his passing to be something as meaningless as “How to Get a 6-Pack”.  There are people out there facing real challenges in life.

So next week (hopefully), I’m going to be releasing a book I’ve been working on for the last few years during my dad’s treatment.

What’s the elevator pitch?  It basically takes warrior philosophy, martial arts strategies, and sports psychology principles and applies them to the battle against cancer.  But really, they can be applied to any challenges you are facing in life.

Here’s the cover:

motivational cancer books

The goal is to give people some motivation and good strategies.  We will also be trying to raise some money for cancer research and foundations.  I will admit that selfishly, maybe it is a way for me to somehow stay connected with my dad, and ensure that his energy, lessons, and legacy live on.

We don’t really know what the hell we’re doing, and don’t really have a formal plan, but if you want to join us on what could be a very fun and rewarding ride, stay tuned.