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Pete Wong - Fight Church

Overcoming demons, grief, dispair and divorce



I've been a martial artist since I was fifteen years old. It has been an incredible journey, one filled with wonderful experiences. My passion and practice for the art even helped fulfill some of my childhood dreams, living abroad in another country and traveling, but this is not the story I wish to share with you. Instead my story, is the one most recent.

Today, I am 38, and for the past 2 1⁄2 years I've been training with Orpheus Black, my instructor and best friend. In doing so, it has changed my life for the better and help me become not only a better fighter, but more important a better man. My name is Pete K. Wong. I'm a martial artist, a fighter, and proud to call myself a warrior in the modern era, and this is my ''Martial Arts Inspiring Story.''

A few months after my move to Los Angeles, California, I took a job in the city of Pasadena. One night after work, I stopped into a martial arts equipment store on my way home. While having a conversation with a customer, he suggested I check out a Meetup group that met Tuesday nights and Sunday mornings at a park not too far from where we were. The following week, I did check it out and liked it so much that I returned the week after that and so on.

I enjoyed training with this group of mixed martial art fighters called Lab Rats, or ''Fight Church'' if it was on Sundays. Everybody was genuine, kind, and good at what they did, but on one night while working out I noticed a fighter who I had never met before, this fighter was Orpheus Black.

I still remember that first sparring session like it was yesterday. Back then, I knew nothing about American boxing, but had trained extensively since I was a teenager in Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu, Wing Chun, Northern Shaolin, Hung Gar and some Korean Karate. Despite my previous training and hard work, even having gone through traditional ceremony to teach, there was always a part of me that didn't feel truly secure in my ability to defend myself, and it wasn't too long into our sparring session that this factor became apparent.

Not only was Orpheus skillful, but for a much bigger guy (260 lbs at the time) he had moves, his footwork was tight, and he knew what you were doing even before you knew what you were doing. How is that even possible? But it was.

After that initial sparring session, I knew that I had to keep working with him, that is if he'd let me. Whenever I showed up at the park I'd track him down and little by little he began to show me things I had never known before. Through his training, I was introduced to new concepts and techniques and another way of looking at the art I had already made a part of my life for quite sometime now. We'd end up staying later than everybody else and didn't even question it. At some point, I felt like I didn't have a clue what I was doing, I was tripping and stumbling on my own feet.

My head hurt at times both physically and mentally trying to understand what I was doing. Was I ever going to get these movements and techniques down? Or would I always feel like a hot mess? I asked myself these questions frequently.

I was extremely humbled time after time, and though part of me wanted to give up, feeling like a failure, I knew that I had to keep working on it, because truth is, during that time I felt like I had nothing else going for me. I was struggling with a lot of my own problems, recent and past demons mostly shaped by grief from deaths that had occurred to those closest to me. I was also in pain and despair from a divorce, injuries from a car accident that left me with an injured neck and back, and age becoming a factor feeling like perhaps my best days had already past, but looking back at the core of all this was FEAR. Fear of not being what I wanted to be and doing what I wanted, fear of not having what I thought I needed to have, fear of not knowing who I was.

Though I felt like I had little to nothing, training gave me something. While a part of me felt torn, beaten, and broken, there was another part of me in progress rebuilding and redefining myself, and when you have nothing any progress is progress.

We started training outside of the Meetup sessions, he'd show me techniques, and concepts; we'd drill, and then test them out. We fought with boxing gloves and bare knuckle, I learned some basics against a knife attack or if I was the one armed. It was both challenging and humbling at the same time, but always rewarding. Something about what we were doing together resonated with me. It was intense, but the kind of intensity I yearned for, it felt real.

The more I trained with Orpheus, the more hungry I felt to improve myself in all areas of my life. For the first time, I was on a vendetta to prove that I could get results. I made the conscious decision to take the shape and form of a fighter mentally, spiritually and even physically.

I started creating a consistent workout schedule that included cardio, strength training, high impact, boxing and martial arts. I worked harder than I ever had. I trained my mind to believe in myself more. I stopped worrying about what others were doing and just went to work for myself. It felt like my hard work, discipline, and desire had awakened a part of me that I never knew existed. I wanted to be a BEAST! The beast that I never knew was inside.

When I began to transform myself to be a fighter I was also transforming my entire perspective of the world, my world. I was re-discovering things about myself and finding ways to love myself again. It was the combination of the physical, mental, as well as the philosophy that kept me wanting to work hard and improve on.

With this new positive, much more confident attitude and work ethic, in time I felt like I was finally getting it, I had worked so hard to get my body moving, becoming more coordinated, and limber with better economy of motion that I just started to ''feel it,'' and it felt great!

I'm still growing as a fighter and as a person, but I now have a set of tools and areas in my life to look at as examples whenever it's needed, things I didn't have before. As a result of my journey to improving myself through boxing and the martial arts, I began to post pictures and words of inspiration online and through social media in the hopes it could help others not unlike myself.

It's been an incredible ride, interacting with others who either are inspired or need the inspiration in their lives. Most recently I've begun to design workshops that infuses all that I've learned and share it in a fun and safe environment. My ''Unleash the Beast'' workshops help others discover the beast that is inside each of them.

None of this could have ever been possible had I not met Orpheus Black. Our training together has helped me gain the confidence to live life as I choose to, not basing it on what others think, but as I see it - filled with confidence and love, able to deal with any situation life has to offer.

A wise man once told me, ''A martial arts school or association and the people that make of it is like family. You share things together, and doing martial arts is only a piece of that. It should also be about building healthy and strong relationships.''

In my opinion, this is the true essence of why we need to have the martial arts exist. Like family, we should be here for each other through the highs and lows of life. Help one another persevere through difficult times and laugh or cry during the good ones. We grow together and, yes, die together.

Learn more about Greatmats Most Inspiring Martial Arts Story $1000 Giveaway.




Pete Wong
Lab Rats
Pasadena CA 91106
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