I was a big guy all my life. Really big. Huge. So huge that Captain Ahab was hunting me there for a few years. It’s a little know fact that NASA discovering my existence is what led to Pluto’s demotion to “dwarf planet” status.
That’s me on the right!
At my largest I was well over 460 pounds. I blame pie. The weight, and the general lack of the ability to say ‘no’ to pie gave way to a ton of health issues for me. Issues that I’m not going to go into here. Let’s just say that I knew full well that I wasn’t going to be around for much longer if I didn’t do something drastic to change things.
Believe it or not, that’s where martial arts came into play. More specifically, the classes taught at the Red Dragon Karate school in San Dimas, California. Now, it may seem like a weird stretch that a man who weighed nearly a quarter of a ton decided to jump in and start taking karate lessons at the local dojo, but for me it wasn’t. You see, I’d been a bit of a martial arts fanatic as a kid. Growing up in Hawaii, I studied Shotokan Karate for about 3 years and practiced Aikido for well over 10. My weight issues (and going away to the East Coast for college) helped end that early study. Still, through the years the interest sat and festered in my belly.
Fast forward back to the present, I decided to revisit that love — inspired by my need to get healthy and encouraged by my son taking classes from RDK. Having watched him for a couple of years, I figured it looked like a good workout and a ton of fun. Believe it or not, that decision was easy; working up the nerve to approach the teachers at RDK to let them know of my interest was a lot harder. It took me nearly 4 months to finally work up the courage and take the leap. As an adult, that had to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
Ever since that day, back in August of 2013, I’ve been the happiest and healthiest I’ve been in my life. Over the course of two-and-a-half years, I dropped down to my current 205 pounds (I’m still working on tightening up a bit more). For a normal person, 215 pounds may seem like a lot. For me, it’s a weight I haven’t been at since I was in junior high school!
Studying martial arts, and the workout that went along with it, has improved not only my quality of life, but it has also helped me to extend it considerably. Thanks to my journey, I know I’ll be around to see my kids graduate from college…something that hadn’t been a guarantee even a couple of years ago. (You can read a bit more about my first year at Red Dragon Karate right here!)
That is leads directly into the genesis of, and reason behind, this website. The Karate Geek is my chance to try and inform other people like me — out of shape adults looking to improve themselves — on what martial arts can do for them. From talking to other parents at the school, I know a lot of you are intrigued by karate (or taekwondo, or judo, or BJJ, or any number of other martial arts). I also know that it can be intimating to try. Taking that first step into martial arts requires you to take a step well outside your comfort zone. You know what, though? It’s worth it.
Here on The Karate Geek, I’ll be posting articles and videos going over the stuff that helped me: exercises that I did to start the process, forms I did to keep it moving, and what I do now to keep improving. Hopefully you’ll be able to take something away from the lessons I’ve learned.
Before I go, here are a few pictures of me along the way as I lost weight.
Me at about 450 from 2009.
I was down to about 320 when I reached blue belt, and was under 220 when I hit black about a year later.
Yup, that’s me in the same pants as that first picture, 5 years later (18 months or so after starting karate and 6 months before I earned my black belt)
If you’re interested in martial arts at all, go out and try it. Most studios will give you a few free classes to get a feel for things. Go in with an open mind and I bet you’ll get hooked the same was I was. If you have questions, drop by my Q&A Page and I’ll be happy to give you my two-cents. Or, if you’re in the San Gabriel Valley/Inland Empire and are looking for training, drop me a note. I’m always open to new students at the school. Good luck!
-Mat Nastos, The Karate Geek
You can contact me at: matnastos (at) gmail (dot) com.