My story begins like most people’s these days, and more than likely the same type of path. I have always been a “big guy” and I am quite used to hearing this throughout my life, and well it is true! However, now I am less of a “big guy” in fact almost 100lbs less to date.
In 2007 I was at my heaviest I have ever been, almost 400lbs and in terrible shape. My knees hurt, my back hurt, I was snoring loudly (Sounds funny but I never really snored), sweating for no reason other than I was sitting on the couch, and barely able to walk up or even down stairs without pain /exhaustion. Now, I was never a “lazy” person, playing numerous sports and being quite active in my earlier years, but life happened so to speak. I stopped playing sports; hardly doing anything remotely close to exercise, stopped smoking (which was a good thing), starting eating a LOT, was over 30 and working on the road away from home. I was eating whatever I wanted and whenever I wanted. Why not?! I had no one to be accountable to but myself, and I love food, so let’s enjoy, right?! Unfortunately, I was consuming enough calories in day for 2 people and again, doing no exercise, not that it would matter much as my diet was horrible! Side note: A great friend of mine and great fighter always said “You can’t out train a poor diet” and he was 100% right, still is! Towards the end of 2007 I decided to take my health back, I had enough of feeling awful every day. I wanted to do something I had always loved but wanted to try something different, and get in shape, as well as lose weight. I spoke to a good friend who is a well known fighter, asked if he thought I could do Kickboxing or Muay Thai, and where I could train in Alberta? Immediately he said anyone can learn if they want to, and he told me to go see Sensei Lyle Cheney in Red Deer. Perfect! I live very close to Red Deer. I called and left a message and within hours Sensei Lyle Cheney had returned my call. What I recall the most from that first conversation was how welcoming he was, and still is, to come down and watch a class, as well as talk to some of the other martial artists. So in I go that Thursday for the 7:30 pm Advanced / Fighter’s class. Not going to lie here, I was very intimidated! They were so good! The skills they were displaying were unreal! Sharp, powerful, and seemed flawless. I met several people that night that would help me on my journey, Sensei Teri Treiber, Sensei Rick Featherstone, Sensei Dan Pleasants, as well as Sensei Lyle Cheney, not to mention my fellow beginners who I am still friends with to this day. The reason I mention the above Sensei is I had no idea they were black belts! I mean, I knew they were great fighters by watching them, but they were so humble and welcoming! I signed up right away and could not wait to get started.
Fast forward to January of 2008, my first class, I recall it very well. I was so out of shape, this may sound funny but my goal for the first night was to just get through it without throwing up…haha. True story. In comes Sensei Dan Pleasants “Next Class Lines!” he says to all of us beginners. So we all line up on the mats and start learning the bow in sequence, then the workout starts. Wow! It looked easier when I was watching and we were only doing 1/3 of the normal workout because we just started. Well I made it through, barely, but I did it! My stretching was almost non-existent and my jumping jacks were more like me just shimming my left foot back and forth as I could not really jump. It was so hard, I was tired beyond belief, and I was sweating! But there was another feeling inside, one I had not felt in a very long time; I felt a sense of accomplishment! I did it! I really did it! Then Sensei Dan came over, gave me a high five and said “Good job big guy, you made it!” He told me after that he knew exactly the way I felt as he at one time was the same. This made me feel very encouraged and supported. I can’t emphasize this enough, the continued support is what really kept me going when I was sore and feeling sorry for myself. Feeling I couldn’t do what these people could, I wasn’t young anymore, I was too out of shape, I had waited too long to start, and on and on. But every week, Tuesday and Thursday nights I kept coming, I would start the excuses some days, I need to take a day off to recover, it’s only one night, I am too tired. I always told myself to stay on track, stay focused, remember how good you feel after; you did something for you, to make yourself better. So in my head I kept saying “Just get through the door.” I knew that if I got through the door, I would not leave and I felt better already just coming in. No matter how bad my day was, I always felt better as soon as I walked in to the dojo. I knew that end of the workout, I would leave all my stress on the mats or on the bags, and I would feel relaxed. This had become not only a great place to train with great new friends; it had become my sanctuary, my “happy place.” Every week I got better, I was getting stronger, losing weight, and feeling good about myself. I was learning great skills from one of the best in the Martial Arts community Sensei Lyle Cheney and his amazing higher belt students. I walked a bit taller, more confident and with lots of pride, I was now part of a great team! Team Cheney!
Again, fast forward again to 2014, I have now been training for almost 7 years. I am almost 100 lbs done from when I started, I still have a bit to go, but my journey continues. I always try to keep moving forward in anything I do, and my training at Cheney’s was integral to my success. I am now a brown belt (one away from black) and an assistant instructor for the Kickboxing / Muay Thai classes. I take great pride in passing on not only the knowledge I received from Sensei Lyle, and the other advanced fighters that took the time to help me, but to also pass on the same support that helped me push through. The support that helped me become my own hero, to conquer myself and my fears. I am eternally grateful for everything Sensei Lyle has done for me; the opportunities he has given me, and that he also never gave up on me. No matter what level you are at, you will always receive the same training, support and encouragement.
I will end with one of the many quotes that helped me: “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”
Sempai Ryan Morasse.