An Open Letter of Thanks, Christmas 2018.
In December of 2013, during a snow storm, I had a small open house and basically, my family came to support me with the aid of several friends and such. I was starting a small business, called Ferraro Karate and I had hand painted signs that no one could see on the side of the road due to snow, Tim Horton’s Cookies, a very pregnant wife, tons of student debt, but a lot of moxie. I mean, Guelph had over 10 martial arts schools at the time, surely they could use just ONE more?
I started my first class on January 14th, 2014 to a tune of maybe 8-10 students all evening. One class, the teen class, was just Darryl and I. We looked at each other awkwardly and nervously and I gave him my famous, “it’s all good,” looks and we practiced together. Maybe he knew and said nothing, but inside, I was terrified. “What if this doesn’t work?” “What if I fail at this?” “What am I Doing?” “You have no business starting a small business, you have an English degree, dummy.” Eventually, the school grew in size and our 900sq/f room became pretty small over a short amount of time. Eventually, 10 grew to 75.
In the fall of 2015, I knew we needed a new place, we simply could not have another winter with people crawling on each other and boots lined up at the door. Still, I miss the intimate nature of that space and perhaps it is with nostalgia that I reflect because I am sure no one misses that place, except for maybe the air conditioning and the “Sky Dojo”; the area outside the front door in which we trained during the hot summer months in the evenings. Sometimes I think my best lectures were at that place. Sometimes I fell asleep on the floor after class and was woken up by my wife screaming over the phone, “where are you?!”
That month, I was notified of a space that was opening, one that I actually looked at previously but was occupied at the time. It was kind of fateful but also a complete nightmare. The previous owner was a Zumba teacher and had the walls painted bubble gum pink and lime green, the ceiling was pitch black and the floor was originally a faux tile and par-kay wood flooring that was ripped up like piano keys but never taken away. There was a fake wall that ran the long way between the furnace and the pillar in room three that was constructed out of old closet doors and other pieces of scrap wood. It was to separate the parent’s area from the kid’s area and I kicked the whole thing down with one weak kick, very safe. Still, we had 3 weeks to get the place operational and I was optimistic. Things went quickly as the students helped lug in the material and aided Sensei Darryl with his floor engineering. He constantly set me to Home Depot and every time I went, the MasterCard was swiped more and more. In the end, we had our first classes at our new place starting January, 2016. Another renovation happened shortly thereafter and we expanded, for a 2nd time, from 2500 sq/f to 5000 sq/f. Now, we enter our 5th year of business and I need to take this time to address some things:
Firstly, thank you to Mama-san, aka, Aleksandra Ferraro: for being my rock and my torch. There have been so many moments in my life where I have doubted what I could do only to have you not entertain the idea for even a second and just shake off the notion that I could fail at anything. Having this belief in me has made every step forward easier and has made me want to run in that direction full steam. It is not easy to share your spouse with so many people. It is not easy for our children to share their father with some many others. We know that so many children grow up without the parental support they need and we recognize this importance. We are blessed to have our beautiful children and their almost 125 brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and grandmas and grandpas too.
Secondly, to Sensei Darryl and Sensei Gary: There are no words, boys. Sometimes you make decisions in this life and you look behind you and notice some people have taken up the rear. Thank you for believing in my direction and trusting me with your tutelage in Karate do. Moreover, thank you for the time you have taken to instill the knowledge we have learned collectively to the group and for being a constant source of council for me not only in Martial Arts but in life.
Third, to my students and parents: There are about 125 active students in the dojo at all times and that warms my heart. I am blessed to be able to work alongside you and/or your child and aid them in developing tools to help navigate this thing called life. I have enjoyed each and every one of your accomplishments inside and outside the dojo, even more so that I have ever enjoyed any of my own. To you parents, I know as one myself, how difficult it is to allow someone the opportunity to interact with your child. Thank you for that privilege and thank you for your friendship along this journey. It takes a village to raise these kids, it truly does.
To my Karate Mentor, Kyoshi Pat Haley: I am sorry you have to deal with me. Ha! However, if it was not for you, I would have walked away from Karate years ago. You gave me the permission to think outside the box and allow me to be me and let me pave my own way with it and for it. Thanks for always picking up the phone even if it’s just to calm me down. I count my myself lucky to have met you but fortunate to be in your circle. Thank you for all the lessons, large and small alike.
To my Brothers and Sisters in Karate and my peers and friends, you have all had such an incredible impact on my life. I wish such great things for all of us in life and business. I have enjoyed watching your schools grow as well as yourselves as instructors. I have enjoyed watching us gel and come together as friends and even enjoy vacations together.
To Coach Rory @Parabellum MMA: I am a huge proponent that Coaches need mentors too. While mine in Karate is in California, I don’t have one here within a driving distance. When I started NOGI at Parabellum, about 16 months ago, I wasn’t unaware of how to do things, I was unaware of how to do it correctly. I had a lot to learn as just a karate guy but you were patient with me. It was important for me to have a teacher again if only to understand how I could get better as a teacher and coach. There is a reason I drive over an hour to attend one of your classes, if even for only 45 minutes. You are a special person to a lot of your students, including myself.
Lastly, to my beautiful children, Katrina and Adrian: You father loves you so much. Everything I have ever done in my life has been for you both, even before you got here. I know sharing your father with other kids is hard on you both. Understand one thing, I hope to help you both understand and value the importance of hard work and making a difference in this life, no matter how big or small. You must be the change you want to see in the world and the world is full of people with ideas but don’t ever follow through with them or act on them.
Even though I was scared in the beginning, your father has never been one of these people. Never be afraid to try anything, you have no idea what can happen in a short amount of time.
Onwards and Upwards,