The Tenth Degree with Steve DelCastillo

What’s your typical morning routine?  How do you get your day started off right?

I start every day at 6am. I begin with prayer, meditation and visualization, and then I exercise, read and write. In this way I have always accomplished a lot to better myself even before I start my work day and begin focusing on doing the same for others.


What did you want to be when you grew up? What interested you in being an entrepreneur and working for yourself?

It’s so interesting that you ask me that question because I just recently did a blog on that very question- as I think it’s an important one for everyone to answer. I wanted to be a soldier and I wanted to be a great martial artist, and I have had the blessing of living both of these childhood dreams. Today I enjoy helping others find and live their calling. That’s why I think this is such an important question; we can find a lot of clues about our calling by remembering who we wanted to be when we grow up.


Why the martial arts?  When did you first start training and what made you want to devote so much time to that one thing? 

I started training in 1982, at 13. I wish I could honestly say that I realized the profound effect the martial arts would have on me, but I joined because I had lost my first fight to a bully- not that it was my first fight, just that it was the first I lost; and I got hurt both physically and emotionally by it. Truth is though, I was going through a lot at this time, home life wasn’t great and I had very low self-esteem. The martial arts would change all of that. And, to kind of answer the second part of your question, I played other sports too but loved that, in the martial arts, I could be as good as I wanted to. I trained hard and got physically and mentally strong. This would go on to help me in my Army career and, much later I would of course become a modern day martial philosopher and teacher and get to share my love of leadership and the martial arts as my livelihood.


I know you’re big into Krav Maga. What about that discipline do you enjoy? and how do your students react to it?

I often say that we are a leadership development academy that also happens to teach the most practical self defense in the world. So that’s the part of Krav Maga that so appealed to me. I had already been training in the martial arts for over 20 years when I first discovered Krav Maga. It appealed to me for the laser beam focus on real self defense and I studied it for over a decade to make it a fundamental part of my program. But, as I often say, I also pray that none of my students ever gets to use the self protection part of my art, so the leadership and philosophy art part is the rest of it. By mastering both, students are prepared not only to defend their own life and the lives of others, but to maximize their own life and the lives of others they care about too.


How do you define success? Was there a moment when you felt like you really made it?

I have never felt like I have made it. I am not sure that I ever will. Perhaps that’s because I believe that the pursuit of excellence is a life long journey. At the risk of being cliche, the road to success really is more a journey than a destination.


It’s a difficult time to be a business owner this year. What is some advice you’ve been giving to school owners to keep going?

I don’t really advise other school owners but, if I did, I would just say that we need to practice what we preach and do what we learned in the martial arts- focus and persevere.


Can you think of a student (or students) that you’re particularly proud of? Maybe someone who has made a ton of progress quickly. Tell us about it and what you may have done to help them succeed?

I am proud of all of my students and of course especially my black belts; I am proud of all the black belts that have taken the leadership they learned at my academy out of the dojo and into the world, in positions as military leaders, business and ministry leaders and academic leaders. Of course I am very proud of my sons who have grown up at the dojo. My youngest, Winston, is 15 and still training. My oldest, Harley is a Master Instructor who helps with the teaching and marketing of the school and is also studying Cyber Security at USF. My middle son, Diego, just got his 4th degree too and is about to start his military career. He goes to Army Basic and Infantry School in January and then to University of North Georgia for Officer Training.  I am also uber proud of Sensei Kyle Bierly, who grew up in my dojo, want away to college and serves in the US Marine Reserves and is now my Chief Instructor, helping empower lives through our program at KMMA!


What’s your favorite (or most effective) way of marketing your school? Is it online? Passing out VIP cards?

We do lots of marketing in lots of different ways because I am a believer in the old marketing adage that everything works but nothing works great. So we do a combination of print and digital marketing including rack cards, Facebook and such, as well as internal and external events. My favorite marketing is word of mouth of course, because my best customers come from my best customers. It’s my favorite but, like any and all of the rest, is alone not enough.  I have also come to believe in an old school idea that is actually true (though also necessary not sufficient), that delivering a great product is the most important marketing of all (and creates that favorite word of mouth we are talking about). As your dad, Mr. Silva, taught me years ago, we have to be worth talking about to be talked about.  I also think really defining who you really are is important- we can’t be everything to everybody. So, for example, KMMA is a Leadership Development Academy that also happens to teach the most practical self defense, and are key market are families.


What is currently inspiring you and in what way? (book, movie, song, charity, anything really…)

I love reading and also listening to great motivational and educational material and could really choose from many of these, but I am going to answer a bit differently. What most inspires me to keep default aggressive on my business goals are 2 things: 1. The Vision I have been living since I wrote it in 2000, improving individuals, families and society one Blackbelt at a time but 2. On a more pragmatic issue, I want to create a successful enough business to be able to keep my sons and Sensei Bierly I just spoke about. I told you about Diego and Harley’s college programs, and Kyle is studying to be an Engineer. I am super proud of and happy for each and all of them if they do any of these but I would also like to be able to provide a career choice for each and all of them that could be equally or more lucrative to live our Vision and calling, and make a great living at our mission of empowering lives through martial arts.


How do you end a typical day? What do you do to unwind?

I go home and eat and talk with my wife about the day. I do OMAD, One Meal A Day, so eating is a treat at the end of the work day. We sometimes will watch a little TV too, and then we pray and go to sleep. When I make it home early enough, we’ll sit outside on our patio and watch the birds on the water