Blog Martial Arts

It’s My Birthday

Hey, I’m sorry this is like the second or third email you got from me today….

But thank you for taking the time to read it if you do.


Today is my birthday- my 53rd to be exact.

I’d like to share a few thoughts, my favorite lessons and a few of the myriad things I am grateful for with you today.

Consider this blog my birthday reflections.


The first thing I’d like to reflect upon is the importance of reflection.

It would be a travesty to live to this age in a life unexamined.

I am grateful for the many years of personal growth to this milestone, and for all I am blessed with for the rest of my life; but i never want to waste a year. Each must be a year of reflection and growth.


Two, I’d like to share just a few of my favorite life and leadership lessons I have benefited from over these years:

  1. Life is 10% what happens and 90% how we react to it. It’s one of the Blackbelt Leadership principles we teach at my dojo, but also one of the truths that has served me the best over the years since I understood this.
  2. Nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems; and neither is any person.
  3. Most people are mostly good, and everyone is dealing with something. We should seek first to understand, and do our best to help and avoid judgement.
  4. Happiness comes not from fun, distraction or things, but from purpose, passion and people.
  5. Everything happens for a Reason, and it serves me well (even when I don’t understand it yet.)
  6. I am good enough AND I can be better. I spent much of my young life- teens, twenties and thirties- trying to prove something to somebody. I spent my forties growing into the leader I was destined to be. I am spending my fifties living, laughing and leaving a legacy, leading others to their purpose, passion and calling and growing my dojo into tit’s full potential and destiny. Check out this video I made earlier speaking to one of my student’s questions about “imposter syndrome”.
  7. Win-win or no deal.
  8. Give everyone respect, love and grace. Trust first. See the potential in everyone; seeing people, and especially students, not as they are but as they can be!
  9. But also keep your inner circle close.
  10. Extreme Ownership! Take responsibility for everything. It is the most free and powerful way to be! Read Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink if you haven’t.
  11. There are no wrong or right personalities; they each have their own unique strengths and liabilities. It’s great to live into our strengths and also imperative we never make our liabilities into excuses. Read Personality Plus by Florence Littauer if you haven’t.
  12. Leadership is the lid on effectiveness. This and 20 other critical life and leadership lessons in the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. At least read the book if you don’t come experience the program at Krav Maga Martial Arts. 🙂
  13. Few things are more valuable, nor easy to perceive, during times of real trouble or real success than real friends.
  14. Gratitude and Vision are the yin-yang of success. I am so grateful for how far I have come; and so hungry for where we are going.
  15. One of the most critical ingredients to organizational success is the right team; the same is true if life.
  16. Focus and avoiding of distraction are one of the great secrets to getting somewhere. Turn off the news and make some.
  17. The power of life and death is in the tongue.
  18. The mind- what we think, how we think, what we believe and how we wield it are the very secrets of success.
  19. Next is who we associate with and what we do.
  20. God is great all the time, and always with us- even when we don’t think so.
  21. People will surprise you. This is true in so many ways. I could refer to good and bad behavior in adult associates over the years, but I’ll use a less delicate example to prove it. I used to think that I could tell which beginner students would become the best blackbelts, but that just isn’t true. Some of the most gifted quit while some of the most challenged stay to become great. The only truth is that only they and their support group decide what their destiny on the martial arts will be- just as we in every area of all of our lives.
  22. Wow. I could go on and on with this. I have done this totally freestyle, in stream of consciousness- and I am sure that I could do so for another half hour and as many more lessons would emerge from my reflections of all I’ve learned over 53 years. But I am going to stop here and close with this one.  While I have learned so much in my life, and especially over the last 21 years or so, I have only just begun! Just as the new Blackbelt realizes how much he has to learn when he or she is born again that way and begins to go from learning towards understanding, I feel like I learn and grow more every year- and every month, week and day along the way! So, my closing lesson for this blog is to never stop learning!


Three, a dozen things I am most grateful for today (though there are literally hundreds).

  1. I am grateful for God in my life: His love, grace and salvation; His hand of favor and hedge of protection; and for the way He’s made my crooked ways straight. I am grateful He loved me and had a plan for me even while I was still denying that He exists.
  2. I am grateful for an amazing wife, and how she’s helped me create a better life.
  3. I am grateful for all my amazing mentors, in the military, martial arts, in business and in leadership and life.
  4. I am grateful for all the great Blackbelt Leaders, and future Blackbelts that I get to mentor.
  5. I am grateful for my kids and grandkids, my mother and mother-in-law, the rest of my family and my friends.
  6. I am grateful for the past (good memories and lessons learned), the present and the future. I am grateful for free will to become and create a free country in which to do that, and for all the people whi help.
  7. I am grateful for great books.
  8. I am grateful for my dojo.
  9. I am grateful that I love what I do and that what I do makes a difference.
  10. I am grateful for the gift of writing and that I get to do it.
  11. I am grateful for great weather, great rides, winding roads, great destinations and traveling mercies.
  12. I am grateful I get to teach, learn and associate with some of the greatest people in the world.


Live, laugh, love and leave a legacy.

Dr. Stephen Covey


Besides the Bible and The 21 Laws, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was probably one of the most influential works in my life. You should read that too. 🙂


Speaking of live, love, laugh and gratitude. I am also grateful my wife Barbara is making me Rabo tonight!




3 notes about this picture:

  1. For those of you who don’t know what “rabo encedido” is, it is a Cuban recipe for oxtail.
  2. It is my fovorite dish. My mother used to make it for me every year and now my wife has contonued that tradition and blessing.
  3. Barb was very concerened about me sharing this picture; she wanted me to make sure and tell you that it was a pot of it marinating yesterday and that it will be more beutiful after slow cooking today… I’ll also share another pic tomorrow. 🙂



Prepare To Live; Empower To Lead!

Grand Master Stephen J. Del Castillo
Founding Master Instructor, Krav Maga Martial Arts
Author of Developing Your Superpowers  Meditations On Mastery Vol One
Check out the Meditations On Mastery Blog and Podcast too!


———————————————————————————————————————- and Krav Maga Martial Arts have been empowering lives through the martial arts in the Tampa Bay area for 20 years!

Founded in 2000 by Grandmaster Stephen J. Del Castillo, a 7th degree Black Belt and Sr. Master Instructor, Krav Maga Martial Arts and Karate lessons for pre-school children ages 3-6 and elementary age kids ages 7 and up are designed to develop the critical building blocks kids need – specialized for their age group – for school excellence and later success in life.

Krav Maga Martial Arts Adult Krav Maga training is a complete adult self defense, fitness, and conditioning program for adults who want to learn real world self defense, lose weight, and/or get (and stay in shape).

If you have any questions about our program, or would like to go ahead redeem your 2 weeks FREE, you can call us anytime at 813-547-6368 or visit our Krav Maga Martial Arts website.

About Grandmaster Stephen J. Del Castillo: Grandmaster Del Castillo is the founding Master Instructor of Krav Maga Martial Arts and has been empowering lives in Pasco and Hillsborough Counties since October of 2000. He is a 7th degree Blackbelt, MBA, author, mentor and success coach, a US Army Veteran and a proud father and grandfather. He is married to Ms. Barbara Del Castillo who helps him run the school. Grand Master Del Castillo began his training in the early 80’s and has high level blackbelts in Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Premier Martial Arts and Krav Maga Martial Arts as well as experience in kickboxing, Jeet Kune Do and Jiujitsu. He has high level instructor certifications from BBSI, IKMF, and KMG and has been featured in numerous Martial Arts publications and also Success magazine. He was a competitive sport karate and American Kickboxing instructor until he enlisted in the US Army where he served in the 82nd Airborne Division, where he won an Army Green to Gold scholarship and proceeded to ROTC and the University of Tampa. He was commisioned in 1992 and went on to serve in Germany with the 3rd Infantry Division and then in several other posts in the US until he left military service to pursue his dream of creating KMMA in 2000.

The Krav MagaMartial Arts Headquarters is in Lutz, FL at 1900 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., 33549. Krav Maga Martial Arts serves Lutz, Land O’ Lakes, Wesley Chapel, and surrounding areas.

Also, check us out on Fun4TampaKids & on