Blog Martial Arts

TBT- Whatever it takes


Most of my throwback Thursday blogs will be happy stories about the many great Blackbelt Leaders that we have raised as children, and that are now amazing adults making fantastic contributions through leadership.

I’ll be writing about Sensei Ben and Sensei Mac, Taylor the naval aviator, Matt the Army Major, Julie the ministry leader in Cherokee, Kyle the Electrical Engineer, Ceya and Amanda who are now lawyers, Madison who’s on a full ride at LSU and soon to graduate as a Veterinarian, and many other KMMA success stories of the young whitebelts who grew into Blackbelt leaders and are making their mark upon the world today.


But this morning it struck me that, like all great success stories, the stories behind the story aren’t all happy.

Winning takes sacrifice.

And just as each and all of the Blackbelt Leaders sacrificed time, and their families money, and they worked hard, focused and commited to their goal- and sometimes even made the decision to continue working towards their goal even while their friends were off playing or taking it easy, or even quit-

it took me over 20 years to become an overnight success.


that’s Shihan Harley in this pic of my grand opening in 2000. Tyler Emerick, Liann Linsmier and Heather Johnson also went on to become Blackbelts.


Krav Maga Martial Arts is a successful martial arts academy doing amazing work in our community, and it has been for some time.

But, as all great things do, it started as just an idea- the Vision and Mission in my mind after I exited military service at the turn of this century. 😉

Today’s TBT isn’t even about the Vision or Mission though, but about the hardship.


To fully explain this one story, one of many if I were taking the time to talk about the hard times, I have to go back to my service In Germany in the early ’90’s.

I was commissioned as a 2nd Lt in the US Army in 1992.

I spent a few months in Tacoma Washington before deploying overseas, but my first real leadership position was with the 3rd Infantry Division in Kitzingen Germany.


The relevant part of this story is that I bought my first Harley Davidson motorcycle, an aqua pearl and silver Fatboy whom I name Shula, and rode her all over Europe.

Shula and I made memories in Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Amsterdam and more.

Riding was my recreation and recharge activity when I wasn’t on mission- still is today.


Needless to say, I LOVED Shula.

In October of 2000 I opened my first martial arts academy (dojo) in a little 1,000 square foot room that had been a computer store before me.

There are of course many other stories I could tell about this era of time, including our successes, and including when we learned.

But then our country as a whole, and my business in particular, went through a hard time. I’m not even going to go into which of the many disasters of the last 20 years it was.

Just suffice it to say that we were having a very hard time.

This was just a few years into living my passion and purpose through the KMMA mission.

We were way behind on the rent and struggling.


I could have done what people do when they’re that far down and out.

I could quit.


Somehow, though, I knew that what we were doing was too important. In retrospect, I give the glory to God.

He’s been directing my steps since long before I knew that.

But somehow I knew that I was doing what I was called to do, and that one day KMMA was going to be a great success.

I knew we could make a meaningful impact on families in our community and that we would produce Blackbelts that would be happy, focused, respectful, disciplined and confident leaders that would make a positive impact too!

I knew I had a mission and I knew I couldn’t quit.


So I sold the only valuable thing that I had to buy the time to make it.

I sold Shula.

I was able to catch up the rent and dig into my foxhole and work longer and harder with more focus than ever before.

After all, as is always the case for all of us, I knew “if it’s to be, it’s up to me”.


I am exceedingly grateful that God did bless that sacrifice and, many years later Krav Maga Martial Arts is thriving, had produced so many great leaders, and continues to grow and improve every day.

While it was a sad decision to sell Shula, it wasn’t a hard one.

I knew what I had to do.

Sacrifice is like that when you have a big why.


Sensei Winston circa 2011 or so


I don’t know if I should tell you about that Veteran’s Day, when I sat in my tub reflecting (and kind of sulking if truth be told); but I guess I just did.

So I’m not saying it was easy.

I’m just saying it was worth it.


Today I lead a great leadership development academy that also happens to teach the most practical self defense in the world.

I am training up our next generation of leaders to grow our mission even farther.

And I continue to grow too.

In fact I am off to Annapolis today to train leadership with some friends- some martial arts leaders and some US Naval Academy instructors and senior officers, including CPT Cao who is not only a decorated Naval Officer and leader, but also grew up in Grand Master Smith’s academy.

We’re a family of leaders growing leaders.


But back to my sad story about Shula.

A few years ago, after I’d long since recovered from the challenge of that time and had another Harley,

my friend Bud contacted me to tell me he was going to sell Shula.

You see, Bud was the father of another one of my Blackbelts, William Dail.

He and his wife, Micki, had bought her (Shula) in large part because they too believed in my mission and believed in me.

And I was able to buy her back.

Shula is the beauty sitting in front of the other beauty (my dojo) in the picture at the top of this story.


Today I’m grateful for Shula, for my dojo and Team, for all of you and for all the great KMMA Blackbelt Leaders, past, present and future, who help make our Vision and Mission a reality today!


Prepare To Live; Empower To Lead!
Grand Master Stephen J. Del Castillo
Author, MBA & 7th Degree Blackbelt
Founder & Chief Master Instructor,
Krav Maga Martial Arts
p.s. I worked hard to try and find the album that would have pics of Shula and I riding in Europe but to no avail- and none of those are digitized yet. When I do, i’ll get someone to scan them and share them with you!
  Shihan Diego circa 2014 krav camp. Shihan Harley and Shihan Carolyn in the background too!

Fall 2021 Blackbelt Leadership Retreat & Krav Camp September 24-26

Fall Krav Camp (this is krav camp 26!) make sure you’re in the TBT of this one in a few years!





———————————————————————————————————————- 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