Blog Martial Arts

Teach them to fall

As you probably know, we are a leadership development academy and I am a consummate student and teacher of leadership.

So, when we went away to “sharpen the sword”, the term I give to personal and professional development in a warrior’s nod to Stephen Covey’s 7th habit of “sharpening the saw”, we were adhering to this important principle but also following the leadership principle of leading from the front- leading by example.

It was an amazing weekend in Annapolis and did not disappoint. We learned great leadership lessons from current and former military leaders, martial arts and industry leaders, visited the US Naval Academy and more.

We had fun, learned and recharged and I can’t wait to get back and share with those that I have the honor of leading!


Today, I want to share with you one specific jewel of wisdom shared personally with me from a decorated military warrior, leader and hero, CPT Hong Cao of the US Navy Special Operations Command.

CPT Cao has an incredibly impressive resume. He has served and led in many deployments around the world including Iraq and Afghanistan. He is a US Naval Academy graduate and has served as the Commandant of the infamous US Naval Dive School.

To be succinct, CPT Cao has been there and done that.

He taught us about leadership, team building and shared valuable nuggets of wisdom from his 25 year military career.


CPT Cao was also a student of my mentor Grand Master Jeff Smith whom many of you have met.

It was gratifying to see him honor his teacher telling stories of his growing up at Grand master Smith’s academy under his tutelage.

As a teacher of future leaders myself, it was edifying to see this great man credit so many leadership and other lessons he had gained through the martial arts for much of his success at the Naval Academy, Special Operations training and in his illustrious leadership career.



At the end of his presentation, though, I asked CPT Cao this question:

“Sir, what do you see as one of the greatest weaknesses or challenges in our society that we can help address as leadership educators”.


With the resolute confidence afforded only to those that really know, CPT Cao offered without hesitation, “teach them to fail”.


As you can imagine, it took me a minute more of listening to really understand what CPT Cao was sharing.

He went on to explain that the most important attribute of all, of all the great qualities we imbue into our Blackbelt Leaders through training in the martial arts is toughness- that fire in the belly that will never quit.

CPT Cao went on to explain, in the voice of wisdom that comes from those that know that they know because they’ve walked the walk, that failure is inevitable in any great endeavor, and that only the resilience, perseverance and fortitude that informs what we do after we fail determines our level of success in the real world.


Wow, mind blown and marching order accepted!

But then, CPT Cao used that powerful tool of teaching that turns theory into something far more useful;

He gave two real world success stories of personal failure.

CPT Cao shared about the time that he failed his first 2nd degree Blackbelt test under Grandmaster Smith, how he felt, what he did and what that experience did for him.

And he shared about the time that he flunked out of the US Naval Academy.

This amazing successful US Naval Academy graduate who had now had an amazing career as a great military leader was sharing with us that he had failed to make the grade his first time through.

He also shared that they don’t really give second chances.

CPT Cao told the story of all that he had to do to change that, a story of grit and stick-to-it-iveness that ends with the US Naval Academy telling him, “you’re the one”- you’ve got another chance.


CPT Cao demonstrated the humility element that he shared as one his four pillars of leadership by sharing with us these and even a few other lesser failures.

And he charged us with this important mission. He told us that we have to prepare our kids to fail. That we have to make them understand that, in the real world, things do not come easy.

We have to give them the toughness and teach them the skills to never quit, and to commit that we will do whatever it takes to accomplish the goal that we want.

He said that this is what is missing in society today and that only leadership institutions like ours can change it, giving our students the real secret to success.

Challenge accepted sir.


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


———————————————————————————————————————- 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.

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