February 22, 2016

Kokoro: One Year Later

Easy day mug


I have been involved with SealFit and Unbeatable Mind since December of 2013.

I have to thank my friend, client and chiropractor, Nick Knutson, for telling me about Kenny Kane’s podcast. Mark Divine was the guest. Mark is a former commander with the Navy Seals. Among many things, Mark is the founder and CEO of SealFit.com.  I had heard of the crazy SealFit workouts but I never tried them. I had never been introduced to the Unbeatable Mind Academy until that podcast. Mark spoke of the mental game behind getting through the toughest spots. He spoke of yoga, breathing, meditation, positivity and visualization. As a visual artist (fancy name for photographer) and a CrossFit trainer, I could really “buy” into what he was “selling”. At the time, I was reading a book called the Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence by Gary Mack and I was beginning to understand the idea of winning the war before going into battle. You have to see yourself succeed, especially in tough challenges.

I found the Mark’s comments on the podcast to be right up my alley for next level in personal development. I did some research and decided to sign up online for the Unbeatable Mind Academy. But before I could get into lesson number one, an email popped up informing me about the inaugural Unbeatable Mind Retreat being held in Encintas, Ca at SealFit HQ. My December was slow during that time, so I decided to take a chance. If I was going to “buy” into this program, I wanted to meet the people behind it. That trip changed my life.

uma 2013

Meeting Commander Divine at the first Unbeatable Mind Retreat, Dec. 2013.

Since that trip, I have been to all three Unbeatable Mind Academies (they get better and better every year). I attended various SealFit academies that have helped me build my mental toughness and thirst for physical adventure. These academies alongside my physical and mental tools were put to the test one year ago.


Mentor Academy log

Mentor Academy1

Images from Mentor Academy, October 2014



The camp is called Kokoro. It is a 50 hour (without sleep) crucible where you are pushed to your limits and sometimes stripped of your physical being so you can rely on your mind and teammates. Ego aside, being present and mindful is the name of the game. Staying mindful becomes a challenge when there are ice baths, the surf crashing over you and your team, sleep deprivation, physical demands (Q: How many pushups did we do? A: All of them) and a host of other distractions to keep your brain dancing. One comment kept creeping into the coach’s vernacular “Don’t forget, YOU PAID FOR THIS!”

kokoro definition

This blog post isn’t about the particulars of Kokoro or even how to survive it. I’m thinking of my one year anniversary. It’s been one year since I heard that voice from the podcast proclaim to us the sweetest of words…”Kokoro 36, you are now secure.” That statement meant our class did everything to receive a certificate of completion. One of the proudest moments of my life. The funny thing is, the answers were written on the test.  All of the weapons they armed me with (5 mountain training) can be applied to life, business, relationships AND Kokoro.

When I look back at Kokoro, I have to recall my training. Without my training and my training partner, this would have been like a trip to a foreign land without a map. Andy Hendel (owner of CrossFit Charlotte), my great buddy and training partner, decided to take the plunge and get involved with this SealFit endeavor.


Me and Andy at the Fundamentals Academy. March, 2014.

We attended a fundamentals academy together in March of 2014 to get a feel for the SealFit approach. Our first lecture at this academy was performed by Commander Divine in a lean and rest position (push up plank position). The lecture lasted thirty-seven minutes. Yup, we held a plank position alongside Commander Divine for thirty-seven minutes. Welcome to SealFit.

Me and Andy have always trained hard together but 3 months before Kokoro, we decided to up our game. We did a weekly crucible. These were tasks that were physical in nature, long time domains but also had to play on the mental side.  For example, our first crucible was to each load up a bar to 135lbs. and walk a mile with it on our back.

135 carry

Our first challenge. 135lbs for a mile.

Right away, we were practicing micro-goals (just get to the next telephone pole.. just get to the next corner..). Since we were training as a team, if one of us dropped the weight, we both dropped it. I didn’t want to put the bar down because I knew it would affect my teammate, plus I didn’t want to clean it, press it, then land it on my back again. This forced me to push a little farther, making my mental toughness stronger.  These weekly workouts were something I looked forward to and feared at the same time. But as Commander Divine preaches “Feed the courage wolf.” There is so much truth in this. The more you feed courage or strength, your fears are no longer crippling, they become a challenge.

I learned many things through our training:

-I would say yes to the weekly crucible, no matter how nasty it looked on paper.

-An accountability partner was the only way I would succeed in these challenges.

-We had to make the training harder than what we expected the event to be.

Graduating Kokoro with a great friend made the experience immeasurably better. If there is an event or challenge you want to tackle, get a friend involved, your odds for success are so much greater.

Kokoro 36 grads

Hooyah Kokoro Class 36!

I still recall back to the hotel after being awake and “exercising” for better part of 50 hours. We laid there in our beds, legs propped up by pillows to help swell the inflammation, laughing. I just remember saying to him “What in the hell did we just do?” It was an accomplishment of months of work to this pinnacle event.

cmdr divine coacha

Monday morning after Kokoro Camp. Me, Commander Divine and Andy Hendel. Feb 2015.

Although I use many different SealFit and Unbeatable Mind tools every day (and probably every hour) of my life, here are my takeaways from my Kokoro experience that I still use one year later:

kokoro blindfold

Calm in chaos.

Breathing to help calm me in “chaos”. I feel chaos is when you let your mind play tricks on you. I think it’s that moment you let your brain drive you, not the other way around. So, when things get crazy around me or I get dropped into chaotic situations, I stop and recognized what is going on. I take control of my mind, I might even say these words “calm in chaos” and I breathe through my nose. This controlled breathing calms my brain and puts my mind and body in chorus with one another. This brief moment helps me put everything into perspective and puts ME in control.

Positive talk. I’m so sensitive to positive framing of words, when I hear other’s negativity it gives me a physical reaction. Words are powerful, as we speak so shall we act. We can affect ourselves as well the people around us. I’m not saying I live in a pollyanna world but I know what kind of energy I prefer in my life and choose for it to be positive. (To really get into this mind frame, one needs to practice witnessing your thoughts. A powerful lesson taught in the Unbeatable Mind Academy)

Visualization. Whether I’m packing all of my gear for a film shoot or a workout, I take time to visualize the trip and any pitfalls that may occur. I see myself succeeding even in the worst circumstances.

Before workouts, I put myself in my “mind gym”. My mind gym is a perfect workout space built through guided meditation lead by Commander Divine. I get results from seeing myself go through movements (workouts) in this space.  This is very powerful when combined with breathing and positivity (see, they all work in tandem).

Making micro-goals. Looking at a whole project or mountain seems too much to handle. One step at a time. I use this in circumstances that feel overwhelming. I can only do one thing well at a time. During my Kokoro training I did a workout that included 1,000 burpees. I could only do one burpee at a time. One perfect yet sucky burpee at a time.

I also applied the use in micro-goals on summit day during my recent trip to Kilimanjaro. We began the climb at 11pm. It was pitch dark, cold and uncomfortable. My micro-goal was 6:30am. I knew from previous days on the hike that at 6:30 in the morning, the sun would be up and provide light and therefore a newfound energy. I would look at my watch every so often and say “I only have three more hours, I can do this for three hours.” It worked, the sun came up and our energy was recharged.

SealFit Kili

Top of Kilimanjaro with Cloud Walkers Scott Wilson and Mona Patel. They are both followers of the SealFit way.

As you can tell, I could go on and on about this experience (I’m grateful you have stayed with me this far). Everyone around SealFit and Unbeatable Mind Academy from Commander Divine, to the awesome coaches, staff and SealFit/UMA community have helped shape me into me (physically and mentally).

These merely a few things I have taken away from this SealFit journey so far. This is a journey. I understand and appreciate that I will never master the art of an Unbeatable Mind. Much like yoga, it is a practice. The more you practice, stronger and more flexible you get. Strength grows and fear disappears.

I’m thinking I need to rewrite that book that was so popular when I was a kid:

“All I really need to know I learned at SealFit”

Kokoro plaque


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