How To Move Forward Amidst Adversity: Find A Better Way With Michael Johnson

BYW S4 10 | Better Way


This episode focuses on the WHY of Better Way. Dr. Gary Sanchez’s guest is Michael Johnson, the owner of Shock Wave Defense. Michael is the ultimate innovator who always looks for a better way to do everything. Join in the conversation to witness how Michael’s WHY plays out in his life, starting with martial arts. Today, he trains the public, law enforcement, and military personnel on how to function properly in resistant environments. If you like to find a better way, you’d love to tune in to this episode. Don’t miss out!

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How To Move Forward Amidst Adversity: Find A Better Way With Michael Johnson

We’re going to be talking about the why of a better way. If this is your why, then you are the ultimate innovator and you are constantly seeking ways to do everything better. You find yourself wanting to improve anything by finding a way to make it better. You also desire to share your improvements with the world. You constantly ask yourself questions like, “What if we tried this differently? What if we did this another way? How can we make this better?”

You contribute to the world with better processes and systems while operating under the motto, “I’m often pleased but never satisfied.” You are excellent at associating, which means that you are adept at taking ideas or systems from one industry or discipline and applying them to another, always with the ultimate goal of improving something.

I’ve got a great guest for you. He is a perfect example of this. Starting in the martial arts world at two years old, Michael Johnson continues to grow his knowledge and career in combative. He opened Shockwave Defense in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2002, which combined experiences that yielded life conviction, behavioral psychology and multiple black belt rankings into his interpretation of defense called Bellicusology, the study of militant, martial and warfare ways.

He holds a BA in Criminology from the University of New Mexico and as the Honorary Squadron Commander for 512th Rescue Squadron at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Johnson has done bodyguard work for celebrities such as Xzibit, and was the primary deadly force combatives instructor for the Florida Department of Corrections and their special teams.

His instruction has reached over 19,000 officers in the Department of Correction and has trained multiple officers from other agencies, as well as the Silver City Police Department in New Mexico. He’s a Certified NRA Firearm Instructor and a Professional Lecturer through the New Mexico Department of Public Safety. He teaches domestically and abroad including Taiwan, Yokota AFB and Tokyo, Japan, where he trained the 459th Airlift Squadron, how to defend themselves and their aircraft should a hostile actor try to take over the aircraft.

His tried and tested skills have been tested against underground, full-contact fighters. He has over 55 full contact stick weapon fights. He continues to train the public as well as law enforcement and military personnel in how to function in resistant environments. Additionally, he and his team produced films and judgmental training software scenarios to aid first responders in dealing with violent individuals in shoot and no-shoot scenarios.

Michael, welcome to the podcast.

I’m glad to be on your show.

I’m looking forward to this for a long time because you’ve got a very fascinating story. What you’re doing intrigues a lot of people especially CEOs that are wanting to figure out how to protect themselves. Before we get into that, let’s go back through your life. Tell everybody a little bit about you. Go back into your childhood. Tell us about where you came from, how you got into the martial arts and that whole story.

My why is a better way. The how and the what are also significant factors in this. My how is through simplification, to simplify and then the ultimate thing there is to make sense. I need to make sense out of things. I’ll talk about the nine pillars that shifted my life from when I was a kid. They don’t happen to you. They happen for you. If you understand a lot of elements and things such as the why is an important aspect here, you’ll go, “This makes sense. This is why.”

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I’ll get started with this mindset of what I train executive warriors. I have a few different products won for men who are dealing with harsh environments and life-changing events that have taken place, anything from a harsh business decision, family upset, death in the family to dealing with infidelity. Any of those lines that they might be facing, how to handle that mentally but then also how to channel that in a positive way, through being able to protect themselves and their families.

This whole concept is about awakening the warrior within you and using what you have to get what you want. I’ll start with the very first element. The first one was the darkness. I remember when I was younger. I was in my bassinet and the moon used to terrify me. One of the things that I recall was my dad hated hearing us cry at night. He would take me out of my bassinet and put me in the closet. It made it quieter.

From that standpoint of me being in there, I was terrified. I’d be crying. It was harder. He’d come back, hear me crying, whack my rear-ended. Sitting in the darkness was one of the first powers that supercharged my development in understanding both the criminal mind and how to utilize things that we’re afraid of. Most people are afraid of the darkness until they learn how to use it. The first element here is what you start with. It’s not what happens to you. It’s what happens for you.

The next event that was a big part for me was the blade. It was about five years old. I had a knife to my throat. The person was telling me they’re going to slit my throat and stuff my body behind the television so my parents couldn’t find me. That shifted the way I looked at fear and violence. When you’re so helpless, small and don’t have the power to defend yourself in a situation like that, that’s going to change the way you look at everything that you do as you get older to be able to protect and defend yourself. Your tactics are going to be very different.

Most people are afraid of the darkness until they learn how to use it. Click To Tweet

A lot of people look at these events like, “That’s so horrible.” I remember one guy who wanted to do a documentary on my life. He goes like, “Most people go through one thing. You went through a whole bunch. We could do ten documentaries on you.” He almost said it was unbelievable that all these things happened. I said, “I can see that but it’s all documented. You can go find it.”

A unique thing about what other people consider horrible things happened to you are not happening to you. They’re happening for you. It’s going to help shape you into a motivation and drive that’s going to shift the way you think, how you ask yourself questions and what your why is. These all help form who you are.

After the blade, the next one was the brokenness. It seems mild compared to the other events but my dog had died and she was my best friend. As a kid, I lived in the East mountains. I didn’t have anybody to talk to. My parents would go, “Go outside and play with the dog.” That dog was my best friend and when it died, I realized that I did not have any power to bring this animal back. I lost my best friend. You learn how to control the controllable. That’s a tough situation to deal with. Inside of that, that went on. My parents got this horrible divorce and both went separate ways. That added to that area where you can’t control the controllables.

The next big thing that was a huge impact on my life was the lawsuit. The first person that ever sued me was my mother. That was such a unique situation. She was upset because I was in a situation where I was leading the business and she handled things differently. Her fight with life and everybody around her. She didn’t deal with things well on aspects like that.

It was like, “You’re wronging me. I’m going to go after you, destroy you and do everything to you that I did to your dad that led to divorce.” On that court stand, there were a lot of elements inside of there. In my head, I was like, “This is ridiculous and crazy.” What you end up doing from that is if your mother sues you, anyone will sue you. From that point forward, everything was in writing. Leveraging and using it to make it something bigger.

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After that, I was homeless. I was living in my car. I ended up finishing college and moved out to Florida. I wanted to experience Florida. I’d never been there. It probably wasn’t the best judgment decision of moving out there and ended up living out of my car, in and out of Motel 6. It was at that point that I understood this concept of the yes. It didn’t matter how many noes I got. It was the yeses that mattered. I ended up finally getting a job. I got 150-square-foot apartment. I was able to start building this company I’d worked on before I left called Shockwave Defense.

I was building it on an ice chest, my laptop and a beach chair that was sinking in the center. It was cutting off the circulation in my legs so I couldn’t sit down for longer than 5 or 6 minutes and ended up putting a board across there so I could try and sit on the board. I don’t have a whole lot of fat on me so my rear end was going numb. It’s such a crazy time in my life. I had an air mattress that I bought from Walmart or something like that at the time. I’d fill it up at night. In the morning, you’re on the floor. It was a huge emotional challenge.

You sat down and start realizing who’s who. People that I thought were good people that were going to help me didn’t help me. The people that were supposed to be bad people reached out their hands and kindness. They were like, “I’ll help you if I can. I’ll pray for you.” I came back from that. I move back to Albuquerque and started opening my school. I have my best friend at the time. I met him when I was probably 6 and he was 5. This guy and I grew up together and saw each other at least 4 or 5 times a week, every single day throughout our lives.

I was debating whether or not I was going to put this in here because it was such a painful memory for me. He helped me build my school and stayed up all night. You know how it is launching a business. You’re putting all your energy into it 24 hours a day. I don’t hear from him for about a week. His girlfriend called me first. She goes, “Have you heard from Kyle?” I said, “No, I haven’t heard from him.” I figured he was ignoring her because she was a nice person but I figured he was probably blowing her off. His mom called. I was like, “I haven’t heard from him.” Then his dad called and that’s when I got concerned. It was all in a matter of a day.

They’re like, “Can you go to his house and see if there’s this black box?” Apparently, his mom had bought him a 0.22 for Christmas and that was gone. We started this rescue search for him. We ended up finding him up in the Jemez Mountains. He went up to the mountains and killed himself. For whatever reasons, it was unknown to me. His poor mother was so devastated by it.

She was like, “How can you be his best friend and not know that he would kill himself?” That put an additional level of stress on me. I was like, “I don’t know.” I felt bad. I’m his best friend. Then she was like, “If you didn’t know then you must’ve done it.” I was like, “This is horrible.” Not only that I lose my best friend but this person is trying to cope in their own way of being able to figure it out so they blame me. It was a standard suicide.

It doesn’t matter how many nos you have. It’s the yeses that matter. Click To Tweet

Everybody that was there, from the PJs because they had to call in the PJs due to the place, he was in the mountains, to the law enforcement they’re like, “This is a standard suicide.” The officers apologized to me. They said, “I’m so sorry. She’s searching for answers.” I’m like, “That was devastating.” If you lost your best friend and this other person is trying to point the finger at you or anyone else, they can make sense out of it.

After that, I was like, “This sucks.” You keep going, never give up and keep moving forward. I started riding motorcycles and was into that for a little while. I got hit by a car head-on on my motorcycle. I flew off. On all accounts, I probably should’ve been killed from it but I got up and walked away. I remember hearing this very powerful and authoritative voice when she hit me head-on said, “It’s not your time. Guard your head.”

That sounded like great advice. I covered up. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced having flesh ripped off your body sliding across the asphalt but it sucks. It teaches you a lot of pain tolerance. Every time a warrior feel pain, that’s your new pain threshold. It happens the same in business. When you go through something horrible, you’re everything compared to getting hit by a car because the girl wanted to update her Facebook or whatever.

I’m pointing these nine pillars because for a lot of people, they would think, “I would give up. I’d be done.” You’ve got to ask yourself what’s your why? Why do you continue going? Why do you keep fighting? I end up in a situation where I have this woman that I fall in love with and I have a child with her. I find out six months after my daughter is born that she’s cheating on me with not one but multiple men. I was devastated. It was one of those things that you sit down and you’re like, “WTF.” It’s one of those things where you’re like, “This is horrible.”

That in itself for me, out of all the events up to that point probably the hardest I’d ever been through. There’s a thing inside of you as a warrior that you’re used to fighting the external but when the enemy is from within, it hurts so bad that you can’t figure out how to conquer that enemy. It starts to tear you apart and break down your mind. It’s not something you can run from. It’s like food poisoning. You’ve got to let it pass.

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You wake up in the middle of the night with these horrible dreams. It was a rough experience. Then 8, 9 years later dealing with the judicial system of a family law system, it is such an asinine concept. It makes zero sense. You go through these different events and end up realizing that every single one of them is a gift. Not one of these things happened to me. They happened for me.

As I was thinking, I went through all these different events as I was getting ready for our chat on your show. I thought you only want to pick the ones that were impactful in my life because I had a bunch of other stuff that went on. The point is at the end of the day, understanding who you are and why you do what you do is what’s going to give you the drive to keep pushing forward.

The Lord has blessed me. I make no qualms about it. Without God, I would not be here. I’ve had a very interesting life. I’ve had a life that at times, although I use it for good, while I was going through it, it sucked. None of these events were like, “Let’s do that again.” I was like, “F that, this sucks.” When you sit down and look at all these different variances as they happen, each one of these elements are gifts from above to allow you to be stronger.

Let me ask you something about that, Michael. When did you realize that these happened for you instead of to you? How old were you? What was it that made you realize that distinction? That’s a huge distinction.

I’ll be honest with you. I was trying to get my mind focused, especially as a young man. Honestly, probably not until I was in my 30s. In my twenties, I was like, “What the hell?” You sit down like, “God either loves me or hates my guts. Why does this stuff keep happening? Can you let me die already?” The moment for me was I had different clients that I would work with and they were at the brink of losing it. They’re like, “I’m ready to end it.”

With all of these different variances that I got to go through, I could give them multiple different answers to a very temporary problem that they were about to make a permanent answer to and be able to pull them out of that arena. Probably it’s in my late 20s, early 30s that I realized God is allowing this to happen because of a prayer that I made when I was a child. I had forgotten about it up until that point.

Martial artists and experiencing the things that happened for me when I was a kid, I remember one time I was watching the evening news and this woman had been brutally attacked. I remember going to my room and I prayed. I got on my knees and said, “God, I can’t always be there but if you could let these things happen to me instead of them, I’m willing to take it on.” At that age, I did not understand fully what I was asking but the Lord blessed me with answering my prayer.

I can pretty much talk to anybody who’s going through anything. Sit down with them and give them a different perspective from a different lens that helps them overcome those moments of fear and pain. It’s all about your focus. There are over two billion bits of information trying to get into your head at any given moment. The conscious has a tendency to chase emotion. When you sit down and start understanding that consciousness and emotion are not one of the same, that you can separate the two of them, you can start understanding what you’re going to choose to focus on.

When you start choosing what you’re going to focus on, you’ll be able to see what makes sense to you instead of the elements of what is being presented to you. Whatever you give your attention to, that owns your mind, heart and soul. If it owns your mind, it owns you. What you have to do is control the three things. This will help you go into the unknown with confidence because life is such a unique world. You can control the controllables but outside of that, you can’t control anything else.

I remember one time a guy was like, “That guy over there, do you think you could take him if he was trying to hurt your daughter?” I said, “Yeah.” He goes, “You don’t know anything about him.” I said, “I don’t care. I don’t need to know anything about him. What I know it was about me. I’m willing to die to protect my daughter. Even if he wins, he can enjoy his victory with one eye because he’s leaving here with an ass-kicking.” It’s about what you focus and what your mind is on.

Understanding who you are and why you do what you do will give you the drive to keep pushing forward. Click To Tweet

The first counteroffensive that you use when you’re dealing with all these different scenarios is the three Vs that give you power. You have to learn to control because they are your controllables. As creatures made in the image of our maker, we are given the power to give meaning. People say, “I can control my thoughts.” You can’t. You’ve been to one of my courses, Gary. How quickly can I live between that space between your ears?

If I want to get in your head, I’ll be in your head. Your job as a warrior is to guard the gate of your mind and control vision, voice and visceral. The vision is the media playing out in your head and the meaning that you’re giving that. The voice is the talking. What is being said? Do you tell yourself every single day when you walk past the mirror, “My rear end looks horrible. My waistline is disgusting. Look are those bags under my eyes?”

You have to be able to get your mind wrapped in a different direction of that internal dialogue. “What’s happening there? Are you controlling yourself? Are you in control? Are you separating your consciousness from the emotion and insecurity?” There are different things that will trigger these things. For example, a lot of the men that I work with and coach on dealing with infidelity had this visceral response. They’ll see a car drive fly that reminds them of something that was going on in that event.

It’ll immediately put pictures in their mind. An internal dialogue starts recidivating, going through and building this loop. We all have this loop. If we stay in that loop and keep playing, it’ll suck the life right out of you. It’ll pull the energy away from your soul, productivity and business. That’s the hardest part about controlling all of these events when you’re in them. They’re rough. When you learn how to separate consciousness from emotion, it’s like standing in the eye of the hurricane. The exterior is moving with tremendous force and power but in the center it’s calm.

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When I was telling you some of the stuff, I was annoyed about it. You said, “How do you keep calm?” You exercise through these things, even if it’s a speck of dust in the eye of the hurricane. There was more coming but you learn how to fight through it. When we look at the why, the mindset behind that, there is so much leverage if you can understand what your purpose is.

When I was a kid, my mom used to tell me, “If you walk this Earth, you haven’t changed this world and made it better then you should have never been born.” I believe that. That’s part of what I train the men that I coach and work with. We have female students as well but I have a group specifically that I work with men. I call it the Phoenix Rising because it’s about them living a 2K life. Most of Christ’s works were done in three years. We’re talking about them 2,000 years later. Have the last three years of your life been worth living or talking about for the next 2,000? That’s a powerful thing.

How did you learn all this? Take us through the path that you’ve been on. It’s a fascinating path and there’s a lot of spikes and valleys. How did you learn what you’re sharing? Who was your mentor for what you’re sharing with us?

God. People try to say, “Was there somebody else?” One of those things I prayed when I was on my knees is I said, “Father, I don’t have a father. I need you to be my father. I don’t know how to be a man, a dad or even a father. Will you teach me?” He’s the one that gifted me the discernment, wisdom, articulation, ability to understand it and translate it into a way that people can understand in a way that is clear and has that clarity.

The only way I can say it is in truth. Even when we were doing the underground fights, a lot of the tactics we’d start studying and all of a sudden, I’d have this dream of this amazing concept. I’d go use it and be beating people with this concept that they had never seen. They’re like, “Where’d you learn that?” They wanted to hear some cool Filipino or Asian guy’s name. I’m like, “I dreamt about it last night.” There are levels where he spoke to me in dreams. He’s given me these insights and wisdom. I’m not trying to say I can float above everybody else. I don’t feel that.

What I do feel is that the credit is to him because I would have never gathered this knowledge on my own. There was nobody to teach it. I didn’t have people around me to teach that knowledge. There’s one of the events I left out but fascinating. When my mom was trying to raise us by herself, growing up, she had so much opposition coming against her. She got to a point where she was like, “I want to date.” She married this guy that was a whack job. He kept threatening to kill us all in our sleep. I’m 140 pounds. This dude is 6’5, 6’6 and 240.

I used to have to physically fight this guy almost every other weekend. The one that kept me safe and gave the insights of articulation and understanding was Elohim. It may not be the answer that the audience is looking for but it’s the only answer I have to give them. God gave me the insight to articulate this, understand it and have a discerning eye to see it, the vision, voice, visceral. As I was going into meditation, I was like, “What are the things that mess with us in our reality?” This is what came to me.

Let’s go back a little bit because I don’t know if the audience understands how you got into martial art yourself. Where did you take it? How it shape you for what you’re doing?

Initially, my grandfather started in the arts back in the ’20s. Ironically, his life was probably similar to mine in a lot of aspects. His dad took off when him and his sister were young. When his mom saw that, she took off. At the age of 12 or 13, he started raising himself and his older sister. Samuel Johnson, the guy was such a stud.

When people say, “If you respect somebody, who would that somebody be?” It’s him because he followed this path and felt the Lord paid for him. He quit school and started taking care of his sister at the age of 12 or 13. Martial arts was the only thing for himself. Being a Black man back in the ’20s and ’30s, that was not a good time to be a Black dude. He had to deal with a ton of oppression and all sorts of levels of resistance but he kept a roof over his and his sister’s head. He ended up meeting my grandmother who already had my dad.

He jumped into that scenario and then took on that family as his own. He started training my dad at a very early age, as I understand, from when he was eleven. He got his first black belt when he was 16, 17 years old. He loved the martial arts and continued pursuing it. At the time, the biggest craze was this episode called the Green Hornet. My dad flew out to Seattle to train under a guy named James Lee. James brought in a guest speaker that evening who announced his presence by kicking the heavy bag and shaking the whole building. My dad turned around and Bruce Lee was standing there.

Pain is temporary, but your reputation will outlive your flesh. Click To Tweet

A lot of people don’t understand this. Bruce Lee is a giant but it wasn’t until after he died that his name and reputation got huge. Back then, it’s the Green Hornet, a B-rated movie. People didn’t understand the power of how talented that man was. My dad with his experience in martial arts looked at Bruce and was like, “This guy’s phenomenal.”

At the time, my dad had seven black belts in different martial arts and then went to spar with Bruce Lee. He beat the hell out of him. Bruce beat the hell out of my dad. You got to understand my dad was a bodybuilder also. He’s a very talented guy, muscular, healthy, strong and this small Asian guy that weighs about 140 pounds soaking wet, 5’7” whoops him.

He asked him, “What are you doing after class?” He goes, “I’m flying back to Seattle. I’ll be there tomorrow.” My dad quit his job, went back to the Chinatown School in California and started training under Bruce from ’67 to ’69. I started training when I was about two years old. Bruce Lee was my dad’s best man at his first wedding with my sister’s mother. Long story short, he was like, “You should probably jump into movies with me.” My dad was like, “I don’t feel like doing that.” He’s trying to talk him out of it.

My dad went ahead. They had a part of time where they weren’t talking as much and then Bruce dies. My dad then flies out to China to go train with Bruce Lee’s instructor, Ip Man. By the time he got there, Ip Man had died and so he trained with his son, Ip Chun. When they came back, there were all these martial arts schools that have popped up all over the place after Bruce had died because his name was like wildfire. It swept the nation.

Every place you looked, there was a Kung Fu School. In this scenario, that’s when they moved to New Mexico. I started doing my training at the age of two. I started my daughter at the age of three in the defense. What we did is we went from studying the basics all the way to trying to figure out what the simplification was. I remember my first fight in eighth grade. The guy that I got on a flight plastered me because I was trying to do all these stupid martial arts moves. He smacked and knocked me out cold.

I remember one of the last things my buddy said was, “He got you good,” as I’m passing out. When I came to it, I was like, “Where is he?” He’s like, “He left. He wrote a book. He has a novel. You were out for a minute.” That shifted the way I looked at martial arts. It’s blasphemy to say this but most martial arts are garbage. Ninety-five percent of the stuff is nonsense. It’s that 4% or 5% that works in real-time and resistant environments against multiple opponents, weapon conditions and fighting inside of vehicles that had worked well.

That was the initiation of where I started looking at it differently. After I started doing the underground fights some people started seeing those on YouTube and paying attention. We trained 512th Rescue Squadron out here, flew out to Japan and train the 459th Airlift Squadron. From there, the Ecuadorian Special Forces heard about us. We went out to go train the Ecuadorian Special Forces, got to work with their defense minister’s bodyguards and meet the people at their version of the Pentagon, which was super cool. From there, we went to South Africa and train the tactical response team. It’s been taking off ever since. It’s been a huge blessing.

It would be fascinating for people to know because most of us will never experience a fight room or fight club. What is it like going into a fight club? How does it work? What did you experience? Why did you do it?

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Initially, I did it because I was pissed. I had found out that my kid’s mom was cheating on me. I was having some serious issues handling my temper. It’s such a devastating thing to find out about. There were two events. It’s not my personality. I’m not the guy that gets pissed because you flipped me off in traffic but this guy cut and flipped me off. I started crawling out of the vehicle after him.

I’m sitting there with one of my instructors and he’s like, “It seems like you’ve got some anger issues.” I’m like, “What?” He’s like, “Let’s probably channel that the correct way. There’s a group I know about. You can go in there, fight with sticks, chains, microwaves and bullwhips. You can fight 2-on-2, 3-on-3, 5-on-5, whatever you want. There are no rules, no judges and no refs and you won’t go to prison.” I was like, “I’m in. Sign me up.”

I went in and trained for it. When I first watched the videos of these other guys doing it, I was like, “You guys are idiots. You are sitting in there beating the hell out of each other with sticks and all these other weapons.” I thought I’ll do one to get this thing out of me, deal with it and then 60 fights later, I’m still doing it. There’s something anthropologic for a male specifically about hitting another human being with a stick. It feels very natural.

I know that sounds crazy but once I did it for the first time, I remember that night after the fights. I went to bed and there was no ambient on the planet that will give you a peaceful night’s sleep like fighting a human being. The very first guy that I fought looked exactly like the guy that my ex cheated on me with. I was like, “Thank you, God.” I didn’t care if I won or lost. I want to beat his ass. I fought him. That night when I went to bed, I slept like a baby. I didn’t even think I moved that night.

The psychology of going into it is a lot. If you’re going to compare it, a lot of it is like the fear you have in running a business for the people that are fighters. There’s a serious level of fear and of, “Is this going work? If it doesn’t work, what’s going to happen? Am I going to lose everything? Am I going to die? Am I going to not be able to provide for my family?” It forces you to face your fears and fight through them because pain is temporary but your reputation will outlive your flesh.

When you get into that mindset, where you go, “I’m going all the way and playing all out,” that is the only way to live. If you want to leave a name and live a life that we’re talking about for 2,000 years, you can’t go into it halfway and go, “I don’t want to get hurt.” “F that. If I get hurt, that’s cool. Give me a cool story.” You’ve got to get into that mindset of how are you going to get to that next level, how are you going to build your psychology and your heart and mind so you can lift the people around you up. All this stuff is fine and dandy, but it’s not about glory.

I’m not saying it to try and sound poetic. Sometimes you’ll hear religious people, “It’s not about my glory but God’s,” as they sit there, try and get their own glory. What this boils down to is energy is constant. It can’t be created or destroyed. What talks about you when you leave this earth? Your absence has to be your presence. That’s based on the lives you touched while you were on this earth, the frequency you put in other people through the energy. What glorifies God’s name is your ability to keep pushing through the pain, keep driving through all the adversity and then still have the frequency and energy to smile.

When you tell people about the horrendous things that have happened to you, you’re doing it with a smile on your face. People are like, “Weren’t you scared?” “Yeah, I thought I was going to die but here we are.” You got to get that mindset where you move to that next level. I’ve been very blessed that even through these things, I’ve had some awesome and amazing mentors in my life that the Lord has given me and he’s given me wisdom.

I’ve also noticed that he’s given me people in my life that have helped me, and Steve Maestas was one of those. He’s a good friend of mine, a mutual friend of both of ours. When I was first training at my first school, I was teaching out of a storage container. I ran an ad in a thrifty nickel. Steve Maestas found it, came down and trained. I didn’t know the guy was as powerful as he was as a person and also on business.

He came in and played along. I started looking at the cars. He was showing up to class and I’m like, “What are you doing? How do I do it?” He goes, “I’ll coach you but here’s how this is going to go.” He gave me some insights and I appreciated that. He’s a very giving human being. He’s a great dude and that was a blessing. He gives back a ton to his community.

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With that being said, going into a fight and then understanding the business aspects are very similar in that. The other thing is learning how to turn it on and off. You can’t walk around pissed off all the time. When you have a reputation like our school and facility do, everybody wants to fight you. I saw this in school when I was a kid. Kids think if they can beat me up, they can beat up Bruce Lee because my dad trained under him. Everybody in the room wants to kick the hell out of me. It was an interesting childhood and not much has changed in that aspect. I’ll walk by somebody and they’re like, “I don’t like that guy.” “I don’t even know you. Do you want to fight me?”

Describe for everybody that’s never going to be there what a fight club is. Where do they host these things? Is it a house? Take us into your mind as you were going that first time to this fight club not knowing what you got yourself into. What did you see? What were you feeling? What happened?

I’ve been skydiving. The moment that you let go of the plane, you feel like baptized in fire. All these chemicals are rushing through your body. It’s a mixture between that and standing on the high dive for the first time and getting ready to jump. There was a ton of this anxiety, fear and concern. I had martial artists that were friends of mine forever. They’re like, “Don’t fight these guys. They’re going to try and maim you.” I was like, “What’s the point? What are we doing here?” The whole reason we’re doing this is if somebody is trying to maim us at work. I’d rather find out in this controlled environment and find out when I’m around my daughter or something.

It was a totally different mindset, walking in there and they’re hosted everywhere. We have our own group. We fought in another guy’s group, and that one was in a martial arts school but sometimes they’re done under bridges, warehouses and parks. I’ve fought in all sorts of different places. It’s something that you go into with the ideology that you want to do the best that you can to not permanently injure that person for the rest of their life but make no doubt where they’re to hurt each other inside of that environment.

There’s a brotherhood to it though. My job is to push you as hard as I can but I will tell you, as I’ve done this more, I’m not trying to break people the way that I was when I first started. When I first started, I didn’t care. If I could wreck you, I’d wreck you because I had a lot of anger in my heart. As I sat down and started getting past that, I realized this is more to help men channel.

There are girls that’ll fight in these things too but it’s more to help men channel that aggression that built-up angst. I get a lot of guys that go, “I always wanted to be in the military but instead, I became a dentist.” They did what everybody told them to do versus what their heart led them to. This gives them a channel where they can execute and exercise it out. That’s one aspect of the many experiences that I’ve done in life. I want everybody to think, “This guy fights in underground fights.” That’s part of it. I’ve had an amazing life.

I used to have a pet Cobra because I was afraid of Cobra so I wanted to learn how to handle this thing. If it’d bite me, I would die in eight minutes. She was beautiful. I named her Halo. She was this albino monocle. She had silky-smooth pink and white skin. She was very pissy. I eventually got rid of her because she kept trying to bite me. I had four people have dreams that she bit me and I died. I was like, “That’s probably a sign.”

That’s one element of the many aspects that I have gone through in my life. Mixed all the things that you have of the unknown into one pot and then walk up with confidence. That’s what going into a flight club is like. Imagine taking everything that you were afraid of, both physically and emotionally and people are going to embarrass you. There’s a huge imposter syndrome when you go into something like that. You’re like, “These guys are going to beat me and then pull my underwear over my head.” This is fear that you’re going to go out and these people are going to screw you.

In order for the courage to exist, fear has to be present. With my fighting, guys would come out afterward like, “I’ve never seen anybody move like that. What’s your secret?” I’m like, “I don’t like pain.” I don’t want to lose and get hurt. I was fighting so hard and fast giving everything I had because I knew what it was like to lose from that guy that broke my nose in eighth grade. The greatest gift anybody ever gave me was him breaking my face.

After that, I was like, “That sucked.” I looked like a raccoon for three months. My eyes were black. My nose was all smashed into my face. I was like, “Thank you.” That gave me the motivation and drive that I was like, “If somebody wants to beat me again, they better pack a lunch because I’m going to go all out.” That’s the element that you need in business also. It’s learning how to thrive and function in the unknown with confidence. It’s such a hard world to live in. We get so caught up.

Tell me what you know about what’s going on in the world. We don’t have a freaking clue. Everything you’re being taught or fed is some agenda propaganda. Here’s what I do know. God is in control. No matter what anybody does, I’m going to do whatever it takes to make sure my family, brothers and friends are taken care of. I don’t need to know what’s going on in everything else because that can suck all my energy out.

“I know me. I keep going no matter what. If you want to beat me, you better freaking pack a lunch because I’m going to come at you with everything I’ve got.” That’s that mindset that you get from fighting that is essential for business. The more tools you have in your tool belt, the better you are at Warcraft. Having known your why, I’ll be honest with you, and that is why I was willing to come on and chat with you is a huge weapon against the enemy because the enemy may not know their why but if your why, you can be the enemy to the enemy. They’ll try, leverage, come against you and get under your skin. They’ll mess with your business and screw with everything that you’ve got going on. You’re like, “I know why I’m doing what I’m doing. I know what motivates me and I’m hungry.” That’s a powerful thing to have in your back pocket.

For the audience, I spent some time with Michael. I did your urban defense conceal and carry. I went into that thinking, “I’m fairly athletic. I did a lot of sports. I’m in good shape. I do weights, this and that. I’ll probably be pretty good at this.” I walked into your class and you probably could have killed me as many times and as fast as you wanted. I had no say in it with no recourse at all. Whatever was going to happen, I couldn’t defend myself.

It’s in the beginning. At the end, you felt very confident in being able to do that. Here’s the thing as men. We have this ignorant perspective where we’re like, “I got a penis so I know how to fight.” That has zero credibility anywhere. Every time you talk about doing a combative course or a defense class, they go, “I’m going to send girls to that because I’m a guy.” It’s the dumbest thing.

As men, that’s part of our insecurity but there are very few men that are willing to go do it as you did and then go, “I don’t know what I’m doing but I do now.” That’s why you were there.” If I sucked and you could beat me up then you should probably be teaching the class, not me. You going through that, we deliberately looked at what your weaknesses were and we capitalized on them.

If you notice your wife had certain weaknesses, we changed and worked on what her weaknesses were. That’s what a good instructor should always do. They shouldn’t be there kicking the hell out of the students. Their objective and mission are to make the students think that they’re getting the hell kicked out of them because it is so demanding for them. That instructor could go up 9, 10 more levels. That was the objective. You did the two-day defense immersive training as well.

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You did scenarios where we were being carjacked or somebody comes into your house. These are not like video game things. This is an actual car there that you’re carjacked in and what will you do or an actual house. How do you clear your house? What I found fascinating was how wrong my perception was of even something as simple as how far away someone can be from you and still get to you before you can do anything to them. That was fascinating.

It’s not your world. You don’t know these things until you experience something. We’re blessed at Shockwave because we have an amazing cadre. We’ve got Dr. Dela Garza and Instructor King. I’ve got another guy that was from Seal Team 3 and 5, Shane Hyatt. He’s an amazing guy. He comes in and talk about mindset. He and I codesigned a knife together. We’ll bring instructors from South Africa. We brought Ed Calderon out at one point for him to do this escape and evasion training. He’s a fascinating person as well.

We’re blessed to have such a unique group of people to help expose everyday civilians to these things so that they don’t die because the enemy knows you don’t know. In that moment when you’re like, “I got enough space. I’m good.” They’re on top of you and you can’t get your gun out. That’s when you realized, “Maybe I should learn some hand-to-hand and nice stuff.” When I trained the department of corrections, there were probably 30 guys in that class. We did an exercise with these electric knives where we’ll run and zap you.

We had a drill. Their job was to pull the gun out and they didn’t know if I put a malfunction in a weapon or not. I was probably 40 something feet away. I killed every single one of those guys in that mock scenario with the exception of one that did what I told him to. I said, “Don’t focus on your gun. Fight me.” He pulled the gun out that didn’t work and blasted me in the face, which sucked at the time but it was super awesome to see that he listened. I got hit. I was so proud. My bell was ringing. He did what he was supposed to do.

That’s the goal of life. Learn to move through adversity with ease to the best of your ability and to keep pushing. It’s not about your ego because it’s like looks, they’ll fade. What is the legacy you’re leaving on this earth for future generations to talk about? Martial arts is the weirdest industry. Martial artists drive me insane. They remind me of Star Wars nerds. They sit down blabbering. I don’t care about any of this. All I care about is can Gary Sanchez protect his wife when some crack head is coming after them?

It’s what works in real-time. Getting caught up in the nuances of what system works better. It’s like the amateur argument of 0.45 caliber versus 9. Amateurs argue caliber. Professionals argue shot placement. If I shoot you in the face, it doesn’t matter what I shoot you with. It’s going to suck. That mindset of understanding how to get honed in and get deliberate, that’s going to take you to a different level in your love life, combatives and business.

A lot of the men I coach are like, “I don’t know what to do with my wife. She’s upset with me.” I’m like, “Did you win her heart? Did you conquer her? You say you’re a warrior, did you conquer? Do you conquer that woman in the bedroom, kitchen or living room? You’ve got to re-win her heart every single day or some ever douchebag out there on Facebook is trying to, trust me. He’s sitting there going, ‘Girl, you’re so hot. I love your filtered photos.’ In her mind, she’s going, ‘I’m going to replace my man.’” You both have to fight to re-win each other’s hearts. Life is a struggle but the more comfortable you can get being uncomfortable, the more successful you’ll be in life.

Michael, the last question I want to ask you is what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given or you’ve ever given?

Something that’s with me probably the most is if you weren’t afraid of failing, what would you attempt? If you knew the fear wasn’t an option, what would you do? I understand that fear is a necessity in life and it’s important. Too many people waste the energy of their ability in the day on what they’re afraid of instead of facing what they fear.

If you allow other people’s beliefs, they become your reality. You will end up always being what they say you are instead of what God made you be. If you can learn to be a full version of who you were born to become on this earth, you’d be living a life worth talking about for 2,000 years. What would you do without fear? If it was impossible to fail, what would you attempt? If there was one piece of information or insight, I would more likely than not say what was that.

If there are people that want to connect, bring you into work with them or find out more about what you’re doing, what’s the best way for them to connect with you?

Text the word, WHY, to (505) 437-4029. We’ll know that you’re coming from Gary’s show and we’ll give you guys a special gift. What I recommend doing is starting off on a call. If it’s something that you’re serious about, you want to grow your mind, get past limitations and conquer some challenge in life, jump on a call with us.

If you’re not there, you don’t have a major challenge going on, I’m probably not the guy for you but if you have a major challenge that you want to conquer and overcome then jump on a call with us. When you text the word, WHY, to (505) 437-4029, you’ll end up being in a position where you’ll get access and we’ll jump on a discovery with you. We’ll figure out if we’re a good fit for each other. After that, if you like what we do and it seems to match you, we have some options that we can enroll you in but we make every student that wants to train with us go through basic training first.

What’s included in basic training? What is that?

We call the program, Dauntless. It’s how to overcome fear. It’s not only going to be from a mindset exercise of how to grow yourself and make yourself stronger with daily, weekly and monthly routines but also how to grow yourself from a combative standpoint with what we call the Theoretical Minimum of Defense. If you’re familiar with physics, there’s a concept called the Theoretical Minimum of Physics. If you understand those basics, you can do all of physics. If you understand these basics, we’re going to teach you in Dauntless. You can do all combatives hand-in-hand.

If you look at every single system on the planet, all of them are made up of about anywhere from the top fifteen moves then there are variances and spins off. They go, “This is an advanced move.” “It’s not. You put the other moves together.” Once you understand the three ways to shut down the human being, the timers, switches, mechanics and then you start to understand the fundamentals and environments, that is what you’ll learn inside of fearless and basic training.

Michael, thank you so much for being here. It’s been awesome to connect, know your story and how you’ve taken and transitioned that into something that helps so many people. I look forward to staying in touch as we go on our journeys.

Thank you for having me, Gary. Thank you for what you do for the community with why. It’s an awesome tool to have in the tool belt to anybody that gets a chance to do that. If you have not, you should activate that and also send it out to your friends. If you care about people, living a purposeful life is an important thing to have. That’s an important element of living each day with power. If you know anybody that can use the why, fully endorse it. Thanks for having me, Gary.

I appreciate it, Michael.

It’s time for our new segment and that is Guess The Why. We picked somebody famous that everybody at least typically knows. We’ll guess what we think their why is. I want to pick the why of Conor McGregor, the MMA fighter. What do you think his why is? He does things differently. He challenges people.

He’s getting into business. He went from MMA to the top of MMA to then fighting a boxer, which nobody had ever done. He did that at the highest level. He’s made a fortune. He doesn’t ever follow a typical path. He beats to his own drum. He does it his own way. He won’t follow the rules and do what people tell him to do.

Which of the nine whys do you think his why is? For me, I believe that Conor McGregor’s why is to challenge the status quo and think differently. Don’t follow the rules. Ask the question why not versus following what people say he has to do. If any of you out there know him, make sure you put him in contact with me so we can discover his why. I’ll get back to you and let you know for sure.

Thank you so much for reading. If you have not yet discovered your why, you can do so at You can use the code, PODCAST50, and get it at half price. If you love the show, please don’t forget to subscribe. Leave us a review and rating on whatever platform you use so that you can help us bring the why to one billion people in the next years.

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About Michael Johnson

BYW S4 10 | Better WayStarting in the martial arts at 2 years old, Michael C. Johnson continues to grow his knowledge and career in combatives. He opened Shockwave Defense in Albuquerque, NM in 2002 which combined experiences that yielded life conviction, behavioral psychology, and multiple black belt rankings into his interpretation of defense called Bellicusology (The study of militant, martial, and warfare ways). He holds a BA in criminology from the University of New Mexico, & is the honorary squadron commander for the 512th Rescue Squadron at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, NM. Johnson has done bodyguard work for celebrities such as Xzibit, and was the primary deadly force combatives instructor for the Florida Department of Corrections & their Special Teams Units. His instruction has reached over 19,000 officers in the Department of Corrections, and has trained multiple officers from other agencies as well as the Silver City Police Department, NM. He is a certified NRA firearms instructor and a professional lecturer through the New Mexico Department of Public Safety. He teaches domestically and abroad including Taiwan, and The Yokota AFB in Tokyo Japan, where he trained the 459th Airlift Squadron how to defend themselves and their aircraft should a hostile actor try to take over the aircraft. His tried & tested skills have been tested against underground full contact fighters and he has over 55 full contact stick/weapons fights.

He continues to train the public as well as, law enforcement and military personnel in how to function in resistant environments. Additionally, he and his team produce films in Judgmental Training Software scenarios to aid first responders in dealing with violent individuals in shoot, and no shoot scenarios.