For the first 21 years of my life, I thought my path was to become the Kickboxing World Champion, and I was completely absorbed in making this my life goal.
I truly believed I could, should, and would be the best there is…
Where FitRoots Started
You could say I was born to be on the path of Martial Arts. It is in my blood, but it didn’t end up turning out how I thought it would.
For as long as I can remember, Kickboxing has been a part of my life and my Dad’s.
Back when I started Martial Arts around 5 years old, I didn’t think it would transpire to having such a profound effect on my life.
But as time went on, I learnt that Martial Arts is much deeper than just the physical element. It is inherently a spiritual discipline focused on cultivating the best members of society through the search for physical, mental, and spiritual mastery.
In Eastern philosophy, this is considered, ‘The Way’ or The ’Tao’. That is, the way one should live ‘according to the natural order of the universe’.
Martial Arts in simple terms means, ‘The Art of War’, like the book from Sun Tzu.
Of course, nowadays, the war is not necessarily physical, but more spiritual.
The kind of warfare surrounding us is a battle for the dominion of our spiritual state.
Modern day warfare is spiritual warfare.
After taking a while to understand this, it changed my stance on Martial Arts as a whole.
Being the son of the Founder of a Martial Arts School, there were always high hopes for me to be good.
For the most part, I tried my best to live up to those expectations, but at such a young age, I didn’t fully realise what it meant.
Warlords Kickboxing Academy – My Dad’s Martial Arts School
My Dad – Dave Lee, founded and run the successful Warlords Kickboxing Academy in Slough, starting in the 1980s. I grew up watching my Dad train, and was eager to start training with him at 4 years old.
From day one, it was a very natural way for me to become educated and experienced in the arts of the body and the mind. It was the first thing I became ambitious about.
Learning the Art of War
I started competing at 6 years old and fought sporadically until my early 20s. I couldn’t think of anything more exciting to do, than to have the ability to master myself and someone else in adrenaline fueled combat.
But what started as just an interest, then an ambition, soon became an obsession.
To understand this, you have to take a stroll back in time to what ‘Old School’ Martial Arts was like. My Dad operated what most would consider an old school approach to Martial Arts training.
In simple terms, that was turn up, work hard, or work harder if it wasn’t working for you.
For a young boy like myself when I started, that meant picking things up quickly, so I didn’t get hurt. At 6 years old, and attempting to learn fast, there weren’t Kids Classes as we have now, it was, ‘you go with whoever, and adapt quickly’.
For the most part, that meant Full Contact Sparring with men before I was ready. And that meant, I took a lot of beatings before I could return the favour.
As most kids who start learning Martial Arts, I trained a little to begin with, but before 10 years old, that turned into training every day, whether it be at the Dojo, or at home. I finally felt that I could keep up, and even be a challenge for the very students who could beat me up not long ago.
This kind of pressure, although many would think it is tantamount to child abuse nowadays, made me the fastest, strongest, and best Martial Artist I could be.
I felt invincible and thought I could take on anyone who was in my way.
Martial Arts vs School – Who Won?
Growing up, much of my time was spent contemplating what I had learnt in Martial Arts classes, rather than school classes. I always took a keen interest into learning in all forms, but there was something about school, that I figured didn’t fulfil my thirst for knowledge.
I was the inquisitive child who asked one too many questions, especially the ones that my parents and school teachers couldn’t answer. Every time I pushed for direct answers, I finally received the answer ‘I don’t know.’
I naturally began searching for answers to life’s questions outside of school, and home.
My search for answers put me in contact with knowledgeable and thoughtful teachers.
The insightful lessons I’ve learnt from them along the way are nothing short of exceptional, and have formed the foundation to how I live my life to this day and beyond.
Dedicating a large amount of time to one Martial Art made me aware of what it takes to remain focused, see something through, and understand how to evolve once I have learnt the raw basics of a discipline.
So, after pouring all my energy into Kickboxing, I managed to achieve my 1st Dan Black Belt at a young age.
But once I got to grips with my foundations, I wanted to explore further.
Taking the best of each Martial Art
I started reflecting on learning from different styles and teachers now that I was ready. Luckily, my Dad was forward-thinking, and already preached the idea that we must take the best of each style, and discard what is not useful.
We not only learned Kickboxing, but we also studied locks, throws, submissions, and even weapons like Nunchaku, Bo Staff, Eskrima, and even Knife Defence.
On top of this, we learnt from other Martial Arts my Dad had studied including Ju-Jitsu, Karate, Kung Fu, Boxing, and more.
Integrating different styles
Even when I started Martial Arts, it was unusual for practitioners to mix styles and techniques together, and back when my Dad started, it was either Karate or Kung Fu that was mostly available in the 1970s.
It was time to fill some gaps in my game and arsenal.
So, along the way, I studied a range of Martial Arts and related disciplines, I branched out and learnt a huge amount from other Martial Arts including – Wing Chun, Muay Thai, Boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and MMA.
This approach to learning not only made me a better student, but also a better competitor, coach, and mentor to those who I have helped with their goals since.
In line with my pursuit for more, I met my soon to be Yoga teacher whilst I was training one day in class. She happened to be teaching in the same facility we were in, and eventually, we got talking. She wanted to learn Kickboxing from my Dad, and I wanted to learn Yoga.
I felt I had come close to mastering the physical elements of my body, but I knew there was a lot more to uncover.
Lessons From Yoga
I began learning Yoga at 16, hoping to develop my mind and body in complementary ways.
Kiran was not your typical Western Yoga teacher, she had her roots firmly in India, where she learnt from her family origins, and kept her practice as pure as her roots.
She always emphasised that Yoga was intended to train the body, so it can endure long periods of meditation, rather than just doing fashionable poses for the sake of it.
Mastering the mind
At the time, I was searching for guidance on how I can better understand my mind, my body, and my place in this world, and the meditative side of Yoga fulfilled that search.
I was taught various breathing exercises and meditative techniques which boosted every area of my life, and ultimately, taught me how to be more present in any given situation.
Although I have moved away from the physical aspects, I still find the internal lessons effective.
Looking back, the internal lessons I learnt from Kiran and my Yoga practice influenced the pivotal moment in my education, where I had to make an immediate decision.
As I prepared for my freedom from traditional schooling, at the last call, I changed from studying Osteopathy to Philosophy, and it’s safe to say I’m very glad I did!
Here’s what happened…
All throughout College, all I wanted to do was train Martial Arts, and keep building upon my skills and knowledge, rather than study. But I stayed with it, as it was expected of me.
From a practical standpoint, Osteopathy sounded great, I virtually had a career made for me as soon as I finished University. But I eventually realised I wanted some scope for freedom, should I have changed my mind about what I wanted.
As my distaste for studying grew less and less, I began to fall in love with learning about wisdom, which is Philosophy.
For this realisation, I have my Philosophy teacher Carl Mandy, and my Wing Chun Sifu (teacher) Sam Catlin, to thank.
Bridging The Gap With Wing Chun
Sam was an unassuming teacher of Accounting at my College, and we used to exchange pleasantries in the gym at lunch breaks.
Until one day, instead of his usual strength training routine, he was practicing some Martial Arts techniques, which I realised were Wing Chun. Having heard from friends that he was a secret ninja, I approached him and asked if he’d consider teaching me.
At first, he hesitated, and didn’t want to teach anyone.
But after we exchanged some history, and he understood my intentions, he accepted.
We ended up training every day for at least one hour. Sam, whilst on his lunch break, and me instead of studying for College classes, I studied some more Martial Arts.
Sam patiently bridged the gap between Martial Arts and Philosophy for me in a new way.
When teaching anything physical, he was always able to provide insights into relaying a mental equivalent, and relate it to life too.
And although Sam is many years my elder, and not of the biggest stature, he’s still able to dismantle me in seconds without hesitation.
As his wisdom grows, so does his style. On the rare occasions I get to meet with him now, he reinvents his style and thus himself.
The Love Of Wisdom – Learning Philosophy
At this point, Philosophy now became a passion pursuit, and it felt just like when I was a kid, when I knew nothing about Martial Arts.
I was starting from scratch again, full of ignorance, but willing to learn.
The only issue I came across with studying Philosophy was other people. Family wondered and pondered, “But what can you do with Philosophy?”, or… “What job can you get with a Philosophy Degree?”.
To which I responded, “I can do anything I want with it”.
The power of Philosophy is that it gives us as humans deep insight into who we really are, what we are here to do, and why we are here.
I knew that actively studying the inner workings of my own mind, and the greatest minds of human history would have a massive impact on my life forever. I never felt limited by other people’s opinions, thoughts, or judgements, and knew this was the subject for me to study.
My professors and lecturers helped me to gauge my place in the world, and how to function within it, all without directly telling me how to live.
Philosophy On Martial Arts
I remember my Philosophy professor Dr. Iain Grant, sitting with me to discuss my fighting ambitions after my last competitive fight.
In just minutes, he was able to provide deep insight into the nature of Martial Arts, without ever practicing Martial Arts himself.
When speaking with him, what I was really searching for was validation that me committing to fighting was ‘the right thing to do’.
From memory, he quoted various texts from centuries ago, which highlighted the need and passion of fighting and warfare from a moral perspective.
His message was always to focus on what sits right for you rationally and emotionally, by emphasising the importance of using Philosophy as a tool to live your life as successfully as possible.
In doing so, he would repeat the idea that:
‘It’s not what you think, it’s how you think’.
But from all of life’s learnings, studying Philosophy and Martial Arts throughout, has given me ultimate control of my mind, and the direction of my life.
The Change Of Plan
My plan was to turn professional in Kickboxing after University.
After many years of hard sparring since I was a kid, I was accumulating a fair amount of brain damage, had no money to pay bills, and lived a life filled with the monotony of training all day every day.
All just so I could win and bolster my ego through the defeat of another.
With my new insights, it all began to make less and less sense.
I remember knocking out someone so hard in sparring, that before they fell, they did what I can only describe as a Drunken Master dance from the old Kung Fu classic films.
After this, I realised I don’t want to inflict this kind of pain and damage on someone else again, let alone on myself.
Shortly after; after more injuries, insights, and incidents, I had to be honest with myself, and realise that I outgrew this path. Even then, I still wouldn’t admit it to myself, due to the fear of not knowing what my life purpose would be, if it was not fighting.
Ultimately, me deciding to let go of the fighting path, and opening myself to other options gave me all the beautiful things I now have.
But it didn’t come easy or without a teething period.
Losing My Identity
When giving up what I thought was my life purpose, I knew I’d be in for a hard time. Up until this time, I had one goal, and one thing to achieve, that was it.
Without this purpose, I felt lost, and lost the identity that I built my whole life around.
Ironically, I knew all about fighting. I knew when to attack, when to defend, when to move forward, and when to retreat. But I kept fighting with myself inside my own mind, when I shouldn’t have. Instead of giving in to the signs and thoughts that were running havoc in my brain, I continued fighting until I couldn’t anymore.
Eventually, this led to depression, anxiety, red raw eczema, and general ill-health settling in.
Long story short, a few years later, with a newfound purpose and path in FitRoots, I can now feel the positive side of my health, for the rest of my life.
The Birth Of FitRoots
Creating this new path with FitRoots was exhausting, and even damaging to my health at first, and caused me to realise how little I knew about life, and especially about business.
Luckily, the lessons from Martial Arts and Philosophy have provided sound foundations as to how I conduct myself in this relatively new sphere, how to plan, and how to remain focused even in chaotic moments.
As I reflected on my journey so far, I realised that bringing together Martial Arts and Philosophy would be the creation of FitRoots and the next chapter.
But not straight away…
Why FitRoots Started With Personal Training
When I founded FitRoots, for some reason, I decided I wanted to focus on 1-1 Personal Training, and never thought I would go back to my roots of teaching Martial Arts in a group setting, and with a focus on growing our Martial Arts School.
The first three to four years of FitRoots started out being totally dedicated to 1-1 Personal Training. Eventually, I became open to focusing on the Martial Arts School, purely as a result of being able to help more people, in a more practical way.
Back To The Roots
I’ve been teaching since I was around 10 years old thanks to my Dad, but didn’t realise this was something I could live my life for as an adult until recently. These foundations in Martial Arts, and especially in Kickboxing proved to be lifesaving and life threatening.
But now, I have committed to the lifesaving side of Martial Arts, and I do what my Dad did for me, but for the next generation in society, by helping them transform their lives through the power of true Martial Arts.
The Power Of Martial Arts
Although I am grateful for what my Dad taught me, we didn’t always see eye to eye. Growing up, a lot of tension and problems at home led to my parents divorcing. Martial Arts was the only way we bonded due to our differences.
For that reason, Martial Arts may have been the only reason we still talked to one another.
When FitRoots Martial Arts School begun picking up, my Dad helped a lot through doing what he does best, teaching great classes.
Building The FitRoots Family
It was at this time that I came across Yasmin, my now girlfriend. We initially met through Martial Arts, as she wanted to learn a skill to compliment her other training.
Yasmin and I had similar frames of mind, and connected with each other instantly. Ultimately, we both had similar goals, we had these big dreams that were not fulfilled.
For Yasmin, it was the high-flying corporate career, and for me, it was the stardom of being the World Champion.
But neither materialised.
It was only when we looked internally, did we both realise that was not what we genuinely wanted.
It was at this point that we found our purpose, and each other.
Oddly enough, throughout our whole lives until we met, we only ever lived a few roads away from each other at any point in time, even when we both moved to different areas. Now, we are focused on building our new path, and vision together with FitRoots.
The Passing Of My Dad
Some knew my Dad as a lifelong Martial Artist, others as a servant of Christ in his later years, and others as a Community Warden in Slough, Windsor, and Maidenhead.
Whichever path he encountered someone on, he made sure he made an impact.
I am indebted to my Dad for everything I do now.
He kick started my lifelong pursuit of physical, mental, and spiritual development by teaching me Martial Arts.
Martial Arts and his teachings were the most important lessons I studied when growing up. I would not be who I am today without this foundation in my life.
Witnessing my Dad’s influence on people, taught me from very early on, that Martial Arts is much more than just fighting, or self-defence.
It’s how you feel, how you think, and how you act.
Arriving in the UK – A new life
Before arriving to the UK and taking on his new life, my Dad and all the family are proud Sri Lankans. From the tasty food, to the warming culture, we have great memories of living a Sri Lankan upbringing in the heart of Slough.
With 6 brothers, and 2 sisters, my Dad’s family made an effort to always be together, and get on each other’s nerves.
Martial Arts – A Way of Life.
This is what separates Martial Arts from other activities or sports. It’s not just something you do, it’s something you live.
It is deeply community based.
It brings people together by channeling energy in a positive direction.
But sometimes this energy can be misdirected, and I’m very happy that my Dad welcomed a lot of young people into his Martial Arts School – Warlords Kickboxing Academy, through the lens of guiding, mentoring, and having a positive male role model in their lives.
Even in hosting his own competitions, teaching in schools, and around the community, this same message ran strong.
He imparted these teachings not just on myself, but on my brother, my cousins, and the rest of our family too.
He considered his students, and those he met as all part of his wider family, treating them all just as lovingly.
Transforming with Christianity
When my dad made the transition to focus on his religious endeavours, as a young boy, I was initially against it.
But as the years went by, I witnessed how he transformed himself, and how he wanted to make amends.
He even travelled the world to bring communities together, and share his healing with them.
People have the capacity to change if they are willing. If this happens to you, please make sure you’re open to this new dynamic in your relationships.
I decided to do my own part, and through my spiritual Ayahuasca journeys, I was able to forgive my Dad for all that went wrong growing up.
I am very happy that the last few years of our relationship were based on a genuine love for one another, and not hampered by guilt, anger, and shame.
He continued his training and teaching at FitRoots (my Martial Arts School) up until his death at 62 years old, and still managed to improve on his skill and Martial Arts style for over 48 years!
My Dad’s legacy
We will be doing Charity work in Sri Lanka to honour our ancestry and our Dad’s legacy.
Summing up, I can only hope to continue his legacy, and I hope to make him proud.
I am heartbroken and devastated, as are all of our family, including his dog Kume, the Akita…
Now I am ready to return with more energy, power, and discipline to fulfil our Mission and Vision.
And even though we may have looked at it through different lenses, the outcome is effectively the same – To bring happiness, love, and health to the community as a whole.
If you knew my Dad, please do share your memories of him below, or feel free to message me privately.
I’d love to know what impact he made on you.
We will also be running Charitable, and Community Based Martial Arts events in his name.
As well as making some big impact to the local communities in Sri Lanka.
When the dust settles, we will get down to these events, and start to fulfil the Mission and Vision to bring the community together.
If you’d like to be a part of this, you knew my Dad, or you just want to donate, please do here…
A New Generation
During a time of great loss, Yasmin and I found out we were expecting our first son.
In fact, it was the last thing I was able to tell my Dad, which received his only reaction whilst he was in Intensive Care.
In such a hard time, knowing that we would soon have our first baby together was a real blessing.
And now Solomon Dave Lee has blessed us with his presence, we are able to spend our energy on loving and creating the best human possible.
Instead of only teaching other’s children, we now have the duty to raise our son with the best character possible too.
Knowing that we have this opportunity fills us with great joy.
The Next Chapter
What’s next for FitRoots?
There’s lots planned, and much of which we hope you will be able to reap rewards from.
We’re in the process of rebuilding our Online Personal Training programme, which will teach you how to defend your health, family, and business.
By building your body and mind with modern Martial Arts, Philosophy, and Functional Strength Training methods, even if you are an absolute beginner. With our signature principles, you will learn how to build solid habits in your life with Samurai like precision and focus, to become a modern day warrior.
Then, we’re building The FitRoots Academy, which will give you the ability to learn to master your life with Martial Arts and Philosophy online.
This will be with a community of students who are open to a new idea of Martial Arts, one that has changed with the time and adapted to modern society. Where there is a need for the mind and the body to be strengthened equally.
Mastering Life With Martial Arts
Alongside The FitRoots Vision, I’ve not encountered anything as impactful on people’s lives as the ability to “… express oneself honestly”, through Martial Arts and Philosophy, as the great Bruce Lee said.
But as he says in the rest of the quote, being this honest with yourself, is very hard to do!
Practicing and living your life as a student of Martial Arts and Philosophy is a hard path to walk, and it’s not one many are willing to take.
But whatever your path in life, I’ve learnt that the universal principles of these disciplines are vital for success.
Now, my aim is to transform our students, so they are not just tested physically, but also mentally, so they too, can fulfil their purpose.
To wrap up, here is how you will be welcomed into the FitRoots Family and Community, built upon…
👊 Our Core Values (BUILD):
We will help you to embody them as you begin to:
- Believe in myself, my values, and my actions
- Understand my mind, my body, and my purpose
- Inspire myself, my family, my friends, and my community
- Lead my own path to health and wellbeing
- Develop my character to become my best self
👊 Our Mission: To help you to Master your life with Martial Arts.
👊 Our Vision: To inspire generations to master mind, body, and spirit.
Are You Ready To Join The FitRoots Family?
Each and every one of our students is family to us.
We want to help you achieve your goals and ultimately, lead you to master your life with Martial Arts.
We are currently operating from Slough, Berkshire, UK, with our Martial Arts School, 1-1 Coaching, Corporate Wellness Programmes, and Online Personal Training (available worldwide).
Get in touch and join us NOW❗
Or join our free FitRoots Community group here, if you want to get some help before starting one of our programmes.