Sensei Paul Castagno, martial artist and owner of Revolution Martial Fitness, discusses with Alex how he revolutionizes students’ lives through martial arts on episode #194 of the Prepped and Polished Podcast. he  He is a 5th Degree Black Belt and multi-style Martial Artist. He has received his master level in Kempo and has extensive training in Brazillan Jiu-Jitsu, Kali, Kung-fu and Muay Thai. Sensei Paul trains weekly in both Boxing/kickboxing and Jiu-Jitsu as well as seeking continued education from the best Self-Defense instructors in the industry.He is also one of the only Satori Alliance Certifed Instructor in Mass. and is currently taking on the challenge of completing the “Ultimate Black Belt Test”

On today’s episode, Paul gives us tips on how to be the best version of yourself and a be better overall leader for yourself and community.

Paul’s tips for bullying: If you’re getting physically bullied, that could be assault, so don’t be scared to ask for help from someone you trust. Remember asking for help is a sign of strength and leadership!

Learn about and support Paul’s non-profit organization Natick Soup

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Full Transcript:

Female: Welcome to the “Prepped & Polished” podcast, the podcast that empowers you to take control of your education, featuring weekly interviews with influencers in the world of education as well as tutoring tips, lessons, and updates. And now, here’s your host, Alexis Avila.

Alexis: And welcome back to the “Prepped & Polished” podcast. This is Alexis Avila, your host. Make sure to join our community. You can find us on all the social media channels like the SoundCloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, just type Prepped & Polished into the search bar and you’ll find us. And go to if you need tutoring or test preparation both in person and online. And if you have a question or reaction during or after this podcast, email us at, or visit our site and type your question into the chat box. Okay, let’s get right to today’s guest. So I have a special guest today. Today is Episode 194. I’m talking to Sensei Paul Castagno. He’s a martial artist and owner of Revolution Martial Fitness. He is a 5th Degree Black Belt and multi-style Martial Artist. He has received his master level in Kempo, has extensive training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Kung-Fu, Muay Thai.

Sensei Paul trains weekly in both kickboxing and boxing, and Jiu-Jitsu as well. And he continues to seek out continuing education from the best Self-Defense instructors in the industry. He is also one of the only Satori Alliance Certified Instructors in Massachusetts and is currently taking on the challenge, and doing a great job, may I say, almost more than a half year into it, completing his Ultimate Black Belt Test challenge. Paul has a nonprofit organization where he supports community projects called Natick SOUP. I’m gonna attach the link to the show notes. On today’s episode, you’re gonna be very inspired by Paul’s exemplary leadership. And today, he’s gonna talk about and give us some tips on how to be the best version of ourselves and be better leaders for ourselves and for our community. So let’s get right to Episode 194 with Sensei Paul,and I hope you enjoy it. Sensei Paul Castagno, thanks for coming on the “Prepped & Polished” podcast. How you doing today?

Paul: I’m good, man, I’m good. Thanks for having me on. This is exciting.

Alexis: Great, great. So let’s start off. Tell us a little bit about your background and how your upbringing led you to where you are today as a martial artist and owner of revolution Martial Fitness.

Paul: So, I mean, you know, I had a pretty good upbringing, like, I had a great family and everything like that, I had great parents, great siblings, you know, and overall, I lived in a good community, you know. But, you know, when I hit, like, probably, like 11, I really started experiencing, like, a lot of bullying, right? And that was like a huge part of my life growing up, was, like, being bullied for quite a while. And the bullying continued for years, you know, and it would, you know, I felt like I kind of got, like, singled out by at least one or two different kids, like, every year. You know, what I mean? And so that really kind of started to shift my personality. I used to be like this happy-go-lucky kid, I was always, like, friendly, and I was kind of outgoing, and whatnot. And then when I started getting bullied, I really started to kinda pull inward, I started to get a little bit more aggressive. My kind of reaction to that was to, like, have a chip on my shoulder, right?

So, you know, it really started affecting my relationships with kids at school because I started kind of losing faith in their interactions with me, like, I always felt like people were kind of making fun of me. And I was probably even, like, thinking that people were making fun of me when they weren’t, like, I was really hypersensitive to, you know, my interactions with my peers. And then when I was 14, it kind of came to a head where, you know, I got into a fight, and it was a fight I probably could have stayed out of. You know, some kids were kinda picking on me and I decided to kinda of get aggressive and, you know, I felt like that was the only way for me that I really knew how to protect myself. And so long story short is this one kid and his three friends beat me up pretty badly. And it broke my nose, sent me to the hospital. And when I was sitting in the hospital, I was, like, thinking, I was sort of talking to my dad, we were waiting for the doctor came in. I was like, “Dad,” I was like, “I wanna start martial arts.” You know, like, that’s what I wanted. And my initial inspiration for wanting to start martial arts was because I wanted to learn how to fight. Like, in my head, I was like, “Well, if I get jumped by three guys again,” like, “this isn’t gonna happen. I’m not gonna be the one that ends up in the hospital.”

And my dad agreed. He was into martial arts growing up. He started me in martial arts, but he did kind of, you know, preface it by saying, “If you keep getting into fights, your training is done,” you know. And it was really interesting, and I kind of agreed with him. I was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Little teenager, I was like, “Yeah, yeah, okay, I just wanna start martial arts,” you know. And then when I started, I was around this really positive community, I had this instructor who believed in me. You know, I kinda really took to the training and then it really built my confidence. And then as my confidence grew, you know, I didn’t really wanna fight anymore. Like, I really started to kind of believe in myself, and I was like went through like 15, 16, 17, I started progressing more. Like, it really was a huge confidence builder for me. And it just affected every other part of my life. My interactions with kids got better. I had more, like, close friendships, and, you know, I started getting picked on less just because, and then eventually not at all and I think that was part of just the way I was projecting myself out in the world. And it was huge, it was just so transformative for me.

And I never really thought about teaching martial arts, but my instructor gave me an opportunity, asked me if I wanted to teach, and I thought, “Okay, sounds cool. I’ll teach.” And then about six months or so after I started teaching, I got this letter from a parent telling me how much of a difference I made in their son’s life and how much of a positive role model I was. And that was, like, the moment for me when I, “Oh, I might actually be able to change lives doing something that I love.” And then from that day on, I was like, “That’s it, I’m teacher martial arts. This is what I’m gonna do.” And so I opened my own school at 23. I got the opportunity of my own school at 23, and now, we’re here almost 13 years later. We’re at 300 members. It’s pretty surreal. We’ve been really well-received by the community. And, you know, for me Revolution Martial Fitness is about revolutionizing the way that martial arts is taught while helping people become more mentally and physically fit to take on life’s challenges. It’s kind of the overarching philosophy and the reason behind the name. And I’m happy to say that I think I’m doing it. I’m just trying to be part of the village and positively affect as many lives as possible as well.

Alexis: Wow, that’s really inspiring to hear that especially as a business owner who just, you know, you go through the grind. But to hear that, just like a nice flow from childhood, you know, getting into martial arts to where you are now, it’s nice to see that just obviously you have a passion for it. So on that note, tell us a little bit about what you offer clients who walk through your doors, and how do we contact you in that [inaudible 00:08:24].

Paul: So, I mean, you can always find me online, You know, all the information is on there if you ever wanna contact me about lessons. But, you know, the overarching philosophy behind what we do is that we wanna create a space where people feel challenged, but they feel supported. And we want everybody to know that, you know, they’re running their own race, you know? Of course we have, you know, our main program, our martial arts program, which encompasses multiple styles of martial arts, both stand-up, you know, striking arts, and grappling arts. And it’s a self-defense focused arts. We really wanna make sure preparing people for self-defense. But it’s really just the vehicle for showing people that they’re much more stronger and more capable than they think they are, right? And that’s for people of all ages. Like, everybody comes in, and one of the things that I love about martial arts is it has a way of kind of making you face whatever you’re kind of insecure about, right? And what I wanna do is create an environment where you feel like, you know, everybody’s giving you the tools to succeed, that your instructors and your classmates are on your side, right? And then through that, again, like I said, you can you can realize that you’re much more capable than you give yourself credit for. And the kind of confidence that you see people build with that is just amazing to me.

So that’s really, like, the core of what we’re trying to bring to the community is, yeah, we want solid martial arts training, we wanna have people that are great at self-defense and feel confident in their skills to protect themselves, but, you know, self-defense to me has a much broader term than just physical attacker, right, defense from a physical attacker. So I’m helping people become more confident, believe in themselves, and feel more equipped to take on life’s challenges. Like, to me, that’s self-defense too. And that’s what we wanna bring to everybody who steps in the school.

Alexis: Awesome. So in your in your TEDx video, you talk about bullying and you talked a little bit about how you dealt with bullying as a kid. Now, some kids who get bullied, they don’t fight back for one reason or another. Maybe they’re scared to, maybe they’re physically weak. What advice would you have for a kid who might fear, like, that confrontation and continues to get pummeled in school?

Paul: Well, you know, I mean, there’s many different forms of bullying. But I think the first thing that you try to help kids understand is that it’s less a reflection of them and it’s more a reflection of the person doing the bullying, right? I’m not saying that it doesn’t…knowing that just makes it easy, right? But if somebody feels the need to put you down, then that’s more of a reflection of how they feel inside, than you as a person, right? Because my experience is that, if you’re happy, and you’re feeling confident and everything, you don’t wanna make other people feel bad, you wanna make other people feel just as good as you feel. So if you feel like you need to bring somebody down, right? If you feel that you need to break people down and bully them, then there’s something going on inside of you that isn’t good, right? And so, you know, having that perspective can help ease the blow, especially with verbal bullying. Physical bullying, however, you know, I think that what people need to understand is that physical bullying, you know, I don’t actually even like to call it bullying. Like, once it gets physical, like, that’s a crime. You know what I mean? Like, assault. Like nobody should be doing that to you, you know?

Alexis: Absolutely. Yeah, we don’t talk enough about that.

Paul: No. I mean, like, “Oh, he’s been being physically bullied.” You’re like, “Okay. So he’s being assaulted is what you’re saying.” Like, don’t sugar, like, that’s what that is. It should be taken very seriously. And, I mean, of course, we can tell people, like, maybe, you know, doing something like self-defense or something that builds your confidence is huge. But make sure that if you are being bullied, that you’re not keeping it a secret, okay? Make sure that you’re telling the people that care about you, that you care about, that you trust, right? Tell your friends, tell your family, and don’t feel ashamed to ask for help. There’s so many people around you that wanna help you, so look to the people that you trust and ask for help and they’re gonna help, guide you in the right direction. But a lot of bullying goes on and kids are too ashamed, they’re scared to speak up about it, and then they just suffer in silence, and then that’s sometimes that’s when you hear about really, you know, unfortunate things happening when it gets to be too much and everybody goes, “What happened? We didn’t know that this was happening,” and it’s because the kid was never telling anybody. So my advice is make sure that you’re talking to people. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help, you know?

Alexis: Yeah. You know, that’s really sound advice. And I was thinking like a lot of, I mean, at least, like, knowing, like, growing up with brothers, it was never considered cool to, like, kinda ask for help. Like, you were kinda, like, you know. So it’s important to kinda find, like, somebody, like, you can really count on. It might not be that brother. It might be, you know, like, you know, a teacher who really likes you. But, you know…

Paul: I mean, I’ve had students come to me and talk to me about it. And they feel like I’m, you know, it’s like whoever you feel like you have a really good rapport with, you know. It might be parents, it might be your siblings, it might be your friends, it might be a teacher. But those people are gonna wanna help you, you know? And I think it’s even harder for men only because it’s kind of the, you know, it’s like you’re not, if you ask.

Alexis: Yeah. It’s like get over it, you know? What’s wrong with you?

Paul: It’s like this antiquated hyper-masculine, you know, idea. But the reality is, is I think it takes more strength to ask for help than to suffer alone. And I think, you know, you can’t look at asking for help as lack of strength. You’d have to look at it as like the epitome of strength to be able to ask.

Alexis: That’s a really good point. It’s a strong deed to seek help, shows initiative. It’s a good thing. So find somebody that you can trust right now, ask for help.

Paul: Right. Yeah, and don’t be ashamed to do it. Yeah.

Alexis: So in one of your Mat Chats, and you do a Mat Chat after each of your sessions, you told the group circle once that, you said you are worth it, worth defending. And for me, personally, I remember that being a very empowering moment. Why did you feel compelled to say that to your students?

Paul: You know, my experience working with people, you know, is that, you know, once you get to really develop a rapport with them and you start to create a connection with them, you start to kinda find out what drives certain behavior kind of under the surface. And if, you know, whether it be, you know, a lot of it being either a lack of confidence and skill or, you know, something like that. But, you know, kind of the under, kind of the overarching theme, it seems to be like people don’t think highly of themselves and they don’t think they’re worth sometimes, either defending or they don’t deserve success, you know, or they don’t deserve praise or, you know, something like that. And the reality is like…

Alexis: You’re worth it.

Paul: Yeah, you’re worth it. You know what I mean? Like, there’s nothing wrong with accepting success and basking in it. There’s nothing wrong with feeling like you’re worth protecting. I think that’s the other thing too is that like, you know, especially when it comes to self-defense, especially physical self-defense, is to know that, like, you’re worth standing up for, right? You’re worth protecting. And once you have that mindset, I think it’s really empowering, right? I think you take more initiative and you, you know, and when things come up and you think about either challenges that you wanna overcome, or success that might be coming your way, or success that you want to have, when you can tell yourself that you deserve it and that you’re worth it, then you’re gonna find that strength to push through any of the challenges that might come up on the journey there.

Alexis: Absolutely. Become a better version of yourself and for your community.

Paul: Totally. Yeah, yeah, for sure.

Alexis: So as a martial arts owner, practitioner, what are some of the myths about martial arts training that people should know about that just kind of come to your mind?

Paul: Yeah. The first one i love, this is the one I love, right? This is about, you know, are your hands registered as lethal weapons? It’s like, yeah, because when I got my black belt, there was a form I needed to fill out with the police department saying, my hands are registered with a [inaudible 00:17:07], no. No, that that is not anything that you have to do. You know, some people think it is. Yeah, it is a little, it’s funny. I’ve had that question asked seriously, you know? Do you have to? I’m like, “No, there’s not a form you have to fill out once you get your black belt.” The other myth I think is that we can be hyper aggressive, you know? And people kind of look at us sometimes as an odd breed. They’re like, “Why would you wanna go do something so aggressive?” you know. And my experience in, I mean, speaking personally is that, martial artists, you know, serious martial arts practitioners, we’re like the most chill people in the world, you know? Because I think that a lot of people walk around with a lot of pent-up stress and everything like that, you know? And as martial artists we get this cathartic experience couple times a week where we just get to get that out of our system so the rest of our lives, we walk around a lot more centered and a lot more, you know, even keeled, a lot more chilled out, you know? So, you know, I think the myth that martial artists are aggressive people or really love, like, you know, confrontation and combat. It’s like, “Well,” it’s like, “No, we don’t love it,” you know? We don’t thrive on chaos. Do, you know, what I mean? Like, we enjoy the cathartic experience of martial arts. We love what it does for us. But as a general rule, we’re pretty chilled out people.

Alexis: Yeah, that’s a really good point. Not only is that a myth but you clearly teach that it’s important to be yourself and calm down. Like, the very first day I went to the studio, everybody comes up to me and shakes my hand, and smiles at me. And I’m like, “What are these killers coming up to me?” You know? I’m always expecting, you know, is something gonna happen. But that’s just, that clearly demonstrates that myth. It just, you know.

Paul: Yeah. I think one of the things about… So I mean, it’s not universal. Every school is a little different. But I think generally, you know, one of the things about good martial arts training is that it gives you kind of a daily dose of humility when you walk in. And I think being humbled like that, whether it be, you know, having a challenge kind of picking up a technique, and really having to work at it, and face the fact that you, you know, you got some work to do, or doing a little, like, sparring session and, you know, maybe getting thumped around a little bit, nothing injurious, but, you know, definitely you got a partner who gets the better you and, you know, it’s actually good to experience that because it keeps you humble in other areas of your life, you know? And it doesn’t let you get too big for your britches, you know? And I think that also translates into a grit and a resiliency and perseverance through other challenges in your life too, so.

Alexis: That’s awesome. So from your experience both practicing and working with kids, what are the main benefits of martial arts training?

Paul: Wow. I don’t know if we haven’t time for all of them.

Alexis: Yeah, just give me some examples. I know, part two.

Paul: I mean, I don’t wanna be redundant but, you know, confidence is a huge one, real confidence,
you know, like, you know, not this, “I receive false praise all the time,” kind of thing, but like, “I overcame a challenge and I did it on my own.”You know, what I mean?

Alexis: Right.

Paul: And you had support of course but in the…

Alexis: Like, integrity. Integrity is happening.

Paul: Yeah, integrity, yeah. And that confidence that you can, you know, that belief in yourself I think is really huge, you know? And I think that, like, if I had to pick, like, the main ones, I think that’s really huge. And I think that really encompasses a lot of the other things that, you know, a lot of the other benefits that I could talk about. But I feel like it’s a great opportunity for people a couple times a week to sharpen that sword, and to remind themselves how resilient they are, and remind themselves how capable they are. And the confidence that comes with that, it’s kind of magical actually to see the way it transforms people.

Alexis: That’s amazing. So talk a little bit about your Ultimate Black Belt challenge. You took on this challenge, you know. What is it? You know, how is it going so far? And what have you learned that maybe you didn’t expect when you signed up for it?

Paul: So the originator of the Ultimate Black Belt test is a gentleman named Tom Callos, he’s been a mentor of mine for a long time. And he’s been running the Ultimate Black Belt test for a long time. And basically, it’s kind of an experimental test. What it is, is an effort to elevate the martial arts, the image of the martial arts and the standards to which high-ranking martial artists hold themselves to. Right? So one thing about the martial arts world is that there’s no kind of universal standard for martial arts instructors. Right? There’s no national governing body or anything like that. So it’s really up to the instructor to esteem themselves through their actions, right? And the Ultimate Black Belt really challenges school owners to lead by example. And so if you want to have really great students and students that are not just well-skilled but that are fit and that, you know, get out into the community and use the values of the martial arts in the world to benefit the world around them, then you need to show them how to do that. And the Ultimate Black Belt test is kind of a program, or a challenge, and a process to do that. So it’s a year-long test, and there’s physical requirements and there’s non-physical requirements.

The physical requirements are, you know, consistent martial arts training, well-rounded, so make sure you’re doing grappling arts and striking arts. So I train jiu-jitsu multiple times a week, I do boxing during the week. And, you know, on top of that, it’s 50,000 push-ups, 50,000 crunches, run 1,000 miles over the course of the year. So that’s like 150 push ups a day, you get the idea, like three miles a day. And the idea behind that is daily doses of discipline, is how I’ve looked at the push-ups. Like, the push-ups for me is not about like, “Oh, I’m gonna get bigger arms doing 150 push-ups a day,” right? Yeah, you’ll get more fit but it’s more about, you know, committing to doing something daily. And when you commit to doing something daily, there’s inevitably gonna be days where you don’t wanna do it, but you do it anyway because that’s what discipline is. Right?
Discipline is doing something that you said you’re gonna do when the mood that you said it in has passed. That’s discipline, right? And so when you don’t feel like doing if that’s when you have to do it. And that, again, is part of leading by example. And then the non-physical requirements is you have to journal every week, you have to journal all about the process, you have to do a big, like, wow project, which we did, Natick SOUP, which you were part of, something that.

Alexis: That was amazing.

Paul: And so that was my altruism project. And you can find out more about Natick SOUP if you go to There’s a website about that. And then, you know, you have to write three wrongs or mend three broken relationships, you have to, you know, profile 10 living heroes. Like, there’s all these other non-physical requirements that, again, serve to kinda demonstrate what it means to be, like, a master teacher. Right? Because at the end of the day, style aside, titles aside, teacher teaches what the teacher knows. That’s it. Right? And the more you try to expand your horizons and the more that you put yourself out there and try to build your knowledge and your skill set, and everything, the better you’re gonna be for all the people in your sphere of influence. That’s really what it is. So, you know, we’re about six months in now.

Alexis: Six months in, yeah.

Paul: Yeah, six months into the year. And it has been a really amazing experience. It’s definitely not been all smooth, right? There’s definitely a balance. And that was to be expected, but I think you don’t really know how that’s gonna come when you start the test., you know there’s gonna be challenges but you don’t know how they’re gonna manifest themselves. And I know that it’s been everything from, you know, I have a young daughter, a one-year-old, and, you know, balancing, you know, of being a husband and a father with running my school and then meeting all these other requirements, like, it’s definitely been a time management challenge. I realize that I’m not as good at time management as I’d like to think I am. So it definitely challenged me to manage my time better to get more creative about how I fit in my requirements. There’s definitely been plenty of days where I don’t feel like I have the time or I don’t feel like I have the energy to fulfill my requirements, but I commit to doing them anyway because that’s what you have to do, that’s discipline. And I’ve actually, I’ve realized that I’m capable of a lot more than I thought I was because you go into the test and you’re like, “I think I can do all this.” Like, you don’t take it on if you think you’re gonna fail. But then as you’re going through it, you’re saying like, “Oh,” like, “What did I get myself into?” But one of the rules of the test is you can’t quit, like, quitting is not an option.

Alexis: Yeah. Yeah, you mentioned that.

Paul: As soon as you start, that’s it. You can fail, but you can’t quit. That’s it. So, right, as Tom says, “Failure is an option, quitting is not.” So you get it done. You find a way. And you realize that when you’re fully committed to something, right, when quitting is not an option for you, and this is something I’ve talked with students about, when you can convince yourself, when you can tell yourself that quitting is not an option, you’ll be really surprised at how resilient and creative you can be when it comes to overcoming challenges. Right? And meeting them. Like, when you really put that out of your head, like, quitting is just not an option, so what else is an option, you know, it’s really amazing what you can achieve when you can convince yourself of that.

Alexis: That’s amazing. And in fact, you’ve actually inspired quite a few of your students. I don’t know how many come out with some spreadsheets. But, you know, we got a student, an adult student, who’s doing push-ups and then sit-ups every day, and doing the cardio. And then…

Paul: Are you talking about yourself, because you’re doing a little bit too, right?

Alexis: You know, this is your show.

Paul: You might not toot, but I’m gonna toot your horn, your horn for ya.

Alexis: If you wanna turn it around. I mean, we started, it’s, my spreadsheet is entitled the Orange Belt Challenge. So I was just like, my goals were very low. I was gonna do the push-ups, and sit-ups, and one and a half miles cardio a day. And honestly, that’s turned into about 25 line items of daily discipline goals. It’s maybe the best version of me. It’s been a game-changer.

Paul: I’m honored to be a part of that for sure.

Alexis: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So I’m not sure if you have anything to say about this but I just thought of you. But, you know, we got a lot of social media addiction, video games, you know, losing a lot of your time that you can’t get back, especially the online bullying and stuff. People getting caught up in like what other people are doing, and you work with a lot of kids. What are some healthy ways to get your time back and get back on track in this digital age?

Paul: Man, well, I think that the first thing, you know, is that you need to make sure that you are limiting distractions for yourself. Like, you need to, you know, whether it be, you know, for adults who, you know, find themselves constantly on their phone or on some sort of screen time, is you really just have to commit yourself to, like, getting rid of the distraction, right? Like, don’t say, “Well, I’m not gonna pay attention to my phone,” but then keep it in your pocket. Right?

Alexis: Right.

Paul: Like, if you’re not gonna pay attention to your phone, then put your phone somewhere else where it’s not gonna be tempting to you. Right? I think a lot of people, they wanna have willpower when it comes to certain things, but then they constantly have the temptation around them all the time. And part of having a really good discipline and willpower is, you know, just eliminating it. Right? It’s kind of like, if you don’t wanna eat junk food, don’t keep junk food in the house. Do you know what I mean? It’s like, it’s a lot easier to have discipline when you do that. And I think for kids, I think that we need to remind them and make sure, and remind them how to be bored, right? Like, it’s okay to be “bored.” There’s actually been a lot of studies that have come out. I’ll actually listen Ted radio hours and another [inaudible 00:30:00], you know, a podcast that I really enjoy, and they were talking about attention and it was a great podcast. And they were talking about, you know, that being bored and letting your mind wander is actually a really good thing.

And I think kids nowadays, they don’t know how to be bored, you know? It’s like, if they have to wait, they’re on a screen. And I get it. I get it for parents. It can be a lot easier. “Okay. Well, if I give them a screen, then they’ll be quiet.” I understand that. But you gotta teach them how to be bored constructively. Right? Give them some guidance on what they could be doing besides just being glued to the screen. Do, you know, what I mean?

Alexis: Yeah.

Paul: And if a kid says to you, “Oh, I’m bored.” “Okay. Well, it’s fine,” you know? And kids are really creative. They don’t need all of this crazy technology to entertain themselves, you know? You can put two kids outside with a stick and they’ll come out with game. You know, what I mean? Like, you know, kids play when they don’t have that temptation around is really amazing. So I think, you know, part of it is for adult’s right, you know, making sure that you’re limiting those distractions, maybe even committing yourself to the weekend or a day where you’re technology-free, you know, and see what that does for you. Right? And then for kids, it’s really just about, you know, making them understand that it’s okay to be a little bored, right? But it gives them time to daydream and it gives them time to find other ways to entertain themselves, and creative maybe non-structured plays iss actually really healthy for kids, you know? So that was my advice for that, yeah.

Alexis: That’s awesome. Paul, who are some of your mentors growing up and today? And why do you look up to them for their guidance?

Paul: So, you know, Tom Callos, who I already talks about who does the Ultimate Black Belt test, he’s a mentor of mine. And the reason that I look up to him is you really…he holds really high standards for martial arts instructors. And he is really a no-BS kind of guy, right? If you’re not living up to your full potential, he has no problem calling you out on it. And I really appreciate that. Like, I like being people around that because they make sure you don’t settle for less than your best. Another person in the martial arts world who really look up to is Dave Kovar. I know you met him recently as well when he was at the school, really great guy. And what I really liked about Dave Kovar is he walks his talk. That’s what I love. He walks his talk both in the way that he trains in his martial arts, but the way that he runs his businesses and his schools. Like, I’ve always looked up to him and his organization in the way that they run their programs. Like, high-quality programs that are, you know, that run there…and they run their businesses ethically, which I think is really huge for me.

You know, I really look up and generally I really look up to people who have strength of character. It’s like if you’re successful “in business,” that’s great. But if you don’t have a character that I can really, like, respect, then, you know, how much you make doesn’t matter to me. You know what I mean? So, you know, as far as the martial arts world, those are people that I really look up to, you know, that are really, you know, in my sphere of influence, or influence me. And then of course, I look up to my family, and I look up to my parents, and, you know, my mom and my dad for…and I know to might be kinda cliché, but I really do look up to them because they’ve taught me a lot through their example, you know, hard work ethic, being kind to people. You know, without their influence, I…you know, it shows in the way that I run my business too, like I think a lot of their influence has really shaped the way that I run my school. And I really appreciate them for that.

Alexis: That’s amazing. And, you know, I mean, your mom, I know passed away when you started and she gave you a lot of great advice, from your TED talk you can hear him a little bit about that.

Paul: Yeah. She he passed away about three months before I opened the school. So it was a transition, you know, trying to process her death and then open a business. It was really a tough experience, which I talk a little…like you said, I talk more about it in my TED talk. But, you know, what I did and kind of the way that I processed that is I told myself that I would honor her memory by the way that I run my school. And so whenever I think about the next step to take, right, and how to treat clients and everything like that, I always think about, like, “If my mom was around, would she be proud of me?” Right? You know, because she was always the kind of person who also didn’t care how much money you made or how successful “your business” was. You know, if you didn’t treat people right, then she didn’t have respect for you. And I think about that, right? And I think about the fact that, you know, not only do I wanna have a successful business, but I wanna do it in a way that puts people first. And so, you know, her influence has been huge and the growth of the school.

Alexis: That’s awesome. And then one thing, you know, that strikes me, you know, there’s something to be said about your dad because, you know, he was a law enforcement police officer, but he was also in a band. And what that tells me is that he was kind of like…he had like a couple of different sides to him, which might have been a nice…it’s a refreshing thing to hear, yeah.

Paul: Yeah, yeah. It was actually one of these things where a I, when I grew up, I only knew him as a police officer so I always thought of him as kinda, you know, he’s a little more strict. And, you know, being a police officer changes you, right? You see a lot of stuff. And then I find out when I get older that he was in this band in the ’60s called the Apple Pie Motherhood Bands. You can actually look him up on Spotify. They got some albums on Spotify.

Alexis: That’s amazing.

Paul: Yeah. And I was like, looking and he got the album cover at home and stuff, I was like, “Man, you were cool,” right? You know, I was like, “Oh my God. My dad was really cool.” You know, what I mean? It was pretty cool. But yeah, he definitely had more, and he was a martial artist too on top of that.

Alexis: Wow. So I mean, he wasn’t kind of like your typical…I mean, he was in law enforcement, obviously strict, but you know, he kinda had like a creative side, like a softer side, maybe kinda instilled that in you.

Paul: Yeah, yeah. I mean, he was strict but he was never unreasonably strict, you know? And, you know, there was a lot of times where, you know, when I was a teenager, I’d be like, you know, “I can’t believe he’s doing this, or making me do that, or saying this or saying that.” And then I get older, now that i’m older, now I’m 36, I’m like, “Oh, no, that made sense,” you know? And that was maybe a kind of a message to parents, right, is that your child might not always appreciate all your decisions in the moment. But, you know, in the future, they will, you know? And they’ll look back and go, “No, that was the right call,” you know?

Alexis: Yeah, definitely. So what are some of your future goals for Revolution Martial Arts?

Paul: You know the goal right now, you know, so my goal was to hit 300 students before the end of 2018. And we did that, we’ve already done it. And, you know, that was a good kind of number. You know, we just moved to a new bigger, a brand new location about a year ago and, you know, that was kind of my goal for myself and the fact that we hit that goal was really surreal to me. And so my focus right now is not actually on growth, like student count-wise, it’s really about making sure that all the other aspects of the program are solid, so making sure that, you know, we’re bettering the experience for the students here at the school and constantly looking around ways to do that, and then growing a team, you know? I think I did it by myself for so long and just within the last couple of years, we’ve really been growing our team here at the school, additional instructors, new program director, or, like, all that stuff.

And I really, you know, I look at my path now as still inspiring students and still teaching, I love that, but maybe being able to mentor other people who have a passion for the martial arts and helping them make a career out of it because I find so much joy in what I’m doing. I’m so happy and so thankful. Sometimes I feel like I hit the lottery, you know? And I try to make sure I keep that a sense of gratitude. And if I can mentor other people towards that path and help them find the same joy in their career that I have, like, that would make me so happy. So that’s kind of the focus right now, is to really grow our team and build our team. And maybe the growth of the school comes with that, maybe it’s additional benefit, but it’s not our main focus. We really wanna focus on our team.

Alexis: That’s awesome. So any advice for teens listening to us today who are getting ready to cross that bridge from teenage to young adulthood? Anything that comes to your mind?

Paul: Yeah. The first one that comes to mind is don’t be afraid to fail. That’s my big one, is, you know, don’t be afraid to take chances and challenge yourself, and don’t be afraid to fail. I think fear of failure keeps people from really realizing their full potential because , you know, they never really get out there and try if they think they’re not gonna be able to achieve it. And the reality is you don’t get better from doing things that are easy, right? You get better from doing things that are challenging, right? And I would also, like, there’s a saying that I really like, which is, “There is no failure, there’s only feedback,” right? And so maybe not just saying like, “Okay, don’t be afraid to fail but maybe then adjusting that in your mind.” And instead of saying, “Oh, I failed,” say, “Oh, okay, I just got feedback,” right? And you look at every experience as a learning experience. And if you learn from it, then you never really failed, right? It just gave you something to then take into the next challenge and the next experience so that eventually you can find success. So yeah, just remember that there is no failure, there’s only feedback, right? And don’t be afraid to challenge yourself because that’s how you’re gonna grow.

Alexis: That’s awesome. And then before I forget, like, line item, like, 15 in my spreadsheet is to read every day, and I got these two Dave Kovar books.

Paul: Oh, man, look at that. That’s cool.

Alexis: So he wrote these great books, “Brief Moments of Clarity,” “A Dad’s Toolbox,” I haven’t gotten to that yet but awesome reads.

Paul: They’re really awesome.

Alexis: So let’s wrap it up. In your TEDx talk, you mentioned that, you know, I just wanna mention something. But you mentioned that behind the development, a very great leader was someone who believes in the people when they didn’t believe in themselves. I just wanna say thank you. From my experience, the way you interact at your school with students, community, and positively inspire your students, you know, you are that leader that you mentioned.

Paul: Means a lot.

Alexis: And I acknowledge you for that. So thank you very much.

Paul: Nope, thank you.

Alexis: Thanks for your time on the “Prepped & Polished” podcast. And I’ll see you on the Mats tonight.

Paul: It was an honor, man. I’ll see you later. Okay?

Alexis: Yeah. Perfect. And this wraps up our show. This was Episode 194 with Sensei Paul Castagno of Episode 195 is coming soon, and we’re creeping up to 200 episodes. Episode 195 will be our next tutoring tips episode, which will be the second part of a three-part series on how to avoid three pitfalls of rhetorical skills questions on the ACT English test. To access all of our podcast episodes, head over to, or you can go to Thanks for joining us in the “Prepped & Polished” podcast. Now, go out there and take control of your education.


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