My Mentors and Influences

I’ve spent the last few days considering all the people that have helped shaped who I am, and how I perform as a coach.  From several individuals I drew technical skills, from others communication skills and others formed the basis of my leadership. Today I would like to pay tribute and share my major mentors and influences.


(Right) Mark Devine providing group training at the SEALFIT Academy. I can guess with a fair degree of accuracy the attendees are either going to lift something heavy overhead as a team or get cold and wet as a team.  Even if I’m wrong, they will work as a team to accomplish their tasks and challenges.

Mark Devine, CDR USN (Ret) Founder & CEO of SEALFIT and, Creator of Unbeatable Mind

Mark Divine is from upstate New York with a degree in economics from Colgate University and an MBA in Finance from New York University Stern School of Business. Mark’s first career was with Coopers & Lybrand (now PriceWaterhouse Coopers) as a Certified Public Accountant.

Four years after joining Coopers, Mark left behind the corporate world to pursue his vision to become an elite Navy SEAL officer. At 26 he graduated as honor-man of his SEAL BUD/s class 170 and served nine years on active duty and eleven as a reserve SEAL, retiring as Commander in 2011.

In 2006 he launched US Tactical, a government contracting business set up for a nationwide mentoring program for SEAL trainees.  This program was credited with increasing the quality of Navy SEAL candidates and reducing the attrition rate at BUD/s by up to 5% and was the inspiration for SEALFIT.

Mark was an adjunct professor of leadership at the University of San Diego, where he left a PHd program due to the Iraq war Reserve call up. In Baghdad with the SEALs again in 2004, he conducted a special study for the Department of Defense on the role of the USMC in the Special Operations Community. Upon return home he decided to focus fully on his business and family.

Mark is an accomplished martial artist with multiple black belts and is teacher trained in Ashtanga Yoga. He created the innovative Unbeatable Warrior Yoga program taught to his students.

After working with thousands of special ops candidates and professionals developing mental toughness, Mark self-published his first book “Unbeatable Mind” in 2011 and launched the at-home study program He is also the author of The Way of the SEAL published by Readers Digest and 8 Weeks to SEALFIT published by St. Martins Press.

SEALFIT is uniquely effective at developing elite level physical fitness and mental toughness. The program has helped thousands to operate at an entirely new level in their personal and professional lives, and is used by military, first responders and sheepdog-like professionals of all stripes worldwide.

Mark is a highly sought after speaker for corporations where his Unbeatable Mind program is helping to forge mental toughness among business leaders. He lives in Encinitas, CA., several blocks from the SEALFIT Training Center, the 20,000 square foot facility where he enjoys training with his family and team.

Mark Devine and the SEALFIT program instill the warrior spirit and a unique mindset to training,performance and life.  The SEALFIT program is unique among all others in the fact that although the training is ideally suited for Special Operations candidates and adventure athletes anyone can apply.  It is through Marks’s teachings where I adopted my belief that we are all capable of twenty-times what we think we area capable of.  The truth of this is proven to me with every progression in my athletes.


(Right) Mark RIppetoe, one of the two most quotable strong people I know of discusses the mechanics of the barbell squat.

 Mark Rippetoe- Owner of Witchita Falls Athletic Club and published author.

Mark Rippetoe is the author of Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, Practical Programming for Strength Training, Strong Enough?, Mean Ol’ Mr. Gravity, and numerous journal, magazine and internet articles. He has worked in the fitness industry since 1978, and has been the owner of the Wichita Falls Athletic Club since 1984.

He graduated from Midwestern State University in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science in geology and a minor in anthropology. He was in the first group certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a CSCS in 1985, and the first to formally relinquish that credential in 2009.

Rip was a competitive powerlifter for ten years, and has coached many lifters and athletes, and many thousands of people interested in improving their strength and performance. He conducts seminars on this method of barbell training around the country. and

Mark’s coaching and communication skills in instructing the basic barbell lifts have served as the basis on mine for some time now and the simplicity of the Starting Strength program has yielded exceptional results across the board.  I still read his books and watch his videos to get little nuggets of information that I somehow missed before.  The man is an outstanding balance of education and entertainment and I highly recommend any of this books.


Martin Rooney, the other most quotable strong person I know and my current mentor.

Martin Rooney, MHS,PT,CSCS – Founder and CEO of Training for Warriors

Martin Rooney is an internationally recognized business leadership expert, fitness and martial arts author, and dynamic presenter. Martin has his Master of Health Science and Bachelor of Physical Therapy degrees from the Medical University of South Carolina and also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Exercise Science from Furman University.

Martin’s inspiring and educational messages have allowed him to deliver highly acclaimed presentations to Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams like the New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, and New York Giants; and numerous universities.  Martin has also lectured for the American College of Sports Medicine, the College Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the UK Strength and Conditioning Association, and the Finnish Coaches Association.  He has traveled worldwide to train, compete, and conduct seminars and help world-class athletes prepare for competition.

Martin’s training system has been used with numerous UFC fighters, Jiu Jitsu World Champions, US National Judo Champions, and Collegiate Wrestling All-Americans in addition the speed and conditioning consultant to athletes from the NFL, MLB, NBA, WNBA, and numerous top Division I colleges across the country, numerous Olympians, including one gold medalist, four silver medalists, and one US Olympic Trials champion.

Once a champion Division I track and field athlete and member of the United States Bobsled team, Martin is currently a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and has a black belt in Kodokan Judo.

Martin’s work and books have been featured on ESPN, ESPN2, Spike TV, Sports New York, Fox Sports Net, Fox Fight Game, the NFL Network, HDnet,,, and in the New York TimesMen’s HealthMen’s FitnessMen’s JournalThe Sporting NewsStackFight Sport,Fighters OnlyGrappling, and Sports Illustrated for Kids. He has been commissioned by Nike to run speed testing camps at a number of major universities.

Martin was a practicing Physical Therapist who decided to drop a lucrative career and pursue his dreams. His efforts and belief in himself led to his numerous successes in life and his coaching methods truly speak to me.  The philosophy and methods of the Training for Warriors coaching program go to great lengths to produce exceptional coaches and citizens of life.


Dan John has a love of loaded carries and always seems able to make the seemingly complex simple, and the simple even simpler.

Dan John, Master SFG and author.

Dan John has been teaching and coaching for well over thirty years. He has taught theology, history, economics and weight training in the classroom and has coached track and field and football. He continues as a full-time on-line religious studies instructor for Columbia College of Missouri and contributing writer to Men’s Health, t-nation and Hardstyle Magazines. Originally from South San Francisco, Dan came to Utah to throw the discus for Utah State University and recently returned “home” after 35 years away. He currently lives in Burlingame, California.

Dan has Masters degrees in history and in religious education, as well as intensive work at the American University in Cairo, University of Haifa, and Cornell. Dan has written articles for Catechetical Update and Utah Historical Quarterly, as well as being a columnist for the Intermountain Catholic. Dan was also a Fulbright Scholar in 1985.

At home, he is humbled by his lovely wife, Tiffini, whose middle name is not “long suffering” no matter how often it is repeated, and his two daughters, Kelly and Lindsay.

In his athletic career, among many other championships and records, Dan has won the Master Pleasanton Highland Games twice, American Masters Discus Championships several times, the National Masters Weightlifitng Championship once and holds the American Record in the Weight Pentathlon.

Dan is quite possibly the most diverse coach on this page.  His wide-range of academics, knowledge and expertise astounds me and his interviews and articles always prove insightful.  The greatest benefit to me is his coaching philosophy, ability to simplify physical tasks and his breakdowns of movement patterns.  I don’t drink, and I don’t know if he does either, but he strikes me as the type of guy I would like to grab a beer with.


Pavel re-introduced kettlebell training to America.

Pavel Tsataouline – Master of Sports, StrongFirst

Pavel Tsatsouline is a former Soviet Special Forces physical training instructor who has been called “the modern king of kettlebells” for starting the Russian kettlebell revolution in the West.

In 1998 Pavel introduced the ancient Russian strength and conditioning tool to the American public in his subversive article, Vodka, Pickle Juice, Kettlebell Lifting, and Other Russian Pastimes. The article was published by MILO, a magazine for tough hombres who bend steel and lift rocks. When Pavel started getting mail from guys with busted noses, cauliflower ears, scars, or at least Hell’s Angels tattoos his publisher took notice.

Pavel is a subject matter expert to the US Marine Corps, the US Secret Service, and the US Navy SEALs. A kettlebell in his fist, he was voted the ‘Hot Trainer’ by Rolling Stone and appeared in media ranging from Pravdato Fox News. Dr. Randall Strossen, one of the most respected names in the strength world, stated, “In our eyes, Pavel Tsatsouline will always reign as the modern king of kettlebells since it was he who popularized them to the point where you could almost found a country filled with his converts…”

Pavel’s approach to training and philosophy on strength match my own and one of his weapons of choice is the kettlebell.  Lesser known are his skills in barbell, flexibility and mobility work.  One of my goals is to certify as Kettlebell Coach under his banner.


Hirokazu Kanazawa, Martial Arts Legend and one of my former instructors. A truly exceptional man that has perhaps the coolest signature EVER.


He blends his signature with a drawing of Mt. Fuji…it’s THAT cool.

 Hirokazu Kanazawa-Headmaster, Shotokan Karate-Do International Federation 10th Dan.

Kanazawa Soke (10th Degre Black Belt) is one of the world most renowned and respected traditional karate masters of all time.  He is the first karateka to have won the notorious All Japan karate Championship. He was the 1957 fighting champion while nursing a broken wrist and the 1958 fighting and forms champion.

Although trained in Judo in his early years, Kanazawa Soke took up karate whilst at University under the late headmaster of the Japan Karate Association Shotokan, Sensei Matsatoshi Nakayama. Kanazawa Soke is also one of the few remaining Karate-ka privileged to have studied under Master Gichin Funakoshi, the famous Okinawan schoolteacher who brought karate to mainland Japan from Okinawa and founded the Shotokan style.

In 1978, Kanazawa Soke set up SKIF (Shotokan Karate-Do International Federation). SKIF is now the worlds largest Shotokan Karate Association under one chief instructor, having several million members in over 130 countries.

At age 5, my father walked me into my first Karate dojo.  Three years later I had heard of Master Kanazawa who was already a legend martial artist and had established his own organization. I can clearly recall first seeing him in action when I was 12 years old.  Over twenty years later I had the fortune of training directly under him while living in Japan and even serving as an instructor in his Dojo, as well as training under his first generation of American students while living in Hawaii.Carrying on my families tradition of Martial Arts trainining, my son Christian also trained under Master Kanazawa. Despite being in his 80’s, Master Kanazawa moves with great precision and power and his influence on Karate will be carried on for many generations to come. His ability to connect with people from around the world and serve as an ambassador of Karate truly benefited me in life.


A photo of Master Powell from the early 1970’s, around the time when I first saw action footage of him.

Dr. Moses Powell (RIP), Martial Arts pioneer and legend, Founder and Headmaster of Sanuces Ryu Jiu Jitsu

Dr. Moses Powell was a Martial Arts  legend with more than 47 years of consummate study in the fighting arts. His experience and achievements are countless and his name is world-renowned.

In 1965, Dr. Powell was the featured martial arts demonstrator at the New York World’s Fair. The following year in 1966, he was the first martial artist to receive The African Benign Arts Award. Between 1967 and 1968, Dr. Powell pioneered his craft by traveling overseas to the Caribbean. There, he introduced Sanuces Ryu Jiu Jitsu to the island of Jamaica and Trinidad and to Bermuda in the early 1970’s. Dr. Powell was inducted into the International African Arts Festival’s “Living Legend” Award, and was the first African-American to teach the fighting arts to law enforcement agencies around the world.

In January of 2003, Dr. Powell said, “I have been called the Pioneer, the Missionary, and the Lumberjack of Martial Arts. When I think about it, I’d like to be remembered as the man I am…Moses Powell. It’s not about making yourself anything; but it is about earning your rewards as you go along. Remember, there is no such think as a book master, you have to fight in the trenches or on the mat…I want young people to realize that there is a history to look up to, and a path of greatness to follow and further pave.”


Dr.Powell in his later years.  I believe you can see the wisdom and kindness in his face.

(I’m not just saying that because I too am bald and sometimes where glasses.)

Dr. Moses Powell was born on January 13, 1941 in Norfolk, Virginia to Athenia and Moses Powell, and passed away on January 22, 2005 due to respiratory failure.

“To list all of his accomplishments, honors and awards would be impossible. To say he made a difference would be an understatement. He was a man chosen to be great. What he made of that greatness is what truly separated him from other men. He gave over 50 years of his life to Martial Arts. It was his love and his life and most of all it was what he believed in and trusted. He was a natural teacher. A “let me show you” kind of man. And when he showed you, you knew you had experienced something powerful enough to change lives.”

The first footage I ever saw of Dr. Powell:

Dr Powell in his later years:

Master Powell is unique among most of the men on this page as I never studied under him.  His influence on me originally occurred in the mid-late 1970’s after I saw footage of this very large, well spoken man fly through the air gracefully and move at a speed usually seen in much smaller people.  As he aged, Master Powell was still fluid in his motion, yet evolved his techniques to a more economical use of effort where it didn’t seem that he used his substantial size to his advantage, but instead his to control the space around him.


                   Neither Charles or Steve were authors or industry movers in the worlds of strength training, but both were men that moved others on to great things and served their country with honor and distinction.  Those who knew these two American Heroes are better for having known them.

Senior Chief Petty Officers Charles “C.C” Hubbard and Steve Carlson (USN-RIP)

Both Charles and Steve were highly influential mentors in the early years of my military career and planted the seeds of leadership and management in me that continue to grow.  I, like many others before me am indebted to these two men who served their country with great honor and who’s lives were taken from us far too soon.

I know you guys up there watching out for me, and you are both greatly missed.



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