Jimmy’s Journey to Black Belt

When Jimmy McCarthy, business analyst coordinator at Optum, turned 40, he wanted to do something big. After stumbling across a kickboxing for beginners class in a martial arts school near his office, he set out to earn his black belt.

“My first night walking into class was daunting,” Jimmy said. “I understand how difficult it is for anyone taking that first step. It’s a huge psychological step. I kept thinking, ‘If I reached my goal, what would my mental and physical health be like?’”

After years of training, rigorous testing and achieving up to his brown belt, self-doubt began to creep in and derail him from his goal. He began making excuses to skip training, and this carried on for months.

“My fitness levels dropped and my weight increased, and I was taking a lethargic feeling and negative attitude into work. During this low-point of self-pity, I was also told my cholesterol level had risen dramatically and may need medication treatment,” Jimmy said. “I was annoyed with myself.”

A timely text from Jimmy’s martial arts instructor reminding him how far he’d come set him back on track to meet his black belt goal. He returned to kickboxing right away, but his health had suffered. He created short-term goals: 1) no cholesterol medication and 2) lose weight and feel better mentally and physically. He believes that to conquer a big, long-term goal, everyone should set small goals to reach along the way.

After two years at this pace, Jimmy was one of four selected from his club to test for his black belt in Ireland. He trained up to six hours per day, including sparring against world and European kickboxing champions, while working full-time and spending time with his family.

“’No matter how tough it gets, do not give up.’ I could hear my coach’s words in my head through the six-hour test,” Jimmy said. “After only 15 minutes, we were all exhausted, wondering how we would last another five hours and 45 minutes.”

Jimmy earned his black belt that day in Ireland. He describes the moment he embraced his wife and three daughters as filled with physical and mental exhaustion and elation.

“I am so extremely passionate about exercising and the positive effects it has on your body and mind no matter what age you are. It completely changes your outlook on life for the better,” Jimmy said.

Jimmy now hosts a boot camp and says his joy comes from seeing others benefit from exercise and experiencing “the buzz” they get from pushing themselves. He believes there is no better way to give back than to help people reach their wellbeing goals.

Jimmy working on his skills in a training session.

Jimmy in a sparring session.

Jimmy catches his breath in the gym.

Jimmy after his black belt presenation.

Martial arts instructor Tommy McCafferty and Jimmy McCarthy (L) after receiving his black belt.