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I am grateful early on, I learned the art of decision.

Decision is one of the most powerful action words known to man.

By mere decision, you align thought and possibility that an invoke an energy of action behind you like never before.

When I decided at an early age to pursue my passion of basketball, it truly opened my world and my family to a life of adventure.

I’ve seen the world. I’ve impacted numerous of lives so many I can no longer count. And still wake up excited about life and the journey ahead because it was and still is centered around a decision to follow my passion.

Nonetheless, with basketball I discovered new paths of interests - new decisions.

One of them getting my black belt in Karate.

But, what else could I go after?

This was the next question to myself.

What came to my mind blew me away and that was, “Why not go for your second degree black belt?”

This is a goal that requires commitment no matter at what stage of life you are in; however, being in my 50’s made me question my ability to achieve this goal.

As with any endeavor there is always someone who is better than you and you can try to emulate, and aspire to be like them which will benefit and inspire you.

Or you can try to compare yourself and quickly see your inspiration dissipate as you realize that you are unable to do what they can do?

All of this change with the mighty power of me simply deciding, “I am going to pursue my second degree black belt.”

The Decision

The preparation for this Black Belt began with the decision to do it, which was over a year ago when I was living in Japan. I had to decide that I was going to do this and then keep my word to myself, to honor my agreement to myself.

Then I had to see if I had the physical abilities and internal drive to do this. So, I decided on my off days of coaching to undertake several physical activities that I knew would challenge me to see if I wanted to do this: the 4x4x48 hour challenge that I did while in Japan was one.

Then upon coming back to USA, waking up at 4:30am and getting out on my bike at 5:30am and cycle 160 miles per week.

The Setbacks

I had a set back as I contracted COVID-19 and had to take the additional days of quarantine to make sure that everyone that I came in contact with had confidence in seeing me again. Then do my Black Belt classes 2 times per week and as I got closer to my test date, to up that to 5 days of Karate training.

The Art of Control

Regardless of the obstacles and challenges that came my way in my decision, I didn’t allow that to shift me. I focused on the things I could control which was my training, my discipline, my attitude and most of all, my effort.

What was not in my control was how Sensei Rick Manos, Sensei Brendon Butler, Sensei Tony Watterson, who would sit in judgement of my karate efforts.


The world events around me.

A Day of Reckoning

Prior to taking this test and in preparation I am certain that all of us heard from that voice inside of us wondering if we were good enough, would the judges think that we would be worthy? Then at the same time those that we wanted to hear from give us a word or two of encouragement to provide us with that added support would come at the right time for each of us, whether it was our friends, a child of ours, a parent, a spouse, or a sibling.

Those words would provide us with fuel. It sure did for me because on October 24, 2020, I successfully passed my test for Nidan rank in Karate which is known as the 2nd degree on your Black Belt.

Becoming a Nidan 2nd Degree Black Belt is an added bonus and there are so many lessons I have learned?

Many of which I have been imparting on my players for years now as a coach:

  • Find ways to enjoy the journey.

  • Learn about yourself along the way.

  • Discover inspiration from music, books, movies, nature, and people.

  • Laugh, cry and think deeply about something.

  • Don’t compare yourself to others as you will only be happy with your own effort and attitude toward your endeavor.

It’s More than a Belt - It was a Decision

At the end of the day, I will have been more than just the belt that I wear.

I live by the same words I give my teams: Kaizen.

It is a Japanese word that means to keep improving day by day.

Have a continuous and never-ending improvement attitude and live my life without regrets by giving my best effort and having my best attitude.

I can live with the results.

What about you?

What are you able to live with?

What are you wanting to achieve?

Know that every answer comes with a decision and I encourage you to decide today, decide tomorrow and keep deciding until you take your last breath. It will make life a rich experience worth waking up to no matter what.


Did you know enjoy the story I shared about my experience with COVID-19 and getting my blackbelt?

If so, check out my new book, Take Your Shot, Make Your Play, where I highlight 9 keys to finding true success on and off the court.

About Me, John Saintignon

Thank you for reading my story!

My passion for basketball has led me to being one of the leading figures in the sport for a long time.

I played college ball at the University of California, Santa Cruz where I am the All-Time Leading Scorer in University history and led the entire United States NCAA college basketball with a Scoring title, leading the nation in scoring in 1985-86 averaging 31.2 points per game. I am still the University of California-Santa Cruz's all time leading scorer.

But my passion didn’t end there, I have spent years as a professional FIBA coach coaching professional teams all around the world and even be a scout for the NBA.

Passion can take you far, for me it took me all over the world. I share my journey so it can be a light to yours to take your shot in life and make your play!


Now its time to write your story: take your shot and make your play!

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