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Jay Barrios is Fighting for a Brighter Future

12/30/2016 11:31AM ● Published by David Norby

Jay Barrios and Paloma

It’s a story that could have inspired The Karate Kid. Jay Barrios was a disadvantaged, small kid in a dysfunctional home, struggling in school, and unable to defend himself in a place where the weak were preyed upon. One day, a group of three older kids were bullying him when a man intervened and set him on a new path. “He dusted me off and offered to teach me martial arts, so I could protect myself,” Barrios says. “When I told him I had no money to pay him, he said, ‘When you want to stop learning, I’ll stop teaching.’”
Sarah and Alexis

 

Today, Barrios is a pastor and the CEO of InspiredWarrior, an organization—open to everyone regardless of religion, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity or gender—that helps people build strength, self-confidence and community through martial arts, physical fitness, and emotional and spiritual wellness.

It wasn’t an easy path. Along the way, Barrios served in the army and later was a police officer, where he says he was a good cop, but was also “all cop,” and nearly lost his family as a result. He knew he needed to change, but as someone who only knew how to be a cop and a soldier, he found himself in a deep personal crisis.

“One day, I saw a church off the highway and wandered in,” Barrios says. “It got me praying. I’d always felt called to help change people’s lives, but I wasn’t doing that as a cop. I thought back to the man who’d mentored me and the impact he’d had on my life, and I knew what I had to do.” 

Divine intervention restored his family, and with his wife’s support he set out to create InspiredWarrior, which—after a lot of hard and humbling work—opened in 2011. Nowadays, he works with 20-30 kids and adults at any given time, with an all-volunteer staff of teachers and trainers.  

Why martial arts? It certainly isn’t about teaching kids to hurt each other. “My mentor told me hurting people is easy, and that if I wanted to truly be great, I first needed to learn how to heal people,” Barrios says. “Martial arts attracts people, and the more you train, the more reverence you gain for human life and your fellow man.”

Sarah, Jacob and Alexis

 And why the gospel? When Barrios prayed in that church off the highway, he said if God could restore his family, he would teach and preach God’s word to anyone who wanted to hear it, while loving and respecting anyone who did not.  

“Our culture is riddled by the social decay of isolation, depression, violence, obesity and substance abuse, and InspiredWarrior was created to rise to this challenge,” Barrios says. “Our hope is for everyone to experience life in all its fullness and to see the promises of God fulfilled in their lives.”  

Article by Bill Romanelli // photos by DANTE FONTANA

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