Glenn Small

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Glenn Small

  Meet Glenn Small

Visions in Reality – Coach/Trainer

By: Tommy Jennings & Reis Tralon



Photo By – Adam Ghahate

From Mullins SC, came to San Diego 1979. POP, 5000

Tobacco farming was the major industry in Mullins.  When we spoke with Glenn about his hometown, he spoke about working on the tobacco farms at the age of eight.


Photo by – Rachel Ingra


Photo by – Rachel Ingra

“I didn’t like a lot about it.  What I did like about it was that it taught the values of working hard.  It taught me how to really appreciate life and what it takes to for a lot of people, especially down there, how much they have to sacrifice in order to make a living.  What I didn’t like about it was that it was extremely hard work.  Sometimes it got 90 – 100 degrees in the fields during the mid summers with 100% humidity, when you had to harvest the tobacco.  When you hung the tobacco in the back of the tobacco barn it got up to 120 degrees. The hours were sun up to sun down, even at eight years old. They did not have child labor laws back then (as he gives a slight sarcastic chuckle). My parents were simple folks.  I grew up with my grand parents who mostly farmed.  My mother became a beautician; I didn’t really know my dad until I was 30.  He was also a Navy veteran.  He was in the fishing business and grew a very successful business and we reconnected.  Today we have a great relationship but it was still a hole in my heart growing up without my father.”


Photo by – Rachel Ingra

“I miss the simplicity of Mullins.  That is what makes up a huge part of my character and grounding.  The people are pretty much very simple in the way they think, in the way they live and survive.  That is great in some aspects but in others it is really hard to do something big in the world because their thinking was not big back then.  Growing up was pretty rough in a small town.  I saw a lot of violence while growing up and personally witnessed it.  Of course I grew up in the 60s & 70s and of course the way people thought was different than it is now. How do I say this… I grew during the time of the MLK Jr. era and saw a lot of violence on both sides. The violence I saw was not racial, it was more out of stupidity. When you grow up in a small town there’s not a whole lot to do other than fish, drink, fight (laughs as he omits the saying the last 4 letter word) get into trouble.  As a matter of fact a lot of the guys I grew up with didn’t survive or not alive”


Photo by – Rachel Ingra

“We have a long lineage in our family in serving in the military for our country.  First and foremost I am proud of my son for doing the same thing.  I don’t think most people understand the sacrifices, not just the men and women who are over there serving but what the families back home that have to suffer and sacrifice. I left at the age of 18 to join the US Navy two weeks out of high school.  In a since,I needed to get out and away from my immediate environment. I spent 4 years on the boat while serving in the Navy.  What I liked about it, it gave me a chance to grow up, see things and do things that most people will never do in a lifetime”.  When asked did you like the life on the boat or land… “Well you don’t get to see the world on land.  So it was hard work and was six hours on and six hours off or eight hours on and eight hours off and sometime you don’t know what day it was. But it was a good character builder and like I said, I had the opportunity to and see things most people would never have the chance to see or do.”


Photo by – Rachel Ingra

My Passions…”Well When I got involved in martial arts because I had a passion for it. There was something about it that always intrigued me.  When I was growing up since the age of 5 I had Bruce Lee and Arnold Schwarzenegger all over my bedroom wall, which was fascinating to me. When you grow up in a small town there are not very many things that are fascinating.  What I saw was how most people grow up with simple goals and aspirations.  I felt in my heart that there was something out there bigger for me.  I knew there was something special I had inside of me that I need to get out and explore.  So I sought out to get more involved in the life and world of martial arts.  For me it was to fill 2 voids; 1-My love for martial arts. I knew martial arts would rid me of my  insecurities and 2 – not worry about getting beat up.  I got into the arts prior to the military and did more training while I was in but didn’t really focus on it until I got out.  I promised myself that once I got out I dedicate 3 months to do nothing but train. I was fortunate to find a teacher that saw my desire to train.  So within 6-8 months he offered me a percentage of the school he owned and I took it.  The first school was in the North Park area for about a year.  Then we opened up another location together in the Kearny Mesa.  We had that school for 12 years, then added another location in Tierrasanta.  Within 5 years we added another in Clairmont Mesa, which we ran for 3 years.  During that time I was managing other schools from 1982 – 1998″.

Today…”The arts have definitely changed since the Bruce Lee era. His legacy in the arts will never go away.  There was more focus on the traditional methods of training back then but today you have MMA (mixed martial arts), which is good to a certain point. I think the art has transformed. There are a lot of traditional arts still out there.  When I was at the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame, there was a teacher there from Korea that has over 8000 schools worldwide, that has not altered from the tradition.  My style I started with was Kempo and Juijitsu”.


Photo by – Rachel Ingra

An Honor Well Deserved…”I was recently inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame.  It was totally unexpected and it feels awesome.  I did not ask to be inducted.  It took me by surprise but it is an honor to be considered and accepted in to the Hall Of Fame.   It is a culmination of all the work I done in the arts.  The USA Martials Arts Hall of Fame is a national organization but gathers international inductees from Korea, China, Philippines, Japan and a lot of local home grown talent. The USA Martials Arts Hall of Fame featured training, teaching, coaching and mentoring, while to recognize the inductees for this year.  The Israeli Self Defense Tactic team was at the event to display the way they train and tactics.  As you know they are some of the best-trained forces in the world for obvious reasons.  So their tactics are very extreme. They were one of many talents that were there.  I can name master after master after master that was there that were extremely talented and been around for many of years.  And speaking of Bruce Lee, our lineage, just a couple of teachers down from his school and style of training. As far as some of the styles I worked in Jui Kon Do and so forth were direct lineage to Bruce Lee”.

When asked about competing and how good he was.


Photo by – Rachel Ingra

He replies, “I was the best” and gives a hearty laugh.  “I competed for 10 years in full contact and point fighting. I was also a judge 12 years. How good was I…I would say that fighting within arts was really my focus.  Of course there were a lot of other forms and techniques out there but I loved getting into the ring.  That was what really drove me.  As a matter of fact I remember going to an international competition and taking first place as a brown belt. How would you fare in todays competitions?…The difference between full contact and MMA is, MMA is a game of no rules. With full contact there are rules.  Just like in boxing there are rules but it can still be very brutal. If I were in MMA today I think my focus and fundamentals would still be the same. If you apply traditional fundamentals, you can still compete, but those guys are really talented, they’re good martial artist they’re great athletes. It’s just a matter of adapting that’s all”.


Photo by – Rachel Ingra

“Martial Arts have helped me focused, be disciplined, how to work hard, respect, and honor.  I think Martial Arts is one of the best self-confidence builders there is.  I’ve had students that have had many challenges. I worked with head injury organization in San Diego, I had a blind student who received a 2nd degree black belt, I’ve worked with children as well.  A lot of teachers don’t work with children because it takes a lot of patience but I really enjoy watching a child’s confidence grow.  I remember working with a child that had very low self-esteem, insecure and could not look at you in the face.  He would grunt as a way to communicate.  By the time he left he had gained so much self-confidence, he became  a black belt and eventfully joined the Naval Academy to became a US Naval officer”.

Career Change.


Photo By – Adam Ghahate

“Martial Arts taught me about being a part of something bigger than yourself…meaning that through serving others, that’s the greatest gift God can give you.  I think that is what he put us all here for. We serve in different ways whether it be through our church community or other organizations. For me, the years I was involved in martials arts helped me become a better person by helping others. Today the same thing goes when helping my clients to achieve their financial goals, whatever they are.  Sending their kids to college, retirement, get out of debt or save more money.  This is a part of my mid-calling, not my final calling.  After a few months of being in the financial services industry, this was something not only that I could do but, it was something I could excel in and help people in the process.  I like the fact that it was also helping me financially.  Not so much as just making the money aspect of, event though I like making the money, but getting your own financial house in order.  I tell people that the two worst things that will come from what we do here is you’ll get a great education and you’ll get your financial house in order. If you look at most Americans today, they’re in trouble.  For 30 years we had a great stock market, a great bond market, real estate market.  Everything was on cruise control. But in 2001, people lost 50% or more of their assets.  In 2008 something horrific happened.  Not only did the stock market go down, but so did the real estate and bond market at the same time.  That’s never ever ever happened before in the history of our country.  So if people don’t wake up, (and a lot of people have already), if they don’t focus on getting their financial house in order and getting an education, it will be like something I call playing the money game… learn to play it or don’t expect to win it.  I find it troubling that most people don’t take the necessary steps to get their financial house in order. You can no longer just stick your head, in the you know where, and come out smelling like a rose. It’s troubling and sad that many families are going to suffer.  Not only are they going to suffer but also their children and grand children are going to suffer because what we do today is leaving a legacy for tomorrow.  I think more people are starting to pay attention because of what has happened in the last 10 years to the stock market and to their home.  We’ve had the worst scenario in America and it literally hit home with people losing their homes, income, and retirement and if they were in the stock market, their portfolio took a big hit.  I do believe that it was truly a wake up call and people are paying attention. There are a lot of people who are still sleeping but I feel it is important for me to get out and spread the word. Again it goes back to the fundamentals.  Whether it’s the arts or whether it’s in finance the principle are all about the basics.  Don’t spend more than what you make and  save 10% of what you earn.


Photo by – Rachel Ingra

There are a financial planners out there that will tell you that they will do a better job in managing your money.  That is the typical sales pitch and that is not a good reason to move your money. If they can’t give you more options more flexibility or more benefits than what you currently have, then then why make any changes. You have to have a good working relationship of trust and integrity, which is the most important thing I was taught when entering into financial planning.  Also, if you don’t have a plan, it’s simple ‘You Need To Get One”.  There are plenty of good advisors out there and there are some that have different options.  There are those who recommend going to a fee-based advisor, which is not always the best. If you cannot afford a fee-based advisor or see the value, there are financial planners out there  that can help you whether you have no money, a little money or a lot of money, it is important to have a plan”.

Family is everything. “That is why I enjoy working for WFG/TransAmerica.  Being in this business has allowed my kids to have a chance to witness first hand how managing and preparing for your financial future, can have an affect on your day to day living.  It is not often you can be in business with your family and be able to share with them the gift of preparing and planning your family’s legacy.  Families should sit down and talk finance together.  One of the things I’ve had all my kids prepare for from day one is; 1) you’re going to work part time even if your going to school and 2) you’re going to save a portion of the money you make. Its like, how do I say this..You’re building habits .  It’s the same principle you learn and implement in martial arts, you’re building habits so that it becomes a natural reaction.  Kinda like a martial arts move and someone ask ..How did you do that?  Well I’ve done it a thousand times. Those habits are what causes you to take action in your life to do the right thing. The same things are true with financial habits.

I’m blessed that I have a great family and I have great kids and they are practicing good habits.  I am also blessed to be able to help others change their habits and change their lives”.

       Glenn Small

  • Financial Advisor – WFG/TransAmerica
  • US Martial Arts Hall Of Fame – 2013 Inductee

Photographer – Adam Ghahate

Contributing Photographer – Rachel Ingra

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