I first came here with the US Air Force living a very different life to the one I now live
as a civilian. So much was done for you. For example we used to receive what we called
"rip-sheets"?slips of paper generated by the computer giving us instructions
like, "You' be at the dentist on Tuesday at two o'clock. You'll be here Wednesday
at five o'clock" things like that. That kind of lifestyle doesn't allow a person a
lot of room for self-growth and the motivating factor for most people is just getting your
next stripe. I was fortunate in that I had a lot of success in the air force, careerwise
and with athletics, and achieved more than most, but I knew there was more and that really
motivated to do well in civilian life too.
Coming out of the air force into civilian life was a real shock; completely different.
I knew nobody?I had a girlfriend, but other than that I didn't know anybody?I didn't know
the language and I didn't know the customs. But what I did have were two things that
nobody could take away fro me: desire and heart, and I believe that if you have the
desire, then you will do whatever, wherever, whenever to get a job done.
I've always known that my life would revolve around sports, athletics and fitness but I
was never sure in what capacity. Obviously, fourteen years ago I didn't know half of what
I know now and I've had to study a lot, but I knew where I wanted to go and I knew that I
wanted to be successful. I love working with people, so that was a contributing factor in
deciding what I wanted to do, and also, while I may have a physique that's muscular, I
wanted to destroy that stereotype that says, because you have muscles you have the IQ of
plant life or you chase parked cars or something. To get where I am today I have had to
maintain a positive outlook throughout, and this, in my opinion, is the most important
thing in ensuring success.
I would say that in the time I've been in Japan, and really we're talking about the ten
years since I left the air force, there have been quite a few changes, though many are so
gradual that you barely notice them. I've mostly been involved in the fitness industry and
I've seen some changes there, many of which are negative. Also in the sports world there
used to be a lot of backward thinking about training; the coaches had an attitude that was
like, "Well, we did it like this, so you're going to do it like this" but some
of the younger athletes perhaps are more open to new ideas and that's maybe true in
The best thing about living in Japan is...sushi without wasabi. No, for me in terms of
business, it's been the opportunity to excel and be a real catalyst in the fitness world.
But if I could change one thing about life here then, without a doubt, I would pass a law
that would make it illegal to smoke in restaurants and public places. They did it in
California and I see no reason why they shouldn't do it here.
As for the future, well, I'm going to set up a very scientific high tech state of the
art fitness company here. I'm going to be linking up with hospitals and sports programs
and things like that and then setting up my own little private physical therapy and
kinesiology place within the Riviera Club. Of course I want to continue being successful
in business, but my strongest desire is to help people and be the absolute best
kinesiologist and strength and conditioning coach that I can be.
Jeff Libengood can be contacted at the Riviera Club in Minami-Aoyama. Call 3746-3330.
Jeff Libengood spoke to Richard James.
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