Article > Mitch’s World

Mitch Schneider: Martial Arts Helps Me in the Automotive Aftermarket

By Mitch Schneider

The more you are able to anticipate the unexpected, the more you are able to simulate the impossible, the more likely you are to survive if the fates conspire against you and you find yourself in a compromising situation.
Mitch Schneider
Class ended. I bowed and backed off the mat, not because it was required, but because I wanted to. My daughter followed my lead.

Old habits die hard…

It had been a great workout — intense, challenging, very physical and with a lot of contact. I struggled with my gloves, placed them back in the bag, finished off the last of my water and tried to recall my first encounter with what is now loosely known as Martial Arts. I think it was an episode of, “Have Gun, Will Travel” with Richard Boone, somewhere between 1957 and 1963. 

The first time I actually witnessed the power and the grace of Japanese Martial Arts for myself was late in 1962. I watched in awe as students sparred, performed combinations, Kata, and shattered stacks of boards and bricks to demonstrate the connection between mind, body, practice, spirit and skill. This was followed by a demonstration of Aikido that I still have trouble describing today having personally witnessed things I know to be impossible.

The drills took place with a passion and intensity I had never witnessed before — faster and harder than anything I had ever seen. It took almost 20 years from that moment for me to begin my own journey, and despite the fact that finding the time or the resources has always been a challenge, it is a passion I have pursued through four styles and for more than 25 years.

Someone once suggested that they learned everything they needed to know about life in kindergarten. I wasn’t paying attention or I wasn’t that lucky. However, I did learn just about everything I have ever needed to know about life and living in Boot Camp, or on the mat. And both were and are focused on martial skills. I learned practice and perseverance, discipline and determination, patience, self-control and situational awareness. But, most of all, I learned the importance of anticipation, preparation, conditioning, and real-world simulation.

I learned the more you are able to anticipate the unexpected, the more you are able to simulate the impossible, the more likely you are to survive if the fates conspire against you and you find yourself in a compromising situation. I learned the harder you work in the studio and on the mat, the more likely you are to prevail when you are outside the studio as well.

The first three disciplines I studied were traditional in most respects. The one I am involved with now is not. The first three depended a great deal on ritualized combat, form and forms. The one I am involved with now is focused almost entirely on contact and function. The first three were deeply philosophical and certainly more esoteric, while the current style is infinitely more practical, more visceral and elegantly simple. In many ways, it is everything I have ever learned, distilled until nothing is left but the essence.

I’ve taken most of these lessons and tried to implement them in our business, especially the ones dealing with forms – what you do and the way you do it. Only we call it process, policies and procedures or systems. If you look closely there isn’t much difference.

I’ve tried to create an environment in which the art of what we do in automotive service is enhanced by the structure we have created to facilitate doing it.

But, most of all, I have tried to anticipate and allow for the infinite variations that can occur in business, the service bays or on the counter the same way I would on the street or in the studio, by combining situational awareness and experience with hard work, constant practice, meticulous attention to detail and quick and decisive action.
The more I apply the lessons I’ve learned and my own instincts, the more they seem to work.

I noticed something the other day, something profound. The suppliers I depend on most may not have a Martial Arts background, but they appear to have learned the same lessons and mastered the same disciplines. They do all the same things all of their competitors are doing, they just do it harder, faster, and, for the most part, better. It’s almost as if they understand that business, and, maybe even normal life, is as close to combat as you can get without dodging bullets, or punches.

If we’ve learned nothing else from the past few months we should have learned that life is a long, dark, alley filled with shadowy corners and some very real and scary threats. I’ve learned a number of lessons after years of training and a lifetime of just hanging out: predators will always attack the weak before being forced to deal with the strong. It’s easier to deal with a potential threat you are prepared for that never materializes than it is to deal with a crisis that creeps up on you and catches you unaware. It is safer to travel in the company of like-minded individuals who are disciplined enough to prepare and awake enough to be aware than it is to travel alone or with an army of sleep-walkers. It isn’t practice that makes perfect. It’s “perfect” practice that makes perfect.

Mitch Schneider co-owns and operates Schneider’s Automotive Service in Simi Valley, CA. Readers can contact him at

  Previous Comments
avatar   BIG GREEN MONSTA   star   3/4/2010   11:59 AM


avatar   Bones   star   2/5/2010   3:27 PM

So basically, if you send the wrong parts to Mitch's shop, he won't complain, he'll just judo chop the sh*t out of you.

avatar   DAVE   star   1/22/2010   1:13 PM

4 words for ya you tube hillbilly ninja

avatar   james   star   12/24/2009   12:23 PM

Like the late, great Bruce Lee says. " Why break boards, boards dont hit back." If you gonna fight, do it right.

avatar   jim   star   12/23/2009   6:24 PM

good, daniel san.

avatar   Kenny   star   11/30/2009   4:26 PM

Wax on, wax off.

avatar   Jerry   star   11/14/2009   4:44 PM

As usual, most people don't get it. Martial Arts isn't really about the fighting (as evidenced by the number of Martial Artists who have actually had to use their lessons outside of class.) Martial Arts is, like Mitch said, about what it takes to live life. Disipline is required to become good at anything you do, not just martial arts.

avatar   Mr Ed   star   10/30/2009   11:12 AM

Tom, speak for yourself. I for one have discovered a cure for breast cancer and share it every chance I get. As for landing planes on Battleships, duh! You can't land a plane on a battleship, only aircraft carriers silly. Finally, what exactly do you have against Ninjas? They have a relatively healthy life style, except for when they attack samurai, and their dresscode is way more awesome than Autozones, or Federated's. So back off, big boy, before you get a visit from the Yakuza's henchmen.

avatar   tom   star   10/29/2009   5:16 PM

we work in the automotive field guys remember? i'm not trying to belittle anyone , but we are not trying to cure cancer , land planes on battle ships or battle a bunch of ninjas

avatar   dan   star   10/29/2009   9:35 AM

you really can't be serious mitch .

avatar   Corey   star   10/27/2009   4:11 PM

Collecting PokeMon cards does not make you a martial arts expert. Please get over yourself.

avatar   Kip Dynamite   star   10/22/2009   11:28 AM

As soon as I can get Napoleon to pull me down to the training center, I'll be ready for you Mitch. I'm training to be a cage fighter you know. And I've got my new thug look going on too. Luhwanduh says hi.

avatar   Kimbo Slice   star   10/12/2009   12:38 PM

Oh no Mitch you have to go through me to get to Brock and you dont have a snowballs chance little man.

avatar   Chris   star   9/24/2009   10:18 AM

Sounds like Mitch is ready to join the MMA world!!! I'm waiting for the "Mitch vs. Brock Lesnar" fight card.

avatar   Wolfe   star   9/5/2009   3:24 PM

Perfect practice can not make perfect, for two reasons. First, you are practicing to become perfect. Thus why they say, "practice makes perfect." Second, if "perfect practice makes perfect," than why are you practicing? If your practice is perfect, there is no longer a need to practice. And John, if one person is off, so are you, right into the ocean.

avatar   Eric   star   8/28/2009   5:25 PM

All of this just brings to mind something my mother always told me. She said "what ever your hand sets to do do it with all your might". I believe she got it from the bible. That and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you combine both of these statements you should be alright.

avatar   GARY   star   8/26/2009   3:43 PM


avatar   Ed   star   8/21/2009   1:47 PM

John, depends on their rank. ;)

avatar   JOHN ROSALIS   star   8/17/2009   2:25 PM

my analogy is being able to land an airplane. i think of the aircraft carriers and all of the people that work together to make it happen. what happens if one person is off ?

avatar   Cliff    star   8/14/2009   2:45 PM

i like how you say that the "perfect" practice makes perfect thats true in martial arts and automotive. As someone who takes martial arts and self defense classes, i dont do either as a wake to defend myself or a way to get a paycheck, Both my martial arts and working at oreilly or passions of mine not just something i feel obligated to do . Very inspiration story Mitch.

avatar   Ed   star   8/13/2009   2:43 PM

Guess its good for those surprise ninja attacks. Mitch, what you are seeing is the difference between those who have a job and those who have a career. Those who have a job work week to week for that paycheck, they operate in autopilot, going through the necessary motions. Those who have a career are wide awake, looking around to see what can make their box the best box on the block and more than just look, they act on it.

avatar   tom   star   8/11/2009   5:30 PM

i think you're running out of things to talk about mitch .

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