Most champions follow direct courses to the throne; they master slow accumulations of skill to the top. Most competitors encounter setbacks that de-rail their plans and never win anything.
A rare breed of competitor can flame-out, but still manage to lift themselves out of their own ashes. Kiyoshi Moody burned up, burned out, but he performed the most important lift in bodybuilding. He picked himself off the ground, over and over again.
Kiyoshi's father, John Moody, died when his son was only 9-months old. After his father died, Kiyoshi's mother, Kiyoko Moody, moved her son from Yukosuka, Japan, to the United States in 1971.
His mixed-race heritage (1/2 Japanese, 1/4 quarter African American and 1/4 quarter Native American) elicited prejudice; he didn't wholly fit into any group. After briefly residing in East Point, Georgia, with his father's parents, Moody and his mother made a new home San Diego, California.
A new, active life filled with Little League baseball and basketball consumed much of his childhood. Track and Field and American football eventually became sports ideally-suited to his expanding athletic potential and lean physique. Moody's explosiveness brought athletic achievement and victory. Between his sophomore and senior years, he never once placed outside the top nine at state track meets. He especially excelled in the 100-meter dash.
Moody's senior year proved pivotal for his future sporting direction. He was told by a coach that "curls get the girls" and he quickly took up weight training as an additional activity, to become not only better at his chosen sports, but to appeal to the opposite sex. His physique quickly began to adopt the formidable shape that eventually made him one of the greatest natural bodybuilders.
In his second year of community college, Moody qualified to compete in the 100-meter dash at the Olympic trials. At a track meet one week later, a hamstring injury dashed those Olympic dreams. A series of injuries, which required four knee surgeries, among other procedures, forced him out of track, and then football—which he began playing professionally in 1995 with the Iowa Barnstormers. Once again, injury forced him to change direction.
Moody became a personal trainer and in 1998 he decided to focus solely on his weight-training efforts. He began bodybuilding after a friend (James Stark) convinced him to compete in the ABA Natural Hercules Championships in Corona, California. Moody won the novice and overall titles, an auspicious start for someone who dieted for only three weeks prior to this highly-competitive event.
Since his first contest victory, Moody was accustomed to winning. He claimed the International Natural Bodybuilding Association/Professional Natural Bodybuilding Association Natural Olympia Professional title twice, in 2009 and 2010. He was also a two-time INBA/PNBA Natural Universe champion over the same period. Victories catapulted Moody to superstar status within natural bodybuilding circles. He now has his sights firmly fixed on becoming a 3-time Olympia champ.
His physique is so dense and muscular that many have accused Moody of using steroids to make the tremendous gains throughout his 12-year bodybuilding career. Anyone who experiences success despite the odds will tell you, once you establish yourself as exceptional in your field, it's only a matter of time before people try to pull you down to levels of mediocrity they more readily identify and feel comfortable with. Moody refuses to let such "haters" affect his performance and, instead, uses the claims leveled at him as motivation to become even better.
Moody is known for his fighting spirit. He adopted the moniker "the Samurai" as homage to his Japanese ancestry. The exalted military, warrior class he identifies with serves as a source of inspiration. Moody honors himself, his past through his natural approach to bodybuilding. He conducts his life with a sense of duty and self-sacrifice, especially in contests. These personal standards are requisite under the auspices of the Bushido code, an ethical framework the Samurai were bound by.
Moody's words, workouts and actions mirror the warrior caste's desire for excellence on the battlefield. He plans his nutrition, trains and builds his physique, a specimen with more cuts than may be made by a deftly-wielded samurai sword. He proved that the way of the warrior can be exemplified through the art of bodybuilding.
Moody dealt with many setbacks in his life, but regardless he progressed to heights few may reach. Moody showed that, with patience, fortitude and focus, success will be achieved.
Q. How do you mentally prepare for your training sessions?
Mentally preparing for a workout can sometimes be challenging, because not all days are good days. There are times when I don't sleep well or my body is just plain tired. I'm a big believer in listening to my body during each workout. I try not to think about my workout throughout the day, until I step into the gym.
Sometimes if I need extra motivation while warming up, I watch some training videos on the iPod. But, my fuel comes from knowing other competitors may be working harder than me. I also love pushing the envelope with each workout, aiming to increase my reps, weight or sets. Every training session is a battle within you.
Where do you find the motivation to constantly push yourself to the limit in the hopes of maintaining your position as one of, if not the best natural bodybuilder currently competing?
There are many things that motivate me to keep pushing. These are in no particular order. First, people who say it can't be done drive me to push beyond any limits.
Second, the competitors I compete against (Phillip Ricardo, Mike Waddington, Cleveland Thomas, Panex Pierre) push me to be my best.
Third, I want to make my daughter proud of her dad. She loves talking about me to her classmates and once brought me to show-and-tell.
And fourth, my mother, who passed away five years ago, drives me to be my best. Being an only child, I've always wanted to make my mother proud. I guess you can say I want to be the Ronnie Coleman or Jay Cutler of natural bodybuilding.
What advice would you give someone who wants to build a body like yours but would be considered to have average genetics? How would you motivate them to succeed?
The first thing to remember is that you should never settle for your given potential. We all have limits, but we settle on things before we realize what the human body can actually attain. Patience is the key. You have to be patient and willing to learn and keep an open mind about everything: training, dieting and so on.
I had a good friend tell me back in 1998, "Kiyoshi, your physique will be twice as good when you hit the period between 35-and-40 if you stay patient and don't use any kind of drugs." Back then I said to myself there is no way that would happen. But I decided I would stick with it. 'What do I have to lose?' I thought. The answer was 'nothing.'
I have clients who have average genetics and have done well in competitions. I instruct them to be patient. Keep eating, training and learning about your body and you will achieve your goals.
During those times when you have encountered a sticking point in your training, what have you done to overcome this?
I'm in constant contact with top trainers and competitors within the industry. Getting advice from Derik Farnsworth, Hidetada Yamagishi and Lee Haney as well as Anthony Almada and many others provides me with valuable insights. My mind is always open and willing to listen to others.
My training will vary from sets, reps, DC type training, FST-7. My nutrition is always changing, and I like to try different things when planning my diet. So I will always try different things to get past a sticking point.
When you have experienced a setback, how do you deal with it? What strategies do you employ when faced with adversity?
I have dealt with many setbacks in my life, from having eight knee surgeries, a pectoral tear, ankle fractures, divorce and the two biggest: attempting suicide and my mother passing away. Each setback I've handled differently. In my life growing up, nothing was ever handed to me on a silver platter.
I always had to fight to get something and overcame many obstacles along the way. But I saw and was taught through my mother that things can always be worse and by staying positive you will overcome these obstacles.
The hardest obstacle I had to face was my mother passing away. With no brothers or sisters, I was on my own with no family in sight. I tried to attempt suicide. I blamed myself for my mother's death, thinking something more could have been done by the doctors if I had kept bugging them.
I came to realize I was being selfish and just downright dumb. I have family! My daughter! Not a day goes by that I don't think, "what if I had succeeded in attempting to take my life?" What would my daughter think of me? What would my mother think of me? I realized that by staying positive you can create your own destiny and overcome obstacles. Exactly what my mother was trying to teach me all along.
What kind of mindset is needed to succeed in bodybuilding, especially as a natural competitor, where it is thought that a greater degree of effort must be given when training and dieting?
In this sport of bodybuilding you have to be mentally strong. You must have an open mind and be able to take criticism in either form. The biggest thing is being able to ignore the haters.
Whether you are Jay Cutler, Phil Heath or just the average Joe, if you succeed, people will hate on you. You can't let these things get to you. That's where I turn the negative into a firestorm and go train!
What is your current training strategy?
As of right now I use a 2-day-on/1-day-off split. So it would be something like this:
Day 3: Rest
Days 6 and 7: Rest
Note: ^ = increase weight Cardio is done 3-to-4 times per week for 20-to-30 minutes at a low intensity.
How would you describe your training style?
My training is subject to change at any given time. I will always switch-up the amount of reps and sets I do; I train according to feel. If I'm having a good day, I will go somewhat heavy as long as I can do 6-to-8 reps or more, but if I'm having a bad day then I use lighter weight with a lot of strict form and contractions.
I train with a lot of drop sets on each body part, usually during the last set. My training style would be considered "instinctive." I know the body part I'm working for the day, but not the exercise, reps, sets, rest and time. I go strictly by feel.
What training approach do you feel has given you most of your muscle gains?
I am still learning as I go every day and still continue to learn. This past year I used a lot of the FST-7 training and incorporated some of my own techniques into it. I'm a big believer in listening to your body.
If I feel tired and run down I will take a day or two off from training. That way I don't over train and I avoid injuries. There are times when I even take a week off training.
What is your nutritional approach?
As with my training, I have tried different approaches throughout the years, from high protein/low carbohydrate/low fat, keto, carbohydrate cycling, to high carbohydrates /moderate protein/low fats.
My girlfriend, Julie Ann Kulla, came up with the nutritional approach I use right now. It involves carbohydrate cycling with cheat meals added. We used this approach just toward the end of the season for the Natural Universe and Natural Olympia.
During the year we tried different things. Keep in mind this could change next year because the body changes every year, so we will see what happens then.
High, Medium, And Low Pre-Contest Carb Cycling Approach
- Sunday: Rest day, Low carb
- Monday: Back, High carb
- Tuesday: Shoulders/Legs/Hams, Med carb
- Wednesday: Rest day, Low carb
- Thursday: Chest, Low carb
- Friday: Quads, High carb
- Saturday: Arms, Low carb
Moody's Nutritional Plan: High-Carbohydrate Days
Moody's Nutritional Plan: Medium-Carbohydrate Days
Moody's Nutritional Plan: Low-Carbohydrate Days
Do you feel that natural bodybuilders must work harder and plan better than someone who takes chemicals to achieve bodybuilding success?
No, whether you use chemicals or not, there is still a lot of work to be done to get ready for a competition. The dieting is pretty much the same, training sessions, cardio … the whole prep in general.
To me, the only difference is the size game: someone who is chemically enhanced is fuller, harder and bigger, but they work just as hard. We are no different. The hard part about being a natural bodybuilder is learning about your body over a long period of time.
When dieting down for a show, I see a lot of competitors lose size, especially being natural. You must really learn about how your body works in relation to how to maintain size while dieting down, whether it's the amount of food you consume, your training, your cardio. You have to go with what works for you.
I've learned how to keep my size while dieting down for a competition and my conditioning is getting better. It's still not where I want it to be, but it's getting there.
What would you consider to be the major benefits associated with being a natural bodybuilder?
First and foremost there are the health benefits. I believe you will live longer and have a healthy life. Second, you inspire people who look up to you, especially younger generations. Your longevity in the sport might also be greater. Most competitors who are not natural don't compete into their 40s and 50s.
Only a handful of these compete into their 40s. Among natural competitors, you have multitudes whom compete well into their 60s, 70s and even 80s.
What are your current competition goals?
I just won my second consecutive Natural Universe and Natural Olympia titles. For the upcoming season my main goal is to win the Natural Olympia title again to make it my third.
My long term goal—perhaps over the next five years—is to compete in the NPC Team Universe competition one more time and win that IFBB Pro card, but that's a maybe. As of right now I'm enjoying competing in the INBA and IFPA.
You appear to be getting better the longer you compete. For how long do you feel you will continue to compete?
With each year that passes I learn more and more about my body: the way it responds to different training methods, nutritional consumption, cardio workouts and so on. I just turned 40-years young and I still believe I have a good amount of time in this sport.
Two guys I really look up to in this sport are over 40: Chris Faildo and Dave Goodin. Both of them still look unbelievable. I can't say how long I will continue competing because I love competition. But I know I won't be retiring anytime soon. I'm having fun beating these younger guys! This coming year will be my first time competing in a masters show.
What advice would you give to young competitors who feel they will only succeed if they take bodybuilding drugs?
Just because you take drugs doesn't mean you will be a great bodybuilder. You have to build a foundation. Lay each brick one at a time.
Be patient and learn and build your body; you only have one chance at life and only one body. If you take care of your body it will take care of you.
When your career is over, how would you like to be remembered?
As someone who is willing to help another individual much the same way people helped me a long time ago. Also, I would like to be remembered as one who never shies away from competition, whether the competition is enhanced or not.