Tchicaya Missamou, once a child soldier in the Republic of Congo, is now helping hundreds of Americans shape up in his Warrior Fitness Camp in California, CNN reports.
As a child in the Republic of Congo, Missamou was taught brutality and forced to participate in taking lives. Later, he joined the country's elite military force. To avoid fighting, he began a private security militia that helped white families flee during the Republic of Congo's civil war in 1997, though even his own men turned against him and brutalized his family, setting fire to their home while some were still inside. Missamou managed to escape and fled to the United States.
Missamou quickly joined the U.S. military and was soon leading men into battle in Iraq. After eight years of service and a harrowing return to the Republic of Congo that landed him in jail there, Missamou opened his gym, offering "warrior" classes to help Americans shed pounds and gain self-confidence.
"You're going to see them rolling, sweating, and crying," he told CNN. His tough training style includes spraying clients with water as they don a full military pack and pull dollies piled with tractor tires. "My workout is a mind game," he says, "because I believe when your mind is strong, your body will be strong."
Missamou, who recently published his memoir In the Shadow of Freedom, also lectures around the country on the plight of child soldiers in Africa, CNN says. "All my life, I lived in the shadow of freedom," he told CNN. Now, "I am not dreaming freedom. I am living freedom."