Chapter 1: Intro
Hey, I'm David Kim or better known as Battle Driven. I never did a proper introduction of who i am, or what I'm really about, and that really stemmed from the fact that i wasn't really sure myself. To put it in perspective, It's been over a year since i began this blog and i still haven't updated my "About Me" page, haha. Sure, i write every once in awhile and i love documenting memories through photography, but a person's hobbies and interests doesn't completely define them, and i don't think it should. So where do i start? Honestly, I'm still asking myself who i am, and this personal post was never going to happen, but I'm ready to share. For better or worse, I've been going back and forth about this for over six months, so hopefully the very few that actually reads the things i have to say, can get a better understanding of me; the awkward kid that literally came out of no where and nudged himself into the "race" community.
Even though literally no one in my family gave two-shits about cars other than being a tool to get to point A to point B, i was always fascinated by cars. Yes, even before the first Fast and The Furious movie hit the masses by storm. I always had a hot wheel, or a RC car, or ran around like an idiot pretending to be driving in my elementary class. I was that annoying little brother or cousin that would steal someone's allowance to buy a model race car. Which I think was based off a Korean anime from back in the day, think Speed Racer but way fucking cooler, but i digress because I can't remember the name to save my life. Fast forward to my late teens and early twenties and as interests had come and gone, cars was still my biggest interest. Unfortunately though, i never really did anything with cars. No one in my circle had any interest in cars, car culture, or racing. So i just did what all my friends did back then: ditch classes, party, do "illegal" things, and act like a moron. Of course, that ultimately led me to get kicked out of high school and constantly get stuck on the wrong side of the law. Don't worry though, i eventually earned my GED and currently pursuing my first degree in Cal. State Fullerton, and the only side of the law i see myself now is waving "hey" with a smirk on my face.. little do they know...
To save you some boredom, because I'm really not that interesting of a person, let's fast forward again.
Chapter 2: Brother-In-Law
I get home from work one day and see the coolest rice rocket known to mankind parked on my mom's driveway, a blue Honda CRX. It was my sister's boyfriend, and now husband's, little menace to society on four wheels. Yea i gave him a little shit for it in the beginning, but i secretly really loved it. P.S. he eventually traded the CRX for the EG pictured above. Also, if you didn't know, i grew up very much disliking Hondas. Nissans, hell yes. Toyotas and Mazdas, i fuck with it. Hondas, what a joke. Luckily, I'm a believer now, and all the credit for that goes to my brother Andrew. He introduced me to the "other side" of Hondas that i didn't regularly see in the streets. Anyway, there i was in my mid twenties with my first official "car friend" who ended up being my brother-in-law. The thirst to mod was as real as it could get, and after a few months, i picked up my first official project car. A 1998 Honda Civic EX Coupe in perfect stock condition. The owner sold it to me for a steal because it had overheating issues from a broken thermostat, and he was completely oblivious to the easy fix. I came up.
I quickly began dissecting the car and restlessly reading through forums and Honda manuals, because at that point, i never really worked on a car before. Knowledge was power and the more i learned, the more i started taking my car apart, and the more i took it apart, the more i finally began understanding why i love cars; It was really.. really.. fun. I wasn't just a weird outsider kid that loved something that no one else did. I was a normal "car guy" surrounded by a bunch of weird, basic, people. After i sanded my first block and fixed a warped head gasket, yes sanded with sand paper, i threw on my first aftermarket steering wheel and drove the hell out of it. It was an amazing feeling, but for a while it stayed the way it was because #brokelife.
Chapter 3: Life Really Is Unfair
My mom passed away. Sorry for being so blunt about it, but that's basically how it felt; quick and blunt as all fuck. I came home from school to see my mom sick, and i mean really sick. She wanted to go to the hospital and if you're born into an asian family, then you know something is really wrong if someone in your family purposely wants to see a doctor. Rushed to the emergency room and found out she had caught pneumonia. The best part, the nurses and case doctor had told me that she would be fine and free to go in a day or two. Few hours later, she was rushed to intensive care and shortly thereafter, was being prepped to be put under a medically induced comma to stabilize her weakening lungs. Well fuck. Here i am, 25 years old, signing legal documents and realizing my mom had put me as power of attorney. For those that don't know, when someone appoints another as power of attorney, it basically means their life is in your hands, if and when, that appointee is unable to make decisions for themselves. I really didn't understand what was going on and why the hell i was appointed to control her life, and be in charge of all the legal bullshit that the hospital administration threw in my face. Of course, i soon found out why. My mom, being my mom, knew me more than i knew myself. Between me and my older sister, i would have the hardest time letting go. Simply put, i wasn't ready to let her go and i believe she knew that. When her organs began failing and i had to make the decision to "pull the plug", i sure as hell wasn't ready to stop fighting for her, but i had to. The reality though, it wasn't my decision to make, it was her's. As my sister and I were arguing, the hospital went into full shit-storm mode and all i heard was "code blue." Code blue means someone's about to go. She developed a heart attack and was flat lining. Though the staff was able to bring her back, i felt like that was my mom telling me she was ready. Then the second heart attack came. Everything became a blur and my life got sucked out, because at that very moment, the moment i signed off on letting her go, i knew i had lost the most important person in my life.
Chapter 4: Lost In My Thoughts
From the last chapter to now and for the next 6 months or so, everything was a blur and a dark time in my life. I couldn't wrap my head around what had happened. I had lost the most influential, the most important, the most loved person in my life, and it happened in a few days. No warnings and no time to condition myself for what would come. It just happened. I didn't want to do anything but blame the world, the higher beings that be, and anyone close to me for what had happened. I went into full shutdown mode and basically threw up a "fuck you, stores closed" sign on my metaphorical door.
Then comes my car once again. Even though i didn't know it back then, my car was the therapist and friend that i needed to get my thoughts off everything, to go blank, to be in a moment of solitude, because even though I've always dealt with bullshit by myself, i needed help this time around. Therefore, after collecting a few paychecks, i quit my job and went into full build mode. When i wasn't sitting mindlessly in-class, i was at home ripping out whatever i could and figuring out how a new part was installed. It was the most fun I've had in a very long time, but i needed inspiration that i couldn't easily find within all the hype shit that one increasingly finds on the internet these days. So oddly enough, i began quietly browsing through Instagram and landed on a guy's page. It wasn't your typical full-on mind blowing build that everyone draws inspiration from. It was a simple, clean, straight to the point, full blown daily driver that was also the occasional weekend track toy. The best part was that it was a single cam coupe, just like mine.
Chapter 5: Melvin Rodriguez and Vtec Club USA
Though Melvin and the Vtec Club community never knew any of this, until now. They facilitated my "healing" process in a big way, and i probably wouldn't have found closure so soon if it wasn't for them. Yes, it sounds corny but it is what it is and i couldn't get around the corniness. To start, I found Melvin's Instagram page and loved that his car was always kept simple, but was able to smash on track in a single cam. If anyone followed my personal page long before Battle Driven, then you know that my original plan was to swap in a B series, but he changed all that for the best. I began following all the things he did and started asking him simple questions that he was always down to answer in a straight, no bullshit, real honest fashion. Then i quickly noticed he raced with a little known club called "Vtec Club USA." Of course, i indiscriminately asked Melvin how i could get into the series and what i would need. He then proceeded to spill the secrets of how to attend a Vtec event (It's not a secret, just come and play). Few weeks later, i was racing in my first open track day and soon thereafter, in my first Vtec Club event. I'm not going to lie, i was a little pissed when i found out i would be in beginner's Blue race group and not really competing with the N2 class. The class i was building up to be in, but i quickly learned that one had to walk before he or she could run, because damn i suck at high performance driving!
Before i continue though, i want to make it clear that Melvin didn't directly help me in my journey of building up a piece of shit car to an even more piece of shit race car, and helping me cope with the biggest loss of my life. I never told him any of this to this day. He just happened to be building a car i really found inspiration from, and he just happened to be a real cool dude. It was all indirect, but I would be lying if i said he didn't indirectly help me through a tough time in my life. I know we don't know each other super well, but as a wise man once said, "you're my boy blue!" The short year I've had to actually meet you at track days has been very cool. Thanks Melvin.
Okay, so once i got into Vtec Club and began driving regularly, the driving became a whole new link to my healing chain. Those that race often know what i mean. Nothing else matters in your life when you're at high speed on the track. Everything else is void and all that matters is getting in seat time, perfecting your line, and setting a new personal best. Cliche, i know. The first half of the Fast and The Furious franchise really made a lot of things into cliches, and there's no avoiding it. Everyone i spoke to feels the same euphoria and i wouldn't have it any other way though. But i realized that my car, the same car that has helped me cope for six months, was pretty much finished to my expectations, and i was still struggling. I still needed a vice that my project car no longer offered.
Chapter 6: Battle Driven
Yep. More cliches. I bought my very first DSLR and started shooting track days. I figured if i can't race or work on my car, then i can still get my mind off things by shooting others race. Also, my family never really took pictures together to create a tangible memory to look back on, so i decided to break the mold. Little did i know that i would actually fall deeply passionate for photography, and continue to do so almost a year and half later. Anyway, I started by taking photos at Vtec Club in-between my race sessions and tagging everyone on Instagram. Then Duane Bada, the facilitator of Vtec Club USA, hit me up randomly on IG. He simply told me, awesome photos and thank you for sharing. Next thing i knew, a few months pass-by and I'm shooting Vtec Club events on a regular and i'm running a blog named Battle Driven.
It really was that simple and that random. Everything to this point was never planned and out of pure randomness and luck. Like i always tell everyone that asks, i just did it. I just did it and things just happened. The only part of this that was planned was the name Battle Driven. Which by the way has a personal meaning beyond just sounding kinda cool. The meaning, life's unfair and always pushing against you, but that doesn't mean you can give up and let life pass you by. You have to stay driven and focused and battle through it, even if you have to fight your whole life and die trying. Battle Driven. I know it's kind of lame, but i like it. This is also true for my license plate "ATK LIFE." Everyone thinks both names have to do with driving and racing, but it doesn't and i don't mind that it doesn't.
So Battle Driven happened because i needed a new outlet.
Then i noticed something unique to the all Honda series, and it is the number one reason why i continue to support it to this day. Community and fun. It's like having a new family when my family was literally torn into pieces, and I'm thankful to be apart of it. Regardless of how big or small, i want to help Vtec Club grow to it's full potential. Even if it means just taking pictures to share with you all, and that's because you're all family to me. It's a large reason why i see this organization growing past all others. The feature that would keep it from disappearing though, is fun. I always said it and i'll continue to say it now, Vtec Club focuses on having fun above all else. Something i haven't seen in other race events. Thanks Vtec Club.
Chapter 7: What's Next?
Honestly, i have no clue. I've met some awesome people and had some really exciting opportunities that i took full advantage of this year. However, given the chance, i don't think i want to be in the industry full-time. Everything that I've done is because i wanted to do it and because it was fun. When i attended SEMA, i noticed a fat majority that were in attendance was purely for work and i didn't see them enjoying the experience. Granted, for most this was maybe their fifth or more times attending, it's just a hustle and grind that i don't see myself wanting to do. If i can go to an event in a shitty hotel for only one night, not be able to sleep because it's located next to a nightclub, run around like a madman drinking RedBulls to take in the experience, drive four hours back with no sleep, then realize i barely took any pictures, and still have a blast. Then i may consider it, but that's not how life works. Also, i can be part of the auto industry simply by continuing to be an enthusiast and support the community by racing. I have mad respect for the photojournalists no doubt, but i wasn't built for it. Instead, I'll continue to keep doing what I've always been doing. Shoot for pure enjoyment and take on interesting opportunities as they come, as a side thing. If i can do a fraction of what Joey of The Chronicles and Sean of Narita Dog Fight do, for pure joy and passion, then i'll keep doing it, but only time will tell where Battle Driven will end up. Maybe no where, maybe some where, either way i'll be happy with it. I've had the chance to build an amazing car, realize a passion for photography, be apart of a racing family, meet some awesome people, and find some closure with burnt pages in a chapter of my life.
I was asked the other night, "why do you like going to so many race events," or something along those lines. I thought it would be an easy question for me to answer, but it wasn't because i never really thought about it before. After thinking about it for the last few days, it's a boring and simple answer. I just love to watch cars do what they were built to do; be driven. So what's next? I guess i'll keep my camera clean and ready for the next race season and fix my car, because i really miss driving that rolling headache of a machine. Thanks for reading. If this article seemed all over the place, it's probably because the last one to two years has been pretty "all over the place." I never thought i would write this, but considering that I've been ready to let what happen go and my 27th birthday coming up soon. It seemed like something i needed to get off my shoulder. Here's to 2018.