Thursday, December 30, 2010

Martial Arts Study Group #2

I just thought everyone should know.  The first study group went very well.  I covered a pretty good sized survey of concepts rather than going in depth on any single topic.  The next session is on the calendar for Saturday, January 15th from 9am to 12pm.

This time I am going to go a bit more in depth over techniques taught in Heian Nidan (Pinan Shodan).  We will cover the concept several key points in the kata but the focus will be on the basic strategies learned from kata analysis, also called Bunkai.

I have three key points I want to cover and here is my plan for what I wish to cover:
  • Operational Conditioning as taught by the kata. (30 min)
  • What is a policy statement in kata? (1 hour)
  • How do they apply in a real fight?  (Miller One-Step) (1.5 hours)
I hope to have a few more people this time.  If you know someone in the area that might enjoy the class please spread the word.  The more people we can get the better.

Studying Multiple Disciplines

This post inspired by a post at the Okinawan Fighting Art: Isshin Ryu blog by Charles James.  The post on Multiple Disciplines.

"Jack of all trades and master of none."  I have heard this quote many times.  I am not certain I agree with it.  In The Book of Five Rings by Musashi tells us, "Become acquainted with every art." as one of the key tenants to learning the Niten Ichi Ryu style of swordsmanship.  He includes that one should have at least a basic understanding of weapons other than the sword as well.

Fighting is not limited to a style any more than it is limited to a location or a time of day.  If your style of martial arts does not teach ground fighting then I am of the opinion that you need to look elsewhere to find those skills.  True, this can be a much harder road to travel.

What must be determined in order to decide what is best for each of us is that we need to decide on a context in which our training needs to take place.  That needs to happen before we ever decide if a single style is going to be enough for us.  The context can be sport, military, law enforcement/security, or even civilian.  When we take on the context of violence in the outside of the Dojo then styles become a very unimportant descriptor with no real meaning other than a social group we can belong to for part of our training.

If viewed in the right light I think a martial artist can be a student of all of the martial arts regardless of source or age of the style or of lineage.  Fighting is limited by a few things.  The main one being that the human form is going to be the same from one person to the next.  Weapons, although various, are going to work in one of a few models.  All the techniques taught by every martial art in the world are merely tools that must follow the same basic natural laws of physics and human physiology.  Styles are a method of organizing the tactics and strategies of how to apply the basic tools.  However, if we break the martial arts down to their most fundamental components, and punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick.  Sure their are always subtleties from one school to the next but those can be sorted through and probably need to be by each individual.  What works for one might not be best for another.  I am six foot two inches and weight about 250 pounds.  I can kick to the head no problem but in a fight I think I would be a little too slow for this to realistic.  On the other hand I know a few martial artists whom I have seen kick others in the head during a non-dojo based confrontation.   

All that said I for one am fond of the schools/styles I teach.  However, to say that we cannot study multiple styles at the same time is not correct, in my opinion.  The practice of studying multiple styles might make advancing in rank much more difficult.  But rank is subjective and is relate-able only to the school in which it was issued.  Skill in fighting is difficult to quantify but if it is our goal than styles have little place in deciding how good we are in the end.     

A Subtle Distinction

This is a great clarification of terms from Rory Miller's Blog.

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A Subtle Distinction: "It always bothers me when people say, 'There are no rules in a street fight.'

That's just ignorance. Of course there are rules. At the very minimum, there are laws. If you don't act (and train) with respect to the laws there can be some pretty dire consequences. Unless you like community showers, no privacy and spending time in large crowds of people who are generally either asocial or antisocial.

That's without including the local taboos.

Oh, yeah, there are rules in a street fight.

But there is no such thing as cheating. That's a subtle distinction.

Rules and cheating are social ideas, things designed to keep you at a very specific level of interaction. If you cheat as a child playing games, you won't have any friends. You cheat at a card game and you may lose more than friends, depending on the culture. You might get knifed or you might get voted out of the country club.

Rules keep everything hunky dory in the tribe. The big rules are physics, the big social rules are laws. The rest are just agreements and expectations. Most unwritten, most things we just do, subconsciously, because we have always seen them done. Alternatives don't occur to us. We could just move our little Monopoly doggy to 'Go' every time, regardless of what the dice say. But we don't. That would be cheating. And no one told us that. That is what we, as socialized individuals, bring to the table.

There is no such thing as cheating when you are under attack. You're a good person. You don't cheat. And so you hesitate, not doing things you know would work because you aren't sure if you will violate social taboos. If it's going to violence, guess what? The social taboos have already been pretty much nullified. There are rules in a fight. Please don't go to prison. But there aren't a lot of rules unless you bring them in your own head. If you do, the rules in your head only apply to you.

There is nothing you can do under assault that will make the other kids say, 'I don't want to play with you any more! You're a big cheater!'

And you know what? If their idea of play involves a criminal assault, I'm okay with it if they don't want to play with me anymore.
"

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tshirts for charity

A good friend of mine is selling some great looking shirts to raise money for a program that he and his wife started in Uganda while working in the Peace Corp.  Here was Eric's first email with the details of why we need to sell shirts:

...I am writing with a query/request.  As most of you know, I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda for two years (2004 - 2006).  While I was there, I founded a martial arts group that Sarah and I eventually incorporated into our anti-HIV/AIDS life skills training program.  My top student in that group, Felex Forward, has continued to train in the martial arts and is also currently working as a primary school teacher in the country under which capacity he is trying to continue the joint life skills/martial arts program that we developed.  In addition, Sarah and I have been helping him with school fees to allow him to gain more education.  However, last month, Felex was told by the local government that they were going to demolish his house because the town had recently been promoted to a district capital and they wanted to "beautify" the neighborhood.  As such, he is in dire need of assistance.  I've been contemplating various fundraisers to help him, and based on their popularity, I thought that selling our "Ask me about my bruises" shirts might be a good way to go.  As such, I've redesigned them to make them popular to a broader audience.  Plus, I had an artist friend of mine come up with a new back image, which I think is pretty cool.  You don't need to take my word for it, though.  Check out the attached images.

On the front of the shirt

On the back of the shirt


I for one will be ordering at least one shirt.  I hope I can get more but if you can afford just one it will go a long way to helping Eric and ultimately his friend in Uganda.  Today I got another email from Eric with the details of how to order your shirt.  

Hello,

First, I just want to thank everyone for their positive responses.  Seems like maybe it wasn't such a crazy idea after all.

Anyway, on with the news.  We are up and running and ready to take orders.  Anyone interested in ordering a shirt just needs to email me at askmeaboutmybruises@gmail.com.
  There are two possible payment options - checks or Paypal.  Once someone contacts me with an order, we'll determine their payment preference, and if they choose Paypal, I'll then send them an email invoice with an embedded payment link.  Nice and simple.  Also, if anyone wants to make an additional donation, that can easily be included in either the check or the invoice.

Once again, thanks for all of your help in supporting this.  Now, we just need to get the word out and move some shirts.  I hope to put something up on Facebook soon, so feel free to share that, if you like, and let me know if you need any further info to include on websites, blogs, etc.

All the best,

Eric
 Good luck Eric, I hope you are able to do everything you want to do with this program.  God bless your continued efforts in Uganda.

Addendum:

I verified with Eric that the shirts are $20 each and that includes postage.  Send them an email to askmeaboutmybruises@gmail.com with the following information:
  • Size and Quantity of shirts (example - Size XXL Quantity 2)
  • Shipping Address
  • Pay by Check or pay by Paypal Invoice
If you have any questions contact me or post in comments here.

Thanks again!




Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Black Belt Paradox

Another excellent article from Sue on "My journey to black belt" Blog. I wanted to post a comment but my comment was apparently way to big. So, my comments are at the bottom of this post...

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The Black Belt Paradox: "
A couple of weeks ago I received a comment to one of my posts in which the commentator SCB said: 'I hear 'time in grade' references; I hear 'syllabus' and other such things that cause me concern as to what black belt means so would like to see you post on that subject, 'What black belt means to me?''.

I think that the subtext behind this comment is what do I think about the concept of a syllabus focused kyu grading system with the acquisition of coloured belts and the coveted black belt?

When I started this blog nearly two years ago I was a purple belt (4th kyu). At that point in my training the idea of ‘journeying to black belt’ seemed like a reasonable target to pursue in a martial art. Isn’t that what every martial artist wants? I then became aware through listening to other more experienced martial artists and through my own personal development that ‘it isn’t about getting a black belt – it’s about the training’.

I have also become aware that many people don't agree with the coloured belt ranking system and prefer a system that observes the more traditional training method whereby students wear a white belt until their sensei deems them proficient enough in the mental and physical aspects of their art to be awarded the black belt. Do I agree with these view points? Err..yes and err..no!

Yes I agree that it’s not just about getting the black belt. I don’t want to follow some watered down syllabus that fast tracks me to shodan. I want to immerse myself more fully in the physical, mental and cultural aspects of martial arts and I need time to do that properly. BUT… I like my brown belt and I liked all the coloured belts I had before – they are markers of my progress, they help me put my new found skills and knowledge into context, they motivate me. They are like mini rewards for the effort I have made. And yes, I want that black belt.

Lets look at the origins of the kyu/dan grading system and what its inventor, Professor Jigoro Kano the 'Father of judo', was trying to achieve with his system. The kyu/dan grading system was introduced into judo in 1883. Initially it was just a white belt for ungraded students and a black belt for graded students.

Prior to this a student would train under a master for many years learning only the few techniques and kata that he wanted to teach. After several years a few trusted students may be taught some more dangerous 'hidden techniques'. Many students would train for years with a master, learning only a limited range of techniques and if they left they would have nothing to show for all their efforts. Occasionally the master may issue them with a scroll which listed the techniques they had learnt. It was very difficult for most students to learn a complete system of fighting - only the trusted and dedicated few would achieve this honour. Martial arts had a 'closed shop' mentality.

All this changed with Kano's introduction of the belt ranking system. He extended the white/black belt approach to include a range of coloured belts and introduced the concept of a systematised syllabus that gradually built up from elementary moves to increasingly more difficult concepts as the students skill and knowledge developed. Each stage of the process was marked with awarding the student the next coloured belt. Once all the techniques of the entire syllabus had been learnt the student was awarded the black belt to signify they now knew all the basics of their art.

The advantage of the belt ranking system was that all students now had the opportunity to learn an entire fighting method in a logical and systematised way. Judo had now become an 'open shop' allowing many more students to train. Gichin Funakoshi soon saw the potential of the belt ranking system for karate as he introduced karate to Japan. Adopting the belt system made karate more acceptable to the Japanese government and allowed Funakoshi to propagate it within the Japanese university network. From there it spread to the world.

If you are a critic of the coloured belt ranking system remember that without it Eastern martial arts may never have spread around the world and may still be the preserve of small secretive dojos training only handfuls of students. Instead hundreds of thousands of people around the world are able to participate and enjoy the benefits of learning Eastern martial arts.

However, I accept that the belt ranking system has its drawbacks. It has been abused by many clubs or organisations who have developed a very narrow syllabus that does not teach a complete fighting method. This goes against Kano's original aim of enabling all students to access a complete fighting system. A martial arts system is only going to be as good as its syllabus so if the syllabus is incomplete then so will the resulting martial art be. This does not mean that the principle of the belt grading system is flawed, only the martial arts system that is using it incorrectly.

The other problem of the belt ranking system is that it can focus the student's attention to much on the next grading rather than on the process of training. Again, if this is happening it is the fault of the instructor rather than the belt ranking system. In our club we are not syllabus focused all the time. Many students do not even access their syllabus from the website trusting that through their training they will be taught the things they need to know.

Karate often avoids the pitfalls of being over focused on syllabus by engaging in whole class teaching. In our club, the only time we split into grade groups is to practice kata but even then we often do kata practice as a class - revising more junior kata and trying to copy more senior kata from more senior students. Learning is circular in karate and this is reflected in our syllabus. We are tested on some of the same material every grade - obviously we are expected to perform it at a more proficient level as we progress.

I think the belt ranking system is a positive introduction to martial arts, allowing it to be accessible to a much wider number of students. Any faults that one can level at it are generally faults of its application rather than its principle. It is up to the student to find a club that applies the principle well so that they learn a complete and comprehensive martial art system. The belt ranking system does not mean that the belt is more important than the training - the training will always be the most important thing but students in the junior ranks need external motivators, need structure and order and this is provided by the ranking system. As you become more experienced then motivation internalises more and you become less dependent on rank. This takes experience and wisdom to understand.

When I look at who it is that tells me it’s not about the black belt or that we don’t need coloured belts, I realise that they are all (no dis-respect is meant here) – black belts! It seems to me one needs to acquire the wisdom and experience of a black belt to realise that getting the black belt is not important and only really represents the beginning. I can ‘know’ this but it remains precisely that – knowledge, not wisdom. I have to go through the process myself of converting this knowledge into wisdom through practice, learning and experience and to help me do this I need my belts, all of them! I call this the Black Belt Paradox – you need to acquire a black belt in order to truly understand that ‘it’s not about the black belt’.
"
_____________________________

Now my comments:

I really like the post. I would add that the colored belt system and the adoption of the uniforms in Karate are mentioned in a transcription of notes from a meeting of the Karate Masters in 1936.

The book this comes from is called: Ancient Okinawan Martial Arts: Koryu Uchinadi, Vol. 2 by Patrick McCarthy.

People like Chojun Miyagi, Kenwa Mabuni, and many others were all present and discussed these points as a means to classify students so that they could compete. That competition was meant to stimulate the dying art of Karate. As was noted in the meeting, many young men found the competition more interesting in Judo than the self defense aspects of Karate taught to that point. For better or worse here we are...

From a motivational stand point I agree completely that a rank system of some sort needs to be used to show progress. Especially for younger students. Honestly, it doesn't matter what system you use so long as you have the simple components that the existing system offers.

A visual and social award that demonstrates progress toward a goal or goals. A method of organizing the material that needs to be learned in bite sized parts. And those are just for starters.

Example: Imagine getting a college degree where the instructor takes you to a room full of all the textbooks and supplies one would need to complete a college degree and is then told, Good luck. Learn it all and perform all the necessary projects and assignments to complete the degree. With no other instruction than that few might do it. Others would give up before they started.

My favorite quote about a black belt it that it represents one thing. You are now officially...a student of the martial arts. Black belt is little more than an acknowledgment of progress. One more link in the chain. Although this one is a little like coming of age and being allowed to vote or drive. It is a milestone. We will all have the post-black-belt hangover if we go into it thinking that it is the ultimate or end-all. I went into mine having already started cross training into another style and knew full well that this new style was going to take me years more. Thus I never experienced the hangover since I knew I had so much more to learn.

Anyway, I will be adding the Black Belt Paradox to my terms. Very useful.

Thanks,

Nick

Purebred Dog, Purebred Martial Art

An excellent observation in this article by Kris Wilder. One in which I hope my school can withstand scrutiny. I do not need the approval of others but ultimate scrutiny comes in a live test. One I hope no one has to experience. I would add that if all you want is a show dog, that is just fine. But be sure you are not fooling yourself or others about what it is you offer. Getting a show dog and passing it off to others as a durable work dog is unwise and not fair to the show dog at all. To use this metaphor.

Also, Merry Christmas to all my readers! I hope you and your families all have a great holiday.

_________________________


Purebred Dog, Purebred Martial Art: "
When I was a kid our family lived on a farm. When you live on a farm, rarely is there something on the farm that is not useful. Everything has to contribute to the farm.

Our family car was a station wagon. A station wagon not only carried my parents and my brother, but it also carried feed, and animals when needed.

Dogs where an important part of farm life. Our two dogs served as guard dogs, keeping coyotes away from the chickens, serving as doorbells when somebody pulled into the driveway, and for me as a kid, they where great playmates. Neither of these dogs where purebred dogs, they where mutts, comprised of Beagle, Airedale, German Shepard, all swirled together with who knows what else.

When I asked my Dad one day why we didn't have purebreds, just mutts his answer was simple, “Purebred dogs have problems.” He went on about how some purebreds had hip problems, others digestive issues, and the behaviors that where bread into them wasn't always what was best for a good farm dog.

His point was the temperament and resiliency of the mutt dog was well suited for the farm, useful and low maintenance. Further they where nice dogs with good personalities, dependable, easy to acquire and cheap to maintain.

So here is your audit, is your martial art a mutt dog or a pure bread? Is your martial arts school the Westminster dog show, or is it a working farm?

I would submit to you that the purebred art is just like the purebred dog, looks great, not particularly durable and in the final conclusion not very useful.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Movie Trailer for "Thor"

Thor Movie Poster
Okay I admit I really enjoy superhero movies.  A lot!  Spiderman, Iron Man, Dark Knight, etc..  The new movies from DC and from Marvel have been great.  Even despite a few things I would like to see improved in each movie I still really like them.  They are just plain fun.

Well, I have been very reluctant to see the next installment from Marvel.  Thor.  The character has SO much potential to be campy or silly.  However, the trailer was just released for this movie and it looks fantastic.  Check it out on the Marvel website.

Movie trailer for Thor.

Plus, in the trailer I saw a few actors I really like that I didn't know were going to be in the movie.   I am looking forward to this one and that is a shock since I was on the fence as to whether I should go see it, until now.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Political Humor

I am not much on political humor most of the time but this one made me chuckle out loud.  Also, as a disclaimer, this does not necessarily reflect any political views on my part. 

 
Barack Obama met with the Queen of England.

He asked her, "Your Majesty, how do you run such an efficient government? Are there any tips you can give to me?"
"Well," said the Queen, "the most important thing is to surround yourself with intelligent people."
Obama frowned, and then asked, "But how do I know the people around me are really intelligent?"
The Queen took a sip of tea. "Oh, that's easy; you just ask them to answer an intelligent riddle."
The Queen pushed a button on her intercom. "Please send Tony Blair in here, would you?"
Tony Blair walked into the room and said, "Yes, your Majesty?"
The Queen smiled and said, "Answer me this please,
Tony, your mother and father have a child. It is not your brother and it is not your sister. Who is it?"
Without pausing for a moment, Tony Blair answered, "That would be me."
"Yes! Very good," said the Queen.
Obama went back home to ask Joe Biden, his vice president the same question. "Joe, answer this for me. Your mother and your father have a child. It's not your brother and it's not your sister. Who is it?"
"I'm not sure," said Biden. "Let me get back to you on that one..." He went to his advisors and asked every one, but none could give him an answer. Finally, he ended up in the men's room and recognized Colin Powell's shoes in the next stall.
Biden asked Powell, "Colin, can you answer this for me? Your mother and father have a child and it's not your brother or your sister. Who is it?"
Colin Powell yelled back, "That's easy, it's me!"
Biden smiled, and said, "Thanks!" Then, he went back to speak with Obama. "Say, I did some research and I have the answer to that riddle. It's Colin Powell!"
Obama got up, stomped over to Biden, and angrily yelled into his face, "No! you idiot!  It's Tony Blair!"
AND THAT MY FRIENDS IS WHAT'S GOING ON IN WASHINGTON D.C.

On a side note:  I pray that all leaders in a government position remember the people they support and their needs.  Needs that can be met based on reason and experience.  I also pray that someone in this country understand that federal money is to be used on a federal level and NOT locally to line some lobbyist's pocket.
In other words!  Cut pet projects!  I read the other day where some NIMROD congressional leader asked, "How else am I going to get federal money into the hands of my constituents."  And my reply is, that is not what it is for you fool!     

Anyway, sorry, I do not like to bother with politics and I certainly do not want this to become a political platform so I will likely not be mentioning this type of thing again.  Perhaps that would be a good reason to open another blog. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Martial Arts Study Group

What: Martial Arts Study Group
Where: Main Street Martial Arts, Collinsville, OK
When: December 18th, 09:00 to 12:00
Why: To bring martial artists together in order to present ideas and all grow from the experiences we each bring to the class. 
How Much: $5.  For now, this amount may go up in time but it will remain fairly cheap.  My secondary hope is that when I have larger seminars I will have a strong base of martial artists that will attend. 
 

On December 18th I am going to have the first meeting of the Martial Arts Study Group.  My plan for these classes is to have an informal meeting where martial artists from any background and skill level can get together and train. I have several motivations behind this class.  Here are some of them:
  • An opportunity to work with students that cannot attend regular classes.
  • A time and place for black belts to workout together, regardless of school or organizational affiliations.
  • To raise the overall skill level of all martial artists in the community through cross training.
  • To create a organization of martial artists that will give us a semi-regular opportunity to be social with others in the community.
  • To share insights and concepts about the martial arts that not all of us may know. 
  • To clarify context based training.
  • To fight burn out.  Everyone needs to learn and grow to avoid becoming stagnant.    
The inspiration for this meeting is based on a couple of groups I know of outside of Oklahoma that gather and share information. Each person benefits from the time and I think everyone will walk away from the class with something new to think about and work on. 

The material I plan to cover in class will be to demonstrate how the first move of each of the Heian Kata has a hidden component that can be used in self defense.  Taking our natural responses to surprise and making them more effective. 

If you want to see some of those kata they are listed in the Kata section of my website.  Guinnmartialarts.com
If you want take a close look at the first three kata in particular. 

Heian - Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, Yodan, and Godan.

I hope to see lots of people in class!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fighting with myself

This post is inspired by a post made on "The Striking Post".  A Blog by Kris Wilder, martial arts instructor and all around great guy.  You can see his post at Martial Arts Training Tip #62

Too much negative!

At some point all of us have heard of the concept of positive and negative self talk.  We all have an internal monologue and some of us even have an internal dialogue.  Do not worry.  Internal dialogue only becomes a problem when you start losing arguments or when the internal becomes external.  More on that some other time.  I have had thoughts out loud a few times.  The best is when I am stepping off an elevator and the only things that people on the landing hear are about kicking people in the head.  Out of context since I am a martial arts instructor.  Of course, they do not know that and I usually do not clarify.  Okay, so making people wonder about me is a little fun.  Anyway...

In our personal dialogue we use both positive and negative terms.  Kris's post pointed out the use of sweeping terms that usually have a very negative impact.  Take a look at his post for details.  One example I can share is the, "I will never be able to..."  .  Now some things we can say with all honesty.  "I will never be able to fly like superman."  Of course watch some joker make a bit of tech that allows this and I have to eat my words.  You get the point I hope.

I am not one to frequent these negative limitations mentioned in the post on myself.  I know I have accomplished a lot in my 37 years of life and I plan to accomplish a lot more.  However, lately I have caught myself using other negative statements.  Especially in regard to other people.  The best example I can think of is while driving.  The term "Road Rage" is a common one around here.  To be fair, there are some very bad drivers out there.  I am one of them from time to time.  However, it occurred to me after reading that post that I have fallen into the trap of the negative talk about a lot of things in my life.  Having been recently divorced and somewhat getting stuck in the old "feeling sorry for myself routine" I think it is something I have done for a while and it just got worse recently.

Now, someone I have seen that is at total odds with this type of feeling.  Iain Abernethy.  I have been studying his martial arts materials for years now and I got to meet Iain in Seattle during the Crossing the Pond Martial Arts Expo.  Iain always seems to be very upbeat.  I have been watching his posts on twitter and even when Iain is ill he his posts are unnaturally happy.  (I say unnaturally, jokingly of course.)  Iain had a great spirit about him at the seminar.  Quick with a laugh and a smile, he is a great guy.  I am absolutely certain he has had his down moments.  Times where he felt like screaming, yelling, or even throwing things.  I imagine everyone has days like that at some point.  I am also certain that the fact that he is doing for a living what most of us in the martial arts only dream of does not hurt either.  Teaching seminars all over the world.  Meeting great people, and all the while getting paid to do it.  Wow!  But with a negative attitude even the best jobs can become a chore.

I have seen a similar spirit in Kris Wilder and Al Peasland during the seminar.  Both great men and had a slightly more subtle strength of attitude behind their interactions during class.  To continue the observation I saw a powerful confidence in Rory Miller and Marc MacYoung too.  I saw uncommon experience in Nicholas Yang.  But from all of these gentlemen.  I didn't see one of them use negative language.  At least not during the seminar.  Again, I was only briefly able to interact with these guys but to me they are all accomplished.  Anyone who can find a way to do what they love for a living is successful.  Someone to whom I can see aspiring to be more like them in my life.  I am certain they have ALL had trials and tribulations.  Yet they are still accomplished.

Instructors from the Martial Expo, 2010


As Kris pointed out if someone comes out with negative language in their speech or in their dialogue with the people around them.  We can safely assume that it has taken five times as much negative dialogue internally to become comfortable enough with it to come out in our day to day interactions.  Not good!

So, here is what I propose and something I am going to do for the next week.  Beginning today and through next Thursday the 16th.  Every time I say something or feel something negative I am going to stop myself as best I can and look for the silver lining.  What redeeming quality can I find in the negative I just experienced.  There should be a way to find a positive spin on just about anything.  I would challenge you to do the same.  I have caught myself doing the negative thing three times this morning already.  Each time I forced myself to stop and find a way to turn how I felt around.  To seek out the positive or to find a way to make the ultimate outcome of that negative thing become positive.  Might sound like a lot of self help garbage but if you think that...guess what.  You are being negative and that is where you can start today!  Good Luck.

My hope is that this type of positive reinforcement will improve my outlook or mood.  Pending the outcome of the experiment I will make this a permanent change.  If it does not work I will just try something else.  Post your comments on some of the things you experience this week if something really stands out to you.  Knowing others have the same issues might help to fuel each of us along.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Self Defense...

In college my Aikijutsu instructor was Dr. Carl Farinelli.  A great person and a man of many talents.  When I say many talents.  This gentleman defined the concept of the Renaissance Man.  From what I know of him he has degrees in German, English, and Education with his doctorate being in Education.  At the university he teaches a variety of academic classes.  These changed back and forth over time so I cannot tell you what they are now but they were in each the fields of study mentioned above.  In addition, he also taught a country/western dance class, a few musical instruments, and of course the martial arts classes.  Since I have known him he has also been in a few bands.  An amazing person.

One thing I picked up from him were the four steps of self defense.  Now, these are very simple and with anything made simple it might leave room for inference but work with me here.  I have changed the words used to make it more easily remembered but the material is the same.

Avoid, Evade, Talk, Walk

  • Avoid - always doing our best to not be where the problems can occur.  Being aware of our surroundings and if we see a problem...evade.
  • Evade -  when we see a problem we go around it.  Give it a wide berth if you will.  Someone gives you the creeps, cross the street.  I don't agree with everything in the book but the core tenant of "Gift of Fear" by Gavin DeBecker is that if you get a vibe off someone it is probably right.  Go around them.  If they close on you and evading is not an option then...Talk.
  • Talk - when the problem is not avoidable it is time to confront.  There are several rules I would add to this issue.  Of course this is supposed to be simple but here are some sub-rules that should apply all the time.  
    • Make eye contact - give them a good look.  Most criminals do not want to be remembered.  Remember the clothes they are wearing, scars or distinguishing marks, hair color or style.  Depending on your mindset at the time you might even make a audible checklist.  If they know you are taking their inventory it might make them rethink their choice. 
    • Keep your distance - do not let them inside 8 or 9 feet.  Tell them to stay back.  If you have told them and they still close on you they have shown you they mean you harm. 
    • Asking for money - simple, this is one of the only things where you should just go ahead and comply.  Toss your purse or wallet away from your escape route.  When they move to get it.  You head the other way.  You can make more money, you cannot recover from death.  
  • Walk - the assailant has accosted you.  All bets are off!  Rory Miller and Marc MacYoung are some great resources for this information.  Rory pointed out that many people don't feel allowed to act on their own behalf.  Like no one has ever told them they are allowed to be mean to survive.  Remembering that your number one goal is escape, every action you take should be toward that end.  Hit them hard and often.  As soon as you see a way to escape, make for the hills!  Run!  If escape is not an option.  Kids you must stay to protect, trapped in a locked room, etc...  Hit, bite, scratch, tear, until you are certain you are no longer threatened.  This is where the martial arts or self defense techniques take over.  Assuming they have been trained with this end in mind.
Looking at these steps, notice how the majority of them have nothing to do with actually fighting.  This is as is should be.  Most of what we need to know to avoid violence is in our heads.  However, most of us will face violence at least once in our lives.  Statistically, some people see violence more then others.  Those people skew the average for the rest of us.  We might never see violence in our lifetime, I hope that is the case for everyone.  But it is better to be prepared than not.

Again, this is a very simple model.  And one that I think applies to young men before anyone else.  TV, video games, and other things glorify violence and make it almost attractive.  I know my son is nearly a teenager and he likes games of this nature.  He has even expressed an interest in joining the military.  I have tried to explain and I think I have done fairly well.  Violence is rarely fun.  I would say that in my experience violence is a great example of extraordinary stress.

For most of us that work in the civilized world, violence is a foreign concept.  He might experience stress from a deadline or an important presentation.  But the stress of violence is like making someone experience all the stress of years of an office job in less than a second.  It can be breath taking and confusing and .  It is primal.  Most people might glorify that but most are just not ready for it.  It can be very scary.  One thing to consider, I have fought people that want to knock my head off in a figurative sense.  I have never had to face someone who was trying to out right kill me.  I hope I never do.   

Finally, there is a time to fight.  Don't get me wrong.  But do it knowing that it is not going to be nearly as fun as a video game.  Also, there is also the violence we don't see coming.  Ambushes and such.  Skip straight to the last option in that case.  Being aware that violence can occur is great but it won't cover every event. If you ever get the eerie feeling that something is wrong, act on it.  Better to be considered a little paranoid than to end up a statistic. 

Okay, enough rambling for now. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Bucket List

In order to make sure I keep my goals in sight I am making a bucket list.  Anytime I get worn down by the day to day grind I will refer back to this list to keep my spirits up and my focus on what I want.  Of course, the list is fluid.  I can add and remove at any time.  However, if I remove it had better be to put something bigger on the list.

First, I am going to start with some accomplishments.  After all, motivation also comes from looking back to see that success is possible no matter what anyone else tells us.

Completed Goals:
  • Bachelors Degree - I have a degree in Management Information Systems from Northeastern State University.
  • Third degree Black Belt - A few days after I started Karate my instructor asked me what I wanted to accomplish with their class.  I looked at their rank and it was Nidan or second degree at the time.  I told them I want a third degree.  Since then (approximately 20 years ago) I have received a fourth degree in Karate and a fifth degree in Aikijutsu.  More importantly I have praise from a few people I really respect in the martial arts.  Rory Miller and Steve Taylor.  Now they didn't say anything like, hey this guy is the best.  Although I would like to hear that one day.  They simply said "He gets it."  That means more to me then anything.
  • Buy a house - looking back it was probably not the best plan but all in all I think it worked out.  I still have a house and it needs some work but it is home.
  • Buy a car I want - Done!  I bought a Mazda CX-7 back in June.  I really cannot afford it.  Honestly I think I over reacted to my new found freedom.  Although I must say I love my car.  
There are more things but these are some of the big ones I have done so far.  Next are some of the big ticket items I want to accomplish before I am no more:
  •  Visit Japan! - as mentioned in my last post I found out a friend of mine is going to be going to Japan in 2011 and it made me realize I have always wanted to go.  So I need to make this a priority for my life and I need to go.  It may not be at the top of my list but it is on the list for certain.
  • Pay off my bills - when I say my bills I don't mean the day to day stuff.  I have three big loans.  My mortgage, my car loan, and my student loans.  I MUST get rid of these debts, I am tired of paying for them.
  • Go to England - I want to go see everything and study the martial arts with Iain Abernethy and Al Peasland on their home turf. 
  • Go back to Seattle - I didn't get a chance to actually work out with Kris Wilder while I was in Seattle and I really want to go back and work with him some more.  I am currently working through the "Sanchin Kata" book and DVD so that I don't waste his time.  
  • Publish my own books - I want to publish books on my Aikijutsu system.  I want it to be a resource for my students and I would like to do a good enough job for others to look at it and say something like, "Hey!  This isn't garbage."  I would also like to get a work of fiction published too.
  • See my kids accomplish their dreams - I love this quote:  "Find something you love and you will never work a day in your life."  -Samuel Clemens.  I would like to see my kids doing something with their lives that makes them truly and totally happy and fulfilled.  I would like for it to be productive and meaningful too but I am afraid if I put too many stipulations on this it will not happen.  So I wish for the best for both of them.  I also hope that if they decide to be part of a family of their own that they are happy and healthy.
  • Go see, Ghost and Darkness - the two man eating lions from Tsavo Africa, currently on exhibit in Chicago.  Supposedly killed and ate over 130 people back in the late 1800's before being killed.
  • Visit the grave of Musashi - these are in no particular order but this is one thing I would really like to do.
  • Attend a seminar with Patrick McCarthy - another martial artist that I would really like to work with some more.  Being that he lives in Australia means I also want to go see the sights while I am there.
  • Visit New Zealand - I don't care about the movie sets but I really want to see more of what appears to be some incredible countryside.
  • Make a living out of being a Private Investigator/Process Server/Executive Security - I want to work for myself.  I want to be successful in a field that has unlimited potential.  I see these things as something I can really enjoy doing.  Something I can tie into my life very well.  
  • Skydive - yes I know.  I might not need to worry about the rest of the list if I do this but it sounds like a blast.  I want to do it!  I think Japan is first though...
  • Get Healthy - I want to get my weight down to 210 at most.  This is probably the easiest of the goals to be honest.  However, I have really been dragging my feet working on it.  The emotional side of this is fixed now I think and I have started losing weight.  I will post my progress in time.  Perhaps after the initial weight loss is proven not to be a fluke.  
Well here they are so far.  The list may change over time.  In fact I expect them too.  Especially as I accomplish things.  If anyone out there has any suggestions on how to more quickly or cheaply accomplish them I welcome the help.

Don't like something...make a change.

I wrote a entry on this topic but thought it was a bit dark and maybe a little negative.  So I am writing it again and this time I plan on the material to be a lot more up lifting, at least to me in any case.  A good friend of mine told me about the terrible Thanksgiving she had and I must admit I was speechless.  Parents of the friend arguing and calling my friend by their son's ex-girlfriend's name.  Then to top off the day walk in on the 20 year old brother while he is "watching" porn.  I mean...Wow!  I know I have problems, for that matter we all have problems.  Mine seem to pale in comparison to the problems of this family.  Sad as it may be to say, it makes me really feel pretty good about my issues.  I feel very sorry for the friend and her date.  I can only imagine inviting a friend over for a holiday only to have your family act out in this manner.


During the course of my discussion with her I told her she should come back and visit us next time.  To avoid that family if nothing else. She went on to tell me that she will come visit one day but is saving her money to to go to Japan.  Well I must say I have always wanted to go to Japan.  I am rather jealous.  It occurred to me that the only thing keeping me from going is time and money.  Both of which I can come up with if I plan things out appropriately.  For a long time I gave up on any idea that I might be able to do something like this type of trip.  I had too many obligations that felt like weights holding me back from what I wanted to do.  Most of them were self imposed and some were not.  But now that I have an opportunity to re-invent myself I am going to go after this sort of thing.  I have one earthly obligation in my life right now.

My kids!  They are wonderful.  I love them more than I can put into words.  They are great but they will eventually move on to their own lives.  If I live for them, when they are gone I will have nothing.  As many people who know me can tell you I am in no immediate danger of this event.  I have many irons in the fire, to coin a phrase.  Martial Arts, Private Investigator, Writing, Reading, Travel.  I was able to got to Seattle in August to attend a great seminar hosted by Kris Wilder.  It was great.  I enjoyed Seattle so much I want to go back.  I have even thought about living in that area once my kids are off doing their own thing.

Then it hit me.  My kids being old enough to wander off to college or whatever path they choose seemed to be years away, many years.  Far enough as to not be much to consider even.  A few days ago it occurred to me that my youngest is about to turn 10 years old.  That means that Emma has only 8 more years to be at home.  8 years may seem like a long time to some people.  It is not.  Considering the fact that I feel like my kids were just born a few years ago and I am about to have a 13 and 10 year old at home.  Time where I need to be there for my kids in a leadership role is going to go fast.  I will always be there for them.  For that matter I really like my kids.  After High School I may move to Seattle and if they want to go with me I can see that being a nice little adventure for one or both of them.  If they wanted to go.  I am pretty sure Conner will want to go.  He went with me on the trip in August and I think he loved it as much as I did.



All this to say that I have created hurdles that keep me from what I have always wanted.  Now many of those hurdles are visible for what they really are...  Excuses to keep me away from risk.  To keep me safe and give me excuses not to work hard for what will really make me happy.  I do not want to be safe anymore.  It is time to step out.  Bigger than I have so far.

As mentioned before I am fairly accomplished.  I am goal driven and always have been.  I do not say all this to brag but just to point out that despite my being goal driven and a list maker I have failed to do everything I have ever want to do.  I do not like it and it is time it changed.  I think my next post is going to be a bucket list.  I will try to show some of the things I have already accomplished from my list and some of the things I want still to accomplish.  I would welcome a similar list from all of you in the comments of the next post.

Anyway, onward to changes.    

Monday, November 29, 2010

Apostates

Rory Miller has put to words what I have felt in many social exchanges throughout my life. I cannot say I fully understand or can realize first hand, perhaps, everything written here but I have glimpsed its truth.


Apostates: "This is going to be complex.
One of the tenets of Conflict Communications is that people belong in groups. We are all members of at least one and usually many groups. Whether that is a tribe, a school, a tradition, a family, a club, a profession or something else. People don't survive well on their own-- either physically or psychologically.

Groups have rules. You can call them mores (pronounced moray, like the eel) if you want to go all anthropological/sociological. A group without rules isn't a group. NOT because rules are the bedrock of social control but because rules are the bedrock of identity. Dietary laws may or may not have had survival value in the past. The fact that they continue even when they do not is a sign that their primary value is one of identification.

There is no identification value in common sense. Any society that survives will value, for instance, trust within the group and productivity. No society will survive that doesn't value self-preservation (and this is one to look at because what someone says they value or what a group honors, like martyrdom, doesn't actually happen all that often. The words and the music of many cultures are not truly in accord.)

This means the identity value is in the silly stuff-- the stories and myths and ritual. A Christian is not defined as someone who is meek and kind to others and honors his parents. A Christian is defined by the belief that a man-god got nailed to a Roman torture/execution device and quit being dead three days after being buried.

You can follow every law and rule and live with what people might call perfect Christian ideals, but if you don't believe that piece, you can't be a member of that group.

So every group has mores that are arbitrary if not down-right weird, because those are where the group identity rises.

And this is where the edge-walkers come in. I can't speak for everyone, but one of the things about almost dying is the way it clarifies things. Lots of things are bullshit and once you see that, once you see the value of breathing when someone has tried hard to stop you AND you see the inevitability of the end-state of not breathing, your identity doesn't come from labels and rituals. Maybe, in the end, your identity doesn't even need to be.

So loving your neighbor makes sense, because there is only so much time to get loving in... but heaven doesn't matter. Heaven is not good or bad or true or untrue. Heaven DOES NOT MATTER. The rituals and the myths do not matter. If I like you, what do I care about the patch on your shoulder or which party you vote for or where your ancestors came from? If your waiken has forbidden you from eating birds, other than some menu switching, your myths don't affect my friendship (or dislike) for you.

When the edge-walker gets to this understanding, he is neither fish nor fowl. He does fit into a tribe, in his own mind. He values what he values- the good works and the people themselves. He does the right thing. He will give his life to protect these people, myths and all, and will not feel slighted or ashamed to do it. He is one of them, on a deeper level than they can probably feel because it is not a matter of ritual and the random chance of birth. The edge-walker chooses.

But he will no longer be accepted as one of them. Without the rituals and the myths, the trappings, he cannot be identified. 'Because he serves us and will die for us does not mean that he is one of us.' He hears it rarely, but sees it again and again. This is the separation, one of the most unexpected and disturbing things if you spend too much time on the edge.
"

Friday, November 19, 2010

Two amazing poems...

Here are two poems that I think almost all black belts can appreciate at some level.  Given that each black belt takes time, determination, sacrifice, and sometimes a little suffering.  We definitely walk a different path than most:

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost 


Poem provided by Poets.org - The Road Not Taken


This poem is a bit more altruistic but I think it is a good perspective for anyone.  Especially for a black belt.  I really like this one too.  The description of my blog in the header is derived from this poem in part.   

To Have Succeeded

To laugh often and love much:
To win respect of intelligent people
And the affection of children;
To earn the approbation of honest critics
And endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To give one's self;
To leave the world a little better,
Whether by a healthy child,
A garden patch,
Or redeemed social condition;
To have played and laughed with enthusiasm
And sung with exultation;
To know even one life has breathed easier
Because you have lived...
This is to have succeeded.
Ralph Waldo Emerson


I am always happy to hear good quotes or poems if anyone finds something interesting to post to comments.  I will have a post of some of my favorite quotes next week sometime. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Becoming a follower

Got a post from "The Striking Post" by Kris Wilder and it was very thought provoking.  However, one note that stood out to me was the one at the end that asked people to become followers of his blog.  This helps him to know who is out there and if we are still listening.  I have done this for Kris and would ask you, if you watch this blog for my posts, become a follower so I know you are listening too.

It is a small thing.  Insignificant mostly.  I will post even if no one is reading just because I like the practice but to know someone reads my posts too would be really spiffy!  Become a follower today.  

Monday, November 15, 2010

Awareness

I saw a great post on the Striking Port Blog by Kris Wilder (author of Little Black Book of Violence) and he made a very interesting point.  The gist of his post was that it is useless to simply tell people to "Be aware!"  Aware of what? I admit at some point when I had just started teaching this type of thing I too would tell people to be aware, just as my instructor had told me.  Looking back on this lesson over the years and it really is a useless comment in training.

So to continue Mr. Wilder's post he pointed out that what we really want to be aware of are the aberrations in the normal patterns of the world around us.  The world (society) flow in a certain standard.  Consider, personal space between people or how someone talks to you.  One of DeBecker's (author of Gift of Fear) mentions in his book is that charm is not inherent.  It must be learned.  So if a person is being charming and it gives you the heebie-jeebies then chances are you are right.  There is a change is a non-normal flow in the standard patterns around us.    

An extreme example might be a person walking through a crowd that bums into people.  Perhaps even several people.  If you watch even the busiest and most crowded streets everyone moves with a certain pattern.  Very rarely will you see someone move against that flow.  Unless they are a tourist or are breaking pattern for a reason.

So essentially we are not just being aware.  We are watching for something that breaks the routine.  Is flowing against the current or standard pattern of the environment.

Another quick example, people do not stare most of the time.  If someone is staring at you, then this would also be a change in the normal pattern.  Look for the elephant in the room.  With a little practice he will not be hard to spot.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Way of Sanchin Kata by Kris Wilder


I have started studying the book "The Way of Sanchin Kata" by Kris Wilder this week.  It is a very interesting read and something of a bear to put into practice.  I also have the companion DVD but have not looked at it yet.  I have also gone over my notes from the seminar Kris presented back in 2009.  I really like the power generation effect that this study obviously builds.  It is very different from what I have learned from of my instructors here in Oklahoma.

Further, the other Goju Ryu schools in the area don't get into anywhere near this level of detail on this kata.  At least not in my experience.  That is not to say that they can not.  I don't know if they can but I have certainly not seen it.

My secondary reason for working on Sanchin Kata is that I really like a kata in Shotokan called Hangetsu.  In the Okinawan systems of Karate it is called Seisan.  Seisan finds its root in Sanchin like many other kata and I want to be better at it.  Seisan and Tensho and fascinating kata and I think they will be my preferred path to progress in my study of the martial arts.  Or at least one of the paths I am taking for now. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Recommended Authors

Mosaic of Martial Arts Books
I have been reading martial arts related material for some time now and I have found some authors to be must read material.  This is in no way a slight to authors not on the list.  It represents a body of work that I have had the privilege to read and review, so far.  Things that have had a profound effect on my understanding of the world, violence, and the martial arts.

Author and some sources of reading material. (In no particular order)

Iain Abernethy - Bunkai Jutsu(book), Iain Abernethy(newsletter).
Rory Miller - Meditations on Violence(book), Chiron Training(blog)
Kris Wilder - The Way of Kata(book), The Striking Post(blog)
Marc "Animal" MacYoung - Professionals Guide to Ending Violence Quickly(book)
Lawrence Kane - Teaching the Martial Arts(book), The Way of Kata(book)
Lt Col Dave Grossman - On Killing(book), On Combat(book)
Loren Christensen - Fighter Fact Book 2(book), On Combat(book)
Dr. Jwing-Ming Yang - Bagua Zhang(book and DVD), YMAA Publication(website)

There are more but this is a pretty good start.  Of course, if you ever have questions for me I would be happy to answer them.  I think in order to really have a good understanding of anything it requires study.  The kind of study that comes from both experience and reading(academic).  

A wonderful quote

Going through my daily glance at Google Reader and I see that Mr. Rory Miller has posted another couple of articles.  There is a quote from his most recent post called "Old School". 

I have my personal definition of bad and evil. A bad guy will hurt someone to get what he wants. Evil will hurt someone even if there is nothing to gain. It's simple, but it works for me. - Rory Miller
 I love it!  So clean and concise.  Reading observations from Rory Miller, Kris Wilder, or Iain Abernethy I always feel very humbled by elements of their work I would consider to be profound.  This quote is a good example.

Their work is inspirational.  Keep it up guys.  Want some great reading take a look at my list of recommended authors on this blog.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

2011 Seminars you must attend!

Well, I received an email from my friend and fellow martial artist Eric Parsons of Blue River Martial Arts.  Eric has been host to a couple of great martial arts seminars over the last two years.  First we had Kris Wilder of West Seattle Karate come and teach in Spring 2009.  Then in the Spring of 2010 we had Rory Miller of Chiron Training.  Again it was a fantastic seminar and I learned things far more valuable than just the martial arts from both of them.  The details have been and will be the subject of other blog entries.  Needless to say that given the opportunity I would go study with both of these gentleman again in a heartbeat.

Little bit more background:  In August of 2010 Kris Wilder hosted the United States side of the Martial Art Expo.  A seminar series that had some of the biggest martial arts names in the world teach both here and in the United Kingdom.  The instructors included Iain Abernethy, Al Peasland, Kris Wilder, Rory Miller, Marc "Animal" MacYoung, and Nicholas Yang.  The trip to Seattle was wonderful all by itself but the seminar made it that much better.  We had a great time and I enjoyed meeting all of the guys in the seminar.  I hope with some small changes to the order of things that we can do something like that again.

All this brings me to the main point of the article.  Eric is currently working on the details of hosting two seminars next year.  Nicholas Yang on April 1st and 2nd and Iain Abernethy October 7th through the 9th.  As mentioned above I worked with both of them at the Martial Arts Expo and I am really looking forward to these next seminars. 

Nicholas Yang, was great to work with and obviously very knowledgeable about the martial arts.  Having grown up with Dr. Yang, Jwing Ming as a father could not have been easy at times but the evidence that both are great martial artists was demonstrated to me at the martial arts expo.  The focus of the material for this seminar is going to be Chin Na, White Crane Kung Fu, and Shuai Chiao.  For me with a Karate and Aikijutsu background I am hoping that I can use these Chinese arts to fill in any gaps I might have in my styles.  As they are in many ways the forerunners of both Karate and Jujitsu(Aikijutsu).  I am looking forward to this seminar.


Next is Iain Abernethy.  I didn't get anywhere near the time I wanted to meet him in Seattle but he is one of those guys whose great attitude is infectious.  Iain seems to have an indomitable attitude.  He is also well published with books like Mental Strength and Bunkai-Jutsu, he was the first author I read that gave me insight into the world of applied martial arts.  I have spent years putting together a lot of the information that seems to have always been common place to Iain.  Iain's style hits very close to home with my martial arts.  His primary Karate style is Wado Ryu and mine Shotokan.  I am certain that to look at them now they may not be what most think of when they talk about those styles but Iain has taken his Karate back to its root function as a real world means of self protection.

Both seminars are going to be worth any investment you might need to make to attend.  If you have to choose one you will have quite a dilemma on your hands.  I will be sure to post more information on this blog and on the Guinn Martial Arts website as I get more details.   

2011 is shaping up to be a great year!

 





 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Laws of Nature and The Crosswalk

Part 2...good stuff!

Laws of Nature and The Crosswalk: " by Kris Wilder

To follow-up on my previous blog regarding “Be Aware!” Pffft...useless.” I mentioned that I find myself ruminating at stop lights. As a result, I see some interesting things. I see people believing that, “I am safe when I am in this crosswalk”

Got news for you Padre, you are not safe.

As I sat at a stop light, I watched a young man with his i-pod, texting on his phone, never look up as he stepped into the cross walk. He just responded to the beeping of the cross walk signal while stepping on to the magical protective white paint of the cross walk.

This cross walk guy has all the rules, laws and rights on his side. Crosswalk guy is 100% justified in walking into that cross walk, heck the light changed. The laws of nature say that if I miss the light, for whatever reason, he is dead. I would say that the laws of nature trump the man made laws every time.

The point in my previous post was that I can't go around on alert all the time, not possible. However situational alertness is a darn good idea. So let's solve this problem with a quote from former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, “Trust but verify.”

This, “Trust but verify” is a great little maxim to use in the martial arts, and day-to-day living. You already use it on the mat or dojo floor already don't you? Don't you have a follow-up technique if you first technique fails? Don't you follow through on a throw?

Sure there are a lot of issues in this posting, but I would say, the primary message here is; Know that the laws of nature trump the laws any city council can make.

So I guess the maxim now reads; “Honor natures laws and look for abnormal behavior.”

Yeah, nice maxim that bookends the two extremes.

"

“Be Aware!” Pffft...useless.

I had to share this article from Sensei Kris Wilder. Plus look for the follow up article as well.



“Be Aware!” Pffft...useless.: " by Kris Wilder


I always think that first principle of self defense to be utterly useless, at least as presented.

A considerable amount of my time at stop lights has been spent pondering this idea. “What is awareness and how do I implement it in a manner useful to me?” Clearly I can not walk about like a crazed meth-head flinching at every moth that goes zig – zaggy past me on its way to the nearest light. Assuming that every person is a threat is not going to work either. I am not going to throw down on grandma on line at the Safeway pharmacy, no upside.

I am always seeking ways to condense, to distill, to a single statement, my methodologies. How do you assemble the idea of “Be Aware!”

Well I got that answered by a cop named Ivan that I met at Crossing the Pond Martial X-PO. Ivan said, “The cop has the job of investigating the unusual.” Now we do that all the time, but being aware that we are looking for the unusual is the kicker. Actually we unconsciously look for irregularities all the time. I am suggesting that being actively aware that you are looking for anomalies in pattern makes a tremendous difference in the identification and assessment.

Ask any person that does crowd control, works a door, bounces, or cops, they will tell you they look for the disturbances, the unusual in the patterns and once they find that disturbance then they identify why it is unusual.

Like I said I try to condense these ideas to a useful maxim and what I have here is; “Know you are looking for behavior on either side of normal from the baseline environment.”

Have a better version, a tighter expression of this idea? I am always open for comment.

Oh, and one last thing, those jobs I listed above, their job it go toward the disturbance. My job is to go the other way.

"

Update on my life

I have not been writing in some time.  I completed my Phase 3 class which is the second part of the classes needed to get my license as a private investigator.  Now I have to take the state test as my next step.  The test is going to be on November 16th in the morning.  Once I pass it I will need to come up with about $500 for the bond, PI license, Agency License, and other odds and ends.

I also need to come up with another $500 to get my process server license.  This is actually a higher priority than the PI license as with it I can start working immediately.  Once I have it I can earn the money I need for the other.

As for the PI work.  I have to build a clientele and I need to work with a mentor to get a little experience before I start taking my own contracts.  Plus I need about $4000 to $5000 in equipment to really get started.  I will need to invest in other equipment too but that can be done over time.

I applied for a small business loan but after three weeks of waiting and a few phone calls to get some feedback I still have not heard from my banker.  So, either something odd is going on or the guy wants to tell me "No" and just hasn't found the time to come tell me.  I am not sure.

I attended an OPIA (Oklahoma Private Investigators Association) meeting while in class last week and met some great guys.  I hope that one of those contacts will be my mentor.  I would like to shadow some people for a couple of runs before I get started.  I also need to sit down with my friend Clay and see what information he picked up in the Process Server class he took at C.O.P.S.  (Center of Professional Studies).  From what he said they had some really great information.

So much to do and so little time with which to do it.  Plus I plan on incorporating my business into an LLC and that means I also need to fix my articles of incorporation and get them filed with the state so that I can get that ball rolling too.  In order to get my Agency license I need to have the corporate filing done first.  Plus I need to have all the bonds issued in the company name.  Bonds are going to be in place of liability insurance for now and I have to have them by state law in order to get licenses.

At some point I also want to join the OPIA.  It would be a great organization to be a member of and provide me with some great contacts for when I start working.  I have a feeling that until I get away from my current employer I will need to use subcontractors to get some of my work done.  

It will take a lot of work for me to organize all this but it will be worth it.

Lastly, I need to start getting my name out to people.  I just don't want to put the cart before the horse.  I need to have all the licensing before I start accepting work.  but if I wait till I have my licensing I might be waiting longer to get the work and I will need to start working immediately.

Anyone know where I can scrounge up about $500?  Might take me as much as 6 months to pay it back but I will get it paid back in time.

Plan B is to wait till tax time and use what little money I get back from taxes to get started.  That will work fine but I sure don't like to wait.

Exit Poll 2010

Fox news posted a really nice statistical analysis on the exit polls for this midterm election.  Some very interesting material and some things that you are just a given.  Take a look:

Foxnews.com - Exit Polls

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Driving a little traffic for Rory

Rory Miller has posted a note about a e-book he just published online.  The book is about violence and looks very interesting.  It is being sold for $5 and should be worth the price.  I have not bought it yet but I will, once done I will be sure to publish a review on my website.  Guinn Martial Arts

Rory Miller's new e-book


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Taking my daughter on vacation

My daughter Emma and I are going to leave Saturday morning for Texas.  Our plan is to check into our hotel and go straight to Six Flags.  I went ahead and bought season passes for 2011.  Not sure how many times we will be using these but at this point since Emma and I are going Saturday and Sunday I have already saved $80 for not buying daily tickets. 

If all goes well I will get one more season pass for my son Conner and maybe we will have some fun going back some more throughout 2011.  We will see.

I am really looking forward to the trip, it should be great fun. I know Emma is looking forward to it as well.  She has asked various questions about it for nearly two weeks.  Which means it is very much on her mind. 

I will be sure to post some pictures when we get back. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Re: Making Sense of "Sen"

This is a great article on the concept of initiative in the martial arts.

The First Strike

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New TV Show - No Ordinary Family

I like television and movies.  I have so much to do I really should not watch TV but I have found a new TV show that I enjoy.  No Ordinary Family is a show about a family that discovers they have super powers and begins to learn to adjust to their new found abilities.  Think Incredibles but live action instead of animated. 

A very well done show.  It is on ABC on Tuesdays at 8/7c.

Right now they have the pilot and the first two episodes online.  Take a look.  Good stuff, funny with a touch of serious. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Conditioning your mind for battle, Part 1

This topic is actually very complex and far reaching in its complexity.  However, there are a few elements that I think are needed in any type of violent conflict.  Whether it be empty handed or with weapons.

First, find your center.  I know that in different schools this can mean a lot of different things, however, I am not talking about Chi or anything mystical.  In this case I am going to recommend that you drop your weight just a little bit.  Bend your knees.  The easiest way to know how to bend is to do this...  Stand up straight, legs nearly locked out.  Back straight.  Sit straight down as if there is a stool directly under your bum.  As you begin to bend your knees pay particular attention to keeping your back straight.  After bending your knees just a few degrees you will feel the muscles engage.  Almost like a catch in the legs.  You will be just before the quads engage fully.  It should be fairly comfortable although when you are not used to it your legs will tire quickly.  With your body aligned straight up and down with knees bent you are best able to engage and stay in balance.  You can be mobile and static as needed.  You can best generate power from this relaxed and flexible position.

Second, breathe!  Too many times when we exert ourselves we can find ourselves holding our breathe.  Especially when we find ourselves in a conflict when stress is high.  Another common place to do this type of this is to watch people climb a flight of stairs really fast.  Many times people are not used to being athletic will hold their breath as a response to the quick heavy exertion.  Also, psychologically, breathing is a great stress reliever.  Just focusing on forcing yourself into a regular breathing pattern can take you out of the tunnel vision created by conflict and adrenaline.

Third, close the gap.  As part of the conditioning needed to protect yourself.  I think almost all of the martial arts would teach to move toward and not away from an attacker.  At least in a "real world" conflict.  The primary reason is this:  If we stay at arms length we are at the optimum position for all the punches and kicks they can throw to land at their most effective.  Basically, we would be in a perfect spot for them to hit us as hard as they are able.  By closing in on the opponent you shorten the distance they need to build up momentum in their attacks.  If the defender is worried about getting close than think about the example I got from Rory Miller's blog.  Give a 300 lbs. man a cat and tell him to hold on to it.  Then throw a bucket of water on the cat.  The man should have trouble maintaining a grip on the cat without getting scratched up pretty well.  How much more effective should the defense of an adult be over a cat.  Get close and attack.

There is more to training yourself to be prepared for an attack.  Self defense isn't exactly color by numbers but there are some things you can train yourself to do that will help.  These three are near the top of the list.  Drop your weight, breathe, and close the gap.  Once inside, bite, scratch, slap, become that angry cat and make the attacker want to run away.  Again, this is not all but it is the beginning.

And, of course, this is all assuming that simply running away and talking are not options or have already been exhausted.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Failure to engage

Talking to a friend over the weekend and he works as a police officer not far from where I live.  During our discussion we covered a lot of topics and it was great.  I look forward to the next time I get to hang out with that family.  They are all great people. 

One topic stuck out in my mind and it was something I can see relating to martial arts training.  Something I would like to see if there is any way to train someone out of the fear this event can create.  My buddy called it "failure to engage".  It happens mostly to rookies and in the Dojo I have seen it in white belts and first time instructors.  I have seen it happen in any situation where the person in question has to exert some sort of authority over someone else.  Especially where that authority is in the form of physical contact.

For example, the first time I stepped into a Karate class my instructor called me over a few days into the program and asked me to spar with her.  She took it very easy on me.  Being 16 I was hesitant to hit hard, not so much in being hit but there was a little fear of being hurt at the beginning.  (Some people never get over their fear of pain, but that is an article for another time.)  So, when asked to hit her or kick the instructor I was not comfortable at all.

Another examples comes from the first time I was asked to teach a class.  It is one thing to give a lecture in a classroom.  Entirely a different thing to give a lecture in an environment where the students are supposed to interact not only with you but each other.  That gave me some pause as well.

My last example is the one that sticks out to me personally.  When I worked as a bouncer, around the time I first started I had to ask people to follow the rules.  It was very strange to tell people what to do and have them immediately comply.  I am so used to my kids dragging their feet, or people at work looking at you with the "who are you and why are you telling me to do this"  attitude.

The example that my officer friend gave was during a potentially violent encounter a rookie is asked to take someone off their feet, for whatever reason, and they are hesitant to actually engage.  To put their hands on someone and drag them to the ground.  This "failure to engage" doesn't happen all the time but is more common than not. 

So how do we train people either in a law enforcement setting or in a martial arts setting to get rid of the fear that makes people fail to engage.  The officer said that most of the time you can tell people all the time about acting on their authority but they have to experience it.  Possibly even get hit a couple of times before they realize that it is time to act and not wait for the bad guys to get the first swing.

In a personal defense/civilian setting, job 1 is to run away.  To get away from the trouble if we can.  However, even in this instance we need to be able to engage.  We cannot wait for the bad guy to act.  If we see a threat and fear for our safety or the safety of others than we have a responsibility to act.  At that point it is time to demand people make room for you to get away.  If they don't than you get to use your training as a martial artist.

One tool I know works on things like this is visualization.  Close your eyes and visualize someone acting in a threatening manner.  When they do engage.  Immediately!  If it is a mistake you can still go before a judge or whomever and explain that you felt threatened and that you feared for your safety/life/or that of someone else.  Just remember, we must engage, sometimes in order to run away.