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.