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.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Things to include in training for self defense

The majority of martial arts schools only ever teach the tools of the martial arts and rarely touch on any of the other aspects of violence or conflict.  What I mean is that the tools are the actual punches, kicks, throws, etc...  These techniques are taught in some form or another by all the martial arts or fighting arts in the world.  Obviously there are some variations in execution of those tools but a punch is a punch.

One big problem is that very few of the schools I have studied with ever really talked about the strategies or tactics associated with fighting.  Furthermore, even fewer have ever really discussed the application of violence and where that meets the law.  Also, what about de-escalation, understanding criminal bahavior, and responsibility to escape.

Rory Miller was kind enough to put this in perspective for several of us in a seminar.  The martial arts are a practice of manufacturing cripples and corpses.  We may have fun or train at a low level so no one gets terribly hurt but if we ever apply what we know to someone in a real setting as a means to defend ourselves then we are going to hurt someone badly.  That is the point of our training isn't it?

Consider that lethal force is obviously anything that can take a life.  However, just as bad in the eyes of the law is the concept of serious injury.  In Oklahoma as in other parts of the US I am sure, serious injury is described as anything that causes: a serious gash or deep cut, major broken bone(s) such as a femur not just fingers, and/or damage to internal organs such as the liver or lungs.  These are at the top of what the law enforcement community call the Continuum of Force.  They are considered very serious.

Well, I can tell you right now, that as a standard of practice I teach my classes Aikijutsu.  For years I new that knowing the law in regard to this kind of thing was important but never considered actually going to the effort of looking it up.  So for years I was setting my students up for failure.  Not in defense but in terms of the aftermath.  Yes, Bobby was able to fend off his attacker but the guy has broken bones the likes of which he will never really recover from in his lifetime.  Well, this can go well if Bobby was worried about being attacked with lethal force or at least reason to believe he might suffer serious injury.  However, if the attacker was just trying to take his newspaper from the front lawn and they got into some sort of heated exchange that led to a fight.  Well, now Bobby is looking at jail time.

As a martial arts instructor we need to be aware of the "loaded gun" we are handing our students.  Just as we would hand someone a loaded gun we make sure they are aware of the safety concerns related to that weapon.  Thus we should be equally as responsible with what we teach.

Marc MacYoung posted a complaint about this very thing recently.  He makes a very good point.  Thanks Marc and Rory.  I am learning and I have started doing what you suggest.  Even so far as taking classes on law enforcement so that I can better understand the law and where I stand as a civilian.

Keep the lessons coming guys.  We need them.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


So when is a good time to get started on making changes in your life?  What if the changes are major?  Will we ever be prepared for all possible outcomes?  What if we fail?  

When do we get started realizing our dreams.  For men the fear of failure is a big motivator or de-motivator as the case may be, and yet when asked about invention Thomas Edison had some quotes that I think fit into my world view very well.  This quote stands out to me:
"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work".  - Thomas A. Edison  
It is this attitude that needs to be learned by more people.  I know this is an attitude I have failed to adopt until recently.  In addition to my failure to maintain my self confidence I also have allowed myself to stop achieving.  As mentioned in the last post, I like accomplishing goals.  It is that sense of production that gives me a great sense of joy.  Not just the finished product but knowing that what I am producing, the act of being in production is what I really enjoy.  So why stop?  Fear of failure.  However, there is a better way to see failure.   

In the long run, failure is a better teacher than success.  Failure is also only truly loss when we give up.  Using the quote from above we need to strive toward progress but always with a watchful eye on our failures.  They will provide us with valuable lessons on how to proceed.  Not that we should seek out failure but understanding it in the right light is taking a big step toward success.  Not too long ago I talked to a friends step mom about business and she said that one lesson about the successful in business is that the wealthy see everything life exchange in a profit/loss perspective.  Time spent with kids, work done for a particular person, work spent on my own concerns, learning and research, watching movies.  Everything can be seen through this lens.  It keeps them constantly aware of their progress.  

The only catch I see to this goal oriented and driven type of progress is that we also need to make sure our priorities are in order.  Without a proper sense of priorities we could get pulled in several different and sometimes counter productive directions.  
To Edison work was the fun part.  He enjoyed hard work and although I don't necessarily agree with everything he has said he is definitely a great person from which to find motivation.  Another good quote:  
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas A. Edison
 I have never been afraid of hard work.  Being a little ADD I have always felt like I had to fight up hill to get what I wanted academically but I did it none the less.  I wish I had that attitude when I was in school.  I also wish I understood how to handle my ADD addled mind better.  Oh well, hind sight being 20/20 and all I get it now.

How do we get started?
  1. Find Goals - Work with others to make sure they are reasonable.  Look at the SMART goal accomplishment method.  Each goal has to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.  Again I will explain the SMART plan in another post.
  2. Organize and Order - Prioritize all the goals found in step one.  Place goals that are contingent on other goals as subordinate.  This goes back to the SMART model to assist with organization.  Get a game plan on accomplishing this goal. 
  3. Verify against Profit/Loss model - Make sure that once progress is accomplished it will be time, money, and effort well spent.  That it gets you that much closer toward accomplishing all you want or need to accomplish.
  4. Gather Resources - Remember you don't have to go it alone.  Other people can help you.  You might very well have to compensate some but others you might not.  Consider that you might also be able to trade services.  Perhaps a previous accomplishment can be used to provide value to your help. 
  5. Get Started - Once you have your goal, a game plan, and the resources to accomplish it you need to get started.  Don't wait if you don't have too.  I wasted years trying to make some magic event tell me it was okay to risk.  That magic event may never come. 
  6. Observe Progress - before during and after a goal is being accomplished we need to be in an observant mode.  Always watching to see how things ebb and flow.  If we do this as a matter of habit we might avoid disaster or even see opportunities we might have missed before.  Some are simply not observant by nature so this might have to be learned.  But as things progress we need to be able to reevaluate and for that matter know when we are done.  If you are not observing your progress you may work on something long past its valued life. 
  7. Return to the beginning- every so often I think it is necessary to return to the front of this process and see what has changed.  Add and remove goals as needed.  Things change.  Be sure you keep up with those changes.  Goals change over time, be prepared to scrap everything if needed to start over.  It is important that we also remain adaptable.
 All this to make sure that if we are waiting on life to hand us the magic key.  STOP WAITING!  It is not going to happen.  If someone does hand you a magic key, it is mine.  Give it back!

NOW!  Get started.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Chaos, confusion, and adversity

For years I have fought against numerous factors that have kept me from making any progress in my life.  Inertia being a big one.  It is very easy to sit and wait for things to happen.  It can even happen slowly over time while your not watching.  I have always been a very goal driven person but have slowly but surely allowed my goal driven nature to be put on the sideline because I didn't feel my goals were fair or reasonable. 

"So, what the heck are you talk about?" you say?

A short list of some of the life goals I wanted to achieve from my bucket list:
  • Achieve a 3rd degree black belt in some martial arts.  (Passed and surpassed as I now hold a 5th degree in Aikijutsu and am working on my 4th degree in Shotokan Karate)
  • Get a college degree (Got it.  I have an MIS degree from NSU here in Oklahoma)
  • Get a good paying job (Got it.  I work as an IT person for a major hospital in Tulsa)
  • Have a family (Got this one too.  I have two incredible kids.  This one also counts in the fail column but I will explain later)
  • Nice car (Never really been much on cars but I like my Mazda CX-7, the first car I have ever owned that I really wanted.)
  • Go on a big vacation (went to Seattle, it was wonderful.  Some minor setbacks but great all in all)
Now, as you can see I have a good list of goals that I have accomplished.  And that is not all of them but these are some of the more important goals to me.  The catch is that I also have a list of failures that bothers me a great deal.  Now I am working on seeing my failures as opportunities to learn but it is hard when you have allowed yourself to be mired down in them. 

  • Don't live paycheck to paycheck (yep, I suck at managing money.  I am behind on some of my bills and have WAY over committed myself to projects, repairs, trips, etc...)
  • Divorce (I don't believe in divorce.  Frankly I would rather work through and suffer than ever give up.  Stubborn? perhaps but I just don't like divorce.  It is very rarely a good answer to a problem.  However, it does me no good at all to not believe in this if my partner does.  Hence, my divorce.  Oh well.)
  • Raise my kids (I am very active in my kids lives.  They stay with me half the time.  Two days with me then two with mom and alternating weekends.  It is not the best arrangement but it works well enough for now.)
  • Lose weight (yup, when I am stressed I eat.  I am constantly sabotaging my success in weight loss with midnight snacks.  Is this a matter of self-disciple?  I don't know but it is a psychological and I am not fixing very well.)
Now to be fair there are also things that I am working on to improve my situation:
  • Get my PI license (this gets me a new career and hopefully away from working with computers as an IT person.  I want this a lot!)
  • Slowly getting my house clean.  (I have a lot of things bagged up but need more hours in the day and a lot more determination to get it done.)
  • Read books (I have tons of books to read and review, tons!)
  • Write my book (I have heard that everyone has a book in them.  Most just don't let it out.  I want to get mine out.  In fact, I have a plan to write three of them for sure.)
  • Post on my blog (I like posting here as much as possible because it makes me get my thoughts out on paper.  Very important for me right now because I have come up with some great revelations.)
The best analogy I can think of right now is that of a motor boat.  Engage the engine and the boat gathers speed.  You will feel the waves but at speed they are not quite so bad.  However, if you don't make sure the engines stay engaged you begin to slow.  Become subject to resistance and inertia.  Life is full of things like this...hardship, heart ache, pain, sickness.  These things and much more offer a myriad of obstacles to block our progress.  If we are not vigilant while at the controls, if we are not prepared to fight through the adversity the boat slows and drifts.  Perhaps even away from our goals.

To make matters worse I find myself also doing too many things are once to be able to make the progress I want.  To continue the analogy, I am still steering the boat.  But now I am also checking the radio, talking to friends, looking at the fish finder or a radar, etc....  If I am not careful I can't pay attention to my route or goals.  Seems like I speed off into the rocks on a pretty regular basis.

How do we fix this?  How do we get to our goals when we are overwhelmed?  Well, I am going to start by enlisting help.  Then I am going to reorganize my goal lists of the past.  I am going to schedule things that help me make progress and remove things that might become obstacles.

One big thing I think needs to be used is the SMART plan for goal management.  If you don't already know what that is I will post something on it soon.  Keep an eye out for it.

Off to teach classes.