But how do you set that up?

I love talking to people who are smarter than me.

It amazes me just how many people are smarter than me! I get to engage in conversations with smarter people all of the time!

Today was one such day. I spoke with an old friend of mine who was able to give me an ah-ha moment, and put into words something that I have been unable to find the right phraseology to properly express.

In martial arts there are several categories of study.

Some people want to only practice forms for show. They want flash, fancy techniques and stuff that will get attention and wins in a martial sport tournament. There is nothing wrong with this endeavor, but it sets people up to fail in a crisis.

There are people who cross-train. They want traditional martial arts training and they want to get the gloves on and go fight. I have had the chance to see first hand how they can fail to see the dichotomy of their criticism of ITF Taekwondo using the sine-wave in kata, but failing to use it in sparring (because it is counterproductive), but then fail to see that their kickboxing looks nothing like the traditional martial art they are practicing themselves. Cognitive bias maybe? I don’t know. I’ve been hit in the head a lot.

There are people who study for application. They want to know how is this technique used?  Some martial styles are obvious in how a technique is used in a fight, some less so, and there are many degrees of interpretation.

While there are people who do teach what I will present here, there is still a large group out there who do not seem to get it.

There is a lot of work involved in getting to the point where the technique can be used. Yes, practice and repetition are a part of it. But if you do not understand how to set up a technique, you will never pull it off.

In speaking with my friend today, I used the example of wrestling. In the martial system that my friend and I both practice, Hung Gar, there is a practice called bridging where you first create contact with the adversary. In the system it is often said when there is a bridge, cross it, when there is no bridge, build one. To use the system, any system, there needs to be contact first. In wrestling, you are already starting in a position of contact. The bridge has already been created. But in either case, you have to know how to set up what you are trying to do or you will fail.

In my youth, the two went hand in hand and as such I never had to give it much thought. This is how you create contact, this is what you do with it.

But when you watch a lot of the martial artists show how to use their style or system, they have someone present a feed (a feigned attack that stops short and then remains motionless).

As a training tool, under limited practice, this has its uses.

But anyone can look good in this type of demonstration. To the beginners, this stuff looks like something out of  movie. To old codgers, it is lame.

If you are an instructor, teach how to set up the attacks, defenses, or applications you are teaching. If you are a student, ask how these are to be set up. Otherwise, you are going to be missing a huge component of your system.

The Shootist I Ain’t

It has been a very busy few weeks, and I had not had a chance to go back to the range. Right now, I have a tournament to prepare, one of the largest karate tournaments I have done to date, and I have been working on that a lot, but my brain needed a break.

So, I went back to the range.

Here are my results this week:

20160207_194530

Okay, first I have to admit, I am not very good yet.

I am kind of proud of the hole in the bull’s eye.

Odd thing about that though; Since I bought my S&W 686, I have only been running 38 Special cartridges through it. They are less expensive.

I brought some 357 Magnum cartridges today.

Wow, they kick like an angry mule!

But a point of pride for me – every one of the holes in the bull’s eye were from the 357 rounds I fired at the end of my visit. I am happy about that.

While I am not good, some improvement is clear, and I can accept that.

I admit that I am anxious to go to LTC (License to Carry), but I want to be better than this first. I have no qualms about admitting my lack of expertise. I will not pursue LTC until I am certain that, in the event of the unthinkable, I needed to use my firearm, I would not be a hazard.

I thank you for putting up with these posts as I share my horrible marksmanship, but the whole thing is a process, and I hope that people on the fence about learning to shoot can take some courage and see that learning is learning.

I am a martial artist, lifelong, but this is new territory to me, and while I get frustrated over not being a natural at this, the learning is fun. It reminds me of being a white belt. Everything was in front of me, yet to be discovered.

This is like that. I am learning and I have a desire to achieve at a level that I have not had in many years.

I am having a blast learning firearms and marksmanship.

The Paranoia Straw-Man

Within the study of logic and critical thinking, one will find many items labeled Logical Fallacies. In this post I am going to look at a particular logical fallacy called the straw-man and how it is quite often used against those who try to teach people to be safe.

The fallacy of the straw-man is really pretty simple, and easy to spot if one is actually looking.

In basic terms, what is happening is that a person will first misrepresent their opponent’s argument; framing it in a way that makes it absurd, and then attack this absurd misrepresentation. Politicians do this all the time, as do major news organizations (pick any of them, they all do it).

In the self defense industry, we often speak to people about staying aware of what is going on around us. In simple terms, pay attention.

But we get attacked by certain groups who have a vested interest in keeping victims in a perpetual state of feeling victimized. And they cry foul.

You want us to be paranoid! There is no way to live our life and be on constant lookout for a rapist!

Did you catch that?

We were taken from simple awareness all the way to paranoia without noticing it.

Obviously, I cannot speak for all self-defense coaches. But the majority of those I have spoken with all agree that people need to put away the digital distractions, put away the earphones, and notice what is going on around them.

For you to notice anything out of the ordinary, you first have to be able to be at peace in the ordinary.

Now we will address the straw-man.

While there are some self-defense instructors who use paranoia and any other tactic they can find in order to recruit students, they are easily spotted by anyone with a brain. You can only be scammed by them when you are just not thinking.

When the self-defense people I speak with teach awareness, they are all quick to note that you need to be aware of both what is good and what is bad, what is normal and what is odd.

The state of mind of the hyper-ninja cannot be maintained, and is probably not healthy. No sane person would really want to live like that anyway.

But that is not what we are teaching. This is precisely why it is a straw-man.

We are teaching people to live in a calm, relaxed state of awareness. Distractions are not necessary, so we put them away, and notice what is going on around us. If we see something out of the ordinary, we move to a heightened state of awareness. If there is something to be concerned about we take action, but if there is nothing, we go back to the calm and relaxed awareness.

If you truly give yourself to this way of looking at the world, a funny thing happens; you begin to appreciate the good in people a helluva lot more than you would if you were paranoid that every person you see wants to rape or kill you.

When you can see the good things it makes you better equipped to see possible threats, and this is key to personal safety.

So, when people tell you that awareness is just paranoia, see the disconnect between their view and what is really happening. You could do a lot worse than to know what is happening around you, good or bad.

Silent Communication

The subject of what precisely it is that makes a criminal go, “Nah…not that one. I need to find a different one.” as they seek out a target is something that has been an ongoing topic of interest for me.

With my size (6’5″ and 255 lbs.), I tend to be dropped from the interview process pretty early on.

But what about the non-giants among us?

How is it that some people are simply passed over in favor of an easier victim.

Within the self-defense industry, there are some common themes that are used to answer this question.

Posture is often mentioned. The way you carry yourself will tell a predator a lot about your levels of confidence, and that information helps determine how willing you are to fight back. Posture can also give indications of your overall health, which will give clues as to your ability to fight back as well.

Awareness is quite often sited, and is certainly another factor. If your eyes are glued to the tiny screen on your phone, and you are oblivious to what is going on around you, then you could be ambushed without much planning at all.

There are also several other factors which could be listed as well; how you are dressed, other indicators of social status and so on.

But there is one thing that ties all of these together.

Communication. Specifically the unspoken communication.

Some of the wannabe gangster kids on my campus can be acting very ignorant in the cafeteria at lunch time, and be shamed into silent and proper behavior with nothing more than locked eye contact with me, and a single slowly raised eyebrow. It is a technique I learned from my Wife, as this is the look she gives me when I do or say something stupid…which seems to be quite often at times.

Back in the 90’s I spent some time working as a Bouncer. The popular idea of that profession is that if someone acts out of line, you beat them up and throw them out. The truth is that if you are a bouncer and fight the drunk guy, you’re doing your job wrong because fighting is bad for business. The good Bouncers learn to stop most of the troublemakers through nothing more than presence, and that silent communication that if you keep on, things are going to get ugly. 

So my point here is, yes – train. Learn to protect yourself in a fight. Get in shape. Be aware of your surroundings. Keep your inner-monkey brain in check.

But learn to silently communicate that you are not an easy target.

It is a lot easier to handle situations before they turn physical. And you become so much safer when the bad guys skip you in their search for a soft target.

KICKSTART KIDS Sponsorship Drive

KICKSTART KIDS is a nonprofit that uses martial arts to recruit and retain students while teaching them life skills and character strengths. I am privileged to be a part of this group. I get to teach martial arts all day, have dinner with my family in the evenings, and I can honestly say that I never have a boring day.

Right now, and running until February 5th, you have a chance to help KICKSTART KIDS, as well as helping my students in the process. KICKSTART KIDS is doing a Sponsrship Drive, and you have the chance to get a limited edition T-Shirt featuring our founder, Chuck Norris.

20160127_200729

A sweet shirt, AND a chance to help kids!

  • So here is what I am asking you to do if you are able:
  • Click HERE
  • Order your shirt
  • When selecting a school you are sponsoring, please select “Travis” (my campus)
  • If you wish to sponsor a specific student, message me and I can get that info to you as well.
  • Feel good knowing that your purchase has helped at-risk youth
  • Share this far and wide!

That is it! I appreciate every one of you! Know that when you make this purchase, the money goes to help a lot of kids. I thank you for everything!

Peer Pressure

I teach martial arts as an alternate PE credit elective inside of a public school in a financially challenged area of North Texas.

There is a new student who has been nearly late every single day since transferring into my class. Once inside the classroom, he is attentive, hard working and clearly eager to learn. But once we step out of the classroom, he changes into this thug who claims to have been forced into my class.

What gives?

Well, it seems that the answer is peer pressure.

As we were entering the building after class today, a student from another class saw him and in typical modern teen fashion began to harass and ridicule him for being in karate.

For a start, there is no shame at all in being a part of the KICKSTART KIDS class, it is a very worthwhile choice for an elective, and it gives a home and a sense of belonging to many kids who have a hard time finding that place in school. Year after year our students outperform non KICKSTART KIDS students in tests, attendance, behavior and any other category one may care to use as important. The bottom line is, martial arts teach kids to use discipline in order to achieve success. It is a lesson learned daily, weekly, monthly and yearly in our class. Beyond this, any student who  is doing well and not in the Principal’s office all of the time, or facing alternative placement should be held up as an example, not made the subject of scorn or forced to fabricate excuses for why they are making good choices. Especially when they seem to always be offering these excuses to students who wouldn’t know a good choice if it fell in their lap and started singing about doing the right thing.

Upon being seen, *Billy* offered a flood of excuses and stories about how he was forced into the class. He was clearly embarrassed about being seen with our group.

It is a shame that kids who do not have the intestinal fortitude to try something new and risk failure have to try to drag down others with real interest and real talent.

The people who are able to stay true to their interests are able to achieve success, those who give in to the outside pressures will not. I faced my fair share of people ridiculing me over my interest in the martial arts, and I did not quit. This past summer, two of my students, Sally and Tina, while not facing ridicule, did face pressures to leave karate from different sources, yet they persevered and managed to pass a grueling Black Belt test.

Those who criticize you do not matter. What you feel when they talk bad about you is nothing compared to the regret you will one day feel if you let them make you quit.

When there are no “good options”

This article is based on a conversation I had with a friend of mine. It was pointed out to me during this chat that I spend a lot of time writing about how to avoid conflict, how to not participate and how our ego gets us in trouble, but do not tend to address those times when the trouble is seeking us out. 

What exactly are we supposed to do when they ambush us, blindside us, or take the fight to us? How do we respond?

So today I will offer my thoughts on what to do in those situations that have no good options.

There are people out there who do not regard you as a human being. There are people who are not wired right. There are people who cannot see past their own selfish wants. There are predator humans. These people are truly dangerous and deescalation is not going to be a good tactic with them.

With the predator, your best option is to not be selected as a target in the first place, but as I have already stated – some people are not wired right. I’ve been attacked before. If they will attack someone like me, who is 6’5″ and 250 lbs. +, and tends to look like they missed breakfast and lunch and are angry around strangers, well…they will attack anyone.

We have to face the facts that, at least sometimes, there are no good choices to be made. Sometimes we will have to fight, injure, maim, or even kill if we want to survive.

From a legal standpoint, you need to use only the amount of force necessary to stop the threat.

From a practical standpoint, the definition of “necessary” can be kind of fluid.

People in the midst of an adrenaline dump do not react to pain and physical damage the way someone not under such influence might.

Ditto drugs.

Alcohol affects different people in different ways, but pain tolerance is usually higher than normal for drunks.

Another variable is the level of pain that is normal for each person. For me, even when I am asleep and dreaming, I am still aware of the pain in my knees and back. It never stops.

For some people a papercut is a tragedy. And there are any number of other levels as well.

Stopping someone who is not reacting normally to pain is a challenge and will probably create legal hassles for you in the aftermath, but sometimes we have to do what has to be done.

I am not giving legal advice, just offering points to consider.

When you face those times where there are no good choices to be made, you have to opt for the least worst choice.

There is still a technicality of sorts involved in this.

You can lessen the legal aftermath if you break bones instead of killing the attacker. But each situation is different. There are those times when the threat needs to be stopped, and stopped now, and that might involve lethal force. Those decisions are made in the moment and are made on the best information you have at the time.

A normal, healthy person never sits around wishing there will be a chance to kill another person. People who hold such wishes are predators from the start.

But there are those who are willing to do what needs to be done when they end up face-to-face with a predator human. These people do not want to hurt anyone, but they are willing to go there if that is what it takes.

In cases of ambush or blindside attacks, awareness will maximize what little time is available to you to react and have at least some chance to defend yourself.

Obviously, if you are hit with a lead pipe from behind, there is not much you are going to be doing about it. But if you see the guy start to swing, or if you peak around and see him approaching, you are much better off. So, stay aware. Drop the digital distractions and pay attention to what is going on around you.

And if you are willing to stop him, you will be safer than if you try to negotiate with him or just opt to be a victim. None of this is pretty, and there will almost certainly be legal and psychological issues to be dealt with in the aftermath, depending upon the level of force used.

Sometimes the absolute best  choice sucks.