A Teacher’s Reward

I started teaching martial arts a long time ago. When I started, my biggest passion was simply to share something I really love. For me and for many others like me, martial arts are more of an approach to life than a sport or hobby. If you have ever had a moment where you have found that place where you simply fit in, then you can understand where I am coming from when I say this. Keeping the doors to my schools open was always a challenge, but never enough of a challenge that I wanted to give up.

Then, in 2002, an opportunity fell in my lap. I had a chance to go to work for Chuck Norris’ Kick Drugs Out of America, which later became known as KickStart Kids. I was stepping into my dream job; I would be able to teach martial arts all day, every day, and not have to worry about overhead and the hassles that come with running a commercial martial arts school. I knew I would enjoy it, but I did not expect how much the job would change me.

When I ran my martial arts schools before, students were people, but they were also income. I needed them there and happy, but I also needed them to pay. I had to constantly remind them to pay the monthly fees, I had to call students who had stopped coming around. There was so much to actually keeping the school open that I only really knew anything about the lives of those students who were around for a few years.

In KickStart Kids, this was different. I saw my students every single day. I had a chance to really see them as they struggled and as they grew. I had time to learn their stories, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I gained an insight into the lives of the kids in my class, many of whom were classified as at-risk.

This insight comes with a price.

I have to see potential in everyone. This comes from the fact that I had zero potential of achieving anything remotely related to success in the martial arts. I have said many times that everything a person could have working against their success in this field, I had working against me. Everything from absolute poverty to being injury prone, add in a lazy streak five miles wide, introversion of such an extreme nature it would be better called willfully self-imposed isolation, and you can start to see the wondrous disaster I was, and why many people predicted that my foray into the world of martial arts would end in complete failure. I was often the only person who believed I could do this. It sucks to be the only one who believes in you.

As a result of this personal experience, in my eyes, every student has some degree of potential. It is pure foolishness to think that every student is going to become a lifelong martial artist, or follow in your footsteps and become an instructor. I don’t allow myself such delusional thinking. But I do try to see the potential for success that each student has. I made it my mission to make sure that my students knew that I believed in them.

But the real problem is that, very often, they don’t believe in themselves or see their tremendous potential. In some cases, they have been beaten down so much by life, or peers, and sometimes even by their parents, that they no longer value themselves or see anything they can do right. Even when they have a person telling them they actually are doing something right, they have a nagging doubt.

This hurts my feelings every single time, but as it is not about me, it becomes my job to make them see their successes and through that, see their potential for even greater success in whatever they want to pursue. Sometimes I am able to do this, sometimes I fail. The victories are awesome, and failing is almost physically painful.

But for as long as that student is in my class, I have a new opportunity each day to try to reach them again, and each day holds the possibility of success.

And in all honesty, the repeated failures of my attempts to reach them and break through their doubts really add up. And they do take a toll on me. But the beginner lessons in any martial arts style teach the need for tenacity.

So I try again because I have to make them see.

Their friends make fun of them, I run interference or counter every claim by the negative friends.

Their parents tell them that they can’t do anything right, I point out every day every detail that they are nailing spot on.

They have a bad day, they get a detention or a bad grade, I show them how well they can focus here and how to apply that elsewhere.

And it wears me out. Finding the energy to motivate someone else when you are worn completely out is tough. Doing it every day is probably impossible, I guess. I have not reached a breaking point yet, so I don’t know how true that is.

But there is this amazing payoff.

More often than you would imagine, a student will suddenly see! They will make those connections on their own that you have been pointing out for weeks or months, sometimes years. They finally get it.

The funny thing is, when my students get it, they always try to give me credit, and I have to remind them that I was just pointing out what they were already doing. Their success and the joy in their eyes when they find that success is my reward. That moment is my battery recharge and it is what keeps me going. Feeding off of this energy allows me to step right back into the trenches in the next class period. Yes, the moment is fleeting, but it is so important to know when you are happy.

Every Teacher of any discipline knows what I am talking about. I have spent the last fifteen years working with some truly amazing professional educators, and when I share these thoughts with them, they all relate, even when what we teach is immensely different. The best teachers I have ever known were people able to help their students see their own success when it happens, and see failure as a lesson and not a definition of who they are. Be the person who helps other people see what they do right rather than pointing out what they do wrong. In the long run, it will help you as much as it helps them.

Because I have many former students who follow this site, I want to take a moment to thank you for being one of those people who recharged me and allowed me to step into the next class ready to keep fighting. Your successes made me strong enough to keep trying to help others, and without you, I might not have made it to this point. I am proud to have had the time in your life that I had, and in some cases, still have. My successes in the classroom come from the blessing of having had such amazing and truly wonderful students. You all taught me more than you know. I thank you.

Mailbag: Active Shooter Question

With the random shooter attack in Florida, I am wondering if you could give us some advice on what to do if we are caught in a place where this happens? Ryan B., Fort Worth Texas

My advice would be the same for the airport scenario as for any other active shooter situation.

What do you do?

The basics of self-protection stay the same in this case.

You have your Wife and kids with you, head for the nearest exit. If you are a person concerned with safety, knowing at least two possible escape routes is basic training. Even as you walk through a large place like an airport or a shopping mall, you should be making mental notes of the locations of exits as you pass them by and be on the lookout for exit signs as you approach them.

When escape is not possible, getting your loved ones behind cover needs to be the next option. Cover is a barrier that will stop bullets, whereas concealment means you are harder to see. Opt for cover whenever possible.

The decision time comes when the loved ones are out of harm’s way. Do you stay with them and hope you all are not discovered or do you move to stop the threat?

This is an individual decision and I cannot tell you what to do. You have to know your own strengths and weaknesses, you have to have information that only a person in the situation at that moment will have. Anyone giving one-size-fits-all easy answers, treat the answer with suspicion. The fact is that there are too many variables for there to be an easy answer. I wish there was an answer that I could give with more specificity, but there isn’t.

Start out by understanding that there are people in the world with no regard for the lives of others. Know that there are people who will kill you because they just want to. Get some training to gain a deeper understanding and to give you a point of departure in developing your plan for safety. And hope you never need to use that plan.

Digital Self-Defense

In our time we have seen the rise of the highly opinionated, poorly informed, easily offended, self-righteous, self-promoting, vociferous, obnoxious, feisty-yet-spineless, anti-bully, cry-bully, cry-baby, my-mom-says-I’m-special-like-a-snowflake generation. It is easy to dismiss them as cupcakes, but this does not give a real picture of the coincidence of opposites they truly are that makes them such a monstrous beauty.

By no means do I intend to justify the need for safe spaces and cry-ins by grown-ups who never learned that life is hard. I do, however, want to take a shot at understanding why answering the online rants of this type is probably only going to result in higher blood pressure for you, and how there are some other tactics that might make things easier for you.

So many people seem to find a sense of validation in social media likes. When we post an update onto our preferred social media platform, we will constantly return to see the number of likes. And people seem to be overly concerned about who is liking their updates.

What seems to be an even bigger problem is when we start getting negative feedback. This is probably rarer in the personal friend list, but people are fair game when they stick their digital neck out and comment on a public news article. People get extremely courageous in the digital world. And there is a faction that sees it as their job to silence alternate views and opinions. These are the folks I mentioned at the start. Educated, tech savvy, and quite certain that any opinion contrary to theirs is richly deserving of ridicule. They certainly seem to despise anyone who is working-class, religious, or who simply does not buy what the news media outlets are selling.

And if you become bold enough to offer an opinion different from them, you will be attacked.

Does the thought bother you? Well, if it does, there are a few options you have.

The first and most effective method would be to simply not comment on these public news stories. Yes, you have a right to comment, but do you have a reason to do so? Look at it this way; no comment from you will eliminate any chance they have of attacking you or your opinion. And remember, there is no comment you can give will change anyone’s mind on the subject. The people who already agree with you will agree, and those who do not will disagree. And depending on the topic, there will be a virtual all-in attack if your opinion is found to be contrary. If this type of thing bothers you, don’t make the comment in the first place. This is the digital equivalent of not showing up for the fight.

Another method for those who really feel the need to make that comment, make your point and don’t return for the follow-up comments and/or like checking. Much like the physical self-defense advice of walking away, this has the end result of you getting that opinion off of your chest, but without the added rise in blood pressure that goes with reading the bad things that will be said about you. Even in the topics that I cover here, the feedback I get is about fifty-fifty. Half of my email feedback is positive and friendly with a “keep up the good work” vibe, while the other half is a hateful attack. Once I see that the email is not a constructive criticism (I get a few of those too), I do the unthinkable – I stop reading it. There is a world of difference between, “I disagree with what you said because A, B, C and D lead me to believe you are wrong.” and “Who the hell do you think you are! You don’t know sh*t! I could kick your ass!” When people tell you that you are wrong, but give reasons which they feel support their position, it is not an attack, and it is a surprisingly adult thing to do. However, name calling and ad hominem attacks etc. are a kind of last resort desperation measure by those who know they will not win an argument by reason. There is no sense in engaging with those who resort to these tactics because any rational response will only bring them to attack with even more irrationality. Walk away from it.

The last option I see is one that I seldom take, and that is fully engaging the trolls. It is a no-win situation because, as mentioned above, with the internet troll type even when you reach philosophical bedrock and leave them without a rational leg to stand on, they will name-call and claim victory.

Myself, I prefer to not participate in the comment sections wherever possible, and it is usually possible. On those occasions where I do throw something out there, it will be on something I know well and from a position I can defend without resorting to wikipedia. Arguing can be fun with a good opponent. But you have to have skin thick enough to withstand the fertilizer storm that will follow.

Thank you for reading, be sure to click the follow button and share anything you find useful. The giveaways will start soon!

Year End/New Year Post

As 2016 is finally in its death throes, and 2017 is racing headlong into our collective faces, I thought I would share with you a few items of what is in the works here.

First, I want to thank those of you still here. Our subscriber list went up and down a bit, but ended higher than it started, which is a good thing. The U.S. Presidential election this year had many people unfriending people they had known and probably cared about for years, over a difference of opinion. I know on my Facebook account, I was unfriended by 35 people, and I barely ever get political at all. Those of you who let it all hang out…I don’t know if you even have friends on social media anymore.

I will be asking more help in sharing those articles you find informative or helpful. Facebook likes are nice, but they have no substantial shelf-life. Subscribing here and sharing from here to any social media you use is a bigger help in reaching a broader audience.

Toward that end, I am working on setting up a monthly giveaway. Once it is set, there will be a prize given out each month, and all you need to do to be entered is be a subscriber to this site (just click the follow button at near the top of the left-hand column and enter your email address to be subscribed), and to share at least one article each month. Each share will be an entry (the more you share the more you are entered). I will announce it here when this begins (I am still working out some of the details). This will be a way for me to thank you for helping me reach more people.

Also, I am committed to writing more. I intend to post one new article each week during 2017. If there are any questions you have or topics you would like to have me visit, please feel free to let me know at smedleymartialarts@gmail.com and I would be grateful for your input!

In closing, I thank you for still being here. I went into this massive project with only my Wife and Kids as subscribers (and I think they might have been only trying to make me feel good). We are at nearly 1,000 subscribers today. I hope that what I write is helpful and makes you think because that is my intent. Also, feel free to comment on articles directly if there is a point of clarification you need, or for any other reason really. And my email address is above if you ever want to chat. Thank you for everything! Have a blessed and prosperous New Year!

Marlin 1895 Rifle

A few people have asked, so here is the answer, yes, the lever-action rifle that is a part of the random banner images is mine. It is a Marlin 1895 lever-action rifle chambered in 45-70 Government. It is a gun type that has appealed to me for a long time. The lever-action guns are pure Americana.

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The rifle holds four in the magazine and with one in the chamber you have five very powerful shots. If you need more than five with this gun, you are either a terrible shot and would be better served by throwing the rifle at the enemy, or you are up against some seriously committed enemies, or your people skills are lacking and you have angered many.

A little bit about the ammo.

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In the image above, I have on the left a .38 Special. This is the round I am typically using when I go to the range with my revolver. In the center is a .357 Magnum, hollow point for home-defense. This particular cartridge is actually made for home defense, it has a lower grain count and so the bullet is a tiny bit less hot (it won’t go through the wall and another wall and the refrigerator to kill a bad guy three houses down). The hollow point expands on impact to further slow the bullet. The cartridge on the right is a .45-70 govt. This one is a 300-grain cartridge, but I have since found that you can purchase .45-70 in a 405 grain. I actually found out that loaded for bear was a real thing after I bought this rifle. I thought it was just an expression but .45-70 can be a bear hunting load with the proper grain count.

My purpose for buying the rifle was actually hunting. I want venison. I have since been informed that the round is a little bit more powerful than what I need for Texas deer. And as I make no claims of expertise in the subject, I can only agree. However, I plan to also hunt elk and perhaps buffalo in the future as well, and with this rifle, I will not need a different gun for the different hunts. Being unable to secure a day lease to hunt for deer this year, I am working on arrangements to hunt for wild pigs, and I have been told this is the perfect ammunition for that. We shall see.

In all, I am very happy with the rifle. It is a great weapon that is well built and the ease of use has me hooked. The learning curve was a lot easier to manage than the revolver. This is a product I can recommend.

Strength in Numbers?

There is a wave of self-defense instructors breaking from the standard Run, Hide, Fight advice, and instead opting to suggest attacking the attacker. Today I am going to take a look at this and offer my thoughts on the pros and cons of attempting to put this advice to use.

From Government websites to self-defense bloggers, the advice has been pretty standard; run, hide, fight. Run if you can, hide if you cannot run, and fight as a last resort. This is the meat and potatoes of it, although from group to group the phraseology may vary the advice is the same at the core.

And in the interest of playing fair, I need to point out that this has been a major part of what I teach. I am not going to defend this position. I am always looking for a better way to help the most people.

Recently people have been getting a fresh bit of advice with a new take; use the security of strength in numbers and attack the attacker. Rush him head-on and overwhelm him.

And while I get where the advice is coming from, I am still hesitant to offer this as a blanket answer to the problem of “lone wolf” terror attacks.

Why?

On the surface, this seems to be absolutely logical. One guy with a knife or a gun versus twenty, thirty, sixty people. The bad guy will be overwhelmed and will assuredly lose.

I like it!

But there is a drawback. How committed will the group stay when those in the first rush get severely wounded or killed?

Not everyone has ever been in a real life-or-death fight. Many people have lived a life almost entirely free of physical conflict, much less life-or-death stuff. The first time that things go to that level of real, it is terrifying. In all honesty, most people will be incapable of much positive action. I will be generous and call it two out of ten, but that is going to be extremely charitable. There are people in this Country who need a room with coloring books and pictures of puppies if someone says mean things. How well with they match up against a killer? Not well at all, I am sorry to say.

So, let’s say there are thirty of you who were unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the worst possible time. If we use my two out of ten equation, that gives you six people who will go after the bad guy.

What happens when the first two in range drop dead? Will all four of those who joined in the counter-assault keep going? If only two turned and run, your strength in numbers has dwindled into a mere mismatch.

And I hate to be the one to break the bad news, but if the threat has trained for this and you have not, you are up a creek in a boat with a hole.

Please don’t misunderstand, none of this is to say to not fight back.

See, the terrorists that do this stuff, they train, and they go into the act knowing they will not survive. Their goal is to create as many casualties on their way out as possible. It would be awesome if we became a Nation where so many of us were trained and strong enough to squash all of these incidents as soon as they began. Remember, in Texas, when the terrorist wanted to shoot up a place and got killed before he managed to do anything except die? An entire country of that!

And while I am here, I want to add one thing. If you are hiding during an attack, for the love of God don’t make social media updates about sheltering in place!!! Posting a picture of your barricaded room is foolish and vain – never a good combination.

Short form of the above: If you aren’t trained, jumping into a fight with a terrorist might get you killed. You make your own choices, but be smart. If obviously trained people are moving after the threat, stay out of their way. Get the training necessary to be one of those people taking out the threat, and if you find yourself in a position to stop the threat do it!

Be nice. Be a living, breathing example of all that is good in humanity, until it becomes necessary to stop the threat. Then it’s okay to release the Kraken.

Social Media, Habits, and Safety

In this post, I intend to take a look at some of the habits developed through social media and how they impact our safety. And just so you know going in, this is not another post on avoiding stalkers or identity thieves.

One of the problems I have had with the internet in general and social media specifically is the habit people seem to have of instant expert status. People will read something which aligns with their personal bias, and they start to pontificate on the subject. Expertise comes with study, training, and experience. And if you want to really understand any topic then study that topic. Before you share a news article, check the sources. It will also help if you learn to identify when the writer is directing your emotions. The differences between misled and lied, or killed and murdered are something you need to see instantly. If you really want to be an expert on a given subject, then put in the hours to study whatever that subject is, and do it right. The instant path will only lead to your embarrassment.

Another bit of rotten ice people seem to have no hesitation about running out on is the use of incindiary labeling. For example, when you call someone a racist you need to know ahead of time that that is a pretty freaking serious charge. For almost a decade the term racist has been used as an inescapable shut up. It was used anytime a dissenting opinion was offered. Oh, you don’t like pickles on your hamburger, but you like bacon on it, is that because you are racist? Racism has a very specific definition, memorize it before using the term, please. There has also been developed in our time a dangerous habit of shouting at one another rather than talking. Both sides of any topic want to win rather than do what is best and right, and in so doing they increase the likelihood of things going wrong. Both sides would do well to understand that what is best is not going to be the extreme view of either side.

I need to interject here an important life-lesson; there will always be people who think you are wrong and about half of the time, they will be correct in this assessment. Tattoo this on your forehead if you must, but however you have to do it – get it in your skull. You will not always be right. And if you don’t do your homework as advised above, you will be wrong more than right.

And lastly, I want to remind you that people formulate their opinions and then defend them without consulting reason. Anytime you share an unresearched “news” article or a witty meme, you are either alienating friends or solidifying your echo chamber. We like to tell ourselves that we are creating awareness or countering bias but we are doing nothing of the sort. Such behaviors are little more than self-soothing. The more likes we get from our like-minded friends, the more secure we feel in our opinion. But we would do well to remember that we are insulting almost as many friends as we are affirming.

But what was actually accomplished?

Nothing, if we are honest. Maybe we made ourselves feel better through the approval of our inner circle. But is that really an accomplishment? Getting the approval of people who already agreed with us? What about the friends we insulted? Should we consider them at all?

Your actions will speak louder than your social media overreactions. If you truly believe something – live it. Be the living example of what you want others to see. This is a better way to get your point across. You cannot change another person’s opinion of a topic, but you can change their opinion of people who look at things the way you do.

I hope this helps.