The ‘Butthurt’ Excuse

Yes, I’m aware that the word butthurt has some unpleasant connotations. But I chose it after careful consideration. I hope I can be forgiven.

People are very quick to excuse their own bad behavior. People are blisteringly quick to condemn the poorly thought-out actions of others, but the excuse-without-thought for their own action is of comparable speed.

And it seems that most people don’t even know they do this.

Here is the fly in the honey; if a behavior or action is wrong, that means it is wrong even when you do it.

But wait! You have a reason for acting that way! When other people do it, it is because they are uncouth cretins, but not you! Other people are uncaring, hateful and selfish. But not you, you are making a stand for (insert whatever group/cause/ideology for which you are making a stand).

There is a really big problem with this line of thinking. And if I am being honest – it is a problem that scares the hell out of me when I watch the news. It is a really small step from standing up for the oppressed, to they deserve whatever they get excuses for violence.

While it seems like you are being noble when you use bully tactics against people that you have deemed as bullies, the truth is you are also being a bully.

Bullying is a behavior, not a worldview. It does not matter whether or not you think your victim deserves this treatment. It is the behavior that is the problem. If you take any action of any kind, you can rest assured that your mind will find some kind of reason excuse for why it is okay for you to behave in this manner. The excuse will probably need to go entirely unexamined for you to believe it, but humans are good at excusing their own behavior.

And while I am here, I need to add that the old they do it too excuse is really weak. Again, if it is wrong when they do it, it is still wrong if you do it. Remember; it is the action that is the problem, not the motivation. Lots of horrible things are done in the world by people who believe they are doing something good and noble.

If you ever take a moment to ask yourself how you would respond to the other side if they were to do or say what you are about to do or say, you can stop yourself before you do something inexcusable by your own standards. I wonder often if people even understand how confrontational and threatening their behavior is, or if their self-justification mechanism prevents them from ever seeing that they are doing exactly what they condemn.

And in closing, I would like to note that not everyone who disagrees with you is your enemy. I know it is quite fashionable right now to view any contradiction as an attack, but the truth is that, at least for the mature people, different points of view provide opportunities for everyone to get better. Other people, even those from the opposing side of whatever debate you have turned into your cause, provide a chance for you to gain insight into what the other side is thinking and then solutions can come about through positive discussion. Stop shouting at each other and start talking to each other. I have people that I care about on both sides of every issue out there, and I think if you stopped screaming, you might find that you do too.

When People ‘Hate on you’

Emails come in, and I do my best to respond in a timely manner, but with only 24 hours in a day, and sooooo many distractions, as well as only being able to live in the now, sometimes my replies are late. Case in point here. It has been about a week since I was asked how to deal with people who hate on you. So, I finally sent a reply and edited out the stuff that might identify the original emailer to create this post (I did not ask permission to share the original email or their name so these will not be a part of this post).

In our current time, people are more skilled at finding something about you to hate than any other time in human history. When you put out information or opinion, be it through a shared video like YouTube, blog posts such as this one, or even social media, someone is not going to like what you share.

I deal with it all of the time on this site. I write about a topic that people tend to have pretty set ideas and opinions on. Anything shared which goes against another person’s set opinion is probably going to make them angry enough to comment. I get hateful emails almost every day.

And at its base, the motivation for these emails is a rather childish wish to make me say the things they want me to say.

It is asinine and juvenile, but it is not surprising. One need only take a look around at the temper tantrums being thrown daily by grown children who don’t want to deal with the fact that life is hard and sometimes things don’t go your way.

Basically what this adds up to is a simple fact that society isn’t mature enough as a whole to handle different points of view.

But in no way does this mean that you should not share your blog posts or put that awesome recipe for gumbo on YouTube. Do what you want to do. Living in fear of going against popular opinion or getting hateful emails is a sorry way to live. I write on whatever topic inspires me and I share my thoughts with very little filtering. Some people hate what I write, and that is fine. No one can make everyone happy. Those people who enjoy what I write and occasionally let me know that they enjoy it are part of what keeps this tiny blog about safety and sharp things and guns going year after year. It is about where I wish to place my focus. The people who send hate-filled emails are not going to like what I write, even if I cave to their demands; they will either call me a phony or claim that they are the one who convinced me.

So that is my advice. Do what you do, writing, YouTube, social media – whatever. Some people will love what you do and some will hate it. You cannot control other people’s opinions, you can only control how much their opinions affect you.

Folding Knives

Questions turn up repeatedly regarding different tools and methods and in general, people seem to want a confirmation that their view is best. Another possibility is an attempt to start an argument. I’m not trying to seem jaded, but the actual desire to hear another person’s opinion is rare in my experience. It is like those lists of The Top 10 BEST Martial Arts that seem to crop up over and over. Not everyone is going to agree with those lists, and as often as not, things degenerate into arguments over minutia quickly.

But I did open the door when I asked my readers for topics that you wanted to have me cover, and folding knives kept coming back up. Not everyone is going to agree with my answer, but…

I will be sharing my opinion on folding knives. There are arguments for and against, and both sides of the argument have valid points.

Pros

  1. Convenience. You can carry a folding knife and no one will be the wiser. They are concealable and as such make a great choice when you don’t want to scare the sheep.
  2. EDC (everyday carry). You can carry a folding knife all the time, every day. I have an awesome Bowie knife (it turns up from time to time in the banner image at the top of the site), but it sits at home all the time because even in Texas of all places, carrying an 11 inch blade is not legal. In a night time home invasion, it might be the first thing I grab…maybe. But if the SHTF while I am out having dinner, my folder will have to do.
  3. Safety. I have had to purchase custom-made sheaths for many of my fixed blade knives. The sheath that comes with the product, with the exception of my illegal to carry Gurkha Kukri, came with poorly made sheaths. The folder is much safer to carry anytime.

Cons

  1. Weakness. The folding knife has a break in the blade, and while they have locks to prevent accidental closure, these locks can and do fail.
  2. Lateral strength. You cannot pry with a folder, the line goes. Because of the single piece construction, the fixed blade is the stronger choice.
  3. Ease of deployment. You draw the fixed blade and it is ready for use. Not so with a folder. Especially under the stress of adrenaline, you might not be able to make your badass draw happen with your folder. With the fixed blade it is ready for use upon being drawn, and that simplicity makes it a good choice for high-stress situations.

Okay, I have brought up all sides, I think.

What I present here is strictly my opinion based on experience with a particular folding knife.

This knife is my Kershaw Black Horse. I’ve had it since the mid-1980s. As should be obvious from the stains and damage, I have not treated this knife very well, certainly not as I would if it were new to me today. During my years as a mason, this knife was a tool for cutting anything, it was also a pencil-sharpener, sometimes it was a screwdriver, occasionally it was also used as a prybar and more than once served as a wedge to hold a stone in place while the mortar dried. I killed a snake with it once. Made a beast with bad intentions back off from a stranger with it once. Short form of the above; this was Mjolnir, I treated this knife as if it were indestructible. When I was young, with this knife in hand, I felt indestructible.

Those white marks in the handle are from mortar. The stains on the blade are from waterproofing material that needed to be cut out of my way. The blade isn’t shiny like when it was new, but that is because this knife was, and still is a tool. It was used. You know the old saw about to a man whose only tool is a hammer? Well, this was my go-to tool. I used it for any and everything.

This knife has never failed me, even under conditions that most people would never think to use it. It holds an edge extremely well, and the blade has zero wiggle to it even today. How many of you have had a heavily used folding knife for the last thirty-plus years and have never had it fail or show signs of failing?

So, yes, I can vouch for a folding knife. But mine is not a five dollar folder. I don’t know if Kershaw still makes these, but I can recommend their products. I put mine through absolute abject and unadulterated hell, and it has never failed. So, I can honestly recommend a folding knife, if it is a good one. As with anything else, you get what you pay for.

Hope this helps!

People Skills and (Anti)Social Media

So much of your personal safety can be covered in developing your ability to interact with others as equals. There has been an increase in the attitude of superiority by different groups, and this can and does lead to conflict. Social media allows people to express their opinion, but there is a strange piling on that happens when someone has an opinion that is contrary to the group seeing it. Although there are common sentiments that bullying is wrong, people will resort to bully-type behavior online, and excuse their behavior because of their oh-so-pure motivations. They call people fascist but then shout down other ideas and viewpoints. The hypocrisy of these actions seems to be lost to them.

If you participate in social media you will see varying degrees of posturing, virtue signaling, and a lot of self-serving, look-at-me behavior. Social media is an exercise in narcissism. It has been since the start. People look for ways to generate a small version of fame through likes and shares. Many people hope for the ever elusive viral post. But, nevertheless, they seem to be placated by a modest number of likes.

Personally, I stay nice to everyone as long as possible, and when it comes to friends, it is always possible. At least, it is possible if the friendship is important to you. There was an election recently, and the results had about half of my friends livid, and about half elated, just as the previous election had, only the names had switched categories.

So, after the 2016 U.S. Presidential election I did what seemed reasonable to me; I scrolled past the political rants that I disagreed with or felt were going too far (from either side), I gave a like to the things that made me laugh, and tried to reinforce the positive, familial, non-political posts by engaging the poster with a comment or two. I even gave likes to photos of dinner!

I ended up being dropped as a friend by several people on both sides of the debate. Several others used the unfollow feature quite liberally. And I am fine with that. They still speak to me in a civil tone face to face and on the phone, so it is no big deal to me.

But other people were vicious. The personal attacks, the over-the-top gloating, the hate-filled rhetoric from all sides was overwhelming.

What does the behavior say about our overall people skills as a society?

There is a give and take in human interaction. Even the most tried and true human doormat wants something out of the interaction. But we need to remember that no one is going to give us 100% of what we want, not even Santa. Adults are supposed to know this, but the unfriending and the unfollowing happens. People seem to only want to see that which is agreeable to them and their personal biases, and they willfully refuse to see anything which might make them think or force them to justify their position and views. When you only allow that which agrees with your viewpoint, you are creating an echo chamber.

An echo chamber is not healthy. Surrounding yourself with only voices which spout the same thoughts and soundbites as you does nothing for your own growth. There might be that sense of revenge, or a temporary drop in blood pressure, perhaps a much-needed affirmation that your stance on the subject is correct, but beyond that…

So here is a possible alternative; take a break from news media and social media. I do this often. No matter your preferred news outlet, they have an agenda that has little to do with keeping you informed and a whole lot to do with keeping you coming back to them for more. I will go through times of checking local news media at the time I know they are doing the weather because that is all that I really need from them. I will drop out of social media for days at a time. And it does me good.

The next ingredient is the real key, though; talk to your friends. Even the ones you disagree with on political matters. Not text, not email – talk. Face-to-face or on the phone. This will work wonders to remind you of why they are your friend in the first place.

Also, try to stop placing a value judgment on their ideas. People look at the world through the lens of their life-experiences. Your view is as skewed as theirs is, and no one is 100% correct. Here is a quick test to see if you really understand the issues facing the world: do you think the problem has a simple solution?

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

  • H.L. Menken

If you think it does have a simple solution, you probably do not have a full grasp of the issue. Apply this idea to any of the hot-button issues you feel very emotional about and remind yourself of this. If you think there is an easy answer, you need to do some research. When you allow the understanding that solutions are going to be complex then you open yourself to the possibility that your friend does not look at things the way that he or she does out of stupidity, but out of a different context for solving problems. Maybe then we will stop labeling each other without much thought about the people we are labeling. Friends should be able to question one another’s methods for solving problems without questioning their motivations or character.

Anyway, that is my two cents. Be nice to each other.

KICKSTART KIDS Sponsorship Drive

KICKSTART KIDS Sponsorship Drive

It is that time of year again!

Kickstart Kids is a non-profit organization that teaches Character Through Karate. We operate in schools around the State of Texas offering a martial arts class as an alternate PE credit elective, and we work with some of the best kids in the State. We give them a place to belong, and a place to grow strong.

The annual sponsorship drive is a chance to help Kickstart Kids through the simple act of purchasing a t-shirt.

sponsor-drive-2017-order

All you need to do to help is to follow this link and place your order. If you want your order to help my school, using the drop-down menu under “sponsored student’s school” select Travis. If you wish to sponsor a student, email me and I will draw a name at random for you to sponsor.

There is a lot of good being done by this foundation and we have a positive impact on the lives of our students. Any help is appreciated always. Even if you do not purchase a shirt, you can help by sharing this information! Many thanks for your continued support!

What Would You Do?

This footage is not graphic. It is probably disturbing to people who do not understand this type of violence or prefer to pretend such things never happen. I think it offers a chance for some reflection on our state of mind and how we might react to such an occurrence. Take a moment and watch.

There were people within a few feet of the gunman when he began shooting. I know nothing of the stories of the people in the video. The gentleman nearby pulls a woman behind the cart kiosk (I think that is what it is called). Some of the people sitting in the chairs opposite the gunman can be seen trying to cover.

The question I want to pose to you is, if that was you, within a few feet of the gunman – what would you have done?

In asking this question to people, I have found that the majority of people seem to think they would respond in some heroic way. Some of the people I spoke with referred back to the train attack in Thalys, France on August 21, 2015, where the attacker was disarmed ( he was armed with a rifle that jammed, a 9mm pistol and a box-cutter), and then was beaten senseless with his own weapon. When offered the example of Fort Lauderdale or the terrorist attack at an Orlando nightclub where the bystanders did nothing, the counterargument was the same, not if I had been there.

Here is the problem; a person untrained and untested might believe that they would jump in and stop such an attack, but they have nothing factual to base this idea on. Take a look at the video again. Look at the reaction of the people who saw what happened. The startled jump from the gunfire, the confusion, the uncertainty. It strikes deep. On watching again, notice the simple act of taking cover is beyond the skill sets of the bystanders. One person tries to hide behind a cart that offers neither cover nor concealment. I am not criticizing her reaction, just making an observation. But it speaks volumes to the level of reaction that most people would have.

She had not planned for this and had no idea what to do. This is a simple statement of fact. How sure are you that you would react differently? A Combat Vet has a solid grasp on how they would react, a Police Officer has that grasp. Do you? Or do you have what most people have; an idea of what you hope you would do?

The Paris train attack that was thwarted. Well, those were soldiers. They had training and experience that allowed them to simply do what needed to be done. Even people who train in martial arts or RBSD (Reality Based Self-Defense) might not react the way they would like to think they would, but they do have two things in their favor. First, they have training. Call the training simulated violence if you must, but some training is better than no training, and training in real violence carries the risk of serious injury and/or death, and as such should be avoided as a matter of practicality (that is why there is the whole don’t try this at home thing). Second, they have a basic plan of what to do. When you have no plan at all, you are stuck. But if you have even the most basic plan, at least the survival centers of the brain have a starting point from which to begin taking action. You do not want your freeze response to last the rest of your life.

At the very least, develop a plan for the different places you frequent. Know where the exits are, where to find cover or concealment, and even makeshift weapons. Your survival centers need a point of departure before they will do anything useful. And keep in mind that you have to have an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses before any of your plans will mean anything.

Let me know what you think.

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.