The Fear of Making Mistakes and Failing

Most people live their life with two major fears hanging over their head, the fear of making mistakes and the fear of failing. Often these are the very people who wish for the dazzling success of the leaders in different fields.

But the leaders in any field, in many ways, are not really that different from you or anyone else. They are normal people, but they accomplish more than others. The qualities that set many of them apart are available to anyone.

See mistakes and failure as an opportunity to learn.

If you can take a negative experience and turn it into a learning opportunity, you are doing it right. A mistake or a failure doesn’t have to be the end of the road. If you take the time to understand what went wrong and see if there is a way to correct it, nothing was really lost.

Let mistakes and failure strengthen your resolve.

When you have an attitude of I will not be denied, then you can use setbacks and struggles to make you stronger and get back into things with a stronger will.

In the Taekwondo organization I was in during the mid-90s, there was a policy where your first Black Belt rank was called Probationary 1st Degree. You had two testing cycles to pass the next test or you were demoted to red belt. The first time I tested for Decided 1st Degree I injured my foot a few days before the test. I was bull-headed enough to still try to break the board with that now injured foot as I had said I would on the testing forms. I swung a round kick into the board and the board held true while pain exploded from foot to brain. I was in a lot of pain, but made the second of three allowed attempts, with the same result. On the third attempt, I used my one allowed change of technique, switching to the opposite foot for the break. By this point, my right foot was no longer in any condition to hold me up, and the third and final break attempt failed, as did I on the test.

I limped back to my car and understood very clearly that this failure was entirely my fault. When the next testing cycle rolled around, I hit the boards hard enough to break the center section out instead of breaking them in half. I passed because I refused to fail. The first test was a setback in my eyes, not a failure.

Had I let the results of the first test sink in and cloud my vision, I might have never gone back and tested again. Then I would be an old man sitting here tonight wondering what to write about…

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!

Another Try

Last week  shared my experiences regarding my first visit to a firing range. In short, I was pretty terrible. This was the result of my first attempt:

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Well, I got a lot of really good advice, and this is what the result was from my visit this morning:

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Still not great, even with there being more shots, the clustering seems to be better. I still seem to be firing low and to the right of center. The one shot way out by its lonesome on the upper left was when I intentionally aimed off to the side to see if I was pulling to the right when I fire.

A couple of thoughts on what made me happy about this visit. First, I was not the only revolver in the room today. Last week was funny in that the sound in the room was bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam…click BOOM…bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam…click BOOM.

This week there was another six-gun being used in the lane next to me. Small difference I know, but it was nice to not be the odd-ball this week.

So, with practice, I think I will become a decent shot. To me this was a pretty good improvement. I am still not good enough to even begin to move toward License to Carry, but one step at a time.

Identity or Pigeonhole

I have been asked by several people who read this blog about how I identify; am I a traditional martial artist, a RBSD guy (Reality Based Self-Defense), a gun nut, or what?

To be honest, I am just studying. Each phase of what I have undertaken has been, what seemed to me, to be a natural off-shoot of what I had studied in the past, and where I felt I wanted to go.

To me, the thought that a traditional martial artist cannot look at interpersonal conflict in a way that matches reality is absurd. Traditional martial arts are based in reality. Sometimes we have to dig a little because of how conflict and combat work in our day and age, but the basis is still there. The people who founded the old systems were not looking to make a quick buck, they were trying to survive.

It is far too easy to color our thought patterns with modern viewpoints and experience and say that the people of the past were ignorant. In our time, people “create” new martial arts all of the time, but they are typically people who did not have the wherewithal to cut it in a traditional school. In times now gone, people were taking what they knew and trying to survive.

The system of Chinese Martial Arts where I cut my teeth, and still train in to this day, is a short-bridging (close combat) system that, at least at its core,is designed to be taught to lethal proficiency in a very short time-span. Of course, there are later add-on’s to the core, but the facts are the facts. Hung Gar is not the only system so equipped – on the contrary, there are many others, I would even go so far as to say most other traditional martial arts could be described as systems designed to bring practitioners to lethal proficiency as quickly as possible. So do not create a false dichotomy of traditional martial arts versus reality based; no such dichotomy exists.

But by the same token, because traditional martial arts were born out of a real necessity, then reality based self-defense is traditional.

The very core of traditional martial arts is the goal of staying alive when attacked by bad people, and making them suffer for their transgressions.

So tell me; where is traditional not reality based and reality based not traditional?

So to answer in a short form, I do not pigeonhole myself by categories based on false dichotomies.

I train in and teach traditional martial arts. I study the common threats we face in our time, and use what I know to create my response to such threats. In hand-to-hand, my base is going to be from a solid, traditional southern Chinese Martial Art. But this does not mean I will close the door to other methods and other training, and please do not mistakenly assume that my training has no basis in reality.

Learning is actually fun.

And I like guns.

So, I suppose what I am getting at is this – study what motivates and inspires you, and always look toward learning. It is not necessary or even productive to accept the labels that are commonly used to divide martial arts (or people for that matter). Society is very good at dividing people these days. I think we can do better.

Thoughts? Comments?

What is ‘Practical’?

For the people who know me best, the idea that I talk so much about being practical can sometimes take a moment to sink in. I do things in an oddball way as often as not. When asked a question, I tend to give a thorough answer with supporting information rather than a quick, simple, and direct answer. In this and many other aspects of my approach to life, I am not always practical, which frustrates those close to me.

But when we start to go into the subject of martial arts, this all changes. After spending many years steeped in the more esoteric aspects to be found in the Chinese Martial Arts, I somehow ended up planting my feet firmly in the real world, and have been working to stay there and help others in a real way ever since.

After my recent posts, I had some correspondence with an old friend who is very much in to the esoteric aspect of martial arts. This is someone who has known me since I was in my late teens, and is a good person who really believes in this martial arts viewpoint. So do not mistake what follows as a condemnation of anyone holding to these views. This is me speaking from where I am at this point.

The conversation was about my recent journey into the training of firearms. The questions were largely centered on two points.

  1. Are firearms to be considered a part of martial arts?
  2. Are firearms practical, or even necessary?

I will address this speaking only from my personal viewpoint, and this in no way reflects the opinions of anyone who has personal of professional ties to me.

Are firearms to be considered a part of martial arts?

The term martial art refers to warrior arts, with the martial having a root in the name of the Roman God of war Mars. In our modern time, we have burred the lines of what is martial, what is warrior, among many other terms that seem to have needed blurring.

In times past, common people were conscripted to be a part of wars. But there was also a warrior class, and these people trained for fighting with weapons. The warrior class trained to fight with weapons which were the state of the art for their time.

While governments tend to outlaw much of what the military has access to, if you live in a country that allows private ownership of firearms, then by all means you should own one and train in the proper use of such. This training will prevent you from hurting yourself or innocent bystanders in the event you need to actually use your weapon. Training takes time and practice and requires guidance. Just like any other martial art.

Are firearms practical, or even necessary?

In my youth, I would have answered something along the lines of firearms being a coward’s weapon, anyone can pull a trigger, or some other pat answer that I had been fed.

Whether we are talking about a home invasion, or a terrorist attack, or a hijacking of a flight, or an armed assailant mugging you after dark – if you are going into the confrontation thinking your awesome spin kick will save the day, you are in over your head.

Yes, there are people who could bring a knife to a gunfight and go home with a new gun, but these people are rare and will spend a long time in prison if they are caught, which in our time is a foregone conclusion.

Practical?

Yes.

Necessary?

Well, yes again.

See, there are bad people out there. People who will rape you, rob you, kill you, and all of this because they can, or because they want to, or because you have something the want. No law will stop them. If they were worried about laws, they would get a job, or a cause, or join a group that did not involve harming others.

It is necessary to level the playing field. When they go armed, it is wise to do so as well.

Now, anyone with their head screwed on straight would not be wishing for a chance to use the weapon on another human. I own a gun and have no wish to shoot a person. I want to be prepared should the situation ever arise, but just as with CPR training, I would prefer to know how to do it correctly and never need to, than need to and not know how.

None of this is to say that people who do not wish to own or use firearms are stupid. This is all simply from my perspective and is my opinion on the topic. In my opinion, I like to seek peace from a position of strength. I don’t want to hurt anyone, but I have no intention of allowing anyone to hurt those I hold dear.

It really is that simple.

I share this because open dialogue on some subjects has become a strange practice of shaming those who disagree with you. I do not seek to have everyone agree with me, I am only explaining my position on the subject.

First Visit to the Range

So, I made my first visit to the firing range. I fired a gun for the first time in my life, and the only thing hurt was my pride.

While I have taken gun safety courses, I had no real training in the actual art and science of firing a pistol. Sure, all of the training on how to operate the weapon, how to load and unload and safely store it, even how to teach kids to not play with it while not making them afraid of it. But no target shooting. I had high hopes about my accuracy, and thought I would walk in and be able to consider myself a natural.

I did not know what to expect about the firing range, but it strangely reminded me of a martial arts school, without an instructor. Everyone was calm, respectful, and above all, careful.

Obviously, this is not the place for hotheaded behavior, or showing off. The guns were real, the bullets were real, and horseplay could end in disaster. I felt very safe there.

Yet, strangely, I was nervous enough to end up sweating profusely before I had even done anything. Yes, it was warm in there, but I was raised without air-conditioning, and worked in construction, in Texas, during summers that would kill mere mortals – seventy-eight degrees is really nothing to me.

Maybe it was the outright fear of firearms that I had been taught from childhood. The first time my Mother heard Steve Earle’s The Devil’s Right Hand, she called firearms by that name from then on. There was an instinctive nervousness that I needed to overcome.

My hands were especially sweating.

Which leads me to mention the grip on my gun.

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The beautiful wood grip on the Smith and Wesson 686 SSR was not a selling point to me, but I will admit in the back of my mind I did think about the way it would gain character and look even better with time.

What I did not think about was the way it would be slippery when my hands were sweating.

And slippery is an understatement.

God only knows where the first bullet ended up, but I can tell you that the gun jumped wildly. I was really not prepared for that much kick. This was not an issue of hand strength. I worked for many years as a block and stone mason, and I tell you without hyperbole; there are no weak block and stone masons. Even this many years removed from the trade, my hands are still wicked strong. The kick was just more than I anticipated.

Here is a photo of the first twelve shots:

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In case you did not count, there are seven holes in the target.

Five never even hit the paper.

It is my sincere hope that the five misses were the first five shots and were not the last, or scattered among the rest. These were my first ever shots, and if the very first ones missed, that will hurt my poor widdle feelings a lot less.

In the end though, what I take away from this is that I have work to do. Granted, it is fun work, but it is still work. I counted it as White Belt accuracy. Five shots within the target range, two shots outside of the target range but still on the paper, and five complete misses.

Since sharing this on Facebook, I have gotten encouragement and great advice from friends. Rik Kellerman casually mentioned something about finger positioning on the trigger that explained to me why all of my shots were to the right side of the target, and I can begin correcting that error.

At least I can only get better from here!

Gun Chronicles: Safety is more than literally not shooting yourself in the foot

This is another addition to of a series of articles where I intend to share my journey into gaining an understanding of firearms. I am sure there are others out there who, like me, were either taught to be afraid of guns, or else simply have no knowledge about guns at all. I share this in order to help any who might be on the fence about the topic itself, and also to show that a person can go from knowing next to nothing about the subject and still learn properly and thoroughly. As an admitted novice I must add that advice from experts who may visit this sight will always be appreciated!

A friend of mine asked me about which gun safety course I have taken. The fact is I have taken more than one, and still have a few more on my list. I firmly believe in learning from more than one source, and because of the importance of the subject, I am practicing what I preach.

The gun safety courses I took prior to the purchase were online, and did contain a lot of good information, but these lack the interaction with the instructor. The place where I made my purchase offers safety classes several times each week, and I will be attending a couple of these classes next week. I will also be taking one offered by the NRA as well.

The State of Texas also requires a special course for those interested in CCL (Concealed Carry License). The purchase I made is very much not (at least in my limited understanding) a concealed carry gun, but I will still take the course and obtain my CCL. I was looking more toward home defense, stopping power, and accuracy than concealed carry. While Texas is going to move to open carry, but I am not at the point of going with open carry yet.

Most important to me, however, is a course I will be taking in January.

I will be attending a class designed to help gun owners understand Texas law regarding the use of firearms in this Sate. See, there is more than just having a gun, knowing how to operate it and shoot accurately. Knowing when you are justified in using the weapon is of paramount importance! It isn’t just knowing enough to not shoot yourself in the foot. This is a big and often complicated subject. You need to go to people in the field and learn from them.

I have been teaching self-defense and personal safety for a long time, and I teach that the two most important factors in personal safety are not getting hurt, and not going to jail. If either of these two aspects are lacking, what you are doing in not self-defense and not personal safety.

I will be sharing my experiences with these course here, but because it is going to be Texas specific, I will not be going into the fine points. For now, I will say that if you are a gun owner, knowing when you are justified in using the weapon is extremely important, and should be as important to you as being able to hit whatever you are trying to shoot.