Protecting Your Kids

Today I will be answering the questions which came to me from many different people via email that all boiled down to one thing – How can I keep my kids safe?

To give a really blunt answer, you can’t. There is nothing you can do that will keep your child 100% safe from all possible danger in this world. You will be able to breathe a lot easier if you give in to the undeniable fact that your child will get bumps, bruises, strains, sprains, infections, contusions, abrasions, colds, cases of flu, and maybe even fractures, concussions and broken bones – even if your parenting is flawless. These are things that happen in life. Your child might get bullied or be a bully at some point. Kids will keep secrets from you, tell lies, and convince themselves that you could never understand what they are going through. You did the same thing growing up.

Having said that, there is a lot that you can do to improve the odds of your child making it successfully and safely through childhood and into adulthood. What follows is a series of ideas you can implement that should give you some peace of mind.

Get Your Head Out of Your Apps

I stole the term from Alain Burrese, but it is the perfect term for this.

So many people cannot get their face away from their phone to see what is going on around them that it is tantamount to the real zombie apocalypse.

When you are with your child, actually be with your child. If you are not aware, there are so many things that can go horribly wrong. The simple act of paying attention can make a world of difference. As I write this, there is a news story about a woman whose baby drowned in the bath while she was looking at Facebook.

If your social media “newsfeed” is of greater importance than your child, then you are an idiot. Put it away, especially in public. You will survive waiting until you are home to see what political rant your friends have posted. Social media is one of the least important things you will do in your day, the time you give your kid is the most important of all, so treat it as such.

Nothing Off-Limits

By the time your kid is a teen, you need to be sure that there are no topics that are off-limits. Being a parent does not mean you will always be comfortable with what is said to you. It is vital to keep those lines of communication open and be sure that your child knows that nothing is off-limits to tell me does not mean that you will not be upset, it means that they do not have to feel the need to hide things from you.

And I need to stress that I am not condoning the snowflake mentality that thinks you need to be your child’s friend, you still need to be the parent, you are there to provide and guide and protect and teach.

The teaching part of the parenting job can be hard. It involves making sure that your kid knows that lessons learned by screwing up are harder than those learned by listening to your elders. It means there are times you will want to scream at your kid about their stupidity, but instead go pick them up from a party where they got drunk and called you instead of trying to drive home or let one of their equally drunk friends drive them. You will want to read them the riot act over being drunk, but you need to also see that calling you to pick them up was the better option in front of them.

They have to be able to come to you.

Instead of Stranger Danger, Just Danger

In looking at the numbers, a child is more likely to be abducted by someone they know. In the majority of child abductions, it is by a parent who did not/could not get legal custody. Children are molested more by relatives and people that are known to them than by strangers. Stranger Danger taglines sell classes to parents who are genuinely concerned but place the focus on an area where there is less risk. If your kid knows not to go anywhere with strangers and knows to not let them approach and what to do if they try to approach, then you can start to spend some time making your kid aware of other dangers, behavioral red flags that show something isn’t right. And be sure to teach them that these red flags can come from anywhere, not just strangers.

Best Practices

Throughout their childhood, you can provide them with the habit of best practices. For a child to not place themselves in a situation of being alone with an adult is an example. When I teach, as an example I will use my after school program, the students are taught from day one that the first person there will stand outside of the room holding the door open until a couple more students arrive. I do this because it reinforces the idea that they need to avoid situations of being alone with an adult. If I allowed them to wait inside the room alone with me, they might transfer the fact of being safe when alone with me into situations of being safe when alone with another adult, and that is certainly not a best practice. Things like this should be as common as look both ways before crossing the street, but they are not. Take the time to be sure your child grows up using best practices regarding safety.

This list is incomplete, but it will, I hope, provide a point of departure for you to begin considering how to address the ways of keeping your child safe that are within your power.

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Is Any Training Better Than No Training?

I had a person this week find offense with something I say quite often – Any training is better than no training. It is a statement that I am willing and prepared to defend. And so it will be our topic this week.

It is often ignored in the martial arts that a person with no training can seriously injure or kill you. Listen in on a group of martial artists as they pontificate on knife attacks (for example) and you will eventually hear someone say that a trained knife fighter would never hold a knife that way. The implication, of course, is that because the speaker is trained, the incorrect hold on the knife makes it a less effective cutting or stabbing tool, which is complete and utter nonsense. The fact is that if a person is trained in a certain style, there will be particular ways things are done, and certain methods, such as a specific way of holding a knife will be standard, and other methods are set aside. This practice is also why so many martial arts styles and systems are most effective against their own style (but that is a looooong talk for another day). But sharp things can cut you and pointy things can stab you even if the methods of implementing them are subpar.

Having said that, I need to bring up the context in which I make the comment at hand here. I do a lot of teaching to and talking with people who are afraid of the rise in terrorist attacks and other incidents of sudden violence. And my advice is always to get some training, with me or with someone else, but start training. This training will give you several benefits that outweigh any stylistic concerns.

For a start, training will give you a plan. If you have no plan at all for what to do when the bad guy comes, then you will be stuck trying to improvise. You are not John Wick or Jamie Lannister, you cannot improvise in these types of situations without at least some basic training, and even then it is a bad idea. Having a plan will give you a measure of confidence as well. And you will need that to start moving again after you are shocked that violence has come knocking.

The next point to consider; training in any method of self-defense is going to involve you getting away from your computer and on your feet and moving around. As I mentioned in Fighting Fit this is absolutely necessary to your plans for personal safety. No plan is going to work if you are not fit enough to carry it out.

And another point to think about, training gives you a chance to see if you can do what the style or school advertises. The instructor might be able to do something really fancy and impress you, but if you cannot replicate his success, then you will be able to clearly see that you need different training more suited to your specific abilities.

So while I freely admit that an untrained attacker can do serious damage and possibly even kill you, this should never be your excuse to not go through some form of training for protecting yourself and those you love. I also admit there are some really questionable martial arts schools out there, but in time you will be able to see what is real and what is not. Get started somewhere. A journey of a thousand miles and all.

I hope this helps and as always, subscriptions, likes, and shares are deeply appreciated!

Gun Control: Lullabies, Legends, and Lies

There was a high-profile shooting yesterday which brought out the typical news media routine of spin the back story on the shooter and deflect the incident into a conversation on gun control, or as they want to call it now gun safety or ending gun violence. The problem starts with a lack of understanding personal responsibility, the shooter decided to do this himself. It turns out he was from the political Left in this country, he was a Bernie supporter and a socialist, a social media ranter against any and all things Trump, and he was a Left-leaning news junkie. This information was all downplayed and the reporting was directed in the direction of gun control. Today, I am going to just present a few facts because there is a metric ton of fact that is ignored whenever the topic turns to gun control.

Shortly after the shootings, the Governor of Virginia made a very inaccurate (and ridiculous) statement that we lose 93 million Americans every day to gun violence. Unless we are bringing in many more refugees than they are publicly claiming, everyone in the U.S.A. would be dead in just a few days at that rate. In fact, if I may be permitted to use a more factual terminology, and call it gun-related deaths, even if the Governor meant to say 93 deaths per day, he would have still been incorrect. He would have been much closer to the truth, but in our time, facts don’t mean as much as agendas.

So, undisputed fact – there are right at 30,000 gun-related deaths per year in the U.S.A. Statistically speaking, 0.000000925% of the population of the U.S.A. dies per year from gun-related causes. On a personal level, each loss is tragic. At a recent shooting at North Lake College in Irving, I lost a former student. I know. But even the 30,000 number needs to be dissected to see a clear picture and notice the media spin.

To start with, you need to subtract 15% of the 30,000. That is the number that are from justified actions. Bad guys sometimes refuse to be taken in by the Police, or at times leave the Officers with no other option. In some cases, a home invader chose the home of an armed citizen and paid the price for the crime. Justifiable shootings happen, but anti-gun politicians think it is okay to lump these shootings in with the rest.

Next, take out 65% because those are suicides. Taking guns away because of potential suicides is pointless because if a person wants to die, they will find a way to make it happen, and the entire availability of guns effect on the suicide rate is propaganda.

You have to take out another 3% for accidental discharge. Guns, in spite of Hollywood jargon, do not just go off. The trigger has to be pulled, or there has to be a faulty engineering which allows a gun to fire when dropped.

So we are left with 17% of that 30,000 who are killed by the mentally ill, criminals, gang members, and druggies. Thirty thousand out of over three hundred million will not give you those drastic infographics that make America out to be the murder capitol of the world, which we are not.

In the end, we are left with just over 5,000 deaths per year that are the victims of gun violence, out of a Nation of over 300,000,000. And 25% of those deaths come from just four cities! Chicago, of course, takes the top honors followed by Baltimore, Detroit, and Washington D.C. And while we are here, I should probably point out that these cities have very strict gun control laws.

And this is a point where I will make note of the glaring fallacy that the media wants you to ignore – gun control leaves only the law-abiding citizens defenseless. The criminals don’t care one bit about the gun laws. Need proof, search out the number of shootings that occur in Gun Free Zones.

If you are on the political Left, and you wonder why people on the Political Right will not budge on gun control, no matter how you change the terminology, look at Australia. In a moment of weakness and emotion, they allowed themselves to be stripped of every means of personal self-defense. Now, the politicians there, who are safe behind their armed security force, are telling the populace that in the event of a terrorist attack, they should Run, Hide Tell, and if found in hiding, Beg. 

In my humble opinion, we owe it to those, who lost their lives in generations past to secure and maintain our freedom, to preserve and defend that freedom. You have the option to believe the BS and the lies and the spin. I think the truth in the debate is pretty telling. But so is the constant intentional misdirection of the political Left. So, in closing, I would like to recommend that you open a history book and read it.

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Knife Law Changes Coming to Texas

In Texas, there are some possible changes coming to laws that affect how we are able to defend ourselves and our loved ones from the various threats we might face. I have been asked and will give my thoughts on the topic. I’m not good at blindly following the typical party line answers, so I am sure that there are people on both sides who will find something wrong with what I present here, but that is okay. I love honest debate and dialogue. No one hurts my feelings when they disagree with me.

Illegal Knives

House Bill 1935 removes the illegal knives term from State laws. Once this is signed, many things change. Under current law, in Texas, it is illegal to carry a knife with a blade longer than five-and-a-half inches. And there are no legal to carry double-edged blades of any length.

I have been joking with my Wife that starting September 1st, I will be the one taking too long to get ready to go out (as I try to decide which knife goes best with my outfit).

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

There have been the usual scare tactics of claiming that everyone will be walking around with a sword on their hip (and really…would that necessarily be a bad thing?). In truth, I don’t think many people will be walking around with a sword on their hip. Those scare lines are about as silly as when Texas was shifting to legal open carry of firearms. People were freaking out that we were going to be subjected to old west shootouts every day, and it didn’t happen. Most people who concealed carried before the law change continued to conceal carry after. As protected as I am sure  I would feel with my Gurkha Kukri on my hip every day, I am just as sure I would also be harassed by ignorant busybodies. The possible feeling of security would be replaced by hassles from people who think there must be uniformity of thought, and such people are never placated. So, I use the what they don’t know won’t hurt them philosophy.

In the end, in my opinion, this new law will do two things that I think make a lot of sense. First, it will make it legal to carry a blade that it was already legal to own. Going to jail for carrying something that is legal to own, even when you were not committing any crime does not make sense to me in a free society, which we still are (at least for the time being). And second, it makes Texas finally allowed to embrace a symbol of our heritage – the Bowie knife. I never understood why in Texas, of all places, it was illegal to carry a Bowie knife.

So, there are my thoughts on the topic. Let me know what you think. As always, likes follows and shares are appreciated!

Essential Ingredients: Commitment

Many people who know me know that I spent a part of my younger days working as a Pro Wrestler. It was a very fun time for me, and at the time I had no responsibilities to anyone other than myself, so travel, injuries, and other assorted difficulties were of little concern to me.

I was working a match in San Antonio very early in my career. My opponent sent me into the ropes and said clothesline. My mid-twenties brain decided to do something I had never tried to do before, I wanted to flip in the air and take a bump from a clothesline that no one had ever even seen before.

Acrobatics was never among my skillsets.

I did not manage the three-quarter turn I had in mind. I really only managed to turn 180°. Now, when you are standing upright, a one-eighty means your feet are now where your head was. With a stupidity rarely seen outside of modern political discussion, I stuck my arm out to correct my fall. Anyone who even knows a little about the art and science of falling knows this would not end well.

I landed very awkwardly, separating my shoulder on impact, but my guardian angel had apparently looked up from her scotch in time to see what was happening, and my shoulder popped right back into place. Sort of.

Being the trooper that I was, I told my opponent what had happened. Obviously, he got the abbreviated version, with a few profanities added for effect. He told me to take a minute and find out how bad it was and then threw me out of the ring.

On the film, you can see me put my hand on the fence beside the ring, only to have it fall, almost lifeless to my side.

We had a match to finish.

I rolled back into the ring and we worked a way to finish the match. Of course, Oscar, being the great athlete that he was, needed to do another standing drop-kick before we took it home. I landed on my shoulder again. But we ended the match.

It was a week before I could lift that arm again.

Flash forward to my Taekwondo years. I was sparring a fellow student after classes had ended for the night. My opponent kicked low as I lunged in and his kick hit my ankle, turning my left foot backward and I fell to the floor. When I grabbed my knee out of instinct, I could feel my kneecap was now on the side of my knee joint instead of the front where it belonged. Without thinking, I grabbed the kneecap and yanked it back into place.

I hobbled back into class a couple of nights later to keep going.

I’m not telling this to sound tough. I am using this to illustrate the point that you can do more than you think you could ever do, provided you are committed to taking a certain action.

In those worst case scenarios we discuss, if you have a plan that you are going to execute should the event ever occur, your chances of success and survival go up. I wrote earlier about willingness, but there is still a difference between willingness and commitment.

Commitment is about a maturity. You can be willing to pick up a pair of scissors and slice and dice an active shooter, but commitment is actually picking up the scissors and taking said action. Willingness is showing up for class, commitment is practicing what you learned on your own.

Commitment is taking action. Move. Initiate your plan. Do what needs to be done.

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Essential Ingredients: Fighting Fitness

There are a lot of excuses given for not exercising, I’ve heard them all and used many of them myself.

For many years, I really let myself go. I ate inhuman quantities of whatever I wanted and didn’t care. I have a picture of myself with Chuck Norris, and I love the picture but hate the way I look in it.

I was around (very round) 290 lbs. here

I got even heavier than I was in that picture. My weight peaked at 317 lbs. At six-and-a-half feet tall, I felt that I could handle anything. But that weight almost killed me. I reached a point where I had to use my arms to pull on handrails to help my legs get me up the stairs. That’s embarrassing.

My friends can tell you that there is nothing I despise more than my own weaknesses. Well, I hated what I had become and I had to make changes, so I did. The least I ever weighed in my adult life was about 220 lbs. I will never reach that again intentionally. I was at the apex of my taekwondo journey, in my mid-twenties, and I was hell on wheels.

In the decades since then, injuries have taken their toll. And old age ain’t for babies either! But in spite of these challenges, I still exercise every day. I will never be able to run a marathon, but if the SHTF, I am fit enough to fight back. And fighting fitness is our topic today.

Are you able to fight back if you have to?

If you are, awesome! If not, here are a few tips.

Pay a visit to your doctor. You need to know if an exercise plan that you have in mind is going to cause you to experience a sudden, involuntary case of death. Once you have medical clearance, start with what you can handle and move ahead from there.

When it comes to calisthenics, I use a method I call C2C. It stands for Can to Can’t. Pushups, situps, squat thrusts (you young’uns call them burpees), do them until you cannot do them right, then stop. To me, once you start going past the point where you are doing an exercise properly, you are not gaining the benefit it is intended to give.

For men, weight training should be every day in my opinion. Most people are in very little danger of the dreaded overtraining because we simply do not work out enough. Women might need breaks from weight training during the week, but you need to be the judge of that. Women are different from men, and as the French say, vive la différence. If you have serious questions about overtraining for women, ask a doctor. If your workout is leaving you tired but not feeling awesome, something needs to change.

Being a martial artist, I use forms training and bag work all the time. From a standpoint of practicality, bag work is more important to me than free sparring as far as striking goes because in free sparring you have to limit the contact in order to let your training partner live, the bags need no such consideration. I also train weapons every day for functional fitness. My weapon work has no really fancy moves and twirly whirly garbage in it, so it remains practical and useful.

All of this comes from a really simple perspective – you have to be fit enough to execute your plans for self-protection. You can’t fight back if you can’t breathe. If you lack the strength to cause damaging impact from your strikes, then your fighting back is going to be a kitten mewing at the wolf. And I seem to be countered when I speak of this by people who say Real fights don’t last very long. True enough, but they can be very intense. You need to be able to take the fight to the threat until he is stopped, or you will add to his statistics.

And all of this is aside from the difference any increase in your fitness levels will bring to your quality of life. It is awesome to feel good, even when you have health issues. Especially when you have health issues – you appreciate any improvement.

So get out there, start where you are and move more, breathe more, drink plenty of water and try to eat right. You will thank yourself for the changes someday.

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Essential Ingredients: Willingness

In the late 1980’s I was working on a construction site as a part of a masonry crew. I was a teen at the time. The scaffolding was…we will just say that it was not set in any way that would be approved by even a drunk safety inspector. There was a stack of 2X12 in. boards set to level the back end of the scaffold on the far end of the structure. These 2X12 boards were stacked up a little over two feet high. With a couple of cinder block under the stack, you know- to make it stable. The entire structure was wobbly from the start. Each section had a stack of 2X12 boards to level the frames, but the end one was what had me worried because of how high the boards were stacked, and I was sure that if it went, in my mind, the entire scaffolding would fall.

Sure enough, when we were working about twenty feet up, someone tried to climb the scaffold from the end where the tallest stack of boards was. Aaaand they used the stack as a step. The stack of boards collapsed, and the scaffold began to fall like dominoes.

Having rehearsed this in my mind, I had a plan. I had decided that if the entire structure tipped over and fell at once, I would ride it to the ground and jump clear at the last moment. But if it were to fall the way it was falling now, I would jump for the sandpile and roll. The sandpile was past the end of the scaffold structure and I would be safe there.

I jumped for the sandpile. I remember as I was falling that I had a sudden realization that the sand while cushioning my landing, would also make it impossible to control my ankles and knees upon impact. Of course, I also realized that this realization came much too late to do me any good whatsoever.

I hit the sandpile, rolled, and ended up on my feet. I was very proud of myself for having survived the landing. I was sure at that moment that I must have looked like a two-hundred and sixty-pound ninja. My pride dissolved when I turned around and saw that the scaffolding was still standing. It was almost at the same point of falling that it was when I turned and jumped off. One of the other masons was looking over the edge of the scaffold down at me and asked, “Little skittish, ain’t ya?”

While embarrassed at the time, I look back on this now and laugh. I share this story to illustrate a point.

Plans will work or they won’t when the crisis comes. You have to know that going in, or you will fail to act at all when the moment arrives. That day, I had a plan, and when the moment arrived, I acted on my plan. This was because I trusted in my plan, and had a willingness to act.

Transfer this idea to a home invasion or an active shooter or any other crisis.

Many people have never had to confront violence. As such, they do not know what they will do when the moment arrives. If you have no plan, you can be assured that you will go through a period of indecisiveness. Depending on the seriousness of the situation and your proximity to the threat, this indecisiveness may last the rest of your life.

Having a plan is essential, but having the willingness to act on that plan is vital. You can have the best plan in the world, but if you are unable to take action, it is meaningless. When the time comes to act, you need to act as if there is nothing in the entire universe except what needs to be done right now. In some situations, what needs to be done is not nice or pretty or anything even resembling what think you are really like. But hard choices happen. If you have the willingness to stop the threat, you are better off than the person who does not.

As always, likes, shares, and comments are appreciated.