A Time for Self-Defense

ktadmin Posted in Articles of Interest, Self-Defense,Tags: , , ,

In good times people don’t think about bad things but as times become more uncertain people think about planning for the possibility that things will get worse.  With apparent turmoil in almost every aspect of our lives, people have begun to think about and even prepare for the worst.

With a worsening economy, perceived threats to our freedom, rising religious extremism, a perceived demoralization of our populous, many are led to conclude that a more dangerous future might await us.  Right or wrong we as a society seem more aware of the dangerous world we live in and our need to prepare for the worst so as to avoid it.  An ounce of prevention type of reaction…  As a result self-defense sales of goods and services have soared in recent years.  This increase supports the reality that people feel they may need to defend themselves due to ever increasing dangers.

While self-defense activists applaud this trend, there is a significant responsibility for the average student that I don’t feel is being properly communicated.  Too many students come in for a short self-defense class and leave pumped and feeling invincible. Or students that purchase a self-defense tool like mace, pepper-spray, a gun or other self-defense tool with little or no training.  Notice I called these items “tools” and not weapons, because while we classify them as weapons that classification leads to the students misconception and thereby increases their danger.  Most people think of a weapon as something to be afraid of, which it is.  But how frightening is a pair of nunchakus in the hands of an amateur?  Honestly they are more of a danger to the amateur then they are an aid!  Honest, law-abiding people assume that everyone shares their fear of the weapon they wield; whether that is their self-defense skills or karate skills or their self-defense tool makes no matter.  How many movies have we seen where the good guy warns the bad guys that he/she know karate?  How often are the bad guys even fazed by this fact?  The reason, they have accepted that their chosen profession, being a bad guy, comes with the risk of injury.  I have seen it with inexperienced police officers, who assuming because they wear a badge that people will respect it and thereby do as told.  When they face someone who isn’t impressed with that little shield they carry, their perception of power can and does quickly evaporate.  Unfortunately many officers, like the honest, law-abiding citizen, learn the harsh reality of self-defense: vigilance and control.

It is a good thing that people are taking a more proactive approach to self-defense but the instructors must help the students understand that self-defense is a skill that requires practice and a state of mind.  Self-defense is not something you learn about and then put on the shelf until you need it.  If that is your approach then you have a false confidence.  Even the most seasoned and skilled fighter who is out of practice is rusty and thus vulnerable.  In the Rocky movies, Rocky doesn’t simply get back in the ring, he trains and prepares himself.  The difference is that Rocky knew when he was going to face danger.  For the honest, law-abiding citizen that eventuality is very abstract.  When I was growing up it was very unusual to meet someone who had *never* been in a fight.  Today it is unusual for me to meet a student who has ever been in a fight.  While some may feel that is a testament to our advanced civilization, (I have another article coming up about that topic), it leaves most ill prepared to ever face a conflict.  Anyone that has been in a fight and been hit, remembers that first hit they took, you really do see stars!!

How do we learn to defend ourselves?  Must a student enroll for life to stay sharp?  Unfortunately, No.  Must a student attain his/her Black Belt to have adequate skills?  Unfortunately, No again.  The student must understand that taking responsibility for their self-defense carries significant responsibilities as well.  The responsible self-defense student will train regularly to become familiar and comfortable with their chosen techniques, style or tool.  For most this is the fun part of ‘practicing’ self-defense.

Students can practice their skills all the time, staying aware and looking for the pitfalls that potentially await them.  In doing so this heightens their awareness and keeps them ready.  But doing this without practice of the physical skills is almost pointless as you will be aware of your dangers but unable to deal with them.  That is like owning a gun but keeping it in a locked safe in the basement, not much good if you are in your room upstairs when you need it.  Without practice you will find yourself in an ‘if only’ moment of dread.

This begs the question of adequate practice, what is it and how can it help you prepare?  That is a hard question and can vary from person to person.  My simplest answer is, you want to practice in an environment that is constantly challenging you to do better, that means it shouldn’t feel comfortably safe, but it should be comfortably safe…  I hold to the precept that students should take at least one refresher course once a year as long as they are practicing with a friend or loved-one throughout the year.

Without practice you will be ill prepared despite the most elaborate preparations.  Remember that physical practice is only about half of the battle, you have to be mentally prepared to defend yourself.  Practicing coupled with vigilance in your awareness of your surroundings will help to calm your mind in the event of a real need to defend yourself.  Vigilance and control are the keys to self-defense, vigilance in your practice and awareness, control of your body and mind.  Self-defense is something everyone should be involved in, young and old alike, it leads to respectful confidence (as opposed to false confidence) and a peace of mind that you no matter the outcome you have done your best.  No man is truly old until he knows regret, don’t regret your lack of preparation, learn to defend yourself today!

After all you don’t want this to be you when your loved one’s are depending on you…do you?

Entering the Health Care Fray

ktadmin Posted in Articles of Interest, OffTopic, Politics, Recipes and Health Facts,Tags: , ,

I’ll be frank, I am disgusted with the leadership of this country, on both sides of the isle however moreso with the controlling party.  Having extensive experience with the Health Care system over the past 20+ years I can say with much authority, we have some of the best health care available on the Planet!  It has degraded over the past 20 years however this is due in large part to the culture of greed and increasing government involvement.  Most people speaking out and complaining about the high costs of health care have absolutely NO idea what they are talking about.  They have listened to the trash promoted by poloticians and people like Micheal Moore*.

Twenty or so years ago the government put the insurance companies im charge of health care because the insurance companies complained and lobbied the Doctors were making to much money and ordering tests that were unnecessary.  Sound familiar?  Roll forward twenty years and we have people complaining that insurance companies make to much money and to many tests are being denied!  Sound familiar now?  So who is going to rush in and fix the problem?  The same people who created it!!  And ‘We the People’ are stupid enough and short sighted enough to think they have our interests in mind.

I have two questions for everyone.

First, why do/did people have a problem with Doctors making a lot of money?  I don’t hear anyone asking for sports reform because the athletes are making to much money and that is driving up ticket prices!  Maybe that is next, and then in twenty years we can go after the owners for making to much money?!  That IS a valid example.  But for some reason we had/have a problem with the people who are responsible for keeping us healthy making to much money.  I call that jealousy.  Was there abuse?  Yes, but there were systems in place to stop that problem.

Second, why are people almost always willing to think that the people who caused the problem are capable of fixing it or more importantly admitting they made a mistake?  Because most people are stupid and incapable of critical thought.  If you find that offensive then that statement probably applies to you.

The business reasons against Health Care are obvious to any rational, realistic  person but that is best said here.

I could go on for pages but need to go find a way to pay for my increasing health care coverage!

*(Moore, as in there is more of his ignorant people exploiting, fat millionaire ass by the minute – sorry I couldn’t resist)

The Meaning of the Brown Belt (3rd – 1st Kyu) – Revisited

ktadmin Posted in Articles of Interest, Styles, Training notes,Tags: ,

Previously I posted the meaning of the Brown Belt, the first of three brown belts in our Dojo.  I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and have written a different perspective of the meaning here that flows from the meaning presented for the previous two belts.  Here is the revisited meaning, post a comment with your opinion on both:

Now the brown represents the deep brown of fertile soil, so rich it almost looks black.  Ever more fertile the soil works with the heat of the Sun to push the plants growth.  Now a source of nutriment the student needs little assistance in this final step of training.  The training at this stage is just as arduous yet seems easier to the student.  There is a synergy of the physical and mental aspects of the art, things are clearer and seen from many perspectives.  The student is becoming a master.  At this stage there is usually one task left to perfect, one task that is unique to the student.  Like a fertile plot of land in the middle of the wilderness gone is the similarity as they stand distinct from their surroundings.   The student is higher in rank, he/she acquires more detailed knowledge and so the brown belt student learns to be more cautious and humble as his/her knowledge and physical abilities increase.

A Time to Remember

ktadmin Posted in Articles of Interest, Events & Holidays,Tags: ,

There is little that needs to be said on this said day.  Let us all reflect today on the blessings we have in our lives and remember the importance of protecting against those who would harm us.

The Meaning of the Brown Belt – 2nd Kyu

ktadmin Posted in Articles of Interest, Styles, Training notes,Tags: ,

Here the student has advanced their skills and their self, having removed much of the parasites, stones and weeds.  Finally the soil is ready for the seeds the student has held until ready.  This begins the first planting of the seeds of their skills and understanding.  This is a critical step in the development of the individual for the soil is not giving life on its own yet but needs external nurturing and nutriment.  The extreme physical requirements continue relentlessly as the student works to protect the fragile first crop.

The Meaning of the Brown Belt – 3rd Kyu

ktadmin Posted in Articles of Interest, Styles, Training notes,Tags: ,

At this point the student has mastered the basics and developed deep roots in Kokushin-Kai.  Brown is known as an earthy color, such as dirt or soil.  The brown belt signifies the soil in which the roots of mastery begin to take hold.  This brown signifies virgin soil never worked or perfected, never enriched or aerated. The previous belts provide the seeds however they find themselves unwelcoming soil to foster growth.  Like the task of the farmer to tame the land, so does the student need to begin to their self, to remove the parasites, stones, and weeds.  To let in the Green of life, the Blue of the sky and the power of Purple to make this fertile ground.  This is as great a physical task as it is mental task for the student but no Mastery of the art can be attained without it any more than a seed can grow properly on unwelcome soil.

Nervous yet?

ktadmin Posted in Articles of Interest, Awareness, Training notes,Tags: ,

Why is it that during an ice-breaker, when the whole room has to go around and say their name and where they are from, I get so incredibly nervous? Like I know my name, I know where I’m from, this shouldn’t be a problem….

This really caught my eye because it is so true!  Unless you are a practiced public speaker getting up in front of a group of people, even people you know can be a stressful experience.  Why?  Because, every time we speak in a public forum we put ourselves up for examination and potentially ridicule. Yet if we all feel this way then why should we feel so much personal anxiety?  Confidence.  Not confidence in public speaking, but confidence in what we are about to say.  Our thoughts are just that, our thoughts, when we share them we expose part of ourselves.  This is fairly easy when conversing with another person, it is intimate and comfortable.  But add a few people to the mix, especially strangers and it takes the easy out of it.  We begin to worry about how we sound and what people will think, if we will make a mistake, or if anyone will be interested.  So what is the solution?  Be confident, well I can say that but it doesn’t usually help…Duh!  Actually one of the best ways to conquer this fear is to listen.  That’s right, learn to listen.  If you are listening to those around you, they are more apt to listen to you.  If you are listening you are not worrying about what you may or may not say, removing much of the stress.  Listening gives you a better grasp on the situation at hand making you more confident when you speak.  Listening the confidence builder…who knew!

Was Shakespeare Real?

ktadmin Posted in Articles of Interest, OffTopic, Religion,Tags: ,

Keep reading and the title will make sense…

As most of you know I usually attempt to avoid religious topics since my intent is to present information to facilitate your growth as a Martial Artist. As such, you can incorporate your religious beliefs with my thoughts, reflects and training techniques as you see fit. Today however, I want to post a comment from another blog that caught my eye. The main topic the comment responds to is the assertion that God does not exist and Jesus was a fictional character, of course the author cites minutiae to support this idea.  Not surprisingly many of the commenter’s support his opinion. I am not insulted or offended by these types of views, you see I believe in free will. So with that preamble here is the comment in play write format that caught my eye:

Mad Max | August 12, 2009, 7:18am | #

PAUL: Here’s the deal, Decius – we want to create a new religion, a religion for which people all over the Roman Empire will be willing to die, but we don’t have a good founder figure. We were hoping that you could use your creativity to make up a founder for our religion.

PETER: We were both impressed by your work on the superheroes Battus Manus and Homo Superbus. We want you to create a fictional character like that, only we’re going to try and convince the world the guy really existed.


DECIUS: A tall order, indeed. How about this: I’ll invent a great religious leader who came to Rome to preach justice and righteousness. His enemies killed him by the sword, but he came back to life again.

PAUL: That’s interesting, but we’d like to make a couple changes. First, instead of having our founder come to Rome, have him live out his entire life exclusively in the Jewish lands on the east of the Mediterranean (except for a side-trip to Egypt). I mean, why would we want to have him come to Rome to preach righteousness?

DECIUS: Uh, because Rome is the capital of the world?

PETER: Nah, it would be more authentic if he spent all his time in our neck of the woods. It’s an obscure area, and your Roman officials often kill locals accused of sedition, so it will seem more plausible that he died there.

PAUL: And another thing – instead of having him die a hero’s death by the sword, why not have him crucified?

DECIUS: But that’s a disgraceful and ignominious punishment! Dying by the sword is much more honorable than getting tortured and hanged like a common criminal! That would be a major stumbling-block in trying to win converts!

PETER: True, but we were thinking that, a few centuries down the road, a death by crucifixion would make for some cool artwork.

PAUL: And we don’t want a wretched Jew to die any kind of honorable death, even in fantasy.

DECIUS: But, *you’re* Jewish.

PETER: Yeah, but we’re self-hating, like Woody Allen.

DECIUS: Very well, then. And since you want to persuade people that this guy is real, I’ll bribe a Jewish historian in town – Josephus by name – to mention your guy in that history of the Jewish Wars he’s working on, so as to delude the world into thinking your guy existed. I’ll also put out the word to pagan critics of your religion that they should avoid insinuating that he didn’t exist – their denunciations should focus on other issues.

I couldn’t have made the point better myself or I would have!  It is funny to me that people have such a hard time believing in God given all the things they are willing to believe. I’ll leave the examples to you…

Let me know if you want more posts centering on Religion.

Respect Your Gi

ktadmin Posted in Articles of Interest, Training notes,Tags: ,

Class is done and you are heading home. Perhaps you went straight to class from school or work or perhaps you are heading out on the town with family or friends. Regardless you want to get showered and get out of there. You are dedicated but you put your time in, worked hard and now it’s on to better things! You’re cleaned up, you grab your Gi, throw it in your bag and head for the parking lot… Let’s face it we are all guilty of doing this a some point in our training, but is it a proper thing to do? No, it is not.  Your Gi is a Uniform no different than a Military Uniform it should be treated with the respect it deserves.  Your Gi represents you and your commitment to the Martial Arts so show some self-respect and start respecting your Gi.  Storing your Gi properly is a great first step to handling your Gi with the respect and care it needs.  Here is how you properly fold your Gi:

Properly Folding a Gi

Oh, and don’t forget to wash your Gi after each class!  No one likes the smelly guy!


ktadmin Posted in A Zen Thing, Articles of Interest, Quotes, Reviews

I am reading Give Us This Day – The Classic Memoir of the Bataan Death March for many reasons but mostly because I grew up knowing one of these men and what little he told me had a great impact on my life. In reading this book I am discovering something about myself as well, especially the things I take for granted like my freedom.
The following passage really struck a cord with me as we to often tend to blame God for our problems. The following passage takes place a few days before the American soldiers were forced to surrender…

We had lain the whole day in the foxhole, fearing to raise our heads. The fury of death raged above us and as the night drew on, we huddled together. I could hear a man in one of the foxholes near us praying.‘Oh God, don’t let me die. Take care of me. Don’t let me die, God. Please God, don’t let me die.’

Side by side, Rass and I listened to the man’s words. We were used to our own prayers, seldom audible, but prayers nevertheless and fervent. Rass spoke up, speculating.

‘You know Sid, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard you come right out and pray to live. I know that you want to live, but I have never heard you ask God to let you live.’

‘No, Rass, I never have asked God to let me live, and I’ll tell you why.’ I looked over at his puzzled face in the faint light. ‘When I was a little boy, at home in Watonga, there was a hardware store that was giving away a little red car. You got tickets on this car with every so many purchases at this store. I have never seen a little car like that since. It had bicycle tyres and it was big enough for three kids to ride in it. It had a real gasoline engine, like a washing machine engine, I guess, because it went “pop, pop, pop.”‘

‘Dad and Mother saved up the tickets they got. I never in my life wanted anything like I wanted that little red car. For a month before the drawing I didn’t think a bad thought. All day long I kept thinking, if I’m real good, God will let me have that car. I’d pray every night for an hour down on my knees beside the bed. I’d pray that I’d win that little car.

‘Oh, the dreams I had of driving around in that little red car. It’s funny, but my mother was running around forcing tonics down my throat. She was sure I was sick because I was so darn good. And as the day came closer, I was more careful for fear I might even think something bad, or do something bad, and then I wouldn’t get that car.’

‘I’d go down in the afternoons and look at it and run my hands over it and her the sound of the motor going “pop, pop, pop.” The I’d go home and pray for that car.’

‘Finally the day of the drawing came and I stood with all the other kids and their folks. My dad had the tickets all laid out. I waited as a blindfolded little girl ran her hand down in a cage and drew out a number. When the number was announced–why dammit, Rass! I didn’t get that car. One of the meanest little kids in town got that car. And he never did anything good. I felt cheated. I felt that God had cheated me, Rass, because I didn’t win that car.

‘As I got older I used to think about it. The worst thing that could have happened to me was if God had let me win that car. I learned right then that a man hasn’t got a right to ask God for little red cars, because that’s not what we’re here for. God doesn’t go around giving little boys or grown men little red cars just because they ask for them. Men get little red cars because the work.

‘Since then I’ve seen so many die. Good guys too, Rass, guys that believed in God stronger then I do. When I see those guys die, I think, well, life is a luxury. Even if it isn’t a luxury I haven’t got the right to ask God to live. I’m not going to ask him for a little red car. With all these shells bursting around me I’ve got the feeling that my life is just like that little red car.’

My mind flew back to the day the war started and the prayer I had made after seeing the wounded lying in the hospital yard. God had given me what I asked for and Rass knew about that prayer. Things in my personality too weak for my control I had begged God to help me with. But life, no. It was a tangible, precious thing that I wanted with every breath. But hadn’t better men then I died praying to live? And God is great and I knew He wept for them and suffered their pain.

‘I do ask God to give me strength to take all this, to be a better man and to help me make myself a better man. If God wants me to live, if He’s got anything He wants me to do with my life, He’ll help me do it. If He wants me to live, He’ll let me. But I’m not going to ask for any little red cars.’

In my mind, Sid demonstrates a much stronger faith then he gives himself credit for. In ever battle, in every struggle, in every pursuit, if we can understand that we are not truly in control, that we cannot be, we will be more able to cope with fear. We can only control our inner self, to try to control more then that is futile and a waste of energy. We can choose to be one of two men who falls from a boat in deep water. One man struggles and splashes about in the water in a fearful attempt to not drowned only to exhaust himself and seal his fate. The other man, relaxes and does a back float accepting his state and waiting for what comes next, rescue or land. A proper faith in God helps us to accept those things which we have no control over. Faith is a formidable force.

I highly recommend this book: Give Us This Day – The Classic Memoir of the Bataan Death March. It is told in the first person with vivid details that capture your attention and make real this period of history. If you are at all interested in history or in the Japanese culture at that time this book is a must read!