Thursday, November 06, 2014

Four Dozen

Wow.  Here I am.  48 years old today.

It's hard to believe that so much has happened since last year's birthday post...

This morning I woke up in our new place (surrounded by cardboard moving boxes and without TV or Internet), I walked a new route to the train station to go to my new job at work.  This year, for the first time (not the last) I became father to a teenager son.  This week I taught the first Kali Majapahit Japan class on a TUESDAY and our group continues to grow.  This year I also started social dance and am now on my way to being able to waltz (still badly).

In retrospect, this has been a year filled with new things - some good, some bad.  In many ways it feels like I am starting over again.  It feels exciting.

I try to be grateful for every day I am alive, and especially for all the people around me that make my life so rich and filled with energy.  This morning I had an inbox filled with birthday greetings from friends (new and old) all over the world.  Thank you all for taking a moment to think of me. I take a moment as I read each greeting, thinking about how and where we met, and how you all have inspired and influenced me. I hope I have been able to return the favor, and more importantly, to pay it forward to the other people I meet.  I have tried to imagine myself like a particle in motion, bouncing off others nearby and hopefully giving them a positive charge. Sometimes, it just feels like I am bouncing off the walls. :-)

Kids like me never had much of a chance.  I was a prematurely-born, hyperactive, runny-nosed little kid coming from a broken home and processed through the State of Illinois foster care program (Illinois Children's Home and Aid on Dearborn Street, Chicago). I was placed in long-term foster care in Villa Park and have been a thousand times luckier than most foster kids.  I had the same foster family for nearly 20 years and was not shuffled from house to house like so many others kids are.  I was not physically or emotionally abused as many foster kids are.  My foster parents suffered all my antics and loved me as completely as any parents ever could, even when I broke their hearts - again and again.
They never gave up on me, and maybe that's why I didn't give up on myself.

Most of us foster kids eventually give up.  We give up on trusting other people because our parents betrayed our trust. We give up on ourselves because we feel unloved and unwanted - unable to have a "normal life" like other kids around us have (or as we imagine they have).  We give up because we don't feel we deserve the same opportunities as other kids - believing that we are unworthy because we were cast aside. Sometimes we give up just because we become too tired to fight.  Most of us develop various emotional problems as a result of our experiences, and I am no exception.  I can be an extraordinarily difficult person to be around, with wild mood swings, a wicked temper, and a seemingly subconscious urge to self-destruct.
I can never ask forgiveness enough times from all the people I have hurt along the way, and instead can only keep trying to re-balance the scales every chance I get and pay it forward.  Thank you to everyone who manages to care about me when I sometimes hardly seem to care about myself.

In the end, what has mattered most is my own family - MY TRIBE.
Thanks to my loving and patient wife, Sanae, I have what I always wanted - a loving and supportive family of my own.  She has made all my dreams come true and brought me more happiness than I probably deserve. She is my hero and still the coolest chick I know.

Even before my first son was born, I promised I would never subject my children to what I went through - wondering why they had been born and why their parents didn't love them enough to keep them.  Although I can say I have made every conceivable mistake as a parent, my two fantastic boys never fail to amaze me with their happiness, energy, and confidence.  They are well-grounded and sensible (most of the time anyway).  This is credit to Sanae far more than me.  I wish I could be more like her.

I have fallen.  I fall all the time.  But I will keep getting up.
I will not give up.
I will keep going forward and making progress, sometimes only an inch at a time, but continuously and relentlessly.

Thank you all for believing in me.  It means more to me than you can imagine.

Monday, October 13, 2014

On Slavery

Just finished reading this book, "12 Years a Slave" by Solomon Northup, an autobiography written in 1853.  I got this book after having seen the riveting movie starring Chiwetel Ejiofor.  I figured the book must contain much more detail than the movie, and I was not disappointed.

Slavery is a difficult subject, especially for Americans.  We want to believe that we have "risen above" such things, often citing that we fought a long and bloody war specifically for that purpose. None of this is entirely true, since even George Washington owned slaves, and emancipation was a convenient afterthought for President Lincoln, whose main objective was to keep the country united.  Slavery, however, became a lightning rod issue for the North, and galvanized our resolve to change the Southern way of life from plantation agriculture to our new industrialism.  Even today, some 150 years after the Civil War, vestiges of slavery remain across America, both explicit and implicit.  We have made a small start, but we still have so far to go.

In many other countries, slavery has a long history and in some of them, it still continues.
Slavery can take many forms, including what we typically think of as indentured servitude (conflict goods, forced conscription) but what must also include sexual slavery, child labor and even religious slavery.  At the far end of the spectrum, many Americans suffer debt slavery, unable to break free from their consumption-fueled lifestyles.  Slavery can be defined as a hopeless repetition of labor without chance of escape, and this is the 9-5 (maybe now more like 9-9) that many Americans must endure without hope of financial freedom or eventual retirement. Post the financial crisis, many Americans are doomed to work until they die or are replaced.

Here are some other takeaways of mine from the book:

Freedom has no Guarantees
Solomon Northup was born a free man in upstate New York, near Syracuse.  However, this did not prevent him from being kidnapped and sold into slavery into the Louisiana bayou for 12 long, hard years.  Kidnapping and human trafficking exist even today in many parts of the world.  The freedom we take for granted can be taken away by any number of means at any time.  We think of this as largely a problem in the underdeveloped corners of the World, but actions of our own government are no different, slowly eating away at our freedom until we become slaves of the State - in mind if not in body.  Freedom is preserved through vigilance, and lost through apathy.

We have it SO GOOD
Our modern abundance is truly mind-boggling.  Compared to life 100 years ago, the incredible amount of goods and services available to us is almost beyond comprehension.  For many of us, the biggest challenge of the day is simply deciding which size Starbucks we want (Grande or Vente).  We have products from all over the world available to us at our fingertips, and our ease of access to information on any topic, in any detail, is truly an incredible human achievement.

The ability of modern medicine to prolong and improve the quality of our lives is past imagination for people 100 years ago.  We have all but eradicated the major plagues of the past, and I actually believe it could be possible through concerted global effort to end global famine in our time.

I do not begrudge our advancements, and do not think we need to be ashamed of our good fortune.  However, I do believe that this should cause us to have even greater charity, mercy and compassion toward others.  We have far  more than we need - it is time to share.

We have become WEAK and we complain far too much
Transformation of our global society from the Agricultural Age to the Industrial Age to the Information Age has brought humanity incredible prosperity.  However, the trade offs have come at the cost of our strength, hardiness and resolve.  My children cry when they cannot get Wifi access (actually CRY), and we need to go to the gym to develop the strength that our ancestors had as a by-product of their regular daily lifestyle.  While many undeveloped regions lack basic sanitation, clean water, and enough food, most places in the world have far more than they could possibly need.  We complain at the slightest inconvenience.  I felt ashamed to read of the savage punishments inflicted on Simon Northup and his fellow slaves by their cruel plantation overseers and masters.  Could I have endured them so patiently in order to wait for my chance to escape? Could you?  He slept on a wooden board with a threadbare blanket and not even a cup or a bowl to call his own for 12 YEARS.  Could I do that?  Could you??

The Human Spirit is Truly UNBREAKABLE
I was inspired by this story.  His love for his family, and his ability to endure the seemingly unendurable for so long, just to have a chance to go home.  It would be unbelievable if I did not know the story was true.  All of us will face hardship and challenge, and all of us have the ability to keep our dignity and self-respect.  We can choose to be unbreakable.  Next up in my reading list is the story of Nelson Mandela of South Sfrica, and I expect there will be much in common on this point.

Music Matters
Solomon Northup was a violinist and this skill served him well in captivity, helping ease the suffering not just of himself but of those around him.  Music is a joyful thing, and life without music is a hell of its own.

Human Relationships Matter More
The life of a bayou slave was horrible beyond my imagination. Particularly for those consigned to labor on cotton plantations, who had to rise before dawn and toil until midnight 6 days a week nearly all year round.  In addition to his music, Solomon and the other slaves forged deep human relationships based on compassion and mutual support.  This social fabric helped them weather their trials and endure their hardships.  We all face difficulty, but it is far easier when we face it together.  Be CONNECTED.  Invest in human relationships.

Family is the CORNERSTONE
Even enduring regular torture and brutal treatment in Louisiana, Solomon never gave up hope of seeing his wife and children again.  He kept this fire burning and this must be a central reason why he ultimately regained his freedom.  Family is the most important thing.  Keep it sacred. Protect it above all else.

Justice Is Never Guaranteed
Despite overwhelming evidence of guilt, the fiends who kidnapped Solomon Northup and sold him into slavery were never brought to justice (except maybe in the Afterlife).  Especially as Americans, we believe in the fair and equitable rule of law, however I am not completely certain it exists - at least not equally for all.  Freedom is preserved by vigilance and lost by apathy. Recent events have shown some shocking examples of the cost when we assume the protection of the State or the goodwill of the Republic in our daily lives.  We still have so far to go.  

Poorly Run Companies Look and Feel a Bit Like Plantations
In a poorly run company, management care little for the workers except that they provide economic benefit.  Motivation is achieved through fear and co-workers are pitted against one another in unhealthy competition designed to foster mistrust, lack of cooperation, and general unease.  Solomon relates several different plantations some of which, despite being staffed by slave labor, treated the slaves with respect and kindness.  These plantations produced more output for longer than those that relied on the lash.  Despite reams of research that suggest a humanitarian management approach, most firms still employ a linear strategy of input and output, and fail to motivate and reward employees holistically.  It is worth examining the HR policies of the very best companies to see why employees choose them - money is merely one factor. Treatment of the employee as a trusted individual worthy of respect and investment yields the greatest benefit for both sides and is the cornerstone of loyalty and out performance.

In closing, the quote from this book that I will never forget.

"What difference is there in the color of the soul?"



Sunday, October 12, 2014

Steps in the Right Direction

Here is a photo of my dance teachers, Minato Kojima and Megumi Morita, taken today as they placed 3rd in the 34th Prince Mikasanomiya Cup national championships, dancing in front of a packed auditorium in Sendagaya.

They are AMAZING dancers, amazing teachers, and amazing people.  We are blessed to benefit from their skills, knowledge and experience.

I learned a lot from spending a day watching this competition.  Martial arts and dance share many lessons in common.

Dance, like martial arts, is about making and keeping a connection to someone else.
In martial arts, the connection is used to deadly effect.  In dance, it is used to graceful and elegant effect.  Moving in harmony with others is a skill we all need to master, and when we do it allows us to be truly beautiful.

Rhythm and Feeling
There is a timing and rhythm to dance, just as there is in martial arts.  To dance well, we must match the music and, in so doing, we create a precious moment with our partner that is beyond words.  It is very important to listen for the rhythm everywhere we can hear it in our lives, and to try to act in accord with it.  That is what grace is all about.

Being True to Your Training and Giving 100%
Dance training is hard - every bit as hard as martial arts training.  Minato and Megumi have been doing this every day since they were in preschool (they are now in college).  The long hours of training over so many years have given them incredible strength, precision and poise.  Eyes closed, their bodies know every step like they were born to it.  They still train for hours every day and give 100% on the floor, not just as competitors and champions, but also as teachers and coaches.  It is honest testament to their hard work and sacrifice that they should look and move the way they do.  Every training session matters and it is important to deliver 100% every single time.  You owe it to yourself to become the champion you are born to be.

Making It About The Other Person
Minato-sensei is a great dancer.  He is a great teacher.  He is a great man.  He is a true gentleman with or without the tuxedo.

I have come to love dance because it is such an elegant and graceful way to be, especially the way he does it.  In every movement I see what it means to be noble, and to be a gentleman.  He is sublimely understated in his actions, and the way he dances makes his partner, Megumi-sensei, look like an angel.  By doing so, he reminds me that being a true gentleman is about focusing on your partner rather than using your partner to showcase your own talent. Because he allows her the space to move freely, she can complement his own steps and together they create a beautiful harmony.  He doesn't ever hold her back, and in return she allows him to be more than he could ever be on his own.

This is common to martial arts training as well.  Make the focus on your partner rather than yourself, and your skills will improve far faster than you imagined.

Don't "do", "BE"
To look at Minato-sensei and Megumi-sensei when they dance, you would realize that nothing else in the world exists except that single moment in time and their connection.  They don't dance, they ARE dance - a perfect embodiment of what it means to live in that moment, and to express oneself completely through movement.

In Kali as well, we must seek to be in the perfect moment, in Zanshin, and to use Kali as a way of expressing who we are and how we feel.  For them, dance is an all-encompassing way of life.  I completely understand.

I was really proud to see my teachers shining so brightly in front of those huge, cheering crowds.
I am sure all those people saw the same magic I did.  I hope they were moved the way I was.

Thank you for everything you have taught me, Minato-sensei and Megumi-sensei about dance and about martial arts.  You help me to become better at both.

See you next week.

It is bad when one thing becomes two. One should not look for anything else in the Way of the Samurai. It is the same for anything that is called a Way. If one understands things in this manner, he should be able to hear about all ways and be more and more in accord with his own.
Hagakure - the Way of the Samurai, by Tsunetomo Yamamoto

Monday, October 06, 2014

The Carrot and the Stick

(thanks for the inspiration MD)
Very interesting discussion last Friday after class.

We were talking about establishing training routines, and about how important it is to keep training regularly no matter what.

His comment was "I want to keep pushing myself harder and harder each time.  I want to end up exhausted."  I wanted to know why.

While I agree that a good, hard workout is one of life's great joys (and a necessary thing), I think there are a few subtle psychological tools that can help make the experience as positive as possible.  These are the same tools that are at the heart of our KALI MAJAPHIT pedagogy.

In Kali Majapahit, we use martial arts as a vehicle for personal development.  We understand and accept that it is our life mission to be happy, and that being happy requires being happy physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and that once we allow ourselves to be happy, we can then share this happiness with the many important people in our lives.

Fundamentally, martial arts training is about goal-setting and goal achievement.  This process has both micro-elements and macro-elements. The micro-element takes place during every class.  We set "micro-goals", for example, successfully completing a technique or a drill variation, or achieving an additional rep/set in an exercise portion.  Even better is to set a personal focus goal for each class (keep back/neck straight, don't look at your hands, extend the cross fully, etc.).  This "one point mantra" can improve performance during a single KM class, and by setting and achieving these "micro-goals" we are building an awareness and confidence that we can achieve results and progress through our focused effort.  The micro goal is a critical part of success because our human nature is geared toward short-term gratification - the micro goal feeds this need for immediate positive reinforcement of the good choices we make and of our discipline in implementing those good chocies.

The macro goals are driven by several rhythms, the most obvious being the 3-month training rotating curriculum of the training cycles.  As we achieve our micro-goals class by class, we are progressing toward achieving the bigger goal of skills development, certificate testing and getting new belts. Other macro goals are those we set for strength/weight improvement, flexibility, stress management and overall healthy lifestyle.

Eventually, our self-awareness as a successful achiever will extend to every area of our lives outside the dojo.  We become able to express confidence in our ability to set and achieve goals because we have done so under so many circumstances at the dojo for such a long period of time.  We are thus able to move from "faith-based confidence" (believing we can do something because we wish or imagine we could) to "experience-based confidence" (knowing we can do something because we have done many other things we have chosen to do).

Success and happiness in life have been shown to have direct relationship to our feelings of control.
Feelings of control can be generated and enhanced by setting and achieving goals the way we do in the dojo.
The best path is a combination of short-term and long-term goals (micro and macro) because it allows us to understand our ability to deliver results in a broad spectrum of circumstances and time frames, which leads to a stable feeling of well-being and satisfaction.  It is critically important to recognize and reward our own achievements in order to support a healthy and positive self-image.

By contrast, if we always move the goal further away at each attempt, we fail to give ourselves credit for our achievements and instead subconsciously reinforce that no amount of effort will ever be "good enough".  This is simply not true.  In fact, I believe our focused maximum effort is ALWAYS good enough.

My friend felt that if he allowed himself to feel a sense of achievement, he would lose motivation, suggesting that motivation is driven by the need to achieve.  I disagreed.  This sounds more like fear of failure. Motivation is driven by the understanding that we can achieve.  We lose motivation quickly if we know we can never reach the objective - it keeps moving further and further away.  If we never allow ourselves the satisfaction of experiencing achievement, like a carrot on a stick, we deny ourselves one of the most important tools for establishing and enhancing our self-image and developing confidence.  We owe it to ourselves to empower ourselves to complete the things we start.

I would argue that far better results can be gotten from investing in ourselves an awareness of our inherent ability to control our own outcomes, so that not only do we know what we are going for, we can be confident in our ability to attain it through our focused effort.  This is a far better and more positive motivator.

Like many things in life, results can be achieved through negative or positive means.  Negative means are generally motivated by fear and anger (often as a response to a real/perceived lack of control), which then causes stress and ultimately damage (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) to the individual and those around him/her.  Positive means involve the positive reinforcement life cycle of goal-setting, challenge/effort, achievement, reward and evaluation which lead to healthy growth and an abundance which can be shared with others.

Train hard, YES.
But also, recognize and celebrate your achievements.  Share your victories with the important people in your life.  Remind yourself EVERY DAY that you are a successful person that can achieve exceptional results through your own focused effort.  You can control your destiny.
Your life in the dojo can support this positive transformation.

It is OK to dangle a carrot, but sometimes you need to grab it and eat it.
Then go and get another one.  :-)

See you at class.      

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Great Investments

(thanks for the inspiration RA)

Had a quick chat with a friend about investing... he asked me about transferring JPY to GBP.  I recoiled in horror - JPY has been trending toward weakness for the past few months (especially USDJPY, which I watch) while GBP has just rallied due to the NO vote on Scottish Independence.  Not exactly an opportune moment for the conversion he mentions.  "why the hell would you want to do that?" I asked.  He replied "I have to.  I may need to send money back home".  I shook my head.

Investment is like many thinks in life - having options is key.

As I told him, anytime you are FORCED to take an action, it will end up costing you dearly.
Whenever you HAVE to buy or sell anything, you can guarantee that the market timing will be against you and you will lose out because you could not pick and choose the time that was best for you.  Thus, having a good distribution, some foresight, and a plan is of enormous benefit when dealing with the unpredictability of the markets.  One of my early mentors had a method - he would document each position he held and exactly what he would do if the position went up (a little or a lot), went down (a little or a lot), or stayed the same.  Every day he had a plan no matter what the markets did.  This way he was never surprised or caught without a strategy.  It was a discipline he kept all the years I saw him trade, and it served him (and I) very well.

Why am I telling you this?  This is supposed to be a martial arts blog, right?

Well, one of the other notably unpredictable situations is combat.  As I have written many times, fights are chaotic and messy, and it is not possible to know completely what will happen or the outcome.  Events occur in real time and we must adjust to them.  That being said, having some foresight and a plan is of enormous benefit when dealing with the unpredictability of a fight.

Just as in investing/trading, anytime you are forced to take an action it will cost you dearly.
Whenever you HAVE to do something, like break a lock or choke, step in a certain spot, breakfall, block a certain way, and so on, you can guarantee that you will lose out.

Thus fighting, like trading, depends on freedom and flexibility - having options.

Kali Majapahit is the excellent system it is not only because we emphasize FLOW - the ability to keep moving/hitting at all times until the situation is resolved, but also because we have it as our most basic strategy to take away the opponent's structure/posture and by so doing force him to try to recover it.  These are opposite sides of the same coin.

By FLOWING, we continue to move in/around/over/under/through any attempt to block our motion.  This means we ADAPT.  By taking the balance and structure, we remove the enemy's strength and force him to take specific (and predictable) actions. These actions can (and are) used by us to resolve conflicts in the most expedient manner, with the lowest risk of unintended injury, especially to ourselves.

Just like my trading friend, we spend a lot of time and energy exploring so we can have plans for any scenario.  We drill endlessly to develop core muscle memory and improve our flow.  We train standing up, lying down and everywhere in between involving striking, kicking, grappling, weapons and short, medium and long ranges, leveraging inside, outside and center line theories.  We combine, take apart and reassemble our techniques so that we have an endless library of possible options no matter what happens.  We challenge ourselves to master our environment so that we can use it to our best advantage.  We train by improvising weapons out of anything at hand, so we will never be unarmed if the need arises.  This is the true beauty of FMA, and in particular of Kali Majapahit.

"It is bad when one thing becomes two. One should not look for anything else in the Way of the Samurai. It is the same for anything that is called a Way. If one understands things in this manner, he should be able to hear about all ways and be more and more in accord with his own."
 - Hagakure "Hidden Leaves" by Yamamoto Tsunetomo  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Real Deal

This post was inspired by an article on Cracked.  You can read it here

Saw an article on Cracked about fighting (yes, I read Cracked - and LOVE it!).  I felt I had to comment about what is really going on in a fight and how it relates to martial arts.

1) Chapter 1: Broken Hands
The article correctly calls out that the most common fighting injury is not a broken nose or split lip (hopefully on your opponent) - it is your own broken hands.  Punching properly takes a lot of practice.  In fact, if you have not spent enough time to have this as part of your muscle memory it is probably more dangerous for you to punch than it is to your opponent.  With proper alignment of the fingers/wrist/forearm and good conditioning of the wrist tendons it is possible to hit with damaging power.  Otherwise, you are far more likely to break your fingers, dislocate your joints or break your wrist.  None of these are any fun at all.

A lot of what we teach in Kali and Silat is open handed.  I especially prefer to hit with solid bone or muscle mass rather than joints.  This means striking primarily with elbows, palm, forearm/biceps, and headbutt.  On the low line I also like knees.

2) Up Close and Personal
Distance matters.  It may seem counter intuitive, but the safest place is right next to your opponent.  At arm's length you will get the full force of any punch thrown at you (even if they break their hand, it still hurts to be punched).  Up close, you can deliver the strikes I mention above easily and they are far more difficult for your opponent to block or evade.  In addition, for a smaller guy like me, being up close negates any difference in reach, allowing me to handle people far bigger than I am.  Of course, if you can hit someone, they can usually hit you too, which means...

3) The Need for SPEED
In an actual fight, the first hit can be the last hit.  Even if someone is not immediately knocked out, the first hit, especially to the head/neck, can disrupt the concentration/balance/posture/structure and yield a chance to press the attack.  "Blitzing" in this way, aggressively, can end an encounter before the other person has a chance to respond.  This is the preferred result if things look like they are going to get ugly.  Hit first and get it over with on YOUR terms.  The most successful fight is the one the other guy never knew started.

4) Getting Your Kicks
I am not a huge fan of kicks in actual fights.  I never kick above the waistline, and I generally prefer kicks as a setup to something I want to do with my hands (usually closing distance to blitz).  That said, good low kicking techniques can be powerful and hard to avoid.  Done well, these can cause horrific damage to the enemy's knees, ankles, thighs and legs and end the fight by themselves.  Of course, feet are like "hands on your legs" and contain even more little fragile bones which tend to break when kicking with the instep. Kicking well also involves a lot of practice, and it is key to develop the muscle memory to give full hip rotation and use the proper striking surface (base of the shin or heel) when kicking so maximum force can be delivered.  There will usually be only one good chance to deliver a kick before the opponent realizes it and takes countermeasures.  If you kick, it has to be a show-stopper.  Again, knees are a bit different and have great applicability up close.

5) Ground and Pound
Statistically, most fights end up on the ground.  Therefore, it is crucial to have some skills for getting out of a situation like that,e specially if you are facing more than one opponent and need to remain mobile.  One need not be a BJJ master (although it certainly helps), but knowing even a few ways to get someone off (thumb in the eye socket/tear the groin) can help.  One of my favorites in the grapple is a bite.  Not a loving, gentle nip, but a ferocious chomp and rip designed to tear a chunk of flesh out of the nearest available soft tissue (cheek, neck, bicep, etc.).  This can make an attacker no longer want to be in close physical contact with you, and is a technique nearly anyone can easily master.  It is very much a part of FMA close quarter/grappling technique.

6) Adrenaline
Adrenaline is a funny thing.  As part of our "fight or flight" response it protects us from pain and increases our physical abilities for a short burst of activity - but at a cost.  Sometimes adrenaline can cause us to freeze.  Not good.  Other times, the crash when it wears off can be extreme and involve nausea/vomiting, chills, shakes, headaches or even make us pass out.  Ironically, the aspect of adrenaline which suppresses our pain response can also cause us to overlook our own injuries, especially when knives are involved.  The study of the adrenaline response, and practice controlling it, is worthy of significant study by anyone likely to be in life-threatening situations.

7) The Right to Bear Arms
Real fights come in two categories:  ritualistic and predatory.  I have written about these before, in that ritualistic fights aka "the monkey dance" are for social reasons and have unwritten social rules (watch a John Wayne movie).  We are expect to "fight fair" in order to demonstrate our social dominance to the victim and observers.  Sorry.  IF I HAVE TO FIGHT I FIGHT DIRTY.  The other type are predatory (robbery, rape, murder, etc.).  These will usually involve multiple attackers, unfavorable environments (darkness, uneven terrain, limited mobility) and are highly likely to involve weapons.  The keys to survival in such situations are: awareness, aggressiveness, and improvisation (rapidly finding or acquiring a weapon).  The odds will always be bad here, and this is not to be taken lightly.

8) Under the Influence
It is often the case that one or more of the participants is under the influence of alcohol or drugs (hopefully not you).  This can change the dynamic from comical (see Youtube) to homicidal.  These substances dull the pain receptors, so some of the standard controls and pain compliance become ineffective.  This re-emphasizes the need to attack structure and balance rather than just deliver pain.  In Kali we want to disrupt the posture and structure immediately, and this can make it easier to have a range of non-lethal, non-permanent options to end a violent confrontation without excessive harm.

9) The Long Arm
Sadly, the law exists as much to protect criminals' rights as it does victims' rights - sometimes more so.
This means that even though you may consider your actions justified as self-defense, the courts may not believe you and serious criminal/civil suits can be levied against you.  KNOW THE LAW.  In predatory situations, be as aggressive as needed so you can walk away.  Luckily, predatory attacks rarely occur near crowds of bystanders, so it is more likely you can flee the scene easily once the matter is resolved.  In ritualistic encounters there is a high chance the police will end up involved so choose your actions wisely.

Do not underestimate how savage and unpredictable an actual fight can be.
It is SERIOUS business.
Be sure you are the one that walks away.

See you in class.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Giving Thanks

This is Xie Xie.
She is our second pug, who we got from a shelter just over a year ago.
I wrote before about Butch and the lessons I have learned from him, but Xie Xie's story is no less important.  Let me explain.

When we got her, she was tiny for a full-grown pug, barely half her current size.
You could feel her ribs jutting out through her fur.  She had been neglected, left with a pack where she did not belong, and had to fight for every meal with a surrounding group of Pomeranians that abused her.

At the shelter I could hold her in the palm of one hand.
My wife, Sanae, never imagined we would be chosen as her new family.  There were others who said they wanted her.  Right away I KNEW it would be us - it would be fate. Healing her would heal us.
As I held her she shook, her little heart racing.  She did not try to bite or snap.  She looked at me with her big, brown eyes and I could feel the spark of life in her, the love she still had - her hope for a new family and a new life as she sniffed me.  She looked pitiful; helpless.

With us she recovered.  She gained weight. She bonded with Butch, Sanae, myself and the boys.  She became completely attached to Sanae and fiercely loyal to her.  She learned how to love and to be loved in return - I felt sad imaging no one had ever even petted her before she met us.  She found her home with us in Yokohama.  Who she was before was forgotten - her past, her name, her suffering and torment.  Now she is just Xie Xie (謝謝).  Her name means "Thank You" in Chinese.  We felt it was gratitude from both she and we for the chance to be together as a new family - our pack.

If you saw her today, happily taking her daily walk, tail wagging, head high, you would never know what she had been through - dogs live fully in the moment - except at mealtime.  Because she had been starved, and had to fight for food, at mealtime she gets very excited.  She circles and barks, jumping at the counter to try to get her food and crying for attention so she will not be ignored or forgotten.  She never believes that she will get her food, despite over a year of getting her meals twice a day, every day, regular like clockwork. She always believes she will starve.  She can never have enough.

Xie Xie is very special to me for many reasons.  I came to realize she and I have so much in common.

We were both neglected as infants, both given away and rescued to new families for a second chance.
I was also tiny, underweight, weak - my constant crying so much  like her barking.  Like her, I kept my spark and had my hopes for a better life, not fully understanding what was going on as I went from home to shelter and finally to my foster family, Charles and Dorothy Leonard.

We both had to learn to love and be loved, both of us taking time to heal.
We both had to learn to put our trust in strangers we had never met before - that they would take care of us and not leave us alone.

Unlike Xie Xie, who I was could never be forgotten - even though I often wished I had.
Asa foster child I kept my birth name and struggled to understand why my family's name (Leonard) was different from mine (Honeyman).  It was long years before I realized how lucky I had been.

From outward appearances, ours would have seemed to be like any other family.
However, under the surface I carried the pain and fear of loss over what had happened to me.
Where Xie Xie has trauma from food, I have trauma about love and attention - fear of abandonment.
For all of my life, I feared I would be ignored; forgotten.  I dreaded being cast aside or left behind.
I had trouble believing I was loved or could be loved. I had trouble loving others, or just accepting that my new life and family could be real or that I could deserve the good life I have had.

I am grateful for my life, just as I know Xie Xie is grateful for hers.
I am fiercely loyal and protective of my pack - just as I know she is.
I try to live in the moment, and Xie Xie is a constant reminder of how important this is.
I do not ask for pity any more than she does - just to be taken at face value and not judged for my past.   She and I both have scars from what I have been through, and maybe always will.
Maybe I will always be starved for love and attention.  Maybe, like Xie Xie, I can never have enough.

All any of us can do is try our best to live every day to the fullest, love those around us completely, and accept the good life we deserve.  If we keep the spark of love and hope, a bright future is possible for all of us - as long as we do not give up.

Xie Xie and I are thankful to you all for your constant support.