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Politically Incorrect

December 23, 2016 Leave a comment

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I took about half of my students from the dojo to The Progressive Care Center Wednesday night to sing Christmas carols for the elderly residents there. We stopped in the dining room and sang for the ladies and gentlemen still eating their dinner. Then we walked down the hallways singing a nice variety of songs. There were many greetings, salutations, and best wishes passed on. The words “Merry Christmas” were exchanged several times. These people said that freely with no guilt or regret. Why? Because that is the way they were raised. They were, for the most part, brought up being taught that Christmas was a special day that was meant to bring people together and bring out the best in them.

Today, at work, I wished a co-worker Merry Christmas. She said the words back almost as a natural reaction. Then a very strange look came over her face and she told me that she hoped that didn’t offend me (this after I initiated the greeting). I looked at her and smiled. I asked her why she thought being wished a Merry Christmas would offend me. In the same vein, why would celebrating a day that emphasizes peace, love, and good will to all people be considered offensive?

 

I am 54 years old. I, too, grew up holding Christmas as a special time of the year where we shared love and joy with each other. I remember those years as being happy and learning that this was a time of the year we look to our fellow men with love and compassion. We go out of our way to do special things for each other out of love.

 

Have we come so politically correct that we snub our noses at those sentiments? Are we so worried that we will offend someone that we forsake good will? And by the way, what the hell is so offensive about wishing someone peace and happiness?

“It offends me that you said that because I am (fill in the religion or non-religion of your choice)”

 

So you’re telling me that because you do not believe what I believe that my honest and sincere wishes for your prosperity and good fortune are offensive? You’re saying that because you worship differently, or don’t worship at all, that my holiday greeting to you is bad? I’m a bad person because I wish you and your family the best during this season. That is one of the most insane things I have ever heard.

People stand up on a soap box and speak about their Constitutional rights. Let me give you a lesson in the Constitution. The First Amendment gives you freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion.  The founding fathers of our country realized that the Church of England had been ruled and directed by the government for many, many years. In those days practically everyone, and I mean everyone, went to church. The monarchy controlled the church. They knew that if they controlled the pulpit, they controlled the citizens. The fathers wanted nothing like that happening in the new country they had fought so hard to establish. So they wrote the First Amendment so that the government could never have that kind of control.

I know that I am going to take a lot of flack over publishing this. I know there will probably be some people who leave nasty responses to it. The thing is I’m going to read those comments and smile. Why? Because I’m not a Christian. I have been a practicing Wiccan for 20 years. I have no problem with “Merry Christmas”, nativity scenes, Silent Night, Joy to the World, or any of the other things associated with Christmas. So, that being said, I have one thing to say to those who just might be offended,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all. May the peace and love of the season be yours and your family’s.   

 

What Are We Doing To Ourselves?

September 6, 2016 Leave a comment

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Some time ago I read an article about a 10 year old martial arts student who had just earned her THIRD Black Belt…her THIRD. I had to sit back and ask myself “How does this happen?”
Have you ever walked into a martial arts school and saw all the black belts roaming around? They are everywhere and they range in age from 6 up (at least I hope they are at least 6). I was in a dojo one time and a very polite, very well mannered young man walked up to me and asked if he could help me. Around his waist was a black belt with several stripes on it of various colors. I smiled and bowed slightly. I told him that I was only there to watch. He smiled courteously at me and said if I had any questions to please feel free to ask. He then added that he was one of the Assistant Instructors. He might have been 12.
Perhaps you are reading this and know very little about the martial arts. Perhaps you are a parent and your child has been going to the same studio with the same instructor in the same art for a couple of years. All you know of what your child is studying is what you have been told by her instructor. Basically all you know about the martial arts is what you have learned from your child’s training. I’m going to pass on some information to you that you may not know.
In the vast majority of martial arts it takes at least four years of constant, hard, repetitive training to master the basics in order to even be considered for testing for a First Degree Black Belt, or Shodan in Japanese. Four years is being very generous. Some people train for up to six years to test. The four years would be someone who literally lives their art and train every time the dojo door is open. When it’s not, they train at home.
That’s the physical part of the process. However any teacher who is worth their merit knows that the physical aspects are only the surface. A student has to have a certain mental and emotional maturity as well. It’s not enough to be able to execute a nearly flawless side thrust kick one has to know when, why, and why not to throw that kick. What most people seem to have forgotten is the “martial” part of martial arts. Karate, Jujitsu, Kung Fu, and the majority of other styles were created for self defense purposes in times when a conflict could very easily turn into a live or die situation. Warriors trained to make war. Warriors trained to defend themselves from an attacker who had the sole intention of killing them. There is great power and great responsibility in the art that we teach. In feudal Japan a person well skilled in a form of martial art was as powerful (and dangerous) as a person with a firearm in modern times. The training was deadly serious and the skills were deadly serious. Yet, with seemingly no regard for any of that, there are schools out there that award six year olds with the rank of black belt. Would you give a six year old a firearm?
Why are we doing this?
In America the answer is blatantly and painfully obvious:  money. Trust me, there is big money in it. For example I know a school right now that charges $600 for the opportunity to test for a black belt. The under black belt tests are pretty costly as well.
But Little Johnny has trained for two years and has promoted all the way up through the ranks.
And that is the way you, as good paying customers, have been conditioned to think. It seems like every month there is another test. There are only eight belt colors in the system your child is studying yet she went through 32 rank tests to get to black belt. Every time you turned around you were shelling out $100.00, sometimes for a piece of different colored tape on your child’s belt. Here’s some info for you: Martial Arts didn’t even have a belt ranking system until Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo created one.
An instructor promotes an eight year old to black belt. It’s great for self esteem. He has made a ton of money off this kid. But come on, what does it tell the public? It tell them that this is The Best you have. Or even worse, the training being offered there is kids stuff. A certain level of maturity and competence is expected with a black belt. A level that no eight year old could possibly have. I have a couple of rather large men in my dojo and my first question is: Does this kid really have the training, skill, and mental discipline to fight off an attacker of that size?
We are what the public sees us as. In my system, here in America, the youngest one can be awarded the rank of Shodan is 16. The rule varies slightly in Japan. It pains me sometimes to see a six year old child walk into the dojo and want to take classes because I know the odds of that child training under me for ten years are next to impossible. I will take students as young as 6 and I will do my best. Most of them burn out or move on to other things well before they are ready to test for a black belt. When they leave, it is my hope that I have instilled in them some of the basic lessons that karate has to offer.
Don’t misunderstand me. Martial Arts are great for kids. It does teach them valuable skills which makes it easier for them to be better student, better athletes, and better people in general. But have we so badly lost sight of what a black belt means that we promote children to that high of a level of proficiency when in our hearts we know it isn’t right? And it’s not right. If you believe it is then your training was flawed somewhere down the line. Or perhaps you look at it from the point of view that it’s your business and that’s the way you run it. It being a “business” to you is part of the problem. We need to bring back some of the pride that has been lost in what we do. We need to bring back some of the honor that has been lost in the never ending quest to have a successful business. If you make your black belt ranks mean something, it makes your style mean something. If your style means something, you mean something. So by all means, teach kids. Have kids classes. Have a kids program. But let’s not take the very thing that should have the most meaning and the most honor in our systems and make it a children’s game.

Through The Dark Night

September 30, 2013 6 comments

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It has been quite a while since I have posted on any regular basis here. For those of you who actually follow and enjoy this blog, I truly apologize.

As most of you know, my wife of 18 years passed away in May from cancer. It was sudden and it was very fast. I think myself and my daughters actually held on to the hope that we would beat it until the very end. Whether that was a good thing or a bad thing has never been certain in my mind or in my heart.

After the funeral was over things calmed down a bit. People stopped bringing food by the house. The visits became fewer and further between. I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. With that came time to think, meditate, and reflect. To be totally honest, that actual time period became a part of the gray “black and white” world I had found myself existing in. If you have ever been very sick, suffering from a fever, and woke up on your sofa in the middle of the night with an old B&W movie playing on the tv you can grasp what I mean. You see the movie playing in the dark. Yet there is no color. You see the people’s mouths move. Sometimes you even hear the sound of their words, but you can’t quite understand what they are saying. That was my life in a nutshell at that point.

Then something happened. I made a decision. I decided that it was imperative that I get some kind of normality back in my life. I had to do things I was used to doing. I had to be places I was used to being. Work was one thing that happened quickly. All of my vacation time and sick time was exhausted and financially I HAD to get back there. But there was something else. Like an old friend or a comfortable warm blanket, the dojo called to me.

I have to admit the first time I entered the building was rough. You have to understand that my dojo is decorated and furnished to look as much like a traditional training hall as possible. It is at least done that way to the best of my knowledge and ability. There are fans on the walls, oriental screens set around, and various wall hangings and scrolls. My wife had either bought these, been with me when I bought them, or jokingly pitched a fit when I spent what she believed to be too much money on them. There is a collage on one wall with photographs of students, past and present. Of course she is in some of those photographs because even though Carol never took one single formal lesson from me, she was very much part of the life-blood of the dojo, even to the point that a lot of people, students and parents alike, called her “Mrs Sensei”. Her spirit was as alive in that studio as it was at home.

Instead of letting it get me down I began to take comfort in it. I remembered all of the things she had done and things she had helped me do including the benefit for Family Crisis Services which had been the last event she had played a major role in. The day of the event she stayed at the dojo, working the front door until she became so tired and fatigued she was forced to leave.

Something amazing began to happen. I didn’t even realize it at first but with each passing moment spent there I, out of reflex, began to change back into the Sensei I had lost for a long time. My focus shifted to doing what I was supposed to do: teaching. I stopped worrying about what other instructors were doing. I stopped stressing on what bill to pay first. I remembered a saying someone told me or I read a long time ago: “Treat every single class like it’s your last one and every single student like it’s the last time you will ever teach them”. Considering what I had just went through, and still was going through actually, that struck a very deep chord inside of me even though, as I said, I didn’t even realize exactly what was going on.

A few really special things happened in the process. My students sensed something different and it became contagious. Sensei was actually living up to the Go Do Shin (5 Way Spiritual Path) and remembering the “Spirit of First Beginnings”. It became contagious. They started enjoying classes again…and…they told friends who came in to try classes. Many of them stayed.

Something else that is worth mentioning. Many of you who have read this blog at all know that I have had some serious issues with the Fight Like a Girl Women’s Self-Defense program. I’m not saying that some things about it still don’t bother me however, I looked at the phone one day and there was a strange number on the voicemail. I hit the play button and it was Sensei Kym Rock, the founder of FLAG. Sensei Rock had saw my post on this blog about the guy teaching self- defense techniques that were weak and wouldn’t work and calling his program Fight Like a Girl. She had checked and the guy was NOT part of her organization and she had taken steps to rectify the situation. But more importantly, more dear to my heart, the thing that touched me, was that Sensei Rock had heard of Carol’s passing and offered me very sincere and heart-felt condolences. Because myself and some types of modern technology simply don’t get along and I accidentally erased the message and number, I never got to tell her “thank you”. So, Sensei, should you happen to read this please accept my deep and true appreciation for your time and your kind words.

I have also looked back on some things in my life and come to terms with them. Life is too short and far too precious to waste your energies on silly things or stupid bickering. It is far better to let that kind of negativity go and channel your time, energy, and emotions into helping other people with a sincere spirit of care and compassion. Carrying around hatred and other negative energies serves no purpose at all. We are put here in this life for a very short time. It is precious and should not be squandered on trivial things. You can’t live a happy fulfilled life if your spirit is in constant chaos.

Perhaps this will make sense to you. Perhaps it won’t. Either way, reflect on it for a while. We can all find a positive even in the most negative time of our lives if we simply allow it to happen.

7 Virtues of Bushido


7 virtues

You’re Doing It All Wrong

April 8, 2013 2 comments

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The dojo completed our Defeat the Darkness benefit for Family Crisis Services last Saturday standing against Domestic Violence, sexual assault and abuse. At the end of a very long day I was exhausted both physically and emotionally. We raised approximately $600.00 toward ending Domestic Violence in our community.

I learned a lot that day. One of the greatest lessons I learned was that all though some people are apathetic to the plague of violence that is rampant in our nation today, there is a host of others that are caring and concerned about the people around them that are suffering silently.

The speakers left an ever-lasting impression on me and I hope to the audience in attendance. These people, many of them volunteers, touched my heart and soul. I even found the courage to tell my own tale and all of it brought tears to my eyes at times.

There are some that turn a blind eye to the subject. There are those who want to help in the beginning, find out what a task, a battle, there is in front of them and back away. Although I understand this aspect of their thought pattern, I wish these people would at least be honest to the public and the victims.

One person related a story to me of a group who went full throttle into helping with the problem. These good-hearted, community-oriented people were great in the beginning. Then at the end of a past Take Back the Night Walk when everyone had gathered in the park (there’s a nice photo and article on this in the archives of this blog) people were allowed to stand up and speak openly. Some people publicly announced they were taking a stand against abuse. Others found a voice and told their own stories of how they had been abused.

This “community- oriented” group and its’ leaders were offended by one or two of the stories that were told. They found the outpouring of emotion and sometimes grief from these people too graphic and offensive. In what I can only consider their self-righteousness they chose to pull out and no longer support the move.

Are you crazy?

Want graphic? How about this…if you have a deep wound and you rip the scab off of that wound, it’s going to bleed! If you have a diverse group of people gathered together on the subject of Domestic Violence and abuse, emotions are going to rise to the surface because the thin veil that is holding back all of that pent up anguish is going to be torn away. This is the real world not some sanitary environment you have created where the boogie man lives outside somewhere. The boogie man lives right next door to you. He may be hiding in your own home. Real life is not a fairy tale where stories of dragons and monsters are told. We don’t live in the Middle Ages where priests told stories of demons and monsters living “out there” in the forests and had rituals and magics which would get rid of them which were never really used because at the end of the day no one had actually saw a monster. This is the 21st century. We have our own dragons and monsters and they are real. We really see them every single day when we watch the news or read the paper.

If you are out there, especially those of you who teach martial arts, and you have this kind of mind set, you need to wake up! The monsters are real. Violence is real. Abuse is real. People come to you in order to learn to defend themselves. Some of these people have experienced violence. They have been attacked or know someone close to them who has. They have met the monster. They have shook hands with the Devil. They are looking to you for help. For you to sit in your little make believe world and refuse to accept that is wrong. For you to teach people self-defense methods and techniques that you’re not even sure will work in real-life is wrong. Most of all and most important, for you to be angry or offended at a person for opening their heart is wrong! Don’t get angry or offended at the victim for opening up. Get angry at the crime. Get angry at the suffering! Get offended at the fact that we see this every single day an treat it like it’s “just life”. Or even worse, we ignore it completely.

In other words: You’re doing it wrong and your heart is in the wrong place. What is even worse is that in your pious indignation you are hurting the very people you claim to want to help.

Take your blinders off. Stop thinking about your reputation and your desire to make money for a moment and realize that you have intentionally put yourself in a position of authority and knowledge. People look to you for guidance. They look to you for advice. In a lot of very deep and personal ways, they look to you for compassion and understanding. If you’re going to place yourself in a position to help people then do it. If you don’t have the talent, knowledge, or courage to see it through then stop dancing around the thing. In the end you will get someone hurt either physically or emotionally.

I’m not a professional counselor. I have no degree. I do not want people to look at me in that manner. However I want to help. I am committed to help. In that commitment I have made connections with people who are professionals. I am set up so that if anyone comes to me and needs help I can direct them to people who can help them.

I suppose you could say I am a “professional” martial artist although I hate to use that term. I am trained and I have real-world experience with violence. I can, in that capacity, teach people how to defend themselves. Although I do attempt to increase my knowledge and continue to learn, I have no need for outside self-defense programs, catering to women or otherwise, to augment my teachings, line my wallet, or fatten my bank account. In that aspect I can confidently contribute to ending violence. I’m not a savior. I’m not even, in my mind, a leader in this fight. The volunteers that man those phones 24/7, the people who put victims up in safe houses, the staff who counsel and advocate for the abused, those are the leaders and heroes in this fight. I’m just a voice. I’m just a single pair of hands that are outstretched to try to help. I am a simple Sensei who refuses to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to what is going on. I have seen enough real violence in my life that I am not so thin skinned that I would turn my back on anyone simply because I felt “offended”. If you are one of these people yet you have set yourself up to be a champion for the cause; You’re doing it all wrong! And I have to wonder what else you claim to be or take up a cause for that you will simply walk away from because you find something offensive or something doesn’t fit into the nice little box of your life.

Fight Like A…oh I dunno “Warrior” maybe

December 30, 2012 6 comments

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I’ve touched on this subject before. OK, I’ve done a tad bit more than “touch” on it. The thing nags at me to no end and I can’t help but comment on it again.

There seems to be a mindset going around these days that women are not suited for traditional karate. The idea is that women are smaller and weaker than men and therefore many of the moves and techniques in traditional karate cannot and will not possibly work for them. I’m not sure how things have gotten so blurred with this subject. I think a large part of it comes from our modern view of karate and the martial arts in general. We have watered them down so much that they are meaningless to anyone who is serious about self-defense. People, and I mean a majority of those who teach and promote martial arts, have lost the true meaning of “traditional” karate. People who know little or nothing of karate see competitions and watch “forms” which are beautifully choreographed sequences of movements. They are very pretty, very graceful, and lack one shred of anything that would be useful to defend yourself if you had to rely on them.

On the other side of the coin we are bombarded with images of MMA fighters. Many, not all but many, of these athletes are huge muscle-bound fighters. They are intimidating to the average person. I have trained for many years and I have to admit that I would have reservations about ticking one of them off.

So, we have been exposed to two different views of what martial arts are about. The meaning of much of traditional karate has been lost. In that meaning lies the very reason that it is not only suitable for women but, for many reasons, women can excel in it much more than their male counterparts.

There are many women of all ages who practice traditional karate. I have listed in the past a short list of some very famous female martial artists including Cynthia Rotheric and Chloe Bruce. Guess what? Despite this new mindset that traditional martial arts aren’t suitable for women, women practicing them is not a new phenomenon. In the infancy of martial arts Shaolin nuns were very formidable in Kung Fu.

I have no idea where the “Masters” of this art or that art or the creators of many of the newer self-defense programs for women are getting their ideas but here are two of the main reasons many of them are citing as to why that you ladies just can’t do it.

• You are smaller in stature than a man
• You are not as physically strong as a man

Ok. Duh. I’m not being disrespectful but honestly these are simply biological facts. Here’s the secret that these people simply do not get: these things are NOT disadvantages in karate. In fact, women have many advantages over men.

Got your interest?

Karate was designed to provide an effective way to defend yourself from an aggressor who is larger and more powerful than you. Though not designed specifically with women in mind, Karate is a martial art that relies very heavily on skill to overcome brute force. Most men will rely on their physical presence to overpower their victim(s), but a well placed blow at the correct time will stop anyone.

Any idiot can make a fist and lash out wildly using weight and brute strength. Karate teaches precision, timing and accuracy to land a single blow which “stops” your attacker.

A woman’s muscles are shorter than a man’s, so they contract and expand quicker. This means that a woman has a natural speed advantage.

The mechanical make up of a woman’s body gives them more fluid and flexible hips, and most of the power in Karate techniques comes from the hips. Women are much better at using their hips to generate power in their punches and kicks (ever look at the average guy trying to dance at a night club? Then you know how hard it is for men to use their hips efficiently!)

Any type of physical training can be rough on women. Physical training can be tough on ANYONE but in Karate you are taught how to train properly. How to move, hit, punch, kick, fall and avoid an opponent. The heart of Karate is learning how not to get hurt.

Statistics tell us that one in three women world-wide will be assaulted at least once in their lives. Karate won’t stop you from being assaulted but it can certainly help change the expected outcome of the assault.

When a woman learns Karate, she also learns self-defense, self-confidence and self-esteem which allows her to be able to go out in life with less fear and with a warmer and more open attitude.

So to all of you “self-defense gurus” and “women’s self-defense masters” out there that are promoting the line of crap that women are too weak to learn and practice traditional karate, to all of you out there with your programs or your films on YouTube who are saying that some of the techniques of traditional karate are too difficult for women to perform, please stop.

You need to seriously take a long look in the mirror. There may be legitimate reasons that karate didn’t work for you. The two that come to mind quickest are:

• Your instructor wasn’t much of an instructor. I am a Sensei, a teacher, it is my JOB to teach my students. Let me re-phrase that. It is my RESPONSIBILITY to teach my students. If I have student who is struggling with a technique it is my duty as that student’s teacher to work with them until they can make it work. If the moves are too difficult it is up to me to modify those moves to the point the student, male or female, can execute them successfully.

• You simply didn’t try hard enough. I know before you start whining to me that was such a cruel statement. How dare I say such a thing. The very nerve of me to even suggest that it could have possibly been your fault. We do kihon (basics) every single class in my dojo. Each class I tell my students that if they have to use karate to defend themselves in real life that they are going to react in the real world exactly as they do in the dojo. (To be honest that isn’t entirely true. In a real attack you will lose much of your learned motor skills due to adrenalin dump and several other factors in that moment.) You have to practice with all seriousness. If you do not, you will lose. Plain and simple. After you lose you will come to me and probably quit saying that karate doesn’t work. In truth, the karate worked; you didn’t.

For you ladies out there that are reading this; stop believing every bit of hype that you hear or read on the internet. If you’re listening to someone who’s telling you that you are too small or too weak for karate (or anythng else for that matter) politely tell them to go sell their BS to someone else. That is what they are doing you know. They are attempting to sell you a line of goods to convince you of something that isn’t true in order for you to buy into their program or mindframe. Don’t allow yourself to be suckered in. If you are in a martial arts program and find some of the techniques to difficult, go to your instructor and tell him / her that you are having problems. A Sensei worth their salt will do everything they can to help you succeed.

27 Trees

December 25, 2012 3 comments

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I have wrestled within myself as to whether to write about this or not. I have simply not wanted to use a tragedy to promote myself, my art, or this blog. Today, as I look out at the beautiful white blanket of snow that covers my little corner of the world I can’t help but reflect on what Christmas must be like in Newtown Conn.

I have been hearing and reading that there are all kinds of memorials there today, all kinds of services taking place. No words I can say here can possibly put in perspective the sadness that this nation feels at this senseless tragedy. As I have, over the past couple of weeks, looked at the faces of those precious children whose lives were so abruptly taken from us a great sense of sadness and loss overcomes me and I am at a loss for words.

If you notice I titled this “27 Trees”. There is a victim of this craziness that has seemingly been left out. We must remember that Adam Lanza also murdered his mother, Nancy. She was the first victim on December 15th. There are 27 Christmas trees in Newtown with presents underneath that have no one to open them.

I am accustomed to social violence. I have lived through it. I worked in it for almost 25 years. I have saw human beings do unspeakable things to each other and had to defend myself from them attempting the same level of violence on me. Yet even with the understanding that evil like this exist in the world looking at the faces of those innocent First Graders, it is difficult even for me to wrap my mind around what happened.

People, family and friends, those who know me, have asked me questions about what I would suggest.

Quite frankly I don’t know if I have anything.

Improve security in schools? That is certainly a good idea. I do think we have to use some caution and common sense with it.

Allowing teachers to carry firearms? That’s a tough call. There are a lot of pros and cons to the idea. I think it’s a very slippery slope.
Of course there has been another outpouring of opinions wanting to crack down on gun control. For those people wishing to do that let’s keep a few things in mind.

First of all remember that Adam Lanza was only 20 years old. He did not purchase any of the firearms he used. They belonged to his mom who was a gun enthusiast. I was a Federal Correctional Officer for 21 years and in that capacity considered Federal Law Enforcement. My credentials, even now that I am retired, are a Concealed Carry Permit. That being said, I obey the laws concerning carrying a weapon. Should those laws change I will continue to follow them. I’m a “good guy”. I obey the law. Most people who use firearms illegally are “bad guys”. They disregard the law. That’s part of their make-up being a criminal. The saying “If we outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns” is very true.

This blog is not, nor will it ever be, a forum for Second Amendment rights. It will also never be a sounding board for gun control. This blog is about martial arts, self-defense, and martial philosophy.

Which brings me back to the question of what I suggest.

What I suggest right now is for anyone reading this to quite simply stop. Take a deep breath. Pause for a moment and send your hearts, prayers, and positive energies to those people gathered around those 27 Trees. If you have young children go right now and give them a hug. If they are grown and living away, call or text them and tell them just one more time on this Christmas night how much you love them. Tomorrow take time to look at the people around you. If there is someone you see that you believe may be hurting emotionally let them know you are there and make an honest effort to reach out to them and help if you can. You may never know what kind of difference you have made in someone’s life by doing something so simple. A wise man once told me to teach every single karate class like it was my last one. To treat each student like it was the very last time I would ever teach them. Those words resound in my spirit here as I type this.

If anyone is reading this there in Newtown, know that my heart and soul are very sad for you. I know your loss. My mother was murdered when I was 8 years old. I understand what you are feeling and I pray that you find some sort of peace and comfort in the midst of your sorrow.