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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.   

 

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.

A Long Week


I have not been posting for a while. Many of you already know if you have been watching my personal Facebook page, my wife of 18 years passed away last Sunday, May 19th at 11:45 am after a very short battle with cancer.

My emotions have ran an entire spectrum and my energies have been scattered for three weeks now as we battled through hospital stays and radiation treatments.

We had her ceremony yesterday and the outpouring of support brought me to tears. The church was completely full of family and friends of the family wishing to celebrate the life of “Mrs Sensei”.

Hopefully this coming week I am going to get things back to “normal” at the dojo.

 

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.

Laughing at the Beast

December 12, 2012 3 comments

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Laugh at the cleverness of the beast and the beast will defeat itself.
~David Carradine~

We’re off to see the wizard.

In the beloved classic, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her friends set off on a perilous journey to the Emerald City to see the Great and Powerful Oz. Their hope is that the mighty wizard can help them. Dorothy wants to go home. The Scarecrow wants a brain. The Tinman is in search of a heart. The Cowardly Lion seeks courage. When they arrive they are met with a scary and horrifying visage of the wizard. They are also sent on a mission to prove themselves to him. After completing the mission they return only to be frightened once again by the terrifying image of the wizard. All seems hopeless until Toto, Dorothy’s tiny dog, pulls the curtains aside exposing a small, weak, and scared old man controlling all of the effects and projecting a false image of the wizard. Exposed for what he really is, the wizard becomes a totally different person.

Wizards in our life

I think a lot of us have people like the wizard in our lives. There are people out there who portray themselves as something that they are not. They frighten us or intimidate us. There are a lot of bosses like that. Sometimes people we compete with in the business world are like that. Sometimes they simply act as something that they are not in order to promote themselves.

We often take this image at face value. We let it get to us, let it intimidate us. We wring our hands and worry about it. We are stunned when we discover that it was all a charade. We don’t know how to react to it.

I think this is partially what David Carradine was talking about when he wrote the quote about laughing at the Beast. That quote was part of the Twelve Rules found in his book, Kung Fu. Many people have discredited Carradine in the past. Some have said he wasn’t truly a martial artist. Others have taken his personal life and held it under a magnifying glass especially after the events that led to his death. I grew up with the television series Kung Fu. It was probably the first sample of the martial arts I was exposed to. Luckily it was filled with as much philosophy as it was action scenes and fighting. I think in a lot of ways more so. Naturally when Carradine wrote a book on the subject I bought and read it. I kept it for many years and finally passed it on to a student some time ago never to see it again.

Carradine said to laugh at the cleverness of the Beast. I think that means more to not take everything you see exactly as it is presented.

Pulling back the curtain

I recently had my very own “Oz Moment”. A curtain was pulled aside and I was allowed to see some things as they truly are and not how they had been promoted to be for so long. For days I had no idea how to think or act. I had been baffled for a long time as to how to deal with…we will call it a McDojo for lack of better description. After having coffee with some other instructors and talking about some things, including this, I stumbled on some YouTube footage that threw me for a loop.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about it. What I saw was some very substandard karate no matter what style you practice or what level you are. It was a student testing for a beginner rank. It was terrible. Don’t get me wrong; I am NOT blaming the student. A student will do what the teacher tells them to do. They will do things as they are taught to do. I saw terrible technique, awful stances, no power. I saw a beginning student attempting to do techniques that were too advanced for the level they were at.

I sat back. I watched the video again and again. I was, for lack of better word, dumbfounded.

Laughing at the Beast

I have learned something from this. Surprisingly, it is something I already knew and it disappoints me to no end that I have allowed the Beast to intimidate me or fool me. I learned that I should never lose confidence in myself or what I do. I realized that people will do and say things to make themselves appear in a certain light. And yes, there will be many people out there who don’t understand what something truly is or what something truly means who will believe the hype simply because they don’t know any better.

What to do?
Like myself, all you can really do is believe in yourself and what you do. If you are right, you are right. If what you are doing is right, it is right. You have to be an example. You have to let your light shine. In time your light will cut through all of the darkness and hype. Most of all you have to STAND.

Take a moment and look at all of the people in history who have stood steadfast in the face of adversity. If Winston Churchill had believed Hitler’s hype, where would Europe be today? If George Washington and the Founding Fathers had given in to the British army we may have never gained our independence.

The Wizard was a bully in the beginning. He was just a scared little man. The Beast is no beast most of the time. We give it that power. We allow it to have that place in our lives. Let the intimidation roll off of you. Forget the fear for a moment and look at things for what they may really be instead of what you have been led to believe that they are. Refuse to sacrifice yourself and what you think is right in the face of fear and intimidation.

Wetmore Fire Relief

October 23, 2012 1 comment

DROP OFF STATION AT DOJO

We are setting up a Relief Station at the dojo for victims of the Wetmore fire.

Rocky Mountain Shito-Ryu Karate-Do / USA Tang Soo Do

323 Main St Canon City CO

Please bring:

  • Toiletries

  • Non-Perishable Food Items

  • Blankets

  • Bottled Water

  • Household Items

THE PEOPLE OF WETMORE COLORADO NEED YOUR HELP NOW!!!!

Hours will be announced ASAP. WE WILL BEGIN COLLECTING ON 10/24/12 (WEDNESDAY)