Monday, July 27, 2009

Where are the Freakin' Rapids?

Holy cow! This weekend was a great one! I could write a book on everything that transpired, but we don't have time for that today. I only have time to share a little bit of what went on during that 36 or so hours between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning.

You see this past Saturday Jack Hoban and I gave a seminar at Ronin Martial Arts / West Side Fitness in Grand Rapids, Michigan (the place where I hold on going classes). I picked Jack up from the airport late Friday afternoon, we hung out, watched some good friends of mine play in their surf band at Rocky's Tavern, a local watering hole near downtown Grand Rapids then cut home to get some shut eye. We didn't stay out long because we has a full day of training Saturday.

Although both Jack and I covered a lot of physical tactics, what I want to talk about in this blog entry is a little of what Jack was sharing regarding Dr. Robert Humphrey's view's concerning Living Values & Warrior Ethics. It is important for us to clairify what training is really for and who we are trying to protect.

Jack shared with us how warrior training whether it is done by the military, law enforcement or in the local martial arts studio can act as a vehicle for a higher purpose. If done correctly this physical training along with insightful discussions can help to align our purpose with our actions regarding ourselves and the lives of others. What others you ask? All others.

These ideas are something that seem to ring true in every individual that I have met. They are simple ideals that strike so close to home with each individual human being that it is almost impossible to deny their effect upon us. I say these principles are simple, not to be confused with easy! These very simple concepts that everyone seems to resonate with yet they are so easily lost from us.

By now you may be wondering what the heck I am talking about... Well, let me very simply tell you: It is about R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Aretha Franklin had it right, it IS all about respect.

How do we begin to combat all of the hatred in ourselves and out there in the world? How do we take steps closer to peace and further from war? How do we overcome many of the differences between us all regarding culture, language, ethnocentrism, religion, etc? These are common obstacles that we have to overcome when dealing with people of the world and in our lives. Here's a question for anyone who wonders about violence, self defense and protection: How do we justify physical violence and/or killing if we find ourselves in a position where we feel that we have to do it in order to survive or protect the lives of others?

Believe it or not, it still boils down to respect! Respect what? Life! Who's life? Your life and the life of others! What others? ALL OTHERS! So, when would you then physically defend or kill someone? To protect life. Who's life? Everyones life! Your own life and the life of others! What others? ALL others! Do you see the pattern here?

Now you may be thinking, "Well that is a great theory, but there are bad people out there. People who need to be dealt with, some of them probably should even be killed. What about them? There are terrorists, murderers and many others out there who mean to do us in.

Yes that is true and those people do need to be dealt with and some of us reading this have a duty to protect others from this type of threat, but how can we do it within the context of this "living Value" principle? Well, it still boils down to respect, and relative values vs. universal values!

Let me explain:

We will do what is necessary to protect the life of ourselves and others from the ACTIONS of those who are threatening those lives. Even if we don't condone an action or need to stop that action of someone else, it doesn't mean we should disrespect the person as being human or hate them in some attempt to justify our actions. Remember it is stopping the action, not justifying and dehumanizing the individual or group through prejudice, bigotry and hatred. It is all too easy to see the differences in people and use that as justification to perform sometimes extreme acts of violence to each other. We've done that for centuries! Hatred and killing due to religion, skin color, heritage, financial class, gender, language, social class, etc. etc. the list is endless! Over the centuries we've perfected the art of justification and brainwashing people into killing over relative values only to become sick in the aftermath of it all. Hopefully we can evolve past all of that and embrace a more peaceful path.

When do we take a life? To protect life. Who's life? Our own life and the life of others. Period. All other reasons are relative values. You might be thinking: Well what about freedom that is a universal value isn't it? NO it's NOT! That is relative. Everyone's view of freedom is different. What about equality? Shouldn't we be able to kill for equality? Equality is still a relative value, because everyones idea of what equal is can be relative. The ONLY universal value is life! The only time taking life is justified is for the protection of LIFE!

If you are still somewhat confused maybe this analogy that Jack shared with us will help: If you had a child that you loved yet they were stealing from others and not being a very nice person, chances are you wouldn't condone their behavior and would probably even punish them for their actions, but despite their behavior you still love and respect them as a human being. You are punishing their BEHAVIOR, and when those actions changed so would the way that you treated them. You didn't punish them because you hated them, although you may have hated their actions! The only reason that you acted in the way that you did was in response to their actions, to change their behavior, not disrespect them as a human beings nor justify what you did through some false rational. Well, I know it's hard, but take that sentiment and try to expand it to include everyone! Wow, I know that is a tall order, and that is why we have to keep being reminded or we lose that feeling, then when we come across a difficult situation the universal values often become fuzzy and unclear.

Does that help to clear things up at all? I hope so. If not visit Dr. Humphrey's website: to get a clearer idea of this life changing concept.

Speaking of Dr. Humphrey, here is a simple way to show respect to people who may even speak different languages or are from different cultures with customs that may be foreign to you. Oddly enough this exercise will also work with those in your life who are not strangers as well! This method comes from Dr. Humphrey's "hunting story" in his book Values for a New Millennium.

The Sergent from Tennessee looked at Humphrey and said, "You got to be able to look them (the natives) in the face and let them know, just with your eyes, that you know they are men (or women) who hurt like we do, and hope like we do, and want for their kids just like we all do." You gotta let them know that you respect them for the humans they are dispute all of the differences that you see, smell, hear, taste and experience.

It seems that the timing is right to share with you something that I wrote in my journal about 15 years ago or so. Here it is:

"To find truth seek similarity, not difference. Look not at outward stylistic separateness, but at the inward principle sameness. Understand the core, the why, the principles that make the manifestation work. Recognize differences, but seek similarity. The embodiment of truth comes in many forms. The word of truth translates into many languages. Although outer appearances may differ, look deeper and you shall see the truth."

Dr. Robert Humphrey's Warrior Creed:

Whereever I go people are safer because I am there.

Whereever I am anyone in need has a friend.

Whenever I go home people are happy that I am there.

...its a better life.

One last thing before I go:

Jack, thanks for coming out man! It was good hanging out with you again and training. I also appreciate that you took the time to share your insight and skills with some of the folks in this neck of the woods. I am looking forward to training with you soon my friend!

Keep going!


Friday, July 17, 2009

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

Hello all! I hope everyone's summer is going well. It's going by way too fast!

Ok, here is a little technique for you to use when you face a challenge that needs to be overcome. This method can be used during a tight spot and/or just in general.

Whenever you face a challenge you need to create a plan. If you don't have a plan you are at a huge disadvantage, so here is an easy method to use it is called T.A.C.T.E.

Think calmly and clearly (as much as the situation allows)
Assess the situation
Create a simple plan
Take action
Evaluate success

*repeat as needed.

The elements are simple. The calmer you stay and the clearer your thinking the better your chances of overcoming the challenge at hand. Assess the situation at hand and make your plan. The plan needn't always be complicated. As a matter of fact if you are in the middle of an emergency or conflict you may need to quickly asses and create a very simple plan in order to save your skin (or the skin of another). After creating your plan of attack, you need to act on it. Doing nothing is an action if you choose to do it rather than simply freeze. The final step is to evaluate your success. If what you did is not getting you the results you intended change what you need to be successful.

Well, that's it for now.

Talk to you all later.

All the best,

Friday, July 3, 2009

Training, Krav Maga and Freedom

I wanted to wish everyone a happy 4th of July.

I know the above picture contrasts such a cheery intro, but as you read the article below it will become more clear why I chose the above picture.

I began writing my blog for the 4th when Moshe e-mailed me this article. I thought that it was written very well and said everything I was trying to convey, so being one for efficency I thought I would share his words. I ran it by Moshe to make sure it was alright with him and indeed it was, so here you go!

Krav Maga for me is more than a 'martial art', or even a method of self defense. It is part of my essence; it is part of who I am.

I am an American citizen and an Israeli citizen, and I am proud of both traditions and I am loyal to both flags. I signed up for the US draft, although I was never called, I vote in every election, I support our troops.

The United States and Israel share the same core values, values which are not shared by many other countries. At the outset the USA was an experiment in democracy. Kids often ask me, "Why should I study history? What's the big deal?"

Well, you must study history. Without the knowledge of history you will never understand the present. When you study early American history; the founding fathers, their struggles, their passion and sacrifice, their goals and uncompromising attitude, you will understand what America is about, or what it was about and should be about.

At the time of the founding of the United States of America, the personal freedom which we see today in America and in many parts of Europe was unheard of. Most people today could not even imagine that kind of life, a life without the freedom of personal choices, a life without the freedom of diversity or self expression. We are free to choose our life style and beliefs.

Early Americans struggled, fought and died, so that you today can have the life you have. We are still indebted to those early freedom fighters and we must never forget that we too must fight; we must always remember that freedom is never free. I can not understand how an American can not know the lives of Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Franklin. I do not know how an Israeli can not know the lives of Jabotinsky, Begin, Trumpeldor and Herzl.

Why do we train in Krav Maga? Because we want to be free. We train so that when a woman walks down the street she is empowered to stand up to sexual or verbal abuse, so that a child or teenager can feel strong enough to say 'No' to peer pressure, so that an older person can walk the streets without fear.

We train in Krav Maga to retain the basic freedoms that the USA and Israel stand for. The government, army and police protect us on one level; we must protect ourselves on another level. To live in fear is not to be free, we train to be free.

Each person who stands up to personal abuse, each person who feels secure to be whom they want to be, each person who lives without fear, is a triumph in freedom. Each one of us contributes to this freedom.

I see Krav Maga as an Israeli contribution to American life and to the lives of all those who value freedom. Give it as a gift to someone who needs to feel the confidence, the power. This is the spirit of freedom, the spirit of America, Israel and all people who stand up to tyranny.

By Moshe Katz - IKI Krav Maga Founder and Head Instructor

I wish everyone a great 4th of July!!

All the Best,