Monday, April 29, 2013

Small vs. Big

Somewhere off the Coast of Mexico

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.  Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna.  The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, "only a little while."

The American then asked why didn't he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs.

The American then asked, "but what do you do with the rest of your time?"

The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos.  I have a full and busy life."

The American scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you.  You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat.  With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.  Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery.  You would control the product, processing, and distribution.  You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise." 

The Mexican fisherman asked, "But, how long will this all take?"

 To which the American replied, "15 - 20 years."

"But what then?" Asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, "That's the best part.  When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!"

"Millions - then what?"

The American said, "Then you would retire.  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos." 

~Author Unknown

When we were young we were taught to get more, to grow into something or someone big. As we grew into adults we are conditioned for more. Bigger. Being more popular is thought to be better than being less popular. Having more stuff is better than having less stuff. Having a bigger company is better than having a smaller company. Having a bigger house with more square square footage is better than having a smaller house with less square footage. Having more clients is better than having less customers etc.

As much as we are inundated with more / big we weren't taught about how beneficial less / small is. We equate more /  big with success and view less / small as unsuccessful. Less / small is covert. Less / small creates opportunity with often greater benefits than more / big. However our culture is deaf to its benefits.

Many believe that less is trying to be more and that small is a failed attempt at being big. Consider being small by design and focusing on less on purpose can provide GREATER opportunity, security, contentment, fulfillment, balance and serenity.

Just a thought.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Boston Bombing, Window Seats & Shwarma Sandwiches


Like most of you I was deeply affected by the news of the recent bombing at the Boston Marathon. With every violent attack that we witness we ask more questions: Why is this happening?  How could someone do something so violent to innocent people including children? How can we recognize this type of a threat when we see it or before it happens? How can we stop the violence? How can we feel safer?

Much like when 9/11 occurred I imagine that many of the countries who see violence like this on a more regular basis once again looked at the U.S. and thought, welcome to our world. Not to disrespect or detract from the seriousness (or sadness) of the situation that happened in Boston, but many other countries experience attacks like that or worse on a much more regular basis than seen here in the US.

As I thought about these things, it reminded me of the first time I brought in Krav Maga instructor Moshe Katz from Israel a few years back. I picked him up from the airport and figuring that he probably was hungry after his long flight, so I thought he might enjoy some cuisine from his neck of the woods. I took him to Olsta's, a Middle Eastern restaurant in East Grand Rapids, MI.

We walked into the entrance of the restaurant and I picked a table up by the front window near the door to sit at. Upon sitting down I could see by the look on Moshe's face that something was on his mind, so I asked him if something was wrong. It struck me that Moshe being Jewish and from Israel, may not have appreciated me bringing him to a Lebanese restaurant, especially due to the fact that both countries have been to war with each other numerous times and are currently on tenuous grounds with one another. However he assured me that this was not what was on his mind. Then he politely explained to me that if he was in Israel, he would not be sitting by the entrance near the window, because if there were some type of attack we would be at a greater risk of being hurt or killed due to our choice of seating. He went on to tell some stories of tragedy and terrorism in his home land of Israel where cars have driven by a restaurant, store front or house and unloaded a torrant of machine gun fire killing, maiming and injuring innocent civilians; or possibly the vehicle would seemingly nonchalantly park in front of a building only later to explode taking out much of the structure and people that had the unfortunate opportunity of being near the car when it went off. Moshe explained that even with an armed guard at the entrance keeping an eye on things, a suicide bomber could stand near the front of the building and detonate once again taking out both people and property. There were (and are) no shortages of opportunities for violence.

I found this discussion very interesting not only because I am a pretty well traveled and aware guy, but more because of what I do. However in my defense, the typical types of threats that we commonly run into in the U.S. were seemingly vastly different than those that Moshe was more concerned with, at least that is what we want to think.

From personal protection courses to police officers, teachers to students and counselors to parents, we are all looking at a certain criteria for keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe. This criteria has been one based on an entirely different type of engagement to or profile of violence.

Maybe soon reports like the FBI Crime Clock (Below) will begin to include stats on active shooters and suicide bombers?

No longer are these the only types of threats that we run into here in the States. Active shooters, suicide bombers, and others who most often can not be negotiated with have become the forefront of our news here in the U.S. lately. So much so that we have been forced to re-evaluate how we view, identify, prevent, engage and deal with other types of threats and violence around us.

We must continue to shift our focus; to become more aware; to be better protectors, not of just people in our own "tribe" but better protectors of everyone. Manage the behavior, respect the Universal Life Value. However to do this we have to hone our skills to be even better than we already are in everything we do. We have to wear more hats, one of which is first and foremost being an ethical protector.

So, what can we all do right now?

~ Pay attention! 
~ Be more aware of what's going on around you 
     (to do this you also have to be aware of what's going on inside of you!). 
~ Look for strange or inconsistent behavior. 
~ Look for things that seem out of place, unhealthy or feel wrong.  
~ Pay attention to the small details. 
~ Early detection and prevention are key to saving lives.

The most difficult thing to embrace while you are doing this is to not lose sight of the ethic. What ethic you ask? Protecting All Life. While we are PROFESSIONALLY dealing with and managing negative and dangerous behavior, we must stay connected with our protector nature and try not to produce more disrespect, hate & ignorance and breed more violence.

That being said, this doesn't mean letting terrorist kill innocent people, nor does it mean that we won't eliminate a threat to protect an innocent life. What it means that we use the least amount of force necessary to protect. And if we do have to take a life, it is a last resort after all other options have been exhausted. We only take life if necessary to save life. We don't do it because of an emotional response or because of hate or de-humanization.  

Try to make everyone as safe as they can be under the circumstances. Respond don't react to situations. If we treat Life as a relative value, then our lives are relative too making the "good guys" no better than the "bad guys."

Now, those of you who know me understand that although I am spiritual, I am not a religious man, however I like this passage from the old testament:

"This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live."

Deuteronomy 30:19 

As a friend of mine (& ethics expert) Jack Hoban says:  

"You better be good because being  an ethical protector is risky... But it's a better life."


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Set the Pace

When we think about escalating a situation we often think of assertive or aggressive behavior (yelling at someone who took the parking space you thought was yours, yelling at your kids to go to bed, taking down a non-compliant perpetrator, waging a pre-emptive strike on a hostile nation that is not playing well with others, etc). However, I wanted to open this concept up a little to change our perspective on how we view the idea of escalation. Escalating a situation can also be thought of as energizing it. We can also be filling an (emotional) space with enthusiasm or adding energy to a situation.

During an interaction, people typically play off from one another. If you Take the Lead and Set the Pace you can often influence how that interaction goes. As "Man Search For Meaning" Author Viktor Frankl said, "You cannot always determine what happens to you. You do however always have the ability to choose how you respond to it."

Many people have difficulty controlling situations because they don't see how they are always in control, not necessarily of the other person, but of THEMSELVES. How YOU respond to things is the real question. The clearer you are on the bigger picture, your boundaries and your plan if things don't go your way, the more effective you can be during a situation. Don't let your emotions and ego control your decisions and behavior. Everyone has emotions and ego, that's natural, but don't let them blind you and put you at a disadvantage. 

Set the pace! Add the good stuff, manage the bad stuff, focus on the big picture & have a plan if it doesn't go your way.
Keep going,

Before Self Defense by Moshe Katz

Martial arts tend to focus on techniques. Most martial arts are largely irrelevant to any real life confrontation and even those that are "Reality Based" tend to miss a great deal of what really matters in real life situations.
There is a self defense that begins before self defense. There is a self defense that begins before your first kick, before your first punch or throw or lock. There is a self defense that extends long after your physical means of defense have been exhausted or depleted. It is something beyond technique and beyond the body. It is in the realm of spirit.

I write these words as "Holocaust Day" (Yom HaShoa) is winding down in Israel. On this day Jews and humanitarians all over the world take a day to remember, reflect and honor. We think back to those dark days of World War Two when the Germans were fighting two wars; one against the Allies and the other against the Jews. Of the two the Germans placed priority on the War against the Jews.
But the Germans were not alone. In nearly every country where they set their boots they found willing allies; people filled with hatred who had been longing for this day. Their job was made much easier, and in fact it was made possible, by the eager help of their allies. Even in countries where the Germans were viewed as an enemy and an occupation force, they found willing executioners.
The Allied powers as well cannot be totally exempt from blame, for they too were guilty of much. (and this alone can, and has, filled volumes).
But in all this, in all this hell, in all this inhumanity, there were shinning lights of humanity. There were people, thousands of them, who risked their lives and the lives of their families to help Jews. And it is to these people that tens of thousands of Jews today owe their very existence.
Today is a great television day in Israel, round the clock Holocaust programming. I happened to catch two films, one about Irene Sendler, a Polish woman, a Righteous gentile, who risked her life to save 2,500 Jews. Even after nearly being killed and being forced to go into hiding, she continued her activities on behalf of Jews.
The other film was about Kurt Gerstein, an SS officer who tried to warn the world about what was really happening in the Third Reich and in Poland. He risked his life to try and warn the Pope about what he had seen in the Death Camps.
In the case of Irene Sendler, and countless others, we know that they eventually suffered terribly at the hands of the Nazis. We know they were tortured but never revealed their secrets. Some took their secrets to their deaths rather than betray others.

Irene Sendler, Righteous Among the Nations, 1942, Poland.

Miep Gies, the Netherlands, who helped hide Anne Frank, her family and several other Jews.

Kurt Gerstein, Germany. SS officer who tried to warn the world, including the Pope, but was ignored. 
In 1945 he turned himself in to the Allies. He was found dead in prison under mysterious circumstances. The report he wrote helped confirm to the world the details of the Nazi extermination plan, "The Final Solution". Even early in his career he openly expressed his opposition to Nazi rule.
He truly believed that if people knew the truth about the death camps then the extermination would stop. He risked his life trying to change the fate of the doomed.

And I look, and I think; who were these people; Irene Sender, Miep Gies (who helped Anne Frank) and so many others. Who were they?
Were they the type we see in action films? (usually starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jean Claude Van Damme or Sylvester Stallone)?
No, not at all, many of these were women, petite and untrained in any combatives or martial arts. What they had was spirit and courage. The had something inside that defied the greatest war machine of all time; they had a heart that cared and was willing to act. And when they were caught they revealed such strength that even the most brutal and sadistic Nazis could not break them. These women had an invisible strength that could not be broken with any physical means.
How does this relate to Krav Maga and what can we learn from these great souls?
When someone comes to me for training and their stated goal is self preservation, I must take this to heart. I have come to learn that all the techniques in the world are useless unless a person has a mindset to fight back. Irene Sendler fought back. 
Before Self Defense there must be resolve, before self defense there must be a spirit in your heart that says "I will not give in to tyranny", before self defense there must be unbendable will; the will to live, the will to be free.
Before self defense there was be moral courage.
When I was being tested for brown belt I had to go through my own minor hell. It was the most difficult challenge of my life at that point, my physical powers were depleted. But I kept going, I simply refused to give up. When it was all over my teacher said to me,"I was not testing your technique, I was testing your will to survive."
Perhaps some of our people survived by luck, or by chance. Perhaps some survived by their wits or connections. But some survived by their incredible desire to live, to hang on one more day, to take one more step, to breath one more breath of life.

On Holocaust Day, when we stop and remember, when we honor the martyrs and the rescuers, we must also learn. We must learn from those like Irene Sendler who stood up to tyranny, from Kurt Gerstein who tried to contact even the Pope. We must learn that before any action can be taken there must be a courageous heart. 
And I heard a still small voice...

Written by Israeli Krav International's Moshe Katz