Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Years Eve Eve Day

As you know, 2015 is pretty much done. What were my expectations for this past year? Well, according to my blog post last year, here is what I said:

1) I should have my forthcoming book ready for editing and soon after release.

Well, I was WRONG here! The book is STILL forthcoming! =(

Here's the status: I just finished rewriting one of the final chapters. I am working on tying a couple of the chapters together a little better and writing the (brief) conclusion chapter. It is the #1 of my two projects I am committed to finishing in 2016! Plan to submit to editing by March 1, 2016.

2) 5 SUPER SEMINARS Regarding business applications, Krav Maga, Conflict Management and Leadership.

I taught 3 of the 5 Super Seminars. I had some high expectations and learned more what my current tribe is looking for; what needs to be nurtured a bit more; and how the tribe needs to be expanded. I am planning 5 more SUPER SEMINARS in 2016! The first one is the iConnecti Protectors Conference, February 20th. I am headlining the conference w/Israeli Defense Force Maj. Elliott Chordoff. Click here for more info and to register.

Keep an eye on my calendar for 2016 to see what else is going on regarding public events, workshops and seminars.

3)  RGI Events.

RGI (Resolution Group International) heated up in 2015 and looks like it will continue to boil in 2016 as well. Our contract with Camden PD in New Jersey has us running workshops and sustainment sessions on a regular basis. We are honored to be involved with them, helping to create a new culture for their officers and community. We have been getting a lot of media coverage as well.

2016 will be a pivotal year for RGI and it's great to be a part of that team. I enjoy working with everyone: Jack Hoban, Artie Mark, Lt. Col. Joe "Marine" Shusko, Sgt. Maj. Brian Pensak, Margarita Tapia, James Challender, Gary Klugiewicz, James Morganelli, Rich Little, Kevin Lutz, the Camden PD Mentors, Mark Guest, Josh Sager, Tony Notarianni, Michelle, Alana B., and all of the others who have been involved. 

4) Other seminars and trainings. I'm excited to be working on some cool new collaborations with some new people in 2015 as well! 

That did happen! Over all I spoke at or taught at well over 50 seminars and events this year. That's an average of about one per week, however as you probably can guess it didn't work out that smoothly, some weeks I didn't have any and others I had 3 or 4 events! I'm planning on smoothing that out more this year. I'm off to a great start so far. I have over half my year booked solid already and many other projects in the works! It's going to be an incredible year!
I tried numerous different marketing, PR and advertising initiatives in 2015 as well: 

~ Facebook Ads
~ Google Adwords
~ A New PeaceWalker App
~ Lunch & Learns
~ Promotional Speaking Engagements & Workshops
~ Hiring an Agent
~ I'm sure there are others that are escaping me at the moment.

Some of these experiments worked, others not so much. I'm collecting the data and making the assessment on improving or eliminating what was and wasn't effective. I'll continue with those things that worked, re-evaluate those things that didn't and add some new tricks to the mix for 2016.

I am going to add a couple things for 2016: 

A) Beginning in February I am planning on a PeaceWalker webinar series.

B) Production of a 12 Week On-Line PeaceWalker Classroom Management System for Teachers is in the works. (This is #2 of my Two Big Project for 2016 Commitment! Remember #1 is my book?!) 

I will continue to grow and create my business in a direction where I am feeling fulfilled personally and professionally.

In 2016 I plan to continue creating and maintaining a culture that encompasses how to better LIVE PROTECT & INSPIRE.

That's what I am shooting for this upcoming year!  

I could go on writing my plans, however why don't you stop reading about mine and keep working on YOURS!

Thanks for sharing some of 2015 w/me. I look forward to more in 2016 as we Keep Going on this wonderful, paradox we call life!

All the best,

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Homeless and the Hypocrite


In a recent post called The Warrior Sage, I shared some of my views regarding how it is easy being an "enlightened ethical warrior" for a few hours during seminars or in a class surrounded by students who appreciated you, however real life can be a bit more sobering when it comes to being anything close to enlightened and/or when it comes to protecting all others. That said I want to share a recent story with you regarding an incident that happened to me where I fell short of being an "ethical protector."

Here it is Saturday, Dec. 26th, yes, only twenty four hours after that special day where we are supposed to share peace upon the earth and wish goodwill toward mankind. Well, apparently a day can make a big difference regarding the Christmas Spirit and helping your fellow man.

I was headed up North to spend some time away to relax & recharge, but before I took off, I thought I'd quick head downtown to return a gift that I bought. I figured that while I was in the area, I would also stop at my favorite coffee shop, which was just across from the little comic book shop. After I parked in my usual 1hr free parking ramp, I found myself walking a bit faster than usual, unconsciously rushing to leave town. I figured I'd grab a cuppa joe, exchange the gift, and get back in my car to head out. Half way down the heated corridor that connected the parking ramp w/the street just outside the shoppes, I saw a pair of boots attached to a pair of legs. It didn't take long to recognize that those boots belonged to one of the homeless men who frequented the area. His position was strategic, it was warm and it provided a steady flow of traffic to panhandle, as was often the case.

I was in a bit of a hurry and not in a mood to be hassled or asked for money. (I know, Merry Christmas... but what can I say, I'm just being honest). I opened the door and moved past him as quickly as I could, but as I passed, I noticed that he had a blue cast on his arm that he was picking at and wincing. For a moment I considered stopping to ask him if he needed help, but my empathetic sentiments were quickly overrun by my mood of not wanting to be bothered by someone possibly trying to scam me out of a few bucks (as so many times before), so I moved through, the door closing behind me.

Once outside a few thoughts passed through my head: 1) It was colder outside than I remembered. I could understand why he wanted to get out from the elements. 2) To feel less guilty, I consoled myself that if he were "really hurt" he would have asked me for help.  3) Here it was only one day after Christmas and I wouldn't even stop to help someone in need?! What type of ethical protector was I!?

All of this was running through my mind as my feet carried me further from helping him.

After I returned the gift and left the comic book shop, I saw a firetruck w/it's lights flashing, just up from where I was. It only took me a minute to put two and two together. By now I was sipping on my warm cafe' meil, sitting in a nice leather chair. A bolt of guilt and regret shot through me. I realized why the firetruck was there. Getting up out of my seat I looked through the large plate glass window to see down the street where an ambulance had also joined the firetruck. A few EMT's had someone strapped on the stretcher. I recognized the hat of the man that they were caring for. It was the homeless man that I walked right passed only a few minutes ago.

What kind of protector am I, I thought?

It just goes to show how easy it can be to just not give a shit, or care enough to help someone. Here is a great example of the bystander effect in action. I could've just taken a second to ask him if he was alright, but I didn't want the hassle. WTF?! Did I really just do that? Yep! I did! No getting around it. (Commence the hate mail and trolling...)

And this is why I have to continue to train, practice and keep going.

I know some of you are thinking what a hypocrite I am, while others may be thinking how the homeless guy was probably scamming the system getting a free meal and bed for a while; or that he somehow deserved his lot in life because he put himself in that situation in the first place, etc. Whose right? Both, neither, something in between? I don't know. I do know this though: I still have work to do to be a better protector and a more graceful, empathetic human being. No excuses, I'll try to learn from the experience and keep going. It's easy to get caught up in ourselves rather than just doing the right thing. Heck, I'm a pretty good guy, not to mention I make a living teaching people how to be better protectors and I still fell for my own inner asshole, so to speak. Yes, I'm human too! I am under no illusions about myself: I'm no saint... But I'm not a monster either... which brings me a little relief at least.

Like most people I don't like being hassled or scammed by someone, however I didn't feel I was in danger, so I could have asked him if he needed help; that is if I wasn't thinking about my own wants so much. I'm not proud of how I handled that situation. I'm glad that the guy got some assistance and hope he is doing well. I will try to be less selfish in the future.  Funny, my last experience that involved a homeless person, I was on the receiving end of a stereotype, now I am the one whose playing the douche bag. Even though I didn't insult the guy, I didn't help him either.

Sometimes it's not as much about learning as it is doing. Simple, not easy!

Keep going!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Skipping Stone: A Japan Trip Review by Tony Notarianni


When I first arrived at the new Honbu, I was incredibly impressed by its fresh character. A lot of thought had gone into layout and facilities, while a bright and well decorated interior provided a clean backdrop for Budo training. As much as I miss the old training hall, it definitely felt like an upgrade. The famous chalk board schedule still hung upon the wall, and I was excited to see that I would have the chance to train with many Shihan during my stay.

The first class was with Nagato Sensei, and immediately my attention was drawn to his movement. It seemed that as he demonstrated the initial grab, punch, or kick attack would be the same, and he might even travel in the same initial direction, but from there it would change each time. As the attacker fought back or readjusted balance, the defenders flow would just continue, circumventing the opponents strength and patiently letting a technique unfold naturally.

Nothing was really completed, one moment it appeared that an Omote Gyaku was going to be applied, but then it would suddenly transform into Ganseki Nage, in this way I saw a full flow of Kihon Happo techniques demonstrated, I felt this significant and so it stuck in my mind.

Grandmaster Hatsumi Sensei was of course the heart center of inspiration. I actually had the opportunity to see him teaching five times during my trip and all my observations have since overlapped. He mentioned that this year he had been focusing on Muto Dori, but it felt like he was trying to explain that this represented more than just empty handed defenses against a sword wielding attacker. There was a feeling to it, which was always there, regardless of whether he was armed or not.

Often he repeated the importance of not 'evading' the attack quickly, but to find the right rhythm and space. He also demonstrated the use of very light touch, sometimes using just a finger to control a cover point on the attacker. On a few occasions he didn't even need to touch the opponent, simply covering the important spaces was enough to alter the opponents next move. In fact, he even said not to see the opponent as an opponent to be beaten or defended against, but rather as a collaborator.

He often used his elbows to control, leaving his hands free to strike, or take other points, all in a natural flow. He likened this to the concept of the skipping stone, bouncing across the water. I felt that much like the skipping stone, the outcome is predetermined by the conditions, but any slight variation in those conditions appear to cause vastly deviating visual results. He said the important thing to do was to keep going along with the flow, and to have faith that one will survive.

Another notable concept was his usage of fulcrums and levers, especially when employing a sword or staff. He often found a way to set himself up, so that a simple soft movement of his body exerted incredible natural force against his opponent. Sometimes he even asked for multiple opponents to attack, and he was able to leverage them against each other. He did warn us not to take his Muto Dori too seriously though, and went on to show us how as a swordsman he could easily cut by utilizing the same flow and feeling as if he had no sword.

Hatsumi Sensei actually had an extra class for his Birthday. He talked about how he had spent the last 42 years working on what he had learned in 15 years with his teacher Takamatsu Sensei. He finally feels that he can do justice to the titles he received, and later mentioned that it is sometimes necessary to grow into a title or award, which has been received in advance of reaching the required ability.

He said that he has had a good time during those 42 years, he did a lot of travelling around the world teaching and spreading his art during less turbulent decades. Now however, it might be that as Budoka we have to step up to become examples for future generations as the world itself is changing. This change, and need to evolve was referenced often. Next, next, next....what is going to happen in the next cycle, it felt like a lot of that is really up to all of us now.

I studied with all of the Shihan that made themselves available, my cup was full and emptied several times. I realized I could not take back home their techniques or form, but their advice and training methodologies were certainly something I could work from. Apart from which, their skill and ability are all an inspiration to keep going, reference points to what is possible if I just keep pushing.

Hatsumi Sensei also talked about this, he said that when one hits a wall, one should not give up, but keep trying to find a way through. He said even if the wall is really strong, you can broadcast through it, and that way still reach the other side. That we should not let these walls be such a determination of who we are. With such motivational words, it was really a powerful training environment.

There certainly was a great deal of energy at the Dojo, I was awestruck not just by Hatsumi Sensei and his skills but also at the entire atmosphere he has created. It was very hard not to be distracted and I was reminded about Jack's teaching on the combat mindset during the year. I began to wonder in the skipping stone analogy whether we are supposed to be the skipping stone, or the water.

By Tony Notarianni

Visit Tony's blog here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Everyday Baseline (in Japan and Life)


So here I am in Kashiwa, Japan. I just finished breakfast and now I 'm sipping on my cafe' Ole'  that I picked up at this quaint little French bakery around the corner. Training with Hatsumi Sensei starts in a few hours, so I have a second or two to think. One of the things that comes to mind is being the eye of the storm. Why? Well, the martial arts training that I am doing over here really relies on the practitioner to be what I call baseline (which for those of you who don't know what it is; I'll get into in a second). You see if you are not emotionally detached a bit from the engagement you may put yourself in a more vulnerable position. You have to remain calm inside and when you do let your emotions out it's done so intentionally and strategically. (Very Japanese it seems). If you can't see through and control your own emotions, you will continue to resist and fight with the external circumstance or be overly passive rather than knowing how to flow with it. The object is to either find and maintain mutual balance, or gain the tactical advantage by remaining balanced while taking your opponents from him.

In light of my thoughts I just wanted to share a little story about having Baseline in everyday life. Before I share the story let me  first review what I mean by being Baseline and why it is so important:

Basically this state of what I call Baseline is simply choosing not to be part of the problem. Being the eye of the storm, rather than being caught up in the storm or the creator of it.

Baseline can be made up of many things, however it can be summarized by these three (3) components:

1) Attitude: 
A) See Conflict as an Opportunity
B) Respect Life - Separate Actions and beliefs from someone's Life Value
C) Set the Pace - Lead by Example

2) Awareness:
A) Yourself
B) Others
C) The Situation (Including Environment)

3) Appropriate Action: 
A) Do the Right Thing
B) At the Right Time
C) W/the Right Intention (Most Good/Least Harm for Everyone)

Ok, so now that we clarified that at least in summary form, let me share my very simple, everyday story. It goes something like this:

I just got back from teaching/training out in New Jersey on Sunday and almost before I have time to eat some T-Day Turkey and stuffing I left for Japan on Friday, so I was trying to get all of my bills paid before I went, knowing that if I don't pay some of them they will go unpaid past their due date incurring fees. So, I am getting anxious about getting them taken care of.  

Now, I have to share another part of the equation, I live in a quaint "Heritage Hill" style home that is split up into three apartments. The mail comes into one collective mailbox and on a number of occasions my mail has gotten lost. I don't get a lot of mail. A few pieces of junk mail and bills. That said, if my junk mail gets misplaced I wouldn't miss it or really care for that matter, however, a few of my bills get misplaced every year, which can be problematic. Especially when I am on a tight time frame. 

So, here's the scene, due to my 4 hour plane trip taking 26 hours because of delays I just get into town a couple days ago from a week and a half in Jersey. Thanksgiving is Thursday and I leave on Friday for Japan, so as I said I'm trying to get all of my household things done before I go, so I'm feeling a bit crunched for time. 

My bills are typically all here by this time of the month, so when I don't see them on my doorstep I get a bit nervous. I call my landlord, friend and compadre' to see if they are in a pile somewhere at his place. He says he'll look. I don't hear from him, so I text him. Nothing. Then his wife texts me saying that they "distributed all of the mail" and nothing else for me. 

Being that my baseline was wavering a bit due to my stress of trying to catch up after the flight, get ready to leave for Japan and the holiday. That whiny adolescent voice in my head was saying: Crap, they lost my mail again! Maybe they can pay all of my late fees and the hassles this time!? I have to leave in a couple days, I don't have time for this shit! Blah, blah, blah, the voice went on and on in my head, determined to make me more anxious and cranky. 

I ALMOST replied to her text with this: Hmmmmm, Interesting that my mail was misplaced again! 

Even though that response was better than what was going on in my head, it still was reacting to a situation and making some assumptions... and you know what happens when we make assumptions!? It could have easily festered into something else, something bigger. As we know many big blowouts start w/small inconsequential things like this, turning into something much more ugly.

Anyway, I took a couple deep breaths, collected myself, re-calibrated, told my little (whiny) voice to chill and instead responded with this:

Thanks for the update, let me know if you find something. 

Telling myself it's really no big deal (which is true). I started figuring out how to pay the bills online (which I don't like doing, but oh well).

Later that afternoon I hear a knock on my door and it's my buddy with the last two bills I was looking for, he says, "These came in the mail for you today." 

If I would have let my frustration get the better of me and said what was on my mind at first or even went ahead with my snarky return text, I would have felt like a first class schmuck. Luckily I was able to keep my baseline and saved myself a lot of static as well as having to eat crow. 

I know this was a small incident, but it was a great example of being a PeaceWalker, maintaining baseline and using conflict as an opportunity, rather than in this case causing a problem. An everyday encounter that gives me practice for the bigger stuff we sometimes run into. It's all practice.  

Anyway, I hope that you folks had a great Turkey day and continue to open up to being Thankful for your lives and the people and experiences in them. 

Keep going!