Re-framing self defense

Psychology is a grossly over looked area of self -defense, if you look at the typical school that teaches any sort of combat art. The physical is the direct aim, already starting from the worst case scenario, meaning that someone is already choking you, punching you and so on. While we must start somewhere, I for one do not believe that this is the best approach. For me, as a martial arts instructor who has worked with nearly ever adaptive need, taught self-defense clinics to major colleges in my city, worked with retired military veterans, some law enforcement and even organizations such as DHHS. The one revelation that has kept coming to my mind year after year, is that real self-defense starts from the inside out.
Believe me, I know that this is extremely counter to what we are taught to in most schools today, because we just want to learn to kick ass. But honestly, we are not getting a very holistic approach. The most I’ve heard regarding awareness, is to simply “be aware” or have a 360 degree awareness at all times… Which is impossible to do. Telling someone to be aware is merely a way to cover a base, and doesn’t actually teach a student anything. What exactly are they being aware of? What are they looking at for? Do students actually know how handle and cope with emotional stimulus and stress?
Another reason that the psychology of self-defense goes untouched, is the narratives that coaches and or instructors provide. Some schools have weekend self-defense clinics, which are awesome and there can totally be some valuable elements taught. But the truth is, that one class isn’t all you need. It’s not going to make you a bad ass. If you are serious about self-defense, you must practice it the same way you want to get better at writing or math. One class, or once a month is not sufficient. There isn’t one technique that everyone must know and then your good. It doesn’t work that way. It never will. The other reality is this, most schools today do not specify to how fast and even complex a violent encounter is. Criminals simply do not care what you know, how long you’ve been training or anything of the sort. And so think that our modern training is going to prepare us in all areas is silly. Don’t miss understand me, MMA is a great base to learn self-defense, yet if we don’t know how to spot a threat, de-escalate a situation before it even starts, controlling our ego and emotions all we have is mere violence. Again, some martial arts schools only make this area worse, for example Krav t-shirts that say “touch me, and your first lessons free.” The saying truly gives off the vibe, as though you could take some Krav classes and kick anyone’s ass. Some of the BJJ community doesn’t help either, just the other day I saw a meme of a blackbelt, with his thumbs inside his belt looking all stoic. The Meme read “I’ve been doing BJJ 40 years. I fear no man.”.
I think that’s a bunch of nonsense. Any real person, is going to have a fear spike when a violent encounter takes place. Whatever the context may be. I’m fairly certain, that if you’re getting out of your car (with your kids in it) and the A typical person presses a knife to your throat. The likely hood of you having a sense of fear in that moment is extremely real. You might be fearing more for your offspring, and rightfully so. Perhaps this savage wants more than your car and money. Ever think about that? It’s in this context, that we must be able to rise above the ways of emotion and stress. How do we accomplish this? By training. I know that this might be hard to do, in some gyms that are more family oriented. Yet it doesn’t mean that in our self -defense training, we can’t train in a manner that prepares us for the real world.
We can practice training with heightened heart rate, being caught off guard and off balance. This is how life is, this is what it means to be human.
The self defense industry, is in serious need of an over haul. As mentioned earlier, if you’re serious about your own self-protection and even the safety of your loved ones. It’s up to you to start acting like it. It’s up to you to start training as though it actually matters. As coaches, instructors and the like. To start teaching and communicating to our tribes that it matters.

Why I Became A Health Coach

Our health and well-being is one of the most amazing gifts that humanity has been blessed with. Many of us have the ability to breath, move and provide for ourselves and those around us. It would be difficult to imagine life, not being able to walk up a flight of stairs, run to catch at bus or taxi (depending on where one lives), lift a heavy object off the ground or even leap in the air to the highest ability. We go to the gym on a weekly basis, perform our favorite routines and exercises, never thinking about what life might be like if we got injured in some way, how would we adapt? Would we have the mental, emotional and even spiritual faculties to not only endure what has happened to us, but also adapt to the circumstances? My name is Brandon Ryan, and for the past five years, I have been an online health coach, with certifications in personal training and nutrition.
My niche or scope of practice, focused directly on the adaptive community, primarily those with varying degrees of cerebral palsy. Though I do also work with abled bodied clients as well. Why did I choose to work this specific population of clients? Because I myself have cerebral palsy. Being born with cerebral palsy, might parents fought to get me to gain the weight needed to survive and grow, in the name of shattering the narrative that doctors laid before them. Which wasn’t good or inspiring to say the least. They told my parents that I’d never be able to do anything for myself and be dependent on others for care the entirety of my life. That’s a very stark reality to set before anyone. Yet my parents made the choice to fight, which required more mental and emotional resolve than anything else.
Mental and emotional resolve to endure the handful of surgeries that I went through as a child. My mom always told me about how she would run to the bathroom to vomit, while my first operation took place. Which was on my spine. Other surgeries were on the lower half of my body. My dad would have to lift me from my wheel-chair to the bed, and from the bed to my wheelchair and from my wheel chair to the toilet and back. He would also drive me to and from physical therapy. Physical therapy as a kid was very daunting at times, as it would be for any child recovering from any operation. Going through these chapters of my life, though they were challenging on all human levels, it burned into my mind that my dad was one of my biggest supporters.
He is one of the many reasons I am what I am today. At a young age, encouraging me to be strong, through weight training, various calisthenics and martial arts. It’s not as though my adaptable spirit and mindset formed from nothing. No, the Lord saw fit to provide me parents that could help shape who I am today. I’ve always burned with passion for fitness and helping others become the best they possibly could be. To me, it didn’t matter if a person was in a wheel chair or not, used crutches or not, had range of motion or not. I would find something that they could do. After all, the moto for me growing up was “if there’s a will, there’s a way.”
The idea of becoming a personal trainer, always lurked in the back of my mind. People would sway me from the reality of doing so, some would say that the money wasn’t good or that it would flat out be too hard.
Yet when given the chance to work with someone with cerebral palsy or otherwise in any compacity. When all was said and done. Everything seemed right in the cosmos, it seemed as though a shade of my purpose was being fulfilled and the person that was set in my path even felt the same. When the idea of obtaining a certification kept surfacing, it was very apparent that it was now or never. There were a wide range of certifications from various institutions, a lot of them were out of budget. Yet when the International Sports Science binged on my horizons, they weren’t just affordable but they fit the context of my life. It allowed me to study slowly and at my own pace. Though I’m pretty sure that all my questions and concerns annoyed my advisor to no end. Now, as a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, I have been able to let my passion for mental and physical health be put to use. And while I’m well aware that there is much room to grow, I do honestly believe that I am the best person for this path. That isn’t to say that other trainers, coaches or what have you don’t do a good enough job. They do. I’m only implying that more often than not, it takes one that is or is in a similar position.
There’re days when things are slow, or it seems as though that I suck at my job. And yet, as cliché as it may be. If I can help one person, each day I done very well and have succeed in the mission set before me. With everything inside me, I hold the belief that every person with cerebral palsy and other adaptive needs are worthy of health. That they have what it takes inside them to reach their desired goals, be that physically, mentally or vocationally. From the very beginning, it has been a goal to show clients that their body is the machine, that if they can open their eyes to their environment that can many times accomplish a very effective workout simply by using what they have around them. Once again, I’m not implying that a gym is not needed, it can be. The deeper point that I am trying to make, is that sometimes or rather frequently in my personal experience. The gym can be either hard to get to, due to transportation issues. On the other hand going to a gym can be a very daunting and ever scary experience.
For some it can be the reality of having countless people looking at you as you enter the gym. Or it could be the possibility of doing something wrong and having people laugh, it happens. Or it could be the reality of not connecting with a trainer and or feeling like a burden. And so to mitigate these realties very often I’ve had clients start with themselves, their bodies and the environments around them. Then if and when they are comfortable, they are more than willing to try their hand at being in a normal gym. For the vast majority of the clients that I have worked with though, they have been more than content with environmental workouts/calisthenics. And strength training through the pathway of dumbbells and resistance bands. Trust me, I know it’s simple stupid and not the “sexiest” of approaches, but that isn’t necessarily what the adaptive community needs in my professional and humble opinion. Many times in physical therapy as a kid, it was the simplest of things that accomplished the mission.

Masculinity and Disability

(Here is something that I’m working on, tell me what you think)

What do you think of when it comes to words such as masculine or masculine man? For some, it might be a man who is confident, strong in body and mind, can fix things in the home and on a car. And has the ability to fend off a violent attacker. This can be seen as the traditional man/ alpha male. For others a man might be more quiet and introspective, more in touch with their emotions and artistic and quite the opposite of the traditional-alpha male. In modern times, there is a war going on between the two stances. But do we ever stop and ponder, what manhood or masculinity looks like, in light of disabled men? This is a question that I’ve been wrestling with for quite some time now, both societally and religiously for the church. Now to be fair, there are those with cerebral palsy, who are healthy and active, can take care of themselves for the most part. The biggest obstacle for me then is the issue of driving, due to my startle reflex is not something I’ve overcome yet, the difficult part of the equation is it hinders me socially. And things such as uber can be pricey after a while. Forgetting about myself, I often think about the men in the world, who aren’t able to be as active as myself, have to depend a lot on the care of others, spend a lot of time at home and very rarely get out of their homes.

            Are they still not real men? Of course they are! These are men that are made in the image of God, and have immense value, dignity and purpose. The problem that I believe that these men, can very well be over looked by society and even the Church. While I do not believe that there is anything overtly malicious causing this, it grieves me non the less and I’m deeply convicted and convinced that this is an issue to brought to light and dealt with. Furthermore, if this issue grieves my soul, how must God feel about it? I believe that it grieves his heart, much more than it does mine. Most of the time, when pastors are talking about Godly men leading their families, more often than not they are speaking to able abled-bodied men. Teaching them to lead confidently and boldly, to provide for their families and pursuing the calling that God has placed on their lives. This is not wrong, and I affirm this absolutely. Yet very rarely do pastors think about what leading a family or pursing a God given calling might look life, if a men isn’t able to provide for his family, as he would desire in a physical sense. Have pastors ever really paused to consider the shame that this might leave in the soul of a man?

Everyday I talk to various men with different severities of disability, and each story echoes. Men of various ages and walks of life. Feeling that their lives are completely pointless, due to the context of their lives and being stuck at home more often than not. Moreover, they even endure the thought process of feeling worthy of love, be it by God himself or even a woman. In my daily conversations with men like myself, I make it a point to apply lessons that I have had to learn the hard way over the last few years of my life, that lead to a sense of masculinity in their own right. Though I still am in a similar context myself. The first element that I try to instill in my daily conversations with disabled men, is where their self of self and identity resides. Yes this is crucial in all men, but it is all the more important in the lives of some disabled men. It’s so important that disabled find and even lose themselves in the identity that God graciously bestows upon them. Whether they believe it or not. If not, disabled men will continually be stuck in the thought process of feeling like a burden to society and even their families. The next crucial element, after establishing a Christ centered identity is tapping into some sort of God giving calling. Whatever that may be, as I stated in the beginning, some men are more home bound, and have to depend a lot on the care of others and can’t really “work” in the sense that the world would like.

            So, we have to establish of purpose and mission even if it’s glorifying God every day. There’s more that can be added. But I’d like to end with these thoughts, is it frustrating that the church doesn’t speak to the reality of masculinity among disabled members of their congregations, very little/if any? Yes- it is, it is also sad to see that very few churches have ministries dedicated to even families with special needs children. However, rather than being stuck in the downward spiral of complaining, I have accepted the calling that I believe that God has placed inside me. Even if it’s not seen as significant in the worlds eyes. It’s my goal to write one of the first books on the matter, because no longer can these men go forgotten.

SSI and Shame

I can remember the day my mom started the process, of applying for SSI for me over the phone. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that a monthly amount of money would be given to me, simply because of having cerebral palsy. “Cool!” I thought, the interesting thing is, however, is when I realized that I’d need to appear in front of a doctor to prove that cerebral palsy was not a made up reality in my life. So, my parents took me to see a local doctor, and it was as though the doctor took one look at me and said “yep, he has cerebral palsy”.

Don’t get me wrong, I was well aware that people take advantage of the system. It only seemed odd to me because I knew that in my heart the truth was being told. Before I knew it my first monthly check was in the mail and shortly after that, then came my very own bank account.

This was a really cool reality to me, because that meant that I could buy my own clothes, food etc. It was cool to have my own money and start learning how to be responsible with money. Yet, now being an adult who gets SSI. There is all too often a battle with shame over the reality. On one hand, I see that that money given each month is a blessing from God, that I and others should be wise with.

On the other hand, I have been met with a great deal of heat and push back, both from others like myself and even abled-bodied individuals. Both sides say with great passion “don’t you want more for your life!” The obvious answer is, yes of course, any person in a healthy frame of mind would want more for their lives. Sometimes society can be an extremely judgmental place, and to add to that, some simply cannot understand that some of lives simply haven’t turned out as planned.

Due to my startle reflex, it’s not safe for me to drive and so working your typical job is a challenge. And where I live, transportation services are pretty much nonexistent. As I result, I still try and make the most of the life that God has given me. Most of my time is spent as being an online personal trainer and nutrition coach online. Working with others like myself, beyond that I write books and blogs.
And you know what? I still don’t make enough money to get off SSI… But I know that deep down I’m doing the best that I possibly can. And I’m not giving up hope either. When the shame shows up, it can quickly turn into a heavy depression. Then defeating statements are whispered into my mind:

“No real woman would want you like this.”

“You’ll never measure up.”

“your life will never change.”

These are just some of the lies that hit me at times, and one of the main ways that I combat the shame. Is by remembering where my worth and value come from. And for that all stems in my faith in God. He says who I am. My worth in him and to him, is not based upon how much money is in my bank account. Or even how much that I accomplish in my life. If people cannot see your value as a human being, that has a lot more to do with them than it does you. It may be hard to believe in the moment, but it is true none-the-less. As I also mentioned above, do not give up hope, keep striving! Set goals, and as Jordan Peterson says “take aim at something”. Start small and work your way up to bigger things.
You may not be where you’d like to be in life, and that’s ok. You just keep pressing on toward the goal. Whatever that is for you. Will the battle with shame completely go away? Probably not, in fact there will be days when we feel completely defeated. But as long as there’s still breath in our lungs. There’s still room to fight.

The “How” of Suffering

Throughout history, many people, poets, pastors, theologians and even philosophers have tried to do the best that they can to make sense of suffering within the human experience. After all suffering has been with us since the beginning of time and human existence. Even though, I myself have much first hand experience with suffering, there is something inside me that hesitates. Probably because so many other thoughts of wisdom and hope have already been uttered.

Yet, I believe that holy spirit is softly whispering from within, saying “share what I have placed inside you.” So when the holy spirit commands, the obedient son or daughter must follow. One of the most frequent objections to the existence of God or any other divine figure has been the reality of suffering. Cancer, AIDS, rape, murder and suffering in all other forms all stop us in our tracks.

Why would any sort of higher power even allow suffering? That’s a very good question that we all have asked regardless of creed or background. Cerebral Palsy, was the cross I was given when I was born. If you want a full breakdown of my story, you can check out my first book The Emotional Struggle on Amazon.

With having cerebral palsy, my life has been tested with not just physical pain from surgeries and therapy. But emotional and mental pain as well. I’ve had the entire lower half of my body operated on, each other operation taking a year or more to recover from. Doctors and professionals with the realm of education, telling me that I wouldn’t amount to much because I wasn’t smart enough.

To add more to the equation, throughout my 36 of life, there have been battles against depression, anxiety and there was once an attempted suicide. Why? Because I felt so trapped in my own life circumstances, as though nothing could or would ever change. Others in the world have faced suffering far greater than even my own.

Nowhere in my life was I ever starved to death, or tortured by evil and wicked people. Which is another reason why there was a hesitation inside me to share in the first place. And yet the starkest of realities is that some of us never make it out of suffering. Not so much in the reality of suicide, but that some of us never find a way to prevail in spite of it. Some make the choice to let the weight of suffering swallow them up like a tidal wave. As mentioned above, many of us ask of the why of suffering.

The why is important, but dare I suggest that the why is not as important as the how. How are we not going to let suffering swallow us up? How are we going to come out the suffering more brighter and courageous? I will caution you (the reader) in that, if you decide to ask the how. You must also decide to follow through with whatever the how asks of you.

For example, if you discover that your how, is being able to look at years of trauma or destructive habits. Are you willing to face it all? Are you willing to endure the process of what it takes to heal and start new chapters of your life? The consequence of not doing so, means that everything in your life stays the same.

And in choosing to stay in that reality, also then means that you’re fundamentally making a choice to cling to that suffering. Reasons for that might very well be, that it’s all you know. On the other hand, some of us are far too stubborn (such as myself) and know what we should do and end up not do it. Regardless, we both are making a choice.

In processing and embarking on our how, we first need a new perspective on suffering. That may raise some eyebrows, but it’s the only option we have. We can agree that suffering sucks, it hurts and can beat the will out of us. But if we slowly started looking at the suffering in our lives differently, we might very well find that there is more to live for.

The author of the book of James in the Bible, he says to “count it all joy” when trials come our way. As humans, we scoff and even are appalled by such statements. Because there is nothing joyful about suffering on the surface. But as the author continues by saying

“for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
James says, in other words that suffering we endure, produces something in that. That something is steadfastness. Meaning that we are anchored in something greater than ourselves. We admit that suffering is awful but we are not destroyed by it. When the grace of God allows to become more steadfast with time, we can find that a sense of calmness fills us up. Where we don’t always have to fly off the handle because life is not going how we want it.

This true peace and steadfastness is in divine, because one could not find it anywhere else. As much as I love stoic philosophy and philosophy in general. It does not lead to true peace. In my own life, I have surveyed every world religion and even tried meditation and even believed that I would come back in my next life as some other person. The biggest problem with that rests in the reality that, you can never know if you have done enough good to outweigh the bad. 

Biblical writes like James and Paul, their how is Christ himself. Christ for them, is the how to transcending the suffering and not simply running from it. But rather they can stare that suffering in the eye knowing it won’t win in the end. For James and Paul, they know that something far sweeter is at the end of suffering.

So that patiently and even joyfully endure, while living out the mission that God has set before them. Let us not forget Christ himself, Christ was sent by God the father in human likeness. In the Philippians 2:7, it says that Christ “emptied himself” interesting, what on earth might that mean? To empty comes from the Greek word Kenosis, Tony Evans has a very clear and beautiful way of explaining this, when he writes:

What does the self-emptying of Christ mean? The theological doctrine is called the kenosis, from the Greek verb meaning “to empty.” Did He empty Himself of His deity and become merely a man? No, the focus of His self-emptying is not heaven, but earth; that is, what Christ emptied Himself into.
He didn’t empty out God and pour in man. Rather, He emptied all of God into man. In other words, He didn’t stop being God. He didn’t say, “Deity, I’m going to leave You in heaven and go down to become humanity.”
Furthermore he writes: What Jesus did was take all of His deity and pour it into humanity so that He became much more than mere man. He became the God-man-God poured into man.
Let me tell you something impor¬tant. When Jesus Christ did something about your sin and mine, He didn’t give us the leftovers. He poured all that made Him God into man so that man would have all of God. There is nothing that belonged to God that man didn’t have when Jesus emptied Himself into man.

One of the reasons that Christ came to live among us, I believe, was to show us humans that he is the answer to the human condition and suffering. Even when on the cross, Christ took all our suffering on himself. Moreover, the cross shows that even in spite of suffering still present. The cross still shows that Christ is present with us. I don’t believe I’ll ever understand why God chooses to heal some but not others, but I do believe that he has given me the greatest gift ever, himself, his love, his presence and grace. What is more amazing, is that eternity with Christ, means no more suffering and complete joy.

Until then, Christ is my how in my own journey. He is why I can give all my fear and anxiety, and instead breath in his peace. He is why I can have joy and smile in the midst of life not being as desired.    

How To Be A High Value Person: With a Disability

Lately I’ve been thinking about what it means, to be a person of “high value”, as it also relates to be a person with a disability. The term “high value” truly comes down to how you see and treat yourself. In truth, being assertive is something that has been a challenge for me my whole life. Sometimes the fear of speaking up about my belief on a given topic, causes me to fear the consequences. Either by offending someone or being viewed a certain way. Even in living with cerebral palsy, asking for things is tough because one does not want to feel like a burden. Maybe for you, it’s that and also how you see yourself. Perhaps you don’t take care of yourself as much, because on the inside you do not feel as though you are worth someone caring about. Whatever that may be, for any of us, here is a short list of things to become a person of a higher value.

One: you already are a person of high value because God has placed his image upon you. Which is the greatest blessing to ever be bestowed on human life.
Two: Take care of yourself, physically speaking: exercise in the way that you can, eat good foods that serve your body and not destroy it. And to a certain extent, present yourself with a good image.
Three: know your personal boundaries and do not allow to be crossed- by anyone.
Four: Guard your mind and heart, learn not to be over ran and dominated by every single though or emotion.
Five: Master your temptations, whatever they may be.

The Tug-Of War With CP

Living with cerebral palsy will now be, for me defined as a tug-of- war. What is meant by that, you ask?  On one hand, many times there is a peace inside me in regards to living with it. There isn’t so much the hatred of self that once was there. Having once despised myself and the God that gave my very breath to me. Now in my mid- thirties, most days there is honestly a love for having cerebral palsy. Why? Because this was one of the missions that God gave me, there’s avenues to relate to others like myself and not like myself. There’s avenues to relate to suffering and hardship. There’s avenues to completely blow people’s minds, with what my body can do physically, but also with the intelligence and other gifts that were endowed to me also. That’s most days for me, when I’m happy, content and smiling. And yet, it’s not in me to lie- some moments and days the hatred comes back.

When the ominous thoughts slip in the back door of my mind and say:

Hey! Its us… Those annoying voices in your head!

Were just hear to remind you what a failure you’re.

You got a dramatically late start in life and you suck because of it!

            No this is not me trying to add more drama than there needs to be, this is truly what it feels like on the inside. Yes, I’m 36 and still in my parents’ house, yes there’s plans to move out and be on my own. Thanks to Covid though, that got put on the back burner. But I’d be lying to you if there wasn’t an intense frustration. As though to think, that if maybe if there were a few different choices made, maybe my life would have taken a different direction? I’m not a hundred percent sure.

Within the current context, I’ve managed to author multiple books, become an online personal trainer/nutrition coach and even teach self -defense classes multiple times a week. Am I happy with that? Yes, I’ve even improved a lot with money, but again, there’s that voice inside me that says it’s still not good enough. That, there needs to be more and more and more. One of the biggest desires of my heart, is to meet a lovely woman, get married and have a family of my own. However, that same voice that reminds me that it’s never enough even says to me that no woman  will ever want me because of XY or Z. It sucks to feel that way, it’s like a dagger that resides in my chest. And yet, it’s not as though there is no value in myself or that there is nothing that I have to offer. That’s hugely not true- the reality is, those thoughts still find themselves making space in my life. And maybe it’s like that for you too? The two realities that help me fight on, is that God is in absolute control of my life and nothing happens without his divine say so.

            The other is knowing that there is immense value and worth inside me, regardless of whether or not others see it or not. That’s a powerful truth to know. It means that we don’t have to conduct our lives based solely on how others see or believe about us. That used to be me, and it was a miserable place to be. That also isn’t to say, that we shouldn’t care at all, what people think. We are social creatures, yet we must pick and choose who’s opinion we listen to and who speaks into our lives.  The point is, we need to value ourselves and we need to hold our heads high.

Lastly, each person is on there own path in life and it doesn’t matter who gets where and when. But that we learn, grow and have the courage to embark on where we think we are being led along the way.             

The Reality of Knife Defense (From an Adaptive Perspective)

I originally tried to have the following entry published in a few magazines, but nothing came of it:

Having to defend oneself is a scary endeavor, even when some claim to have no fear at all when it comes to the possible reality.  One could have over twenty years over martial arts training under their belt, but simply because they are human means that they can be caught off guard the same way anyone can. This could be a myriad of attacks, and while  It’s not something we readily want to admit or think about, but it is true none-the- less. And yet, even in not wanting to think about these realities, I’ll submit to you that thinking about these realities, are part of what might actually help us to go home safely at night. You want to know what plays in my mind a lot? Being attacked by a knife, to make matters even scarier, being attacked by a knife while I’m in my wheel-chair or standing with my crutches.

I’m not simply talking about someone holding a knife to my throat, but rather pumping the knife in an out of my body and me not being able to do anything about it. Even with over thirty five of my arts experience under my belt, being an instructor under the Jeet Kune Do Grappling Association, which is very wide array of styles under one banner and a purple belt in BJJ, this reality still scares the hell out of me. Not only for myself but for others like myself. The type of cerebral palsy that I was born with, is very mild compared to some. Even with it affecting the right side of my body (I don’t have full mobility and use of my right arm) and balance in my legs. I can still work out and take care of myself fairly well. The problem is getting my body to react fast enough when it’s truly needed.

            As a youngster, I grew up learning various disciplines of FMA, learning all kinds of stick and knife attacks, flow drills and jaw dropping knife disarms. I say jaw dropping because as a kid, it was amazing to see how one could easily strip the knife away from someone or smack it out of the attackers hand. As I grew a bit older and was in college, I began to have what I’d call a Martial Crisis. Which really means that I began to doubt and question all that I have been taught throughout my martial arts journey. It was extremely uncomfortable to say the least, there I was sitting in my dorm looking up real knife attacks on YouTube. I was in a state of shock, never have I ever saw so quick and brutal attacks in my life. And most certainly, it was not flowing slice and dice that I was taught in Kali, no this was straight up violence and evil. Then I read stories of an elderly lady in a wheel chair who was stabbed to death a long with her care provider.

Reality set in, and I wanted to find options for myself and others, not so disabled people could become the adaptive version of Jason Bourne. But being able to provide a fighting chance. Yes, I’m deeply aware there are some people that won’t be able to defend themselves at all, while others may have a sharp mind, and little to no use of their limbs at all. Even still, if the mind still is working, then I want people to understand situational awareness and various pre-contact warning signs. For if a person with a care provider or friend can notice a person or particular context that seems un-easy that is a job well done. If, on the other hand, a person similar to myself is faced with such a scary and even reality, what then are we to do? In all my years of teaching adaptive self -defense, the most annoying statement I hear is “run-away”.

            Run away? That honestly makes me laugh, because even the most mild cases of CP can’t run all that well or fast. So, the idea that most knife attacks happen in close proximity and the understanding that people like myself are simply going to “runaway” is complete non sense. Even if I was attempting to turn away in my wheel-chair and get away, still my back is exposed and that’s a whole other nightmare. Then there’s “Just shoot’em” (yes I’ve heard that too). As one who is pro conceal carry, learning how to use a firearm is an area that I preach for disabled people to learn, as it is a great means of defense. However, to think that a person is always going to be able to access their gun or knife even, in a quick enough fashion is very detrimental and  misleading. If an attacker is already assaulting you, and your only means of defense your EDC, it’s going to really suck for you. I’ve even heard people say “Make space and get a weapon”. I can kind of get behind this, kind of. For if a person has the mobility and dexterity to make space against someone bigger and stronger than them, great. But guess what? Its still going to be hard! And what happens when you do access your weapon, and the attacker still manages to pin your weapon baring hand? What then? Do you have the skills to fight from there? These are all things that one has to consider in their daily training exploration.

So what’s my solution then, you ask? Controlling the limb baring arm as best you can, knowing that it will be the hardest fight for your life. If one is an wheel chair, the simplest option (and scariest) is to let the knife come to you,  most of the knife defense video’s that pertain to seated knife defense are about as fancy as most Kali demonstrations, I don’t trust them. And when it really comes to it, your going to going against real resistance. So trying to chase the knife baring arm, or redirect in mid air is rather stupid to me. In my training, what has worked is getting some sort of deep control of the arm and pinning it to your body or even wheel-chair. From there, is where we deal with energy, meaning that the attacker tries to pull his (or her) limb baring arm back. In which case (as I have found) you either have to go with the energy the attacker gives, which might mean falling to the ground with them, maintaining control and fighting your way to a better position, or at the very least maintaining control until help comes- if it does.

This is of course, is not without risk, the reality of the blade touching your body is very high. However, in our daily training we learn to not give up and develop emotional and mental resilience as every warrior should.         

                     

A Letter To A Fellow Warrior

The following post, is a letter that I wrote to a dear friend of mine, who also has cerebral palsy. Though much worse than myself. Like a lot of men with CP, he feels alone and wrestles with the desires. The point behind this letter, was to remind me of who he was, despite the circumstances that he found himself in:

Brother,
Thank you for your message, it truly meant a lot to me, in a few ways. In one regard, your struggles are my struggles. Not being able to leave the house much, work, feeling alone. Those are all things that my heart connects with as well. And as mentioned to you before, the battle is sometimes hourly and daily. I connect tell you how many times the thought has surfaced in my mind:
Is any woman ever going to love me for me? I know that questions must echo loudly in your mind, as it does many others with cerebral palsy and other disabilities, regardless of gender. Now, myself having only dated a few women, sometimes things just aren’t what we think their meant to be. I’m in no way trying to give you a platitude, it’s just a cold hard reality of life that we men need to learn to accept. With every interest or relationship, the question speaks out from my inner life: is this person the one that’s going to stay? And when I say stay, it’s the until death do us part way.
The great CS Lewis, was only married to his wife for a short time, before losing his beloved wife to illness. The very death of his wife, appeared that there was enough weight behind it to crush the very soul of Lewis. Think about that for a bit, he must have felt intense despair, and felt utterly alone in the universe. He very well might have had so heated conversations with God himself. I say all this, to share with you, that no matter how long a woman or even dog is with us, they were never meant to complete. Never. And shame on us humans to even believe that another person might actually make us whole.
I’ve known you awhile my friend, and I know you are a good man with an amazing heart. A man that actual has purpose, talent and immense value. The question is my brother, do you know that in yourself? Do you know what the creator of the cosmos thinks and believes of you? Do you know how madly he loves you? Do you know that he calls you friend and beloved? These realities, though they are true for all who are in Christ. They are in (in a sense) even more important to men like us, men like us who physically can’t drive. Men, who are good hearted men, with good intentions, and would like to leave a dent in the world and because of the severity of your disability and because you a bit heavier on the care of others. It makes things all the more challenging and difficult. The average person, would rage against our situations, and yes it sucks a lot. But you and I, belong to the king of the universe first and foremost. His son Jesus, made us his own before the foundation of the world. That should matter more than anything.
The other reason your message stuck out to me, was that it reaffirmed in me another of a mission in life, and that is other men like us. There’s many like you and me, who wrestle with the same thing, who cannot readily go out and be the typical man that some women want. I feel as though, God wants me to be a kind of coach, that helps men like us discover Gods mad love, to secure in themselves, learn to navigate the inner emotions of life and discover purpose/mission in life. My prayer for men like us, is that we would be sure of our standing with God, that we would live a stoic life, where we are not needlessly emotional and are ravaged by desire and that we are dependent on no one to fill our emotional, mental and spiritual cups. To be okay with being alone. Simply because you have a severity of CP, that leaves you in need of more personal care. Does not make you less of a man. Let me say that again my friend, you are not less of a man.
God has made you man, my brother, and as such you are a warrior poet. Though your body may not be able to be physically strong. Your mind and soul can be like a mighty fortress. You can learn to armor up and fight off the enemies attacks. God has given you a mind, and a mouth, you may not be able to use your hands very well, but you are smart and as such you can use the tools that you do have. Rather than being caught up in what you don’t. I must preach these truths to myself as well, daily, weekly and even hourly. I write this letter to you to awaken the warrior within you. It’s there. God breathed that inside you. Scripture says that you are more valued than the sparrow, and if they trust that God will feed them, can you? I implore you my dear friend, to throw your being at the heart of God, seek first his kingdom and all other things will be added to you. Life is not over, it’s still beautiful get into the battle my brave friend, brother and warrior.

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Thoughts on Trauma Part 1: Healing first

The other night there was a lot of reflection being done, there I was sipping my whiskey. Depression set in mildly during the day, so that probably didn’t help. But in my reflection, the concept of trauma surfaced to my attention.   Trauma (in various compacities) is something that many of us deal with. I’m no stranger to trauma, as having cerebral palsy and all the pain that I’ve had to endure because of it, has left it’s finger prints on me. My first operation, I can remember being brought back to the pre-op room, there my parents had to leave to go to the waiting area.

What honestly went through my mind as a child, was that I was being abandoned.  Sure, that fear and panic produced an irrational fear. But the point is these moments in my childhood, had a great effect on most of my life. As mentioned before, a lot of us have our own trauma. Some more severe than others. What that should do then, is that should give humans grounds to show empathy and connect with one another. Healing comes in simple form when we can say the words “Me Too” to quote Rob Bell from his book Velvet Elvis. When we are willing to be vulnerable, that is when I believe God truly begins to heal us. The most profound lesson that I’ve ever had the privilege of learning, is that we cannot heal on our own.    

We need to confess that we have a problem, that we cannot conquer it on our own, and that we need God to work in us by his grace and community to walk along side us. Even those of us who try and white knuckle our way towards healing eventually get burnt out by trying so hard. Of course, this takes a lot of humility, gumption and inner bravery to admit any of this. Again, people wear masks (no pun intended), we try and appear as though we don’t need help and do things on our own. And while a fair amount of self-sufficiency is great, no man- woman is an island to themselves.    

 It took me such a long time to face my own trauma in my life, more often than not when I thought I was making progress, the fear and panic only seemed to get louder as time went on. Confusion set in , and the thought came to my mind “why am I not getting any better?”  

“Why am I still so afraid?” And the answer, for me anyhow, was that I was still looking to people to save me from my trauma, to save me from myself. Well  meaning people can help and provide wisdom and some comfort. But only God can heal us and give us the peace we crave. So, in this moment, I deeply want to you to know that God loves your more than any other person on earth could. You are not so far down the road, that you are out of his reach. It’s ok to admit you need help, not only from God but from others. You have purpose to complete with your life, and someone else can benefit from your own story. Go fourth today, knowing that the past doesn’t define who you are.