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 Personal Maxim For Personal Protection

The ADM (Adaptive Defense Methods) Maxim For Personal protection:

https://www.facebook.com/adaptivedefensemethods/

Three words came to me, as I was lying in bed the other night, searching for my own personal approach for understanding stages of violence. Many people have their own methods, discussing the same overarching principles. This personal maxim is really nothing new, but an alternative way to look at personal safety through out our lives. Anyone who follows or trains under the ADM school of thought, must commit this to memory and have a deep understanding of each stage. Below is a break- down of each. Remember- we can talk about /train ranges of combat and various techniques, but what good is it, if we have no sense of mastery over our surroundings or ourselves?

Identity this largely has to deal with spotting a threat, or a potential context that is off setting to us inwardly. Example being if a place looks suspicious to you, and sends red alert signals throughout your person. It is up to us to pay great attention to that signal. The same goes for any person that you don’t know, or even in the context of a close relationship. If we learn to pay attention to the signals/red alerts throughout our lives, we can save ourselves a lot of unneeded pain and physical harm done to us. Next is being able to identify pre-confrontational postures, before things escalate any further. In real time, this means practically speaking, that if you see someone at a gas station looking uneasy, while trying to hide their identity. Chances are this person has zero good intentions in mind. In those contexts, ones best option is to find a way to flee, find a position where danger is not directly upon you or others. Or lastly, taking some sort of action against the threat. Another part of identifying, is being able to understand the body language of another person, in a close proximity. This means that one might not have the ability to walk away, or create distance due to having limited mobility, being in a wheel chair or using crutches. Simple signs to look for are:

I.I.D.

Looking away
Stroking facial hair
Bladed posture
Hands/hand in pocket, behind back or pouch of hoodie. This can mean that the person you are in close proximity with is agitated and either getting ready to attack with either empty hands or with the use of a weapon.

This leads into the Interact phase, which calls for a person to truly know themselves and notice the red alert signals mentioned above. Again, many times we ignore the red alert warnings in life, because we don’t want to assume the worst about a place or location, often times this leads us to say to ourselves in the end I wish I would have listened to that little something inside me, that told me to take precaution. Or better yet- Leave. Learning to not only interact with ourselves and interact with the intention of others will only lead us to a more richer and fuller understanding of ourselves but the world around us. When we learn to interact with the various warning signs and intentions of others, we can then learn to discern whether is an actual threat or if that person is simply having a bad day. Sometimes a person is just having a bad day, or has a particular need and the only way they know how to meet that need is through the threat of violence. This is where it becomes exceedingly curial to become a black belt in verbal grappling. Learning how to talk our way out of potential violent situations, talking a person down, acting with empathy and concern. This is also a balance, because you can’t afford to let your guard down either. Moreover, not every encounter/situation calls for a violent ending. It is much better to try and seek a peaceful ending first, before ever entering into defensive mode.

Defeat: this is not to be taken into a negative connotation, but rather a positive one. Defeat simply means doing all we can to defeat the situation and go home safety. This includes the first two areas of the I.I.D. maxim. When we can identify and interact with any stimulus, that constitutes the health and safety of not only ourselves. We have brought a successful defeat to the situation. The defeat phase, brings us to the point where physical action/violence comes to play: Within the context of the law and the context of the situation/disparity of force.
If as an abled-bodied person, if someone shoves you, the simple and direct action would be to use very commands- drawing attention to one’s self, next- dissipating the energy of the shove, if it repeated. Taking control of the attackers limbs, controlling them until help/authorities arrive. If the situation is someone who has limited mobility or is in a wheelchair/ uses any form of assistive device. Then the disparity of force levels up, to the use of chokes, strikes and implementation of weapons. Lethal force escalates for an abled bodied person, when more than one attacker is involved or a weapon comes into play. Thus, a person can do what is needed to defeat the situation and get away.

The Importance of Situational Awareness

When it comes to self-protection, one of the greatest tools a person can get really good at using is situational awareness. Personally, I see situational awareness in two specific categories. The first is knowing thy self and two it’s knowing where you are at and what’s going on around you.
Knowing thy self comes down to the simple things, such as knowing your strengths and weakness. Knowing what makes you uncomfortable and so on. For example, I know that I am a left handed person, as such I know that most attacks will come from a right handed person. There’re, I need position myself in a posture that allows me to shield with my left side, should I need to defend myself.
Moreover, I know that walking far with my crutches or wheeling myself long distances with my push chair, often takes a lot out of me. So positioning myself near an exit should something happen is most preferred. This should be set in place for things like a fire breaking out and even an active killer situation. Again, knowing yourself, in all your strengths and weaknesses and having plans in place, will put you on a greater path toward personal well-being and safety. Next, in knowing your surroundings, knowing where you are at, knowing where your exits are in case of emergencies is crucial. But even more so, listening to what your gut tells you. More often than not, before something bad happens a person typically gets a bed feeling inside them.
Sadly though, this bad feeling that we get in our stomachs is often ignored. If a person keeps you an off feeling, or better yet the creeps. Listen to it, because that feeling is there to protect you. If a certain area you are in does not make you feel safe or looks sketchy, pay attention to that feeling. I would rather be wrong about a certain place or person at times, than put my own self in jeopardy. Most violent encounters can be avoided by early detection and over all avoidance. Now, this doesn’t mean don’t go out and have fun, but it means being aware. Scanning your environment, looking for things that look out of the ordinary, scanning for people that look like potential threats etc. I’m not implying that everyone be paranoid, but I am saying to be smart and use wisdom when out in public. Especially if you’re a person who has a disability. Other ways to improve your personal safety, is putting down your cell phone once in a while and paying attention to what’s going on around you.
I’m just as guilty, but we could all do better at this. Even if it’s in the name of building better quality relationships. Within the self- defense/protection industry, some say that we should maintain a 360 degree sense of awareness. I however believe that’s impossible and even impractical. For the simple reason that you can’t always maintain a 360 degree of awareness, especially if you are talking to someone in front of you. What I feel is better, and much more attainable, is to get a snap shot in your mind of where things and people are. This is far more of an easier practice. Lastly, always go out with friends you trust. Get them involved in formality plans that can help add to your personal safety. This includes all that is mentioned above, as well as even learning how defend a person that isn’t quite able to defend themselves as readily.
With this my hope is to make you safer, and to open your eyes as to why your safety matters. It’s up to you now, as an individual to choose your own safety every single day. For yourself and your loved ones. In my next blog, I will discuss how and why we should carry impact weapons on our person.

The Lost Art of Self-Control

imagesSelf-control is a beautiful tool, sadly I strongly believe that it is a lost concept or art. In the words of Robert Burns: Prudent, cautious self-control, is wisdom’s root. Think about this reality, in nearly all children martial arts programs, things like self-control, discipline. Honor, integrity and more are instilled in these programs. Now, by in large, this have become buzz words that parents look for to be instilled in the children. Largely because they have trouble instilling them in their children themselves, so martial arts might be a worthy avenue to try. I’m not knocking these programs, in fact, I love teaching kids and to be honest, kids programs are what keep most schools afloat.
Interestingly enough, we instill these values in our children and when people reach adulthood these values tend to fall away. I believe that’s because, we largely assume that as adults and martial artist we know how to control ourselves. Not so much! I have seen so many martial artists show no respect for their training environments, throw their equipment around, show up late for class, don’t pay attention and have an ego bigger than someone on my 600 hundred pound life. I have seen countless instructors, that don’t instill the bushido code in their students, and let them act however they want. Martial artist used to be disciplined and peaceful warriors, what has happened to us? I’ve seen many-videos of so called martial artists getting in fights, rather than exercising self-control and avoiding/walking away. I’ve seen countless FMA instructors teaching how to commit man slaughter, with an edged weapon. Rather than teaching how to control oneself and do what is needed and necessary, to use that edged weapon to create space and get away!
Furthermore, I also have seen instructors teach repeating stomps to the head, even after the situation has been neutralized. As martial artists, we should have the ability to control ourselves even when our lives depend on it. Now to be fair, there is a time and place to invoke violence. However, not every situation calls for that, in most self-defense encounters (if not all) one has to be able to legally justify the level of force used and why. Lyoto Machida, one of my favorite MMA fighters, has never let go of his Karate roots, that includes self-control, and even in his fights he does not go overboard when finishing a fight. In fact, he steps back and respectfully bows to his opponent. He is a prime example of self- controlled warrior that I’m speaking of. Lastly, outside martial arts and self-defense, self- control should be a daily current in your life. If it’s not, then you need to put into practice. Your life will improve immensely if you do. Not everything in life is worth freaking out about.
Learn to take a few moments each day to breath and be still, learn that the person you control is you. You can’t control as much as your led to believe. You only can control you. You can’t control the weather or how someone else reacts. Learn to separate yourself from a situation, let go of the past, set boundaries in your life and for others. Be self-controlled in your daily habits, make yourself a stronger warrior not just on the outside but the inside as well. I know what I’m saying may seem very basic and elementary, but I strongly believe that it is needed now, more than ever.

 

How CP Led to My Happiness!

“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?” -Isaiah 45:9, New Living Translation

Snapshots of My Conversion
As someone who was born with cerebral palsy, this was one of my hearts most loaded questions. After all I just wanted to know what it was like to be like everyone else. To be able to run, jump, walk and do the things that normal kids/ people did. Doctors told my parents that, one of two scenarios would unfold in light of me having cerebral palsy. One) I’d grow out of it and two) I wouldn’t be able to do much of anything on my own.

Thankfully my parents are very stubborn and refused to believe any of the doctors outcome. Over time I gained weight and strength, as well as finding escapes from the confines of my wheel chair and leg braces through being raised in the martial arts and strength training, thanks to my father.

Still though, as a young boy, I had to endure the pain of various operations on my legs, hips and spine. Each operation, requiring a year or more of recovery and thus not being around peers my age and being confined to a bed, with minimal outside interaction apart from going to therapy and the doctors. As a young boy, I couldn’t help but ponder the age old question: If there was a God, why did he allow me to be this way? Why so much pain and suffering? As a kid, I was raised with the concept of reincarnation, thus the probability that I could come back as a new person with a new person.

Yet even that I was very skeptical about, in all honesty, I didn’t know if God was real, good or loving. In short, until I was 17 years old, I was an agnostic and yet deep down I wanted there to be something more and greater than myself. I only was suppressing the truth, as the apostle Paul states in Romans 1:18, the biggest catch was that in my own heart, if he was real that I wanted nothing to do with him. What I didn’t know, what was that through all the suffering, anger, bitterness, jealousy, depression and envy. Was that the Lord, in his grace was already affectionately drawing me to himself.
What I Have Learned
He is always in control: As I have grown in my faith journey over the last several years, I have found immense comfort and joy in his complete and utter control over my life. The words of Ephesians 1:3-11 “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us[b] for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known[c] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. Simply put I interpret the words of Ephesians 1:3-11 to mean, that he was in control, that he knew that in the midst of such suffering and darkness. That he had already set me apart, not only to the praise of his glory but that I may be a living reflection of love and grace to the world.

I/we are loved and not mistakes: The father has loved me so well, through his son Jesus. When the holy spirit softened my hard heart, I quickly understood how wide and deep and how vast was his love for me. I was humbled in knowing, that when he fashioned me in my mothers wombs, that I was not some sort of divine-cosmic accident, but that even in spite of having cerebral palsy, I was still fearfully and wonderfully made.

And neither are you. Look to the gospel of John 9, Jesus’s disciples see a man who was born blind and automatically ask, why this man was born the way he was. Was is his sin or the sins of his parents? Jesus says neither sinned, but that this man, was and is this way so that his glory might be revealed through him. We must truly cling to these realties. For I do not believe that I, nor my cerebral palsy is a mistake, but something that had to go through the authority of God first and foremost.

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I am not a mistake and you certainly are not a mistake either, for God has great lavished such an amazing love upon us. And is not a stranger to our pain, but plunged into suffering for us on the cross. Therefore, our Lord is not someone who has to seem like a stranger in our pain and darkness, but is one who is our deepest anchor and hope. If you find yourself, as I have, in great darkness. The arms of Christ can and is your greatest comfort. Not every day will be sunshine and rainbows. But in him is true satisfaction, love and hope in spite of how great the suffering.

The Inner Struggle of A Martial Arts Instructor

Martial arts has been a huge part of my life for nearly thirty-two years, I’ve always been a student and gleaned from what other systems had to offer. I’ve gotten to train and earn certifications of instructorship for some of Bruce Lee’s original students. I’ll always be a student of the game.

I have also loved being able to teach others, and see a joy appear their faces from being able to learn a new skill or do something they never thought they could do before with their bodies. Being a teacher has given me a great sense of accomplishment and a sense of purpose.

Throughout my teaching journey, however, I have seen students come and come. I’m sure that this is most common among many schools and instructors. What burdens my heart though is that I can never keep me anyone around. I have gone from having almost twenty students in my college self-defense class to only three or four. Watching the flux of students from a close vantage point has caused me to look inward.

Am I doing something wrong?

What could I be doing better?

Is there something in me that people don’t like?

Or the tougher question: Am I meant to be an instructor?

All of these questions have moved through the landscape of my emotions. I have envisioned my owning my own school someday, but if I can’t even keep one student what good is it? I’d hate to close down a school because of a mass drop out rate. I honestly am starting to wonder if this passion inside me is the worth the risk.

Seasoned instructors would tell me to keep pushing forward no matter what, and knowing myself, that’s what I’ll do. I just don’t know when things will start looking up and stay steady for once.

 

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The Importance of Humility

“A true genius admits that he/she knows nothing.”
Albert Einstein

The older I get, the more it seems that I hold only a spec of knowledge, wisdom or counsel. This is not said in a degrading context, but is said to show in the vastness of the universe I know only tiny bit about the world around me. That does not mean that I stop learning, or asking questions, but that humility allows me to set aside any hints of ego or pride and be teachable.

If you have not guessed it, I’m going to write and reflect on the importance of humility in life and why I feel that it will take you far in life. Now first let me very clearly state that I am not the most humble human being in existence, my own ego and pride rise to the surface, thus preventing me from being the best student I can be.

Humility is an element that seems to be disappearing quickly, preferably in our American context. An old martial arts instructor of mine, once was telling a quick story about how he was on a plane home, and a man near him, spoke up and demanded that he be brought coffee right away.

My instructor, quickly got his attention and said “please, thank you?” with a very perplexed and obvious look on his face, the man then quickly recanted of his attitude and said please and thank you. This is one way that humility takes root in our lives, for me I’ve noticed that when I say the simple words of please and thank you, something in my heart softens. The simple fact is that no one has to serve us, yet serving others becomes a vocation, as others get to relax and enjoy their surroundings.

As a martial arts instructor, I watch how students act and carry themselves, and if I’m honest sometimes its very disheartening, very rarely do students say thank you for teaching and giving what knowledge I have in a certain area, I don’t want to imply that students have to worship at my feet, but when someone says that they are thankful, it not only softens their heart, but it moves something inside the person that is serving them.

I’ve also had students complain that they often do the same thing over and over in practice,and that they want to move on to “new” things. From a martial arts or athletic stand point, we must be thankful for the basics, we must be thankful that we can even do them in the first place. I don’t care how many times you have done something, you can always learn something from what you have previously done.

The problem does not rest in the performing of everyday tasks or drills that we do each and every day. But with the very disposition of our hearts and minds, sometimes we human beings feel that we have risen above the everyday and mundane, that we deserve bigger and better things. That simply is not always the case.

Everything in life is a gift, not something we deserve because we are so great and god like. Even in education, our heads can get so big because we feel we know so much compared to others, this only closes us off from actually entering into real relationships with others, in that when we feel we know so much, we tend to think “what could they possibly teach me?”

In closing, let us be every watchful of our own ego’s and pride, that way when we feel them rise we can gladly put them back in the place they belong.

Blessings.

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