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.

The Disabled Man- And Manhood

I think that one aspect of manhood (that I am very passionate about) that isn’t talked about much at all. Is the reality of manhood and disability. Over the last several months I’ve seen all kinds of videos on how  to be more of an alpha male and so on. Most of these videos are geared toward abled-bodied men, who can walk, drive and have a very different set of life circumstances than a man with cerebral palsy. Now, this is difficult for me to write, because I confess that I’m not where I want to be in life. I’m thirty-five, almost  thirty-six and I still live in my parents’ house, don’t drive  and don’t work your typical job. As I’ve spent the last several lives trying to live the entrepreneur life, and for the most part I’ve done well for myself. There’s just these two areas of my life, that I have yet to break through in. Sometimes though, this makes me feel like less of a man or less than I could be. Even though, functionally speaking I have a ton to offer. It can be difficult though, simply because some people can’t see past the physical circumstances of ones life. The last woman I dated I can remember her being a bit hesitant early on, because she thought about what it would be like eventually introducing me to her friends. Which really sucks that that is even a reality, but I have to think, how many other men like me are there in the world that feel as I do. Who can sometimes feel like less of a man because they are physically different or have different life circumstances? It’s very numbing to the mind and heart. What happens then, is we stop taking chances in life because of the thoughtful reality that we might never find the physical acceptance that we desire.

What I’ve come to realize though, is that I-we- you still have divine worth regardless of whether or not a person accepts us for who we are or not. And its hardly a reflection on us as it is the other person. Simply because one is not where they want to be either, doesn’t mean that you won’t get there either. It may take someone a longer period of time, but it is still possible. Some people in life are late bloomers, but they still bloom. And I think that is something that needs to be more appreciated in life.   And I think that’s largely because our society wants everything right now.

Growing up my father raised me in the martial arts, which only helped me become a masculine man and warrior. He let me fall, get bumps and bruises. He always told me to stick out my chest when I stood up. And I think that that’s what I want for others like myself, to be strong in every way. Some  may not be able to physically fight like I can. But they can learn to protect their minds and hearts of those they love. I believe that regardless of whether a man is in wheel chair, he should be healthy and fit in as much as he can. Along with cleaning up the nutrition portion of life. I think a man should know how to control his thoughts and emotions. I think a man, should rid himself of the victim mentality. Also, men should learn to control their own lusts-in more ways than one. I think that men need to figure out who they are, what they do and do not want in life. I want to teach men like me to be strong and courageous, even in spite of having different abilities and life circumstances than the next guy. Disabled men truly need this, because lets face it too much life has passed and I haven’t seen anything done about this silent crisis. I believe I’m just the guy to do it.       

My Heart As A Trainer and Coach (For the adaptive community)

Being a personal trainer/nutrition coach, has been something that I have wanted to do for a long time. And as I have written in a previous post, it was something that I hesitated from doing. For reasons of there not being enough money etc. I went ahead and ignored all the antagonist thoughts in my head and got certified in both!

I’ve been working the up hill climb at trying to gain a steady clientele, it’s difficult and even frustrating. Yet, at risk of sounding like an ego filled/puffed up human being. I’m going to brag about a few accomplishments , because I’m very proud of them.

The first notable one, was when I stared working with a young woman who had a worse form of cerebral palsy (CP) than I did. when I first started doing online coaching with her (which is what I do with all my clients) she could barely make her hands in the shape of a fist. In fact, doctors wanted to perform an operation on her to correct it. I didn’t think that surgery should be an option, unless we explored all the options.

After learning about my clients goals, I went ahead both a nutrition and fitness plan for her. For the simple reason, that I wanted her to be healthy and strong from the inside out. Long story short, after several weeks of staying as focused and disciplined as possible. She was able to open and close her hands! Much more, she was able to take a few steps assisted.

This to me has meant so much, and if as coach this is my greatest victory. I’m some what okay with that. There have been others with CP and other adaptive needs, that I have helped, in the areas of weight loss, gaining mobility and strength and so on. But the above story is most notable. Of course, I strive for others with CP and other needs to be their healthiest selves.

For we get one life and one body, and if we don’t take care of it. The consequences are much greater. My heart as a trainer, is to help clients adopt a healthy mindset and vision for their lives. Everything is mindset, which I believe sets me apart from other trainers, because some just focus on the body. Without taking stock of whats going on in the mind.

Our bodies are a gift, they might function differently, but they are a gift non the less. As such, we should be doing all that we can to take care of them each day. Eating more protein, drink more water, consume less sugar and so on. We should be doing all we can to make our bodies strong, even if all you can do is work your arms, do that! Make the most of what you got.

Learn to lay aside the fear, the doubts, the what ifs and start carving out the person you want to be. It’s not as difficult or impossible as you think, it just takes discipline, time and focus. But it can be done!

I’m here to help!

Cerebral Palsy. Body Image and Internal Healing.

I’m starting to see a correlation between cerebral palsy and body image, this correlation stems from being in contact with numerous people who live with cerebral palsy through social media. In this particular regard, I’m speaking about having a negative self image.

You may look at the image of me below, and not think that I am “fat” all, but when I look at myself. That is what I see.

unnamed.jpg

When I look at the sides of my stomach, I think “Ugh gross” then I start thinking or obsessing over what I eat and upping the intensity of my daily workouts. Which is not a bad thing at all. It is a problem though, when you are in the middle of your workout and you can’t stop dwelling on how disgusting you feel and look.

I posted that above photo on instagram a few weeks ago, lots of people said that I looked great, or that we all had those feelings, or even “that’s just skin!” The comments were heart warming and helped me to think more positively.. For awhile, but then I would find myself in the downward spiral of self destruction and sabotage.

My workouts have consisted of lots of burpees, probably two-four hundred every single day. Along with Kettle and Bar Bell lifting. I sweat a lot, recover well but am utterly hungry the rest of the day.  Nor am I afraid of eating my carbs, protein and Beer… My one beer after work.

The engine is constantly stoked, and I’m constantly pushing my mind and body.. But there is this area of my life, that needs change. I’m tried all the thought stopping methods, all the positive affirmations etc. And still nothing helps the crap shoot stop.

After CF today, I came home, ate and then went to wash my stinky self. There I was, looking at my body with contempt. And then I thought, “this has to stop!” Truly the only thing that gets me through life is my faith. So after redirecting my thoughts back to it, I whispered to God:

“God, you don’t want me to hate my body, I know that. Help me to see myself differently, as you do.” At that moment, something clicked on inside of me. I’m not saying that you have to do, as I do, that is something that you have to decide and work through for yourself.

What I am saying though, is that these destructive thinking has to stop, or at least be put in its rightful place. A vast majority of therapists would saying that working out is killing me, and steer me away from it as they would most addictions. But I don’t think that that is the end all be all solution.

Yes, some things might need to change, or pause. But this is less a physical issue, and more a mental, emotional and spiritual issue. And until those issues heal, nothing we change the way we long for.

So! We have to understand that this is going to be a long journey, with plenty of ups and downs and twists and turns. We have to accept where we are at. I know that this is something that will not want to be heard, you might spend lots of time in a wheel chair, and be on lots of meds. Okay, we can work with that, the fact is that we cannot give up.

There are plenty of exercises that can be done from a seated position, plenty of ways to even build stamina too. I should get on making videos regarding these topics. Yet the biggest component is learning to take care of ourselves from a place of love and not so much a “I have to” but an “I want to” there’s a huge difference.

Change your forward thinking: Think less on your image, and think more about prolonged health, mobility, strength and focus. So that we can be the strongest version of ourselves, not so much for ourselves but for others.

The internal healing is more tangible than we believe, more closer than we think. Much like any medicine though, it takes time for the benefits to show up, but rest assured. Through discipline and diligence change will come.

Blessings!

-Brandon