Protecting Cruz, book 2 in the Armando Miranda Mystery Series

Protecting Cruz, the second book in the Armando Miranda Mystery Series is now published on e-book and paperback formats. Order it HERE.

Armando Miranda leads a team of bodyguards to protect Cruz Santos, the island’s beloved Pop singer who is launching his first crossover English album, promotional concert and music video production. Investigating death threats, blackmails and a shocking murder of an island celebrity, Armando is also tasked with protecting the young superstar from his own often reckless behavior. Protecting Cruz is the second in the Armando Miranda mystery series set in the beautiful tropical island of Puerto Rico and the exciting, often decadent world of the island’s entertainment industry.

Fans of Protecting Nahir will love this sequel!2016-12-22

Prepare to get Trumped

colossus2

The similarities and parallels of Ronald Reagan’s campaign for the presidency and Donald Trump’s are uncanny. Particularly Reagan’s first successful run. Specifically in the reaction of the media and the “elites” to both of their running for office. By the way, I’m not comparing Trump to Reagan. I’m simply pointing out the eerie similarities in the reactions to their candidacies. I was politically aware during Reagan’s campaign and his subsequent two terms. In fact, I credit Reagan with making me politically aware. It’s ironic because at the time, although I was in the US Navy I was a resident of Puerto Rico and therefore ineligible to vote for the President.

When Reagan began his campaign I would read print media and watch the network news and was amused by their portrayals of the man. They were dripping with ridicule and disdain. They called him a joke, a clueless actor, a dangerous cowboy. Mind you, he had already served as Governor of California and this was not his first campaign for the presidency. They warned how the world would ridicule us and how they would lose respect for us. And they quoted other countries leaders and pundits to prove their point.

I have to admit that at the time I also thought the media had our best interests at heart and so I began listening to Reagan himself when he spoke. You know, to be in on the joke. After all, he was just an actor right? They’d parade out clips of the movie Bedtime for Bonzo as if to associate Reagan with a chimpanzee. It was subtle but effective. The elites and liberal media lapped it up. After he became president the hits just got bigger and more and more vicious. I remember a British comedy show that had a skit featuring a Reagan puppet. They portrayed him as a vacuous idiot. And a dangerous one at that. There were one liners in movies about how ridiculous we had become as a country for electing this “actor”.

Anyways, during the campaign I listened whenever Reagan was on television and whenever he was interviewed. I watched the debates. Obviously I had less avenues to listen to him than we have in today’s completely connected world. This was before the World Wide Web after all. We had 3 major networks and a 24 hour news station was just a crazy pipe dream at the time (CNN launched in June of 1980). It is very possible that in today’s world Reagan would not even have been elected!

This was my watershed moment. What the man was actually saying made sense to me. When he spoke I got the distinct impression that this was not the man being raked over the coals by our media, our standup comics, late night talk show hosts and political cartoonists. I began to notice how the media would take his quotes and add words to them. Putting words in his mouth as it were. They would twist them all out of context. I would listen to him and them and it was like they were peeing on my feet and calling it rain. The elites turned their noses up, harrumphed and they mocked Middle America who were heeding his message. You know, the “low info voters” they’re calling Trump supporters today. His popularity with flyover country surged. There was the same resurgence of pride and hope of making America great again that exists today.

I’ll give you a specific example that underscores the correlation between that campaign and this one. At the time things were pretty bad. Unemployment was high, taxes were high, prices were high and people were saying America’s best days were behind us. Iran had invaded our sovereign soil (the US Embassy) and taken over sixty Americans hostage. They would wind up holding them for 444 days only releasing them when Reagan was inaugurated. We had a humiliating failure of a mission to attempt to rescue them. Our military was a hollow shell. The supposed failure of the Vietnam Conflict was a pall hanging over us all. Even though technically the US was actually winning the conflict it became generally unpopular as a result of the protests and the mainstream media portraying it as a failure. Things were pretty bad indeed. Arthur Okun’s misery index was above 16%. For those who don’t know, the misery index was a sum of the unemployment rate and the inflation rate.

In fact, President Carter said that it was now time for all of us to cinch up our belts and do with a little less. Experts and pundits nodded their heads and agreed. Ronald Reagan responded to this by saying that sounds good for people who have a little more but what about the poor American that had no extra to give up? How were they supposed to do with less? He stated that he believed America’s greatest days were still ahead of us. He pointed out the American can-do spirit and how we led the world in entrepreneurial endeavors. He used the example of a very simple invention that was popular at the time. A metal clip-on handle that you could clip to your soda can so it would not be warmed up by the body heat in your hand. That this invention has gone the way of the pet rock is irrelevant. That spirit still exists today. If you don’t think so watch an episode of Shark Tank. This type of entrepreneurial drive only exists in a society that rewards creativity and innovation. You know, a capitalist society.

The ridicule being heaped on people who support Trump very much parallels the ridicule heaped on people who supported Reagan in his first campaign. There may be some who deny it but I lived through it. In fact, if you wanted to sound “smart” and “nuanced” you simply had to mock Reagan and his voters as a lunatic and a bunch of zombies respectively.

Does any of this sound familiar?

People say we’re angry. We might be, but mostly we want our country to be great again. We do. And America as a great country benefits everyone in the world. We’re tired of being told what horrible, racist, sexist, xenophobic people we are when at our core we are none of those things. We’re tired of electing people to do things which they promise to do and then immediately welch on as soon as they get their golden ticket. We’re tired of people in elite circles tsking at us and treating us as if we don’t have the ability to think critically like they do. That we don’t know any better and we’re easily led. Well I have news for those “experts” and “elites” and kingmakers.
Guess what? We know better. You’ve tried this before too many times. Get ready to get Trumped.

Mental Awareness in Self Defense

warriorMost people who sign up for a formal Martial Arts program do so with the objective of learning self-defense. More often than not, the majority of these programs neglect the mental aspect of street defense. They emphasize physical preparedness by using drills intended to give you physical tools to defuse the attacks. I am not saying that physical self-defense training is a waste of time. This training is equally important, but street attacks are dynamic and chaotic and to prepare a physical response to every possible attack is virtually impossible. Not to mention the limits to the level of physical prowess we are all able to attain. A four foot nine, ninety-pound woman or a seventy five year old man with a physical disability cannot realistically expect to neutralize a six foot, two hundred fifty pound attacker, no matter how long and hard they train.

What is limitless in its potential is the mind, and seventy percent of self-defense it mental. The ideal self- defense mindset is crucial to avoiding the attack before it becomes a physical confrontation. The point is, the fight you will win 100 % of the time is the fight in which you do not engage. Avoidance is the ideal defense, and mental awareness is one of the major keys to avoidance. The good news is, you do not have to spend thousands of dollars and years of your life training your brain to be mentally alert to avoid danger. This skill is inherent to all of us and honing it to a keen edge requires only a conscious effort on our part.

Very simply, it comes down to trusting your own intuition. We make life saving decisions every day based solely on intuition. Just judging when to cross a busy thoroughfare is a decision largely based on intuition and experience. Your mind identifies potential danger and sends messages to the rest of the body to react.

We all have intuition. Call it the sixth sense, the “gut reaction”, or that “something’s not right” feeling is present in us all. And yet, society conditions us to disregard any emotion we cannot rationally justify with tangible evidence. Most victims of a violent attack recount that they had a “bad feeling” about their attacker. It could have been just a subtle, fleeting signal in their minds that registered something out of the ordinary they either did not recognize or failed to acknowledge. The reasons we dismiss those signals are various, ranging from fear of ridicule to apathy and denial.

There is nothing mystical about intuition. Your mind’s eye registers and processes information, which causes subconscious reactions you cannot explain. Something as obvious as a person shifting their eyes rapidly from side to side as they approach you is an unusual situation that may alert you. This may not necessarily signal the inevitability of an attack, but it should at least engage your attention.

There may be no obvious visual clues and yet, you experience a “tingling” sensation at the back of your neck. This happens because there are visual clues your conscious mind just did not register. It is now time to engage your attention, because physical attacks never occur without prior warning, despite popular belief that they “come out of nowhere”. In fact, violent attacks are the most predictable of all crimes. Most of them, committed by people you know, which increases your ability to predict them.

Most often, your heightened state of awareness will preempt the attack. In the victim selection process, criminals act based largely on their own intuition. Your heightened state of mental alertness sends subtle signals that you are not the ideal victim. They move on to the next person, which reinforces your feeling that your instincts were wrong, when what most likely happened was that your potential attacker simply decided to move on to another victim. Regardless, you will now have heightened your awareness, and can take physical action sooner, rather than later when the physical engagement is then inevitable.

I am not advocating a state of paranoia and fear. This creates a stressful condition that is counterproductive to good health. I am simply stating that you become more aware of your environment and trust your own intuition. It is there to protect you as it has since we were running from Saber-tooth tigers. The byproduct of this state is that you can then live in peace, knowing that you will sense danger in time to take preemptive action to avoid the physical confrontation. Live aware and peace will come to you.

Self Defense Training System. Get 90% off

 

In today’s dangerous world we must be prepared to take responsibility for our own self defense, safety and security. Training in a martial art yields countless rewards but the ability to defend yourself should not be contingent upon training for 10-15 years in a martial arts school. You already have the tools at your disposal. You simply need to learn to use them effectively. Make no mistake, there is no “magic move”. Firearms and guns, although part of the answer are not the end all to be all in a violent attack. You may not always have them at your disposal or your attack may be so sudden that you may have to physically engage in order to transition to your firearm or weapon of choice. Learn how. Get 90% off on the most devastating, proven self defense system available today. Fear nobody.

Go HERE: https://www.secureinfossl.com/affProgram/90_off_SDTS/87895

 

Surviving an Active Mass Murderer (originally published as Surviving a Mass Shooting in April 2007)

Originally published after the VA Tech Massacre as Surviving a Mass Shooting in April 2007 before the term “Active Shooter” was coined which I have since changed to Active Mass Murderer

Surviving a Mass Shooting (April 2007)

In trying to find the reasons for why Seung-Hui Cho decided on one fine day to commit mass murder the media pundits are tripping all over themselves with explanations save for the obvious. In layman’s terms, this guy was a few bricks shy of a load. The whys are fairly irrelevant. The ways to prevent a person’s circuitry from going so far awry have too many factors to even consider and they are ALL out of the scope of control of everyone he killed. Some of the people he killed may have not even known him; much less that he was a ticking time bomb.

The pundits regurgitate past tragedies, point at commonalities and try to alarm the general public again about the easy availability of guns and whether or not this kind of tragedy is on the rise. Don’t fall for this tactic. They’re trying to SELL news by sensationalizing it. It does not help the victims or their families of this attack, but the fact is, by pure mathematical statistics this is still a relatively rare crime.

They analyze the young man’s past behavior and who may have been able to prevent it or report him to some authority or “expert” who could have helped him before he snapped. There were obvious indicators, but only relevant with the benefit of the crystal clear vision of hindsight.

“He was a fan of ‘First Person Shooter’ video games,” they say and point to the obvious dangers of children and young adults playing these obsessively to later act them out in real life.

Want to know who would do this? That’s right, a nutcase. I’m not a fan of these games and my kids do not play them. There are however thousands of children and even adults of ALL ages who play them without any intention of carrying out these deeds in real life. They are in touch with reality and can make the distinction between a game and real life.

Then there’s the ease with which we can obtain guns in this country. Well I say thank God for that. I was raised in Puerto Rico, a US territory with some of the strictest gun laws in the country. Care to guess what the gun related crime rate on the island is? You don’t have to, it’s staggering. Criminals can get a gun easily and what’s more, the restrictive laws make criminals out of law abiding citizens who own illegal weapons because they’d rather be judged by twelve than carried by six.

The point I’m trying to make is very few people had the required knowledge and tools to detect this whacko’s intent BEFORE he began his killing spree. There was not much that could have been done. Particularly by the people he killed who had no idea who he was.

However, in the midst of the attack, there were many things that could have been done. I’m not sitting in judgment of the people who fled a psycho with guns blazing. I’m not questioning their courage for one simple reason. They did not have the mental tools to deal with this incongruous act. It was so far out of their frame of reference that they simply reacted as normal people unaccustomed to violence will react. They will waste precious seconds reacting (or NOT reacting) to the seemingly surreal events unfolding before their eyes.

Most people would say there was nothing the victims could have done. That once Cho entered the building their fate was sealed and it would be just a matter of dumb luck, karma or even a miracle if they survived the attack.

Nonsense.

There were, and are, several things that could have been done. Three things will contribute to your being a sheep waiting for the slaughter and probably contributed to the deaths of the vast majority of the victims of this tragedy: denial, psychological fear and apathy. I don’t want this blog to be one of those enormous scroll-down pages most people like to dismiss and move on. The message is too important. Therefore, tomorrow I’ll finish with Part II to give SPECIFICS on what to do should something like this (God forbid) happen to you. The specifics I will outline not only have relevance in a mass shooting, they apply universally to all violent attacks.

Part II

I’ve been a practicing martial artist for 35 years. In order to save space I’m not going to list the diverse sources of my training, the bibliography of my research and actual personal experience from which I derive my opinions as it’s just not feasible here. This is a blog and not a book. If you’re curious or want to qualify my opinions email me separately. I’ll be using concepts found in Gavin De Becker’s series of books on fear (The Gift of Fear, Protecting the Gift, Fear Not), LTC Dave Grossman’s On Killing and On Combat, Tony Blauer’s Blauer Tactical Systems (BTS) and Damian Ross’ Self Defense Training System (SDTS) as they are sources that are more contemporary and not exclusively for martial artists. I highly recommend the books and the training Damian offers. You can sign up here.

As a self defense instructor early on I discovered that most organized martial arts curriculum have abandoned or ignore true self-defense training. They’re either sport or art oriented and if they teach self-defense they focus on conditioned physical responses to specific attacks. Self defense in the real world doesn’t work like the sterile environment of the training hall. Many martial artists, myself included, discovered this when involved in a real time attack. Street self defense is too dynamic and the variables are too diverse to cover each and every scenario. There is no magic “crane technique” or “five point palm exploding heart technique” to cover them. This doesn’t mean that technique training is useless and futile. It simply means that often it’s devoid of context. Again, for brevity’s sake, the only type of attack I’m addressing here is the lone gunman mass attack. Even though it’s still a very rare crime, (despite the alarmist over-coverage of the media), it obviously does happen, and it’s very real to the people who have been its victims. Its rarity is certainly no reason to not prepare for it as well. As Tony Blauer says, “Apathy and denial will seal your fate”.

This leads me to the three things I listed yesterday: apathy, denial and psychological fear. I’ll dissect all three as they apply here.

Apathy and denial go hand in hand and were the mental states of every person on the VT campus. They were in a “no gun zone” right? That, artificial shield lured everyone into apathy under the liberal attitude that it would be “unfair” to violate the rule. Being apathetic about the potential of being attacked doesn’t limit itself to the “no gun zone”. Most people are apathetic or are in denial about the potential simply based on where they live. Smalltown USA is safe. Those horrible crimes only happen in big cities. Or the prevailing attitude is they happen to someone else, not you.

This apathy leads to the next state when you are actually being attacked. Denial. The immediate conscious thought “I can’t believe this is happening to me!” Most people think it and some even vocalize it aloud. The obvious problem with both these mindsets is that you waste invaluable reaction time responding when the attack begins. Know this, YOUR attacker (the use of the personal pronoun is deliberate), has pre-planned the attack and is already in a calm, but highly adrenalized state. You need to get there and now have to play catch up

Lastly, the next overpowering mental state many feel is psychological fear. In his books, Gavin De Becker outlines the difference between physiological, or true fear, and psychological fear. True fear is a good thing. It narrows your focus (some people state that although the attack happened very quickly, they saw it in slow motion), causes physiological changes to your body to prepare you to sustain wounds. Flight or fight stuff. It makes you stronger, faster, better. The human body is an amazingly powerful instrument when we get out of its way. True fear does this subconsciously. It’s what world class athletes describe as “being in the zone” or the Zen state of “no mind”.

Psychological fear leads to what De Becker calls False Expectations Appearing Real. It is irrational, paralyzing (deer in headlights) and based on an outcome that has not yet happened. Often the people who feel this (beyond “diagnosed” phobias) don’t even know what they specifically fear. Here’s my example; the reaction to a poisonous spider (or any spider). We can’t rationally fear an insect we can kill by simply stepping on it. We fear the insect’s bite that can lead to serious injury and possibly death. Neither of these things have happened when we encounter the spider, but often people freeze at the mere sight of one. Don’t get me started on the whole fear of mice.

In the case of the gunman, the psychological fear is obviously more complex, but still based on the same things that have not yet happened. A gun can kill you right? Simply knowing someone is shooting indiscriminately at people in your vicinity is not a cause of death. In fact, even if you’ve been shot, you’re still not dead. Death has its own finality. You ain’t there till you’re there, but some people’s reaction to taking a bullet is to naturally go down and cover even if they still have full use of their limbs. Psychological fear leads people who have NOT been shot or are NOT even in the line of fire to simply curl into the fetal position or hide behind objects and close their eyes, perhaps hoping if they can’t see the attacker, he can’t see them (the proverbial ostrich with head in sand). It’s an extremely difficult thing to fight once it’s gripped you.

Alright, I promised specific actions today and I haven’t really gotten to them yet. Tomorrow, I promise. I felt the need to outline the above concepts in more detail than I originally planned because your mental state DURING the attack is the key to what actions you take. The mental states listed above are the attacker’s unwitting allies. They are the difference between hoping for a miracle or banking on your luck and taking personal action to help guarantee your survival. Having specific actions to take are useless without getting in the right frame of mind; specifically in the first few seconds of an attack. So, there will be a part III. Stay tuned.

Part III

Alright, to the specifics. The good news is you do not necessarily have to spend decades and a small fortune training in the martial arts to be able to defend yourself. I’m a lifelong martial artist so this concept is foreign to me, but I’ll concede the point for those who have no desire to do so. My opinion is that a life dedicated to the study and training in the arts is a most worthwhile endeavor for many other reasons beyond self defense. I do know personally and have read countless accounts of average citizens with no training whatsoever who survived a violent attack. My wife is a trained martial artist (trained her myself), but when I first met her I remember being amazed at her security conscious frame of mind without any formal training whatsoever. This manifested itself most acutely when she became a mother. There are few forces in nature that rival the fierceness with which a mother will protect her offspring.

I will caveat this by saying that you will have to do some physical training in the event you have to physically respond, so that you’re response has a chance of succeeding. But how you train physically is of equal importance to actually training. The methodology and the physical moves, as well as the philosophy of the system determines its effectiveness. It should be tried and true in a combat environment.

Your most valuable weapon is your mental state as I pointed out in yesterday’s segment. As a bodyguard, this became very apparent to me immediately. I was hired because of my training and physical skills, but my success in that job was 90% mental. It’s a matter of being aware, observant and engaged in your reality. To fight apathy, you have to get past the notion that it cannot happen to you. Period. It CAN happen anywhere. This will eliminate the surprised DENIAL state. If you expect it can happen you won’t wrap yourself in disbelief. I’m not advocating a frightened mouse paranoid view of the world. No one can live like that 24/7. Being aware and alert is actually more empowering than it is stressful. What I’m talking about is simply following your instincts. You inherently know when something is not right and danger may be present. You get a “vibe” from someone you meet or see. This is not magic. It’s simply subconsciously picking up visual clues that your mind processes and does not register in the conscious mind. You just don’t like what you see or feel. What people like to call a “sixth sense” (I prefer “Spidey sense”. I know, juvenile. Sue me). EVERYONE has this skill. It can be nurtured and refined with practice. Trust this instinct always. Do not dismiss it. It is rarely “nothing”. If nothing results from the feeling it could very well be that your attacker has picked up (again subconsciously) on your alert state and decided to pass you up. In other words, you don’t project prey behavior. This obviously doesn’t apply in the lunatic gunman scenario. To him you’re all prey.

The first few seconds of an attack are critical. It amazes me when people hear gunshots and they look at each other and say “Was that a gunshot?” when instinctively they know it is. They look to other people for affirmation and if no one else is alarmed they assume their instincts were incorrect. Lemming mentality. Gunshots are very distinct and even having never heard one fire, most people can identify them. If you doubt you can, then I suggest you find out what they sound like by going to a range. Not to shoot, but to listen. If a private range will not allow you to do this, go the police department and explain to them why you want to do it. Trust me, they’ll be glad to help.

Let me get this out of the way first. The best defense you have against a gunman with evil intent is the obvious. Having a concealed license to carry and having your firearm with you. In fact, the mere potential of return fire is often a deterrent for the gunman. Not knowing who may be carrying a concealed weapon changes his strategy during planning and I firmly believe Cho planned this attack meticulously. Notice how none of these lunatics ever walk into a police station to start shooting?

The apathetic attitude on the VT campus as a result of the whole “Gun Free Zone” rule speaks to the folly of the gun control lobby. If only one individual in that building had a firearm the body count may have been significantly reduced. Don’t believe me? Case in point: the Salt Lake City mall attack just a few months back. That gunman was hindered by an off duty cop who pinned him down. Had it not been for that hero, many more would have died in that attack.

Simply owning a legal firearm is obviously not the answer either. You have to train yourself to draw it quickly and shoot it true in a stressful situation. A friend of mine and fellow bodyguard used to practice drawing his weapon out of his “fanny pack” holster daily. You can actually replicate stress in your mind during practice by injecting the climate. This is accomplished by scenario training. Your body cannot distinguish between imagined stress and real stress and you can adrenalize yourself in an instant. People ridicule the Robert De Niro scene in Taxi driver when he’s facing the mirror saying “you talking to me?”, and then drawing his gun. Yes, if you own a weapon (any weapon) you MUST practice with that weapon or it may be more dangerous to you than helpful. Know it intimately. Learning to draw and fire from all angles and positions (weak hand included) is invaluable training. Cheaper than enrolling in a martial arts class too (I said cheaper, not better).

For those who will NEVER have a firearm in their home under ANY circumstance the scenario training above applies as well to sticks, bladed weapons and empty hand combat. It is a mental state of awareness that I’m advocating.

As a young martial arts instructor I used to tell my students that if an assailant had a knife and I could not escape, he had better know how to use it, but if he had a gun I would be as cooperative as possible. I had an epiphany years ago when I thought “what would I do if the intention of the assailant was to shoot and kill me regardless?” I reverse engineered the mechanics of shooting a firearm (rifles, pistols, single action, dual action, semi-auto and automatics) and what my options were. You’d be surprised at the results.

If the gunman is at a distance, the obvious action applies. Escape. Even if you cannot see the gunman, once you hear the shot your escape should be in the opposite direction. I know this is obvious stuff, but again, you’d be surprised at how many people stand there as the seconds tick by trying to figure out whether they can believe their own ears or not. Here’s where denial will get you killed.

Conversely, if you start hot footing it to the nearest exit you’d be surprised at how many people follow you. What’s the worst that can result from it being a false alarm? Embarrassment? A funny story to tell? Beats the confirmation that, yes indeed that was a gunshot and oh, there’s the gunman now. I make it a habit to see where all exits and entrances are when I walk into any building. If I sit at a restaurant I’m facing the entrance.

Many students and teachers hid in classrooms behind locked doors, and then crouched behind tables or desks. This is only partially effective and relies on dumb luck. Don’t simply lock the door, place obstacles against it if you have the time. If you cannot escape any further than that room, do NOT then hide beneath a table or furniture within the room. If the gunman gains access you’re a sitting duck. Find yourself a weapon. The weapon should be something that will cause the most amount of damage in the least amount of swings. Something you can swing easily, preferably with a sharp edge. Striking power on impact is dependent on speed. Two weapons, one in each hand, are preferable.

Then, place yourself strategically at the entrance to the room, (not directly in front of the door), as much as possible, out of sight of the gunman. As soon as he gains access, attack without hesitation. Your first strike should be at the first visible part of the gunman. That will usually be the firearm. Strike it so the impact will push the business end as far AWAY from you as possible, strike the hand wielding it, the arm etc. Don’t stop striking if the gunman drops the firearm unless you can get to it without both of you wrestling for it. Strike savagely and repeatedly. Targeting is important, but since adrenaline will rob you of fine motor skills, what’s important is to become a blender of attacks. If you can target the head after the gun, that is preferable. Take away his sight. If he turns to run or back up, pursue him, striking repeatedly. If there are others in the room you should all be doing this. If you can coordinate beforehand have some striking high, some midsection and some low to avoid colliding. If there are only two people, go high and low. If you can knock the attacker off his feet you gain significant advantage.

If you are outside during an attack, your escape is obviously easier since you have more options. Try your best to turn corners, keeping obstacles between you and the gunman. In an open area with no cover, run erratically, changing directions and adjusting your height until you find cover and/or can turn a corner. Buying time works in your favor and against the gunman.

If you decide to engage the gunman physically ensure you commit to the attack 100%. Compassion has no place here.

This is obviously longer than I had intended, so I’ll stop here. Tomorrow, I’ll post “worst case scenario, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.” and the conclusion. I had not intended for this to be this long. I usually like to keep blogs to one screenshot as much as possible and never continuations. Obviously this is a relevant subject that is near and dear to me and I’m tired of reading the misconceptions and misdirection being put out by the MSM and their supposed experts. Bear with me. If you’ve seen nothing worth your time to read so far, then by all means, stop reading here.

Part IV

Worst case scenario; nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no weapons in your hands. How you got there is now irrelevant, but you are now at point blank range. Is this the point at which you a) beg for your life, b) pray for your life (some would even pray for the gunman as well), c) curl up into the fetal position and hope for the best, since being agnostic, you’re certain God ain’t gonna help you or d) Attack?

I couldn’t tell you what you would do, but I’m taking option d. You may say that’s a brainless choice for me. That may be true but it’s also viable for anyone, and I’ll explain below at the conclusion. Indulge me just a bit longer.

After my epiphany about defending against a gunman whose intention is to kill me regardless, I reverse engineered the mechanics and behavior of shooting a human being, trying to find commonalities of physical behavior and emotional cues. There are several. So, by the same token, there are counters that should work. I came up with a few and over the years learned quite a few more from instructors I consider to have real expertise. I am after all still a student (being an instructor simply means being a SERIOUS student). Besides, I’ve only been shot at twice (well not me personally, but the area I happened to be walking) and held at gunpoint once, so I don’t have that breadth of experience. The best thing I learned beyond physical technique is that the effective principals apply universally and the actions can be done by anyone who has use of their limbs and some mobility. Whether or not you train physically, the proper mindset will guide you. I’m not saying you should not train and practice physical technique, you most certainly should, but too many people neglect the mental aspect. The mind is the captain of the vessel isn’t it? (I know, nautical references. Whaddaya expect?). And here’s the thing, often, ineffective training will hinder you as you will rely on technique that just will not work or is too specific. So here are some physical actions without relying on specifics. Remember, we’re talking about the fact that escape is no longer an option and you are at POINT BLANK RANGE. I would say anything within 6-10 feet it would be extremely difficult to escape a gunman. Not impossible, just difficult. Personally, if I’m in that range I will attack. I don’t expect anyone else to follow this. What I describe below is at a distance of 1-2 feet of the gunman.

I’ve learned that any weapon held against me or within a foot can be countered fairly easily. I could escape the shot and go for the weapon itself. This is not Bruce Lee or Superman stuff; it’s just a matter of action being faster than reaction. Human kinetics. It sounds doubtful because of the deadly nature of firearms (its mystique). The firearm is a mechanical instrument; in itself inert. It depends on the shooter for success. Here’s where the axiom “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is invaluable. There are countless gunshot victims who had wounds on their hands, NOT because they were going for the weapon, but because, instinctively they raised their hands in defense. Obviously not an effective shield, but they did have TIME to do this BEFORE the bullet hit their bodies. So what exactly do you do? Again, without the “magic move”, here are as specific a set of actions as I can give you.

If you have time to raise your hand in front of a bullet, it stands to reason that you have time to shift your body away, often just a quarter turn will do. I’m not telling you to move back, I’m saying shift your body away from the barrel. Your shifting must be done while simultaneously going for the hand(s) holding the firearm as well as initiating your attack with the other hand. Don’t hesitate and keep your body out of the trajectory of the bullets (wherever the barrel is pointed). If you can secure the shooter’s arm or weapon in your hands, you can wrap yourself around them like a cheap coat. The problem with this is you now do not have a hand to attack but you may also get assistance from others once they see the gunman is being controlled. A single armed response in the case of a handgun is to wrap your mirrored arm (your left to his right) around his wrist once you’ve deflected it. You pinch it in the crook of your elbow, locking it by bringing your hand to your chest. Facing him is more desirable, but getting in close is key.

If in the process of securing the gunman’s hand/arm you create an awkward position for his joints (wrist, elbow or shoulder) which leads to disarming him, great! But I wouldn’t count on any fancy or complex joint manipulation move you may have learned in the sterile environment of the training hall. For one thing, in the moment, you probably won’t have the fine motor skills to pull this off. For another, they rarely work unless your partner is cooperating with you. I don’t think he’s gonna cooperate. Gross motor movements are best.

Wrestling with the individual to disarm him only works if you have the strength and skills to do this. However, striking skills are innate to all of us. So strike! Begin attacking with one hand/arm while the other one maintains control of the gun arm. The key here is to keep the firearm pointed away from you while you begin the blender/banana attack. You are the blender, he’s the banana. The mental image of that concept is accurate. You begin to strike, blender style with every weapon at your disposal. Since you’re close you have more weapons from which to choose. Elbow, claw, bite, head butt, knee, even shoulder wherever there’s an opening or wherever you create one. Attack savagely and ruthlessly because your life DOES depend on it. You may manage to subdue him, or you may create time and opportunity for others to join. Don’t count on anyone else. Continue to attack while you’re still breathing and he’s still able to fire.

If you are behind the attacker and he hasn’t seen you when he begins to fire, you may or may not be safe, but you also may want to DO something to prevent him from killing anyone or at least anyone else if he’s already killed. An example of this was the man who was firing an automatic rifle at the White House a couple of years back. A passerby leaped at him and knocked him down before he could turn the weapon around on him. Then another joined him and they both subdued him for the authorities. The gunman’s senses are usually focused toward the front, where he’s firing. A good way to take him down from behind is to slam both palms on his shoulders while you either kick the back of one knee or jump on the back of both knees with your feet. If you can secure his arm with one hand and strike downward with a hand yoke to the back of his neck this will take him to the ground every single time. Plus it ensures he lands on his face and not his back, possibly landing on top of his own weapon. These techniques are derived from the SDTS system.

I wish I could tell you which one is the magic move to accomplish all these things. There isn’t one single move. The angle at which you strike or rush him will be determined mostly by him, as will the targets you strike, his reaction, his position, whether he has a handgun or a rifle. The point is the situation is dynamic and fluid.

Would this strategy be 100 percent infallible? No, but your potential for survival would be better than if you simply stood there, shut your eyes and began praying. The element of surprise and the ferocity of your moves may be enough to confuse the gunman for that second you need to get to the weapon and begin your attack. Attacking him may buy you the time needed for the cavalry to arrive.

All the physical things I’ve outlined in this series may seem outlandish to some of you. You may be skeptical (and you always should be when someone offers advice) and may even question your capability to do any of it. I couldn’t tell you what to do, but faced with no other option but death or relying on dumb luck creates the sheep mentality. There are other options. Better or worse depends on your mindset WHICH YOU CAN CHANGE. You have to create the mindset to do those things BEFORE you’re faced with an attack. This applies to any violent attack. If you believe that your fate is sealed when faced with a gunman whose goal is to kill as many as possible and himself then you are absolutely correct. YOU have decided your fate and have given yourself permission to fail.

Here’s how you create a mindset to survive. Tony Blauer calls it a Mission Directive. It’s a statement you make, giving yourself permission to defend yourself. It’s not very specific as far as actions are concerned but it is very specific as to intent. Here’s an example:

“If my family or I are threatened, I will fight to defend myself and them. I will try to inflict as little damage as I humanly can to my attacker, but I will fight him while he still poses a threat.”

That’s a simple example. The wording is contingent upon your belief system and how you talk to yourself. Write it down. Repeat it to yourself daily. Again, this is not magic or new agey stuff. The increased physical capabilities resulting from specific mental imagery are documented fact. The mind is the captain right? What this does is program that hard drive in your brain to act immediately when a threat is perceived. It puts you in the right mindset immediately. It gives you permission to defend yourself and does not predicate the outcome, one way or another. It also does not allow thoughts of failure. These do not belong. You want to give yourself permission to act BEFORE you’re faced with violence. It will suffuse you with confidence and create the necessary mindset you may not be gifted with innately.

The actions and scenarios I’ve presented specifically targeted that mass conflagration of a lone gunman intent on killing as many as possible before killing himself. For whatever reason, he has no concern for human life; his or anyone else’s. However, this information is relevant and applies to all violent attacks. I teach my students that defending yourself physically is what you have to do when your self-defense strategy has failed. In other words, you weren’t alert enough, aware enough or engaged in your reality enough to prevent from being attacked. You did not take preventive measures. Once the physical attack begins, all of that is irrelevant and you have to get into the moment fast!

Lastly, opinions of me vary and I can’t change your perception based on your limited exposure to me. Some may want to dismiss this message as the ramblings of some hot-headed, war-loving, gladiator wannabe. Some people seems to think all of us who favor guns are wishfully extending our penises. Frankly, I’ve always thought that theory was hilarious!

I’ve presented this rant because I’m also a teacher. You can dismiss me and my opinion if you’d like and do your own research. I encourage it. The reference material I quoted at the beginning is an excellent place to start.

At root, I’m a peace loving man who loves his family, his friends and his country. I may be a serious student of the martial arts, who loves to spar, but I DON’T get involved in street fights. In fact, I’m the hardest to lure into a street fight as my ego does not bruise easily, and I don’t feel that a bruised ego is reason enough to hurt someone. I know my capabilities. I use my innate people skills when confronted with aggressors and back away immediately. I have a keen sense for when I’m going to be physically attacked. Once that happens, it’s no longer a street fight, but a self-defense situation and after it’s all over, I’ll have to prove in court (criminal or civil) that I did everything humanly possible to not engage. The posture I maintain continuously has allowed me to not have to engage anyone physically in over twenty years, except when working physical or close protection security. Obviously a different animal there.

But I do know that there are evil, criminal, and violent people in the world and always have been. It’s not just a sign of our times and I don’t resign myself to the mentality that it’s a modern phenomenon. They have always been here. For those with a Judeo-Christian worldview it’s been this way since Cain slew Abel. I made this comment on another blog that if people were essentially good, there would be no need for laws and no weapons would have ever been created to take a human life. People are inherently sinful. Acceptance of these facts will help to change your mental state and not wax nostalgic for the good ole peace luvin days. Follow the Boy Scout model. Be Prepared.

If not, you can continue to live in denial, but you will then have to rely on luck. To paraphrase Dirty Harry, the question is, how lucky do you feel?

Do you want to roll those dice?

 

Fifty Five Things

So here I am. Double nickels. Fitty five. As always, my inner narcissist believing you all hang on my every word has decided to once again verbally assault you with my deep, often trivial, always personal brand of wisdom and lunacy (often the two are indistinguishable).Seriously, if I touch just one heart and soul with any of these the effort will be just as meaningless. But if you count yourself my friend you will read each and every one and opine on how you are a better, wiser and nobler person for having done so. The future of western civilization hinges upon you reading them. For god and country and for bacon. As Jackie Gleason used to say, “And aaaawaaaay we go!”

1. God is great. All the time. This is a repeat of a previous list but it bears repeating. You may not believe it because you refuse to see it but, much like gravity it’s true nonetheless.

2. Life is both fair and unfair. These are concepts we have to accept. We’re willing to accept the former when it blesses us but blame the latter when fate curses us with it. Often we are the architects of our own disaster and we claim the results are “unfair” without looking for what we contributed to the situation. When I was a teenager I read a great novel about a young boxer in Harlem. I’ve since forgotten the name of the novel and the author but one of the central tenets of the book was “No one promised you nothing”. Meaning whatever you want you have to actively pursue it because no one’s gonna give it to you. This message resonated with me at the tender young age of 15 and I’ve never forgotten it. Whenever I think life is “unfair” I remember “no one promised me nothing”. This is a lesson sorely missing in the youth of today. Now GET OFF MY LAWN!

3. People often blame God for the unfairness in their lives for the same reason I outlined above. Claiming God is unfair is the easiest way to abdicate any personal responsibility. These same people deny His existence until something goes wrong. Then they blame Him.

4. My favorite scents are vanilla and cooked bacon. Not together mind you.

5. When they were infants my grandsons smelled better than vanilla or cooked bacon. This lasted for a very short time before they began stinking up the joint like boys will do.

6. I’m simply amazed at my children’s parenting skills. They are much better parents at their age than I was at that age. Ironically I believe it was partially my parenting that made them the parents they are. It’s a happy mystery how that worked out.

7. I heard a line in a movie once that “true love is knowing the worst thing about a person and loving them anyways”. This is a biblical concept that was in a secular movie about death.

8. Often people have to do the things they dislike so that others can enjoy the things they like. Who decides who does which speaks volumes about how they feel toward the other.

9. I became allergic to dogs and cats about 5 years ago. This bothers me only because I love dogs. Cats not so much. Apparently I’m not allergic to chickens.

10. I have been working over seventy hours a week for the past ten years. For almost two of those ten years I worked eighty-four hours a week. That’s right, seven days a week. twelve hours a day. I’ve been asked how I’m able to keep up that pace. It’s simple really. No one’s gonna give it to me, I gotta go hustle for it. I’m a little old fashioned when it comes to my family. I believe it’s my responsibility to ensure they are taken care of and there are three ways to make more money; work smarter, harder or longer. Guaranteed to get you more money. Most people don’t want to do the things necessary and like to blame external forces for not getting more. As for me, it doesn’t look like I’ll be slowing down any time soon. Unless my Swiss bank accounts become so full no more money fits in them which is as unlikely to happen as my having a Swiss bank account to begin with. I count on God to keep giving me the strength to keep going and point me in the direction of His plan for my life.

11. One of my jobs is my true passion and keeping it alive helps me go to the one that keeps my family in a lifestyle I’m proud to support. I have another one that I’m enjoying as well and I’d like to give more time to it. That’s how I balance the long hours. Again, I’m all in and if you want to pursue your passion you have to be all in. It’s a cardinal rule.

12. I’ve been a martial artist my entire life but I have not hit anyone in anger since I was 20 years old. I’m pretty proud of that record. Not that I haven’t had to physically engage anyone. My physical engagements have been the result of self-defense and having to do so as a security professional in some capacity. I’m pretty proud of how I handled those as well.

13. I’ve been shot at twice. Not directly but as a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’ve had a knife pulled on me twice and a gun pulled on me once. Three times I’ve been in the presence of a person getting a gun pulled on. I’ve been through two fires and a flooding at sea and I’ve been in true battle conditions on various occasions, also at sea. The physiological fear response from any of those cannot be artificially re-created and nothing comes close to the physiological fear response of being shot at. This is important for me to know as a self-defense instructor.

14. Probably about 90% of the crap we worry about will never occur. If you give it all to God you can stop worrying about 100% of it. I’m not saying this is easy but it’s true.

15. Growing up, as all kids do I wanted to be several things. I wonder if there’s a psychological profile that can be derived from the compilation of things you wanted to be when you grow up.

16. There are many foods that try to be like bacon. Bacon does not try to be like any other food. Bacon is its ownself. We should all try to be like that. But then we’d be trying to be like bacon, which defeats the purpose.

17. I’ve been saying the phrase “honor with others, integrity within myself” as part of an oath for the past 28 years. The “integrity within myself” part still ties my tongue on the word integrity. Kinda funny since I speak two languages that require you to roll your r’s and I can do it well. What’s funnier is if I say it in Spanish it doesn’t happen.

18. My favorite comic books as a kid were also my favorite TV shows. Batman (staring Adam West and Tarzan (starring Ron Ely). I also liked Archie. It was astounding to me that a freckle faced ginger would have two hotties like Betty and Veronica vying for his affection. When I became a teenager I found out that adolescence was nothing like it was depicted in an Archie comic book.

19. I owned the original first issue of the DC Tarzan of the Apes comic book. Bought it with my allowance ($2) along with a soda and a bag of Fritos at the drug store on the first floor of the apartment building I lived in Barrio Obrero, PR. That comic book is worth anywhere between $10 and $75 today.

20. It always mystifies me when I rub people the wrong way and they don’t like me. I get it. I’m not a million bucks, not everyone’s going to like me and I don’t lose any sleep over it but I don’t understand it. I mean look at me. I’m me. What’s not to like?

21. I’ve been accused of being arrogant from time to time. See item above.

22. I’ve lived with my wife longer than any other human being on the planet. In fact, I’ve lived with her more than twice as long as I lived with my mother. She’s like the polar opposite of me. Introvert She’s a very selective and discerning person so for the life of me I still don’t understand what she’s still doing here.

23. Item 22 was a shameless attempt at fishing for a compliment.

24. A lot of people like to say that “love is the answer”, or that “all you need is love” or even “love conquers all” or various other platitudes about love. They say religion is unnecessary and mostly responsible for the worst atrocities committed by mankind. While it’s true that some of the noblest actions have been inspired by love, so have some of the most evil. Much like religion it just depends on the actions of those imperfect human beings being motivated by either love or religion. Maybe we just all need to be Vulcans. Logic is the answer. Nanu-nanu.

25. In my world travels, the places in the world I’ve felt the most welcome are (in no particular order): Israel, Chile, Italy, Canada and the Philippines. I’ve felt degrees of being welcome in other countries but none with the warmth and complete acceptance of those five. My criteria for judging this is mine alone but if you get a chance I invite you to visit them. There are probably others equally as welcoming to which I’ve not been. Having met people from Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Australia I’m pretty sure those will be added to the list, but I have not been. Yet.

26. I have 7 grandsons. From 7 weeks all the way to age 10. I never knew how much joy they could bring me. Even the ones I don’t get to see because of distance. I look at them and I’m astounded that I had anything to do with bringing those perfect precious creatures to this world. It is my dream to have them all in one place to take a group picture. My grandchildren are like a one family United Nations.

27. Gene Fowler wrote “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” He also wrote “The best way to become a successful writer is to read good writing, remember it, and then forget where you remember it from.” Those are the most perfect two things on writing I’ve ever read. I’ve only finished one novel so I’m not an expert on finishing them but I’m pretty clear the process involves putting one word after the other until you can reach a logical point to put “The End”. I wrote this item because I’m currently stuck and have passed the deadline to publish this on my birthday.

28. You cannot overestimate the power of positive reinforcement on your children. I speak from personal experience having been exposed to it by one of my parents and the polar opposite from the other. The same is true for your spouse. So, whenever you feel the urge to say something to either you should analyze its potential impact before the words leave your mouth.

29. Nothing is ever final. Not even death. The times in my life when I thought “that’s it” it clearly was not it. For example when I had my first hip replaced I thought my martial arts competitive days were over. It saddened me because I hadn’t been able to compete in quite a few years for reasons over which I had no control. Turns out that was not true so I’ve thrown myself into competing at every tournament I can physically attend. Last year I set a goal to compete in every event of every tournament and achieving that goal is one of the things I’m extraordinarily proud of about myself. Got a cool jacket for it too! It took me 55 years to get a letterman jacket. I’m now in pursuit of a World Championship. I’ve come as close as 2nd. Seewhaddimean?

30. A friend of mine told me the other day how he did not believe in “talent”. There’s just interest in something followed by hard work and the grind to get good at that something. I kind of agree with that but I still cant play the piano.

31. Sometimes it’s better to be happy than right. Took me a long time to learn that little tidbit. It’s an especially hard lesson to learn when you think you’re right all of the time. It is freeing to consider other’s points of view even if you think they’re nuttier than squirrel crap.

32. Knowing myself as I do and knowing that I’m still worthy of the saving grace of Jesus Christ was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to come to terms with. I get it. I’m thinking of it from the perspective of this imperfect and sinful human vessel. I hear other people who disregard Christ’s saving grace as unnecessary if they’re “good” people and are “kind” and “loving” and “do good things”. I’m wondering if they’re perfect in every other way. I’m not rolling those dice.

33. Time is the best factor in discovering who is important in your life. That and need.

34. In relationships there are no abusive men or women, just predators and prey. Someone has to tolerate the abuse in order for the abuser to manifest it. I know this is a hard one to wrap your head around but if you jet at the first sign of abusive behavior from a person you won’t wind up being abused to the point of being emotionally broken. The abuser firsts dips their toes in the water before they dive in. Usually in the form of verbal abuse. You stick around and it only gets ramped up from there. Knowing this gives you power over the outcome either way. The predator/prey dynamic is not limited to the animal kingdom. The lion knows what it can catch and kill. Or as we say in PR, the monkey knows what tree it can climb

35. Some people will not fight back under any circumstance and will go to great lengths to avoid confrontation. Other’s will fight at the drop of a hat and almost invite confrontation. There are more of the former than the latter. Or as LTC Grossman labeled them, “sheep”. The rest of us fall somewhere in between. You have to know where you are on this scale. It’s critically important to know what it will take for you to fight back before you have to do it.

36. In the same vein, I pose this question to my students, “What do you think it will take for you to kill another human being?” And I stress the work “think”, because really it’s just theory. And I’m not talking about murder. I’m talking about how far you will go when you’re defending yourself. That is the extreme of fighting back. You have to program the hard drive to act way before you have to and you have to go all out without regard for what you’re doing to your attacker. You may not think yourself capable of killing another person under any circumstance. It’s important to know that too.

37. The best way I have found to make a decision is to draw a line down the middle of a paper and start listing pros on one side and cons on the other. Every pro and con must be listed regardless of how trivial it may sound. When I first started doing this the longest column won. Now I assign point values to each one and the column with the highest point value wins. This method has proven infallible in most cases but every once in a while you have to factor in the “gut feeling”. For example my decision to come to Arizona when I did was based on that gut feeling. With the information at my disposal at the time, the smart and safe decision would have been to remain in PR. At least for a few more years. Once I made the move however almost every reason for staying on the island collapsed like a house of cards. It was like I stepped off the ship onto dry land right before it sank. I give God all the credit for that decision because I’m clearly not that smart.

38. Do not go into business with family. Ever. Don’t lend them money or cosign their loans. If you do, count on being taken advantage of, kiss the money goodbye and count on taking a hit on your credit report.

39. Trust your instincts. They will rarely fail you. The last 2 items speak directly to this.

40. Dance every day. For 5 seconds or 30 minutes or 3 hours. In private or public. Alone or with a partner. This was another item on one of my previous lists but I consider it important enough to repeat. Besides I’m running into writers block so I’m cheating a little.

41. You cannot make a judgment call on firearms unless you have fired one. Some anti-gun people have never fired one nor do they ever intend to do so. I personally know two former staunch anti-gun people who changed their whole tune after simply trying one out. It really is that simple folks. I have way more respect for you if you do try it and are still anti-gun even though you’re pretty much saying you want to put your safety in the hands of someone braver than you. And yes I’m saying that owning a firearm takes courage as opposed to the idiots who believe owning a firearm is a form of cowardice.

42. I often judge the quality of restaurants in my town by the quality of the onion rings they serve. If they don’t serve onion rings I use macaroni and cheese as the barometer. If they don’t serve either they are on the lower rungs of places where I’ll eat and will only go there if my wife wants to eat there. I would also use chicken fried steak, but I have yet to have bad chicken fried steak. This is why I’m not a big fan of Mexican food. My passion for onion rings, bacon, and mac n cheese and chicken fried steak proves that I don’t have a food snob bone in my body.

43. Where food is concerned there are three universal truths. If you can wrap it in bacon, bread it and deep fry it or melt cheese on it almost anything becomes edible. Can I get an amen?

44. I am a beer snob. This is a late development since I’ve never been much of a beer drinker. My poison of choice is bourbon. I drink two beers a week, but when I do they have to be top shelf. My friend Neal Jackson, who brews pure magic in his home micro-brewery is partially responsible for this persnickety snobbery.

45. I’m a staunch Republican. Not because of the politicians but because what the party is supposed to stand for. The politicians themselves, regardless of party affiliation, are incapable of following the ideology of limited government, low taxes, freedom of trade and free market principles. There’s too much self interest involved. I’m not a purist and can settle for the candidate who comes closest. At times I’ve had to hold my nose while I’m marking my ballot. Sad but that’s how important I feel my vote is.

46. One of the few areas where I have a libertarian bent is in the area of decriminalizing Marijuana. Not because I’m interested in smoking or ingesting it. I just think enforcing the law prohibiting it is not worth the damage it does to those who are forced to break the law in order to use it. Besides, have you ever been around a group of people stoned on ganja who wanted to fight?

47. In this country, constantly placing the blame on race for all the pitfalls you encounter is a copout and thinking your race is constantly subject to increased scrutiny is largely an inferiority complex. People have gotten a lot of traction in the last few years doing exactly that and everyone’s afraid to speak up and tell them to shut up. I’m a brown guy. I’m not afraid. Shut up. Victimhood is like an opiate and you’ll go to it increasingly even when your race is not a factor. Easier than personal responsibility isn’t it?

48. I wish I enjoyed cartoons and animation as much as I did when I was a child. The true joy of watching Deputy Dawg, Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, Screwy Squirrel, Popeye and all those other cartoons now deemed inappropriate faded way too quickly.

49. I’ve come to the conclusion that in society and in business the cream will always rise to the top regardless of which gaggle of morons are running government. They can make it a little harder for people to succeed but those with dogged determination will succeed nonetheless. Bill Gates started his business in a recession and so have many other successful entrepreneurs.

50. It’s true what Kenny Rogers sang in The Gambler, “You got to know when to hold, know when to fold em, know when to walk away and know when to run.”

51. There are movies that will make me laugh out loud no matter how many times I’ve seen them. Movies like Blazing Saddles, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Revenge of the Pink Panther, Return of the Pink Panther, Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother, My Cousin Vinny, Airplane, Monty Python and the Holy Grail come to mind. There are others but I just can think of them at the moment. Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s on first” routine still makes me laugh out loud. Sadly many of those movies probably could not be made today. We have lost our sense of humor as a society and are now just waiting to be offended.

52. There are other movies I can watch over and over and still enjoy them almost as much as the first time I saw them. At the top of the list are Casablanca and Enter the Dragon. Some honorable mentions are Rocky, Rocky Balboa, Joe vs the Volcano, Pulp Fiction, The Maltese Falcon and An Eye for an Eye.

53. Moments of pure unadulterated joy are almost impossible to create deliberately. Premeditation removes a bit of the impact so they almost always happen by accident. But you do have to pay attention because often their subtlety will pass you by if you let them. Your mood directly affects your ability to receive them.

54. Life is definitely too short to do a job you hate. Where you set the bar however may make all the difference in the world in how you view your job. Does it pay you a decent salary? Benefits? Allow sufficient time off to enjoy your personal life? Do your bosses treat you with respect? Is what you’re doing something worthwhile? These are pretty important factors when you may have to do a job in between finding out what your passion is or pursuing it once you find out. Not all jobs are about personal fulfillment. Companies are not started by entrepreneurs to ensure your life is personally fulfilled. That’s your responsibility. However, you can endure a job that lists the above factors while you find the one that fulfills you personally (or create that job by starting your own business). If none of those factors are ones you can settle for then certainly keep looking. There’s nothing wrong with changing jobs for a better opportunity or situation. However, if you’re constantly bouncing from job to job or being fired/laid off perhaps it’s more about you than it is the job. In the end you gotta work. Either to feed yourself or your family. Well, that’s the way it used to work. The climate nowadays is that the gubmint should support you. The gubmint meaning people more productive, talented or harder working than you. In which case you’re a leech and a drag on society.

55. Having said that, every move you make professionally should be geared to advance you closer to doing what you love to do for a living. How you decide what that is ask yourself if you would do it for free. If you’re not doing it, you should be taking steps to move toward it, no matter how small the step at least you keep moving forward. Take the step boldly or inch your way to it, but it is never too late to do what you love. Here’s the thing, it is God’s plan for you so He will also be in your corner. He will however want to see how badly you want it.

 

The Joy of Competition

springats2015extreme

At this time I can safely (albeit unofficially) say that I have finished the ATA tournament year as the 2015 Arizona State Champion in Combat Weapons Sparring, Extreme Forms and Creative Forms. I finished in the Top Ten for state in 7 of 8 categories and finished in the Top Ten of the World in 5 of them. I am ranked number one in the World right now in Combat Weapons Sparring. I still have to compete for Southwest District Champion and then finally for World Champion. I have opportunities in 5 divisions to become World Champion. Whether I become District or World Champion does not lessen for me what I consider to be a successful tournament year. It has been a wild ride for sure.

This is not written as a boast, although I’m pretty pleased with myself. We all know my ego doesn’t really need an extra boost. My purpose here is to talk about the joy of competition. Competition has received a fair amount of flak over the last decade or so and particularly when it comes to our young folk. We can’t be seen to be picking winners or losers can we? Heavens forbid we may damage our little one’s fragile psyches.

And yet life its ownself will pick winners or losers whether we like it or not. We will succeed and we will fail. It is life’s undeniable trait. From politics, to business, to work, to love, life is a steady stream of wins and losses and that annoying scorekeeper keeps his tally whether we want to see it or not. It often shines in big freaking bright red neon for all the world to see. I’ve heard people say they are “not very competitive” and only compete “against themselves”. What they’re really saying is they’ve already thrown in the towel. There are many reasons people abstain from active and overt competition. Sometimes not having the means and wherewithal is a factor. But if you can and don’t it’s mostly because of fear. Fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, fear of injury etc. I’m sure some quit because of frustration and disappointment, but even that’s rooted in fear. It’s mostly psychological fear. Or F.E.A.R (False Expectation Appearing Real). I’m not really judging anyone and we all suffer from it. I simply think everyone should be completely honest with themselves.

It’s not an insignificant thing for me to be able to step into the ring. I’m truly grateful that I still can. A little over five years ago I had the first of two hip replacements. At the time it had been years since I had entered a martial arts tournament. The possibility of not being able to do it again filled me with regret for the years I had missed. Not that there was anything I could have done. As John Lennon wrote “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” But now the door was seemingly being shut on me for good. Or so I thought. Nine months after that first surgery I entered my first tournament since the ATA Fall Nationals of 2002. Ironically my “comeback” tournament was the ATA Fall Nationals in 2009. My performance at that tournament was less than stellar. In fact I didn’t place in a single event. But here’s the thing. I LOVED IT! I loved it because I felt I could, at the very least, be competitive. I’ve been competing ever since. In fact, six months after my second surgery in 2012 I competed for World Champion. That I didn’t win did not lessen the fact that I was competing for World Champion six months after getting my left hip replaced.

So at the beginning of the 2015 season (July 2014) I set a goal to compete in all 8 events in every tournament I entered. I had never done that before. I was going to kick myself out of the comfort zone. Throughout this tournament year I have managed to do just that (with one exception where I had to bow out due to back injury after 4 events) with varying degrees of success. At times it has been brutal. Particularly at tournaments where I’ve also had to perform my Assistant Regional Tournament Team Lead duties, running up and down the venue all day. Finding time to train properly between tournaments has been a challenge as well. I have a full time day job in addition to my own school to run. But I wondered to myself how I would do taking on the full monty. It was another dragon for me to slay. I’ve won some, and lost some. I’ve done exceptionally well and also crashed and burned, but one thing is certain. At least to me. This satisfying feeling of accomplishment was worth every second of it.

In the process I also learned tons about myself, and others. Things I could not have learned otherwise. Some are very personal things I keep to myself; others I don’t mind sharing openly. The most important lesson I have learned is one of the true joy of competition. It is not trite or a cliché that competition changes you and, I believe, always for the better. Regardless of your age, and regardless whether you win or lose spectacularly. Having great people to compete against helps but even competing against poor sports imparts valuable lessons (like how NOT to act like an ass when you win or lose). I’m lucky in that the vast majority of the graybeards in my ring are great guys. Fierce competitors but great guys. Indeed I count some of them as some of my very best friends. Most of them really. They truly make it fun. There’s something to be said for being able to kick and punch and hit your friends with a stick. And afterwards you shake hands, hug and no one gets arrested.

I’m not one for unsolicited advice, so I’ll pretend there was a collective question out there from everyone reading this rant. Here it is. Find an activity in which you have to pit yourself against others. Immerse yourself in it. It doesn’t matter what the venue or event may be, big or small, so long as you have to match yourself against other people. “Competing against yourself” is not enough. There has to be a foe other than yourself. The lessons you will learn will be worth any pain or embarrassment you may have to endure. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be a physical competition. It could be Chess or Tiddly-Winks so long as there are people against whom you have to compete and show where your game is weak. It’s the only place you’ll learn that.

The lessons in winning and losing have the same value today as they have always had but there are too many people who want to protect themselves, or their little ones from what they perceive to be a negative experience in losing. That is a mistake. As I said, life its ownself is going to be a journey of successes and failures. When you lose, find out what you contributed to get the loss. Too many people attribute their losses to external factors without accepting responsibility for their own contribution. The one thing they can control and they abdicate it to others. Competition can teach you this message of personal accountability if you’re brutally honest with yourself. Even if you’re not honest with others about it you will know yourself. Knowing that will perhaps put you on the road to self-improvement which may bleed into other areas of your life. And that, in of itself would make it all worth it.

When you win, simply wrap yourself in its toasty blanket and keep that W in your mind for when you need a motivator. Winning is its own reward but the greatest lessons are derived from your losses. I like a quote from Mr. Han in Enter the Dragon. “We are all ready to win, just as we are born knowing only life. It is defeat that you must learn to prepare for.” At the very least, fear of losing should be the last reason you use to abstain from competing. It in fact should be the engine that propels you to conquer it. After all, that dragon isn’t going to slay itself. In the end, make friends, have fun, do your best, learn something, these are all good things you can get from competing. But you have to step into the ring. No other way around it. In other words, to quote an overused commercial slogan “Just do it!”. You won’t be sorry you did. I guarantee it!