Feb 242016

Hope you have your hip waders on. Today’s post gets a little deep.  8-)

AssortmentA friend of mine posted a link on Facebook that resonated with me.  It was on a website dedicated to the support of the 2nd Amendment.  What was surprising was that the article wasn’t really trying to convince anyone to support the 2nd.  It was the author’s thoughts on the nature of evil, and how you don’t recognize the truly evil person until it’s too late.

The name of the article is “I’ve Talked With a Spree Killer…”, and if you’re so inclined you can read it here, though I learned long ago that such articles seldom if ever convince anyone of anything.  Just as my little missive here is unlikely to convince anyone to my view of things.

But the article did start me to thinking about the nature of violence.  Just say the word to yourself.  Violence.  There is an almost immediate connotation of wrongness and disapproval, isn’t there?  Even when I think about it, I have to almost consciously step beyond the emotional stigma that society has put on the word.

Yet I have dedicated a fair piece of my life to the study of martial arts.  And without getting all Miyagi on everyone, you can’t get away from the fact that the study of martial arts is the study of violence.  It’s an acceptance of the idea that life is not all smiles and sunshine, and that people do not all behave as society says they should.  It’s the acknowledgement that some people will attempt to take advantage of others, sometimes to the point of attacking them.  Sometimes killing them.

And it is training yourself to use similar violence to prevent it from happening around you.

I’m not going to try debate why violence occurs.  Environment, upbringing, mental illness, demonic possession, or whatever… for the purposes of this post, it doesn’t matter.  The fact that it does happen is enough for me to make the point I want to make.

It happens.

That can’t be denied.  I don’t care which side of the gun control/gun rights debate you fall on.  As far as I’m concerned, for this particular post, you can take guns out of the equation completely.  Whether the instrument is guns, knives, fists, or teeth, violent attacks on innocents happen every day.  Period.  If they didn’t, we wouldn’t need a military or a police force.

But as an ordinary citizen, what can you do about it?  Well the way I see things, there are three basic approaches to an attack.

You can call the authorities.  Or if you are actually the victim of said violence, then you can hope someone else calls the authorities.  After all, that’s why we have them, right?  To take care of perpetrators of violence against the innocent citizen.

Of course, unless the crime happens in front of the police, then the chances of them actually stopping the attack are pretty much slim to none.  But maybe they’ll catch whoever did it and lock them up so they won’t get a chance to do it again. Right?


Of course, you can take the “turn the other cheek” approach.  But to be perfectly honest, I’m just not that righteous a human being (if that’s your definition of being righteous).  If someone strikes the cheek of someone I care for, whether it’s me, a loved one, a friend, or even an innocent I see on the street, I’m more likely to take the third approach.

As far as I’m concerned, the old adage of “violence begets violence” is true.  Just off the top of my head, I’ve known two people who were victims of attempted kidnappings, several who were victims of muggings or attempted muggings, and two who were raped.  I’m a strong believer in stopping the violence immediately, minimizing the damage done to the victim as quickly as possible.  And I accept that doing so means that I have to embrace a certain amount of violence myself.

The old Japanese idea of bushido embraced several aspects of life – frugality, loyalty, honor, the study of martial arts, and yes… violence.  But more importantly, it embraced the balance of these traits.  Violence alone?  Yeah, that’s a pretty bad thing.  It can easily throw off a person’s emotional balance.  It’s like the old adage that says if all you have is a hammer, then everything begins to look like a nail.

Used improperly, that hammer can destroy all too easily.  But in the hands of a trained craftsman, it can be used to build you up.  You can learn to accept it as part of your nature – that it doesn’t have to be feared, only controlled.  And like the hammer, violence then becomes one of many tools you can use in building the life you want.

Like it or not, violence is part of life.  I’ve not known anyone who truly doesn’t have any violence in them.  Only those who choose to suppress it.  For better or worse, I’m not one of those people.  I’ve accepted the violence within.  I embrace it.  And I balance it with compassion and love for my fellow human beings.

I could give examples of people I’ve known who have used their martial arts training in defense of themselves or others.  But that’s not really the point here.  What I want you to take from this is that you have to find your own balance in life.  And just because someone else tells you something is so, is no reason to accept that it is.  There are always opposing views on any given subject.  Examine those views, make your own determination.

And in all things, find your own balance.

That’s it.  Enough of the deep musings.  We all have things to do.  So stay safe, and I’ll see you next week. :bye:



Nov 042015

WW19 NaNoNovember is “National Novel Writing Month”, more commonly referred to as “NaNoWriMo”.  As a member of a few online writing groups, my Facebook feed has been inundated with upbeat and encouraging words as fellow writers help one another through the various mental and emotional stumbling blocks on their way to reaching the goal of fifty-thousand words in a single month.  It’s usually inspirational, watching them cheer one another on.

But last week, when all the interwebs were full of writers talking about their plans and preparations for NaNo, one writer caught my attention with his announcement that for the first time in more than five years, he wasn’t going to participate.  He said he had gotten everything out of it that he could, and was going to move ahead with what he had learned at his own pace, and concentrate on doing whatever he needed to do to put out a good, high quality work.

And I get that. I applaud it.  He had gotten what he could out of it and it was time to move on.

Now it’s time for my obligatory, meandering side note…  8-)

I’ve had a long and abiding love of both writing and martial arts.  As such, I’ve followed quite the winding road over the years in studying both.  I’ve studied a variety of martial arts since I was thirteen years old.  To be sure, there were years between various classes, but when I sat down recently and figured it out, I think I have nearly thirty years of training under my belt (yes, pun intended).  I have the equivalent of a brown belt in Shotokan and in Kali, was just shy of a brown belt in “American TKD” when the school went under, and have had the privilege of studying with some pretty awesome instructors.  I have mid-level rankings in a handful of other styles, and minor rankings in a few more.

I’ve often made the observation that martial art styles can be divided into three types; sport styles, self-defense styles, and traditional styles.  Each type overlaps with the others to a certain degree, but each one has a specific emphasis.  I’ve further observed that each of the three kinds can be equated to a certain extent, to three levels of school.

I think of the sport styles as elementary school.  Styles like MMA, Judo, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  I’m not saying that they’re easy, but rather that they usually only scratch the surface of what martial arts can do for a person.

The self-defense styles I think of as your high school of martial arts.  These are the styles I often call the “living” styles.  They’re the ones that are still being used and modified today, to defend people in combat situations.  They are styles like Kali, Krav Maga, or MCMAP (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program).  They’re the down and dirty, “get the job done” styles that emphasize defending yourself and those around you with quick, effective techniques.  They teach you to incapacitate an opponent, often in ways that many people would regard as brutal.

The traditional styles I equate to college level training.  These are where you can go to refine your technique.  These are where you learn that shifting your hip just a few degrees this way, can give you enough additional leverage to drop your opponent without having to do permanent damage, or that striking an opponent a fraction of an inch lower than you normally would, while dropping your hips and angling your knuckles just so will deliver more force to a smaller area, causing greater pain and thus stopping your opponent more quickly.

All three kinds of styles have their place, and I don’t think of any one kind as better than the others.  Then again, I’ve never been one who’s put a lot of stock in ranks or certifications.  Some days I think that’s a good thing. Other days I have to recognize that ranks and certs can open doors that I would like to go through at times.

I reached the point to where, when I evaluated a possible class to join, I wouldn’t watch the beginning students, even though that’s where I would be starting. I would watch the black belt students and instructors to see if I “approved” of the way they were moving.  It sounds cocky, but I wanted to make sure they had something to offer that I hadn’t already learned.  I saw no use in sinking time and money into a class where the only new thing I was going to learn over the course of a year was a single new wrist lock (and yes, that actually happened to me.)

Writing, or any endeavor for that matter, can be the same.  I spent years in writing critique groups, where I learned an amazing amount about writing technique and the publishing industry, as it was at the time.  And don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely fantastic.  But there came a point when I realized that I had learned all I could from these groups, and I was using them as an excuse.  It was like I felt I couldn’t complete a project without the approval of the critique group.

Now, this isn’t intended to be a post about how critique groups hold you back.  Quite the opposite.  In my opinion, critique groups are absolutely critical to learning the basics of writing.  If you’ve never been a member of one and you have the opportunity, I strongly suggest you give it a try.  I remember my days in the two groups I was active in quite fondly, and as I said, I learned a lot from them.  I wouldn’t be where I am today as a writer, if not for them.  It’s the beginning of a writer’s education.  And just as going from elementary school to junior high can be scary, so can leaving the comfort of a critique group.

But if you ever reach a point where you feel that you aren’t moving forward any longer, that you aren’t learning anything from something you’ve been doing out of habit, then perhaps it’s time to change that habit.  Perhaps it’s time to lose the crutch, and stand on your own two feet.

I suppose the main point of all this meandering comes back to this… it’s all right to leave your comfort zone.  There are even times when it is absolutely essential to your growth as an artist.  So don’t be afraid to say, “this isn’t working any longer” and change things up.  Sometimes you have to, in order to move to the next level.

All right, ’nuff said.  Time to get back to work.  Stay safe everyone.   :bye: