Take a Look at Yourself – Garry Smith

“When you stay in your comfort zone you do not develop resiliency. What’s more is you don’t realize it, but your comfort zone also shrinks.” Marc MacYoung.

Life, for most of us, is a busy thing. We have multiple roles to play and time is finite. Time management is an issue for most people as we try to meet a multiplicity of demands from competing sources. Some do this with unerring skill and efficiency whilst the rest of us bungle through as best we can like plate spinners on a game show hoping we can keep all the plates spinning and not drop any.

Because we are so absorbed in keeping the plates spinning we never have the opportunity to take a step back and evaluate what the hell we are doing. We become a slave to our actions and, better still, we can find no end of reasons to justify keeping the plates spinning away, in fact whilst we keep up the act, exhausting as it can be, we thrive on our skill and dexterity. Dammit, we even throw in another plate every now and then to keep things interesting because we can.

Anyone recognise this? Because I sure as hell do. Earlier this year I did a things to do list, I split it into several crude divisions and it was enormous, frighteningly so, in fact the intention to give myself direction and purpose backfired dramatically as faced with the huge amount of things I needed to do I froze and stasis set in. I did not become inactive, I kept on spinning my plates, but I did not refocus my priorities and create a structure to me time management as I intended, I simply went into a period of denial.

I knew I needed to do something but the problem was where to start as everything needed doing at once, not only did I need to keep my current plates in the air I needed to start multiple new ones spinning. Well sometimes we have to admit we are beat, and I did. Not beaten in that everything crashed but beaten in not being able to see the best way forward. So what to do?

Well that is where I am lucky as I am surrounded by smart people. It was time to take some time out and start to hear some of the things they had been saying for a while, things I had not listened to properly as I shuttled from plate to plate. This was not a conversion on the road to Damascus. There was no overnight solution. We are talking a process, still ongoing, that is nearly 6 months in progress.

If for years you have convinced yourself all is hunky dory then realising that there are serious inefficiencies in how you work and live is a massive shock, rationalising it alone takes time, acting upon it more so. I do not have a master plan to share, my situation was/is unique to me but I think there are a few steps others in the same situation could follow.

The first step is to identify the most important plates and the least important. The latter have to go, no matter how hard that is, they have to go, maybe not into the bin but at least into storage, then you can focus on the former.

Secondly it is important NOT to set too targets that are unrealistic, staying grounded is important, and remember to take baby steps forward instead of trying great leaps.

Thirdly be honest with yourself, we all have limitations, if you cannot do something, find someone who can and let them.

That is it. Now for an example and whilst I can use some work related ones I thought I would just spin off here with one indirectly related but important. Fitness.

As an instructor of Ju Jitsu and self defence it is important to stay fit, others may disagree with this statement in full or part, as you are a role model as well as an instructor. About the same time that I realised I was trapped in a potentially never ending plate spinning hell I also took a good look at myself. Now we all look in the mirror, we all see pictures of ourselves, we all have an image of how we appear to others. Well one day I got a shock. I looked at some photos I had taken to use for publicity purposes, come train with me, and there was this slightly overweight round faced guy staring back at me. An imposter who contradicted my internal picture of how I thought others saw me.

Damn. Now long with my other priorities I needed to take action on my fitness and by default my health. Whilst my attention on keeping all those plates spinning I had taken my eye off the ball regarding my own fitness. I had grown used to deceiving myself that because I trained in some of my own sessions, walked the dog etc, that I was fit and healthy, a good weight too at 15.5st, plenty of firm muscle around the stomach but little fat too. I had, once again, slipped into a comfort zone.

Then I listened to others and stopped telling myself lies. I had to get up and do something about this. So in line with my 3 steps above I decided that this was one that was a priority, I set very limited targets (increasing them very gradually as I progressed) and only I could do this.

This all started in February 2018, it was a spluttering start. On the advice of a friend I bought a proper pair of running shoes, I had not run in many years but realised my cardio vascular fitness was poor, well not so much realised as admitted. A number of people had pointed out that I often wheezed when breathing, several asked if I had asthma, I explained it away as the residue of chest infections.

It was the back end of May when I finally got into something of a routine. Short runs of just 12 minutes duration were enough and short sessions on the weights made me ache a lot. I worked through the pain and began to feel the gains. My focus was on getting fitter not losing weight, I worked my exercise regime into my life as advised by another friend as time spent sharpening the saw, it started to work. Over the next couple of months I extended both my runs and my weights sessions, No set targets or dates, just when it felt right. I could feel the gains and other people started commenting, quite a few people, so mid July I weighed myself.

To say I was surprised was an understatement, I had lost 1.5st despite putting on some more muscle. By the end of July I had lost over 2st of fat I never thought I had. My weight then, and now is 13.5st, I now run for 1 hour 3 times a week and weight train 3 times a week. I eat sensibly and fast for 16 hours overnight (liquids only) and I have continued the regime of cold showers begun a year or so ago. I am not on a diet but I manage my intake and output. My run is before eating in a morning so that I burn stored fat and the exposure to cold stimulates the burning of stored fat too.

This is not a recipe for anyone to follow, it is now part of my daily regime, it works for me. It is an example of taking a look at yourself, realising there is an issue, identifying appropriate action and taking it.

This one set of actions has also enabled me to become more focused and disciplined on other areas of my life, professional and personal. The journey is not complete, it never will be, in terms of fitness I am now incorporating other activities into my lifestyle and evaluating their effect. It is a fact that knuckling down on my need to recover my fitness provided a fairly quick win, some unexpected gains (unexpected weight loss) and a massive sense of achievement. I am 60 years old next birthday, inescapable fact, and the coming years will not get easier. I am not trying to relive past glories, not that there were many, but preparing to age well and live life to the maximum whatever that may be.

The rediscovery of the self discipline to train regularly and stay motivated has been a joyous thing, it has helped me to focus more on other aspects of my life and make progress in them too. I have a long way to go and will always be imperfect but recognising our limitations and working on the deliverables is now my focus.

It all started by taking a long hard look at myself, recognising the weaknesses in myself and hearing the messages others were sending me, people who cared and care about me. In truth I have recovered a part of me that was subsumed under the necessity to keep too many plates spinning.

Instructing others is what I do, they pay me to train under my direction, it is a contractual relationship. Setting an example is part of that relationship in terms of continuing your own professional development (physically and mentally), maintaining a positive attitude and exhibiting positive behaviour. In order to check we are doing this every now and again we need to take a look at ourselves.

Are you in a comfort zone?

Poem of the Month – Kevin O’Hagan

I was feeling in a poetic state of mind today, so I wrote this Ode to the Facebook Warrior.

‘I am a Martial Artist and my system is the best. It is fucking shit hot and better than all the rest.

No other Martial art is a patch on what I do. I am a super ninja killer coming after.

My art works on the street, of that make no mistake. One killer look from me can make a grown man quake.

Mine is the only opinion that matters, and everybody else’s is worth shit. I think I am a legend even though most people view me as a tit.

A bat, knife or gun I can handle with ease, just as long as you don’t resist me,then to take it off you is a breeze.

My inflated ego and opinion of myself clouds my judgement to anybody else’s art. I am so fucking deadly I could kill you with a fart.

My system is so lethal that is why I don’t compete. One touch of my finger will have you collapsing at my feet.

I can punch, kick, throw and grapple. I know I’m fucking great, I can destroy all my opponents that’s if they are under 8.

I can show how to choke out an old age pensioner for daring to take your parking space. I can teach how to stomp and kick the old bastard all over the fucking place.

If you follow my methods, you know they just can’t fail, although you will probably end up practising in jail.

You will always find me on the seminars that matter for a photo and a chat, but God forgive you’ll never actually see me on the mat.

So, I live in my little fantasy world where I never will be tested or found out. My deluded students will lick my ass and jump to my every shout.

I am a self -confessed Grandmaster with a 1Oth dan belt around my belly, the truth is most of my fighting techniques I have learnt from watching the telly.

I am Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris and Van Damme all rolled into one. Mc Gregor, Rickson Gracie and Mike Tyson I could beat just for fun.

So, don’t fuck with me Face-bookers, because I am a deadly man. I suggest you view my video’s and comments as often as you can.

Anything to do with fighting then I am your man. If you want to come and challenge me then please send down your Nan.

I will hide behind my keyboard and prey I won’t be found.
If I don’t live in the real world then I’ll be safe and sound.’

Blame, Responsibility and Agency- Tammy Yard-McCracken, Psy.D and Rory Miller

Vctim blaming. Taking responsibility. In assault, especially sexual assault, these are buzzwords that get people to quickly silo into prescribed emotional positions. We rarely find that useful.

In this article we will explore one tool for managing the aftermath of being a victim of violent crime. Our intent is not to present an emotional or political “truth”. This is about taking a situation that many people want to define by a set meaning and adapting it for the benefit of the survivor.

There are some truths we have to explore first:

1) All violent crimes happen within an interaction between the perpetrator(s) and the intended victim(s). Stranger assaults in remote places are relatively rare. Most people are victimized by people they know. There is a relationship. There is communication. The central crime is not the only piece of the interaction and the person cast in the victim role has a degree of control over the antecedents of the crime.

2) Events become violent crimes because of the intent of the bad guy. Looking at point 1— all interactions between any two or more people are interactions. Your morning talk over coffee. The stranger who struck up a conversation on the train. Your waiter taking your order. Any of those events that didn’t become violent stayed peaceful because someone lacked the intent. Bad events are bad events because bad people had bad intent.

3) The agency to affect the world exists. It is inherent in all humans. The perpetrator wants someone to play the victim role. Sometimes the disparity of power is so great that there is no way to evade the victim role. But one can choose the type of victim to be. Sometimes there is no good choice, but there is always choice.

4) Just as violent events have antecedents, they have aftermath. How the aftermath is managed has profound effects on the future of the individuals involved.

5) Mentally, humans are almost infinitely plastic. They have the power to change their views of the world and in doing so, actually change the world in which they live.

Blame, responsibility and agency.

“The person cast in the victim role has a degree of control over the antecedents of the crime.” One emotional response to this idea is that it is victim blaming. If the victim had control, he or she could have prevented it. Having failed to prevent it, the victim caused the crime. The cause of the crime is to blame. The victim is blamed. QED.

We used “QED” (quod erat demonstrandum) so the stance must be at least valid. Truth is another matter.

Our concern is not whether this statement is true or false. Our concern is that the statement is not useful, and this is key. When pointing out a person’s inherent power and agency becomes described as victim blaming, the net effect on any potential victim who listen is a decrease in agency. A decrease in personal power.

And an increase in the likelihood of future victimization

When the impact of violent crime is fundamentally a blow to the Target’s experience of control, decreasing this individual’s experience of agency and power by way of blame serves no one. Except future perpetrators preying on primed Targets.

In the aftermath of a violent encounter, you will play it over and over again in your head. You will wonder if you could have done anything different, if you could have changed the outcome. Here is the tool:

The more responsibility you take, the more agency you will have in the future.

People who have a violent emotional reaction to anything with even the whiff of victim blaming tend to have a strong reaction to this. But think it through. If someone says, “There was nothing you could have done,” this person is telling you, “There is nothing you can do in the future. If you are faced with the same circumstances again, the outcome will be the same. You might as well curl up and give up.” The message runs deep. If there is nothing you could have done, then there is nothing you could ever do. Nothing you can learn, no skill, no training, no wisdom will help you. The power belongs to the bad guys. Now and always. The statement profoundly destroys any chance at future agency, if it is internalized.

Aftermath or not, anywhere in your life, beware of anyone who discourages you from learning, growing, or training. The purpose of training is to become smarter, more aware, stronger, more powerful. If someone discourages that, they have a reason for wanting you ignorant and dull, weak and powerless. Why would anyone want you weak if they cared about you?

The opposite extreme: “It’s all my fault!” can be equally paralyzing. Fault becomes blame and blame becomes punishment. Self-flagellation is not a good place to grow from.

Mentally, humans are almost infinitely plastic. The words people use change how they perceive their choices and from the choices, possible actions. “My fault” breeds blame and self-punishment. “My responsibility” becomes an incentive to understand the variables in the precedents and increase the skills to deal with those variables. It increases agency and personal power. Pause. Breathe. “Responsibility” does not mean fault, does not mean for example, that the target of a rape wanted it, asked for it, or any other reflexive comment you might equate.

Look at the word. Responsibility. At its Latin root, it means to respond. It is on us to choose our response. In this choice there is strength.

We can state categorically that the greater the responsibility one takes in the aftermath of a violet encounter, the greater the possibility of strength. The greater the likelihood that one experiences Post Traumatic Growth instead of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But —

To push any agenda, to tell any survivor what he or she is supposed to do or supposed to feel or supposed to experience is to once again deny them agency. It is a second layer of victimization. Seeing the possibility of reframing blame to responsibility to agency is a tool, not a weapon. Something that a person can choose to use. But it must be a choice.


A Change of Perspective – Clint Overland

I would like to introduce a concept I have been working on, not really original but something I have been hashing around and working at implementing it into almost every aspect of my life. But first I would like to ask you a couple of questions. Simple ones really just word association. Whats the first thought or word that pops into your head when I say the word Nurse? Ok write it down. Now what is the first thing that pops into your head when I say the word Mechanic?

Now what’s the first thing that you think of when I say the word Police? Chances are that you associated the word nurse with a woman. Mechanic with a man and police with a white man. Reason I said this was because I asked twenty different people what they thought of when I asked them the same question and twenty out of the twenty five said exactly the same thing. Woman, Man, White Man, now we know through experience that this is not true, and that these positions are filled with people of all color and all races. But our perception through our experiences have set certain ideas into our heads. Our perspective or attitude towards something and it is our perspective that can influence our thinking and if we apply that affected thinking to our lives we can see where it for either good or bad can influence every aspect of our existence.

The concept or idea that I would like to introduce for lack of a better word and as I said it isn’t new but maybe needs to be re-introduced is really a simple one. Change your perspective to change your thinking and then change your training. When I was a kid I thought because of movies that anyone who studied martial arts was automatically a bad ass. I mean I saw all the guys on T.V. and ate the theater do beat the asses off of anyone that they went up against. Then when I was a little older I did get my ass beat severely by an older guy that had studied martial arts and that helped set my perspective even deeper into my thinking.

Jump forward a couple of years I had a few fights under my belt, had been beat a few times and had begun to think about things differently. I started working in bars and learned from other bouncers and old tusk hogs the how’s and why’s of violence. I learned that I could take a few more hits than I thought I could and that I would heal up. I learned that a serious martial artist was a not a necessarily a thing to fear. Respect yes, but that they were just humans too and could be dealt with. What brought this change of thought was the change of perspective by experience. I learned that I could deal with situations and manage conflict because I had dealt with it before.

Now let us apply this to your training. If you are a sport martial artist and really only train for competition on the mat or in the dojo and you have a perspective of this will work in all situations then you have a perspective that is wrong. And before anyone gets but hurt I am not saying that what you learn in a dojo is wrong but that applying it in situation that you have never trained for is. Go out and try a spinning back kick on asphalt in dress shoes with gravel on it and then think about applying that while you are in a stress filled situation with a hundred extra variables that you have never trained for. You will begin to gain an understanding of what I am talking about. You can apply this to every aspect of your training, conflict management or even your life.

Several years ago I was preparing to go and compete in an America’s Strongest Man competition. My whole life was centered on this competition. I had been seriously training to achieve this one goal for over five years. I then had my first heart attack. Life changing moment right there folks.

I had to completely change every aspect of my life, the heavy weights were no longer an option at this time. A combination of sleep apnea, heavy lifting and a stress filled life had taken its toll on my body. I had to change my perspective on training and change my thinking about everything if I wanted to continue to go to the gym. I had to change if I wanted to just keep living. That was a huge undertaking. It paid off in the end but I still miss it. I could have kept training the same way, eating the same and living the lifestyle but I would have probably been dead in two years. I let my perspective change and then my thinking changed then my training changed.

Now take this to your training, do you practice escape and evasion, lock picking and improvised weapons. If you practice with firearms do you practice off hand shooting, from various positions and then for fun try one handed reloads. Then throw in a little adrenal reaction training, do 20 burpees and then try and fire center mass at a moving target. Does your training involve mock police questioning, mock legal proceedings or discussing local and state laws on the use of force and claims of self-defense.

Everything you add to you repertoire is one more tool that you have one hand when and if the time comes. Now I know some of you are reading this and thinking I already do these things. Ok my answer to you is where is your perspective wrong and how can you change it. Because every day I find something in my life and relationships that is in some form or fashion wrong. If you believe that you are the only one that is correct in an argument with another person then your perspective is wrong. By backing off and looking at all side of the conflict you can and will find how perspectives can change from person to person. Then you can move forward with a solution to solve whatever problem you are facing.


Self-Righteous Entitlement – Wim Demeere

Photo: Martin Shkreli

One of the recurring issues I have when teaching self-defense is that many people have trouble understanding their inner dialogue. In particular, how it goes off track and leads them into trouble. There are all kinds of reasons for that, I’m not going into it today. Suffice it to say that it’s something you see all around you, every day, in varying degrees. You see it in the asshole who cuts you off in traffic, almost causing you to run over a pedestrian. Or the idiot who bumps you into an elderly lady because him being late for a meeting is just so important and you barely manage to catch her before she falls (and breaks her brittle bones). We’ve all met those guys.

Funny thing though, if you point out how rude they are and how their actions endanger others, they get all self-righteous on you and somehow you’re the unreasonable one and they’re the victim. As in, how dare you even speak to them like that!

Truth be told, sometimes we’re that guy. Be honest now, you’ve sinned in this department just as I have. There’s a difference though: reasonable people eventually realize they are messing up and become ashamed of their own behavior. Then they try to change their ways.  Assholes don’t care, they just keep on going with the bad attitude.

The problem with not caring about anything but yourself is first of all, you’ll eventually start believing your own bullshit:

  • You are so much better than everybody else.
  • Those losers are so stupid, they’ll never get it.
  • Nobody can touch you, you’re so awesome.
  • Anybody who tries, you’ll kick his loser ass.

And so on.

The thing these guys don’t understand is that it’s not because people don’t speak back to you or don’t beat the crap out of you for being an egotistical asshole, that they don’t want to. Regular folks don’t always fight over stupid arguments, but they can sure feel like it.

If you scare them a little by turning on your mad monkey vibe, they’ll probably back off. It works, you win. If that happens enough (it often does; being aggressive works very well), then this becomes your reality. You feel it is the natural order of things that you can flip somebody off when they annoy you and never suffer any consequences for it. Why? Well, because the last fifteen times you did it, they cowered and went away. So in your experience, that’s how the world works and you’re absolutely right: in your experience that is certainly the case.

But now we come to a favorite quote of a scientist friend of mine:

The plural of anecdote is not evidence.

Just because that’s how it always turned out for you, doesn’t mean it always will. Just because they didn’t punch you in the face, doesn’t mean they didn’t come close. And you’ll never know why they held back.

Only an idiot thinks everybody else will always restrain themselves like that.

The second problem with being an self-righteous asshole is that because of the dynamics I just described, you eventually get a sense of entitlement about it. It is your right to be an asshole and act as if nobody else matters. Why would you learn to settle matters with a compromise? Why would you even bother seeing things from the other person’s perspective? You’re awesome! Everybody else sucks!

Keep that attitude going long enough and your decision making skills will lead you down a path you can’t return from. It’s just a matter of time before you act self-righteous and obnoxious around somebody who won’t put up with your shit. If you’re lucky, you get out in one piece. If not, well… Here’s a story one of my clients told me a few days ago.

He’s an avid hunter and was out with a friend and his dog, going for game birds. The hunting grounds were close to a river with a path next to it. That path is popular with cyclists and people going for a walk. So they made sure they stopped shooting well before they got to the path. His friend however made the mistake of not putting his dog back on a leash (that’s the law here) and it got in front of a guy on a bike. The guy fell. The friend went over and asked if the guy was alright, said he was sorry, it was his fault and is there anything he could do to help. You can’t really ask for more than somebody owning up to his mistake and offering reparations.

The guy wanted none of it, replied that he should kick the friend’s ass and moved forward. The friend lifted one arm in a defensive posture and the conversation went something like this:

Guy: “Are you scared?”

Friend: “Yes, I am.”

Guy: “You better be.”

After some more huffing and puffing, he got on his bike and left, buzzing my client and missing him by an inch.

 Here’s the part he missed:

  • The friend is a second degree Judo black belt who can more than hold his own.
  • My client had already positioned himself strategically to take the guy out as he threatened the friend.
  • My client went into the flinch guard as the guy buzzed him and told me he was sorely tempted to knock him off his bike with the elbow shot we’ve been training for months. The range was good and it would have worked; he hits really hard.
  • One of their main concerns was that getting in an altercation while hunting would mean they lose their license if the cops got involved. They didn’t want that so they didn’t act.

If you look at it from another point of view, here’s the story again:

A guy gets self-righteous at a man armed with a hunting rifle who offers him a sincere apology for an honest mistake. The guy doesn’t accept the apology and threatens to assault the armed man, while his trained dog is standing next to him along with his self-defense trained friend who’s also carrying a hunting rifle. The main reason they didn’t act was a piece of paper.

Can you see the disconnect with reality?

Threatening two men armed with firearms and a trained dog? In what universe is that a smart move? Probably in the same one where you say “You don’t have the balls to shoot me?” and then eat a bullet?

This is the kind of slippery slope reasoning self-righteous entitlement leads to. I’ve seen it all over the world, in all layers of society. People get used to treating others like crap and just assume there will never be consequences because so far, there haven’t been any. But they fail to understand that it takes two to tango. They refuse to acknowledge how their behavior puts them in a situation that escalates into violence. A situation in which they don’t come out on top, at best.

 When you come to blows with somebody, you are part of the equation. For better or worse, your actions brought you there. Hopefully, you just failed to avoid the problem. But there are also those situations in which you are part of the problem. It would be a mistake to think you can get away with that forever.

So don’t be an asshole.


The Overland Manifesto – Clint Overland

There are 5 lifts that you must keep holy and do.
Squats, Deadlifts, Overhead Press, Bench Press and Clean and Press.
These are the foundation of everything you build upon. Without these
lifts you are just playing games better left to your betters. Do not
forget or neglect pull ups and dips these are like incense to the IRON
and make it happy.

Learn the correct form of each lift, seek out knowledge and turn it
into wisdom. Worry about doing them right, correct fundamentals and
basics will never do you wrong.

Worry more about getting stronger than you do getting bigger.
Progressively add weight to your lifts and do the form correctly. The
stronger you are the bigger you will become. Keep a journal of your
travels and training, to remind you just how far you come. If you add
2.5 pounds per week to your lifts then the journey is going forward.
Don’t set out without a map or a plan of your trip. Decide what you
want and then how to get there. Don’t vary from the plan every other
week. Be constant and diligent about what you have set out to
accomplish. Keep records and journals of your journey, this way you
can look back on the past and see your progress from where you were to
where you are and plan the move forward.

The Alter of Iron is holy keep it that way clean up
after yourself. If you can’t rack them don’t mess with them. Clean off
the equipment when you are through and stay humble. I have seen men
and women that by right of age and experience cleaning dojo mats and
floors as well as re-racking weight because they have the learned to
respect the Iron as well as themselves.

Strength comes from the positive, size and stamina
come from the negative. Work both sides of the lift. Explode up, slow
release or lower. Make every rep count for something. Do not try and
impress others, be slow to talk, don’t brag, prove who you are by the
things you do. Let others watch and learn from you, don’t be led by
bad examples set the example. Don’t be influenced by peer pressure, be
the pressure that sets the example for others to follow. You will
learn more from your negatives and failures than you will ever earn
from your positives and wins. Complacency kills, it kills the spirit,
murders dreams and slaughters goals. Never settle for what others
believe you are capable of. Fish swim, birds fly, haters hate. It is
as simple as that. Do not let the opinions and words of lesser men
condemn or control you. The truth is they are just jealous of you and
hate themselves for not being brave enough to change.

Do not forget to sleep and to eat. Your body needs
both to repair what you have done to it. You cannot run a car on
empty, nor can you drive far on a flat. Don’t try, you will only hurt
yourself and set your journey back days, weeks, and maybe months.
Protein, fats, carbs they are the building block and cement of your
body, you will never make gains without them. Sleep and rest are the
maintenance and repair days, without them you can’t expect to move on.
Your goals will set your dietary needs.

You have to decide what you are wanting to do then plan and execute your plan accordingly. You have access to the whole world of knowledge right at your fingertips, use it to educate yourself in what and what not to do. Know your body
and how it responds to certain things. Listen to it, your body will
tell you what you need. If you are craving milk then you are needing
fat and calcium most likely. If you are craving meat then you need
more protein. If you are tired and sore then you need to rest. Even if
that means taking a week off and kicking back to drink beer and sleep.
Remember you do not make gains in the gym only. You make gains at the
table and when you are asleep. If you plateau and are not gaining,
then stop for a week let yourself heal, and start fresh with a
refreshed body and spirit.

Most life lessons can be found under the IRON, but it
is up to you to look for them. Muscles and Faith are similar, if you
do not use and stress them you will stagnate and grow weak. Lift for
you and not for another. Believe that you can and you will if you move
toward that goal. Do nothing and expect nothing.

For every hour you lift, spend two training your mind,
and two training your spirit. Become BLESSED, (Whole, Complete and
Lacking nothing). Take time to meditate on what and why you are doing
it. Look for your flaws and how to erase or improve them. Never be
satisfied. You will never lift enough, learn enough, love enough.
Always seek to do better. Never be afraid to fail at something,
failure means you are trying and you never improve without trying.
There is only one person that you need to compete against that is the
man in the mirror. Be better today than you were yesterday and then
beat the man you are today, tomorrow. This is a marathon that last a
lifetime, not a sprint for the fastest to arrive at the grave.

You are the master of you destiny in the gym as well
as in life. The amount and effort you put in will return to you.
Little exertion means little rewards. This is a marathon not a sprint.
Take each step one at a time and make it a lifestyle not an enforced
requirement. Every time you go to the gym, the dojo or training hall
you are making progress. Whatever you have decided on you have to put
effort and exertion into. It doesn’t matter if it is being a
weightlifter, a martial artist or a painter. You have to put the work
in to receive and enjoy the benefits.

You can’t run away – Kelee Arrowsmith

You can run, but you can’t get away from crime. Everyone wants to leave South Africa because of crime. Not me.
Everyone tells you what you ALREADY KNOW; that violent crime is UP and that you need to be aware. You tell your kids “be careful”, but what does that mean? You are telling them what they already know. How about telling them HOW to be careful?
That’s the tough part.

Because of the HUGE international problem with drugs, crime is becoming a part of life worldwide. While I was in France last year (presenting a workshop on saving yourself in violent crime situations), a lady was hijacked, yes HIJACKED right outside the army barracks in Rennes (Western France). She was hijacked and raped.

How safe are you? 
How safe is your family? 
What is the cost of keeping them safe?

Let me give you clue about the cost of staying safe. It pales in comparison to the cost of being the victim of violent crime. The cost of crime is not only the total amount you have to spend on replacing the physical items that you loose; a much higher cost is the mental anguish that you and your family will suffer. This emotional distress continues long after the cost of the missing items has faded. The REAL cost of crime cannot be measured in money. 
When it comes to their safety, people fit into 3 main categories:

  1. I can take care of myself. You don’t need to read any further, you’ve got it covered. 
    2. What crime? See number 1. 
    3. I know there is crime but there is so much and it is so varied, I don’t know what to do. Read on.

People often say that they know all about crime. They see it on the TV, in the papers and on the internet. Reading about the various crimes that are perpetrated does help us to prepare against the bad guys to a certain degree and it is very important to stay up to date with the latest criminal trends. 

The problem is that we are mostly learning from the victims about how to protect ourselves, after the crime has happened, and that means that the best we can hope for is that the crime happens to someone else first, so that we can be prepared for it (maybe!). 

It is imperative to understand that the bad guys are constantly developing new ways to separate us from our hard earned money/car, etc., and that they are individuals and as such, there are thousands of new and ingenious schemes developed every day. So trying to play catch-up only makes us feel more helpless. 

HERE’S A WAKE UP CALL: Prevention is the best way, the easiest way, and the least expensive way. By prevention, I don’t mean run away or hide away in a castle. You still have to go to work. You still have to interact with the world. 

Staying safe is not about how expensive your alarm system is or how good the security at work is. You need to make safety a part of your life. Everyday. Everywhere. All the time. Staying safe is an ongoing, iterative project that needs to be planned (together with your family), tested (a plan that is not tested is only a theory) and put into production (made part of your life). 

Think you can make safety a part of your life? In my opinion, you have no choice.

ARE YOU THE WEAK LINK? – Mark Hatmaker


 First, let’s set the stage. The following quote is an extract from Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex by First-Mate Owen Chase. In 1820 Chase was aboard the ill-fated ship that was attacked and sunk by a sperm whale (the basis for the fictional account Moby-Dick by Melville.) The survivors spent 95 days at sea in harrowing conditions and ultimately cannibalism was relied upon to survive.

I offer the below extract and the commentary to follow for a very specific purpose.

I found it on this occasion true, that misery does indeed love company; unaided, and unencouraged by each other, there were with us many whose weak minds, I am confident, would have sunk under the dismal retrospections of the past catastrophe, and who did not possess either sense or firmness enough to contemplate our approaching destiny, without the cheering of some more determined countenance than their own.”

First, note there is no bitterness or burden detected in that honest observation by Mr. Chase. Just a stark relation of fact-some people rely upon others to get them through the very same circumstances all are currently facing.

Those among us who have this “determined countenance” are the heroes of the world, they have the grit and determination to do what must be done, when it must be done, and often they must do so with the, and let’s call a spade a spade here, they must do it with the additional burden of taking up fellow victim’s slack.

They must do their job, pull their weight, and perhaps that of others all the while playing a bit of cheerleader for those less adapted/willing/prepared to step up.

Lest anyone think I am being too harsh here, keep in mind Mr. Chase and everyone else are all in the same boat-literally. At this point in time all are equals in adversity but there is some tangible difference indeed.

Now, it just may be that possession of a “determined countenance” is an inborn quality that we may simply have or have not in varying degrees, but I do not think this is the case.

Training and acclimatization seem to shape the human being in so many fields of endeavor I fail to see how we cannot expect that we can grow and expand our own capacities for a “determined countenance.”

Our bodies respond to exercise, our minds respond to education, our spirits respond to edification-perhaps our resolve, our survival prospects can and do also respond to training.

It is important to note that I am not referring to survival adeptness in regard to survival knowledge in the “prepper” sense. While such knowledge can be a plus, we have enough accounts of those with an excess of such knowledge folding when it hits the fan to assume that simply “tactical smarts” is the key. We also have exceedingly numerous accounts of men, women, and children with little to zero hands-on survival training who somehow do just that, survive and in retrospect thrive.

So, yes, survival know-how is a net-positive but it seems to not be the key. Any cursory view of reality shows such as Naked and Afraid highlights this fact that, while all have survival abilities to some degree, the can-do, cheerful, “let’s do this together” individuals do far better than the dour loners or complainers.

Once IT hits the fan, whether that IT be an avenging sperm whale, a catastrophic terrorist attack, or a mild fender-bender we stand in better stead if we are surrounded by proactive calm can-do people who know how to work as a team and take up slack. Nothing (NOTHING) is made easier by adding any additional burden onto an already stressful event-whether that burden be lack of effort, lack of spirit, lack of grit, or simply whining about a situation all are equally steeped in.

So, how do we know whether or not we are this weak link?

My guess is, take a look at your day to day behaviour. Do you regularly lament traffic? Grouse about how someone said something in a tone you didn’t like? Do you expound aloud the following “You know how I get when I get hungry?”

More often than not it is the small things that reveal us. Our trivial behaviour is often our character writ large under stress. Consider this, if we are pernickety and peevish when it gets a little humid out, imagine how we would be on day 88 of ocean survival in an open boat without food.

With this Small Behaviour = Large Behaviour equation in mind, we can take steps to correct if correction is needed or desired. By regularly monitoring our words, our texts, our posts, all of our communication and weeding it of the small peevishness that afflicts us all. My complaint of traffic means absolutely nothing to another person on the face of the planet. All I’ve done is add trivial noise to another’s day. If the stakes were raised and we are in an open boat surviving on a diet of turtle’s blood and facing the prospect of consuming deceased boat-mates, my trivial noise that must be counter-acted by another in equally dire straits is a disservice to the nth degree. In these circumstances my trivia becomes a net drag on the prospects for the entire crew.

With this said, to all of us with a mindset for grit, determination, and survival, let us learn from First Mate Chase’s grueling lesson and begin training ourselves to have this oh, so valuable “determined countenance.”





“Decide to be your own bodyguard.”
~ Lori Harman Gervasi, from her book Fight Like A Girl and Win

Since we can’t count on the cavalry riding in or on our attacker’s ineptitude for our survival, we need a plan, preferably one that is tailored to us. The only way to do this, is to learn what options we have for stopping a person or people who are willing to cheat, and who probably outclass us in strength and fight experience, and piece together our own best strategy. But the plan begins with how well we know ourselves, our situation and our reactions.

I write for regular people and families, so what follows is not for martial arts competitions or face-to-face encounters, necessarily. It is a break down of what average people might want to know about physical fights, including the mental aspects.

At least some of what I am about to lay out here should be common information for most people of a certain age. The fact that it isn’t, is a testament to how cut off we have become from our own ability to protect ourselves from bodily harm. Girls most of all should grow up knowing some of this stuff. Most boys know how to throw, and run by the age of eight. By ten many have a basic understanding of fighting. Young human children, like other predators, play-fight constantly, or, at least, they want to. Games like dodge ball, red-rover and tag are meant to exercise and exorcise the primordial need children have to explore their physical world and test the boundaries of their own strengths. These days animals are more likely to need those skills than we are most of the time, but contact and physicality are still necessary and healthy. They teach appropriate distance and contact, boundary setting and consequences much better than stern faces and finger pointing ever can.

“Social Animals build bonds by playing together,
testing their strengths and limits, and in doing so, they learn trust.”
~ from the TV Show, Nature: Odd Couples

One of the best ways for kids to learn about physical self protection is through their parents. That means we need to learn about it so we can direct our kids towards a healthy and realistic approach to the physical exploration of violence, danger and safety. I am not by any means encouraging you to share all the information in this multi-part article with your kids. But if you have a big-picture view, it follows that you will make a better guide.

Some amount of play fighting as kids or martial arts and self defense training as adults is crucial and empowering. Preparing for life-threatening emergencies wakes up a part of our brain we rarely use, sharpens thought processes and prepares us for all manners of adversity. The thing about violence is, it is somehow a microcosm for everything we do. It is so much a part of our world that understanding it slows time and allows us to see things we didn’t know were there. A person who understands violence is at liberty to strategize and make bold choices in life. Exploring these landscapes will help make you more effective in any situation that requires you to make split second decisions with lasting ramifications.

So here you are. Someone you may or may not know has targeted you. Or, more precisely, he (remember that he can mean she or the dreaded they) came up with a plan to do something or get something (Intent); he then tested you to see if you would make it easy or hard (Interview); he invited you to a party, waited for you outside your office or lured you to his car (Position); now you’re at ground zero and the Attack is imminent. Let’s make the stakes high – severe bodily harm or death. We want to make an impression on our brain so this information sticks.

Here are some ideas that have been percolating for a while:

The Grand Dilemma

You may very well have to use deadly force to get away from an attack due to strength, leverage and weight discrepancies between you and your attacker or attackers. You are certainly going to have to use every ounce of smarts you are in possession of. And just to make it worse, your maximum force and smarts may not even be enough. He may not be bigger or stronger – he may be a she – but she may have a weapon, be in the throws of a psychotic break or drug induced euphoria, or all of the above. Each set of circumstances is different. There is no one size fits all solution to self defense no matter what anyone tells you. A kick will not always work, neither will pepper spray.

To complicate things further, there are things you can only do legally under threat of death or severe injury, but if you wait to find out what his plan is it can easily be too late. To do or not to do. To kill or maim or to die. These are the decisions we, in a civilized society have to juggle. This is the grand dilemma–what you have to do to survive versus what is legal. To add insult to injury you will probably have a miniscule amount of time to make an educated decision that impacts the rest of your life.

The more information you have and the more decisions you have made ahead of time, the better your position will when you have no time to think. At least, in theory based on books and accounts by people who have been through some serious shit.

Willing and Able

Someone has chosen to hurt you because you are at a disadvantage. You are smaller, weaker, distracted, too nice, have a baby with you, are wearing clothing or shoes you can’t move in. He is, in short, fighting very dirty. He is picking you because he knows he can beat you. Whether or not he turns out to be right may well depend on just how dirty you are WILLING to fight and just how dirty you are ABLE to fight.

Check in with yourself about the following three points:

What do you have to live for? Who do you have to live for? How important are you to yourself and to others? Are you important enough to yourself? And the similar question: If you were in a life or death situation, what could you think of that would give you the strength to do the impossible? A person. A goal. Something else.

What specific lengths would you be willing to go to to survive? Could you kill someone if they were willing to kill you and you knew it in your soul? Could you damage someone irreparably? Poke out an eye? Would you sacrifice a limb to save your child? To what lengths do you think you are willing to go to survive?

Fighting, contrary to Hollywood movies, is very messy stuff. There are bodily fluids, gore and overwhelming emotions that weigh you down and clog your head with black goo. When we see our own blood, or any blood, we freeze in fear, afraid to do anything in case the next thing might be even worse.

It’s alright not to be sure. There isn’t even any data on whether exploring the ugly stuff will really help you in the event of an emergency. But there is a lot of conjecture by military and law enforcement experts that it helps greatly to have some understanding of these preliminary issues to avoid freezing and doing nothing in the event of a catastrophic emergency. And doing nothing in an emergency situation is almost always universally considered the worst thing to do.

If you ever have to make a life or death decision regarding yourself or someone you love, give yourself permission to do whatever you need to do to survive. Make your peace with it now so you don’t stop and question yourself when every second counts.

You may or may not be capable of brutality, but you may need to consider it and give yourself permission to do whatever it takes to protect yourself and your children. Fighting for them means fighting for yourself even when they aren’t with you. You need to give it everything you’ve got unless you want them to have to endure a knock on the door by the police at 3AM to tell them Mommy isn’t coming home tonight, in fact she’s never coming home again. Unless you want your husband or mother, or grown kids to have to identify your body, you’re going to need to fight with everything you have, and not give up, no matter how much blood you see. Besides, the blood might be his.

If you look to the animal kingdom you will find plenty of instances of tiny animals scaring away or fighting off larger predators with Attitude and Determination. These are two things you will need in spades. The more of it you have, the more the other guy’s resolve will falter. And you want him busy second-guessing his choice, because it will help take the wind out of his sails, turn the tables and give you the upper hand. You may need a trigger for this. Think about it now. Your trigger may be the thought of your kids and this guy daring to try and take you away from them. It may be the pure rage of absolute indignation and incredulity. It could be hearing the music from Rocky in your head. It’s all good.

Kathy Jackson teaches women to understand and handle guns. Kathy has six children. She knows that we often protect others with more ferocity than we protect ourselves and she begins her workshops by making eye contact with each woman individually and telling her directly and in no uncertain terms, “You do not need permission from anyone else. You do not have to have someone else to protect or stay alive for. Your life is worth protecting with everything you’ve got. Your life is worth protecting. Period” She makes eye contact with each woman individually and repeats this mantra, because she knows women need to embody it.

Optimist, Idealist, Pessimist, and The Fourth Kind – Ashtad Rutomji

Today I’m going to write a post based on my personal experience in life. No research material, no past cases of others, just my life, what I have lived through during my journey.

When I first started my training in Kyokushinkaikan Karate, I was this excited little 8 year old who was going to have this amazing experience, which I did, as time passed, the novelty wore off, as it does with everything and everyone, then I moved on to boxing and so on. The only thing that remained was my passion to train and learn more about different styles and systems and methods and principles, etc. then when I became a teen, my something else was added in my interest of learning, that was to know and understand the reality of violence, and I aggressively pursued that thirst for knowledge, I researched everything I could about that subject and I still do and find something new every time, well, sort of new anyway, I even had my own experiences with violence, but I don‘t talk about them much as they were far from something I want to brag about and in fact were quite traumatizing and brings up bad memories for me, I do use them as a learning example though.

That is what I lived through ‘on paper’ so to speak, whenever I’m asked of my history, that is what I tell everyone, but what I don’t ever mention are my struggles during the period of my training, my transition to what I do now and who I am today. I will share some of it here today for the first time, hoping it will help someone in someway. I’ll include only enough to get the point across, as I‘m not used to being very public with my personal life.

Here it goes, I started my training when I was 8 so most of my life has circled around my training, but that does not mean that the following can’t be applied in day-to-day life.

When I started training, I had this optimistic and idealistic concept of what Martial Arts training is and should be like, I was just a child living in a fantasy of wanting to be a “cool-ass” “superhero“. You see most people start out with that kind of thinking, regardless of age, not just with Martial Arts or fitness training, but with almost everything they do in life.

Now mind you, being optimistic is not a bad thing, but always being too much of an optimist, creates an idealistic mindset in which the individual always thinks that things will go a 100% according to their plans and nothing will ever go wrong, they feel like they’re untouchable and indestructible, everything is fine and nothing is or ever will be otherwise, an illusion which, when they face reality of things, comes crashing down on them. A thing that happened to me, when my bubble burst of what Martial Arts training and life beyond the comfortable world my mom created for me was supposed to be about. The lesson I learnt was so harsh that I almost quit my training…Almost, Lucky for me, more on than below.

After the harsh lesson that taught me that Martial Arts were not so you can become some super acrobatic badass who kills “bad guys”, no, they only exist in the movies, after my lesson, I was so in shock, I lost my optimist mindset and became a complete pessimist, a mindset, which I still sometimes lean towards, but not let it take me over.

Becoming a pessimist, I started viewing the world from a completely different perspective, I saw a world in which no good existed, only evil, only selfish people existed, everything was wrong and destructive, I found this world and society disgusting, including myself for being a part of it, I alienated most of my friends that I met during my travels and the ones I had in my hometown and messed some other things up quite bad too. Pessimism made me think that nothing good can ever happen to me and that there is no point to life, no point in living, it made me go numb, at one point I had no emotions at all. I was borderline suicidal, I wouldn’t socialize, I don‘t much now either, but this was way worse, I isolated myself from the world, I slowed down my training and my research, thinking it’s always the “same crap“, it almost stopped, without realizing that even from that “same crap“ I could learn something new, something I missed. I was borderline depressed.

But universe, being as generous as it is, gave me a second chance via a wake up call, it was subtle but was enough of a jolt for me to snap the hell out of it. My passion of what I do was reignited, that’s when it clicked, majority of my choices of my mindsets were based on being too extreme, I was always on either spectrum, being too much of an annoying optimist, which made me develop and idealistic thinking and then when the bubble burst, I jetted to the other side of the spectrum, landed on borderline depression and became a nightmarish pessimist. While all I had to do was practice what I always preach now, ie; being balanced. In this context, all I had to do was be a Realist. To see that there is no good or bad, but just what we make of things. Now the ‘good people’ and ‘bad people’ “debate” is something for another day and another article as it‘s a whole other topic, so I won’t go into much detail about it here.

The point that I’m trying to make here is, all I had to do was have a positive mindset, work hard, learn to love, love what I do and not let anything stand in my way to get what I want, at the same time not let my expectations get so high, that they’d always be out of my reach and if I do hit an obstacle, all I have to do is be strong and push through it.

As far as setting goals in my life goes, I learned that only when I reach the next level in my life, should I aim higher than I did for the last goal. Taking one baby step at a time to achieve what I want. I’m still on that journey, still setting realistic goals and doing my best to achieve them, then moving up a level when I do and I’ll continue to do so.

There will always be ups and downs in life, but it’s up to us to not let the downs get the best of us and let the ups take us as high as they can, then go higher than that and always keep moving forward in life by being smart with our decisions, hard work and persistence.

Set the goals you know you can achieve and then act on your plans.

Since the day I started being a realist and setting goals that I could achieve, I’ve gained more than I ever thought I could, I still have a long way to go no doubt, and even though there will be difficulties and obstacles, all I have to do is push through them or just be patient, take a little longer and get around them instead.

I know it’s easier said than done, and that’s where a realist mindset helps you. You anticipate the hardships and make plans that would get you through them, it helps you be prepared and not be brought down when you‘re faced with a problem that seems difficult and it probably is, but remember, it isn’t impossible to solve that problem either.

Finally, being a realist in life not only helps you solve problems, but it’s quite effective when it comes to ignoring the negativity that you don’t need or want in your life. It was a real helpful mindset for me to have when I had to overcome depression.

For example, if you have someone who is always insulting, discouraging and belittling you, having a realist mindset, you’d know that you can’t stop people from saying or doing things to you that you don’t want them to, I mean there are “ways” you can “stop” them, but some of those “ways” are considered quite illegal in the court of law, so…yeah! It’s better to just ignore and pity them instead.

The thing is, there will always be individuals like them and they will be virtually everywhere, they enjoy doing it or they simply hate you, and you can’t make someone like you, unless you brainwash and condition them to, from their birth, and even then, it might not work, so might as well just ignore them and surround yourself with those who do bring positivity in your life, not ‘yes men and women’ but those that genuinely do care and want you to be happy and successful in your life and would gladly share the joy of life itself with you. The rest, is up to you.

That’s it for this post. Be realistic, Be positive, Be happy, Thank you for reading and I wish you all success in achieving your goals.