Friday, February 27, 2009

Active Self-Defense - Vocal Assertion

This week in our class, we dealt with "What is vocal assertion?" and "How can sound be a weapon in your arsenal of self-defense?"

As we mature and become adults, the opportunities for us to use our voices diminish. You rarely raise your voice (unless you are a fervent fan of some sports team) and we are taught that it is improper to raise our voices or yell. It is this default way of being that an attacker counts on. An assailant does not want attention and if you are loud, you are making it difficult for him to achieve his goal, which is to harm or rob you. In some cases, both. When you are in this situation, you yell, shout, scream... anything that will draw attention to yourself. The idea is to deter the attacker by drawing unwanted attention and giving yourself time to escape the area.

We also recapped our wrist grab and escaping from the headlock. This week we added the use of the fingers to get out of the headlock and what it means to be aware, so you don't end up with someones arm around your neck.

We also discussed carrying weapons. As I mentioned in class I am not against carrying weapons for your defense, but as I stressed in class if you carry mace and the wind is against you, you may end up being the one maced. Likewise if you carry a knife or box cutter or any other type of weapon, you have to understand that drawing a weapon takes time, precious seconds that you could be using to put distance between you and your attacker. Another point that was made in the class is that if you carry a weapon, you need to make sure you know how to defend against that weapon, in the event that the weapon is taken from you.

I realize we are living in uncertain times and people sometimes get desperate, it's one of the reasons this class exists (Come join our class next Wednesday! It's totally free!). Remember to always be aware of your surroundings, who is behind you or is shadowing you. Turn around and look.

I want to thank everyone who attended the class this week and especially our new visitors, Khadeidrae, Kat and Myron. It was really great being able to teach you all and I look forward to next week.

Have a safe weekend!

Sensei Orlando

Are Martial Arts Self Defense?

Many of us are under the impression that martial arts somehow translate into self-defense. My opinion is that martial arts are not self-defense.

What martial arts provide is the training, discipline and exposure to many techniques that, with enough time can comprise a form of self defense. When I say martial arts in this context, I am not referring to any particular martial art. I believe in the old adage, there are no superior martial arts, only martial artists. The reason I bring this topic up is that many schools purport to provide "self defense" and they play on the insecurities of the person considering practicing said martial art. What happens is that self-defense becomes a marketing tool to rope in prospective students.

Now I'm not saying you won't learn to defend yourself if you practice a martial art. Most martial arts have components of self defense, the issue lies with the timing of when the student is exposed to the application of techniques that would make up a self defense curriculum. Also lacking in most schools (not all) are the other sides to self-defense. The psychological aspect of self defense, the physiological aspects, what happens during an adrenaline dump, what is an OODA loop? These are some of the subjects that a good self defense class should address.

I am learning that the subject of self defense is wide broad and deep. I hope to continue learning so I can share with those I teach.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body

Sensei Orlando

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Active Self-Defense - Awareness Part #2

It was pouring last night and I didn't expect many people to show up. It was to my pleasant surprise that as I was bringing in the mats for the class that Madalyn was already in St. Marks. As I brought in the last of the mats and got everything situated, the group started coming in despite the rain. I want to thank everyone who came and especially our two new attendees Madalyn and Lori. Last night we worked on some basic conditioning, strength training and flexibilty. For many of us who lead sendentary or low physical activity lives, I'm sure the exercises came as a shock. Don't worry you will get used to it over time. We went over our wristgrab from last week ("answer the phone") and this week we acquired exiting from a headlock (" up and away"). I want to thank Nitin for being my designated victim. We also went over some of the aspects of situational awareness.

Here are some tips:
  • When walking home at night and its late - turn off the ipod or any other mp3 player that could dampen your ability to hear. Your sense of sound is an asset in your defense.
  • As soon as you are heading home, keep your cell phone handy, in this case handy means literally in your hand ready to dial 911 if need be.
  • Avoid dark streets if at all possible.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and listen to your intution, if something feels off or suspicious heed the warning and alter you actions accordingly.

These are just a few of the tips that what we covered in class and I invite those who attended the class to participate in the blog and post what stood out for them. Situational awareness is an important part of self defense. Like I have mentioned in class, you have to educate yourself, prevent and lastly if you have no other recourse implement the techniques that you have learned. In many cases there are cues that lead to a violent confrontation, what we need to do is become attuned to the cues and take the appropriate steps that can defuse and prevent a confrontation from occuring in the first place.

Friday, February 13, 2009


We live in what is called the information age. We can speak with anyone around the world instantly in the form of email or text messages. Everyday millions of conversations take place throughout the world. Often we feel that our most important conversations or communications are not being heard or understood.

In our conversations with those closest to us – family, friends and coworkers – we have to remember one very important thing called active listening. Active listening is listening devoid of any running commentary in our heads. It is listening, truly listening without interrupting, without second-guessing where the conversation is going.

We have all been guilty of “spacing out” during a conversation, only to wonder later on what it was we were discussing. When we practice active listening, we are truly in the moment, in the “now”. The person speaking to us feels truly heard and appreciated. Try practicing active listening this week. When someone speaks to you, stop and give that person your undivided attention. You will notice the change in them and in yourself. The lesson is in our anatomy, we have one mouth, but two ears – maybe listening twice as much as speaking is something we are designed to do.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body
Sensei Orlando

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Active Self Defense - Awareness

Last night (Wednesday Evening) we had our first Active Self Defense class. I have to say it was a great experience. First of all I want to thank all of you who participated last night. We had a great turnout. I want to thank Grant for graciously allowing himself be manhandled and contorted into very uncomfortable positions for our learning experience. Since it was our first evening we had introductions and covered some basic aspects of self defense, mainly that it is about education prevention and lastly when every other recourse is exhausted, implementation.

We discussed and shared why taking a self defense class is necessary (thanks Danielle B. for sharing about your experience on the subway) and why its important that when you walk alone, you walk with "intention"(thanks Danielle Z. for showing us what leisurely walking is and how it differs from walking with intention). Later on in the class we made mention that many of us walk around unconscious and Meera pointed out something very important, turn off your ipods or any other listening devices when walking home alone or in an area you are unfamiliar with. When you don't, you immediately place yourself in a position to be followed without your being able to hear if you are being followed.

Later on we worked on escaping a wrist grab (remember "answer the phone") and Ning pointed out what would happen if the assailant had long arms. She made the experience very realistic by promptly turning the tables on me, the "attacker" and making me the victim. Thanks Ning, keeping me on my toes!

We also discussed some other techniques and situations but most importantly using your common sense and listening to your intuition. Lastly we ended with some basic understanding of bio-mechanics - how the body works and how we can use that knowledge to our advantage.

I want to thank everyone who attended (Grant, Sarah, Nitin (and Naya), Meera, Lynne, Susan, Danielle B. and Danielle Z. and Ning for sharing of themselves and participating in making our neighborhood safer.

I look forward to each week of sharing with you and learning as you learn.

A special thanks goes to St. Marks Church (who donated the space) and Tammy who was instrumental in us getting the space.

Most importantly I want to acknowledge my wife, Dolly who made the forms, set up the table, and made it possible for me to focus on the other aspects of the class knowing that the details would be taken care of.

If you have any comments, suggestions, ideas, or thoughts please feel free to share them here with me and everyone else.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body

Sensei Orlando

Being Postive

Has this happened to you? You feel a tickle in your throat and you utter these telltale words: “Oh no, I’m sick!” Next thing you know, a fever sets in, body aches, runny nose and before you it, you have a full blown cold. How about this? You feel a tickle, but you have a deadline to meet or some other urgent situation to address. The next words you utter are: “I don’t have time to be sick!” And somehow the tickle never develops into more than a tickle. The above examples are my personal experience, it may or may not be the same for you.

The one thing I can share with you is this; being positive in your outlook, words and thoughts help you to lead a positive life.

People who are always negative (and we all know one) have a tendency to be surrounded by negative situations or negative people. Like attracts like. Today even in the midst of problems and difficulties, try to be positive. By doing so, you attract the positive in life. Today when you see the glass with water leveling at the middle, see it as half full, not half empty.

strong spirit strong mind strong body

Sensei Orlando

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Gratitude – Being Thankful

We spend most of our waking moments thinking and contemplating what we lack. It is the rare moment that we stop to take stock of our lives and express gratitude. It’s possible you may be asking why should I be thankful? The mere fact that you are reading these words means that one or both of your eyes is functioning pretty well. Be thankful for your sight. Likewise if you are healthy and alive, be thankful.

When you have much and everything overflows, be thankful. When things are scarce and there is lack, be thankful. I hope you are noticing the trend. Being thankful. For the large things and the small things. For the positive and the negative. Try to express your gratitude at least once a day. When someone does something for you, say thank you. I know it may seem antiquated in this day of emails and instant messages. Simply saying thank you can make a co-workers day. Saying thank you may not seem like much, but try it for one day. When someone says thank you to you, you feel appreciated and respected. It’s a food feeling. Today, express your gratitude; be thankful for what you have and who you are. When someone does something for you, say thank you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Martial Arts as Exercise

Why engage in a martial art? Each of us will have a different answer to that question. Some for the discipline, others for the fitness, still others for the aspect of self-defense. Whatever your motivation, it has been shown by numerous studies that martial arts are beneficial as a form of exercise.

Martial arts are more than simply breaking a bunch of bricks and boards with various parts of the body. The Martial Arts are about discipline and balance. They are philosophies in and of themselves which teach good moral character, non-violent attitudes and behavior and spiritual enlightenment, the martial arts proscribe various movements and techniques which emphasize focus and centering by eliminating discriminatory consciousness and merging intention and action into an uninterrupted flow.

Many of the physical benefits of training resemble those achieved by any other form of exercise. A normal training session usually consists of a period of warming up stretching, then training. The exercise one gets from martial arts training improves balance, flexibility, stamina and posture. Weight loss is promoted through extended cardiovascular activity. These are all results of long term martial arts training. There are many different types of martial arts: Karate, Judo, Aikido, Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido, TaiChi and many types of KungFu. The list is extensive. Find one you enjoy, if you haven’t engaged in physical activity, get a physician’s clearance and start.