Friday, March 27, 2009

Overcoming Adversity

A firefighter friend of mine conveyed two stories to me that happened recently. He was called to an elderly woman's apartment and much to his shock found that the woman had fallen and broken her hip and had been in this condition for four days. When he asked this poor woman why she hadn't yelled or attracted attention her reply was that she didn't want to disturb her neighbors by being a nuisance. Shortly after this call he had to rush to another call where a man wanted to be taken to the hospital, the reason was that he felt his heart was beating a little fast, because his boss yelled at him and so he felt compelled to dial 911. I'll give you a moment to let the contrast set in... OK so what does this show us?

In of themselves, each of these stories is valid. The elderly woman was able to overcome pain and discomfort for days before she was discovered all because she adhered to a certain code of being. Likewise the gentleman may have felt his life was truly in danger from an accelerated heartbeat, and felt compelled to call 911 as a preventive measure.

Let's go a little deeper, what is the initial reaction when we hear these stories? The guy is a wimp, wuss, weak and cant handle the pressure. The elderly woman is brave, stoic, amazing, and has immense fortitude to withstand four days in that condition. Its not surprising that we are so quick to judge. We place each of them against the stereotypes we have created or have been exposed to throughout our lives and for many of us the man falls short.

The bottom line is that we don't know what will test our mettle and when we face adversity we should be prepared to face it head on. Each dealt with the situation they were faced with in their own way. You will deal with adversity in your own way.

What we must remember is that at some point we will all face some type of adversity, but we must strive not just to survive it, but to overcome and triumph in the midst of adversity.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body

Sensei Orlando

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Active Self Defense - Women's Defense

We had a great class this week and we discussed one of the basic principles of self defense: Awareness. I want to thank everyone who made it to class this week and made it a worthwhile learning and teaching experience.

This week we addressed a situation that is particularly feminine: The hair pull. What do you do if an attacker grabs you by the hair? Needless to say there are many options as to what your response can be. The initial reaction , the reflexive one, is to pull away which actually puts you at a disadvantage. so we worked on negating this reflex and utilized a few techniques that allowed the victim to lock the arm and strike at vital points.

It was quite the learning experience as we worked with different heights and different angles of attack. Kat deserves honorable mention for being our designated victim (hopefully not too much this class) and I want to welcome Maia to the class. I also want to commend Lori who made it to class despite her oral surgery, it was great having you there.

Going back to awareness, especially in the case of the hair pull, it's not going to happen when you are on a deserted street, although it can. It will usually happen when you can be distracted and in a crowd of people. What I suggest to the class was to increase your sphere of personal space.
Instead of the usual 18" that personal space is supposed to be make it closer to 36" inches or 3 feet. What this does is that it gives you a greater reaction time and also works on your awareness. Practice being aware of anyone who enters this sphere of space around you.

I look forward to seeing the group next week.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body

Sensei Orlando

Diligent Practice

During one of the karate classes I teach as we were going over basics I was asked by student, " Why do we have to do these things over and over?" It was actually a very good question and from the perspective of a student how many times do I need to learn how to punch and kick and throw a person before I learn it. Why do it hundreds, thousands of times?
One of the reasons we practice , be it martial arts or really anything that we enjoy is to become better at what we do. In the case of martial arts we practice the techniques so they become second nature to us. We are constant teaching our bodies and brains that this is how we punch or kick and the body remembers this with practice. In other endeavors, lets say playing an instrument, it is practice that determines how well you excel with your chosen instrument.

The key thing about practice is that many times we just want to do something in order to be busy. Practice is not easy and is very rarely enjoyable. When we practice diligently we must practice those things that we are not good at in order to improve them. This is usually the opposite of what we do since we all like to the things we are good at. That is not what practice is for. In our times of practice we have to stretch ourselves and enter those areas where our performance is lacking and work and polish there. This means hours upon hours of hard work while seeing little result, this is why it must be diligent practice. When you practice make the practice itself the goal. work on improving the areas that you would normally avoid working on. It is this kind of practice that will give you the most benefit.

strong spirit- strong mind-strong body

Sensei Orlando

Active Self Defense - Making an Impact

For our weekly Self defense class, we discussed what to do when confronted with a gang or more than one attacker. I'm sorry to disappoint the ninja fans out there, but what you should do when confronted with this situation is what I have discussed all along... avoid. If at all possible, you should never, ever confront a gang on your own, it happens to be the worse of all scenarios, you are outnumbered, outmatched and you don't know if any of the gang members are armed. (When I use the word "gang" here I am referring to a group of people who are intent on doing harm and/or vandalism. I am not referring to any particular affiliation.)

I want to thank Michael who brought a variation to the wrist grab this week that made it challenging for some of the group to escape, and this is what we are all about. I bring real-life scenarios to the class and use the experiences we have to make our classes excellent. We also worked again on the headlock as a few of the students went home and practiced on spouses or friends and found that they couldn't escape.

We addressed the points that were missing in the technique and found that you could escape if you follow the steps (Tuck your chin, turn your head to the fist and push the elbow, barring that -grab the fingers and start breaking!).

This week we also worked on making an impact: using our palm heels and elbows to strike. I am of the philosophy that unless you have lots of years of training, it's hard to soft and soft to hard. If you are going to strike a hard part of the body you use what's considered a soft part of your body and vice-versa. So out came the body pad and everyone got to feel what it was like to actually hit something. Its quite different from hitting air which has little to no resistance and then hitting a 230lb attacker coming at you with the intent to harm you. I think its an exercise we must practice often as it helps dispel the myths with create in our heads from movies that one punch will take a person down.

Overall each class has become an excellent learning experience for both the class and myself and I look forward to each Wednesday!

strong spirit-strong mind- strong body

Sensei Orlando

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Active Self Defense - Violence Part #2

This week we continued to discuss violence, where it happens, how it happens, and in most cases why it happens.

It was, as usual a very interesting class. We went over our previous techniques and learned a new very useful technique (escaping the neck choke from the front). I want to give a special thanks to the designated victim this week, Kat, who red faced, was still able to point out to me that choking a person while explaining a technique is not the best way to get a technique across (especially for the person being choked) Thank you Kat. I want to thank our new attendees Linda Sue and Darryl who joined us this week.

Observations were made in regards to what it means to avoid dangerous situations. It is always better to avoid than to have to run and it is better to run than talk your way out of a situation, better to talk your way out than fight, and better to fight than to die.

I know this may sound morbid, but if your life or that of a loved one is on the line you better fight with everything you have. That being said if you are never in the situation to begin with (avoidance) then you will never have to use what you learn in our class. That is the ideal. I will never be proud or impressed if a student comes to me to tell me how he destroyed or hurt someone. My first question will always be, how did you get in that position in the first place? Just because you know how to hurt someone does not mean you should? - the only caveat to this is if you feel you are in imminent danger.

Our exercise for this week was simple: If you were an attacker, who would be your potential victim? How would you look for them? Which indicators told you that this person was a likely candidate to be attacked? Likewise which person would you stay away from? I look forward to the results from this exercise.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body

Sensei Orlando


What does it mean to be aware? Many of us with the stresses of our lives and what we may consider the "daily grind" keep us preoccupied as we walk to and from the train station ,the office, and our homes. We walk around in a kind of fog, oblivious to what or who may be around us. It is this state of mind that can make us a potential victim. Rather than make eye contact many of us prefer to look down towards the ground with the thinking that if "I just mind my business" nothing bad will ever happen to me.

The dynamics of living in a city may make it a necessity to divert eye contact and to keep to yourself and I understand this dynamic.

I want to challenge you to live a different way, whether it be the city or anywhere else.
  • Carry yourself with confidence.
  • Look straight ahead when you walk.
  • Take in your surroundings, the people who are around you.
  • Make eye contact with people, although many will divert their eyes away from you.

What this does is help you exude a certain aura, a "vibe" that you are present to whats going on around you. It also makes you less likely as the target of an attack. Wherever you are, be aware, don't let stress or bills or any preoccupations keep you in a fog as to what is going on around you right now.

Live in this moment.

strong spirit-strong mind-strong body

Sensei Orlando

Friday, March 6, 2009

Active Self-Defense - Violence

Last night (Wednesday) we had another self-defense class. I must say I'm very impressed with how well the students are grasping the concepts.

We operate under the premise of educate-prevent-implement. It is important to understand the basics of self defense and educate yourself or get educated. It is important that whenever possible, you want to avoid and prevent any type of physical confrontation, whether that be by changing direction, crossing the street, entering a crowded area, or dialing 911. The last part of the training is the implementation.

In self-defense the actual physical aspect of self defense is a very small percentage. This doesn't mean it's not useful or practical to know how the body works and how to manipulate an attacker's body. I always say that the physical aspect of self defense is used when you are ambushed and facing imminent harm. Someone who broadcasts to you that they want to hurt you, is giving you your greatest weapon: Time. They are letting you get prepared to flee, if you can, deescalate, if need be, or get a weapon if absolutely necessary.

Self-defense is most importantly about using your head. It's about cultivating awareness, and yes I beat that concept into the ground each and every class because we have a tendency to walk around in a fog, unconscious, unaware of our surroundings and the people within them. So each class we expand a bit on the concepts and techniques, with the knowledge that we are not training to go toe to toe with an attacker. Our purpose is to incapacitate, distract, create an opening and get somewhere safe as quickly as possible with as little harm to ourselves as possible. I emphasize that many times.

We hear or read about violence and we never imagine that it can occur to us. We have this frame of mind that we are generally nice people and could never imagine being violent with another person, so we expect and wrongly assume that everyone else thinks the same way.

Violence is real, it can happen to you and it can happen to me. The sooner we grasp that idea, the sooner we can react to avoid or prevent it from happening to any of us.

I want to thank our newcomers last night: Tammy, Ron and Rosanna for joining us. Each time someone new joins, it brings new energy and makes the class that more enjoyable and satisfying. Thanks to all of you, who continue to attend each week, learning, practicing and asking the tough questions.

be safe

Sensei Orlando

Why study a martial art?

Many of us undertake the study of a marital art with a preconceived notion in our heads. Some are looking for discipline others are looking for confidence, still others are seeking a form of defending themselves. I want to suggest that while you may go in with any or all of these ideas into the study of a martial art, you may be surprised to find that they are all what would be considered secondary effects to the training that is martial arts.
When you diligently study and train, it requires discipline, like any endeavor that takes time to achieve or accomplish. And so discipline is cultivated, honed and forged into the character of the student. Likewise with confidence, executing techniques in front of a mirror, be it basics or kata requires little confidence. Change the setting from a mirror to a dojo or to a training hall filled with students and the context can directly influence your performance. "Are they looking at me?" The most obvious answer is - yes. If you are a senior, you are being observed so that the juniors may emulate you. If you are a beginner, you are being observed so that you may be corrected. (This is not to say that seniors don't need correction, sometimes they need more than the beginners.) The point I'm trying to get across is that if you dislike scrutiny and criticism, practicing a martial art may be something for you to reconsider.
In regards to defending yourself, I hold fast to the position that martial arts are not self defense.
That being said, with enough years of training, certain actions and techniques can become reflexive and lead to a furthering of study as to what may be used for self-defense. Learning the applications of katas (bunkai) can lead to a discovering of techniques that can be used to defend yourself. In many cases though, this is usually a journey undertaken alone or after many years.
So why study a martial art? If I'm not going to get what motivated me to join the art initially why should I study a particular art. Honestly I can say that one of the greatest attributes of martial arts (and I'm not making distinctions here) is that while training you get to discover yourself. No, I don't mean a trip to nirvana or enlightenment, although I'm certain those are also attainable through martial arts as well as other disciplines. What I'm referring to is that in the process of training you will discover and uncover your character, your strengths and your weaknesses.
What you do when you do discover these aspects of yourself is an indicator of your commitment. Do we downplay the weakness and emphasize the strengths? Or do we take a good look at those areas in our training and life where we need to train a little harder, be a little more diligent, have integrity and fulfill our word - first to ourselves and then to others. That is one of the encounters martial arts can provide you, if you are willing to embark on the path.
strong spirit-strong mind-strong body
Sensei Orlando