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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Balancing rocks: Patience with a purpose

This past week, I took 5 days away from the everyday grind. Not that I don't enjoy the everyday grind,....I love my work and I never consider it "work". However I was invited to spend some time at the Oregon coast at a beautiful beach house, and I couldn't refuse.

It felt odd to travel and not have a "reason"  to do so. Usually, when I travel, its for my radio show, organizing martial arts events, teaching, etc. While I have fun traveling for those events, this trip to the coast was a bit weird at first. I almost felt....guilty....for not having a reason to travel.

After going down to the beach and hearing the sound of the ocean for the first time in years, that guilt faded. I stared into tide pools at low tide, did Tai Chi on the beach each morning, looked in awe at the incoming waves, we walked the dogs and let them lead us to interesting nooks and crannies in the rock formations, felt the breath of the sea as it blew strongly past my ears, slept to the sound of the ocean just outside my window..... Motivating.

As martial artists or athletes, we are dedicated to our training and self improvement. Some of us run martial arts studios or exercise facilities and we run a business. Our training and our business is what we go to sleep thinking about and eagerly wake up to. However, one part of our training regimen or business plan should never be ignored.....time for US.

Some of us seem to believe that the busier we are, the more productive we are. Everything "must" have a reason to do...for our business, for our marketing, for our training, for our next tournament, for whatever else.....

The sand and the sea reminded me that not everything needs a reason. There's no "result" to stacking rocks, there's no "marketing" when staring into tide pools, there's no gold medal in marveling at the ocean waves and no money to be made when feeling the wind press against your jacket. And you know what? It feels GREAT to not have reasons to do these things. VERY therapeutic!

However the real therapeutic experience.........

As someone who holds intuition as an integral part of my training and everyday life, I realized that using intuition for specific real world reasons (business, training, etc) was not enough.....To tap into intuition for inner world reasons, was exactly what I needed. As I walked the beach alone one day, I was drawn to certain rocks and set aside those and something told me to stack I stacked/balanced them along the beach. This type "active meditation" allows you to just be, just experience your activity and let things just happen.

At one point after my last stack (that took quite a while, because I was determined to get the arrangement to balance in a way that it seemingly wouldn't), I sat back, exhaled, felt a sense of accomplishment, and then.....felt a wave of emotions all at once.....sadness, grief, doubt, heartache of the past, loss, unvented anger from times gone by, frustration etc.  I was surprised at what what going on, even a bit embarrassed, which added to the mix. I stood up wondering "what the hell is wrong with me?". I walked closer to the edge of shore, faced the waves and just let the emotions run themselves out. I wasn't sobbing, but I did feel the sting in my eyes as tears ran down my cheek....I was just experiencing emotions. Sometimes all at once, at moments individually. I don't exactly remember.....but I do think I actually let out a roar against the sound of the waves.......

I don't know how long I stood at the shore, but as I felt the wake of that emotional tide disappear, I felt hungover yet lighter and rejuvenated. I felt the stress of the past year or so, fall off my shoulders. I realized that this was a week that I had gone for days without a headache or a migraine and I smiled at the thought. I wiped away tears, pulled myself together and continued walking, finding more stones, and balancing them along the beach.

The photo the stack of rocks that somehow allowed me to productively vent. It would have been easier to switch the top two stones, but something told me to keep at it to find the balance point on this particular arrangement. The "pain" of patience must have released something.

I once read somewhere that balancing rocks tests the patience and forces one to not 'make' something balance, have to let go and let patience, intuition and tactile sensitivity guide you in finding that "one spot" where everything aligns.  I believe, that this test of patience is what allowed me to just let go.

Many times we really don't know that we actually actively hold space for negativity.....we actually need some of these emotions for balance.....however, when you hold onto some of these things from days or years long gone past (namely anger, frustration, grief), we run out of space for the positive things. We hold on to the stress of dealing with that irate boss, we hold onto the hurtful words that someone said years ago, we hold onto anger, we hold onto the betrayals you convinced yourself to forgive. Slowly, these stresses get tucked away somewhere deep, and one day even the most ordinary thing brings these emotions to the surface....where you have to experience them, to face them, to close those chapters and move forward.

That "pain" of patience that became close to frustration (you know the feeling!) opened a floodgate that I myself put up over the past few years. Sometimes, you have to face some of the very things that you put on the backburner to consider for later. This was my "later".  With that said, I'll have to remember to make time for meditate, to vent, to talk with a friend.....and NOT try to be tough and put things on the backburner.  This was a lesson learned, and one that I'll remember.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Bullying: Are we raising "pansies" if we don't teach them to fight? It takes more than fighting to instill confidence.

(photo courtesy of

I recently read a news article about a 9 year old boy who took his own life due to constant bullying at school:

So Sad. I'm very supportive of teaching kids to defend themselves and find their personal power. But you know what burns me?....when people say "You're raising pansies if you don't teach your kids to fight".

What, so if you teach a kid conflict avoidance he/she is a pansy? A boy has to man up and throw a punch against some bully kid who is most likely all bark and no bite, in order to prove he's not a pussy or a pansy? Pardon my French, but WTF. We see you, the old school men who say "I was was bullied and I just socked that boy in the mouth. We're raising a generation of soft pansies". You're not raising a "pansy"....the kid simply doesn't have the emotional/verbal/physical skills to deal with it.So I ask you HAVE YOU REALLY TAUGHT YOUR KIDS ABOUT ALL ASPECTS OF SELF DEFENSE outside of punching someone's lights out? If you haven't then your're actually raising a kid that only knows how to punch someone and has no other skills outside of that.

No skills outside of that......who's a pansy?? Hmmm.

You can teach any kid to box, but unless they know what is going on in a bullying situation, those skills have no context to attach to. Its like learning to spar as a beginner martial artist, getting confident in those skills then getting thrown into a tournament where the other people spar differently enough to beat you. You're not ready for it and you get scored on because you don't know how to adjust, nor do you know how to deal with the pressure to having to score points so you don't look like you don't know what you're doing.

As someone who was bullied in school, let me tell you something:
Don't look at me and say "well you you were sheltered in your little Filipino family home and don't know the streets, that's why you were bullied". Well that's right i haven't, but that didn't make you any better than me nor does it make you any less likely to have been bullied. Sure you can act all tough so no one chooses to mess around with you, but honestly can you put up that facade 24-7?

My parents didn't raise a pansy yet I was bullied. My parents taught me (yes, in my "sheltered family home") that my personal space was mine and mine to keep and mine to determine how big or small to make it at any given time. They taught me how to use a pointy umbrella to make someone's day a very bad day. They taught me how to stand big and speak big even though I was very small. The "speak big" part involved no shouting , it involved ATTITUDE and what I call "The Look". My Dad (who DID know the streets, by the way), especially, taught me that if anything happened to me or my sister or anyone else in the family, that there would always be other family who will "take care of things" in the old Filipino way. I learned Karate and became very good at it.

Yet, when I was bullied, I chose to not fight back. That makes me a pansy you say?

t wasn't that I couldn't fight.....I chose not to fight back because I was was taught to be aware of what I could do. I was taught to know my anger triggers and to be aware that if I allowed my temper to flare it would not be pretty. Even back then as a child, I knew my anger was awakened at personal insults or jabs at my intelligence or slights against my ethnicity or way of life. I was aware that each time I cried as a bully taunted me, *it was not because i was scared, it was because I was SO angry that it actually hurt to stop myself from lashing out and making someone's day a really crappy one that would land them in a hospital.* These things I had to deal with....the fantasies of wreaking vengeance upon my tormentors....When you actually wish to see blood, you have to take pause and ask yourself "What's up with that?" Back then, there was no instructions on "proper use of force" or "legal ramifications of self defense". Plus....I really did not want to hurt anyone. Did I want the bullying to stop? Of course! But did I want to injure someone badly to do it? That was the dilemma. I wanted it.....I actually wanted to see my bullies suffer....but I didn't want to make my fantasy THEIR reality. Such stuff for a child to think about, eh?

Back then all I knew was point sparring for the Dojo and outside of that, "blow their knee out and break their face so they can't breath, walk nor talk". There was no in-between....I had to learn the "in between" myself through trial and error. As I grew older and more confident in my verbal skills I realized that defending oneself from bullies involved MUCH more than just learning basic boxing or even martial arts. Conflict resolution, the "talking down" the violence, its a skill that many don't have. I've heard some people say that Police negotiators are just those that "couldn't handle walking the beat or being out on the field", but I tell you what....I admire the skills of negotiators. It involves a sense of empathy aligned with justice.

ts okay to teach kids how NOT to be Mr. or Miss Milquetoast. Its okay to teach kids to defend themselves in all methods....verbal AND physical. Let your kids know its okay to feel scared of a bully....that its okay to complain and tell and adult and even call police (yeah yeah, some will say "what good will that do, just punch the bully in the face")... yet let the child know its not okay to be hurt by a bully and they have the right to defend themselves. However those who say kids are pussies for being scared of bullies....get a clue. Remember the adage..."courage is not the absence of fear, courage is the proper use of it". Confidence cannot be "taught" must be developed by the child...period. You can't force confidence on a kid, nor can chastising another kid's parents for not raising their kids correctly, instill confidence in that child.

That must learn this confidence by learning to lose and win. Let your kids learn how to lose a game. Teach your kids to learn from a loss, not get in their business and tell them what they did wrong. Teach your kids to win with tact and respect....don't teach them arrogance. I see too many kids get bent out of shape if they lose a soccer game...and I see too many kids get big headed when they win a game. Guess who their parents are most of the time....yup, the "No pansy" parents. Teach your kids to pick themselves up if they fall off their bike for the 3rd time in their life.....first time pick them up, dust them off and get back on the bike. 2nd time just dust them off and tell them they're okay....3rd time have them get up on their own and carry on. Kids learn through experience!!

I've learned this through experience. Sure its not "on the streets" confidence, but its confidence nonetheless. My parents wanted to raise confident, self reliant kids..... and "pansy" wasn't even a vocabulary word for us back then. Fear, uncertainty and doubt were part of the education.

In short.... if you raise your kids to think they are pansies for not doing this or're actually raising a generation of opinionated adults that see merely the black and white in everyday situations. And if they're opinionated, we have to look at our own generation of adults. So rather than just assuming any bullied kid is a pansy or casting judgmental eyes on the about we just take the time to instill confidence in our kids as well as teaching them self defense skills? It takes time....much more time that just saying "if they bother you just punch them".