Monday, April 25, 2011

Deadly Self Defense Myths

I have a cousin who is currently receiving unsigned notes from some guy in her building. It is starting to give her the creeps. I offered to recommend some some hardware and classes for her to try out, but that was received... shall we say coolly... My cousin is a liberal. She doesn't like guns, what they represent, what they are intended for, and that individuals can own them. Like most liberals, she likes the Police being the protector of the individual.
It is part of the groupthink mindset of the liberal to dislike the entire concept of an individual taking responsibly for their own safety. They like the idea of the State providing all that is needed in that arena, from rules and regulations on what can be used to mow your grass to the confiscation of all firearms from law abiding people.

I do not hold this against her, for those who believe that violence is something that will never happen to them, it is perfectly acceptable for them to rely upon the State for their protection. There is just one major problem... If the worst happens, the note writer becomes a stalker, then becomes something violent, the violence is upon you now. For the State to be alerted to protect you, you first must call them, explain the problem to a dispatcher, tell the dispatcher where you are, and that you require the police. The dispatcher must then contact the Police dispatcher, who will then call out to the patrol units, wait for one to respond, and finally send the patrol unit information about what is going on and where to address it. The patrol unit must now drive to the address they were given, find the correct building, then go to the apartment where the problem was reported. The typical response time is about 7 minutes from when the Police dispatcher is notified, time from your call to police arrival is about 10 to 15 minutes. By that time what you wanted protection from, has already occurred.

What I described above is the best case scenario. A much more realistic scenario is that you don't get to your phone to make the call. An attacker is not going to politely wait for you to make that call, he is going to do what he can to prevent that call from being made. That means he needs to quickly overwhelm you. If you can fight him off, you have only seconds, what would you go for to protect yourself? The phone? Unarmed people who rely upon the police for their personal protection are toast. The song and dance described above all must occur. However the armed individual has the ability to obtain something that immediately puts them on equal footing, or hands them a distinct advantage. And it is there, with them, now. It is not 7 to 15 minutes away eating doughnuts. It is steps away and immediately available.
In the end, your protection is up to you.

So let us look at some self defense myths and misconceptions.

The Police exist to protect me.
False. The police motto: "To protect and serve." Should be amended to be: "To protect and serve, the law." This is what they are there for. The Supreme Court of the United States of America has even said that the Police have no obligation to protect and defend the individual. And, lest we forget, When seconds count, the Police are only minutes away.

It is safer for me to have an empty chamber
This idiotic thought stems from the days when ammunition was so bad that the slightest bump on the primer could set off the pistol. Modern ammunition and pistols are constructed so that only a full depression of the trigger will cause the pistol to fire. The simple fact is that, despite what you see on TV, pistols just don't go off. Ever. You are more likely to win the lottery then have a pistol go off with out the trigger being pulled.
That all said, with one in the chamber, negligent discharge is much more likely. Proper care and handling of the gun must be done at all times so that it only goes off when the shooter intends it to. If you want to protect against unauthorized persons handling the gun, quick action safes are excellent investments.
With a round in the chamber, you are ready to defend yourself as soon as you get a sight picture. You do not have to go through the action of racking a round before you can get in to the fight. Those seconds are priceless commodities in a true self defense situation. Extra actions that need to take place before the gun can be fired are time wasters that may cost you your life. Your self defense weapon should have one in the pipe, and have no external safeties. Be ready to rock and roll as soon as your pistol is out of its hiding place. Your life literally depends on it.

I took a woman's self defense class a month ago. I am ready to defend myself!
You are carrying around a false sense of security. No woman's self defense class can prepare you for an attacker who is stronger than you, weighs more than you, is determined to complete what ever deed they came there for, and is ready to take a little damage in order to get it done.
Let us face the cold hard facts. Men are stronger than women. Men have denser, more powerful muscles than women. In a fight between two equally trained people, the same weight, where one is a man and the other is a woman, the woman will loose 999 times out of 1000. This is the simple truth. If the man is determined to rape, or injure, a woman, he is going to do it.
What does this mean? It means that women need an edge when fighting a man. A gun gives you that edge.
What if I don't have a gun? Just give up and die?
No. However, developing fighting skill takes time and considerable effort. You have to train for a long time before you can apply the proper techniques in a fight, and be effective against a bigger stronger opponent. And the horrible truth is, it is a perishable skill. You have to train on a near daily basis in order to gain, and retain the skill required to fight off a determined, bigger, stronger opponent.
So what to study? As much as I love the striking arts, they are no good for women who wish to fight off a determined male attacker.
I will give some examples. On an episode of "Celebrity Boxing" female professional wrestler Chyna was paired up with one Joseph A. "Joey" Buttafuoco. Chyna was a roided up massive specimine of womanhood. She was in very good shape, working out daily, and eating right to maintain her musculature. She had been training in boxing for several years. Buttafuoco only trained for a few weeks, was grossly out of shape, and was in no condition to fight anyone. The result?

Chyna got beat pillar to post. Several times Joey simply tossed her to the floor with little effort. Had the ref not been present, there would have been nothing the muscled woman could have done to defend herself.

The way a woman can defend herself effectively against a resisting, bigger, stronger opponent is with ground skill. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is specifically designed for a smaller opponent to defeat a lager opponent on the ground. A dedicated woman against an untrained man, on the ground, has a chance. A slim chance, but a chance all the same.

If I have a gun, can't it be used against me?
Yes... If you are unwilling to pull the trigger. In a self defense situation, you have to be prepared to defend yourself. This means doing bad things to your attacker. It isn't like on TV where the peace loving monk becomes a super killer, then goes back to being a peace loving monk. In order for your training, or your weapon to be effective, you have to be willing to do the bad thing. You have to be able to break the arm, to stab for the heart, to put three in center mass. In my time in martial arts, this is what most people find the most disturbing, and the hardest to do.
Of course you can't shoot real people on the range. The law frowns upon things like that. What you can do is seek out stressful situations in which to deploy your weapon safely, or find situations where you can use your training in a full contact situation.
IPSC events put you in a stressful situation where you have to engage multiple targets, reload, and incorporate movement. These events are fun and teach you how to use your weapon in a safe manner with people who want nothing more than make you a better shooter.
Training at a gym where you spar regularly with live resisting opponents in a limited rules environment will teach you to overcome fear and instruct you how to deal with a resisting opponent. If your dojo/dojang does not spar limited rules, in situations where you could walk away bloody, you need to find a new place to train.

But back to the question at hand... If you have a weapon how could someone take it away? Just do a look around for gun disarms out on the Internet. At best they are techniques that need to be trained constantly over and over and over again, at worst they will get even the best practitioner shot. In any case disarms are extraordinarily risky low percentage movements. If you are willing to pull the trigger, it is highly unlikely that an assailant will be able to disarm you before you put a bullet in them.

I will just kick my attacker in the nuts!
Really? You don't think that the attacker has thought of that? Chances are he will be protecting that part of him, and even if you get a good kick off, it will be a glancing blow. Sure it hurts when you get hit in the nuts. But I guarantee that a determined attacker will be able to work through the pain, get in to a dominant position and rest out the worst of your attack.

So... What should you take from this post? First, if you are serious about your personal protection, get a gun, learn how to use it, and carry it with you everywhere you are legally allowed to carry it.
If you are female and have time, start training in BJJ, or no-gi submission wrestling. Learn that ground skill. It is a great workout and you will be learning something that can actually work to defend yourself. You can train in Muay Thai, or, MMA as well as BJJ if you like, but concentrate most of your training on the ground.
If you are a man, I would concentrate on working maybe 3 out of 5 training days on BJJ, and the other 2 on Muay Thai, boxing, MMA, or other striking art. Ground skill is the hardest to learn, so the majority of your time, in the beginning, should be focused there. After you have a solid foundation, you can move to even out your training, but be sure to get that mat work in.
Both should keep their shooting skills sharp. Go to the range at least once a month to keep your shooting proficiency up. Attend a couple of IPSC events to learn what it is like to shoot under stress. Who knows, you may like it and become a competitive shooter!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Move to Hawaii??

As my wife moves in to her third year of residency, she is starting to think about what she wants to do, and where we want to live.

She wants to have some sort of connection to the Japanese medical community, but we want to stay in the U.S. How do she do that? Well, she would have to establish a practice in a U.S. city that has a large, migratory Japanese population. City choices are Columbus, OH, New York, NY, San Fransisco, CA, Los Angeles, CA, Seattle, WA, or Honolulu, HI. Of those cities, Honolulu has the largest Japanese influence. So... Pros and cons of living on the islands:

  • It's freaking Hawaii
  • Lots of stuff to do
  • Learn how to fly helicopters
  • $100 hamburger is on another island
  • Great weather
  • Half way to Japan
  • Everything is expensive (Real Estate, utilities, gas)
  • Horrific gun laws
  • High Taxes
  • Jobs are scarce, and have lots of competition
  • Job mobility is difficult
  • Crowded
  • $100 hamburger is more like a $500 hamburger...
  • Anti White racism
  • High unemployment
  • Isolated
  • Any friend you ever had who comes to Hawaii wants to crash on your couch.

My biggest problems are the sky high taxes, and the horrific gun laws. I am less concerned with the job situation, as we would only move there if the wife has a doctor job. She would be making enough to cover our life style. So I could get work remotely to the mainland, or take my time looking for a job.

Hawaii has no concealed carry, and is very strict on how and when you can transport firearms. Their castle laws are not so draconian that you have to leave your house in case of a break in, cough California cough, but they are very strict.

Isolation is a big thing. Hawaii is out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It is 2550 miles from the mainland USA, and 3862 miles from Tokyo. At least a 6 hour ride in a jet, just to get your feet dry. You are two or three hours behind Pacific Standard Time, depending on daylight savings time, so most of the mainland is winding down with their late afternoon before you are even getting out of your jammies.
A natural disaster on the island would mean chaos very very quickly, and not a lot of help would be coming any time soon. Especially since most of the island relies on Government assistance. Remember what New Orleans looked like after Katrina? Yup, only with less drinking water and FIMA needing to ship supplies thousands of miles over the Pacific Ocean.

On the other hand... It is still Hawaii. Great weather, surf, lots of stuff to do. Wake up with your Kona Coffee, and take in Diamond Head as you sip away. The people are fit for the most part, so you have the activities that come along with that. Ocean Kayaking, Surfing, climbing.

Many of my friends that worked in Hawaii before got bored with the island after a while. They said that the weather was basically the same everyday, it was super crowded, and after you have done all of the tourist things, there just isn't a lot of new things to do.
I tend to discount these comments, as after you get done doing any of the tourist things in ANY city ANYWHERE, there isn't a lot of new things to do. It isn't like Oklahoma City is going to suddenly have a new amusement park somewhere, or open so many new golf courses that I won't be able to play them all. Routine is routine, and it makes little difference if the routine is in Omaha, Billings, or Honolulu. You find things to do in your circle of friends, and that just becomes your routine. If my golf buddies suddenly started to take up Muay Thai with me, that would be something new and exciting for them... If my Muay Thai buddies suddenly wanted to take up golf, same thing. Excitement is what you make of it. And it isn't like the wife and I will stop traveling. I very much doubt that we would not go on an annual ski trip if we lived on the island. The difference is that instead of going back to cold Oklahoma or Nebraska, we would be going back to sunny 80 degree Hawaii. Pretty awesome if you ask me!

At any rate, moving to Hawaii is at least 2 years off, if it happens at all, so there is little to do on this front, but speculate. It is likely that my wife will change her mind a few more times, especially when it comes to her fellowship. Perhaps she can do her fellowship in Hawaii... Hummmmmmmmmm

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Back In The Gym

I have been at American Top Team for a little over a month now. I am liking the place. I am learning a lot and trying to knock off the rust of not training. The head instructors that I work with, Giulliano Gallupi (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) and Eduardo Maiorino (Muay Thai)

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
I found that I had some very bad habits that I have picked up from no-gi grappling... and that working out with a black belt will cause you to do things that you normally would not do. After the initial couple of weeks of just wanting to throw up, trying to get some sort of cardio back, and proving that I am not a pussy, the instructors have started to work on the things that I am doing incorrectly.
  • Against good opposition, I will turn the wrong way when they put me in a heavy side control, or when I have difficulty escaping the mount.
    I say I do this to make the other guy open up, but really I am just reverting to things that worked for me in no-gi. With the gi on, if you turn the wrong way, you are guaranteed to be choked.
  • When I am passing guard, I tend to leave my butt in the air, giving the guy who I am passing ample room to reestablish guard.
    I have never been very good at passing guard, so this may have been a problem I am just taking with me.
  • I do not extend my hips to gain space when I do my armbars and triangles from guard.
    This gives my opponent an easier time of escaping, and makes the completion of the submission difficult on me.
  • When breaking the guard, I am not standing up correctly, I am out of position, and easily swept.
    I am so used to breaking the guard on the knees that I have virtually no experience of breaking the guard from standing. This is very bad, because against the black belts, their sweeps and position is so good that if I try to break on my knees, it is an instantaneousness sweep. I have to become proficient passing standing up.
  • I have very little experience with wrist control using the gi.
    I get my ass handed to me in sparring, because they grab my gi at the wrists and completely control me. I can't posture, I can't pass, I look like sea lion in a desert, flapping around and wasting energy, but not making any progress.
Giulliano is a good instructor walking through my mistakes, and hasn't become too frustrated yet when I repeat them. I have seen improvement in the last few classes. I am starting to get my grove back, but I am way way WAY to open to being choked. I have never done a lot of gi chokes, and Giulliano knows a bunch of them. Protecting my neck is always a high priority. Muay Thai I realize now that I have never really trained in pure Muay Thai. Most of what I have done has been International Rules Kickboxing, or with striking for MMA. Eduardo teaches pure Muay Thai. Doing pure Muay Thai means that I needed to make some fundamental changes to my game. Also, it has been YEARS since I have had anybody really critique my style. My kicks have always been above average with my hands and defense being about average. I have always relied heavily on my kicks to intimidate and dominate my opponents. I can't do that with Eduardo. My kicks are crap to him. Too slow and not strong enough. He wants to see combinations very quickly very powerfully, then back off. Clinch work is heavily emphasized. Knees from all directions, and a wider use of elbows than I have ever done before. My hands are also no good. I carry them just below my eye level, but in Muay Thai, you have to deal with quick slashing elbows. That means that your hands have to reside on your forehead. Seems like a small change, but it has seriously thrown me off. With the focus now on my technique, Eduardo has discovered may bad and lazy habits that I have picked up.
  • I am not rotating my hips nearly enough with my crosses.
    I have always found it difficult to land my right cross, and one of the reasons why is that I don't twist my hips. At most I was turning about a quarter of the distance I need to. Eduardo is drilling in to me to twist past shoulder parallel to really extend my cross range, and increase the power of the punch. This rotation also helps to set up the left hook.
  • I am not twisting enough with my left hooks.
    When the hook is thrown without the cross, I have always just thrown it out there with a little twist of my left foot. No good. I need to cock my hips to at least shoulder parallel then drive them around well through the target.
    I also have to think of the hook not as a close in punch, but as a middle range weapon. Elbows and the clinch are for close range.
  • Because my punching rotations are not where they should be, my kicks are out of position, and not as powerful as they should be.
    This is because my hips are wrong. If I rotate the hips properly with the punches, the kicks flow naturally, and have better rotation.
  • I don't turn my hip enough with my left kick to get a powerful impact.
    I am crunching my hip with my left kick. I need to turn my hip and keep my back straight.
  • I don't keep my hands up when I kick.
    This is a major issue, and why I always seem to get smacked when I kick...

I am showing improvement in all areas, however my biggest issue by far in BOTH disciplines is my brain. I am thinking way to much. I find myself thinking and getting behind in the combinations/techniques. In sparring I really get fouled up. While rolling I am two movements, or more behind and I get caught. In Muay Thai, I get clobbered thinking a movement behind.

As I get more comfortable with everything, my improvement will be rapid... I am sure then you will read that I am frustrated because I am not improving as fast as I was a few months ago!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hawaii 2011

Just got back from Hawaii! It was awesome. This was our second trip to Hawaii, and this time through we wanted to stay away from the guided tour things, and really strike out on our own. No bus to catch, no clock to watch. It mostly worked out...

We stayed at the Sheraton Waikiki on Oahu. I have no complaints about this hotel save one, and it is a complaint that I have for most of Hawaii. Hidden charges. We booked our hotel on a travel web site, and paid for the nights we were to stay, however after getting to the hotel, we learned that there was an additional $20 a night "resort fee." This fee was paid by everyone, and was a required fee. If it is paid by everyone, and is required, why not just include it in to the cost of the room? Why spring it on people when they get to their hotel? To give the appearance of being cheaper online. Bad move in my opinion.
Anyway the Sheraton Waikiki was great. In the middle of everything, great rooms, and an infinity edge pool. Lots and lots of fun!

View of Diamond Head Crater from the Infinity Edge pool.

Our first day we just decided to chill out. We landed in Honolulu about 2pm, and went to the hotel. They did not have a room ready for us, so we just chillaxed at the pool. Soon enough we were shown our room, and after a nap and a shower, we went out for a nice dinner.
If you like Japanese food, Honolulu is the best place to be, and still be in the United States. Waikiki has great restaurants and one of our favorites is the Suntory Restaurant. Great sashimi, sushi, nabe, tempura, noodle soups, you name it they have it, and it is all awesome. We came back to the hotel and watched the sun set on our first day.

The next day we decided to take a guided kayak tour around Kailua Bay. We had never kayaked before, so we thought that it would be an adventure. The weather was perfect, sunny, warm, and very little wind. We hooked up with our guide, Marcos, and he gave us the rundown of how to paddle the kayak. With this paddle instruction came a lesson on what to do if you flip your kayak... Very important lesson!

View Larger Map

The tour starts you off at Kailua beach and has you paddle out to the Mokulua Islands (the two islands on the right), specifically to a "secret" beach on Moku Nui Island (the larger island on the left). The beach isn't all that secret, You just can't get there by any other means than a shallow water boat or paddle board. So, you need to exert some people power to make it there. The beach is well known with the locals, and many parties go on there.
The trip out to Moku Nui island was relatively uneventful kayak wise, the water in the bay was like glass, and we were treated to sea turtles swimming by and other ocean life coming up to check us out.
As we continued out paddle out to Moku Nui island, there is a point where the natural reef ends, and the surf from the Pacific Ocean is let in. You know when you are in this area! The waves get large, and with Marco's coaching you learn how to turn your kayak's nose in to the big waves, then quickly turn back on course after you crest the wave. It is a very good work out!
We reached the secret beach and took some pictures, we were given the option of just hanging out on the beach or to do just a little exploring around the island. The group unanimously agreed to do some looking around the island.

View Larger Map
Moku Nui island with the "secret" beach.

On this island there is a deep tidal pool that, legend has it, was one of the Queens of Hawaii's special spot where only she could go.

Of course we jumped in to the pool. The water was very salty, and cold!

We walked back to our kayaks, and set off to Lanikai Beach for lunch. By now we were old hands at the kayak and felt like we could handle anything. I saw a large sea turtle off to the port side of our kayak, and pointed to it for my wife to see. We promptly flipped the boat. Because of our earlier instruction, we were able to right and re-board, before Marcos could come to our aid. I told everyone that the turtle had flipped our kayak, but it was really me!

We finally made it to Lanikai Beach had a lunch of sandwich wraps, and guava juice. After that, we went snorkeling in the clear water. There was a ton of fish to look at! The water was deceptively clear, looking like you could reach out and touch the bottom of the bay, when it was really 30 feet deep!
It was time to return to our launch point, and we set off from Lanikai Beach back to Kailua Beach. We managed to get to the end without incident, as I was banned from looking at sea turtles.
A really awesome adventure. Our guide was awesome, the weather was great. It was an all around great time.

We headed back to the hotel to hang out at the infinity pool for a while, and relax before dinner.

The next day we decided to get up early and take a walk up Diamond Head Crater. We did this hike the last time we were in Hawaii, and I wanted to do it again. The views from the top of the crater are breathtaking, and are unmatched anywhere in Oahu. The crater is about three miles away from our hotel, so it was a bit of a hike just to make it to the base, but... come on, we are fit people and walking the three miles was no big deal. The hike up the crater is a bit dangerous. There are steep steps and loose gravel the whole way up so you have to be careful. The view... The view is one of the best in the world, and well worth the effort to get there.

View from the top

From there, the wife wanted to get her hair cut, so I was left alone for a few hours. I had a beer, hung out at the beach, and had lunch at a great ramen restaurant. About that time the wife was done and it was time to do one of the things that Waikiki is very well known for... Shopping! The Waikiki strip has more designer stores than New York's 5th avenue, and if you like the designer stuff, it is your mecca!

Tuesday was the day to set off on own across the vastness that is Oahu island! Turns out it isn't very vast... It takes about 30 minutes in good traffic to go from Waikiki straight to the North Shore. I travel farther in my daily commute to the office than the length of the entire island.
Anyway, my wife wanted to see a famous tree in Hawaii that Hitachi has used in its advertising in Japan since the early 1970's. It was kind of an adventure to get there but we eventually made it to where the tree is at Moanalua Gardens. The tree is a large Monkey Pod tree with an asymmetric, but not unpleasing shape. It was cool for the wife, so it was cool for me as well. We hung out in the gardens and had onigiri while singing a Japanese song about trees that I know. I know very tree hugger, but it was a great moment shared between my wife and I.

Hitachi Tree

From there we got on to the freeway and headed north to the Dole Plantation. This used to be the headquarters for the Dole company's very large Pineapple farms. Unfortunately Dole no longer grows very many pineapples in Hawaii. It is more economical to grow them in Central or South America. Sad...

We ate some pineapple, and then kept on trucking to our final destination, Oahu's North Shore!
We arrived at the world famous Sunset Beach and sat down to watch the surf. I wanted to get in to the water, but after talking to the life guard, I learned that it was a bad idea. He allowed me to put my feet in to the water in front of his hut, but no more. I instantly learned why he did not want me getting out in to the water. The waves were huge, and had a very strong rip tide. After years of weight training and marital arts, I have good balance, however the rip nearly took me in to the ocean. I heeded the life guard's warning, and quickly withdrew. We napped and read books on the beach while listening and watching the massive waves. We entertained ourselves by watching the surfers and betting on when they would wipe out.
Lunch was the famous Macky's Shrimp ate on the beach.

We went back to Waikiki and watched the sun set at a great little sushi restaurant.

We woke up on our last full day in Hawaii wanting to visit a famous place to snorkel. But first order of business was breakfast. We found a little Italian restaurant near our hotel that we always wanted to eat in, and found that today was the day to give it a try. We had a wonderful breakfast with many cups of awesome Kona Coffee!

After breakfast we caught a ride up to Hanauma Bay. This bay was formed by a lava cone being flooded by sea water thousands of years ago. A reef has formed on the rocks and it is a wonderful spot for viewing reef wild life.

We spent about an hour and a half swimming around finding fish of all sorts and just enjoying the bay. After that, we took a little nap and enjoyed warming ourselves in the Hawaiian sun.
In to every trip, a little rain must fall, and so was the case at Hanauma Bay. The rain fell gently, and we took that as our cue to head back to Waikiki.
We then took some time to relax by the infinity pool, splash around a bit and just sunbathe. It was great.
We finished the night by going to a Korean/Japanese yakiniku place where we stuffed ourselves with Japanese and Korean style meat, and Korean yukijang soup.

The final day in Hawaii was spent mostly getting ready to leave, then hanging out at Waikiki beach. The previous night we found that a place in Waikiki serves fresh udon, and we had to try it out. It was a little piece of Japan right in our back yard!
After lunch the wife went off to get a nice massage, and I was left to hang out at the pool and the beach. I fell a sleep in the cabana chair after downing an iced mocha.

After that it was back to reality. We really love Waikiki as a vacation spot. Lots of stuff to do, and to see. We will be back again soon!