Archive for April 2010

It’s Live!

April 28, 2010


Open Letter to the Angry Mother Who Stormed Out of the Academy Last Night

April 22, 2010

That was quite an exit. The way you turned your back on me, threw your nose up and stomped out of the dojo dragging your child by the arm was … notable. Actually several of the other parents did comment on your behavior; they were a little stunned and embarrassed at the spectacle.

You’re upset.  I get it. I know why. While your daughter was sparring, she got hit in the gut and started to cry. All of your parental lights and sirens blew up at once.  I can totally empathize.

Please understand- I am a MARTIAL ARTS instructor. I take my job and the responsibilities that come with it very seriously.

Let’s get some clarity.
When kids spar, they’re closely supervised. No head contact, no kicks to the legs. Full protective gear (boots, gloves, helmet). Everyone is matched according to size and experience. The idea is to apply the techniques they’ve learned with control – in other words, hit the other person and not get hit.

When your daughter got tagged:

  • I instantly stopped the match
  • Gave her a few moments to catch her breath
  • Encouraged her to finish strong and throw punches for just another 10 seconds
  • Instructed the other child to play defense while she went on offense

After the match, I told her that I was very proud of her. Then we walked together to the sink so she could wash her face and compose herself. By the time class bowed out, she was fine, save for an occasional sniffle.

No head trauma.  No neck injury. No broken bones or dislocated joints. No sprains.  Not 1 scrape, not 1 bruise.

When learning to ride a bike, a child is going to fall. In soccer, sometimes kids get kicked in the shins. In baseball, a batter occasionally gets beaned by a pitch. In ballet, dancers are expected to practice until their feet are literally raw.  In martial arts, once in a while a kid gets hit in the tummy.

Those experiences are essential. When handled properly, a child learns how to deal with frustration. They learn that they’re actually durable.  They learn how to regulate themselves.  “Protecting”  a kid by encasing them in body armor is like “helping” a baby chick free itself from their egg; in stealing their struggles, you deprive them of the strength they’ll need to survive.

You had enrolled your daughter in class because she was lacking self-confidence.  She’s shy. She has a gentle heart, and you’re concerned that she might be taken advantage of.  You wanted her to have real-world self-defense

In the 6 months she’s been training, she’s made fantastic progress. Judging from your demeanor tonight, I suspect that progress is going to stop abruptly because you’re probably going to yank her out of the program. Doing that will teach her that she’s fragile.  That it’s okay to quit when the going gets tough. Running from your fears is perfectly acceptable.  Are those really the lessons you want her to take away?

Just days ago, I read a horrible news story about a 15 year old girl who was viciously attacked by a boy in school.  He beat her savagely, kicking her with steel toed boots and stomping on her head. Right now she’s laying in a hospital bed, clinging to life.  If she does pull through, she’ll have permanent brain damage. Reports like that are in the news every week – and for every one that makes the headlines, there are hundreds that don’t.

The trend in my industry is moving toward daycare. Forms, games and gymnastic stunts. Black belt in two years, even if you’re only 11. Let me tell you what happens to these kids when they have to defend themselves- they fail hard.  They get humiliated.  And hurt. I won’t have that on my conscience.

If, heaven forbid, your daughter is ever attacked, its not going to be in a clean, well lit, matted dojo. The other kid wont be a friend and team mate.  And no one is going to be there to rescue her if she starts to cry.

I’m not running a Spartan boot camp or MMA dungeon. There’s plenty of time for laughter and fun. But the focus is on training. The curriculum here includes moderate contact sparring. Perhaps that makes me a dinosaur. So be it.

Your daughter is a wonderful kid.  If she’s a little gun-shy, I’ll work with her until she gets her confidence up, just like I’ve done with scores of kids before.

I sincerely hope she continues her training here. The choice is yours to make.


Being Bullied? Anti-Bullying Lessons From Back to the Future *Part II*

April 19, 2010

In the last post, I talked about some of the anti-bullying messages from the classic movie trilogy, Back to the Future.  Here’s the other  half of the lesson:

  • SOMETIMES, YOU NEED MORE THAN WORDS TO MAKE YOUR POINT. George McFly finally makes his stand when he discovers his sweetheart being assaulted by Biff in a parked car at the school dance. Who can forget George dramatically closing his fingers into a solid fist, and delivering one of the most celebrated knock outs in cinematic history? In one moment, George gets the girl, ends Biff’s reign of terror, and earns the admiration and respect of his peers and his son.

LESSON– sometimes, using force is the only viable option.  Sometimes, it’s the only ethical course of action!

  • DON’T EVER TINKER WITH THE SPACE/TIME CONTINUUM.   It’s dangerous.  ‘Nuff said.
  • ASSERTIVENESS IS KING.  Following the parking lot incident, George is dancing with Lorraine when one of his classmates (who apparently didn’t get the memo that George was now a man to be reckoned with) rudely cuts in. Will George revert back to his old meek, weak and self-doubting ways?  Not a chance. The interloper is quickly and firmly ‘cut out’, the dance continues, and the new romance glows a little hotter.

LESSON– the path between passivity and aggression is the best course.  Assertiveness is a pattern of behavior – an energy- that announces the courtesy and respect you show for others is expected in return, and its well deserved.

  • TIME TRAVEL IS VERY REAL – AND THAT’S GOOD NEWS  FOR EVERYONE. No, you can’t hop into a tricked out sports car and fly into the past, or set the controls so you can skip decades into the future.  But all of us are traveling forward through time, every day and every moment. Doc Brown’s happy philosophical musing at the end of the last installment is both optimistic and uplifting: The future is not pre-ordained.

LESSON–  We have the power to create our own destiny.

Being Bullied? Anti-Bullying Strategies You Can Learn From Marty McFly *Part I*

April 12, 2010
If I Knew Then What I Know Now.....

If I Knew Then What I Kn0w Now...

This weekend, my girlfriend and I re-watched  the entire Back to the Future trilogy.  What excellent movies – each one is a classic!

I got to thinking about how the seemingly insignificant choices we all make during the course of an average day can have major consequences–  and how the big decisions can send reverberations far into the future.  A committed decision, coupled with action can change the course of your life!

As you probably remember, Marty and Doc Brown hopscotch from past to present to future in a time-traveling Deloiran.  During the course of their adventures, Marty and Doc have to: play matchmaker to Marty’s parents, prevent Hill Valley from degenerating into a crime infested cesspool, and rescue Doc from getting gunned down in the Old West.  Any misstep could unravel history, and at every turn they’re thwarted by some incarnation of the malevolent Arch Bully, Biff Tannin.

*Ah, now you see I’m headed somewhere with this.

O.K. – Back to the Future is wonderfully entertaining – but can you actually learn anything from a 25 year old sci-fi action comedy?  I think so.

Here’s the Take Away:

  • APPEASEMENT NEVER WORKS.  Marty’s father, George, graduates from doing Biff’s homework to doing his corporate projects.  He let Biff take his hat.  When Biff crashed the McFly family car, George was the one to apologize!  ‘Ol wishy-washy George just shrugged and tried to laugh it off.
    • LESSON- A bully will NEVER by your buddy – its futile and counterproductive to even think it’s possible.  Give in to a bully’s demands, and you’ll be hit with bigger demands.  The extortion will never stop.
  • THE BULLY WILL HAVE A CREW – DOING THIS WILL DISBAND THEM IN A HURRY. Biff always had backup- either high school hangers on, or paid henchmen, or a gang and this multiplied the difficulties in avoiding him or facing him down.
    • LESSON- The trick to eliminating this numerical advantage can be found in Zecheriah 13:7- “Strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter”.  If you can take out the lead bully with a decisive move (which doesn’t necessarily  need to be physical), or strategically undermine their social standing and popularity, the bully’s power will be greatly reduced, and their posse will scatter
  • DON’T LET ANYONE PUSH YOUR BUTTONS – STAY COOL! Marty had a ‘fatal flaw’.  This fault consistently led him to make terrible choices; because of it, he might have doomed himself to a miserable life in the second movie, or get even get killed in the 3rd! Marty’s major malfunction?  He went nuts whenever anyone questioned his courage. Whenever he was called a “chicken” or “yellow belly” or “coward”,  Marty would invariably take the bait and do something stupid.
    • LESSON- getting emotional floods your brain with chemicals that make you irrational and prevent you from thinking clearly.  When you allow other people to control you, you become their puppet, and you lose.  Stay centered and you’ll never be goaded into  playing an enemies game.

** Part II will reveal 4 more critical ‘secrets’ about how to deal with bullies.

She’s Not Actually A “Doctor” Doctor….

April 6, 2010

"I think I'd like a second opinion"

From an article posted on Suite 101:

“Bullying At School- Tips For Helping A Child Dealing With Bullies”

Okay… I’m on-board, maybe there’s something new or useful I can learn. The article establishes that bullying is a problem (we’re all agreed)  and it can be ‘vexing’ for parents (yea – got it).

The article then goes on to provide some specific strategies that a parent can use to help their kid.  (Getting to the good stuff now!) The ‘expert’ they cite is Dr. Michelle Borba,  described as a “child expert, educational consultant and author”. The lady is clearly well educated, and she’s been on TV, so you know she’s got some mojo, right?

Her tips are as follows:

  • Encouraging the child to stay with groups of friends as much as possible
  • Building the child’s self esteem
  • Explain to the child that fighting back is not a sensible option (aggression tends to feed more aggression from the bully)
  • Ensure the child understands it is not his fault

Now I’m thinking, “come on, you’re kidding, right?” So I do some research. Ms. Borba isn’t a doctor, she holds a “Ed.D” degree. I don’t know if she’s intentionally trying to mislead people by pumping up her credentials, or if she’s just really that full of herself, but I find it irritating and less than truthful.

Yes, technically a PhD is a doctorate degree.  To every PhD who introduces themselves as “doctor”‘…. let me clue you in.  It’s meaningless outside of your organization.  Everyone thinks you’re a pompous tool. When I answer the phone or make a dinner reservation or meet someone socially, I don’t refer to myself as “Sensei”.  (To my fellow martial arts brothers and sisters – when you step out of your academy, drop the “sensei”  bit. Seriously.  No one cares. And if you go around calling yourself “Master” or “Grand Master”, you need a reality check)

Let’s apply the light of logic and common sense to her suggestions and see how well they hold up.

*  “stay with friends” – a large component of bullying is social isolation and exclusion… so we can strike that one.
*  “build a child’s self-esteem” – contrary to pop psych cliches, self-esteem is not a magic bullet. Bullies themselves have high self-esteem. (strike 2)
*  “fighting back is not a sensible option” – passively taking a beating IS  a sensible option? Would she personally allow an attacker to batter her and just wait until they get bored and stop? Of course not.  So why would she advise a vulnerable child to do it? (strike 3)
* “its not his or her fault”.  It may not be that child’s fault, but it certainly IS their responsibility to handle it. Not the responsibility of a friend, or bystander, or teacher or lawmaker. And its a parent’s responsibility to ensure their son or daughter is equipped to cope with life as it happens.

To paraphrase Maxwell Smart – There’s a doctor who can instantly solve all your child’s bullying problems. Okay, would you believe there’s a Ph.D of education with some practical advice?  No? How about a Girl Scout selling cookies?

The Secret Weapon Against Bullying *Part IV*

April 1, 2010

Trouble-Shooting, Q&A

* Wandering Mind
That happens.  It’s part of the practice.  When your mind wanders,you can re-focus on your breathing or think of a trigger word to center yourself. (Tranquility.  Peace. Gratitude. Joy.)

* Anxiety-
Sometimes that happens too. Being alone inside your mind with no distractions can be a scary experience.  If you’re experiencing mild anxiety, shorten your next sitting and work through it.  If mindfulness meditation is triggering panic attacks for your child, this mode of practice isn’t for them.  They’ll get more out of some kind of moving meditation

* “I can’t (my child can’t) kneel like that”

If there’s some kind of legitimate physical limitation, you certainly can sit in a straight backed chair. You can also sit on a cushion to relieve the compression in your knees.

* “This is uncomfortable.  It hurts.”

Correct. That’s all part of  it. Remember, we aren’t trying to ‘transcend’ anything – we are seeking to experience things fully and at the same time, remain de-attached. You become aware of your mind as its working – for example, “hm. My legs hurt.  Hm.  That was a thought.” People in their 60’s, 70’s and beyond hold seiza for periods of up to 45 minutes.  They’re flesh and blood and bone just like you.  Suck it up.

* “It’s never quiet enough around here”

Unless you’re going to sit on the moon, there’s going to be some ambient noise.  Maybe a plane passing overhead, or a droplet of water falling from the kitchen faucet. The trick is not to resist. Acknowledge, accept, and freely let it pass.

* “Can’t I do this laying down?”
Short answer- No. You’ll wind up falling asleep. (I’m all in favor of naps, but this isn’t that)

* “Am I doing this right?”
A more productive question might be, “Am I doing this well?”. There’s no one right way.  The import thing is working the basic concepts, and being consistent.  As you meditate, you’ll begin to see that just as you don’t “need” to scratch your nose the second it itches, or speak when a thought pops into your head. Soon, you’ll see some cool things start happening in your life.  You won’t “need” to eat that slab of cake just because you want to.  You won’t “need” to contradict someone if you feel they’re wrong. You won’t “need” to act-out when you get angry.

To paraphrase Viktor Frankl, you’ll understand that between stimulus and response, there’s a tiny pause, and in that space is your ability to choose.

How Does Any Of This Help A Kid Beat A Bully?

No matter what kind of situation you find yourself, there’s one variable that you can control.  You.
Imagine a kid who’s being teased, or insulted or intimidated.  Instead of reacting with fear or anger or sadness, they are calm. They don’t permit anyone to push their buttons, because they are in full possession of themselves. That child now can make a rational evaluation about what to do. If the mindful child determine the instigators are just making a lot of noise, they can choose not to be bothered, thus removing the bullies prime reward.
If they actually have to defend themselves, they’ll be far more effective because they’ll have a clear head, and will be 100% committed to the fight.

Any way you look at it, its a win.