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Posts Tagged ‘Self Defense’

Think Like a Super Hero

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Parents often ask if the martial arts will help or hurt their already aggressive-behaving child.

I understand the parents’ concern, particularly in the way Hollywood portrays the martial arts. Often a violent cartoon or “kid’s” program showing bloody martial arts fight scenes is all a mom sees. So when little Taylor asks if he can do karate, Mom has visions of her beloved son flipping through the air with razor-sharp swords killing ninjas.

But in my fifteen years of teaching experience, I’ve yet to have a student whose aggressive behavior escalated after beginning martial arts training. Actually, I’ve noticed—along with the parents—the child’s aggressive behavior diminish and I’ve yet to hear any of my law enforcement students and friends tell me of a crime-spree involving a kid kung fu master.

On the flip side, I’ve seen very introverted children become more confident and outgoing after training in the martial arts.

True martial arts is all about self-discipline and respect for self and others. The physical side of it gives aggressive children a positive physical outlet.

In researching juvenile crime statistics involving the martial arts, all I discovered were positive articles of martial arts reducing aggressive behavior in children and teens.

One was a Texas A & M University study that showed a significant decrease in aggressive behavior of delinquent youths after they trained in the Korean martial art, Tae kwon do, for just six short months. The title of the study was Martial Arts Training: A novel “cure” for juvenile delinquency. The title alone is pretty powerful.

Yes, the martial arts are comprised of punches, kicks, and throws – violent actions, but one of my favorite teaching techniques is telling the students to think like a super hero. I ask them; just because Batman has the skills to beat people up, does he do it to every one? “Only to the bad-guys,” they shout back to me, “like the Joker!” I explain to them that knowing martial arts is exactly like having a super power and they should treat it as such, just like Batman, and only use it in times of danger and self-defense. During class we reinforce this principle with role-play of how and when the student’s kung fu powers should be used.

This example totally clicks with a child’s imagination and empowers them as well. They think, “Wow, I’m kinda like Spiderman or Batgirl. That’s cool!” Many children in my classes even quote Uncle Ben from the movie Spiderman: “With much power comes much responsibility.” That is what martial arts is all about.

For Real

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Last Tuesday I learned real kung fu.

A new student who recently moved to the U.S. approached me after the morning class and asked me to watch him practice with the walking stick (short staff). He swung the staff with such intensity and focus that I remember thinking, Wow, he’s doing this as if his life depends on it.

Well, I found out that it did.

With little income, my student lives in a rough apartment complex inside an even rougher neighborhood. In very broken English, he told me that in just the last three days, he’d had to fight his way into his home, and then had to throw people out of his home. He said fighting is never one-on-one. Always three or four. And they are big, with big hands and big arms. They want my money, my food. They no work for nothing, he said, they only want to take. He also told me he had to use a broom as his weapon and that’s why he needed more practice with the short staff.

I stood there, not only dumbfounded, but totally humbled and even ashamed.

For the last fourteen years, I’ve been teaching martial arts professionally. And though the lethalness of the arts is always in the back of my mind whenever I teach a technique, I admit I’ve taken KF for granted. I mean, thank God we live in a society where kung fu is not a necessary skill to have in order to live from one day to the next. But in that, how many punches and kicks—entire forms filled with hundreds of techniques— have I taught just going through the motions on autopilot with little thought of how the student may really need this in order to survive the evening at home.

Weeks prior, I’d shown him a few techniques with the staff. Good stuff, effective, but I showed him the movements more as an exercise, with little focus on the combat uses. The humbling part is that he told me those moves saved his life. He shook my hand and thanked me for it. I felt an inch tall. See, in my mind, from the get-go, I should’ve taught him those techniques with the seriousness of what they’re really used for, not just exercises.

You guys know the definition of martial arts but it lets reexamine it.

The word martial literally means warfare or combat. Placing the word arts behind it implies pooling all aspects of combat, studying them and then seamlessly imbedding the techniques into your being so that it (combative moves) flows out naturally. People who train in the martial arts are students of both science and art. Think of all the physics and biology you learn just from practicing kung fu. And of course it’s the repetitive practice that forms the art.

Spending thirty years with a Sifu who relied on his KF to survive the dangerous streets of DC and New York, and then the perilous jungles of Viet Nam, I can’t help but intimately understand the combat side of martial arts. I just allowed my focus to become lazy. Not again.

Lethal Weapon

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

The first action you must take after achieving your black belt is to register your hands as lethal weapons. It’s you civic duty to inform society how dangerous you are.

I remember the day I did. It was a horribly miserable August afternoon. Bleeding, bruised, and covered in dirt, from already enduring a twelve hour test, I was standing in the middle of a field with ten Eagle Claw masters circled around me. At once, all ten warriors attacked me for the final phase of my black belt exam.

Moving with the grace of a ballet dancer, my hands and feet shot out like exploding grenades. I moved faster than the wind. Within seconds, my opponents were eating grass and begging their master not to make them attack again. I stared at the master, showed him my mantis claw. He ran away, leaving his injured students behind. My Sifu was so impressed with my ability he told me to go immediately to the police station and register my hands.

Arriving at police headquarters, I informed them of my lethalness. Out of nowhere, this huge cop grabs me and tries to throw me down.

How silly of him.

Careful not to injure the officer, I made sure he landed on top of his desk instead of the floor when I flipped him using the secret tiger leaps from mountain and kills pregnant antelope technique. The entire department gasped in awe as the big man sailed over my shoulder. The officer who attacked me rolled off his desk and offered a handshake. Said he did that as a test to everyone who comes in to register their hands. I nodded, smiled, adjusted my new black belt, and shook his hand.

From there, officers led me down a dark narrow hallway. They blindfolded me, pushed me into a room that smelled of gunpowder and burnt rubber and locked the door. I could hear water dripping somewhere. Though completely blind, I sensed others in the room. I drew a deep breath and centered my chi as I prepared to use the blind monk escapes the cave and attacks one-legged merchant in village technique. I quickly exhaled. I was now one with the room.

For the next seven hours, I went through a series of grueling tests that involved handcuffs, shotguns, tennis balls, ninja stars, smoke bombs, Taser guns, and a live goat.

At the conclusion, the chief of police said he was sure glad I was one of the good guys, but being that he’d never seen anyone as amazing as me, I needed to register my hands and feet. I agreed. Just registering my hands wasn’t being totally honest. With my killer kicks, I actually equaled two lethal weapons.

I filled out the proper forms, swore in before the judge of my lethalness, took the oath only to use kung fu when in danger, and was issued the official Lethal Weapon card. (Only Mel Gibson and I carry multiple lethal weapon cards). The police even gave me a small badge that I must wear whenever I’m in public that informs people that I’m a hands-registered black belt.

Of course, the story above is false-well; some parts of it-but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve been asked if a person must register their hands once they become a black belt.

The answer is an absolute NO. Registering your hands is an urban legend, a Hollywood myth. There is no such registry and research has failed to reveal any statutory, regulatory, or other requirements that boxers or martial artists must register their hands.

I did read, however, of several court cases where jurors considered a defendant’s MA or boxing experience when deciding the outcome of their case. In 1988, (Wyo. 1988) the Wyoming Supreme Court convicted a man of aggravated assault for punching someone in the head. The defendant’s training in boxing supported the jury’s findings on his mental state. I also discovered a website where you can pay $34.95 to register your hands with this company. I wish I’d thought of that marketing idea.

Bottom Line: As martial artists, the courts hold us to a higher standard than regular civilians, as we should be. Discipline and control is the cornerstone of martial arts. Just use common sense. If you are at the grocery store and a guy bumps into you, don’t break his leg. However if someone is in your home to kill, steal, or destroy, then all bets are off.      You unleash on them.

That goes for terrorists attacking you on a plane. I have no problem using the kung fu master completely decimates the lunatic screaming “death to infidels” technique.

The Day I Fought Chuck Norris’ Clone – El Final

Monday, July 13th, 2009

…Oh crap! I’ve only sparred in class twice and now I’m about to fight Ranger J.J. McQuade.

Miraculously I stood. My hands were at my side, feeling like concrete. My knees wobbled. I dragged my legs across the black line into the ring. I walked like a Zombie. I should’ve been praying, meditating or something as I struggled to a fighting stance. Instead, my mind raced to a story Sifu Fogg had once told me. He said he and Chuck had sparred at Mr. Norris’ home in California back in the 70’s. Sifu said he won. I swallowed and chewed my mouthpiece. Now it all made sense. Chuck commissioned Mr. Clone to Baton Rouge on a revenge mission. Take me out as an example. NOBODY defeats Chuck Norris. I was a dead man.

Judge said go. Chuck Clone smiled. Spit dripped off his chewed-up black mouthpiece. He looked like the devil. He began to circle me. I wanted to turn with him but my body wouldn’t work. He charged with a ridge hand. I thought of ducking but I moved with the agility of a dead cat. I felt the impact from the blow then my feet left the ground. I heard the roar of the crowd as I tumbled through the air. From what others told me, it was beautiful, especially the way my body cartwheeled across the gym floor. Chuck Clone had followed the ridge hand with a spinning hook kick to the back of my head. As I tumbled out of the ring, I thought of Sifu, John, my other classmates. I had let them down; then I though of Rocky. His words to Mr. T, “Come on. You’re not so bad. You ain’t nothin’.” A rush of adrenaline flooded my muscles. I rolled to my feet. Chuck Clone was going down.

I spun around, charged the ring, but Clone wasn’t there. He was already on the sidelines, surrounded by judges and awestruck fans. I was nothing but a forgotten casualty.

It turned out that Chuck Clone was actually a nice guy. He was a student of one of Mr. Norris’ last operating schools, and he’d been an extra on some of Chuck’s movies. None of my KF brothers saw the fight so on the way home I exaggerated a little to make me not look too bad.

Overall, it was a great experience. I learned to face my fear, and I learned of the enormous power of suggestion. The simple fact that Mr. Clone had Chuck Norris Fighting System stitched on his gi made him a giant in my eyes. He also had the skills to back it up, another lesson learned.

The Day I Fought Chuck Norris’ Clone – Tres

Friday, July 10th, 2009

…”Competitors,” a voice boomed over the PA, “we don’t have enough fighters in each rank to merit a contest so we will mix all belt ranks divided only by age. Please listen for your name.”

Several competitors cheered, others booed. I wanted to throw-up. The great PA voice in the sky had just announced that I might have to rumble with Chuck Clone. I shot a glance at him. He was pulling on his war-ravaged headgear. Two loose strips of tape flapped side to side. He was smiling the way I’m sure Goliath did when he went out to battle David. I had the feeling, though, that this giant-story was going to have a very different ending. I frantically searched the crowd for John and my other teammates. I needed backup. They were competing in other divisions.

“Jones,” the great PA said, “have a seat on the line.” I sat cross-legged on the black line of the gym floor and sized up my competition. There were nine fighters. Two while belts, four green, one red, a purple (whatever that is) and Chuck Clone. All of us supposedly under 19 but I swear they looked 40. I was so nervous I put my sparring boots on the wrong feet and forgot to lace up my gloves. My mouthpiece was suffocating me. I fought the urge to bolt, or to shout Wait! You have the wrong guy. I’m not worthy to represent the U.S. Kung Fu Exchange! Instead, I sat there and re-taught myself how to breathe.

Since so few fighters, the event was supposed to be set up like king of the mountain. Whoever won the bout continued to fight, but the judges already knew who’d win, so the event turned into “let’s watch Mighty Chuck Clone destroy these weak worthless earthlings”.

All grew quiet.

The judge cleared his throat, looked at the roster. I was the newest. I figured I’d be first. My head felt a hundred degrees. Salty sweat singed my eyes. The room began to tilt. My muscles twitched like I was strapped to a metal chair being torture shocked. I started to stand but the great PA voice saved me–only for a moment.

Out of pure diabolical pleasure, the judges ordered white belts to go last. Sure, allow the lambs to watch the lion eat their parents first. I grew more nauseated with each round. Chuck Clone was incredible. Purple Boy lunged at him with a snap kick. Faster than I could blink, Chuck Clone spun and drove a back kick into Purple Boy’s gut, knocking him out of the ring so hard he refused to come back. The Green Boys did worse. They moved in slow motion compared to Mr. Clone. From one agonizing round to the next, they were either swept, flipped, kicked, or all three, out of the ring without landing a blow. The crowd went crazy. I was afraid my bowels would do the same. Please somebody take this dude out!

Red Man stood, pounding his fists into his palms and bobbing his head side-to-side. I had hope for Red Man. He was bigger, meaner looking, had some wicked dragon design on his gi. He threw one punch. I held my breath. Chuck Clone ducked. Red Man dropped unconscious. The bout lasted 15 seconds. I didn’t even see what he did. The audience sprang to their feet. Chuck Clone was indestructible. No wonder Mr. Norris sent him. The two other white belts reluctantly stood. They stared at the floor with their shoulders slumped. One by one, they stepped into the ring then flew back out, headfirst.

My turn…

* * *

The Day I Fought Chuck Norris’ Clone – Dos

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

…We demonstrated five more techniques and won first place. Great start to a first tournament. John and I went separate ways, and since I was a rookie, I entered white belt division.

It was during roll call that I first saw him. I did a double take, blinked several times to be sure. I thought that perhaps my euphoric brain, clouded from my recent victory, was playing tricks on me, but as far as I could tell, Chuck Norris was standing ten feet away with his back to me.

I stared in disbelief at the guy with blond hair wearing a starched white gi. He had Chuck Norris Fighting System embroidered in bold black letters on the back of his gi and running down each white pant leg. He was talking and laughing with judges and other competitors. My heart started pounding like an out-of-control jackhammer. My palms went clammy. My stomach butterflies began killing each other. He turned, glanced at me and nodded.

To understand my excitement, you need to know how much of a Chuck fan I was. I had seen every movie enough times to memorize the complete dialogue in each film. Play me a half-second snippet of the movie’s musical score, I could tell you the exact movie. I had every magazine with Chuck on the cover, and I had the HBO showing times of A Force of One, The Octagon, and Eye For An Eye, written on my Sports Illustrated Swim Suit wall calendar. I even lost a girlfriend over a Chuck Norris movie. I took her to see my all-time favorite, Lone Wolf McQuade. I didn’t kiss her during the film and she claimed I ignored her. Well, yeah! You don’t kiss during a Chuck movie. I know, I needed therapy, but I had found my calling through the martial arts, and Chuck Norris represented what I wanted to be at that time.

Once I saw his face, I knew it wasn’t Chuck, but only because of his age. The guy was maybe eighteen and extremely fit. Throw a beard on him, add a few wrinkles around the eyes and you had Chuck. He was wearing black tattered hand pads and matching sparring boots held together with duck tape. He moved through the crowd with confidence and a hint of bravado. Everyone seemed to know him, giving him high-fives, pats on the back. I studied his every move, learning. Though not Chuck, he obviously knew Chuck. I mean the man himself sent this kid to represent the entire Chuck Norris Fighting System. Could you be any better? I wanted to absorb everything I could from this guy.

His headgear dangled from his right hand by its Velcro strap. I instantly thought of Hercules holding Medusa’s head. The black Styrofoam head padding also had wide strips of gray tape covering battle scars. His worn, frayed and faded to ash gray, black belt hung around his waist so naturally I wondered if he ever took it off. Chuck Clone was definitely a tournament veteran. Thank God, I wouldn’t be fighting him…

* * *

The Day I Fought Chuck Norris’ Clone – Uno

Monday, July 6th, 2009

As I slid into the back seat of that 1980 Cutlass Supreme at 3:30 in the morning on a Saturday, I had no idea that in five hours I’d come face to face with my greatest hero . . . Chuck Norris.

I hadn’t even been in kung fu for three months, yet here I was with five other students headed to Baton Rouge, LA for our first martial arts tournament. Sifu Fogg had given us a crash course on tournaments for the last several weeks. I don’t remember why this tournament was so important, but I do remember the pain in training for it. Then on the Friday before, Sifu tells us he can’t go. So we were off to Louisiana without a Sifu.

It was late August, 90 degrees before the sun even came up, and the car’s A/C wasn’t the best. The back of my legs stuck to the tan vinyl seats. To beat the heat, I wore my Ocean Pacific tank top, short running shorts, and blue-striped tube socks that climbed to my knees. (Remember, this was the 80’s. Tube socks were cool. Sly even wore them in Rocky III. And if Stallone said tube socks were cool—then tube socks were cool).

Titus, the driver, and proud owner of the Cutlass, was a huge reggae fan. For the three-hundred-plus road trip, we gulped Mountain Dews by the case and bobbed our heads to the syncopated melodies of Bob Marley and others. I truly wanted dreadlocks by the end of the day.

The tournament began at 10. Four wrong turns and two wrong highways later, we arrived at 9:50. We scribbled our names at the registration, rushed to the changing rooms, threw on kung fu clothes, and sprinted to the taped-off section of the gymnasium where we were to compete, doing all this as the tournament director called our names over the PA.

John Cheng and I had entered a “practical self-defense” division. It was an event where you had someone attack you then you showed your stuff by dealing with it. That was the first event and we were scheduled to perform first. (Guess who played the bad-guy.) With no warm-up, we jumped into the center of the ring.

The first technique was to escape a standing chokehold. Due to our tardiness, Cheng and I missed the rules discussion, one of which was to perform the routine slow the first time then fast the second time. I pulled in a quick breath to focus then clutched Cheng’s neck. Already nicknamed “Buzz saw hands” for his incredible speed, Cheng’s left hand shot under my left hand, broke the grip, blasted my temple with his right elbow, rammed a knee into my gut then threw me to the floor. It happened so fast and I hit the gym floor so hard, the crowd actually gasped. The judges rushed to my side, asked if I was OK. I gave them a thumbs-up and sprang to my feet. The previous weeks of intense training with John on full-speed mode had conditioned my body.

After seeing that, officials huddled for a serious pow-wow and decided to bring in a mat for competitors to fall on. They also asked John if he could slow down—three different times…

* * *

The Bug Within

Monday, June 15th, 2009

It was an average enough day. Nothing out of the ordinary, when a strange man came up to me at work. I was helpful and got him what he needed, but I had second thoughts about his mental competence. He went on his way, and I went mine, thinking nothing more of him and moving on to the next customer.

About fifteen minutes had passed and I heard a page on the intercom system. It said, “Mr. Decker to the front lobby, REDLINE.” This means to drop what you are doing immediately and get to the front. This is when my spidey senses told me something was wrong. I could hear the anticipation and nervousness in the person’s voice that called me, and I was off with the speed of a ninja.

Once I got to the front lobby, I saw a manager, a helpful customer, and the same man that I had encountered earlier, sitting down on the ground. I then ask the manager, “How may I be of assistance?”, as I pushed out my chest and dropped the tone of my voice. He told me that the man sitting on the ground made it to the front, left his groceries and proceeded to stand on the counter. He then began to undress. They stopped him from undressing and got him to the lobby and called for backup. Since I was backup, I introduced myself to the gentleman and ask his name.

He was very nervous and couldn’t sit still. He then began to take his shoes off. I called him by name, asked him to sit still until the police came, and asked him to put his shoes back on. He said “WHY. I would never hurt anyone.” He then stood up and came toward me with his hands out.

Without thinking, my body reacted. I blocked his hand, moved to the side, twisted his hand behind his back, and helped his face to the floor. He started kicking violently and yelling. I told him to be still and the police would be here soon. The more he moved and twisted, the further I pushed his fingertips up his back.

The police arrived soon after, and my heart was still beating 100 miles an hour. Once the man was off with the police the manager turned to me and said, “How did you do that?” I gave him the best answer that I had; “I don’t know.” It was really all a blur to me, I really didn’t know what I had done. It was pure animal instinct. It actually kind of scared me. The manager said, “Show me how to do that. That was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” It wasn’t just animal instinct; it was the “BUG” inside me busting out. I told him I couldn’t show him how to do it. I could show him the moves, but he would have to come and train to find the “BUG” inside him.

Boxer Rebellion v2.0:

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

…”Dude, you’re in my room.” I had to get my legs untangled from my sheets. I wanted to kick him in the head first.

“Screw ‘em,” Jeff shouted. He lunged and smacked the guy closest to him in the jaw.

Then all hell broke lose.

As Jeff swung away, I dove off my bunk and landed into a mosh pit of fists. Before my feet touched the floor, I was blocking punches and kicks . . . all in my florescent boxers. It was so crowded the frat boys were hitting each other. It was complete pandemonium. I dodged tackles, blocked more blows then shoved the clumsy drunkards toward the door, hoping my bare feet didn’t get trampled on.

At 6’2 and 190 pounds and being a football player, Jeff mowed his way to the door before three guys tackled him right outside. All but two of the pack followed Jeff out. Crooked-Nose and Fat-Boy were still inside with me. We stared each other down like old western gunfighters. I even had the urge to hold my hands next to my hips and flex my fingers, ready to draw. It was mid November and the night air blowing through the door was freezing and I really wanted to put some clothes on. I scanned the room for a shirt but Crooked-Nose took a sloppy swing at me. I ducked. His fist collided with my metal-framed bunk bed. He howled like a wounded animal and collapsed to the floor, cradling his bloody hand.

Then Fat-Boy really ticked me off. He charged, cursing my mother. That’s not what angered me though. In his advance, Fat-Boy grabbed my only jar of Jif Peanut Butter off the top of our microwave and threw it at me. I sidestepped the creamy missile and the plastic jar exploded against the wall. My cherished peanut spread oozed to the floor in brown globs.

In college, peanut butter meant survival. Whenever my pockets were as empty as my fridge, peanut butter kept me alive. Now, it was lumped on my floor like a pile of manure. As Fat-Boy dove for my legs, I moved to the side and hammered his ear with a palm strike. He dropped like the Hindenburg.

“Let’s go. The cops are coming,” someone outside shouted.

Everyone scattered. Jeff and I threw Crooked-Nose and Fat-Boy out. I wanted to throw Jeff out. For the remaining semester, Jeff managed to avoid luring angry mobs to our room. I heard a rumor however that the real reason we weren’t attacked again is because everyone was so traumatized over seeing a skinny white guy duke it out in his boxer shorts.

Boxer Rebellion v1.0:

Monday, June 1st, 2009

You know when you have those dreams where you’re running around in your underwear? Well, that happened to me in reality.

One of the craziest experiences I’ve had defending myself was in college when my roommate and I took on an entire fraternity inside our Cracker-Jack-box-size dorm room. He was fully clothed and drunk. I was sleepy and wearing aqua-blue boxer shorts with orange palm trees on the front.

Returning from a long night of partying, Jeff, my roommate, who was also a frat-pledge at the time, threw open the door to our dorm room and announced he was home. I glanced at the clock from my top bunk; the green numbers glowed 4:01 a.m. He was actually early compared to other nights. I rolled over and buried my head in pillows, hoping to return to my interrupted dream-that didn’t happen.

I suddenly heard rumbling–well, more like an elephant stampede–and then angry shouts followed by crashing noises. Jeff was cursing, yelling for me to get up. I shot up, pillows tumbling to the floor. With sleep still clouding my vision, I had to blink several times to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. Surrounding my bed was at least ten guys wearing matching fraternity T-shirts. They were all drunk and mad and said they were there to kill my roommate. I looked at Jeff. He was standing in the corner between his desk and closet with his fists clenched shouting, “Bring it on then.” He was saying this to not only the ten already in our room but to the other twelve crowding our doorway and spilling into the parking lot.

We lived in The Units; apartment-style dorms which were designed like old motels where you could park right outside your door. I heard tires skid and doors slam. More enemy troops had arrived. Through the dented window blinds, I could see the parking lot filling with people. The scene reminded me of those black and white horror movies when the bloodthirsty torch-carrying townspeople surrounded the castle, salivating to get inside to kill The Monster.

“What’s going on?” my throat was dry.

A dude with a scar on his chin and a crooked nose pointed to Jeff. “He’s talking —- (for the sake of any children or families reading this, I’ve activated the sensor button). “We’re gonna kick his —”
Considering that within the first five days on campus Jeff’s mouth landed him in five fights, this came as no surprise.

“It takes all of you?” That was the wrong thing to say but remember, I was delirious, my subconscious floating between the sleep world and the awake world.

“Shut up,” a short fat one said, squeezing forward, “this aint about you. But it can be.” …