Dealing with Misconceptions

The other day I was interviewing Brandon Ryan of Adaptive Defense Methods for Karate Talk. Mr. Ryan brought up an interesting point about how disabled people are hesitant to try martial arts. I continued to think about his comment and several other thoughts occurred. I soon realized that there are a few common misconceptions people who are abled and disabled alike seem to get wrong when it comes to martial arts.

One thought that occurred was a conversation I had years ago on a Facebook group for people with dwarfism. An individual was interested in participating in a physical activity. I naturally suggested martial arts. I was explaining how martial arts can provide cardio and strength training. Plus I explained some of the self-defense techniques are simple and how people with dwarfism could easily perform them with little effort. Another individual called me out saying I was spreading a false sense of security by encouraging other dwarfs to try out martial arts. The person on Facebook commented that not everyone could be a Power Ranger or Neo from the Matrix. He is correct; the Power Rangers and Neo are fictional characters. Though the way the characters fight on screen is fun to watch; however is not what learning martial arts or self-defense is all about.

redranger flying kickSelf-defense is about learning the tools you need to change the outcome of a situation so you do not become a victim. It is not about going after the bad guy and doing flashy spinning aerial roundhouse kicks and punches all while letting out loud Heee-Yaaa! In self-defense, you are learning situational awareness (you know learning to get the spidey-senses to tingle) and knowing what you can use in your environment that can help you defend yourself and not becoming a victim or a statistic.

As I have pointed out in a previous post, martial arts is 98% mental. This means understanding situational awareness is the most critical aspect of learning martial arts or self-defense. This is where most conflicts are won by simply avoiding it when possible. What is situational awareness? It is the ability to know what is happening around you and in your environment. In other words, you will be able to identify potential threats and avoid getting into any type of conflict.

oodaloopIn situational awareness, you will learn to utilize the OODA Loop. Observe, orient, decision, and action. Observe what is happening around you. Get to know your surrounding by orienting yourself to the environment. Make decisions based on your observations. Then act on those decisions. The best example of the OODA Loop being used is from the movie Finding Dory. Don’t worry I won’t be giving away spoilers if you haven’t already seen the movie.

finding-doryThroughout the movie every time Dory got separated from her family or friends she would observe what was going on in her immediate surrounding. She would stop and orient herself to the environment. If Dory saw another fish that could offer her help, she made the decision to ask, and then go ask for assistance in finding her family or friends.

At the time I had been practicing jujitsu for almost a year. I had been working techniques that did not take a great deal of strength or mobility to redirect my opponent’s attacks. Many of these techniques I feel were simple. Despite a person’s range of mobility, they could do the technique and possibly change the outcome of an attacker’s intent. Some of these techniques included moving your head to the right or left a few degrees when a punch is coming to your face. Or moving to a 45-degree angle and gently redirecting the attacker energy into the wall that was behind you. Or bending the attacker’s wrist towards his body and causing him to go into the direction his hand is going.

The reason why you would want to practice defensive techniques is because avoiding the conflict may not be an option. It is better to practice defensive techniques and hope you will never have to use them. The idea is to prepare for worst case scenario.

My parents once asked me why would you be in a situation where you would need to know how to protect yourself? I know for a fact there are people out there in the world who do not have good intentions. They see a disabled person and they feel they need to show that their power over them by hurting them. If it had not been for a good friend of mine watching my back one day, I would have been the recipient of someone’s trying to prove they were superior over someone smaller than themselves. I know of disabled people who have been victims because someone could assert their power over them.

taichiI am an advocate of disabled people learning a martial art or some form of self-defense. From the aspect of practicing martial arts as a physical activity, there are many benefits. It is a good form of physical therapy if you have a limited range of mobility. A style such as Tai Chi is really good for restorative care. Another benefit is that it is a way to get healthy. I have known people who started practicing in order to control their weight, gain strength, and stamina. When a person has developed some proficiency from learning with an instructor it is something that can be practiced on their own or with another person.

DISCLAIMER: If a person (disabled or not) decides to learn martial arts (or self-defense); I won’t guarantee them 100% safety. Chances are they will get hurt during training and most likely in a confrontation. To be honest I have been hurt a few times during my years of training. I have dislocated a finger in jujitsu, I bruised my tailbone in karate, and I have hit my head a few times on the ground. I have had friends break ribs, toes, feet, noses, dislocate shoulders, and get black eyes. I have also been kicked across the dojo. Occasionally some nights after class, people tend to walk out with their pride hurt. It is better to be hurt in a controlled situation rather than a non-controlled situation.

During my years of practice, I have only seen one person go to the hospital after a class. The injury that was sustained in class was not even related to a martial arts technique. The assistant instructor was standing off to the side of the room barefoot on the tile floor. He had a jump rope in his hand was thinking about incorporating the exercise into our routine. A lower ranking student advised him that jumping rope barefoot on tile floor was not a good idea. He didn’t listen. After two seconds of jumping his foot was in extreme pain.

Other times I have seen when people are hurt during class; is when the students do not use control. Prime example; a student throws a punch as hard as he can and overextends his reach. Physics tells us that an object in motion stays in motion until acted on. In this case, sometimes it can be a wall behind the opponents back. Or losing your balance and going to the ground. New students are usually paired with higher ranking students during sparring matches and practice drills. The higher ranking student can show the newer how to control their moves. Also, the higher ranking student is usually conditioned to take the hits from a newer student.

matrixfightsceneLearning martial arts; a person becomes aware of their surroundings and they are more cognitive about what they can do with their own body. Why practice martial arts if someone is going to get hurt during training? Think of it as conditioning and preparing the body and the mind. If a person is in a confrontation they will more than likely get hurt. It is the degree of severity that changes if one knows how to defend themselves. If a person does face an attacker, they can sense it before it starts and leave the situation; or if not a possibility they have the element of surprise by fighting back. That may be enough incentive for an attacker to realize they need to disengage and leave them alone. Most people will pick an easy target. Another thing I can guarantee, they will not look like a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger or Neo from the Matrix that is CGI.


If you enjoyed this article please reshare to your family, friends, co-workers, sparring partners, or on your social media accounts; it would be a good complement for me. Feel free to join me on the following social media platforms:
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Woah, I Know Jujitsu

LMcDonnellwithwalker061999
Me a few weeks after I started karate in 1999

Last summer I was asked to write an article for a magazine on how martial arts helped my self-esteem. More specifically I focused on what karate did for me when I first began practicing in 1999. After a year of practicing martial arts, I was able to walk without the use of a walker. As you can see achieving a milestone such as this can be a big boost to a person’s self-esteem. However, that is one story on how practicing martial arts has impacted my life.

 

In life, you evolve. In martial arts, you evolve as a practitioner. There are ups and downs in life – even in martial arts. From the very beginning, I was told that I will hit plateaus in my training. As I have learned at one time or another you will hit that plateau where you do not feel like you are learning anything. Every day will feel exactly the same. When that happens, confidence/self-esteem will begin to fade.

bigstockphoto_moon_meditation_silhouette_3306208-410x274Earlier in my martial arts training, if I was going through a rough patch in life I knew going to karate class and practicing would help me out. The moments before and after class we would sit and meditate – focus on martial arts and nothing else. Usually by the end of class or shortly afterward I had a solution to whatever issue I was facing earlier in the day. However, it was around 2009 when I hit a plateau. My family and I had a series of ups and down all year. Going to karate class to meditate and workout did not help me find solutions.

In fact, I was faced with a few more aggravations once I stepped through the doors of the dojo. Some of the aggravation was internal and some were external. Internally – my self-esteem was fading. I no longer felt comfortable about myself. I was gaining weight and having issues breathing. You may remember me mentioning that in previous posts Way of the Gun. Being overweight had slowed me down considerably and I was not as mobile. Externally – I didn’t feel as welcomed in the class as I had hoped. Then again it could have been my self-esteem and my clouded perception at the time was the reasons why I felt that way. Class would start and I take my place in the front of the room where black belts and brown belts stood. We went through PT1 and PT2 exercises. We even did kata. The instructors would go to all of the other students and work with them and discuss what they needed to correct. I guess my technique was perfect. None of the instructors ever offered any type of criticism or told me what I needed to correct. None of the instructors ever walked up to me. – Was I invisible?

During class, we would break up into groups to work on kata, kumite, or other techniques. My best friend (fellow brown belt at the time) realized what was going on. He simply walked away from his group and we made our own group. We worked kata. He knew I was having issues. My technique was getting sloppy. He did his best to explain to me what I needed to work on. To bad, it took 3 more years to realize what he was saying. Better late than never.

I continued to stick with karate for a few more months. However, in the spring of 2010, an unforeseen incident with one of the instructors that resulted in the class being closed down indefinitely. The dojo closed two weeks before I would test for my black belt. I contemplated joining other classes in the area. A dojo opened up a few months after my dojo closed. I considered going there even though it was not my style of karate. I enjoyed focusing on the traditional art whereas they focused on competition. Competition is a little harder for me to participate in due to the rules about not hitting below the belt in sparring matches. Plus there are no other dwarves in the area I can spar. After talking to the instructors I did not agree with their requirements for earning and maintaining their belts.

I went a few years without attending a martial arts class. Occasionally I would check out some Tai Chi videos online and try to follow along but that was about it. Early in 2013, a good friend of mine had heard about a jujitsu class that was 20 minutes up the road from our home. He came over to my house and asked if I knew anything about the class. I told him I knew the people who ran the class. He said he was going to check it out. I decided I would tag along with him.

I sat there as a spectator during class and watched the students roll around on the ground and throw each other across the room. The instructor had told me that night that Judo was an element he focused on in class. I sat there and watched two guys 6-foot tall throw each other around. I thought to myself, there is a lot of things going on here I don’t think I can do. As much fun as the class looked I didn’t think it would be for me.

My friend and I left the class that evening. I went home and told my wife about it. She encouraged me to go back the next week and try the class even though there were techniques I didn’t think I could do. My buddy came back over to the house the next week and said he was going to the class this time to work out. He asked if I wanted to go. I reluctantly said yes.

As I have said in one of my previous posts; the hardest part is walking through the door.  During the first 10 minutes of class, the instructor told me he would teach me some judo techniques. I remembered what I had seen the week before. I was about to protest but before I could he said he was going to modify the technique. That night I learned how to throw people who were 6 foot tall. I now have a better understanding of the phrase; “the taller they are, the harder they fall.”

I am so glad I went to the class that night. It was one of the best decisions I had made in a long time (as it relates to martial arts). I loved every second of it. From the very beginning of class, the instructor started modifying all of the techniques. Even though it was my first day, he made me feel like a part of the class. Something I hadn’t felt in the karate class a few years before.

Learning new techniques and sparring in ju-jitsu class every week revived my love for martial arts altogether. My perception on karate changed dramatically. The kata’s I had practiced for several years took on a whole new meaning. I would learn techniques in jujitsu class then I would go home and practice my Shorin-Ryu kata’s and pick out where the judo and jujitsu moves would fit in.

i know jujitsuThe jujitsu class was a big boost in my self-esteem. When I was in karate I was unsure of myself. As I continued to practice jujitsu I felt like I had a better chance of winning a fight if one was to ever occur. All of the issues I had when it came to sparring in karate during my early days; I had found an answer for in the ju-jitsu class. Each week I would come home and I would look at my wife and say “woah! I know jujitsu” kind of the same way Neo from the Matrix did when he learned Kung-Fu.

IMAG0219I still faced everyday problems in life. I was able to go, class, meditate, workout, throw some people around for a while, get thrown around myself, and by the end of it, I had a solution to my problems. I stayed in the class for almost 2 years. I even earned a purple belt. Unfortunately, life happens and I had to step away from the dojo for a while to take care of financial related matters and deal with health issues. Last summer I was about to make my return to the class then disaster struck the local area. The dojo was flooded along with the entire town.

Even though I am no longer in the class, I am still as confident as I was in class. I continue to practice on my own and with immediate family members. Karate helped me figure out how to use my body but I didn’t feel equal among my peers. In jujitsu; I figured out how to make myself equal to everyone else. That was the biggest boost in confidence.


Join me on the following social media platforms:
Facebook and Google Plus where we can continue the discussion and you can share your experiences.
Twitter and Instagram so you can keep up with the adventures of the Karate Kickin Dwarf.
YouTube Channel! Watch various videos the Karate Kickin Dwarf and be sure to subscribe!

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