Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye Dragon, Hello Snake!

Watching the tail of the dragon disappear as the snake pokes his head into the room.  What an exciting year 2012 turned out to be.  Not only did I survive the Great Mayan Apocalypse, and I will assume YOU did also, but there were some significant life changes that occurred.  Not as many blogs as I would have liked to have written, but sometimes silence is the best answer to those raging events around us, whether it is political, religious, or constitutional rights as some choose to interpret them.  Had to let a few friends go over the year and added and met quite a few more. 

This year I celebrated 18 official years with the woman I love with my heart and soul.  Marriage is hard work; a happy marriage built on trust, understanding, and compassion is an even harder challenge.  I am grateful that I have two ears and one mouth, and know when two is greater than one.  It has been wonderful and magical to watch year 18 come and go and I am looking forward to our “official” 19th year in 2013.
I am extremely proud of taking some “Mike time” this year to apply, interview, and acquire a promotion and subsequent move to Baltimore, Maryland as the Baltimore District, US Army Corps of Engineers Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist.  I have poured myself into this field for the last five years and extremely proud to see the immersion pay off, not just for me, but for my family.  We have officially put the south behind.  I got to explore some variations of my martial path before realizing that my karma had brought me within blocks of the Jinenkan dojo in the city.  In November, I began training there and have begun a new path of exploring what has always been my calling, the traditional aspects of the Takamatsuden arts.  It has been fulfilling to say the least.  No truer words exists than Manaka Sensei’s “Practice proper basics repeatedly and you will be able to always have natural movement.”  Of course, it will also be an absolute thrill to attend Manaka Sensei’s return to the United States for a seminar in October.

If I had to name one thing I would have done differently this year it would be paying particular attention to my physical health.  I think I spent a lot of the year rebelling, against diet, exercise, and training.  Restarting training has been challenging.  Refocusing my mind and spirit over the last month or so has helped.  
So that leads me to thinking about what I want to let go of in the coming year.  For me, personally, it is fear and apprehension.  2013 will be a big year for change at my work, as my manager is retiring and the organization will make a decision as to whether I can be placed in that position or whether they will hire someone new.  I know that no matter what occurs it will be what it will be.  I have to let go of old beliefs and behaviors instilled by past managers and supervisors, both military and civilian, who were only looking out for themselves and their careers, without developing and growing their future replacements.  My current manager has greatly assisted me in that inner development and it will be hard to see her leave; yet, joyful in knowing she will be moving into her next stage of existence.

So, where does that leave me for my vision and intention for 2013?  Of course, continuing to strengthen my marriage and put aside quality time with the one I love.  I also commit myself to training both in the dojo and at home. 
I have come to realize that I am also within blocks of the Ja Ling Tibetan Buddhist Cultural Center and will be making this a focus for the Year of the Snake.  They have a master singer and former chant master of the Sera Je Monastery which interests me greatly.  I will also continue my Shinto beliefs and explore opportunities as they present themselves.

Lots of things on the horizon; will be test driving my new 13 week training cycles that I feel I have spent a lifetime designing.  I will be focusing on “self” this year in recognition of the Year of the Water Snake.  I found some interesting advice when it comes to the Year of the Snake that really rang true to my soul.  “It is a year of risk, a time to observe, analyze and then strike quickly.  It is a great time to make sense of your life, open yourself to the universal powers that be to receive answers to longstanding problems.  Do not be put off from moving forward in a purposeful way; the Snake is both the wise Sage and the sneaky assassin; there is knowledge to be gained from both sides of its nature. Lending all its daring, boldness and outrageous nerve, the Snake likes to see people make use of these qualities and will put obstacles in your way to test them. If adversity does hit, be like the Snake, wait it out until the time is right to make your move, because the time will definitely come, but you must be focused, prepared and have your eye on the goal so that you can attack in a second.” 
I look forward to a great year of training – in body, mind, and soul.
In Kobudo,

- Mike (鬼梟)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Wading in, Guns a blazin!

I really didn’t want to wade into the current gun debate, which is always how someone who wants to wade into the current gun debate begins their conversation.  We had a tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut over the last month.  Unless you live under a rock, you are well aware of the event.  No need to rehash it here.  It has brought out the best and the worst in people, from constitutionalists (the 2nd Amendment says I can have a gun) to those who interpret it as “a well trained militia can only have a gun” to the conspiracy crowd who keep seeing soldiers in blue helmets marching down the street kicking in doors and throwing your guns into an armored truck parked in your front yard.  As some of you may know, I don’t own a television, or to be specific, I do not have access to the 24/7 newsfeed that blindly leads our nation around the neck.  It has been a social experiment of mine since I realized I was feeding Comcast Cable about $220 a month that I could be spending on other things a little over a year ago.  So, I catch the news online, at various sources, and get a feel for what’s happening based on the people I associate with; a mix of extreme liberals, die-hard right wingers, “we’re leaving the Nation” groupies, moderates on both sides, as well as people who live in Europe, England, South Africa, Australia and Japan.  But, I digress.
I recently caught a Facebook comment thread that captured everything I feel about gun ownership.  I was raised in Texas by a father who was a Department of Corrections officer (prison guard).  He ran the rifle / pistol range for the maximum security facility, so I learned to shoot at around 6 years of age.  BB guns, .22 cal, .38 cal, .45 cal, and all kinds of rifles, to include what is being called “assault rifles” in the media.  I learned how to kick in a door at age 12 and clear four corners of a room.  I learned basic ammo reloading techniques to save money on shotgun and pistol ammo.  It, of course, led me to the Army where I continued to master my craft.  It culminated in the sands of the Middle East, in fire fights outside Fallujah, where, if it entered my sight picture, it dropped.  I don’t know how many people I have sent to the other side of life, but war is hell and I have a very strong survival instinct.    
Now, you may think my house is like that room in the movie Men In Black, the one with the secret door and a chamber filled with every firearm conceivable to mankind.  But you might be surprised to know I have zero firearms in my house.  Some of you are screaming “DON’T BROADCAST THAT, THE EVIL MEN WILL BREAK INTO YOUR HOUSE!”  Well, I had two home invaders try that in 2008.  It is not about gun ownership, it is about warrior skills.  It is about honing your instinct to take a life that stops violence.  It is about intent.  I mentioned I did not have any guns in my house, but there is something in every room that deters a home invader.  Maybe it is an inconspicuous Tupperware container filled with ground five alarm chili powder ready to be thrown into the nose and eyes of an invader, allowing me and mine enough time to survive.  Maybe it is a well sharpened blade that can inflict pain (because, trust me, pain is a combat multiplier) that is available.  Maybe it is a high lumen flashlight that temporarily blinds the attacker allowing you to launch your attack.  It might be wasp spray – be amazed what that does to the eyes.  Is that a cell phone or 20,000 volts coursing through your neck?  Maybe it is me dropping to the floor sobbing in hysterics that allows you to get a little too close to me so I can throw the mental switch into the mentality of "one lives, one dies" – I will live.  Gun disarms are tricky, but can be done.  Ask two snot nosed teens in Savannah, Georgia who were zipped tied and waiting for the police to arrive when they came out of my spare bedroom and found me waiting.  So, no guns in the house.  Just a little sign in the window that says Iraq Combat Veteran.  If you can’t figure out what that means, I will be glad to give you a very short brutally, painful class.
In the meantime, if you own a gun, be responsible, just like we do in the martial arts.  Train with it - in every condition; in the dark, in the cold.  Keep it secure.  Know proper sight picture before trigger squeeze.  Have tactical and situational awareness of your surroundings.  Know that you possess the difference between life and death.  It is a great responsibility.  Please treat it as such.