Thursday 01/10/15

Many members of society have become aggressive and selfish. Instead of looking out for others, they focus their energies on their petty wants and desires, like spoilt children. We see this far too often in the number of road-rage incidents and Coward Punch attacks that feature in the nightly news. (Yes, they are Coward Punches, not king hits. Only a gutless coward stalks and attacks an unaware victim from behind). Unfortunately, these same cowards take their dangerous behaviour onto the road, looking for victims harass and assault.

I’m sure there have been times in your life where you have gotten bad vibes from someone. Not from anything specific they’ve said or done, but just a bad feeling.  The same thing can happen in a vehicle, you can get a bad feeling about another driver on the road. If you get this feeling, slow down a little and let them pass. Don’t do something stupid and make them a permanent part of your life. The legal ramifications for a momentary lapse of judgement can be detrimental. Don’t pull over and confront the other driver; that situation can escalate from loud accusations to violence very quickly. Also, don’t drive straight home. You don’t want the other driver to find out where you live.

I have been followed a few times over the years, but fortunately it has only been in areas I am familiar with. Sometimes it was just coincidence, other times it was stupid kids harassing random drivers. Once or twice it was a genuine. Because I knew the area I was in, I took the next three left hand turns, bringing me back onto the road I was originally driving on. It was statistically unlikely the car behind me was still following due to coincidence. After I’d established that I was being followed, I drove toward the local police station, making sure I avoided any intersection where I’d have to stop (such as traffic lights). Once my tail realised where we were headed, they quickly lost interest in their game.

If the other driver is driving aggressively or dangerously, you’ll need your passenger to call the police (000 in Australia) and tell them what is happening, including a description of the driver, their vehicle and the license plate (if you regularly travel alone, you should consider installing a hands-free kit in your car). Tell the police where you are and tell them you need assistance immediately. If you know the location of the police station, drive there. If the other driver stops following you, that is a good result. If not, park in front of the police station. Do not get out and confront the other driver. You don’t know if they are drunk, on drugs, or have violent psychological issues. Normal people don’t drive across town so they can fight a complete stranger in front of a police station.

Unless you are known by the other driver, it is unlikely they will follow you again. However; you must be vigilant on the way home, and over the next couple of days it’s better to be safe than sorry. Another important thing to remember is ALWAYS lock your doors. This prevents bag-snatchers from grabbing your valuables when you’re stopped at traffic lights. It also stops thugs from climbing into your vehicle, or opening your door and dragging you into the traffic.

If you found the information in tonight’s blog useful, please share it with your friends and family on social media.

Thursday 24/09/15

Spring is here, which means people will begin to emerge from their winter hibernation and return to their outdoor activities. Don’t be fooled by the warm sunny days, spring is the time of year you are most likely to be caught out by a sudden change in the weather. At this time of year, it isn’t uncommon for a warm sunny morning to turn into a cold wet afternoon. If you’re heading out for the day in a t-shirt and pair of shorts, don’t forget to at least take a jumper with you (and your wet weather gear, if you’re going somewhere that isn’t sheltered).

Last Tuesday was the perfect example for tonight’s blog. At 0800hrs, the weather was warm and sunny with a clear blue sky; the perfect spring morning. A little after 1200hrs, thick black clouds spread across the sky and unleashed a deluge of hail that lasted for well over ten minutes. The hail quickly gave way to twenty-five minutes of torrential rain. As the rain eased, a strong cold wind blew away what was left of the storm, leaving us with unsettled skies and chilly winds for the remainder of the afternoon.

Remember last year when I advised you to carry a few basic supplies in an overnight bag in your car? Since that time, have you checked on these supplies to make sure they are still in date and free from damage? Even bottled water needs to be replaced regularly. If you haven’t needed them, I’d be willing to bet you haven’t given your supplies a second thought since packing them into the boot of your car. That’s ok; you can put that on your to-do list for this weekend. Also, you can make sure the jumper you packed still fits you. If not, replace it.

If your job requires you to wear shoes that are only suitable for an office environment, you should pack a spare pair of sneakers into your car too. If your car breaks down and you have to walk to get help, your feet will thank you if you have a pair of sneakers to change into. Don’t pack a pair of stinky, worn-out sneakers you were going to throw in the bin. You know they’re useless.

If you regularly carry a backpack, you might want to include a space blanket in your gear. The one I carry is in a 9cm x 17cm x 1cm flat-pack and weighs virtually nothing (it folds out to 127cm x 200cm). For something that only cost $5.00, it is a very versatile piece of equipment. Its uses include:

  • Blanket
  • Rain poncho, (or anything else on this list)
  • Shelter from the sun
  • Highly reflective surface (to attract the attention of a nearby search party)
  • Sling (for first-aid)
  • Ground sheet (if you have to sleep outside)

There are many other possibilities, but I’ll leave those up to your imagination.

Now that you’ve finished reading tonight’s blog, go out and check on your supplies and make any necessary adjustments. Stay safe and warm, and don’t forget to check-in next week.

If you found tonight’s blog useful, please share it with your friends and family on social media.

Thursday 17/09/15

Over the years I have studied a variety of martial arts; Tae Kwon Do, Ninjutsu, Karate, Western Boxing, and Muay Thai. I have also dabbled in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and a few other styles. You might think this a rather eclectic mix of styles, but my intention was never to master one particular style. I wanted to have a broad knowledge base of techniques to draw from in times of difficulty. I also had to learn techniques that would suit my height, build, speed, strength and level of flexibility. The only way to gain this unique blend of skills and knowledge was to learn from a series of different instructors.

Over the years I have had the privilege of studying under some very knowledgeable and gifted men. Along the way, I have also met a few charlatans. Unfortunately, the charlatans were short-changing their students by teaching techniques and telling stories that had no genuine purpose or value.

Many years ago, I trained at a dojo where we were expected to spar with light contact. I understood these rules, and began to spar. I slipped under my training partner’s guard and delivered a right backfist and a left hook to his cheek. He looked shocked and the referee stopped the round. I immediately apologised, thinking I must have hit my opponent too hard. The referee said that I’d barely touched him, but that wasn’t the problem. He said he’d stopped the match because the backfist I used wasn’t taught or recognised by their particular style. It wasn’t part of their tradition.

This immediately rang a warning bell in my head. What good is a style that pretends certain strikes don’t exist? The first time an experienced student faces a new strike shouldn’t be during a physical altercation. This is setting the student up for failure. Since that time I have paid particular attention to what instructors said, and how they said it. Especially when their explanation for using or excluding a particular technique is “It’s tradition”.

This led me to question the value of some of the things I was taught. A good example is the Horse-riding Stance. It looks impressive when you see a whole dojo of students performing this leg-trembling stance. It is traditional, but what is its practical application? Sure, it was used by mounted warriors to fight from horseback in ancient times, but do you really believe you will ever be called on to do so? If so, you should seek out an instructor who can teach you to fight with swords, and use bows and arrows while you ride.

I’m not saying this out of disrespect, but to draw attention to the amount of time and effort students are expected to dedicate to techniques that have no place in the modern world. If a technique is purely for show, the instructor should inform their students of this fact and let them decide how much of their valuable time they wish to dedicate to learning it.

Kata is another mainstay of modern martial arts that is of limited value to students. Many instructors place a heavy emphasis on students perfecting these long and needlessly complicated imaginary fight sequences. Yes, they allow the instructor to observe each student’s technique, but when practising kata takes up half of the evening’s lesson, you should ask yourself why more of the lesson isn’t being devoted to more practical matters.

Some martial arts styles are more art than martial. Pretty katas that are designed to win competitions are no substitute for practising proper techniques that may actually save your life. You must decide for yourself the value of your training. If your knowledge is weak in one or more areas, you must be willing to recognise this weakness and seek additional training from reliable sources. Only an insecure and jealous sensei would begrudge their students learning new information from other instructors.

I don’t write tonight’s blog with the intent of being disrespectful to traditional martial arts. I owe a great deal to my early training. I hope tonight’s blog will encourage instructors and senior students to openly discuss the real value of what is in the curriculum of their particular style and how it is taught to their students.