Category Archives: Paul

people don’t ‘win’ life, they live life

Barnstar trophy
Barnstar trophy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My good friend Paul posted this as a comment on my “about” page. We are usualy on the same page on this sort of stuff and I thought this comment was such a good encapsulation of my mindset that it deserved its own post.

I don’t think that a civilian leading an everyday life should have to adopt/adapt/’emulate’ (read copy) a ‘warrior’ lifestyle in order to find a codex of values and character traits to deal with the challenges of life. In many ways it can be counter productive, IMO.

The character traits and virtues have not been clearly defined, but I am working with the assumption that they include the basics such as Integrity, Honesty, Moral and Physical courage, commitment….and the like. Well, those same qualities are evident in the Boy Scouts, most postive and successful business organizations, healthy religious practices, personal growth programs, philosophical pursuits of self awareness….

The BIG difference between using the ‘warrior’ model/role model and any of these other possible options is two major things:

1. The basic belief that the warrior is/will be in conflict with someone or something.

2. The basic belief that victory is the end goal/object…that there IS an end goal/objective at all.

There is a problem when approaching life with a ‘conflict’ mentality in a civilian (please read ‘civilized’) world. Basically, the ‘warrior’ mentality requires one to see every situation as a fight, every challenge or problem as a conflict. That means the ‘warrior’s’ mind will define someone or something as the ‘enemy’ whether there is one or not.

On the second issue, life is what it is, it is cyclical and there really is no ‘end goal’ objective, IMO. People don’t ‘win’ life, they live life. In the military/LEO, all those values/virtues are meant to keep a person focused on completing the objective, but – as we have seen too many times with war veterans, there isn’t much help in the ‘warrior’ mentality with how to cope with the aftermath (returning home to civilian life at the end of deployment, after combat, after trauma…).

I think a more properly aligned mentallity for civilian martial arts training – especially those systems/schools that are trying to be reality based or self defense focused, is one based on being a good citizen, the legal system of the country/state/county/town or city, and personal family upbringing.

I don’t normally pull the ‘been there done that’ game, so I hope this is taken for what it is meant to be: Substantiation of my position, but I’ve been a civilian and a serviceman, I’ve been trained as a teacher by degree, desire, and experience via the service, college, career, and mentorship.

Based on those experiences and trainings, I don’t see ‘warrior’ mimicry as the best choice of role modeling.

Personally, I’ve used the term ‘Everyday Hero’ for the type of ‘image’ that encapsulates the values and virtues that I would like to see my students and children strive for at times.

-Paul Martin

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leading, following or getting out of the way

We ‘learn’ (or more importantly develop the behavioral patterns) of leading, following or getting out of the way from the way we live all the details of our lives. Sometimes we have to unlearn this habit or learn discretion so that we make good initiative decisions.

Unfortunately, I think that as a modern trend, ‘cooperation’ has turned people into followers instead of ‘team players.’ I see it in my son at times when he talks about gym class or even music. “Second violins are just as important as first violins, says Mrs. XYZ” is his response when I tell him that being promoted to first violin is a sign of improvement and that it is okay to strive for personal best…..

Second violins ARE as important to the whole as first violins BUT, generally speaking, first violins are FIRST because they are better players.

I have never really been the wall flower in a group and at times that has meant that my mistakes or failed attempts have been very obvious and noticeable, but I have LEARNED from those mistakes – in and out of martial arts. I took those risks knowing that there was a risk…and learned that there is a price to acting, but a larger ones usually (life long regret at the very least) if you don’t act.

I think as instructors and parents, it is sooo important to do more than pay lip service to the idea that people can have “good initiative” but may have exercised “poor judgement” and give people, students and ourselves room to screw up but learn from that. When we were in the Bos, I use to tell my squad that it wasn’t the mistakes that we made that defined our character but how we dealt with them afterwards. On the positive, be accountable for yourself, learn from it, identify what needs to be corrected and move on. On the negative, deny, deflect and lay blame/cut someone else down to make yourself feel better and you’ll just do it all over again later on.

Though I don’t think that one automatically leads to the other, I do think that daily practice of moral/character and leadership habits in a moral courage way can make physical courage/crisis leadership habits easier to ‘learn.’

-Paul Martin

general rant

yell (Photo credit: mikeyp2000)

For some reason, lately, I have been coming into contact with people who want to know about martial arts training and self defense and more (as if being a martial artist makes me a ‘life coach’ or ‘guru’ or something). They ask about issues of title, rank, character/talent… and then start talking about what they read on the internet, saw in a movie, heard from some guy they took classes (and the only guy they ever took classes with too) with the conviction that they are ‘right’ (in that absolutist way) about their perspective on the issues…

Here is where it sticks in my craw during these discussions: THere seems to be some confusion about a person’s ‘right to their opinion’ meaning the same thing as everyone’s opinion being of equal value. Now, I don’t mean to sound mean or snobbish, but it just ain’t so. Just because I know about a subject, doesn’t mean that I am experienced, and definitely means I don’t carry much/any wisdom about it.

If you’ve never been a parent, you may think you know what it is to raise a child. And, admittedly, you may have some ‘perspective’ on the issue from your own upbringing and contact with others who do have children…but until you experience it, you don’t have wisdom. Heck, even having one isn’t justification to think you know what it takes to raise multiple children…

Anyone else have any dealings with the ‘armchair experts’ who, basically, have minimal knowledge, no practical experience, yet feel that they can pass wisdom on? Sorry to vent, but I’m getting sick of the ironically Bradburyian reality of members of the ‘soundbyte’ culture laying judgement on those who actually do more than read the internet or hide behind excuses when their entire position on any given topic is nearly always from internet blogs, movies, or Wiki type sources and not from training, experience, or education.

-Paul Martin

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Within miltary training, there is a saying that in order to be effective, a unit (from the individual serviceman/woman up to the largest units) must be able to shoot, move and communicate.

Translating this saying to civilian self defense training isn’t too hard IMO.

Shooting: for civilian translation this should probably be changed to offensive skills such as striking, grappling, throwing…all the way up to and including firearms training if applicable.

Moving: footwork, health/fitness/flexibility, running, vehicle driving, horsemanship, motor bikes, cycling, roller blading, land navigation, GPS tools,… cuz hey you never know.

Communicating: to borrow from NYS English standards; the ability to read/write/listen and speak for information and understanding, literary response and analysis, evaluation, and social interaction. Simply put, can you deliver and recieve messages effectively from a variety of sources – people, media, instruction…including non verbal ques.

As a self defense oriented martial artist, I tend to consider these categories of skills more than what system of martial arts when I think about training/preparation for realistic situations. I see the standard floor training/martial arts program stuff as an important component to self defense, but I don’t think it is the ONLY venue that should be explored for self defense training.

As it is packaged today, “Martial Arts” training is a pretty narrow field of kicking/punching/grappling/non ballistic weapon styles in some combination. I would consider a defensive driving course ‘martial arts’ training because it teaches driving tactics that improve safety. I would consider firearms training – self defense type – as ‘martial arts’. I would also consider a psych course or communication class as martial arts because they can equip you with tools and skills that help read and react more effectively to people on a daily basis as well as in a crisis situation.

I have been accused of having a ‘cop’ mentallity about self defense, and I admit freely to its truth. There are tons of good things to be learned from the standard “martial arts” training as it exists today. But there is more to realistic self defense than just kicking and punching. Since my goal is self defense and not ‘martial art’ mastery, my view is a little different than others. It is purely a personal view and not something anyone else has to agree to.

I think much of this topic has to do with training and expectations. Folks like what they are doing and are proud of it. They know that what they do will work for things they have trained for – but don’t really move out of that comfort zone too far.

Let’s face it, civilians, are enthusiasts/hobbyists and not ‘professional martial artists’ for the most part. Their lives (professional development/promotion/pay increases, survival….) don’t depend on the training. Because of that, there are usually motivations other than self defense that are the prime motivators in training. Whether it is the self esteem, fitness, pride, social interaction, belonging to a special group, cultural exposure, philosophy…..what ever, the first and foremost inspiration is not always self defense.

Since my first and primary motivation is self defense (and since the most well rounded ‘martial artists’ I have known have been ‘professionals’), my training and mentallity is going to be similar to those folks.

Martial arts training that ignores or at least doesn’t research/include some kind of contextual consideration (society, technology, tactics, culture…) may be good athletic and personal training, but it is not going create a well rounded, generally capable self defense artist. It will develop students who are VERY good at one part of a larger whole.

-Paul Martin



As a noun, Honor is a basically living consistently between your thoughts, words, and deeds in a way that demonstrates respect and care for the people, society, family, yourself.  For example, in the world of martial arts, if you talk about fitness as an important component of a healthy life, while your belly button is pushing hard against your uniform, then you might be acting in a way that is less than honorable, thus your message looses credibility and so do you.  This is a very undramatic example, but I think it is the little things on a daily basis more than the ‘big’ moments where honor should be practiced because it prepares us for those rare ‘big honor’ moments.

as a verb, it is either giving or recieving recognition in some way.
The titles “Mr., Mrs., Miss, Professor, Sir, Your Honor…” are all called “Honorifics” for a reason.  Same with scholastic certifications and so on.
These are recognitions/titles/ranks that should be earned through some demonstrative work that elevates oneself, the chosen discipline, and serve the wider community since ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ as the lastest cliche goes.
Unfortunately, people who chase these ‘honors’ have demonstrated how ‘dishonorable’ some ‘honors’ are by virtue of how much ‘honor’ went into the pursuit, so the word as noun or verb is sort of like ‘fried chicken’ in a way.  It just is a term that does not automatically connote ‘quality.’  How well it is prepared, presented, and whether or not it is consistently ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is in the hands of the artist.
-Paul Martin