Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Significance Paradox

In an era of participation trophies and black-belt factories we are losing Moments.

Brief moments in the grand timeline of a life, but moments of importance nonetheless. Moments when we pause and we make distinct the accomplishments of specific people who show up in specific ways distinguishing themselves in their community. We are losing the beauty of the Moments.

Collectively, society has a new phobia. The collective we is particularly cautious about recognition. Everyone gets a trophy. Show up (or not) and let enough time go by - and pay enough money - and you too can have a martial art black belt. We don't want anyone to feel left out.

No one should feel disappointed because they didn't earn something. No one should wistfully look to the future with I hope I get recognized someday hanging as an unspoken whisper on their lips. They should be recognized now. Breathing should get an award because somehow, NOT getting a Moment of recognition is interpreted as a categorical statement of perpetual insignificance.

Value is not a zero sum game. Recognition is not a zero sum game. Honoring someone's efforts is not zero sum. If your name is called out and you get an award and I do not - I am not the lesser for your Moment. There is joy in celebrating a friend or colleague's accomplishment.

This joy is available commensurate to the degree you are comfortable in your own skin. We are significant. We have impact. We are also fundamentally insignificant (do you know the name of the person who traveled across your patch of land 500 years ago? nope - that insignificant.) Significantly insignificant is one of the remarkable paradoxes of being conscious of our own existence.

A paradox is only a problem if we think it needs resolution. We are both significant and insignificant. And...THIS IS OKAY.

A few weeks ago I ordered a series of trophies and awards. For our kids program, we bought blinged out metal award monuments and medals. Kids like bling. For the adults, crystal engraved awards of various sizes and certificates for areas of recognition. On June 7th, we had our belt advancement ceremony for the kids and gave out a couple of trophies and medals. A couple. We have a couple dozen kids in our program.

Yesterday Kore Self-Defense & Krav Maga had our annual pool party which has evolved to be our adult award ceremony. We gave certificates for Testing Insanity and Training Perseverance. Engraved awards for Excellence in Training, Volunteer Bad-Ass, and a Student Leadership Award. Not everyone got an award. It's okay. If you can celebrate the accomplishments of your peers you are the stronger for it.

Pictures are getting posted from the party and awards recognized across social media today. Comments from people who were not the recipients. Members of our tribe celebrating the Moments of their friends and training partners.

We take these awards seriously. The leadership team at our facility meets and discusses the awards and the students. There is debate and eventual agreement. There is debate because pretty much all our students are significant to us. Spending a few minutes away from food, water and sun, we get to talk about why the awards are given.

We get to mention the student who turned her ankle at the beginning of a rank test and should have benched herself...and didn't. Who passed her test and then wore a boot for a month because...she should have benched herself. Or the student who travels a metric ton and seeks out places around the world to keep training so he can test - and handles with extreme grace having his rank "held" until he retests a couple of skills that aren't quite up to par. Or the student who for years has moved through a series of life events and eventually always returns to the mat and now is committed to bringing his experience to other students by becoming an instructor. Or the student who...

It is a beautiful gift to create a Moment for these people. We always hope of course, that the recipients feel honored. It's the giving of the recognition though, that I get to enjoy. There is a peace and joy in embracing the gratitude accompanying the opportunity to honor members of the tribe.

Being in the gallery applauding your colleague is okay. It means you are part of a tribe who authentically recognizes people for their Moments. It means you are part of a tribe that believes you are already strong and your strength stands. Your strength is complete as is - your strength is inherent and independent.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Pine Tar Thoughts

Pine sap. East Texas folks in the Pineywoods call it Pine Tar. The interminably sticky sap oozing off pine trees is like perpetual double-sided tape. You can't seem to get it off of you (skin, clothes, whatever) and everything you come in contact with sticks back.

Every once in a while I get Pine Tar thoughts. An idea or a gut feeling refusing to let go of me. No matter how I try to ignore it away or wash it out of my thoughts, it's just too damned sticky and won't go away.

Several weeks ago I received an openly hostile email spewing hate-filled comments about something I was quoted as saying in an article. I looked back at the article and even reached out to the author about the how it was perceived. Then I wrote about the email (in part) in Scared Rabbit Syndrome.  I wondered if I was being over-sensitive and realized being attacked by some unknown person from somewhere out there in the inter webs is just an odd experience because it's an intangible confrontation. The best response may in fact be no response at all.

Then the sticky thought came back. More of a little niggling wormy thing in the back of my head. So I looked at it again - is my perception wrong? Is there an actual error in using a Predator Test to suss out whether or not a casual touch or brush of contact is truly accidental v. the beginning of Target Assessment?

Don't think so. I still believe if one's radar goes off and there isn't anything openly threatening happening yet, you can test the situation out before activating a personal version of community Tornado Sirens. Conversely, I also believe you have the right to just get up and walk away if that feels like the best option; however, the circumstances discussed in the article and subsequent vitriol attack reference confined space in an airplane. Only so much getting up and walking away available.

The sticky thought eventually pointed out a blind spot. I firmly believe everything can be weaponized. Including words. Including words typically employed for social pleasantries. Words like Please. Two-by-four upside the head moment for me: that's not a common mindset among women. Duh. Not the sharpest crayon in the box sometimes.

Pine Tar thought should be done now. Moving on. .... Nope.... it's back again. Sticky damn thing.

Last night I ran into the tree. The source of the Pine Tar worm in the back of my brain.

NOW I GET IT! Now I understand why this woman exploded in an email about the predator test process discussed in the article. I understand why her solution - the only solution that should ever be taught, standing up and screaming get your fucking hands off me you XYZ, when you get brushed by a passenger seated next to you - now I understand what that means.

Before I ran into the Tree, I kept thinking - why does someone want to live that way? How is teaching women to assume every accidental point of contact is a sexual assault a good idea? Or at least, why is it becoming a popular idea? Yeah, I get the influence of the #MeToo movement and I appreciate the depth of awareness-shift happening...but bugged me.

Now I get it.

What image sparks in your mind when you  see "Women's Self-Defense Seminar"?

Pictures of women learning to hit? Women learning groin kicks? Learning to defend chokes on the ground? Women at a shooting range learning to use a firearm?

Me too (see what I did there?). This is how I was raised as a self-defense instructor. This is how I was trained as a Women's Krav Maga instructor - a specialty certification. Don't get me wrong, I think physical self-defense should be part of gym class in all middle and high school curriculum.

But this is also where we get it wrong.

I have a daughter-in-law. I have nieces. I have a handful of adopted daughters, girls I have known well through the years. The last thing I want ANY of them to EVER experience is the need for those physical skills I love teaching. There are no physical encounters without scars. Emotional or physical.   And yet those images are the expression of women's self-defense - of self-defense regardless of gender.

Prevention. This is what we should visualize when we hear Women's Self-Defense. Threat Assessment, people reading, environment management, victim assessment/grooming (as in - you're being evaluated as a potential target), escape/evasion...the short list of skills we should picture when we think of self-defense training. The fun physical stuff - and I mean that literally - should absolutely live in the curriculum. The industry standard is the mistake.  We teach the last line of defense as the primary skill set instead of as the last line of defense.

Ta-Da. This is the sticky-pine-tar brain worm. Women's Self-Defense is synonymous with physical self-defense. Now the verbally violent email makes sense. The self-defense world has held a singular focus and has effectively created one acceptable solution to assault: wait until you are attacked to respond. This is the standard.

This logic is akin to teaching architects to look for structural problems after the bridge collapses.

With the pine tar washing off, I have more thoughts.  This post; however, is already WAY too long. Putting a pin in it and maybe there will be a part 2.