Preparation: A Mental and Physical Process
by Steve Amoia
In Dragon Kenpo, we are taught two physical stances: The Ready Stance, along with the Fighting Stance. All subsequent movements are executed from these basic, yet integral, fundamental stances. But how about our mental stance? How do we cultivate the proper mental attitude to prepare ourselves for a potential street self-defense situation? How can we prepare ourselves physically? In this essay, we will discuss visualization, environmental awareness, and physical preparation.
In the same fashion that some of us practice WDK techniques, visualization can be an important tool. When we think through all of the possible variations before an encounter, we are better prepared to execute the proper self-defense technique that is appropriate for the situation. This technique also prepares the subconscious mind, which does not discern the difference between imagined or actual engagements.
Whenever I take a bus, subway, or train, I always look around at my fellow passengers. Most are self-absorbed in their own worlds. With Blackberries, cellular phones, I-Pods, and wireless laptops, sensory and auditory awareness are greatly limited. Either they don’t care or don’t anticipate the perils of modern life. It is important to be vigilant in our environment. This means complete awareness of your locale. Whether it is late at night, early in the morning, in a good or bad part of town, or in a public venue such as a train station. You are responsible for your own safety. I believe that the military uses a very helpful acronym: IFF. “Identify friend or foe.” Don’t let your worst potential enemy be yourself. Be aware of your environment. Identify situations and persons who may cause you harm. We have inherited an instinct that focuses us to be aware of our surroundings. But in order to hone this instinct into practical use, we must, literally and figuratively, keep our eyes and ears open. Don’t fall into the mainstream trap of “tuning out and turning on” the latest high-tech gadget because everyone else is doing it.
We are taught the tailoring principle of Dragon Kenpo. To practice and learn all of the techniques in the curriculum, but to master those that would help us the most in a self-defense situation. To quote Ed Dellacroce, Director of DK North Carolina, “Fear the man or woman who has practiced one technique a thousand times. Not the one who has practiced a thousand techniques once.” One of the benefits of virtual training is the ability to master techniques that work the best for you. As we practice, over and over again, the technique becomes a part of our muscle memory. In conjunction with visualization, this can be a powerful tool in our self-defense arsenal. As Bruce Lee suggested, “Strike as if you were in an actual fight.” We have to create the environment in practice, whether it is sparring or visualization, which can be replicated in a street encounter.
When a self-defense situation presents itself, you will have the confidence, both physically and mentally, to execute the proper response. You will not have to think what to do. You will know what to do. Due to the preliminary regimen of visualization, environmental awareness, and physical preparation. These techniques will also make you a more dangerous target for a possible assailant. Remember, the stronger seek out the weak. Both in the animal kingdom, and in human society.
By Phoebe Nelson Oshirak, RN, Tai Chi Student
Occasionally I wonder what my mother, God rest her soul, would think if she knew her 68 year old daughter was taking Tai Chi. I imagine she might ask, “What is that, some kind of herbal medicine?” As a kid, I never saw my mother running off to the gym wearing sweat pants and tennis shoes. Exercise regimens were not in vogue back then. Now things are different. Hallelujah! With improved education and healthier life styles, not to mention the more body conscious fashion trends, exercise in any form, at any age, has become an important part of the daily routine. After all, we want our spouses and children to be active and fit. In addition, our children want their parents and grandparents to be the same. That's right. I said “Grandparents!” Hey! Trust me; exercise is not wasted on the old. As the actress Billie Burke said, "Age doesn't matter unless you're a cheese.” No matter what our age, it is never too late to learn new things; in fact, statistics indicate folks in their sixties, seventies and beyond are living longer, healthier and more active lives than ever before. One of the factors influencing this change is EXERCISE. For most of us, with age comes wisdom, and that may be true, but I would like to add; with age comes opportunity. Consequently, I have taken the opportunity to incorporate Tai Chi into my own life style. Tai Chi maintains range of motion, improves balance and memory, to name just a few of the benefits.
Does age reflect upon one's ability to perform Tai Chi? Not if one is healthy enough to execute even a few of the movements. For those of you with health issues who are considering learning Tai Chi, an important first step should be to get the OK from your family physician. Then, you only need muster the motivation and courage to begin. Writer/actress Ruth Gordon wrote, Courage is very important. Like a muscle, it is strengthened by use. So I gathered my courage and signed up for a class. I figured if I could lift a fork from the table as high as my mouth surely I could raise my hands a bit higher to manage Tai Chi moves.
Many illnesses commonly found in the elderly can benefit from Tai Chi. The “Sun” (pronounced, Soon) style of Tai Chi offers: Tai Chi for Arthritis, Tai Chi for Back Pain, and Tai Chi for Osteoporosis. And so often attitude is everything. For many of us, despite physical disabilities and illnesses, we can do some form of Tai Chi if we really want to. For example, one of my Tai Chi classmates contends with the ravages of childhood polio. Other classmates, challenged by diabetes, asthma, arthritis, depression, hypertension and osteoporosis will tell you Tai Chi has had a very positive impact on their well being.
Scientist Marie Curie once remarked, “The older one gets, the more one feels that the present must be enjoyed; it is a precious gift…” So how old is too old to practice Tai Chi? The answer is quite simple. You keep at it until it isn't fun anymore...it has nothing whatsoever to do with age.
Why Martial Arts Training Is Important to Me
R. Michael Sweet
Once I saw a photo of a wall filled with weapons. There were swords, knives, and various types of firearms hanging on the wall. Right in the middle of all this weaponry was a frame that said, “Love your neighbor.” I don’t know who took the picture or what their point was, but my Grandfather liked it enough to hang it up. My Grandfather was a medical doctor. I know why he liked the picture. He had seen first hand the results of the violence that people do to each other. He knew that no matter how much love one has for their fellow man, that love will not necessarily be a mutual feeling. The world is full of evil people. I love martial arts and I hate violence. Like my grandfather’s picture, the two statements seem contradictory. How can one claim to hate violence and spend so much time working on techniques clearly designed to cause bodily harm to someone else? The answer of course is that life is not that simple. Violence is here already. Sure, we can love our neighbor. We may even love our neighbor enough to die rather than cause him harm. The problem is that sometimes our neighbor can become a danger to our family, or others whom we truly care about. It may become necessary to use physical force to control our neighbor so that he can not hurt those persons entrusted to our care. This being the case the weapons in my grandfathers picture were not instruments of death and destruction, but rather of love. My grandfather once showed me his weapons. He said they were to fight werewolves and vampires. I knew what he was really saying. He was showing me his weapons so that I would know that he loved me and, while I was at his house, I was safe. He would fight, if necessary, to protect me because he loved me. What does training in the martial arts mean to me? It means that I live, pray and work for peace, but I train for war. I train because I respect myself and I love others. I train because it has kept my body flexible and strong and given me the tools to protect myself and those I love. I love martial arts and I hate violence. There is no contradiction. I train to impede the progress of violence. I train in order to prevent violence. I train because I love.
I am certain that I will continue to train in the martial arts. I am certain that teaching will become an ever increasing part of my martial arts experience. I enjoy teaching because I feel like each person I teach will have a better chance of surviving a difficult situation. I also enjoy teaching because it is a learning process. I find that I learn more from teaching than I do from being a student.
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Ed Dellacroce, began his martial art journey in 1979 with Shaolin Kempo. Currently, he holds a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Dragon Kenpo and North Carolina State Director. Ed teaches a self defense street version at ABI's Mixed Martial Arts Studio in Goldsboro, NC. Currently working as a Police officer for the State of NC, and working police and protection for the NC General Assembly. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Randall Hall grew up in and around San Antonio, Texas. Randall is Second Degree Black Belt in Dragon Kenpo and Texas State Director for World Dragon Kenpo. He has trained in many martial arts but settled on Dragon Kenpo after in injury prevented him from continuing his training in his current school. First training under Joe Whittington at Combat Kenpo Academy, Randy moved to World Dragon Kenpo to train under Coach Ron. "Dragon Kenpo lets me progress at my own pace and applies a Keep It Simple approach to martial arts that I really enjoy." Email: email@example.com.
Jim Patus, the Indiana State Director of WDK, began studying Kodokan Judo over 40 years ago. He is a first degree black belt in World Dragon Kenpo. He has studied Shotokan karate and has fenced competitively in both foil and epee. He began Dragon Kenpo under Ed Hutchison and has completed the Combat Kenpo Fighting Academy curriculum; he now trains under Coach Pfeiffer through WDK. Jim is a member of the International Ryukyu Karate Research Society and the Universal Martial Arts Association. As professor of Biology at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana Sellersburg his teaching specialty is environmental science with research interests in human population dynamics and fish ecology. Jim may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.