As 2019 winds down I am making some choices about how I spend my time. Some of these decisions are tough, some are easy. 2020 will see me letting go of some things and ramping up others. Unfortunately, dear readers, I am letting go of posting on this blog regularly. I will be intermittent at best. Years ago I started out blogging quite frequently – and later recognized my need to scale back. I’m at a similar place now.

I love writing. The discipline of writing about Karate has been beneficial to my mindset and practice. I have enjoyed interacting with those who left comments. There’s also a bit of accountability involved – if I say publicly that I do something or will do something I’d better do it and keep on doing it until I change what I’m doing for the better. Those who have been reading this blog for awhile have seen growth as a result. But blogging biweekly has been something of a strain the last two months.

I’ve reached crossroads not only in my Karate training, but also in my personal and professional lives. I’m not going into the personal and professional crossroads here – except to say I anticipate great things in the coming year. This blog is about Karate, so here are the details of my Karate crossroads.

I’ve already been scaling back in Karate. A little over a year ago I had to let go of helping out with the college PE class. I suppose I could have made it happen but it would have squeezed out other things in my life. Other karateka stepped up to the plate and I’m glad to see them taking on the responsibilities. Earlier this week I let go of my involvement with our karate booster club, which I’ve supported for most of my karate career. I’m still “on call” and anticipate returning in 2021. I don’t plan on competing and judging at Nationals until things settle down in my personal and professional lives. I’ve scaled back some things but I’ve been ramping up others.

I have been actively training for Shodan (first degree black belt) since November 2018. That’s when one of my sensei(s) told me to start training as if I had that invitation to test. I hadn’t yet tested for i-kyu (my current rank). For about 13 months now my mindset has been, “What do I need to do now to make Shodan happen?” While I wait for the formal invitation to test I sometimes tinker with the structure and content of the workouts and practice I do at home. I know I’ll continue to adjust as new things come up, and that’s OK. I anticipate this hard work will pay off and lead to big things – if not in 2020, then some other year.

But blogging isn’t one of those big things. I’ll maybe check in a few times in the coming year, write an article here and there…

When I first started this blog I drifted between aping other bloggers and trying to find my own groove. It didn’t take all that long for me to figure out that autobiography and introspection came more naturally to me than anything else. I don’t know why some of my earliest posts drifted away from my original idea to record my Karate journey right from the start.

I pretty much got the idea to start blogging after I read Smile at Strangers and Other Life Lessons by Susan Schorn. I loved this book. It spoke to me in many ways. Yet I wanted to know more about what she experienced when she was a beginner like me. When I started this blog I wanted to document the beginning of my Karate journey from the perspective of a beginner, not retrospectively, as Susan Schorn had. It’s OK – the whole point of her book was lessons she’d learned, and honestly she got right to the meat and skimmed over the baby food. I just wanted to do my own thing.

And I have.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t “arrived.” I haven’t “finished.” I don’t consider myself to be in some sort of a “holding pattern” while waiting for the invitation to test for Shodan. As this blog’s banner says, ” I will always be beginning something new and will always be discovering my abilities. ” I’ve probably promised before now that this blog won’t stop when I reach Shodan because Shodan is a new beginning. Yet here I am trying to keep way too many balls in the air. I need to let go of posting regularly.

Honestly, there’s not all that much more I really want to write. I fear repeating myself. I know there’s nothing wrong with learning the same lesson on a deeper level, but I have trouble making repetition into a good blog. Also, as I’ve written before, there are some things that are best left private. Sometimes these things are negative, sometimes these things simply involve someone’s privacy… These things are part of life in the dojo and therefore are also part of the karate journey. I’m also finding myself increasingly reluctant to write about some of the most exciting things about learning and growing in the art of Karate.

I’m finding that there are quite a lot of treasures and discoveries that I want to keep to myself. I have been reading Andrea Harkins’ blog for longer than I’ve been writing my own. I recall her writing at least once that there are some really wonderful treasures that are best kept “secret.” These are not negative secrets designed to hurt or exclude. Neither are these “secrets” some sort of woo-woo magic Karate tricks taught only to certain ranks. These little gems are a lot like Christmas presents. Secrecy is best for those kinds of gifts.

Anyhow, that’s what’s going on with me nowadays. I’ve been getting loads of “Christmas presents” all along, but it just seems like it’s getting harder and harder for me to want to try and describe them here in this blog. I’m not a tech writer nor am I a philosopher. My strength is narrative, and my material is limited (out of respect for others) and starting to cycle. That and I need to cut back on some things in my life. Cutting way back on blogging was a hard decision to make, but necessary.

Greater things are ahead. I’ll stay in touch as best I can: intermittently.

The Professionals – Part Three

Click here for Part One

Click here for Part Two

The local police department’s Citizen’s Academy wrapped up this week. I have already compared and contrasted police work and karate twice (see Part One and Part Two). Of course not everything I learned over the course of ten classes was directly relatable to karate. That’s perfectly OK – I enjoyed learning new things and making connections with people in my community. I had fun listening to people whose perspectives are different from my own. During the penultimate class, we found out that we share a deeply fundamental thing. By and large, we want to preserve our own lives and we are capable of making choices, for good or ill, pretty much instantly in a “him or me” situation.

For the next-to-the-last class, we got to experience a simple firearm simulation program. With the right software I can download, say, a clip from the movie “The Shining,” then, with a fake gun and a special screen, “shoot” Jack before he has a chance to sneer, “Heeeeer’s Johnny!” Or I can “hunt” velociraptors in Jurassic Park’s kitchen. That’s all fun stuff, of course, but think about this. I can also download actual dashboard camera or bodycam footage recorded on the scene of a real situation. I can compare my performance to actual policemen.

I know in one aspect I’d do worse than any given police officer. As of this writing I’m such a poor marksman that I can’t even hit the broad side of a barn. I don’t have the muscle memory to pull the trigger of a pistol properly, much less pull the pistol out of its holster without shooting my own kneecap off. My incompetence could change over time. With a good bit of consistent training and practice, I could be even more of a badass with a firearm than I am with empty hands. Some of my fellow students were good marksmen, firing neat little clusters of shots at the bad guys’ vital organs. But that wasn’t the point of our lesson at all.

Before my fellow students and I got to try out the firearm simulator, we spent about an hour talking about decision making and consequences. This was mostly about the standards that the police are held to and the options they may or may not get to employ before taking a life. Apparently, at least in my state, civilians are not held to the same high standards (see Washington RCW 9A.16.010 for what civilians can do). I need to ask if training in empty hand or firearms makes any difference for civilians. But one thing is for sure – police and civilians alike usually face civil lawsuits for their actions.

For the purpose of the lesson it didn’t matter that one participant clearly would have killed the baddie while another participant shot a wastebasket instead (hey, she did better than me). Three instructors and at least a dozen citizens, all agreed that whoever was “on stage” was justified in their actions. Everyone who tried the simulations made the right decisions – they got the baddies, they didn’t shoot if the baddie surrendered, and they didn’t shoot anyone they shouldn’t have. We all agreed on what the right thing to do was in every single scenario. Every single person who actually fired that fake gun at the screen made their decisions instantly.

So in one sense, I don’t think I have to worry at all about my ability to assess situations and employ my options. It’s good to have that confirmation of seeing my fellow humans make those decisions and to experience those scenarios myself. So far in my adult life, I’ve been able to avoid fighting. But if and when I do have to fight, there will be consequences.

Other authors have far more authority than I to write about PTSD. I don’t mean to downplay it by skimming over it. But PTSD is only part of the aftermath of violence.

In one of the scenarios shown when it was my turn to fire the fake gun, a guy suddenly charged towards the camera, intending to stab with a barbecue fork that he’d previously hidden from view. In that instant I had no idea that it wasn’t a knife. I didn’t know it was a knife until the scene was played again. Everyone in the room agreed that it would be nasty to be stabbed with a barbecue fork. Everyone in the room agreed that I was right to “kill” him even if he wasn’t holding a knife. But one of our instructors pointed out that the fact that I didn’t see that the barbecue fork wasn’t a knife could count against me in court. Also, the media could paint a picture of me killing a guy charging me with “a fork.” I joked, “Naw, they’d say it was a spork.” But that’s not all.

The same instructor pointed out later that it doesn’t matter that the bad guy’s family hasn’t talked to him in ten years – chances are the family will chase the money and file a civil suit. People who are lawfully justified in their actions to protect their lives can still lose civil suits. Yes, those same people could win, but still lose a lot. Who among us can afford a lawyer? Even insurance against such a suit, as some firearm owners have, could be beyond some people’s means. So – I could save my life but I could lose my house years later. Fair trade? If I were single, yes. But I have a family.

This is what our police officers put on the line for us every single day.

So, what does this mean for us martial artists? Be freakin’ careful. Duh. But more than that – learn the deeper lessons of your art. Self control is the biggest lesson. Self control helps keep you from shooting off your mouth or engaging in unnecessary violence. Of course knowing how to handle pressure and stress is a useful skill too. When you’re in as good a head space as you can manage, you’re more aware of your options. I’ll write more about that in my next blog post.

Police departments vary in where they draw the lines between levels of violence, but all departments have formal, written standards (usually accompanied by neat little charts or graphs). Us martial artists don’t have to write stuff up and accompany it with a cute little graph, but we are aware of which techniques do what and often we can vary the degree of damage. Some martial artists study weapons in addition to empty hands and so have more tools at their disposal. But there’s one tool that everyone has as their baseline. You should use it as your first line of defense IF you can.

Your voice. Every single self defense class I’ve taken or helped teach has stressed the importance of one’s voice. Yes, shouting to draw attention. But there’s more – provided you have the luxury of time and if you are dealing with someone who is rational enough to listen. I recommend Rory Miller’s book _Conflict Communication: A New Paradigm in Conscious Communication_. After class, us participants were invited to take a book home. Our host instructor had too many books, evidently. I gleefully chose _Verbal Judo: The Art of Gentle Persuasion_ by George J. Thompson. Maybe some day I’ll let you know how I like it. Yes, I had a literal takeaway, but I also had a very affirming heart takeaway.

I have faith in my own ability to make life or death decisions and to quickly employ whatever tools are appropriate. I had no problem reading the intent of the baddies and making the instant decision to preserve my life. I can trust my karate training. And as far as PTSD and civil lawsuits go – I’ll cross those bridges if I come to them. Forewarned is forearmed.

Butado – The Way of the Pig

A friend of mine posted on social media that she’d introduced her little girl to Jim Henson’s Muppets. Happy memories flooded my heart with joy. I know the thrill from both perspectives – that of the mother introducing her daughter to old friends, and that of the little girl reveling in the world of the Muppets’ vaudeville-style show. Because I am a “first generation” Sesame Street child, Henson’s creations have had a huge influence on me. For one thing, Henson taught me how to read before I set foot in Kindergarten. It’s quite possible that I was drawn to Karate because of Miss Piggy.

At the very least, Miss Piggy reinforced what was already there. Most two year olds, and I was no exception, cannot focus on anything for an hour. But I did once. My parents recently told me I was absolutely enthralled and delighted by a karate demonstration when I was two years old. Four or five years later I was always curious about the dojo across the street from the ice skating rink. What the heck did they do in there – chop boards and pummel one another all day long? Did they yell “hiiiiiiya” like Miss Piggy?

Miss Piggy was very much a product of her time. As a little girl, I saw her strength, both mental and physical. This was refreshing – by the time I was five years old I was heartily tired of heroines who were passive, weak, brainless, and easily frightened. Miss Piggy didn’t take any crap from anyone. For comic effect, Henson made Miss Piggy into a total and complete diva. I found her funny, and still laugh at her. But when I look at Miss Piggy through the filter of what’s going on in the world today, I realize maybe she isn’t quite the heroine I made her out to be when I was a child.

Jim Henson was always very much in tune with what was going on in society. He had a knack of distilling popular culture and social issues into something both children and adults could appreciate and laugh at. Children do have a sense of what’s going on in the world around them. And now that I’m an adult, I find “The Muppet Show” to be ten times funnier because I understand what was going on in the world during the 1970’s. Miss Piggy was a representation of what women of the time were striving to be. She was strong, independent, ambitious, and she was not about to mope around waiting for her love interest to take the initiative in the relationship. Nevertheless, “The Muppet Show” was a comedy variety show, and the humor of that time shaped Miss Piggy.

What we laughed at in the 1970’s is now widely considered to be inappropriate. Physical humor is becoming passé. Beating up one’s boyfriend is domestic violence. Many believe it’s no longer appropriate to laugh at someone who goes about sabotaging a rival’s work and bullying them. Aggressive flirting is often considered sexual harassment. To be honest, we’ve always known these things are wrong. What made us laugh is that Miss Piggy was completely over-the-top. Us women have always known divas are not the best role models. Laughing at Miss Piggy’s antics, though, was like releasing a pressure valve. Us girls and women felt the tension between what society said we were supposed to be and what we wanted to be. We laughed with glee because Miss Piggy got away with this stuff, whereas we constantly had to fight battles on so many fronts.

One of those fronts was the depiction of women as capable warriors in movies and TV shows. No doubt Henson watched Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris flicks, but I don’t think that’s why he gave Miss Piggy her signature karate chop. I strongly suspect Henson kept tabs on his prime time competition. “The Bionic Woman” and “Charlie’s Angels” were vying for viewers’ attention the same year that Miss Piggy made her debut. Adding karate to Miss Piggy’s character was Henson’s way of bringing in a whimsical element of physical humor that was in step with the times.

Miss Piggy’s karate was never meant to be taken seriously. Sometimes she does practice good bushido (the way of the warrior). We cheer her on when she sends the bad guys packing. But most of the time, she uses her karate inappropriately. Kermit, her boyfriend, is her favorite target. Miss Piggy hauling off and hitting people at whim has shaped many people’s perception of karate, whether they are aware of it or not. Every time us karateka hear, “don’t piss him/her off,” that’s Miss Piggy lurking in that person’s subconscious mind. I’m sure Henson didn’t intend for that to develop. Nor did he foresee a day when we’d have to explain butado (the way of the pig) to our children.

My friend’s little girl is growing up in a world that is totally and completely different than when I was her age. A lot of people no longer laugh at domestic abuse, bullying, acts of sabotage, sexual harassment, and random acts of violence. Probably a lot of younger parents, accordingly, don’t let their small children watch the Muppets. I can understand waiting until the child is old enough to understand fantasy versus real world. But what I don’t understand is forbidding the child from watching The Muppets altogether because of Miss Piggy’s butado. As their children mature, good parents will discuss age-appropriate topics that come up while watching Miss Piggy execute her famous karate chop.

My friend said her little girl was drawn to the way Miss Piggy fought off the bad guys in “The Muppet Movie.” Brava, little one. Keep talking to your mama about what you see Miss Piggy doing. If your mama needs me to help explain something to you, I’m here. When you are mature enough to handle a bit of hard work and sweat, and if you’re still interested in being a fighter, I should be a fully fledged sensei (instructor) by then. I’ll be there for you and I’ll teach you the difference between butado and bushido. Until then, keep laughing and keep learning those life lessons of joy and wonder that have always been at the core of Jim Henson’s work.

The Professionals – Part Two

Click here for The Professionals – Part One

As of this writing I’m four classes and one ride-along into my local police department’s Citizens Academy. I’m getting a little glimpse into what life is like for people who deal with violence as part of their profession. By comparing and contrasting and by looking through the eyes of my fellow Citizens Academy students, I’m learning some things about my own karate training as well.

I mentioned in my last post during my ride-along I learned that police officer training is extensive. The first part of our second class covered this training. I took notes – what’s covered, how many hours, etc. There’s even a probationary period, during which the new officer is constantly being evaluated while on the job. It’s all very impressive, but I was most pleased to hear is training is ongoing for our police officers. This isn’t just physical skills training, by the way. For example, laws change, procedures change, and sometimes there are new discoveries about human behavior. Most officers do more than the yearly 24 hours mandated by the state. I can relate to this constant refinement of skills and learning new things – or even different aspects of familiar skills.

What was surprising to me is that many (not all) of my classmates don’t seem to grasp just how powerful ongoing training really is and what the benefits are. Repetition, time, and being continually pushed outside one’s comfort zone might be utterly foreign territory for these students. How do I know this holds true for many of my classmates? I listened to their questions. I wish I’d written down the questions and the contexts for those questions, but perhaps something would be lost in the telling. Suffice it to say, the first question jolted me to the core. I realized that some of my fellow Citizens Academy students need a little help understanding things that I simply intuit. That’s not to say I can relate to all the material presented in the class – I can’t. But I do grasp some things at a very deep level.

The second half of our second class was about patrol procedures. This gave me a wider view of what I’d learned on my ride-along. A team of officers came to talk with us about this. There was a good bit of “show and tell” with the various tools of their trade. Using weapons to mete out violence is not something I grasp intuitively, as kobudo is not part of our curriculum and, of course, we don’t play with tasers, pepper spray, or projectile weapons in karate. I know for sure the two students grasped some things about these tools intuitively (a gun instructor and a veteran, respectively), while the rest of us needed a little help. In order to gain a better understanding of what the use of deadly weapons entails I started listening for the underlying themes woven throughout the “show and tell.”

Teamwork is not emphasized much in karate, but it’s vital to police work. The most I’ve ever done is I’ve taken my turn being one of two or three “attackers” in a sparring exercise. I have only the tiniest of inklings on how to help someone take a person down. Add weapons to the mix and I have absolutely no clue. But what I can wrap my head around is the value of training as a team. Ongoing, repetitive training with updates and innovations as needed – that I understand on the individual level. The police take this to the next level. Each person on a team knows their role and they’ve practiced different scenarios with all their weapons. No training is ever perfect, nor can anyone anticipate absolutely everything that might happen in any given encounter. But continuous training involving loads of time and buckets of sweat is powerful – it’s the foundation of any combat system or art. I know from competing in tournaments that it’s easier to adapt what you’re doing if you have a good, solid foundation. I’m convinced each team of our city’s police has a solid foundation.

Respect and trust are vital components of this foundation. In karate, we play with fire. We emphasize respect and trust so that our training partners are healthy and available to train with us next class. Police officers don’t just play with fire: they’re sometimes right inside an inferno with weapons that can kill at a distance. They have to trust that their teammates know their roles and have each other’s backs (so to speak). Respect for their leaders and for one another is crucial when the heat is on – there’s no time for arguing and petty sniping. Trust and respect are interwoven throughout the police’s extensive hiring process. The team that came in for “show and tell” didn’t explicitly talk about trust and respect, but I saw it was there. It was there in the non-verbal communication among team members. It was there in how they directly related to us students and with one another.

Us karate folks would say my city’s police practice good bushido (the way of the warrior). As one of my sensei(s) taught me just last week, you have to know the people you’re going into battle with. That’s what bushido is all about. You know your comrades’ training, you know their strengths, you know their weaknesses. You know you can rely on them. Not that anyone in my dojo is going to battle anytime soon – not like the police who, on any given day, could find themselves in a confrontation. That said, I know who will back me up if I’m ever jumped while stepping outside the dojo some dark night. And I know who to call after it’s all over.

The Professionals – Part One

Our city’s police hosts what they call a Citizen’s Academy a few times per year. The class meets for three hours once per week for a total of ten weeks. It’s a big commitment, and I let that be my excuse to pass up the opportunity for a few years. This time around was different. I already knew our community outreach officer because she co-taught the self defense classes last summer. Because of that positive experience, I was determined not to let the opportunity to take the Citizen’s Academy course pass me by again.

Why am I interested? What is the motivation behind my determination to finally make the commitment? I had to have an answer to type into the registration forms. I do have a good answer that is absolutely true. What I think I know about the police comes from novels, movies, and the news media. I want to learn firsthand what police work is all about. This is an easy thing for me to say when asked. But I have deeper reasons that are not so easy to articulate.

In Karate, I play with the concepts of violence. A quick Google search yielded a definition that fits what I’m trying to express: behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something. At my level (currently i-kyu), when I’m sparring I’m trying to outwit my opponent and sneak a carefully controlled punch or kick past his or her guard. For kata (forms) I am expected to be able to physically and verbally express my interpretation of every single movement of every single kata I’ve memorized. This means that with every movement I visualize what my opponent is doing and exactly what I am doing to him. Even the most basic kata are to be performed with the proper mindset. I spend quite a bit of time “meditating” on violence by practicing kata, but this isn’t the same as putting myself in danger as part of my job.

By attending the Citizen’s Academy, I hope to get a glimpse of what it’s like to go to work knowing there’s a high probability one will find oneself in a bad situation. I play with concepts as a hobby. Violence is a reality for the police. Do I have a clear picture of what that’s like? Well, no. Of course not. I’m not a veteran police officer, and it’s not likely I ever will be. But after the ten weeks are over, I should have a little better understanding of those who deal with violence as part of their profession.

The first class we listened to a lecture on the job application process for those who want to join the force and then we took a tour of the station. I was stunned at the extensive process that every candidate has to go through. Folks, my toughest job interview was an absolute picnic in comparison. My biggest takeaway from touring the station is how much physical support police work requires – computers, tools, charging stations, a sally port for the detention area, rooms for cleaning equipment, secure lockers for evidence gathered at the scene of a crime, and even a small gym. Granted, police do more than just deal with violent situations – a LOT more, and yes, a good bit of the physical space and tangible stuff reflected that. But it was very hard to ignore the spaces and objects devoted to violence. This got quite “real” to me three days later when I signed waivers and put on a Kevlar vest.

I arrived at the police station early. The instructor of the Citizens Academy had advised me on how to dress. I had checked the weather forecast before I left and scrounged for something that I wouldn’t roast in and something loose enough to accommodate the bullet-proof vest I’d be wearing. I’d heard Kevlar doesn’t exactly breathe. I saw how bulky the vests are when we toured the station three days prior. The best I could do was a man’s undershirt to wear under the vest. Over the vest I wore an old, raggedy shirt (formerly my husband’s) that I wear for yard work. I looked like something the cat had dragged in.

While I waited, I sat on the lobby bench contemplating the glass case which contains mementos of an officer killed in the line of duty. The worst I’ve ever experienced in karate was – well, it’s a toss up between the broken foot when I was a teenager and the soft tissue damage to my intercostals that hurt for several months. I go home to my family after karate class.

My new officer friend took me back to fill out some paperwork while he found a bulletproof vest that more or less fit me. Less because, as the office assistant pointed out, I’m smaller than the average police officer – male or female. A bar of metal runs down the spine of the vest – that takes some getting used to when you’re sitting down. But the discomfort is better than a bullet to the spine. I don’t train for bullets in Karate. This is a whole realm of violence that I do not truly comprehend – I have a vague idea of its magnitude and gravity.

Something I do understand is how that vest would help or hinder me in a hand-to-hand fight. I resisted the urge to run into the gym to try some karate while wearing the vest. I didn’t even ask – I knew I was expected to stay in the cruiser no. matter. what. I didn’t want to give the impression that I was eager for action. Besides, my host had to get out on patrol.

The officer and I went out to the cruiser and he showed me the features of the vehicle. We hopped in and drove off.

Three days prior to this adventure, the instructor of the Citizens Academy asked, “You’re not likely to see much on a Saturday morning. Are you sure you want this time slot?” I was sure. For one thing, I’m super busy and that time slot was optimal. For another, I wanted to talk more than I wanted to see a cop catch a baddie. Sure I saw stuff. Routine traffic stops. A drunk taken away in an ambulance. But mostly we talked. Perfect. During the four hour patrol our conversation wandered, interrupted frequently by something the officer needed to do. The topic of conversation changed accordingly. The officer I rode with frequently had things he wanted me to learn and would often ask questions that made me think. And yes, I did ask questions related to violence. I know techniques, I know principles and concepts, but I don’t know reality.

In cop movies we see a lot of foot chases, vehicle chases, and shootouts. There’s more to police work than that. A lot more. Reality is that the police do a lot to try and prevent violence. The officer I rode with sometimes just says “Hi” and chats a bit with known troublemakers so that not every interaction is confrontational. Sure he knows where the hot spots for trouble are and where he’s likely to find stolen vehicles. But more importantly he knows human nature, including himself. Some of that is on-the-job experience and some of it is training.

I could relate just a little bit to a few aspects of this officer’s extensive and comprehensive training. I’ve been pushed to my limits mentally and physically. Frequently I have to master myself and my emotions. I can see where new officers would be prone to certain mistakes. But there’s more for an officer to master. Firearm proficiency, driving at high speed, fighting hand to hand, first aid, writing clear reports – that’s just the surface. There’s extensive training in how to handle a wide range of human behavior. In particular I envied the training my host received in de-escalation. The ultimate goal is to build the community.

It’s strange to think about violence (“behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something“) being a part of building a community. But it is and always will be.

Sitting alone in the cruiser, watching my new friend, praying for his safety – that was reality. I wasn’t wearing a bulletproof vest just for fun. At any time, fertilizer could have hit the rotating cooling device. Unless the vehicle caught fire, I was to remain in the cruiser at all times. I came up with a strategy. I knew where the door lock button was. I knew I could duck down and the side panels of the vehicle would offer a good bit of protection. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t scared. But I do admit this was unfamiliar territory for me. I’m savvy enough to know that being pushed outside one’s comfort zone means learning and growth.

So what’s the bottom line here? I admit that one of the questions I asked myself on the way home was, “How do I stack up compared to a police officer – am I as badass as all that?” Uhhh… No. A friend of mine advises, “Don’t compare – someone will get hurt.” I admit that I kinda hurt myself just a little bit with feelings of inferiority as I was driving home. Training envy, maybe? But then I realized something. That police officer and I are an apple and an orange. We both invest heavily into our respective communities, but in different ways. I need to remember how many kohai (people who are lower in rank than oneself) have responded positively to my help in class. Karate is empowering and I take pride in building that into people’s lives.

Click Here for The Professionals – Part Two