Hammer TimeOne of the kids asked me the other day, seeing something on my arm, “Where did you get that scar?”  I looked down at it. Sometimes, I still can’t believe it hasn’t gone away after all these years.  “I got that at the cabinet shop when I was younger.”

“Cabinets shop, what’s that?”

“Get your butt down the rail and chamber that leg!” I said with a smile. Awesome kid. His side kick needs work….


Then I looked down at the scar again. It is actually more noticeable when I am tanned for some reason. Whenever I look at it, like a flash, I am there again. The smell of sawdust, the heat of summer, the smell of sweat, the laughter of a good joke, the buzz of saws, the roar of the sander, the constant drone of the dust collector, Sleepy coming in to get the scrap wood, my first egg sandwich, my first taste of real corn liquor, the smell of the different woods when they hit the saw, running to get a frozen coke across the street at break, Papoo looking at every new hard wood shipment as we took them off the truck grading each plank, accidentally backing into one of the protective poles the first time I drove the installation truck, the lunches with Nanna and Dad as Papoo took his half hour power nap …

Then I am back. I laugh, tell the kids to try hard.  Do their best. You can do it.  I did, you can too.  And they do.  I have awesome kids. They are great.  So so great.

But that night, when I got home, I went to my tool box.  I picked up my hammer.  Let me say that again…MY HAMMER.

I look back on all the gifts given to me in my youth, I remember most of them. Evil Knievel this, GI Joe that, Star Trek this, and all kinds of other things.  And trust me, I thought they were all super cool at the time… Yet, of all those gifts over all those years, two only remain in my possession to this day.

My most treasured item, of all else, is my hammer.  And no, I am not Thor. It is a real life 13oz hammer, a cabinet man’s hammer.  Not a framing hammer for big jobs.  A 13oz hammer for fine, delicate work for fine hardwoods that require precision so as not to leave any marks whatsoever on the wood. A cabinet man’s hammer.  Back when things  were personally measured, produced and installed.  Not the Ikea crap of today. Real cabinetry, custom made, with precision and craftsmanship.

I was 15 when went to Nanna’s and Papoo’s house for Christmas.  Yeah, down south, you didn’t use their last names until you were over 16 and then, only in polite company.  Anything other than their “loving name” was a sin of the highest order.  I look back on it now and realize, how loving and endearing it was.  That’s why I absolutely hate being called “Master Perdue.”  Yeah, that is my official title, but Mr. Due, well, that’s who I really am.  A name given to me by the 3 and 4 year old siblings of my students that couldn’t say Mr. PERdue.  They tried hard.  For a while, I was Mr. Adoo.  Then it became Mr. Due. At that moment, I knew, that is really who I was. I wasn’t “Master” whatever.  I was Mr. Due; their crazy uncle who was always there, no matter what. I was always saying the same things at their parents told them, just a different way. (To me that was Uncle Richard, different story, for another time. But I had the coolest uncle ever.)

The scary part of this little side track to the story is that the first person to call me Mr. Due, is now a Doctor practicing medicine.  Yeah, I am that old.  Anyway, back to an old man’s story.  We old dude’s do that, add a little, and then go back.  I could edit or embrace it.  Too old to edit, so…

I was 15 and there was this big box under the Christmas tree.  Now, these were my practical grandparents.  They always gave us what they didn’t have as children growing up in the Great Depression.  Yep, if you are my age you guessed what our present was every year; socks, underwear, pajamas, a savings bond, maybe a book, and a little toy.  And while I say little, I mean a little toy. When I look back, they knew real hunger, pain and doubt as children.  What they gave us, every year, was more than they ever had as children. Back then, an Orange was a great gift.  But I grew up in the burbs. And as a kid that grew up in the prosperity that their generation provided, I thought they were just cheap.  Now, I get it.  Gifts are a matter of perspective. They always gave us what they really wanted as a child. What better gift is that?

But on this day, for me, and just for me, was a huge box.  I mean HUGE.  I could barely contain my excitement.  When it was finally my turn to open it up, I ripped off the paper to find…. a tool box.  Confused, I opened the lid, inside were an array of tools.  I am talking TOOLS!  I am talking, you can’t buy for for $300 today.  But I was oblivious of course, because I was a 15 year old who had no idea the value of the treasure chest before me. At that time, I didn’t know what most of the tools ever were. To me, it might as well been more socks.

On top of the tools was a note, “Show up for work Monday.” I didn’t get it then. I get it now. The tools weren’t the gift.  That is what I needed for the gift.  The gift was a JOB.  A real freaking JOB. We are talking real work, with your hands, all the time, every day. No more allowance, no more cash for grades, if you want money, show up for work. Real work, with real pay, punch the clock, be there at 7am when you are out of school, reality check.  Something when my grandfather grew up was in very short supply but he would be more than happy to have. At the time I thought it was a curse.  (Private note for my brother.. Robert, shut up and stop laughing.) Again, perspective is everything. Now, I realize the wisdom and the blessing he gave me.

I showed up on Monday, I was the worst employee, at least at first, probably later too, and then well… yeah, I was the worst employee the cabinet shop ever had. (Maybe other than Robert, mention above.) I wasn’t treated any better than anyone else, and frankly, many times I was treated worse.  (OK, I am so old I thought a 10 cent raise was awesome.) But neither my grandfather nor my father ever gave a harsh word that wasn’t deserve.  In fact, I am sure they wanted to fire me more times they can count. But they pushed me to get OUT of THERE.

What my Grandfather wanted most was for me to prevail and have a life better than what he perceived he had. (He built a mini empire on pragmatic investing in real estate.  The man was way ahead of his time.) He saved for my college tuition from the day I was born.  He socked it away, as my dad did for my kids, and between him and my dad, I graduated from college debt free.  His love was providing.  I am proud to say, in my father’s family line, I am the first to graduate from college.  (My mother’s side had some smart cookies. Different story for another day,) But it is less my achievement than my grandfathers, my fathers and my mothers.  In a time, far different than today, when a college education equaled automatic success, whenever my grades slipped, my mother would always say…. “You can always work at the shop…”  Boom, atom bomb dropped.  C’s became A’s!

Papoo made that happen.  Almost everything I am flowed from that gift, a tool box with a 13oz hammer.  Now, just like me, it is beaten, old, rusted, worn, tired, tested, scared and beautiful in its imperfections.  This is my hammer, given to me from my grandfather, tested by my father, a handle tempered with glue,paint, sweat, blood and abuse.  When I pick it up, it is a part of me. When in my hand, there is no division of tool or man. We just are.

This is my hammer. It I didn’t forge it. It forged me.

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Always Call in the Reinforcements

When Jeremy was younger, we signed him up for soccer.  He really enjoyed it at first.  But then one day…NOPE!  Jeremy wouldn’t get on the field and wouldn’t participate in practice.  We had NO idea why.  The very game before he did great and he always seemed to have fun at practice.  Without any explanation or reason one day, he dug in his heals and made things extremely difficult.

So, what did I do?  I called in the Reinforcements.  Jeff and Dan Morgan, Stacy’s kids, were in High School at the time and they were huge soccer guys.  They came by, took him to the park one day and just did some drills and had fun.  The next time they came by, they had him put on his jersey, took him to the park the game was going to be held, put him on the field and started doing warm ups.  The next thing you knew, the game started and he never looked back.  Jeremy went on to play for years making countless friends, learning a great deal about teamwork and having immense amounts of fun.

The other day I had at least 3 parents talk to me about how their kids didn’t want to come to class.  (Side note: when the weather gets better that is always an issue here in Ohio. Spring fever hits hard.)  The worst part for parents is that they could see their kids having a great time on the floor so they couldn’t understand why their child did not want to be in class. While sometimes, the kids are just tired from school and want to veg, if it happens several times in a row what is happening is a confidence crisis.  For some reason, they don’t believe they can do it.  Now, WE know they can.  But for some reason, they are scared to death of something.  So what do you do?  Call the reinforcements.  Let us know what is going on.

What will we do?  Prove to them they can do it.  Form problems?  We can set up a tutoring session in class or before classes.  No problem.  Sparring, Guardian Angels are great for that.  Wood?  No problem, a few one on one sessions will usually take care of it.  As instructors, we are vested in our students.  We don’t mind giving them the special attention they need to succeed.

But we can’t help if we don’t know about it.  Especially since many times, we think they are already doing great and are exceeding our expectations.  And we see the same thing you do, they are having a great time in class. So when your child has fought you about coming to class for a full week… Don’t Hesitate! Call in the Reinforcements! 


Stranger Saviors

I am doing a self-defense seminar for kids at an elementary school. I do this all the time, but a few years ago, things went totally off when;

A kid asked me, as a very matter fact
If I call for help, won’t that bring another stranger?

Boom! Moment of clarity…

That question was
For me,
A defining point I realized
What we are teaching is WRONG

Kid logic is simple
There is no grey
There is only black and white…
It just is….

I looked at her…
And everything changed

In that moment I totally understood
Never worry about the Stranger…
Call the Saviors…
In that moment, everything changed

I stopped looking at the evil
I started looking at the good
Evil exists
But the vast majority is not only good

They are saviors
They will come to someone else’s aid
They look at every child as their own
They are people that will do the right thing

No matter what
No matter how
No matter what the consequences
No matter the outcome

We care for our own
Even if they aren’t ours
We will, as parents, do what is right
For any kid in dire need

It suddenly changed everything.
In one innocent question
Everything I taught washed away
Everything changed….

I no longer teach Stranger Danger…

When you yell…
When you call for help…
When you are afraid….

Another MOM is near
Another DAD is near
The POLICEMAN is near

The GRANDMA is there
The GRANDPA is there
The TEACHER is there

Every one of them will help you
Every one of them will assist you
Every one of them will call for assistance
Every of them will DIE for you

There is far more good in the world than bad

The good will come
Every time
All the time
The good will come

It will come without question
It will come to protect you
It will come and ask questions later
And if necessary, without mercy

Don’t be afraid of strangers
Call upon


Pokémon GO…Safely

Pokémon Go is sweeping the nation at speeds I never imagined.  However, I have already seen and heard that people, while trying to “catch them all” have done some pretty stupid things. I am sure that all the Darwin Awards given this year will be to GO players that obsessed with looking at their screen instead of being aware of their safety.  If you are going to GO; GO safely.  Remember, video games are great, but being safe is IMPORTANT.

1) Keep your head UP. First and foremost, keep your head up.  You cannot be aware of even the simplest dangers, like walking into something, if your head is always fixed on your phone.  Moreover, keeping your head down on your phone makes you far more prone to being attacked because you can be surprised.  No matter whether you are texting or playing GO, when you are walking around in public, keep your head up and your attention on your surroundings.  It will keep you from being a victim not only of others, but your own stupidity.

2)  Don’t GO and Drive.  If texting and driving is bad, GOing and driving has to be the combination of driving drunk while texting.  Never GO and drive.  If you are a passenger, don’t suddenly exclaim that there is some Pokémon nearby (just that sudden exclaim can cause an accident) and don’t ask the driver to stop, slow down or otherwise drive recklessly or dangerously. I don’t care if the rarest Pokémon in the world shows up on I-75, don’t slow down and for heaven’s sake don’t stop.   It is a video game.  It isn’t worth your life or the lives of others.

3)  SAFETY FIRST.  If you are on foot, NEVER try to get the Pokémon that is in a roadway of any kind.  If you can’t get it from the sidewalk, leave it be.  It that Pokémon is in midair just out of reach, don’t lean over a railing to try and get it.  Gravity is real.  This game is not.  If that Pokémon is in any place that presents you any danger whatsoever, let it go.  You will find it later.

4) Respect Private Property.  Going into someone’s back yard at 1:00 a.m. is asking to be shot, arrested, or bitten by a very protective dog. SERIOUSLY!  People get real grumpy at their best, violent at their worst, when they have people creeping around their house at inappropriate times or inappropriate places.  GO doesn’t give you a license to be creepy. Building sites, private homes, government properties and the like are not places to GO.  GO is not a license to trespass. Be respectful of other people’s property.

5) Be CAREFUL when you go to the Pokestops, Lures and Gyms.  There are many business and well-meaning people setting them up everywhere in an attempt to get people to visit their shop or business.  That is fine.  HOWEVER, criminals have already gotten on the bandwagon.  There have been reports of criminals setting up Pokestops, Lures and Gyms and robbing people that show up at them.  No virtual reality treasure is worth your life or your real property.  Be aware and look before you leap.  If something doesn’t look right or doesn’t feel right, it isn’t worth it.  Keep your head up and be smart.  If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t.

6) Put on your Head Gear.  Seriously, if there is a Pokémon on my floor during class and you have to get on the mats to get it, put your headgear on.  I won’t REALLY hurt you. I won’t even stop you. But I will make it an adventure worth remembering, I promise.

7) BE POLITE and RESPECTFUL in public places.  Parents, I can already hear the complaints of the servers and any fellow patrons of a restaurant if you allow you kids to run around and find Pokémon in dining establishments.  We far too often let kids ignore common manners and be part of the dining experience by letting them play on their devices at restaurants because it is easier than making them behave.  But if you let them run around and play GO, don’t be surprised if you are asked to leave.  Oh, and don’t be upset if they ask you to do so. That isn’t a “them” problem.  As a parent, that is a “you” problem.

8) Never play GO in a learning environment. School, Church, Lessons, Homework, etc.  If it is learning time, take their device.  GO will be highly addictive.  It is meant to be.  If you want your child, or even yourself, to learn something, you have to have the discipline to put the device away to really learn something.  If they have the device in their hands and are thinking about what the device says, can they focus on the lesson of the here and now?  Of course not!

9)  GO is a Pedophiles Christmas Gift.  Seriously!  This game will create places where people of different ages will gather playing and enjoying the same activity; something very unique in this day and age.  Many of the younger participants are not the type to be out and about to begin with because they enjoy gaming activities that are usually done at home. GO will get people out of the house, which is a good thing.  But at the same time, many of the younger participants are insecure, have low self-esteem and introverted by nature.  Gather them together and what do you get?  I think the military term is a “target rich environment.”

Pedophiles, by their very nature, will do activities that kids enjoy to be around them.  Strike up a conversation with them.  Develop “friendships” with them.  In others words, groom them to be their next victims.  I cannot image how joyous pedophiles are right now.  Now they have an excuse to be in the same area with younger teens and kids that is considered “socially acceptable.”  Meanwhile, the kids and teens are so consumed in what they are doing, they are unaware of potential dangers.  Pedophiles are sure to set “lures” and to create “gyms” where the kids will come flocking.  Once the game is updated to allow people to trade their catches, watch out.  Even the convicted sex offenders that are banned from being around children’s gathering places like schools, playgrounds, and churches are not prohibited from being around these hot spots.

Yes, I know the VAST majority of the players will be well intentioned.  But you always have to watch out for those that don’t mean well.  Imagine a Croc in the watering hole in those nature documentaries.  Lurking. Waiting.  That is what pedophiles are doing right now. They are waiting for that young bull or gazelle separate from the heard to take a sip of the water as they swim gently, subtly closer to their prey.  They are ready to lurch from those dark waters and take them below.  The minute that you bull or gazelle is close enough, they will strike.  Don’t be that young bull or gazelle.  Be the lion.

Video games are awesome.  I play them all the time.  In fact, most martial arts instructors are total geeks and gamers.  But even when you do something like gaming, you have to be careful and make sure you protect yourself in the REAL world and show disciplined enough to make a game enhance you entertainment experience and not take over your live.  More than any game in history, this game has the potential of making people forget that delicate balance because it is so mobile, just like we are.  So keep it in check.  Never let it rule your, or your child’s, life.

20 Years

Dave Perdue+Kevin KrinskyBy Kevin Krinsky

I am Mr. Perdue’s 1st student.  That’s a pretty cool thing to be able to say.  I wanted to write a reflective piece about my 20 years with Mr. Due!

When we first met, I was 7 years old and the school was not even built yet.  There was no carpet on the floors (this is before puzzle mats were even available) and the railing was half installed.  As I remember it, my mom and I were looking in the window of the school and Mr. Perdue came out to say hello from the cleaners next door. He told us who he was and that the school was opening soon.  I told him “I already watch power rangers I know what I’m doing!”  He laughed and took our information.  He even let me kick a target.   I came back for class a few weeks later.  Once I finally got started I loved it!

I am currently a 5th degree black belt, married, and own my own small business.  However when I started, I was a 7 year old shy kid that dealt with bullying just like a lot of kids do now.  Right around the time I got started with TKD I got dubbed by a few kids in school “Power Ranger Kid”  Not because I did martial arts, but because I had this really really cool Power Ranger shirt I used to wear to school.  It hurt my feelings at the time when they called me that, but martial arts gave me the confidence to let it just glance off of me and not really bother me too much.  Partially because Mr. Perdue playfully called us names like Goober (which I learned was a southern term for Peanut.  I sounded even more southern back then, if you can imagine that), knuckle head and the like.  So very soon, being called the “power ranger kid” didn’t bother me at all.

Over the years, I would meet some of my best friends in class and make some great lifelong connections through different taekwondo events.  I have been to 14 summer camps, 6 black belt conferences and probably close to 50 tournaments.  I learned that it didn’t matter if you win or lose. I didn’t get my first medal until I was a 2nd Degree.  But at those events, I have met some of the most fun and talented people who push me to get better every time we get together.  I learned that you really compete against yourself more than anyone else.

One of the things in the past 20 years I always have to give Mr. Perdue props for is he still spars TODAY…he still works out hard TODAY…and he is still scary TODAY.  I have seen Mr. Perdue with a broken nose keep sparring at testing, break his foot just before testing and test anyway, break his wrist  and kept breaking wood at a charity event,  broke his chin and keep riding, I don’t know too many people who can say they pushed through life like that.  I think in 20 years I have learned more from that than anything.  Sometimes life won’t go your way, but you just need to keep pushing hard and it will all work out for the best.  Not too many people know I’ve had 3 “no- changes” but after each time I learned and got much better because of it.

As I am writing this and trying to think of how to condense 20 years of memories into a short blog and not make this require chapters to finish, but I will leave you with one of my coolest memories of the past 20 years.  Nation testing January 2010, I was a 3rd degree senior testing for 4th degree and Mr. Perdue was a 5th degree testing for 6th degree.  For those of you who don’t know, going from a 5th degree to 6th is your last testing ever.  6th degree is considered Master.  The only 2 people testing from our school were the two of us, which is odd because Westerville usually tests anywhere from 5- 10.  Before we went out I said, “Perdue we are going out with 8 bars between us, and we’re coming back with 10!”  Of course during sparring I got a cut in my eyelid and had to keep going…just like I planned right?  But sure enough for his last testing he passed and became 6th degree and I passed and became 4th degree.  I still feel like from being the shy, first student I was, to testing next to my instructor and both of us passing was such a memorable experience I’ll never forget.

I am excited for the next 20 years and me becoming a 6th degree Master soon myself in only 2.5 short years!  If you are not taking class somewhere, give it a shot because I had fun at age 7 and I still enjoy this just as much at age 27.  See you at the next event!


The Worst DAD EVER

Once upon a time, when the school was younger, there was this Dad.  He meant well.  He really did.  But there came a time when the instructors had to just step in and tell this Dad to shut up and let them do the teaching, not him!

web white Belts 2 copyThe boy was a good kid.  He usually behaved in class but not always because he was, after all, a typical seven year old boy that just loved life as a seven year old boy should.  At times, he would misbehave on the end of the rail as he and his buddy would push and shove a little to see who got to go first.  Sometimes he would play with the target instead of holding right. He would do the head bob push-ups just so he could be the first one done; or he would just keep talking and laughing with one of the other kids when he was supposed to be listening.  But most of the time he would try real hard and he was making good progress.  But on those days when he was being… well, a seven year old boy, it drove his father nuts because the father KNEW he could do better.

It was on one of those days when the seven year old boy was being exceptionally seven years old, the father said something just the wrong way and the instructors had had enough.  Mr. Dominach (who now has his own school in Independence, KY) was running the floor and he grabbed the dad and put him in the office.  I could tell he was ticked.  I also could tell the Dad was in for it that day. As soon as the Dad sat down, Mr. Dominach LET HIM HAVE IT!

“Mr. Perdue, you have to knock it off!  You are expecting too much of Jeremy and you are killing his love for Taekwondo. I am in charge of his training, NOT YOU.  Just like you told me when Jeremy started!  From now on, when Jeremy is taking class; YOU ARE IN THE OFFICE!” I went to say something stupid like “Hey, this is MY school.” when I saw that Mrs. Morgan (my manager) was standing behind him with her arms crossed. It was a full Coupe d’état. I held up my hand and yielded.  Not because I wasn’t in charge; but because I knew, as an instructor, they were right!

While I always meant well, that is when I realized that I was the worst Martial Arts Dad EVER! For the next several years, whenever Jeremy was in class, I sat in the office. No matter how well I trained the other kids and even the instructors that were teaching my son, I had to understand that I was not the best instructor for my own son.  Why?  Because I was superimposing my desire for his success on him rather than letting him discover the desire for success for himself.  I was depriving him of learning his own self-focus and self-discipline instead of that which I imposed on him.

As the years have passed, I understand now from experience that sometimes our parental criticism can do far more harm than good.  As parents we have to remember that athletics is about the process as much as or more so than the results of any particular practice or game.  The longer they participate, the more lessons they will learn. So the key is make it enjoyable so they don’t get discouraged. Does that mean everything should always be rainbows and sunshine where everyone wins all the time and the coach should never give direct evaluation on performance and effort?  Far from it!  They should have setbacks.  They should see that their efforts in practice contribute to results on game day.  The coach SHOULD hold the kids accountable for their effort and their performance.  That is where the kids learn life skills through athletics.

However, in the vast majority of cases, coaching from the sidelines adds an additional negative layer to their efforts that is unneeded and, in most cases, unwarranted.  What is the fun in that?  No matter how qualified we may be in that sport, we as parents should back off and let the coach do it. That way when the setbacks do occur, as they should, we can there with the ice cream and the pat on the back to make that little setback seem insignificant and very temporary so they can focus on the next game, match, practice, etc.  No matter what the sport or the athletic activity, what our kids need most from us isn’t our criticism, but our support.

Papa, Are you still proud of me?

“Tori Perdue!  Third attempt Sir!”  The judge yelled.  For me, the testing stopped and the world started to move in slow motion.  I may be the chief instructor and I may have to run the testing, but first and foremost I am a parent.  At this moment, I was just a dad with a little girl who was trying yet again to pass testing.  At our school, as like many others, at higher ranks breaking is required to pass to the next level.  This was her fourth attempt at this rank. All of her other setbacks had been for her breaking and we had become preoccupied with getting her over this hurdle.

Tori Break 09In the slow motion world which occurs when your adrenaline kicks in, I saw Tori bow.  She looked at the wood and the second she picked up her leg, I knew she wasn’t going to break it.  Little things told me that it wasn’t going to happen.  Her eyes closed.  Her knee didn’t chamber well enough and her spacing was all wrong.  She wasn’t determined to break it.  She was just hoping to.  Unfortunately, hope is rarely sufficient.

Sure enough, the next sound I heard was a soft THUD of her kick hitting the board but the board not breaking.  She looked at the board with a stunned expression.  She composed herself, bowed out, and shook the hands of her holders as she collected the boards and made her way to the side to watch the others attempt to break their stations.  She was so dignified.  No tears.  No drama.  She sat down next to one of her friends that tried to console her.  At that point I had to look away and deal with the rest of testing.  I knew she was upset.  But I didn’t realize how upset until much later.

After testing, we have a tradition of going out and celebrate/commiserate the results with the instructors and students, just like we do after tournaments.  While outcomes of the day matter to everyone, what matters more is the comrade and spending time together reliving the night’s events. Tori was fine all evening and laughed and joked with the other kids that were there.  I was surprised how she was taking it in stride.

Later, as I tucked he into bed and kissed her on the forehead she asked, “Papa, are you still proud of me?”  If you had listened very carefully at that moment, you would have heard my heart rip in half.  Now, at bed time, she showed that she was, indeed, hurting on the inside.

“Honey, of course I am! Your form was awesome and gets better every time I see it!  The combinations you did sparring were incredible and I saw that wicked hit you just shook off.  You rocked tonight.”  I said.

“But I didn’t break my wood!  AGAIN!” she said with clear frustration in her tone.

“I know, but you will.”

“I don’t know.” She said.  Of course she would doubt herself in this moment.  Who wouldn’t?

“I do.  You are too awesome to let something like a little piece of wood stop you. I am proud of you not because I love you, I am proud of you because you are awesome.  You’ll get it.  It’s just a matter of time.  It’s not ‘IF’ you are going to break your wood.  It is a matter of ‘WHEN’ you will break it.”

There was silence for a while then she said.  “Ok.  Good night Papa.”

“Love you!”  I said as I went to leave.

“Love you too Papa.”

Whether it is physically, socially or academically, there is nothing more frustrating for a parent than to watch your child struggle.  As a father, I know this all too well.  But if we, as parents, don’t let them struggle, how will they grow to take on the challenges they will face later in life?  Much of life, after all, can only be learned by trial and error.  It is one of the things I love most about martial arts training for kids.  Parents CAN’T do it for them or even help them.  (Parents that try, by the way, usually do more harm than good.)  The kids have to do it on their own.

Because they must do it on their own, they grow stronger spiritually and emotionally.  That is why lessons learned in martial arts is so transferable to everyday life, especially for kids. Their success is absolutely determined by their own efforts.  Not their parents or other teammates; just their own actions.  Does this mean they will struggle?  Of course they will.  I hope they will.  If it were easy, it wouldn’t be special.  But can they do it?  Of course they can!  And they will.  Just like I told Tori, it isn’t a matter of IF, it is a matter of WHEN!

Parents, I know it is hard.  But I can tell you both as a parent and an instructor, these little setbacks they have today will have huge benefits in the future!  Just like I tell the students, I NEVER promised you it would be easy.  I promised you it would be WORTH IT!  And sometimes, as a parent I can honestly say, it is harder on us than them.

Two months later, I heard the familiar call again.  “Tori Perdue, First Attempt SIR!”  I looked up and again the world seemed to slow down.  This time, there was a different look in her eyes.  She wasn’t hoping the wood break; she had more determination in her eyes than I had ever seen before.  In a matter of seconds, it was all over and all of her stations were broken on the first attempt.  As she bounced with excitement to bow out, she was beaming.  She looked at me and gave big thumbs up and a smile.  After the testing was over, I told Tori “I am so proud of you!”  She looked up with a big smile and said, “I know! You told me so!”

I had to smile.  She listened?  I never thought my kids listened to ANYTHING I had to say!

The Breaking point

Featured imageEveryone has one, a breaking point.  A point where you look at yourself and say, “I can’t go another step.  I am done.  I can’t do it.”  We all feel it.  We have all been there.  So what happened?  Did you quit?  Or did you keep going?

I was talking to a young man the other day who is scared to death about sparring.  In our school, we spar all the time.  He is actually an instructor.  I know what you are thinking, how can an instructor be afraid of sparring?  To be honest, I don’t know.  I love it.  But he, well, he doesn’t.  He came up to me complaining about yet another minor bump or bruise and asking to not spar that day.  I knew he wasn’t hurt.  I knew he was fine physically.  But emotionally, I knew he was reaching his breaking point.

Because I am a martial arts instructor, I know many people may think I ridiculed him or went all “Cobra Ki” on him.  But the truth is much different.  I just looked at him and simply said.  “I know you don’t like sparring.  I can see you are afraid of getting hit. But what you don’t see is that you are really good at it and have too much talent to waste it.” He looked down for a moment and realized that he hadn’t been fooling me for quite some time.  “Look.” I said, “Get out there.  Being brave isn’t about not being afraid.  Being brave is being scared out of your mind and you keep going.  You can do it.  Go!”

Every time I tell him to put on his gear, I can see his tribulation.  I can see the conflict within.  I can see him….put on his gear, get out there and do the best he can.  Is he good?  No, he is OUTSTANDING.  He has more natural talent than I have ever had.  But he is afraid to spar.  And every time he puts his gear on, he gives me his best.  And every time, I respect him more.  Why?  Because courage is having the strength to overcome what you are afraid of doing or don’t believe you can do.  Without the fear, there is no courage and thus, no glory.

I have students that are afraid of being in front of people testing.  I have students that are afraid to break their wood stations.  I have students that are afraid of getting hit.  I have students that are afraid of not meeting their parent’s expectations.  I have students that are afraid of being laughed at.  I have students afraid to wear the white pants because it “makes their butt look HUGE”.  I have students that are afraid because they are old.  I have students that are afraid because it is something new.

Yet every day, they are on the mats. And every day…..Every SINGLE DAY, they persevere.  They overcome their fears. And every day, I respect them more.  They inspire me.  They make me face my fears, my weaknesses and my shortcomings. As any Instructor does, I find inspiration in my students because while I encourage them, they encourage me, and each other, to rise to levels none of us ever could accomplish alone.

Everyone has a breaking point, even me.  When I hit it, as I have several times in my life, I have always found someone that will look at me and say, “You can do it!” That is when I found the courage to take that next step and accomplish what I was ready to give up on.  That is when I found the inner strength to succeed. That is when I went where I never dreamed I could go. That is when I made what I thought impossible, possible.

When you see someone struggle, no matter when no matter where, remember, it is your time to encourage them.  To give them some of your strength so they can find their own. With encouragement, anything is possible.

It’s about saying NO

When my son was very young, he tried to play with nearly every kid in the neighborhood that would play with him. He just loved being with other kids and being outdoors. For the most part, everyone Jeremy Punchin the neighborhood got along well. But there was one other boy who would, from time to time, just be a complete jerk. On one particular day, Jeremy came to the house visibly upset. I asked him why and he told me that the other boy was being very demeaning to him, calling him names and pushing him around a bit. “You know what to do, don’t you?” I asked. “Yeah,” Jeremy snarled. “PUNCH HIM IN THE NOSE!” I started laughing. “NO, NO, you don’t have to do that. Just don’t play with him. And if you are playing with him and he starts acting like a jerk, just look at him and say he is being a jerk and you are going home.” Jeremy looked at me with a puzzled look. “How will that help?” “Look,” I said, “NO ONE likes rejection. The best way to punish anyone is to deprive them of your time and attention. That is why time out works for parents. Never spend time with anyone that wastes it by being mean or abusive to you.”

I wasn’t sure our little talk worked at first. Then there was the day I found out he perfectly understood what I was talking about. The doorbell rank and the boy from down the street was at the door. Jeremy opened the door, looked at him in the eye and I heard him say “NO, I don’t want to play with you today because you were a complete jerk last time.” He didn’t even give the boy time to respond as he slammed the door in his face. Talk about a statement. Jeremy just bounded up the stairs like nothing was wrong and went to his room to play like nothing happened. “What was that about?” I asked. “Oh, he was a jerk yesterday when I was at his house. So I’m not going to play with him.” I couldn’t help but smile. Over the years, a certain level of respect was established between the boys. They were friends. But it was well known, treat Jeremy well or he was done. He wasn’t wasting his time with you.

Bully Prevention and Awareness month is in October and I would feel irresponsible if I didn’t address the issue here in my blog. I could point out all the facts and delve deep into all the facts and figures that everyone else is already talking about. I could rail against this or that and sound like all the other people writing about it. But I won’t because; bully defense is actually quite simple. It is about saying NO.

People are programmed to say YES. YES is how we cooperate in a civilized society. YES gets up accepted. YES makes other people happy. So saying YES becomes a habit. YES is the easy answer. If we say YES, people will like us and we will have more friends. It doesn’t matter if we really like someone, respect someone, or want to be with someone, we will say YES to make them happy even if it doesn’t make us happy because, after all, if we say YES they will like us.

That may sound ridiculous at first. But the more you think about it, think about how many times you said yes…But wanted to say NO! Now imagine being a kid. Someone is playing rough with you. Or they are not treating you well. You want to say NO, but you want to be liked. So you assume saying YES will make it all better and go away. But the more you say YES, the worst it gets.

I love the word NO. My kids, my wife, or my staff and they will tell you I LOVE the word NO. I will say it at least twice before I say YES. Why? Because you can always say YES after you say NO; but you can’t say NO after you say YES.

Now, imagine you are that same kid. Someone is disrespecting you or being more physical than you would like. You say NO, and walk away. Refuse to play. That refusal of acknowledgement and rejection is hard for someone to take. Even if that someone feels superior and like they have some reason to treat you poorly. It adjusts their thinking. NO is a powerful word. NO is a word of assertiveness. More than anything else, NO means you value your own opinion and have respect for yourself. NO means that if you do not make me happy, I will not make you happy. NO reestablishes order and puts things in balance. NO means, I will control what I am doing in my life and whom I will be doing it with.

If you want to make a kid bully proof, teach them it is perfectly fine to say NO! Show them how to say NO! Then show them how to back up that NO with action! Then back them up when they do!

“You don’t need help, you need PRACTICE!”

I was working with a little girl the other day that was as cute as a bug. She had the kind of smile that could make any adult just melt and spoil her. AND SHE KNEW IT! It was obvious she had Cutie copyused her charms many times on her parents and teachers. How could I tell? Because any time things got slightly difficult, she would immediately ask for help from one of the instructors before even attempting to try to do it on her own. Of course, they were just too happy to comply. Unfortunately for her, my daughter was the exact same way and over time I became immune to such attempts.

On this day, I was trying to show her a rather simple kicking combination that required more balance than her belt level was used to doing. Sure, I knew she would have trouble with it at first. But I also knew her, and the other students in class, could all do it with a little effort, focus and practice. Hey, if it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing. After demonstrating the technique a few times, I had them all practice the combination. Sure enough, when it was her turn, my little cutie pie attempted the combination twice and when she didn’t immediately succeed, she turned to me and said “I need help!”

Now, as an instructor, I have to admit, I get a real kick when this sort of thing happens. “Really, let me see it again so I can see what you are doing wrong.” She stuck out her little tongue, picked up her foot and tried again. This time a little better than the last. “I’m not sure, can you do it again.” This time she did it even better. “Oh, I see what you need.” She looked up at me. “You don’t need help, you need PRACTICE!” That is when she realized that her cute trick didn’t work. She rolled her eyes, sighed, stuck out her tongue and kept trying. While she didn’t completely get the kick down, she made great progress and I am sure she will get that combination in no time.

One of the things I have always guarded against, both as a parent and as an instructor, is swooping in and fixing things too soon when the kids are having problems with something. Real lasting development never comes easy; which is why it lasts forever and never has to be retaught. The next time your child struggles, whether it is something physical or their math homework, smile and say “You can do it. You just need PRACTICE!”