No More Chances …

This is not a typical post for me, but the recent death of a fellow karate instructor has been on my mind for a few weeks now, and I guess this is my way of dealing with it. I hope my readers will understand.

Suicide is an issue I have become much more attuned to over the last few years, especially since joining Veterans Referring Veterans and learning of the many private organizations that work to help prevent veteran suicides. The good news is that veteran suicide rates dropped from 22 per day in 2017 to 17 per day in 2021. Unfortunately, however, that is still far too many.

Of course, it is not just an issue for veterans.

We all know suicide is not an issue that exclusively affects veterans. And, anyone can reach a point in their lives where they are so desperate, so full of despair or pain, that suicide seems the only way out. And from my experience, it looks like the people who should know something is wrong, who might be in a position to reach out and help, are often shocked when someone they know commits suicide. Too often, you hear comments like, “I had no idea there was something so wrong,” or “Why didn’t he talk to me?” or “She seemed so … uh … normal.”

I am not sure why this is. Are these people just too busy to notice or did not care? I don’t think so. I know some of those people, and they do care … often they are teachers, close friends, or family members. It is more likely that people in that much pain get really good at hiding it … so they will “be left alone.” Of course, this “being alone” increases their isolation, pain, and despair.

Speaking from personal experience …

I have been affected by the suicide of someone I knew twice in my life. The second time was just a few weeks ago, so this has recently been cycling through my brain.

The first time was many years ago – in the mid-90s. Caleb was a high school student who joined my karate dojo, and he was a great kid. Several of his friends were already students of mine, and he seemed to really enjoy karate and clearly got along fine with his friends in the class. In addition, he was a personable young man, good-looking, a good student, and played in the high school marching band.

Then one day, his classmates came into the dojo and told me Caleb had just killed himself the previous day. They were in shock … and they had no idea …

I was shocked. Caleb had seemed fine, and maybe I could have done something … I am a karate sensei, for Pete’s sake! But the truth is, if you don’t know, there is nothing you can do. His parents stopped by the dojo to tell me they appreciated all I did for Caleb. It was incredibly kind of them under the circumstance, and all I could think was that … clearly … I did not do enough.

A fellow karate instructor located in Chicago took his own life more recently. I first heard that Patrick died when another instructor in Michigan posted the funeral arrangements in his dojo Facebook group. I had traveled to Chicago several times to attend karate seminars Patrick hosted. And while we were not close friends, I had talked to him on several occasions, sat in on one of his promotion tests, and had read a novel he’d written a few years ago. He always seemed friendly, he was an excellent karate instructor, and I think he was a teacher in one of the Chicago school systems, or at least was at one time.

When I read about the funeral arrangements, I contacted a mutual friend that following Saturday and asked him what had happened. Was Patrick sick? He was a good bit younger than me. Was it cancer? I was then told Patrick had taken his own life the previous Thursday.

I remember saying something like, “Oh no! Why? That is so sad.”

John’s reply was, “Yes, it is. I had no idea anything was wrong. And right now, I am more angry than sad. He should have talked to me.”

On a more personal note

I am about to share a personal story. And, it is not about me looking for anything. But, I just feel that if someone reads it, and it helps anyone, anytime, anywhere – or the reader takes away something positive from it, that is a good thing.

I grew up a stutterer. And, in my younger years, it was a much, much worse problem than it is for me now. During elementary and middle school, I pretty much hated myself. I mean, stuttering is kind of an invisible handicap, right? You look normal enough, all the way up until someone asks you your name – then the fun begins. The laughing, the questions … “Don’t you even know your own name?” Then there were all the fights! And if you need more proof you are not as good as everyone else … now you have to go to speech therapy!

This started to change for me as a junior in high school. That change was started by my best friend at the time, Chris Lemoine. Chris was a popular guy; he was fun to be around and well-liked by everyone; he had a Camaro and a great girlfriend! We became good friends as sophomores, and that friendship continued a little past graduation. Eventually, we went separate ways. Life sometimes does that.

We were headed somewhere in his Camaro one day, and he said something to me that blew me away. I don’t know what prompted the comment. Chris just turned to me and said something like, “Darren, I want you to know something. The fact that you stutter doesn’t matter one bit to me; you are one of the coolest guys I know. I am glad you are my friend.” That one statement began to work a change in me and has stuck with me my whole life.

Sometimes it just takes one statement …

Before this, one point in my life was very, very low. I must have been about fourteen or fifteen years old. Something had happened, but I really can’t remember what it was. Maybe my girlfriend broke up with me, I had a terrible stuttering situation that day in school, or perhaps I had an upcoming oral presentation. I hated those … and would break out into a cold sweat even at the thought of one. Or, maybe I just couldn’t borrow the car to go to the Rush concert. It doesn’t matter, really. It was probably a culmination of several things.

But my dad had noticed. I was up in my room with the door shut, hating life when he knocked and came in. He asked me what was wrong. I am sure it took a while to pry it out of me, but he did, and eventually, I said something along the lines of, “I hate my life, and I wish I had never been born. I just want it to end.” As an adult, I look back on that and understand that it was quite a hurtful thing to say to your dad. But I guess he understood. I do have an amazing dad.

I remember him saying something to me about how some people say suicide is the “coward’s way out,” but he did not believe that. He said it had to take a lot of guts and determination to actually go through with killing yourself. But then he said, “the real problem is that once you are dead, there are no more chances; no more opportunities to make things better, fix what was wrong, and make things right.” And that is another statement that has stuck with me my whole life.

So, if things are terrible for you, and you can see no way out, and you are thinking of ending it all, Please remember 1) that someone out there probably thinks you are pretty cool, and 2), once you take your life, there are no more chances to try again or make it right. And please, find someone to talk to!

On a lighter note, maybe growing up a stutterer is why I like to write so much. It just comes much easier to me!

Reciprocity: First look …

Prologue

Damn, it’s hot!

Taylor wiped the sweat from his forehead with a towel, then glanced across the make-shift ring at his opponent. The man was huge, definitely not Filipino.

Must be Samoan, Taylor thought. He’d seen a few Samoans during his time in the special forces and respected them. Solid operators.

Taylor stood just a bit under six feet in his socks and weighed in at a solid one-hundred-and-ninety-five pounds. His opponent was about four inches taller and a good bit heavier. He could also hit. The big man had trained, probably Muay Thai. While the Samoan’s technique was a bit sloppy, he moved like a Thai boxer; and his elbows and knees were wicked. It had been a punishing knee to Taylor’s ribs that had prompted the end of the first round.

These unsanctioned fights typically went for three rounds. However, there was no timer or bell, nor were there anything you could really call rules. If a fighter got injured, the center referee would pause the fight long enough to ensure the fighter could continue. That pause effectively ended the round. While a few fights Taylor had fought in had gone two rounds, he’d yet to see one make it to three. They were too brutal for that. Tonight was Taylor’s twelfth such fight.

A few weeks back, broke and badly in need of a drink, he’d stumbled into a bar that happened to be playing host to a local “fight night.” After watching the first two amateurs go at it, Taylor, unimpressed, started to leave. But then he saw the winner handed five thousand Philippine pesos, roughly the equivalent of one hundred and fifty dollars, so when the promoter called for two more volunteers, Taylor made his way out onto the dance floor.

The fight was short despite, or maybe because of, Taylor’s dire need for a drink. His training saw to that. Collecting his winnings, he’d headed straight to the bar and, after a few shots, felt steady enough to venture down the street to the liquor store where he picked up a bottle of his self-prescribed medication. From there, he’d stumbled back to his apartment.

Since that night, Taylor had participated in eleven more human cockfights. He’d lost the next two simply because he was too drunk even to stand, never mind defend himself. However, the instinct for self-preservation combined with the need for cash and Taylor modified his drinking habits enough to fit his fight schedule. Then he began to win, quickly becoming a favorite with several locals who started betting on him instead of the local Filipino fighters. As his winnings grew bigger, those betting on him began to win a great deal of money. His fans were happy. However, some of the local gangs began to take notice. They also had their favorite fighters, and they were not very pleased about constantly losing to this American drunkard.

This fighter, tonight, was the toughest Taylor had faced so far. Although they were pretty matched size-wise, this man was tough as nails and knew how to fight. That last knee to his ribs had hurt.

Lucky I don’t have a few broken ribs, Taylor thought.

He took a swallow from the beer he’d left sitting on a stack of crates when called up for his fight. The venue for tonight’s fight was an old warehouse along the Pasig River in the Tondo district of Manila. Tondo is the largest district in Manila in terms of area and population; it was also the district with the highest crime rate in the Philippines. Taylor figured there had to be at least one murder per week. Fortunately, most of these killings were drug-related and did not involve foreigners or tourists. However, he also knew some extremely dangerous men and women lived there.

While not precisely Madison Square Garden, someone had set up the rundown warehouse with chairs and tables circling a marked-off fight ring. A make-shift bar sat along one side of the building and seemed well-stocked.

A pungent combination of cigar, cigarette, and marihuana smoke filled the air, and the alcohol flowed freely. A sizable crowd of people had shown up for tonight’s event. Taylor had begun to notice that the clientele attending his fights had improved as he continued to win. More affluent spectators were now in the crowd; some appeared to be successful business people, and a few Taylor recognized as leaders of some of the more prominent local gangs. He saw fewer and fewer of the societal dregs who’d frequented his earlier fights in local dives. The fact that more women were now in attendance did not escape Taylor’s eye either. They were typically attractive women, often on the arms of well-dressed men. But then there were also a few women who seemed to be on their own. Two had caught his eye, especially since both had been present at his last two fights. They looked to be twin sisters, and both were stunningly beautiful.

The referee called. Wiping his forehead again and taking one last slug from his beer, Taylor made his way back into the center of the ring.

Time to end this before I screw around and get hurt.

The Samoan, confident he’d hurt Taylor badly with that last blow to the ribs, came on strong, pressing his advantage. First, he fired a hard cutting kick at Taylor’s right leg, which Taylor narrowly avoided; he immediately followed with a left jab, then a hard right elbow strike toward the temple. Taylor slipped the jab and raised his left forearm to deflect the elbow. It was what the Samoan fighter was waiting for, and he launched a brutal shin kick at Taylor’s bruised ribs.

Taylor shifted slightly to his right as his left arm dropped suddenly, hooking around his opponent’s kicking leg and trapping it against his left side. Ignoring the screaming pain from his badly bruised ribs, Taylor shifted back to the left and slightly forward, taking his opponent off balance. Grabbing the fighter’s windpipe in a vise-like grip, his right leg swept the Samoan’ ‘s left leg out from under him, driving his opponent to the floor. The big man hit hard. Taylor followed him down while maintaining control of his opponent’s right leg. He dropped his right knee into the man’s groin, and a loud groan escaped from the Samoan’s clenched teeth. Pressing the man’s leg toward his chest with his left shoulder, Taylor reached down with his left and grabbed a handful of hair. Jerking the man’s head around, he slammed his fist into the right side of the man’s massive jaw, which must have been chiseled from granite because it did not shatter. However, the Samoan still collapsed back onto the floor. He was out cold; the fight over.

Taylor released his grip on his opponent’s hair and stood up. Then, swaying just a bit, he paused, looking down at the unmoving form. Abruptly, Taylor turned and walked over to the stack of crates to finish his beer.

Okay, time to collect my money and get the hell out of here.

Sensing a presence behind him, he turned. A woman stood there looking up at him. It was one of the twins he’d spotted earlier. She was even more breathtaking up close. The woman smiled.

“That was a great fight. You are an excellent fighter.” She paused, her eyes boldly roving over his six-foot frame. “I have made good money from your last two fights.”

Taylor nodded. “Glad to hear that, ma’am. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to get cleaned up and collect my winnings. It was nice talking to you, ma’am.” He turned to walk away.

“Wait.”

Taylor paused and looked back.

“There is a shower here at the warehouse you can use if you like. And, I can make sure your money is safe until you are ready to leave.”

Taylor frowned, then chuckled. “Why would I do that,” he paused, “… trust you to keep my money safe?”

“I like you, and let’s just say I want to … uh … buy you a drink. After that, who knows.” She smiled again, then shrugged, leaving the possibilities hanging.

Taylor’s mind began to consider those possibilities.

I could use a drink, he thought.

And this lady was damn pretty, even if she did only come up to his chest. “You don’t think the owner of the warehouse would object to me using the shower?”

Again, the woman smiled. “I can guarantee it. I, well, technically, my sister and I own the warehouse. So, Taylor? What do you say? Can I call you Taylor? Or, would you prefer I call you something else?”

“Sure, Taylor will do. And what should I call you?”

“My name is Blessica, Blessica Baguinda.”

Taylor knew the name. Everyone in the Tondo district, and probably throughout the entire city of Manila, knew the name. Blessica and her sister, Mahalia, ran the Dalawang Mga Ate Na Mafia, or Two Sister’s Mafia.

Blessica saw the look on his face. “I see you have heard of me.”

Taylor nodded. “I have. You and your sister are, uh,” he paused, “shall we say, well-known in some circles.”

“Does it matter?”

Taylor thought about that, then shook his head. After all, he was not exactly a model citizen himself. “I guess not.”

Blessica smiled widely. “Great. Let me show you to the shower.”

More to follow …

Jealousy is mental cancer

This intelligent 16-year-old young lady has a post here that a lot of Americans should read and then real spend some time thinking about.

Jealousy. I have touched on this topic before but feel an unsettling urge to dwell on it a little deeper. Recently, I have been jealous of someone at school, for reasons we can talk about later, but the point is: it turned me into a green-eyed monster!

I despise this feeling. Every bit of it. But I can’t help but envy her. As I analyze this emotion, there is one thing that becomes clear…

We live in the age of envy. Human beings have always felt what Aristotle defined in the fourth century BC as pain at the sight of another’s good fortune, stirred by “those who have what we ought to have”. It is true, I feel innately uncomfortable about this girl’s great accomplishments even though I don’t want to feel this way one bit.

However, I recently came across the Growth Mindset. When we have a…

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Honor and Respect, LLC

A Passion to Serve the People Who Have Served All of Us.

When I noticed a man wearing dark athletic shoes with stars on the back, I asked if there was a story behind the shoes. Yes, and it’s a compelling and far-reaching one!

The Blue Line Shoes

A fellow blogger and friend, Joy Neal Kidney, has this great post on her site about a Marion [Iowa] Police Officer and U.S. Air Force veteran Ron Slagle and his family who designed a shoe so they could help first responders and military personnel with any mental health crisis they might be suffering.

Click here to read Joy’s wonderful post!

People and Personalities in the Dog Park

Check out this humorous observation about Dog Park aficionados! I can picture someone I know in nearly every category! 🙂

The Pet Sitter Compendium

Most people that attend the dog park are fun, dog-loving folks that follow the rules and pick up their poo. However, there are several remarkable character types to watch out for. Now, granted, some of these personality types may be found in any of your offices, jobsites, or interpretive dance classes. The dog park however, has several unique temperaments, and it’s particularly amusing when you see these traits shared by the dogs!

Personality Types
The Helicopter Parent is always hovering over their dog. These newbies truly have the best intentions. However, their inability to recognize escalation effectively thwarts playtime and frustrates other owners. I’m not sure what they are expecting from the dog park. Perhaps the dogs should light up some cigars and deal poker like in those old timey Coolidge paintings.

The Loner likes to graze discernibly in left field. Their earbuds are nature’s way of mitigating any attempts…

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Happy Veterans Day 2021

Veterans Day is a day to thank all who have served our country in the United States Armed Forces. In the divisive climate we find ourselves in during these troubled days, I think it is important to remind ourselves what it means to be an American and why so many Americans have willingly served in the defense of Freedom, and many making the ultimate price to ensure our Freedoms continue.

In light of that, I thought I would share this poem I discovered by Lynne Carey

Veteran

I was a proud veteran
That served my country well
To those that would listen
I had many stories to tell.

We fought for America’s freedom
In far away places on foreigh land.
Wherever the battle for Democracy raged,
America’s finest made a stand.

We fought for your future
And the right to remain free.
For we saw what freedom meant
To those without Liberty.

For you and yours
We would gladly have given our life.
We faced the fears and perils of battle
We braved endless turmoil and strife.

Please remember us veterans
And the sacrifices we made for you.
Please share the blessings of freedom.
Proudly wave the red, white and blue.

Lynne Carey
Copyright 2004

With Respect, Honor, and Gratitude, Thank You Veterans!

Happy 246th Birthday, US Marine Corps

Marine tradition holds that the Marine Corps was formed in a bar. The story dates back to November 1775, when two newly commissioned Captains, Samuel Nicholas and Robert Mullan, reportedly organized the first Marine Corps muster at the Tun Tavern, a popular bar in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. According to the tale, the two officers enticed potential recruits with mugs of beer and the promise of adventure on the high seas.

These recruits made up the first five Marine Corps companies that served aboard Continental Navy warships. Some historians maintain that a pub called the Conestoga Wagon was the more likely recruitment site; however, that is also a bar, and so, this tale remains a part of Marine lore to this day.

The National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia even features a restaurant appropriately named “Tun Tavern.”

Somehow, given the reputation of the US Marines as “life takers and heartbreakers,” this seems oddly entirely appropriate. I mean, how many other US military services can brag they were formed in a bar?

All joking aside, if you see a Marine today, wish them a Happy Birthday, and maybe buy them a beer!

Happy Birthday, Marines!

A Dog Can Literally Add Years To Your Life!

You should check out this truly delightful post by Eric over at The Petsitter Compendium

Well, let’s face it, life is just one kick in the pants after the next. I have noticed, however, that life is better with a dog (or three). Dogs are optimal companions, vigilant guardians, perpetual playmates, and even extemporaneous vacuum cleaners. Studies have demonstrated that these generators of joy actually reduce stress levels in their human companions.

The Petsitters Compendium

I hope you will check out the rest of this great post here! And if you like it, let him know!

Martial Mayhem for a Good Cause!

On Saturday, October 30th, a group of martial artists got together at the Beulah United Methodist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, for a day of martial arts training while raising money for Knoxville’s Children’s Hospital in honor of Charla Alley. Sadly, Charla, the wife of Sensei Jim Alley, succumbed to a terminal illness some time ago. The seminar, originally planned by Sensei Bob Noel, was canceled and rescheduled several times due to the Covid pandemic.

Several instructors from different styles volunteered their time to teach a variety of topics to a group of about 30 attendees. Nearly $1,000 was raised for charity and every participant had a great time.

Here is the lineup of instructors for last Saturday’s event.

Sensei Bob Noel
Uechi-Ryu Karate
Event Host & Organizer

Sensei Noel teaches traditional Uechi-ryu Karate at the Knoxville Uechi-ryu Karate School located at the Street Beatz Studio.

Sensei Noel led a warm-up session consisting of Uechi-ryu basic exercises and the Uechi-ryu version of Sanchin Kata.

Sensei Eddie Satterfield
Isshin-ryu Karate

Sensei Satterfield led a great session on Qi Gong breathing as a tool for relaxing, energizing, and healing. It was a great way to get charged up for the seminar.

Sensei Danny Satterfield
Isshin-ryu Karate

Sensei Danny Satterfield led a very informative session on the framing mechanics of Sanchin Kata. I think it was an eye-opening session for a lot of participants.

Sensei Danny Smith
Isshin-ryu Karate

Sensei Smith led a session on a sai kata from the Tokushinryu Kobudo system. It was clear from participant’s comments, that they really enjoyed this session

Sensei Scott Britt
Isshin-ryu Karate

Sensei Britt presented a fascinating session on the Suruchin, a traditional flexible weapon from Okinawan Kobudo. Scott has written a book on this intriguing weapon.

Sensei Darren Gilbert
Isshin-ryu Karate

Sensei Gilbert presented a great session on using stances to break the line of attack and avoid getting hit, while still allowing you to effectively strike your opponent. This foundational skill is key to unlocking techniques in kata.

Sensei Michael Patrick
Torite Jutsu

Sensei Patrick presented a session on using pressure point techniques to control and subdue your attacker. Understanding pressure points is a big help in understanding the techniques found in kata. This is always a popular topic with participants.

Sensei Mike Allen
Isshin-ryu Karate

Sensei Allen led a well-enjoyed session on Tegumi, which is a traditional form of Okinawan grappling. Many participants commented that this session was a lot of fun.

Sensei David Higgins
Shorin-ryu Karate

Sensei Higgins, a black belt in Shorin-ryu as well as a student of Uechi-ryu, led a session on Shuji No Kun, a Yammani Ryu bo kata. This session was particularly enjoyed by a few of our younger participants, and I enjoyed it as well.

Sensei Jim Alley
Isshin-ryu Karate

Sensei Alley ended the day with a session on techniques from Naihanchi, which with Sanchin Kata, is referred to as the mother and father of Isshin-ryu Karate. It was a great end to a great day!

Want more information on a variety of topics!

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So, you want to be a pet sitter, aye?

Yes, people do make a living at this. Or, maybe you just want to supplement your income. And if you love dogs, this may be just what you are looking for. But how do you get started? What do you need to know? Are there pitfalls you need to avoid? So, many questions, so little time!

Well, my friend, Eric, has just the information and experience you need. And, as luck would have it, he has just started a pet sitter’s blog called The Pet Sitter Compendium. I think you should check it out. And, while he is just getting started, there are two great blog posts already, and I am sure there will be more enjoyable, fact-filled posts coming in the future.

I met Eric about five years ago at the Godbold Dog Park in Cary when I moved to North Carolina. I would take Sophie, my German Shepherd, there to exercise.

By the way, this is Sophie, if you haven’t seen her before.

Eric was always there with several dogs like Remi, Rex, and a very lovable white lab I cannot remember the name of. Then there was Nitro, Eric’s dog.

Eric has been a professional pet sitter for much longer than I have known him, and I have known him for about five years now. I would highly recommend him as a person, a dog sitter, and a person from which to seek out information about becoming a dog sitter. So, please do check out his blog … or did I say that already?

What kind of guy is Eric?

By way of an answer, let me say this – this is Nitro, a genuinely great dog who sadly passed away a short time ago. As I mentioned above, Nitro was Eric’s dog, who I have some really fond memories of.

Eric also became the guardian for Rex, another great dog who first taught Sophie how to play catch. Rex’s original human, Bob, became terminally ill and asked Eric to take Rex. Eric agreed. That is just the kind of man he is. So now, Eric has Rex, and Bob is watching over Nitro in Heaven. It seems to me to be the best arrangement possible under the circumstances.

I just pass this along, so readers will know what a great person Eric is and how much he cares for dogs and animals in general. He has years of experience and a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the pet sitting business. So, for the last time, I hope you will check out his blog at: https://petsittercompendium.blog/.