Not Your Average I-SpyRead Now
Crystal Bridges Museum of Art is a behemoth armadillo looking edifice nestled between oaks in the heart of downtown Bentonville. It manages to sit in the midst of a city as well as deep in the Ozarks at the same time. It is home to Rosie the Riveter and a personal favorite of mine, Maxwell Parish’s Lantern Bearers. It is also free and as a homeschool mom and former art student, it’s pretty much where we spend the majority of our fieldtrips. So us piling into the car to head to the museum for the day is not out of the norm, our objective on Wednesday however, was a little different.
I realize that my outings with seven kiddos in tow may have the look of the Hotel Transylvania wolves, but my intention of getting in and out safely in any public place is the same as any mama’s. With our crew it can be hard to keep them contained to a certain space, but we make it work. Teaching that many to be observant of their surroundings is also something we have to maneuver and since I consider managing your environment part of self-defense, it makes sense that we would incorporate this with our kids and drill it like anything else.
So Wednesday we went to the museum, but not necessarily to look at art. My objective was to work with them on being calculative and assertive with the things they see, get them to notice more around them in an effort to continually work on their safety. Their objective was a game.
My age range usually is an 18-year-old with special needs, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, and 2. We sort of cover all the ground there……. My drill must be broad and age attentive, however before entry of any place we usually go over in the car a reminder of what to do if you have been picked up by someone that is not us. If you get a chance, follow Ms. Amber Elle on Instagram. She has some fantastic tips for this and is also a wealth of ideas when it comes to protecting your children in public settings. She talks of making sure that your children don’t just scream loudly if the above occurs but shout very pointedly that the person carrying them is not their parent. I run this with my kids in the car, making them verbally yell, “This is not my mom! This is not my dad!”
We also discuss what possible “safe” people look like in case they get lost or something happens that causes them to be separated from us. Police officers, security guards, military in uniform, and a woman with children are the ones we pretty much hammer home. I make sure my kids know that I am running similar drills with women when I teach self-defense; that these repetitions are imperative to safety with children as much as adults.
Crystal Bridges day was about observation. I made some numbered flashcards with things to look for and once we got out of the car the game was on. They had to complete their task on a card I handed them. On it I listed things like finding two good hiding spots, locate three safe people, look for one person that look agitated or is wearing unseasonal clothes, etc. They have to tell me what they see, but the kicker of this is that they have to do it discreetly or it doesn’t count. They cannot be loud with their statements, nor point. The idea is to be on a “mission” that nobody else, but our family knows about. I okay their card if they have finished it, take it, and give them a new one. They mark down their number and the one who gets the most when we get back to the car wins. With the younger two I have them point out every security guard they see and they get one point (we were surrounded by priceless art so this kind of got old….) Also, I reiterate that the older ones maintain “protector mode” for the babies while observing what is in their surroundings, working with me to make sure small ones don’t stray. Several eyes are better than just my two, so we alternate hand holding. Also this keeps sticky fingers off of Andy Warhol….
In a previous article Gut Punch Yourself, https://www.facebook.com/107895177634806/posts/170975407993449/?d=n I wrote about how I had a person follow my three boys and I through several stores in Joplin. Finally in the last one my neck grew hot and I turned to deal with the man who was entirely too close to us. I don’t let my kids stray much in public, but their safety meant it was imperative that they were right next to me in that moment. I very assertively said, “BOYS HERE!” to rein them in close while I stared at the man who then turned immediately around and bolted from the store. This is another drill I will randomly implement with my kids. I will wait and watch for when they are stretching the perimeter a bit because let’s face it, kids are mile long inchworms. I will say just loudly enough for them to hear me, “Kids here!” Their job is to come as quickly as possible to my side, if there are little ones who are near them, they are to pull them along. They know not to goof off during this, it has been explained (and with the boys lived in real life) that this is a serious drill. They are to stand to my side or directly behind me, not in front where they could impede the view of our surroundings. They know my job is to protect them and I want them to have the tools so that if it is needed, they are in the safest spot possible.
I once heard a pastor speak of his missionary time in the Peruvian Jungle where a child not listening right away when a parent said, “move!” or “jump!” was extremely dangerous due to poisonous snakes, cartel issues, etc. They had to take direction seriously and this is what I go over with the kiddos, there is a time to giggle and screw around, this drill is not one of them, time in the parking lot is not one of them.
I am not teaching my children to fear the world. I don’t want that at all and if you have spent any time with them you will know they are outgoing, friendly, sometimes too friendly, and will become besties with anyone. Also bring up Pokémon and all our training will go out the window faster than an approaching security guard at Crystal Bridges after seeing my kids with pens…. I do however want them safe, and this world really isn’t. We can ignore the signs in the news, we can ignore our gut instincts, but at the end of the day mental health is declining around us and I want them as prepared as possible. I am not kidding when I say that within a 50-mile radius of my home I have read of several abduction attempts, violent crimes against women and children, you name it, all within the last few months. I don’t live in a large city, I don’t live in a bad area, these are just local store parking lots, vehicles, and people’s homes. It is happening, so I drill.
#teachingkiddos #drillwithyourkids #haveaplan #observation #safepeople #crystalbridges #rosietheriveter #thelanterbearer #ispy #wildones
This one is a BIG Ego Injury Report….
Pictures in the age of social media rarely tell the full truth anymore. With all the filters and photoshop ready and waiting in apps at your fingertips it is actually easier to make yourself look better than post reality. I am guilty of this and so is most everyone if we are all honest with ourselves. Even if we post a not flattering photo it is done with intention and usually a lengthy comment; again guilty. it is not just the Instagram husbands waiting on the sides taking a million pictures, the men are doing this too; selling their product as well, whether it is body builders, models, or general bad a$$ery.
They have to. That’s pretty much the name of the game. I find no fault in that, just pointing out that these pictures below show bright colors in a tactical world. I looked cool, calm, and collected. I looked like I knew what I was doing and had it all under control and that couldn’t be further from the truth. The magic was in the photographer Sam. By the way, thanks Sam because those were great photos, and anyone is a liar if they say they don’t want awesome photos of themselves. I was an absolute hot mess during the snapping of those pictures and pretty much had a break down directly afterwards so there’s that. Cool pics though.
I learned several things during this weekend but the one that stands out most is very similar to the myth of easy Sunday training because it is only four hours long. It is never easy on Sunday. This is along those lines, if you are trying out anyone else’s new course, start at the beginning. I am extremely grateful I was allowed to sit in on Gunfighter 1, because I can’t imagine the deficit had I just showed up the next day for class two. To be fair the drills for class one were several I had done before, but I was in a class the next day with pretty much people who live at their local range. To say my marksmanship was subpar would be a slight understatement. I could hit the target, but being outside of that eight-inch circle was not good enough for this course and I was severely lacking.
It is hard because I did not kick off my firearms journey the way most people do. I began with pistol fighting and then worked on what I was aiming at, literally and figuratively. Most start with years on the range standing with their feet shoulder width apart leaning forward and blasting a paper target. I shot for good enough for a CCW, learned to draw at home with reps, jumped into close quarters shooting, and haven’t looked back. Till this class.
It was a blessing then that Raul Martinez, his two sidekicks Danny and David, took pity and worked with me. And by work, I mean they would not take anything less than performing every aspect of my aim correctly and that was daunting. They also talked trash better than me. I thought I was fairly decent at this; I was verbally rolled up into the fetal position. Raul is creative, David has a stare that makes you want to shut up, and Danny makes you feel better just enough to tell you to get you’re a$$ back in and moving. It was motivating?
Raul Martinez is an instructor that was recommended by a well-respected friend. I was given four names and am now halfway through the list. Raul teaches courses with Fieldcraft Survival and if you haven’t checked out their website or Instagram page definitely look them up. They have a very broad spectrum of useful and lifesaving tips/seminars for everyone. It is super impressive and helpful. Raul also owns Rogue Methods and runs his Close Contact Gunfighter course that usually follows when he teaches Gunfighter 1 for Fieldcraft Survival. Still with me?
I wanted to make sure I got the most out of the weekend, so I asked if it was okay to just take the Gunfighter 2 and Close Contact Gunfighter courses and sit in/write notes on Gunfighter 1. I am still torn between wishing I had taken the first one because it looked like a ton of fun, however I was able to write down a massive amount of information to pore over later so it is a toss-up. Gunfighter 1 was not a combat course at all, it focused on marksmanship, fundamentals, clearing, and unloading. There was no fighting just aiming drills and then some pressure testing. I was asked several times the first day if I worked for Fieldcraft Survival; I assume because I had a notebook and wasn’t participating. I found that pretty humorous because even looking at the students for class 1, I knew I was likely in over my head. But hell that hasn’t stopped me before. They definitely got their answer in the big negative the next day.
David Acosta was the assistant teacher in training and led most of Gunfighter 1. He was great and I found his explanations very concise, informative, and straight to the point. He had a clear way of breaking things down and getting you to understand why you should try ideas their way. They weren’t forcing you; the impression was that they wanted to give you tools to come up with what will eventually work for you, your hands, and make you better. I was especially thankful for his clarification of how you stand when shooting. Their approach was similar to what I had started out with, more on the lines of a fighting stance. He spoke of the ego in the gun community and asked those there to open their minds and liken their stance to standing behind a car getting ready to push it. He stressed the importance of feet stability, mobility, and durability. Because this isn’t the wild west and nobody is walking paces in a dusty street to turn around and shoot, you are more likely to be moving aggressively with your pistol, adrenaline coursing through you, and that requires different thought processes.
That evening, Close Contact Gunfighter was more familiar and also a much smaller class. I was the only woman and there was maybe eight of us total. I started out quickly recognizing that just hitting the paper wasn’t going to cut it; this made me super glad I had sat in on the class before. They told me they would catch me up the next day ish and we went into cicada metropolitan (otherwise known as a field with like a million of those damn bugs) and used sim pistols to shoot each other. It was a fabulous time.
It really was. I was a sweaty mess and Raul spent a good amount of time going over hand fighting and retention of your gun. It was practical, useful, sometimes painful, and hard. Most of the drills were solely on retaining your firearm and when you are easily the smallest person there by several pounds and inches in height it can be super frustrating; you almost always end up on the ground grappling. I am incredibly hard on myself at these things. As a person that thrives on an “atta girl,” in a tactical world where you are the only one wearing the rainbows on the color wheel, one is probably not going to come your way. I warned right off the bat that I was a crier, and I did not disappoint. However, the first tears of the night ended up having nothing to do with guns and everything to do with an adoption story of a person there. If you know our background that totally gets me in the feels.
I dropped a few exasperation waterworks, but nothing I couldn’t suck back in and move quickly from. I spent a couple moments irritated with myself and my failures, especially when I was shot with my own gun. Good times. This was a quick fun course that was a pretty epic beatdown. I told my husband later that though it sucks sometimes putting myself in these types of drills, it almost feels imperative to continue them especially when I am running them with strangers. They are always larger than me, I don’t know their movement, and that is as close to a real attack as I am going to get to test out what I know. If you have been following anything that I have been writing for the last year or watching any of the drilling videos posted you know that the whole “I would just shoot him” philosophy is just not going to hack it. You won’t. You will probably not be able to draw your gun in the first place, when you try it will be too late, and you will be on the ground. So yes, these are imperative.
Let me break this down, I have a second-degree black belt in karate, where I was also a teacher for a couple of years, I have taken over 150 hours of gun and knife training outside of the three days a week I train Muay Thai/boxing, and Jiu jitsu all in the last year, and these are still what my fights look like. Ugly, not smooth, barely technical. I throw myself in these adrenaline-fueled situations and honestly after looking at these videos wonder if I am getting worse…… I truly mean no disrespect and hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this thought process that you will magically be able to pull and efficiently use your gun/knife, that you haven’t trained with under pressure, is going to fail. You must train with it and train managing your surroundings.
So, Gunfighter 2. I took literally no notes during this class. It was fast paced, I had almost too much to process and learn, and I was literally the only one there wearing a concealed pistol. Everyone else was at their side and if that wasn’t enough, I was also the only one there with six round magazines. But hell, honestly I am never going to be carrying anything outside of that IRL, so I am okay with the deficit, I just spent a majority of time making sure I wasn’t holding anybody up by popping bullets in my mags every chance we were not shooting. I would load up my pockets with a handful of rounds and keep them full. For six hours, it seemed, I was never not doing something with my hands. There were around 20 of us and I was easily the shortest by half a foot and the only female again. That’s a lot of only’s…. truly just not wanting to be the person that would hold up the rest of the students was basically my only thought outside of how much I was trying to smash into my brain.
All three teachers were hands on with everybody. They were an incredible wealth of knowledge, and the course was well worth the cash, even with my range meltdown. It was hot, my hands were sweaty, and when I am running movement drills the only thing I am thinking of is making sure I am being safe. I managed to screw that up too, heck I am not sure I even hit the targets at all, I do know I didn’t hit any bystanders or barrels so… success. Ish.
The second to last drill was a daisy chain. It required two shots from concealment on either side of height varying barrels. There were four of them, so I was already behind knowing I was going to have to do a few mag changes in there. Counting is really not my forte in life at all. Never be my partner for working out if you want me to watch your reps, I will fail you. I tried counting how many rounds I would need for this drill to get a minor heads up, but that quickly went out the window and I flat out could not figure out how I ended up using four whole magazines on this daisy chain run through. I got flustered, I was mad at myself, I lost it when I was near the last barrel with gravel being kicked at me, I had no rounds left, and my gun empty. I was being yelled at (no more than any other person, this was a pressure drill after all), I stood up, flagged Raul, melted down some more because I couldn’t believe I had done that, went over to my range bag, chest heaving, definitely not asthma, tears aplenty, and just faced the dirt wall and cried.
This is where Danny came in with the tough love and gave just enough calmness right before a, get back in there, there is no excuses. He didn’t let me wallow and I appreciate that. I want to lead by example with my kids and I always stress the point of keep moving forward. In the words of Raul Martinez, “Own up to your sh*t and do better.”
So I loaded up, cleaned off my glasses and got back in line for the last drill of the day. Oh, and if you thought Raul was going to go easy because I cried, think again. I was the only one that had to hit that damn steel target twice from like a million yards away (reality it was like 40 ft), everyone else had three tries and got to go on through to the barrels. Nope, I had to hit it twice no matter what and I went through two mags (that range shooting stance might have been helpful here) mentally freaking out because I knew I wouldn’t have enough yet again to make it through the drill. Raul filled one up for me while I finally hit that second shot and I was off running and screwing up again. But hey, the pictures looked good.
I met a lot of neat people, a lot of severely talented people, several law enforcement officers on their own dime just wanting to be better at their jobs, military, and range instructors. It was a heavy weekend and honestly, I think I had less emotional ups and downs dating as a teenager, but it was worth it.
I have had people ask me about the comparison of these classes to Craig Douglas’s ECQC. There isn’t one. Take both. Both are phenomenal instructors and have very different, but important things to offer. The drills were different, the environment and feel of the class was different, hell even the types of students seemed a bit different. Take both.
When first starting his classes Raul said, “It’s not big boy rules, it's grown-up rules.” And that’s a fact. I was hard on myself and hate to fail, and I argued internally with yours truly the whole time and then I went home to my babies. After the flight, and the welcome kisses, and the kiddos in bed, I listened to a pod cast with Mickey Shuch where he stated, “Do not seek to win an argument, seek to learn.” I assume that means even in your own head, so I debriefed my brain and went to sleep.
#fieldcraftsurvival #roguemethods #pistol #marksmanship #wellthatneedssomework #didntjumprope #noshadowboxingeither #iamawareihashtagwrong #gunfighter #closecontactgunfighter #papertargets #fightersstance #sixrounds #tyedye #brightcolorsinatacticalworld #shineonyoucrazydiamond #futureissobrighticantseethroughmytears #womensselfdefense #dotheuncomfortable
9 RoundRead Now
I often speak of how intimidating it can be to walk into a gym or dojo. It is scary, you feel awkward, and spend most of the time wondering if you look stupid. Heck it still bothers me strolling up to new places to train, new seminars, and workshops. My goal is to get women to step out of their comfort zone and take the first bite of their elephant towards their own personal safety, no matter how small. One of the things I appreciated about Fit to Fight was they had a crawl, walk, run method of bringing people into the gym. You didn’t have to start out with punch face, you could start out with punch bag. They had a 30-minute heavy bag class of loud, fun music that was a burnout blast. Instead of you and another person it was you and the bag. This approach gave a person the ability to choose their pace of when they wanted to move into to the other classes of self-defense.
My friend Christina is a personal trainer with Vital Fitness, she is also a sparring buddy of mine. I used to be a fad dieter and fad worker outer person (another technical term…) My weight would ebb and flow and I hated every minute of sweating profusely while not breathing well. Honestly still do, I am no runner. It wasn’t until boxing that I realized I could do something I love and burn more calories than anything I have ever done and when you are with people who hold you accountable it is definitely a big motivator. When I discovered through my heart rate monitor that one hour of hitting mitts and thai pads with Christina burned over 600 calories doing something enjoyable, I equated that to three glasses of wine and well….
Today I wanted to check out something different that still incorporated the frosting on the cupcake of the good parts usually in my normal workout, so I wandered into the franchise 9 Round. It is a 30 minute, come when you want, high intensity, kickboxing, small gym that has an emphasis on heavy bag work. They focus on cardio and strength training, there is a trainer there to tell you what to do for the day, and it’s all packed into, you guessed it, 9 rounds of fun. I met with Cara when I first came in, she was warm, welcoming, and extremely professional. After walking me through everything with their facility, she asked me what I wanted out of the day, and we got started. On jump rope. I left.
So today I jumped rope. And that’s all I will say about it.
I had a blast, I burned some major calories inside of 30 minutes, got to know Cara a bit and talk with her about self-defense. I really appreciated the emphasis she made on making sure a person was being safe with their punches and kicks. Whereas 9 Round is not, nor claiming to be a self-defense gym, it could easily be a toe in the door for breaking out of a comfort zone for some women, and Cara was great about teaching basic movement and form with the heavy bag. It was a smaller place and I was one of three people in there at the time. You ran through your nine workouts with your trainer encouraging you every step of the way, making sure you were getting the most out of it, and even with my Chatty Cathy self I was in and out inside of 45 minutes. Not too shabby for a great workout that was short, fun, and still taught me a few things.
When you look at how high statistics are of women freezing during an attack just getting the muscle memory of moving in an aggressive way and keep moving can be a tiny game changer especially when one is first starting out. If you can consistently rep a few foundational bits by learning to throw a good punch, snap kick, palm heels, and hammer fists then you are upping your chances even if it’s just minimal, of being able to do it when needed. Will 9 Round teach you self-defense? No, that is not what they are. Will you learn to punch or kick with decent form? Yes, and for those looking for something with a little less intimidation factor of rassling around on the floor with a strange sweaty man, this could be a good place for you to get your foot in the door.
Also, if you are already involved in MMA or other martial arts this was an effective, quick, relatable workout that could be a nice supplement or convenient fill in the gap. Think Walgreens to Walmart. Sometimes you don’t want to wander all the way into Walmart for a gallon of milk or nail polish, so you take the quicker option of Walgreens and venture a few different brands….
I never felt out of place or uncomfortable in any way, with the exception of I had to use the gym’s gloves (I think this was due to insurance franchise reasons or something). This was almost a deal breaker for me at first…. but then I got over my ridiculous self by mentally running my brain over how many helmets I have shoved my face into that the person prior just got done intensely adrenaline sweating in. I popped on the 9 Round pink gloves. They do give you a pair of your own with their insignia on them when you sign up for a membership so that solves that issue a bit; using other people’s gloves just grosses me out though and this is coming from a person who has caught their kid’s vomit in their hands.
I left thinking this was a perfect bridge for women who aren’t quite ready to walk into an MMA gym or dojo. The technique that was taught for punches and kicks was foundational and well laid out, so a really good place to start, and in fact Cara had a few little nuggets of information I gleaned that was helpful on the double end bag.
I love sparring, love boxing, love Muay Thai, love Jiu Jitsu, but sometimes it is super nice to just do a workout that requires no thinking on my part at all. I love having someone else just tell me what to do so my brain can shut off. When it involves punching and kicking things? Even better, and when it can possibly burn the equivalent of three glasses of wine? Well….
Check out 9 Round, there’s like hundreds of them, however I am now biased towards the one on J Street in Bentonville because I have been once (got a membership so going again) and Cara is there. 9Round Fitness
#ijumpedrope #metquotaforthedecade #9Round #hugsandpunches #convenientworkout #heavybagworkout #hammerfist #howdoyoueatanelephant #onebiteatatime #killthecalories
the foundry eirRead Now
A year ago, we ventured into the world of Muay Thai. At that time, I was a gym introvert and by introvert, I mean I wouldn’t go to the gym because there were other people there. I had spent several years in private lessons with karate and the idea of a group class made me stupid uncomfortable. Obviously, I am past that whole “I don’t want to look like an idiot in front of other people” phase, I mean I own unicorn thigh hugger shorts for crying out loud, but The Foundry in Beaufort, SC was the catalyst of our martial arts heading in a different direction.
I was there for a month last June and had signed up for twice a week Muay Thai private lessons with Abe Stem the owner of The Foundry. If you have ever been here you will quickly realize that if you are a gym introvert, this is literally the worst place for you. The building itself looks to be a white elephant former supermarket and is freaking huge. There is nowhere to hide, I walked in the front doors and freaked the heck out. A month into it I sort of got over it, went home, joined TCB, made plans to come back the following year, and here we are.
My gym crowd hurdle wasn’t enough to deter me from wanting to come back again, I truly enjoyed Abe as a teacher. I showed up for my first class and he asked if I had gloves, apparently hot pink MMA ones weren’t it. I have seen this commonly since with new people coming to TCB, so I don’t feel too awkward about it. Abe decided mine weren’t going to cut it, so he handed me a pair of 12 oz ones to borrow. I know I am rather girly, but if you have spent any time in boxing you learn very quickly that gloves just reek. It’s flat out awful. Even if they are your own personal reek it just permeates your skin and hand sanitizer doesn’t cut it. When it is several other unknown person’s reek…. well, I’m no germaphobe, but I had a hard time wearing borrowed boxing gloves. I loved the lesson though, knew right off I was going to keep this up, so immediately Amazoned some sparkly floral 12 ouncers to be delivered before my next lesson. I would have rather put my bare feet in old bowling shoes.
I am calling this one an Ego Injury Report instead of some cutesy title because at the heart of it that’s truly what this is. The bruises were aplenty, I angry cried a couple times in Jiu Jitsu, flipped out freaked over an eye injury, and spent the last week enjoying the awkward looks from everyone eyeing my shiner (see what I did there?) it was an epic trip.
Abe Stem and his wife Brittany own The Foundry Fitness and Fighting Center and to say they have it all would be quite the understatement. They offer everything from personal training, yoga, self-defense, Muay Thai, Tae Kwon Do, Jiu Jitsu, Gymnastics, Boxing, MMA, you name it, they probably do it. This time around Ryan and I joined for four nights a week the group classes Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu, threw our kids into Tae Kwon Do and boxing, and had a blast.
Abe is probably one of the best I have met in regard to taking a person’s personal strengths and giving them small things to work for an advantage in a fight. They are small, simple, and easy to pull off. After viewing video of how I resemble Gumby when I fight, which by the way is rather hard to do for a person that cannot even do the splits, I have found I am even more grateful for this simplicity. He has no ego and is actually kind of quiet until he is not. The first weekend we were there we drove up to Charleston to watch a couple of fighters from the gym compete in MMA. I was completely thrown through a loop at yelling version of Abe from the side of the cage. Although the fact that I even noticed this is impressive since I may or may not have spent the evening fangirling over Steven “Wonderboy” Thompson; he was there with his dad because Pitch Black MMA were one of the competitors. I debated several times about using my kids, saying he is one of their role models as an excuse to meet the NMF title holder, but ultimately just decided to stalk him from afar. I see you Steven, I see you.
Abe has some wonderful teachers on deck especially for the family. No joke, I have never seen a more family friendly MMA atmosphere. You will have several guys playing punch face while trying to watch their language simultaneously. This was an obvious struggle for me…..
And Ms. Tasha. she is the real MVP. This woman has cat herding down to an art. She can take a large group of 4–6-year old’s for Tae Kwon Do, reign them in to have fun, while learning when to respectfully kick someone in the groin. She holds a Black belt in Tae Kwon Do and started martial arts because her boys were enrolled, and she decided she wanted to be a part of it. She is an incredible person and a hands-on mama. You can witness the effects of that with her two now older boys by their respect to her and those around them. Honestly I spent a lot of time in awe of her control, if you have ever seen that Chinese zoo video of the zookeeper trying to keep all the baby pandas organized, that was this class. It was hilarious and exhausting to watch and she manages like a champ.
Coach Perez, a boxer since he was 15 as well as a black belt in MCMAP, was a family favorite. I think it’s because my kids are used to the yelling. Justin was apparently a drill sergeant prior to being a boxing coach and has that sweet way with the kids boxing class of driving the “don’t quit” point home. You know, via raised voice… raised military voice. The kids loved him for it, his class was always full, always boot camp style, and my progeny would talk of nothing else on the way home. What was funny is that you would hear his extremely loud, “LET’S GO, LET’S GO!!” clanging around the gym and knowing that screaming used to be part of his job description, when I asked him to do so for the video, it brought out a shyness that made me believe he is just a big teddy bear. Also, him giving my girls a hug goodbye instead of their normal fist bump on their last day solidified that.
Jeff was another instructor that I got to know as I attended his BJJ class on Mondays and Wednesday nights. Jeff is former Major in the Marines, a veteran (a point I will get to in a minute), BJJ and MCMAP Blackbelt, and all-around awesome teacher. I had a few in depth conversations about military, life, purpose, and self-defense with him. At one point I said something to the effect of, “I am not military…” and he said, “no kidding….” I had also heard him described as scary by one of the other students…. I apparently didn’t get that memo and thoroughly enjoyed our talks. His class could best be described from my perspective as more adulty. He wasn’t going to warm you up, that was your job, he is not in charge of your fitness, you are. You were there to learn the moves he was showing and that’s it. I very much appreciate that approach in jiu jitsu especially as an almost 40-year-old. Anthony Joseph at Fit to Fight in Charlotte was this way as well, I like it. Not saying the other way is the wrong way to go at all, this was just more my speed.
There were other teachers at The Foundry of many different things that I didn’t get to meet and pester. One being a man who will be representing the US Weightlifting Olympic Team. During one of my private lessons that month there was a news station that was interviewing this athlete at the gym. I was doing all I could to stay out of the background trying to keep my “not really at all private” lesson since we are in a giant open room from being “just aired for the world to see gumby in action” lesson that just lacked the meaning of the word private at all.
I also attended Abe’s BJJ classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, it was all men and one woman, that I could tell from the few weeks I was there. Abe’s class will destroy you. There are usually around 20 there and you are an absolute nasty mess when finished. I attended one class where he didn’t teach one thing, just spent the entire hour of us daisy chaining rolls with whoever got the submission as staying in……yeah, that was never me. Ironically, I had to stop that particular one short when I got reamed in the eyeball, it was only five minutes till the end, but damn I was grateful for that one to be over. It was a good hour of understanding perseverance, and I am glad I did it; don’t need a repeat though for at least a year or so. This class was fun, we WERE warmed up, so less adulty, but to talk about a point from earlier, most were military.
Beaufort is home to Parris Island best known for Marine Boot camp; there is also a Marine Corps Air Station, and a Naval Hospital as well. It’s a giant war ready sandwich of a place being surrounded by sea and Military; that vibe resonates to the gym. Not in a bad way, but in a disciplined way. I have noticed that a lot of MMA fighters join to escape or prove something, whether it’s from themselves or to others, the demons they are fighting can be the driving force. With the Military aspect it seems that can be the case as well, but the way they go about it seems less chaotic. Obviously with fighting there is always chaos, but you can feel the militaristic rigmarole in the way people carry themselves. Every gym I have visited over the past year breeds a certain atmosphere due to the cultural influence of the community needs and this one is no different. It was just a stronger one that I thought unique.
It was sad to say goodbye to this beach town. My kids ran a golf ball side hustle, chased alligators, and made many friends. We loved on Beaufort again, ate ALL the seafood, I ate ALL the key lime pie, became a regular at @urban.brew.bft (seriously amazing Americano) Bricks On Boundary (Cheers vibe and kind bartenders), Johnson Creek Tavern and met so many amazing people at the gym as well as the community. Kelsey thanks for the dead leg, that was an impressive kick. Good luck with your July fight! Victoria Shea you are a bad a$$, if you can survive that one BJJ class I know you can conquer the world, your drive is impressive. Brittany thanks for putting up with my kiddos, they talked a lot about you! Josh, Lewis, and Will, looking forward to keeping track of your future fights! Sally Phillippi Dunford thanks for drinking with me on the porch so I could wind down and being a hands down awesome neighbor; I don’t know if you know this or not, but all our best friends were our neighbors at some point…. Jaxon and Alexis, we are so glad to have met you all and to be able to hang out, come visit us. Jeff, Ms. Tasha, Coach Perez, and Abe Stem thanks for being amazing teachers and representing your different styles with integrity and passion. It was an amazing month and we will see you all next year. If you are in the Beaufort, SC area check out The Foundry and tell them we said hi. Make it a family affair, you will not be disappointed. Also, eat some key lime pie for me.
#thefoundry #mma #muaythai #bjj #selfdefense #military #keylimepie #alltheseafood #didntjumpropeonce #familyfriendlymma #beaufort #southcarolina #frippisland #urbanbrewcoffee #thebrick #johnsoncreektavern #golfballsidehustle #stayoutofthelagoons
A common scene I have been a part of when doing scenario work with self-defense is one of me being accosted by some drunk with not-so-great intentions. I feel this is a really good one for women to work during training because it can go so many ways and it is 100% a situation most ladies will find themselves in at some point or another. A year ago I was working this and totally felt I had it in the bag, this was old hat news/drill for me. I kept him at a distance, even gave a couple well placed eye shots, a kick to the groin, and then it had escalated to the point where I drew my sirt pistol. The secondary player in this drill could be friend or foe, I had no idea. When he entered this particular one it was as a friend. He engaged said bad guy and they started tussling in front of me. I was torn, I hemmed and hawed and then made the call to jump back in to assist the person who helped me by getting bad guy in a rear naked choke.
So many things could be argued about what I failed there; the big one being I didn’t even call 911 before jumping back into the fray. At the end I was asked my reasoning for why; I wasn’t told that I was necessarily wrong for that decision, though I was reamed for not dialing in help, but I was given practical thought processes about my call to enter back into a dangerous situation I had managed to get myself out of unscathed already. I dwelled on that for days because when it came down to it, it was definitely something I would teach my students and children not to do if we wanted to work the perfect scenario.
But it’s never a perfect scenario and while we are working at training against violence using violence, you as an individual are different as well causing an entire cacophony of different ideals. Warning: this article has the perfect set up right now as I work on it to be a long one so buckle up, I have a point I swear.
Do I want my children to put themselves in harms way? No. absolutely not, but I am at a wild waffling ground here because I also teach them about privilege. I teach them that because they are constantly immersed in self-defense then it is also their responsibility to stand up for the weaker person. This goes the same for their education. We talk constantly about just having the ability to learn to read is not something to ever be taken lightly. Because of that knowledge the right thing is to use what they know to build up others. I feel this way strongly about belting up in martial arts. The higher you achieve, the more you attain the role of teacher so make sure you are using it as a service and not to build your ego. I have met a few from several different styles with higher ranks where I totally thought they did not deserve that belt because of that reason alone.
I received an amazing phone call today. My second oldest daughter and her husband’s home was just opened as a certified foster home in the state of Missouri. If you know me at all you know I cry like all the time, so I have been emotional all day. I know that here in a few months our family will have grown faster than Doge Coin did this past May. My sweet girl who spent a majority of her childhood in foster care said on her Facebook post this afternoon, “The greatest thing to come from tragedy in my life was my family, and I hope we can be used in a way like my parents allowed themselves to be.” I was also pumped to post about this on my own Facebook page and my oldest daughter (also a former foster child) was the very first to comment about being excited to love and become an aunt, no matter how temporary, to the kiddos getting ready to be in Amy and Jordan’s home. To say I am constantly floored is an understatement and to say I am damn proud is an even bigger one.
Part of the tattoo on my upper left arm is of a starfish and an elephant with a chunk out of his ear. The starfish is a reminder that even if I can only help one, it is worth it. My husband is the one who constantly tells me this when I get discouraged with my Healthy Buffalo mission. The elephant is to say keep going, no matter the pace, keep chewing your way out. Don’t stop even if the bites are small, you are still making progress and you will be able to look back and see the seeds that have been sowed. I used to think self-defense was 50% mental and 50% physical and the older I get and the more I learn I am starting to see it is so very much higher on the mental aspect.
One of the things I have heard on an almost constant basis when I am asked about foster care is, “I couldn’t do that, I would fall in love with them and couldn’t give them back.” I don’t mean this to make the person feel bad, but I do want to challenge a change in perspective. It is not about your feelings; it is about the starfish and the elephant. Hell, most of the time it’s not even about what you CAN do because you find out quite quickly most everything is out of your hands and heartbreak is imminent. It is about self-defense on a very raw scale and using your privilege to help the person unable to help themselves. Will you get hurt? Absolutely. You are giving that starfish the ocean, the environment it needs to survive and a lot of the time you have to drown to give them that. Most of the time they don’t even know they need the sea, even though they were slowly dying on the sand.
When talking with children who are born into abusive atmospheres, they assume this is just how it is, they don’t necessarily think about getting out so much because they don’t even know what that would look like, they are just in survival mode. Your job is to show them what a safe environment is and a lot of times they will buck the system on that. It is not until they learn how to eat an elephant that they realize their ability to fight against those injustices done to them by healing. They learn that by seeing the drive, service, and sacrifice in your own life. As a foster parent you learn that little steps ARE big steps and when your home shows a warmth and love to a child that has never experienced anything but pain and the smell of cigarettes and cat piss, you are teaching that first step of self-defense, to expect more and that they are worth it.
I am not writing this from a perspective of lecture because I think I got it right, I have seven other kids at home to screw up. Just like with martial arts I feel like I am failing constantly, I feel I am never enough, I can never do enough, I can never learn enough, and I have found that is okay as long as my continued desire is to still serve, still use my arsenal of privilege to help with what I can.
Recently there has been some argument surrounding the new Army commercials that came out. They weren’t exactly my cup of tea either, but there was one comment that stuck out solidifying why they didn’t quite sit right with me. It was how each story seemed to center only on what the person could get out of the armed forces, one even saying she joined so she could see the world. The commenter stated that his issue with this was not about it being a cartoon that erred on looking like a weak military or even the woke aspect of it, but the selfishness of the reasoning; it was the lack of desire to serve something bigger than themselves
On the way home from South Carolina I listened to the podcast Combat Story with Ryan Fugit. Every person who shared was asked why they signed up in the first place and every one of them said they wanted to serve their country and be part of a team. It wasn’t about what they were going to get out of it, hell they didn’t get a whole heck of a lot outside of nightmares and disabilities. They were also all asked at the end if they would do it all over again. One man lost both of his older brothers to the battlefield, and he said he could answer for all three of them when he answered with a firm, “Absolutley.” Podcast after podcast it was the same answer and I listened to them for fourteen hours.
Not everyone is meant to be a foster parent and that’s okay, I wasn’t meant to be military, I am just meant to serve. I am meant to use what means I have to push someone farther up the hill, that’s called humanity and currently those someones are my nine babies. If I want to teach self-defense then I have to begin where it starts and that’s with understanding violence and the people capable of using it for good or bad. I have to be capable of violence myself in order to protect those around me. My nature due to that causes me to reflect and know exactly why I HAVE to jump back into a situation that I had gotten out of unscathed to help. I mean I will call 911 first though……
It’s also bittersweet knowing I am raising my children this way understanding fully that they could get hurt doing so. My father in laws brother died trying to rescue a couple drowning because they had drove their car on an unknown flooded road. He was 17. Amy and her husband will not walk away from foster care unscathed. I will get the devastating phone calls of a broken heart. My soul will crack with hers just like my mom’s did with me when I called her unable to breathe through my tears with news of having to leave our baby behind due to a clerical error.
Foster care is a battlefield in itself and being a part of removing a child from an unsafe situation and giving them the opportunity to see that there is something better out there is the mark of a blackbelt that matters at its core.
It is an absolute honor to watch my kids serve, whether it’s pulling their sibling out of a goat-head patch even though they were barefooted as well, earning their money for mission trips with Casas Por Cristo by making and selling cookies, or now with the continued legacy of foster care. Their hearts and mine will continue to break but the expectation is more and it is all very much worth it, they are so so so very much worth it.
Amy Main Ryan Erwin Chelsea Grace Gaskins
#fostercare #serve #starfishstory #howdoyoueatanelephant #combatstory #selfdefesestartshere #youareworthit #gottocall911 #lessonsfromcraig #iknowsomethingyoudontknow #yet #idontknowyoukiddobutyouareloved #motherofnine #iwoulddoitalloveragain #worthit #worthit #worthit #worthit
Author- Christun Erwin
"Thank you for your words. They make an impact and its important that, human to human, woman to woman, mother to mother... you know that you make a difference, even to those you never knew your words" -Krystal