My husband has this giant bony knot where his shoulder meets his collarbone courtesy of a high school basketball injury. If you have done any clinch work in training you know that this makes him literally the worst partner to run drills with, and then with him being my spouse the irritation factor jumps exponentially. I knew going into this weekend that my forehead was going to constantly be scraping roughly across that calcified satanic knot reaching a new level of suck and I was not wrong.
I love to write Ego Injury Reports. They are a reflective and honest way to evaluate myself, to really look at where I fail. Since matrimony is basically one big ego injury report I thought I would take the time to evaluate my husband Ryan….. just kidding, I prefer to stay married by the end of this.
This last winter we were holed up in southwest Missouri for two weeks very similar to Game of Thrones, “winter is coming.” It was pretty much -75 degree weather which basically puts me in a foul mood anyway and then we could not escape. We could not train and our only chance to hit mitts or spar was with each other. We posted a few giggling clips after I spent a good hour editing out the irritation snips at each other. We both had separated to different sides of the shop; him with his vodka, me with a cabernet.
When we started karate several years ago we very quickly understood that we would not be taking private lessons with each other. We both went at a very different pace and interpreted in very different ways. He was going to be stronger in areas I wasn’t and therefore would want to focus on that and vice versa. It wasn’t long after when we also realized we were not going to work out as regular training partners if one of us wanted to live. To be honest he is likely better than me I martial arts so I would probably hold him back, also I was approaching it from a very different perspective which later comes to life with Healthy Buffalo.
Instead of trying to tie this together right now, I am going to pull a literary sin and just jump ship onto a new topic and try to bundle it up later. So bear with me…..
Take the same course or training weekends more than once if offered. I cannot begin to tell you how much I glean the second or third time around. I swear I learn the same amount or more in skill and knowledge while also feeling calm and capable of more retention. This is why when I was asked by a friend to come to Virginia Beach in September for another Knife Control Concepts course while en route to attend the previous one in Ohio, it really didn’t take that much convincing. I marketed it to Ryan with the idea of this being our 15thanniversary trip and here we are.
To say I was intimidated by the level of complete bad a$$es that attended is a ginormous understatement. Some I already knew and had talked trash to, so I was able to somewhat assuage my fear of getting my arm completely snapped off. I handled my terror like I always do, jokes and talking smack while rocking my White Belt 4-EVA rash guard because at the very least I will own it. Looking around the room there were five Jiu Jitsu blackbelts (a couple a few times over), several brown, I think two were well recognized champions in competition, most were black belts in Krav Maga, a handful owned their own super successful combatives businesses, and these were just the 15 students. All here to learn in-the-grey area knife defense from Aaron Janetti, Mike Cheney, and Eli Knight.
I always joke that to own a martial arts/combatives business there is always some degree of narcissism a person has that plays into it. You are, after all, trying to sell yourself and your brand; some just hide that trait better than others. The thing is, you would think with the sheer talent in that room one would suffocate on the aroma of egos, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, I would venture to say, it was like some martial arts utopian star world council where everyone worked together for the greater good of the Dark Moon. I probably should have stood off to the side holding a fern.
It is very rare that you get to watch magic unfold and that’s exactly what happened. I was honored to witness those that have earned their right over and over to teach, submit into student mode to better themselves, and to also work with each other to improve what was already impressive anyway.
The first course in Ohio was well put together. I have been in many training weekends, some more organized than others, and KCC is top notch in its skill building on skill concepts. I appreciate how Aaron manages to work in and explain how to be a good partner for each drill. This is incredibly helpful and assisted with keeping blood off the mats between my husband and I. Aaron also understands size disparity and works drills for smaller people so that one can actually pull it off. I have been in countless places where the situation was a one-size fits all move that according to physics wouldn’t work for me, so the clarity of that is monumental. I cannot shoot for control on a larger person because muscling my way through is futile, I must work with their flow, and that’s the foundation of this knife defense program.
What is amazing though is the concept of ego. In Ohio there were around 35 students taking this course. At the end we did a debrief where everyone spoke about the things they learned and were asked to also mention a way the course could improve. Mike, Aaron, and Eli received advice from 30 some odd people and didn’t even flinch. In fact, they embraced it with open arms and improved on something I truly thought didn’t need improvement. Later in Virginia Beach it showed a much more streamlined program, some fat (that I never saw in the first place) had been trimmed, and the teachers of flow, flowed flawlessly. All because they understand that if you vacuum out your ego, growth compounds.
It’s the same with marriage. After fifteen years I don’t have it figured out by any means, but I do know this, anytime I have set my pride aside to work out a problem, it always ends up benefitting the union. I come from a long family line of wanting to be right at all costs so you can imagine what a fun shock it was in 2006, a couple months after we said our “I do’s,” where we went at each other like feral cats at a bible college in northern England. It wasn’t until much later, during our foster care years, where I realized I could rely on his strengths in communication, he learned from my bull dogging basically everything in life, and together we could get stuff done. With our powers combined…. We make a great team when we put aside our egos and focus on the task at hand. We still don’t make good training partners, I totally wanted to wipe the mats with his face several times last weekend, but as far as teammates go, with a general goal in mind, we can usually face those head on.
I have been asked if I have an issue with my husband rolling with other women in jiu jitsu. On the contrary, I encourage it. One of the best traits with Ryan is that he is fair and can put people at ease. Often, he has come home from a class telling me about a woman he has rolled with and when I meet her, I am grateful he did. He can be the safe space rolling partner for those that are intimidated to be there. I can’t tell you how many times I have sparred, rolled, or trained with a man in class or a course and if there is one spark of me getting the upper hand, the ante is upped. Their percentage of aggression escalates a tick and if they somehow failed to block a hit and I land one, their next punch will come much harder at me. I can physically watch it happen, the roll of the shoulders, the visible shake it off, and the internal mental monologue of, “oh it’s on now.” These are the moments where I brace, knowing that the training which already balances precariously on the edge of safety because I am learning to fight, now has moved over into a possible unsafe situation for me if I am not careful in my defense. Their ego gets in the way and at the very least they aren’t learning anything other than being a bully and getting angry, and at the most they hurt someone with their disappearance of self-control.
So I welcome my husband rolling or sparring with other women, because his strength is a lack of ego. He doesn’t have to prove himself to anyone and just hulk smash her into the mat, and because of that he makes a safe partner for females. Why would I not want that for other women to learn? It would literally defeat my purpose with Healthy Buffalo.
Here’s the deal, I watched a brown belt in BJJ tweak knife defense groundwork to a 3rd degree black belt with over 25 years of experience who if you stuffed all his medals from competitions into a bag it would probably weigh more than the car door of a 1960’s Buick. Yes, Ben I Facebook stalked you and if I knew more about jiu jitsu, I would have probably fan girled you a bit. Ben valued what Aaron had to teach and ego played no role. (Side note, if we are in class together I have googled you, some may call it stalking, I call it research). Later I would watch Ben do some weird turtle-monkey, latch-on roll thing that looked painful while the three teachers of this course watched probably wondering how to incorporate it into their next seminar.
This wasn’t the only time I witnessed this happen that weekend, they all came together teachers and students for a common goal; they believe that Knife Control Concepts has worth therefore they want to learn as well as help it continually be better. Craig Douglas, very well known for pistol and knife fighting especially in a car and confined spaces, was also a student in attendance; he said this course was, “the next big thing.” He was there right alongside everyone else learning, tweaking things, and offering ideas. When you have a genuine desire to make people safer your ego does not come into play because that goal is selfless. Whatever minor narcissistic trait you might have ends up not mattering.
I have hung out with Aaron, Eli, and Mike on a couple different occasions, held some fun conversations, and I can tell you this, their level of instruction is second to none. They require no one to hold them to a God like status in their gyms. Both Mike and Eli have a soft-spoken way of teaching that is direct, Aarons sense of humor is stellar, all three are incredibly humble individuals, and because of that it bleeds into this huge project they have been working on for the better part of three years. This makes it a top shelf knife defense program according to several people in that room.
So the same goes for marriage, if you want it to be better you have to set aside the desire to be right and only want what will make it grow. We had one particular drill where I should obviously know what I am doing since I have taken the instructors training course and am a veteran from the Ohio seminar (insert eye roll at myself here.) I had a position I couldn’t make work and it was frustrating me. Ryan told me to hold my head pinned to the opposite shoulder and I scoffed. This was his first time taking this class; he couldn’t possibly know what he is talking about. (This must sound familiar to many married couples, though maybe minus the knife fighting aspect…) We called Aaron over to ask and he promptly said, “head to the opposite shoulder.” I did make sure to tell Ryan he was right, albeit maybe a little grudgingly. I wish I could say this was the only time this happened that weekend, it wasn’t. Just like drills I require repetition to grasp many things.
I was able to pick brains of some incredibly awesome and talented people that Saturday evening over drinks. I listened to business talk, combat talk, fighting talk, smack talk, I inserted my own talk, in fact you can’t get me to shut up most of the time… it was amazing. In the presence of so many reputable and well-known people in their area of expertise, there were no ego’s. There was laughter, crass jokes (I learned some verbiage that I can’t repeat, like ever and I HAVE a potty mouth), crazy stories, whiskey and wine, but not an ego in sight.
The next day I was again in a room, that if you added up the years, there was more than a couple centuries worth of experience in BJJ. We had a couple successful youtubers well known in their art, some navy seals, Krav Maga teachers, Combatives instructors, I literally have never felt safer. Honestly, I wished a bad guy would have walked in that front door and start something because my overactive imagination banked on it looking like a scene from Avengers while I hung in the corner with my palm frond. If these people can manage to check their ego at the door and in their lives, you can manage to not get pissy if a chick lands a hit. Me? I plan on teaching Ben an arm bar next time I see him.
Ryan managed to pack his cup this time, I ate my weight in pulled pork and crow, I got to meet up with old friends, acquire new awesome ones, likely gleaned more in class than I did the first time around, basically have a newborn soft spot on my forehead from Ryan’s freak shoulder bump, had a few glasses of some good prosecco, got tossed to the floor several times, and tried to stab my husband for ten hours. All in all I would say that’s a pretty successful 15 year anniversary weekend.
Squash your arrogance you might learn something and make the world a better place.
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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