Monday, October 27, 2008

The Black Belt Myth

Every once in a while I get an email from some misguided and offended martial artist with his or her knickers in a twist telling me where I go wrong by saying "Martial Arts will Fail You Every time". But facts are facts.

Just because you have a black belt doesn't mean you can fight and just because you can fight, doesn't mean you are a black belt.

Can martial artists, boxers, judo players, wrestlers, mixed martial artists bee good street fighters? Sure. But a fight is an entirely different proposition than combative sport or a hobby. The problem is that martial artists have propagated this "myth" about the black belt since they realized money could be made. To compound the problem, most instructors are true believers. Thinking that what they are saying is 100% true.

The techniques used by successful street fighters range from the simple and straight forward to brutal and down right nasty. Never underestimate the depths of human nature or the levels to which some people will go to impose their will over another human being.

The difference between a successful and unsuccessful street fighter is attitude and no hesitation. Contrary to the old school yard Marcus of Queensbury rules, who ever strikes first in a real fight usually wins. I'm not talking about people in the local pub having a shoving match. Leave the bar fight out of it. I am talking about a real street smart criminal. So you think that junkie is just trying to slap you- no he's got razor blades between his fingers and he's trying to slice your face open. (Thanks for the example Bill). If you wait for him to make his move, you're done. If you pause, wait for them to "throw the first punch" you'll lose. And before you question my motivation as one of those guys who never spent time in a real dojo or never received his black belt (I have 3 of them) go to I am a real person and I can be found any day of the week working out at this location teaching none other than martial arts. But like my Sensei, I refuse to limit my self by the confines of my ego and insecurity. Because that's what it all comes down to: ego. Hey, I know you have a lot of time an effort invested into your study and this is the last thing you want to hear, but earning a black belt doesn't make you a superhero. Having a black belt does not give you the ability to take on all comers in all any and all situations.

A street fight or close quarters battle has entirely different dynamics than a competitive sport. In a competitive fight, the possibility of being seriously injured or killed is not a paramount concern. You have the normal injuries associated with contact sports, but if it were really lethal you would have people dying in the ring regularly. The combative sport is only SYMBOLIC of the real thing. This is where we all get confused. The term symbolic

So why bother getting a black belt or what does it mean to earn a black belt? This subject has been beaten to death and I offer my opinion only to ad some perspective. First of all, I hold a special place for those of you who have the determination to see your training through to the end and I hope those same people continue to study for an entire life time. It does set you above all others as having accomplished a great task that requires years of dedication and sacrifice. But learning to fight is only a small part

Do you think the night before your black belt exam you are immediately transformed in to the Ultimate Warrior. Martial Arts use fighting and combative skills to affect and overall change on the practitioner. If you study martial arts to learn how to fight, you will find your self very disappointed. Fighting is and should be a smaller percentage of why you study. If you study just to learn how to fight or just to learn how to compete you will not last very long. Because after your competitive career is over, now what? Once you start coaching, training and teaching you really begin to understand that competition is a useful tool, but it's not what martial arts is about.

Street fighting is not about honor and fair play. That's how you live your life, but when push comes to shove, knowing how to street fight requires very little skill, just a lot of attitude and nerve.

The Japanese words "Budo" and "Bujutsu" are used to describe this difference between combat and the way of combat.

MartialArts | Martial arts instruction | Self Defense

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Proud Parent's Story

Yesterday I was on the playground watching my daughter (6) play with a couple of her friends. The play started to get a little rough, but none the less, she was still laughing and having a good time.

But then it started to turn (just a little bit) to the point right before she started to get upset. I could see the uneasiness in her face. As one of the boys began to get more physical she simply tripped him to the ground with osotogari (big outer reap)and immediately pinned him. He tried to fight back, but to no avail. After the proverbial "uncle" he was let up and they both went their separate ways: NO HARM NO FOUL. A teacher standing behind me commented "Good for her, he was asking for it."

It was at that moment I realized that my daughter is developing skills and confidence to operate outside our home. She came away from a potentialy stressful situation completely unaffected. I also realized that if I was teaching her karate or jujutsu, it might be a different story. Through her Judo training she was comfortable to put the kid in his place successfully without striking or doing anything else that might be considered inappropriate. Plus, I know she didn't want to hurt him, she doesn't want to hurt anybody (with the exception of her little brother).

Walking away she said, "Did you see me do Judo?"

"Of course," I said, "that was awesome. If anyone ever starts playing rough and you don't like it, you do that again."

Empowerment. My daughter has options.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Poor Economy Leads To Higher Crime, How The Self Defense Company is Helping People to Fight Back

SOUTH BEND -- To most people, overgrown bushes, open screen windows and switched-off yard lights don't mean much.
But to a burglar, police and security experts say, they could be an open invitation to your house.

Police across St. Joseph County have noticed a marked increase in residential burglaries this year, due in part to a sagging economy.
"I think what you're seeing is some people looking for a crime of opportunity," said Sgt. Lee Ross, of the South Bend Police Department's crime prevention unit. "So people are looking for easy targets."
Easy targets for burglars include wallets, jewelry and keys left in front of open windows -- all common targets over the summer in a string of burglaries in the Granger area.
"People just come home and throw stuff on the kitchen counter where it's visible from outside," said Sgt. Bill Redman, St. Joseph County police spokesman. "You can do simple things like draw the blinds or shades.
"I know a lot of people like to keep their windows open this time of year, but you should keep them shut and locked unless you have locks for screens or a way to keep someone from removing it."
Ross said simple steps on the outside of the home can also prevent burglaries, such as installing motion detection lights or photo-sensitive lights that turn on at dusk.
"You can also start by trimming back hedges and bushes away from windows," Ross said. "When you trim them back, you've got nowhere for people to hide if they're trying to break into a window."
One of the more obvious points mentioned by Ross and Redman is for people to lock their doors -- both main doors and doors into garages or outbuildings.
"And remember to lock the door between the garage and the house," Redman said. "A lot of people leave that one unlocked, but if someone gets into the garage, it will keep them out of the house."
Police also said an important part of helping to fight crime in their neighborhoods is to simply pay attention.
"If you see something suspicious, report it to police," Redman said. "Don't wait until the crime's already taken place."
Along with crimes of opportunities, police also have seen an increase in break-ins while people are home.
Dan Neddo, a self-defense instructor and security expert who spent 20 years in the Air Force, said families need to have a plan in place if someone breaks-in.
"Everybody needs to be prepared," Neddo said. "Even if it's unlikely to happen, it's no different than being prepared for a fire in your home."
Neddo suggests that parents implement a "big noise" drill, where family members are taught to go to a central room if they hear an unfamiliar noise or anything that makes them uneasy.
As part of the emergency plan, Neddo said, a charged phone should be kept in the room to call police. An exit strategy out of the house, and a place to meet up outside also is recommended.
"A lot of it is pretty easy, it just takes a little bit of homework on the homeowners part to plan for an emergency," Neddo said. "I think it's important to let people know they don't have to be a victim."

Staff writer Dave Stephens: (574) 235-6209

Home safety tips

Here are some home safety tips offered by police to help reduce the likelihood of burglary:
* Keep outdoor lights on at night, or install motion-sensor lights. Some motion-light detectors simply screw into an existing light socket.
* Lock all doors and windows, even when you are home. Use a bar or piece of wood to keep sliding glass doors and windows from being forced open.
* Keep things out of sight. Burglars looking for easy targets will often window shop from the street, eyeing items visible from the road.
* Replace traditional dead-bolt locks with key-lock dead-bolts, which require a key to be used on either side of the door. Traditional dead-bolts can be opened by breaking a window. Reinforce all catch-plates on doors, with longer screws making the door harder to knock in.
* Have a plan. Prepare and practice with family members about what to do in an emergency.
* Get an assessment. The South Bend Police Department crime prevention unit will assess a home's burglary issues for any resident in the city for free. To learn more, call (574) 235-9037.
*Get some training contact Dan Neddo of The Self Defense Company call (574) 302-7384 or visit him on line at

"I think what you're seeing is some people looking for a crime of opportunity," said Sgt. Lee Ross, of the South Bend Police Department's crime prevention unit. "So people are looking for easy targets."
"You can also start by trimming back hedges and bushes away from windows," Ross said. "When you trim them back, you've got nowhere for people to hide if they're trying to break into a window."
"A lot of it is pretty easy, it just takes a little bit of homework on the homeowners part to plan for an emergency," [Dan Neddo] said. "I think it's important to let people know they don't have to be a victim."

Dan Neddo of The Self Defense Company call (574) 302-7384 or visit him on line at

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Hall of Fame induction 2008

OK, I didn't expect it to be a real big deal...but it was. There were over 200 people from those being honored (athletes, coaches and sports writers). It was good to reconnect and remember those times. It also reminded me why I do what I do in the first place.

I was luck enough to be introduced by Brian Farrel, a local sports writer, who has been writing about local athletes for the past 30 years.

Below is copy of my speech.

Thank you Brian. Through your efforts and life's work with others like fellow inductee, Jim Jones you keep Ridgewood Athletics in the public eye.

I also want to thank Coach Yearing and the committee for putting this together. I feel the impact of the Hall of Fame will reach farther into the community than just Ridgewood Athletics.

I would also like to acknowledge all the coaces and volunteers who sacrifice so much for the love of the game. Being a former varsity coach, I know the full scope of your dedication. The positive influence you have on your athletes goes far beyond the gymnasium and the playing field. People like Jim Stroker, who used to open the weight room for us in Junior High at 6:00am. He lead showed us at an early age how to train with intensity and purpose. He also showed us how to be intense. So much in fact that during kick off he would be fully dressed, but by the end of the half he would be stripped down to a cotton t-shirt, it didn't matter if it was September or December.

I also want to acknowledge my friends and family for being on hand to celebrate the long days of preparation, sacrifice and of

Finally my wife and my mom for providing the needed information to Coach Years.

Times like these are for reflection. 20 plus years later I don't think of the yards and the pins, I think of the relationships forged on the field and on the mat. I miss the friendships As I sat and watched my nephew Zack and his team mates hang out and do their best "coach imitations" I remembered most of what I missed about playing. Those friendships are still very much alive today, Officer James, Principal Gorman and Mr. Koppenal are from those days and they remain my closest friends are in attendance today.

I also think about my family. We were a sports and activities family. This is how we communicated to one another. We showed how we cared by hardly missing a game or a tournament. We showed our appreciation by making time to be there. That was the most important gift a kid could ever receive.

My Uncle Rich, who seemed to never miss a match or a game. MY brother who could be seen patrolling the sidelines in full camouflage or showing up at a random wrestling practice, its a wonder how he ever graduated college.

My sister, who found herself at a football game or a match when she wasn't on tour performing and my mom, keeping track of every article, every match, game and performance. Making sure we had everything we needed from peanut butter sandwiches to luck socks.

Finally there was my Dad. My first memory of him was in a maroon and white coach's jacket. The lessons I learned from him on veteran's field and in gym 3 went far beyond the fundamentals of sport.

Through Ridgewood athletics and his coaching I learned how to be fair, compassionate and humble (well 2 out of 3 ain't bad). I learned to keep fighting until the whistle blows, even though all seems lost.

Growing up I didn't really know what prejudice was, we were all equal on the field and we looked the same under a helmet anyway.

This October marks 3 years he has passed. Now I watch my children, nieces and nephews come into their own against the landscape of modern time, I can't tell you how critical our mission as parents and coaches is. The amateur sports arena is the last and sometimes only place they learn about hard work, fair play and camaraderie. I hope that 50 years from now, they still hold these same values in high regard.

Because at the end of the day its not about how great you were on the field, its about how great you were to your family, friends, team mates mad opponents. Thank you for allowing me to becomes part of the Hall of Fame Family.

You can visit the hall of fame here:

Self Defense Saturday 10.11.2008

The Self Defense Company Training Center in Pompton Lakes continued its Community Outreach Program with Self Defense Saturday that took place on October 11th. The day began with a Family Safe Workshop where parents worked with their children to develop plans to deal with attempted abduction, parent child separation, identifying safe zones and "safe" strangers as well as how to resolve child on child conflict.

The afternoon was for the adults, who focused on edged weapon defense. This training is part of the Self Defense Training System, a 12 step close combat training program.

The program is part of a global "family Safe" initiative put forth by The Self Defense Company

According to Director of the Center, Damian Ross more and more people are discovering this type of self defense training can fit into the busiest schedule. "Martial arts training requires a great deal of time and dedication, but self defense is a skill, that once trained in the system, can be mastered in a short amount of time and recalled instantly, even with little or no further training."

Jenn Mildner of Pompton Lakes, attended withe her husband and two daughters found the program extremely enlightening, "I was glad to see this was something the whole family could do together. The workshop was informative and beneficial for all of us. I strongly recommend that anyone serious about their safety to go to The Self Defense Company."

For more information about The Self Defense Training Center in Pompton Lakes visit . or call 973-831-0315.

You can also visit the parent company on line at

October, it was the worst of times, it was the best of times...

October is a rough time of year in the Ross house. October 13th, 1995, my grandfather passed away. Columbus Day 2005 say the passing of My Dad, Columbus Day saw the passing of my father in-law. I also just heard that a young man who used to wrestle at my Alma mater, who also knew my father, died tragically in a motorcycle accident yesterday, October 12th, 2008.

Add to that the global state of unrest regarding the economy, why even get out of bed at all? Well...that's just not our style. Every tragedy and setback prepares you for the next giant step. A loss of a father causes you to step up and take the wheel. When it's my time, my children and successors will do the same. tragedy is life's way of telling us to pay attention.

Last year, on October 19th a former student and business associate executed some extremely unethical and down right illegal business moves in an effort to put me out of the Self Defense and Martial Arts Business all together. Couple that with a few opportunistic and greedy people bent on getting their unearned share of the pie. Imagine people coming out of the wood work and attempting to discredit years of hard work, love, blood sweat and tears you put into a project. The endless hours and the countless dollars invested in something you believed in. You would think with the world stacked against you, life itself would implode. But the opposite is true.

First, you find out who your friends REALLY are. a person's true self is revealed at times of crisis and the cream truly does rise to the top. At the end of it all I lost a partner and associate I didn't need and I no longer had to carry any hangers on to my investment of research, time and money. Through it all I have the business I should have had in the first place.

I mention this, not to make light of any tragedy. Because there are some things you just never recover from. But you take them with you and if you can, you pull from them some lesson. My father's passing revealed that nothing is at all what it seems. A stable thriving business with a 30 year history was on it's last thread. I learned that even if everything is taken from you, as long as you can put you have your will and desire, good things will happen.

I know my Dad didn't have to die in order for me to find out about the business, but sometimes, that's just the way life works.

This October, the economy adds to the strangeness of the month, but this too shall pass. Faith in what you do and who you are sets the tone and action yields the results. Action, any action, sets the world in motion. Motion creates opportunity.
Opportunity creates prosperity.

Self Defense Company in the World

Professional Instructor Steve Drake is in the news...again. Seen here teaching university students in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Instructor Drake is taking part in the Family Safe initiative put forth by the Self Defense Company

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Martial Arts Training And Self Defense: 
Do You Take Yours 'Trained or Untrained'

Like religion and politics, martial arts are not for a lack of it's zealots. Decide right now, you can either A. Continue to "sip the kool-aide" or B. Look to improve and learn. One criticism about our training material is that it is simple and could only work against some one who is untrained. What the hell does this mean, exactly? Does trained mean a woman who takes muay thai or the serial rapist, sociopath who has successfully applied his trade a dozen times? Does it apply to the mixed martial artists or the bag-man on a pick up? Who do you want to fight for your life against, the martial artist or emotionally disturbed person (EPD) who gargles with pepper spray?

Personally, if I had my choice, I'd take my chances with the guy who thinks he has all the answers instead of the guy who has nothing to loose. Is our stuff simple, you bet it's simple. It has to be. Anything that works in life, let alone combat is simple and straight-forward. Here's a pop quiz, what's the most widely used technique with the highest degree of success and knock out rate? (Drum roll please...) The Over Hand Right! But that's so simple, everybody knows that. You learn that your first day of boxing. Since it's so simple and everybody knows it; why does it work? Because some one decided to seize the opportunity to throw it first. That's the essence of a fight, timing, opportunity and a little luck. And with more practice, you create more luck- funny how that works. The techniques have to be recalled under real-life conditions and have to work in a variety of situations. This means by nature they can't be complicated. As we mentioned countless times before, anything can be blocked if you know it's coming. But it only has to work once. And besides, you'll be approached in a way or by a person who is banking on the fact that you won't do anything. That's why they picked you in the first place. So anything you do has a chance.

So you're trained, great.

God bless you and congratulations. Now I heard Jon Bluming say something that I thought was right on the money. If you don't know who Jon Bluming is, get your google working. He said that grappling and submissions are treated as "support systems" and he continued to say that you'll spend a lot more time training your support systems rather that your primary self defense. That doesn't mean don't train in these systems, because you will fall back on these if you, well- miss. Which happens more than you think; but you want a front line of defense. But your primary systems are the priority!

This is this training comes in. It is your primary system.

Is it simple: YES. Basic: YES.

Let me ask you:

Would you rather practice knocking some one out or dragging them to the ground? Would you rather practice for a 5 -- 10 second blast or a five-minute round?

You'll know when your next competition is, you can plan and pace yourself. Make sure your injury free before the event. But do you know when you'll be attacked? It could be in the parking lot tonight after work. Are you warmed up? Do you have your training equipment on? Is the ref there?

Make no mistake, I am not advocating NOT practice other endeavors, I think they're great. Competition and training are excellent character builders and will prove their own worth in the grand scheme of things. But if you're serious about realistic, explosive self-defense, here's the check list:

1. Arm your self to the teeth. Guns, knives, Sherman tank.
2. Pepper spray, Stun guns
3. Black jacks, sap gloves, spring kosh, asp
4. The environment: bricks, rocks, garbage cans
5. Hands, feet, teeth simple straight forward basic technique. Strikes, gouges.
6. Grappling, submissions.
7. Everything Else

Bonus: the better shape you're in, the better all of this stuff works (yes, even shooting). The sharper you are, the better you will operate under stress.

So will this stuff "work" against someone who is trained- you bet, it has and it does. It's always good to have a back up plan, but first things first.

Musashi said, it's regrettable to die with your sword still in its sheath. Personally, I get looks from other martial artists when they catch a glimpse of what I carry. They look at me like "why do you need that stuff". My reply is, I'd rather have and not need it than need it and not have it. It also gives me a glimpse of how naive they are. Are you really going to depend on that when some street skel looks to put a hurt on you? Not me, I'm going home today.

Martial Arts | Martial arts instruction | Self Defense