Category Archives: Fear

What To Do About “Me Too”?

“Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.” 
― Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

When I reflect upon the past week of people posting the phrase “me too” (indicating they have at some point been sexually harassed or assaulted), all I can think is, “these adults were once children”, and I am saddened that they were exposed to these situations. But it also reinforces the necessity of equipping our children with the mental and physical tools they need to help protect themselves, should it ever become necessary. Over the last 20-plus years I’ve done nothing but try to teach children how to develop and protect boundaries, respect and empower themselves, defend themselves, rely on themselves and discipline themselves. This is to ensure that they are prepared, should they ever go up against any of these societal ills.

I like being an agent of change; over the last 20 years my goal has been to empower young men and women and to help them develop into the best people they can be. For young women this is especially relevant because our society doesn’t always portray strong, powerful women in a positive light, and there are still plenty of societal implications centered on the idea that women should be weak. So for some young women, they have difficulty finding their voice, and strength is a space they typically are not used to inhabiting. The best way to become emboldened and to grow stronger is to be taught. Yet, for boys, there is an automatic assumption that they will grow up to be strong men that can “handle themselves” – just because they are boys; that somehow, young boys will just naturally be able to regulate their power and place in society. However, the body cannot go where the mind has never gone; one has to be taught to be strong and to speak up and/or stand up for his or herself.

A boy will not stand up to another boy’s misdeeds if he has been constantly told “yes” by everyone in his family, and has not had the opportunity to learn to do so. A boy will not stand up to a man if he has constantly been taught to defer to an authority with every slight he has ever encountered. Similarly, a girl will not likely speak up for herself, or challenge an abuser, if she has not been taught her worth and taught to feel comfortable reaching out for support to the women AND men in her life. A girl will not feel comfortable establishing boundaries and protecting them (violently, if need be) if she has never been taught how to establish boundaries, nor taught to feel comfortable about protecting those boundaries.

As we all know, most attackers are men. Therefore, girls will never learn what it takes to protect themselves from boys/men if they are sheltered from intense, male energy. If they’ve never been exposed to controlled, safe situations where men have challenged them physically, as opposed to just intellectually, then they will never know how to respond if a violent encounter ever arises. In order for any female (or male for that matter) to truly feel comfortable in creating these boundaries and defending these boundaries, they must work with other boys and men that challenge those  boundaries in a safe environment.

This is what White Tiger Dojo does everyday. So this is a shout out to all the men and women of the White Tiger Dojo community: I’d like our community to come together and try to bring as many young men AND women to the White Tiger Dojo for a seminar about this very topic. (Date TBA/Proceeds will go to Jersey Battered Women’s Service). The seminar for boys/men is called “Man Up”. I’ve designed this coursework to help young men learn how to better respect each other, authority, and women and to become the brave men that they need to be in order to protect anyone who cannot protect themselves. Then I’d like to offer the same free seminar to young women so that they too can have a better understanding of how to stand up to, and stand together against unnecessary violence.

With all that has been discussed in Hollywood and anywhere else in our country, what I find most surprising is how so many people only stood up after the fact. Look at how many links you find across Facebook that say, “I knew, everybody knew, but I didn’t stand up and say something.” Well, that’s not good enough for our community. I believe that through educating people about a course of action they can take, empowering them to find their voice and teaching them to feel justified in speaking out when something is happening – rather than after the fact, is a great way to prevent future cases of abuse. And the only way for this to become possible, is to learn it by having actually “gone there” at some point in the earlier part of one’s life. If you’ve been trained to value your worth, learned that others are entitled to the same respect and protections, and have practiced speaking up for and defending yourself and others, you will feel more comfortable, confident and be more successful should you ever encounter such a situation. Once again, the body cannot go where the brain has never been.

After these seminars, I will publish an account of how each went and what value – if any, people felt they provided and/or have ascertained. Our community needs to know if we are going to be the instigators of positive change or if we are just going to stand by idly and watch. We need to hold ourselves, as a community, accountable. Will you help be a part of the solution?

Four-Letter Words

(The 3rd of a Series)

Previously I asked the question “Who Owns You?” After all, if I’m not in control of my own thoughts and actions, then who is? Once I’ve established that I “need” to own up to the decisions and actions that I’ve made and taken, the next question is, “How do I get control of myself?” These are the types of questions and answers we delve into at the White Tiger Dojo.

In Japanese, the word dojo means way place. In other words, it’s a location where you study a way of being. A way of being starts with one’s habits. Understanding how good habits are created and how to remove and replace bad ones are two of the most important lessons any house of learning can engage in. However, one of the hardest parts about creating good habits is discovering that what I find to be “true” is often what I “fear”.

The word true means something that is in accordance with reality. Reality can be fearful. One of the habits I’ve developed over time is to be “open” with myself in order to compare it to reality. When I am open with myself, I find that the answers I’m looking for are not nearly as elusive as my mind would like them to be.

Finding the truth is about me uncovering my own biased habits so that I may clearly find the answer that I need rather than the one I “want”. The answers I want are more easily attained, because it’s based off of previous bad habits or biases. This is the epitome of being intellectually “lazy”.

What I want often takes precedence over what I need precisely because a want is intellectually lazy. I need to stay healthy and financially solvent, but I want to be lazy and independently wealthy. Staying healthy takes “work”. Going to a job and earning a living takes work. It also takes “guts” to do the work and it takes guts to work through the fear of failure.

“Hard” work is the true “path” of the independent person.

Owning who I am takes continual effort, especially when I’m owning up to the dumb things I’ve done and will do. Where at first it felt daunting, uncomfortable and even inconvenient, it eventually becomes routine maintenance like brushing my teeth.

In the end, owning up to the good and bad parts of myself is what allows for positive change and self-acceptance. I take greater care in my decision making process when I hold myself accountable for all of the joy and/or suffering I bring upon myself and those around me. I’m not perfect nor will I ever be, but making the conscious choice to be the “best” version of me is the only way to honor those who showed me the path to becoming “free”.


Who Owns You?

(The 2nd of a Series)

In my last blog entry, I challenged the thinking behind a “safe space”. In short, having a “safe space” means I’m relying on other people in order to feel safe. Once I abdicate the most basic of human rights, the right of self-protection, to another person, group or environment I no longer have complete control over my own life.

As a teacher, this abdication flies in the face of  my most important lesson: self-control. I tell my students, “If you cannot control yourself, then you will not be able to learn how to defend yourself.”

What is self-protection if not the ability to control yourself in order to stop someone else from controlling you? What is a bully or a criminal other than a person trying to force another to comply with their wishes?

If I allow society to provide me with a “safe space” emotionally, physically, or mentally then by default I am allowing everything outside of that space to be considered “unsafe”. Essentially, when I allow for safe spaces, I agree to everything else being chaos.

What’s more, isn’t it naive to believe that four walls and a plaque on the door can protect us from other human beings? Or, even from ourselves?  Labeling an area as a “safe space” lulls its visitors into a false sense of security, too.  As a teacher and a human being, I don’t want my students or fellow human beings falling into this mentality.

It seems that so much about today’s world is about mentality. In our modern-day society, thoughts and emotions are the reigning kings of all that is seen as sacred and successful.  Why is the body given such low-class treatment?

As Socrates said:

“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”

It’s important to remember that a beautiful mind is only as safe as the body attached to it.  In order to traverse “safe” and “unsafe” spaces equally, we must ensure that our bodies are exercised in the art of self-protection. This does not mean the genius must resolve his disputes with fisticuffs, nor the “fighter” reduce his exam paper to confetti. Rather, both archetypes must have the ability, grit and courage to know when and how to lay down boundaries of word, deed and action. Without these abilities a person no longer owns himself but will be usurped by the tyrant of inaction.

Safe Space. Dangerous World.

(The 1st of a Series)

One of the most difficult things about teaching self-defense is helping a student create a balance of physical and mental boundaries. In order to rationalize boundaries, we need to have some type of “fear” catalyst for what lies “beyond the boundary”. Simultaneously, we need to have some type of “love” catalyst for what lies “within the boundary”. Given that boundaries can often lead to a discussion of extremes, it’s important to maintain a sense of perspective when trying to discover a “safe space” in an otherwise “dangerous world”.

For those of us who are currently living in the United States, we’re enjoying one of the safest times in human history. It’s taken homo sapiens approximately 200,000 years to get to this level of safety, but nevertheless, we’re here. So why do we even talk about danger in the first place? If we’re enjoying one of the safest times in history, then why do we even need a “safe space”?

We speak as if mankind has been evolving for over 200,000 years simply because time has passed, but in reality, we haven’t. Meanwhile, our ever changing environment has always kept mankind on its toes. Now that mankind has mostly mitigated the environment’s ability to destroy humanity en masse from weather patterns, waterfalls, cliffs, viruses and parasites, I’d say the larger danger to mankind has always been, well, mankind.

Mankind has been doing each other in over tribalism, other ‘isms’, territory and resources forever. Mankind has been doing each other in willingly and to a large scale when you look at examples of the well known Aztec sacrifices to the lesser known Hawaiian, Celt or Chinese sacrifices. All in the name of a higher purpose.

Violence, or the threat of violence, is exhibited the moment a child experiences the boundaries set forth by their parents. When an adult, which is a large looming figure to the eyes of a child, utters something they do not understand, they comply out of fear, not logic.

Sure we can minimize the overt perception of fear, but that’s purely an intellectual exercise. Meaning, we simply replaced fear of being ‘eaten’ by an animal with fear of being ‘eaten’ by poverty, illness, etc. I once heard someone say, “We’ve traded constant “fear” for constant “anxiety”.

Managing these two extremes takes self-discipline and prioritization, which is what I teach my students when I discuss the concept of “changing thresholds”. When we’re in a home, school or office, our fear of physical danger is reduced greatly, but our sense of anxiety to be productive members of society is increased. Sometimes the two will merge and reconfigure into some sort of hybrid – like running late to an appointment or realizing that we still have 30 questions left to answer and only 5 minutes left to answer them.

It should seem obvious now that we cannot create “safe spaces”. But, we can create safer conditions in a dangerous world. In order to do that, we have to build up the self-discipline that is needed to prioritize our anxieties and fears along with our love and passion for life. Once we establish a stable formula for ourselves, we can then begin to concentrically widen our sense of safety, much like a child explores and conquers their own “dangerous world”.

New Year New Leaf

As the year comes to an end, it’s always a good time to focus on ‘new beginnings’. If you have any negative habit that you’ve been needlessly conforming to, then I want you to make the active decision to leave all of those negative thoughts and feelings behind.

You’ll be thanking yourself for getting rid of the negativity that you surrounded yourself in and, more importantly, the people around you will be thankful that you are in a more positive place.

Some of you may be thinking: “But I don’t know if I can do it!” The simplest way to start is by turning your perspective upside down. Try to engage your life from one that imposes skepticism, self-consciousness and self-doubt to one that embraces positive change. Small steps in mindset are needed in order to make any significant improvements in your life.

Worst comes to worst, fake it ’til you make it! Just let the old habits go like the ball dropping at midnight. Take a deep breath and say goodbye to your self-doubt and your fear of failure. Instead, embrace YOUR desire to change and make the conscious decision to improve. Take the first step towards re-creating your new self.

Sure it’ll take time and of course you’ll meet resistance from everyone involved with your life – yourself included. But, did your “negative habits” NOT meet resistance? Resistance, friction and conflict get such a bad rap, but without them, we would never move forward…or never stop!

Never forget that this life belongs to you. If you love yourself (which, if you don’t, you should make sure to fix that problem first) and respect yourself, then you should protect yourself. After all, you can’t save anyone unless you save yourself first.

Do yourself a favor and make this your year of positive change. Resistance and conflict are a natural, reoccurring part of life. However, if you make the choice to actively diminish the amount of bad habits and negative actions that you partake in life, then making positive changes will eventually become a daily and refreshing event in your everyday. Make your mark!