I am about to reveal the greatest self-defense weapon known to mankind. A weapon you have in your possession right now. A weapon that cannot be taken away from you. A weapon that never grows dull or runs out of ammunition. A weapon you can take on board an airplane without a permit. A weapon you can walk up to even the President with. What is it?
That’s not what you wanted to hear, is it? You wanted me to say something like your mind is the greatest self-defense weapon, or pepper spray, or a flame-thrower. Allow me to explain…
In case you haven’t heard, smiling has been proven to–
Okay, okay–that’s all well and good, but what the heck does it have to do with self-defense? I’ll tell you. Take a step back for a second and really consider what the term “self-defense” means. Self-defense is more than just what to do if someone tries to rob your wallet.
Self-defense is the struggle to be at your best against anything and everything that would rob you of your health, happiness, comfort, or well-being.
Yep. Self-defense is a full-time project. Your eating habits, exercise habits, relationships, work life, attitude… neglect any one of those things and you can expose yourself to unnecessary stress, pain, humiliation, or danger. Washing your hands is self-defense against germs. Reading reviews is self-defense against getting ripped off.
Everything you do, every choice you make, is either going to make you safer, stronger, and happier, or make you more vulnerable to disaster.
Nothing is more powerful than a smile in defending yourself from the ills of this world in all of their many forms, or more helpful in chasing down and seizing a healthy, happy life.
Your smile is your greatest self-defense weapon. But you can’t just tell someone to smile, can you? What if you’re not in the mood? Or maybe you feel you have no reason to smile.
Be careful, my friends. Waiting around for a reason to smile, or for something to make your life better, is a lousy strategy for a happy life. It means you view smiling as a reaction to life, and never an action to take. And that’s a mistake. Just like a gun is of no use to you if it’s at home under your bed when you need it, your smile is powerless to help you if you keep it hidden away.
You need it now. Right now.
The same goes for money. You know saving money is a good idea. But do you wait around until you have a reason to save money? No. It’s always a good idea to save money. You save money because you know at some point, sooner or later, you’ll want to have money to spend on something.
Same for smiling. It’s always a good idea to smile. Even if you don’t feel like it, even if you don’t have a reason. You should smile because at some point, you’re going to want to be healthy, relaxed, and attractive. Heck–not just at some point—at every point! When don’t you want to be healthy, relaxed, and attractive?
Here’s the good news– putting on a smile – even a fake one—will make you feel like smiling for real. That’s a fact. It’s how we’re wired. So, fake it till you make it, my friend.
Okay. So, if all that’s true, why don’t you see more people smiling? Why are so many people hunched over, dragging themselves around, moping… even on a good day?
Put a number on it. Look around the gym, the office, or the supermarket–what percentage of people do you see smiling? Would you say more than half are smiling or less? Would you say 20%… 10%… 5%? Whatever your count, it sure ain’t a lot, is it?
I understand that just because you don’t see people smiling that doesn’t mean they’re not happy. Maybe they’re all neutral. But neutral means they’re neither happy nor unhappy—you know, like a plant. Or a rock. Or a robot. Is that how you want to live? Aren’t you more than a plant or a rock or a robot?
Quick question. What is your “base face”? That’s the term I use to refer to how someone looks most of the day. Their default countenance, if you will. Think of someone you know. Anyone. Now imitate them. What does your face look like? That’s their base face.
Of course, the more important question is: If someone imitates you, what expression would they put on their face? Would it be a smile? A furrowed brow? Neutral? Serious? Grumpy?
What’s your base face?
No one wants to be remembered as mean and grumpy, but look around…it’s a sea of ugly faces out there! Why are so many people dead-set against smiling? Everyone is more attractive when they smile, yet look how many choose not to. It’s a disease, I tell you! We are suffering from an epidemic of ugly faces!
Here’s how bad it is. Remember that time you offered someone a smile… and they didn’t smile back? And you immediately felt like a moron? Maybe you even considered never smiling at anyone again?
Stop it! That’s how the disease spreads. Don’t let the grumps and the zombies disarm you. Don’t let someone else’s insecurities and fears strip you of your greatest self-defense weapon. Don’t be sucked into thinking that smiling is a sign of weakness.
Smiling is a sign of confidence and courage. Smiling takes guts. And you can do it. If you want a healthy, happy life, you must!
Why aren’t more people smiling? I theorize that people take pride in appearing like they’re working hard. There is social value in being seen struggling.
Smiling makes things look too easy. You’re not supposed to enjoy your work. You’re supposed to look miserable and stressed out, right? I mean, everyone else is whining and complaining, so you should, too, right?
No way. Not even close. We should all be smart enough to know that enjoying our work makes our work better. Joy is a productive emotional state. Repulsion, denial, bitterness, anger, and frustration will all separate you from the task at hand. Joy will connect you to your work, your relationships, and yourself more deeply and effectively than anything else.
Here’s another reason why you don’t see more smiles, and it’s a big one, especially in the martial arts– anger feels powerful. It feels good. It wakes you up. It gets the blood and adrenaline flowing. Anger feels like you’re taking control.
Look at children. When they feel like they’re not in control, they throw a tantrum. They stamp their feet, scream, and cross their arms.
As adults, most of us outgrow throwing full-blown tantrums, but that doesn’t mean we’ve learned how to smile when life tries to knock us down. Instead, we learn to endure. We tighten our lips, furrow our brow, and plod through our daily routine. But holding on to our disappointment and frustration only puts us on track for a heart attack.
Thankfully, there is another alternative to tantrums or enduring…it’s called smiling.
Is it really possible to walk around in a state of joy or quiet confidence no matter what happens? Can you permanently install an iron-clad smile on your face and in your heart?
I say yes. Not as a sappy, rainbow colored-dream, but as a purposeful strategy to get the most out of your life.
If you could give yourself a 10% raise in salary, you would do it. Well, you have the power to give yourself a psychological, emotional, and physical raise right now–just smile. It’s tax-free and there’s no cap on it.
Joy and anger are both heightened emotional states. Either one can make you more capable of enduring pain, pushing harder, and feeling stronger. But there’s a crucial difference between anger and joy–anger leads to tension, shallow breathing, and inflexibility of body and mind.
Joy, on the other hand, leads to relaxation, flexibility, and openness. You can see, you can think, you can breathe, you can flow. Those qualities are always advantages. Always. Even in a fight.
Bruce Lee warned about tension and anger in the Tao of Jeet Kune Do. He wrote:
“[The mind of a student in actual combat] must be calm and not at all disturbed. He must feel as if nothing critical is happening. …His eyes not fixed and glaring insanely at the enemy. His behavior should not be in any way different from his everyday behavior.”
You may also remember heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson. Iron Mike was famous for fierce knockouts, fierce words, and the occasional nibble on an ear. Here’s what Kid Dynamite said about happiness:
“There’s nothing more deadly and nothing more proficient than a happy fighter.”
Did you get that? Nothing more deadly or more proficient.He went on to say that it’s not “the mean and the surly fighter” who’s dangerous, it’s the fighter who’s the most relaxed and who loves what he does.
See? I told you—feeling joyful or happy is no joke. It’s your greatest shield and self-defense weapon. And you polish them both by smiling.
Despite the wisdom of Bruce and Mike, the world of martial arts is still full of ugly faces. Look on the cover of any martial arts magazine, or poster promoting a fight, or a fight on TV, and you’ll see someone scowling, snarling, or screaming.
I get it—they’re trying to look fierce and powerful…even scary. But the way I see it, they look like children throwing tantrums. They look like they’re trying to convince themselves they’re tough and in control.
They think they’re getting focused and building strength, but really, they’re only half-right. Yes, they may be in a more powerful state than someone lying on the couch watching TV, but not more than the guy who is calm, attentive, and quietly confident. That guy doesn’t have to sell you on his competence. You just feel it.
I’m a big fan of quiet confidence. The most successful and capable people I know, in any field, don’t beat their chest and snarl like wild animals. Quite the opposite. They’re usually quiet. Serene, even. They don’t worry and whine and make work look like drudgery. They just get things done.
So, how do you go from being fearful and tense to cool and collected? How do you find a smile even when everyone around is miserable? Practice. You don’t wait around for a reason to smile, you simply take action and make yourself happy.
Get started today. Right now. If you can only manage to force an inward or secret smile, fine. Maybe tomorrow it turns into a smirk… then a grin. Before you know it, you’ll have a full-blown, open-mouthed, happy smile.
Be an ambassador of good will, of confidence, of comfort. Take pride in carrying that spirit into every room and into every relationship. My first hope for anyone is to be a fighter. But not an angry fighter--I want you to be a happy fighter.
Happy because you have confronted your fears, embraced your experiences, made peace with your limitations, polished your skills, and accepted life on its terms, both good and bad.
When you do all of that, you will feel the tension disappear. You will feel lighter. You will have more room in your mind to see things you’ve never seen before. You will have more room in your heart to forgive others and forgive yourself. You will hold on to less bitterness, usher out resentment, and welcome in more love.
Sure, all that sounds corny, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Love is more powerful than hate. It really is. And joy is more powerful than anger.
I think it’s fair to say when you’re old and gray, you’ll look back on your life and laugh about almost everything. Even the things that hurt you today. So, why wait till you’re old and gray to laugh? See the big picture now.
Get to your happy ending sooner than later so you can enjoy it longer.
Create a new “base face”. Soon, when people think of you, they’ll smile because that’s the memory you left with them.
Before you see another doctor, pop another pill, lift another weight, drink another mojito, try another diet, try this prescription:
Smile once a day, as soon as you wake up, and keep smiling, no matter what, till you go to sleep.
Do that seven days a week, for the rest of your life. It’s all-natural, organic, and absolutely free.
If that dosage seems a little high, try some physical therapy. Smile four times–that’s four reps–every time you leave your home, every time you step out of your car, and every time you’re about to meet someone. Every day.
Pump up the power of your smile. Get it in your veins. Get high on smiling. Get addicted to smiling.
Final thought. If you want to help build a happier, more peaceful world, you don’t need to start a charity, you need to start smiling. You don’t need to raise a million dollars, you need to raise the corners of your mouth.
Be brave. Be the first to smile.
Be a smile leader and you’ll not only change your life, you might just change the world.
Can you find the Other Corners?
By Michael Rowe
Last year I visited Japan for duty with the Navy Reserve Component. I had other plans as well I wanted to experience some more martial arts training in Japan. I have been training in Hapkido for almost 30 years and I wanted to spend some time with its sister art in Japan, Aikido. In 2016 I had a chance to spend a few hours training at the Aikido Hombu Dojo and meet with the current Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba. I was hoping to get a greater level of training this year.
When I arrived in Japan I checked into the base recieved my housing assignement and checked into the job. As I expected there was going to be an amazing amount of time that I could travel from Yokosuka to Tokyo to visit the Hombu Dojo. After checking in at the Aikiki Dojo I changed into my gi and placed my white belt around my waist. The sensei of the Dojo did remember me from my previous visit from last year and recongized I was not a total beginner but they wanted to go through the paces. Being that I know that Aikido and Hapkido both have the same root there are some simliarities but there are going to be major differences. I was give the task of demonstrating and practicing Ik Kyu the first fundamental teaching of Aikido. We call it simply the straight arm bar.
While I felt that I had done an satisfactory job presenting the teaching from the variety of attacks presented, but the Doshu thought differently. He told me to work on one particular movement of the technique – it was a bit too much muscle and needed move relaxation. I bowed and then prepared to continue with the technique.
I worked on the technique very hard against many variations of attacks: same side wrist grabs, cross wrist grabs, lapel grabs. double wrist grabs from the front and rear, and punch as wel. I practiced what was presented to me for correction for about ten minutes when I noticed that Doshu was on the other side of the dojo, giving instruction to another student.
I chose to continue to to practice the technique even though I have been practing the technique for almost 30 years already. I did it for almost an half hour, my gi was was soaked with sweat. After more than an hour’s worth of repeating the same fundamental technique, one of the senpai (senior students) came over and told me to demonstrate Ni Kyu - the second teaching.
So this is how it went for the basic 5 teachings of Aikido that we covered that day. My arms were lead, my legs were shaking, I could barely change and get down the stairs, walk to the train and get back to base. But I was back in the Dojo training the next day. Something about the intensitiy appealed to me.
Now, I will walk away from my students while they are working on a particular form or technique – just to see what they’ll do. Most of them will continue to practice what they were told. A few will walk over to me to ask what they should do and some discontinue practicing as they begin to talk and socialize with their classmates. This seems to happen regardless if the students are children, teens, or adults.
It has been said that if a teacher shows the student one corner, the student should be able to find the other three. If he cannot (or will not), then the teacher should leave him alone because he’s simply a waste of time.
Grandmaster Pak and Grandmaster Pellegrini both would often show me a particular technique or an aspect of a technique or form and then see what I did with it. Would I simply forgot whatever it was that was shown to me? Would I practice it on my own time, striving to improve my performance? Would I simply fool around and play with the technique, perhaps ask for constant guidance on if I was doing it right? Or would I train at the school, and at home in my free time the teaching presented? Would I refine it and make it my personal expression of movement?
One thing I figured out was that the teacher was always watching and evaluating. Oh sure they would talk with us and joke now and then but they were always calculating. Would I be one that they would teach the real material too? Could I find not only the four corners of the room, but all the entrances and exits? Was I worth teaching the real methods to?
So what are you gong to do to find the corners?
Many parents think about putting their children in a martial arts program, but choosing the right one can be difficult. Are all of the martial arts the same? Is one better than another? What should a parent look for in a school or teacher? I hope to try to answer the questions every parent has, and provides the information necessary for parents to make the right choice.
Why should a child study martial arts?
The martial arts are an independent activity. The student who practices a martial art should always strive to be better than they were. Within the context of the group, everyone is on their own path. Regardless of which tradition your child may choose to follow, there are important life lessons that they will learn and carry into adulthood.
What should you look for in a school?
Educate yourself about some of the branches of the martial arts and the subtle nuances between them. While that may be too time-consuming for some parents, I think the best way to find the appropriate school is to ask the question: Why do you want your child to study martial arts?
I think the answer to these questions will better steer you toward the best choice for their child. There are competitive and non-competitive arts, but there is no one art that is better than another. There are only arts that will better suit your goals and objectives.
If you are looking for something to prevent bullying, you may want to look at arts that don’t strictly emphasize competition, but rather emphasize self-defense situations. These may include multiple opponent scenarios and defense against weapons. Arts like: Hapkido, Krav Maga, and Brazilian Jujitsu may be a good fit.
If you are looking for some form of physical activity that provides a outlet for competition then arts such as Taekwondo, Karate, and Judo may provide a great option.
There are more as well, but asking the teacher about their overall philosophy should narrow things down. Are they training for a national title, or to deal with three bullies in the hallway? Some may do both, but most specialize. Most arts will answer the questions raised previously in different ways. More important than the art, is the teacher. The first thing to remember is that a good martial artist is not necessarily a good teacher. Seek an instructor that has both knowledge and understanding in the area in which they are teaching. If they are teaching a competitive art, did they compete? If they specialize in self-defense do they have a practical understanding of violence and aggression?
Ultimately, parents are looking for a teacher that can convey knowledge. Can the teacher express their knowledge in a way that the student can understand it? A good teacher can explain the subtle nuances of how or why something works or doesn’t, as well as why the student should do it. They can provide drills and suggestions to improve specific problems that a student may need to progress. It is important to meet the teacher and be sure that you express why you are thinking of having your child study martial arts. Tell the teacher what you want to achieve. In turn, the teacher should be able to articulate why or why they aren’t a good fit.
How will they meet your objectives? If your child has special needs. I would ask if they have ever worked with special needs students before. What is their approach? and what success have they had? I recommend watching a class as well as having your child participate in the class at least one time. Parents should concern themselves with the following:
Are the instructors attentive? Do they give clear directions? Are there a lot of injuries? Injuries can happen as they do in any sport, but excessive injuries can be a sign of a problem with the school or teacher.
Is the class organized? Does it seem like there is some kind of plan? Are the students learning a specific skill or technique? Is there order in the class? Who is in control, the teacher or the students?
Is the teacher like a drill instructor, doling out punishments, or a milquetoast that never raises their voice? Somewhere in between is best. A good teacher will be no-nonsense, but not cruel. They will maintain control without being petty or too permissive. They should know when to step on the gas or brake. It is not easy to skirt that line, but that is what you are paying for.
The students should be learning, following directions, and accomplishing tasks, but also having some fun. It shouldn’t be drudgery. There should be a good mixture of work, learning, and having fun. If your child learned something new and is sweaty with a smile on their face, that is probably a pretty good class.
Observe the classParents should observe the class at least a few times. This means you must actually observe the class. Far too many times, I have had parents observe my class, and they are on their device not even watching what is going on.Remember that you are assessing how the teacher is teaching and how your child is doing.
Many times I have had children do amazing things in their first lesson and looked up to see a parent with their eyes down scrolling through a screen. Parents must focus to make sure the class will deliver what they are looking for.
Try to do the class yourself. I have had parents tell me that they didn’t think that their child was catching on after the first lesson! I always ask the parent, “Have you tried it?” I make it look easy. I have been doing martial arts for decades
A new student will always have difficulty, so that is not how you evaluate the class or your child’s abilities. Achievement will come through hard work and focus. Don’t be fooled thinking that it should be easy.
Unlike soccer, baseball, basketball or football there is no team in martial arts.This means that success or failure is dependent upon the student alone. The student learns how to be self-reliant, how to succeed through self-discipline.
In order for a student to achieve their goal of a trophy in competition or their next belt rank, the student most focus on what needs to be done and do it. When they achieve their goal they will know that they did it themselves and that they are capable of anything. They will know that they can be successful in any pursuit that they put their energy into. I think that this is the best reason for everyone to study martial arts.
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