Sink or Swim

You never know how far you can go until you are in over your head. We used to go to the beach all the time and when you are wading out amongst the waves you realize when you have gone just a little too far. That happens in life. You need to sometimes push the edge to see what you are capable of and what you are not. If you fear failure, sorry to say, you will have much anxiety about it during your life.

During Search and Rescue School we had to tread water for long periods of time. We couldn’t be near the edge of the pool because the instructors would say, “there is no edge when you are in the middle of the ocean.” We would tread water for 10 minutes then make a lap around the pool and continue to tread water again. One Petty Officer Third Class was having a difficult time with the evolution. He made the mistake of saying, “I don’t think I can do this,” to the instructor on deck. That’s when another instructor in the water came up from behind and dragged him to the bottom of the pool. This was a simulation of a survivor grabbing on to us from behind where we would then need to use the techniques we were taught to escape. The Petty Officer Third Class blacked out and was rescued by the instructor.

We started our class with 104 people and only graduated 16. Those 88 found out where the edge was for them. Many would probably go back since the commands that sent them need swimmers to get underway. Many of them would not pass if they didn’t learn from their failures. When failure comes, you can do one of two things. You can carry them around on your back and let them weigh you down, or you can use them as steps to reach success. Either way life is going to be sink or swim.

To develop skills that will help you swim rather than sink, consider TaeKwonDo training. We have classes for all ages and abilities. To learn more or sign up, give us a call at 757-558-9869 or contact us.  

Three Foot World

Each and every day of our life we are all going to face challenges and life hurdles. They can range from your car not starting to great illness or anything in between. How you classify them will determine how your mind is going to go about tackling these challenges. Your level of success and happiness will be affected by your mindset.

They are just challenges and hurdles: things to get through. Life isn’t fair and if you see these things as a problem, then you have already sacrificed much of your power to overcome them. They are a part of life, and the sooner you realize that the sooner you can get to dealing with them and overcoming them.

When I was learning CQB (Close Quarter Battle) from a Navy SEAL, I was taught to “stay in your three-foot world.” What did that mean? That means control the space around you in a three-foot direction. Don’t worry what could or could not be in the rest of the building we are clearing. Take care of the room you are clearing at the time. 

Sailors that go to BUDs (Basic Underwater Demolition School) are taught to think about the evolution they are currently in and getting to the end of that. Hell Week is the most physically challenging week in BUDs. This is when the students train for five days and five nights straight with a maximum of four hours sleep total. If a student thinks about all the pain they will have to endure over the entire week, it overloads their mind and many of them will ring the bell and quit.

How can you use this “three-foot world” concept? Whenever you are faced with a challenge, frustrated or worried about something, or afraid of something, you focus solely on this three-foot world and nothing else. That means ignoring anything and everything that you can’t change or influence.

What to Focus On

When testing is coming up, some of my students have a tendency to worry about it. I ask them, what is all the worrying getting you? You are feeling miserable and that is not helping to achieve the goal of passing testing. Sometimes they will even make the situation worse, which results in not passing. It wasn’t because they were not physically capable, but the mind is a powerful thing, and they looked at the overall testing process instead of just looking at getting through one evolution at a time. The focus should be getting through the forms section of testing, then moving to the sparring section and lastly the board-breaking portion.

The only way in which you can overcome an obstacle, regardless of its size, is to focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do. This will empower you by dispelling most, if not all, of your fear, anxiety and frustration, while steering you toward a solution as quickly and effectively as possible.

Martial arts training is a great way to practice overcoming fears and challenges. If you are interested in joining a class, give us a call at 757-558-9869 or contact us today!

Violence of Action

What I learned from SEAL training was “Violence of Action” means the unrestricted use of speed, strength, surprise and aggression to achieve total dominance against your enemy. The way they win battles is they just overwhelm the enemy so they don’t want to be there anymore. If you don’t adopt this concept in your fighting mentality and truly and totally commit to violence of action you may not end up on top at the end of the encounter.

Don’t be afraid to hit first, and when you do, hit hard. If your verbal judo tells you this is your best and only option. Pull the trigger because you are in a battle! Your instincts, assessment and situational awareness have told you that you are in danger. You don’t know the other person’s intentions fully, and you never can. What you can do is survive – it is your right to not be killed or harmed by another person. As with most anything survival-related, fighting has its own set of priorities that need to be addressed at lightning speed. Here are the main steps.

1. Protect your face. Keep your hands up. A shot to the forearm is a lot better than one to the side of the head. There is a reason why this is first in survival because you can’t think if you are dazed by a barrage of punches.

2. Stay on your feet and keep moving. Two layers of protection are blocking/deflecting and moving. Both need to break down for you to get hit. Don’t put your feet close together. Maintain a good base in which to move in different directions.

3. Make your shots count. Hit hard but hit accurately. Power without accuracy is going to sap your energy. You won’t know how long this fight is going to last, so you better save a little in the tank.

4. Escape. My very first Master Chief told me that if I get in a bar fight, I better not get caught. The consequences will be undesirable. Don’t wait around. His friends might be just around the corner and what was once 1 vs 1 may now be 1 vs 3 or more.

Hit Accurately

Again, back to violence of action: Make every blow count and you could walk away; otherwise, you may be carried away. Punch, kick, elbow, gouge, bite, stab, rip, crush — you name it, you should do it, because this person is trying to take your life. The only rule in fighting is to live.

Vulnerable points exist all over the body, but remember that the greatest number of them exist from the collarbones up. Within this relatively small area of the neck you have:

• Two carotid arteries that feed blood to the brain.

• The windpipe, which is the airway for breathing.

• The spinal cord, which controls all motor skills for the body.

Your attacker may be three times your size, but if you take away even one of these functions, the fight is over. Even a 250-pound man made of solid muscle will stop fighting if he can’t breathe, which is why you must concentrate the full force of your attack on the face and neck area.


Make a fist and deliver a punch so you are ideally striking with the knuckles of the index and middle finger and punching through your target, as if you were trying to reach a place a few inches behind where you’re aiming. Then immediately return the hand to the defensive position by your face. You will increase the power of a punch by twisting your midsection in conjunction with the blow.

Jab: This is a punch thrown straight out, using your fist on your lead-leg side; it’s not the most powerful but is great for maintaining distance.

Cross: A punch straight in from opposite the lead leg — very powerful.

Hook: An outward arcing punch delivered by either fist — great for targeting the ear or jaw.

Uppercut: An upward arcing punch delivered by either fist — great for targeting the chin, and the best for lights-out!

Palm Strike

In addition to the above punches, your hands can also be very effective when clawing or jabbing with fingers, and an open palm strike can be devastating. The palm of the hand contains one of the densest bones in the body.

1. Open your palm and cock your arm back, just as you would for a jab punch.

2. Strike directly at the front of the nose and aim upward. A nose broken this way is much more painful than one that’s been hit from the side, and it will take the fight out of nearly anyone.


The rear chokehold method (a.k.a. the lion killer) is a compression grip applied to the throat to disrupt circulation (carotid arteries) and breathing (windpipe), which ultimately causes the person to lose consciousness.

1. It is best applied from behind the attacker by wrapping your left arm around the person’s throat, with his windpipe in the crook of your arm, and your bicep and forearm on each side of his neck. The positioning of your arm is the key to this technique, so remember, the deeper you can get his throat between your bicep and forearm, the better.

2. Keep your right arm behind his neck and grab your left shoulder.

3. Then with your left arm, reach to grab your right arm’s bicep, squeezing tightly, making a full lock, or chokehold.

An alternate method is called the front chokehold, which works when you are facing your attacker.

1. With your right hand, reach across and literally grab the opposite corner of his shirt collar, not the person. You will have greater control over your adversary this way.

2. With your left hand, reach and grip the attacker’s collar on the opposite side. This will make your crossed arms an X in front of his throat.

3. Grip as tight as you can while rotating your hands forcefully inward to achieve the chokehold. You are twisting the opposite shirt collars as if you were squeezing and wringing out a rag.

Fighting an Assailant who has a Gun or Knife

If your assailant has a weapon, then your choices in defense will change. Disarming a person with a gun is incredibly risky. It takes a second to pull the trigger, so the best option might be to comply and wait for an opportunity to attack. However, if you are close enough and the situation necessitates you attack, your goal would be to use maximum effort and attack the weapon with the full intention to deflect his aim. Trying to wrestle the weapon from his grip is less likely to work than pushing his hand away, be it up, to the side or downward.

At this point, you may get the opportunity to strike at vulnerable areas and disable the attacker enough to get off the “X.” If the person has a knife, again, keeping your distance is the goal. Use your shirt, coat or whatever you can find to deflect his thrusting arm, which then could provide an opportunity to use defensive tactics.


Although this is the last step, avoiding fights altogether needs to be your first priority. Get off the “X” and save your fighting techniques for the gym. But you might need to strike first and hard to have the chance to get away. Don’t stay engaged if you can escape. The moment you have an opening, take it and leave the scene, because fights can change instantly and drastically.

We hope these tips will be helpful if you, unfortunately, find yourself being attacked. To be more confident with these moves and more aware of the best ways to defend yourself, consider signing up for some of our classes. Give us a call at 757-558-9869 or contact us to learn more.

Be Careful What You Say

I’ve heard more times than I can count by multiple people expressions like this:

“I just speak my mind, if they don’t like it, oh well.”

“I’ll say what I want to say, and they can just get over it.”

“If you don’t like what I said, that’s your problem.”

I want to tell people to be careful with your words, once said, they can only be forgiven, not forgotten. How you make others feel about themselves with your words, says a lot about you.

Be Careful What You Say

Don’t say something permanently hurtful just because you’re temporarily upset. It only takes a few moments to hurt someone with our words, but it can take years to repair the damage. Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out; think how you would feel if they were said to you.

Don’t mix bad words with your bad mood. You’ll have many opportunities to change a mood, but no opportunity to replace the words you spoke. Speak only when you feel your words are better than your silence. You never know how long your words will stay with someone, long after you’ve forgotten them. Just because you’re free to say whatever you want doesn’t mean that you always should!

Lastly, tomorrow you’ll have to live with the things you said. Think before you speak!

At Virginia TaeKwonDo, we teach more than martial arts. We try to teach kids and adults how to be good citizens. To learn more about the classes we teach in Chesapeake, give us a call at 757-558-9869 or contact us.

Fear (Part 2)

In the previous blog, we discussed how fear is a natural human emotion in someone facing imminent danger. There are two instinctive reactions to fear: flight or fight. In this second blog on fear, we will dive deeper into our response to fear.


What is “flight adrenaline” and what does it do to us?

Flight adrenaline (norepinephrine) is a hormone that’s secreted by the adrenal gland when a human being – or virtually any animal, but specifically mammals – anticipates danger. Flight adrenaline greatly increases our awareness and alertness. 

In addition to making us considerably more alert and sensitive to our immediate surroundings, it also increases our peripheral awareness. To put it simply, it opens up our senses to detect danger. It allows – or actually forces us – to tune in to danger and/or the possibility of danger.

Flight adrenaline fine tunes our receptive and responsive abilities. It especially increases our desire and our ability to avoid danger because there is normally less risk in avoiding danger than in confronting it.

There’s an old Zen parable that best illustrates the distinction between these two reflexes:

A Zen master out for a walk with one of his students pointed out a fox chasing a rabbit.

“According to an ancient fable,” the master said, “the rabbit will get away from the fox.”

“Not so,” replied the student. “The fox is faster.”

“But the rabbit will elude him,” insisted the master.

“Why are you so certain?” asked the student.

“Because,” answered the master, “the fox is running for his dinner and the rabbit is running for his life.”

What responses does flight adrenaline cause in humans? 

Flight adrenaline (norepinephrine) signals us to be ready to run. It also enables us to run earlier and much faster than normal. That’s because, again, we are much better off to avoid danger than to confront it. In other words, it’s better to flee than to fight. Whether you believe it or not, we can actually run much faster when afraid.

What is “fight adrenaline” and how does it affect us? 

Fight adrenaline (epinephrine) is an adjacent hormone also secreted by the medulla section of the adrenal gland. Epinephrine, however, works in many ways almost entirely opposite of flight adrenaline. It decreases our peripheral senses and actually focuses, or tunnels, our perceptions and responses.

Fight adrenaline not only triggers our emergency senses but also our emergency reflexes to aid us whenever we cannot, do not or will not avoid danger. It makes us quicker and stronger, assets that we sorely need to confront and meet danger. In addition, fight adrenaline greatly increases our pain threshold anywhere from mild to superhuman, just as it can our strength. It also increases our dysfunctional override capacity: the ability to resist and even aggress after incurring physical damage. It can allow us to function despite a dislocated joint, broken bones, etc.; after the breath has been knocked out of us; or even when we have been knocked almost unconscious!

How can you best describe the differences between flight and fight adrenaline? 

Here’s the best analogy. Flight adrenaline is what rabbits have 99.99% of the time. Fight adrenaline is what grizzly bears are imbued with 99.99% of the time. Only the rarest of rabbits, in the rarest of instances, will fight. Even in the most extreme cases – when cornered and being eaten alive – rabbits will simply acquiesce into shock or continue their attempt to escape.

The grizzly rarely thinks of avoiding danger, much less running from it. Grizzlies have been filmed attacking automobiles! They normally only run to catch and/or attack a meal but very rarely to escape. When they do run to escape, it’s only from conditioned reflexes such as to run from men with dogs and rifles, but quite often, not even then.

Each human being also has a certain proportional amount of rabbit and grizzly reflexes, obviously in vastly different degrees per individual. The proportion depends completely upon a person’s inherited genetic DNA dispersal. If your natural tendency is more toward a flight response, you can train yourself to be more of a fighter. Sometimes flight is better depending on the scenario, but with martial arts training, you can learn to fight when necessary as well.

To learn more about TaeKwonDo, Jiu-Jitsu and other martial arts training that we teach in Chesapeake, give us a call at 757-558-9869 or contact us.