Sunday, December 19, 2010

An open letter to the Ostriches

On Saturday we had a great class.  The day before, the tactical knives I ordered finally arrived (that story is a whole another blog in itself, but stay tuned for a product review of the CRKT Hissatsu).  I wanted to rig the hissatsu sheath onto my SWAT vest and work with the training knife before I presented the edged weapon training to the team.  In order to do this I had to stop by the police department and pick up my gear on the way to the Dojo.  At the police department one of the guys asked what I was doing there.  I explained the training I developed for that day.  He asked to see the knife.  This officer started touching the blade with his grubby fingers. (A big no no if you know anything about handling swords).  I warned him that the blade is very sharp and that I don’t want the oils from his fingers on the blade as that could cause imperfections.  A state trooper overheard the conversation and found it hard to imagine that I was training on a day off with edged weapons.  She asked me if I was obsessed with death.
 Remember that scene in “The Terminator” when someone knocks on his hotel room door?  Through the Terminators eyes you see a pop up screen of all the possible responses.  He scrolls down through them and chooses “Fuck you asshole”. 
Well, when this trooper asked me that question in a way that implied that anyone who would train without getting paid for it, or train in close quarters combat must have a mental disorder and be obsessed with death I had several responses pop up in my brain.  I scrolled down to;
Save your breath she doesn’t speak your language anyways. 

You see that trooper doesn’t speak professional, or warrior.  She speaks ostrich.

In case you failed 8th grade biology an Ostrich is a large flightless bird famous for burying its head in the sand as a “survival mechanism”.  Ostriches say things like, “That will never happen here.”  “That will never happen to me”.  “I’m special”  “My 8 hours of PPCT training a year, and once a year firearms qualification will assure that I prevail."  "The bare minimum training will overcome the fact the I’m a 5’ 03” over weight out of shape female in a violent confrontation with a criminal.”  

Ostriches believe that if they can’t see violence or death, then violence and death can’t see them.  They tend to gloss over facts like more law enforcement officers were assassinated, not just died in service but were murdered in 2010 than in any other year in recent history.
Rory Miller writes about the Lizard brain.  The lizard brain believes in myth and ritual.  If burying your head in the sand so death can’t see you has prevented you from dying your lizard brain becomes convinced that burying your head in the sand is powerful magic that keeps death away.  It is very hard to change the lizard’s mind.  The lizard has been 100% successful with this technique throughout its life.  God help the little lizard that lives in the Ostrich’s brain when it finds out the hard way that death can see your ass hanging in the air while your head is buried in the sand.
Ostriches are mediocre at best.  They meet the minimum standards so as not to get fired.  But they do have their pride.  So as to not see themselves as mediocre they have to view anyone who strives for exceptionalism  as crazy, or obsessed with death.
"Out of every 100 men, 10 should not be there, 80 are nothing but targets, and 9 are the real fighters and we are blessed to have them, for they the battle make. Ah, but one, ONE of them is a warrior, and he will bring the others home." -Heraclitus 500BC.

Ostriches in warrior professions seek out positions where the reality of death and violence are the least likely to bite them on the ass.  Thus, proving to their lizard brain that the magic of head burying still works.  You’ll see a lot of Ostriches in administration or day shifts making as little contact with public as possible.
So does Trooper Ostrich have a point?  I’m pissed that she thinks I’m obsessed with death then in the next sentence I write how my brain reacts in a similar fashion to a fictional killing machine J
So am I obsessed with death?
·         I have chosen a profession where I may be called upon to kill.
·         I train hard to be exceptional in the means of killing should the need arise.

“I’m the best there is at what I do.  Sometimes what I do isn’t very nice”
 – James (Logan) Howlett  AKA Wolverine

Ok, so I’m very good at not being very nice, does that make me obsessed with death?  It might. 

However, if anything I’d say I’m “obsessed” with life.

The Yagyu Shinkage Ryu (Yagyu family new shadow style - sexy right?) forms the basis of Aiki Kenjutsu and the “sacred geometry” I’ve blogged about before.

Fundamental motions that have stood the test of time and are the foundation for everything I teach
The Yagyu were the Tokugawa shoguns’ personal instructors in swordsmanship. Arguably the best sword fighters (see also close quarter combat specialists) of their time. 
The motto of these masters was; Katsujinken Satsujinken
“The sword which kills is the sword which gives life.”
Or  more explicitly translated  in English as “The sword which cuts down evil is the sword which preserves life.”
So yes I may be obsessed with death.  But my obsession keeps my killing sword sharp and free of imperfections so that it can be used to give life.
So to all the Ostriches (10 / 100 that shouldn’t be in the profession and the 80 / 100 that are just targets / victims) I write this:
At 0500 you can be snug in your warm bed because the warrior the, 1 / 100, the 1%er will be up training on his / her own time.  You can work the day shifts avoiding interaction with the public (God forbid you come across a criminal) the 1 % will be working nights weekends, holidays and special assignments.  The 1 %er would prefer you to stay out of the way anyway.  Then on that day when your head is buried in the sand and the wolf is sneaking up to bite you on the ass  the 1%er will be there to tear it’s head off and bring you and the other 99% back home.  The 1%er may not talk to you.  Not because the 1%er thinks he / she is better than you (They know they are better than you) but because you don’t speak the same language.  As strange as the 1%er seems to you, you seem even stranger to him.  A 1%er simply can’t understand how anyone would not strive to be the best there is at what they do.  Much less anyone who has chosen a profession where their life, the life of their coworkers, and the lives of the people they have sworn to protect depends on your skill (on your obsession with death)  1%ers are elite but not elitist.  They don’t talk to you because you simply won’t understand what they have to say.  If you want to start a conversation with one, maybe start with thank you.
If instead of thank you, you try to justify your own mediocrity by demeaning the 1%.  If you ever dare criticize the 1% to make your weakness seem normal and the 1% freaks obsessed with death I’d remind you of the words of President Theodor Roosevelt
It’s not the critic that counts.  It’s not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.  Whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.  Who strives valiantly.  Who errors , who comes up short again and again.  Who in the end knows the triumph of high achievement and at worst, if he fails at least he fails while daring greatly so his place will never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither defeat or victory.
Your welcome,


Train Hard – Train Real – Be Safe

"Hasta la vista - Baby"


  1. She completely missed the fact that you are not obsessed with death , you are just not afraid of it. Huge difference. Fear is what makes ostriches bury their heads in the sand. Competence and confidence makes you face it and defeat it.

    Oh and by the way... thanks for being the 1%er.

  2. Along the same lines, I've also seen this effect in the general civilian context of attitudes to martial artists from some of those who don't practice them (not all, by any means).

    And, in some cases, I've even come across this within the MA community itself - from a few practitioners of the more...esoteric arts directed at those who engage in the non-compliant, close-quarter, contact types.

    Violence makes these kinds of people *really* uncomfortable - so, by extension, anyone who is willing to use violence as a tool to achieve a goal (the "good guys" included) is to be shunned. This applies even if that goal is moral in nature; e.g. the protection of others, as you do. In their minds, all violence is bad, even when used for good ends - so this creates a psychological conflict/cognitive dissonance.

    The other reason, as you point out, is that peopel who strive make those who don't uncomfortable. As Geoff Thompson says, "there is no growth in comfort" - but Ostriches would much rather believe otherwise...

    "Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit."
    - Aristotle

  3. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Years to you and your family.

  4. Dear Kasey, I like your blog, good thoughts and good philosophy, you would fit in well here in Japan. I have my own Dojo here in Tokyo and have been teaching for over 30 years now. I love the Bushi way of life!!!! I go to Kyushu once per year to do homage at the grave of Miyamoto Musashi, enough said! I have the same quote as you put here from Roosevelt on my FaceBook page... Gudni Gudnason. PEACE