You Can’t Teach Heart…. Right?

There’s a common saying in combat sports (and other high risk endeavors) that goes, “You Can’t Teach Heart”. As in, either you’re born with the gameness to fight, to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, run into the burning building, and continue to fight in the face of adversity and possible injury… or you’re not.

This phrase has one of two effects on the observer. One, the person gets fired up and feels they’re part of a special class who is willing to fight with heart and overcome adversity. Two, a person who sees someone exhibit great Heart and can’t fathom themselves ever being able to keep up and they subsequently never start.

I would like to propose that ‘Heart’ is a skill like any other that can be built through years of dedicated work, working towards a meaningful goal, a willingness to be uncomfortable in the pursuit of that goal, and the discipline to keep showing up. I will agree that there are people who seem to be naturally fearless and talented at maintaining a winner’s outlook. There are those who were born with the attributes that allow them to excel quickly. I’m not writing this for them. Those of us who question if we have what it takes are not lost. There is hope for us and ample room for growth.

My path to cultivating Heart has been through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. So I’ll be talking about heart through that lens. Why BJJ? Because improving at Jiu Jitsu requires:

  • Discipline to keep showing up.
  • Repeated and Demoralizing defeats (Ego calibration)
  • Collecting and assimilating techniques (motor learning)
  • Discovering your personal strengths and many weaknesses (self-reflection)
  • Developing your athleticism (multidisciplinary pursuit)
  • Mental toughness (Heart)

There’s lots of ways to show Heart in BJJ. Lots of ways to stretch what you can tolerate and develop grit. I’ve been at it almost 8 years,  my BJJ honeymoon has been over for a while, so I feel I can speak about this a bit objectively and with enough experience to be useful.

Cultivate Heart

If there is a genetic component to heart, I feel like I probably was given a minimal share. I am full of fear, low confidence, self-doubt, and generally don’t care for competition. I’d rather go with the flow and fly under the radar. I’m the kind of person who you probably wouldn’t expect to love a combat sport. Here are my observations for what it takes to improve your Heart. To turn from an easy-quitter to someone who is likely to see it through.

  • Maintain an internal focus. Try to learn to be completely present and to understand and accept yourself. Make it less about winning, and more about improving yourself an incremental amount day to day. Strive to say, “If I had to fight last week’s version of me, I’d win”.
  • Keep showing up. Even if you feel the majority of your workouts are placeholder workouts, just keep going. Suppress the negative self talk and say to that voice, “you shut-up until we get this work in” and just go. If you are resolved to your ultimate goals, you’ll be able to see past bad workouts and demoralizing defeats. It seems heart is developed at the edge of your willingness to continue being uncomfortable. At your quitting line. So the more time you spend with opportunities to suffer, the quicker you will develop heart.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be the biggest fish in the pond. If you’re no longer challenged, you need to expand your group of training partners or your goals to continue your personal growth. Luckily this has never been an issue for me, but I can see it in others.
  • Maintain a growth mindset. If you come to view shortcomings as obstacles to overcome, rather than excuses to quit, you will continue down the correct path. If you believe that Heart is a skill to build, and you work at it, you will find you are able to do things that take more Heart than you thought you had.
  • Understand that having Heart ultimately is about Love. Love of the game, love of your people, love of the journey. You might start your martial arts journey because you’re fearful or angry, but if you don’t grow to love the journey itself, you’ll burn out. The people who are dominant through anger or hatred eventually get beaten and crumble mentally. If you’re coming from a place of love, even failure is motivating. Be love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t think of many higher pursuits than self-improvement and self-understanding. I will continue on this path as long as my body and mind lets me. I hope you got something useful from this one.

 

If you want to read more on this topic, check out A Fighters Heart.
Regards,

Mark

Better Health Through Genetic Analysis

If you know me, it should be no secret that studying health and longevity is a passion of mine. I spend most of my free time researching how I can optimize my health and performance and maximize my time on this planet. If there’s a bit of control that I can exercise on my health, I want to pull those levers.

In an effort to look deeper at myself and optimize my health, I recently bought myself a 23andMe Ancestry and Genetics saliva test kit. I spit into the vial, sent it off, and waited. About 4 weeks later, I received my data. I then uploaded into a third party analysis software (foundmyfitness.com) which shows the DNA sequence, what it represents, and any health risks or advice that can mitigate any risk factors. It’s fascinating and filled with actionable advice for ME to use to optimize my health.

A welcome bonus was my genetic report confirming details that I’ve discovered via trial and error and extensive reading. This gives a road map and way forward to continue to increase my health. Plus it’s fun to know your heritage and some genetic components to your lifestyle choices.

A page of information from my 23andme health data

My Data

It’s not very useful for you to see my data, other than to convince you that you should get this testing done for yourself. Here’s some of my report, and what I’ll do to hedge my bets. The following reports are from FoundMyFitness. I also ran mine on Promethease.com and the data is presented differently. I think FMF is better for actionable health advice.

Well, my DNA is right. I’m a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor. I have been implementing fasting into my life for years, and will continue to do so. I will be adding resveratrol supplementation.
My vitamin D status is always historically low. I supplement about 5,000 IU daily and will continue to.
This is interesting to me. I usually skip breakfast and lunch, and eat a dinner. I will start eating my first meal early in the day, and stop eating at about 2pm.
It’s important for me to eat my eggs for choline.
I supplement fish oil daily, and will continue to do so. I’m glad I’m not a vegan.
I should concentrate more on nuts and fish and eating leaner cuts of beef. The study seems to be mostly concerned with the ratio of saturated to polyunsaturated, so my fish oil supplementation will help cover me too.

With some simple lifestyle tweaks, I’m eating and living more in-line with what my genetics demands of me. It’s also interesting to note that my heritage is mostly European, and nearly all of the diet recommendations involved eating more fish. It’s almost like I am tuned to thrive on the foods of my people. Bizarre, right?

How Do you get your test kit and report?

There might be some enlightening and scary information in your results. It’s up to you if you want to have a look inside your DNA for clues on optimizing yourself.

  1. Buy a kit from Amazon, or buy directly from 23andme. Occasionally there are price breaks, and it might be worth checking in from time to time.
  2. Run your raw data through a DNA health analyzer like FoundMyFitness or  Promethease for a small fee (~$10).

I hope you found this useful.

Mark

 

AAR: Point Driven Training – Saps and Jacks 2018

This was an eight hour course on the history, and contextual implementation of short impact weapons. It was hosted at The Complete Combatant in Marietta, Ga. This course was magical in several ways and is a must take if you really dig leather and lead self-defense tools. I loved it because it deals with an arcane, but extremely effective, self defense implement. Larry Lindenman is a friend and mentor to me, and I’ve been reading and training with him since 2008 or so. It also was full of great trainers and practitioners, including Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training, who I also consider a dear friend. It was a hell of a Saturday. Here’s a breakdown.

What is a Sap,Blackjack, or slungshot?

I’m not a historian on these tools, but I can give you a quick rundown on their construction. Here’s a recently published book on the history of these tools and their use if you’re interested in that. They were first documented in the 1700’s as a sailor’s tool made of pigskin and stuffed with sand used for some sort of impact duty on a ship. I guess they also realized you could get in a drunken brawl with them and they would work well as an impact weapon. They were flattened out and became saps in the 1940’s. They evolved,were perfected, and used to good effect up through the 1980’s when they fell out of favor.

Unlike a knife, which deals no ballistic impact, a sap can deal a real immediate physiological stop. They also don’t cause someone to bleed their loathsome blood-borne pathogens all over you when used in a fight (H/T The Tactical Professor for that point)

Sap

A sap is a flattened lead weight wrapped in leather, often with a strap for retention. The sap is easily carried next to the wallet in the back pocket, with enough material outside the pocket to acquire a grip and access. It has the advantage of two impact surfaces. You can choose to hit with the flat, or the edge, giving options in severity of damage depending on targeting. Saps are my preference.

Jack

A blackjack is a cylindrical impact tool, usually with a spring running through the grip, and a lead weight cast onto the head, all wrapped up in leather. They’re harder to carry daily, but their sprung weight makes them extremely potent when striking.

slungshot

A slungshot is some sort of weight, with a rope-like handle. Think a handkerchief tied around the hasp of a padlock. You choke your grip right up next to the weight, and swing it like that. Otherwise it bounces all over the place and can smash your face after you strike.

The Contextualized Self-Defense Approach

I’m not ruining any of the magic of working with Larry (or any Shivworks instructor) because the magic isn’t in the information, but in doing the work. You’ll quickly notice themes in any Shivworks instructor’s material. This is by design, and for simplicity. A clear path, with simple rules and goals, yields a high retention and success rate. That’s the elegance of the model these guys use.

The instruction progresses in a logical manner, with each following phase resulting from some failure of the previous phase. The coursework progresses from the managing unknowns phase which includes verbalization, movement, and the use of the fence hand posture.

The “fence” position, as taught by Geoff Thompson

It then moves to a default cover position which is a non-diagnostic ‘helmet’ that helps you stay upright and conscious as a surprise attack is launched on you.

Here, Craig Douglas demonstrates the default cover position against Cecil Burch of Immediate Action Combatives during the Rangemaster Tactical Conference. Photo Credit: Cecil Burch

Then comes the grappling phase, where some simple modifications to proven sport grappling techniques address the possibility of your opponent having his own weapons.  The goal is to get behind or tie up your opponent long enough to decide what to do next.

For this course, it was to access an impact tool and begin striking. It could also be accessing a pistol, a knife, or a throw to hit your opponent with the earth. The path is the same, no matter the tool you’re carrying. This is the power of this ‘system’ if you want to call it that.

After this worst-case scenario of having to access the tool in the fight, we worked on preemptive access, which is a whole lot easier.

Where and How to Strike?

While these are considered “less-lethal tools”, it’s really easy to deal a deadly blow with one, so some training is needed. The temple, base of skull, and possibility of a knock-out and secondary impact with the head bouncing off the pavement could certainly be deadly. We learned how to generate power through our hips and deliver blows in short arcs. The space needed to implement the tools is different than a blade or gun, so we worked those skills.

We concentrated on targeting large muscle groups, joints, clavicle, ribs, arms, thighs. We learned both broken strikes (think a piston pumping), and carry-through strikes (think slashes that set up strikes in the opposite direction).

Training Drones for practice

My New Foster Brother’s Sap

The Foster Brothers are the gold standard for leather saps and jacks today. I took a picture of one of Larry’s saps, and asked Todd to make one for me. It arrived yesterday and I’m very pleased. I don’t know what model sap it is, I’m glad I took a photo to send with my request. FOSTER IMPACT DEVICES

Tidbits

  • Don’t waste your money on a ‘coin purse’ sap. Everyone (TSA, cops, etc) knows what it is, and coins aren’t really dense enough to add meaningful weight for your strikes.
  • Why not brass-knuckles? Simply put, access. A blackjack can be accessed in-fight like a fixed blade knife and be put right into action. Knucks require you to put 4 fingers in 4 finger sized holes. Knucks are more of a pre-meditated and preemptive impact tool.
  • It’s legal for GA residents to carry an impact weapon, you should check for your state before you buy/make your own.
  • Quick and Dirty history of jacks and saps
  • The LAMB method full text document HERE
Great Success!
Me, Larry Lindenman, Greg Ellifritz


Craft Holsters Review and Holster Thoughts

I was sent this holster free of charge with the intent to review it honestly. I'm happy to check out your gear. Just don't be surprised if I let people know the good AND the bad.

A company called Craft Holsters contacted me about testing one of their holsters a few months ago. They boast 250 different holster options! I think what they do is have many holster makers under their banner. The holster I received even has another company etched into it. The Rep was kind enough to give me free choice of any holster on their website (including with monograms! ). I scoured the site and was having trouble finding anything that looked like it fit my criteria. I talked with their rep, telling them how several of their holsters seemed pretty close to sufficient, but all were lacking one or several requirements I had. I even wrote a list detailing what could be fixed about their holsters to make them useful for people who actually carry their guns.

I looked through their catalog with the hopes to find a leather 0-degree cant holster for my Beretta 92A1 that would work for appendix carry. I found one they make that most closely fit the bill. I mentioned to them that I wouldn’t buy this holster, but if they wanted me to choose one, this was it. I have been struggling with, I mean *using*, their holster all summer and here’s my thoughts.

My “Ideal Holster” Criteria

  • Must allow full firing grip (FFG) in holster
  • Must cover trigger guard and not allow trigger press through body of holster
  • Must allow one handed holstering (mouth of holster must not collapse under belt pressure)
  • Must retain pistol sufficiently for my needs. (if I can do some handstands without the gun falling out, I’m happy)
  • Sufficient comfort and concealment for my needs

The Good

  • Leather is more comfortable than kydex. So the material was a good choice. It’s also pretty, for what that’s worth.
  • Tuckable leather belt loop allowed the gun to move with my body. This increased comfort but made concealment poor.
  • Retained gun well. I was doing handstands, cartwheels, and chasing my son around parks all summer and the gun stayed put.
  • Reasonably good ride height. FFG was no problem.
  • Holster covers trigger, albeit “lazily”. A small flap of leather hovers over the opening, leaving the space behind the trigger open. Given time, sweat, and use, I fear it might create an unsafe condition. Like this guy’s leather rig.

The Bad

  • Uses a standard snap on the belt loop. There is no excuse for a holster maker NOT to use a pull-the-dot style directional snap. The ability to unsnap the holster as you’re clearing your cover garment is an immediate no-go. They need to fix this. I was accidentally unsnapping it during the draw in dry- and live-fire.
  • Poor concealment. I understand I’m spoiled with excellent concealment holsters, but the floppy leather belt loop allows the butt of the pistol to stick out from my body more than I’m comfortable with. The leather loop itself is quite thick also. I believe they could fix this with a hardware adjustment and perhaps integrating something like a Tuck-Strut into their design.
  • The mouth of the holster is single-ply, and consequently collapses when the gun is removed. This will only get worse with wear. At minimum they need a second ply of leather, but more ideally they need to sew in a steel or kydex band that will add structure to the mouth of the holster to allow one handed holstering. When a holster collapses, it requires you to use the muzzle to try to finesse the holster open, which often puts the muzzle in an unsafe direction as you rock it back and forth.

Conclusion

What does a good holster look like? Here’s an example of the Excellent JM Custom Kydex AIWB 2.5 holster.

I gave the Craft Holsters rig a fair shake this summer. I wore it daily and on a couple long road trips. I wouldn’t recommend it in its current configuration. I think it could be reworked into something useful, but it would increase the cost and complexity. In a world of uninformed gun owners, and being able to mass market easily to them, I don’t think most companies would be interested in improving their designs for people who actually carry a gun every day. To be fair, I haven’t given any feedback to Craft Holsters, so I’m not sure what they’d do. My guess is they’ll say ‘thanks for your time’ and go to the next thirsty blogger who wants free shit. I’ll update this post if they surprise me.

There are trade-offs in holster design. There is some sort of Speed, Comfort, Concealment, Safety, Robustness interaction chart that I haven’t worked out. But everything is a compromise.

This, kids, is how I remove myself from the list of blog gear reviewers that companies try to use to get exposure. I’m making myself irrelevant one review at a time! I’m sorry for my lack of posts, it’s been a busy summer being Daddy Day Care. I’ll be writing more in the coming months.

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