A forewarning : This post is going to have a lot of images and a lot of words.
Yesterday I made it in time to make some images of the Level III test at Krav Maga Detroit. After having a discussion with Frank over dinner about the training we get at KMD versus many other places, we realized that we are very fortunate. We don't train in a manner that only allows us to operate when we are in peak condition. We don't train in a manner that can only be used when we are fresh. We train so that when we are fatigued, when our minds start to fail us, when that little voice creeps in our head and says "quit," we keep going. We utilize a system that has fail-safes built-in. We utilize a system that teaches us to fight until we are unable to. This training was apparent during this test. Five hours of exercises developed to create fatigue. Five hours of mental stress. Five hours demonstrating what you're made of. Five men that transcended the rigors of the test and leveled up.
Today also marks one year of training for me at KMD.
Last year around this time I had a followup doctor's appointment. I had experienced debilitating migraines the previous summer. They started with optical auras. My periphery would start to shimmer, flex, bend, get blurry. I'd get tunnel vision. After the aura, the migraine would set in. My auras got more and more intense as time went on. They led to loss of coordination, slurred speech, lock-jaw, dizziness, word disassociation. I was in and out of the hospital for a month dealing with what seemed to be strokes. It was scary as hell. Not being able to control your body, your speech. Knowing what you want to say and not being able to connect the word in your mind to the muscles in your body to make the sound. I was put on Depakote which would help ease the migraines. My checkup was to make sure my system was okay without it.
I got on the scale. It rang up 281. I was broken.
I had researched Krav Maga years before. I wasn't looking for anything that would focus inward like a lot of Eastern Martial Arts do. I wasn't looking for focusing my chi. I wasn't looking for inner peace. I wanted something brutal. Something angry. Something functional. Some place I could go and blow off steam and learn to cause hurt. Where I could learn to defend myself in the event that I found myself in an unsavory position.
Surprisingly, I found all of that. More. I've found that through the practice of violence I've become more peaceful. More assertive. The small things bother me less. I've found that no matter what my mind tells me, I don't ever want to quit. There is no problem that doesn't have a solution. My mind controls my body and I can push through anything if I get my mind right. I've become more confident. More confident in myself and everything that I do.
With all of this change, something else has changed in my life. I've gained family. I've gained an astounding group of people in my life that inspire, guide, listen, encourage and lift me up. The progress that I've experienced in the past year would not have been possible without that. I've learned that if you surround yourself with those that are strong, you become strong. With them. Along side of them. When you put yourself aside and truly love those next to you, your life improves exponentially.
Mostly, the thing that I've gotten from this. The thing that I never would've thought of...
I got love.
My heart is fucking full.
This room is full of dangerous people. Dangerous people trained to cause harm with no hesitation. Dangerous people that I'm coming to call family.
I have a confession... My entire life I've struggled with social situations. I'm an introvert. Just the way it is. When it comes to large groups of people, I don't fare so well. I get anxious. I get the urge to leave. I get the feeling that I've gotta' escape. Walking into this room with all of these people put me at ease. People that I have sweat with. People that I have shared pain with. People that have pushed me, motivated me and taught me.
I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday season and I consider your friendship such an incredible gift.
Disclaimer : If you're reading this and you were there and you're not in an image... Well... Too bad. I was either having awesome conversation with you or some tomfoolery was distracting me.
I'm going to preface this post with the following words : There will be only one photo in this post and I didn't take it. I'm not nearly as good cultivating and arranging words as I am photographs, so please bear with me.
0600 comes pretty abruptly when you're accustomed to an 0800 wakeup call. It's cold. It's snowing. It's blustering. It's one of those days when you'd just love to lay in the comfort of your warm bed. You have an idea what the day has in store for you but the cold cuts through you more than you had imagined. The heated seats in the car have since stopped warming and the coffee has turned cold. You're sure the doors on your car and house are locked, the windows closed, the heat at the appropriate temperature. You find yourself in what is to be a place of regeneration, strength and encouragement surrounded by mounds of clothing and like-minded people willing to leave the comforts of their lives for a few hours to help make a difference. You find yourself with a few that you call family. That you're proud to call family. That you're honored to call family.
Outside, the cold comes quickly. Briskly. Abruptly. Enveloping your body with its icy fingers. You're prepared. You've got your layers, your boots, your hydration and snacks. You've got a group of people with you. You're not alone. In your hands are jackets, hats, gloves, scarves, hand warmers.
A blue and silver rain fly on a poorly designed tent is flailing in the wind and snow. A voice, barely audible, comes out from the tent with thanks for the items left. It's too cold to come outside. There are strange voices and it may be dangerous. It will be investigated later.
An overpass looms above, providing shelter from the elements. The monochromatic landscape dims just a bit, maintaining it's lack of color as you approach. Others sling their legs over a barricade, carrying bags of cold-weather clothing. As they call out and wait, no one comes to the opening in the roll-top door but they're there. You follow suit, swinging your legs over that barricade and unload what you've been carrying in your arms. You're doing what you came out to do.
The jacket that I was carrying had been hanging in my closet for two and a half years. My brother would wear it to the race track. He loved it. He loved the silly circular patch with the yellow chicken holding a checkered flag in its beak. Moreso, he would've loved to have seen it on the back of a veteran who really needed it.
A freighter seemingly floated in the mist along the Detroit river as minute crystals of snow seared our faces. Old Glory snapped and cracked as it led us into the wind and around Detroit. People passing by honked their horns and asked what we were doing. Why we were doing it.
What we were doing was this : Roger organized a 10 mile, silent ruck through Detroit in honor of those that have served this country and are homeless. Not only was it to draw attention and be seen but it was also to take direct action. It was to make a difference in the life of someone today. Not tomorrow. Not through an agency. Not through a corporation or business. From our hands to theirs.
The cold was bearable for us. The folks that we were aiming to help struggle against it day in, day out. They don't have heated seats, expensive coffee, climate control or doors to lock. They don't have moisture-controlled base layers or waterproof boots. Warming up afterward with a big meal isn't an option for them. They live every day doing what we did for a few hours, much less prepared than we. It was a small gesture on the grand scheme. It wasn't about us. It was about guys like John who wander the streets of Detroit in search of warmth on frigid days like today. Folks who could really benefit from something as simple as a decent pair of gloves.
I'm so thankful that I have the ability to go do things like this. I'm thankful that I'm physically able to. I'm thankful that I am able to take some funds and purchase items to donate and that I've had the fortune of owning items I no longer need that can be passed on. Something else that I'm incredibly thankful for, that is still very new to me, is having a family to do it with.
It is such an honor to stand beside these men and women. They inspire me, guide me and encourage me. Bring the cold. Bring the wind. Bring the storm. Bring what you may. With a family like this, there is nothing that isn't possible.
Thank you. For your acceptance. For your welcoming attitudes. For being my family.
This last week has had a bit of Good Livin'. Krav Maga Detroit held their annual 9/11 Memorial Fundraiser, benefitting Operation HomeFront on Wednesday evening. Slightly inspired by the GRC, what service men and women have to do during training and interspersed with Krav Maga techniques, the fundraiser was an absolute blast. Three hours of Good Livin'. Driving rain and hail, low-crawls through sand, obstacles, defenses, drills... If only I'd been able to photograph all of it. I was too busy having fun.
Saturday night I met up with Pawel from KMD and we shadowed GRC 771 through the darkness and into the light. Watching this group of people - nay, team - persevere through obstacles, self-doubt and the constant weight and watchful eye of the cadre was inspiring. It excited me and motivated me to keep moving with them. To squish through a few miles with wet boots. It made me glad that I'm registered for April. I'm excited to share that experience with friends and those who will soon become friends.
In the spirit of moving forward, this is the beginning of my new website and new blog. A fitting post. Tomorrow... Perhaps there will be a little of the cadre.