Each year on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attack on our country, Pawel and the instructors at Krav Maga Detroit organize an event in tribute to those that were lost, to those that responded, to those that continue to respond and to those that serve every day. For our country, for our communities, for our families.
Each year, people come to share a few hours of their time, donate their hard-earned dollars to Operation Homefront and remember what happened.
This year I decided to take the time to make photographs instead of participating. It was difficult watching and making images and not being able to join in on the fun. But. It's something important. It's something that needs to be told. We still remember. We still honor those that sacrificed. We still believe in our country. All these things made evident by small moments. Glossy eyes. Quiet conversations taking place during movements:
"How long did you serve?"
"Thank you for your service."
Small tokens of gratitude echoed by a handful of people and a multitude of actions.
For more images, please visit this link.
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.
It's been a while since I've posted, so I figured I'd catch up. Included in this post : A zombie defense seminar (yes, seriously. Walking dead, one.), a couple images from the Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon and images from the State of Michigan Boys' and Girls' Cross-Country Championship (Walking dead, two.).
Now... Before you think and after you look at the following images, please consider something. It was absolutely inspiring to see these kids put everything they had into these races. They poured their hearts and bodies into every foot, every inch, of ground they covered for their season-ending race. I don't view these photos as heartbreak, though it may be, I view it as an achievement. To know that nothing was left over, to know that every bit of what these kids are was put on the line, was remarkable. Also, to see the fantastic sportsmanship that was displayed by so many of the runners was, plainly, incredible. To see teammates inspiring others, to see runners helping their opponents gather their feet again after completing the course... fantastic. I previously spoke with a high school photography class and I was asked how I deal with situations like this, I really had to think about many things. You feel like a vulture of sorts. You feel you're exploiting the emotions of the people you are photographing. You're in their personal space with a big, black machine at your face, clicking away. You get over it. In this case, for me, this wasn't a documentation of defeat but of triumph. I know, it's just high school sports, this isn't third-world suffering, however, it's still people at a vulnerable moment. Anyhow...
I also was sent on a "boring" assignment. I tend to absolutely love those assignments. Nick DiNunzio was trying to bring Halloween back to his neighborhood in Detroit. He was helping folks replace porch lights and get them treats to hand out to the kids. It was a success. I also found a little success from this story...