Manchester Arena Attack

US-UK-blendOur thoughts and prayers go out to our friends and allies across the pond in the U.K. America needs to stand with Great Britain and all nations that are faced with the common enemy … radical Islamic terrorism.

This cowardly attack just goes to show again how vigilant we must remain in our fight against radical Islamic terrorism.  While all Muslims are certainly not terrorists, the terrorists who are currently bombing, running down, and otherwise killing Christians, Jews, and yes, other Muslims, around the globe are … radical Islamic terrorists. Whether they call themselves ISIS, al Qaeda, Hamas, or Boco Haram, they are the same … an evil plague on the world.  Often, they are financed and supported by Iran.  One cannot help but wonder if part of the $147 billion in cash given to Iran by the Obama administration purchased the nuts, bolts and nails used in this latest suicide bombers vest.

Targeting children is something the civilized world abhors.  But, for the radical Islamic terrorist it is just another tool of his trade.  It is proof of just how evil these animals are. It is also yet another example of why the U.S. cannot afford to have “open borders,” especially with countries consumed by this hateful radical ideology … and why the policies of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and others of the progressive left are a real danger to our nation.

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The Road Less Traveled

IMG_0832Today would have been Sensei Sherman Harrill’s 76th birthday.  I sometimes wonder how many folks truly realize just how unique a gift he left us with when he finally lost his battle with cancer in 2002.

On May 6th, Eddie Satterfield hosted Sensei John Kerker for the annual seminar in Maynardville, Tennessee. This seminar, in a loose way, carries on a Tennessee tradition started by me when I brought Sensei Harrill to Clinton, Tennessee in 1996.  We held that seminar the 3rd weekend in March each year up until Sensei died. (This did keep me in hot water with my family because often the seminar date fell on my daughter’s birthday. I guess I should have thought that through a little more.)

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Darren Gilbert and Sensei Sherman Harrill

Those seminars (as well as others I traveled to held in places like Champaign, Illinois … Carson, Iowa … Chicago, Illinois … Pontiac, Michigan) had a profound influence on me. When Sensei passed away in 2002, I think we went perhaps a year without a seminar. Then we started bringing in his senior student, John Kerker, to continue the seminar series.

Sensei Harrill had left his dojo and everything that entailed to John.  As is often the case, several “instructors” tried to move in and usurp that role … claiming that, since they had higher rank, or their own organizations, or special friendships with Sensei Harrill, etc., John should join their “group” under them.   But, what they did not have was the actual skill, knowledge or character to fill those shoes. They did not have the many years John spent in that dojo. Many of them just liked to hang around and have their photos taken with Sensei. John stepped up and assumed the task left to him by Sensei Harrill, and while those were very big shoes to fill, fill them he did.

Sensei Kerker has done a great job. When John took over doing the seminars for us, maybe in 2004, he might not have been quite at the same skill level as Sensei Sherman Harrill, but I think he was actually a better teacher. Sensei Harrill was not much on explaining things. He just did not seem to have the knack for explaining things that John has. Sensei Harrill showed you … it hurt … you tried it.  And you kept trying it until you figured it out. That was not bad! But, John added an additional element.  He shows you … it hurts dang near as much … you try it … John analyzes and explains what you were doing wrong … you try it again. For me, at least, that adds a lot.

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Sensei John Kerker and Darren Gilbert

Sensei Kerker has definitely come into his own over the years and I would now hate to try and say which of them now has, or had, more skill.

Sometimes life gets in the way and, unfortunately, I had to stop hosting the seminars, and I have since moved to North Carolina. Sensei Eddie Satterfield has picked the Tennessee seminar back up and has hosted it several years now. I am very glad he did … as are several other people. I hope at some time in the future, we can bring Sensei Kerker to North Carolina for seminars as well.

On May 6th, Sensei John Kerker gave a great seminar covering several techniques from kata … focusing on not getting hit, controlling the distance, disrupting your attacker’s balance, and proper timing in executing technique. It was excellent and, as always, I learned something new or was reminded of some important information I had forgotten. There is so much you can learn from Kata if you study them correctly and have the right teacher.  I been been in many Isshin-ryu dojos over the years, and what we do is pretty unique.

So, what is unique about the karate we do?

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Sensei Darren Gilbert and student

We do not spar in the common sense of the word. I once did.  I originally came up in an Isshin-ryu dojo where we learned the kata to earn belt rank. Then we put pads on and sparred in the ring for points. Self-defense was something we made up as we went along and most of it was pretty bad. Nobody knew what kata was really for. We knew kata taught us balance, coordination, timing, etc. And, while all that is certainly true … kata are so much more than that. They are essentially a physical encyclopedia of the principles and techniques of karate.

I was actually ready to quit once I get my 2nd Dan.  I read a lot … and had read about the history of karate and what the Okinawan karate masters were capable of.  I had seen none of that. Either the histories I had read were all a bunch of hooey or none of karate instructors I had yet met and trained with actually knew any karate!

Enter Sherman Harrill.  The first time I saw him give a real seminar my jaw nearly hit the floor. He was demonstrating what I had, until that day, only read about.  So, I started over. I traveled to many seminars and eventually became one of his students. For me, that was a real honor … the honor of a lifetime. I worked hard to change and improve my karate.

A critical moment came for me when I  tested for my 3rd Dan. I passed with flying colors, but there was one caveat. The testing board told me I had to undo all the changes I had made in my karate from working with Sensei Harrill. I though about that and decided I simply could not do that. That forced me to make the difficult decision of changing instructors. Telling Sensei Allen Wheeler I was leaving was also one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I always liked and respected Allen Wheeler very much. He was a good man and had been very good to me and helped me in many ways. I just needed my karate to take a different path. It was also one of the proudest days of my life when Sensei Harrill said “Welcome aboard!”

Not many will like or appreciate the way we train.  It hurts.  I have learned over the years that pain is actually a very good teacher. Notice … I said pain … not injury! Karate is, after all, a striking art.  So, you have to be willing to hit and to get hit hard enough to understand the mechanics of the techniques … why and how they work.  You have to understand what the techniques do to you and you have to understand the real results of the technique on your attacker. Your targets are very often the areas which are off-limits in sport karate. So, it is a rather small group … those who train like we do. I am sure there are other groups like ours training here and there in many other traditional arts. It does slowly seem to be growing as folks lose interest in the “Hollywood fluff” offered by way too many karate schools today.

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Darren Gilbert and Sensei Sherman Harrill

Folks, it is very much a buyer beware situation out there in the world of martial arts schools.

I am not really knocking sport karate. There are some good sport karate schools out there. It that is what you want to do, that is fine. It is certainly your interests and your choices that matter. I know some folks who are very good at it and they are tough competitors. But the keyword here is “competitor!” It is a sport … and there are rules (which sometimes do vary). Certain target areas are off-limits. For instance, no kicking below the belt, no attacking small joints, no head contact, sweeps only allowed on the front leg, etc. There are absolutely no rules in a dark alley way mugging, an attempted rape, during a vicious home-invasion, a terrorist attack, or on a battlefield.

For us, it is just a different flavor of karate. We just train more the way the Okinawan’s trained … you might say a more self-defense orientated approach. We study how to apply the basics and techniques from kata in real-life combat situations … focusing on body mechanics, timing, and developing our weapons with the makiwara.  The Okinawans did not spar … they studied kata. They trained with the makiwara. And, they were pretty deadly fighters.

I considered Sensei my teacher and my friend. He was a marine and tough as nails, but he was also a kind man. I will never forget when that fact was made very clear to me. My students and I had worked very hard to convert an old used-auto parts shop into a dojo. The building belonged to one of my students, Eddy Weaver.  Weaver’s Used Auto Parts had been an institution in Anderson County, Tennessee for decades.

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Calvin Parker, Darren Gilbert and Sherman Harrill

We actually finished all but the getting the mats down right before that year’s seminar, so we trained on the freshly painted concrete floor.  I had just gotten the gas heater in the day before the seminar and it ran all night, but that old concrete floor was still very cold that morning. There had been no heat in the building for some time. During the seminar breaks, we all took turns sticking our feet under the gas heater to thaw them out! A few months later some kids playing with fire behind the building, let the fire get away from them and our dojo burned to the ground. Sensei Harrill happened to call that next day just to chat. He would do that fairly often. I told him what had happened and he was genuinely saddened and concerned. He knew how much work we had put into that dojo. A few days later I started to get checks in the mail, boxes of training gear, etc.  He had put the word out to his folks! He was not even my instructor yet! That part came just a bit later.

I will end this post by saying … Thank you, Sensei Harrill … for your gift to those of us who had the honor to be your students. Happy Birthday and Kanpai!

And, … Thank you, Sensei Kerker … for continuing to carry the torch.  I am looking forward to that next seminar!

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2017 Maynardville Tennessee Seminar Crew

The Non-Partisan Firing of James Comey

Fired_stampThe left-wing media are once again ablaze … this time with self-righteous indignation over President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Senator Chuck Schumer is already crying, “Why now?”

Come Chuck, is the timing truly all that suspect?  I mean … really!  Is this really a partisan act or just a president doing his job? I say Comey needed to go!

Maybe Chuck Schumer should ask AG Rod Rosenstein why he waited until he did to release his memo.  Maybe it was just because Rosenstein was only confirmed a little over two weeks ago.

In that memo, entitled “Restoring Public Confidence in the FBI”, Rosenstein detailed criticisms of Comey leveled by “former Attorneys General and Deputy Attorneys General from different eras and both political parties,” including both Former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer and Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Those criticisms mostly involved Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, which Rosenstein indicated was the driving force behind the FBI director’s dismissal.

I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the near universal judgment that he was mistaken. Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes, it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.

Is that really a partisan statement? AG Rosenstein went on to say:

The FBI is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them. Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions.

Again, why is that a Republican or Democrat idea? It makes perfect sense to me! Then there is also the fact that many others have called for Comey’s firing!

12/14/2016 William W. Keller wrote:

But in all events, this is not a job for the president-elect. The task falls to President Obama because it should be performed immediately, and as president, Obama is the only one in a position to do it now. He should dispatch Director Comey for his poor judgment and his attempts to tamper with the democratic process.

What about Harry Reid stating he thinks Comey may have broken the law:

Comey needs to be investigated on all fronts. “I think he should be investigated by the Senate. I think he should be investigated by other agencies in the government, including the security agencies,” Reid said, before adding, “if ever there was a matter of national security, it is this.”

The main stream media pundits are all busily pontificating about how it is obviously a part of Trump’s effort to block the “Russian Connection” investigation. This is, of course, despite an almost year-long investigation during which, time after time, we hear senior security officials from both parties (including Obama administration officials), state that there is no evidence anyone on the Trump team colluded with the Russians.

I am sure there will now be calls for investigations,into Trump’s firing of Comey. There will be calls for a special investigator, etc.  I even heard Trump’s actions called “a whiff of fascism” and “presidential abuse of power” during yesterday’s new broadcasts.

Now that really is a bunch of partisan nonsense.

The FBI Director is appointed by the president for a 10-year term. The president can unilaterally fire the FBI Director at any time for any reason and Congress can also move to impeach the FBI Director. No whiff of fascism or presidential abuse of power … that’s just the way it is.

Some people have such short memories!  Do you remember the many calls to investigate James Comey … or for President Obama to fire him … or for him to resign?

  • The Wall Street Journal called for Comey to resign.
  • The NY Daily News called for Comey’s ouster.
  • Hillary Clinton blamed her election defeat in a large part on Comey.
  • Occupy Democrats called for Comey to resign or be fired.
  • Pelosi blamed Comey for Hillary Clinton losing the election!
  • Al Franken stated Comey should face Senate Hearings
  • Both Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch were extremely critical of Comey.

The list goes on and on ad nauseam!

You would think the Democrats would be thrilled. Trump just fired the man who they claim cost them the 2016 election! They should actually thank Trump for doing what they wanted Obama to do!

Do any of you remember on November 2, 2016 … when Chuck Schumer told Bloomberg News that:

he’d lost confidence in Comey over his handling of the Hilary Clinton e-mail investigation?

Maybe President Trump should simply Tweet this earlier Schumer’s quote and then add something like “I too lost confidence in Comey and had to act!.”

Book Review: Gallstones: Alternatives and Truths

Book_Cover_1Is gallbladder surgery lurking in your near future?

What about in your child’s future? Many younger people, even children, are having their gallbladders surgically removed. This is alarming trend … why is this happening?

Has the cholecystectomy become the surgery “de jour?”

I was contacted through Fiverr a few weeks ago by the author of this book, Olwen Griffin. She asked me to write a book description for her. We communicated several times during the process and she came across as very sincere in her efforts to share what she learned in her search for answers about her own diagnosis of severe gallstones.

Her book contains a great deal of good information about Gallstones, a condition that has become far too common today.  It also has good information on health conditions that are related to gallstones such as digestive issues, high serum lipids, leaky gut syndrome, coronary heart disease, Non-Alcohol Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and others.

The book traces the author’s personal experience and documents her extensive research on gallstones. It exposes the hidden truths about genetically modified food and other contributing risk factors to this problem. While documenting the author’s scientific research, this book also provides practical laymen’s guide to healthy living.  It contains extensive chapters on risk factors for developing gallstones, early signs and symptoms of the disease, creating a gallbladder healthy diet, and exploring the still controversial idea of gallbladder flushes.

Sources estimate 1,000,000 cholecystectomy operations are performed every year in the United States. Too many people believe the cholecystectomy is “minor” surgery … simple, quick and easy.  This author disagrees.  Griffin argues that, any time an organ is removed from your body, it is major surgery. And, like any major surgery … there are associated risks. While there are certainly many cases where a cholecystectomy is required, it now seems to simply be the default treatment for what may sometimes be a nutritional illness.

Griffin’s book contains indispensable information on gallbladder health, as well as links to great information about gallbladder surgery and possible alternatives. It is a fantastic resource for helping you make an informed decision.

Perhaps, with a diet change … you can keep your gallbladder.

The book is widely available in both English and Turkish. It will soon be available on Amazon.com.

 

 

The Art of Wordsmithing, Part 1

Editing_SymbolsI have a friend who recently published his first novel on Amazon.com. He had a really a great story.

Unfortunately however, his book did not sell very well. It also did not get many reviews. Writers certainly know that there are no guarantees when you publish a book. There is always a very good chance that it will simply not catch on.

However, there are many steps a serious writer can take to better their chances. Here is one …

I had ordered a copy of my friend’s book from Amazon, planning to do a book review on my blog. Unfortunately, when I tried to read it … I found a lot problems.  Those problems included grammar, phrasing, poor word choice, awkward sentence structure, passive voice, etc. I could not get past the second chapter. One thing my friend could have done to  increase his chances of success was to have somebody edit his book.

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As good as his story line was, the novel was very painful to read because of some of the issues mentioned above. How can you get positive reviews on Amazon if your readers cannot even finish your book?

I have been through this process myself. An editor would have caught those problems and helped him correct them.  That would have made his book a lot more readable.

What you have to try to understand is that there are very good reasons for these “archaic” rules of grammar. After all, we are not Tweeting here!

Good word choice, proper sentence structure, proper punctuation, an active voice … all help to build the excitement or tension in the your story.  The tension builds, there is a climax. The writer then creates  a calm period where the reader recovers … and then it all starts again.  Good writing techniques are much more than just old-fashioned grammar rules they taught in school once upon a time. They actually make writing readable and are vital keys for getting and keeping your reader’s attention,. They also help build the tension and create the periods of calm. Write a great action scene in a passive voice and the reader yawns!  Not good!

It is very hard to be objective and edit your own work. Believe me, I know!  I have been there and done that.  While it can be scary to let somebody else critique your work, a good editor can really help put the polishing touches on a writer’s work. And, that may be the difference between someone reading your work and enjoying it, maybe even reviewing it online and recommending it to a friend  … or simply putting it down.

I decided not to review my friend’s novel.

More to follow!

God, Guns, Martial Arts, Food, German Shepherds, Books and Politics! You know … important stuff!

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