Tuesday, February 16, 2021

365 days of intentional exercise, and the greater meaning of Rule #1

    This morning I did day 365 of daily intentional exercise. It has been quite the journey and I was not sure at the beginning I would stick with it this long. It is easy to give up one day, It is easy to say, I am too tired, or there is not enough time in the day to take time for myself to reach my goals. It is easy, to fall off the horse, and say, I just do not have enough fight in me to make it this time. It is easy to get knocked down and from your back, in the mud and the muck say, I have been bested, I live here now. 

    But that is the thing about it, it is our choice to lay in the muck and the mud as it ooozes through our armor and say, I give up, I just can't do any more. It takes gumption to say, maybe today I fell but tomorrow I will get up stare the challenge straight in the face and say "I get to choose when I am done, and today is not that day." It is our choice to endure even when we have been knocked down. It is our choice to get up, wash off the mud, and keep going. 

    The thing is, that this is not about going at a full tilt and doing actual harm to yourself because you cannot take a break, in fact the opposite is true. There will be days when doing what you have promised yourself takes some adjustment. There may be a day when doing something active means taking an easy day of relaxing yoga, or long deep stretches, or taking a good walk to think about things and process what is going on, and what life means for you. I had days when I did that. I had days when I did not feel good so I took an evening of stretches instead of a hard sweat pouring workout. It happens, that is a part of doing intentional exercise while honoring your needs for the day. 

    I teach a sword class called: rule #1 don't die. the class itself is about doing smart things in your sword work so you are not taking bad decisions for the sake of a quick easy point win. In the tournament and sparring sense, it is a class about choosing what you will do in a fight, picking your shots and doing things that are the best for you. In a larger context rule number #1 is about intentional living. It is about realizing that at any moment your life may end. You may walk down the street and be hit by a drunk driver, or you may live a long long life and die of old age after beating cancer twice. The point here is that we cannot avoid our own deaths. We can do things to be safer, but in the end, we will all meet our ends. 

    There are 2 ways to look at it, if we focus on the end, things can look bleak and dark. If we realize that we are on a path that we can enjoy along the way, we can stop and smell the flowers because these may be the last chance we have. Breathe deep, watch the snow fall, enjoy your meals, hug your loved ones, and forgive those who have wronged you. If this was the end, what would be left unsaid, what would you regret not doing, who would you regret not being? That is what the journey is about.

    If this was your last meal, would you be satisfied with it? Life is too short to eat bad meals, or not take care of yourself. This is what the daily intentional exercise is all about. It is about being in your body, being alive, experiencing who you are. Rule #1 is about living your life with intention. That is where it all comes from. Experiencing the struggle knowing that this is fleeting, this pain, this struggle, this workout, this week in school, or work, will end, and when you can stand in the sun on the other side of the cold winter of it, the feeling of triumph will be amazing. 

    This is the secret of this process, it is about honoring who you are, taking some time alone and doing something for you. I am now facing the beginning of year two, but some days, I know I will not feel like getting up and doing it, but I will because I will endure. To that end, for me, I have written a daily mantra to remind myself of how far I have come, where I am and where I want to be. 

It goes: 

When I wake in the morning, I take the time I need to prepare and face my day with humor, calm, wisdom, and clarity.

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”- Marcus Aurelius

At the beginning of the day, I am grateful for all I have before me, at the end of the day, I am grateful for all I have had the ability and privilege to do and be through the miracle of this body of mine. Every day is a prayer, every day is a blessing.

You sir,  are a badass.

I do things every day that help me reach my goals.

I eat good foods that support my health and fitness goals.

I walk proud knowing all the people who are standing behind me cheering for my success.

I walk tall knowing just how far I have come. I have stumbled in the past, but now when I fall, I brush myself off and get right back up again.

I know who I am, I know what I want, and I let go of the past hurdles I placed in my own way to get where I want to be.

I speak clearly when there are things I need or want knowing that the Universe provides as I speak my truth.

I am clear in mind, purpose and action. I drink the water I need, I take my vitamins, and rest when I need it.

“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good.” ― Stephen Covey

I am the Iron boar. I am calm and social, but I am always inches away from going wild if I need to be. I am tough, but under the right conditions I am also malleable and changeable. I am strong, and brave, and willing to face the things that scare me. I learn hard things and do hard things because I am strong enough to bear them. My strength comes from within and that strength manifests in my strong body and mind.

I am a willing to work through the tough times because I know in the end how sweet my triumph will feel.

I know that down does not mean out, it just means down right for now, this match, this tournament, this event or this weekend but it does not mean forever.

I have friends who want to see me succeed, because when I do it, we all rise together.

Maybe today did not go so well. Maybe I fell off my food plan, or exercise today but that is a drop in the bucket compared to how far I have come when I started.

A year ago, I made a decision. I would exercise, I would do something active every day. A year later, here I am. This is the first step, and I keep walking knowing that the only way is forward. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Do something for yourself today.

    Today is day 247 of daily exercise for me. When I first began my journey not only did I not think I would stick with it, I doubted that I had it in me to stick with it this long. So what is the big secret? How is it that I have been able to stick with it all these days, and months? When it all comes down to it the key is to make a decision that you will make a step in the right direction of your goal today. That is it. That is literally all that it takes. Make a commitment today that whatever you end goal is, that today you will do something that will help you reach your goal.  

The way you get to 3 months, or 6 or 9 is to decide that today you are going to do something. Maybe it is a single pushup, maybe it is doing 5 of them, maybe today is all about doing 1000 punches, maybe today, doing something for yourself is realizing you have been cooped up inside all day and taking a walk around the block to just breathe. When it all comes down to it, that is all it takes. 

Some days, you will not feel like doing it. Some days things will feel off, and you do not feel like doing it, especially at the beginning. What it all comes down to is making the commitment to yourself that today you will do something to reach you goal. Sometimes the answer is to do a little less, and that is ok, what matter is to keep with the spirit of the commitment and do something today that supports it. Maybe it is a commitment of taking time each day to feed yourself spiritually, maybe it is taking 15 minutes each day to meditate, or to sit down and read something that makes you think. Maybe the promise made at the beginning is to sit and write your 1,667 words towards your novel. The key is to do decide that you will do something today and honor that promise to yourself. 

For me, I have done a lot of daily exercise challenges from Darebee.com or found a program that I want to stick with. Some days I looked at the book and thought that I did not WANT to do what it was asking me to do for the day. Rather than throw in the towel for the whole thing and skip it, I made a decisions that instead of doing that, I would do something else that I still felt kept me in integrity with my goal.  I did what I could and let that be ok.  Did I push myself to the edge every day going 100%? No. Is that OK? It is. It becomes a question of integrity with my commitment. If I have made a commitment to myself that I will do something every day, what do I feel like is enough knowing that some days it will be harder than others. 

Is it ok to walk 3 miles one day and walk 7 the next, in order to keep in integrity with my commitment? Absolutely. This is not entirely about the end goal, it is about doing something on the path to get you towards where you want to be. I am not doing this so I can lose weight, I am not doing this so I can run a marathon. I am doing it, and sticking with it so that I can honor a commitment I made to myself. On days when the scale does not look so good, and I feel like throwing in the towel, that commitment can feel like the only thing that keeps me moving, one step after another. 

When I started it was about not letting anyone else down. When I first began I had lots of people cheering me on. All these months later it is less about letting them down, and more about not letting myself down. At the end of the day, it is a promise that I have made to myself and when I let a stumble happen, it is only me who I let down. I have made a promise to myself and I deserve to make good on that promise. 

What I suggest is not to look at the long term goal alone. It can feel like a lot to swallow if you have a large weight loss goal, or if you want to write a novel in the next month, but the way to eat an elephant is one bite at at time. Choose where you want to be in 6 months from now, and ask what steps do I need to do every day to get there. Make a commitment to do that thing every day, not starting tomorrow, not starting next Monday when the weather is better, the air is clearer and you feel like it. Start today. At the end of 6 months, you will be six months further in your life whether you start today or not, why not start today and be 6 months older and 6 months closer to your goal? Why wait for the doctor to tell you that you have to make a positive change to begin working on it? Begin today by dedicating yourself to something. If it changes with time that is ok, the key is to be true to your word that you give yourself so that 6 months from now you can be proud of just how far you have come. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Getting back on it.

Where it all began:
I have not opened up a lot about my tournament performance at SoCal. 
Walking into it, like usual, I had not practiced enough, but felt like I have been fighting long enough that I just should do well. It is messed up, but the word I would use is entitled to a win that I did not earn. 
That is not to say my performance was bad, it was truly OK, it just was not extraordinary. 
I hit a wall, I was discouraged, I felt upset, but I had no one to blame but myself. 
I wanted to quit, but not really. I had friends who would not let me quit, I had friends who would would be sad if I quit, and I knew in my heart, that I really did not want to quit, i was just discouraged. I just wanted to DO better, as if somehow it was something that was owed to me for time in or something. I had to ask myself if I had a student who was discouraged what would I say to them?
From those ashes came this realization, if I am to get better, I have to apply myself. If I am to get better, if I am to lift myself up, I must build myself through training. I made a promise that I would start when I came back exercising every day. Accountability was key, so I found some friends who would keep me accountable. I had spent a lot of time on the bench sitting out drills and sparring, if I was going to get better, this had to end now. 

Getting started: 
The key was to start somewhere, anywhere. In the past I have spent time doing some workouts from Darebee.com. Some of these I had printed out and had in a binder, the thing now was to just pick one and stick with it. For the first 30 days I decided to do ones called the fighters codex. It is a 30 day program that is a series of exercises every day. 
I have been down this path before. I have had great plans to reach my goals only to have a rough day turn into 2 and then 5 then quit all together. This path is not unfamiliar to me. I have started this program before, only to hit a day that it was too late at night to exercise. I have worked until I was just not feeling well so I took a day off. I knew that if this was to be successful, I had to stick with it. 
Day 1 was not easy, but I did it. then the days kept going. 
Day 9 I hit a wall and pushed myself as far as I could, but stopped before it was all done. 
Day 11 I finished the day, and finished day 9. 
I have added, supplemented my workout with other things. 
In the past, I have taken a day off when I did sword, or if I had a long night at sword. 
This time has been different. 
Day 14 (Yesterday) I got home late after taking another sword class and getting some good sparring in. Normally, this would have been a night to throw in the towel, take a night off, not this time. this time I am in it to do as I have said I would. 
Day 15: Tonight, I am halfway to the goal. I woke up not feeling well, after dinner when I started my exercises, it was harder than usual, push ups were harder than normal. I was hitting a wall, but this time I thought, do what you can do, do something, because something is better than nothing. 
Some days are harder than others, but I am sticking with it. 

When I started out, I had 161 days until Combat Con. I am leaning in and realizing that the only way to get where I want to be is to stick with it. I am halfway there. The weight is not coming off as fast as I want but at this point it is about doing something, anything to reach my goal. In just over 2 weeks, I'll start my next program that runs 60 days. For tonight, I am breathing a sigh of relief that I am halfway there, and have stuck with it. That does not mean that the next 15 days will be easy, far from it. 2 days from now the exercise is to do 2000 punches, so it is is far from an easy road forward, but when I reach the goal, 2 weeks from now, I am going to be proud of how far I have come and that is a start. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Be the blacksmith of your life.

Be the blacksmith

We have talked about a lot of things here but I wanted to touch on something that I feel is important to say. Be the blacksmith of your life.
I have recently begun doing some blacksmith work. By all metrics I am very much a novice, but there is an interesting fact to it that has carry over to life.
To do his work, a blacksmith heats his steel to the right temperature, then works it into the shape he wants it to be. If you try to work it too cold, things just wont move. If you work it too hot things simply do not hold together the same way as they need to.  The real key is that there must be heat for you to mold it the way you have in mind. Life is like that, your body is like that, your career, school, many things are in some way like that.
Friction causes heat. Life will give you things that you can see as challenges. You lose your job, the person you want to be with doesn’t want to be with you, you wreck your car, it does not matter the specifics, you are handed something that on its surface looks like a red-hot pile of… steel. At this point you have 2 choices, work it, mold it into a win, or something you want, or let it cool and have a cold pile of… steel. Your body is that way. To make it into something you want it to be you must work it, use it, do things with it that make it what you want. You heat it up, and put it through processes that make that happen.
In the last 5 years I have lost my job 2 times. The first was a result of my own actions paired with the actions of my management. (When it feels like someone is out to get you professionally whether they are or not, get out, you will be much happier someplace where they support you.) One was a result of simply not having enough business and the branch closing. Without that kick in the butt, I would not have landed where I did, and I am much happier here. Life will give you heat; you decide what to do with it.  If you do nothing, you have wasted that heat.
That is not to say that all of life’s heat has to move you. Sometimes you heat something up to do some cleaning up of the work, or to normalize and even out the heat. Just because you have a fight with a person you love does not mean you have to leave them, but it is a time of choice, what will I do with this heat? Will I smooth things out and make them what I want them to be? Will I put it on the anvil of life and then go get a drink, go to the bathroom, and be upset when I come back and things are not the way I want them to be?
The things you do are the anvil. They are benign, just sitting there. You get to choose how to use that to make it what you want. That is your hammers.
Be the Blacksmith of your life, forge it the way you want it. If you are unhappy with something do what you can to change it. There is not always a big timer in the sky that says you must do X by Y time. If you work it and are not satisfied with your results, keep working it. If you have to move a deadline, do so, it is better to be satisfied with your work, then to allow something that is important to be sub-par because it was rushed. Take your time for the things you really want, and make them happen.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Combat Con 2019: How far I have come.

5 Years ago I learned a lesson that has stayed with me. When you move from a place of victim-hood to one where you are looking for ways of reaching your goals opportunities for that growth show up. 

My sword life has been a journey from my first Combat Con to this one, in that time I have had failures, and wins, but what brought me through it all was the support of my friends and family. 

A year ago I decided that this year, I was going to go for my HEMA Alliance instructor certification. I decided that it would happen at this event. It was important because this is where this part of my sword journey began. This was really a step it was time to take, and means to me that I am recognized as someone who knows what they are talking about not just locally but by a group of my peers. 

Combat Con is a lot of things, part tournament, part classes, part self defense workshop, part panel, but it is all of these things and pulls them together well. This event does things you don't see at other events just because the net is cast so wide, but the one thing Combat Con has meant to me since early early on is family. This is not a family of blood but one of steel. I do not see my friends who come to this event often as I live many many miles from most of them, but what I do know is no matter the circumstances, they have my back. They stand in my corner when I need help, but always want to see me do well. 
A year ago, when I decided I was going to go through this process, I had friends who stood with me. I had people in my corner cheering me on, offering me advise and really invested in seeing me succeed, and that kind of support makes things easier when the motivation to go on is just not there. 

The process to reach my goal was not an easy one, but it is necessary, things that are worthwhile are often not easy. I had a panel of friends who wanted to see me succeed, but would not cheapen the event by letting me get away with less than I was capable of. Having people behind me that wanted to see me succeed makes a world of difference. I did not pass by a lot, but I passed and now I have things I personally need to work on so I can do what I do better. I had people cheering me on, and not letting me settle for less than my best, even going as far as to compliment me on my cutting and telling me that they would not let me fall back to something less in the future. 

I watched 3 of my local fighters come home with medals, I did fighting I was proud of, and at the end of the day, that is all I can ask of myself or any other fighter. Did I give it my all? Did I do my best today? If the answer is no, then it is a question of what will you do next time. In judging, are you proud of your calls, is this something you can stand behind? 

I was told at this event that at one time, one of my friends hated me when he first heard about me. I was a whiny and not willing to work for my goals. Now, he and I see eye to eye on much more. I fought, through my pools and made it to eliminations, and lost by a small margin. 

We are a family of steel. I have friends who have been there through the whole process, but the thing that makes me the most proud is when I can look back and see how far I have come. 4 years ago, I failed my cutting qualifier, 2 years I passed, but barely. I did not need to do it this time, but if I had, I would have passed handily and it showed. 5 years ago I stepped into the ring not knowing what I was walking in to. When I look back at my fighting then, I am ashamed of where I was, but in comparison I can see marked progress, but more than that, I have friends from outside my club who see it as well, and that is something to be proud of. 

This weekend was the second class I have taught at a big event outside of Utah, but I was honored to not only be asked, but to be treated as an equal by so many awesome people I have taken classes from since the beginning. Though my class was small, it went smoothly and I was proud of how it all went and would love to teach here again.

These events do not happen without the dedication of many hands. When I arrived on Wednesday I helped roll tatami so that we could be ready when we needed, but it all happened in a room full of people who were there to help because they wanted to see things succeed. I volunteered to help judge more matches than I remember and I can see things getting better with judges working hard to make the best calls they can. There are always things to work on, and that is acknowledged by the staff. Judging is a thankless job, and no matter how hard you try, some things will be missed, but what I saw this weekend was people giving it the best they had, and because of that,  it will get better. I have said for years that the cleaner the exchange, the easier it is judge and the better everyone feels about it. Clean exchanges are good fencing. I had an exchange I refused because I did not feel good about but these things should be the norm instead of the exception. 

This event is an act of love, and it shows every year I attend. It meant so much to me to be there with my friends when I took this big step. I had people cheering me on from miles away and knowing that people support you because they believe in you matters. At the end of the day, everyone is a self made man. You start with the cards you are given but you get to decide what to do with it. In this world of social media, it is easy to spout off into the darkness, and have people judge you based on how you come across, but it is what you do to prove that which makes the difference. It is not about ranking or medals or knowing a lot if you come across as a jerk, people will know you as one. 

These 5 years have changed me, but I am in a much better place as a result of it. I may not have medals on my chest at the end of the weekend, but I am proud of how much people support me even if I am not from the biggest most well known club. I am proud of where I have come, and look forward to the years to come. 

Thursday, July 25, 2019


This is not my official Combat Con 2019 review, but it is a part of why I had such a great time this weekend. 

5 years ago, I wrote a blog post about moving my thinking around sword events from "I can't" to "How can I" it was my first Combat Con in 2014 and I was standing at the precipice of something I did not even know the significance of. That was the event that everything in my sword training changed. 

4 years ago, I was talking about how much I loved the community and was amazed by the support I had at Combat Con by people who were not even in my club, people who wanted to see me succeed even if they were not near me. I talked about coaching students who were not my own, but who I adopted since I felt they needed someone in their corner cheering them on. I talked about failure, about falling on my face at cutting and wanting to do better, but not being there yet. 

3 Years ago I missed Combat Con, between a not so awesome new job, and not being sure I would be working for much longer, I decided that I could not spend the money and my family needed to come first. No matter what, family needs to always come first. 

2 Years ago, I fought well and feel like I was making improvements. I passed cutting for the first time, bought myself a new sword and though I did not come home with any new medals, at least my foot was in the door and I felt I was getting better. It was as much as anything about my family of steel, not just blood. 

Last year I moved into eliminations, and fought as well as I have in years. It was the year of the no win match, the year I realized I know my stuff and helped teach, it was a great year and at the end of it I decided that this year, I would be back and go through my instructor Certification in 2019 so I was finally reaching some teaching goals I had set for myself. 

Then I crashed my Motorcycle. 

For the better part of a month I had a hard time walking much less fighting in class. I spent time hoping that I would be back on my feet soon, but not sure how long it would take me to be there. This year though, I owned it. 
I set my mind in motion to do my certification and spent a good part of the year, working diligently to make sure my students had classes that were helpful and of a good quality. I spent time working hard to make it happen for myself, and the betterment of those who I teach. Yesterday It happened.

Before all of this 
I had been giving a lot of thought to HEMA Alliance instructor certification. Weighing out the pros and cons of what it would mean and why I should even go for it in the first place. It is a lot of work, some good hoops to go through, but that is far from a bad thing. 

There are some benifits to it for sure. If we are renting space and someone wants to make sure I am not just some kid who is teaching indoor backyard sword stuff, this at least says that I am representing the certifing  body who does the certification. It means outside of my local group or my local clubs, there are people who believe I can teach. 

Being a certified instructor does not change who I am or that I do teach. It doesnt mean that all of the people who don't do it are in any way less of great teachers. Yes, it did force me to come up with a more solid curriculum, but this is only a benifit I have seen for my students in the last year anyway. It means that whether I know it or not,  people who do not see me week in and out, believe in me and that I can teach. 

I am proud to say that after yesterday, I met that goal. The process is a good one. The fact that it happened here, at the event that was my first one, and changed how I was doing things is significant to me. Combat Con is a special place to me, and this is one more reason why. 

I have work to do, things I need to improve on, and frankly, if I didn't, a lot of value would be lost from the process. The second I belive that the things I teach and the way Ido it is the best and cannot be improved on I have stopped growing as an instructor. But the sheer joy of seeing a big goal through to completion is empowering, and there is no where to go but up. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Rule #1 Don't Die

"There is only one god, and His name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to Death: 'not today'." George RR Martin- A Game of Thrones 

Rule #1 in sparring, and in life is and should be don't die.
Yes I know this does not work long term, every person dies, but that does not mean that you should do dumb stuff and quicken that inevitable end.
I have spent a fair amount of time as of late watching new students and it comes across to me that somewhere in their training someone has encouraged them so much to get in the first shot, that they have not given how to do so safely much thought. The thinking goes, "if I can hit the other guy before he hits me, I win" This may be so in sport fencing or in some tournaments, it may even be so that if you can hit the other guy more times than they hit you you win, but ultimately this is not the best strategy. The best strategy is to walk away if you can without being hit at all. This is harder than it sounds and I don't suggest people sit and just try to defend themselves without countering or doing anything in response, but at the end of the day, the person with the best defenses will simply be hit less and that is always a win. In this essay I will talk about sword fencing specifically since that is my area of expertise, but these things apply to other martial arts and living in general. 

So how do you follow rule #1?
There are 2 ways, the first is to be proactive, the other is to be appropriately reactive. 

Pro-activity in a fight: Get in the first shot
"Nuke 'Em, get them before they get you"- Robocop
"The best defense is a good Ofense, You know who said that? Mel the cook on Alice" Tai Kwan Leep- the Frantics 

The first way to stop the attack is to simply attack them before they have a chance to attack you. 
Don't ever assume that because you pose a threat that they will have to deal with it before they attack. Sure, a smart person with see a sword point in their face and try to do something about it, but assume that no one is a smart person. If you threaten them, they can do 2 things, they can ignore the threat and get hit or hurt,  or they can deal with it, but always pose the threat assuming that they will do nothing to protect against it. Some people are just not in their right minds, some people think they can move faster than you, are stronger than you and can take it, or that if they take a hit they can hit you harder it is worth it. If you can avoid interacting with crazy, do so, if you can't assume that they don't know what they are doing, are on drugs, or are otherwise not smart and make sure you stay safe as you deal with them, preferably at a distance. 

Throughout this lesson, I do not want to understate that this can work. If you see someone on the street who looks like they want to fight you and you knock them out cold first, at least they did not attack you right? Besides the legal implications of this, there are some logistical problems with this thinking but it can work to accomplish the task of not dying. If you don't like people living in a multifamily unit is probably not the best option. Sure shooting anyone on the street that you see with a handgun keeps them from shooting you, but you can only get away with this so long before having some legal and ethical problems. 

How do you do this in long sword fighting? If you can read their intentions from their body language you can tell where they are likely to attack, or what they intend to do and from there you can stop it. Is their weight on one foot or the other? What can they do from the guard they are holding? How are they holding their body, are they tense, or relaxed? Are their shoulders forward or backwards? What motions have you seen them make and what were the results of that? 

If you do not know the guard, ask yourself, what does this the way they are holding their sword tell you about what they intend to do. You may not know that guard but something with their point at you or generally towards your face or torso is good for thrusting, a guard with the point away is better for cutting, there are some exceptions but you get the idea.  

The truth is that you may not be able to read them 100% especially if you are just getting started, but what you can do relatively easily is eliminate what they cannot, or are not as likely to do. If they are holding their sword upright on the right side of their body with their left foot forward they are likely to be cutting from that side. (Zornhaw, or Fendente) What they are not going to do: cut from the left with a simple step on that side. To do this it takes more time and when they change, you can see them change. Something I always tell my students is that they cannot do that from here, unless they change, in which case it is not from there anymore. 

The real key here is to cut off their line of attack while making yours. If they are going to thrust, don't thrust back, rather: block their line of attack as you attack even before they move. 
Another quick and easy way to do this is to move as they are changing guards or moving their point away from you, or taking a step as they are in transition and their intention at that point is to move from A to B not to move part way then attack. 

Reactive: Be prepared 
Avoiding the legal implications of shooting the guy who has a gun before he has a chance to draw it and shoot you is really easy, just don't do it. Throwing the first punch before they get a chance to throw one, is easy, but it starts something you may not want to deal with. If the guy with the gun does nothing, you have no problem, if the guy who looks like trouble does not trouble you, there is no reason to get into a fight for nothing. 

Fiore's art is largely one of stopping the attack as it comes and responding with something of your own. This can be accomplished by controlling your reach and theirs by adjusting your measure. If you are out of reach, and they step with a cut, while you step backwards the same distance nothing has changed, they have not gained an upper hand, and you have neutralized the threat. In my class on this, I have some drills that can be done that teach this but again it is a question of watching what they are doing and responding when they move.  If someone attacks you and you respond by just defending yourself, you may not have won the day, but at least you were not hit and have thwarted their attack. This is not ideal but if you live to fight another day, it is a win in my book. 

This is not to sat that this is an easy task, occasionally I run a drill where the objective is to just defend yourself for a period of time, and it is one of the hardest things to simply defend, but it is a good lesson to work with. This does also not mean that you have to meet their strike with your parry to defend, If they are cutting at your leg and you step backwards with it they have missed their target and you have some great openings. If someone is rushing you and you can sidestep and let them run into a wall, all you did was take a step and it was them who missed you. There are drills that I teach that are in line with this and what we find is that it is a fun experience to be the one who is simply moving, and a frustrating one for the person who is trying to make a grab. 

Covering your Line: Finish it right. 
No matter which way you accomplish rule number 1, the last thing you have to do is to get away properly.  The idea here is that no matter if your attack lands well,  or your missed entirely, you still have to follow rule #1. If you cut their arm, and they cut your head just afterwards you have not followed rule 1. You hit them first, but they hit you after in the leg? Good job on being there first, but what if it was not good or it was not called, you have to protect yourself always to follow rule #1. If you see the guy in the street with the gun who is not likely a threat, but you know where he went, you are at least ready if he becomes a threat. In a tournament an opponent is not a threat when he is not a threat. If a hold has been called and you stop your defense, there is nothing to stop him from sweeping your leg and getting a penalty for example. 

Conclusion: Rule #1 in life 
Tournaments are not real life. We use weapons that are safer than the real thing, we wear protective equipment that helps make things hurt less and protects us. but that is not ALL of rule #1.  If you are sparring without a mask and get hit in the head, you could have a headache, a concussion, or die, even with safe weapons. Rule #1 however goes a step further, it is not just about the fighting floor, it is about being safe in life. If someone aims a gun at your chest and asks for your wallet, give it to them. It is not worth dying for a few cards and a couple bucks. If you can avoid the places where people are likely to start a problem with you, do so, it is not worth the time and effort to have to defend yourself if you can stay safe and avoid it. If you see someone on the street who gives off a bad vibe, walk away, maybe you are wrong but better wrong and safe than right and dead. If you are driving, this is all about watching other drivers to know with or without a turn signal what they intend to do. That split second means you can make smart decisions and stay safe. At the end of the day, we will all not be able to avoid death. I have to say Not today, to many times in the last few months, but if you can make smart choices you may be able to choose a better time than right now for your end to come and that makes all the difference.