Email:tomdolanfitness@gmail.comPhone:217-463-2040Address:120 E. Wood St., Paris, IL, 61944

In recent weeks, we’ve looked at many of the issues surrounding the proper use of a concealed carry firearm. This week, I’d like to talk about some of the mental aspects of being prepared. 

Colonel Jeff Cooper was a legendary warrior and firearm instructor who gained world wide fame with his innovations in small arms combat. A former Marine, Colonel Cooper’s best known innovation was a concept he called the Combat Mindset. 

According to Cooper, while fighting and tactical skills are important, it’s our state of mind that matters the most. Our approach to our environment is what determines whether we are aware or unaware of potential threats around us. 

“Condition White” is the term Cooper used for the lowest possible level of awareness. In Condition White, you’re unaware of your surroundings, and oblivious to any possible threat. 

Have you ever “tuned out” while driving for a little while, only to realize you’d driven part of your trip without even thinking about the turns? Or, has anyone ever come up and tapped you on the shoulder, or said your name, and it startled you, not knowing they were there?

We do lots of things this way, especially if they’re familiar to us. We leave our car and just go right in the house. We walk through a parking lot while focused on our phone. We sit in restaurants and theaters focused solely on our meals or the movie. 

Unfortunately, Condition White leaves you completely vulnerable to an attack, and you won’t even see it coming. If you are attacked, you’re likely to be so shocked, you won’t have time to formulate a plan of action. The only thing that might save you is luck, or an inept attacker. 

This is NOT where we want to be. Instead, we need to learn to live in what Cooper called “Condition Yellow.”

In Condition Yellow, you’re actively scanning your environment, 360 degrees. No threat is presented, but you’re in a relaxed state of alertness. You realize the world is a dangerous place, and you know you might have to defend yourself. 

You know you have the training and capability to do it, and you’ve already given some thought to how you might deal with some different scenarios. This doesn’t mean you’re looking for trouble, but you’re on the lookout for trouble that’s looking for you. You’ve got your radar working. 

“Condition Orange” is the state you’re go to when you pick up a potential threat from Condition Yellow. Something has happened to trip your radar. It might only be a feeling that something “isn’t quite right,” or you just don’t “like the look” of that person who happens to be staring at you.

While it might turn out to be nothing, you’re preparing to act if it is indeed something. That thing has your attention, although you’re not giving up your other scans, especially “your six.” But now you’re actively assessing the situation and formulating a plan if it is something.
You have a response programmed so that if they do ________, you do _________. You’re not going to overreact, or react inappropriately, but you’re ready to act, if it comes to that. 

You can stay in Condition Orange for a long time, if required, but it can be taxing. The goal is to get more information about the potential threat, your environment, and your options so you can come up with a plan to get you out of the situation. Or, if you can determine that it was a false alarm, you can then go back to Condition Yellow. 

If the worst happens, then bam, you’re right in “Condition Red.” It’s hit the fan, and you’re fighting for your life, or someone else’s. It’s on, and you have no choice but to engage, because even if you are retreating, you’re still under attack. 

At this point (hopefully), you’re working your plan of action, that you formulated back in Condition Orange. You’d better have some skills and training to back it up, though. Otherwise, you may be out of luck, and out of time. 

In Condition Red, you’re responding to a threat that means to cause you harm. You’ll have to measure your response to the severity of the threat, and be able to articulate why you did what you did. But you have no choice but to act, and your actions may save your life. 

If you find you can deal with the threat without resorting to extreme violence yourself, that is preferable. But if you find yourself in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm, you’ll have no choice but to respond with lethal force yourself. 

Again, training is crucial. As is a concealed carry permit, if you’re a law abiding citizen. Or an off-duty weapon, if you’re in law enforcement. And also 1,000 reps on the mat, or 1,000 rounds at the range. Competence breeds confidence, and the only way to be competent is to practice. Preferably under stress, because there will surely be a lot of stress happening in Condition Red. 

The problem is that if you were in White, you didn’t even see it coming, so the jump from White to Red is too much, too fast. Sometimes it jumps from Yellow to Red, but at least you had a little warning. If you can go to Orange first, you’ve got a fighting chance, and maybe a tactical advantage through the element of surprise. 

So there you have it. Stay in Condition Yellow in all but the most secure settings. Maybe even then. Know your surroundings. Pay attention to your environment. Jump to Orange as soon as you become aware of something “off.” Get a plan together in your mind, just in case it goes to Red, and then fight like hell to survive if it does. If it turns out to be nothing, go back to Yellow and go about your day. 

As a martial arts instructor over the past 30 years, I’ve encountered a wide variety of people, with a wide variety of experiences. Occasionally, I’ll run across someone who’s had some other training, but usually, people are starting from scratch, whether they are children or adults. 

For the purpose of this article, I’d like to focus on adults. In all my years, I’ve rarely met anyone who had started training, with no prior experience, that also wanted to jump right in a mixed martial arts (MMA) cage. 

I say rarely, because I’ve actually had a couple, (out of hundreds) that were really wanting to test themselves like that. One in particular named Roy, was very focused, and after a year or so of striking and Brazilian JiuJitsu, he won his first fight easily. It actually went down just as he’d envisioned it. But that’s the exception. 

Most people aren’t interested in testing the themselves in that way. And to a person, including Roy, not a single one felt competent to just jump right into a fight, without getting substantial training. This seems like a wise approach to me. 

But as a firearms instructor, I’ve observed that many people seem to have a completely different thought process when it comes to firearms. And it’s pretty common. 

I think there’s a real misconception about what concealed carry classes are for. Over the last few years, I’ve encountered quite a few people who have NEVER handled a handgun, but plan on carrying them as soon as they get their concealed carry license.

While I don’t want to trample on anyone’s 2nd Amendment rights, this is irresponsible at best. To me, firearms are MUCH more dangerous than jumping in an MMA ring. 

You can get in a ring or cage and get beat up, but usually, a referee will stop the beating before there is significant injury (but not always). But with a firearm, there is no referee, and a single shot can alter or take a life forever. 

Please understand me. I’m a lifetime NRA member, an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor; an Illinois State Certified Firearms Instructor for Law Enforcement Personnel; and an Illinois State Police Certified Concealed Carry Firearms Instructor (ILCCF). I love guns. I love shooting them, and I love teaching people about them. 

While a human can be potentially lethal, a firearm can be immediately lethal with a single trigger pull, whether intentional or accidental. You need to know this, and you need to prepare yourself for the proper handling of your weapon, with hundreds, if not thousands of repetitions, and proven safety habits, before you carry it, if at all possible. 

Or at the very least, with continuing training after you get your CCL. I’ve not met a single instructor who disagrees with this. We always tell people to keep training. Yet we often see people think nothing on dropping $800 on a new handgun, holster, and ammo, but balk at paying $50 for 3 hours of tactical instruction on how to use it. 

Concealed carry instruction is NOT training on how to carry, and it’s NOT training on how to fight. It’s NOT tactical training. In fact, it’s often very little training at all. 

In a perfect world, it’s still only very basic training on your handgun. It is however, fairly extensive training on your legal responsibilities, which is what Illinois insists on. So that’s what we teach, and we try to add as much as we can. But in my opinion, it’s not nearly enough. We only have 16 hours. 

So if you’re going to carry, I salute you. You’re standing up for right, and you’re a sheep dog among wolves. Thank you. 

But you owe it to yourself and the lives you might need to save someday, to get some more training. Lots of it. Keep training. If you ever need it, you’ll thank God you did. 

I’ve been writing about the need to be diligent in your training if you’re going to carry a concealed weapon. It’s not just to prevent you from hurting someone inadvertently, it’s to keep you from hurting yourself. 

At the police academy, they make a big deal out of following procedures with your weapon, and rightfully so. It’s a military thing too. When things start going South on you, it’s your training that you trust to carry you through. And in that type of situation, you rarely “rise to the occasion.” You fall to the level of your training. 

Another way of putting it, is that you need to do something 1,000 times to have a realistic chance of pulling it off under pressure. You also need to have programmed responses that are “hard-wired” into your central nervous system.

But this can go both ways. Without flexible thinking, and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, you might find yourself responding to an attack the way you trained, but which may be no longer appropriate. The idea is that your plan never survives the first few moments of actual battle. 

So what do you do? The answer is really to train, train, train. Train for the first attack. Train for a second attack. Expect a second attack. You must even expect the “unexpected.”

This is how the terrorists overseas have hurt our troops. They have secondary IED’s placed at the scene, set to detonate after the first responders show up, killing even more people. It’s a very real concern for our law enforcement officers over here too. They can’t assume anything. It could be nothing, but it could really be something. 

I’ve seen training backfire on people, too. One example is an accidental discharge caused by someone using a holster with a retention system. On the surface, that sounds like a good thing. Retention = good, right? 

But in this case, the shooter, who was highly trained and well versed with multiple weapons, shot himself in the thigh with a .45, while attempting to do a “speed draw” in a close quarters live-fire drill.
He had previously been practicing with one weapon and holster system. Then he went to a different pistol and holster for this particular drill. Unfortunately, the release from retention depended on his using the same finger that he uses to pull the trigger. 

Yep. You can almost see it coming. He indexed the retention button, and his finger continued on its way into the trigger guard, indexing the trigger as he drew the firearm from the holster. Bang!

A single .45 caliber slug entered his upper thigh (right below the bottom of the holster), made its way down, on the inside of his leg before existing laterally just above the knee. He was extremely lucky. And this was a trained shooter. Google “I just shot myself” and see it for yourself. 

At some recent instructor training I attended, a group of us were looking at some pretty graphic pictures of other accidental discharges. One was of a foot lost after a devastating round was fired downward. You have to watch your muzzle and trigger finger at all times. Either safety procedure might have saved him. But missing both cost him his foot. 

Just a few minutes ago, I read a story about an accidental discharge through the left buttock of a concealed carrier. Ouch. The pictures tell the story of something (probably the t-shirt) getting into the trigger guard and causing it to fire while he was seated in his vehicle. It’s quite possible that he was adjusting the carry position to get more comfortable in his car.

You must have a form fitting, molded holster that is made specifically for your own firearm. If it deforms (bends or changes shape) when you shift position, it is dangerous. If it is loose, it is dangerous. Foreign objects of clothing can get in the trigger guard. Bang. 

And even if you have the perfect holster, you still shouldn’t ever wear it in a way that it will be uncomfortable, forcing you to adjust it. You have to put some thought and training into this. 

Can you access your firearm from where you carry, while seated? What if you are knocked on your back? What if your right arm or shoulder is injured, and you carry on the right side of your body at the 4:00 position? Do you have a plan and procedure for this? What about reloading with one hand? Shooting with your weak hand?  

If you can’t answer these and other questions, with a high degree of confidence, you’re not alone. Most people never think of these things. But you need to. It takes training, and more training to be safe and effective. 

Don’t make the mistake of just getting your Illinois Concealed Carry License (or any other State’s CCL) and thinking you’re prepared now. In reality, you have the potential of being prepared. And a vastly increased potential for accidental discharges, too. 

I’m not trying to scare you into not carrying, or not getting your CCL. I believe that in today’s society, the more honest, law-abiding citizens that are armed and ready, the better. But armed does not automatically mean ready. It takes training. Lots of training.    

Next week, we’ll look at the self-defense mindset, and how you can be more mentally prepared. 

When did we learn that it was acceptable to settle? I’m not talking compromise between people. I’m talking about the kind of compromise we make with ourselves. Where we give in, or just give up.

I’m not talking about yielding in the face of a superior force, or a higher power. Or talking about letting things go, by showing grace to someone. I’m talking about letting things slide when we don’t need to.

These little compromises may not seem all that serious at the time, but they can really add up. It’s like a small crack in a dam. Unchecked, the pressure becomes too much for the weakened area, and it begins to erode even more. Finally, it’s so fragile that it gives way from the relentless pressure.

Our willpower works the same way. If we let the little things go, they can become big things. If we don’t deal with things right away, that trickle can become a stream that can overwhelm us.

It’s kind of like weeds in the back yard. One day you notice a few popping up. A week or two later you see more and wonder about it. But if you don’t get some weed killer, by midsummer, you might have more weeds than grass.

Here are seven “little things” I see all the time (and have done myself) that can quickly turn into big things if we’re not careful.

• Skipping a workout when we know we really shouldn’t, even if it’s inconvenient.
• Continuing to shove those cookies, chips, or _____________ (fill in the blank here) in your mouth even when you know you need to step away from the table, and have had way more than enough.
• Letting negative thoughts take control to the point that you lose your joy that day.
• Harboring bitter feelings, or unforgiveness to someone.
• Putting off certain tasks because you don’t really want to do them.
• Giving up again because you figure you’re just going to fail again, so why not?
• Getting jealous when you see someone else doing what you want to do, or having what you want to have.

Little things can work both ways, though. Being faithful in little things can go a long way for you to. Here are seven of them:

• Doing your absolute best, even when you’re tired and just want to get it done.
• Not settling for pretty good, when you realize you could have done some things better.
• Getting your workout in, after the kids are asleep, because you just didn’t have time during the day.
• Saying no to the thing you want, because you finally realize that it’s going to want you.
• Refusing to cave on your principles even though it would make things easier if you did.
• Trying something new, because you know you need to grow.
• Realizing the world doesn’t revolve around YOU, but you can give something to those around you, and then looking for ways to do it.

We’ve spent a couple weeks looking at different considerations when making the decision to concealed carry a firearm. There are the legal requirements, but also some moral and practical ones. But those are really just the first steps toward preparedness.

Once you’re legal, and you strap that gun on your belt (or inside your waistband), you’d better have some training in not only how to safely access it, but also how to KEEP it there. If you think I’m being overly dramatic, here are a couple of examples of how NOT to carry. 

Police were recently called to a movie theater after getting some frantic 9-1-1 calls about a man with a gun. When they got there, they discovered the man had apparently dropped his firearm while watching the movie, and it went skidding away, alarming the people around him. D.U.M.B. 

For whatever reason, this guy lost control of his firearm in such a way that everyone around him not only knew it, but became frightened. Not a good example of safe, effective, concealed carry. 

There wasn’t really any risk of anyone being shot at, unless someone else picked it up. There wasn’t much risk of an accidental discharge either. Most handguns in recent decades have a special device built in, that keeps the firearm from going off, unless the trigger is pulled. 

Now the news reports didn’t give all the details, but I can see a scenario where two things could have gone wrong. First, he likely didn’t have a proper holster, molded for that particular firearm, complete with a tensioning screw to keep it secured. So it didn’t hold it very tightly. I see this all the time. 

Second, he may have been “adjusting” it, so that he’d be more comfortable in his seat. Some holsters don’t clip well to a belt. When the holster slipped off his belt, the firearm then slipped out of the holster. It could easily happen, just by leaning backward to get more comfortable.

Now if he didn’t have a holster to begin with, even more shame on him. You simply don’t keep unholstered firearms in your belt, or in your pocket, regardless what you used to see on Magnum PI. 

But if you think it happens only to the untrained non-professional, think again. In another story that got media attention, a child was going to the bathroom in a restaurant, when she noticed a handgun that had been left there. Fortunately, she’d had some firearms safety training, and knew not to touch it. 

Instead, she went out and told her parents, who then told the manager of the restaurant. As the manager was getting ready to call the police, a woman came running back in the restaurant. She happened to be a federal agent, who had removed her firearm while using the bathroom, but forgot to put it back on.

Don’t think this can’t happen to you. If you’ve ever carried a firearm into a public bathroom and had to “sit down,” you’ve learned you have to do something with your gun. 

Uniformed officers can pull off their whole outer belt, holster and all, although it takes a little time. But if you have an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster, it’s going to flop down with your pants around your ankles every time. As will an appendix carry holster, or your standard, FBI issue, paddle holster. 

You have to put some thought into this. How you carry is important. Not just for quick access, but for retention purposes too. 

Putting 30 rounds on a stationary, oversize target at 5, 7, and 10 yards is the easy part. Learning how to carry concealed, safely and effectively, is more difficult. Like everything else, details matter, and training is the antidote to doing dumb things. 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to do dumb things, especially with something as serious as a firearm. I don’t want you to do dumb things either. 

Next week, I’ll tell you about some accidental discharges that will make your blood run cold. Then we’re going to look at the psychology of survival. Until then, train safe, and train often.  

About a week ago, I saw a post by Amber Tegeler on Facebook. She and her husband Jason had been members at the gym several years ago, but hadn’t been for quite awhile. Both had struggled with their weight for years. 

That was why seeing her recent picture was a nice surprise. Often, when people stop coming, I lose touch with them, and don’t know how they’re doing, although I wonder from time-to-time. 

I had to do a double take when I saw the picture associated with her name, because it wasn’t the person I remembered. In her case, the recent transformation was so remarkable that even her close friends couldn’t recognize her from her picture. 

Like everyone else, I was amazed, and I wondered what she had been doing that made such a dramatic change possible. So it was my good fortune to run into her and Jason at Walmart the other day. Here’s how the conversation went:

TD: Look at you. You’re wearing workout clothing! Jason, you’ve got on UnderArmor, and Amber, you’re wearing tight leggings!
Amber (laughing): Yeah, I wouldn’t be caught dead in these before. 

TD: How much weight have you guys lost?
Jason: It’s over 100 lbs. 

TD: I know you’d tried losing weight before. What got you started this time?
Amber: This is going to sound silly, but one day, I was thinking about funerals and I started thinking “What if I were gone?” I was thinking it would take like 30 people to carry me.

TD: So you really tapped into the emotion of it. That’s what it takes, having an emotional reason that’s big enough. 
Amber: One time, we went to Lincoln Trail. We went with one of my friends and they were so active. It was so embarrassing. I couldn’t even do the stairs.

TD: But now you went back and did it.
Amber: We went back and I ran part of it, even the stairs. 

TD: Were you an athlete back when you were in school?
Amber: I was active in track when I was younger. I wanted to be able to run again. 

TD: Well you’ve definitely found your inner athlete again. She was locked up inside you. So what was different this time around? 
Amber: I was tired of it. You have to be ready to do it. 

TD: How did you do it? What exactly did you do?
Amber: Nothing special, really. None of that stuff you hear about. I just started eating better, and we started walking. At first we walked two miles, and worked up from there. I got MyFitnessPal and started tracking my food. A measuring food scale. I have the Jawbone watch and we use “Map My Walk.”

TD: So the technology helps keep you motivated. 
Amber: Oh yes. 
Jason: We used the “Couch to 5K” app too. 

TD: Did you do this with a group?
Jason: No, we just did it by ourselves, together.
Amber: The first time we tried the “Couch to 5K”, that first 60 sec run, it about killed me. 

TD: When did you get on board with her?
Jason: Right away. 

TD: So you’re doing it together. 
Jason: Yes. 

TD: What changes did you make in your diet?
Amber: Before this, my diet was pretty much chocolate and Coke. I just went cold turkey and gave them up. 

TD: Was it tough making the changes?
Amber: The first week, I went through withdrawals, almost like you see with drug addictions. It was tough. I was shaking, felt horrible. After a week, I got a little energy back, and after that I was fine. 

Tom: Jason, when did you know she was serious and committed this time?
Jason: When she went through the caffeine and sugar withdrawals, I knew it was real. 
Amber: He says, “really after a couple of months of you actually going out in the cold weather to walk around the cemetery.”

TD: But now look at you. You’re sharing your pictures on Facebook. 
Amber: I want to inspire others. I want them to hold me accountable. I want to keep what I’ve worked hard for. Here I am on day 408…

TD: Wait a minute. That’s how serious you are. You actually know what day this is of your weight loss journey?
Amber: Yeah. I tell people by the time I’m 40, I want to be 40, fit, and fabulous. I’m only 39, so I have a little time left. I’d like to lose about 15 more pounds. 

TD: Did you keep your old clothes?
Amber: I never got rid of my fat clothes until about the 8th month. Then I finally did it. 

TD: You let them go. 
Amber. Yeah. 

TD: What would you tell people who are wanting to do what you’ve done?
Amber: Get MyFitnessPal; get a food scale. Keep trying. I want to let people know if I can do it, they can do it too. 

The reason I wanted to tell their story, was threefold. First, it was amazingly simple, yet amazingly dramatic. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. Put another way, the results speak for themselves. 

Second, they pretty much take away your excuses. If you’ve tried and failed, try again. Amber did. If you can’t get to the gym, or just can’t afford it, it doesn’t matter. You can do it at home. Amber did. And so can you. 

Finally, they did it together. Once Amber caught fire, there was big buy-in from Jason. They walked together, and ate better together. The point is, they did it together, and it shows. 

That’s exactly how I found them, walking past the Valentine’s Day aisle in Walmart, in their workout gear. Both 100 lbs lighter. Together. Awesome. 

With the large number of Illinois Concealed Carry applications in the last few years, it’s worth spending some time exploring the issues that go along with it. We looked at some of these issues in last week’s article. This week, I’d like to go a little deeper. 

But first, let’s address the elephant in the room. The biggest issue you have to consider (aside from the legality), is whether you’d be able to shoot someone if the need arose. That may sound harsh, but that’s really the bottom line. 

If you find that you don’t think you could do it, you shouldn’t be carrying a weapon. Don’t do it. But if you think that you could do it if you absolutely had no other choice, then you might consider concealed carry. But you need lots of training. You need to know you’re safe, and you need to know you can be effective.

You also need to know and clearly understand the law. In 720 ILCS 5., the Illinois statute basically says that you may use “deadly force” when you “reasonably believe”that you’re in “imminent danger” of “death or great bodily harm.” So if you’re forced to shoot someone in self defense, this would be called an affirmative defense. 

But there are a couple of standards that need to be met. First, you have to understand that “deadly force” is that force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another. It applies to the attack coming at you, but also to your response to that attack. This can be a little confusing. 

For example, being beaten about the head and body doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of “deadly force or great bodily harm” being used against you. But if you’re punched in the face, knocked to the ground, and mounted by your attacker, who is now raining down blows down upon your head, causing it to bounce off the pavement… it’s starting to get there. You might recall Zimmerman.

The key is, what would the “reasonable person” have done? Was it reasonable to believe you were about to be killed or greatly harmed? Some cases are so immediately obvious that the investigators will easily conclude that you didn’t have any choice but to fire your weapon to protect your life. 

Other cases might not be so clear cut. If it ever goes to court, a jury of your peers (presumed reasonable), will be asking themselves, “what would I have done in that situation?” If there was a grey area in any of it, you’d better hope that they would have done the same as you, were they in your shoes. 

The last issue is that of “imminent danger.” How immediate is the threat? In my concealed carry classes, I like to use this example. If I tell you, “I’m going to get in my car, drive back to town, and come over and kick your butt,” that doesn’t mean you can lie in wait for me at the edge of town and just plug me when you see me.

It’s not an immediate threat. It’s a future threat, and not all that deadly of one, either. But if I said I was “coming over to shoot your sorry a$$,” and 20 minutes later, you hear a violent banging on the door and my voice shouting similar threats outside, it’s getting more imminent, right? But if I come violently through the door in a “riotous manner,” well, that’s all she wrote. Bang. 

Of course that last example presents a couple of other affirmative defenses, but it makes the point pretty well. A reasonable person has to believe the threat is like, right now, and that you are about to be hurt really badly, or that someone else is. 

At that point, you better be ready to deal with it. You have to have already made the decision that you WILL deal with it. You have to have acquired the skills TO deal with it. And you have to know you CAN deal with it, safely and effectively. Safely, for you and those around you, and effectively, for the bad guy. 

This takes training. Lots of it. Please don’t underestimate this. It’s serious business. Make a commitment to prepare correctly. Train safe, and train often!

I got to go on a field trip today with my 5-year old’s preschool class at Crestwood. I love it how they always have such interesting things for the kids to do. 

Last year they visited the police station, fire stations, IDOT, and even the fairgrounds for some cool outside activities. I was curious to see what they’d be doing this year. Well this morning, they loaded up the bus and headed off to the new Paris High School STEM lab!

What, you say? The new high school STEM lab. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. I’d been hearing that they’ve been doing some amazing things over there, and this visit certainly proved that. 

We were met by Mrs. Brett Block, the teacher responsible for much of the science going on at the High School. I’d been fortunate to know her as the Mom of a couple great Taekwondo Junior Black Belts, but I’d never seen her work in her own environment. Wow. 

They had everything ready for the kids, including a student volunteer, assigned to every two preschoolers. The high school students were amazing as they led each small group through a series of short experiments.  

Sure, they were basic demonstrations, like showing paper, wetting the paper and letting the kids see how the water affected things. But they got the kids thinking, and feeling like scientists for a day. In another one, they even made “snow” in a ziplock Baggie.

The place was awesome, as you’d expect with a brand new facility, but it was more than that. It was really first class, all the way. I’m not just referring to the STEM lab, although that certainly is true. My understanding is that there are few like it in the entire state. 

But the other thing that was first class was Mrs. Block and all of her students. They were both knowledgeable and patient, and did something fantastic. They opened these preschoolers’ eyes to something more. They began to build some bonds that undoubtedly will be remembered. Who knows where it will all lead?

Most of them will be students there in 9 or 10 years, and some of them will go much deeper into science, in that very STEM lab. What a great opportunity for kids to begin thinking about the high school they’ll be attending, before they hit kindergarten!

Well done, Crestwood, Mrs. Wright and Mrs. Henson, and Ms. Tammy too. And kudos to the staff and kids at the new Paris High School, particularly Mrs. Block and her students. They certainly opened our eyes to a whole new world!

P.S. Afterward, I was also fortunate to get a personal tour of the new theater and stage. As a musician who loves the other side of the stage, I have to say I was nearly speechless, and that takes some doing. Wow, again. What an amazing resource we have out there for the whole community!

Teddy Roosevelt’s entire foreign policy doctrine could be summed up by the phrase, “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.” And who can argue with the effectiveness of the “Powell Doctrine” of overwhelming force in the first Gulf War. 

I tell my students that you have to have the skill set to draw from, and the training to back it up. It takes 1,000 repetitions to be able to pull things off consistently under pressure. That may be an exaggeration, but not by much.

But sometimes you don’t have overwhelming force. Sometimes you’re smaller of stature. You might be weaker, or just look different. This can make you a target of opportunity. 

As an asthmatic child, I often found myself on the receiving end of peers who found me an easy target. No doubt I brought some of it on myself. Later, I found fitness and martial arts, and gained some skill and confidence. I also learned how to get along with others.

After 30 years of training, I’m pretty confident that I have at least a fighting chance, if things get bad. But I continue to train every day in something, whether it’s Boot Camp style workouts, Taekwondo, Brazilian JiuJitsu, Handgun tactics, etc. 

At 53, I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) that it’s better to be safe than sorry. And it’s far better to be ready and NOT need it, than to need it but not be ready. Training really matters, as does experience. 

The more specialized the skill, the more perishable that skill is, especially fine (small) motor skills. This can happen over time, through a lack of use. Conditioning breaks down. Muscle memory may carry on, but you aren’t nearly as sharp about it. 

What’s interesting, is that many skills can also degrade instantaneously. This can happen in times of extreme stress, or situational overload. Physiological changes like tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, and the inability to act, can all get you killed. 

That’s where training really becomes important, especially under stressful conditions. Many combat experts are calling it stress inoculation, and incorporating it into their regular training sessions. 

There’s training that allows you to acquire the skills you need, and then training that allows you to actually use those skills. One doesn’t necessarily produce the other. It takes both. 

The more lethal your potential response, the more control you better have over it. If you have a trigger at your disposal, you better have some darn good self control. Some good trigger control wouldn’t hurt either. 

Whether it’s a dynamic, street savvy self defense class, or a concealed carry class, you have to not only learn what to do, but when to do it. You also need to learn when NOT to do it. 

Sometimes it’s better to just walk away. Live to fight another day. Have some mercy when you can. Let it go. Know your limitations, and know your capabilities. It may let you cut someone some slack. 

So there you have some training ideas for today’s culture. The most important thing to remember, is to start training. The next most important thing is to keep training. Train safe, and train often!

I was out riding my mountain bike with Buddy this morning. Well, I was on the bike. Buddy was running beside me. He’s our almost 3 year Golden Retriever. 

It’s our usual morning routine, as long as the weather isn’t too bad. He gets breakfast, and then I take him out on the bike for his morning business, if you know what I mean. We’ll go down the lane and he’ll stop for #1. 

You’ve got to be ready for that moment. It often comes with little warning. If you’re not paying attention, someone’s getting pulled off the bike, and it’s not him. 

I used to run with Buddy, but once he got full size, I realized that my running was really just a slow trot for him. One day I had an epiphany: “What if I took him out on the bike?” So I tested it on our lane. 

The first time, he was pretty excited, because all of a sudden, he could really open it up. The trick was getting him to stay off to the side and not get too far ahead; or worse, cross over in front of me!

I use a fairly short leash that’s long enough to give us some wiggle room, but short enough to keep him close. For the most part, we’re good to go, but like I said, you’ve got to be ready for anything.

One time, we flushed out some birds that were eating the left-over corn pickin’s that didn’t make it into the storage bins next door. Obviously, he’s much better at this than I am. I didn’t even see them, but he not only saw em, he’d already formulated a plan of attack. 

We made such an unexpected left turn that I just barely got my foot down, like those motorcycle racers leaning into and skidding through the curves. Sadly (for Buddy), the birds just flew off, and we continued on our way. 

He likes snarfing up last season’s corn cobs too. It’s kind of like a vacuum cleaner on hyperdrive. I’ll be rolling along down the lane, with him about six feet off to the side on the edge of the corn field. He puts his head down, and grabs a cob while still running full tilt boggy. I think he thinks he’s retrieving. 

Sooner or later, though, he starts slowing down. He’s got a couple different modes of sniffing. When we’re on an exercise ride/run, I don’t let him really put his nose down. He’ll smell last years possum, and follow its meandering trail wherever it goes. This isn’t serious exercise, nor is it very helpful for the guy on the bike. 

The smell mode I’m waiting for is his partial smell approach, which I guess is half seeing and half smelling. At that point, I have to be ready, for once he finds that perfect spot for #2, we’re stopping. Like now. I should say he’s stopping. That means I’m stopping too, if I don’t want to be jerked off the bike. 

It’s funny. He always looks away from me when he does his business. I guess he doesn’t want to be embarrassed. At least I can see how it’s going. Seriously, because once done, he’s off like a rocket. I guess he feels better, being lighter and all. 

I like our morning rides. It gives me a chance to wake up, and it gives Buddy some pretty good exercise too. It also keeps his business from getting piled up and clustered in our yard like land mines off our country’s coast during WWII.

We’ve had a few of those during those winter storms when it was too cold to get out on the bike. Thank God for Spring, a long lane, and country livin’!