It is an evening that finds me more wound up than usual. Sometimes I don’t know why I even bother
watching the news any more. George Carlin once did a skit stating that they should just call it the “Bad
News”; after all that’s all it ever is. This night, his “truth in humor” is right on the money.
I barge into my 12 year old little girl’s room, a training knife in each hand. “C’mon.” She turns off the
game she’s playing, knowing full well that I’m about to put her through the paces once again, although I
seldom do blade work with her. She steps out of her bedroom and into the center of the family room
downstairs, and we commence with simple drills. We’ve only been doing Palit-palit a few minutes
when I notice that my corrections are perturbing her. I realize that she doesn’t understand my sense of
urgency this evening, so I reach for the remote and click on the television. Almost on queue is the
recap of the developing story I’d watched before I came downstairs: about a young (College age) girl
missing from the Ark City area. Her car had been found abandoned, and she has been missing for
several days. The girl has no known enemies, and in fact is loved by all that know her. It is unthinkable
that this bright young soul could come to any harm, yet the news tonight confirms what everyone fears
but no one wants to admit to thinking. Her body has been found, and a suspected killer is now being
hunted. In what has to be every father’s worst nightmare, I share with my own daughter the reason to
do what we’re doing. I turn the TV off, and look into my little girl’s eyes, now beginning to well up with
tears. “That girl’s father couldn’t give his daughter the fighting chance that I’m giving you now.
Understand?” We nod simultaneously, and we reengage in the knife drills, this time with considerably
more fervor that just a few minutes ago. And while I want her to remember the lesson, I try to keep
things light as we train, making comments like “good cut!” or “oh, that was my liver!”. But in both of our
hearts and minds we think of the girl who’s loved ones now have to wonder why and how this wonderful
life has met with such a horrible end.
In reality, I have no idea what the father of this young lady did to prepare her to deal with the demons
that walk amongst us every day. I can only hope that what I do for my children now keeps them from
harm, God forbid that they ever come to a place when their lives might depend on it. My daughter is
nearly thirteen now, but looks much older. I have spent most of my life protecting her and sheltering her
from the evils that I know are there. However, with maturity comes the desire to get out and do more,
for them preferably without parents lurking around to make the situation “un-cool”. The time has come
to augment the usual parental teachings of right and wrong, morality, and common sense with
awareness, preparedness, and the ability to protect oneself from harm.
Times have changed so much since I was her age. My friends and I often comment on how we used to
jump on our bicycles and disappear for the day, riding all over the place for hours – no real plans and
no cell phones to stay in contact with our parents. It seems that we all walked or rode our bikes a
considerable distance to school, the pool, or our friend’s homes… distances that my friends and I
would now not dream of letting our own kids walk or ride. Only in the last year or so have I let out the
leash to allow my daughter and her friends ride or walk to the water park or the Kwik Shop, and even
then she has to have her cell phone, a few bucks, and sometimes even a dulo. She’d roll her eyes and
comply without too much fuss which was fine at the time. After all, a 12 year old girl doesn’t need to
know about all of the evils of the world yet… right? Before you know it, 12 becomes 13, and then those
lessons are overdue. And for that matter, 13 years old isn’t what it used to be. Kids today are far more
mature than they were just a generation ago… especially the girls. This is the first generation of kids
that get into trouble for surfing the ‘net where they shouldn’t, for running up enormous cell-phone bills
sending text messages and for losing mega-buck iPods.
So now my role as a father is complicated by my role as my daughter’s instructor. As there is more at
stake with her in my eyes, I am harder on her than the other students in my class. I know it, she knows
it, and my students know it. I have to remind my some of my seniors to correct her form and technique
without leniency. I’ll often get a glance from one of them when they work with her, as though wondering
if I want them to take it easy on her. I bark at them to “do their job”. My daughter is a trooper, taking it
all in stride and doing what she is told. She has dabbled in the arts since she was old enough to pick
up one of my sticks. I haven't pushed the art on her because I didn't want it to seem like punishment; I
wanted her to train because she wanted to, not because I wanted her to. Now it is a requirement.
Further complicating the situation is the fact that in order for me to stress the need for her training, I
have to educate her (as opposed to shielding her) from the darker side of human behavior. I knew this
time would come; I’ve been dreading it since the day my daughter was born… and quite frankly, I
thought I still had a few years before we came to this point. Screening my daughter’s internet activity
proved to be the alarm with no snooze button; time to pull the curtain back on the world. It started with
viewing the registered sexual predators in my particular zip code (and if you’re a parent, and haven’t
looked up the ones in your area, do this immediately… you may be surprised at what you find). This
was followed by examples and explanations of what crimes earned these folks their spot on the list.
Then we had to discuss why those people are out on the street and not behind bars, and how
sometimes they weren’t as rehabilitated as they appeared and committed crimes again… as in the
case of the suspected killer of the Ark City girl. The subject matter is grim, but that isn’t what I’ve been
dreading. It’s one thing to talk about what is in the newspaper, but it’s quite another to tell stories about
what you’ve experienced first hand. Doing this drives the point home much more effectively, but it
means I have to share with her some of the things that I’ve seen and done from a time when I wasn’t
such a nice guy. These talks prove more difficult for me than her; telling your child that you used to get
paid to protect rape victims from maniacs that were guilty of assault, battery, domestic violence and/or
rape isn’t exactly a happy bedtime story.
I struggle with my little girl becoming a young lady. I’m not so old that I don’t remember what it was like
to be a young man. She is a beautiful girl; she is also smarter, stronger, and more capable in every
way than I was at age 12 or 13. I was bullied and naïve until probably my junior year of high school, the
epitome of a late bloomer. I want to make sure that she stays ahead of the curve, and that she is able
to go out in the world with an assuredness that I didn’t find until late in life. I hope that what I give her as
a teacher of the arts is a big part of that. Martial training will allow her to venture forth, aware but not
afraid. Of all of the things that I can give my children, this to me is the most important and unique gift I
have to offer. They may not appreciate it until they’re older. By the time my son begins his training, I
hope my daughter will be doing some of the teaching. Hopefully their training will benefit them as it has
me, and they will pass it on to their children with the same intentions. Life it too short to be afraid, and
it’s too precious not to protect.
“Lunatic fringe… I know you’re out there…”
|The 2 most important reasons I have for training... and with a little luck, the
next generation of instructors.