Many, many years ago, I was privileged to train with a knife instructor by the name of Tom Sotis.* He was a frequent guest instructor at our home dojo, coming in 3-4 times annually to show us the finer points of his system, one based heavily (but not entirely) on the Filipino art of Kali.
Sotis was and is the real deal, and many of his observations, truisms, and training methods have stuck with me over the years, even when I couldn't train regularly.
Unfortunately, personal circumstances have once again kept me out of the dojo for an extended period. But one of Sotis' earliest and strongest lessons was "It's my job to teach you. It's your job to train you."
Being kept out of the dojo just means I'm not able to learn. I still have a wealth of material I can train. And there's always conditioning.
I've mentioned before how I'm working to rehab bad knees. That continues, and as of this writing, my personal best on the back squat is 75 lbs for 10 sets of 5 reps each.
Yeah, yeah, I know... I'm still moving sissy weights. But I'm also a guy with a blown ACL, who couldn't do one single, bodyweight squat 18 months ago. From where I started, this is practically a different world.
Incidentally, I woke up sore from last night's weight training session, so I did a day of active recovery with some heavy bag work, calisthenics, Kali forms, and Kali solo drills. All performed both orthodox and southpaw, a habit which stems from another of Sotis' truisms: "If you don't know a technique both left and right handed, you don't know it."
Learning can go on pause. But training doesn't stop unless you say it does.
*Incidentally, Tom Sotis still actively teaches in the Holdbook, MA, area. If you're local, and at all interested in knife-base combatives, seek him out. He also has a book available on Amazon.
17 Years ago today, the Second Battle of Fallujah began. It was the single largest urban battle US forces engaged in since Hue City, Vietnam, in 1968. I usually don't make a big deal of memorializing it, but maybe I should.
The men I fought alongside in Fallujah were the best men I ever knew. Not all of them made it. None of us made it home unchanged.
I share my worst memories with my bravest brothers.
I truly would not have it any other way.
This year, the memories sting a little harder than usual. The disastrous collapse of the US mission in Afghanistan, and the restoration of control to the Taliban, marks the final and utter failure of our adventures in the Middle East.
I suppose it was inevitable. Bringing US-style Democracy to those places was always a fool's errand.
Even so, the images of the Afghanistan pull-out, and the news that we left Americans and Allies behind to face the mercy of our enemies, just hammers home how little we accomplished, despite all the blood, sweat, and tears.
But the one thing that I learned in my years of service is that courage and valor exist independently of causes.
Win or lose, right or wrong, the Marines and Corpsmen of 1/3—and one particular Army Ranger brother—were the bravest sons-of-bitches I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. It was an honor to chew the same ground as those men, and if given the choice to do it over again, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Even knowing how it ends.
So tonight, boys, this cigar and this drink are for you.
To Brave Men and Lost Causes.
May all we meet again in happier times.
I'm an award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer based out of North Carolina. This is where I scream into the digital void. I like cookies.