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playing poker and teaching science: December 2009

playing poker and teaching science

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Location: Indiana, United States

I'm a middle school science teacher, wrestling coach, poker player, scuba diver, aikido black belt, amateur writer, and student of life. In the past I have tried to give back a little by volunteering at a children's home in Belmopan, Belize, Central America. I also love Frosted Flakes. I have taken a year sabbatical from my teaching position in order to sail the Caribbean. Does that sound crazy to you?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Avatar - the movie

Avatar was a fantastic movie, very visual and fast paced. I have to ask however if anyone else was distracted by the amount of alien flesh that kept flashing? It was like a National Geographic documentary....

Monday, December 28, 2009

Top 10 things to remember about 2009:

My top ten things to remember about 2009, in no particular order.

1. a milestone birthday
2. a 16-1 wrestling team
3. Space Camp!
4. receiving the NASA/Honeywell "Right Stuff" Award
5. a fat raise at school
6. standing up to a friend's stalker
7. out with the old, in with the new
8. pub poker point leader
9. a great sumo table
10. all-in on my first hand at the Palms

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A White Trash Christmas

I’ve been very fortunate in my life on a number of levels. I went from undergraduate work, to grad school, to full-time employment as Director of Membership Development for the Central Indiana Better Business Bureau without sending out a single resume.

When I decided to go into teaching I was hired by the first and only principal to interview me and have been in the same position for the past 19 years. I work in a great school system and thoroughly enjoy my job.

During my martial arts study, I’ve found some amazing teachers who were each unique in their own regard. They include a small Korean gentleman who could move mountains with his Judo, a bookish musician who would always defend three times before he retaliated with a flurry of Tang Soo Do kicks and punches, and a husband and wife team, each with more than 30 years experience, who in their modesty don’t even seem to realize the power that is always evident in their application of Aikido technique.

It’s safe to say I think that every martial artist who has ever darkened the door of a local dojo, whether he’s had a simple self-defense course or decades of intensive training and study, wonders how he will react to a real-life situation. Will the training kick in or will we revert to the flight or flight response that has worked so effectively throughout a hundred thousand years of evolution?

We wonder if our reaction to a given situation will be the culmination of our teaching and training that molds who we are as people and as martial artists, or if we will fall back on the fetal-position technique and simply duck and cover.

Few martial artists get to test their mettle.

I wasn’t that lucky…

It had been a wonderful dinner at one of my favorite places to eat in Indianapolis. Iaria’s has been in the Iaria family since the 1930’s and actually in the same location on South College since the 1940’s. The food is fantastic and as close to authentic Italian as I am likely to have any time soon.

It’s small, reasonably priced, and one of those word-of-mouth eateries that you don’t find very often. The last time I ate there I sat at the table next to Bill Polian, the President of the Indianapolis Colts.

I think he had the cheese tortellini.

The woman I was with and I had only been dating for a few days and I was aware of the way men looked at her wherever we went. She was very attractive, a petite brunette with lovely eyes and a great smile.

I was also aware of her stalker. An ex who she was trying to shake who would drive by her house constantly, phone her and leave messages until her mailbox was full, and text her more than 200 times a day.


Who has that kind of time?

I decided then and there I could never be a stalker. I can hardly keep track of my own schedule, much less keep track of someone else’s, and organize my time to show up where she’s supposed to be when she’s supposed to be there!

I also knew he drove a new Mustang, so when we pulled up into her driveway and a Mustang roared up and skidded to a stop behind my Jeep as I walked around to open her door, I knew exactly what was going on.

“Call the police right now,” I told her as she looked over her shoulder to see what was causing the commotion.

It’s nice to be able to rely on the “teacher voice” in situations where you need something done immediately. American students are trained from a very young age to respond to the voice of authority and I wasn’t surprised to see her flip her phone open and dial 911 without any comment at all.

Keep in mind that this man must have been sitting and watching her house for quite some time because it was about 10:30 in the evening. He was also apparently unafraid to confront whoever happened to be with her. I’d never seen this man before he stormed out of his car and had no idea about how big he was or what training he might have in his background.

All I really knew was that a middle-aged man with a fake tan and too much jewelry was coming towards me and had already started yelling at the small woman in the car.

Fake tan? Jewelry? Obvious mental instability? What kind of men did this chick date?

I stood between him and the car as he yelled for me to get out of his way and tried to move around be. He continued screaming at the woman about a myriad of topics ranging from her lying to the plans they had made together.

I stepped in front of him.

“Man, you need to go away.”

In Aikido we learn to redirect the attack and to not confront it head-on. The man was screaming and yelling and focused on the woman in the car. If I had begun shouting back, I’m confident we would have immediately become involved in a physical confrontation.

I stayed calm, simply stepped in front of him every time he tried to go around me to get to the woman, and repeated that the police had been called and that he needed to go away.

As I reflect on the situation now, I’m very pleased at my response. A quick assessment as he stormed towards me said I could take him down and choke him out if I wanted to. I’ve been a wrestler for 35 years and still coach and stay in shape.

He wasn’t a wrestler.

Additionally, 35 years of struggling with opponents on a very intimate level through wrestling, Judo, and Aikido gives me a sense of the type of athlete a person is just by the way he or she walks. I can tell you with a reasonable amount of accuracy who is going to win a wrestling match just by watching how the wrestlers warm up before the match and carry themselves to the mat.

He was taller than me and we probably weighed about the same, but my weight includes a modest amount of muscle mass and I was pretty sure his didn’t. I also knew that anger hampers our movements and affects our response time.

Damn, he was angry!

I don’t know how much projecting ki really works, but I do know that I was projecting confidence and made it clear that around me wasn’t an option. If he wanted in the car, the only way to go was through me.

The one thing that wasn’t clear at this point was whether or not he had a weapon. I knew that he owned several hand guns, but as he came toward the car, his hands were empty. As long as they stayed that way and he didn’t touch me, we could avoid a real conflict.

Lucky for him, he didn’t grab me. Aikidoka dream about being grabbed by the wrist!

Time slowed as he yelled and tried to go around me however just as it does during an accident and I was remember being acutely aware of three things: his empty hands, the fact that I was holding my ignition key firmly between my thumb and forefinger without knowing how it positioned itself there, and the fast, firm throbbing of the jugular vein along the left side of his neck.

The situation at that point resolved itself in an anticlimactic fashion. He finally looked at me, I burned a hole in his head with my eyes, and he left, still screaming and yelling about lies and lawsuits.

He was picked up an hour later and arrested on two counts of criminal intimidation and one count of carrying an unlicensed hand gun.

He awaits trial.

There are a lot of stories of masters facing one another that end without a confrontation because one or both decide in advance that there’s no way to win. I’m not a master and never will be, but the technique of no technique is apparently something I’ve learned along my journey.

Maybe Daniel-san was right…. I study so I don’t have to fight. Also, no matter how intimidating the situation, doing what is right is always the best option.

Have a Merry Christmas!