The anticipation is thick, as my guys Mark & Kyle load the truck with gears and clothes. The time is 0700,  Perris, CA. The weather is high 70’s. Gloomy but no matter how overcast the day may be, nothing is going to diminish the excitement that we all have as we leave for the 2015 GSBA USA National Tournament.
Los Angeles International Airport, Southwest terminal. Checked in and heading towards the gate. Our brothers from Oxnard are there. The hunger is in all our eyes, the hunger that can only be quenched by one thing and one thing alone. GOLD!!! This is not your typical gold fever, for this gold can only be won by combat. The machismo is thick yet the respect is clear; we are kindred warriors. In the battlefield we may be enemies but we are all brothers.
Arriving at Milwaukee International Airport the weather is crisp. At a cool 50 degrees, it is not as cold as 2006, but then again the fire in our hearts and veins will keep us warm. The battle site, Sheraton Brookfield.
Registration: The first time we see our opponents. Make no mistake  –  the battle starts here. Seeing how they lean or do they cringe when you shake their hands? Are they leaner or bigger? Are they limping or not? But just like us, they too have that fire in their eyes and they too have GOLD FEVER.

Talk is cheap, time to show me what you got. As the warriors clash, the sticks fly and there is no longer any holding back. You are giving your all, with every ounce of strength, with every fiber of your being, with all your training against the person in front of you doing the exact same thing. You make contact and as that stick connects you feel every inch of your weapon smashing against their body. You see the hurt they are feeling, yet it does not change their resolve to inflict as much damage as they can on you. The first round is over, is your conditioning enough? As you go back to your corner at that moment you think to yourself have I trained hard enough? Then you look to your coach and they say to you, “Fight hard, fight strong, and fight to win.” That 30 second break is getting shorter between every round. Then you go out there to fight again. All the while you keep thinking, this person is in my way to the GOLD. I must vanquish them.

Two days of fighting, two days of laying it all on the line, two days of pain. Then they hand you your medal, and while not every battle you come out on top, you realize that your biggest opponent was not the warrior in front of you, but the coward inside of you. The coward that says you cannot do this, run and hide. The voice of doubt is silenced as you come out battered and bruised; but you survived. So no matter what the score card says, you know you are a champion. Then your opponent comes across to you and grabs your hand and raises it higher than his. You might not have earned the gold, but you earned something more – the respect of your peers. You walked into the arena as combatants but walked away as brothers forged by broken sticks and bones, sealed with blood and sweat and the victory belongs to you all. 
This is Filipino Martial Arts, and this is what it means to compete.

There is evil in this world, and there are those who want to serve that evil to the good people in this world.  Martial Artist are not afraid, for we prepare, we train and we anticipate.  So we walk tall and confident.  We walk into a room knowing that if trouble comes, we can handle ourselves.  We are not bullies, nor paranoid.  We live our lives unafraid, and no one’s victim.  

Martial Artist train hard, spend hundreds if not thousands of hours training over and over.  We get bruised and sometimes break our bones, yet we keep coming back.  No matter how hard it is, it does not compare to the difficulties of explaining to someone else how important it is to learn how to protect themselves.  
Unfortunately people do not take their personal safety seriously.  Many people live their lives in this buble of ignorance safe from the evil of this world.  Just like all bubles it does not take much to burst it.  When told that they should at least learn something to protect themselves they just don’t have the time.  Or its just not a priority.  Many times I get the question what type of pepper spray should I purchase, what type of knife is legal or what type of weapon I can carry that is legal.  
Education is key.  The problem with just purchasing a pepper spray or walking around with a knife is that it creates a false sense of security.  Many people think that once I walk around with a pepper spray I’ll be safer.  Pepper spray is intended for good people to use it against bad ones.  Unfortunately bad people can use it too.  In reality any weapon can be used against you.  So training is still neccessary to use them.  How fast can you pull and deploy that weapon.  Do you practice how to pull it out?  Have you tried deploying it in different scenarios? So buying pepper spray is not enough.  To think that your safe because your walking around pepper spray or any other type of weapon is just plain ignorant.  I wish I could say that its better than nothing, but that is not the case.  Weapons in the uneducated person can be more of a danger to you than your assailant.  Have you ever been pepper sprayed?  As someone who has, getting pepper sprayed hurts to the point where it is debilitating paralyzing effect.  Are you ready to keep fighting while under influenced of pepper spray?  
Your personal safety is your responsibility.  Are you ready to trust a piece of device to protect you?  Or your kids?  I know I am just a crazy martial artist, but when it comes to my family I’m a freekin lunatic.