Sensei Canna offers insight into the real world of self defense!

Moderator: Van Canna


Postby Van Canna » Fri Oct 23, 1998 1:31 am

Mindset and the ugly American ,

The following will remind us of who and what we have really become in this country and explains , at least partially, our expanding status of easy prey !

The globe reported the other day , that parents of teenagers playing some football minnows league , enraged at the outcome of the home team , became obnoxious hurling invectives and foul language at opposing parents , referees and players ! There was a scuffle , fist fights , posturing >>> and some brave parent tried to run down an opposing teenage player with his car ! Then the pride at 'being tough ' "we showed them , didn't we ?" Then the lawyers and the suits , but of course !! Very courageous !

Then , a few days later , another article in the globe ..this time it seems Boston Latin students sexually harassed and molested a female classmate on a Boston subway train with a car load of adults present , a car empty of compassion and even a minimum of courage , as no one intervened on behalf of the girl !

My, My …what ever happened to the 'courage ' and posturing of the football field ?

A reader wrote that the people who stood by shared much with the victim ---fear and a sense of shame , and for those who could have made a difference but did not , she wished " continuing nightmares " !!

I know , some of you are thinking ..well if I had been there ..I certainly would have done something …right ? Don't bet on it ! HERE GOES THE COUNTERPOINT :
Another reader writes : what would I do ? Are the punks armed? Will they turn against me ?[ Probably ] ..Will any other adult help me [ definitely not ] ..What will happen if I hurt a punk while defending myself ? [ Will be called a child abuser and punished and sued by the ever growing fungus of ambulance chasers ] …The article states that one need not be divorced to understand the value of the child abuse ruse as a weapon ! "Gotcha !" is the best game in town along with deep pockets and plea bargaining ! Now we use kids to assault adults physically , emotionally and financially ! I should know after handling scores of alleged children 's sexual molestation cases by divorcing parents bent on unloading their excess baggage upon society to the delight of rapacious "mouthpieces " trying to ensnare the insurance companies in their sordid affairs !

So we throw away control and relay the message to kids that we dare not touch them , school principals live in fear of law suits , "don't make any waves " ..School teachers are assaulted , spit at and intimidated , by the 'invincible ' youngsters …why should they not attack girls ? They relish in the thought of paralyzing the adults into inaction !

So what would you do really ? Would you intervene ? For that matter would you intervene if it were an old lady being set upon ?/ Remember , you will quickly become the object of the "assailant's affection " if you intervene ! I argue with lots of people , even in my office , who say "I hate violence and weapons and I have no interest in defending myself on the street " and , to my question : How about your child , your wife , your parents ? …well you call the police !

The bleeding hearts and 'goody two shoes ' of this country have ruined it for all of us , and we are the laughing stock of Europe and the world at large !

In contrast , Jeff Cooper reports that some years ago` two pirates attempted to take over an air Iberia flight from Madrid to Rome .The passengers killed them , the stewardesses covered them up with the blankets and opened the bar . More recently , a troll seized a girl in a Philippine bank , doused her with gasoline , and threatened to burn her if he was not given all the money ! The customers not only beat him to death , they dismembered him !

How do we measure up ? Flabby , no hardness of spirit , no evident interest in courage , no pride in victory , total capitulation to gutless judges and hideous judicial system which rewards the criminal and victimizes the victims !

So why are we studying the martial arts if we never even intend to use it in principle ? Is talk of mindset really academic when deep inside we know we would not commit to the confrontation ?

Van Canna
User avatar
Van Canna
Posts: 50435
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 1999 6:01 am


Postby david » Fri Oct 23, 1998 10:48 am

>>So what would you do really ? Would you intervene ? For that matter would you intervene if it were an old lady being set upon ?/ Remember , you will quickly become the object of the "assailant's affection " if
you intervene ! I argue with lots of people , even in my office , who say "I hate violence and weapons and I have no interest in defending myself on the street " and , to my question : How about your child , your wife , your parents ? …well you call the police ! <<

One has to "mindset" to intervene. One must believe an attack on someone less powerful is an attack on oneself. One must intervene. One must believe such an attack is violation of what's right. One must intervene. One must believe that to not intervene is to cave in to what's evil and submit to our fears. One must intervene. One must believe allowing such an attack to take place without intervention is to cheapen the worth of one's very own life. One must intervene...
Posts: 2077
Joined: Thu Sep 17, 1998 6:01 am
Location: Boston, MA


Postby Kevin Mackie » Fri Oct 23, 1998 1:50 pm


I have a belief in myself that I would have intervened wholeheartedly. I always stop to help people in distress whether it'sto change a flat tire, breakdown, whip the ever present bandaid out of my wallet or whatever. It's the boy scout in me; "do a good turn daily". ( I know it's a small gesture, but then hundreds of people have passed by without stopping before me)

I don't think excess force would have been required to protect the young girl, someone on the train with ANY cajones should have at the very least yelled STOP! (Even if someone had cracked a skull or two, I bet they'd be given a parade today! lots of people are sick of this behavior)

Why do dirtbags behave the way they do? Because they have a belief that they can get away with it. We as a society have to crush their mistaken belief with action whenever we can.

I feel that we all should have he right to intervene to save and perserve ours 'and others' rights and freedoms with impunity when they are threatened. Just as we are protected from legal action as "Good Samaratins" when giving emergency aid to the injured, we should have the same protection when protecting someone from a violent attack. This is the mindset to adopt. " By doing this, I am protected". It's not true by any means, but we cannot think of our safety and comfort when offering our help. Why? Because it is the right thing to do.

Don't under-estimate the mindset of people who are willing to protect others. Firefighters and Police officers do it daily all over our nation without much thought for their own safety.

I have been teaching my son and daughters to stand up for others when they are bullied or assaulted. They know I will backtheir actions them up 110%. They have no fear of condemnation and retribution from me.

It really only takes one person to stand up to a bully to put them in their place, and then another ... and another.. and another...


Kevin Mackie
Posts: 671
Joined: Wed Sep 16, 1998 6:01 am


Postby Mike Hurney » Fri Oct 23, 1998 3:45 pm

I help anyone who is helping themselves.
Remember in the movie "Pulp Fiction" when Bruce Willis gets free from the perverts (gun dealers?)in the cellar. As he is leaving he stops, ponders the plight of the other person tied up then decides what the hell I have to help them even at risk to myself. That's me. I couldn't turn my back on someone needing help.
However, many years ago walking the tracks to Northeastern I came upon a young local punk (about 4' tall and 11 years old) trying to pull a camera from a 5'10 stocky guy in his 20's. He whimpered "help help". I stopped and the punk backed off. I said "Hey help yourself with this punk." An hour and a half later I passed by the same area and the "victim' ran over to me with the Campus Police. He jabbed me in the chest saying "Hey he wouldn't even beat up the punk for me!" I told the Police what happened and my discription of the punk was about 1/2 the victims description. They chastised him "You wouldn't stand up to a punk like that and you come down on the passerby? Get lost!" Who knows what to do?

The Latin student; Many people have called the Talk Radio stations and recounted tale after tale of how they helped someone only to be arrested by the police or MBTA police themselves and thrown in with the punks.

Like Tom Powers always told me "Do your stuff then get the f--- outta there. Hang around if you want real trouble!"
Mike Hurney
Posts: 244
Joined: Thu Oct 01, 1998 6:01 am
Location: Marblehead, MA USA


Postby moulton » Sat Oct 24, 1998 2:59 am

Hello Van,

Over the past month or so, Van, you have been really getting down on Americans. That footbal game skirmage was bad, but Soccer fans in Europe get into 'stuff' too. Are we really alone in doing dastardly deeds?

I feel bad for the subway girl. Not being a stranger to the 'T' (Boston subway system) and some of the shenannigans (sp), I can understand the desire to NOT get involved in someone else's business, esp that of a stranger in a strange place. Courage or lack theirof has little to do with it, Van; don't forget we are living in the 'me' generation.

"The bleeding hearts and 'goody two shoes ' of this country have ruined it for all of us"

You are absolutely right. Several of my students and I were having a few beers after class one evening conversing with Raffi, the barkey, when someone in his 60s near us started to have what looked like a seizure or hear attack coming. As Raf and Chris moved-in to assist the person one of my students, an EMT, stopped them stating not to touch that person (I think unless he asked for help or passed out) because if anything happened you easily be charged with negligence(?) in a court of law find and/or jailed. Has to do with the way the laws are written. If someone is hurt in a car accident you can't touch him. The person may never think about a suit, but his lawyer may be looking for a chance to earn a few more bucks. Sorry, hands off. Next time you come across someone pinned under a car, hurting but conscious , about all you can do is talk about the weather or the family, etc. but hands off.

We have been conditioned to look away and not get involved. What else CAN you expect, Van.

And these are powerful words from you, Van:

"So why are we studying the martial arts if we never even intend to use it in principle ? Is talk of mindset really academic when deep inside we know we would not commit to the confrontation?"

Boy, you are really from the old school (don't take it the wrong way) but how many karateists today really have mind-body-spirit conviction, or even simple guts. The numbers are dwindling.

Karate practice today just isn't what it used to be a generation ago, rather it is eroding into a mindless arobic exercise activity. You might as well grab your chips while you can, Van, because it isn't getting any better.

So Van, to expect anything any better would be like inhaling, right?



Postby Lori » Sat Oct 24, 1998 4:00 am

Now wait just one minute here!

I was simply going to make the following statement:

This is exactly why we have to teach women to yell "fire" instead of "rape" when they are being attacked - without threatening the personal safety of passersby - the fact remains that most, if not all will not get involved! You know that there is story after story describing this sad state of apathy.

But now - I find I must respond to your post Allen-san! (To the consternation of the readership! Look at them run for cover!)

Seriously, I don't think that our honorable forum moderator is "getting down on Americans" for I find that I agree with his assessment of our society as a whole! I have also lived overseas, and have had opportunity to expatriate myself for a few years at a time, but it is here I have returned and here I choose to stay! Yet I'm the first to admit that this society is not perfect - without recognizing the defects, how can we ever choose to correct them? No, we are definitely not alone in committing "dastardly deeds" but if they jump off a bridge, should we do the same? It is some of the very strengths of this country (individual freedom, separation of church and state, freedom of speech) that are also at the core of some of its weaknesses - and if we choose to grow and develop and continue to be a world power, we damn well better get up off of our "holier than thou" podium of supremacy and recognize that the old maxim will hold true - "United we stand - divided we fall!" We are dividing in the pursuit of our search for the so called "politically correct" (Not to mention the politically exploitable!) and the all important "legally indemnifiable!" As some of the posts in this thread have pointed out!

The 'me' generation - bah - each generation since the beginning of time has labeled the next and the former with some type of moniker that sets each further apart - more division! But it is only natural. I don't believe that it is so much a result of conditioning to ignore those around us needing help - more of a lack of education! I love the words above by Kevin Mackie who is teaching his children to stand up for others - that is education and that is what we need more of! As martial arts instructors we stand in a position to impart some of this philosophy to our students! I may be a small-fry myself - but I'm sorry - I don't feel that the "old school" is dead and gone - it will be alive and well as long as I choose to take up and proudly display it's standard! I can only hope to pass it on to my students when the time comes! I have a very, very small dojo - but our numbers are great in the quality of the people within - each and every one of our students is exploring a mind-body-spirit connection - and their numbers are increasing, not dwindling! No mindless aerobics from where I stand! And from your teachings and your books I doubt there is very much in your dojo either! There is hope only as long as we keep it alive!

All of this diatribe is said with the utmost respect...

Posts: 865
Joined: Thu Sep 17, 1998 6:01 am


Postby david » Sat Oct 24, 1998 12:28 pm


I walked into a MBTA station late one night. Looked down the platform and saw two guys mugging this guy, taking his watch, his wallet... I was scared but walked right up to them and stared at the muggers. The muggers got nervous looked at me, looked at each other. The victim took that opportunity to book it out of there, leaving me alone with the two muggers. The muggers looked at me again, with a wry grin, and said, "see you later." They left me in an empty station, with my legs shaking, my stomach doing flipflops.

I didn't feel good about the victim taking off and leaving me but he was a victim exactly because they knew he was powerless. The muggers left me alone because I suspect they knew I would not "go peacefully into that dark night" alone.

All in all. I would do it again. I can look myself in the mirror without shame, without rationalization because this is what I believe and I am willing to act on my belief.

You have every right to feel, believe and act accordingly to your own set of rules. Practice is hopefully about becoming the "best you can be". If there is no discordance between your actions and your true beliefs... Fine. Your practice has served you well.

Posts: 2077
Joined: Thu Sep 17, 1998 6:01 am
Location: Boston, MA


Postby Tom J Paglia Jr » Sat Oct 24, 1998 3:20 pm

A once famous historian pointed out that as goverments go the normal transgression from DEMOCRACY IS ANARCHY. This has been proven countless times in the history of WORLD cultures. His explanation was that the son's of the fathers would forget the price paid in blood and guts to gain democracy and freedom and would become self - centered in there belief's and concerns. The ME concept. You don't have to agree with this. It's a
historical fact.
I personally believe that being animals of extremes and coming from a past where in a sense we had no rights we have drifted to over protecting the individuals rights. Keep in mind that in a society the rights of the individual can never out weigh the rights of the society as a whole. By over protecting the rights of the individual we have given a license to do as you please and put society in danger.
So for those who refuse to take a stand welcome to a world of predators Keep practicing you're going to need all the help you can get.
Tom J Paglia Jr
Posts: 15
Joined: Sun Sep 20, 1998 6:01 am
Location: Forked River , N.J.


Postby Van Canna » Sun Oct 25, 1998 12:35 am

Good observations ..this is a tough subject ! One thing I should clarify ,before somebody else accuses me again of being a racist , although I am of Italian heritage , I am also very much an American and I served in the American forces of this country!

However , I was twenty years old when I came to this country , and my formative years were very much European ! In addition, I travel back to Europe almost once a year ,[ have one trip planned about December this year ], and I spend lots of time with European friends as well as American friends ! Also , as a teenager , I spent considerable time in Argentina with my parents , playing lots of great soccer and riding wild horses in the Pampas !

Because of this I have a somewhat multicultural perspective on life ..more of a global view , if you will , as opposed to some obdurate Americans who refuse even to travel overseas because they think is beneath them ! You really want to bet on this one ? So I feel qualified to take "pot shots" at both the Americans and the Europeans [ SMILE] !

Both Europe and America have lots to offer to our lives and I believe I have the best of both worlds fused into my personality ..that is why , generally, I enjoy my life very much and make it a point to surround myself with emotionally mature and interesting people !

The point here is that unless you expand your awareness of life into a dimension rich in culture and art and beauty and history [ Italy is one good example] your senses will never fully develop to give you an understanding of who you are and how to deal with life and people in general , including the ones you will have to kill someday in self defense !
I know I am losing some of you here , but I expected that , because not very many will grasp the meaning of what I am trying to convey as you are already preoccupied with thoughts of where your next beer is coming from and who can belch the loudest >>> with the exception of people like Lori , for example , who has spent considerable time overseas and is highly attuned to the message here !

On a recent trip to Cleveland , my taxi driver was a young man from Bosnia who kept telling me how much he loved Europe and Italy in particular , and how he was so disappointed with the Americans because of the lack of feelings in daily interaction …he said he felt so lonely even as he met hundreds of people a week !

On another note , In my work I deal with lots of professional women who take lots of trips to Europe and who seem to prefer Italy the most because of the gentle way of life ! More specifically , the ladies become intoxicated by the mannerism of the men who make them feel like complete women even if they are fat ,old and ugly!

So what's this got to do with the subject matter being discussed ? The point is our lives , reduced to basic terms , are governed by emotions and perspectives ! The American problem is that ,but for lack of attuned emotions , perspectives are in constant jumble ! In the 'Gift of fear ' [ bet most of you have not yet spent the twenty bucks to buy it …cuts into your beer allowance] Dr. De Becker makes the point that as you work at experiencing and IMAGINING every human feeling , you will become an expert at predicting what others will do or we should do as a society , to make our lives more worthwhile and livable with style !

If your emotions are stifled or run amuck out of touch with perspective , then you will lead a miserable short life , devoid of fulfillment and sympathetic experience !Think about it ..how many people do you know who fit this description!

Now as to football and soccer games incidents here and abroad ! The violence in soccer , although deplorable ,GENERALLY WITH FEW EXECEPTIONS, is tied to nationalism and the triggering mechanism for it speaks volumes of the pride of the fans , who in their minds , are fighting a foreign force which threatens their territorial soccer standing in the world !

How do you compare this emotional charge with what the parents did to each other in a kid's football game ? The parents knew each other , yet they went at one another and at the referee, like jackasses dispersed by a loud blast , and one very 'smart ' parent tried to run over one of his neighbor 's kids with the front of his car ! Man what a jerk ..I bet he is one of the people that pleads to his friends .. " but I need my beer" !

You see violence in Italy/Europe ..violence is everywhere ..but you will never see this childish display of emotion among neighbors ..because the Italians possess a much more attuned 'emotional intelligence' ..If you don't believe me , spend a few months there ..but be very careful of how you behave ! And you won't smell drunk's vomit at every corner ! And you won't see road rage in spite of some very precise aggressive driving , fast speeds but tolerance and sharing of every available space ! You won't see the ' biker ' subculture with fat slobs on Harleys who think they can ride a bike …the ones who have tried to play the European game on American Bikes on Italian , German , Austrian soil , feel like novices when up against European stylish motorcycles and elegant riders who maneuver on a dime in heavy traffic and move like the wind at warp speed ! this is the difference of STYLE I often talk about !

And this under-developed 'emotional intelligence' in Americans is responsible for what you talk about on this post , i.e., Me first and always ---But if danger lurks ..better you than me ---sue the bastard ---don't get involved-desert the rescuer-give people the finger -cut him off-I have rights you know !-the rescued victim turning on the rescuer -accusing him of excessive force or lack of certain action -the nightmare of being accused to have been the instigator when you were only trying to help -being arrested by the cops who have to sort things out -our heartless judicial system- look at me , I am tough ! etc. !

Look at what we have done to ourselves ..some days when I engage in conversation with some donkey brain who thinks he smart because he bluffed himself through a college education and now he has the right to stand on a bucket of s$#% and pontificate absent any emotional maturity , I feel like splitting his head open with an ax and stuffing his empty skull with empathy for his fellow man ! But not to fret ..go back to your beer and belching , no need for you to get an emotional beating here !

Peace ,

User avatar
Van Canna
Posts: 50435
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 1999 6:01 am


Postby moulton » Sun Oct 25, 1998 1:44 am

Hello Lori. I'll respond after I get home from work tomorrow night. --Allen

P.S. Thanx for the kind words.


Postby moulton » Sun Oct 25, 1998 2:05 am

Hello Van,

I won't stay long because I need some sleep but have to respond. You are very proud of your motherland, and have every right to be. Italy is a beautiful country full of beautiful people. The roots of strength in this country come directly from European immigration. This area, Boston and Federal Hill come to mind, contain some of the hardiest, dedicated, family centerd, and toughest peoples in the US; we can use more.

I don't know about you being racist; but I don't think so anyway. From your writings you speak about peoples in a generic sense.

I felt you have been too negative on Americans since some infamous escapades became public fodder several months back. But this is only my opinion. We have an overfilling bushel of good USA apples, with a few soft ones that, unless removed (talking about your previous posts above and NOT about others' personal private lives), they will spoil the whole basket.

This is my view.

With genuine respect, Sensei Canna, I respond.



Postby Van Canna » Sun Oct 25, 1998 9:25 pm

Dear Anthony,

Not a problem ! I realize we are discussing some pretty powerful emotions here which affects people differently based on their make up and experiences! And that's the objective ..to stimulate sensitive people like you to come out and be heard ! Remember , on my forum , you will always be among friends and most welcome !


User avatar
Van Canna
Posts: 50435
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 1999 6:01 am


Postby Hutch » Mon Oct 26, 1998 4:22 am

Van Canna Sensei & everyone:

This is a very moving thread; a lot of angst mixed with fear,courage and outrage.

It seems that we have lost touch with an important part of the culture that was apparent when I was growing up; the hero culture.

In the 50's qnd 60's, the hero culture was enormous. We still had the taste of WWII in our mouths and our fathers who fought there were all heroes to us. Every time I saw an Audey Murphy movie, I saw my Dad. We had John Wayne, Roy Rodgers and a slew of other "good guys". Sorry Lori, I know there were female heroes as well, but they didn't get much recognition when I was growing up, so I can't name them (In those days, they were portrayed as care-givers - mothers who sacrificed sons for country, nurses at front line hospitals).

In any case, we had lots of heroes and were encouraged to identify with them. The one thing that all these heroes had in common was their willingness to sacrifice their own comfort, indeed lives, for a perceived higher good. My generation saw a lot of movie heroes, but they were based on real characters who engaged in real acts of courage. The character that Tom Hanks recently played in "Saving Private Ryan"
was a revival of that culture. Men with courage need not be without fear or doubt; they just need to rise above those doubts and fears. They do this by cultivating "mindset". Van Canna sensei is downright eloquent (not to mention scary) with respect to this subject.

But the concepts of nobility and honour, while lagging, have not been lost. They are voiced frequently on these forums and every time we are brave enough to visulize ourselves in the circumstances that promote fear and doubt, we innoculate ourselves with a little more courage. We need to see ourselves as heroes; be our own heroes - rise above our fears.

I refuse to despair about the state of society. I cannot live anybody else's life; just my own. When I do it right, I make courageous choices and when I am wrong, it is usually because I acted out of fear. I am still learning the difference, but I know helping others is rarely a wrong choice if your goal is to have a healthy and worthy spirit. All that each of us can really do is to try to make courageous choices and encourage the same behaviour in others. Despair is for the defeated. Karate, when practiced with dedication, strengthens our spirit and trains our bodies to hardship. I pray I never find out if it is sufficient, but when faced with the choice of learning the answer to that question or turning away in fear, the "mindset" that I learned from my "hero" father and that I study in this forum will give me courage to do the right thing. (I will also always remember attending a summer camp seminar in Beverly, Mass. where Van Canna Sensei said to displace our fear with anger. He could as easily have said righteousness.) Can't promise the outcome, just the attempt! Legalities, indemnities, etc... will have to wait in line.

With respect to all,
Posts: 53
Joined: Sat Sep 19, 1998 6:01 am
Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada


Postby kevinf » Tue Oct 27, 1998 4:03 pm

well said. many aspects of life call on us to have courage. it is not easy but nessicary to accomplish what we want in life. a line from a poem on courage i once read always helps me decide to face fear when i know it is the right thing to do.
"i'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees".
regards, kevin
Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Oct 18, 1998 6:01 am
Location: halifax,nova scotia


Postby Hutch » Wed Oct 28, 1998 1:42 am

Doctor X:

Why would a nice guy like you try to goad us polite Canadians?

You know how you get fifty Canadians out of the pool, don't you?...

You ask them.

Talk about polite to a fault!

Posts: 53
Joined: Sat Sep 19, 1998 6:01 am
Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada


Return to Van Canna's Self Defense Realities

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests