Is the military a good way to turn boys into men?

I love my son dearly and he dearly loves me right back.  He’s bright, exceptionally well-coordinated and, if I do say so myself, he’s very good-looking.  He’s also selfish, hyper-competitive, lazy, ill-mannered and a total slob.  I have been working for years on all those traits and there has definitely been some improvement, but we’re not even halfway there.  Thankfully, as he’s not yet teenager, I still have a while to work on him.  I’m worried, though, that the traits I mentioned all tend to worsen, not improve, as young boys turn into young men.  As a parent, I foresee I tough road ahead of me.

I often find myself saying to myself, “Boy, the military would be good for my son.”  With a coercive power I can’t hope to equal, it would teach him discipline and neatness.  Also, because of unit cohesion, it might take him out of his selfishness.  Lastly, the military’s hierarchical nature would be good for such a hyper-competitive person, because there is clearly delineated room for upward movement, complete with external proof (ribbons, stripes, etc.) that the person is improving.

Even as I have this thought, though, the mother-voice in the back of my brain says, “What are you doing, woman?!  Do you actually want to send your darling little boy to a tough, often cruel environment, one in which he stands a much better chance of being killed than if he stays safely at home with you?”

Well, right now, while he’s still a beardless little boy, and the questions are hypothetical, my higher brain answer to that mother-voice is “Yes, yes I do want him to go to the military.”  (By the way, I’ve probably just qualified myself for a visit from Child Protective Services for admitting that I think the military would be good for my child.)

Here’s my thinking:  People need meaning and purpose in their lives.  Some people are internally driven.  They define and seek out their own goals.  Others, especially young men, drift.  Nowadays, that drift is made worse by computer gaming.  I know a man who was a top college student in the computer sciences, with computer companies frantically wooing him.  He ended up getting a great starter job, and quickly rose through the management ranks.   Then, something terrible happened to him:  his mother inherited a lot of money.  He knew, as of that moment, that he too would inherit a lot of money one day.  He no longer needed to work.

All of us dream about insta-wealth and early retirement, of course.  We imagine pursuing our passions, and believe that will give us complete pleasure.  Maybe that’s true.  I don’t know.  All I know is that, at 28 years old, this man quit his job and started a new life playing computer games.  That’s all he does:  exercise and computer games.  That’s all he’s done for twenty years.  He doesn’t seem very happy to me.  He’s playing his games, which is what he wants, but mostly he seems lost.  When I look at him I see a stunted life and wasted potential.  He’s never grown up.  Given the opportunity, he opted to remain a 13 year old boy forever.

This man is the most extreme, but not the only example, I know of a young man who simply decided to stop living and growing.  One of these young men, however, and I’ve written about him before, was moved by 9/11 to join the military.  He’s served in Afghanistan and Iraq; he’s lived under horrific conditions; he’s been under fire — and he’s as happy as he’s ever been in his life.  His life has meaning.

It seems to me, therefore, sitting with my smooth-faced little boy, that his life will be a happier one if he can find meaning in it.  There is no meaning in life as a computer gamer and slacker.  You fill your time, but you may as well be a cow chewing cud, or a pig rooting around in the mud.  We humans are better than that.

In a way, women have it easier, because having babies forces them to grow up, to look outside of themselves, and to have responsibility.  But in this day and age, young men don’t have responsibility thrust upon them through fatherhood.  Assuming the mother doesn’t abort, she still makes limited demands on the guy.  Certainly, few women nowadays demand marriage, and the notion of dad standing there with a shotgun is truly dead and gone.  The military, however, does thrust responsibility on young men, and they seem to be the better for it — assuming, of course, that they survive the experience.

All of this is not quite as hypothetical as it seems.  My son has always been military mad, and still talks about going to a military college one day.  He’s too young to understand what that really means, but it’s definitely part of his mental make-up.  While I won’t ever push him to the military — that’s a path I think a young person has to find by himself — my current thinking is that I won’t argue him out of it if that’s what he decides to do.  Certainly, I think it would help him with a lot of the behaviors and personality traits that currently prevent him from (yes) being all that he can be.

I’d be very interested to hear from active duty military people, vets, and the parents of current and former military people.  Am I blinded by the beauty of the uniform, or am I on to something here?

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  • suek

    If you were to choose it for him, I’d say no.  If he chooses it for himself, then yes…but he’ll need support not quitting.
    My husband and I frequently have this discussion – concerning mandatory military service for all citizens.  I think it would be a good thing, he says the military is not a social service.  He served during the Vietnam period when we had the draft, and a lot of unwilling draftees.  Some of them came round, but many of them just simply didn’t.  They caused grief for their NCOs and officers, and no doubt make up many of the malcontents we see as Progressives today.
    I still think it would be good for us to have universal service, but I have to recognize that he has a point.
    The second thing against it is that the military belongs to the government.  Universal service – like universal universities – is an effective way of evaluating all of your citizens and having them “on file” so to speak.  That’s not a bad thing in the liberty loving country we have lived in, but I’m not nearly so sanguine about the country they _will_ be living in.  In other words, I don’t trust the Progs, and I’m not so sure they can be kept out of power.

  • Bookworm

    I’m definitely not arguing for the draft, suek.  Unless you live in intensely patriotic times or when numbers are a necessity (both of which were true for WWI and WWII, and which continues to be true for Israel), the draft is a bad thing for the military and for society.  I’m just wondering if I’m a bad mommy to think that the military would be a good thing for my son, should he decide to go that route.

  • Oldflyer

    You are not a bad Mommy.
    I am a little mixed on the subject.  I do think that for most kids, military service would be beneficial.  It would expose them to discipline, a sense of routine, and a bit of roughness; all of which could enhance the maturing process.  It gets kids away from the parental sheltering, and forces them to “put up or shut up”.
    On the other hand, it is potentially devastating for some.  If the kid just can’t handle pressure, or criticism, they could simply fold, and make their situation worse.  I saw some instances of that.
    I guess it depends on your assessment of the kid.  If he has some core strength, but just lacks maturity and focus, it could do a world of good.  If he is genuinely fragile, I would worry a bit.
    My grandson, now 24, was really floundering as a teen, and I thought the military would benefit him.  I knew that a service like the Marines was out of the question; he would never submit to their style of discipline. Neither could I see him cooped up  in a large ship for extended periods. The Air Force might have worked but, I focused on the Coast Guard, because of their small unit atmosphere; and also because of the rescue mission.  (He is a white water rafting guide, and I could see him as a rescue swimmer.)  I also thought of the Seabees, because he has  construction experience, and has operated machinery.  I see them as less rigid than some of the others. But, he wouldn’t hear of it.
    Now, he is “in a relationship” as the saying goes these days: and there is a “pre-existing” child.  This situation has been very beneficial in instilling a sense of responsibility.
    So, there are various ways of getting there. The answer  seems to be a situation that sort of forces a sense of responsibility.  If the military is the route, the choice of service should be considered carefully; because they have different characteristics.
    (I came within a gnat’s eyelash of being a Marine; the Navy was very good to me.  Never understood the Army, and the Air Force never really held any appeal.)

  • Danny Lemieux

    The military can be selective today and it shows.
    The military is the best thing that happened to my son. He, too, was drifting and his time was absorbed by computer games. He blew off his first college years while still an adolescent, so we cut him off. We told him that we would pay his rent until the lease expired, he had to find a way to pay for his food, and he was not allowed to return home until he had a…PLAN!
    He said he hit bottom working the graveyard shift at a 24-hour fast food store. He came home and enlisted with the military. He researched each of the services and the career opportunities they offered. Because he scored high in the aptitudes, he could chose his military career track and chose one that interested him and would translate well into civilian life. Very quickly, we saw a new, confident and very smart young man emerge. He is surrounded by male (and female) role models that impress me no end. Plus, the military will help him finish and continue his college education. We have never seen him happier. As Suek said, though: it was important that it was his decision to make.
    Sure, the military can be dangerous. So can farming. His mother worries a lot, but she knows that this is good for him, especially in that he now has a life of meaning. People can live very long and wasted lives. Others live short but highly meaningful lives. Forced to make a choice, I think real men would prefer to take the risks that come with the latter.
    That’s all part of what being a man, a real man, is all about.

  • 11B40

    I think that the best benefit (other than breaking things and hurting people) I got from my (draftee) military service, was the minimalist survival experience of almost a year in some of God’s greenest jungles.  Learning to live in the outdoors for long periods of time, carrying all your creature comforts (clean socks, anyone?) on your back, up and down hills (the latter being not easier, just different) and through bush that all sentient creatures avoid and surviving has an insidious way of instilling the dreaded PERSPECTIVE.  As in the old adage about the guy with no shoes meeting the other guy with no feet, perspective is a fundamental component for true adulthood.
    My father was an infantryman in WW II and most of his friends and relations had done their bit, so I pretty much never precluded the military possibility.  I grew up with toy soldiers and toy guns and then not so toy guns.  As I one day explained to my Drill Sergeant, “this isn’t the first gun I ever got.”  When I failed/dropped out of my first college, I knew that the military draft was an eventuality and I didn’t do anything intelligent/dishonorable to avoid it.  Part of my post sunny Southeast Asia wisdom was “I liked the war better than the Army and I didn’t like the war at all.”
    I’m not quite sure how much of my personal experience is now extant or legal, but learning to survive and/or prosper in a top-down hierarchy can certainly be categorized as a life-skill, especially with the way the old USofA seems to be heading these days.  The “feminization” of the military, through the enlistment of increasing percentages of females (straighten out your pregnancy uniform, sailor), the collateral-damage-ophobia, and the ever increasing rules of dis/engagement, seem to me to be a concerted effort to diminish both our willingness and capability to deliver noxious stimuli wherever they are needed.
    I much disagree with your anti-draft position.  I see the ending of the military draft back in the ’70s as a major success for those who would undermine this country of ours.  When a society tell its menfolk that they do not have an individual responsibility to defend their nation and its policies, its collective testosterone level drops significantly.  The previous draft certainly could have been better administered, but then what can’t.  Life is random; somedays you roll sevens and somedays its snake-eyes.  When I think about what our military was put through a few years back in terms of tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, I am ashamed that this country’s rulers didn’t do better by them.  Even now, with our “volunteer” army, there are movements afoot to restrict, even ban military recruiting not far from your own bailiwick.  I fear to imagine what kind of scenario would allow our government to re-instate the draft.
    But to address your actual question, the military is an option deserving of at least consideration.  Young men will have access to opportunities that would not be so available in more regular employments.  They will be turned somewhat loose with manpower and technologies that would not be an alternative elsewhere.  At a relatively young age, they will have seen themselves, and all their capabilities in the best and worst of situations.
    In the end, and end I must, the military is an alternative.  “Protect and provide” is what my father used to say is the measure of a man.  Thanks to him, it’s always been that simple for me.  One of my favorite, if sly, arguments for the military draft is that it sure gets them out of the house at an appropriate age.

  • Kirk Strong

    I agree with Oldflyer — it depends on what’s inside.  If there’s good strong stuff in there, then the military experience will help, otherwise not.
    We get used to building a great deal of our self-identity on external things like the kind of car we drive or what we do for a living or how we dress.  In the service all that is stripped away and we are left just with ourselves — bare naked so to speak.  In my unit in basic training there were a few who found that after those things were taken away there was nothing left, and they’re the ones who crashed.  Most of us found that there was a lot more there than we thought, and that was a good thing for us to discover.

  • Mrs Whatsit

    11B40 makes a really good point on the relationship between the draft and a sense of responsibility for the country that I had not previously considered.  I’m going to have to think hard about that one — and IIB40, thank you for your service.
    As far as choosing the military, I have a son who is a relatively new Navy officer after — like Bookworm’s son — wanting military service for most of his life (in large part because of 9/11).   It’s too soon to say what impact the Navy will have on him, but we’ve watched him grow and mature amazingly simply because he wanted this career and worked toward it.  He chose ROTC rather than the academies because he wanted a more normal college experience.  He was leaning at first toward the Marines (following my dad) but I confess, that scared me.  I was glad when he chose the somewhat-safer-seeming Navy instead.
    Anyway.  Wanting ROTC, then participating in ROTC, and then — most of all — wanting to be chosen for a highly selective Navy program that he did, in fact, attain, grew him up.  He was a very bright but completely independent and undisciplined boy who would work his tail off on projects he enjoyed, but would not work at all if compelled, or if directed by someone he did not respect.  We wondered how the heck that was going to work out in the military! But he has turned into somebody who understands the connection between working and getting there.   Back in middle school, desperately trying– and failing– to get him to do his homework or get out of bed in time to catch the bus, I would never have imagined he would turn into somebody who could work the way he did the last year or two of college, when he had to attain basically a 4.0 in his highly demanding technical major to qualify for the program he wanted.  In part, he was inspired by the people he met in ROTC.  He said his officers and his fellow ROTC midshipmen were a breed apart from the other students at his university — and from the professors.    I don’t know if he’ll stay in the Navy after completing his ROTC service — he has other leanings he’d like to explore — but what he has become will serve him well all his life, no matter what he chooses.  (Guess you can tell I’m proud. )
    The military’s not the only way to work yourself into maturity, of course  I have another son who did not choose the military (did consider it, though) and worked just as hard as his brother to enter a demanding civilian profession – and I’m just as proud of him!  But he was an oldest child with more inherent self-discipline, and didn’t have as much to learn.
    I wondered, like you, whether a good mother should ever allow her child to choose such a hazardous career — but honestly, after raising three kids through adolescence, with the attendant emergency room visits and phones ringing at 3 a.m.,  it seems to me there is no safe way to raise a child.  The best thing a parent can do is to try to teach your children some common sense (easier said than done), help them figure out what they want, and then get out of their way.  So, Book, I would say, if your son continues to lean toward a military career, see if he’ll consider the officer training programs; they provide a real path toward maturity.  But it has to be something that he wants — everything that happened to my boy was driven from within himself, and none of it would have worked had anyone tried to force it on him.

  • SGT Dave

    You are not a bad mother; you are a parent concerned with both the good and bad possible consequences of your child’s decisions.  The military is not, as often portrayed, a soul-destroying or belittling experience.  Talk to some Marines – they have the toughest boot camp – and ask them about it.  They will tell you something along the lines of “the worst time of my life I ever loved.”  If your son is as bright as it seems, get him in to talk to some military types.  Apply for an academy; free education at a top-notch school and a guaranteed job on graduation are something to be desired.  This life is rough, hard on families, and sometimes near-unbearable.  But it is a good job, a useful lever for opening doors, and a way to become reliant on “self” and “team” in ways that are impossible to explain.

    I’ve done 20 years in uniform, with over 14 active in that time.  I’ve been on five continents and (thankfully) are none the worse for wear.  If not for the Army, I’d not be the man who finally convinced my wife to be part of my life.  I’d not be doing a job I enjoy with people I care about and respect.  I’d not be able to look in the mirror and see a person who has made a difference in the world, if only in a small way.  It isn’t the difference I dreamed of as a boy, but it is real. 

    Guide your son, encourage him, and when the time comes help him spread his wings and fly.  You are keeping your mind and options open, which is the best course of action. 

    SSG Dave
    “If no one stands to guard the dream, it shall never pass – though those who guard are denied the very dreams they defend.”

  • suek

    >>I’m definitely not arguing for the draft, suek.>>
    I know you weren’t.  I made a jump from the particular to the general.  You’re actually making two points – first, that maybe the military would be good for your son, and second … you’re a mother and you know the danger more than he does, so should you “let” him.  I was addressing the first point – I think it would probably be good for him, and what’s more it would be good for virtually all young adults to serve their country and to experience the discipline of the military.  On the second point, you’re a mom – first and foremost.  It’s certainly reasonable to fear the consequences of such a decision, but the fact is that any decision can be life altering/ending.  Just think about the ski accidents that occur every year…I think I heard of one recently where 2-3 young people were killed in an avalanche.  Should their parents have prevented them from taking ski lessons when they started??
    Others here have said it better than I can…  Do your best and then get out of the way.  Parenting is a tough job – but the toughest part is letting go.  It’s hard when they need you for this or that all the time – it’s even harder when they don’t need you any more…and that’s actually the goal you shoot for.  So if you do your job right, it’s going to hurt!

  • Simplemind

    What are you doing, woman?!  Do you actually want to send your darling little boy to a tough, often cruel environment, one in which he stands a much better chance of being killed than if he stays safely at home with you?”

    –he will be in a tough cruel environment soon enough — its called High School.  He has a pretty high chance of getting killed there too — drunk driving accident God forbid.

    In general what he gets out of the experience will depend on him. In general I think it is a positive having seen family members and friends do this.  The funny thing is that what you reference as a cruel/tough environment isn’t actually a design flaw, its a feature.  As sitting with an veteran will instruct. THey love to tell stories about how screwed up hard things were for them in the military cause they are, but they tell those stories with love. 

    If you are worried about getting shot at try the Coast Guard.  You can still get shot at or have to do port security in the middle east, but the odds are less.  My brother was in the Coast Guard for many many years. He didn’t always like it, but it was extremely stable and he did get to do some things he loved.  Ultimately, he’s one of the most selfless and honorable people I know, who believe me, did not start out that way.  Jimmy Buffet was in the Coast Guard and loved it.

    Basic training is in Cape May New Jersey and it is not a cake walk.

  • Ymarsakar

    Certainly, few women nowadays demand marriage, and the notion of dad standing there with a shotgun is truly dead and gone.
    You have to remember that America is a big place, Book. There’s a lot of stuff going on that the media in the West/East LibProg elite realms do not deem to notice. Because they’re too ignorant to notice it. They don’t need to use shotguns either. A simple hand, these days, amounts to a WMD to those that are unfamiliar with violence.
    I saw some instances of that.
    Some people are more of an aesthetic soul and will suicide given limited emotional pressure. Whatever is on the inside prefers escape over strength, and collapses in on itself rather than growing stronger. And while Bootcamp doesn’t have a lot of suicides, they have their fair share. It’s also why the “volunteer” issue is so important. If people volunteer, they can volunteer to “quit” too. Which is what Marine Bootcamp and Marine sniper school (something around 50% failure rate. No shame attached to quitting) tries to do. Make recruits quit so they stop thinking about suiciding. It’s better for them to quit now and stop wasting the government’s money, then graduate, waste the government’s money, and get people killed, including themselves. With a draft, training standards would be FORCED to become “sensitive”, PC, and low. (otherwise, you’d get a shat load of suicides or drugs or other little issues) The Army’s training standards in bootcamp have already been lowered and that’s with a volunteer force. I’m not much of an admirer of their sexual harassment education classes either. Pretty useless, as all government programs are when bureaucrats do them.
    If you want the military to help forge your son, speak of the Marines. The toughest, but also the most no nonsense (PC) of the 4 services. SOCOM is also anti-PC and knows their business, but the entry requirements for SEAL teams or Special Forces, are remarkably higher than Marine jobs that aren’t Force Recon. The special physical and mental attributes of such roles, do not account for much of the civilian population.
    Rout him into intelligence if you wish to mitigate the risks involved. It has the lowest physical risks, concurrent with the lowest promotion rates, yet is also critically important to a war effort. Marine intelligence tends to need people who are gifted either in math or in verbal acuity. With your brains, Book, I’m pretty sure he can’t be deficient in verbal acuity.
    Also, part of the reason your son is “lazy” is because the father authority figure doesn’t make him do his duty. Children start off doing things because they fear punishment from authority figures. But eventually they have to transition to doing things because it is a habit or doing things because they want to do them. A father can make sons “want” to follow by leading by example. Showing virtues that the child wants to have, so the child will follow the father’s example even when the tasks are hard and difficult. This instinct is inbuilt.
    Humans are motivated by many things. Fear is only one one of them, and often times not activated all the time. We’re not afraid all the time. And that’s a good thing. But it also means the motivation of fear is gone. Find something else to replace it with. For people to get the most out of life they need to find what they love doing. In order to do that, they need to find something that they will kill and die for, if necessary. The military is just, perhaps, the most obvious option around. There are other options, but the military is already proven in structure and requirements. It’s more certain of a route for those that want to test themselves.
    There is a Japanese saying that says, “once an honest hard worker finds the joy of skipping out on work, they are forever broken”. Interpreted to mean that once someone becomes too lax in their discipline, it’s incredibly hard to impossible for them to overcome their own personal desires for pleasure. They become a hedonist: broken. Sexual gratification is the same way. Which is why I instinctively knew what the LEft was doing, even before i knew what the Left was doing. (One of the things one of my peers, a classmate decades ago asked of me, “what would you do if you went home and a found a beautiful girl naked on your bed”. My instinctual mental answer was “check for assassination threats”, but even back then I knew that was the wrong answer, so I just said “I would ask her what she is doing here”. My classmate was all flustered because he was expecting hot sex or ogling as an answer. I like girls as much as any other standardized red blooded male, but I also LIKE LIVING. And yes, I had a security awareness even back then.)  Giving out such sexual rewards (the Left), is a way to break people of their discipline, and make them bow down to their sugar daddies (cults have been known to use orgies to indoctrinate members into a new social standard). If you cannot even control your own desires, then it’s remarkably easy for someone else to control you with their strong will and ruthless determination. If you want to be a slave, there are easier ways to do it.

    When a society tell its menfolk that they do not have an individual responsibility to defend their nation and its policies, its collective testosterone level drops significantly.
    I don’t think society had a choice in the matter. The Left had a choice, but society was not in a position to do much. It’s planly the case that the US no longer needed a draft army to project power. So the responsibility no longer existed. It could not be forced, when it no longer existed as a reality. The US could be, de facto, protected without a draft army. There is no necessity here that compels duty. The only thing that can compel this duty is individual desire and character. But individual character is also something society cannot completely shape and control. To generate a challenge sufficient to improve males, various wars would have to be created and fought. I don’t think it was realistic at the time, nor economically sustainable. The US would have to expand like an Empire. Annex territories and make them into states. This has less to do with society and more to do with determination and leadership on a national level. The nation didn’t want to expand, so they didn’t. Instead they contracted in terms of character virtues. Which is the obvious trend for large geographic political entities that don’t expand or face existential challenges.
    If society wanted to maintain manly virtues, in the absence of war, it would have required a lot of private organizations and goals. Mandatory firearms training starting from six. Gladiatorial contests utilizing live steel, in order to qualify for education or career prospects. So the lack of a draft is no concluding factor in the lack of virtues.
    Citizenship often has connotations of feudal military service. Meaning, citizens aren’t in a feudal system, but a lot of human instincts say that our relationships of privilege and voting rights, should only come from fighting to defend that system (like a feudal system would be). Our instincts align with the feudal tradition at times, which is why feudalism is so often times popular in human history. It fits without hassle. But we don’t live in a feudal system. Our system is that of a citizenship aligned one. Which means most people are not going to be fighting when things are peaceful and plentiful.

  • Ymarsakar

    Regardless of what society thinks of your choices, Book, I know you love your son and want the best for him. You are not a bad mother when seeking out the resources you require to get the job done. This is normal human ingenuity. When faced with a problem, we seek out that which will solve our problems.
    Nothing in life is guaranteed, except death. Whether it be civilian life or military life, war or peace, all it is is only an opportunity for people to demonstrate their inner virtues. If they have nothing of worth, nothing will help them. But if you believe they have something worthwhile to do in life, then provide them the opportunity and then let them get on with it.

  • UnscriptedThoughts

    My own experience was a positive one and I can recommend it to many. However, the following is a critical point. Is the military experience good for someone who is ‘lost’ or ‘drifting’? Absolutely. Is it for everyone? No, not hardly.
    Someone has already mentioned you must consider what is already inside the young head full of mush. That is so true because the process can make them better or it can crush them. Given how our government education mills have substituted form over substance (i.e., more important Little Johnny thinks well of himself than developing his actual abilities to problem solve) I suspect we already have quite a few fragile souls the NCO’s must spend extra time on. Do them and the kid a favor: make sure Johnny ‘gets it’ before he ships off.
    Bottom line:  Educate, guide, cajole, reprimand and love them because that is the essence of parenting and what they take with them always. Despite all that, our children come through us but they do not ‘belong’ to us. Hopefully, your child will come back to you one day–after amazing you with their maturity and strength–and tell you what every parent longs to hear: “I was too listening!”

  • MacG

    Perhaps a Martial Art would fit the bill at this stage.  I gained confidence around the Webelow age of scouting by taking Judo.  I tried it for awhile got to the second belt and quit.  Dad said that I would be good at but I was afraid of hurting hte others. True and also I did not like being throw over the shoulders to practice falling in a safe manner.  Howver, my mother noticed a change on my behaviour when playing catch in the backyard in that I would dive for a ball rather than let it go by. 

    At any rate a good Martial Art instructor will teach respect and discipline.  Your son will learn to walk confidently into High School where bullies will most likely not ‘see’ a victim but a self respecting force about him.

    My .02


  • Bookworm

    MacG:  We’re already a martial arts family.  My son is on the verge of getting his brown belt, and I’m on the verge of my purple.  Yay!

  • Danny Lemieux

    What type of martial art, Book? TKD, Kung-fu, [fill in blank] Karate?

  • Bookworm

    Mixed martial arts:  stand-up fighting that’s a fusion of karate, TKD, Kung-fu, and judo; grappling, which is close in fight that also uses judo; and Brazilian jiujitsu, which is ground fighting.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Sounds like an excellent program.
    Break any boards, yet?

  • Bookworm

    Nah.  Just heads.  (Just kidding.)  To be honest, a lot of the teaching is focused on surviving a barroom brawl.  This is not showy martial arts; it’s down and dirty fighting.  I’m glad my son is learning this kind of stuff.  As for me, I hope I never have to use it, but I enjoy learning it.

  • Ymarsakar

    Board breaking presents a good example but repeated applications will reduce a person’s fighting skill, not increase it.

  • NavyOne

    Active duty Navy here, prior enlisted and now officer.  I love it and am glad that we don’t have a draft.  I can hold all my Sailors accountable for volunteering.
    I don’t have much to say other than I have worked surface, aviation, with the SEALs, and with the IC (Intelligence Community.)  Yes, I work a very brainy function of the military (SIGINT), but we all have to work to our strengths.  All in all, I rarely complain.  (Except about crazy bosses, which exist in the civilian world too.)

  • Jose

    Not much I can add, but maybe I can help emphasize a few points.

    A military career needs to be his choice.  It’s definitely NOT for everyone.  Your son will need to talk to as many vets as possible to find out what it is really like, and not let himself be sold on the sterotypes. 

    Benefits are many.  Travel opportunities are amazing – those depend to some degree on the job one does.  The college benefits are good, but somewhat constricted to the military’s needs.  I once thought college was a broadening experience, but the military is far more.

    After my 20 years active in the AF, my primary regret is that I waited 3 years after high school to join.  The time and money I spent on college has turned out to be a total loss. 

    The military wasn’t always fun, and I’m glad it’s behind me.  The stress level is high, and is maintained that way intentionally.  But I always knew that I was part of something important, and was ready to serve when called.   I doubt if I’ll ever feel that way about a job again.  The best part was the many intangibles – people, experiences, travel.

    Sometimes I cringe to think how life would have turned out for a naive, selfish, introverted college drop out if I had stayed in my small home town.  I wouldn’t go back for anything.

  • MacG

    Book, a purple belt?!!  Quite an achievement. May you one day reach the rank of your writing – Black Belt!  It’s good your son is learning such a rounded self defense.  I have heard for some engaged in martial arts the attackers do not attack like a training partner and when things get out of sequence they still go down.  The poice used to lose officers in shootings because they are trained to double tap the paper target then holster.  Paper targets do not shoot back so when the bad guys would shoot back they’d freeze for a micro second and get shot themselves.  Now many places have simunitions training where they have a place built out like an apartment, all guns are retrofitted with 8mm detergent rounds and there are “bad guys”  inside that do shoot back(and not all are playing bad guys so they can’t just shoot anybody).  This trains them for the confusion of a real life situation.  Thus the value of a well rounded self defense course.

  • Bookworm


    One of my favorite drills is “monkey in the middle.”  You stand in the center and, one after the other, the other members of your group attack you (sometimes tag-teaming each other).  The adrenalin rush is tremendous.  What’s really gratifying, though, is seeing all the drilling pay off.

    As for the martial arts my son and I do, I really like the jiujitsu work.  It’s hard for me — I’m stiff and small — but easy for my son, and that’s where it counts.  Contrary to Hollywood movies, most fights end up very quickly on the ground, so the experienced ground fighter has the advantage.

  • MacG

    The drilling does pay off.  I have read of accounts where some women have taken those self defense courses where the instructor gets in one of those all protective padded bear siuts where the women get let it all go while the women in the class are yelling “Take him down!”.  Some of these women report having long forgotten the training and being atacked for real and they say it was like being in training with all of their sisters yelling take him down and it worked for them.

    Having seen a few MMA bouts (on the tube), if the grappeler can take the stand up fighter to the ground it is usually all over.  But shooting in for the take down does not come without risk.  Some of the those jujitsu submission holds are unbelieveable when it comes to felxibility.

    What suprised me the most about those matches is that while they are trying to literally knock each other out more often than not whne it’s all over thay are congratuatory and rather gentelmen lilke (for that moment at least :) ).

    Most martial art movies they encircle the Hero and wait thier turn to attack one at a time.  The training that you are going through sounds like it will at least help keep wits about you in a multiple front attack but I am sure getting out of it before it happens is the best bet.

    Be safe.

  • Bookworm

    I hope I never have to put my training to effect in the real world, but I certainly enjoy the practice.

  • Ymarsakar

    Most fights that end with a decisive blow ends up on the ground because it’s a lot easier to generate force when the target is up against solid concrete. It’s why a gunshot at close range won’t kill most times when the person is standing, but the metro BART officer did kill the suspect with one gunshot when he was laying on the ground. It’s cause the human body tends to dissipate momentum if it can move away from the point of impact. It takes dramatically more damage when it cannot dissipate incoming momentum. Also anything going down is aided by the force of gravity. Which is a lot stronger than human muscles ever can be or ever will be.
    Not all decisive fights have to do with ground fighting, if only because knock out blows are perfectly feasible standing upright. The point is not to get to the ground against multiple opponents even if that is what the vast majority of untrained people end up. The vast majority of incidents is not necessarily relevant to any particular individual’s circumstances.
    For a woman, generally facing any man, being on the ground is the last place they should be. The training thus should prepare them to avoid being immobilized and to escape the entangling attack first.
    One of the training methods I saw described was interesting in this fashion.
    The trainee stands with his face towards the wall, while 4 or so people line up in parade formation behind him. They are facing 45 degrees toward him, with their bodies facing each other on the side of a path the width of a sidewalk. So 2 on one side, 2 on the other, and the trainee has to walk between them. While the trainee has his back to them, the 4 people are each given a particular weapon: knife, gun, fists, etc. Nothing is said and the trainee does not know who has what or who will attack first. All he knows is that he must walk between them and at the point where he passes them, one or both of the two to the sides will attack. Or they won’t attack at all because they were told not to. If he succeeds in using the right counter to the attack, he walks to the next line of individuals. And then he keeps going, even if he fails to stop an attack effectively. This is called the gauntlet.
    This exercise streamlines people’s muscle memories, response times, and general social awareness of threat potentials. Complicated disarms or anti-weapon fighting techniques that are hard to use, will be clearly seen in this training setting.  Common mistakes are people mistaking what weapon a person has, thus attempting to use a technique for a knife when it is a gun they face. Other common mistakes are nervousness and hypertension, making the person tunnel visioned and unable to be aware of which direction an attack comes from. This also has the consequences of making you appear weak to potential predators, if you are seen to be looking around like you are scared. This will test a person’s peripheral vision and general awareness. If you are looking at your left, you see nothing on the right and that’s where they will attack you: in your blind spot. Which is why the general rule is to keep threats in the corner of your eye so that you can scan the rest of the 180 field of vision with only a slight movement of the head.
    You should try this out on those martial artists at your dojo, Book, the ones that say they know how to handle street confrontations. You might be surprised at their performance.

  • Ymarsakar

    Having seen a few MMA bouts (on the tube), if the grappeler can take the stand up fighter to the ground it is usually all over.

    They seem to have developed better counters for take downs these days.

    But shooting in for the take down does not come without risk.

    The simple takedown of MMA matches aren’t technically proficient. They use up their time training in a lot of things, so can’t specialize in the more technical techniques for takedown that require less strength, more skill/timing.

    What suprised me the most about those matches is that while they are trying to literally knock each other out more often than not

    A knockout blow requires full commitment. MMA fighters tend to usually reserve some defense and balance, thus will not expend their full force into a strike for fear that it will miss, cause them to unbalance, or receive a counter-attack. This is why you don’t see a lot of kicks that cause people to spin around in a full circle. Those are near full power strikes but modified to still allow the person to back off if the person that he tried to kick counters with an attack.

    The only time it’s appropriate to go for the KO, is if people are certain the strike will cause a KO and not miss or be otherwise ineffective. So if people expect it to take 3 or 5 strikes, they will not go for the KO in the first strike due to the risks inherent.

  • MacG

    “The only time it’s appropriate to go for the KO, is if people are certain the strike will cause a KO and not miss or be otherwise ineffective.”

    Ya mean like this?

  • Ymarsakar

    That can count. The attacker leaped up into the air a bit and used downward gravity as an assist. That combined with the target’s forward momentum and clear unawareness of danger, produced the end result.
    Of course if you are foolish enough to try stupid stunts in a 1v1, it makes it very easy for the other person to gauge where you will be and land a finisher.

  • Ymarsakar

    For examples of a more technically proficient striking in fully committing to the strike, watch this.

    For a powerful kick, the person will rotate 360 degrees if he misses. More imbalance if he actually puts forward momentum into it. A rotating kick is only going in one direction and does not rely upon body weight, but centrifugal force. A forward kick that starts from a jump will indicate the user’s commitment by the distance and height the kicker covers. A fully committed kick then involves both forward momentum and rotation. If struck in the neck or temple, it’s almost a definite KO for the unlucky test subject. It is also extraordinarily imbalancing and will dictate to the opponent where you will land and where you will be (cannot dodge in mid air). Thus it’s extraordinarily dangerous if you don’t finish it with that single attack.
    For hand strikes, the video covers what a fully committed hand strike looks from a technically proficient point of view. Which is to say, accuracy combined with power. Power is no good if you keep missing. Accuracy is no good if you are not putting your near max potential behind it. Overall, accuracy is more important than power, because a hit upon the chin or temple will knock out a person, even at relatively low power potentials. It just takes more than one blow to get that, due to lack of penetration and the defenses used.
    The person in the video, when using finger jabs, is designed more for accuracy than power. Too much power behind a finger strike and you will dislocate the ligaments connecting your finger bones together. Aka broken fingers. Even with conditioning, that is true. Also the power you see indicative of how far the bag moves, is only about half the maximum power that can be transfered. Because the person doing the striking is only stepping to the bag, rather than past where the bag is.

  • Ymarsakar

    Capoeira was designed with the intention of hiding body weight kicks and strikes in an African folk dance. It’s a disgrace to try to turn it into an exhibition show off, and then get knocked out for being a foolish retard at the end.
    Martial skill is not often times seen in perfect parade beauty. That is the exception, rather than the rule. Beginners should stick with what is normal training.
    A lot of martial arts have changed over the centuries, due to changing circumstances. Western TMA dojos and dojangs, for example, often have tiered training levels. One for Americans that want it easier or more casual. Another for the more hardcore, or “resident”, disciples.

  • The Interface

    An interesting post and discussion.  At this point I would only add that your one observation of one young man who found meaning in his military service reminded me of what Ronald Reagan once said of the USMC:
    “Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have made a difference in the world.  Marines don’t have that problem.”