Assess the situation before getting involved

Back in November 2011 I wrote this letter in relation to an unfortunate and potentially fatal incident that happened in downtown Chilliwack. A local resident trying to do good was pepper sprayed and stabbed after approaching a group of young adults in downtown Chilliwack. All he did was ask them not to throw garbage on the ground. This letter was not to point fingers or lay blame but to provide information that will hopefully help people think before they act and help protect themselves.

I took the opportunity to present this incident to the students in my self-defense class. Learning to protect yourself is not solely about punching, kicking or throwing people. It is also about using your brain to analyze potentially dangerous situations before they occur.

I applaud those individuals who try and do the right thing, but prior to intervening they must also understand the potential dangers of getting involved. Hopefully the following will help or encourage people to think before acting.

When deciding to intervene or not there are several factors to take into account. The first area of consideration is the situational factors that exist.

In this case it was 10:30 at night in an area which arguably is known for being a rough part of town. It is dark out and possibly no one else around. There were 4 individuals (3 males and 1 female) described as being in their early 20’s and dressed in such a manner that was described as gangster.

Secondly is your perception of the event. Do you have experience dealing with such a situation? What is your physical description compared to the individuals you are about to confront? Do you have any special training? Have you planned what to do if the individuals react contrary to your thoughts?

In this case the victim is described as 43 years old; he is confronting 3 young males and a female. One of the suspects is described as being 5″11″, so not a small person. The victim is by himself with a small dog. He is obviously a nice guy since he actually picked up the garbage for these individuals.

You should also take into consideration the group’s actions. In this case they were littering. When asked to pick up the garbage what was the group’s response? Where there threats made? Did they circle? People in a group react differently then when they are alone, groups feed off each other creating a pack mentality.

I agree that sometimes we should say something to address the situation but I also think that before saying anything we should analyze the personal risk involved. In this case if nothing was said I would suggest that this individual would not have been pepper sprayed or stabbed. This case is about littering.

I feel bad that he was injured and thankful he is alive but there is a lesson to be learned. There is a time to say something and a time to say nothing. The victim appears to be a nice trusting person which is in direct contrast to the 4 people he was dealing with. These 4 simply don’t care about others and were probably out looking for trouble. There are far too many examples of “nice guys” being hurt or killed because of good intentions. Before getting involved think the situation through and analyze the risk to your personal safety first. There is an expression “What hill are you willing to die on?”

Self-Protection is being able to analyze a situation and if required using your physical skills to defend yourself.

Are you the kind of person who gets involved when you see something or someone being wronged? If so do you think the situation through before getting involved?

Steven Hiscoe
Owner/Chief Instructor
Hiscoe Jiu-Jitsu
Chilliwack, BC


Building a Community within the Dojo

Recently I read a friend’s Facebook post in which he commented on a past student dropping into the dojo to say hi, although this student had not been at the dojo in a couple of years.  Obviously this student still felt a friendship and some attachment to the dojo.  For the past 20 years I have operated my dojo in the Fraser Valley area of British Columbia either in a full time or part time capacity.  During that time I have made friendships that are still strong although I may not see those friends on a regular basis.  These friendships have been forged with students and fellow instructors alike, when they walk through the door there is always a big smile, handshake or hug about to happen.

Lately I have been thinking about my own dojo and the community that is forming within it.  For example last week we were fortunate enough to be invited to an after hours slide at a local waterpark.  One of my students manages the park and opened it up for the dojo students.  Almost all the adult students showed up for class and came for a slide afterwards, it was a great time and everyone enjoyed themselves.  

I believe that people join the dojo for a variety of reasons but one of the reasons they keep coming back is the friendships and relationships that are created within the confines of the dojo.  This year I am going to work hard at continuing to expand and build the dojo community.  This is just another positive aspect of operating a dojo, helping people connect in a friendly, healthy and respectful environment.


How is the community in your dojo?




Little Samurai Total Awareness Program for Kids

This past September I decided to re-start my kids jiu-jitsu program.  My son had just turned 6 and was expressing his interest in jiu-jitsu and since I had started at that age I figured now was a good time to get going.  I spoke with one of my black belt Sensei Kevin Lintott about his kids program and decided to try it.  The Little Samurai Program is based on “total awareness combined with escape and evade techniques”.  The goal is to help kids identify and respond to potentially dangerous situations, most of which will involve adults.  It is well known that kids are most vulnerable to being abused, molested, abducted by adults, therefore my goal was to devise a syllabus geared around protecting kids.

Our first semester began in September and just finished a few days ago, I must say that the course exceeded my expectations.  The classes are a combination of basic striking skills, escape techniques and awareness.  Although I use role play and scenario extensively at my full time job I had never really used it at jiu-jitsu.  I started using role play with the kids and quickly realized this was the way to go.  The role playing which combines all the elements of the training really assisted the kids in putting all their skills together.

Katie Bartel, a reporter with the Chilliwack Progress, wrote the a great article on the program which has generated some great interest.

I have also received many comments from the parents that this is exactly the type of training they were looking for.  The kids have grown tremendously during the 4 months of training as evident by their increased level of confidence and ability to perform the techniques without really thinking about it.  The class is now progressing from their level 1 course to level 2.  I was so pleased with the success from the first group that I am starting a second group in January.

Can-Ryu Jiu-Jitsu Western Canada

Last summer during our summer camp in Sicamous BC, a few of the black belt who are dojo owners suggested that I have a meeting with all the Can-Ryu Jiu-Jitsu black belts who are in the West.  Almost all of these black belts have been graded through the Hiscoe Jiu-Jitsu Dojo.

Over the past 15 years, like many other martial arts organizations, some of my black belts have left the dojo to pursue their own journeys.   I am alright with that, I am actually very proud of some of these black belts because they have continued to train and teach and some have even applied their training to their real jobs.  Now I have been asked by those who are still around and active to try and unite the group under a common umbrella.  This of course is going to be a challenge as for many years this as not happened.  I think the timing can be right to make this happen, but obviously it cannot happen without the black belts wanting it to happen.

I need to create a vision for what this could look like, what would the benefits to the black belts be, what is there to offer, what is there appetite for this to happen.  Because it is not going to happen with them.  But if they are asking for it there must be a possibility.

Personally I am excited about the possibility of getting this group together.  I have some ideas of what might work and also what is not going to work.  This must be a collaborative effort between all of us, not a situation of control where others have no say.

I see this as a real chance to apply the leadership skills I have read about and help others to achieve their goals.  This cannot be about me but more about the black belts who all the same desire.  The desire to have a unique organization, with common goals and the ability to collaborate and share ideas for the betterment of all members.

Hiscoe Jiu-Jitsu Kids Program

I was pretty excited all day as tonight was the first kids class in our kid’s program.  I was expecting about 8 kids to attend and sure enough all eight were there.  It was a manageable number to start with as I had not given a kids class in about 10 years.  I had my assistant Kate there with me who is going to look after classes when I am available.  This will be a good learning experience for her as she approaches her black belt test.  Teaching children is a real art in itself.

I was especially interested to see how my son Matthew was going to do.  He had been asking to do jiu-jitsu for the past year and now the time has come.  He was a little distracted at times but overall did a great job.  I’m sure he did a much better job of his first class then I did with mine 34 years ago.  All the kids appeared to interested and had a good time, the ages ranged from 6-9.

I am happy to be on the mat with the kids again, if you can teach kids you can teach almost anyone.  I am especially happy because I can see the value in spending quality time with my own son, the same way my dad did with me growing up.   The Hiscoe family has been involved in jiu-jitsu since 1975.  The kids program at our dojo ran classes on Friday night and Saturday morning, so on Saturdays we would have a father and son lunch after class.  This was a tradition till the day I left Ottawa for the RCMP Academy.  Even after living in BC for several years I would find myself calling home on Saturdays at lunch time.

It has only been one night but I can envision the possible success for everyone involved.

Attitude not aptitude determines altitude

I mentioned in my last post that I have been reading the book Failing Forward by John Maxwell, I came across a quote that I really liked.  So much so that I have probably used it about thirty times in the last 3 days.  I have used it at home talking to my oldest son, I have used it at work in discussion with my colleagues and I used it at the dojo at the end of my last class.  The quote is “it is your attitude not your aptitude that will determine your altitude”.

In thinking back to the training camp Hiscoe Jiu-Jitsu held in Sicamous this summer I remember a conversation I had with Shihan Michael Seamark.  The conversation was over a black belt announcement we had seen in which a student has endured a 24 hour shodan exam.  We both thought this a little odd and commented that every class a student attends is kinda like a test.  How much attitude does a student bring to class?

I discussed with my class that not all students are created alike, not all students will be able to do perform identically to each other or to the Sensei.  That being said what is important is the student’s attitude towards learning, training hard, respect for others, attending class etc…. It is the student’s attitude that will determine how they progress through the ranks.  Personally, I would rather have a student who might not the best technician but pushes themselves and works hard every time they are on the mat.  I can forgive this student a few mistakes or lack of style at an exam.  What I cannot except is the naturally gifted student who seldom pushes their potential in class, only train for themselves rather then helping those who need help, misses classes etc… From this student mistakes are not welcome.

Not all students are created equally.  This also reminded me of a situation which occurred to me about 15 years ago.  At the time I have a few black belts who were awesome practitioners, students and black belts.  I also had another student who was a little more advanced in age than the others, had a few physical challenges but gave absolutely 110% every single class.  This student gave of themselves in helping others and was always a pleasure to have in class.  When this student performed their black belt test it was at the same technical level as the others but I can tell you the attitude certainly was there.  I was challenged by some black belts about my decision to pass this student.  I had no problem explaining my reasoning for promoting this student.  I also explained to these black belts that my goal in opening a dojo and teaching jiu-jitsu was first and foremost to teach people how to protect themselves.  It was never about creating awesome black belts.  That is a by product of diligent teaching, and students with great attitudes.  I explained that if the goal was to create great black belts only, we would not have many students.  I would have to turn potential students away at the door if I did not think they would fit the persona of a black belt.

Not all students are created equal, it is their attitude that will set them apart.   Remember, “it is your attitude not your aptitude that will determine your altitude”.  Did I see I like this quote, actually I love it.