This week in France a worst case scenario unfolded for train passengers. A lone gunman emerged from one of the train car bathrooms with the intent to rob/kill the riders. Luckily, through bravery and strength of teamwork, six individuals were able to thwart the attack.
“The train company, Thalys, said the attack attempt occurred as the high-speed train, heading from Amsterdam to Paris, passed through the Oignies region in Haute Picardie, France. The suspect boarded the train in Belgium, Thalys said.
A French passenger who went to use the toilets in car 12 found himself face-to-face with a man armed with a Kalashnikov rifle that was strapped to his shoulder, Cazeneuve said.
‘The French passenger courageously attempted to overpower him before the aggressor shot the rifle several times,’ Cazeneuve said. One of the rifle shots wounded a French-American passenger seated nearby”.
The commotion between the French passenger and the gunman caught the attention of 51 year old Mark Moogalian. Upon seeing the weapon, Moogalian made the decision to rush the attacker in an attempt to disarm him.
“Mark Moogalian told his wife to ‘go’ and then ‘rushed towards the gunman to remove … the Kalashnikov.’
She added: ‘I did not see my husband get shot, it happened too quickly and I was pretty much hiding behind seats. But I look at my husband through the seats at an angle and he looked straight at me and said, ‘I’m hit!’ … There was blood everywhere. I ran towards him and I could see that he a wound on his back, I then saw another wound by his neck.'”
After Moogalian’s attempt, three Americans and one British businessman were able to beat, subdue, and disarm the gunman. The Americans were Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos. Stone is a US Air Force member, while Skarlatos is a member of the Oregon National Guard. Sadler is a college student at Sacremento University. The British man, 62 year old Chris Norman, assisting in subduing and restraining the gunman.
The Diversity of Action
Obviously an incident of this nature can inspire all kinds of debate, ranging from gun control, to terrorism, to the safety of international travel. Those topics, while worthwhile, are not the reason I am covering this event on IkigaiWay (there are better authorities to weigh in on those issues). My takeaway point is this – six people from very different backgrounds with very different skillsets all decided to act.
If you’ve ever studied the psychology of violence, you’ll know just how difficult it is to make yourself act in a situation like that. Pure fear can cause bodily freeze of course, but sneakier factors can also take effect. Normalcy bias can creep in, making you think that if you just act normal, the external factors will return to normal as well. You also have to overcome the bystander effect, wherein every person on the train will wait for someone else to handle the problem. Overcoming these mental freeze points in time to make a difference is no small accomplishment.
In this particular scenario, we have a businessman, a college student, a professor, an undisclosed passenger, and two military members all capable of overcoming their fear. Most, if not all, sustained injury in the process. Cuts from a small knife wielded by the gunman shredded the subduers, even though they outnumbered and outpowered him. The professor was shot; his life saved by one of the military members who applied pressure to the gun wound until help could arrive.
As martial artists, this event can serve as a stark reminder to continue our training and keep our tools sharpened. The only weapons we are guaranteed to have in times of crisis are our hands, feet, and minds. All other self defense means and methods must be built around that foundation.
This is the first public look at a project I have been working on for a long time. I’m excited to share it with you, and I hope you’ll join me as this book draws closer to completion over the next few months. Read on to find out what the project is and what I have in store for readers who help me spread the word!
What is “Tales From the Western Generation”?
Long time readers of this blog will know that I’ve collected a number of interviews over the years with impactful instructors of various martial arts. My goal has always been to highlight individuals who have distinguished themselves through skill, effort, contribution to the arts. I wanted to showcase men and women worthy of emulation and whom future generations may need to know more about as they pursue martial arts in their own time.
If you’re a martial arts enthusiast, you’ve probably thought to yourself how wonderful it would be to have more a complete record of the life and times of the masters who have gone before us. In the karate world, we would all summarily have benefited from a treatise by Matsumura Sokon, or Kyan Chotoku, or Gokenki the tea merchant. To have their thoughts and beliefs down on paper…what a difference that could make! I realized one day while digging around in old texts that history was going on all around me and it was fading away, unrecorded.
It can be difficult to see history as it’s being made, but we live in a time where Karate outside of Okinawa is a very new development. Some of the first individuals who traveled to Okinawa and Japan, studied with the great masters, and brought it back are still with us or just recently passed. There is a rare and finite window for us to record the thoughts and experiences of these great men and women who studied directly with masters like Soken Hohan, Shimabukuro Zenryo, and Shimabukuro Tatsuo. We can learn from their trials and difficulties as they attempted to meld Eastern and Western cultures in order to start schools and organizations of their own.
That is the goal of “Tales From the Western Generation”. To gain a small sense of what it was like and what was learned from the masters, so that we can quell myths, understand philosophies, and grow from the efforts of the past.
Over 30 Interviews with Karate Pioneers
Many people don’t realize just how young karate is outside of Okinawa. With taekwondo and karate schools in every corner strip mall in America it would be easy to assume that these arts have been growing in the West for 100 years or more. It’s astounding to think that in 1940 there wasn’t a single known karate program in the entire country. In the 1950s the word “karate” was barely known and the art could only be found on a handful of military bases and small schools. The earliest American pioneers of karate are barely removed from us, most passing away just before the turn of the century. However, the first true generation that spent significant time in the East, opening doors and getting to know the great eastern masters in earnest, are the ones who share their stories in this book.
“Tales From the Western Generation” grants us access into the stories of over 30 men and women who have dedicated their lives to the study and propagation of karate. They span most of the major styles (Goju Ryu, Isshin Ryu, Shotokan, Matsumura Seito, etc.) and span a wide variety of backgrounds. They overcame difficulties of war, racial prejudice, extreme poverty, and more, and as a result have acquired reputations worthy of preservation.
Intertwining Worlds – Illuminating Our Place in Karate’s Grand Story
We live in a compartmentalized world, especially when it comes to martial arts. Karate styles expend a lot of energy explaining why they are superior, more realistic, and more legitimate than other karate styles. Feuding karateka may be surprised to learn that karate practitioners of the past worked carefully and quietly together to enhance one another’s life protection capabilities. It made sense – the goal of karate was not to win trophies or beat other karateka in duels, but to protect villages and families from grave danger.
The earliest Westerner karateka in Okinawa saw this martial sharing first-hand, and were exposed to a variety of instructors themselves. Of course, as karate gained worldwide growth and prestige it also suffered from greed, jealousy, pride, and pettiness. Hence the eventual posturing and fracturing, leading us to where we are today.
The history and interview content featured in this book can help us understand what karate used to look like, what happened to it as it spread across the globe, and what pitfalls we need to be aware of as we cultivate karate’s growth.
Many of the interview guests provide insights into teachers from multiple styles, and even discuss how they crossed paths with other interview guests. The result is an intertwined experienced, demonstrating that the karate world was not so big, once-upon-a-time.
Ask the Experts, Win a Free Copy, and More!
There are a lot of interesting events planned as we get closer and closer to publication. I’ll be rewarding loyal readers with giveaways, free copies of the book, and access to unique information. To stay updated, sign up for the mailing list below. This is a private mailing group and will only send out occasional messages about “Tales From the Western Generation”.
That’s all for now, but stay tuned. I intend to tell you a lot more about this project and hopefully gain your support in helping spread the word. I think this book could be a serious tool for education, both in terms of understanding history and helping guide us into the future.
I’ve had the good fortune of training with Jody Paul Sensei for over a decade. He has been a staple figure at the International Karate Kobudo Federation’s quarterly training events for as long as I can remember and has been a close and loyal friend to my primary instructors, Bruce and Ann Marie Heilman. Paul Sensei is a unique character, having trained directly with Toma Shian (Seidokan), Uehara Seikichi (Motobu Udundi), and Odo Seikichi (Okinawa Kenpo). Now, sadly, he is in serious medical condition and could use the support of the martial arts community.
What Happened to Jody Paul Hanshi
While driving near his Georgia home a deer sprang out from the side of the road in front of Paul Sensei’s car. Attempting to dodge the impact, Paul Sensei swerved but lost control of the vehicle, causing it to roll multiple times. The impact caused serious damage to his spine and neck. A series of emergency surgeries saved Paul Sensei’s life, but left him paralyzed from the neck down. He is in stable condition, rotating between assisted breathing and self-powered breathing. He is struggling to communicate under his own power and needs attentive care to avoid atrophy, bed sores, and blood clotting.
How We Can Help Paul Sensei
As a result of Paul Sensei’s extensive military career we are trying to garner appropriate aid from Veteran’s Assistance. However, due to the extent of care needed to help Paul Sensei, additional funding is urgently needed. Our goal is to provide Sensei with the best possible chance for recovery and aid in his comfort and ability to communicate.
We have started a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe.com, a very reputable donation management website. Using the link below, please visit the fundraiser and provide whatever assistance you can:
All money collected through this fundraiser will go directly toward medical equipment and bills associated with Paul Sensei’s recovery. Usage of funds will receive direct oversight from Bruce Heilman, Ann Marie Heilman, and myself.
Together we can provide a better quality of life for Paul Sensei, and, with any luck, give him the opportunity to share his knowledge once again.
More on Paul Sensei’s Martial Arts Career
Paul Sensei’s martial arts career began while stationed in Japan. He studied Shorinji Ryu under So Doshin (and one of So’s senior students). Once transferred to Okinawa, Paul Sensei continued his journey with Uehara Seikichi, Toma Shian, and Odo Seikichi. Mr. Paul was known throughout the island and had the opportunity to meet and train with a myriad of important karateka. Since that time he has worked tirelessly to maintain contact with Okinawa and spread his art here in the United States.