Ready, Set, Get Tough!

In 13 (short) weeks, I will be competing — and I use that term loosely — with a team in the Mid-Atlantic Tough Mudder Event. To give an overview of the obstacles I am committed to overcoming, I will submerge and swim through an ice tank, crawl through narrow, sloping pipes leading into frigid mud, slither under low-hanging live wires waiting to electrocute, leap over 4-foot high hurdles of kerosene flames, and so, so much more across the distance of 12 miles!


Why go through with this? Besides wanting to challenge myself and test my physical limits, the Tough Mudder raises awareness and funds for theWounded Warrior Project. This project is focused on reintegrating injured soldiers into society, and active lifestyles, with their programs.

If you are interested and able, please support me in the Tough Mudder event, on September 8th, by donating online here. The proceeds raised will assist many individuals and families struggling to deal with the injuries received in the line of duty. You contribution is greatly appreciated!


Our Personal Influence on Others

A series of post's on leadership in the familyWhile I have not been able to confirm this factoid, sociologist say that every person will influence 10,000 other people in their lifetime.  What that means to me is that there are quite a few people watching us and at any given time will be swayed one way or another by our words or actions.

Here is what I know to be true:  Parents / Leaders influence their children.  That is such a huge responsibility.  Everything we say and more important every action we take is being recorded on the minds and hearts of not only our own children, but of every child that comes in contact with us.

In class the other day one of the students kept repeating this phrase, “what the…?”  No they did not complete the sentence but I was waiting to hear what the next word was going to be.  It is a funny thing about our children and us as parents.  Not unusually, the very things that get to us, the habits that our children have or little ways of doing things that irritate us are generally speaking, habits that either we or our mate have demonstrated that we do not like about ourselves.

If we have a personality flaw that we would like to change about ourselves, and we see it in our child, that is the one that we will many times be the most upset about with our child.  Because we have such a large influence on our children,  working on ourselves and willingly open about that work, our children will be influenced also in creating a better habits.

Have you noticed too, the influence that older children have on younger ones.  I like to use this in speaking to the older child about their responsibility to influence, set a good example for and be a leader to their younger brother and sister.  For some children this is a great motivator for them.  They like the idea of being that leader, so without abusing that possibility, we can call on that from them to reinforce the idea of our team / our family.

10 Tips for Martial Arts Students, to Deepen Your Practice

Guest Post By Tom Callos for Balanced Life Skills.  Mr. Callos is Mr. Joe Van Deuren’s mentor, coach and instructor.

You didn’t start your study of the martial arts to “go through the motions” of it all, did you? Of course you didn’t, but look around you in your next class and I’ll bet you spot a number of your classmates doing that very thing, going through the motions. It’s human nature to get distracted, to multi-task, and wander off course.

To deepen and strengthen your practice so that you stay on the mark and make reasonable progress, I offer you these 10 time-tested, Tom-tested tips:

1. As often as you can remember to do so, say to yourself “I am aware that I am training” (kicking, punching grappling, or whatever it is you’re doing at the moment). For me, that never fails to get my head out of the clouds and back into my practice (I am aware that I am writing this!).

2. Use a training partner (or partners) to hold you accountable to more intense, more focused, and more “present” practice. Friends are a good thing.

3. Eat better food before and after ever class (and, of course, that translates into ALL THE TIME). If you’re body’s jammed full of food-delivered chemicals, cups of corn-syrup, and crates full of unnecessary carbs or fats, you’re going to find you don’t function like the well-oiled machine you’re supposed to be. Contrary to the way a lot of people live their lives, what you eat IS important to your performance. In fact, what you eat IS self-defense.

4. Breath deeply, focus on breathing deeply, think about breathing deeply, and maybe, if you have a habit of forgetting, write “BREATH DEEPLY” on the backside of your hand. To see just how much this helps you, do it. You’ll feel the benefits right away.

5. Take your practice off of the mat. Courtesy and respect for others isn’t something that’s practiced in the school with people you’re semi-afraid of. It’s for that ding-dong at the supermarket (you can tell what someone is made of by how they treat the people that mean nothing to them). It’s for your Mom, who sometimes bugs you in a big way. It’s for the substitute teacher (yes, even for him/her).

6. Practice at home, a minimum of 10 minutes a day on the days you don’t attend classes. Little things add up, so even 10 minutes of practice can help you grow. Oh, and if you don’t think 10 minutes matters, try to hold your side-kick out out for 10 minutes or try and hold your breath for 10 minutes. Yeah.

7. Read age-appropriate philosophy. Champions, whether in science, baseball, chess, jiu-jitsu, or cross-country skiing, all have belief systems that make them rise above hardship and overcome obstacles. They all learn to cope with defeat –and victory. Reading the words of someone with experience can be the next best thing to talking with them face-to-face.

8. Go crazy. Yes, act in a way that most people would consider very odd indeed. For example, when things start getting really hard, you pretend they’re getting easier. Crazy! When everyone else complains –and for good reasons too, you find the good in the situation and jump up to be the first person to turn whatever is wrong, right. Insane! When everyone else quits, you stick to it! You’re a nut!

Actually you are a martial artist

9. Measure your own personal performance on a scale between 1 and 10, with “1” being your worst performance –and “10” being an all out, focused, beautiful-to-behold effort. Try to operate as close to level 10 as you can during your classes (whether you’re standing still or doing difficult maneuvers). And while you’re at it, try to LIVE at level 10, whenever possible. It’s a good thing.

10. I hate to drop this one on you last, as it’s a bit of a let-down after all this glorious focus on you and yours, but maybe the best way to deepen your own practice of the martial arts is to help others deepen theirs. Yes, that’s right, in the end, it’s not about you at all. Funny how it always works out that way.

Tom Callos

About the Author: Tom Callos’ bio and project portfolio may be read at

Radical Acceptance

Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

The third chapter of this book is the one that really got me hooked.  It is called The Sacred Pause: Resting Under the Bodhi Tree.  Prior to that though I enjoyed the writing and understood where Ms. Brach was coming from, it was this chapter on pausing that made me stop and think about myself in the real world.

She gave the example of everyone’s hero, Chuck Yaeger who followed several other pilots trying to go in the atmosphere with their plane where no one else had been.  All of them killed, frantically trying to stabilize their planes that had entered into a tumbling and diving that made them scream, ” What do I do next?” as they plunged to their death.

Her thoughts and examples of situations that we may find ourselves, things we cannot control, using strategies that are not working, feeling helpless and trying frantically to manage our difficult situation, with nothing working for us what should we do?

Chuck Yaeger was knocked out in his flight and was able to do nothing.  He came to, in time that as he re-entered the earth’s atmosphere he was able to regain control of the plane, bringing it in safely.

“Learning to pause is the first step in the practice of Radical Acceptance.”   Could pausing be an answer to some of our most troubling, out of control feelings and situations?  It certainly allows us to make choices in how we respond, teaching us how to nurture ourselves.  I hope you enjoy her thoughts and experiences if you choose to read this book.

Mom, Dad, Here’s The Honest Truth About The Martial Arts for Your Child, Age 5 to 13.

Guest Post By Tom Callos for Balanced Life Skills.  Mr. Callos is Mr. Joe Van Deuren’s mentor, coach and instructor.

I took my first martial arts lesson at age 9. By the age of 13, when my friends were experimenting, when peer pressure seemed at an all time high, when I just knew my brain power had far surpassed my father’s, and when I couldn’t pass any reflective surface without gazing in wonder at what it beheld, I was firmly and deeply entrenched in my identity as a martial artist.

The classes anchored me, in fact, they were just about the only place where I could stand completely still for any extended period of time (except, of course, if front of the TV).  The instructors emphasized respect, courtesy, and a code of honor that nobody else I knew seemed to care about. For me, that was good. It made me feel unique.

In a good martial arts school, your child will feel like a part of “the team.” And this team, if they’re good at what they do, will have daily talks about compassion, about respect for self and others, about kindness, and about non-violent conflict resolution.

But equally as good as the philosophy can be is the fact that your little one will be training, as in legs flying, rolling, punching, blocking, jumping, and spinning. Each maneuver has an effect on your child’s brain and, of course, their body. When I watch the young people in my classes doing what we do, I always think about how good it is that they’re here, doing something so constructive and positive.

I also reflect back to when I was a child –and that’s usually followed by a silent “thank you” to my parents.

Football, soccer, baseball, tennis, and guitar were all fun, but not one of them affected me as my martial arts lessons have. If you’re a parent, I would highly recommend enrolling your child in a good school –and you might even consider some classes for yourself.

Come in and try classes for FREE for a week.

Parents most important asset: Strong character

Parents are leaders. This series of posts compares typical leadership with parental leadership.Tony Robbins once spoke about why some individuals do not have continued success once they gain a measure of success.  It was likened to a thermostat that allows the heater to work, but when it reaches a pre-destined level,  then it shuts off.   Why is it,  that some find themselves unable to sustain, and in fact sometimes fall apart completely?  It can be fear of success, or it may be as Dr. Steven Berglas  suggests, a lack of bedrock character.

I have found it interesting as a parent / leader that the very beginning of parenting many times makes us feel so successful.  We get the compliments of many who tell us what a great job we are doing and how great our children are.  Then as one psychologist said, “Every parent must morn the death of their perfect child.”  One day we are shocked by something they do or say and we wonder where did that come from?  No matter what, it happens to all of us, some sooner – some later.

One thing is for sure though, having great character as a leader / parent is important.  All of us must continue to examine our personal character, matching our words and actions, as this is the most important asset that we have in business or family.  If we say we are going to do something – do we complete it?  Are we there for our children in their moments of glory and disappointments?

Children, our own children know us better than virtually anyone else.  They know the real us,  even if we think that we are doing a good job of putting up a great face. Without a word being spoken, I have seen them recognize when dad has lost his job, or parents are not getting along well.  They feel the emotions, they know the character and we as parents cannot disguise who we really are as leaders.  Even more important they are learning as they watch us and developing their own character, many times copying their parent / leaders actions – not their words.  As a parent leader our character is our most important asset.

Reinforcing character building in our children is one benefit of the martial arts at Balanced Life Skills.  In the month of February we will be discussing FAIRNESS with our students.