Life Quality in Safety and Happiness. By David Reid Otey

The quality of life we live depends upon many factors that all change in various ways and at different times. The top two factors are safety and happiness. When you feel safe and unafraid then you also feel free to be who you want to be and open to experiences you want to have. That freedom and openness lead to the happiness.

I began self-defense lessons through a Tae Kwon Do martial arts school in Arizona during the 1970’s. I was in my early twenties, thin physical build, very shy and not one to seek out social situations. I worried a lot about many things. It was my chosen ‘escape’ mode of love for movies that led me to the Bruce Lee films. Bruce was an amazing role model for me. Thin, fast, fighting for justice, unafraid of anything or anyone. He was a very different hero in build and action for the American mindset at the time. Because of Bruce I joined the arena of self-defense classes. Those lessons and the caring teachers made changes within my mind about myself and about my outlook on life. I could see more possibilities for me in dreams and hopes. I learned to understand practice of the needed elements to achieve any dream. I learned to stand up when I fell for whatever reason. I learned I can still move and still grow into the next step in spite of bruises or pain. I learned how to transfer the mental focus and physical challenges of the class into the mental focus and challenging choices of my daily life.

Now, forty years later, I use my skills as a second degree black belt to teach self-defense and Tae Kwon Do to young students privately and in a studio. Listening to their parents express gratitude to me for how their children have improved in attitudes and success in school and elsewhere encourages me to continue. Watching my students and their parents become happier from becoming free of fear and free to be themselves is a great reward. I save a letter from one student who studied with me for five years before he graduated high school and joined the Army. He wrote thanking me for the lessons of self-respect, team work and inner spirit and strength. He wrote that those lessons helped him a lot through what he was expected to do and how he was expected to act.

Safety means that this only world you can live on is open for you. Safety means bold decision making without fear of what you might have missed in the process. In my Women’s Self-Defense Classes, started this past Spring and ongoing every month, I see happier and more confident faces. They are grateful to know how to be aware, how to ”see” possibilities and how to get themselves, their friends and family to safety when needed. They have all been surprised by the fact that all of the tools they need to defend themselves are attached to their bodies already. New perspective creates strength and power. Real strength and real power are ”knowing” you belong and that you can be certain to maintain the place, the dream and the hopes you earned.

Consider taking classes for self-defense. Visit the possible places within an acceptable range from where you live, ask questions and watch an entire class period. If watching is not allowed, that is a bad sign, seek elsewhere. I would ask questions about cost, fee penalties for anything, requirements regarding clothing and safety gear, testing times and costs for those, requirements regarding participation in class and at tournaments-which I feel should be optional and not necessary–and what the contract terms are. Be aware that some schools have a ”hyper” environment that resembles a cheery camp ground. Try to determine the ”real” undertone of the environment. Watch the students throughout the class. Their faces will tell you what you need to know. If you are looking for a class for your child, it is very important to take them with you for watching. Please, DO NOT simply pick a school just because it exists. Do not walk in and sign a check for a contract and come home ‘surprising’ your child. Every class has an ”emotional” appeal to it that must match your child’s ”emotional” make up. A mismatch will cost you a lot more than money. YMCA’s and Universities sometime have classes for community. Some places, like me, will offer two directions with open registration and no ”sell-ups”. Good luck and enjoy the process of creating more freedom and happiness in your life and the lives of others.

Dave Otey with belt-4