Getting in Fight Shape for Me and to Inspire Others Who Struggle with PTSD Who Need to Get Into Fight Shape for LIFE and This is Not just Military. It is For Everyone Who Struggles With PTSD.

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Updated: July 9, 2015

Getting in Fight Shape for Me and to Inspire Others Who Struggle with PTSD Who Need to Get Into Fight Shape for LIFE and This is Not just Military. It is For Everyone Who Struggles With PTSD.

I am working out now to get in fight shape for my upcoming autobiography (book) written by Jack Murphy New York Best Selling Author.  Some of this may seem redundant but I had additional thoughts that have been evolving over this last year.  I have been training Jack and another over this last year but have seen that  I felt like I was pushing them too hard, and now, I need to figure out a balance. Getting in shape Fight Shape for LIFE transcends psychologically, emotionally and physically.  For me as well! ; The lost part is initially psychologically I feel the best way to train is to train under fire and push myself and others around as if my life depends on it, because it does. Getting in shape is for LIFE and it does not just apply to veterans.   I worry about balance between physical and mental health as I re-invent myself, taking the old and blending it with the new.   This actually translates to finding balance and those with PTSD  need to get into fight shape for life.  I completely understand this and there are many of you out there that just need the lifeline to take the first step.  I have an instinct that I struggle with and work hard to figure out when it is important to respond like a right cross, or to be more aware and vigilant to be just aware while still being on guard. This transcends to both a physical response or psychological response.

I will typically take the people I train beyond their physical limits. I was asked if didn’t I think I could teach more and create an environment where they could do a little more step by step learning, so they could learn better and not discourage them. This particular work out is basically for me and those who would like to contribute and become a part of the program.

My first thought was, I have to be able to teach and lead from the front. As I work out I am recalling many different aspects of my former military life. The funny thing is, those with me don’t realize, I am hurting with them, just don’t show it. I took a further look back and felt this was a due to my upbringing, my Special Forces and fight training. It is my opinion typical Special Ops guys have a high pain threshold and tend to relate their physical and mental actions to their old training days when quitting was never an option. We always learned to push longer and harder without rest.  If they did not think this way, I surely did and still do to this very day. Though maybe a bit more tired, I still never quit.

  • When I was packing up after training, I made the comment to the guys, as they both were completely worn out and pushed past their physical limits. “Look guys, when I was going through combat diver training, we were worked out and was physically pushed beyond or limits as a proving ground every day for weeks on end, and that was before we even put a little toe in the water. We had to be in shape to get in shape” Basically there has always been one simple rule “never quit”. This applies to physically and emotionally.  Read between the lines. There is a clear message and I am in-between these lines.
  • I said, could you imagine quitting under fire? In a fire fight, ring or street fight? You simply lose. Could you imagine losing in a street fight or when you are being mugged, raped or robbed?
  • I guess the point is keep moving, just keep your feet moving.
  • I realized one of the guys, the most experienced fighter, who actually is a trainer for many different Government groups and agents, is the one most stationary, great defensive posture, but no footwork or movement, just making him a target under fire.

So he and I talked about “manning up” and wanting to engage and stay in the fight, you know that macho thing most men possess. This is critical and can be self-defeating. Sometime we want to be a little bit macho and defiant, just standing in one place, firm to the ground, in a defensive position, ready to block and counter ouch! I realized much like being in a real fire fight you must continue to fire, cover and move/maneuver. The longer you stay in one place the sooner someone will figure out your defense and continue fire or punch at you and take away you defense. (Consider this emotional and physical)

Fights consist of two things, offense and defense. Should you fail at any one of these you will probably fail in your effort to survive and win. I am also guilty of wanting to stand in your face and show you how tough I am. Truth be told, this is pretty stupid and I have the scars to prove it. I still won the fights, but received plenty of damage in route. This damage that could have been easily avoided, if I wasn’t so stubborn, and stuck the basic principles of movement.

To be sure, if you can’t move your feet, because of a disability or maybe you have been grabbed or taken to the ground, then move your body parts, wiggle your neck and head while shrugging your shoulders upward towards your neck and ears, making it difficult to be hit or choked. Drop your weight by bending your knees really fast. If you are on your back, wiggle your hips and roll your shoulder towards your chest, so your back isn’t flat on the ground, giving your opponent a flat table to mount. You want to rock and roll left and right while bucking your hips up like and hard and fast upward hip thrust, the whole time trying to put your fingers in his eyes or rake his eyes to create a moment of defense or escape. If your attacker tries to smother you bite him and go back to the eye attack. Just don’t quit or give up.

This working out again has placed me in a weird moment, and for me I mentally went back to my training days, and my days being deployed with a 120 pound ruck sack every step of the way, wanting to push myself beyond my physical abilities and go farther and faster than those around me. I know Special Operators all have a very competitive nature and are able to go into the zone and block all of their self-defeating thoughts, replacing those thoughts with extreme focus, focusing on the end result and that great feeling of finishing or completing a tasks others, can’t do, or just be better than better than those around you. This all goes to having the ability to visualize the outcome of your commitment and efforts in the middle of pain and discomfort. This desire to drive on, builds better people. People who are psychologically committed and can look past the obstacles, keeping their eyes on the horizon or target. This takes extreme focus and the ability to ignore pain and being tired. With this mentality you can stay in the game even without much food or water and with no sleep.

There are two sides to everything in life. In this case it could be extremely dangerous when a person that doesn’t quit loses self-discipline and starts drinking, doing drugs, bar fighting, being abusive to others, because all you can see is your own pain, pain you learned to erase and live beyond for many years by simply being goal oriented and driving through to the end.  This is the epitome of PTSD. The challenges from your work and teammates and in combat if you were military, you may have developed through the years and rigor of being the best! This side of the coin can lead to negative actions and obsessive behavior. One thing about this behavior is our desire to see everything through to the end! This is especially true with some veterans that have PTSD and nothing to look forward to. It’s like a ship put out to sea without a rudder. Think about it, if there is no end in sight, nothing to complete or finish, we can become victims of our training and experiences, leading some down very destructive paths. I’m talking about guys who never threw the towel in and never failed, now … not having perceivably any future or hope. Just living day to day and trying to fit in makes it incredibly difficult.

With me, I was and still am one of those guys, trying to make it work, having no answers and not being able to see the finish line, except getting old and just fading away. It is so difficult simply not feeling important or appreciated.  I am a civilian now and this feeling pertains to everyone who has had an experience which has created a post-traumatic stress situation.

Once I retired, I was doing contract work i.e. I was on the Private Security detail, taking President Aristide back into Haiti. This is very intense and high risk business, feeding that beast within that wants to do the best and be the best performer, elite. I also started my own karate Club and taught what I considered to be Modern Karate and called this brand of fighting “Extension Fighting. I took 4 fighters, virtually off the street some with zero fighting background and in a year had them fighting on pay per view Ultimate Fighting Championships, both defeating former world champions, one of the first ever female vale tudo champions, US Middle Weight Kickboxing Fights and Boxers on HBO heavy Weight After Dark and USA Tuesday Night Fights. Yep, MMA fighters, kick boxers, boxers and traditional karate tournament competitors. I became the Professional Karate State Commissioner for the State of North Carolina; I was putting on my own fight shows, training with professional boxer and kick boxers like Joe Lewis and Dale Fry, two former world champions. I even opened up my own Gym. Yes, I was staying true to the Military Special Operations form the “Do or Die”, Never Quit” attitude and way of life.

At the time I never realized what was really going on. I was simply staying ahead of my past.  This is PTSD and every soldier needs to at the outset understand that whether they think they have it or not…. Let the VA help and get you on the right path.  We all think we are above being what everyone thinks as being “weak”, because we have been trained to be strong, but to admit that you have had trauma, whether domestically, or at war, you need to address this.  This is not and I repeat a sign of WEAKNESS. Admitting that you are having difficulty is a sign of STRENGTH.  I know this is why so many young soldiers returning from combat today are committing suicide, going to jail and many other activities having negative results, broken relationships. Etc.  In fact with the social media being so negative towards why we are even involved in these international conflicts, many young soldiers returning from war feel embarrassed and ashamed of their real world accomplishments, causing them to lose their drive and motivation, sending them into a downward life spiral, to the pits, with no apparent hope and filled with confusion and anger. This has been particularly seen with the Viet Nam era, with both of my brothers serving with pride and perception. Think, with no real outlet what all of the possible outcomes may be.

I started to figure it out when my world came to a halt. My oldest son was murdered, I stopped being productive, felt ashamed and guilty as if somehow Karma had finally caught up to me (my military training and doing what I was required to do).  Everything good and bad suddenly caught up to me. I felt as if I had lost a drive, motivation and direction. Look I have been truly blessed to have made it to this point. Mainly due to having a second son, he is still young. Several years after my son passed, I turned my focus towards my 2nd son. This after some self-destructive behavior and have allowed my focus to be on his successes and happiness. Has somehow allowed me to work through this to a point where I am starting to see the light of hope.  Also trying to find balance to not be too protective, but giving him room to breathe and that is something I am personally challenged with. Can you identify with this?  I think if every military man or woman comes back from war,  you can think about this in some small way.

Just staying with my roots and being mainly on auto pilot with my military background, getting up early and going to work, has allowed me through the grace of God and a never quit attitude to start turning my life around and having positive thoughts again. Of course there has been some anger management and lots of therapy along the way. That which I encourage every person who has suffered from PTSD; Military, Domestic Violence, Personal attack, it really does not need a name, just take a minute and get some help or a sounding board to help you feel that you are really OKAY!

I let Jack for the first time, I had not work out in years, my cholesterol was high and my waist was fat. I had failed relationships a few bar fights and was in my mental cave and somewhat unsocial, not wanting much interaction with people. Work was kicking me in the ass, dealing with civilian construction workers that don’t want to follow the rules and are typically assholes when talked to. Even some high level company staff members political tied in to the company and don’t want things to run right as if I am causing them to lose money. I felt like I was only holding on until the end.

Jack had a simple request for me in order to write my story. He wanted me to train him. Once again this took me back to my roots once I started training and training others. My lady Linda got me a gym membership and has also pushed me back into the gym.

I feel I am getting lost in my new motivation, with a book on the horizon and having to be back in public and in front of people as a leader in both fighting arts, Construction Safety and health and helping others with PTSD. It is my training and training others now that have me pulling it out and making sense of it all, being more responsible with the fight knowledge I possess. . The lost part is initially psychologically I feel the best way to train is to train under fire and push myself and others around as if my life depends on it, because it does. I worry about balance between physical and mental health as I re-invent myself, taking the old and blending it with the new. My challenge is keeping it real, but peaceful. Fight training and talking about some of my past with respect to combat operations to Jack and others throws me back in time, when I am only trying to bring forward the action items that have kept me alive. My very aggressive nature seems to come back to me as fast as a right cross.  This actually translates to finding balance and those with PTSD understand this or needs to.  I have an instinct that I struggle with and work hard to figure out when it is important to respond like a right cross, or to be more aware and vigilant to be just aware while still being on guard.

With me, I was and still am one of those guys, trying to make it work, having no answers and not being able to see the finish line, except getting old and just fading away. But I started to talk and get it out.  Yes I have PTSD and yes I work every day to be better because if I did not do this, I would never have survived as a Special Operations, HALO, Green Beret Military man and to work just as hard to be a retired and very proud United States Veteran, but to inspire everyone else, military, civilian, whoever you are that there is a light and to keep your eye on the horizon.  It is never too late until you make it too late!

 

 

Jim Smokey West

© 3/30/2015

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