If the tragedy of Pittsburgh teaches us anything, it is to be prepared. The good news was that the police were prepared and had held active shooter drills at the synagogues, and as such many of the congregants were prepared. The casualty numbers would most likely have been much worse if that were not the case. Lockdown and evacuation procedure drills are a great way to prepare. The bad news was that no procedures were in place to prevent the entry of a suspicious or worse an obvious threat as the assailant was carrying a rifle and other weapons.
In a recent column I wrote about preparing for a situation that may rarely or never happen. As a martial artist I prepare every day for the unlikely case that I am attacked. Yet I pray every day that I will never need to use these very skills that I work so hard to hone. So in fact you might say that I am praying that I am wasting my time training.
When I received my Red Belt in 1981 my instructor sat me down for a talk. “Up until now you’ve had fun training, but now you need to get serious. To be a black belt means you represent Taekwondo. Your technique and dedication need to be exemplary. You will have days that you will question whether the hard work, time, and physical challenges are worth it. Most probably you will come to the realization that it is unlikely you will ever need the skills you are developing. So I want you to answer the question I pose to every student preparing for black belt. If I could guarantee that you will never be attacked would you still put in all the training as if it were likely you will be attacked.”
This was an easy question for me, not so easy for many fellow students. For me, the improvements I made in myself through the struggles with techniques, the friendships I made with my fellow students, and overcoming my fears through sparring with others and breaking boards made it all worthwhile. In addition even if he could guarantee that I’d never be attacked, that doesn’t mean that my fellow students will never be attacked. If by being part of their training I could help them be safe that would be enough for me.
Many people got together to say Tehillim after the attack in Pittsburgh. I say Tehillim 144 every day, for in it David Hamelech thanks Hashem for the ability to train his body to be prepared. Let’s train our minds, bodies and spirits to be prepared. Let’s prepare our synagogues for the attack we will pray never happens. Let’s hope we are wasting our times.
Rich Marinelli Chief Instructor of Human Weapon Taekwondo
by Rich Marinelli