My father was a warrior who when he returned from the Korean War, was unable to reintegrate into our family due to post-traumatic stress syndrome. I was too young to understand, and only knew that my father was angry, abusive and detached. I had blamed my physical and learning disabilities for his hardships as a parent, for their divorce, and for my estrangement from him. So, I set about understanding my condition and how to overcome those limitations.
In October of 1995, already a world medalist and national coach of Russian Sambo, after years of petitioning, I became the 1st American to receive invitations to formally intern behind the post-Perestroika “Iron Curtain” of the former USSR. The first invite came as a phone call from SAMBO-70, the 2nd largest academy in the world, to dorm at their facility and learn authentic Russian wrestling. The second invite came as an email from the Russian Scientific Consultant Practical Training Center to study with the Spetsnaz SOU trainers in stress physiology and combat biomechanics.
In a major surprise to my teammates and colleagues, I accepted the latter invitation, unable to accept both. The years I spent training with the Russian coaches, laid the groundwork for understanding how and why I was able to overcome my own limitations, as well as why my father, as great the warrior he was, was unable to reintegrate into family and society after the war. Though both trained in Sambo, the special operations units trained differently than the professional athletes. Not merely the technical ends differed from the mat to the field, but also the manner, the means remained completely different. The tactical operator needed to train in light of the stress of his service, as he didn’t have the luxury of the sport dormitory life.
During those years, I accepted the position as the US Coach of the 1st ever American team to compete at the World Police Sambo Championships (1999, Kaunas, Lithuania). Due to the disparate geography of the people I was training, I began developing training protocols which would address the stress physiology of the officers, rather than their athletic capabilities alone. They needed to remain operationally ready, pain and injury free regardless of their competitive fighting, and they needed to decrease the adverse effects of stress upon them, rather than increase them.
Over the next decade, I continued my research in related disciplines and continued to test and refine my approach. Compiling a team of professionals from all of the relevant fields - federal law enforcement, special operations groups, fire rescue departments, dignitary protection teams, as well as fitness professionals facing the most diversely related populations to continue to reach out to non-active civilians.
We discovered a large interest in our services and approach: outfits that want a system which prepares them physically for the rigors of crisis response, which allows them to become and remain pain and prevent injuries while increasing fitness levels, which decreases their response to stress, helps them recover faster from stressful encounters, and aids them in reducing and eliminating the adverse effects that stress has caused their lives and their families lives.
Only decades later on a TACFIT assignment with my training unit, when I found myself in the same baptismal waters where my father pilgrimaged to recover his soul in the river Jordan in Israel, did I finally feel reunited with him… and feel that my path, struggle and work did accomplish my original mission in my own family.