On the weekend I celebrated my 50th birthday with family members and good friends. Like any birthday party I was showered with thoughtful gifts and cards, but the gift that was the most unique of them all came from my Aunt Debbie who drove ten hours all the way down from Northern California for this event. She brought into the room a long rectangular box that looked like it had come straight out of the Middle Ages. The sight of this interesting box instantly stopped everyone in the room; sixty-six people in all. When I curiously opened the lid of this long box there laid a massive sword inside of it wrapped in burlap. It was the Scottish Claymore sword. A Claymore is a double-edged two-handed sword that was used by Highlanders from the 15th to 17th century. I had first learned of the word “Claymore” back when I was in the United States Army, for it was the name of the anti-personnel mine we trained with – the M18 Claymore mine named after the very same Scottish sword. A Claymore mine is a command-detonated and directional explosive contained in a small curved case marked FRONT TOWARD ENEMY with over one hundred metal balls that are shot out all at once in a 60 degree arc at supersonic speeds that can hit an entire platoon moving over the ground. The Army named it “Claymore” because it could cut the enemy in half where they stood. The Scottish Claymore sword can cut a man in half with its weight of 2.8 kilograms (6.2 pounds) and blade length of 115 centimeters (45 inches).
When I was called up to the microphone to give the expected speech, to impart some words of wisdom from “an old man,” to my birthday party guests, I took up with me the note my aunt had tucked inside the box with the historical sword. I began by reading her note out loud,
“I give you this sword out of my collection, because it means the most to me. It symbolizes men that stood up for what was honorable in the eyes of the Lord, men that teach others to do the same, men that pray that all will find freedom. You are one of those men.”
Just prior to the serving of the dinner earlier in the evening, and prior to my speech, one of my friends, Debbie DiGiovanni, a published writer, handed me a sheet of paper containing something she had written for me specifically to commemorate the occasion. She is the wife of my oldest student, Mike DiGiovanni at 73-years-old who first started lessons with me 25 years ago and in the best shape you will ever see for someone his age, and both of them were there in the beginning of my teaching career, and both honored guests at my table. I briefly looked at the printed page, thanked her, and knew instantly after reading the first paragraph that I would do more with it than just simply tuck it into a drawer at home and save it as a memento. As a professional speaker who already had something in mind before going up before an audience, I decided that I would use Debbie’s gift as my lead in instead of what I had planned to say. When the room fell silent I read her words also,
“Jim, you’re turning 50 and we can’t believe all that you’ve accomplished. Everything you dreamed of you’ve attained through hard work and perseverance, a strong faith in God, and the support of your amazing wife.
You’ve been a police officer, a member of a SWAT team, a deputy sheriff, A Federal Air Marshal after 9/11, and a military police solider.
Your training, the honing of your skills, your unique talents and high level of self-confidence all came together when you formed the Jim Wagner Reality-Based Personal Protection system in 2003. You now teach defensive tactics all over the world, doing your part on the War on Terrorism and reaching the warriors of the world with your message.
Getting there was not easy. You were harassed and betrayed by those who wanted you to fail. However, this did not serve to embitter you. It only made you stronger, wiser and more focused. You constantly adapted, and never looked behind.
Jim, you have graced the covers of magazines, designed your own line of knives, you’ve been featured in countless articles, and have people asking you for autographs. Yet you stayed grounded.
If all this wasn’t enough, you’ve written articles and books, and now you are working on your autobiography.
Jim, your life has been meaningful, and you couldn’t have found a more perfect mate than your wife who has stood by your side and supported you through the good times and bad. You have allowed your life to be a testimony to the existence of Jesus Christ, and remind us all that it’s not about earth; it’s about eternity.”
A few of my guests had not known my full life story, but after my reading of Aunt Debbie’s note along with Debbie DiGiovanni’s short story they had a better idea of who I was, but I then attempted to fill in the blanks with my own words,
“This sword, this very unique gift, sums up the 50 years of my life. It symbolizes who I am in two distinct ways. First, my life, my career path, has been one of conflict. I started as a corrections officer guarding prisoners, became a police officer, a SWAT officer, a team leader of a Dignitary Protection Unit, a United States Federal Air Marshal after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and now a military police soldier. As an instructor teaching my Reality-Based Personal Protection system I have taught civilians, and police and military units, on every continent of the world except Antarctica, and as you can see on my birthday cake here on this table that the continent of Antarctica is missing”
A large chocolate birthday cake was presented to me with a detailed map artistically made of frosting on the cake surface with shaped candles forming the two numbers of 5 and 0.
I continued, “The sword has always been a symbol of conflict. My life has been filled with conflict. I have had criminals try to stab me, shoot at me, and have even come face-to-face with terrorists. The fact that I am standing here today is a blessing, for there were several times I thought that life was over for me, but I miraculously made it through each time. In Medieval times, after battle, the Christian knights would hold their sword upside down and raise it high, for it is in the shape of the cross representing Jesus Christ.”
There before my guests I turned the sword and held it so it appeared like a cross.
“I too look to Jesus Christ as my God and my Savior. My faith in Him has protected me throughout this life of conflict.”
I thanked everyone in the room for coming to my party, and pointed out a few guests that were significant to a few of my life’s journeys, but Aunt Debbie’s note and Debbie DiGiovanni’s short story, along with my brief speech was basically all that needed to be said, and so it was time to continue the festivities with fun and dancing.
For me the celebration of my 50th birthday is quite significant, as it should be, for I am now closer to the end of my life than I am to the beginning now; should I live to the average age of 74-years-old that is. I’ve never feared growing older, but have actually looked forward to it. Each decade has brought its own challenges and its rewards. When friends and family at my party asked me the standard question, “How does it feel to be 50-years-old?” I replied humorously, “I am one year closer to eternity.”
I have had an incredibly exciting and full life, and I have had both a rewarding career as a warrior and teacher to the “warrior class.” However, death will overtake us all sooner or later. It is inevitable. I have seen enough death in my life, especially as a police officer, to know all about my own mortality. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that life is very fragile and can leave anyone of us in an instant. Yet, after examining all of the belief systems out there, all of the philosophies and religions in this world, I have come to the conclusion that the Holy Bible is indeed the true Word of God based upon irrefutable evidence. If I had to sum up this “evidence” to you in one word it would be the word “Israel,” despite the fact that I am neither an Israeli citizen or even Jewish.
Many of you, my Reality-Based Personal Protection students and certified instructors, know about my personal protection teachings through the books, videos, and seminars, but you may not be fully aware of my deeply held beliefs. I mention them from time to time, but I don’t beat people over the head with them. You may or may not agree with me on these personal beliefs I am about to share with you, but if anything it gives you an insight to the man behind the system.
I say “Israel,” because that tiny nation of approximately 6 million Jews seems to be a “stumbling block” to the nations of the world today just as the Bible had predicted it would be in the “Last Days.” The Human Rights Council of the Unite Nations has passed more resolutions condemning Israel than it has all other states combined. Yes, “combined.”
In the Old Testament of the Bible, in the ancient book of Ezekiel (written between 622 and 570 B.C., which means over 2,600 years ago) the Jewish prophet Ezekiel wrote down in the 37th chapter of the book named after him that God would take the dead nation of Israel, after a long period of time being out of their own land, and once again bring them back into their land and establish them before the whole world.
“Behold, O my people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I have open your graves, O my people, and brought you from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you will live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it, says the Lord.” Ezekiel 37:14
In 70 A.D. Roman General Titus and his Roman legions destroyed the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (Jesus predicted that “not one stone would stand upon another” when the temple would be destroyed almost 40 years later after his crucifixion and resurrection), kills a great portion of the population, and sends most of the survivors throughout the four corners of the Empire as slaves. For almost two thousand years the Jews were without their nation, and yet retained their national identity; a feat that has never been duplicated in world history. Then on May 14, 1948 Israel becomes a nation again. How did Ezekiel know that this was going to happen? The ruling empire in his day was the Babylonian Empire.
If that is not specific enough Ezekiel gets more detail with, “Thus says the Lord God, surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land, and make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king over them all, they shall no longer be two nations nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again.” Ezekiel 37:22
In ancient days the nation of Israel was actually divided into two kingdoms shortly after the first birth of the nation: Samaria to the north and Judah to the south. Having two kingdoms meant having two separate kings. How would Ezekiel know that one day the Jews scattered all over the world would enter back into the land en mass, be one nation instead of their traditional two, and only have one ruler over them? Obviously, this was impossible to know except that God inspired these words. You can’t simply make world events happen.
When I watch today’s news on television or on the Internet it is like watching the book of Ezekiel rapidly peel open before my very eyes. For Ezekiel went on to write in chapter 38, “Thus says the Lord God, behold I am against you O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal (the ancestors of the Russians). I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords. Persia (today called Iran), Ethiopia (also the Sudan area), Put (Libya) are with them, all of them with shield and helmet. Gomer (Western Turkey) and all its troops; the house of Togarmah (Eastern Turkey) from the far north and all its troops – many people are with you.” Ezekiel 38:3-6
The rest of the chapter describes how these armies will all attack the nation of Israel and how it will rain down “great hailstones, fire, and brimstone,” while the nations of Sheba and Dedan (ancient names for tribes on the Arabian Peninsula) protest the invasion. We are not there yet, but we are definitely between chapters 37 and 38 in world history.
In the New Testament of the Bible Jesus the Christ (Anointed One) said concerning this time, “Now learn this parable from the fig tree (the fig tree represents the nation of Israel according to other Biblical passages). When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near, at the very doors.” Mark 13:28-29
In my office I have a copy of the Islamic Quran (published by the Abmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at Islam) with English translation and commentary by Maulana Muhammad Ali dated 1911. In the Al-Baqarah (the Cow) Maulana writes concerning the Covenant with Abraham, “But the fact is that the land of Canaan continues to remain as an everlasting possession in the hands of the seed of Abraham, for as soon as the Israelites or their representatives, the Christians, were deemed unfit to have the Holy Land in their possession because of their unrighteousness, that Holy Land was given to the Arabs, who were Ishmaelites, and to this day it remains in the hands of Muslims, who are the true representatives of the house of Ishmael.”
The Quran makes it very clear that the Jews will always be the slaves of the Muslims, and up until 1948 this was always the case in Islamic countries. So how is it that the Jews now “occupy” Muslim land? How is it that the “slaves” have become the masters in this part of the world right in the center of the Islamic spread? To the devout Muslim mind this situation is unacceptable, and only “temporary.” The Muslim world vehemently states, “If it were not for the support of the United States the Israelis would not remain there.”
Regardless of how the Jews got there recently, who’s story you side with politically, or what religion or lack thereof you believe in, the fact remains that it happened just as Ezekiel wrote it down, and they are there. It is irrefutable. The Jews did return to the land, and they control the land, and I have been to Israel to see this truth myself with my own eyes. The Star of David that is on the Israeli flag does indeed fly over Jerusalem just like Luke quoted Jesus’ words,
“And Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles (the non-Jews) until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Luke 21:24
How did Jesus know that one day Jews would one day control Jerusalem again after a period of non-Jewish “times?” This event happened on June 7, 1967 when the Old City that was controlled by Jordan fell to Israeli forces. I was five years old when this was fulfilled.
I just mentioned a few scriptures about the nation of Israel that have come to pass, and yet there are hundreds of prophesies about Israel, world history, and the coming Messiah that have also been fulfilled. If Ezekiel chapter 37 has been proven true, then why would not John 3:16 in the New Testament be true as well? I believe it is.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
Jesus, when He walked this earth, claimed to be God Almighty in the flesh. Either he was a liar, crazy, or He is indeed who He said He is. One can’t be “a good moral teacher” if they are a liar. If a person claims to be God and truly believes it, and is not God, then that person has some severe mental health issues.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’ Then they took up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” John 8:58-59
Why did His own people want to kill him? Because the statement, ‘I AM’ was a clear claim that He was God, for when Moses asked God at the burning bush what His name is God answered him, “I AM WHO I AM. Thus you will say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.” Exodus 3:14
Like my birthday speech I have kept this brief. You have received an outline of my life, and I have shared with you my beliefs. I would encourage you to learn my techniques and training methods when it comes to personal protection, and if you would like to be assured that your sins WILL BE forgiven, and that you will live forever in God’s kingdom when your body dies and your soul parts, then repeat this simple prayer in your heart right now,
“God forgive me of all my sins and wash my heart clean. I believe that you died for my sins on the cross, that you paid the price for me, and I ask you to come into my heart to live inside of me. Please show me the way I must walk, and accept my soul after I breathe my last breath. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
If you truly ask Him into you heart, He will enter. He promises. That’s it. You don’t have to “work” for your salvation, for He did it all on that cross. It’s a free gift. Get a hold of a Bible, his love letters to you, and start reading it. He will instruct you little by little the direction you need to go in your life. Pray to Him daily, and enjoy a personal relationship with your maker.
Be A Hard Target (both physically and spiritually)
Nicolas Fouquet: A lesson for martial artists
On July 29, 2012 I played the role of tourist by taking a thirty minute drive outside of Paris, France to visit the famous estate of Nicolas Fouquet built in 1656 called the Vaux Le Vicomte (pronounced “vo leh vee-compt”). On the 86 acres sits a magnificent house surrounded by a garden that served as the model for King Louis XIV’s grand Versailles palace, and served as example of opulence for the rest of eighteenth century Europe. When walking through the ornate chambers I read about the history of Nicolas Fouquet and it also reminded me of those who had been close to me who had stabbed me in the back, much like those people who did the same thing to Monsieur Fouquet; only his fate turned out much worse than mine.
Nicolas Fouquet (1615 – 1680) was a brilliant man and the Superintendent of Finances for young King Louis XIV. Historians tell us that Fouquet’s protégé, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, wanted his position and was very jealous of Fouquet’s success. Day after day Colbert secretly filled the young king’s head with suspicions about Fouquet saying that he was responsible for the kingdom’s “financial disorder,” which was untrue. Eventually the king came to believe the false accusations and had Fouquet arrested by his musketeers and impressed it upon his judges to sentence Fouquet to death in order to get him out of the way. His judges followed their own conscience and handed down a sentence of exile to Fouquet; in other words, freedom outside of the kingdom. Louis XIV overturned the sentence and ordered life imprisonment in Pignerol prison and destroyed the careers of the judges. Fouquet stayed in prison until he died 19 years later.
It’s a sad story, but one that is repeated often in history; even in the martial arts community. Some of my world renowned friends have had their own protégés, men that they trusted and trained personally to assist them in growing their systems, only to have them stab them in the back after reaching a level of notoriety. It was not just a matter and going out on their own, but actually “biting the hand that fed them” in a most disgraceful manner by poisoning other student’s and instructor’s minds in the process in order to turn their loyalties away from their masters. Both Avi Nardia, of the KAPAP system, and Tony Blauer, of the SPEAR system, have personally told me of protégés they brought up through the ranks and groomed to be leaders within the organization only in the end to have them copy their business model, claim innovations that were not their own, and to speak ill of those who mentored them.
Back in the 1970s when I first started studying the martial arts it was unheard of to speak disrespectfully of your master - ever. One was always grateful of the knowledge that that he had bestowed, and only reverence was the norm. If you wanted to go off on your own and teach the things you had learned you didn’t try to steal your master’s students, speak ill of him, or try to destroy his reputation. You just quietly built up your own student base and your own reputation.Over the past 20 years I have taught thousands of students, hundreds of instructors, and I only have one protégé in the Jim Wagner Reality-Based Personal Protection system. Most of those I have mentored are honorable and who have a strong sense of right and wrong, but like Avi Nardia and Tony Blauer I have had a few of my own students that I have certified, as well as a couple of my own directors, go the dishonorable route and behave disgracefully.
I don’t expect everyone that I certify as a Reality-Based Personal protection instructor to teach under my name or stay in my system, but I certainly don’t expect them to disrespect me or gossip behind my back either. What kind of cowardice is that?
My current Reality-Based Personal Protection Director of France is Christophe Besse, and he is my protégé, but he is no Jean-Baptiste Colbert; the man who betrayed Nicolas Fouquet in 1661. In fact, it was Christophe who took me to the Vaux Le Vicomte, and Christophe is the prime example of an honorable man.In 2005 I appointed Christophe as my Director for France and he did a fabulous job spreading the Jim Wagner Reality-Based Personal Protection system throughout the French Republic. We worked together for many years very harmoniously. Teaching self-defense was not Christophe’s primary job, like all of my directors, and his full-time job began taking up more and more of his time. He finally came to a point in his life where he decided to devote more time to his full-time employer. A year later Christophe decided he didn’t want to give up teaching the martial arts completely, and he started teaching self-defense to women under his own name as a part-time gig. Before going his separate way Christophe was straight forward and honest with me and told me of his desires to devote his time to his physical fitness job and to step down as the French director, and he told me this before taking any action. Naturally, I was very disappointed that I’d be losing him, but because he came to me in an honorable fashion I gave him my support and reassured him of our friendship. Christophe made sure that my new Director, Julien Nodier, had a smooth transition and took his hands off the reigns when everything was under control. Christophe and I stayed in contact with each other and I watched him became quite successful in the world of fitness and teaching Women’s Survival. He was proud to let people know that I was the instructor who inspired him, and I could not help but be proud that someone I had mentored was doing well with what I had taught him, along with his own ingenuity.
In 2011 my new French director, Julien Nodier, was offered a better position within his organization for Reality-Based was not his full-time job either. Like Christophe Besse before him Julien warned me in advance that he might be taking the new position and stepping down as the French director. A few weeks later he took the position. Again, no hard feelings from me, for he had done it the correct way. When Christophe Besse had heard the news that Julien Nodier stepped down he asked me if anyone had been selected to replace him, and if not he wanted to come back as the Reality-Based Personal Protection Director of France. Not only did I take him back, but I named him as my official protégé of the system I had created.
Although I have many excellent instructors who teach my system, Christophe Besse teaches it exactly like I do to every detail. Even when it comes to the business model and marketing strategy Christophe does as I do, and in some areas even better. It was because he had left me honorably I had no problem in bringing him back with complete confidence.
Like I have said, I have had a few instructors, and one or two directors, that I have taken the time to teach and certified who turned against me. Fortunately, I can count all of them on one hand, but even having a few is quite a disappointment. When Avi Nardia and Tony Blauer told me their stories I no longer felt like the exclusive member in the club.
I have always lived by the Biblical rule, “Do to others what you would want them to do to you.” If you are currently studying self-defense under someone then don’t ever plan to do evil against them. The reason you are studying under them is because you feel that they have something valuable to give you. If you respect them now, then respect them later. If you find a time you no longer want to study under them then quietly go and find a new teacher.
Don’t bad mouth your old instructor to your new instructor, for your new instructor will inevitably think you will do the same thing to him one day.
If you are a martial artist who is no longer under the tutelage of another then still speak no evil of your former teachers. Your instructors helped to mold who you are today as a fighter. Be your own man or woman and let your reputation be your own. If you are a student of the martial arts, without no aspirations to be an instructor, and you hear one instructor gossiping about another, then be warned; for you are not dealing with an honorable instructor.
Doing what is right starts with you.
Be A Hard Target.
Copyright Jim Wagner 2003 - 2021 All rights reserved.