February 2014

Patches should represent the code of the organization. Symbolism runs deep in these. Estela Wilderness Education lives by the code rooted in the values that made each of these great. Clockwise from Top: American Flag, Sayoc Kali, Estela Wilderness Education and the Wilderness Learning Center

Patches should represent the code of the organization. Symbolism runs deep in these. Estela Wilderness Education lives by the code rooted in the values that made each of these great. Clockwise from Top: American Flag, Sayoc Kali, Estela Wilderness Education and the Wilderness Learning Center

Februrary 2014
Blog of Education

The Code

Ask some guys what their code is and you will probably hear some juvenile response like, “liquor before beer and you’re in the clear”. Ask some girls and they may say something like, “a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.” There are far too many people who operate without a code, moral compass to follow or honor system. What makes me wonder more than the absence of a code is why these people never developed one. Even if these folks didn’t develop a code through a nurturing family environment growing up, it is never too late to help someone stymied by foolish pursuits, expectations or sense of entitlement in becoming a better person.  This is accomplished through building camaraderie, responsibility toward your fellow man/woman and disciplined training.



I remember guiding a canoe trip years ago. The parks and recreation department I was escorting down the river was from an affluent town and many of the kids who were on the trip showed up to camp in expensive vehicles with bright new summer apparel and name brand soft sided coolers…you know, the type with the reusable gel ice cubes?  Well, we head down the river and noticed a couple that was stuck on a rock in distress and their canoe was pinned. I pulled the group over, assisted the couple and returned to the kids to find them in a state of confusion. They asked, “Do you even know them?” “Why did you help them?” “Aren’t we going to be late for our lunch and swimming time?” To these questions I explained the unwritten expectation folks on the river have to help others in need. I conveyed the “golden rule” in asking them to imagine if they were stuck and asked what they would want to happen. The kids were shocked something like this code existed and for the rest of the day they went on to help one another in and out of their boats, carrying paddles and simply being there for another. It was satisfying and proof installing a moral code is possible in younger outdoor enthusiasts.



The river is not the only place a code can be learned. Through martial arts a person can develop self-discipline, perseverance, work-ethic, guile and honor. Sit in most martial arts schools long enough and you will see the students cleaning up, instructing classes pro bono, interacting with parents and acting as representatives of what the school represents. These students know what they do reflects on the school, their instructors and the message the school is there to promote. All those words found on over dramatic martial arts models punching nothing but air posters become alive in the students who carry them out in their actions each day. At some point, these students become so accustomed with acting right and doing right, they realize they don’t want to act any other way even outside the school. They learn what is good, do what is good and eventually love what is good. They develop a code and one that will serve them well in life. As someone who has been training in Filipino Martial Arts for years, I know I can count on any and I mean ANY of my Sayoc Kali brothers and sisters to help me in a time of need. They can also be certain I will bend over backwards to help them. Pamana Tuhon Chris Sayoc has taught us all to work together and his messages, conveyed through well-thought out metaphors, guide us in our training and protect us in our daily lives. We work as a group and our dynamics is what makes us stand out. Our shared passion for self-defense and protection makes us more than practitioners and instructors, it makes us family. For family, I would do anything.



The primary purpose of Estela Wilderness Education is teaching bushcraft and wilderness survival skills. I can make you a better fire starter, a skilled projectile launcher and give you skills and knowledge to make you better prepared for any contingency. Yet, I find through teaching these skills, I can help my students develop or strengthen their own code. By delegating responsibility, empowering them with skills and knowledge, partnering them in ad hoc groups to defeat challenges and assessing their performance with reflective after actions, they develop a new relationship toward others. If you know anything about the sheep, wolves and sheepdog analogy then you know I’m training my students to be sheepdogs.  During courses, I watch as folks reluctantly become part of the larger group and learn to work as a team. Students willingly offer each other their gear if something is needed and are quick to remedy situations for others if more than one person is warranted. It’s hard to explain, but by the end of just about any course, the students are bonded by a shared experiences and knowledge only those who are willing to learn from me have. They know they have the strength to survive and a responsibility to share this knowledge with others to keep the fire going so to speak. As my good friend and wilderness mentor Marty always said during the courses we ran together, “people come to these courses as strangers but leave as friends.” The reason the friendships become so strong during courses is partly because of the fun we have but also because of the code they honor together.


I am not a moral crusader but I do live by a strict code. I am lucky to have great parents who taught me right from wrong, let me play with toy guns but also told me what was fantasy and reality. Many lessons learned as an undergrad at Fairfield University about civic participation strengthened my code. Martial arts and wilderness survival training also taught me invaluable lessons. The material I teach and the messages I convey are not a hobby for me, they are part of my lifestyle. People will be quick to criticize you for your code if theirs is weaker. Just remember you’re stronger and rise above it.   I’ve had to love people from afar when their “code” has not matched up with mine. I find myself attracted to and spend my time with others who believe in the same values and conventions as I do. My code has never failed me but at times it has been challenged and in moments of rare weakness, I’ve failed my code. No one is perfect but with a well structured code and strict adherence to it, you can work towards perfection one day at a time.



If these thoughts resonate with you, consider training with me and finding more about the code that is inside of you.