Be Glad Your Nose is on Your Face

Be glad your nose is on your face,
not pasted on some other place,
for if it were where it is not,
you might dislike your nose a lot.

Imagine if your precious nose
were sandwiched in between your toes,
that clearly would not be a treat,
for you’d be forced to smell your feet.

Your nose would be a source of dread
were it attached atop your head,
it soon would drive you to despair,
forever tickled by your hair.

Within your ear, your nose would be
an absolute catastrophe,
for when you were obliged to sneeze,
your brain would rattle from the breeze.

Your nose, instead, through thick and thin,
remains between your eyes and chin,
not pasted on some other place–
be glad your nose is on your face!

~by Jack Prelutsky

Lesson of the day learned through humour… Thanks ole Jacky boy… wherever you are

~Franki Figgs

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A Modern Day Hero – Shawn Tompkins

Shawn Tompkins

Webster’s Dictionary defines a hero as “a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his deeds or qualities”.  One could take the definition further and say a hero is someone who protects and serves those around them selflessly, someone with fierce loyalty and the ability to forgive quickly.  A role model for countless people, whose admiration comes from watching someone struggle, fall down, admit mistakes or perhaps defeat, pick themselves back up and strive forward.   If we can agree that these are the traits that should be embraced in the definition then it becomes easy to understand why, since his untimely passing on Sunday August 14, 2011, so many people have referred to Shawn Tompkins, as a hero.

Not unlike the superhero’s we read about, Shawn’s story isn’t one without hardship or struggle.  He fought hard at the beginning of his career to find his place in the sport he was born to love.  As a fighter he fell short of the dreams he had for himself but with a steadfast work ethic and the determination of a warrior he pressed forward into his true calling which would lend him his name “The Coach”.  With natural patience gifted to all great teachers and an unparalleled striking technique, Shawn began to take under his wings, young and up and coming athletes providing them with a safe training environment, support and most of all, much needed mentorship.  With dozens of fighters under his tutelage at a time, each person remained an individual to “The Coach”, with their own skills, abilities and dreams. Despite the individuality of his students, a worldwide brotherhood was formed under the umbrella of “Team Tompkins”, its members an eclectic group of fighters linked by an absolute passion for their sport and the code of “The Coach” of family, friends, community above all else and the respect and admiration of their opponents in and out of the ring.

“Team Tompkins” was the brainchild of Shawn, but it would never have had the heart and soul it does today if he hadn’t met Emilie. Emile was his soul mate and encompassed everything he lived and loved for.  With his wife in his corner, Shawn’s dreams began to turn into realities, with their joint ambition and determination; “Team Tompkins” became unstoppable.  Shawn and Emilie opened their hearts and home to countless fighters in training camps without hesitation.  There was always food on their plates, a roof over their heads, dogs under their feet, and a true sense of emotional support that comes from being a part of a family.  For a young couple, the sacrifices they made for the sport they both loved were both selfless and enormous, however, the respect they had for each other and the care they showed the members of the Team, built a loyalty to the Tompkins’ camp that may be arguably unseen anywhere else in the sport.

To watch Shawn work with his fighters was moving.  The absolute respect he commanded as soon as he stepped onto the mats at any clinic was evidence that his reputation as a teacher proceeded him.  To watch someone at his level in the sport take time out of a class to go over technique or pad work with a student he saw potential in was inspiring.  His love for his community and family was supported in every aspect of the training life.  This past spring both Tap Out in Las Vegas and Adrenaline Training Centre in London, Ontario started a youth program, which have become great successes in both communities.  The idea to help build self esteem of young kids and to help instill a sense of belonging to something, has worked in both locations at earning an improved regard for the sport of MMA overall.  The kids that are attending the classes are taught the same code that its senior members abide by and they have seen a change in students for the better, respect for their fellow teammates and a desire to strive hard for what they love.  To all the members of Team Tompkins it was of great importance to be able to share with partners of the community the love for the sport, the sense of family it can build and the overall fitness it could bring to the youth.   They have been successful on all accords.

Probably the most incredible thing about Shawn that should be remembered is in fact his coaching in the corner.  At UFC 113 in Montreal last May, I watched Shawn corner Sam Stout.  With 20, 000 people screaming and cheering the Canadian favorite at the Bell Centre, Sam remained visibly cool, calm and collected through out the fight.  I was amazed that Sam never had to look to his corner.  Shawn’s voice talked him thru the entire bout, he knew his coach was there, calling for him what he saw, encouraging him, and Sam just listened.  How he could hear Shawn over everything else, over the crowd, the adrenaline, speaks to the amount of time the two had put in together and how much faith Sam had that his coach would guide him through his war. When the fight was lost by split decision, Shawn was the first to congratulate Jeremy Stephens and his coaching team, and then wrap his arm around his fighter, brother and friend and lift Sam’s hand in their own victory to the absolute battle that had been waged.   John Morgan said it best in an MMAJunkie article dedicated to the memory of Shawn. “Watching him [Shawn] pass by press row after countless fights around the world was always a beautiful sight. His joy after each Team Tompkins victory rivaled that of the athlete whose hand was raised. His sorrow after each loss was equally evident, though he’d inevitably put that aside while trying to console his fighter. The sighs of relief after close decision wins, the earnest concern after devastating defeats”

More recently I witnessed the Tompkins camp in progression towards the first ever UFC in Ontario, held this past April 2011.  Always in the background, always with a handshake and a smile towards the press and fans as the momentum began to build for the fight in Toronto.  Shawn left his home turf of Tap Out in Las Vegas to hold camp for Hominick at Adrenaline Training Centre for the month before the fight so that Hominick could stay home with his wife Ashely, who was expecting.  “Honored” to be a part of the experience, and thrilled to stand before his family, friends and hometown crowd, the Tompkins camp worked hard to prepare for the iconic event.   Hominick’s fight against Aldo that night will go down in UFC history as one of the most emotional and dramatic of all time, but to look to the Tompkins corner, it was all business as usual.  Shawn never got wrapped up in the intensity of the fight, his voice across the ring was of reason and precision; clearly calling out to Mark what he was seeing.  When the fight was stopped, Shawn was the first one at Mark’s side to make sure his fighter could continue, to provide encouragement and to let him know he was fighting like a warrior.  After the unanimous decision was called a loss for the Team, it didn’t seem to matter to Shawn.  He stood in the ring with a smile on his face and tears of pride in his eyes as Hominick thanked the UFC and Toronto for the fantastic opportunity and for the love and support.

Although to have died so young at 37, Shawn has left a legacy, which is going to be carried on for years to come by his wife Emilie, and the brotherhood of fighters he has raised and trained.  Bred into each Team Tompkins member; Family, Friends, Community.  Be humble with what you are given, recognize the sacrifices of others, and always dream and strive for more.  “Blood in, Blood Out”.  A hero’s legacy.

~ Franki Figgs

Written out of deep admiration for the stranger who told me to “follow my heart and do what i love”, and to my friend who continued to believe that till the end. 

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