The Quiet In the Dark – Heidi J. MacDonald

The state of our world now, in the wake of Harvey Weinstein and #MeToo has been tense and politically charged, to say the least. Over the past several months, we have seen scores of women step forward and for the first time, publicly discuss in great detail their stories of sexual harassment in the workplace, traumatizing sexual assaults, and overall discriminatory behavior by their male counterparts.

The backlash since then, has been both positive and negative. Habitual predators such as Weinstein and Spacey, among many names, are now under investigation for criminal sexual assaults. Inappropriate behaviour is no longer being excused as “boys being boys”, and even those in esteemed positions, such as Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, have been terminated from their posts.

Corporate America and Silicon Valley has been recently forced to review their inadequate sexual harassment policies and predominantly biased male culture after a female employee posted a rather extensive blog post, detailing a rather uncomfortable year at Uber. The result of this, and other bad behaviour made public, forced the CEO of Uber to step down.1

The results of all of this, as well as the sobering statistics on sexual assault 2, has encouraged social media dialogues, on the path that perhaps these recent scandals could used as a catalyst to further encourage women’s self defense courses, on a broader scale.

Do I believe that there should be more women in self-defense and martial arts school? Certainly. But my take on #MeToo is from a different angle.

You see, I have been involved in self defense and martial arts since I was 22 years old. But, I will be as transparent as possible, and inform you that it did not completely insulate me from violence. I was raped by an ex-boyfriend who is also involved in the SD and MA community, only a few years ago.

I am also profoundly deaf, and rely on a cochlear implant to process sound.

So as much as I am encouraged by the #MeToo Movement, I am also acutely aware of the fact that it is not just one particular gender who are vulnerable and seeking solutions to end gender violence, but also this: that those who are disabled must be part of the conversation to find solutions.

Governor Baxter School for the Deaf underwent an investigation in the 1980s, that revealed decades of physical and sexual abuse inflicted upon the deaf children who resided in the residential facilities on Mackworth Island, outside of Portland, Maine.3

Sadly, this was not the only school for the deaf, where young deaf children were physically and sexually exploited.

  • There was the Washington School for the Deaf. 4
  • The Manitoba School for the Deaf. 5
  • Even Gallaudet University, an institution that has prided itself on serving higher education to the deaf community, has struggled with creating best practices to assist students who have been sexually assaulted.6

There are so many articles and research pieces that I came across while researching sexual violence against disabled populations. Too many, to be honest. It shocked even me. Why isn’t this discussed more in the SD and MA communities? Why aren’t we assisting this population more?

There’s no denying the fact that deaf women and children are at a higher risk of sexual assault and abuse. If the study at Rochester Institute of Technology in 2011 is to be believed, it is more than 25 percent higher than their hearing counterparts.7

Think about this carefully: the deaf community is very small, and often times the schools for the deaf, are THE center of the community’s culture. Rochester Institute of Technology and Gallaudet are certainly proof of that. Ask yourself, how do you go about reporting your own abuse or rape, if everyone in your community knows your assailant?  Also take into consideration that in such a close knit community, your identity as the victim, will NOT be a confidential matter.

Everyone will know who you are. As the victim, you have just given yourself an unfairly heavy mantle of causing a rift, unwanted trouble within a community bonded by its own culture and language.

You could be very much dependent on your abuser/assailant for your basic care and communication with the world, at large. By going public, you are placing yourself at a great physical risk, and the possibility of being cut off from communicating with others.

If you think you can’t live without texting, just think of how valuable text messaging on a smartphone must be for a deaf person.

If you do make the brave decision to report sexual assault, there is still the matter of whether the police in the community have appropriate training, or the resources to fully communicate with you via an ASL interpreter.

I was particularly disturbed by reading of one female Gallaudet University student identified as deaf/blind, and her difficulties with gaining assistance from the University’s Title XI Coordinator, who took two months to respond to her emails, and identified her during the course of a meeting with her assailant. When she finally made a complaint with the University’s Department of Public Safety, the police response was woefully inadequate.8

Female victims have often faced the perils of being called unreliable or a liar in court, so consider the additional hurdle if you are deaf, the questions you must face by police and legal professionals:

  • How capable are you of identifying your assailant if you are unable to hear? Even worse, how credible are you at identifying your assailant if you are a legally blind individual?
  • What’s your mental facility? Keep in mind that it wasn’t that long ago that deaf individuals were routinely considered “deaf and dumb.”

I strongly and passionately believe that self defense and martial arts instructors need to take into consideration not just women’s vulnerabilities as being smaller than their male counterparts, but also the very real vulnerabilities of those with physical and mental limitations. This is a segment of the population that is very much at a higher risk.

But, we would be doing ourselves a disservice if we claim that our self defense and MA schools are true fortresses of safety. It’s not true. We need to be realistic and acknowledge that sexual predators exist everywhere: our homes, our workplaces, churches, and yes – even our schools.

Considering that most self defense and MA schools do not face any sort of regulations or oversight committees (never mind background checks when hiring prospective teachers), we do need to be cautious and look twice at who we hire in our self defense schools. Here’s a few examples:

  • A jiu-jitsu instructor in Winnipeg last fall was arrested and charged with multiple counts of sexual assault. 9
  • A photo of Rickson Gracie with a man identified as David Arnebeck, made the rounds on social media. The photo of the smiling men sparked an outrage as it was determined that Arnebeck had been convicted of molesting a minor in 2013, and yet still continued to teach, receive belt rank promotions. Since then, it’s been revealed that two more prominent members within the organization also had convictions.

Should there be more self-defense courses, and more women in the halls of our martial arts dojos? Yes.

But in the process of promoting our programs, I advocate that we have a  responsibility to ideally, create 2 things:

  1. Take more responsibility and do more background checks and research into the instructors we potentially hire. Because we are not just teaching self defense, but we also have a moral obligation to have instructors who will not further harm students in a sexually abusive or harassing manner;
  1. We must discuss and craft comprehensive self defense and safety programs that includes those who are at a higher risk than their more physically capable counterparts.

If we’re going to advocate changes in the wake of #MeToo, and actively help those individuals who have difficulty advocating for themselves, then we also cannot ignore the fact that we need some form of oversight with regards to our instructors.

We owe it to ourselves to ensure that the potentially vulnerable, do not face, yet another predator on the training mat.

1 Fowler, Susan J. (Feb. 19, 2017) Reflecting On One Very Strange Year at Uber. Retrieved from:


3 Shattuck, John. Bangor Daily News (April 14, 2013). Lessons Learned After Sexual Exploitation of Deaf Students in Maine. Retrieved from:

4 Teichroeb, Ruth. Seattle Post-Intelligencer (April 24, 2001) Decades of Sex Abuse Plague Deaf School. Retrieved from:

5 CBC News (October 6, 2009) Deaf Students put in Dog Cages, Suit Claims. Retrieved from:

6 Khan, Azmat. (February 2, 2015) The Hidden Victims of Campus Sexual Assault: Students with Disabilities. Retrieved from:

7 Dube, William. RIT News. (January 8, 2011) Study: Abuse Rates Higher Among Deaf Children and Hard of Hearing Children Compared to Hearing Youth. Retrieved from:

8 Khab, Azmat. (February 2, 2015) The Hidden Victims of Campus Sexual Assault: Students With Disabilities. Retrieved from:

9 Bissell, Tim. (September 25, 2017). Martial Arts Instructor Accused of Sexual Assault and Child Abuse at Winnipeg Jiu Jitsu Studio. Retrieved from:


Alpha Revisited – Marc MacYoung

Let me start that if there is one thing I am embarrassed about in my past works it is bringing the concept of alpha/beta into the self-defense world. At the time it was widely accepted science. But theory, like fame is fickle and fleeting. So let’s update this circle jerk.

I liken it to that because every wanna be tough guy is now claiming to be an alpha. Fact is, they’re behaving like the betas… and doing a bad job of that too. Mostly though they’re jerking off to fantasy.

Yes the original study was wrong. Way, way wrong. More modern research has proven wolfpack dynamics are far more complex and multi-roled for functionality and long term sustainability than people realize. It turns out participation is a much, much bigger and constant factor than hierarchy. But having said that, there is a great deal still to be understood by pack behavior– especially by looking at the actual role of the beta.

See what wannabe don’t realize is they aren’t aping alpha behavior, they’re aping beta behavior. There are several problems with this. First is they’re doing hash job of it. Second is not having what it takes even to be a beta. Third having absolutely NO idea about what leadership, power or even dominance is. Fourth, basically taking a sociopathic approach based on their complete misunderstanding of the third point and how things work in groups.

But let’s look at what they’re aping.

In a negative context, the beta is the thug. In a more positive context, the beta is the Sgt of arms for the group. In a positive spin, the beta protects the pack. In a more neutral perspective, the beta is both the muscle OF THE group and expendable. (While the role is not expendable, the individual is.)

I liken the beta to a spear. Something that is thrown at a target, but you don’t mind losing. Yes the beta is the biggest, strongest and most aggressive. It’s also the enforcer of the rules (but not the maker of the rules). The beta is out in front when taking down large prey and it is also running at danger to the pack. As such, the beta is the first to get injured or killed. When that happens (or the beta gets old), the role is taken over by another, often younger wolf.

In human terms, the beta is who I call Thongor the Learning Impaired. For the group’s survival he doesn’t do the ‘smart thing’ like everyone else — instead of running from danger, he runs towards it. Thing is if everyone did the smart thing we’d have died out as a species. Face it, men are bigger, stronger and faster than women. Women are bigger, stronger and faster than children. So if we all did the smart thing and ran from a predator the kids and women would die first. Yeah, that’s not a good species survival strategy.

The key point of this is that as the alpha leads the pack (because it has resources and abilities others don’t) that’s a different set of skill sets. The beta protects the pack and keeps other wolves in line. That’s where the misunderstanding of power and dominance really comes home to roost.

Many I’m-such-an-alpha-stud-look-at-how-big-of-a-dick-I-can-be -uhh-how -big-of-a-dick-I-have don’t get ‘it’s not about them.’ It’s about the group surviving and… if not thriving…then at least functioning on a day to day manner. In other words, it’s not about what they want or for their selfish benefit, it’s taking care of others. Yeah, there’s a selfish spin to it, but it’s one step removed. While it is true you get those bennies, it’s because of the services you provide to others. The role isn’t about the bennies, it’s about the work. The bennies are what you get for doing it. But far more important is the group and its shared resources keep your ass alive.

Now there is an interesting thing that tracks back to the difference between studying wolves in the zoo (which is where I heard Mech did the study) and wolves in the wild — it also tracks to dogs And in a round about way, humans. In the wild, if you have an out of control member of a pack, the pack will either abandon it or collectively drive it away. This seriously increases the chances of the ‘lone wolf’ dying. You can think of this as the pack voting with its feet. Or chasing you out with fang.

Consider this from the aggressive one’s perspective. First you’re screwing up by being too aggressive to your own pack. Screw up too much and you get abandoned and die. (Also, there’s always a danger to the bully of triggering a survival response while trying to chase an individual away and that individual injuring or crippling the bully.)

The option of leaving does not exist in captivity. That TOTALLY changes the dynamics and increases stress among the animals. This especially if the beta decides it’s alpha. Look at Caesar Millan’s ‘insecure alpha’ That’s what happens when you have a beta trying to be alpha in captivity. You end up with thuggish, aggressive behavior.

Oh and as an aside, in the wild the pack’s survival depends on the savvy and knowledge of the leaders. It’s not just wolf packs, it’s pretty much all animals that live in packs, herds and social groups. Leadership is about knowing where to find food, water, shelter, etc. This is a missing component in captivity where needs are provided. Simple concept, profound implications on behavior.

NOW, let’s add in some other stuff –starting with people. If people can’t ‘leave’ or vote the aggressor out you have some screwed up dynamics. This especially when you have a bigger stronger ‘overlord’ that isn’t looking out for them, but the overlords interest’s. An example of what I’m talking about bullying in schools. (Conversely, you end up with a different set of problems when leaving [and finding another group] is too easy. But that’s not the point of this.) But being trapped with a bully is a significant issue to this subject.

Oh and another issue with schools. In ye olde days, you had mixed age groups. (One room school house.) Not only did this allow for modeling of behaviors (this is how older kids act) but you also had the protection/limiting of abuse BY the older kids. Yeah, Joey may be the biggest baddest and terror of the ten year olds but the 17 year old who just leaned over and smacked him on the back of the head for being an asshole is bigger, stronger and not scared of Joey. Think of that as checks and balances to Joey’s ‘power.’ Now take those away — by age segregating and forcing the kids to be in the classroom.

As someone recently pointed out, it’s going to be the most aggressive and misbehaving kids who will become ‘dominant’ (at least in the way that people typically misuse the term) in those kinds of situations. This has significant influence on people mistaking beta ‘behavior’ for being alpha. Now here’s where you need to start being concerned. In the same way the abused typically grow up to become abusers, that’s what they think power and being an alpha is.

They’ve literally not seen true alpha behavior and are aping selfish and abusive behavior and calling it alpha. They are, in fact, serving neither the role or purpose of either an alpha or a beta. You basically end up with a pushy, selfish asshole who thinks being selfish is characteristic of being an alpha.

Now having said all this, like it or not the term ‘alpha’ is here to stay.

So as instructors we’re going to have to suck it up and deal with the fact that this is what people think they know. Yes, it’s a lie to children. No it’s not accurate. But it’s both a starting point and what people know. Now we have to guide them to a more fuller understanding of why what they think they know is a little more complicated than that.


Facebook Post of the Week – Liam Jackson

As expected, the defense team for James Fields is already at work painting Fields as a “victim” who was merely fleeing from the scene rather than targeting anti-protesters. Allegedly, people associated with Antifa had assaulted his car with baseball bats just prior Fields driving his car into the crowd. Supporters of Fields claim he wasn’t attacking anyone. He was “just afraid for his life.” Those same supporters claim Antifa and BLM supporters came to the rally armed with bats and other weapons.

Meanwhile, the white supremacist site, The Dailey Stormer, promises “bigger and better” neo-nazi rallies in the very near future. (The Virginia rally begs the question, “How does the DS define “bigger and better? By body count?”

The point of all this? Several, in fact. First, as Fields traverses the legal system, it’s reasonable to expect both extremist sides to become rather animated. (re: violent as hell) If by some twisted act of fate Fields is exonerated or receive a reduced sentence based on mitigating circumstances, the alt-Left will make all previous protests and rallies look like a slow day at Sunday school. And the Neo-Nazi movement will be screaming “blood and soil” from the top of the proverbial mountain.

If Fields receives the maximum penalty, he’s an instant Neo-Nazi martyr.

Now, an excerpt from the Idiot’s Guide to Civil Warfare- Chapter 1: “Escalation”

“Boys and girls, “escalation” works like this: First, you have “differences.” Differences in appearances, social mores, ideals, motivations, and in some instances behaviours. Thus, the Us and Them mindset begins to establish itself. Next, someone from Side A articulates those differences, pointing out the perceived , or perhaps in some cases legitimate inadequacies of “Side B’s” position(s). Side B responds in kind, yet in a higher volume. This, of course, really infuriates Side A. So Side A responds in kind, yet louder still by an order of magnitude. And all the while, both A and B are screaming at any remaining sides “Those rat bastids are out to get ya’! Your only hope is to join us!”

At this point, rational thought has surrendered with a whimper to Emotion. Armed with the ever dangerous Emotion, the arch enemy of Logic, someone resorts to physical violence. He punches someone from the other side. This where the real fun (not!) begins.

A punches B. B retaliates by buying mace. A retaliates by hitting B in the head with a stick. B retaliates by hitting A with a thrown brick. A says “Screw this hand-to-hand stuff, I’ll just run over B with my trusty Prius.”

B is madder than hell, now, and says “you can’t run me down if I shoot you!” A responds with, “You can’t shoot me if I blow your home up while you’re sleeping!”

Meanwhile, Sides C and D. neither of whom have any other direct involvement with either group (other than a love for drama, or are easily moved by fear-mongering) are slowly but surely drawn in, eventually drinking the Kool Aid from A or B.

And Side E, safely insulated from the chaos, sits back, prodding all the aforementioned sides with a very long stick, waiting patiently to devour the “winner.” (re: the last standing Loser)”

End of excerpt.

A Duty to Act: Understanding Police Decisions – Tim Boehlert

This forty page digital digest by Tim Boehlert is a comprehensive examination, summary, and reference guide that is the result of Tim’s attending a multiday seminar on police use of force.

The seminar centered around the legal and practical aspects of police use of force along with both citizen and police rights and responsibilities.

The digital digest is also filled with links and references for further study and investigation.

Click here to download.

Road Talk: Season 2 – Varg Freeborn

 Listen to the audio now online or download for later when you are offline.

Episode 1 – Mission Parameters
Mission parameters are the internal boundaries we set for our mission that define how far we are willing to go and what we are willing to go there for. Many mistakes in violence that end in death or prison are rooted in poorly defined parameters.

Episode 2 – Self-defense May Not Be What You Think
The importance of understanding what self defense is, and isn’t.

Episode 3 – Instructors and Students
A rant about the role of instructors and students. More cooperation and less competition among instructors. Students, branch out and get a variety of training. Lower level instructors get your head out of your ass and get out and learn something so you can quit teaching garbage to unsuspecting students.

Episode 4 – Confidence vs. Fantasy
Hypothesis, Theory or Fact. How realistic are your beliefs about your fighting skills?

Episode 5 – Situational Awareness
A different view on situational awareness and learning how to relax by having a good threat assessment system.

Episode 6 – Knife As a Self-defense Weapon
My thoughts on why using a knife as a “self-defense” weapon is a setup for failure on many levels.

Episode 7 – Fallacies of Judged By Tweleve – Part I
Thoughts on the fallacies of saying “I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6”.

Episode 8 – Judged by 12 – How Not to Think About it – Part II
Ways to NOT say “I’d Rather be Judged by 12…” and other ways to stay out of jail (and the ground).

Season 2 – All Episodes 1 – 8

Listen to all the episodes at one time (70 minutes total)

Road Talk: Season 1 – Varg Freeborn

 Listen to the audio now online or download for later when you are offline.

Episode 1 – Your Mission
A quick talk about the importance and meaning of conditioning for the fighter (and self defense civilian, leo, etc.)

Episode 2 – Orientation
Your “orientation” is the foundation for how you will react to a violent encounter. It encompasses everything that makes up your decision making process and parameters. Orientation is one of the two major components of a fighter, (the other being conditioning.)

Episode 3 – Criminal Combat Culture
Some talk about criminal combat culture and prison combat culture, and how it affects the orientation of the violent criminal in such a way that puts the good guy at a deficit.

Episode 4- Conditioning
A quick talk about the importance and meaning of conditioning for the fighter (and self defense civilian, leo, etc.)

Episode 5 – Kata Based Training vs. Reality Based Training
A few thoughts on the differences between kata based training and fight application.

Episode 6 – Concealment
Concealment means more than just hiding a weapon. This applies to understanding your threat and enemy as well.

Episode 7 – Aftermath of Lethal Force
A quick talk covering the psychological and social aspects of the aftermath of a lethal force event.

Season 1 – All  Episodes 1 – 7
Listen to all the Episodes without interuption.