The Truth Behind My Resting Bitch Face – Beverly Baker

A new homeless woman has been hanging around the Boulevard lately. Dressed in dark blue institutional pants and a white t-shirt, she carries a large black plastic trash bag jammed with unknown contents. As she wanders the area, she is usually screaming. While most of those who rant on the Boulevard yell at no one in particular, this newcomer targets people with her verbal tirades.

As I headed down to the Metro platform today I had my game face on — that resting bitch face effective in warding off the creepers and would be threats.

As I approached the turnstiles I spotted the woman. As usual, she was in the middle of an incoherent rant. I gave her a wide berth as she screamed in my direction. I avoided eye contact but kept her in my peripheral sight as I made my way down the escalator to the train platform.

Below a child cried, which seemed to draw her down behind me. She fixated on the child’s cries and began bellowing about child abuse as she descended the escalator.

My heart breaks for her every time I see her:

How is this the country that I live in? The city that I live in, that allows such a desperate and mentally disturbed human being to live on the street?

As she howled about child abuse, I wondered if the sounds of the crying child touched on some painful memory.

As I reached the bottom of the escalator the child was now quiet and nowhere to be seen. Alert to her coming down behind me I instinctively turned right. I judged the platform in this direction as out of her sight and attention.

As I settled onto the bench I rested my heavy laptop bag on my knees to take the pressure off of my shoulders. There was no one around and for a moment I enjoyed some peace while I waited for the train. Then suddenly she came around the corner screaming in my direction.


I stood up and pretended to look at the monitor displaying train arrival times. But my real motivation was to be on my feet and ready to run if needed. She headed my way continuing to scream. Maintaining her in my periphery I circled behind a large concrete pillar which I hoped would make me out-of-sight and out-of-mind.

It worked.

She slid down the pillar, sat on the floor and continued to wail. At least it was no longer aimed at me. I considered slipping past her to get to a more populated area with more accessible exits. But as prey instinctively knows to freeze while weighing whether to flee or fight, I stayed where I was — out-of-sight to avoid attracting her attention.

All was going well until a woman with two young girls, about five and seven, approached to take a seat on the bench. They made it safely past her, but the presence of the children aroused another outburst.

The woman got up and began pacing the platform again screaming about child abuse. The mother calmly braided her youngest daughter’s hair while I stood nearby trying to appear as casual as possible. I pretended to look for the train as I nonchalantly pivoted as she circled so she would never have my back. She never came within striking distance of myself or the family, but I was on edge. I prayed that when the train came she would not get on.

The train arrived and my prayers were answered; she stayed behind while the family and I piled on.

It was then that the little girl asked her mother, “What was wrong with that lady? Why was she yelling?”

Stroking her hair, the mother softly replied, “Sometimes people are very sick and yell unkind things. But they can’t help it. We need to be careful around sick people. But we should never hate them because it’s not their fault.”

Throughout my vigilance and strategic maneuvering, my heart broke for the woman. With the little girl’s question, my heart shattered all over again as reality intruded on this child’s innocence.

But the cracks of the heartbreak were filled by the mother’s compassion. At her words, I turned my head as if I were looking out the window. But really, it was to hide the tears that would betray my resting bitch face.

And the train pulled out of the station.

Facebook Post of the Month – Competitive Martial Arts and Self Protection Training – Robbie Butler

A while back I wrote a post describing how an altercation I once had completely changed my approach to how I trained in martial arts…to cut that story short….the skill set I had for the ring had given me a false sense of confidence and when I faced somebody that theoretically I should have destroyed within seconds….it actually was harder than expected….and that was just to get out of there without getting hurt.

For years I had trained to do one thing….compete.

I knew that i had specific rules to follow, I knew I had a cornerman/coach to stop it should I get into danger.

I also knew there was a referee overseeing everything.

I would have weeks to know who I was fighting, I learned how to shut everything else out around me and to focus on the guy in front of me.

Obviously I did as much fitness as I needed to and also sparred a high amount of rounds….every day….week in, week out.

Along that path you hear people saying how great you are and all that jazz…and its easy to believe it….especially when you’re regularly sparring with world class fighters and not getting hurt as much any more….even against the much heavier guys.

The altercation I had though that changed my first approach to fighting some random untrained guy though….it was because I didn’t recognise the signs of adrenalin release as being my superpower….i mistook it for fear….and panic took over.

So I researched as much as i could about adrenalin and fear so i had better understanding that adrenalin is a good thing…but as I said….is all too easy to mistake for fear.

People who trained alongside me will tell you that my fitness levels were top notch…i could blast anybody out on press ups, crunches and squats and for my size I was strong and doing anywhere between 10 and 30 rounds a day was normal.

But…in that uncontrolled environment where it was just me against somebody I had never seen before or wasn’t prepared for….

It meant nothing.

When I hit him and things bounced off….it made me worry….when I felt his strength….it set off the adrenalin…which I mistook for fear….and the techniques that were sharp for the ring were no good here….and like i said in that post a while back…i wished for somebody to break it up.

So I got more interested in self protection too because i realised that I was only training sport specific and although it had got me out of a fair amount of situations previously….the techniques and the mindset of the competitor were flawed.

I travelled the country for different seminars, searched for the answers at different clubs that offered real self protection classes…and I also discovered Google and Youtube.

I found so much information and was shown hundreds of things that should help me out….but i had to figure out myself what was real…and what was just dressed up dog shit.

What I found was it was not so much about striking techniques….it was about mindset and awareness of surroundings and understanding the things that will happen during confrontation….pre-fight….in fight….and what can happen afterwards.

So I went down the behavioural analysis route.

This taught me how to spot trouble before it happened….it taught me how to talk somebody down…it taught me how to be verbally passive and verbally aggressive.

It also taught me that people in packs are dangerous….yes…trouble may start with just you and one person…but can quickly turn into a riot.

People who don’t usually get into trouble for no reason at all will often step in and lay the boot in….

So this taught me not to be tunnel visioned….to make sure i knew where i was…who was around me…where the best exit path was….also not to trust some fuckwit because he’s apologised and wants to shake your hand.

It taught me that even when you have chilled the initial aggressor down that sometimes their friends or girlfriends will still want shit to kick off…and also that not all arguments will turn into a fight.

I taught myself methods of how to appear calm even though inside my heart was thumping….I learned how to massage egos so i was not seen as a threat any more.

Obviously I needed to train these things so I would get used to as many kinds of scenarios as I could think of….so…

In simple sparring we would have to stay switched on so the people next to you could not hit you as you got close to them while you and your own partner sparred.

We would bring tables and chairs out and see what could be done in between them, we would spar on different surfaces inside and outside including wet and icy conditions.

We would train in all types of clothing and footwear as well as learning how to run….we would start off sitting down, we would stand up, we would be blind-sided.

We would turn lights off, we would have a few beers so we knew how to be under disorientation.

We would include ashtrays, beer bottles, bricks, pick axe handles, baseball bats…all manner of household items as well as items that would be found in a pub or lying in the street….including edged weapons and stilleto shoes that women wear….believe me….women can be nasty when you have just flattened their partner.

And there were no set times in our training as to when our training partner…or groups of people would attack you…

In a nutshell….you had to switch the fuck on the moment you entered till the moment you left.

I’m not saying any of this to brag or to worry anybody into thinking the world is full of bastards or that competitive martial artists are better or worse than self protection experts….

Why I have written this is just to point out that you need to figure out your path….you have to test your limits and your theories…

You have to explore your own mind and actually feel what is going on…and you have to figure out that you may be the best at something in your dojo….you may be a world champion in the ring or on the mats….

But in life there are no rules….you truly do have to expect the unexpected.

The above may seem a little nuts to some of you….whereas in reality it should make complete sense.

If it doesn’t make sense or at least make you think now that is a good point then you are blinkered….in which case you live in a bubble and will get steam rolled.

I am no master, I am not the worlds greatest fighter and won’t profess to be….but I am a realist….you only get out what you put in…you will only find answers if you ask the right questions.

Take yourself out of your comfort zone and explore as many possibilities as you can and train them as much as you can because no matter if your a competitive martial artist or a self protection expert the bottom line is this…..

We fight how we train…….so…..

Keep it real.

The Four W’s – Darren Friesen

I want to say this with a ton of sobriety, clarity and seriousness and zero machismo and testosterone. I’ve always been known as a high-skill/explosive-speed guy. However, as I get older, I question the validity of these alone in any kind of serious violent struggle for my life. They are traits and fallible traits at that.

I am a 45-year old foreigner in Central America, 5’10”, 170 pounds that stands out so take this into consideration (objectivity) as you read this as you’ll have your own personal caveats that affect your evolving life scenarios. As I get older, the need to stay safe and protect my family stays the same. There’s another gap that inevitably widens for everybody. I have visualized and analyzed deeply when I would be able to use lethal force, when I wouldn’t, when it’s inappropriate, when I would have inner resistance over doing so and what the consequences would be of doing so. I have not taken this lightly and, as you all know, I don’t talk tough nor see this industry as a forum to act like a killer. That all being said, speed, skill, strength, stamina…all these things fade as we age, to one degree or another. As I’ve grown older and wiser, I believe that there are 4 elements that will/can keep me upright if shtf and have tried to cater my training and those of my students around:

1. WILL. The intent, drive, intensity and full commitment to go home at the end of the day. Whether peacefully or not so. One of many intangibles that simply cannot be read from a video, a post, a commentary but an internal fire.

2. WILE. Cutting corners, dirty tactics, misdirection, subterfuge. Being creative, inventive and diverse. Gaining the edge psychologically, physically, emotionally, mentally. “The one with the most flexibility on the system, most often controls the system.”

3. WITS. A cerebral approach to self-defense. One that doesn’t dive head-first into the storm without thinking but finding a varied method approach with the holistic view of “being safe” that circumvents style, system or art. Taking into account legal, social, ethical, financial, emotional, mental factors that dictate outcome pre-, mid- and post-conflict. Smart overrules cocky/tough the vast majority of times.

4. WEAPONS. Yes, there is a huge stigma that is omni-present in this area. Online, the ego of will-to-use, aggressive commentary, zero forethought as to consequence, the psychological state that goes into using one on another human being. I have not thought lightly on this. They are, however, a force equalizer and to not acknowledge this would be as naive as the other end of the spectrum just mentioned. As I get older, having to defend my life against someone bigger, faster, stronger or with their own weapons or friends is a monumental task and will increasingly become so as the years pass.

Just some thoughts, think heavily and profoundly on this, base your personal training accordingly and do research on how difficult real violence can be if you haven’t lived it yourself. It’s not as organized and cookie-cutter as many will have you believe.


Bride of Frankenstein – Garry Smith

Anyone who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s will remember those old black and white Hammer Horror films, Dracula, Frankenstein and their spin offs, bride of, son of. Well this article is a spin off in that ilk, In my last article ‘Not my circus, not my monkeys’, I reassessed my opinion on the McDojo, this is not a part 2 but an exploration of something writing that article made me think about. Let me explain.

As I was writing I received an email from my friend and fellow instructor Bill Barrott containing a link to a Youtube video, the message read “Watch this video. It’s what I always do to anyone who even looks at me funny. This is the real deal!” Take a look.

OK so Bill was joking, we are used to his regular emails sharing all sorts of martial arts goodies and baddies. So I decided to take a look, the title screen drew a sardonic smile, ‘Kinje-Te, the forbidden fist of the ninja’. Here we go again. Sure enough it is Grandmaster Ashida Kim, and yes I have seen this before circulating on social media, usually being mocked in the same way we have all laughed at the no touch knockout merchants and the jedi jitsu brigade. I hit the pause button quickly.

Chuckling I replied to all, “I got 3 seconds in there, because I have seen it before. This has to be a spoof, IF this is for real may their poor dead souls rest in peace.” I thought I had the source of the inspirational Master Ken from whom we have all learned so much, but Bill assured me it was no spoof and sent me a link to a pdf book by said Grand-master Ashida Kim. Here it is, help yourself..

I gave it a go, I got about 3 paragraphs into the first chapter before deciding I had better things to do. The cover picture and ‘Hands of Death’ were off putting but for me the opening paragraph echoed the Youtube clip.

Entitled KATA DAN’TE – Dance of the Deadly Hands, the book opens with, “Ninjitsu has been called the most savage and terrifying martial art known to man. The Ninja, practitioners of this unholy science, are, without doubt, the most effective and ruthless fighters the world has ever known. Much of this reputation is based on their skill in battle and espionage.”

Now I am going to be clear here, this is not lets slag off Ashida Kim time, but ripping off ears and testicles, tearing off faces etc with our bare hands is all a bit far fetched for me. The thing is if you put yourself out there in film and print you invite comments both positive and negative, mine are merely my opinion on how I perceive things. I like martial arts in general, I like the diversity, some stuff looks great other stuff less so. I hear claims like deadliest art known to man, savage and terrifying techniques and begin to switch off. Likewise when I hear Steve the plumber from Oldham, fictitious by the way, referring to himself as a warrior because he trains Shotokan twice a week, I switch off there too.

For the record, I am a 4th dan in Ju Jitsu, no stranger to getting into fights in the past either, I am not, never have been and never will be a warrior, I will never be a master or a grandmaster either (1). We now live in a world where biological gender and identity are becoming confused in ways none of us could have imagined even a few years back, where a white women was running a black rights group because she relates to being black so she ‘self defines’ as black, some identify as transpecies and these do not have to be real species either, they can be alien species or mythological species, You think I am kidding?

“Riviera identifies as a dragon. He decided this 15 years ago after having what he describes as prophetic dreams of a past life. As an “otherkin,” he is one of the hundreds of Australians who identify as another species—whether from Earth or myth.”

And if  that  is not enough what about those who define themselves as transable? Becoming disabled by choice, not chance: ‘Transabled’ people feel like impostors in their fully working bodies, like this guy.

“When he cut off his right arm with a “very sharp power tool,” a man who now calls himself One Hand Jason let everyone believe it was an accident.

But he had for months tried different means of cutting and crushing the limb that never quite felt like his own, training himself on first aid so he wouldn’t bleed to death, even practicing on animal parts sourced from a butcher.

“My goal was to get the job done with no hope of reconstruction or re-attachment, and I wanted some method that I could actually bring myself to do,”

I could go on, and on, I personally feel that I am a rich person born into a poor person’s body.

I have written before in Conflict Manager about identity and the presentation of self. It is very simple to label those who present differently to the world as oddballs, loonies even, and that way we make a clear distinction between them and us. Personally I think there are many in today’s society that are very troubled, confused, ill, attention seeking even.

The phenomena of trans whatever’s has probably been with us for a very long time. What has changed is access to audiences is now in the hands of anyone with a phone. But back to my world of martial arts and self defence. Like the McDojo the ninja, the warrior, the jedi jitsu have a right to exist, indeed I can argue that the world is a better place for them and not a worse one.

They are only problematic when they use their kung fooey powers to exploit the gullible and vulnerable. Just like the McDojo. Everyone has their right to an opinion, everyone has the right to be a ninja if they wish, to stride around like a warrior, when not plumbing of course Steve.

As children we learn by experimenting with other roles through play, being mummy and daddy, a racing car driver, a soldier or a nurse, anyone remember playing doctors and nurses?

Why do we have to stop playing as adults if it gives us pleasure? Think about that for a moment, are we all not playing nicely when we step into the dojo?

The more disturbing question is when imagination morphs into mental illness. For me, this is just my opinion backed by science, there are two genders. Gender confusion is a mental condition not genetic as are many of the other confusions noted above including our Ninja friends. You are not alien you are screwed up, if you want to disfigure yourself then so are you, I will stop there. Gender identity politics, whatever is fueling this nonsense is stupid and if we play stupid games we win stupid prizes, well you play, I opt out. But hey ho live and let live, you have the right to be who or what you want to be, and I reserve the right to my opinion that you are a loon.

So if you believe you are a Ninja, a warrior, an ‘otherling’ or even the Bride of Frankenstein remember it is all in your imagination. I am pretty sure nobody reading this in Conflict Manager Magazine is one of the above but we work in an industry within a society where the frequency of imaginary identities appears to be growing so should not be surprised that these imagineers are within the industry itself.

These are my opinions, my thoughts, please tell me yours. Oh one last one, what about the guy who is now the new Hitler, yep, you got that, take a look.

  • When I took over the running of what was previously Abbeydale Ju JItsu Club, I created a management triad including Jayne and Bill, We reviewed how we operated then consulted with all the black belts, we held a big black belt breakfast meeting when we discussed and agreed the changes we wanted to make.

A couple of these changes were important for me and it was great the others agreed. We got rid of the use of the title Sensei, students call us by our first names now. We stopped standing in ranks, we bow on and off in a circle now with everyone facing everyone. We just do a standing bow now, no kneeling and prostrating ourselves.

Respect is gained by behaving properly and acting correctly.



Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys – Garry Smith

I took a call the other night from someone interested in joining our Ju Jitsu training. He had clearly spent some time on our website and was just checking out when he could come along and try us out. I asked him a few questions about previous experience, general health and fitness etc. He told me he had another place to check out and I asked him who that was out of interest and he named the local McDojo. He explained he was impressed with the experience of the instructors based on how long we had been training and our dan grades and this was likewise for the McDojo. Again no problem as when anyone compares us and them, they come to us.

I agreed that he should check us both out but also told him to check out threads on the Sheffield Forum and look at some of their Youtube videos. I did tell him that we have taken on some of their ex students, 2 x 14 year old second dan black belts, who could not punch their way out of a paper bag and who we evaluated as around our green belt standard. That is a big difference.

Last night I saw a post on Facebook by a friend, in real life, who I respect and he posted about a particularly well known person in the martial arts scene who is franchising his McDojo brand left right and centre. He posted one of their videos that they have made publically available and it got the usual slating. Nothing nasty, but if you post videos of unrealistic defences against unrealistic attacks then people who do know what they are talking about will criticise.

The thing is people flock to this guys clubs and the McDojo near us has plenty of students. Before I proceed do I think they should be closed down? No, and there are a number of reasons I will set out to support their right to exist.

Firstly before I sat down with my laptop last night I had been out for a meal with my wife. It was a sunny spring evening so I picked her up from work in my VW convertible with the top down and my new Five Finger Death Punch CD playing. We drove through beautiful countryside to Upper Bradfield with our little dog Bertie, to have a drink and a meal at the Old Horns Inn, mine is a pint of Lancaster Bomber Ale please…..

My wife had the Salmon and Chorizo with salad and I had Elvis’s Last Burger, don’t ask. Why do I tell you this, because everything in the last paragraph and this happened because we, I, made choices. I chose that car, I could have bought many other cars. At one point I was deciding between a new motorcycle or a convertible, sod that, I got both. I chose the CD, we chose our drinks and food, we chose where to eat and nobody else. Choices.

Nobody told us what to do, we made our choices of our own free will from the many options available. We are not wealthy or poor, we are selective, we would like to think we have good taste, we like nice things. There has been lots of making do in our lives but now we can enjoy a reasonably good standard without having to keep up with the Jones’s.

The person making the enquiry re training, remember them, has every right to shop around and make their choice, for now that person is going on information gleaned from websites, well we know how that can be, a website can say anything.  We offer a simple deal, come along and try a session for free, ask anyone any questions, we do not want your contact details, if you do not want to join us we will never contact you, payment is PAYG or bank transfer that a student can cancel immediately if they cease training, there are no contracts, no tie ins, no leadership training, no guaranteed black belt. We now have waiting lists for some sessions, the others are filling up and we will have new classes starting later this year. As instructors we work really hard and are continually seeking to improve ourselves and our training. We take training seriously and we make it a fun thing to do. We do not advertise that much and we welcome comparison. If people need to make choices let them, we do not do hard sell, we offer training not double glazing.

Everything we charge for is on our website, there are no hidden costs and no huge monthly payments that cannot be cancelled if you leave. Often this is the opposite of the McDojo which is exactly why they attract such a level of derision from those in the business. But think on this, the public does not know what it does not know.

As my co-editor, senior instructor and erstwhile training partner Jayne pointed out: the biggest problem we have heard about from our local McDojo is people finding out that they have been sold poor quality training, especially when it’s children who can’t make an informed choice to later find out what they’ve learnt is worthless at any other club, or worse still during a conflict in the street. I have had more than one conversation, once they find out I teach Ju  Jitsu, with parents of 8/9 year old black belts who are suspicious of their supposed ‘child prodigy’, the ‘I have been had look on their faces’. I have had a 17 year old meltdown, literally, in one of my self defence classes when they realise their black belt in Karate MMA, yes you read that right, is actually not going to work in reality.

If you are told that somebody’s training is the best you will ever receive and you have no benchmark how do you choose? If you are told that their training is like a Rolls Royce as opposed to somebody else second hand Lada, which would you prefer, if you have no other comparison.

We all operate in a market economy and an unregulated industry; some people sell crap, they may not know its crap themselves, just like dead people do not know they are dead, they can’t because they are dead, doh. They are Hoffer’s ‘true believers’ who have found their holy cause, plus it’s a cash cow too.

Some McDojos attract extra criticism because we think they know they are selling crap and that that is immoral; well how do we know that, unless they say that is what they are doing we cannot know it, it is just our opinion. And that is the rub, a dojo becomes a McDojo because it is perceived as such. The thing is we all perceive things differently, if the student of a McDojo is having a great time it is of no concern of mine, if they feel ripped off and leave that too is of no concern of mine. Here is why, they are not a competitor, we are not on the same playing field. To those with no benchmark we may look alike at first but anyone doing due diligence will soon see the differences.

Now as many reading this will be practitioners in the martial arts or a related field I will ask you a few questions.

Do you get angry because some outlets sell bad food, poor quality clothing, rubbish cars, fizzy beer (not real ale like I drink)? How do you define bad, or good for that matter? Is there an agreed measure or standard we can use?

The answer to those questions was, I hope, no. McDojo’s exist like shops full of tat on any high street and some will be attracted to them and other repulsed. Another friend of mine said that they actually serve a purpose as they provide a home for the kind of student he does not want at his club.

I know people see them as bad for our industry, but in an unregulated market there will always be a range of products on offer. Do I dislike the McDojo, yes, but that is because I have an informed opinion based on experience, study and empirical evidence. Do I laugh at the ridiculous techniques they film to attract the gullible? Yes. Do I wince at the eye watering cost of their ‘guaranteed’ black belts? You bet. Do I think their students are being conned? Definitely, absolutely 100%. Do I think they have as much right as us to exist? Yes I do.

Not my circus, not my monkeys.


Women, Running and the Threat of Assault – Heidi MacDonald

So, who remembers this photograph?

The woman in the photo wearing bib number 261, is Kathrine Switzer, and she was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1967. When this photograph was being taken, race official Jock Semple was attempting to physically remove her from the race. Women were just seen as simply “too fragile” to complete a full marathon.

It wasn’t until 1972 that women were officially invited to participate in the Boston Marathon. This was 49 years ago. So what’s changed since then?

Well, if we judge by a photograph, a lot. Check out the September 2016 cover of Runner’s World magazine:

Big difference in less than 50 years, no?

I ran a Google Search on Runner’s World magazine covers, and I was struck by how often a woman graced its cover.  Our buying power in the marketplace, especially with regards to sporting goods, has certainly exploded since that infamous photo of 1967’s Boston Marathon. Forbes has reported that women make up for 85% of consumer buying power in the US.

All of this sounds great, and it certainly can be used as a rallying cry of girl power. I, myself, am an avid runner. I ran my first marathon two years ago and earlier this year tried out a 50k race. There are pics on my FB page of me in Spartan races in Spandex, with smudges of dirt on my face, shoes caked in mud. Challenges that push me mentally and physically are a siren call to me wanting to test my true grit. Most people think I’m crazy to put myself through such an uncomfortable experience. I’m ok with people not understanding that.

But there is another side to running that women must grapple with – and that is our safety.

I’m often told by my adoptive mom, “you need to be careful when you go running alone!” To which of course, I roll my eyes and say, sure. My self defense and MA background is kind of forgotten in those conversations. But she does have valid reason to worry. And not only because of my gender. I am deaf with a cochlear implant. I sometimes go running in silence on the back country roads of northern Vermont and Quebec’s Eastern Townships. It’s peaceful, and it’s often the part of my day where I’m not getting pulled in a dozen different directions by my 3 jobs, my writing, my grad school applications, my races, and so on.

I go running alone because I usually don’t know anyone who’s willing to go running with me early in the morning. I can’t simply wait around to go run until I find someone who will go with me. To me, that’s a time-waster.  My life and my brain tend to run at warp speed. Only natural that my feet do too.

My mom has some basis to be concerned. Running in quiet – I am not going to hear a car come up behind me, slowing down, following me. If I trip and fall, there will not be a fellow runner to help me up. If i get injured on a run, I can’t call for help, as I don’t carry a cell phone. There are issues and prospective dangers for me, and it does cross my mind every time I lace up my beloved Asics Gel.

But I also have this irritating thought…”I never hear someone telling a man to be careful and safe when he goes out for a run…”

It’s true though, right? How often have you ever heard someone saying that to a guy?

The fact of the matter is that women are still seen as the more vulnerable population, even in this 21st century age of smartphones and never-ending Twitter tweets and Facebook selfie postings.

And the media likes to focus on those discrepancies, big time. Especially if they’re of a violent, sensational nature.

A few that stood out to me recently: This summer, Google employee, Vanessa Marcotte died this summer when she went out for a morning jog. She was found murdered in the woods, a half-mile from her home.

Another woman this summer was sexually assaulted and murdered not far from her home as well.

These women were beautiful, vivacious, and should not have met the ends of their lives in such violent manners.

There are a few other cases in the news that caught my attention while researching for this article, but the one case I kept thinking about, wasn’t a new case or murder, but a rather old one:

The Central Park Jogger.

I was very young when this was reported on the major news network, but I do remember the constant stream of Dan Rather’s voice and face on our small television set, ominous and frightening. I didn’t understand rape, or sexual violence at the time. But I understood that something very bad happened to a woman.

If you don’t remember the details, here they are: In April of 1989, a young woman who was later identified as Trisha Meili, was assaulted on her evening jog through New York City’s famed Central Park. The details of her assault are horrifying. She was raped, sodomized and beaten to near death. She was found naked, gagged and covered in dirt and blood. She was comatose for 12 days, and not expected to live, due to the extensive nature of her injuries and severe head trauma. However, she did. But she has no memory of the assault itself. Which may be a blessing.

Five men were convicted of the assault. Several years later, their convictions were vacated, when a serial rapist confessed to being the lone assailant, and DNA evidence confirmed his account.

As gruesome and heartbreaking as the cases I list above are, I have to ask:

Are female runners honestly a higher risk group for sexual assaults and murder, or is it just focused and more sensationalized by the media?

It could be both.

There’s not that much out there on statistics involving female runners and violence, and there should be. However, I did find this article from 2013, that asked the same questions currently percolating in my mind.

In 2012, there were 12,765 murders in the US. Only 2,834 were women. But…only 1,557 of those murders were committed by a stranger. So that means that the overwhelming number of murders, were committed by someone the murder victim knew personally. So that could be interpreted to mean that the random sexual assault and murders of female joggers is a rare occurrence, right?

Maybe not. These statistics are from four years ago. Have these numbers changed? Because I am noticing an increase of intense discussion and reporting on social media of sexual assault, like the Stanford rape case. I’m not certain if it’s because of the media’s laser-like focus on violence, or if it’s because women are choosing to no longer be quiet about traumatic events.

And in turn, this is challenging the conversations we’re having about sexual assault. About the root issues of power, control, ego, male privilege.

I feel like this is a conversation that got started in April 1989, but we have neglected to finish the conversation. 27 years have passed, and we are overdue to finish this conversation. Or at the very least, get even more vocal in the debate. The magazine covers of Runner’s world that depicts women in sleek sports bras and tight little shorts, promotes the idea of a world where women can run without fear of harm, of being free to show off her muscles and body. Honestly, if I dressed like that on one of my morning runs, I fear that I would be a target for catcalls and roving male eyes. Talk about uncomfortable. My skin crawls at the thought of such unwanted attention.

Yes, almost 50 years have passed since Kathrine Switzer’s famed run in the Boston marathon, and I do realize that the late 80’s was a different climate for women with regards to the Central Park Jogger case when compared to now, and the Stanford Brock Turner case.

But has it? A Canadian judge in 2014 while presiding over a rape case, scolded the victim in court and asked, “why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?”

I honestly want to know, what the hell, if anything, has changed? Have things improved for the better, or worse? And I want to see statistics that back it up, not just read heartbreaking stories of beautiful young women found mutilated and raped in woods near their homes. These women had families and left behind grief-stricken parents, spouses, partners, small children.

I don’t want these stories to make me pause while lacing up my shoes for a morning run, and wonder if that will ever be me. If somebody will one day find my body in a ditch on a back country road, and someone will call my father with the worst news of his life.

Just because I’m a woman running alone, and that makes me a vulnerable target.

I want answers and concrete statistics to tell me, do I have something to worry about? Or is the media just sensationalizing the few female runners who become both victims and headlines?

I don’t want my voice to be the lone voice in the sea, crying for answers, or demanding for changes to the gender perceptions that seem to be at the root cause of male privilege and violence. But I don’t want a discussion to escalate into the gender wars, though. I want a passionate, constructive discussion among those in the running community, as well as a push for new research to either support or dispute what we see, hear, and read in our daily news feed.

So tell me: Am I safe?


Random Meditations on a Life of Martial Arts – Teja VanWicklen

I often think about the vulnerability of having to protect yourself and your little ones with no margin for error.

I think about what it means, not only to make quick, pressured, complex decisions about how badly to hurt someone, but to make a very simple decision to risk death or kill someone because anything short of everything you’ve got might not be enough and the space between the right and wrong decision is as minute and critical as the distance between molecules – a distance that, if you survive the leap, will be measured by everyone, including those with the power to determine what you can or can’t do with the rest of your life.

I reach for a formula, even just the shape of an answer to the urgent question of how to carefully select information and pass it to the neglected populations of the world. And then how to teach them to pass the information on to their children. Truthfully I would rather renovate houses and furniture, make art and read books in peace looking out over the Andes mountains. Who knows why we are driven to do what we do.

I think about Aikido, “the way of loving energy”, and how as a kid I believed in the ultimate martial super power of being able to subdue a dangerous person with a feather light redirect or a gentle hold.

I think about hard styles like Kyokushin and Taekwondo, as different as they are similar and built to create an impervious body and mind.

I think about Taichi and Bagua and the absolute magic, the strengthless power that comes from cultivating internal arts.

I wonder at the many hard and soft forms of Arnis, Kali and Silat and how they seek to specifically address issues many other styles don’t; issues of size differentials and weaponry.

I think of Krav Maga and how it mixes and modernizes military hand to hand combat for normal people.

Thirty years on I’ve learned that Aikido and the internal arts really begin to take shape after fifteen to twenty years of study, that Kyokushin and other hard styles break the body down as much as they build it up and in the end you have skills it hurts to practice and pains that never go away. You end up being an enemy to yourself and causing damage you were seeking to avoid. I found out the hard way that even the most open and inclusive hive mindsets ultimately shun new questions in favor of already ensconced answers.

After thirty years of training, mental and physical, I wonder what I’ve really learned. I know I’m safer from certain things, certain people, but I wonder just how much. I am physically stronger in muscular ways, broken and weaker at my joints and nerves. I am mentally tougher in important ways but also aware of what real fear and physical pain are and how it is possible for those things to utterly overwhelm the mind’s ability to cope. I am more aware than ever of the ticking of the clock and the balance between seeking to protect while at the same time being present in life.

I suppose having more questions supplies me with more answers.

I know not to choose violence unless I am willing to put a period at the end of the sentence. I know not to give up my element of surprise by announcing my intention to survive at all costs. If I did he would only laugh at me and take it as a challenge. And seek to kill me faster. I think I know where to put my mind in an emergency and how to block out unconstructive mental chatter.

I am pretty sure that to be female is be physically and culturally vulnerable in the world. It’s possible that to be male is to be emotionally vulnerable and that we are stronger when we help one another by filling in those gaps.

I don’t know that answers exist. But I am positive that I will continue searching for questions.


My Story – Susan Chalmers

I started training in krav maga in 2011 on a beginners eight week introductory block, with my sister.  I initially just thought it would be something just to work on my fitness.  I didn’t actually know what krav maga was at the time.  Needless to say, I was a bit shell-shocked to see big burly guys rumbling around the floor, looking like they were knocking lumps out of each other!

My sister unfortunately wasn’t able to  finish the block, but I carried on, as I was strangely enjoying the classes and intrigued as to what more I would be learning, as it was something different each week!  

A few months had passed and it was time for the national grading, which I was encouraged to try for, by my instructors, but I was quite apprehensive, as I had never done anything like this before.  I also thought that if I started grading, it might start to get too strict and serious, taking away the fun element of the classes,  so I didn’t go for my first grading when I could’ve done.  But I have to admit, afterwards when students were coming into class with their new certificates and patches proudly stitched on their trousers and hearing all about it, I couldn’t help feel a bit disappointed with myself for not trying.  So six months later, when it was grading time again, I decided to give it a go and just see what happens.

Unfortunately, a couple of months before this, I had a fall and broke my arm (not krav related).  But not wanting to miss my opportunity to attempt my first ever grading and have to wait yet another six months, I continued to train and just managing to do whatever I could and watch the rest of the class train, when I couldn’t manage .  

My cast was removed barely two weeks before the grading.  Although I was excited, I was also even more nervous, in case I damaged it again.  But after nearly five hours of, what I thought at the time, was the most physically difficult thing I had ever done, and a scary bit of having my arm pulled a bit too hard, I was very relieved that it was fine and even more ecstatic that I had passed my first ever grading for Practitioner 1 level!

After that, it was full steam ahead…  I loved it!  But I put myself under so much pressure for my next P2 level grading, I was almost sick.  More so because I really didn’t want  to let my instructors down.  They put so much time and effort into their students training, I didn’t want to fail for them.  I also had a new grading partner, which was a bit daunting.  But I started travelling through to the next city to get another nights training where she lived, and vice versa, so we could train more together.  

After a good test with each other, we both passed our P2 level and carried on training together like this.  We also managed to pass our P3 and P4 level together too.

Sadly she had to move away after that and then coming up to my P5 level, I didn’t know who would be my grading partner, until on the day!  But by this point I wasn’t too bothered about this.  I had been training for over two years and had attended various seminars and events all over Scotland.  This also gave me the opportunity to meet and train with a lot more new students.

There weren’t so many higher level students left at this point (especially girls) for me to train with and for the first time I had to grade with a male student, who I didn’t really know too well.  

But we worked well together and thankfully, both passed.  After achieving my P5 level grading, I remember thinking back when I started grading, that if I managed to reach my P5 level, I would be extremely happy with that achievement, of the whole first section of Practitioner levels and I would stop there.  Thinking that moving onto the next section of Graduate levels was only for the real  tough physical guys!  But my ever inspiring and supportive instructors encouraged me to at least try get my G1 level, after coming so far…

I was given the opportunity to practice my next G1 level in a mock grading.  But it was very short notice for it and I didn’t feel quite ready for it, as my goal for the next national grading was still a couple of months away.  But I believe that every training session is also a learning experience and learn from that mock grading, I did!  If I had been officially tested for this level, I would’ve failed by only 1%.  But regardless of it only being a mock test, needless to say, I was very gutted!  But as a training experience, I received valuable feedback on what I did well and what I needed to improve on for the national grading.  

So when it officially came around, I really felt ready for it, even though again I put myself under so much pressure not to fail!  Also the grading system had changed for Graduate levels and you had to test, not only for the level you were trying to achieve, but also every other previous level below, that you had already passed…   which you could fail on if they weren’t as good as when you originally tested for them.

So after a very very long day and nearly ten hours of physical and psychological testing, I was quite emotional when being told I had passed my official G1 level and by an extra 14% pass mark, compared to the mock grading mark.  It’d seemed all the extra hard work and training had paid off!

Another new change to the Graduate system, was that there was a time bar of one year in between the gradings, rather than the previous six months.  During this time in 2014, the opportunity had arisen for me to attend the Kids Instructors Course in Dublin, along with some of my instructors.  I had always worked with different kids groups through work over the years and was eager to learn to teach kids self defence classes, knowing the benefits, especially for a more vulnerable age group, to learn how to protect themselves better.  

I really enjoyed this course, even though I felt a bit nervous as every other participant, apart from one other student, was already a fully qualified adult instructor.  But I passed my course and two years on, I’m really happy to be still teaching the same kids who joined us right at the start of their very first class!

Later on in the year of 2015, a big opportunity had come my way to attend the full General Instructors Course, to teach adults.  Something I had always been asked to do and always quite fancied, but realized that teaching adults would be a completely different mindset and big game changer in my krav maga journey.  But this was the chance I had to see if I could first of all, actually survive the physical and mental side of the rumored extremely grueling course.

The course was indeed very intense, with two blocks of nine solid long days of hard training, them another block of five.  But, half way through the course,, there was quite a dramatic change in our board of committee in Scotland and the course was put on hold for quite some time and all of us on the course were starting to think it would never get finished.  After a long stagnant few months, things were back on track and the course continued, which also incorporated our next level grading too.  So eventually, in Spring 2016, the course finally ended and feeling so relieved and over the moon, I had passed both my course and G3 level grading!

Since then I’ve been very lucky and appreciative of my own supportive instructors, who have encouraged and allowed me to teach in their classes as soon as I was qualified.  Jumping straight into teaching has been a scary, but great boost of confidence, standing in front of a class of students, who were, not too long beforehand, my own training partners.  And the support and respect I’ve had from them has been amazing and has helped to spur me on and inspire me more, to be as best an instructor I can be for them.  I realize I’m always learning and there’s still so much more for me to learn and keep training for my next grading levels.

I am also extremely happy that there is yet another new chapter developing for me, in my continuous krav maga journey…   I have now taken on the roll of the Head of Krav Maga Global Women’s Division for Scotland!  This is a relatively new position and can open so many more training opportunities for women, and to join us, in what is usually a male dominant environment.

Krav Maga has developed my life in more ways than I ever thought possible, from starting back in 2011, thinking I just needed a wee fitness class…..!



Those Old People and their “easy” lives. – Bob Davis

The brief ramble below is an unedited Facebook post I made a short while after the UK’s recent E.U. Referendum (Brexit). It doesn’t pertain to the issues of the referendum itself but more to a (one of many) posts blaming the “older” generation for destroying the future of the young who are already having to “struggle so badly” to get on in life in the modern world.

I know lot of this may be U.K. centric but from what I read I suspect the generational attitudes demonstrated are reasonably consistent in pretty much all of the Western world. I also understand that, like the young gentleman who was pointing the finger in the first place, I am making some sweeping generalisations here about the younger generation but, as has been said before, “Sweeping generalisations exist for a reason!”

A few of the things said were intended to be tongue in cheek (although none the less true for that) but the emoticons have been removed for the printed page.

The original complaint was based upon a poll published breaking down the leave/remain vote by age group and showing clearly that the older you were the more likely you were to have voted to leave the E.U.. What the complainant failed to take note of (or mention by the way) was another poll that showed, with an overall U.K. wide voter turnout of 72% that only 36% of 18-25 year olds actually bothered to vote at all (which says a lot in itself I think), hardly a surprise then that the views of the older generation held sway.



This cropped up during a finger pointing session on the EU earlier by some “young people” but I thought it’d be good to de-couple this from that emotive subject (and start another one)

The comment was along the lines of us “old people” once again having shat* on the younger generation despite us having had it so good (in our time) with our “free education” and “affordable housing”.

My story is nothing special but it may be reasonably typical of the time so for what it’s worth here it is.

I left school in 1974 at the age of 16 and entered the workplace (I know, by modern standards that makes me a failure and a no hoper). This wasn’t due to lack of options but a personal choice. I left with 10 ‘O’ level passes (2 of which I took a year early), this was in the days when 4 passes was considered a real success (because at the time it was an exam system you could actually fail at).

I could have stayed and done ‘A’ levels and gone on to university and this was in the days when maybe only 1 in a hundred had that chance. However, I didn’t have a goal that would be served by further education i.e. I was of the opinion that it made sense to go to University IF you had something you wanted to do rather that spending an extra 5 years in education because “I don’t know what I want to do”! (and, of course it’ll be a “bit of a laugh”).

Now the reality is the choice was full time education or work, because I was in the work place for those 5 years I was earning a wage that I wouldn’t have done had I stayed in school. The upshot of this being in current terms that my “free” education would have cost me the current equivalent of £90-100k (assuming I hadn’t wasted another potential £20k+ on taking a gap year). I did go into further education but did it at technical college evening classes whilst working for a living!
(Just an aside, does a potential extra £120k sound like a good step onto the property ladder? just a thought)

I bought my 1st house in 1980, when interest rates on a mortgage were running at 16.5%. If you take my mortgage payments and the money I had to repay for having borrowed elsewhere to top up the deposit that accounted for approximately 75% of my income. That left me the remaining 25% to pay for food, household bills and running a car (so I could get to work and back). I used to be in the situation of putting petrol in the car 2ltrs at a time, because that was all the money I had, in the hope that it would get me to work and back until the next payday. I used to buy (when I was feeling particularly flush**) a 1kg factory farmed chicken for a £1, that would be a roast dinner for 2 days, a curry or pie from the scrapings for another 2 days and then stock for soup or gravy.

I didn’t have a piece of furniture that wasn’t something someone else was throwing out for probably the first 10 years of my married life. Holidays consisted of going to live with my parents for a week a couple of times a year.

Having got married at 22 and having 2 children to raise (both of whom went to Uni BTW) I would estimate that I first got to the stage where I had “disposable” income at around age 40 and maybe “comfortable” by the age of 50.

What I didn’t have was the latest iPhone, or Netflix, or a Snowboarding holiday and 2 weeks in Thailand with my mates each year, I didn’t have £20-40k to spend on a wedding because “it’s my special day”, I didn’t have the dilemma of “should we send out for pizza again tonight?” I didn’t have to have a TV in the bedroom and one in the kitchen, or a new sofa every 3 years etc.. etc…

What I also didn’t have was the mentality that I should be able to have everything I wanted whenever I wanted it and if I couldn’t then it just “wasn’t fair”, instead I worked diligently for the stuff I’ve got and improved my lifestyle as and when I could afford it (and I still know I had it a damn site easier than my parents or grandparents did!).

But there, that’s what happens when you come from the generation that “had it all so easy” and don’t understand how the young ‘uns struggle these days

Of course, I’m also about to become a burden on society drawing a pension (that I’ve paid into for the last 42 years) and not doing the decent thing and dying within 6 months of retirement like my grandfather’s generation.

Just sayin’

*Shat – colloquial English, past tense, “to have shit upon”
** Feeling flush – to have spare cash

Rules of Life – Toby Cowern

I had a great discussion recently that started out with ‘Murphys Laws of Combat’, but gradually moved to Individuals ‘rules of life’. A lot of people were involved in this discussion including CRGI’s very own Terry Trahan and Rory Miller, you can see their thoughts on this here.

For a long time, I have maintained only two ‘rules of life’ (that is concepts that should heavily influence all our thoughts and actions) but this discussion really encouraged me to grow my list to six, as I think on it, these have always been there but I had never penned them before. My six ‘rules’ are as follows. I’ll expand a little on each one:

  1. Be Polite
  2. Don’t be an asshole
  3. Make a plan, fly the plan, don’t fall in love with the plan.
  4. Definitions matter
  5. Be aware ‘rock bottom’ isn’t.
  6. Violence of action usually wins…

Be Polite

Not witty, engaging, entertaining, fascinated, shocked, pious, or committed to ‘educating people’, or any other way you may think I mean by ‘Polite’. Out and out, genuinely polite. It never ceases to amaze me how many people talk their own way, very quickly, right into conflict situations. Politeness not only (significantly) minimizes the chances of things not getting bad in the first place, it also gives you an exceptional advantage (especially in witness terms) if things do go bad.

Also, conflict aside, it’s just a good habit to have and brings nothing but positive rewards.

Don’t Be An Asshole

First I’ll point out, this goes hand in hand with point 1. But be aware, you can be polite and STILL be an asshole. I’m going with the wiki definition here:

“The word is… generally used to describe people who are viewed as stupid, incompetent, unpleasant, or detestable. It is most connotative… with a person who considers himself of much greater moral or social importance than everyone else.”

I should stress I see these rules as ‘total’ as in they should permeate all aspects of your day to day life. It is with interest I see people now actively managing very different personas between their ‘online profile’ and their ‘real world’ personality. Sadly, many, while trying to main some semblance of decency and humanity in their regular interactions, fall short massively in how they interact with people online.

Make a Plan, Fly the Plan, Don’t Fall in Love With the Plan

Anyone that knows me, knows I am quite the believer in causality and ‘Cosmic Coincidence’. That said opportunities will always need work to make things come to fruition and as liberating as living a life with no plans may seem, rarely will you achieve your goals without any. So, I am a BIG believer in planning, but planning alone counts for naught. Until a plan is implemented, NOTHING will ever be achieved. That said, plans are subject to change and ignoring a developing situation and blindly adhering to the plan is no idea either. ‘Falling in Love with the plan’ is exactly this, refusing to change, regardless of what the smart thing to do would be. This ties in heavily with the ‘adaptive mindset’ you see referenced here in CRGI often. Don’t be afraid to change, modify or even just walk away from a plan. How quickly you need to do this is very subjective to the circumstances you are in and the impact of the possible outcomes.

Definitions Matter

Here I am largely focusing on semantics. It’s one of the reasons, when I teach, I will often start with agreed or accepted definitions, or will provide my definition, (A nice example here) so we all, at least begin on the same page when addressing key concepts/considerations.

I have lost count of the times I have seen a situation descend into an altercation due to people arguing over a certain subject with one or both not applying the true or accepted definitions of words. This can be used as a deliberate tactic (Breaking rule 2 in the process), but more often than not it is actually a problem born of ignorance. It is for us individually to educate ourselves to the right standard so as to make compelling cases for our deeply held positions. Even more so for instructors who have the exceptional responsibility of passing on knowledge too others.

Descending arguments aside, this point, again, has profound impact on day to day life. Misapplication or misunderstanding of words affects business, relationships, friendships and much more.

Be Aware ‘Rock Bottom’ Isn’t

I have a twofold thought on this. One directly, linked to the above, is the (mis)understanding of ‘Rock Bottom’ which is heavily influenced by individual experience and biases. Failing to understand how bad a situation can get, not only inhibits the ability to empathise and/or sympathise (Profoundly impacting your ability to follow ‘rule one’) but also leaves you personally vulnerable. Kidding yourself by trying to cope in a bad situation with a ‘it can’t get any worse’ mentality is leaving you wide open to figuratively and literally being kicked (repeatedly) while you are down.

Secondly, I approach very much from the ‘preparedness’ mindset. If you can’t acknowledge or accept how truly bad situations can become, you have very little chance in successfully preparing to avoid or overcome them.

Violence Of Action Usually Wins

Take this as you will, as a tactic or as a warning, but it IS something to be very aware of. A tome has and still could be, written on the details of this, but in this brief article, addressing a short list, suffice to say whether you are being violent, or on the receiving end of the violence (This can be verbal as well as physical) whoever uses the most usually ‘wins’. Following my own rule, I’ll highlight, in accord with Rue Four, it’s important to define what a ‘win’ is. In this context it is the person acquiring or succeeding in gaining what they wanted from the altercation.

While the use of violence cannot ever be discussed in absolutes, that is why I say ‘usually wins’, as a concept this ‘rule’ is one we must acknowledge.

The ‘Rules of Life’ are a deeply personal thing and subject to influence not only in background and upbringing but also experience and aspiration. I do feel it’s good to periodically stop and assess what ‘rules’ you live by though, as often identifying these will show your chance of succeeding in your life goals. Feel free to head over to our ’Conflict Manager’ Face Book page and share your ‘Rules Of Life’ and why you follow them…?