Think You Know How to Stop School Shootings? Think Again! – Erik Kondo

School shooting are a problem. Solving this problem requires some type of approach. Here are some commonly discussed and debated proposed solutions in no particular order:

  • Pass stricter gun laws making it more difficult for potential shooters to obtain high powered weapons.
  • Pass stricter laws on gun magazines making it more difficult for shooters to kill so many people.
  • Arm teachers with guns so they can fire back at the shooter.
  • Pass stricter background checks to make it more difficult for potential shooters to obtain weapons.
  • Make it easier to legally take weapons away from people who are deemed to be mentally ill or dangerous.
  • Train students on how to respond to active shooter situations.
  • Provide students with bulletproof backpacks.
  • Make schools more secure from unauthorized entry.
  • Make classrooms more secure from attack.
  • Eliminate male aggression in society.
  • Provide more resources for mental health.
  • Parents provide more discipline for their children.
  • Identify potential school shooters through tips.
  • Put metal detectors in school entryways.
  • Install more security cameras and monitoring equipment.
  • Provide teachers with Less-than-Lethal weapons such as tasers, rubber bullets, bean bag shotguns, chemical sprays, etc.
  • Teach students how to fight back against active shooters.
  • Enact stricter punishment such as the death penalty for school shooters.
  • Put mobile bulletproof backboards in the classrooms for students to hide behind.
  • Instil children with more family values and morals.
  • Stop glorifying violence in TV, movies, video games, and the media.

There are three Primary Methods to deal with a self-defense problem. Each one can be used separately or in combination with the others.

  1. Stop or limit a person’s Intent to do harm. Where Intent is defined as desire or motivation or ill intent to do harm.
  2. Stop or limit a person’s Means to do harm. Where Means is the ability or capability to do harm.
  3. Stop or limit a person’s Opportunity to do harm. Where Opportunity is the circumstances in which it is possible to do harm.

A person requires all three to cause harm. Therefore, stopping or limiting one Primary Method will stop or limit the harm.

All the above listed individual solutions fall into one or more of these three Primary Methods.

Each one of the three Primary Methods can be performed in one or more of three-time frames of:

1. Prevention (before the event),
 Intervention (during the event), and
 Mitigation (after the event) with varying degree of effectiveness depending upon the circumstances.

Therefore, there are nine Primary Method Time Phases to deal with school shootings.

There are Three Viewpoints to view school shootings:

  1. As a Systemic Problem where school shootings are the result of widespread societal and cultural factors.
  2. As a Situational Problem where school shootings are the result of a certain confluence of factors on a situational basis.
  3. As a Personal Problem where school shootings are the result of individual factors of the person(s) involved.

Therefore, the nine Primary Method Time Phases can be viewed from one or more of these Three Viewpoints. That makes for a total of twenty-seven (3 x 3 x 3) categories of different approaches for dealing with school shootings. Each of these categories of approaches comes with its own set of advantages, disadvantages, assumptions, truths, and falsehoods. In other words, for every approach that is effective, there can be twenty-six examples of where this approach doesn’t apply. Given the complete lack of unbiased data, evidence, and expertise on the subject due to the relatively low number of incidents, people select approaches based on their pre-existing favorite solution.

  • If you hate guns, you will say that gun control is the solution.
  • If you love guns, you will say more guns is the solution.
  • If you are for Capital punishment, you will say that the death penalty is the solution.
  • If you think that male aggression in a problem in society, you will say that eliminating male aggression is the solution.
  • If you think mental illness is a problem in society, you will say that more mental health resources are the solution.
  • If you manufacture bulletproof products, you will say that more bulletproof products in the classroom is the solution.
  • If you think that kids are out of control, you will say the more parental discipline is the solution.
  • If you are in the business of teaching self-defense, you will say that more student/teacher training is the solution.
  • And so on.

And every one of you will be correct in some manner AND incorrect in some other manner. For every example of why your pet solution will work, there are likely to be more examples of why your pet solution will not work. There is also the fact that no school shooting is the same. Some are mass casualty events. Some are few casualty events. And some are threats and fights gone wrong. Therefore, an effective approach needs to also take into consideration the various types of school shootings.

There are tens of millions of students in the United States. There are tens of thousands of schools ranging from elementary schools to universities. Given the relatively few number of incidents over time, you have minimal data to base your solution on.  How do you know your solution will not make the problem worse?

Solving the problem of school shootings requires more than applying your pet ideological solution to this complex problem. Solving complex problems starts with open-minded thinking. If you think that you already know the answer, you are most likely wrong. if you really want to stop school shootings, stop promoting your ideology and start looking at the problem with an open mind. Otherwise, you are a part of the problem.


The Hand of Self-defense – Marc MacYoung

In this 5 minute interview. Marc MacYoung summerizes the Hand of Self-defense. The password is “hand”.

The Hand of SD Expanded The Palm (Part Two) – Marc MacYoung

Last time I asked you to start thinking about external limits and conditions (the back of the hand). While there are a great many environmental issues that are beyond an individual’s control, the biggest issues stem from internal limits.

Let’s start with a big one regarding the palm: Where is the person’s locus of control?

In case you’re not familiar with that term it’s from personality psychology. It — basically — means how much control an individual believes he or she has over events that affect him or her. Internal means you believe you’re in control over what happens. External is you are controlled by outside forces. For example a woman who says, “I am an independent, competent woman who makes my own circumstances” is displaying a strong internal loci. Whereas a woman who says “Women are conditioned by society not to stand up for themselves and always be polite” is assigning control over her behavior to external sources. Locus of control has a lot to do with a person’s sense of victimization, acceptance of personal responsibility and willingness to change.

Before we go on to the training issues arising from this, realize  — while either locus can be taken to the pathological extreme — most people are a personalized mix. Some things they consider themselves in control of, others not so much. However, don’t hold your breath waiting for consistency. People tend to flit back and forth erratically about self-control and ‘can’t help myself,’ positive and negative rights, and of course what they ‘should be’ allowed to do without consequence.

Where this affects training isn’t with what they can and ‘can’t do’ to protect themselves. (That’s more an external issue.) What really chains them to the wall is internal. It’s what they will and won’t do. Can do and will do are not the same.

Where people are most inconsistent are 1)  levels of force and 2) personal responsibility (especially about participating in, creating and escalating dangerous situations). These two are often intermixed in strange and erratic ways. But to understand the mix it helps to look at them individually.

Example of the first: Gouging out an eyeball out is both extremely easy and an effective way to stop a rape. However the idea is so repugnant to many people that the option is not taken. This even though rape is considered in most states ‘grievous bodily injury’ and the eyes are in range. What I just said is even though lethal force would be justified many people can’t bring themselves to maim their rapist. Nor does the idea even cross their minds during the attack. This is entirely an internal limit.

Example of the second: Insisting it is one’s ‘right’ to engage in high risk behaviors while refusing to take safety precautions, accepting limits or negative results. Common manifestation #1: Aggressive, hostile and intimidating words and actions to achieve a goal, but then being caught off guard when there’s a physical responses. Common manifestation #2: Same verbal and emotional abuse, but claiming victimization and blaming the provoked person. #3: Blaming the circumstances of one’s life on external locus of control

Example of a mix: Insisting on one’s right to go alone into dangerous parts of town at night, but refusing to carry a gun.  That is very much an internal attitude about external conditions. No amount of empty handed training is going to make those external conditions safe. (For the record, even carrying a gun doesn’t guarantee safety.) Yet the person willingly puts him or herself into dangerous circumstances and just as willfully refuses to take safety measures. While the obvious candidate for this combo of behavior would seem to be the younger person (who insists on going clubbing in bad parts of town), I’ve seen this behavior from middle aged, middle classed people as well. People believing it is their ‘right’ to go where they will and they should not have to carry a gun while doing it.

How does all of this manifest? Many people don’t have the commitment to ‘do what is necessary’ to get out of an extreme situation. As such, the only viable answer is: Don’t put yourself into situations where such responses would be necessary.

This is a hard pill to swallow for people who are seeking confidence and empowerment from self-defense training. A lot of people don’t want to be told ‘no’ and that’s what brings them to training. But there are always limits. Real life limit: Just having a gun doesn’t mean walking through a bad part of town is a good idea. The absolute worst time to discover you don’t have what it takes to pull the trigger is when facing a robber who will pull the trigger.

Conversely, if someone has no patience or desire to learn about the restrictions surrounding force, (such as how to assess different degrees of danger, learn to recognize when it’s legal to ‘pull the trigger’ or believes the consequences of making a bad use of force decision) then

  1. A) They are more of a physical danger to others than others are to them.
    B) the greatest danger to them is themselves

First off many such people aren’t looking for self-defense. Often they’re looking for an excuse. Others are looking for revenge. While others are looking to enhance their bullying (stand up to them and you’ll get punched).  While still others are so terrified at the idea of losing, that ‘not losing’ is their self-permission to excessive force.

Any of these are a fast track to disaster. We live in a country of laws. A country with a legal system that frowns on using force on your fellow citizens. You will be held answerable to your involvement in situations — even if it was ‘self-defense.’  Giving people the ability to physically injure their fellow citizens without warning them or preparing them for the aftermath is negligent. Basically the training hasn’t created loose cannons, but it’s loaded them.

This brings us to another issue: Is it the instructor’s responsibility to install what’s missing?

Simple question, yet one you’ll find massive mental gymnastics over. Often in the form of “we’ll teach you how to effectively do violence on others, but we won’t teach you how to keep from getting arrested for illegal violence.” (Being as self-defense is legal and fighting is illegal that’s kind of important.) Another common version, we’ll ’empower’ you, but not address how not to abuse that power. Still another hole you can drive a truck through is how to avoid unnecessary violence in the first place. While this might seem a little more about the fingers than the palm, there is one simple question: How close or far is the student from be able to correctly use the information you’re providing?  Or, because it’s ‘self-defense,’ is that not your problem? Like I said, we’re in the realm of mental gymnastics here when it comes to what is and is not being taught as ‘self-defense.’

Let’s look at one more issue about who is being taught. Sure we want to help, but is the instructor qualified to do so? This is a far more complex question than it might seem. First there are many self-defense courses actively pandering to individuals who have had traumatic events in their pasts. Many of these claim to empower people so they can defend themselves. While training can be therapeutic, it is not the same as therapy.

But even if do allow for these benefits, some questions we need to ask are: Does this training actually give the person the necessary skills and mindset to defend him or herself? Or does it instill overconfidence? (“I can do what I want, I know how to defend myself!”) Does it serve as therapy or does it actually empower dysfunction (e.g., dysfunction backed up by the willingness to be violent)? Is the person ‘self-medicating’ by taking this training instead of getting professional help? Is the training helping recovery and moving past or encouraging a variation on the self-identity of a ‘victim?’ (“Never again!” may sound anti-victim, but it’s still defining oneself in the context of victimhood.)

Unfortunately there has been a strong trend in some self-defense training to focus more on attempted therapy and social engineering. Even allowing for the best of intentions, this is another aspect of the disconnect. Self-defense is an individual issue. It is the individual acting in defense of her or himself. It is not a social movement, cause or issues of rights or group solidarity. It’s what the individual can do. As such, those issues have nothing to do with self-defense; introducing them muddies the waters of the subject and widens the disconnect between what is being sold as training and the actual dangers and issues of defending oneself.

Having said that, often that empowerment, false confidence and faux-therapy is what the customer wants. It is the basis of the customer’s willingness to pay for training. One manifestation of this is what we refer to as ‘fear management instead of danger management training.’ The training doesn’t actually reduce danger, it just convinces the person he/she is equipped to handle it. Another form is ‘talisman thinking’ (“I have a _____ so I’m safe”). Still others are there for … for a lack of a better word .. the macho. (That’s ’empowerment’ for young men.)

This, plus people being easily bored makes a difficult set of conditions for the instructor to provide quality information. Do you provide exciting training that is beyond the limits of the student? Do you pander to the fears, preconceptions and neurosis of the students? Do you train them for their immediate skill level or do you train to some distant goal (what they can do now or what the could do in five years of training with you?) How much foundational work do you have to do to get the person up to the point he or she could effectively do a bare minimum, physical technique? (Like say, reliably not getting hit.)

What knowledge and skills does the person have already vs. what would it take for that person to be able to judiciously use what you’re teaching?  Also, in terms of groups, cops have radically different skills, knowledge and attitudes than office workers. How much boring legal information do you supply to students to keep them out of prison for using the skillsets you’re supplying? How much should you work on impulse control and not putting oneself into dangerous situations because you’ve just handed the student the ability to injure or kill someone?

The Palm may not be all that exciting of a topic, but it is very, very important in how it affects the rest of the fingers when it comes to the Hand of Self-Defense. This whether you are an instructor of the person wanting to learn.


The Hand of SD Expanded: The Palm, Part I – Marc MacYoung

Pay attention to what a guy — who’s been through the shit — emphasizes first. As such issues seem incredibly small, insignificant or a ‘I know how to do that’ type topic, you’ll often have a reaction of ‘why’s that important?’ The answer is “That’s what kept him alive when bullets were in the air.” Odds are he’s seen people die because they overlooked those details. This, in contrast with someone who is coming from an academic or training only background. Their emphasis tends to be on the obvious — and by extension something that will get you killed if you exclusively focus on it instead of details that support it or can undermine it.

The Hand of SD Expanded
The Palm (Part One)

In my last two part article I introduced the “Hand of Self-Defense.”  In the first part I pointed out the disconnect between what happens before, during, and after violence versus what is being ‘taught as self-defense.’ I argued this disconnect will either get you (or your students) hospitalized, dead or in prison. That’s not hyperbole. Entirely too much training overly focuses on one aspect (usually physical) and ignores everything else involved. Which would not be a problem except how often this training is touted as ‘all you need.’

Yeah, about that…

I grew up with violence, violence was my profession, I’ve trained for it, I’ve also studied academic works on the subject, and now I deal with court cases involving violence. Each of these five approaches assesses and understands violence in their own unique ways. More importantly, they prioritize different aspects — for good reasons. But these reasons often aren’t apparent until you view the subject from that standpoint. This varied experience gives me perspectives on violence than most so-called ‘self-defense instructors’ do not have. Basically, I look at a much bigger picture. A picture of overlapping filters and extended depth of field. I’ve seen problems about self-defense that most people don’t know exist until they find themselves too far in to back out.

That’s why I came up with the Hand. Each of the fingers is an important element (or group of topics) that seriously influence … well everything. The hand can help you with if violence even occurs. It helps you tell what is happening. What degree of force you need. How to scale force at the time and afterwards, how to communicate that it was self-defense.  How not get nailed by the common pitfalls of dealing with the cops, our legal system and of course — for real fun and games — how not to get killed if the guy comes back seeking vengeance. These are realities of violence that most instructors not only don’t touch upon, but often don’t even know exist.  Or worse, they heard of the subjects but have dismissed them as trivial and/or a ‘well that won’t happen.’

Which brings us to the second part of the original “Hand of SD” article. There I address things that have to be in one’s training for self-defense.  Otherwise, it’s NOT self-defense training. (That’s why understanding the disconnect is important.)  Even if what’s being taught is somehow connected, it’s often a single aspect; it’s not the whole of the subject of self-defense. But there’s something else. In violence things can — and do — go wrong. The self-defense hand introduces you to where this can happen and the skills necessary to be able to manage where things commonly go wrong and when they do. It is a map, a check list,  and a litmus test of your training, knowledge and skills. It’s to see if your training prepares you  to handle how things actually happen and go wrong.

So fast recap. Hold up your hand.

  • Your palm is who is being taught, what their needs, skills/knowledge and limits are
  • Your thumb is communication, articulation and –if you will — people skills
  • Your index finger is knowledge of how violence happens, social dynamics and etiquette
  • Your middle finger is physical skills — including doing them while adrenalized.
  • Your ring finger is situational knowledge, threat assessment, pattern recognition and ability to scale force appropriate to the situation
  • Your pinky is knowing how to deal with the cops, courts, when to shut up, when to lawyer up and — of course — dealing with vendetta.

    So let’s start with the palm of “Who is being taught.”

In the original article I introduced the Palm as: There is no one-size-fits-all or one-stop-shopping when it comes to self-defense training. The needs of an older woman are different than that of a young man who is being bullied at school.

You know what? What I teach police SWAT teams is completely different than what I teach soccer moms. What I teach nurses (who often walk into dark parking lots late at night), social workers and real estate agents is different than office workers. What I teach bouncers is different than what I teach business travelers. What I teach regular police officers is different than what I teach military personnel. Why? Because each group has different rules of engagement, different problems, different responsibilities and most of all are facing completely different situations.

But more than that, individuals from each group have completely different resources, backgrounds, attitudes, abilities, experiences, physical capabilities, and most of all, limits.

What I just said is: You have both external and internal factors that influence if  ‘the’ training will work. Although I speak of the Palm, think of those two as the back of the hand (external) and the palm (internal). In many ways external and internal issues are horribly intertwined. At the same time they are still separate issues. Issues that if you don’t look at individually the results become as clear as mud. In fact, a very good argument can be made that the disconnect of training has its roots in not looking at theses issues as if they were all one in the same.

Looking at this part of the hand makes you consider if the training is appropriate. Appropriate for not just different needs, different circumstances, different rules of engagement, different environments, but most importantly appropriate for the students themselves. What they are or not capable of — and often won’t be, regardless any amount of training.

What works for one individual is not only no, but a hell no for another.  For example: Teaching a five foot one woman muay Thai so she can fight against a fit and aggressive 250 pound man is setting her up to not just fail, but literally to get run over and squished. This is not a question of ‘does muay Thai work?’ (External.) It’s you don’t teach a smaller, weaker woman (internal) to fight a bigger person using a sports fighting system. When it comes to ‘self-defense,’ you teach her how to injure and escape from a bigger attacker.

Why? Because, especially in sports fighting ‘styles,’ size matters. Let me repeat that in case you missed it, SIZE MATTERS! It especially matters when everyone is using the same techniques (which is the essence of sports fighting). “Size matters” is why — even among male fighters — there’s weight divisions. (There’s a story out there about a famous female kickboxing champ who hauled off and kicked a guy on the side of the road. He grunted and said, “Good one. You better leave.”) What also matters in sports fighting systems is physical fitness. Teaching women a young man’s game — that most of its effectiveness comes from good physical condition and strength — is ignoring the fact most people can’t run a mile, much less fight effectively for three minutes. It would take months of training to get to that bare minimum physical standard.

But more than that, you’re going to have a hell of a time convincing women they can go skull-to-skull with a man. You may think you can teach someone how — and there are women who will believe it —  but most women won’t trust that idea. If they don’t buy it in training, they certainly won’t use it in a situation. (Stop and think about this. If sports fighting is where you get your physical techniques for your Women’s Self-Defense class, A) You’re shooting your credibility in the foot and B) That’s probably a contributing factor as to why such classes are hard to fill up.) You may think these limits can be overcome with training, but does the student? This especially with the amount of time and effort the person is willing to invest.

Changing tracks for a second. What are the actual dangers and circumstances the people in the class are facing? Given their lifestyle choices, what dangers are real? Then the big question: Is the information you’re providing germane to those circumstances?

A young middle class male in high school might have to ‘fight’ a bully. But are those the same problems a young man from a gang infested inner city school will face? Will teaching both of those teens the same fighting style be appropriate? I ask because in the inner city, weapons and superior numbers are far more common than suburbia.

What does a young woman going off to college need to know as opposed to a married mother of two teens? Will the circumstances each face be the same? Probably not — unless ‘mom’ is into frat parties and binge drinking. What does a business traveler — of either sex –need to know to travel safely through different cities  or even countries? Starting with the ‘basics’ of hotel bars and how not to get hit on while there. Does a homeowner who has a gun for home defense need the same training as a SWAT team? Definitely not. Starting with the fact that a home owner is under no obligation to search/storm the property.  I tell you this so you can see how much situations dictate the nature of the problem, the needs and what is  appropriate training.

Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them — Albert Einstein


The Self-Defense Hand, Part II – Marc MacYoung

The difference between theory and practice is in theory, there is no difference —

An anonymous joker

Last time I talked about how a lot of so-called self-defense training is like an airplane with crack in the wings you can’t see. While you’re parked safely on the ground (in the classroom) these potentially fatal flaws won’t reveal themselves. They’ll come to your attention when you’re a few thousand feet in the air.

Something I want to re-stress is: If nobody has ever shown you how complicated self-defense is, how are you supposed to know?

You’re not. That’s why we’re about to cover what’s next. At the same time, this problem has never revealed itself if you’ve never had to use your training. Or if you have used it without negative effects, you lucked out. I say this because these days I work in the damage control field of when your self-defense does work.

What I’m going to give you a check list for self-defense training. These are subjects that you MUST consider (or better yet have looked into) before you try to use your training. They will help you to be able to ‘tell where you are’ in the ocean of variables. That is what will allow you to scale your responses, adjust to different circumstances, and hopefully, help you get out of a situation before it goes violent.

More than that, if your training didn’t cover these, what you were sold is something else mislabeled as self-defense. Or, as is so often the case, it is only one aspect of many, but that has been over-emphasized to the exclusion of the others. These are the issues you need to fill in the gaps in order for you to be safe and stay out of prison.

Hold up your hand.

First off your palm is “Who is being taught?”  

There is no one-size-fits-all or one-stop-shopping when it comes to self-defense training. The needs of an older woman are different than that of a young man who is being bullied at school. Now for more depth, reread the last sentence, but replace ‘needs’ with ‘physical abilities.’ It does a small woman no good to be taught techniques that rely on strength and physical conditioning.  Another consideration is people from different backgrounds and environments. A person from the inner city is going to be facing different challenges than someone from suburbia. A police officer has different rules of engagement than a civilian, the ability to walk away (no duty to act) is a big factor in what that person needs to learn. So the question is, is what being taught appropriate (or useful) for that person? Personalizing this, the question is, “Who are you and what are your needs?” Not what you are afraid of, but what you need. This is especially means, ‘what kind of circumstances are you most likely to end up in?’

Like in real life, the palm serves as the basis for everything the hand can do. Also to further the analogy, the fingers work together with each other and the palm. Without this cooperation, much less the presence of these  multiple components, a finger is, by itself, useless.

The palm sets the needs, abilities and capabilities of the person. The information must be scaled to and appropriate for the person. For example, don’t try to teach a 110 pound woman to box and call it ‘self-defense.’ A larger, stronger man will pick her up and throw her like a dart. Does she need to know how to effectively hit? Yes. But only as small part of a larger, more effective strategy.

The thumb: People skills, communication/articulation

Simple truth, most violence can be avoided by good people skills. While there are folks out there who will rob you, there are a lot more people who will physically attack you for pissing them off.  The people who get into the most violence and conflicts tend to fall short in this skill set. Often in the form of giving their emotions priority. Seriously I’ve seen people flip others off and then squeal they were attacked for ‘no reason.’ And they sincerely believed it too.

Knowing not how to provoke people is a skill. A skill based on understanding how people work and not doing certain things — no matter how justified you feel, how much you want something, how emotional you are or how much of a hurry you are in.

Here’s an example, most violence comes with instructions on how to avoid it. It’s a pretty simple contract, do or stop doing ‘this’ and violence will not occur. In a super majority of the time these instructions are legitimate. “Shut up or I’ll kick your ass” is pretty straight forward contract. However, many people personalize it with “How dare you try to tell me what to do” and instead of shutting up, proceed to comment about the guy’s testicles on his mother’s chin. Then they blame the other person for being unpredictable and not living up to the contract. No, a serious lack of understanding human nature — including your own — is what got your nose broken in those circumstances.

A big advantage of — and why it’s the thumb — people skills is how useful they are. Not only will they help you keep from having to use your self-defense training, they’ll help you get through life, relationships, and job much easier. This wide application takes it outside the realm of just self-defense and makes it a life skill.

Another life skill is communication. Communication is really important for people skills, but it’s also important to let someone know they’re crossing lines. Articulation is a subset of communication, but it’s what is going to keep you out of prison when it comes to explaining to the authorities why what you did was self-defense and not illegal violence. (We’ll come back to this.)

The index finger: How crime and violence occur (academic)

Let me ask you some questions, where did you get your ‘knowledge’ about how crime happens? How about how situations escalate to physical violence? What is your baseline to identify the danger you’re supposedly training to protect yourself from? (Hint, odds are it’s more Hollywood based than you realize.) With those questions comes another. “How can you effectively defend against, much less avoid, a danger that you have no idea how it manifests?”

Violence and crime comes in many forms. Yet, entirely too many people think of violence in terms of what they’ve seen in the movies and going back to a high school fight. In fact, a lot of training prepares you to win that high school fight.  Still others are training to ‘win’ in the situation they perceive they ‘lost’ before. That skews one’s perspective. Knowing how both violence works and what developing crime looks like is a key element to assessing danger. Also being able to articulate why you ‘reasonably believed’ what you were doing was self-defense. (Remember I said the fingers work together?)

I’m also going to put something in the ‘academic’ category you need to not only understand, but be able to apply out in the field. That is to ask: What threat assessment model do you know? I really don’t care if it’s Ability, Opportunity, Jeopardy (AOJ), Intent, Means, Opportunity, Preclusion (IMOP), Jeopardy, Ability Means, (JAM), The Five Stages (Intent/Interview/Position/Attack/Reaction) or Ability, Opportunity, Intent (AOI). This is the kind of academic knowledge that can save you. It’s not just in the field, it’s during the aftermath (a.k.a. not being arrested and put into prison).

The middle finger is your physical skills.

This is both the finger that most people focus on giving to their attacker and –at the same time — it’s usually broken.

One of the ways it can be broken is you have to ask: Do the mechanics of what you’re doing actually work? For example, there’s a whole lot more to a punch than just sticking your arm out with a fist at the end. Unfortunately, the way most people are taught, they’re doing the latter and calling it punching. This isn’t the search for the mythical ‘right way to punch.’ I’m talking their punches do not have the mechanics to deliver power — this especially under the stress and whirling chaos of a conflict.  What should be a hard punch, loses enough power that it becomes basically a slap.

Another example, is do your blocks actually work? Or would a dedicated attack crash through them? Kind of an important question that. While we’re on the subject, can you hit the target that you’re shooting at — especially when you’re scared, moving and adrenalized? Remember kiddies, every bullet comes with a little lawyer attached and you’re still responsible for the damage any bullet you sent out that misses the intended target.

A second common ‘fracture’ is do you know when to use a move and when not to? For example, do you know when it’s safe to kick at a charging opponent and when it isn’t? (Hint, it depends on the kind of kick and where you’re standing.) Do you know when it’s time for empty hands and when you need to be going for a weapon instead? (This is the failing woefully I mentioned.) When it comes to physical application, every move you know has a time, place, strengths and weaknesses. Did they specifically teach you that? Just knowing a move doesn’t automatically mean you were taught these elements of application.

A third way you can have a broken finger is if you don’t know how to scale your force.  As I often tell people, when your mother tells you to “Go handle Drunken Uncle Albert” at a family reunion bone breaking techniques or fatal damage moves are a bit much. (Besides, Aunt Bessy would be pissed.) At the same time, submission techniques aren’t something you want to try when five guys are jumping you.

End Part II

The Self-Defense Hand – Marc MacYoung

The Self-Defense Hand:
Assessing if what-you-are-learning works for self-defense — and why you need to do it.

“Everyone knows what something means until there’s a problem”  

Paul Spiegal
Contract Attorney

There’s a dangerous problem about both learning and teaching ‘self-defense.’ Mostly it’s about what you don’t know you don’t know.

It’s not hyperbole to say this lack will result with you in prison, the hospital, the morgue or financially destitute. (If not you, then your students.) Here’s the catch, it’s a problem that doesn’t reveal itself until you actually try to defend yourself. Think in terms of a plane with a crack in the wing you don’t see. While on the ground, nothing looks wrong and the problem doesn’t manifest. What’s going to happen if you try to fly that plane?

That’s why we’re going to have to spend some time identifying these hidden cracks before you’ll understand the fix.  Starting with how many people don’t know what self-defense means.

“But, but I’m trained in self-defense I know what it means!”

Oh yeah? Is it a subject  or an action? If it’s a subject, what’s involved? If it’s an action, what specific action and in what context? Let’s get something straight right now. You know what you’ve been taught as self-defense — usually in class. Another factor is what you have ‘researched’ and decided on your own. (I used the ‘ ‘ because much of the available material come from marketing spun sources.) Those are an understanding of the subject. That’s not the same as engaging in a violent situation with the appropriate level of force. Levels and actions to remain within the parameters of self-defense. Outside of the classroom, the range or the dojo self-defense is a little more … complicated

How do you use the term ‘self-defense?’ Is it a noun or verb?  Many people think of it as a verb. It’s a type of action they think they’ll do. (Wait, self-defensing?) Yet, self-defense is in the dictionary as a noun. The subject of self-defense becomes an identifiable ‘thing’ — as in person, place or thing  You learn self-defense. You acted in self-defense.  But subjects tend to be complex. They involve lots of different things. However, your perspective changes if you think of it as a verb. Action is a whole lot simpler. All those pesky complexities disappear. In fact, you can start calling almost any action self-defense — and give yourself permission to do so. This regardless of whether they fit inside the parameters of the subject or not. When you don’t blur self-defense to allow become both a subject and  an action, you clearly see a distinction between learning about and doing. There’s also a difference between knowing and doing. These are some of distinctions many people have lost.

That’s why we have to track it back to your root definition. Oh sure there’s the general verb/adjective definition. It runs along the lines of “defending myself from an attack.”  But when you think about it, that’s actually kind of vague.  Starting with, what do you mean by ‘attack?’ I ask because you’ll find folks sticking in caveats and spins. For example, “Self-defense is using my training to protect myself from physical and emotional attacks.”

Hang on there. Is someone using harsh language at you the same as slapping you? Is punching you the same as someone beating you? Is someone trying to punching the same as trying to shoot you?  If the answer is ‘no,’ then using the same training as a blanket response is obviously a bad idea. If the answer is ‘well they’re all attacks’ (a qualified ‘yes’)  you’re dangerously close to shooting someone for slapping you. (Or saying something that provokes someone to punch you.) Stated this way, it seems ridiculous. Obviously everyone knows that’s not what self-defense is.  Okay, so what is self-defense then? And, more importantly, how do you apply it in the real world? What are some hard and fast standards you assess self-defense by?

Not so easy is it?

This goes beyond just ‘how much force do you use?’ It goes into what makes it self-defense (legal) vs. fighting, assault, manslaughter etc. (illegal). Just so you know, this is an area where subjective interpretation can really screw you up. It goes into when you stop using force (or cross into being the aggressor).  Most people have no clear metrics or understanding about what legally constitutes self-defense, threat assessment, the sort of situation that requires it, how they can put themselves into or get out of such situations or be able to avoid excessive force.  All of which have lots to do if what you do

  1. a) even works or
  2. b) if you’re going to be arrested later.

You’re in danger if you’ve never asked yourself, “Is what I’ve been taught really about self-defense?” This especially if what you’ve been taught has been mixed with sports, self-help or a social/political agenda. I recently had the unpleasant experience of talking to a women’s self-defense instructor who freely admitted she was relying on the man being arrested in any situation. That was why they didn’t include use of force limits or legal issues in what they taught women. Instead they encouraged women to go-all-out and told them it was all ‘self-defense.’ (Hint, you can knock him down, but you can’t jump up and down on his chest in your heels. The last isn’t self-defense.) Their instruction was predicated on the idea the police would always assume the woman to be the victim and arrest the man. (Rather disturbing version of ‘equality’ eh?)

With this in mind you need to ask is, “How do I assess if my response is self-defense?”  Well, that brings us to the quality, expanse and — most of all — focus of your training. Because the answer to that question depends on if your training is teaching how to do it. Unfortunately, most of the time the answer is “No it isn’t.”

Let me explain that. You can spend a majority of your training time learning (in depth) a particular aspect, but that doesn’t mean you’re getting other — relevant — information about self-defense.  (For example, all your tactical shooting training doesn’t teach you when to shoot.) Once you begin to search for some kind of standards about what is and what isn’t self-defense is all sorts of  previously invisible information comes onto your radar.  When that happens you realize ‘acting in self-defense’ is not as simple as you thought it was.

Let me give you an example of relevant information you’re not being taught about self-defense. Tell me: Where all these attackers you are training to handle are coming from?  Well obviously, the simple answer is ‘They’re bad guys intent on hurting me.’

From an internal perspective that seems self-evident and obvious; except from an external standpoint it’s not that simple.  Starting with how do you know you’re not aggressing on him?  It’s not as black and white as you might think. Remember I used the word ‘subjective’ a little earlier? Here’s something that seriously influences it. A fellow by the name of Les Carter talks about the three core sources of anger

1) Preservation of essential needs.

2) Preservation of self-esteem and

3) Preservation of core beliefs.

While the manifestations are many, that mechanism is simple and pretty universal. You feel these are threatened, anger occurs and you act to < dramatic drum roll > defend yourself.

In case you missed it, that mechanism is the same for someone you call the ‘aggressor’ as it is for you ‘defending yourself.’  When you’re emotional, you think you’re defending yourself — even as you’re attacking. Spelling that out: When it comes to MOST violence, he thinks he’s doing exactly the same thing you think you’re doing; namely defending himself, except from you. And maybe he is because you’re so scared, hurt or angry, you are actually attacking.

That’s why it’s important to look at your actions from other than an internal perspective. You need to know if you are, in fact, aggressing against him while telling yourself it’s ‘self-defense.’  Believe me when I tell you crossing that line is a lot easier to do than you might think. Well, isn’t that awkward? Here’s the real unpleasant part, unless you know the ‘fingers’ I’m going to talk about in the next installment — and apply them — there’s a damned good chance, he’s partially correct.

Here’s the bad news, from an outside perspective you have him, any other witnesses testifying and possibly video of your participation in the creation and escalation of the conflict. That’s not self-defense. It’s a crime. In fact, this makes YOU the bad guy. Which if your so-called ‘self-defense’ training works, you’re going to get arrested. If it doesn’t work, you have other problems …

So what is self-defense? Where does the rubber hit the road with nuts-and-bolts standards, considerations, metrics and limits? This especially becomes important in doing it out in the real world. That’s where you can be put into prison or killed if you get it wrong.  Now the really bad news. Odds are you were taught sets-you-up for those results. Largely, not because of what you were taught, but what you weren’t taught.

Remember when the answer to ‘what is self-defense’  had answers like “defending myself from an attack”? And why that’s not such a viable answer?  (A more viable answer is “The appropriate level of force needed to keep you safe from an unprovoked attack,”)

Until now, that definition wouldn’t have made as much sense.   So why is this so hard to understand? Two reasons.

One of the reasons is all the instructors out there who are peddling whatever it is they teach AS self-defense! Martial arts, mixed martial arts, knife fighting, shooting, empowerment, self-help, cardio and fitness … it’s all self-defense, doncha know?

No. No it’s not. But you won’t find that out until you’re getting arrested, or a fist crashes through your block and breaks your nose, or the back of your head is being jack-hammered off the concrete or you get jumped by six guys because you were ‘ready’ to fight only one.  Wait, what? Is it really that bad? Yeah. In fact, it’s worse than you know. That’s why I’m writing these articles. Remember that fuzzy definition of self-defense?

Because it’s so vague, in the classroom/dojo/gym almost anything can be peddled as self-defense training. You wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve heard instructors calling ‘self-defense.’ And they do.

When you come out and ask “Is what you’re teaching self-defense,” you will have people who insist it is — regardless of what they are teaching. You’ll usually find they’ve changed the definition of ‘self-defense’ to specifically mean what they are teaching.  (This especially in self-help, empowerment training.) That’s why you need to have a better definition, other wise you’ll be sold a bill of goods. Or, going back to an earlier analogy you won’t know until you take off your wing is cracked.

If you press by asking ‘how is it self-defense,’ most often what you’ll get is “Well it’s not exactly self-defense, but it can be used for it!” Sure, and a cattle truck can be used to haul kids to soccer practice too. It’s just not as good as a mini-van for the job.  Are they lying? Well no. It can be modified, but then the question is are they also teaching you how to modify it? To make it work, you’re going to have to tweak it differently  for out in the street… or in the living room… or at a bar… or in a parking lot at  two a.m. against multiple attackers. That’s allowing that it can be modified that much. That’s one hell of a big allowance.

Here’s where things can get a little … tricky. Often what is being taught by a particular source is exclusively a single aspect of self-defense, such as physical. This can be likened to a single finger on a hand, important, but not all there is to the subject of self-defense. Nor is the one aspect the key element of self-defense (e.g., all you need is the physical).

Nobody knows the whole of the subject of self-defense. And while we’re collecting ‘nopes,’ even allowing for specialization in one aspect, nobody knows all of that either. Pick a topic out of the  aspect of physical. Any topic, shooting, empty hand or knife. You can learn a lot at a particular school. There will come a time when you’ve learned all that you can in that school, but that doesn’t mean you know all there is about the topic. That’s how big even these smaller topics are. I recently watched a SWAT team commander learn a new pistol grip from a female firearms instructor. The grip compensated for long fingernails. The man can shoot like nobody’s business, but acrylic nails wasn’t something he’d considered, much less had a solution to.

Another issue goes back to why I came up with the idea of the self-defense hand. That is often what is taught is small tidbits of different ‘fingers.’  There’s a lot of important information being left out. This is where things get really muddled. There are subjects that have relevance to self-defense, but that doesn’t make them self-defense. For example, there are certain people who have be convinced they are ‘worth’ defending themselves (a common issue among abuse survivors). But that does not automatically make ’empowerment training’  effective self-defense training — even if it does involve yelling, kicking and punching. But you can be damned sure it’s being sold as everything you need.

I really want to stress this point. It’s not that the information is wrong or doesn’t work. The problem isn’t that clear cut. It’s more that while what’s being taught will work in certain situations, what those situations are isn’t being taught. Or how to spot when it’s time to just turn and run fiercely. That’s because nothing you are trained in is going to work in those circumstances.

These are just a few of the issues involved with changing self-defense from a noun to a verb. The former is a subject to be taught. The latter  is being able to do self-defense in the real world. Which brings us back to…

The second reason why ‘what is self-defense’ is complicated question is because of the real world answer. Not in the dojo answer. Not in the classroom answer. But one that has to do with your actions. Actions you will be held accountable for.

In application  the most exact answer is “It depends.”  

‘It depends’ comes closest to being the right answer because the question needs to be reframed as “Under different circumstances, what is both the appropriate level of force and stays within the boundaries of self-defense?”

That turns from a search for a simplistic answer to a subject of width, depth and understanding.  (Which it just happens to be.) Realize violence comes in many different types, levels, variations and changing circumstances.  Remember the “The appropriate level of force needed to keep you safe from an unprovoked attack” answer?  Well what the appropriate level of force is depends on the circumstances of the situation. Circumstances you won’t be able to predict. Circumstances you can only asses on the spot. In other words, it depends.

Odds are, what you were taught as self-defense would work under certain conditions. But were you taught how to recognize when you’re in them? More importantly, recognize when you’re not? For example I knew a young black belt in a McDojo who down blocked into a knife. Great answer for an empty handed attack. In this case, the knife won. I tell you this because there is no one ‘answer,’ response or training system that covers every situation. Yet, odds are that’s what you’ve been sold or have bought into.

All of this has been aimed at understanding there’s an invisible crack in the wing of your airplane of self-defense. The last thing you want to have happen is discover the problem in the middle of a self-defense situation

End of Part I

The Green Zone, Red Zone, Grey Zone, and Blue Zone – Do You Train only for the Green Zone? – Erik Kondo

Four Zones

When most people think of martial arts based self-defense, they think of an athletic and skilled martial artist beating up an attacker. And most effective martial arts training does in fact, teach you how to win a fight. When you are in the process of winning, you are aggressive, confident, and performing well. You are damaging your opponent and he or she is not damaging you. You are in a strong position and your opponent is in a weak position. Whether you dispatch your opponent with karate, jujitsu, MMA or some other style, it doesn’t really matter. Assuming you have reasonable skill, whatever techniques you apply, they will most likely do the job. You are in the Green Zone.

When you are in the Green Zone, you are performing at your optimum.  As long as you can stay in the Green Zone, you are likely to defeat or successfully disengage from your opponent. The problem is that in a true self-defense situation, your attacker doesn’t want to let you fight back in the Green Zone. He or she wants you to be the Red Zone. The Red Zone is where you are in the process of losing. You are being overwhelmed. You are fearful or frozen. You are unsure of how to respond. You are a psychological and physiological mess. You are taking damage and not damaging your assailant. You are in a weak position and he or she is in a strong position. You are NOT performing at an optimum level.

Most traditional martial arts training doesn’t teach you how to deal with the Red Zone. It teaches you how to fight when you are in the Green Zone. Realistic physical self-defense requires that you know how to get out of the Red Zone and into the Green Zone before it’s too late.

Prior to a physical conflict, you are in the Gray Zone. From the Gray Zone it is a quick transition to either losing in the Red Zone or winning in the Green Zone. Your assailant’s goal is to get you into the Red Zone as quickly and as easily as possible. He doesn’t want to risk having to deal with you in the Green Zone. Therefore, he uses tactics such as an ambush, deception, a weapon(s), superior numbers, etc. to overwhelm you. He uses the Golden Attack (See Rory Miller’s Golden Move). The goal of the Golden Attack is use overwhelming violence to:

  1. Damage you.
  2. Prevent damage to him.
  3. Worsen your position.
  4. Improve his position.

Once you are put into the Red Zone, you may never get out and apply your Green Zone skills. And that is exactly what your attacker intends to happen.

Conversely, if you find yourself starting off in the Green Zone, most likely it is because you are illegally fighting and not in a self-defense situation. In this case, dispatching your opponent with your martial arts skills may land you in jail or in civil court.

Some martial arts instructors have circumvented the reality of the Red Zone by advocating the use of a Pre-emptive Strike against the Bad Guy. In this case, it is you that launches the first attack. You initiate the transition from the Grey Zone into the Green Zone. For simplicity and ease of teaching, the instructor ignored/justifies the legal aspects of the Pre-emptive Strike with the use of Bad Guy labeling (opponent is a known murderer/rapist/etc.) But as a practical matter, you now are the one that has used the Golden Attack. And more than likely, you will need to articulate why you did what you did, to the police and possibly a judge and jury.

What happens after a violent incident is the Blue Zone. It is here that you will have to explain your actions to society as to why your response was legal self-defense. In order to do so, you need to know how the law applies to your situation. You need to articulate the reasoning for your actions beyond only stating that “you were afraid for your life”.

Golden Feed vs. Golden Attack

It is typical for martial arts techniques to be demonstrated and taught in response to a simulated “attack”. This attack is really a Golden Feed disguised as a Golden Attack. It is a Golden Feed when:

  • You are mentally and physically prepared to respond.
  • You are literally waiting for the “attack” to happen, which then acts as the trigger for your prepared response.
  • The “attack” doesn’t damage you, prevent damage to your opponent, weaken your position, strengthen your opponent’s position
  • You are not concerned with the negative consequences of your response, which means you have full conviction that your response is the “right” thing to do.
  • Your opponent’s attack was singular in nature. For example, he only tries to punch or grab you but then does nothing else. As a result, you are able to respond with multiple movements to his one movement.

To summarize, your opponent’s “attack” is actually a setup for you to launch your own Golden Attack. To the uninformed, it may look as if you are training from the Red Zone, but you are actually in the Green Zone.

Situational Awareness is only part of the Grey Zone

Most traditional self-defense instruction talks frequently about the importance of situational awareness. The basic premise is that by being aware of your surroundings you can avoid being assaulted and ending up in the Red Zone. The other aspect is that by demonstrating that you are an aware person, you can deter potential attackers. These are two important aspects of the Grey Zone, but there are more. Situational awareness is only a subset of the Grey Zone.

The Grey Zone is the series of events that occur before a potential or actual assault. Maybe you are assaulted, or maybe you are not. The Grey Zone is a place of uncertainty.

You might be aware of an impending threat, but that doesn’t mean you know how to deal with that particular threat. Or possibly, you are mentally aware of your surroundings, yet you don’t “see” the threat developing because you don’t recognize it as such. Realizing that you have problem doesn’t mean you know exactly what the problem is, or that you have the knowledge and means to fix it.

In the Grey Zone, your emotional Monkey Brain may influence you to act in a manner that you intellectually know is contrary to your best interests, but you do it anyway. Dealing with the Grey Zone requires not only situational awareness, but knowledge of criminal behavior, violence dynamics, environmental knowledge, understanding your own abilities and limitations, and above all good judgement and critical thinking.

No matter how proficient you are at fighting in the Green Zone, unless you have learned to avoid or survive the Red Zone, navigate the Grey Zone, and mitigate the Blue Zone, your self-defense training is deficient.

Clint Overland on the Red Zone

“I like being other people’s Red Zone. I start where most people have to build up to.

Say that you have made promises to either do something. Pay a debt or deliver a product at a certain price for a certain amount and you decided to welch on your word. And maybe you have the balls to back it up, and the ones you lied to don’t have the strength to discipline you for your indiscretions. But they have the money. That’s where a hard crew comes in. We enforce their will by starting at the Red Zone.

Now you as the Welcher may be a total bad ass. A walking Martial arts legend. Death on Two legs.

I am going to know this because I have researched you. This helps me formulate my plan of action. My crew and I will do it on you when you are least expecting it. First we, pepper spray you in the face, and then taze you while you’re screaming. Next, while you’re down, two of us take hammers to your legs and arms. Removing the threat to us. This is why pros work in Red Zones. Your best option is too stay out of them.”

Terry Trahan on the Red Zone

“The Red Zone is a paradox. You don’t want to be there by accident. But, it is the place you want to push your opponent to be as soon as physical conflict becomes your tool to end the situation.

Once that switch has been flipped, everything you do should have two purposes;

1) make sure you go home, and 2) overwhelm your opponent in order to end it quickly.

If you are being pre-emptive, you don’t initiate violence until everything is lined up in your favor: position, weapons, allies, whatever you have to tip the odds your way, and throw your opponent into his Red Zone.

If all of your situational and environmental awareness has failed, and you are in a reactive mode, you must force your attacker into his Red Zone as quickly as you can. Aggression, forward drive, environmental control and savageness until you can make your exit.

By overwhelming him, you put yourself in control, and keep him spiraling and falling into his Red Zone.”


You Are What You ATE, Part II – Erik Kondo

  1. In Part I, I listed my 5As of Accomplishment/Performance which are:

    1. ATE – Your Attributes, Training, and Experience.
    2. Awareness – What you perceive based on your ATE.
    3. Assessment – What you decide about what you perceived based on your ATE.
    4. Action – What you do based on what you decided based on what you perceived based on your ATE.
    5. Articulation – How you explain what you did based on what you decided based on what you perceived based on your ATE.

The idea is that your skillful accomplishment of a task is the result of five interdependent steps. Each successive step is based on the previous ones. The foundation of these steps to accomplish a task begins with your natural attributes, your formalized training and education, and your life experience.

In terms of the Iceberg diagram above, when we observe other people accomplish a task, we see what they have done. We see how they explain what they have done. But what we don’t see is how they decided to do what they did. How their perceptions influenced their decision. And how their individual attributes, training, and experience affected all of it.

In terms of Teaching

Given that no two people begin with the same ATE. It is unreasonable to expect that those two people would accomplish a given task in the same manner. Yes, you can theoretically provide two people with the very same training and education. But their individual natural attributes and life experience will differ. Therefore, their results will differ.

If you are teaching a class of twenty people to respond (accomplish a task) to a certain stimulous (a punch for example), you should expect twenty varied responses. If some of them respond in a manner vastly different from what you would do, then mostly likely, they have a vastly different ATE than you.

When an instructor’s ATE is very different from his students’ ATE, his “qualifications” may actually interfere with his ability to teach his students effectively. Unless, the Instructor consciously takes into account how his own ATE differs from his students. But to do so means being aware of how an individual’s ATE influences his or her accomplishment of any given task.

Take basic juggling for example. Once you are able to successfully juggle three balls, it is a relatively simple task. You are just throwing balls into the air, catching, and throwing again in a certain order. It doesn’t take great hand-eye coordination to accomplish. But it looks impressive. After you have been juggling for a while, it is easy to forget how difficult it was for you to learn. You can demonstrate juggling with ease.

What you have forgotten is that the Now-You is different from the Before-You who didn’t know how to juggle. The Now-You has a different ATE then the Before-You. Your Attributes may be the same. But your Training and life Experience has changed. Your brain wiring has been modified. You can never go back to what you were before your learned how to juggle.

Let’s say students come to your class saying they want to learn how to juggle. Yet they are only willing to devote a few hours to your class and will not practice afterwards. Can you really teach them to successfully juggle? There are always those few people whose extraordinary natural Attributes allow them to skillfully accomplish a new task quickly, but the majority cannot.  In this example, you must realize that unless the students have prior juggling training or life experience, they will not learn to juggle three balls. But they could learn to juggle two balls (which is not really juggling).

So what do you do? Try to teach them to juggle three balls which is more fun for you and allows you to demonstrate your skill, but knowing the majority will fail. Or teach them elementary two ball throwing which is unexciting, but something that all your students can realistically accomplish given their limitations?

Or do you tell them that their stated goal of learning to juggle is unrealistic? That they need to reconsider their commitment to learning to juggle. That they can learn to juggle, but it will require more time and effort on their part. All of which they will not want to hear and will most likely make you unpopular. Or do you just take their money and pretend that they will actually learn how to juggle due to your specialized teaching methods?

The Importance of Feedback

Your ATE is not static. It is only fixed in any given moment in time. It is always subject to change and evolvement. But if you are unwilling to train yourself and you limit your life experiences, then your ATE will remain in a narrow change. Your ATE is analogous to a Closed Belief System. People with a Closed Belief System are not open to new information. Their Belief System does not evolve. It is effectively static over time.

On the other hand, people with an Open Belief System are constantly evolving their beliefs in response to new information. And so it is with your ATE. You ATE will grow and evolve overtime if you allow it too. And you can actively evolve it by seeking out new training and new experiences.

What causes an ATE to change is a willingness to respond to Feedback.

Having static ATE is like being a computer running a fixed program. The computer responds in the same manner to identical input. It disregards feedback.  Computers with artificial intelligence on the other hand modify their programing in response to feedback. Their programming evolves.

But the quality of a person’s learning is limited to the quality of the feedback received. You can’t develop a high level skill without realistic feedback. This applies to both physical and mental skills. You need to know what you are doing correctly so you can keep doing it. And know what you are doing incorrectly, so you can stop/limit doing it. The more complex the skill, the more feedback is required.

Think of these main concepts in terms of self-defense instruction. The accomplished student is able to Articulate why he or she Acted in a certain manner, based on what he Assessed, based on what he was Aware of, in response to a particular threat, with all steps taking into consideration his individual ATE.  

There will be a result stemming from the student’s Action. This result is feedback. If the feedback is realistic, then the student’s ATE will evolve and improve. If the feedback is unrealistic, then the student’s ATE will evolve in an undesired manner. If the student rejects the feedback, then the student’s ATE will remain static.

If you can’t provide your students with realistic feedback, then they can’t really accomplish skill. But, they can develop the belief that they can accomplish a skill.



Charting the Principles – Garry Smith

For the record I really find Erik’s 12 Principles of Conflict Management an excellent piece. Equally Rory’s exploration of the deeper reaches of each principle certainly moves us forward as we develop our understanding. It is really important that we do this as CRGI was never established so we could all pat each other on the back and tell each other how wonderful we are, how clever. The search for the truth often leads us up blind alleys and sometimes we end up travelling the long way round to get there when there was a quicker more direct route all along, we just did not see it. The thing is sometimes what we see on the journey is as important as arriving at the destination.

When I read Rory’s article I thought it resembled a trip to the opticians for an eye test, where you wear or look through some contraption that they drop different lenses into whilst you read off a chart. So looking through different lenses allows Rory to tease out the pros and cons of each of the 12 principles Erik rightly identifies, it works well. However, as we debated this prior to finishing our articles something did not click for me. I felt a slight intellectual discomfort with how, rather than what, Rory was presenting. When critiquing a list it makes sense to follow the list, I get it, it works. However, I felt that there was the need for a simpler more abstract presentation to sit alongside both Erik and Rory’s articles, splendid though they are.

When I first read Rory’s response to Erik I got a strange picture in my head, (not an unusual experience).  This is it.

Neville Chamberlain returning from meeting with Adolf Hitler in Munich bearing aloft the piece of paper that guaranteed ‘peace in our time’, the rest, of course, is history.

My problem was why was this picture in my head, well the term appeasement jumped out at me from Rory’s article along with the use of force as kind of polar opposites of managing conflicts. I began to see a continuum for conflict management with two polar ends, one being unmitigated enforcement of a settlement at one end and abject appeasement at the other,  this leaves every possible variation on the line in-between, neat. Well let us see.

Once you take each of the 12 principle and observe and explain its deeper context, lets extend the eye test metaphor here and looking now through a microscope, we begin to see in each the multiplicity of variables that may or may not be present in a conflict what happens when we overlay one principle with another, and another and it was this thought that gave me a feeling of information overload. Each one is explored and explained clearly enough, each one is massively open ended.   What Rory does is open up each principle so that we can see more, but the deeper we probe the more we reveal and, this is the big one for us all, how can we use this list to assess the effectiveness of conflict management or the ineffectiveness of conflict mismanagement?

Well the obvious answer is lists can be checked against events to see if what they described was present or absent, we can then evaluate how this may have contributed to the outcome, then we can judge whether this was intended or not and how effective. That seems like a logical process to me but we all know that variables interact and the complexity involved in any given situation or conflict will produce, even using this logical sequence of analysis, a best guess result based on interpretation and perspective, nobody is claiming any different as far as I can see. Nobody has attempted to claim the mantle of expert, indeed we all reject it for obvious reasons.

The thing is we do need to develop useful tools to measure conflict management techniques, responses and strategies, call them what you may, as well as the flip side of conflict mismanagement as it is often here that most productive learning takes place.

Now I love the list and I love the critique but as I began to suffer from a little conceptual overload. I did what I normally do, I shut it down and went for a walk with the dog, let the subconscious work on this whilst I had a little fun.  

A day or so later I decided it was time to let my thoughts pop out of my head and I drew myself a diagram, here is my diagram.

Garry image
OK it is not a replacement for either of the afore mentioned articles, rather it is an aid to understanding. A framework that allowed me to get to grips with some of the complexity, a simple(ish) model, let me explain.

Underlying most of what Rory looks at is the fair assessment that successful conflict management is achieved by many strategies and tactics and is never simple or straightforward, however, I am pretty sure that if we can use a continuum that ranges from enforcement at one end to appeasement at the other we capture everything in between, (that’s the neat thing about continua). Apply the right strategy/tactics with the right balance between enforcement and appeasement and everything is cool, we hope.

The flip side is true of conflict mis-management, choosing the wrong approach strategy and tactics to manage a conflict and you are quickly in trouble.  

Each situation will have its own dynamic, each situation will have multiple variables. It is the possibly infinite ways these variables combine that make the subject of conflict management so interesting and so challenging if not downright confusing.

The degree of negotiation provides us with a scale to help contextualise the continuum, if you can simply impose enforcement then no negotiation is really necessary, the alternative at the other extreme is what Rory calls begging, I think this is where I got the Neville Chamberlain thought, with no power or will to back up your intention you simply cave in, you are dictated to, you will have to negotiate like hell because that is all you have. It is a crude method of measurement and is a work in progress not a solution.

In fact the whole model is crude, I am not trying to be sophisticated, I am keeping it simple (stupid), remember that. The model is simple and you can use it as a backdrop to your thinking, like this if I take one of Rory’s points at almost random. ” Negotiation only works, negotiation doesn’t even exist, except for the threat of what will happen if negotiation fails. You never do hostage negotiations without a tactical response on standby and a country without an army may make themselves feel important by mediating a treaty… but negotiation without an alternative is begging”

The problem for me is not just the range of variables, legal, cultural, linguistics, environmental etc, the things we can see/hear/smell even, the empirical evidence, that may be present in a conflict management situation, but the things we cannot see and often can only guess at, motivations, morals, feelings and emotions, these are powerful drivers for all the actors engaged in a conflict. The list can never be expanded to encompass all possible components of any given conflict. We would need a much more powerful analytical tool or toolbox to help us to achieve that, this is what fires the agency of the actors involved.

So we can place conflict management strategies and tactics on the continuum as they are applied and then watch them move around the diagram as variables and agency collide and produce a unique recipe for each conflict we see, no two dishes will be exactly the same even if we try to use the same recipe.

My simplistic diagram is not an answer, for me it is a starting point in conceptualising a grand theory of conflict management if that is not too ambitious and outrageous thing to aim for. Can I do this on my own, I sincerely doubt it, can I add to a debate with informed and insightful others, Erik, Rory, YOU, to perhaps help us shuffle along towards such a thing together? I hope so. Maybe these three articles are the first tiny steps that start a big, big journey.



You Are What You ATE, Part I – Erik Kondo

Most people are familiar with the expression “You are what you eat.” It makes sense. Eat lots of high fat content greasy foods and you get obese. Eat mainly lean meats, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and you stay nice and trim.

But you are also defined by your actions and by how you explain your actions to others. How you respond to occurrences and events in your life is a big part of who you are. What’s the difference between an accomplished expert and a bumbling novice? The expert both acts and communicates in an effective manner, whereas the novice does not.

Much of how a person responds to any given stimulus comes down to his or her individual ATE.


A = Attributes (innate abilities and hardwiring acquired from birth)

T = Training (what has been acquired from formalized training and education)

E = Experience (what has been acquired from life experience)

Think about it for a moment. Take different people, individually expose them to the exact same stimulus, next watch to see what happens. How the subjects respond is not random. They will respond in accordance with their ATE programming. People with a different ATE are likely to respond in correspondingly different manner in accordance with their ATE.

In terms of conflict management, let’s imagine for a moment that Person A is walking down the sidewalk and suddenly violently attacked from the rear. Person A is a 6’ 4” 220 lbs. physical specimen. He is an also a highly trained Navy Seal just back from his 3rd tour of duty in Afghanistan where he was involved in undercover operations.

One block over, Person B is also ambushed from behind. Person B is 5’ 2” and 110 lbs. Person B rarely exercises and works as an accountant for the IRS. Person B has had no training in any type of martial arts or physical self-defense. He has never been in involved in a violent incident in his life.

Person A and Person B are exposed to the same stimulus. But how they respond is determined by how they consciously and unconsciously perceive and assess the situation. While awake, people are in a state of continually assessing input from the environment. Most assessments are done automatically without conscious thought. We just do them as we go about our lives. Driving a car provides an example of a continuous stream of conscious/unconscious assessments, actions, and/or continuations of actions. These assessments come naturally from our awareness of the environment. For example, when driving, if you see a stop sign at an intersection, you decide to stop. If you don’t see a stop sign, you continue on your current course.

Awareness leads to assessments which leads to actions. Many times these actions need to be articulated. “I didn’t stop at the stop sign because I didn’t see it. It was obscured by a tree, Officer.”

But we all don’t have the same paradigm of awareness. Accomplished drivers know what to look for. Unaccomplished drivers will “see” a dangerous event unfold, yet not be aware of what is happening. A skilled driver has a different ATE than an unskilled one. The same goes people when it comes to conflict management. The ATE of skilled conflict managers differ greatly from unskilled ones.

In the earlier example, Person A and Person B will respond in vastly different manners due to their respective ATE. They will explain their actions also in accordance with their ATE. You are what you accomplish, and what you accomplish is linked directly to your ATE.

Someone who is “stuck” in life responds in accordance to a static script. This type of person’s ATE doesn’t change. Their knowledge says at the same level. Their experiences are viewed to be the same. They learn nothing new from them. This type of person has a fixed belief system. People with fixed belief systems and ATEs are living in an endlessly repeating loop. Like a pen circling on paper, the path becomes more and more entrenched into their mind and body. This static belief system is reinforced with stereotypes, bias, and closed-mindedness.

In contrast are those whose ATEs are under a constant state of evolvement. They seek out varied training and diverse experiences. Their belief system is fluid and subject to change. Their responses and scripts evolve with time. Since these people’s actions are constantly evolving, they are more defined by the sum of their accomplishments. Those with a static ATE are more identified by their belief system.

Unless you have somehow maximized your ATE at a very high level of accomplishment, you likely have much room for improvement. There is not so much you can do to change your inherited attributes. But you certainly can evolve your training and experience in order to reach a higher level of accomplishment.

An accomplished person effectively articulates what he or she does. What he does results from his assessment of the situation. His assessment is derived from his awareness of his the environment. His awareness, assessment, action(s), and articulation are all a function of his Attributes, Training, and Experience (ATE).

Part II