Running a Hard Crew – Mr Brassy McKnuckles

Ok kiddies gather round and listen to the words of your elders and probably betters simply because we survived our own stupidity. So you want to run a crew of hard men and make a living in
the violence trades. Well kids this take work determination and rules to make it successful and if you listen to me I will try and make the path a little easier for you.

You have probably heard the old saying keep your friend close and your enemies closer well that is the damn truth. Do not build a large group of people that you don’t know. Stay small and stay tight, know each other and know who you can trust. Know their perks and their idiosyncrasies, learn who you can trust and who you cant. Remember Jesus only had twelve people in His crew and one of
them stabbed him in the back and sold him out to the Law.

Learn how to support your crew with only eighty percent of your pay. Now I know some of you that are reading this are now pissed that I would say such a thing and that shows just how stupid you are. Running a crew cost money and even if all the jobs are cash you are still going to need to pay your taxes and tithes. What are those you ask? Well it’s the money you spend on Lawyers, Bail bonds agent and the expense of a crew member going to the hospital or jail. Most people who get into the violence professions do not last long because they can not gather up the cash to pay a lawyer right
from the start. So they either sit in jail or go tits up because of the lack of preparation.

Ask around and find the absolute best criminal defense lawyer that you can afford, and put them on retainer, even if this means you do some work and you don’t have anything to show for it right at first. A good lawyer is worth their weight in gold if you get popped for something and are looking at pulling a 5 piece in jail. After you have paid him then talk to him, tell him what you are doing
for a living and instruct him that his job is to keep the majority of legal problems to a minimum.

Next find a bail bonds agent and develop a close personal relationship. Work out a prepaid bond agreement with them. Put the money up front with the agreement that they will post bond when and
where you need it and for any member of your crew. Have their and the lawyers numbers on speed dial plus have them memorized. This saves time in the long run and you will also love the since of security these two simple steps provide. These are just a few of the business cost that come with the territory and you will definitely need them. So now do you see why I am telling you to learn to live off of eighty percent instead of the one hundred percent you were planning too.

Now it is time to talk about work ethic. If you are going into business as a violence professional you had better damn well be professional. This means that you are there to do a job for money. Plain and simple. Not pussy, not drugs, not emotions or feelings, you work for MONEY! Too many guys get caught up in violence by proxy because some split tail wags her snatch under his nose and promises him that she will suck his dick so good that he will have to pull the bed sheet out his ass if he will do this one little favor for her. FUCK THAT! Pussy don’t pay the bills and damn sure don’t put money on your books if you are doing time. Or he gets caught up in drug abuse and cant think straight so he goes off and uses Stupid like Yoda uses the force then goes to the pen for ten. MONEY folks that’s why you’re in business. If you get paid to do a job then do that job to the best
of your ability, do not slack off because all you have to do is go and collect from a guy who owes a guy. Sloppy work equals sloppy results.

I have seen too many crews go down the drain in a short amount of time because of three things. Drugs, Pussy and Money. So do not let this happen to you. If you have a crew of 4 then all money gets split 4 ways even if not all of you are there. If two of you go on a smash and grab or a shoot and loot because the other two can’t make it for some reason, all four of you split the pay or the take. This stops hard feeling right from the start. Now I would never recommend that only
two of you go but shit happens and you need to be prepared for it. This is after you take the initial twenty percent out for taxes and tithes and put that in your war funds(lawyer fees, bail money ect.)

Here is another one of my pet peeves and it better damn sure become yours. Yes I am my brother’s keeper. Why because I need to make sure he isn’t fucking up in his personal life and bringing heat down into mine. If a guy is abusing drugs then it’s time to either get him some help or make him get out. He has become a liability. His actions will cause you nothing but headaches somewhere down the road. No I am not talking about recreational use or getting sped up for a job, but if he is an addict then he is a problem waiting to occur and get your ass thrown into jail. Same with pussy, if one of your guys keeps bringing drama mamas into your business then it’s time for him to choose whither it’s worth the ass beating that is coming from the rest of you for acting like a goddamn teenager. A solid woman behind you can make the world of difference but some old bar snatch that can’t keep her cock hole shut needs to be gone. Plus you need to make sure your lady is up to date on your business. Do not cheat on her, do not use or abuse her in any way she is the one that will have your back if you need it and be the one to come see your ass if you are doing time plus putting money on the books for you to make commissary. Also make sure she is able and willing to discipline another member’s lady if she is the one getting out of line and not keeping her mouth closed.

Now let us discuss professionalism. Pay your bills, don’t draw attention to yourself or your crew. Don’t waste a bunch of money being flashy and needlessly showing off. This is not a long time game and you will get tired of it sooner or later. Put money back to live off of if trouble arises and it will show up after a time. Pay back everyone you owe whether it is money or blood. If someone owes you money or burns you then make sure all debts are settled either way Green or Red it is all a commodity. When you go out don’t let your crew get out of line attention it is bad for business. If your crew can’t be seen to take care of themselves socially then it will reflect on them in business and that means a loss of revenue. Be polite to waitresses and bartenders, tip well this is a great source of intel that comes your way after your crew becomes known. Don’t get into bar fights with bouncers and damn sure don’t get into it with the police. If you get arrested shut your pie hole, be polite and wait to say a damn thing till your lawyer that you have employed shows up. You pay him to talk to the police because he speaks legalese. Most people get convicted because they just don’t know how to shut the fuck up.

Ok now you’re asking where do we go to make money. I always liked robbing dope dealers and pimps, mainly because the cash was there and they don’t go to the police. I also recommend that you talk to your lawyer and have him put the word out to his colleagues that he know someone that can handle business for a price. Also look at doing escort work for dope dealers and for you guys that are in places that marijuana is legal look at doing security work for the pot shops. Be creative there is a whole wide world of pussies out there that don’t have the balls to do what you can do, take advantage of them.

Optimist, Idealist, Pessimist, and The Fourth Kind – Ashtad Rutomji

Today I’m going to write a post based on my personal experience in life. No research material, no past cases of others, just my life, what I have lived through during my journey.

When I first started my training in Kyokushinkaikan Karate, I was this excited little 8 year old who was going to have this amazing experience, which I did, as time passed, the novelty wore off, as it does with everything and everyone, then I moved on to boxing and so on. The only thing that remained was my passion to train and learn more about different styles and systems and methods and principles, etc. then when I became a teen, my something else was added in my interest of learning, that was to know and understand the reality of violence, and I aggressively pursued that thirst for knowledge, I researched everything I could about that subject and I still do and find something new every time, well, sort of new anyway, I even had my own experiences with violence, but I don‘t talk about them much as they were far from something I want to brag about and in fact were quite traumatizing and brings up bad memories for me, I do use them as a learning example though.

That is what I lived through ‘on paper’ so to speak, whenever I’m asked of my history, that is what I tell everyone, but what I don’t ever mention are my struggles during the period of my training, my transition to what I do now and who I am today. I will share some of it here today for the first time, hoping it will help someone in someway. I’ll include only enough to get the point across, as I‘m not used to being very public with my personal life.

Here it goes, I started my training when I was 8 so most of my life has circled around my training, but that does not mean that the following can’t be applied in day-to-day life.

When I started training, I had this optimistic and idealistic concept of what Martial Arts training is and should be like, I was just a child living in a fantasy of wanting to be a “cool-ass” “superhero“. You see most people start out with that kind of thinking, regardless of age, not just with Martial Arts or fitness training, but with almost everything they do in life.

Now mind you, being optimistic is not a bad thing, but always being too much of an optimist, creates an idealistic mindset in which the individual always thinks that things will go a 100% according to their plans and nothing will ever go wrong, they feel like they’re untouchable and indestructible, everything is fine and nothing is or ever will be otherwise, an illusion which, when they face reality of things, comes crashing down on them. A thing that happened to me, when my bubble burst of what Martial Arts training and life beyond the comfortable world my mom created for me was supposed to be about. The lesson I learnt was so harsh that I almost quit my training…Almost, Lucky for me, more on than below.

After the harsh lesson that taught me that Martial Arts were not so you can become some super acrobatic badass who kills “bad guys”, no, they only exist in the movies, after my lesson, I was so in shock, I lost my optimist mindset and became a complete pessimist, a mindset, which I still sometimes lean towards, but not let it take me over.

Becoming a pessimist, I started viewing the world from a completely different perspective, I saw a world in which no good existed, only evil, only selfish people existed, everything was wrong and destructive, I found this world and society disgusting, including myself for being a part of it, I alienated most of my friends that I met during my travels and the ones I had in my hometown and messed some other things up quite bad too. Pessimism made me think that nothing good can ever happen to me and that there is no point to life, no point in living, it made me go numb, at one point I had no emotions at all. I was borderline suicidal, I wouldn’t socialize, I don‘t much now either, but this was way worse, I isolated myself from the world, I slowed down my training and my research, thinking it’s always the “same crap“, it almost stopped, without realizing that even from that “same crap“ I could learn something new, something I missed. I was borderline depressed.

But universe, being as generous as it is, gave me a second chance via a wake up call, it was subtle but was enough of a jolt for me to snap the hell out of it. My passion of what I do was reignited, that’s when it clicked, majority of my choices of my mindsets were based on being too extreme, I was always on either spectrum, being too much of an annoying optimist, which made me develop and idealistic thinking and then when the bubble burst, I jetted to the other side of the spectrum, landed on borderline depression and became a nightmarish pessimist. While all I had to do was practice what I always preach now, ie; being balanced. In this context, all I had to do was be a Realist. To see that there is no good or bad, but just what we make of things. Now the ‘good people’ and ‘bad people’ “debate” is something for another day and another article as it‘s a whole other topic, so I won’t go into much detail about it here.

The point that I’m trying to make here is, all I had to do was have a positive mindset, work hard, learn to love, love what I do and not let anything stand in my way to get what I want, at the same time not let my expectations get so high, that they’d always be out of my reach and if I do hit an obstacle, all I have to do is be strong and push through it.

As far as setting goals in my life goes, I learned that only when I reach the next level in my life, should I aim higher than I did for the last goal. Taking one baby step at a time to achieve what I want. I’m still on that journey, still setting realistic goals and doing my best to achieve them, then moving up a level when I do and I’ll continue to do so.

There will always be ups and downs in life, but it’s up to us to not let the downs get the best of us and let the ups take us as high as they can, then go higher than that and always keep moving forward in life by being smart with our decisions, hard work and persistence.

Set the goals you know you can achieve and then act on your plans.

Since the day I started being a realist and setting goals that I could achieve, I’ve gained more than I ever thought I could, I still have a long way to go no doubt, and even though there will be difficulties and obstacles, all I have to do is push through them or just be patient, take a little longer and get around them instead.

I know it’s easier said than done, and that’s where a realist mindset helps you. You anticipate the hardships and make plans that would get you through them, it helps you be prepared and not be brought down when you‘re faced with a problem that seems difficult and it probably is, but remember, it isn’t impossible to solve that problem either.

Finally, being a realist in life not only helps you solve problems, but it’s quite effective when it comes to ignoring the negativity that you don’t need or want in your life. It was a real helpful mindset for me to have when I had to overcome depression.

For example, if you have someone who is always insulting, discouraging and belittling you, having a realist mindset, you’d know that you can’t stop people from saying or doing things to you that you don’t want them to, I mean there are “ways” you can “stop” them, but some of those “ways” are considered quite illegal in the court of law, so…yeah! It’s better to just ignore and pity them instead.

The thing is, there will always be individuals like them and they will be virtually everywhere, they enjoy doing it or they simply hate you, and you can’t make someone like you, unless you brainwash and condition them to, from their birth, and even then, it might not work, so might as well just ignore them and surround yourself with those who do bring positivity in your life, not ‘yes men and women’ but those that genuinely do care and want you to be happy and successful in your life and would gladly share the joy of life itself with you. The rest, is up to you.

That’s it for this post. Be realistic, Be positive, Be happy, Thank you for reading and I wish you all success in achieving your goals.

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…?

The Ghosts of Christmas – Garry Smith

Scrooge, that wonderful character, skinflint, miser and sociopath, from ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens will no doubt have been on our screens in recent weeks. The book itself is excellent but I am an unashamed fan of Dickens. Scrooge was visited by three ghosts of Christmas past, present and future in order to teach him the error of his ways. The reason he has been on my mind, notwithstanding Christmas just passed is that the past, present and future have been much on my mind lately.

The past first. In December I received an email from a friend, Paul, offering me (and Bill Barrott) some books, he wanted them out of the way as he was clearing his mothers house after her death. We went round expecting a dozen or two books and were very surprised to be met by 24 boxes of books. Shocked more than surprised really. We are still cataloguing them to be fair when we can get together and it has been a really exciting experience. Paul wanted us to have them as he knew we would value them and he was right.

It is quite a collection and covers most of the martial arts spectrum and some great self defence books too. There is too much to look at, it is a library of the fighting arts, there are books there that I have failed to but on eBay, classic texts, some worth hundreds of pounds and multiple copies of some. However the value in monetary terms is secondary for me, holding in my hands some of these books is pleasure itself, one such text ‘Jiu Jitsu; A Manual of the Science’ by Captain Leopold McLaglan, (Undefeated Jiu Jitsu Champion of the world) is an absolute classic, and I would say is written around 1914. Pictures of Tommies fighting the nasty Hun or damn fine policemen dealing with roughs abound. I just love it.

There is also a 1931 edition of ‘Scientific Self Defence’ by W.E. Fairbairn, then Superintendent of the Shanghai Municipal Police, another absolute gem, better still as inside the front cover it is annotated with a list of regiments from 1939 to 1945 which we think this person trained and the towns and countries visited during this period, this book has travelled and been well used. This is not just a book it is a piece of social history,

I could go on and on about what we have inherited, 12 copies of the ‘Complete Kano Jiu Jitsu’!!! 18 copies of ‘The art of Ju Jitsu’ by Professor Yukio Tani!!! The thing is it is treasure, and we are its keepers now. These antiquated volumes with there incredible photographs are a resource that has value beyond money. For me they represent the history of what I do and even they do not reach back that far. The above mentioned Captain Leopold McLaglen talks of authentic sources quoting Ju Jitsu to have been in existence two centuries before the existence of Christ, well that is some time ago but these books are tangible, you can see, feel smell them. They are historical documents, they are the past.

The present is fleeting, ever changing, we are constantly running to keep up with an ever changing world. Some things stay largely the same though, I am thinking of my training, our training, it is a social activity after all. Immediately after writing this article the music goes on and the weights come out, that is me investing in me time. Later I will be training a class in self defence and combat fitness and tomorrow 2 classes of Ju Jitsu, I teach and train a lot. The link between past and present is unbroken. Recently I have been filming and photographing our syllabus, this is to provide a training aid for all my students. Jayne pulled one book out from the collection and showed how good the photographs were as illustrations of techniques we teach today, we will imitate this.

It seems like nothing is new, we are quite literally the current custodians of our arts. Ours is the responsibility to keep the tradition alive. Evolution means that things can and do morph, they change subtly over time but the central tenets remain the same, it is our responsibility to pass them on.

This is where the future comes in. My youngest daughter Frances is a first dan in Ju Jitsu, she has not trained for some time but her son is now at the start of his journey in Ju Jitsu. At our Ju Jitsu Christmas party here at Smith Towers, he could barely contain himself when he opened his present and found a pair of sparring/bag gloves, granddad had to go get the focus pads out and he certainly gave them a pounding. Jaynes son and Bills son and daughter are all training now for their black belts. They are the future and the present and future are inextricably linked every time we train with our juniors. Training anyone is a privilege training our young is an awesome one.

Indeed the past, present and future are inextricably linked in so many ways. Looking forwards and backwards helps us make sense of where we are now and who we are now. Identity is central to our sense of self, for many of us what we do, our job, our hobby whatever, helps us to form the sense of self we call identity. For myself, I had no idea when I walked into our dojo, where we still train, that I was taking such a major step, one that was literally life changing.

It seems I stepped into a form of time travel, not just for me either, it was like throwing a stone in a pond, once thrown you cannot stop the ripples moving outwards or the stone sinking to the bottom of the pond. So life goes on into another year, my grandchildren grow and the eldest trains with me now as did his mum, life is complete, but it is not. It is too early for that to be possible. As the past stretches back behind us the future stretches out in front. There are paths not yet discovered that we may or may not choose to walk down, I took the crazy decision to learn to ride a motorbike last year and passed my test and bought a bike, a Suzuki Bandit Streetfighter 1250cc no less, some bike!

So what lies ahead will be interesting to find out, as my Academy and CRGI grow my/our universe expands, new vistas appear daily, its a roller coaster life. I will take my 4th dan grading and Jayne her 3rd dan, hopefully our examiners will think us worthy of passing and your editors will make progress, many of our students will grade too, they will learn the ancient art and some of them will go on to train others, Jaynes son will become an instructor in the near future I am sure, he certainly has the potential.

Yes there are occasional uncertainties, problems along the way, sometimes huge obstacles appear but history teaches us one thing, there is no going back only looking, we need to keep going forward. When I teach fighting skills I maintain putting down effective suppressing fire and continuous forward movement, it is how I am, I know other tactics work better in certain situations but I suppose I am a take their ground and hold it kind of guy. So I leave you with a Happy New Year and a suggestion, take a look behind you, then take a look in front, what you see will help you make sense of where you are now. Do not end up like old Scrooge tormented in his bed, you choose what you do, no one else, the past, present and future are one not three.

Can We Tax or Legislate Away Intent? – Tim Boehlert

I found this quote on Tony Blauer’s FaceBook wall this morning, that ties in directly with some thoughts that I’d had yesterday after addressing another quote that I also found on FaceBook and that I was compelled to respond to.:
“I don’t believe in Violence
I don’t Worship Violence
I just Practice it
Because I know others Live through Destruction
And I want to be Prepared When Our Paths Cross.
People will vilify us, we know who we are though,
and why we do what we do!”

With all of the nonsense that surrounds each active-shooter event, I feel I have to keep putting counter responses out there to defend my position and my thoughts on the subject – to try and push education on people that aren’t ‘getting it.’ I’m often correcting lies, countering anti-gun rhetoric, defending my views on violence, and explaining the realities from a more informed position.

Our world has changed. Very specifically here in America it has started to go off the rails. There are many signs to that end, and it is all driven by agendas, hidden or otherwise. In my opinion, the media has been the primary perpetrator in that it continues to push its political agendas about guns, gun laws and gun ownership. But, it’s now also pushing its anti-police agenda, hard and often. The events, although related through a common element – guns, have raised the level of fear, and in doing so, have also allowed and even encouraged stupidity and outright deceit.

The media is shaping a whole generation to push their agenda that will set us up for failure, and relieve us of our rights, the right to own and bear arms. Not everyone is buying into this, but the fight is on. The propaganda war is getting heated, and they seem to have more money and thus influence on their side.

This week the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, was vilified as a terrorist on the front page of a major newspaper – alongside the images of several of the recent terrorists that were involved with mass-murders committed on U.S. soil. How has the media gone from responsible, professional reporting to pushing lies and deceit over the last 50 years?

This type of ‘reporting’ influences it’s readership, and is really nothing more than propaganda to push an agenda – outlaw guns and gun ownership. By using tragic events (read: highly emotionally charged) the media have over the last few years started a downward trend that seeks to strip Americans of their rights to bear firearms. Additionally they have gone after our law enforcement personnel – our Police agencies.

After a bank-robbery in Los Angeles, where the perpetrators wore full-body armor, and had prepared themselves with a lot of ammunition, automatic and semi-automatic weapons including long-guns, law enforcement assessed and evaluated the outcome and determined that they were outgunned, plain and simple. Two men were able to take on the Los Angeles Police Department and surrounding agencies and walk out of the bank and proceed to attempt to escape – even after thousands of rounds were expended to prevent them from doing so. Yes, they were outgunned, even though they had far superior numbers.

Since that time police agencies have geared up, trained up and prepared for events like that. Now with terrorism on our minds, the people have determined that maybe the police shouldn’t have access to militarized vehicles that the government kindly provided to them. Maybe ‘we’ should limit how much ammunition can be purchased, or the capacities of ammo magazines, and take back those vehicles that would protect our police – ‘we’ don’t want our police militarized!

I get some of that, but a lot of it makes my head spin. Understand that I am a lawful registered gun owner, but I don’t consider myself a gun nut at all. In fact, I seriously considered selling my firearm this year – after lawfully owning firearms for over 25 years! Recent events have convinced me otherwise. I am not overly pro-active, and don’t actively carry even though it’s within my right to do so when I’m off-duty. It makes me uncomfortable doing so – I have been swayed by public perception and opinion!

I allowed myself to be tempered by the opinions of others years ago when I was actively carrying. When some ‘friends’ found out, they’d go out of their way to draw attention to my weapon, or to the fact that I was armed. Not cool. Not cool at all. Instead of pushing back, I retired my sidearm to a closet. “Are you carrying?” “Got your gun on you tonight? in public, and in front of others to boot!

Well, times have changed, and the recent event in San Bernardino, California has gotten me to thinking once again. And I’m not alone. This week, the Sheriff of Ulster County, NY posted a ‘call to arms’ – he actually came out and asked gun owners to consider carrying their weapons in public. His rationale? If even one lawfully armed person is able to respond to an active-shooter before police can arrive, please do so.

Of course that raises a lot of red flags with the public! Suffice it to say that the floor is open, and the discussion is in full-swing! Others have followed suit.

I can see his point, and I can see the counter-points as well – it’s NOT easily solved.

I am not here to promote guns. I am here to promote smarter thinking though. Think about this for just a few minutes: would you allow a loved one to put themselves in harms way with no hope of survival? Well, you DO that every day. Someone you know, either directly or through your web of relationships will be THAT person: today, tomorrow if not next week, and very likely sometime this year. And you allow it to happen. Can you live with that? You have the ability to have your voice heard, the necessity to educate yourself further than what the media is providing you, and to change the outcome for many.

As the parent of a law enforcement officer, it’s hard to watch and not react. As one who is also responsible for the public-at-large, it’s mind-numbing how little security we can actually provide other than great customer service! We have almost no training, no real plan, and no pro-active stance. We are strictly in a reactive mode. That spells disaster If you ask me.

Why you may ask? There are many viewpoints. Consider this: guns make people uncomfortable, especially if it’s not in the holster of someone in uniform, but even then it makes you uncomfortable. Now consider this: how do you expect any of us to stop an armed assailant or multiple armed assailants without using equal or greater force?

Being responsible for the lives of thousands of people daily is becoming harder to do, and continuing to do the job is even harder to justify. My intent is to do whatever I am able to fulfill my commitment, but without the training, tools, and proper management structure and subsequent game-plans, you’re asking the impossible.

Let me share an incident in which I was placed just a few years ago. On our campus we had a possible active-shooter event. Someone had reported seeing a man outside one of our buildings, armed with what looked like a shotgun. Police were notified and responded. At least one officer was out on the grounds actively searching for the suspect – with his M5. The M5 is a tactical long-gun that our local PD was allocated for just-such events.

The campus was alerted via internal communications, we went into a very loose lockdown stance, and put a few of our officers out in harms way to actively search for this shooter. These men were not armed, nor trained to respond in this scenario, yet they did. I was asked to man a post in the area most likely for the shooter to target. I was ordered to sit in a lobby, near the front-door (mag locked), an all glass enclosure and instructed to watch four monitors that monitored the perimeter doors. Huh? Yeah, that was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard. ‘You want me to sit in front of a glass wall, and let you know when he’s AT the door?’ ‘How long do you think I will last?’ This was not a good idea by a very long stretch!

Of course, I did as I was told – that was the only thing I could do, morally.

So having been through that type of situation once, I can imagine more possible outcomes, and have had time to think about the whole event. I haven’t been able to better prepare, but maybe only mentally.

We can all imagine being a hero, but it’s not that at all. To me it’s about shutting down the violence, because that’s my vocation. It’s my duty. It’s the morally right thing to do. And I’m not alone. We do what we do for you, for your families, your friends, your neighbors.

If we’re willing to save your life, shouldn’t you at least allow us the tools necessary to do that? The training? And with a lot more understanding from you?

Yesterday, [12/03/2015], someone posted this quote on social media:

“We stopped cigarette advertising to prevent smoking, raised the cost of a pack
and taxed them to the sky perhaps the same can be done for guns… “

My two cents: Taxing or changing pricing will do nothing – if they’re desperate and resourceful enough, they will find a way, like smokers did and do, to use your analogy. Laws change nothing as well, in my opinion – only those willing to abide by them will adhere to them. My recollection of post-9/11 events: box cutters weren’t legislated out of existence. My proof is that I confiscate many each week from those individuals that try to bring them into our facility.

It’s the INTENT and not the possession that is more of interest to me. Disarming US makes THEM more likely to use any means possible to do evil. I stand unarmed everyday to at least promote a vision of preparedness so that the public will feel a little more safe and at ease in a place that they SHOULD feel safe. Everyday I wonder – will it happen today? What will I do – with no training, no real support, no plan, and of course no ability to fight back that makes others feel comfortable. Guns makes people uncomfortable, but I see more knives everyday as a ‘norm’ – it’s part of our culture, and only recently has this become a social issue that raises alarm. The issue is too big for a few short ideas in a too-short forum such as this. u

Suffice it to say that I have to disagree based on my experience and knowledge. If we disarm ourselves, we surrender – which is what their goal has been since day one. Legislation will NOT change that. Propaganda – advertising or pre-legislation media blitzes are one and the same – selling an ideology for ‘our’ side. We’ve lost our morals, raised a generation of self-indulged children, and given EVERYONE the right to claim ‘I’m SPECIAL!” – without earning that and forget ever questioning that – that would be politically incorrect!

I see bad behavior every – single – day. Entitlement ‘to do whatever I want, because….’ we need to change THAT. No laws will change someone unwilling to adhere to them, to respect them. It’s only their desire to do harm that gives them power over us while the rest of us line up like sheep… and strip away our rights and abilities to fight back, to defend, to live freely.

That’s how I responded to this particular post.

“I don’t believe in Violence
I don’t Worship Violence
I just Practice it
Because I know others Live through Destruction
And I want to be Prepared When Our Paths Cross.
People will vilify us, we know who we are though, and why we do what we do!”

I do believe in violence – in the sense that it’s a real, and apparently a sustainable thing. I believe in it because I have taught myself to practice it, and to advance my understanding of it, to examine it as if it were a tangible object. Why you may ask? To me it is. It is like any other thing that we wish to study and understand. It’s always present. It’s always around us, and it always happens – every minute of the day. We don’t see or hear about all of it, nor even a great percentage of it, but it’s there, and it did happen.

When it does happen, and if it happens when and where I can affect an outcome, that is my job. That is my profession. Yes, it is a profession. And I do consider myself a professional whose specialty is violence. I am not alone.

I don’t worship violence. I don’t like it, and it makes me very uncomfortable thinking about it, let alone participating in it – willingly no less!

I do practice it.

I do consider myself a professional. It’s about acknowledging violence, and then addressing it. To address it means to study it, to then deploy it as a tool to overcome it, and then to learn from each and every use of force.

I reassess after each use of force, constantly questioning many aspects of what had occurred. Why? Did I respond professionally? Did I let emotion dictate the response? Was the response justifiable? Will I be able to defend my response? Do you see where I’m going with this?

In a nutshell, I am always more afraid of judgment and punishment for doing my job, than doing my job. I’m always more afraid of what others think than what I think. This world has changed us to the point that ‘politically-correctness’ has turned into the auto-correct for the millenniums. We attempt to fix things using man-made algorithms – i.e., if a gun was involved, it’s the GUN that is at fault, not the shooter. Does this make sense?

So, in my quest to be better at what I do, to understand more fully, and to explore alternatives, I have consumed untold dollars and hours trying to get my head around something as simple (complex?) as violence.

So what to do?

I’ve found myself a pool of like-minded people that GET what I’m trying to do, PRACTICE some of what I do, and EDUCATE others that do what we do – only better. And to do that, I had to embrace violence.

What have I found along the way? A whole lot of misunderstanding, untruths, vitriol and sadly separation from family and friends. No one wants to hear about what you do. Everyone seems to live in a fantasy world about the violence that occurs all around them daily as it if doesn’t exist if they pretend not to look, hear, see, smell it.

As an example, every day – without exception – someone will walk by my post and say ‘You’ve got a cushy job! Must be nice!’ You can’t make them understand what you actually do when ‘you’re sitting around’, that would only make them more uncomfortable. If you tell them that you’re actually the ‘spotter’ today, the guy who’s job it is to look for weapons, they’d pale. Weapons? Here? Really? ‘Yeah, I take knives away every shift, and only the one’s I can see.’

“…Because I know others Live through Destruction
And I want to be Prepared When Our Paths Cross.
People will vilify us, we know who we are though, and why we do what we do!”

I want to be prepared. I want to be there when I’m needed. I don’t want recognition, but I do expect understanding on a higher level than what we are currently subjected to by too many. We are vilified – because we do ‘stand on those walls so that you can sleep at night.’ We do know who we are, and why we do what we do. It’s for you – the complacent, and perhaps unthankful masses that judge us everyday because you don’t understand us, you haven’t done our job, and you don’t understand violence like we do.

We do what we do for you.

Violence occurs for many reasons. It’s been said that it is a form of communication – think about that. When you toss in emotion, it’s like napalm on and seeks to snuff out the logical arguments. It makes a communication a spectacular event! Now add beliefs. Belief is another incendiary component to communication. Combined with emotion you get a longer burn – before, during and after the fact. Maybe a hotter flame, but definitely a longer burn. Because, even after the event has passed, your brain is cranking out thoughts based on your beliefs.

What we are witnessing today, are poets. Disbursing emotion and belief as truths. Nothing could be further from it. You can’t tax or legislate away emotion or belief either.

To stop violence and violent acts, we need to be better at it than they.

See the media-circus for what it is – entertainment. Entertainment relies on two principle ingredients: emotion and belief. Enhance the first one and suspend the other one. We see it every newscast that comes out surrounding an event. You see and hear very little truth based on so few actual facts initially, and the race is on to get the story – at any cost, and screw the actual facts.

As I’m writing this CNN is showing reporters roaming freely around what should be a crime-scene. That’s how bad it’s gotten – the authorities are so afraid of being accused of a cover-up that they’re willing to compromise a crime scene of a mass-murder investigation ONE DAY after the event!

Sparring for self defense training – Lex Biljsma

There is a lot of debate about sparring for self defense purposes.
I’ve noticed people bashing people who don’t spar because sparring is supposed to be the only way to train for real fights because it’s the closest thing. Other people claim they can’t spar because their system is too deadly, and sparring is not a real fight anyway.

I would like to give you my definition of sparring , why and how I use it in my classes.

What is it ?
Of course you already know this, but just to understand what I am talking about in this article I’ll explain a bit. I am talking about any life drill with one or more opponents where you train with people putting up active resistance. It can be boxing, it can be wrestling, but it can be very specific on certain techniques or training objectives. Training objectives can be technical/physical, tactical and mental. It can be with or without weapons etc.

It can get pretty close to reality, but it can also be totally different. The idea of walking up to each other, touching gloves , taking a step back, and starting to trade punches is not my perspective of a real fight. I still like it a lot because of the many helpful skills we do train.
How do I use it?
I love it as a tool for evaluation. I can see how my students perform under pressure.

Do they still have proper footwork?
Do they protect them self by having their guard up?,
Do they move correctly?
Are their aware of their surroundings?
How do they react to an opponent that puts forward pressure on them?

You can add your own, the list is not exhausted.

It gives me a lot of things to work the next x number of weeks.
In these cases I usually give my students a lot of freedom. It starts with touching gloves and is usually 1 on 1 for a number of minutes each round. The fight may or may not end up on the ground. Your opponent may or may not have a weapon hidden in his or her waistband.

It gives me things to work on but is great for students to learn about timing, moving, accuracy, strategy, trying the combinations we did in class etc.
I like to train on specific techniques/ strategies or other objectives

It gets more into the direction of self defense training when we add specific assignments or attacks. One example can be take-downs and defending them. If you want your students not to end up on the ground in a street fight you should give them the tools and opportunity to train those tools.

If you do need to take a fight to the ground it should be on your terms, and you should end up in a dominant position. This is especially for people in security and law enforcement who cannot all the time just hurt their opponent and run away. In my classes the main focus is being able to defend them though. A good reason to teach and train actual good take downs is to provide good training partners.

Some people seem to be very eager to take people down without good reason. This is where concealing training knifes come in handy. If you take the wrong person down you will be facing a knife while wrestling and usually you’ll end up full of holes like a Leerdammer (Dutch cheese).

Another thing I like to do in this situation is adding multiple opponents. Just give the assignment in class that you see a fight on the ground next to you you will “attack” the guy on top. I do not always do this because I also want them to be able to save themselves on the ground rather than stalling the fight until their classmates save them.

Mental objectives
A drill I like very much is where 1 person has to do a take-down but is not allowed to punch or kick. He is allowed to defend him self though. The other guy can move around, punch and kick to keep the guy away from him. Besides a little tactical training for the striker it’s most of all a determination drill for the take-down guy. He will have to get in close despite the attacks. There is no option to jab and step out of range again. He’ll have to get in close again and again.

Sometimes I tie each end of a judo belt up to one of the opponents so they could not step away from each other and had to continue to fight at close range. It’s not supposed to be with a hard impact but to overcome the anxiety of getting close.

With more beginner students we may want to simplify sparring more to work on some other problems that you will see.

People who flinch and panic a lot, people freezing, turning away from the opponent, people bending over too much looking at the ground etc. Obviously hard and realistic sparring is still a bridge too far. In these cases their opponent should have a more coaching job and slow the pace down. Also limiting the amount of techniques will help a lot. If you give them only straight punches to work with and specific defenses from your system , they will improve their thinking process and reaction speed. It will also build confidence better than to just keep hitting them.

I think even beginners should start training what they know under more pressure, but never more than they can handle. Sparring should always be physical and emotionally safe. Even with more advanced students you will see the reluctance to really get inside the distance to make combinations. So sometimes I create exercises where only the rear hand can be used so they have to turn their body in. In this way you can make countless varieties such as specific kicks, combinations, only hooks and uppercuts etc.

Specific attacks
There are specific attacks that happen (a lot) in street fights but not so much in an competition like setting. Think about grabbing a throat with one or two hands to choke, certain bear hugs, knife attacks, stick attacks etc.

One drill I like to use is setting the timer on 15 or 30 second rounds. Each round one guy starts with closing the eyes. The attacker does an attack and the defender defends. The attacker however does not let him defend ,and either tries harder or switches to other methods of attack, resulting in a short intensive sparring round. With knives you can of course let them keep the eyes open, or the attacker will attack the body and the defender will have to feel and then see what is going on and defend the second stab properly, this is pretty intense. It is also a way for me to create more realism and need for specific self defense techniques in the sparring rather then making it look like a boxing or MMA type of match.

Adding multiple opponents is a great tool for tactical training. You can vary the level by varying the intensity and variety of the attacks and number of opponents. This could vary from two opponents doing only straight punches to fully equipped and full contact sparring including weapons and take-downs.


The most important thing is that you set certain realistic training objectives depending of the level of the student. The drills are not supposed to break people down. They should build certain skills that will help them survive in the real world. A side effect is that a lot of people find them challenging and fun. You can vary a lot in drills to keep the classes interesting as well. The point of this article is to express my love for these type of drills and give you ideas.


“The only fights you truly win are the ones you don’t have.”-Lee Childs.

Keeping the above quote in mind, along with the fact that crime is a product of opportunity, we go a long way towards being “masters of self-defense” if we simply remove as many opportunities as possible from our behavior.

With that said, let me point to a bit of advice from former CIA operative Jason Hanson, who says that the number one tip he can offer to making anyone and everyone a bit more like Jason Bourne in the modern world, is simply this “always be aware of your surroundings.”

Easier said than done, right? Well, he goes a bit further by offering what he considers the number one concrete tactic to becoming aware of your surroundings-don’t use a smartphone. That’s it.

He says spy craft prohibits the use of smartphones not simply because of the tracking potential but because it encourages absorption, a retreat from where you are to some-place else that is not here.

He points to the numerous instances of car crashes related to smartphone use, but says that observation does not go far enough. He has catalogued an impressive battery of incidences where victims were chosen simply because they were the unaware animals at the watering hole with their heads down blind to their surroundings.

Least anyone think that the use of the word blind goes too far, he backs up this contention with copious examples of security camera footage of people simply blindsided in all sorts of public surroundings simply because their eyes were glued to the screen.

Two astonishing examples come to mind-the first a bar is robbed at gunpoint, the predator actually stands next to our smartphone user during the robbery. The smartphone user moves down a seat as if in courtesy giving the man next to him room. He never looks up from the screen. When the police arrive after the robbery, the smartphone user has nothing to offer in assistance, he had no idea the robbery even took place.

The second example sent to me some time back, a man boards a bus in San Francisco the camera shows EVERY other passenger with their faces glued to screens. The newest rider pulls a gun and brandishes it, no one notices it. The predator looks confused, puts the gun away, seems to think for a moment and then pulls it again, this time he uses it-the precious window of reaction to avert a tragedy has been lost.

If (if) we think “Well, I’m not that way, I’m perfectly aware of my surroundings even while I use this marvel of technology” your self-judgment goes against all the science of the brain’s executive function. We simply do not multi-task well. In a recent study of “time loss perception” smartphone users were monitored while they periodically checked their phones in a casual dining experience. They are being timed by observers on the scene unbeknownst to them.

When approached and asked how long they thought their interaction with the phone had lasted, they unanimously underestimated the phone interaction by 80%. That is, they (we) have no idea how long our attention is actually lost, how long we are blind.

Side-Rant from Mark: I’ve got a biased dog in this fight. I abhor texting and phone use in my presence. I think it’s rude, it says to the others present “Yeah, you’re here but this person that didn’t take the time to actually come out and meet with me is going to get my priority. You’re my analog booty-call.”

This behavior is displayed even by folks whom I personally like, it’s simply a cultural shift I don’t get-I admit that. It would not fly a decade ago. It would be akin to me stopping in mid-conversation, pulling out a worn paperback copy of Moby Dick and knocking off a page or two and then getting back to my fellow human. I think even inveterate texters would find that a bit odd, if not rude.

But I assure you today’s lesson is not “Mark shakes his finger at these kid’s today” it’s about being situationally aware.

Back to the topic at hand…

Blind to our dinner companions is one thing, blind to predators with a gun is another.

Since even highly trained spy personnel are told to drop the smartphone, do you think we the lesser-trained citizens of the world will be any less resistant to its temptations?

I offer a drill, for those brave enough to survive electronically-teatless for a day, dock the phone and be awake in the day. Be aware.

Shoot for a week, particularly if you found the exercise uncomfortable.
I will say, it is an oddity of the power of these devices that often when I offer some clients drills such as complete 500 burpees in the course of a single day or some other such physically taxing challenge, more often than not people step-up. They do it.
When this “wean yourself from the electronic teat drill” is offered the failure rate is far, far higher.

In short, we can’t have it both ways, we can’t be prepared operators in the world who claim to give value to awareness and self-protection and at the same time be checking every ping and chime that sounds in that electronic leash. Aware animals, operational professionals don’t text, and don’t surf the web outside of the home. It’s either no-phone or a flip-top phone that is, well, a phone.
So, ask yourself, are you aware? If you’re reading this on your phone and you are not at home, Mr. Hanson and I both would say you most definitely are not.

Self Defense Pays Off – Andrea Harkins

I went to the gym the other night and when I was working out on the weights a man approached me and asked if I was a martial artist. He had noticed me wearing my gi and black belt earlier in the evening. After we spoke for a few moments he said he wanted to share a story with me about how important learning self-defense really is and how it paid off, for him.

He travels frequently for business, often out of the country. On one particular trip, however, he was in the States, in Atlanta, Georgia. After a day of work he was walking toward his parked car with a briefcase in his hand. Without warning, someone jumped him from behind. A couple of months earlier, he would not have known what to do. Since he travels so frequently, he decided a few months earlier to take an intensive self-defense course. I believe he said the course took a few weeks, with varying lessons. He knew that someday his luck would run out with the frequency of his travels to unknown places.

When attacked from behind, his self-defense instincts took over. He remembered how to throw someone over his shoulder who was grabbing from behind, and with one quick movement he successfully threw the culprit over his shoulder to the ground. The unfortunate thing is that this attacker would not easily give up. Even though he clearly hit the ground with force, he got back up and started running toward this victim. Again, self-defense instruction took over and he barely had to move, other than to stick his elbow straight out and strike the attacker thoroughly in the chin with the point of his elbow. He heard a cracking sound and was sure he broke this guy’s bone, but again, the attacker did not give up.

As my gym-mate ran and got into his car, the attacker actually jumped on his car window, as if thinking he were Spiderman, and tried to cling on. When the car abruptly started and took off, the assailant fell to the ground. Not knowing if the perpetrator was dead or alive for a moment, my friend sped off, but finally saw in his rearview mirror the man get up on his feet again. He said that if not for the self-defense training, he would have never known what to do.

I know that often we think of this type of training for women, but the truth is that these few techniques probably saved his life. The attacker had no boundary for pain, was probably on drugs, and didn’t care about the outcome. This is the most dangerous of situations. Then, he explained that his self-awareness defenses kicked in dramatically after that.

When in Paris and entering a train through a turnstile, he was again attacked from behind and pushed through the turnstile without warning. He turned and proceeded to fight back with all his might. When he was on top of the attacker ready to throw a final punch, a group of people stopped him. They explained that often people who do not have money for the fare will push foreigners or visitors through the turnstiles simply to get a free ride on the train.

Since then, whenever in Paris, he actually watches for such people and allows them through the turnstile with him. Still, there was no way he could have known this when the event first happened and because of self-defense training he knew he was not ever willing to compromise his life through an attack.

These stories are interesting because for those of us, like me, who have never been attacked, it is a good reminder that it can happen at any time and when you least expect it. A person with no martial arts training or no self-defense training is going to languish in these types of impacts.

As martial artists and instructors, we should feel compelled to at least emphasize the importance of this type of training to everyone. What would they do, today, if grabbed from behind without warning? Clearly both men and women need this type of training. For women, the problem with training seems to be two-fold. The most evident issue is that they are normally smaller than men and so they need this training just to be able to contend with a larger sized attacker.

The other, almost more important issue, is that women do not attend self-defense classes and the root of this problem really should be examined. Is it fear of what will happen in the class? Is it worry that they will look foolish? Is it concern that they have never tried it before and don’t know what to expect? I think some of these reasons are possibilities.

In order to get them to attend, instructors need to think outside the box. Free classes don’t seem to pull women in any better than those with fees. Classes with female instructors sometimes get more attendance than with male instructors, but not always. What is the key? I’m still trying to figure it out myself, but I know one thing. Traditional marketing does not seem to get a big enough response. Can we bring self-defense to the schools, the workplace, or the universities? Can we somehow showcase self-defense in a more modern approach, or make it more prevalent in the media?

All I know is that if we want more people to learn how to defend, just like my friend at the gym, then we still have a lot of work to do. One step of importance is learning to teach in a way that shares, motivates, and even slightly entertains students in order to pique interest or keep them engaged. There are a slew of options we can examine on how to successfully get both men and women to learn self-defense. One thing is for sure, though. Whether classes charge a fee, or are free of charge, Self-defense pays off.