De-escalation – Dillon Beyer

One of the core issues in conflict resolution and de-escalation is that you have to de-escalate yourself first. Unless you can bring your rational functions on line, any skill you have developed in de-escalating others will be useless. The skill of de-escalating yourself, like any skill, requires practice. The problem we encounter here is that this sort of practice is best done in the environment that requires the skill you are practicing; it’s akin to trying to learn the material during the test.

Given the potential consequences for failure, this can make finding places to develop skill at de-escalating yourself a dicey prospect at best. This is particularly problematic if you’re seeking out these opportunities intentionally; it turns out that employers, co-workers and employees, friends and family, aren’t always excited to be pulled into social and emotional conflict purely so that you could “get some reps in.” Unless, of course, you have a very particular group of friends, which is a different matter entirely.

Fortunately for us, we live in a world with a nearly perfect environment in which we can routinely practice, relatively free of consequence- the internet. Here is a game I like to play to practice personal de-escalation without much, if any, real risk. Feel free to play along.

Next time you’re in an impassioned debate online, when there’s someone who’s COMPLETELY wrong on the other side of the debate, and you’ve got a good boil going, walk away.

It has to be a debate you’re invested in, on a topic that you really care about. If you don’t have any skin in the game, it’s easy to leave, and you won’t get anything out of it. Make sure it’s a discussion you *really* want to win. The reward will be directly proportional to the ante.

Don’t tell them you’re leaving. Don’t make any parting comment, or any attempt to save face or get in the last word. Just go radio dark.

Don’t go back and look at how the discussion is going without you. See if you can avoid “checking in” altogether.  Make a clean break.

This is the fun part of the game: notice how it makes you feel. Notice your impulses, justifications, and how you rationalize them.

Is there a narrative you create to address any feelings about this you might have? What parts of your brain light up, and how do you deal with that? If you find yourself coming up with strategies to make it easier, can you play without them? Can you just watch the process happen internally without needing to address it?

If played honestly, I think this can help those of us who tell ourselves that we would never get caught up in this sort of nonsense, that we’re not subject to the same impulses as everyone else (those of us who are special snowflakes). If you play with a topic you actually care about, it’s a safe environment to watch your own processes run.

This seems particularly useful if you’re the sort of person who avoids escalation and monkey-dance games primarily by not caring about the people or topics involved. For those of us who are inclined in that direction, the monkey gets triggered infrequently, but that means we may actually have less practice addressing it when it does. If you’ve convinced yourself you’re not subject to a particular weakness, you’ll have a much harder time building the skillset necessary to navigate those waters if (or more likely, when) you find yourself in them.

I Train Therefore I Am – Garry Smith

Since I crashed my motorcycle a month ago I have had a very sore right foot, just the foot below the ankle, it was very swollen and is still a little larger than normal. In the past week I have sprained my left thumb ground fighting and had a nosebleed whilst sparring last Thursday. Luckily the nose held out whilst sparring on Saturday but I did ache a bit afterwards.

It is all minor stuff luckily and we all know pain is only weakness leaving the body……

I guess I still have quite a bit of weakness to get rid of. The thing is I still get a nice feeling when I pop in the gumshield and put on the gloves, It still feels good to stand toe to toe, tap gloves and get the signal to fight, it still feels right to move in and trade, to brawl it out, I am no show-boater. I may puff and pant afterwards but the desire to keep going in is strong.

Nobody is trying to kill one another and it is training with all its safeguards, but you still have to step up to the mark, people are trying to hit you in the face and anywhere else they can. There is no compulsion, we all do this for fun and what we call light is anything but, it is just not full on. If it goes to the ground so be it, the punching continues, no tap outs here. The open mat is good but confined spaces work too, this coming Saturday we will be fighting in the toilet cubicle and in a narrow corridor, there will be a broad range of different experiences, sizes, ages and gender differences.  

It all goes into the mixer, the job of the experienced is to help those with less experience. Training is training, it is not real. Real combat is nasty stuff if you do not end it quickly. It can be costly in so many ways, firstly in damage to your body and mind, as I know to my cost, then comes the aftermath. So bits get hurt now and then and a 57 year old body takes longer to heal than a 27 year old one, sad but true, so why keep doing it? The answer is oh so simple, because I can and it keeps me happy.

Training is part of my life, staying healthy and fit, trust me that is not in an obsessive way, are important to me. Remaining strong as the defender of my family is my main purpose in life, I think. I have a duty as a husband, father and grandfather to protect my clan. Criticise that all you like, and yes I have become the patriarch of the family, it is how it is. It works for us.

We will all have our own individual motivations to train in whatever it is we train in. We will all have our own sense of why we do it, what it means to us. I do not really know what my family, the people I love most, think of what I do bearing in mind teaching Ju Jitsu and Self Defence are both my hobby and my business, I never ask them. I know they think I am slightly mad by riding a motorcycle, (the brand new one should be underneath me as this issue of CM goes out). It is just how I am I suppose, slightly unorthodox.

Recently my youngest daughter stepped back onto the mat to help me teach the Ju Jitsu class my almost 6 year old grandson, her son, now attends. We have 3 generations on the mat now and it is a wonderful feeling that they share my passion. My wife watches as she looks after my daughters 8 month old son it is a bit of a family affair on a Wednesday night.

I will freely admit that when I was 27 I saw people of 57 as old, and they were, because they were socially conditioned to be so. Nowadays 57 is the new 27, in fact it is even better because of the experience we have gained along he way. Yes the body is not the same, wear and tear is an obvious factor, but the mind is less constrained.  I do not measure myself or my performance against a fit 27 year old, that would be unrealistic, but I look to my peers, the people I grew up with and that is where the reference is relevant. Sadly a few are so affected by alcohol and drugs  I wonder how they keep going when their only purpose in life appears to be to consume greater amounts of alcohol and drugs and as my wife periodically reminds me, that could so easily be me had I not met her. Others look and behave like prematurely old men, there is no energy, no vitality in them, their life is a dull routine. Are they happy, maybe they are, who am I to judge, but I can observe.

What I see no longer worries me, it used to, I decided sometime ago to get on and live my life and let others fend for themselves. Somewhere along the way I made an deal with myself to just be me. It worked. I think.

I am no philosopher, I try to educate myself constantly, always craving to add to the body of knowledge that is in my possession already. If I were a philosopher  I would have to think of some great quote that encapsulated my philosophy in a nutshell. But, as I said, I am not.  Maybe I train therefore I am would do it?

Today is not a training day, I have no classes to teach, I am at a bit of a loose end. Yesterday my daughter came round and I played with my 8 month old grandson, he is a strong boy,  even my daughter now admits he looks like me and he does. So as I hold him in my arms I look forward to the day when he gloves up with me and play on the mat like his big brother will soon. I hope I am able to teach them more of the things I have learned and hope they do not have to use it like I did.  

Whatever age you are you need to live life to the full, consolidate existing skills and acquire new ones. Learn from everything you do, everything. I tell my students that every time they train if they improve just 1 thing, however small, then that is a win. Life is not a rehearsal, this is it folks. You have one body, one mind, make good use of them. If you are an instructor then you need to set an example for your students in your training, your behaviour and lifestyle. This does not mean you will get everything right, you will make mistakes, some things will fail. Learn from them and share these experiences too. People need to learn that failure is OK, it is giving up that is not.

Resilience is a vital quality in life, so onwards through the minor injuries, through the mishaps and the odd failure. Do I have any training tips to give? I certainly do, train hard, train because it means something and read quality books and articles to underpin and inform that training. Alternatively simply sit back, switch on the daytime TV and vegetate.


Hide in Plain Site – Tammy Yard-McCracken, Psy.D.

Every predator hunts for specific prey.  Humans are no different. We hunt for food and resources and occasionally, other humans. We like to think human predators are limited to violent sociopaths, serial rapists, and other overtly heinous people. We focus our research and training here because these predators are easier to identify than the low level predator subtly working his way into a victim’s life.

Low Level Predators, or “cockroaches” as Anna Valdiserri calls them (nicely done Anna), are invisible until they are crawling around inside multiple layers of their victim’s social contexts. Turn the lights on and they disappear –metaphorically speaking. If you shine light on their actions they will default back into slightly less intrusive scripts or blame their prey as the source of conflict. As Rory mentions in Self-Defense Failure Zone (April 2016, Conflict Manager), they use the same skills you do to navigate social terrain. Evidence of their predation is damned subtle. That little itch you get around the creeper gets ignored because the source of that itch is disguised as normal behavior. 

Rory wrote that a participatory and active mindset has the best shot at shutting creepers down. I agree. And to take action early enough to avoid a cascade of defensive maneuvers (which don’t usually work very well), you have to see it coming. You have to be able to identify the threat, and Low Level Predators camouflage their predation. It’s easier to identify something if you already know a few of the markers, so let me introduce you to Julie, David and Jason*. They can help explain this. 

We’ll start with Julie. She is starting over. Living with friends, she needs to make connections through their community while she gets herself settled. Her housemates introduce her to the neighbors, Paul and Danielle. Julie and Danielle form a tight bond. It takes time, but they become best-friend close. Julie listens and encourages Danielle’s misgivings about her marriage and simultaneously deepens her own friendship with Paul (the husband).

Julie babysits so Paul and Danielle can have alone time. She meets with Paul when he needs advice on how to reconnect with Danielle. Julie suggests he let Danielle explore her bisexual interests to spice up their marriage. Instead, the marriage craters. Danielle moves out of town and Julie goes to visit. Paul pays for Julie’s airfare because she is both broke and the only one who might be able to bring Danielle back to him. Julie visits Danielle and completes the yearlong seduction. Paul and Danielle’s marriage is Julie’s third coup – she has used this hunting pattern before.

Now David:

Katelin is David’s protégé in a finance company.  He is a control freak but helps catapult her into a high profile position. We make a good team. You’re patient with my micromanaging and you know how take the initiative. Because of her patience, he was learning how to dial down the controlling behavior. You’re the first person I have trusted to manage big accounts with little oversight.  Katelin knows she has to pay her dues and bites her tongue when David’s praise is only used to soothe the sting of his sharp criticisms. Long days turn into late nights. David jokes with Katelin, you must be magical- my wife trusts me to work late with you. 

As mentor and supervisor David occasionally enlists Katelin’s feminine intelligence to help him choose a gift for his wife, the one who trusts her to work late with him. Then he discloses he has a woman in his life other than his wife. It’s long term and he loves them both…and then a second mistress emerges and Katelin is buying gifts, sending flowers, for all three. It looks like she has something “on him” now, doesn’t it? But it is the other way around. The way she describes it, David has her hostage. Katelin is pretty sure he will sabotage a job change with a scathing reference if she tries to leave – she is “too valuable” to him.

When Katelin shrugs his hand off her shoulder he belittles the boundary. No offense girl, but you’re just one of the guys. He commandeers a presentation and later explains he was protecting her from a misogynist colleague. He is concerned that her boyfriend is too controlling and tantrums when she refuses his advise to ditch the bastard. When he bullies her for making a mistake, she writes it off as just trying to help her climb the ladder and the tantrums are just his way of showing that he cares. Finally, David gives Katelin an ultimatum: Lose the boyfriend or the job. He thinks the boyfriend is abusive and it is interfering with her focus at work. 

Low level Predators come in as many flavors as we have social scripts. I knew David and Julie. I also knew Ellie and Katelin.  I’m sure there is more to both stories but these are the details I have to share. Their stories also read like case studies and it’s easy to go academic. The problem with taking an academic attitude? We get to distance it. It happens to other people.  So let’s get to know Jason. I can introduce him better because this campfire story is mine. 

My first year out of college I moved into an old upstairs flat a few hours from home for my first big-girl job. On moving day, my downstairs’ neighbor stopped by to introduce himself. He helped my father haul in the heavy stuff and promised to look out for me. Jason shook my dad’s hand and looking at me added – I’m here if you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask.

In the beginning, we did the neighbor wave when we passed. He checked in to make sure I was finding everything around town. A few weeks later he brought me ‘left overs’ –made dinner for a friend and had extra. When I missed work with the flu, he dropped off some chicken soup. Driving back and forth to visit my fiancé, Jason remarked that he thought my brakes were getting bad- I should have them looked at. He looked in on my cat when I was gone and with each trip pressed the brake issue – I can take a look at them for you. I came home from work one night to find my thermostat stuck in the on position heading for 100 degrees in the dead of winter. He heard me throwing windows open and came to help. None of this flagged, just seemed like a nice guy (maybe a little pushy)– good neighbor behavior.

Passing hellos turned into dialogue. I didn’t really want to chat but he was obviously lonely, never saw him with friends. I felt sorry for him. It won’t kill me to be nice to the guy…

My mail carrier was a friend. He was the first one to say something. He noticed Jason going through my mail. I blew it off. Next, Jason showed up on my doorstep with a vase of flowers, saying they were left over from something at his mother’s house.

He knew things about my friends, my job, and my routines that struck me as a little over-informed but we lived in a small town. In a small town if you forget what you’re doing just ask a neighbor…

Then one morning my phone rang. It was Jason. Hey, you okay? You’re usually in the shower by now, didn’t want you to be late for work. Thought maybe you’d overslept. 

Now I was paying attention and it was too late to be anything but reactive. More flowers. I refused. He left them anyway. Sent them to my work. Shamed me for not accepting them. He would coincidentally be at the grocery store when I was. When I changed my routines he found reasons to be out in the alley behind our flat when I was coming home.  Grabbed my groceries from my car and insisted on carrying them up. 

When I set hard boundaries he cowed. Asked to talk, wanted to make amends, apologize. Nice people forgive. I granted the audience. He leaned against the inside of my door blocking the exit. We’re going to get married, you and I. He explained I would eventually see that we were destined for each other–I would come to my senses. The wedding I was planning was for him, not my fiancé, I just hadn’t figured it out yet, but he had detailed plan of how it was going to go down.

Jason played on all the social scripts that worked to get close to me. He waited until we had a solid neighborly relationship and set the stage by putting my dad’s paternal fears at ease as ad hoc oversight. When I set boundaries he complied, sulked and then escalated from a different angle. It ended because I married my fiancé after all and left the state. Stalking was not a crime until it went physical in the 80’s – and by textbook analysis, it was headed there. 

Low Level Predators use a broad range of social tactics to hunt. Julie played on the intimacy of female friendship. David used position and status. Jason played out a toxic version of the boy-meets-girl romance script. David and Julie both blamed their prey for the ensuing chaos. What Jason’s story was – I can only guess. I never went back to ask. What’s important is this: they all felt unjustly accused. It’s possible they were authentically unconscious. Even so, allowing creeping victimization** to pass without impunity is not a social script anyone should follow.

Welcome to the problem. Low level predatory behavior is insidious. The scripts are being followed and creeping victimization gets a pass. For everything being written on violence, on this subject our depth of game is, what? Thin? That’s an understatement. We talk about the “cockroaches” when we see them, but we don’t ask the hard questions and we don’t get deep enough to look for their patterns. We don’t ask and we don’t look because doing so requires getting our hands dirty.

I want to ask questions like; when the victim gains from the relationship (Katelin’s career did advance substantially), is there a point when it ceases to be victimization? With Julie and Ellie, is there a point where Ellie becomes a collaborator instead of Julie’s target? And when I ask these questions, am I victim blaming?

How about this, if talking about Low Level Predators doesn’t actually benefit anyone then isn’t it just mental masturbation? If people are going to benefit, we need to start looking at the Low Level Predator patterns and see if there are reliable tells. Then if the tells are reliable, we need to ask if those tells are consistent enough to be useful. I agree Rory’s active mindset has the best shot at shutting creepers down and if that’s going to be a coachable skill we need to get our hands dirty.
*For obvious reasons the names are fictitious but the people are real.

**Creeping Victimization is a phrase Rory used in the previous referenced article.


Street Survival: Tactics for Armed Encounters by Charles Remsberg – Reviewed by Tim Boehlert

Get the book

Charles Remsberg

Calibre Press – Kindle Edition 2016

If you want to step up your game, improve your security stance, and increase your chance of surviving a violent encounter, you owe it to yourself and your family to educate yourself. Reading this book would make a great start.

It was first published in 1980 for the Law Enforcement Community, and I am assuming that it was written after too many Police Officers had been killed in the line of duty. Studies had been conducted that found their mistakes and identified the source of many of those mistakes made.

This book also served to launch a travelling road-show called Street Survival, which sought to correct a lot of the common mistakes that officers had made in the field. To that end, the Street Survial series of books served for many years as required reading in many academies.

I was lucky enough about 6 years ago to come across more than one reference to these ‘lost books while doing my own research to keep myself safe. These books contain a lot of great information. In these books you will find much of what we study and take for granted today. The adage, “Study the Old, to Understand The New” applies here. We didn’t invent this stuff.

One of the biggest challenges of learning anything is that you need to look behind the curtain and question many aspects of it – why does it work, what makes it work, why is that knowledge perhaps more important than the knowledge itself? If you want to learn anything, take ownership for your  own endeavors and effort. Ultimately, only you are responsible for you. Own that.

Much of what we train today, is not new, or original as you may be lead to believe. Exploring older books can lead you to some ‘new’ discoveries – tactics, techniques, philosophies, principles. This book is 36 years old, and yet there is a ton of relevant information in it that still applies and holds up today.

Below I’ve highlighted just a portion of what I think is still relevant and useful for self-defense, and I hope you do too!

Some of the many ideas found within the first volume of this series and which are worth reiterating here are:


  • The combination for survivability in the street is a combination of your abilities and what you have been taught. That is NOT a one-way street. You will be provided with only so much based on budgetary restrictions, the rest is on you. Too many professionals rely strictly on what they will be provided by their employer. In our world, that’s you. You may need to justify what you think is a reasonable amount of funding to keep yourself and your clan safe, but don’t sell that short. Here’s an example: I work five days a week trying to keep myself safe, my company safe, and our clientele safe. I spend annually between $1k-$2k to achieve that goal. That money is mostly for training. That training consists of books, videos, seminars primarily. This fits my needs, but does not maximize them necessarily. This will hold true for all of us. BUT, I am making the effort to keep my education moving forward, and ever-expanding, and honing in on specific skill-sets that I require due to environmental needs. That leaves holes in my plan that you could drive a semi through, but that’s life. You can’t possibly plan for everything, but if you can narrow down your specific threats, you can assure that you will prevail under those sets of circumstances, and MAY be prepared for others based on your learning.


  • Just because it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it won’t or that it won’t happen to you. Complacency affects all of us in some way. Don’t let it settle in. Don’t tell yourself a story that just because statistics say it’s likely to never happen that it wont or that you aren’t the one it will happen to. Take a reality check and let that sink in. You, and only you are responsible for yourself.


  • Be prepared. Again, that falls into several categories, but in my opinion being prepared mentally is at the top of that list. This covers awareness, but it also cover physical and emotional realms as well. Don’t be that guy/gal.


  • You don’t get to decide that the BG (Bad Guy) is going to do, UNLESS you can. Violence is a very broad set of rules and you don’t get to know which ones are in effect, nor which ones will be on the table when the SHTF. Know that you dont know, and be good with that. Make peace with that and move forward with your plan to shut it down.


  • Come to terms with your moral and psychological considerations BEFORE you get into it. Really spend some time examining yourself and your capabilities and responsibilities. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Just because you should, is it legally justifiable? Spend a lot of your time doing what-if scenarios in your head – where it’s safer to make mistakes.


  • Force is not the answer to everything – there are alternatives that you need to arm yourself with. Learn some basic verbal skills, de-escalation, tactical communications, verbal judo – it’s all about NOT having to use your physical abilities on another, and it’s legally your required first step of use-of-force when it’s applicable.


  • What you think about violence isn’t necessarily the reality of what it will be – for you. Many things happend during ‘an event’ that you haven’t even begun to consider. Add to that mixture the fact that you haven’t practiced much of what you know nearly enough to handle this situation. Throw in your reactions – chemical dump, emotional upheaval, environmental booby-traps, multiple goals, etc… it gets complicated in the blink of an eye, and a lot goes through your head or it doesn’t. Have you prepared yourself for any of that?


  • “Training to face reality takes extra time, extra energy, extra creativity.” A direct quote from Carl Remsberg. It’s not only important in formal training, but in what you do everyday. You need to make the effort to move yourself forward on your on time as well as when you’re ‘in play.’


  • Have you truly assessed your capabilities and your dependence or independence of deploying a weapon? Do you know your weapon intimately? DO you know your ability to use that weapon on another human being intimately? Do you understand the aftermath? Some very heady things to work on, now!


  • Hands. They are what will hurt you. Agreed, but there is a larger picture to consider as well – being blind-sided is one of those possibilities. You can’t always be ON, but you need to raise your level of awareness, and educate yourself on everything that MAY keep you safe. Whether it’s learning more about knives and knifers, or guns – handguns, long-guns, ammunition. Try to educate yourself to the extent that your friends will get a little uncomfortable about how much you know and the things that you find interesting. THEN you might be ahead of the game, just a little.


  • Educate yourself not just in Martial Arts, but in Military Martial Arts, and Police Marital Arts. Learn about the OODA loop, about the Awareness Color Code. OODA alone will make you more capable IF you have digested it, and keep it in the forefront of your mind.


  • Practice is always good, and the more realistic it can be, within reason where injuries are uncommon, but not unexpected, but it’s not the same thing. Realize that it’s not real, but a pale substitute. It’s not like being there, and doing it. There are many, many aspects of being there and doing it that you’ll only get after you’ve been there and done that, that’s when all of the training starts to make sense, to make you go back and revisit or reassess.


  • You will find that one guy that is willing to die rather than to submit. Have you even considered that his goal is not your goal?


  • Don’t be afraid to criticize yourself. We’ve all done it. Try not to be your own worst critic, but take a healthy dose of ‘I told you so…’ and learn from it, move forward.


  • Keep moving. Don’t wait for reaction or results. MAKE results happen. Overwhelm and win.


  • Weapons – study them, get intimate. Learn as much as possible, for you may end up  having one in your hands when you least expect it.


  • Study your adversary. Learn what makes him tick, try to put yourself in his/her shoes, and understand what their motivations may be. Study your enemy, for they’ve already studied you.


  • Learn your targeting. Understand as much as possible what the right target is and what the right weapon is for that target. The goal is usually to stop the violence as quickly as possible, but do you have a solid legal foundation for that goal? Is this social or asocial violence? The targets and tools will be different perhaps?


  • Train under stress, fear if possible. No one can really tell you what that is like – it’s different for everyone, and likely different under every circumstance.


  • ‘Practice at surviving.’ Don’t become complacent.


  • ‘Patterns of instruction’ should ‘match patterns of encounter’ – train for the most likely encounters?


  • Under the stress of combat, and that’s what fighting encompasses, you will ‘revert without thinking to the habits you have learned in training.’ Agreed, and one important thing to consider here – if it ain’t working, move on. Don’t be the guy that continues to repeat the same ‘move’ and expects different results.


  • Don’t fight like you train, and therein lies the rub. As an example, don’t spar. Sparring trains into you some very bad habits – pulling your strikes – only hitting at X% of power, stopping after scoring a point, and other ‘rules’ that will work against you. It may cost you dearly. This also includes – don’t WAIT for results – keep moving, keep doing damage until the threat stops.


  • Learn about spatial relationships – proximity. Test your variables, test your ability to work within certain distances and environmental constrictions. Rory Miller is a proponent of ‘In Fighting’ – I’d only heard that once before in my years of training, and it didn’t make sense the first time, until I explored the larger possibilities behind that simple phrase. Explore.


  • Most confrontations are over quickly – seconds at best. Work smartly within that time constraint. Work to that goal as well.


  • Reaction to recognition is key to victory. The quicker you can respond, the better your chances are. Get beyond the DENIAL hurdle and your over the first large hurdle in your way. This takes practice, practice, practice. It starts with excellent awareness, and anticipation. Don’t daydream when you’re ‘on.’


  • Don’t expect your assumed authority to work in your favor – bouncer, security, owner, etc… that may be the impetus to action and the fuel for the fire that is about to light you up.


  • Criminals train more than you do, most likely.


  • Don’t expect rationality or compassion from your opponent.


  • Their desperation and your constraints are not equal but are opposing forces internally.


  • Don’t hesitate to act based on what you think. Your gut feeling may be the only thing that saves you. For the uninitiated, read Gavin de Becker’s THE GIFT.


  • If you are to survive, you need to be aggressive, and take chances.


  • Don’t give up. It’s been proposed that many officers died in the line-of-duty because they ‘thought’ they were going to based on some subconscious ‘understanding.’ Being hurt is not the same as being out of the fight. It’s time for Plan B!


  • Never let your guard down. Even if you’ve overcome one or many opponents/threats, don’t become blase about your abilities to overcome. Always be vigilant. There is always someone that will surprise you and possibility defeat you. Be realistic, not complacent.


  • You should walk out of your house/business with survival as the most important thing on your mind.


  • ‘Let the circumstances dictate the tactics, not vice versa.’ True Dat!


  • Always be rehearsing mentally. It’s as important if not more-so than hitting the gym or the Dojo, in my opinion. As an example, I have personally watched a video on a specific technique, that I only mentally rehearsed before having to actually deploy it, on more than one occasion. In Japanese culture, I believe that that is referred to as Mushin – without mind. It works, and don’t let anyone persuade you otherwise. Your mind is your best tool – develop it. Survival instinct is string, and your mind WILL take over when all else fails.


  • “Whenever possible, you want to cultivate tactics that are unexpected, to be ‘systematically unsystematic.'” HUH? Yeah, something more for you to explore! Have fun!


  • There will always be a clue, if you’re aware, that it’s about to go down. Learn those clues – body language, non-verbals, physiology. If you have a better understanding of your opponent, knowing them perhaps more intimately, you have your baseline to gauge by, otherwise… pay attention and look for the subtle, micro clues.


  • “Uneventful familiarity breeds complacency.” Just because it hasn’t happened, doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t. Keep your wall up!


  • Keep your head on a swivel and your ears on. Always be ‘scanning.’


  • Watch for the ‘grooming’ or ‘comfort’ touch – signs of nervousness. Grooming is done to comfort the person doing the grooming, perhaps to work up the courage to strike. A Comfort touch is to reassure the threat that his weapon is still there.


  • Always look for the most likely places that someone would carry a weapon when being approached. Do it to everyone to stay in practice and make it a part of what you do as your norm.


  • Keep a safety zone around you at all times. They have suggested 36″. I think it depends on you solely, and whom you face.


  • “Repetition of good tactics forms good tactical habits.’ Amen, right?


  • Control what you can.


  • “Human nature is very predictable.” Maybe in context, or maybe if you have studied it in depth. I think otherwise mostly sometimes. Does that even make sense?


  • “you must be ready to execute it without hesitation.” In the context of use of force – you must commit fully once you have decided to act. Totally agree. I have done otherwise, and gotten what should have been expected results. If you don’t fully commit, then you are holding back. If you hold back, you lose advantage. If you lose advantage, you also lose surprise. Its a crap shoot after that. Good luck, you’ll need it!

I’ll explore Volume 2: The Tactical Edge in a future article!

tim boehlert

© Copyright 2016



Less Stress Seminars – Toby Cowern

I recently had a great discussion with a number of instructors about organizing and running seminars. Seminars are exceptionally commonplace in many industries and depending on the organization and instructors involved will run to widely varying standards.

One of the points we discussed in detail was ‘new’ students who maybe attending a seminar for the first time and have little or no experience or background in the subjects too be covered.

While it is always great to have new people interested in the subject you teach, there is potential for things to go awry if the student is unaware of expected behavior.

One of the things I routinely do for courses I run is provide a comprehensive set of ‘Joining Instructions’ that provide details on logistics, equipment, itinerary and expectations for the course. While some seminars do not need this level of detail, it strikes me that providing a clear and simple ‘Guidance List’ is of great benefit to students and Instructors alike. With some great help form my peers the following list was produced as a ‘start point’ for communicating ‘Seminar Standards’ to Students.

1) Be a little early on the (first) day. This gives you time to get orientated and complete any necessary paperwork/payments.

2) Be punctual for all other timings given, especially breaks. You don’t want to wait for the instructor. The instructor and other students do not want to wait for you.

3) Be clean. Bring fresh clothes for each day, especially if it is a multi-day seminar.

4) For sensitive or personal questions consider waiting for a break or when the instructor is alone before asking.

5) Combined with 4. THINK about the suitability of your questions. If unsure begin your question with ‘Is it OK if I ask about….’. Some instructors are happy to talk about profound subject (e.g. Killing. MOST are not…)

6) ASK before taking photos/video footage, unless this is clearly covered in the opening brief.

7) Keep the questions relevant to the discussed subject.

8) Realize that this is a learning event for everyone, attendees and instructors alike. Be patient, try, and be there for the right reason.

9) If you’re confused about etiquette it’s ok to ask a more experienced person.

10) If you don’t want to participate in a particular activity it’s fine to sit it out and observe, as long as you don’t disrupt the class.

11) Don’t think you know more than everyone else in the room, or persistently question the instructor’s techniques comparing them to something else you saw in another seminar.

12) Be responsible for your own safety and welfare.

Finally, where appropriate, specific guidance should be given on the carry, use and handling of weapons (and training weapons) Ensure students are aware of the ‘Weapon Rules’.
-Look but don’t touch.
-Don’t handle without the owner’s explicit permission.
-Don’t draw a blade without telling people that you are drawing.

I hope the list is of use, and we in the Conflict Research Group encourage you to use and add to the list as you see fit. If you have ideas you would like to share on things that can be added to the list, head over to our Conflict Manager Facebook group and leave us a comment!

The Threat of Violence: That Isn’t Really a Threat …, Part II – Marc MacYoung

Read part one

I guarantee you when you watch the video in chunks you’re going to see what we will be talking about now; especially because the people who are screaming loudest about the ‘victims of violence’ are often—if not overwhelmingly—the ones who are being the most violent and aggressive. They are using the threat of violence right up until the moment they lose the fight. Yes, you read that right. It’s a fight.  Not the one sided assault they planned on.

Then in a predictable strategy, they flip into victim mode. Not a loser, but a victim. But to sell this victim idea requires a little three-card monte with definitions and excuses. Specifically distracting you from their actions and focusing your attention on what someone else did.

For example, in the original story there was no mention of the alleged groping. That only appeared when it was pointed out that she hit someone before being pepper sprayed. Some sources overlook it while decrying the violence of the rally attendees. Still others mention the grope, but don’t  even show video of her claiming it happened. Why? In that video, there’s a significant lag between her accusation and the strike. Now mind you, this is just the accusation. There no released recording of the touch, in what context it happened or—if it happened— the time in-between touch and the accusation. (What don’t they want you to see?)

Basically, the story changes and is edited to maintain her victim status no matter what—in fact, it double downed on victimhood by playing the ‘sexual assault’ card. If you’re pulling a three-card monte and someone does bring up the hit, you can claim it was ‘self-defense’ over being groped. They’re not the violent ones. Just ask them. They’ll look you in the eye and tell you that.

This brings us to: What is violent behavior? Don’t answer that that yet. I’m about to melt your mind.

In my book In The Name of Self-Defense, I talk about the road of violence.  If you’re on this road, you’re being violent. The question is: How far down the road are you? I use this analogy to show the lower the number on the mile markers equal what you’re doing is subtle verbal and emotional violence. It gets louder and more aggressive as you go farther down the road (higher mile markers). You can be incredibly verbally and emotionally violent without ever throwing a punch. Then it gets to physical (even higher numbers). What a lot of people don’t realize is exactly how much more road there is past simple hits. It gets really ugly past that. (Remember, I’m the guy who asks, “How many parts was the body found in?”) This model doesn’t allow for three card monte with definitions. As much as people want it, there is no ‘past this point it’s violence and bad, but before then it’s not—so it’s okay.’ Or as I say, “It’s not on the road to violence. There is no ‘Violence City Limits’ or ‘Now entering Violence.’ If you’re on that road, it’s violence, plane and simple.”

I came up with this road idea because of deniers first declaring “violence is bad” and then excusing their own behavior. They deny they’re being violent through redefining violence to mean: Any level of force beyond which I am comfortable using to get what I want. Or it’s violence when the same level is used back against them (a.k.a., It all started when he hit me back). Hence my comment about ‘Violence City Limits’ They’ll speed up and down the lower mile markers, but as long as they don’t cross some subjective line they’re certain they are not being violent—no matter what they are doing, up to and including punching you.

When it’s laid out like this, you don’t have to be the sharpest crayon in the box to spot the BS of this position. When someone is pulling it on you, however, it can be a lot harder to spot. Well okay it’s more of a shock that someone can spit in your face then claim that wasn’t violence, but your reaction was. What’s amazing is how many people sincerely believe this. They don’t feel they are lying because this is their subjective truth. Their conviction is part of the con. But to truly get how this three card monte works, you need to know something.

Humans, as a species are amazingly nonviolent.

Forget all the hyperbole. We’re really not that violent. A comparison: After a lifetime of violence (including it being my profession), I can tell you that my cat has killed more, been in more life-and-death situations, and fights than me—or anyone reading this article.

See we humans are far, far better communicators. That’s why we can usually avoid using physical violence.

Having said that, we use the threat of violence all the time! Wait, what? To a species so strongly married to communication, the threat of violence is a lot more effective persuader than carrying through. Whether you call it threat displays or display aggression, we routinely communicate the threat of physical attack to people through body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, word choice, and behavior. Usually we only do this when we’re emotional, but always as a strategy to get what we want. When we’re yelling, making faces and swinging our arms, that’s not an attack. It’s saying, “I’m not attacking, but I might.” It’s the threat that violence is close. That is communication! Inherent in this threat is ‘unless you do what I want.’ Whether that’s stop what you’re doing, start doing what I want, go away, get back into your place or shut up; those depend on the goals of the individual doing the threatening, intimidation, or coercion.

This threat is usually a bluff to get the other person to fold. Violence is dangerous, and we could get hurt if things go physical. As such, we really don’t want to risk it. But in order for it to be an effective bluff, the person has to believe the danger is real and immediate. This bluff gets us the benefits of physical violence without having to actually do it. With the threat of violence being so significant, the road of violence takes on a whole new meaning. We’re ‘playing chicken’ down that stretch of road.

You would think this would be the sole domain of ignorant knuckle-draggers. It isn’t. Some of the worst offenders are people who claim to be intelligent, civilized, and nonviolent—but most of all passionate about a noble cause. That’s the loophole Gloria Steinem identified when she said, “From pacifist to terrorist, each person condemns violence—and then adds one cherished case in which it may be justified.”

Some will become aggressive at the wrong word. With this cherished cause as their justification, these bullies are wound up and just waiting for a green light to go off on someone. They’ll threaten you with physical violence as they verbally, emotionally, and socially attack you for your ‘wrong think.’ But as long as they don’t physically strike you, they’ll claim they weren’t being violent—no matter how much they acted as though they were about to become physically violent. Violence is bad, and they can’t be violent because they’re good people. (Besides even if they cross that line, they’re doing it in the name of a good cause.)

This hostile and threatening behavior is what you’re going to be seeing in the five-second chunks. (Remember them?) These chunks reveal a heavy reliance on the threat of violence. They’ll also destroy the credibility of the denial and victimization. Threatening violence … it’s a simple concept, but damn is it an important one.

But let me add another caveat here. While the threat of violence is usually more effective than actual violence in the civilized world, denying you’re doing it is a big part of the strategy. This denial is a very big part of what makes this crazy-making behavior (gaslighting if you know the term). Sometimes they actually believe they’re not being violent. Most of the time, they’re so emotional they don’t care. Sometimes there is deliberate malice hiding behind the righteous cause. They know exactly what they are doing, and they’re getting off on it.

People who routinely use this strategy—simply stated—are bullying. They’re using the threat of violence to get their way. As such, they have to engage in aggressive and hostile behavior to be credible. For the strategy to work, they have to look like they really do mean to attack (usually by acting out of control). You have to believe you are about to be attacked. At the same time, they’re walking a very fine line. A line consisting of four issues:

One, they have to very selective who they use it on. Basically, these bullies know not to pull these aggressive acts on people who won’t wait for it to reach self-defense before acting. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) members will paint bomb rich women wearing fur coats, but they have a consistent track record of not trying the same on bikers in leather jackets. They know they are playing outside to rules of society

Two, it’s a fine balancing act between looking like you’re going to attack and going too far. When the threat doesn’t work, often the response is to turn up the volume. Often this increased intimidation works; people back down and let them have their way.

At the same time, they often goof, crank it up too much and WHAM! The increased hostility either
a) convinces the target there’s an immediate danger (and he reacts out of perceived self-defense) or
b) the aggressor crosses the line.

Thing about the last is they really have pushed it too far. While a biker will punch you quick, you have to work to get slugged by a Lutheran minister. People have their limits.

Three is … well … weird. That’s how often these bullies actually attack. The reason it’s weird is it’s more of a bluff. It is not a committed or continuing attack It’s not intending to injure. It’s an escalation of threat. Their strike is more of a “See? See how far I am willing to go? I’ll attack again if you don’t _____ (fill in the blank)!”

Look at the protestor in the videos. After yelling and aggressing didn’t work, she hit. But she didn’t continue or blitz the person she attacked. This gave the sprayer time to raise, aim and fire.

Four, they get out of there before the cops are called or the folks turn against them. Generally speaking, the real virtue points of this behavior occur when the person skeddadles back to the social group that supports this behavior. There over flasks of organic microbrew beer or vegan wine, they regale other social justice warriors with the tale of their bravery, fearsome foes overcome, and great injustices battled. While that sounds silly, remember many of them do consider themselves ‘warriors.’ Just like gang members boasting about drive-by shootings, there’s a lot of status gained and bragging rights over these acts. Although in some circles getting arrested for the cause is a coup for one’s status as it shows your dedication.

This brings us to an interesting crossroads. While you will never hear a peep about this behavior when the threatening works—oh is there a wailing and gnashing of teeth when there is a violent response. Now they are martyrs for the cause. Except unlike real martyrs, they don’t die. They switch into victim mode. It is essential when their hostility backfires that the bully quickly changes the narrative into how he or she is the victim of unjust violence … ad nauseam. If it’s not them banging the drum, it’s someone else wailing about the violence their enemies are capable. (An innocent fifteen-year-old girl was groped and pepper sprayed by  those evil . . .) This lends righteousness and outrage to their cause. It’s also very important you be prepared for this flip.

Despite doing everything in their power to convince you they were about to attack you—if you respond physically, you are the bad guy for believing their actions. Another version is they that weren’t threatening you, they were just expressing their opinions. You are not only condemned for not knowing they weren’t going to attack, but now you interfered with their freedom of speech. But most of all, neither you—nor anyone else—is supposed to notice they were attempting to intimidate you through the threat of physical violence and that especially means the cop arresting you.

Recognize the game they are playing. If you don’t react, they get to abuse you. If they can bait you into reacting they win. That is why you have to be able to counter the accusations that you attacked them. You have to be able to articulate why their behavior led you to reasonably believe they were attacking. I hope that in teaching you how I do violence reconstruction, I’ve armed you against this strategy.

This is why it is critical to call them on their use of violence and their constant threat of violence. If that person’s behavior is critically reviewed (like say in five-second chunks), it quickly becomes obvious there is a disconnect between the victim narrative and what actually happened.

Although I’ve ruined the incident used in this article, they’re easy to find. Now that you have this process, go out and watch some other videos. You’ll see how often bullying and threatening violence are used by those outraged about violence. When you can do that, you’ll start seeing that gorilla walking across the screen and just smile instead of punching it.


Your Self-Defense Training a Stalled “A Lie-To-Children”? – Erik Kondo

Note: This article is a continuation of last month’s article on the Red, Green, Grey, and Blue Zones model for self-defense training.

A Lie-To-Children is defined as “a phrase that describes a simplified explanation of technical or complex subjects as a teaching method for children and laypeople.”

There are four main categories of self-defense training. Almost all self-defense training can be described by one or a combination of them.

Three of them can be thought of as Lies-To-Children, only one of them is not.

The first two of these have the positive effect of helping students deal with low level violence that is unlikely to escalate into high level violence. But this type of training doesn’t provide its students with the means to differentiate between potential low and high level violence. And the means to avoid and deal with high level violence.

The third focuses on high level violence, but it also doesn’t provide the means to differentiate between low and high level violence. It also doesn’t provide knowledge on how to avoid and deal with the aftermath of violence.

Only the fourth deals with the multiple aspects of avoiding a variety of levels of violence, differentiating between the levels, dealing with the levels, and the resulting aftermath.

Fortunately, Lies-To-Children can be used as starting points. The provide a basic, but flawed understanding that can be reworked and expanded into deeper understanding.

The Four Categories

  1. Empowerment Based Self-Defense is really about giving people permission to physically fight back (reversing their passive social conditioning). It uses the person’s natural capabilities which is encouraged through Green Zone training.

It can be identified by its use of positive feedback for all self-defense actions regardless of how ineffective the actions actually would be against a determined attacker. The goal is to make the student feel “empowered”.

What it doesn’t do is:

  • Give students the knowledge to recognize, avoid, and assess danger. (Grey Zone).
  • Give them the actual physical skills to deal with a serious assault. (Red Zone)
  • Give them an understanding of the aftermath of violence (Blue Zone).

2. Martial Arts Based Self-Defense is about developing physical skills and spiritual qualities to deal with violence through Green Zone training.

It can be identified by its use of repetitive physical training of “fighting” techniques to build mastery. This is commonly (incorrectly) thought of as “muscle memory”.

What it doesn’t do is.

  • Give students the knowledge to recognize, avoid, and assess danger. (Grey Zone).
  • Give them the actual physical skills to deal with high level violence. (Red Zone).
  • Give them an understanding of the aftermath of violence (Blue Zone)


3. Combat Based Self-Defense is about focusing on relatively rare situations of high level violence and the use of lethal force usually done through Green Zone training.

This type of training can typically be identified by its kill or be killed attitude for all levels of violence for civilians.

In the best case, this type of training provides the student the means to deal with limited types of high level violence. In the worst case, it provides only the illusion of having the means to deal with high level violence.

In both cases, what it doesn’t do is.

  • Give students the knowledge to recognize, avoid, and assess danger. (Grey Zone).
  • Give them the means to deal with low level violence. (Usually Green Zone)
  • Give them an understanding of the aftermath of violence (Blue Zone)

These first three categories have much in common and a few differences. Their approaches are different. But in many respects they all end up in the same place.

What “stalled” means

What the above types of training do is to provide a starting point for future comprehensive self-defense training. But only if the student is willing to recognize the stalled nature of his or her current training. Stalled training is incomplete training that no longer advances. There are flaws and gaps in it. For students to move forward, they must acknowledge they are stalled and be open to expanding upon their current knowledge and training system.

This training can be thought of as a foundation that can be built upon. But only after certain aspects of it are removed and rebuilt.

  1. Comprehensive Self-Defense training that is not a stalled Lie-To-Children is made up of the understanding of:
  •  Recognizing, Avoiding, and Assessing all levels of violence. (Grey Zone)
  • Dealing with the legal, ethical, and other societal aftermath of violence. (Blue Zone)
  • Dealing with high level violence, the Fear Response, and other associated behavioral issues. (Red Zone)
  • Dealing with low level violence, not escalating it into high level violence, the associated behavioral issues, and more. (Green Zone)

The above areas can also be described by Rory Miller’s 7 Aspects of Self-Defense, the Hand of Self-defense training as described by Marc MacYoung, and the prevention, intervention, and mitigation of aspects of my 5D’s of Self-defense. It really doesn’t matter what model you use, also long as all the elements are included.


Interview with Ed Calderon, Part I – Terry Trahan

Ed Calderon is a security specialist and combatives instructor from Northern Mexico.

He is also the General Director for Libre Fighting in Latin America.

He has become popular through his FaceBook page, Ed’s Manifesto, and is a very accomplished teacher in unconventional self defense and security.

On a personal note, he is also my friend, and we collaborate and teach together, and I can not give a higher recommendation than I do for him.

TT: Hi Ed, can you please give us a brief bio and background for our readers that may not be familiar with you?

Sure. I was born in Tijuana Mexico where I grew up. Tijuana is a bit of a cultural diversity bomb so I was exposed to American popular culture from a very early age and it influenced me deeply. I had an eventful young life, and got into a lot of trouble growing up in such a place. I can’t complain about it, it truly was a  very free and wonderful place to grow as a person. It had good and bad things about it, all of them made me grow.

I spent a lot of time traveling throughout Mexico and in the US after I turned 18. Wandering a bit, with no clear idea about what to do with my life. After eventually coming back to my hometown of Tijuana for the holidays I saw an interesting article in the paper about a career opportunity in government work. That led me into over a decade of work in the fields of counter narcotics, executive protection and some crossborders work. During all this time, I made an effort to take any training opportunity I could get and learn what I could by observing and collecting case study material and any criminal methodology I came across.

I started take one the role of Instructor at an internal level within the operations groups I worked with. Seeing a need for edged weapons material for my group I went looking for methodologies I could fit into their training. I went around the block as far as systems that dealt with edge weapons. Finally found Libre Fighting System trough Scott Babb. One seminar with him and I was sold.

A year later him and me where training a few special police units down in Mexico and we started getting loads of after action reports and feedback from students down there. The violent climate in the region offered us a golden opportunity to actually field test concepts and material in a very real laboratory. Edged weapons, counter custody, urban survival, criminal methodology, reverse engineering it all started to come out of this cross border relationship between Scott Babb and my self. That was my start.
TT: What are your main combatives influences, and what makes them meaningful to you?

I have a base in Thai Boxing, this basically taught me how to move and take a punch. Honestly, the sparring element this has is a thing of value. This and it made me open my eyes to weaponizing elbows and knees.

Libre Fighting System’s basically gave me a very analytical approach to weapons and violence in general. We did not take anything for granted and tested everything against multiple opponents, adding Stress Modifiers, confined spaces, etc. Knife disarms were the first delusion this system killed in me. Libre gets more taken out of it each year. It’s constantly being streamlined. Each outing we teach in a new place, let’s us see different uses of Knives or criminal methodology that we then bring back, refine and see if it can be used for our own means. It’s an ever evolving monster. It’s a blade system coming out of the border region that has found its way in to Indonesia and the Philippines. I think this says a lot about it.

I was exposed to South African movement indirectly through Scott Babb that shared some of it with me, having previously hosted a Piper guardian for what was at the time one of the first seminars of that system in California.

I contacted Nigel February ( it’s founder ) and got a glimpse into some of its reasoning for being and what it came from. It really influenced my way of formulating my personal methodology and the way I move. The mentality it tries to instill in the practitioner is what I think is often overlooked in this specific skill set.

Through the job, I was exposed to many individuals with different skill sets and abilities. Some criminal in origin, some military. All of these got into what I do and teach.  

And finally. Though a person that doesn’t like recognition, I learn a very specific and traditional way of utilizing my hands and feet that for lack of a better word turned out to be tilted Atra Manus. It’s not my creation. All I did was try and mold it into a teaching experience. Those who have been exposed to it can tell,


TT: Why did you start the Manifesto, and what is the mission you hope to accomplish through both your writing and teaching?

The name comes from a stack of moleskin notebooks I keep detailing everything I have come across that I think is of value to my own personal development in this whole subculture of urban survival, escapology and combatives.

It’s basically an open and free outlet of information that some have kept off limits. I share nothing that I haven’t seen in some way shape or for out there in criminal hands. It really is at its core, an exercise in the free dispersal of information and a window into what I’m up to. It’s a personal blog. I don’t sell anything through it and promote what I love, trust and stake my life on as far as products, instructors and methodology.


TT: I know you worked with the security forces in Mexico, what got you into that line of work, and were there any incidents that encouraged you to teach civilians?

I like getting into trouble. What better place to do so than by joining what was at that time the most high risk profession on the planet. Being a police officer in Mexico.

It gave me a lot experience. Some of it just incomparable to anything else in the world. It gave me a very unique perspective on how to go about solving problems.

I started to work a lot of cases dealing with abduction. And it’s a problem that touched something deep with in me. I knew there was a need for a no BS aproach to train people to deal with this problem.

I saw Americans coming down to Mexico teaching military SERE training to civilians that made little to no sense to the actual endemic problem and some Israeli ex military guys doing the most alien Krav Maga infused E&E classes I have ever seen. I knew I had to come up with a very Mexican approach to the problem, taking in to account the realities and limitations a civilian has here. That was my start.


TT: Environment is a very big factor in determining effectiveness of a fighting method. Could you describe for our readers the environment in Mexico, and how that formed your outlook?

It’s very non permissive. Threats come from police and criminals. It’s not all bad, there are pockets of dangerous places in the country.

Civilians cannot carry firearms and that limits the options most have. And even conventional tactical folders can get you jail time if found by an uneducated cop ( very common down here sadly). So in many ways students of mine have learned to live as criminals of purpose ( as I like to call them). The tools they carry for self defense are non descript ditchable kitchen knives for example. Not because they are going to murder someone and don’t want to be caught. But because they want to be able to carry something with plausible deniability built in to it and if the see a possible police inspection, they can toss the blade without losing much in terms of money.

They have to be very crafty. They can’t just go on line and by stuff. Most of thier counter custody tools are home made for example. It’s a very interesting place that has given birth to a lot of creativity.

Part II will be in the next issue.