The Law of Self-Defense: The Indispensable Guide for the Armed Citizen by Andrew F. Branca – Reviewed by Rory Miller


Recognizing that Conflict Manager has an eclectic readership from many countries and with many interests, a book on the legalities of self-defense focused on firearms and specific to United States law may have limited appeal. That said, most of the board members of CRGI know each other through the personal protection community and self defense is a subject that has touched all of our lives. Also, The Law of Self Defense is a good and important book.

That’s the most salient thing. If you have anything to do with self-defense, either as a student or an instructor, the legalities are important. I’d go so far as to say it is negligent to teach self-defense in any form without a solid grounding in force law.

Let’s dispense with something right away. The old saw, “I’d rather be tried by twelve than carried by six.” For those unfamiliar it means, “I’d rather go on trial than be killed.” In logic, this is what’s called a “False sort.” How about surviving AND not going to prison? Embrace the power of and. There are also a few who will argue that thinking of legalities in a deadly force situation will paralyze you. I disagree. Every thinking person knows that there will likely be legal consequences after a violent encounter. It is my experience that, when a problem is known to exist, ignorance creates a deadlier freeze than knowledge.

The Law of Self-Defense takes an intimidating subject, one that has a long history, with sources written in obscure legal language, and nuanced over many jurisdictions and makes it accessible. Practical. It was actually kind of fun to read. And I never got the feeling it was dumbed down.

The chapters take important concepts like, “What is innocence?” and breaks the concept down into common sense language. And gives actual incidents. And quotes relevant case law. At the end of almost every chapter, there are tables that give the exact wording for the specific aspects of law discussed in the chapter for all fifty states. Well written and concise overviews combined with stories and combined with technical details makes a powerful and simultaneously easy to grasp tome that should be on the required reading list for self-defense instructors, students and anyone who carries a weapon.

Branca gives the legal details of a perfect world, but also gives the gritty details of how the cases sometimes go. It’s not always pretty, and that should keep you cautious. Caution is usually a good thing.

Read the book. For an understanding of the legal principles, for an understanding of the legal process (from arrest to booking to trial and the civil side as well) and for the keys to planning a legal strategy well in advance, read the book. If you intend to teach self-defense and want to answer your student’s questions, I don’t know of anything better available.

Editors note. This review pertains to the second edition published in 2013. The third edition is now available.

You can’t run away – Kelee Arrowsmith

You can run, but you can’t get away from crime. Everyone wants to leave South Africa because of crime. Not me.
Everyone tells you what you ALREADY KNOW; that violent crime is UP and that you need to be aware. You tell your kids “be careful”, but what does that mean? You are telling them what they already know. How about telling them HOW to be careful?
That’s the tough part.

Because of the HUGE international problem with drugs, crime is becoming a part of life worldwide. While I was in France last year (presenting a workshop on saving yourself in violent crime situations), a lady was hijacked, yes HIJACKED right outside the army barracks in Rennes (Western France). She was hijacked and raped.

How safe are you? 
How safe is your family? 
What is the cost of keeping them safe?

Let me give you clue about the cost of staying safe. It pales in comparison to the cost of being the victim of violent crime. The cost of crime is not only the total amount you have to spend on replacing the physical items that you loose; a much higher cost is the mental anguish that you and your family will suffer. This emotional distress continues long after the cost of the missing items has faded. The REAL cost of crime cannot be measured in money. 
When it comes to their safety, people fit into 3 main categories:

  1. I can take care of myself. You don’t need to read any further, you’ve got it covered. 
    2. What crime? See number 1. 
    3. I know there is crime but there is so much and it is so varied, I don’t know what to do. Read on.

People often say that they know all about crime. They see it on the TV, in the papers and on the internet. Reading about the various crimes that are perpetrated does help us to prepare against the bad guys to a certain degree and it is very important to stay up to date with the latest criminal trends. 

The problem is that we are mostly learning from the victims about how to protect ourselves, after the crime has happened, and that means that the best we can hope for is that the crime happens to someone else first, so that we can be prepared for it (maybe!). 

It is imperative to understand that the bad guys are constantly developing new ways to separate us from our hard earned money/car, etc., and that they are individuals and as such, there are thousands of new and ingenious schemes developed every day. So trying to play catch-up only makes us feel more helpless. 

HERE’S A WAKE UP CALL: Prevention is the best way, the easiest way, and the least expensive way. By prevention, I don’t mean run away or hide away in a castle. You still have to go to work. You still have to interact with the world. 

Staying safe is not about how expensive your alarm system is or how good the security at work is. You need to make safety a part of your life. Everyday. Everywhere. All the time. Staying safe is an ongoing, iterative project that needs to be planned (together with your family), tested (a plan that is not tested is only a theory) and put into production (made part of your life). 

Think you can make safety a part of your life? In my opinion, you have no choice.

When it doesn’t go as planned Clint Overland

Self-defense starts with hand washing. In that simple
statement lies one of the basic truths of life. If you are not willing
to wash your hands often then you are not really worried or prepared
for life to take a turn for the worse. I am taking a turn from my
normal rants and raves to try and help you be ready for things that
can happen to you in an instant, and sadly most people are not ready
for it. How is this pertinent to Conflict Management you may ask?
Simply put, conflict isn’t always about people at odds with one
another, it can often be about doing what you can to control your

In today’s world there are situations that arise
whether it is political, social or environmental that can cause a
major disruption in day to day existence. From coupe attempts to
hurricanes our system is so dependent on convenience and the
government that the majority of us are not ready to manage our lives
for a few short days without an almost total breakdown of society.
Look at New Orleans after Katrina or the effects of major snow storms
in the Northeast U.S. Power outages, fuel, food, water shortages, are
you ready if something occurs that you have no control over?

If you are not then please read on, is you are then
this may just be a way to see something that you have forgotten or did
not think about. Please feel free to take notes or add to the list of
things that I miss.

Five Gallon buckets are a life saver! What the hell
are you talking about, you may be asking and if you give me a moment I
will explain. You can purchase five gallon buckets at almost any
Walmart or home supply store. They are cheap, versatile and store
easily. I like to buy one or two at a time and the fill them with
necessities. Take the bucket, place in the center a 1 lbs. can of
coffee or box of tea. Around it you can then put a 5 lbs. bag of
beans, rice, cornbread mix, and salt/pepper. beef jerky, peanut
butter, etc. List on the outside of the bucket what is inside and you
now have a readily transportable supply of basic food. Do this with
whatever you think that you will need for seven days without basic
services. Medicine, first aid supplies, cooking implements, water
purifiers, blankets, you will be amazed at what you can store into
five gallon buckets. Just be sure that you can load and unload them in
a vehicle quickly, you don’t want to be trying to evacuate an area
quickly and find out that you can’t load your supplies because they
are too heavy. Don’t forget cleaning and sanitation supplies as well.
Most people in an emergency don’t have time to grab them but to
prevent contamination and disease this is a must. I like simple
bleach, clean rags, hand sanitizer and wet wipes. Don’t forget that
depending on your area you may need to also put bug repellant and
insecticide into the kit as well. I have been using pine sol as a bug
repellent in the back yard this summer and it has been working great,
plus it’s a dual purpose product, so that is a plus.

Remember you are only trying to maintain and control
as much of the situation as possible. It’s not about luxury but
mobility and survival. Have a tool kit already in place in your
vehicle, plus depending on your area and the weather conditions of
your local area place a few heavy work tools in your trunk. A snow
shovel in South Texas may not be the best choice but in Ohio it would.
I carry a shovel, small hand axe, crow bar and a couple of large
hammers in my Suburban just in case I need them for some reason. Plus
several cans of tire inflator and a portable air compressor for flats.
If you take time to set your vehicle up beforehand, then you have
already cut your evacuation rate time down and when every minute
counts seconds matter.

Remember folks this is not by any means a survival
guide, there are hundreds of people teaching survival and emergency
response if you are really interested. If asked my advice about whose
work I would use as my go to source I would recommend fellow
contributor Toby Cowern at Tread Lightly, Dave Canterbury at
Pathfinder Survival, and the Military Field Manuals available online
and at most good gun/survival stores. Also please as a part of you
Conflict training go and get your CPR and basic first aid training at
your local Red Cross, and practice them on a regular basis. Again when
every minute counts, seconds matter.


Universal Principles of the Russian Martial Art – Mikhail Didenko

The Russian Martial Art is based not on techniques, but on the so-called principles. A principle is a versatile formula, a matrix, and a general rule that can be used not only in combat situations, but also in many other diverse encounters. Principles are algorithms that are ready to use.  More than this, principles develop our independent thinking whereby a person or practitioner evolves into a leader. However, this is not an occasion, but a target of the Russian martial art. To win a fight, your style must be unpredictable. You can achieve this by deploying principles that make your mind and movement free. In addition, you can find a way out of any situation not only because the principles are universal, but also because any person is taught that life is a fight in and of itself.

This article explains how to simplify a structure or a process and use this knowledge in self-defense, project promotion, negotiations or even carpentry.

The general principle is to prefer a simple structure over a complicated one and to get rid of any mediators.

For example, try to punch with a palm heel instead of a fist. It makes your strikes safer for you, because you cannot hurt your wrist or metacarpal bones while fighting. Our fists (ossa metacarpi) are too fragile. In the anthropological sense a human being is not supposed to punch, our hands are designed for grabbing things and doing a million of complicated operations. Thus, the metacarpal bones are thin and breakable, because if the bones were solid, we couldn’t use our hands the way we do it now. Writing, molding or platting would have been impossible. So, if you fight in a street and you have damaged your fist against somebody’s forehead, it makes you unable to use this hand for some. But if we exclude the fist and hit with the palm heel you we cannot hurt our hand; thus, we can win. The fist is an unnecessary link here. Our hand consists of three major joints: a wrist, an elbow, a shoulder – 3 joints altogether. Eliminating the fist and immobilizing one joint makes the whole “system” more reliable, as we all know that complicated systems are easier to be brought out of operation or broken.

Before: the wrist (1st link) – the elbow (2nd link) – the shoulder (3rd link).

Now: the elbow (1st link) – the shoulder (2nd link).

Some people study karate, wushu and they are trying to harden their arms, but you cannot cheat the Mother Nature. It would take you at least five years to achieve good conditioning and still nobody could guarantee that you wouldn’t break your hand against somebody’s skull. Palm strikes are not so swift, but they are safe. It can be crucial if we are talking about a street fight where you need to deal with multiple attackers. When we slip and fall down we a support with palms, because we are not afraid to hurt them. At the same time a lot of people are afraid that they can hurt fingers, knuckles or metacarpal bones in a street fight, especially if they have hurt them before. In the Russian Special Forces systems they don’t strike with knuckles by another reason. For example you hurt your arm against your enemy’s helmet, and then your hand turns into “a bulb”, or your index finger is broken. That’s it as you cannot pull a trigger, you cannot use your gun.

Palm strikes are easy to use in darkness, or when you are blinded by blood, or sand, whatever. We can feel where the opponent’s face is when we stand nearby. If we can touch the opponent’s arm, we can “calculate” the location of their face. We don’t need to aim to hit the chin directly. We can smash the face and it hurts anyway. If we punch with a closed fist, we should deliver the direct hit, otherwise the punch is useless and if we talk about real self-defense, one second can be vital.  

Historically fist punches were used in the traditional fights which were a rite, a symbol of the eternal struggle between Good and Evil, Day and Night, Spring and Winter, For example, fights during fertility fests known among Slavic nations.  Later these sacred symbolic fights evolved to sports, like boxing or traditional forms of fist fighting. Such a form of fight has never been used for self-defense. Two guys from one village could fight each other, but they couldn’t use real combat techniques, because they could harm each other seriously, and that would not be accepted, as they were from one clan, one community.

There were fewer people in the Middle Ages and any member of a community was appreciated, especially the ones who could fight. At the same time people wanted to take it out on somebody they had a conflict with and fist fighting was a “safe” way to do it. Also, it was a “safe” way in the medieval Russia to train youngsters (although sometimes people died in such fights). However, they didn’t use it in real fights, when your life was a prize. In a real combat you’d better use other techniques, like a low blow to a groin, which is not permitted in boxing. It won’t be correct to say that boxing or fist-fighting are useless in a street fight. Many times in my life a couple of boxing punches were enough for an opponent, but I had other techniques in my stock like knee strikes, throws, and so on and could help myself if the punch would miss the target.

Yes, masters study all techniques including fist-fighting and palm strikes, but we talk about a usual self-defense situation, and a usual person involved in. It’s better to use palm strikes, because they are effective, simple and do not take long time to learn.

Now let’s progress and talk about the business application of this principle. If you want to present your project to someone (e.g. a potential investor) you’d better to evade dealing with their deputies or assistants, because they are an unnecessary link here. They can steal or misinterpret the conception you want to offer. Try to avoid mediators where possible as they can make it worse sometimes. Communicate directly. Seek the unnecessary links in any system you deal with. The lesser joints, the better.

There is one Russian children’s game which is called “The broken telephone”. Rules are the following: kids sit together in a row and the first one whispers a phrase to his or her closest neighbor. The neighbor transmits the phrase to the next kid, until the last one gets it, and then the last kid should tell it out loud. Usually the phrase is so corrupted due to whisper, that it causes common laughter. This game is a perfect illustration of this principle.  

My Story:

Once I decided to organize a Russian fist-fighting group in a college belonging to Russian Orthodox church… They already had some classes there, but I had some new ideas (some exercises and techniques they didn’t know). Instead of talking to the “big boss” I decided to talk to one of his subordinate teachers, who was younger. I thought we could communicate better.

After our conversation he told me he would call me. But he never did. I called him myself to find whether he passed my suggestions to the main coach. The answer was negative. However, I found out through one of my teenager “spies” in his group that he started to use my ideas without notifying me. When I called him again and told him I knew it he was astonished and had nothing to say. I learned the lesson.

After that case I’ve always contacted to the “big boss” directly – when I’ve first met Mikhail Ryabko, I asked his personal phone number to have a possibility to contact him directly.

Let’s see how it works here:

You (1st link) – an assistant (2nd link) – a boss (3rd link).

Number two is an unwanted mediator, a dangerous barrier. They can do anything – misunderstand your idea or even borrow it.

We can also add one more usual unnecessary link – a receptionist. So, the “system” now is even more unreliable:

you (1st link) – a receptionist (2nd link) – an assistant (3rd link) – a boss (4th link).

As we’re all humans we can say that the receptionist might forget about your message. It happens, doesn’t it?

The perfect “system” is next: you (1st link) – a boss (2nd link). Without a hitch.

“A Spanish speaking bandit held up a bank in Tucson. The sheriff and his deputy chased him. When they captured him, and the sheriff, who couldn’t speak Spanish, asked him where he’d hidden the money. “No sé nada (I know nothing),” he replied. The sheriff put a gun to the bandit’s head and said to his bilingual deputy: “Tell him that if he doesn’t tell us where the money is right now, I’ll blow his brains out.” Upon receiving the translation, the bandit became very animated. “¡Ya me acuerdo! Tienen que caminar tres cuadras hasta ese gran arbol: allí está el dinero.” (I remember now! You should go three blocks to that big tree, the money is there)

The sheriff leaned forward. “Yeah? Well..?” The deputy replied: “He says he wants to die like a man.”

The translator was the excessive link in this story. If the gangster knew English, he could talk directly to the sheriff and save his life.

The same principle also works in communication between friends. If you want to piece up a quarrel with somebody, you’d better not involve any negotiators. It seems to us that everybody thinks like we do, but in fact everyone is a different Universe and such a negotiator can make things worse.  

At the same time if you are a mediator of such a kind you should not to be excluded. For example you have some ties with a person who has enough money, and then another friend offers you to unite to make a project together and to introduce him or her to the potential sponsor. So you should remember that afterwards your friend can think that you are the “unnecessary link.” It’s better to keep the information and never disclose your contacts, and to be useful.

You can use this principle in carpeting, making structures of wood. You can use it in welding, in construction. It depends on what you need: beauty or reliability. A complicated structure is often not reliable; simple structures provide more endurance.  

You can use it just everywhere, including establishing a company or forming your team. For example, if there are too many ” links between a person who takes decisions and a staff member in your company, it might not be reasonable. Say, there are some troubles at the staff  level. The staff member addresses his or her superiors, they pass it on, and finally the information is on the top-manager’s table. What if it’s too late? What if the speed of transmitting the information is too slow? And vice a versa – even if the top-manager solved the issue and took the right decision, it would take some time to be communicated to staff. Time loss results in performance or business opportunity loss. Sure, if your company is global such links are inevitable, still it’s never late to think how you can eliminate the extra “buffers”.

The same method worked at battlefields since the ancient Romans – smaller, but well-trained squads with good interaction defeated large, but disconnected barbarian armies where communication between the units was hard and insufficient.

So, from the battlefields of the past to the modern office the same principle applies: simplify what you do and try to deliver it direct, whether it’s a strike or a business proposal. Polishing this skill takes certain time and requires a good level of observance, but the results will be beneficial.


  1. ‘Boxer’s Fracture (Metacarpal Neck)’ by Clifford R. Wheeless, III, MD, ‘Boxer’s Fracture’ by Manuel Hernandez, MD
  2. ”We may conclude, then, that, if this is the better way, and if Nature always does the best she can in the circumstances, it is not true to say that man is the most intelligent animal because he possesses hands, but he has hands because he is the most intelligent animal. We should expect the most intelligent to be able to employ the greatest number of instruments to good purpose; now the hand would appear to be not one single instrument but many; it is, as it were, an instrument for instruments. Thus it is to that animal which has the capacity to acquire the greatest number of arts that nature has given the most useful of instruments, namely the hand”, Aristotle, PA IV, 10, 687a15-23.
  3. T. Agapkina, ”The Myth and Poetic Bases of the Slavic National Calendar” (Indrik, 2002), pages 175, 176
  4. “In spite of those strict rules combats sometimes had deplorable results: fighters could get permanent injuries or even die. – See more at:”

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just sayin’

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

Importance of Proper Training Gear – Terry Trahan

When you engage in any physical activity, be it boxing, wrestling, or, in the extreme, military training, it is of utmost importance, and common to employ training gear in order to replicate the environment and actions in a safe manner, while maintaining and enforcing the skills being learned. Training gear can be anything that decreases risk, increases safety, or allows more realism in the training environment. Boxing gloves, headgear, mats, hanging bags, all are examples of training gear we as martial artists are used too.

In self defense, we need to practice more than the skills employed when using the above mentioned gear. We learn weapons use, disarms, weapons access, deployment, and engagement. It should be obvious that we cannot use real knives, guns, or any other live weapon for these. Imagine doing gun retention with a real gun, loaded… kind of makes you nervous, doesn’t it. Well fortunately, it made enough other people nervous that they did something about it, and now most people are used to the idea of ‘blue’ guns, and other inert replicas that can be used to safely train and practice these skills.

With the advent of more realistic training in other fields, it has become obvious that other safe training ‘drone’ versions of other tools are required for safe yet realistic training. We now see foam bats, screwdrivers, simmunition guns, shock knives, and a wide array of other realistic tools. One area I am particularly happy about is the growth of this in the knife and knife training industry.

It is still rare in the production knife arena, but companies like Spyderco, Boker, Emerson, and Cold Steel all make drone versions of at least some of their models. This is particularly important with folding knives. In order to get proficient at folding knife use, it is important to practice accessing and getting the folding knife into use. It is too dangerous to do this with a live blade, and Spyderco and Emerson recognized this early on, making fully functioning versions of their most popular folding models, with no edge or point, to enable realistic practice of these skills.

Custom knife makers that specialize in defensive knives are doing  abang up job recognizing and providing these training knives. In my recent review of the Sakit form JB Knife & Tool, I mentioned one of the reasons I liked it so much was because of the trainer and sheath included in the package.

I hope that as realistic, lifesaving training becomes more important, other makers and production companies will take this area seriously and start providing other options.

If you cannot find a training version of your carry knife, you can buy a cheaper generic training folder, or you can do what us “oldtimers” had to do back when. We would buy two of the same knife, and then spend hours taking the edge of, rounding the point, making sure there were no burrs or sharp edges left, so we could practice as realistically as we could.

Now, you have to keep in mind that these trainers are still steel, and can cause serious injury when used in full force scenarios. Much caution must be used in these circumstances.

Another option is to purchase a purpose made safe training, hard contact set of trainers. At this time, the only reliable company that provides high quality trainers of this type is NOK Contact Trainers, out of Thailand. I highly recommend looking them up, it will enable you to use fuller contact in your training, to develop more realistic survival skills.

Remember, in all aspects of realistic training, there is always a risk of danger and injury. Care and attention must be applied to lessen this, and looking into these kind of tools is an important part of that care and attention.



In Vietnam, an average “bungle in the jungle” tour of duty lasted 12 months, and one year is still the common trip length in many overseas situations. There were studies written on this and the Nam subject. The studies broke the 12 month Nam tour down into three effectiveness periods. The first period of approximately 4 months, the classic “FNG” (commonly known as the “fucking new guy”) was considered to be a rookie, new and rather worthless. The next four month period was his best as he slipped into the educated, operating groove, was properly alert and reasonably experienced. And the last few months were said to be his downhill slide! “Worst?” Because he was getting “too use” to the danger, less alert and more complacent.

In general, the average troop was at first – a little too scared and inexperienced. Second, in the groove. Then, third not scared enough. What does this have to do with adrenaline you ask? A lot. Adrenaline and fear factors into each of those periods and the overall assessment.  Stand by.

To sell a cure? You first need a good, scary poison. Adrenaline has become that poison, a boogeyman in martial training the last three decades. The very term itself – adrenaline is a bit of a catch-phrase for several, chemical hormones. It would be hard for me to pinpoint when the craze happened or who did the very first smear campaign. But, some people back then, must have read these and other reports, and saw an opportunity to sell martial training from a different marketing, angle. Who? In general, it was the first wave of these so-called, reality-based, self-defense, (RBSD – a redundant term I still dislike) people with their then, newer and cooler programs.

Amongst this crowd, they preached that every hesitation or false step, every human error, every problem a person had small or big, whether they were ambushed or not, came as a result of the evil adrenaline, robbing your vision, your hearing, your ability to think, act and perform. Adrenaline they claim, made you a big, slow, numb, gross motor dummy, pooping and peeing in your pants, etc. with very “boo,” This concept, this pitch was used to dumb-down training, dumb-down expectations, lower achievements and programs to a barest minimum…and sell them. Quicker is better because all people are reduced to babbling idiots in fights anyway.

So yes, the first wave of the adrenaline wonks appeared on the scene about two, almost three decades ago. They came at you hard, with the “real deal,” “insider’ sales pitch and a “holier-than-thou” smell.

“Step right up ladies and gentleman and see the wonders of human biology destroy your chance to survive any encounter. But Wait!  Wait! Right here in my hand is this elixir. The cure. If you adopt my form of training you will survive. Drink my potion, you will overcome this Frankenstein and fight off your enemies with a new found confidence and skill.”

To sell a universal cure? You need a universal poison. That poison was adrenaline. But is adrenaline really such a poison? Ask any number of doctors, like Dr. Veronique Mead for one. “The adrenaline response has a number of very specific effects aimed at maximizing survival, mediated by circulating epinephrine and cortisol (Braunwald et al., 2001). These effects include a state of heightened alertness, increased energy with which to meet a potentially difficult situation, and augmented muscle strength (Ganong, 2001). In preparation for battle, chemicals are released into the blood to facilitate clotting, and blood vessels in the skin are constricted to prevent heavy blood loss in the event of wounding (Ganong, 2001). Similarly, blood pressure and heart rate increase and the kidneys retain water, all in support of tissue perfusion and the maintenance of fluid volume in the event of sweating or blood loss (Ganong, 2001). In addition, the spleen deposits red blood cells into the blood stream in order to increase oxygen delivery to muscles (Juhan, 1998), and pupils dilate to let more light into the eyes in order to increase visual acuity (Ganong, 2001).”

Okay! Got that? Quite medical. All of this got screwed around to the negative. “Zero-to-sixty” shocks can be negative, sure, but zero-to-sixty somehow became the standard definition. Also, people have misconstrued terms. Audio exclusion, for example, doesn’t mean “losing all hearing,” or “going deaf.” It can mean (and technically does mean ) “focused” hearing, or tuning out distractions. Same thing with vision. When you focus in on the TV set you are not seeing the pine tree plant in the corner of the room. The same thing in a gunfight. When you focus in on the gunman or the gun in his hand, you fail to see the garbage can on the street corner. That does not mean adrenaline is robbing your vision, or stealing your hearing.

Long term, like an overall tour of duty, or short term like a very sudden, surprise blast of activity, if you are over-adrenalized, your performance may not be so good, such as the new, green soldier. If you are reasonably adrenalized, your performance is peaked, and if you are under adrenalized, your performance might be less than hoped for. This below chart comes right out of sports performance textbooks. Performance trainers and coaches have long understood the relationship between what they have called “sports arousal” (adrenaline) and the experience of the athlete.


In this physical performance chart prepared by professional sports trainers Daniel Landers and Stephen Boutcher If someone is barely aroused, he is barely adrenalized and not at all stimulated by much adrenaline, if any? He is not excited enough to benefit from the adrenaline boost. Nor should all the proposed ill-effects that naysayers attribute to adrenaline be present. So, you cannot blame adrenaline for actions of the under-aroused. If he screws up? He’s on his own. All the proposed negative effects of adrenaline really occur at the very far end of the curve, when the person might suffer from a high, “over” stimulus, matched with a host of other factors too, like physical health and situational factors. In fact, in this whole continuum, poor performance and high over-arousal constitute a small, extreme part of this bell-curve chart that not everyone reaches.

This chart above will apply to police work, as well as sports, or any dangerous endeavor. We eventually get complacent. We get lazy. We get careless. By understanding both charts, the short term and the long term, an understanding and a training model develops. It is largely about desensitization. First it’s good. Then it’s bad. In the beginning, you get this best only through experience and then second through repetition training in a realistic setting. But you cannot get too desensitized.

“In the beginning, it is all about desensitization. First it’s good. Then, it’s bad. You get this best through experience and then through realistic repetition training. But you cannot get too desensitized!”

It is scientifically clear that performance is best when a subject is aroused than not aroused, and best when he is moderately adrenalized/aroused, the center of this bell curve. This is true of my own personal experience. I have never felt more alive and more alert, and more clear thinking in many, if not most of my dangerous police times. Being adequately nervous is a good thing. They once asked Frank Sinatra when in his 80s, if he still got nervous when stepping out on a stage after six decades of performing. He answered, “of course I do. I need to be nervous.” Of those dangerous and, or challenging moments in policing? I miss them greatly. I miss them the most.

Poor performance may occur from a host of specific reasons. Pain. Surprise. Confusion. Shock. Ambush. Exhaustion. Anxiety in the long term. Emotional rather than intellectual decision making. Distraction…., a whole host of short-term and long term wear and tear-down of a “tour of duty.” All situational reasons that may interfere with action. NOT JUST ADRENALINE.

NOT ALWAYS ADRENALINE. To lump all performance problems into one cause is to do a disservice to training doctrine. Once you recognize this truth, you can treat the real, individual poisons. A police officer may not think clearly just because she’s worked a double shift. A soldier may freeze just because he was cleverly ambushed. A citizen may not put their key in the door of their home fast enough when being stalked, not because of adrenaline, but because they have simply never practiced putting their key in their door very fast. You may not reload your gun fast enough simply because you haven’t practiced doing it on the ground, sideways and in the mud, as well as fast. It’s different. Doing things differently.

For myself, and I know for others too, it is also a “zero-to-sixty” issue. How dull and unprepared were you, the very few seconds right before to you were confronted with a shock or action? Zero-to-sixty responses are tough.  I have always done best when I have been a stage or level of being “half-adrenalized,” for lack of a better description. This 1/2 stage invokes other topics like awareness and breathing and things so long, we shouldn’t cover them in this essay.

Here’s an example or a “twenty, or thirty-to-sixty” situation. Racer Tom Rockwell said, “When I raced motorcycles the adrenaline would start to flow on Wednesday for a Sunday afternoon race. What that meant on the track was that I had all the time in the world to make split second decisions when things went south. Your whole life doesn’t flash before your eyes; it just seems like there’s time to review it all.”

To best prepare for the race tracks of life? Use the who, what, where, when, how and why of life, use the latest intelligence to construct the problem scenario. Dissect what might happen. Use experience and research, and repetition training to explore the most probable occurrences on down to the least probable. This is the reverse engineering I have talked about for the last three decades. One of our oldest mottoes is “fighting first, systems second.” (And as Einstein said, “keep it simple, but not too simple!” And what was simple to Albert, baffles the rest of us. Simple is a relative term. Need I repeat that? Simple, is a relative term to you and your capabilities, stressed out or not.)

Training will help, but that’s not all –  “Culture, upbringing and environmental conditions will wire the frontal lobe in a unique pattern that determine can individual’s response to extreme stress,” says Dr. Kenneth Kamler, author of Surviving the Extremes.

Hive Mentality – Garry Smith

I will start with a confession. Before we had Bertie, our cute little Puggle, we had a Border Collie cross called Guinness. He was a lovely dog too and like Bertie used to like his walks. On one nice sunny day we were walking along a path in the Mayfield Valley and I noticed a large number of wasps coming in and out of a cavity in a tree. I am not sure why but I threw a stone into the cavity hitting the nest, guess what happened? Yes, out came the wasps and I made a run for it. The problem was Guinness did not.

The wasps caught up with Guinness, I tried swatting them off him with my hands but they, and there were a lot of them, began to crawl into his coat. I did what I could by getting him to a part of the nearby river that was deep enough and pushing him in. Hoping this would kill the wasps. They had already been on him for a couple of minutes and I had no clue as to whether they were stinging him. There were no signs that they were but he did slow down as we walked home.

I felt real guilt as my stupid actions had caused my dog possible suffering. The good part is after a nap on the lawn Guinness went about the rest of the day as normal.

The thing is I know about wasps, I know that like bees in a hive, they will swarm if they feel the hive is under attack let alone under actual attack. If you have seen bees swarm it is a pretty impressive sight and not something you want to provoke. Stings hurt and multiple stings hurt more. Insects, bees and wasps in this case, have no intellect, if attacked or if they think they are being attacked,

Swarming can also be the result of overcrowding in a successful hive so the hive splits and reproduces itself. This is different, these bees are looking for a new home. Our previous bees and wasps were looking to defend theirs, and for the insect mass attack is the best form of defence.

Whatever signal that triggers the attack these insect will sacrifice themselves in the process. Take a look at this video.

Frightening stuff. The thing is people behave this way too. I am now going to reprint a book review I wrote for the February 2016 Conflict Manager on ‘The Crowd, A Study of the Popular Mind’ by Gustav Le Bon 1896.

I first came across this book in my studies at the University of Warwick in a class called Social and Political Movements taught by Professor Jim Beckford. Jim was a great tutor and a really nice guy to boot, his classes were always looked forward to although his rigorous analysis of ideas may upset some of today’s precious petals.

The first class looked at the work of Le Bon and his study of the psychological nature of crowds. I remember liking it at the time but feeling that it was just too much guess work and overtly influenced by the authors experience of a turbulent and frightening, for him,  period of French history. 

That was back in September 1990, much water has passed under the bridge since then, so why come back to it now?

Well it all comes back to a conversation I had with Rory Miller early in 2015 about ConCom and the triune brain when I mentioned Le Bon and his theory. Le Bon’s analysis is that once subsumed in a crowd an individual surrenders their individuality and a psychological mind is formed through contagion, emotions spread throughout the crowd and freed from individual responsibility the baser instincts take over. The individual ceases to think about the consequences of their actions as emotions take over and acts of both barbarity and heroism are possible.

Le Bon describes the ‘spinal cord’ as being in control and not the intellectually reasoning brain. 
 Ring any bells? Well it rang mine.

The thing is in the PC days of the 90’s this became a bit of an Aunt Sally, by the students that is, to be fair Jim used it in its historical context to begin a much wider and deeper exploration of the subject at hand. For the students, fresh out of some of the top schools in the UK, it was to be belittled, corny, out of date, lacking in evidence etc.

I was 31, I had been involved in a lot of crowd violence involving a full on riot with flaming barriers, thousands of people mobilised and hand to hand fighting with specially trained units of riot police, plus the occasional football riot, I thought differently. 

Though written in a voice from a different age and though the criticisms raised were in part valid, it was not enough to write it off as a whole, I thought all along there was something of value here.

In his book ‘The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt revives the work of several theorists who were also sacrificed at the stake of political correctness and shows how resulting evidence almost conclusively provides the evidence they lacked which allowed the ‘PC mob to grab their pitchforks and light their torches.

I am not claiming that much for Le Bon but he sure saw something the others did not want to see. 
There is another parallel I want to draw with Haidt’s work that also prompted me to go back to Le Bon, Le Bon was here first and Haidt never heard of him, or if he did he never recognised him. 
Maybe because Le Bon was lost in some pseudo academic backwater is what I would think, forgotten and unloved. However, I suggest you go get your free copy from Kindle now, read it, read it in the full and tell me that it does not describe how the world is today.

As I reread it I saw all the arguments, and candidates, in the forthcoming presidential election in the USA, it frames the rise of Islamic State, I will not prime you too much but this is a really interesting read. 
There are bits that lack intellectual rigour, it is more polemic than analysis and his biases are obvious, BUT, that is not a reason to ignore it. Go get a copy and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

So back to July 2016 and 220 years after Le Bon put forward his theory we see mobs rampaging in the USA as the presidential election continues to divide a people, we see racial tensions thrown into this mix too with black and white supremacists making capital from these divisions. Hate is spewing forth and emotions are incredibly high. Why are we surprised when the violence comes?

It comes as the mob mentality takes over, here the work of Le Bon seems as good an explanation as any other. Actual attacks on communities, even suspected attacks, in the currently overcharged atmosphere cause people to swarm and to sting their real or perceived enemies.

The mob was feared by Le Bon, he was frightened of the mob and its riots, but those riots were underpinned by revolutionary ideas that threatened the existing order. He was frightened by social change and in a time where execution by guillotine was in overdrive who can blame him.

I think we now have a phenomena worse than the mob as there appears to be no rationale behind most of these hate groups, be they the KKK, Westborough Baptists or Black Lives Matters, my observation from the much calmer side of the pond, is that they had rhetoric, now they are mostly spewing out hate and some of it is vile. Their existence is based on hate, pure and simple, and this hate spreads through the mob when it forms. Once one member of the mob triggers the others then the hive mentality takes over and the desire to sting infects all.

As I watch these groups ‘protest’ their behaviours continue to amaze me, do these people ever see themselves afterwards?  In her article in this issue my wife Karen Moxon Smith states “I have seen grown men cry when the CCTV shows them repeatedly kicking someone in the head when they honestly thought they had only acted lawfully”. When individuals lose control, and I have been there, they will commit acts they would be shocked at any other time, appalled even. I have been in mobs that once a victim goes down then the kicking starts and it goes on long after they are unconscious. Football violence is fuelled by many things, the desire of young men to fight, the consumption of alcohol, the intense tribal emotions and an othered enemy who are going to attack us. I have swarmed, I have attacked and I have hurt people and just because the supported a different team. Not politics or religion or race, football.

So I understand this from a subjective perspective as well as an objective one, I may be wrong, feel free to disagree, I welcome that but I have been there and done that. To non participants the shock of the hive attacking can be as frightening as for those actually attacked, especially when live are being taken now. Once you upset the hive and the bees come out it is almost impossible to get them back in.

We are, post event, and from the comfort of our armchairs, unable to comprehend this behaviour when we see it and one coping mechanism is to other those involved. They are not human, they cannot be, and from there it is one small step to dehumanising them, whoever they are. We, whoever we are, need to stop these people, we can only do so by banding together against them.

Can anyone hear a small buzzing sound or is it just me?

The thing I have not discussed and that really bothers me is that hive are really easily triggered. Social media today allows not just one hive to be triggered but multiple hives in multiple locations. Chaos can erupt real quick now and infection can be global in seconds. The massive threat is hate groups manipulating social media to trigger their own hives and this triggering the hives of opposing hate groups. They feed of one another. They feed of truths as much as they feed off lies and often nobody knows what is truth or lie.

The social infection can go viral incredibly quickly and there are many who, as Haidt shows very clearly, act instantaneously on emotion and then proceed to rationalise the emotion. As they say the first victim when war breaks out is the truth, for me the first victim when emotion breaks out is rationality.

Welcome to our brave new world. Or not.

Over herein the UK the electorate defied all the major political parties, all the major institutions, interfering foreign leaders and all the celeberities they wheeled out to tell us our future was better in the European Union, and we won. Brexit should become a reality in the next few years, those who supported Brexit were attacked mercilessly as biggots, little Englanders, ignorant, stupid and racist. The hive mentality was triggered and the stinging went on for weeks led by a fearful political class and the comfortable middle classes.

I mentioned hate groups from minorities earlier, well the biggest hate group is those who have the most invested in the system, the socio-economically comfortable and the people who do their bidding, they will drop their veneer of rationality and reasonableness when threatened and they will swarm. The hive mentality has a wider reach than we thought.


Jonathan Haidt, ‘The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Religion and Politics’, 2013.

Gustav Le Bon, The Crowd, A Study of the Popular Mind’, 1896.

Yuval Noah Harari, ‘Species, A Brief History of  Humankind, 2015.