Anger, Belief, Moral Framework and Conflict Part III, Marc Mac Young

I’m going to direct you to the works of Dr. Jonathan Haidt; professor of social psychology, one of the formulators of Moral Foundation Theory and author of the book Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion.

(Great book, I highly recommend it. It was a pivotal for the direction I’m taking Conflict Communications. You can find audio and video on moral foundation theory on the web. You can also get Righteous Mind on audio.)

The premise of moral foundation theory is established (or if you will traditional) forms of morality are based on five universal, but different foundations. These five are:
1- Harm/care
2- Fairness/cheating
3- Loyalty/betrayal
4- Authority/subversion
5- Sanctity/degradation

I’m not going to go into these five too deeply because the focus of this article is conflict arising from differing moral systems. (Besides, go read/listen to the book). I will tell you there’s a sixth, and prospective new member to the list. And I personally think number six is a big source of sanctimonious rage.

But, before we talk about that new kid on the block, I want to stress that these five exist in all traditional, historic and established systems of morality. That ‘… these five exist…’ is very simple sentence, but it has very deep in implications. One of them is having all five, is very much the basis of what I said earlier about the size of the gap between positions. While not being on the same page, having all five at least puts people from traditional systems in the same book. No matter how differently they interpret these or what they emphasize. Now granted there still can be some nasty differences, but there’s a new problem strolling the streets these days. Worse, it’s got its sleeves rolled up and is looking for fights. It has to do with how many foundations (or as I call them, pillars) someone’s moral system has.

But before we get to that, let’s keep looking at the results of having five. When a system has all five we find long-term, stability. Even thought different systems emphasize different interpretations, these five pillars all balance each other out, both limiting and supporting each other. Yes different groups emphasize them differently, but the presence of the five creates a stabilizing internal system of checks and balances. This stability — even though it may change over hundreds of years — is what has allowed these systems to continue a thousand or more years. Whether you agree with the system’s beliefs or not, they have an impressive track record of sustainability. A track record new ideas do not have.
Also notice these checks and balances start out in the pillars themselves. Harm/care is two sides of the same coin. Who do you take care of and who do you harm? Who is it wrong to harm (and you must take care of)? In comparison who is it okay to hurt? Also what harm do you bring onto those who harm the ones you’ve deemed need care? In other words: Who do you give priority to in harm/care?
It’s not a simple question.

I’ll give you a very powerful, example. Abortion. The Pro-Abortion position puts the well-being and rights of woman first. Assessing that in the first trimester the fetus isn’t ‘alive, ‘ the woman is more important — including the effects having a child will have on her life and opportunities. This position holds that abortion is not murder and it protects the woman. The Pro-Life position puts the well being and rights of the child first. Assessing the fetus is ‘alive’ and a child from inception, this position holds that abortion is murder. And speaking of murder, people have died over differences in convictions on this subject.
Wow, irreconcilable differences, right?
But instead of focusing on the difference, look at the similarities. Both sides are very concerned about the harm done to their chosen priority. Both are arguing over their different answers using the metaphysical question of “when does human life begin?” And most of all, both are absolutely convinced of the morality, virtue and truth of their position.

Someone’s position on this subject is less important than recognizing the underlying dynamics. When harm/care situations are reduced to black and white someone is going to be helped, someone else is going to be hurt. Who is it going to be? That is the core component of what the fight is over. And how someone can feel morally superior with whatever position they take — because after all, they’re keeping someone from being harmed. Being able to both see this and how the same thing affects your position is a very important skill for negotiation and compromise. And, just as importantly, for recognizing an entrenched and unreasonable position — including your own.
Having said all this, I’d like you introduce you to the new kid on the morality block: Liberty/ oppression.

Although many Moral Foundation Theory proponents will tell you Liberty/oppression is very much a ‘made member,’ I still look at this sixth as a prospect. That’s because the other five are global. All human societies and long running moral systems have them. Liberty/oppression is still both localized and, realistically, not all the bugs are worked out — especially because so many individuals are setting their own standards about their ‘rights’ and freedoms.
This requires a side track. Simply stated humanism is a concept that was introduced into Western thought only a few hundred years ago. Now in American terms, that may seem like long ago, but it’s really not. Remember we’re comparing it to established systems that have lasted over a thousand, if not thousands of years. Yes, humanism has strongly influenced Christianity (especially the Protestant versions) in the last 300 years. And yes, it can go off on it’s own form of secular morality (while lacking divine providence, it can be unquestionable authority to true believers). But what we don’t understand is concepts like egalitarianism, liberty, equality, freedom and rights (for everyone) — ideas we’ve been conditioned to take for granted as self-evident truths, and in some cases #THETRUTH — are in fact, extremely Western-centric.

There’s a few problems with this. First we fail to realize that our acceptance of humanism is a belief system. (It is no more scientifically demonstrable as any other religion.)

Second, as implied in the previous sentence, it can be turned into a religion. (That religion requires the worship of a ‘supreme being’ is another Western conceit). This second point opens the door to orthodoxy, dogma, interpretation, heresy and sects within humanism.

Third, we don’t realize when we start going on about humanistic beliefs (equality, human rights, liberty, etc.,) the rest of the world looks at us like we’ve grown a second head. That is not a shared frame of reference. For example, they see nothing wrong with inequality and racism. (Or as my favorite quote from Star Trek DS9 goes, “Oh no! We Ferengi aren’t against oppression. We just want to be the ones doing it.”) In order to believe there is something wrong with those, you have to be coming from a humanistic perspective.

Fourth, humanistic based morality can be twisted into my rights and freedoms are sacrosanct — and I get to decide what those are and what they mean. That last is a very short step from there to the source of chronic rage over perceived oppression and wrongs. Which brings us back to using Liberty/oppression as a basis for morality…

What do rights and freedom mean to you? What do they mean to someone else? Often individuals’ interpretation of their freedom becomes a form of zealotry regarding their selfishness. If they perceive you are infringing on their freedom to do as they will, they will come at you tooth and claw. You have no right to tell them what to do. While we’re at it, you have no right to judge them or to try to stop them.

But this is an incredibly one way street. You can’t judge them, tell them how to live their lives or tell them what not to do. You don’t have that right, but they do. They can judge and condemn you in a heartbeat. This behavior is especially common among those who feel oppressed or victimized by events in the past. In more extreme cases you can see this taken to where a person feels that it is his right to break the law (including assaulting you) because of past and currently perceived oppression.

Basically you’ll find this kind of sacred outrage comes in two basic flavors:
1) those that will act on their own and
2) those who act through proxies.

Either way, they’ll come at you with righteous rage. Not only do they attack, but they act in the absolute conviction they are morally justified in doing so. You have wronged them. According to their moral standards, you deserve it.
Someone who is acting in moralistic rage cannot be ‘reasoned’ down, nor can they be appealed to. At the apex of their rage they can only be deterred or stopped (as in physically). This is not a bluff, you have to be ready, willing and able to do it. If you aren’t they’ll see it and just escalate beyond what you’re willing to do. Acting as if you are or using your authority as a shield is another good way things can go bad. But especially do not try to shame them; that is a tactic that will blow up in your face.

That does not mean however they cannot be stopped — especially before they get a full head of steam. The question is how far down that road are they? Someone who is acting from anger is easier to deal with than someone who is acting out of fury. Someone who is being hostile is different than someone who is being verbally or emotionally abusive. Someone who is verbal is a on a different level than someone who is being physical.

Therefore the issue isn’t if that’s what they are doing, it’s how far down the road is it? This is going to have major influence on what it is going to slow it down, much less stop it. That is important, because you’re not going to be able to change the mind of someone in this state, all you can do is limit the damage they do or — more practically — persuade them to leave you alone.

Worse, if they can ‘win’ on their own, they’ll run to human resources, administration or other authorities to do it for them. In extreme cases they’ll doxx you, organize a protest, vandalize your property and stalk you — all with clear conscious and moral certitude. Again, you deserve it. In case you haven’t guessed it there’s a strong connection between the rising victimhood culture and this kind of anger based morality. They were wronged, therefore what they are doing is justified.

When it comes to zealots you will find a greater numbers among individuals whose moral frameworks function on only one or two foundations. In fact, let’s call them — uber-pillars. These are foundations that have been blown out of proportion and to the exclusion of others. No other pillars matter as much as what they’ve focused on. For example someone obsessed with Liberty/oppression often has no respect for authority (Authority/subversion foundation). The only moral authority they recognize is themselves. The rules don’t apply to them. That’s if they’re not aiming for subversion (overthrow).

For example, what will be the morality of someone whose entire moral framework is predicated on Liberty/oppression and Harm/care? What rules (much less laws) will that person be willing to break because of perceived wrongs and injustices? How much anger and fury will that person carry at the world? A world so obviously wrong and hurtful? A world that deserves to be hurt back. We tend to think of fanatics in terms of religion, but secular ideologies can become just as extreme and harmful.

Earlier in this article I said, ” In some situations not only isn’t negotiation not going to work, there’s a good chance trying will make things worse. ”

Those lines should make a whole lot more sense now. But let me state, trying to compromise with someone intent on hurting you is not impossible. What you’re negotiating for takes on a different shape though.

I will also say the definition of ‘good faith negotiations’ change when dealing with people whose morality either condones your destruction or doing you harm. They aren’t playing for a win/win. They’re playing of a win/lose. And just so you know, their version of winning is you losing. Many of them are willing to sacrifice for that goal. For example in a work situation they may lose their job, but if they can get you in trouble that’s still a win — at least in their book.

Recognize that with such a personality, the best compromise is a draw. In a one time situation, you both walk away still breathing and go on living your lives. In a more long-term situation, you both withdraw to and stay on your respective sides of the street. You do not tolerate, but neither do you transgress over those boundaries. If forced to deal with one another, both you remain formally polite so as not to trigger a negative response that would have unwanted consequences.

We’ll talk more about how to handle such folks next time

American Krav Maga – Gabe Cohen

I do not train because I like to fight. People will ask me, “Did you see the fight last night on TV?” Whatever the latest hype may have been about, whether its UFC or boxing, etc. My answer is always the same, ”No, I did not.” Often they think I am being sarcastic but I am serious. Mainly it’s people who know me from the gym that assume I follow these fights.

“Don’t you teach that hardcore brutal Krav Maga stuff?” I answer them but without the explanation of why I don’t follow or participate in competition sport fighting.

Here is my answer…”Yes I do but we like to call it, brutally effective! But I do not enjoy sport fighting.”

Most people dont care to really listen to why I feel this way or hear about why I am so passionate about what I teach. It is sacred to me and i do not waste my time with in sincere people who just want to make small talk or rub elbows with their local “tough guy” ( at least thats my perception of how people look at me sometimes).

I do teach the mindset of total, all out aggression…if attacked. Krav Maga is a self-defense system and I teach people to walk, run away if they can. To pick up an improvised weapon if they do not possess one but if all you got is you, with no exit possible, then I teach them to do as much damage to their attacker in the least amount of time. I do have tremendous respect for people who train with everything they got in their respective martial art or competition fighting system. I just do not enjoy entertaining people hurting other people for trophy, money, sport or any reason. ( to me self –defense is justified violence and I occasionally like seeing video of a bully getting his ass kicked or victim of a crime kicking the predators ass! Guess I do have exceptions).

I have witnessed enough violence in my life in some very dark places, some in broad daylight and at night in the streets of America. I choose not to spend my free time entertaining more of it. I don’t really like violent action movies anymore (Jason Bourne an exception!). I have been a part of a very violent lifestyle in the past it in different capacities, hospitalized by it and sent a few there myself which I am not proud of but this has been my experience. Today I use my past to help people learn to keep themselves safe. It is very satisfying and therapeutic for me to teach people how to wield violence to those that wish to “ walk in peace.” Taking the things I have learned through my experience, many of them from the school of hardknocks, and not just from traditional training in a gym/dojo.

Years of being a bouncer taught me to use my “verbal Krav Maga” skills as much as possible while weathering a storm of verbal abuse and provocation. Sometimes hitting first was the best way to keep myself and others safe, I teach this too but I do not go around looking for the opportunity to use my skills. In fact I will do everything within reason to avoid a physical confrontation.

I have two sons in their early 20’s that love to box and train several times a week in it. They enjoy watching the next bout between champions. I lose potential clients that want to learn mixed martial arts “like the stuff they see in UFC” when I tell them that I incorporate many of those types of techniques, especially striking but that I teach a self -defense system. “Basically,” I say “ I teach all the stuff your not allowed to do inside the ring.”

We all have the right to defend and protect ourselves and our families. I tell people up front that they have to have the mindset that there life is at stake when they train with me. That techniques by themselves aren’t worth much for real world violence unless you’ve trained them under stress and exhaustion. Yes there are many benefits to training in any martial arts or sport fighting system, mentally, physically, and spiritually but my reason for training is for survival. Having the mental, physical and spiritual aspects in your life will only enhance our training but that is not the scope of my focus. I do not teach morals or ethics, I do not teach an art.

So if I don’t like violence and state that I don’t like spending my free time entertaining it then I can understand how this may baffle some when they see me training 3-4 hours a day in a for violence. Some people want to train with me “to learn how to kick ass” if they ever need to bugt there not really willing to put the work in. They want me to show them “magic” things that will keep them safe. Mark Slane, my instructor and founder of The United States Krav Maga Association says it well in his book, American Krav Maga:

“We get people in our gym who want to take one on one lessons from us. They want to learn the techniques…not do drills or be ran into the ground. I turn them down flat. Krav Maga isn’t just techniques. The whole mindset and philosophy that we teach make it a complete system. The philosophy of go forward, go off, go hard and destroy is what will save us in the real world.

Violence of motion trumps technique. Aggression, attitude, meanness, and looking to do major damage is what keeps us safe.”

I have had clients ask me how they can find that place in themselves. They are not used to thinking in such an aggressive manner maybe never having had to muster up such hatred and rage within them.

This was one of my biggest challenges as a new instructor because for me it’s easy to teach people how to physically perform a technique but the ability to help someone come to the understanding that they have and can tap into this aggressive mindset is a different story. Not something that was easy for me to articulate in the beginning of my American Krav Maga instructor journey.
I had a friend that was familiar with some of the “war stories” from my past and some of the more recent bouncing experiences. He asked me how I overcame that fear when I am in a fight or about to engage in a violent confrontation. He had been jumped by several guys, beat up pretty bad and had begun training with me. He said, “ How come you don’t get scared?”

After thinking about it for a moment this question led me to the answer I had been looking for to convey to others how to attain the mindset of all out aggression. To do whatever it takes to survive a violent attack. Conveying this attitude to others came to me in this round about way.

Something I had remembered reading about the psychological screening used for new volunteers applying to train for a special elite military fighting unit was that they would ask these guys what their biggest fear was. Many of these guys had that very macho attitude and would blurt out, ‘I’m not scared of anything,’ and quickly be disqualified. The reasoning was that they needed mature soldiers, men that were self aware and humble enough to recognize and acknowledge their greatest fear. If they weren’t able to do this they could jeopardize the whole team on a mission, putting everybody at risk. If your scared of heights and the whole team is waiting for you to rappel down the side of a building, you never admitted your fear, never focused on facing it, working through it then when the time comes when its life or death you freeze up. Foolish pride gets alot of people hurt and killed.

I train and diligently work hard to be as proficient as possible in my style of self defense. Criminals and predators live there lives lurking in a very dangerous destructive violent mindset. I need to go to any length to meet the challenge of having to defend myself against one of these very sick people because I have identified what one of my biggest fears. I do not want to jeopardize my team. I am responsible to protect and provide for my family. I am not a soldier but I am a father and a husband, a brother and a son I have a family that depends on me for many different things. One of the ways I can take care of them is by taking care of myself.

God forbid we are ever confronted with a horrible violent situation and put in harms way. This is what I think about when I’m training. I see my sons, my wife, my sisters and brothers, my father. I would mind set on the way down to work at the nightclubs where we had 5 of them on one block at 2,000 people in the street after last call. The mindset is, “ I’m going home tonight, safe. We don’t lose.” My family and my responsibility to them comes before anything.

“How come I don’t get scared?”
Quite the contrary. One of my biggest fears is not being able to be there for my family, to make sure their safe and secure. Especially having worked in an arena where I was putting myself and safety at extreme risk, I had better damn well know what this is all about for me. Why am doing it and who I’m doing it for. I’ve learned to identify this fear and harness it. Recognize the initial adrenaline dump and the “freeze” that’s coming in an assault or that is coming as a confrontation escalates. Being aware and knowing what to expect and how to react to this fear is key. It’s going to happen and I’m going to experience but I have a choice on how to train to condition myself on how to respond to the inevitable.

You dont have a family? think of the worst thing that can possibly happen to you, that you don’t want to happen. This is where you start, this thinking is what motivates you to go that extra mile in training and in reality. That’s how I do it.
When I’m dragging my ass in the gym or don’t feel like training or push myself to do that extra rep or sprint, I think about that if I give up in the gym then I’m giving up on my family. My motivation in training isn’t to try to be super badass and look cool in front of the mirror, have great abs and burn 800 calories or compensate for psychological hang ups like insecurity, ego or pride. No. I train and will fight for the people I love and to protect myself if need be. I do train to hurt people and teach people how to cause as much damage in the least amount of time but I pray that we will never have to use it.

Spending quality time with my family is an essential part of my training. This is where the emotional, mental and spiritual aspects come in. Of course we spend time together because we love each other and it’s conducive to a happy, healthy, functional family life but I as I savor the moments we share together it will also be a tool that I’ll reflect on when I’m working out. They are the spark that’s behind the fire in the gym or if necessary, in the street. I do not entertain violence for a pass time or for entertainment value. I do not like watching people get hurt. I am sensitive to other people’s pain…would I, could I unleash the beast I’ve been feeding within me? Absolutely. I would not hesitate, not for a second if it was necessary.

So yeah, I do teach that brutal stuff… brutally effective!

The Confusion Between Conflict Resolution & De-escalation, Part I – Gershon Ben Keren

There is a common misconception that conflict resolution is the same as de-escalation; if you resolve the conflict, you deescalate the situation. The phrase, “putting the cart before the horse”, comes to mind -i.e. how can you resolve a conflict if somebody is still in an emotional and adrenalized state? The answer is, you can’t. Yet many people try to do so. The belief that being calm, and reasonable, will somehow resolve a conflict with an aggressive and emotional person, is misplaced and dangerous. When reason leaves the building, negotiation and explanation have no place – these methods can only exist and be effective where an individual’s faculties to process and evaluate information are still in place; if they’re not, what you have to say, will either fall on deaf ears or escalate the situation. All talk will be interpreted as fighting talk, by an emotional person, even if it’s intended otherwise. If I truly want to deescalate a situation I need to put ego, feelings and emotions aside, something most untrained people are unwilling/”unable” to do. Most people would rather be right than effective – and this attitude does not lend itself to de-escalation. De-escalation often looks/appears to involve backing down, and few people’s egos can take this hit. The process doesn’t necessarily involve backing down but it does involve giving up on the idea that you need to be right, and put your own point of view across.
There are basically two types of violence: premeditated and spontaneous.

Premeditated acts of violence, involve individuals who have decided upon and planned to become violent; spontaneous acts of violence involve persons who have become violent due to your actions and behaviors, whether real or perceived. A mugger who purchases/acquires a knife, selects a location, and starts actively looking for victims, represents a predatory individual who is engaged in a premeditated act of violence – i.e. they have planned to become violent. If you spill a drink over somebody and they become violent due to this, then you are dealing with a spontaneous act of violence – your action/behavior caused them to become violent (the spilt drink) – they didn’t come to the bar looking to engage in an aggressive confrontation. Sometimes premediated acts of violence present themselves as being spontaneous. In a truly spontaneous act of violence, an aggressor has no predefined goals – they don’t know what they want out of it; someone you’ve spilt a drink over doesn’t know what will make the situation right, or what outcome will actually satisfy them, they simply don’t see an alternative to violence in that moment. When an aggressor comes to a situation knowing what they want out of it and not being prepared to accept any alternative, it is not a spontaneous act of violence. Sometimes premeditated act of violence can be interpreted as being impromptu and spontaneous, even if they’re not.

Having worked bar and door security, I’ve had to refuse entry to individuals for a variety of reasons e.g. they didn’t meet the dress requirements of the establishment (wearing trainers/sneakers and/or a football or soccer shirt, etc.), they were too inebriated, or I simply had a bad feeling about them. Most times, people would accept the refusal, sometimes they wouldn’t. It may seem that it was the refusal that caused them to become aggressive i.e. it’s a spontaneous act of violence, however if their goal was to come into the bar or club regardless of any objections, that this was their only goal/outcome, it was really a premeditated act of aggression – and understanding the difference is important. Spontaneous acts of violence and confrontations, which lack a defined goal, can usually be de-escalated and resolved; premeditated ones can’t. In a premeditated act of violence, such as a mugging, the mugger can only envisage one outcome: leaving with your wallet (the variable is whether they will have to stab or shoot you in order to achieve this). If you spill a drink over somebody they don’t have any particular outcome in mind, and are possibly open to alternatives to violence – if they can be put in the right state of mind to consider them (this is the goal of de-escalation) – such as having another drink bought for them, their dry-cleaning paid for, etc.

The problem is that many people try to resolve conflicts and disputes without first de-escalating them. An emotional and aggressive person is not able to consider alternatives to violence, especially when they feel justified to act violently (the injustice of having a drink spilt over them, for example). The only time you will be able to successfully resolve a conflict, is when the person is in an emotional state where they can compare and evaluate different alternatives. When they’re not in this state, they will interpret everything you say and do as you posturing to them. I have witnessed this on countless occasions when somebody is trying to talk rationally to an aggressive individual and nothing they are saying is being interpreted as a potential solution to the situation; they are just not in the emotional mindset to be able to consider any outcome to the situation other than violence. The goal of de-escalation is to reduce the emotion in the situation so that the aggressor can consider different non-physical ways that the situation can be resolved. Making the most logical and rational suggestions to an angry, emotional person is not going to get you anywhere, and is in fact more likely to escalate the situation for you.

The first question you have to ask yourself when facing an aggressive and angry individual is whether this is a spontaneous act of violence or a premeditated one. If it’s a premeditated one – the person has come to the situation with a single outcome in mind, and is prepared to use violence to achieve this – you have two options: to use physical force or acquiesce to your aggressor’s demands (if this involves handing over your wallet you may be prepared to do this, if it involves being sexually assaulted you probably won’t). It may be that depending on your job/responsibilities you can’t acquiesce e.g. if what somebody was wearing didn’t adhere to a club/bar’s dress code, I couldn’t let them in, etc. If it’s a spontaneous act of violence, where an aggressor didn’t come to the situation with a particular goal in mind, then de-escalation is more often than not an option available to you.

In the second part to this article, I will describe and explain a process for de-escalating spontaneous acts of violence that I have used in many situations, to avoid being involved in a physical confrontation.

End Part I.

The Dangers of Killer Instinct, Part I – Rodney King

The vast consumption of reality based self defence programs are not by military, law enforcement, or occupations that deal with interpersonal violence on a regular basis but rather civilians. Civilians by their very nature, and at least in the relative safety of the Western world have very little experience with interpersonal violence, outside of Hollywoods depiction of it. Added to this, there is an uneasy truth that is often not spoken openly about in the world of self-defence marketing’  — that very few of these civilians will ever have to deal with an interpersonal violent confrontation in their lifetime, at least not one that would be considered life or death.

Yet with the onslaught of media that seem to focus exclusively on a world that is seen as wholly unsafe, it is no wonder then that civilians especially those who live in the cushy, relative safety of upper class suburbia feel it necessary to seek out methods to secure their safety. The way the media portrays it, no matter where you live in the world, there is a bad guy around every street corner (who knows even your butler might be out to get you).

The methods of teaching often employed in many of these reality based self defence schools seek to unlock the killer instinct within an audience which as suggested earlier are not acquainted with acts of violence on a daily basis. Bringing out the animal nature in civilians is proposed as the type of traits necessary for them to defend against a violent, deranged, attacker. This approach in my view, far from being productive, and of course constructive in giving someone the necessary fortitude to take on a violent assailant, is to a large degree setting them up for failure. Before I suggest why this may be the case, I want to set the grounding for what I term self preservation, as opposed to self defence and an ego fight.

Getting Clear on Self Preservation

At least from my perspective, self defence has always held a reactionary meaning. For example, one finds oneself in a bad situation, you are attacked and you deploy your self defence skills (often, as pointed out earlier with intensity and ferocity, i.e., with that killer instinct).

Self preservation on the other hand, at least as I am defining it, is preemptive in nature. From this perspective self preservation doesnt begin when someone attacks you, but starts that morning, a day, a month, and even a year earlier. The reality is that statistically a person living in the suburbs is more likely to be seriously injured, even killed in a motor vehicle accident especially when not wearing a safety belt than being mugged. Statistically speaking a person is more likely to have a heart attack and die because of bad nutritional choices in the Western world, than being attacked by another human being. If we are then seriously talking self-preservation, which is the preservation of the self (i.e., to live), it then implies that safetyof oneself is not just when someone attacks you, but rather ensuring self preservation in the things that WILL happen, and are more likely to kill you on an average day. For instance if you really valued your life, then you should make sure you put your safety belt on when you get into your motor vehicle or not eating cholesterol rich food that will clog up your arteries and cause you to have a heart attack.

When one then takes this further self preservation implies being astute and aware of ones surroundings (take note, I said aware not paranoid). Why go down to that nightclub when you know its a hot spot for violence? If you do find yourself in a nightclub, and a bunch of guys are giving you the evil eye, and you sense that it may escalate, leave the club and go home. If you are out at night and you have to park your car on the curb, then choose a spot that is well lit, and frequented by many people, and not the one around the corner near that alleyway with no visible lighting. If you bump into someone in a bar, and he spills your drink, your default setting shouldnt be to turn around in a rage which then changes a situation that could have been deescalated to now one that could result in potential personal harm. This more importantly is not self preservation, it’s ego defence. If you walking in a bar, and you bump someone and he spills his drink all over you, your first reaction shouldn’t be to throw profanities at that person, but rather to apologise, see it as an accident (which it more than likely was) and use verbal jiu jitsu tactics to politely ask if you can buy them another drink. This is self preservation, more over it is being a mature, sensible human being.

Often times, what is passed off in the world of reality based self defence is akin more to ego defence, than true self preservation. If we are honestly talking self preservation, then it is about avoiding violence where ever possible, It is about being aware of potential threats and removing oneself before a potential problem arises. If faced with a threat, then the first choice should always be to talk that person down using verbal jiu-jitsu, and if no other choice is available and it requires that you need to go hands on then you do just enough to neutralise the threat and then immediately find the nearest exit. This is what it means to preserve the self.

I would argue that many people, especially those teaching reality based self defence would have a hard time with this definition. One only has to look to YouTube to see a myriad of self defencevideos, where the defender fends off an attack, only then to go ballistic on the opponent, stomping his head into the ground, even though and crucially (albeit it being a demonstration) the fight was actually won ten moves earlier. Lets not even talk here about the appropriate use of force applied to the situation at hand. I am surprised that not more of these instructors or their students are dealing with assault charges.

Additionally tons of self defencevideos can be found on YouTube that show situations where if someone gets in your face then you neutralise him with a barrage of vicious attacks. But when one looks closer at many of these situations, especially contextually how these situations are dealt with, even set up, are more often than not about the ego, not self preservation.

The reality is, if you truly talking or teaching self preservation then the number one thing you want to teach someone is to avoid conflict at all costs (of course the ego doesnt like this approach, but that should be a self defencelesson too). This understanding seems to be a no brainer for wild animals, who would much rather posture than fight. They know all to well that even if they fought  and one of them won, whilst the other died the injuries sustained by the victor could mean that they both die in the end albeit a week or so later.  

Revisiting Killer Instinct

Coming back to the notion of teaching civilians killer instinct. There is several glaring problems with this approach. Firstly, it is wholly out of context to how people typically live. Most people, unless they find themselves in a profession that encounter interpersonal violence on a regular basis, the most they have to deal with is an occasional road rage incident on the way to drop the kids off at school. In most incidents that the average person may have to deal with, in which it could potentially become interpersonal aggression the use of awareness, verbal jiu-jitsu skills, and a sensible, mature attitude to a given situation is more often than not the best form of self defence.

When civilians are taught to focus on killer instinct as the master strategy, and they do find themselves having to deal with a potential physical threat, it sets the stage for the hammer and the nail syndrome. If all you ever have is a hammer (killer instinct)  then that is what you will likely default to using for all potential aggressive encounters (the nails). As they say, you rise to the level of your training. People trained to deal with potential violent encounters with killer instinct will default to this as their master strategy, because they would have never been taught that a battle is not always won, or needs to be won with fists. Coming back to my examples previously that implied what I meant by self preservation, if we are seriously talking about the defence of self (not an ego fight), then using verbal jiu jitsu to talk ones way out of a situation is far more prudent a strategy than risking ones safety by being physically injured. Lets be honest too, no one really wins in a fight, even if you win, you may still walk away from that with injuries that you may never recover from (physical, psychological or otherwise).   

Secondly, invoking killer instinct especially in those who are not exposed to violence on a regular basis will likely result in a hyped up berserk state that would create a lack of awareness on the part of the user. Training it in the confines of the gym, is not the same as using it on the street. The latter will be tied to a massive overdose of survival hormones that will alter both emotional and cognitive functions. The result then is a tendency in the midst of that berserk state, fuelled on by adrenaline etc al., to then centralise ones focus, thus losing touch with what else is happening around oneself. In other words you simply no longer have situational awareness. The result, you may not see that multiple assailants have surrounded you, or if  an opportunity for escape presents itself, you may miss it completely.

Thirdly killer instinct mismanaged, which it likely will be considering the civilian nature of the user, will result in an over reliance on the reptilian brain in that moment (the fight/flight/freeze response), thus shutting down the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for higher cognitive functions like planning, distinguishing right from wrong, determining what is socially appropriate behaviour, decision-making, and producing insights. The truth is, anyone who has worked with interpersonal violence will tell you, being hyped up and aggressive is often a poor performance state to be in. You want to instead be cool, calm and collected. This allows you to make decisive, focused choices leading to keeping yourself and those you love safe.

For example, during my military service I served in VIP Protection. As a body guarding unit we were tasked to protect various important members of the armed forces. We were taught early on, that when faced with a potential threat, say for example from another human being moving towards us, that we needed to have an open focus (situational awareness), breath and keep calm. Remembering always that to get hyped up, or aggressive on one target would lead to a centralisation of focus on that one threat, thus loosing track of potentially other threats not to mention forgetting about our primary mission which was to keep our Principle safe.

End Part I.


About the Author

Rodney King M.A., RSME is the creator of Crazy Monkey Defense, and its sister self-preservation program Combat Intelligent Athlete. He has taught army special forces and law enforcement teams how to survive a life and death encounter when all they have is their body to defend themselves with.  You can find out more about Rodney and his work at or

Social Conditioning: Women & Violence, Part I – Tammy Yard-McCracken, Pys.D.

An opening disclaimer is important: research, hard science, is difficult to find on this topic. Ethics as they are on human research prevents us from setting up attacks on a randomized sampling pool of unsuspecting, uninformed women. The ethical guidelines on human research are there for a reason. The result? What follows is based on anecdotal evidence, personal reports, my experiences and campfire stories passed along by people I respect. There will be bias in these words.

Setting the Context

A few years ago the news reported an 18-year-old woman fatally shooting a male intruder. She was at home with her infant when the home invasion began. She barricaded the door, called 911 and 20 minutes later, two assailants finally made entry. Just before they broke through her barricade, she asked the 911 Operator if it was okay if she shot them if they came through the door. Dispatch couldn’t “advise”, but when they made it inside her home, she fired and killed one. The other one took off (Gast, 2012).

Side Note: the dispatcher was not new on the job. She crafted her words carefully to avoid giving advice while telling the frightened woman to do what was necessary to protect “that baby”. Good on her.

A few weeks later a mom in her late thirties hid in a closet with her 9-year-old twins after calling her husband to say she thought someone was trying to break into the house. The intruder made entry, rummaged through personal belongings, and eventually opened the closet door. She fired. 5 times (Reese, 2013). As the events unfold the husband is calling 911 while he keeps his frightened spouse on the phone. He is recorded by the 911 Operator saying:

“She shot him. She’s shooting him, she’s shooting him…again.”

“I heard him pleading…He was screaming.”

These are examples of armed responses to violent action and imminent threat. Look past the use of a firearm and look at the behavior of these women. Retreat. Hide. Call for help. Wait. Ask for permission to act.

There is a decent correlation between the rate of adrenalization and gender. Women adrenalize more slowly than men as a whole, giving women time to plan before the higher level thinking skills go off line. Tobi Beck (Beck, 1992) gives credence to it in the book, The Armored Rose, and those anecdotal and personal experiences I was talking about back her up. If the correlation has a biological underpinning, it may partially explain the WHY both women delayed in using lethal force. It does not adequately explain the WHAT in their tactical choices. These women were armed and they chose to:

  • Barricade/buy time
  • Call someone for direction
  • Ask for permission to act
  • Retreat
  • Hide
  • Wait

Here are a few more.

Mother of two walking to her car. Sunday afternoon, sunny day, “good neighborhood”. Two men are in the area of her vehicle. One smiles, is this your car? Can I ask you a question about it? She smiles back, even though she doesn’t feel friendly and says she’s in a hurry but “what’s your question?”

Gun drawn, kidnapped and carjacked. Twelve hours later in a sudden stroke of something resembling a conscience one of them let’s her escape.

18-year-old woman trying to untangle herself with polite smiles and excuses about being poor dating material gets pulled down on his knee. Unnecessarily strong grip holds her there. Sit here, be my good luck charm in the poker game, baby. Forcing a smile, she complies and then leaves as soon as she can do it without making a scene. Quietly tries to slip out of the party and gets to her car. He’s there too, asks for a ride home. She knows something isn’t right but he’s stranded, his buddy is passed out drunk and he’s gotta’ get up early for work.

Gives her directions to a remote neighborhood and rapes her.

One more (although there are thousands of these to be had). Pumping gas in her personal vehicle mid-morning after her run as an elementary school bus driver, a distressed woman approaches. The woman has a black eye and looks a little frantic. I’m so sorry, I know I look horrible. I’m running. My boyfriend beat me and I’m trying to get away. I have a bus ticket but can’t get to the station – I almost have enough for the cab. I need, like 5 bucks…can you help?

Suspicious, but doesn’t want to be one of those people who looks away. A sister needs help. Nods and reaches into the car for her purse. Something hard slams into the side of her face and knocks her to the ground. The forlorn female in distress grabs the purse and takes off.

How and Why It Matters

These three incidents share commonalities and together with the two home invasions, the five cases help to highlight social scripts and cultural rules that drive female behavior in most post-modern societies.

  • Defer
  • Wait
  • Be polite
  • Smile (when she doesn’t feel like it)
  • Appear cooperative
  • Be helpful and compassionate
  • Subjugate personal need and intuition to someone else when the two conflict

Bullet list #1 + Bullet list # 2 =

  • Physical/Violent Action requires permission from an outside authority
  • Deflect, defer, wait, buy time, retreat
  • Be polite even when it isn’t warranted
  • Smile (you’re so much prettier that way, anyway)
  • Be helpful
  • Be cooperative
  • Be compassionate
  • Be quiet (and hide)
  • Everyone else’s needs/expectations are more important

Welcome to the Cliff Notes review of How To Be Female in Western Society, 101.

Martially trained women, if you are reading this, a part of you may look at the above list and argue. “No, not me. I know better.” Intellectual awareness and physical training will not override a couple decades of social programming if you refuse to acknowledge it lives in your thinking. If you won’t consider it, if you are certain none of the bullet points could possibly apply to you, it is a dangerous blind spot.

Force professionals, you may be tempted look at these examples with an eye toward identifying all the places each of these women screwed up.  You are ticking off the behaviors that made her the perfect mark and the voice in your head may say, “she should have known better”.

And that’s the point. The behaviors and underlying beliefs that make a female an easy target are created by the social rules and expectations she has been marinating in from moment of her birth. This isn’t news and people like Gavin DeBecker have been writing about it for years (DeBecker, 1997).  

End Part I.


Beck, T. (1992). The armored rose, the physiology and psychology of women fighting in the SCA.  Beckenham Publications, Avon IN.

Brizendine, L. (2006) The female brain.  Morgan Publishing,

DeBecker, G. (1997). The gift of fear. Dell Publishing, NY, New York.

Gast, P. (2012) Oklahoma mom-calling 911 asks if shooting an intruder is allowed. Retrieved from

Reese. R. (2013). Georgia mom shoots home invader, hiding with her children. Retrieved from

Wong, Q. (2013). Gender and emotion in everyday event memory. Memory. 2013;21(4):503-11. doi: 10.1080/09658211.2012.743568. Epub 2012 Nov 28.


Conflict Management Literacy, Part 1 – Erik Kondo

What does it mean to be literate in something? The general answer is that you are well versed in the various aspects of the subject.

For example, someone who is Financially Literate has a strong understanding of how to deal with money on a personal and professional level. On the other hand, someone who is Financially Illiterate does not understand the financial world. That doesn’t make them unintelligent. It makes them ignorant of “how monetary things work”.

Someone who is Literate in Conflict Management has knowledge and understanding of the many aspects of dealing with interpersonal human conflicts. Having the ability to fight or physically defend yourself doesn’t necessarily make you literate in Conflict Management.  But it may make you literate in one aspect of Conflict Management.

Rory Miller has defined the Seven Aspects of Self-defense. They are:

  1. Legal and Ethical
  2. Violence Dynamics
  3. Prevention
  4. Counter-Assault
  5. The Freeze
  6. The Fight
  7. The Aftermath

Using this framework, Self-Defense Literacy requires having a working knowledge, understanding, and ability to apply all of these seven areas, not just a few of them. Literacy means being well rounded in multiple areas, not just a specialist in a single area.

A large part of Conflict Management (Self-defense, personal safety, etc.) revolves around the ability to make critical decisions, assessments, and problem solve. These aspects require an understanding of how to interpret statistical data and assess risk and reward ratios, a/k/a cost vs. benefit equations.

Let’s look at some practical examples of this idea.

One thing many self-defense instructors and practitioners like to do is review view video footage of actual attacks. I do it all the time. There is much that can be learned. But there are also hidden dangers for the unwary (illiterate).

When you view a video of an attack, the odds of an impending attack occurring are 100%. You know it is going to happen. The title usually gives it away. (Example Title: Woman at ATM Viciously Robbed). Here I am using the example of a person being mugged at an ATM as the video clip.

Watching the video has the effect of creating a Cognitive Anchor of 100% attack odds. This has the effect of increasing your own assessment of the actual odds of being robbed at an ATM.

A Cognitive Anchor is when you attach to the first data point and use it to determine future assessments.

For example, I say the number “5”, and ask you to pick a random number. You say “10”. I say, “One billion”, you say, “One million”. In both cases, you could have picked ANY number, but you anchored to mine. My anchor influenced your “random” choice.

From Wikipedia (1):  “Anchoring or focalism is a cognitive bias that describes the common human tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered (the “anchor”) when making decisions.”

“Anchoring and adjustment is a psychological heuristic that influences the way people intuitively assess probabilities. According to this heuristic, people start with an implicitly suggested reference point (the “anchor”) and make adjustments to it to reach their estimate. A person begins with a first approximation (anchor) and then makes incremental adjustments based on additional information. These adjustments are usually insufficient, giving the initial anchor a great deal of influence over future assessments”.

When you watch a video of someone getting attacked at an ATM, you anchor to 100% probability of an attack. Therefore, you are likely to start believing that this type of attack is more frequent than it actually is. So what are the statistical odds of being attacked at an ATM in the United States? 1 in 50? 1 in 100? 1 in 1,000?

According the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, the odds of being attacked while doing an ATM transaction are greater than 1 in a million (2).

That means, on average, for every 30 second of video clip of an ATM attack, there are over eight thousand hours (350 days) of non-attack video. While the exact numbers differ, this same phenomena occurs for videos of kidnappings, elevator assaults, home invasions, police shootings, and much more.

It is not only self-defense aficionados that view these attack clips, anyone (the general public) who watches the news or listens to the radio, also effectively watches these clips too.

While this discussion may seem obvious to our conscious/rational/thinking brain, our unconscious/emotional brain isn’t good a math. It determines risk based on what it “sees” and “hears”. And it sees and hears about people getting attacked on a “regular” basis without any context for the true odds. This brain doesn’t take into consideration that attack video clips are edited content taken from a tremendous amount of raw content where nothing happens.

The average person bases their assessments of danger and problems in our society, not on actual facts, but on how they subconsciously “feel” about the issue.  For example, an activist who LIKES a Facebook Page that highlights incidents of police use of force shootings, will see video clips of police shootings on a recurring basis on their News Feed. Before long, they be convinced that these events happen much more often than they actually do. They do happen. But what is important is the actual rate at which they happen, not the perceived (emotion based) rate.

How many of these activists will research actual statistical evidence to support their outraged claims of frequency? And of those that do, how many will have an understanding of how statistics and studies can be misleading, misinterpreted, and be used to outright lie?

An important part of Conflict Manager Literacy requires having a deeper understanding of how to interpret statistical risk. And also understanding how our unconscious minds influence our decision making processes, including assessments of Risk vs. Reward.






Why I Stopped Teaching Women’s Self-Defense – Amanda Kruse

In my mind, self-defense should be of interest to anyone and everyone, as it concerns the safety and preservation of our selves and those we love. It makes sense, then, that everyone would want to have some knowledge on the subject, right?

My experience starting a self-defense business providing self-defense workshops has shown that people do not put self-defense as a top priority, at least not until they feel they “need” it (i.e. creepy neighbor, daughter heading off to college, traveling overseas, murderer on the news).

The idea for the business began after I was on a field trip with a group of 4th graders. We were on a city bus when a man approached a group of girls and asked to take pictures of the girls. Thankfully I noticed this interaction and stepped in to stop it. All ended well and the girls were fine, but I could not get the situation out of my head. I knew that these girls were trying to be polite to this guy, despite their obvious discomfort, when what they needed to do is say “no”, get away, and get help.

In my mind, a logical way to deal with the experience was to provide the girls with some basic self-defense and safety information to help them better deal with similar situations they may encounter. With the help of my tae kwon do instructor, I put together a 4 week class for these girls at their school.  We focused on prevention, deterrence, and general safety, along with some simple physical techniques. This class was a huge success. The class filled to beyond capacity, plus the girls and their parents wanted more!

This motivated me to start a business teaching safety/self-defense classes to teens and adults. With the results I had at this first class, I didn’t hesitate to pursue additional training and research and continue to move forward with the business idea. My idea for workshops were different than most self-defense classes, as I included a good deal of information/discussion on prevention, education, deterrence and boundary setting, which I hoped would help set me apart and provide a more well-rounded education.

Securing contracts with local community education agencies to put my classes in their catalogs was easy. At the time, I considered this another success. My first community education workshop came and went with mediocre attendance and I  had gotten a few private groups set up. As scheduled classes came and went, with attendance of anywhere between 2 and 6 participants, I realized that this may not be as easy as I thought. I attributed this to being new and people just not knowing about the unique workshops I offered.

As I was losing hope in the Fall of 2014, I had some media exposure that I was certain would change things. I was interviewed for a front page article of the major local newspaper, complete with an online video with the interview and demonstration. This exposure was followed by an television appearance on the local morning show. I was swamped with emails soon after, but only booked two private classes out of all of the publicity.

So, why not take a self-defense workshop? I have several theories, but the following quickly come to mind:

It will never happen to me”. Bad stuff only happens to other people, right?

The thought of having to use physical self-defense techniques is scary”. In many of my workshops, several participants have said, “I don’t know if I could do that”. First, just the thought of an attack makes them uncomfortable. Second, and this is particularly true of females, it is difficult to consider causing injury to another person, even in self-defense

I would be uncomfortable practicing any physical techniques in front of others”. An understandable reason, particularly classes that may involve complex techniques and a high level of physical fitness. Self-defense classes should educate on all of the ways we can prevent violent situations and give the confidence that simply putting up a fight and aiming for vital targets may be enough to escape.

I don’t have time to attend a self-defense workshop”. People’s lives are packed full, from work, kids, home and activities. Self-defense just isn’t a high priority until there is a perceived threat.

I live in a very safe neighborhood where crime rates are low”. Living in a small city in the Midwest where people tend to leave their doors unlocked overnight, I hear this on a regular basis. Safety is an illusion. There is always risk, whether it is violent crime, street harassment, rape, domestic violence, or bullying.

For a time, I tried to address some of these theories in an attempt to get more business. I made workshop times and locations convenient. Workshops were marketed as educational, with a focus on prevention, targeted at all levels of fitness. But I always refused to “sell” self-defense workshops by using scare tactics and play on people’s fear.

When the danger of violence seems near or is more visible (i.e. the news, college sexual assaults) is the time when people think of self-defense as a priority. Parents of female high school seniors heading off to college is a great example, in my experience. In July and August, I had parents calling me with fear and a bit of panic in their voices as they wanted to book last minute workshops for their daughters prior to their departure to campus. Prevention doesn’t seem to be on people’s minds otherwise.

The amount of time I have put into my self-defense venture never did pay when you run the numbers, but I had a strong desire to get the information in my workshops out there to those who wanted it. I thoroughly enjoyed the process and interaction and, in many cases, walked away feeling as if I had made a difference in participants’ lives. On the other hand, in classes that only had a small number of non-participatory attendees, they sucked the life out of me, leaving me exhausted, frustrated and continually questioning how badly I really wanted to continue.

This is the second writing of this article. The first was put together prior to deciding to end the business. That first article ended with “I will just keep on teaching, hoping that word of mouth continues to spread”, blah, blah, blah. The first writing made me think long and hard about what I was doing and if I really wanted to continue. A sense of bitterness came through that made me question everything. When I finally made the decision to walk away, a huge weight was lifted and I knew it was the right decision.

Although the business is coming to an end, I have no regrets. The people I met throughout the process were supportive and provided me with resources that have been invaluable, not only for the self-defense workshops, but also for me personally.  My plan is to continue to volunteer on a limited basis, providing information and education on safety and self-defense to larger numbers of people, such as schools and community groups. I still believe self-defense education is essential.


Violence is so much bigger than all of us – Darren Norton

Unfortunately, we will never completely understand the human race, as we also never really understand a subject as twisted and complex as what violence is. If, you have not been exposed too much violence throughout life, then your training will be subjective. When talking to most people their belief of violence is mainly based off their own understanding of what they learn in the dojo, see in Sporting events such as Boxing or MMA, or even what they watch in a film.  Sometimes it might come from personal experience’s working in such industries like the Police or the Prison Service or even working in the Security Industry as front line security. But how many people have to deal with or have dealt with violent offenders on a daily basis.

A lot of Instructors teaching Martial Arts nowadays tend to have little or no experience with real world, brutal violence and yet advertise that they teach Self Defence. There are very few who carefully look at what they are actually teaching or indeed what they have been taught. Now, because some people lack real world experience they will tell themselves a story about how they think it is rather than how it actually is in reality. As human beings we assume way too much. Unfortunately in the realm of Martial Arts and I’m in no way putting down Traditional Martial Arts as it is still a great love of mine but SEXY sells and we see this day to day in advertisements.

A lot of practitioners are seldom able to separate reality from the things they see in the films. Now this is a problem if they are teaching other people the same. People often use assumptions, reason, tradition, and recreation as a way of training for violence in the real world. Violence is ultimately about conflict and can come in many forms for instance: a group of people fighting in the local pub. Two Boxers fighting in the ring. A Nurse trying to help an aggressive, emotionally disturbed person in Accident and Emergency. A police officer attempting to handcuff a non compliant offender. A Door Supervisor escorting an intoxicated individual from the premises, someone who is being held up at an ATM at knifepoint. Armed robbers invading a jewellery store. A sexual predator following a young female home from a night out. Bullies who are bullying other children in the playground or even be a violent drunken spouse abusing their partner. 

These are all different situations and all require different psychological, tactical, and physical skills, but they are all in the subject of violence and Self Defence. In fact, the only real experts are the criminals who commit violence onto others on a regular basis without any conscience of what they have done.
The million pound question is how do we train for something that is so hard to define?

Some Martial artists try to do it all. They offer self discovery and enlightenment, physical fitness, street fighting, fighting in the ring, and Self Defence. They try to be all things to all people. They may even throw in military and combat training for good measure to make it more macho. Whilst all these aspects can all be connected in some way, they are not compatible. 

Training in a Martial Art is not necessarily training for Self Defence. Training to fight in the ring or on the mat is not training for Self Defence neither is training for combat unless you walk around with an automatic weapon in tactical gear on the street day to day.

Whilst all of these areas most certainly have practical applications that can be useful in Self Defence training, they are not, in essence, Self Defence training. Yet when someone rings up a martial arts school and asks, “Do you teach Self Defence?” the answer is always yes, Clearly money has become more important than integrity and our moral and social responsibilities. Let’s take a look at the roots of most traditional Martial Arts and how they still train, it has very little to do with dealing with modern day violence and assaults. If we take a traditional Martial Art like ninjitsu and look at its origins we will see its reason for practice was primarily for assassination by stealth! So then I think we can safely say many people are going to question its modern day Self Defence applications.

As I said earlier, I love traditional Martial Arts. I mean that’s how I got started in all this in the first place. I don’t think one style or system is better than another. But I think the problem lies in practitioners being delusional about what it is they are training for. While carrying a ninjato, climbing trees, and disappearing into puffs of smoke might humorously be considered useful strategies to avoid conflict, they probably don’t have practical application for modern day Self Defence.

Many systems often show techniques like this: Attacker assaults defender. Defender does technique (A), the technique is successful and so it finishes. This badly attempts to replicate real world violence. When you think about effective Self Defence training, does waiting for ideal circumstances to perform technique (A) seem like a great strategy?

In a lot of real situations, unless people are assaulted by a surprise attack there is both a pre confrontation and pre fight stage as some call it (The Interview). So why is it that individual’s are not being taught how to deal with the situation earlier in order to avoid the physical assault taking place? Many responsible Self Defence systems teach this before even getting to the physical aspects of Self Defence. It is very foolish to believe that the chance of you ever being attacked under ideal circumstances will happen. Attacks don’t happen in spacious areas with soft matting and good lighting with minimal contact.

Sound, solid training needs to address how to recover from the fear through fear management, pain, and shock of an assault as quickly as possible in order to survive. Stress inoculation through use of emotional invocation must happen in training otherwise we risk sending people out into the real world with false confidence. 

There is a great chance you may be injured and in pain before you’re even aware of the conflict and what is going on around you in a real life situation. You must break free of the shock and surprise in order to beat your own fear and instantly change your mindset from victim to predator. This needs to happen in just a few seconds in order to survive the attack. Understandably, this is no easy feat. But it needs to be trained if people are to be successfully prepared for the reality of a violent encounter.

Self Defence training also needs to address how one can avoid violence and how to avoid not be assaulted in the first place, either through hard luck or plain stupidity. Training needs to be preventative and in order to accomplish this more time must be spent on learning prevention techniques. We should be looking to escape or avoid, de escalate or negotiate; adjust and respond or comply depending on the context. When everything else fails and it has to become physical, then we must train to do so on our terms as much as possible.

The idea of waiting for a person to bring violence to you before you execute your technique isn’t a great strategy. We really need to outwit, not just outfight. Non reality based training sets you up to become a victim rather than learning to take the upper hand with initiative. There needs to be a change in mindset from one of reluctant victim to wary predator in order to shift the odds of surviving violence in your favour.