Conflict Management and Practical Karate Part IV – John Titchen


This element of de-escalation tactics is perhaps the most important and most neglected area of personal discipline.

To successfully de-escalate a situation you usually

  1. want to achieve a peaceful resolution,
  2. need to have the self confidence to believe that avoiding an unnecessary violent or aggressive event is indicative of mental strength not weakness.

For many people the ego is the Achilles heel of successful conflict avoidance. It is not unusual to find individuals who have either set false standards of behaviour for themselves, inappropriate goals, or believe (often incorrectly) that others expect certain types of behaviour from them. Many have a needless value that they put on the (temporary) perception of themselves by others.

Conflict de-escalation is still a form of conflict. In simple terms to prevent force or greater aggression from being used the other party needs to feel that they have either won, or at the very least that they have not lost. In many instances this is about saving face (in front of their peers) and to do this you may need to be seen by them (and perhaps by some bystanders) as having given in. The paradigm shift that a lot of people need to get their heads round is that this does not mean that you have lost, rather you need to understand and appreciate that your victory is in achieving a different aim (lack of violence, criminal damage, injury or prosecution) and one that may not be immediately apparent to the other person.

Do not think that you have to win, think rather that you do not have to lose.

Gichin Funakoshi

If you have good trouble avoidance protocols then the likelihood or frequency of your being involved in a de-escalation event with potentially serious consequences while surrounded or observed by people that know you well should be low. In such instances, acquaintances whose judgement you value should not view you harshly for taking action that avoided any escalation in aggression or violence, even if that means ‘giving way’ or apologising for something that was not your fault.

If a similar instance occurs when you are surrounded by strangers who you are unlikely to ever see again, should you care what they think? If you are in a venue where even saving face for the other person carries a high risk of being attacked for being weak then you are in the wrong place. A location where a level of aggression that risks or inevitably results in physical conflict is the only acceptable response is not one any sensible person should frequent.

Whether strangers or acquaintances, people whose judgement you value should recognise the value of taking steps that avoid risking injury (and property damage) and further repercussions to both yourself or another person.

Pride in your combative skill-set can be a dangerous side effect of martial arts training, one that brings for some a subconscious fantasy promoted by films where the subject uses their skills to beat or humble another person. It doesn’t help that this is the mental picture and expectation that most non-martial artists have of their martial art practicing friends.

You do not need to let your pride go, you just need to change its focus.

For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.

Sun Tzu


This four part series has been described as a brief introduction to de-escalation. That is all it is, no more than a starting point. Each of the four umbrella headings that I’ve chosen are arbitrary, and represent summations and generalisations of a vast topic. Since I have generalised while writing this not everything that I have said will be right or applicable all the time.

I do encourage you all to do your own research and training on this topic, but caveat emptor. There are a number of writers and training providers out there who may make you mistakenly feel ignorant or inexperienced because they use ‘specialist’ terminology to refer to most elements of what they are teaching. In my experience this is marketing dross rather than a useful educational tool and it simply creates a false divide between those ‘in the club’ and those outside. In the majority of cases the specialist terminology employed has no basis in the fields of psychology, psychiatry, criminology, medicine or policing – it’s simply an in-house teaching tool.

Historical Warrior Alertness Training – Mark Hatmaker

THE Primary Factor in self-protection/self-defense is situational awareness. Keeping in mind that crime is, more often than not, a product of opportunity, if we take steps to reduce opportunity to as close to nil as we can manage we have gone a long way to rendering our physical tactical training needless [that’s a good thing.]

Yes, having defensive tactical skills in the back-pocket is a great ace to carry day-to-day but all the more useful to saving your life or the lives of loved ones is a honed awareness, a ready alertness to what is occurring around you every single day.

Here’s the problem, maintaining such awareness is a Tough job with a capital T as most of our daily lives are safe and mundane [also a good thing] and this very safety allows us to backslide in good awareness practices. Without daily danger-stressors we easily fall into default comfort mode.

A useful practice to return awareness/alertness to the fore is to gamify your awareness, use a series of specific awareness/alertness drills on a revolving basis that allow you to keep your mind in the day-to-day routine while also making a bit of a game out of what may save your life.

In aid of that I use an extensive series of gamified awareness drills culled from historical warrior traditions across the globe. Where appropriate I have updated the drill to fit the 21st century environment.

Below you will find just three of these many drills that you can take into your day to day life starting NOW.

The 1st Awareness Exercise for Warriors is from “Puewatsi Nemito” (The Wild Walker or Walk of the Wild) a Comanche warrior tradition.

“Tuhoit’u” [The Hunted One]

Today: You are on the Menu.

  • Whether in an urban or a natural setting live as if you are a hunted man, a targeted woman, a person on someone’s Kill List.
  • Know who or what is behind you.
  • Look into the faces of the people around you, are they the one who hunts you?
  • Look at the hands of all around you—is the method of your demise in any hand?
  • Keep to the edges of trails or sidewalks-only confident or foolhardy animals cross open ground.
  • Treat all security cameras as tools to locate you. Avert your face when passing by or beneath them.
  • Treat all birds as possible drones.
  • In short, live with eyes wide open, mind alert. Live as if you are being stalked.
  • At the end of the exercise ask yourself what you learned from this bit of role play.

Warriors must be aware. Aware of what? Everything. A Warrior must be Awake. All detail is interesting, all detail may be important. We do not know what detail will change our lives. We do not know what detail will save our lives.

Here’s another Drill adapted from “Puewatsi Nemito” (The Wild Walker or Walk of the Wild)

This is an inverse exercise of Hukhiap’u Puniti [Shadow Watcher} Drill.

Today: Look for Reflections

  • Today find all the reflective surfaces that you can. See what those reflections hold.
  • Find the trees in the windows of your home.
  • See the glint of the semi-truck in the window of a passing car.
  • See the rippled reflection of the sky or yourself in a puddle of water.
  • See the surroundings of the restaurant in the beverage glass before you.
  • See the reflections of the road in the heat haze on the highway in front of you
  • See the distorted you in the corneas of the person you are speaking to.
  • The only reflection to pay no attention to—that of any mirror.
  • Find any and all reflections-and mark how many surfaces provide mirror images.

I repeat:  Warriors must be aware. Aware of what? Everything. A Warrior must be Awake. All detail is interesting, all detail may be important. We do not know what detail will change our lives. We do not know what detail will save our lives.

The next drill is an adaptation of a similar drill found in both Northeast Indian Warrior Traditions and the Viking tradition.

“If you are wise, be wise

Keep what goods the gods gave you

Don’t ignore five good senses

Seeking an unknown sixth.”-The Viking Havamal

Don’t get caught looking for leaves in the trees in Autumn. Those leaves are on the ground.”-Comanche teaching

Or this short Puha [Medicine Man/Coach/Mentor] to a Ekasahpana [young warrior] exchange.


“At what?”

“Everything then you’ll never have to ask.”


  • Select a 15-minute period in your day to execute this drill.
  • Take three steps, stop and list [verbally if possible] 5 distinct things in your environment that you can physically sense, These can be things you see, sounds you hear, scents, tastes on the wind, a breeze on the skin.
  • Take three more steps, stop and repeat cataloguing 5 more things. Do not repeat anything in any of your prior inventory.
  • Continue until the ¼ hour is completed with no repetition of what you noticed.

If you take the time to honestly commit to this exercise you will find there is far more to sense than we normally take in. We gloss over and glide through so much of life that what we miss can be astounding.

I repeat the above exchange:


“At what?”

“Everything then you’ll never have to ask.”

T’zare Tubunit’u Ekasapana! [Be Awake Warriors!]


You Are Not Alone – Raquel Lopez

The more I talk about my personal relationships and my experiences the more I realise that harassment, abuse and violence towards women is lamentably more common than I thought!

Speaking from my own experience, physical pain has not been the most difficult thing to get over but reclaiming my own identity. At the age of  14 I used to help out at my friend’s pet shop. The shop was located less than a minute from my parent’s flat so on my spare time I used to visit the shop and hang around with my friend’s parents who run the shop. At the time I truly enjoyed coming in and helping out with the chores. Hours went by watching snakes devore little rodents, cleaning, assisting with customer queries and learning about how to keep little creatures. All creatures fascinated me but reptiles were my obsession.

My friend’s mum was a very gentle, caring and meticulous woman whom I enjoyed being around, learning from and helping when she needed it. My friend’s dad on the contrary spoke to his wife and daughters in a very degrading manner. Unlike his wife, my friend and her siblings had other commitments hence didn’t help around the shop regularly. I had a suspicion that they tolerated his behaviour because they were afraid of him but I was in no position to get involved. My friend’s dad was always nice to me, he was charming, always joked about things and explained the chores with a smile on his face.

They owned a cottage house in the suburbs of my hometown and my friend’s dad suggested to go with him to check out a litter of puppies they were keeping at the cottage.

Naive of me I decided it was ‘safe’ to get in the car with him even though deep down I never really liked the way he treated his wife and his daughters. He drove me to the cottage with his mini van and once we got there he showed me the puppies and around the dwelling.

The way he behaved and talked made me feel very uncomfortable and my ‘gut feeling’ was telling me something was not right. When he offered to get inside the house I politely refused by explaining I was fine hanging around the outside terrace. I sat down at the entrance of the dwelling and I vividly remember his presence standing behind me. With a smile on his face he went on and on requesting I should come inside the house with him, he wanted to ‘show me around’ I kept refusing because my intuition was telling me not to!

What it may have been five minutes (I don’t recall how long) appeared to be hours of back and forth persuasion, propositioning and bragging that I was ‘going to like it’. I can vividly recall how I ‘froze’ not knowing what to do and how he was giggling and propositioning whilst standing behind me.

Luckily his eldest daughter turned up at the cottage, she drove to the dwelling to collect something she had forgotten!

I never shared what happened with anyone because of fear they may not believe me and I may consequently ruin the relationship they had with the man. I never knew how my dad would have reacted to the incident if he had found out!

Unlike many women out there, my case didn’t end up in disaster but three years later I met a man who became my partner and despite enduring a toxic, violent and degrading relationship, I decided to have a child with him. The relationship lasted 10 years and due to the fact that we have a child I still have to deal with the tactics he uses to get what he wants. The characteristics of my friend’s dad and my former partner were very similar, they both appeared charming, sociable and caring to the rest but were manipulative, authoritative and controlling individuals when it came to their partner!

Years later I learned that the ‘gut feeling’ I felt the day I went to the cottage was my intuition communicating and protecting me! I honestly believe that if we could just learn how to listen to our intuition and act upon it many incidences could be prevented.

Talking about how you feel, listening and not ignoring your gut feeling might prevent lots of incidences from happening. Sometimes talking to a professional is better than talking to someone you know and the reason why I believe this to be the case is because sometimes the person you trust might be the person who is trying to manipulate you hence sharing how you feel can even make you more vulnerable!

Living in silence doesn’t sort out the problem and makes it difficult to get support and help.

You are not alone so never forget that!

Of course no one wants to go through such demeaning events and the best remedy is preventing these from happening however, we have to acknowledge we are not always in control of what happens to us. Talking about things can help create awareness, can make the person feel better and communicating can encourage others to feel they are not alone. The most important thing is to get the support you need in order to overcome and deal with such situations.


Benidorm and Social Reproduction Part III – Garry Smith

Failures in communication of one form or another are almost always the start of conflict, failure to establish meaningful communication in a conflict will result in conflict mismanagement. So with different codes operating between different social classes we have massive opportunities for conflict. Now introduce all the other social variables and you can begin multiplying outwards exponentially.

However, remember where this tale started, over in Benidorm back in September 2016. Well it did not start there but going there brought thoughts from my subconscious to the fore. Like many others I associate with people I like, people like me, yes I have family and friends who will happily tell me when they think I am wrong and we can agree to disagree on certain issues. Take the Brexit vote, all our kids wanted to remain in the European Union but my wife and I voted to leave, they expressed their surprise to us but nobody fell out. Yes we discussed it but not in any detail, we all just got on with life, apparently it has split other families asunder….. I like people like me funnily enough but I can see massive dangers as we move towards fractured communities, countries even, where different social groups inhabit their own cosy feeling echo chambers and I know Marc MacYoung is digging deeply into this at the moment. The thing is communicating across barriers is possible and we do not need pretty coloured beads anymore, but only if the barriers can be relaxed.

When we went to Benidorm we actually spent time with members of other tribes around us, it was for me a socio-anthropological experience, it was superb. Being in contact with other tribes helps you to bring your own practises into question. When you can compare how people talk, eat, move around, relate to each other and to others around them you can also compare how you behave as well. This is where I started to rediscover the concept of social reproduction, the way that different social groups are produced and reproduced.

Now putting to one side the whole education Vs environment debate, free will Vs conformism and the whole gamut of isms wrapped up as analysis there are things that go together like say, fish and chips. Because, and here is a controversial one, not only do different social classes, remember where Erik started this, speak different codes, as the continual process of social production and reproduction gathers pace they are beginning to look different.

Two thirds of British adults are overweight or obese and a growing number are becoming severely obese. It was easy to see that most of the people in our hotel who were how much you could get on your plate.

Well each to their own is how I try to see things but I often fail, the thing is when you are interested in eating healthily, not obsessively though, we all like a few chips, then when you see people effectively gorging huge platefuls of fried foods, platefuls of cakes and washing it down with lots of beers and/or cokes then you cannot help but notice it. As somebody who still actively trains and sees a clear link between what I put into my body and what I can then expect it to do, I just do not get how people can do this to themselves.

I try to make good choices most of the time but I am not a food fascist, I watched and listened as our family ate our food, discussed our food and enjoyed our food, lots of good choices, with a few nice naughty bits here and there. I watched our daughter guide our grandsons as we had her and that was fun too. My father has a saying, strength goes in at the mouth, I have always liked it, but weakness goes in at the mouth too is the reverse. Now let us throw a hand grenade into this piece of revelry.

“Severe obesity is associated with lower educational attainment, reduced employment prospects and lower socioeconomic status, although the directionality of this association is not known.” Health Survey for England

BOOM!!! ­Well life is all about choices, or is it​? Well the old free will versus determinism can take us around in circles but as Haidt (2014?) indicates most decisions are made as emotional reactions then we rationalise them afterwards. He uses the analogy of riding an elephant, according to this model; the rider is rational and can plan ahead, while the elephant is irrational and driven by emotion and instinct.  This is where the differences emerge between those who choose to control their emotions, as best they can, and make more rational choices and those who’s emotions make the choices and then they rationalise the choices made.

So when we are presented with a huge array of choices at our all inclusive restaurant buffet choices have to be made but there are no rules, you can eat what you want in whatever quantities you like. So as we approach the buffet it will depend who is in charge, the rider or the elephant (no pun intended). So given that most of our behaviour is learned and that the primary agency of socialisation is the family, is it surprising that you could see tables of families and each had similar choices on their tables? Choices are informed by our knowledge and understanding, something Pierre Bourdieu (1986) calls cultural capital.

“Cultural capital: forms of knowledge, skills, education, and advantages that a person has, which give them a higher status in society. Parents provide their children with cultural capital by transmitting the attitudes and knowledge needed to succeed in the current educational system.”

So the restaurant in our holiday hotel in Benidorm brought into the same room social groups with different levels of cultural capital. If severe obesity is associated with lower educational attainment and lower socio economic status, amongst other thing, then it is likely that lower levels of cultural capital will be present too. Conversely  as Bourdieu demonstrated those who possessed higher levels of cultural capital had far better levels of educational attainment and socio economic status.

Obesity is present in all social groups but evidence from Public Health England it is much more prevalent in lower income households and socio economic groups. The correlation between levels of cultural capital and its transfer through social reproduction is clear, poorer, less educated families are more likely to be obese.

Social reproduction refers to the emphasis on the structures and activities that transmit social inequality from one generation to the next. Much of what we know of human behaviour shows that throughout the long evolution of our species learned behaviours are passed from generation to generation.

This includes the social construction of the worlds we inhabit, they differ by ethnicity, class, gender, name your own variable, we all believe, or would like to that our body of knowledge, our culture, the way we do things, is the right way. We belong, as did our ancestors, to tribes, each tribe can have its own shared customs, values and belief system, we operate best in tribes of around 30 to 40 members, just like our ancestors. If we become separated from our tribe we will look for others like them/us and seek their company, like attracts like. We do this because tribes all have their own style of dress, adornments and/or markings. Youth cultures and sub-cultures are the most obvious examples.

Take a moment here to think about your tribal identity, take your time, look at your hair, your clothes and look at yourself as if looking at a stranger, adopt the position of anthropological strangeness. Do you wear jewellery? If so what does it say about you? Then work outwards from the self to the artefacts you​ possess, what do they say about you and your tribe?

I am concluding this article on yet another holiday this time on the island of Fuerteventura, the Canary Islands. We are in yet another al inclusive hotel but this one cost quite a bit more and this is reflected in the social make up of the guests. However, right back to the march Issue of Conflict Manager and Erik’s article. A person’s social class is rarely chosen, most of us are born to it and inculcated into it before we have any choice. Social class itself is a complex series of interacting variables and influences far too complex for us to do it justice here, in this 3 part article I have merely tried to begin expanding how we think of social class, pardon yet another pun. Social class is worthy of consideration in considering potential causes of conflict, especially as power is distributed unequally in society. The process of social reproduction ensures that the uneven distribution of cultural capital remains relatively constant and self reinforcing. We speak in codes and live in tribes, we are generally physically identifiable by how we speak, act and look.

Erik was correct, social class matters, but understanding the process of how classes are created and recreated over generations matters too. Now is anyone ready for a discussion on social mobility?


3 Meanings of Freeze by Dr. Russ Harris


Human Universe – Book Review

‘Human Universe’ by Professor Brian Cox reviewed by Garry Smith.

If like me you are not a watcher of TV, except for the rugby, then you may want to get hold of a copy of this pronto and read it, not that it is about to disappear into some black hole but because it is such a great read. As a self defence instructor and martial arts instructor I read extensively on my subject that is I read about life in all its guises.

For those whose choice it is to live in the closed insular world of the community of their choosing, (insert areas of choice here_______________),  where they will not be challenged by ideas other than those they share the same values and beliefs, then stop reading now, yours is a closed world, an echo chamber of your own making. Those who linger here are usually of a fixed mindset where the status quo is the anchor they attach. Questions and knowledge outside the group threaten the solidity of the group and as such are shunned, here lies tribalism.

For those open to challenge, new ideas, new questions and potentially unsettling new knowledge, step right in, yours is an open world where new knowledge opens up new possibilities. This is the mindset that welcomes growth, however difficult and challenging the path may be. Those who inhabit this mindset may well belong to tribes but are not tribal in their thinking; they are open minded and prepared to listen to and discuss values and beliefs different to their own.

As a member of the latter group I was not sure what exactly to expect from Human Universe and as I said I missed this completely on TV, so it was something of an onslaught upon my poor brain as I grappled right from the start with some pretty mindboggling facts and figures let alone scientific concepts I had barely heard of before. However, perseverance proved worth it as this turned out to be one of the most interesting books I have read in recent years and I have read some damn good stuff. Prof. Cox takes the universe and strips it bare for us and introduces us to some of the conceptual tools developed by generation after generation of philosophers, astronomers, cosmologists and scientists to explain the amazing thing that is the universe, but it does not stop there.

By the end of the book we have stripped time back to the Big Bang and fast forwarded to an ever expanding multiverse, (read it and see). It is a journey of epic proportions and I for one can see why Prof. Cox has become something of an icon in popular culture, he really is bringing science to the masses. Great, but why is this relevant to a practitioner of self defence or martial arts? Well for me the answer is simple.

The universe is an incredibly complex thing, in order to understand what is happening to it in the present we have had to develop extraordinarily sophisticated tools with which to analyse it. Incredible minds have laboured for lifetimes to unravel its mysteries, complex mathematical formula have had to be discovered and tested to destruction in order to maintain scientific rigour and accuracy and a millions of hypothesis have been disproved along the way and more than a few proved too. Reading this book I kept thinking back to how we at the Conflict Research Group International reject the term expert when discussing or writing about violence. It is because our universe in miniature, the world of violence reflects the complexity of the multiverse.

One of the fascinating sections of the book concerns the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI); again go read the book, as part of this Prof. Cox introduces the  Drake Equation which was the outcome of conference at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia.

The Drake Equation was developed by Frank Drake in 1961 as a way to focus on the factors which determine how many intelligent, communicating civilizations there are in may be in our galaxy. The Drake Equation is:

N = R* fp ne fl fi fc L

The equation can really be looked at as a number of questions:

N* represents the number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy

Question: How many stars are in the Milky Way Galaxy?

Answer: Current estimates are 100 billion.

fp is the fraction of stars that have planets around them

Question: What percentage of stars have planetary systems?

Answer: Current estimates range from 20% to 50%.

ne is the number of planets per star that are capable of sustaining life

Question: For each star that does have a planetary system, how many planets are capable of sustaining life?

Answer: Current estimates range from 1 to 5.

fl is the fraction of planets in ne where life evolves

Question: On what percentage of the planets that are capable of sustaining life does life actually evolve?

Answer: Current estimates range from 100% (where life can evolve it will) down to close to 0%.

fi is the fraction of fl where intelligent life evolves

Question: On the planets where life does evolve, what percentage evolves intelligent life?

Answer: Estimates range from 100% (intelligence is such a survival advantage that it will certainly evolve) down to near 0%.

fc is the fraction of fi that communicate

Question: What percentage of intelligent races have the means and the desire to communicate?

Answer: 10% to 20%

fL is fraction of the planet’s life during which the communicating civilizations live

Question: For each civilization that does communicate, for what fraction of the planet’s life does the civilization survive?

Answer: This is the toughest of the questions. If we take Earth as an example, the expected lifetime of our Sun and the Earth is roughly 10 billion years. So far we’ve been communicating with radio waves for less than 100 years. How long will our civilization survive? Will we destroy ourselves in a few years like some predict or will we overcome our problems and survive for millennia? If we were destroyed tomorrow the answer to this question would be 1/100,000,000th. If we survive for 10,000 years the answer will be 1/1,000,000th.

When all of these variables are multiplied together when come up with:

N, the number of communicating civilizations in the galaxy.

The real value of the Drake Equation is not in the potential answer itself, but the questions that are prompted when attempting to come up with an answer are useful to us. Obviously there is a tremendous amount of guess work involved when filling in the variables, there can never be any way of knowing if they are anywhere near correct. The Drake Equation was never going to provide a neat answer, and despite the massive technological and scientific gains since then we are still no nearer, because the more we learn we realise the less we know. With probes and advanced telescopes discovering new planets and their orbits on a regular basis with incredible accuracy we still remain at the level of guessing the numbers.

As we learn more from astronomy, biology, and other sciences, we’ll be able to better estimate the answers to the above questions but they will remain guesses for years to come, Prof. Cox makes that clear repeatedly in the book, but the equation was a starting point for calculation and exploration alike, from my perspective it was the forming of the questions that was the breakthrough. Prof. Cox  writes with great humour about our fascination with alien invaders, complete with anal probes, stalking the earth and comes to the conclusion that, despite what the speculation may be, we are currently alone in our universe and the known, observable universe, probably. So for now we can dispense with the tin foil hats and chastity trousers.

It struck me as I read this that the unpredictability of any form of life existing out there in space, let alone intelligent life, was dependent on an incredible number of factors and chance. What I found of interest was the construction of the equation and a group of wise men sitting down and based on their collective experience and knowledge, agreeing the relative questions.

As I read all this it provoked thoughts, good reading should. Thoughts about whether there was some way we could arrive at a similar set of questions that would help us to predict the likely-hood of our being involved in a violent encounter.  I do not for one minute think it would be mathematically accurate as there would be many questions and many guesses involved, too many variables, but would the process help us think about the questions?

This is where I am out of my depth, I can see it but the picture is blurred if you get me. I know what I mean but not, at the moment how to progress this. I can see a usefulness to develop this as a theoretical too but not as a divine indicator.

I suppose dear reader this is where you come in, can we build a CRGI equation along the lines of the Drake equation, one that allows us to move beyond the various models currently out there, the OODA Loop, Colour Codes etc and no disrespect to them but maybe we need to push the frontiers a little, or maybe a lot, just a thought.

Maybe the value, as with the Drake equation is forming the right questions, maybe no, that in itself is a formidable task. Drake’s formula did not emerge from a void it was the cumulative effort of many minds over millennia. One of the beauties of Human Universe is that is it is a perfect example of that oft used metaphor, standing on the shoulders of giants. Its most familiar expression in English is by Isaac Newton in 1676: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

In my continued observations of the discussions in and around the martial arts/self defence world I see many people who are trapped in the confines of our equivalent of a solar system, not to mention the flat earthers, there are many who are looking to the stars in wonder, many are seeking answers but have not yet framed the appropriate questions because the subject studied is too vast. It is the task of those with enquiring minds to begin to frame the appropriate questions and then the search for credible, reliable data can be continued. It has begun, we have our giants, they are amongst us, we need to heed them and climb onto their shoulders in order to see further still.

Read Human Universe, it is incredibly interesting, read widely, live in an open world, have an ever expanding mind.

For now I leave you with a rejoinder if asked who you are, your answer is “up quarks, down quarks and electrons”.


Conflict Management and Practical Karate Part II – John Titchen

De-escalation Tactics

This four part series is designed to be a brief introduction to the field of non-violent resolution tactics.


This is such a huge topic that it seems trite to try and narrow it down to a simple set of guidelines that will help people. Some people don’t need (much) advice or training. They already have the ‘gift of the gab’ and can smoothly talk their way out of trouble under pressure or indeed talk another person out of trouble.

Unfortunately if you are not naturally talented then the best way to improve is practice. Real practice comes with risk and potential cost and in any case unless your job requires it your primary aim should be to avoid putting yourself in situations where de-escalation skills are required. Despite that, the underlying principles of good de-escalation are those of good communication, and those are skills that we can all work on all the time.

What you say will depend on the circumstances. I can’t tell you exactly what to say. What I can do is share a teaching mnemonic that I use to outline underlying approaches. This mnemonic is deliberately simple, with each headline word conveying an overall message and each heading letter summarising a number of different skill sets.


We want to read a situation accurately so that we can lead it to a successful or safe resolution by achieving a deal that both parties can accept.

RECOGNISE if a verbal strategy is viable or appropriate under the circumstances.

EXPECT a physical response at all times and maintain alertness and a safe posture.

ADAPT your tone, volume and phrasing to that of the other person and if possible use to build a connection for good communication.

DECIDE on and constantly re-evaluate what you think is the best course of action.


LISTEN to what the other person is saying.

EMPATHISE with their point of view to enable you to ask how best to help or offer a solution.

ACKNOWLEDGE the issue that is being raised and try to offer a solution.

DISTRACT (and defuse tension) by asking open-ended questions, by involving other people, or (if necessary) to create an opportunity for a pre-emptive strike.


DISTRACT (and defuse tension) by asking open-ended questions, by involving other people, or (if necessary) to create an opportunity for a pre-emptive strike.

EMPATHISE with their point of view to enable you to ask how best to help or offer a solution.

ACKNOWLEDGE the issue that is being raised and try to offer a solution.

LISTEN to what the other person is saying.

LEAD to DEAL is not simply a catchy mnemonic. The fact that the meanings are the same but the order has changed is a reminder that communication is a constantly changing fluid process.

The Four Folders of Self-Defense – Alain Burrese

One of my co-instructors for the 8-hour Active Shooter Response course we’ve taught to over 3,000 members of our community likes to describe our brain as a computer. Have you ever been searching for a file on your computer and had the little thing spin and then the message “file not found” appear? Our brain is like that computer, and in an emergency people will often freeze not knowing what to do. Their brain is going “file not found.”

I like this analogy, and that is why I have devised many of my programs around four file folders. The information I teach provides files for those folders so that in an emergency people can find a file. This “file” is a response that can save their life. Rather than staying motionless not knowing what to do, the brain can find a response and hopefully kick start the person into movement. Movement saves lives. In life-threatening situations, often seconds matter. Having a “file” in the folder and knowing what to do can save your life.

There are other components to why we freeze in an emergency, so I’m not saying that just learning a response will prevent that from happening. But that is a topic for another time. In this article, I want to discuss the four different folders of self-defense and what kind of responses you should have in each. These folders are Avoid, Escape, Deny, and Attack Back. The responses you have in these four folders can keep you save and save your life. So, let’s look at what each folder contains.

Avoid. The primarily concept that can keep us safe is awareness and avoidance. These two go together because to be able to avoid a dangerous situation, you must be aware of it. I spend a considerable amount of time teaching situational awareness, and even give a free guide to situational awareness away on my website, because it is so important.

Briefly, situational awareness is being aware of what is around you, what is going on around you, and how your actions are affecting your personal safety. Practice recognizing where the exits are. I don’t like to be anywhere that I don’t know the ways out. Pay attention to what others are doing. If you see or sense something out of the ordinary, your safest option is often just leaving. Get out of the area and avoid the potential danger. Avoid going to places where violence is more apt to happen. Avoid people who engage in behaviors that are more apt to get you into a bad situation. Avoid acting in a manner that will get others upset with you. Some people won’t be rude back, they will punch you, or worse, shoot you for your behavior. Avoiding is always the best way to stay safe. So, stay alert, be aware, and avoid what you can.

Escape. If you have an option to escape to safety, that is almost always the best response to keep yourself safe and alive. In the federal “Run – Hide – Fight” response to an active shooter, this is what the “run” is about. Escaping. I personally like using “escape” better because it may mean jumping out of a window, rather than running. It may mean diving behind cover and crawling to a safe place. If a building catches fire, you must escape the burning building. In a plane crash, you must escape the plane before dying of smoke and fire.

Being aware, which I said was so important, allows you to identify exits, cover, and escape routes. Knowing these will increase the speed in which you can escape to safety and save your life. This is why before every flight, they tell you to look for the nearest exit, which might be behind you. Running away to fight another day is not just a silly kid’s rhyme. Escaping to safety is actually a very wise principle for your personal defense plan.

Deny. This is the “folder” I get asked about the most, but once you understand what it means, you will see how it fits into our overall safety and defense options. Deny represents denying access to anyone who wants to do you harm. In our Active Shooter Response course, we use a “run – lock – fight” model. We changed the federal “hide” to lock because hiding and hoping isn’t a plan, and lock represents what we teach more accurately. We teach people in the “lock” phase to lock doors and barricade entrances. This denies the shooter access and is proven to save lives in active shooter situations.

There are other ways to “deny,” and that is why I use the term in my programs. I use the same terms in my personal active shooter programs as well as safety and self-defense lectures and classes to keep some consistency in the way I teach. For instance, in both my kid’s self-defense/bully classes and my adult safety and self-defense programs I teach a non-aggressive power stance with an affirmative command to keep a person back. This is also called boundary setting. This is essentially denying a person from getting close enough to attack you. Often, this can deescalate a situation and prevent physical violence from happening. It also puts you in position to Attack Back if the person refuses to adhere to your boundaries. Another example would be to put a desk or table between you and an aggressive person to deny them the ability to physically attack you. Holding a chair out in front of you to keep a knife wielding aggressor away is a form of denying, as are other defensive measures to deny an attacker the access or ability to hurt you.

Attack Back. This is what most people identify with “self-defense.” However, I like to define self-defense as keeping yourself from harm, and as we can see from above, there are many things a person can do to keep themselves from being hurt or killed that don’t involve fighting skills. While those options are often preferable, there may be situations where your only options are to attack back or be killed. Dying is not an option in my book, so we attack back. I use the words “attack back” because it provides a more offensive and aggressive mindset than “defending yourself” does. When your only option is to fight, you must be aggressive, ruthless, and do whatever it takes to ensure you survive and go home to your loved ones. If protecting others, you do whatever is necessary for all of you to survive.

After the proper mindset, attacking back includes all the ways you can physically stop another from hurting or killing you. And that includes killing your attacker if that is what it takes to stop them. Methods of attacking back include learning basic empty handed fighting skills such as hammer fists, palm heel strikes, elbow strikes, knee strikes, low kicks, and stomps. Attacking back also includes learning to use lethal and non-lethal weapons such as firearms, knives, batons, canes, and personal defense weapons such as pepper spray, kubotans, tactical pens, flashlights, and so on. One should also know how to use improvised weapons, which include one of my favorites for teachers, fire extinguishers, and anything else you can stop an attacker with. There are times when you have no option other than to attack back, so know this, train for it, and be a survivor.

Conclusion. The amount you put into each of these four folders will depend on your lifestyle and how committed you are to staying safe and being able to defend yourself if needed. And just like that article, tucked into a folder and stashed in the back of the file cabinet forgotten about, won’t help much when you are writing on that topic, if you don’t practice and train with the skills you put into your safety and self-defense folders, they won’t help as much as those who train regularly.

I do believe that having the knowledge with a little training is better than never exposing yourself to these concepts. That is why short classes that include 4-hour classes, one and two day classes, up to week long sessions, still have great benefit to many people. If a lady is walking out to her vehicle and guy grabs her to pull her somewhere, but she remembered to walk with her keys out and starts wildly hammer fisting the guys hand, arm, and face ruthlessly with the key sticking out the bottom of her hammer fist, there’s a good chance he will let go and she will be able to run back inside and call the police. Better yet, if she had been practicing awareness and noticed him ahead of time and asked for someone to escort her to her vehicle, he wouldn’t have attacked in the first place. Obviously, the more practice and training you have, the better you will be able to respond. Stress inoculation and adrenaline producing scenario training will increase your ability to react during an emergency. Buy you don’t need to train like you are in the military, or getting ready for a UFC championship bout, to be able to keep yourself and loved ones safe, and attack back against many common criminals.

Practice awareness and avoid situations when you can. Know the ways out and escape to safety if the option is available to you. Deny those wishing to do you harm access by setting boundaries, using barriers, and locking and barricading them outside when possible. When you have no other option, attack back with everything you have. Be ruthless, be savage, be a survivor.

About the author: Alain Burrese, J.D., is a former Army Sniper, a fifth-degree black belt in Hapkido, and a certified Active Shooter Response instructor. He is the author of 8 books and 11 instructional DVDs, and teaches a common-sense approach to staying safe and defending yourself through his Survive and Defend programs and website. For more information see


Conflict Management and Practical Karate Part I – John Titchen

This four part series is designed to be a brief introduction to the field of non-violent resolution tactics.

Part One – Underpinning Principles

Part Two – Verbal Approaches

Part Three – Body Language

Part Four – Personal Psychology


All aggressive and violent behaviours have underlying causes, which could be summarized under the headings of chemical factors and psychological factors. These are interrelated but for the sake of brevity are listed separately. Understanding and influencing these (through communication) is the best way to resolve conflict.


Motivating factors

These may be far more varied than the examples listed below, but can generally be categorized as immediate or primary causes and underlying or secondary causes.

Immediate causes affecting decision-making and behaviour:

Physical presence or (over-long) eye contact interpreted as a challenge, overly alpha or beta male body language, a push or stumble into a person, the spilling of food or drink, a vehicle accident, peer pressure, denial of a perceived need.

Secondary causes affecting decision-making and behaviour:

Family or work stress, suppressed anger (generally linked to the former but inhibited by potential consequence), racism or social/political beliefs, past experiences, peer pressure, the role and acceptability of violence and aggression in both upbringing and normal social environment, fatigue, past success in achieving aims through aggressive or violent behaviours.

Inhibiting factors

These could be categorized as physical and social factors.

Physical factors:

The relative sizes of parties involved, perceived strength and ability of the other party, the ‘known quantity’ of the other party, body language, perceived alertness, company (of either party), immediate consequences, likelihood of injury.

Social factors:

Peer reaction – acceptance or alienation, legal and family or work repercussions, the social acceptability of aggression and violence within the individual’s social group.

Through positioning, body language, listening and using appropriate tone and speech the underlying aim should be to attempt to reduce the individual’s motivation to continue to use aggression and possibly attempt violence, while strengthening their inhibition against such approaches.



Alcohol or other substances weaken inhibition and can reduce awareness and comprehension. This will affect the ability of another person to influence the individual’s motivation and inhibition.

Underlying medical conditions

Due to a pre-existing health condition the other person may not necessarily be on the same ‘operating system’ as everyone else and may not respond in the same way.


Aural and visual exclusion along with other side effects of adrenaline may hinder communication and attempts to influence the individual’s motivation and inhibition.

It is unlikely that there is much that you can do once an incident has already begun that will mitigate underlying chemical factors. If spotted early enough then the effect of drugs such as alcohol can be reduced by slowing absorption into the blood stream by providing food and withdrawing further alcohol (if safe to do so), but these are factors that are largely outside your control.

It is important to be aware of the role of chemical factors as ‘tipping points’ in an individual’s behaviour patterns. Whether they are part of the primary or secondary cause of the problem they may lower the probability of a successful non-violent de-escalation.