Fighting Mindset, Orientation and OODA – Varg Freeborn

Mindset is a slow, subtle process. It will include “breakthrough” moments, but for the long haul it sets in slowly and creeps up on you. If you stick with it, one day you wake up and you “get it”. At a certain level, your journey really begins there.

Fighting Mindset, Orientation and OODA

This process happens more quickly for those who have experience operating in dangerous environments for prolonged periods of time at a certain stress level. That usually brings along with it life altering events that violently shift your paradigm.

At worst, for most, you may only have one confrontation in your life. Listening to people who have had many is an important part of preparing for that one. There are many verticals (LE, military, criminal underworld) that put people in a position to have to perform it, deal with the aftermath, live with it, and be ready to roll out and do it all over again the next day. Having experienced it does not necessarily mean you can teach others about it, but I do believe it is one requirement to be able to articulate it properly.

Many people can not deal with serious, paradigm-shifting confrontation well. That problem is rooted in the components of your Orientation: your cultural, religious, genetic, moral and ethical beliefs, along with your dependence upon attachments and your confidence (or lack thereof) in your capabilities.

Here, I want to focus on the importance of that “orientation” both as stressed by Boyd and through my own observations reached via training and fighting.

The OODA Loop

Created by Air Force Colonel John Boyd, the Observe/Orient/Decide/Act Loop has been discussed, taught and twisted ad nauseam in the training industry. Some say it’s not a process in the moment, that it is an after-action function. Others say that it is as simple as “observing a threat, physically orienting yourself to it, deciding what to do, and then acting upon that decision.” Perhaps they have not read the same writings of Boyd that I have, or they are working exclusively from Boyd’s earliest writings. While the earlier writings do point toward a command and control tempo and after-action system, his later work broadened the subject and he clearly emphasized the individual fighter’s real-time experience with the loop. Below is a diagram from Boyd’s A Discourse which he completed in June of 1995, two years prior to his death. It is important to note that this is the only graphical representation of the OODA from Boyd himself. (1)

Orientation is the only pre-existing condition in the OODA loop

In Boyd’s view, the orientation component is made up of: cultural traditions, genetic heritage, new information, previous experience, and the process of the analysis and synthesis of it all. In other words, your orientation is your filter through which all observations and decisions are made. It completely influences the observe, decide and act cycles. Two things happen in an orientation cycle: is the application of your pre-existing paradigm to the problem at hand, and the synthesis of new information coming in in real-time. It is the filter through which all things are observed and all decisions are made.

I believe that it is true that you can not “speed up your brain”. One of the best explanations I have ever heard was during a lecture from John Chapman where he stated, basically, that we are born with whatever processor speed we have and we can’t change that. What we can do, is limit what we allow to use our processor resources up. By training the basic skills to an nearly auto level, we free up our processor to be able to take in information and make decisions quicker and more thoroughly. This was during an EAG Shoothouse course and it made perfect sense by days 3 and 4, as the shooters began to have the basics of breach, dig corner, collapse sector of fire down to a science, allowing for brain power to be used on observation and processing new information–critical elements for success in hostile CQB environments.

Boyd also wrote something very similar about speeding up the tempo of the OODA. He suggested that it was not necessarily about speeding up yourself to be faster in the OODA than your opponent. For him, it was more about denying certain patterns and images from entering the OODA, thereby allowing the tempo to move more quickly. This is exactly the same information that Chapman provided in his lecture: by eliminating the unnecessary thoughts, images and patterns from using your processor resources, you are clearer to focus on synthesizing the new information coming in.

The other part of this equation is confidence. Having confidence in one’s skill set, the fighter is able to choose the proper response (orientation pattern) to the threat. The result of this is that the fighter can maintain a constant effort of menacing the opponent with enough effective violence to constantly derail the opponent’s orientation to the situation. This will cause confusion, uncertainty, paralysis and eventually defeat. Orientation is thus broken up into two components: personal orientation to violence, and; fundamentals and confidence. As new information comes into your orientation, it effects those two components directly.

Personal Orientation to Violence

In order to be effective at responding to extreme violence, you must have an orientation that, at least to a minimum level, is permissive to participating in said violence. In other words, if you culturally just do not believe in committing violence on another living being, all the processor (brain) speed in the world will not help you defeat an attack. This is where the importance of cultural traditions and moral views comes into play in the observe, decide and act components of the loop. Through training, I personally stress that this problem can be solved by first establishing what I refer to as Clarity of Mission. Your personal mission will be dictated by who you are and what you need to accomplish. The missions of law enforcement, military and civilians are vastly different in very important ways.

If you are a civilian, your mission will be something like, “To make it home, with my family, every night, for the rest of my life.” That mission will identify a few critical elements: what you are willing to fight, and die, for; what you are allowed to do (laws, rules of engagement, use of force policy); and what your likely demands will look like in that mission. It is only through this information that you can put together an appropriate Training Protocol and begin to establish your orientation to the violence you may someday face. If you are not morally and ethically oriented toward performing violence, you will encounter very serious problems in dire self-defense situations.

Fundamentals and Confidence

Through proper training based on the likely outcomes of violent situations within your mission, you can begin to build a strong confidence in your ability to perform under the stresses of a deadly fight. We often talk about training the fundamentals until they are “automatic”. We need to repetitively train the fundamentals until we can perform them, repeatedly, without having to think about them at a conscious level. This is known as unconscious competence.

This is not accomplished by going as fast as you can. Have you ever taken a day and just went out specifically to practice slamming on your brakes in your car? Probably not. However, when the moment comes at 50mph and something goes bad in front of you, you will slam on your brakes with extreme unconscious competence and stop the vehicle (providing your situational awareness is in-tact and you’re not texting or reading this article: observe). The reason you can achieve the brake pedal movement flawlessly is NOT because you have practiced slamming the pedal at speed. It is because every week you have performed literally thousands of slow, correct repetitions of going from the gas pedal to the brake pedal. If you train your fighting skills in the same slow, correct and deliberate manner, you will find that when speed is needed, it will be there. Speed is a product of smooth and correct.

Improving the efficiency of your processor requires basic skills being ingrained enough to not have to use processor resources on them. Which allows you to then process information more quickly and thoroughly. This is the path to rapid and correct decision making in a fight. When you are not worrying about whether you can actually perform a movement or not, you are able to delegate those movements to the unconscious mind and allow your conscious mind to be fully engaged in the observance and decision making processes.

As the skills become trustworthy, you are able to go straight to processing your environment. This is a good step, but there’s more. The concept of maximizing your processor speed by not using resources thinking about the basics, allows you to not only solve one problem at a time, but to be able to flow through many problems, one after the other. It gets so good that you are able to set up subsequent moves with the ending of each solution. That is achieved after many, many hours of practice, force on force and mental training with positive mental imagery.

Positive mental imagery (orientation patterns in Boyd’s view) play a key role in keeping you on the quick end of the spectrum during a fight. Boyd wrote several times about denying certain mental images from entering your loop. We have all stepped up to perform at some point in time and failed. Whether at the range, or in a sport, we feared failure at the critical moment before performance. When you fear failure, you will picture yourself failing. This image will bog down your processing speed and prohibit you from performing well. Denying these images of failure, and other fear based anxieties, from entering into your observance and decision making processes will allow you to perform the fundamental skills necessary to prevail. It is truly difficult sometimes to imagine yourself doing something flawlessly correct, but it MUST be worked on.

Victory: Utilize Self-knowledge to Win

Sun Tzu clearly was a fan of disrupting the enemy mentally with any means necessary. The Art of War is all about using deception, strength, speed and constant pressure to literally shape the enemy’s perception of the world coming at him. Boyd wrote extensively about the importance of uncertainty, both in eliminating it in your perception (denying those orientation patterns), and in creating it for your opponent. Uncertainty is the cradle of fear, anxiety and doubt. This is arguably the most important and fascinating aspect of fighting: attacking your opponent in his mind.

When we have reconciled our own orientation to violence through mission clarity, rules of engagement, moral application, and the proper training of fundamental skills to the unconscious competent level, we have gained an extremely valuable insight into how the mind works. Your opponent’s mind works in very similar ways, regardless of his mission difference from your own. By defeating yourself, you have gained the insight necessary to defeat your opponent. What was difficult for you to overcome, mainly uncertainty, is also his most difficult enemy. By applying violence of action, overwhelming force, or at least repeatedly denying your opponent from achieving his planned goals, you begin to cultivate the perception of uncertainty in his mind.

THIS is the essence of getting inside of his OODA loop. Literally changing the opponent’s orientation to the situation at hand to the effect of growing uncertainty. There is no way in this article to discuss the endless sub-topics of fighting, violence and fight psychology. In fact, it’s a struggle to truncate this information while not getting too technical so as to bore or go over the head of the non-fighter. However, it is important to note that within the above laid information rests all of the concepts from striking for your opponent’s vulnerabilities, and making your weaknesses become strengths, all the way to dealing with the aftermath of a confrontation and surviving the legal, social, and psychological effects of deadly conflict.

There simply is so much more to training than going to the range and learning how to shoot; or going to the dojo and learning some hand-to-hand art.

My primary goal is to train people to fight, with firearms. Teaching shooting is easy, and somewhat boring. Fighting, however, is complex and takes years to cultivate. Especially if you lack that experiential shift of orientation. Which makes this task much more difficult in terms of teaching fighters. This is why I work overtime to expose as many of you as I can to the deeper thought processes that are involved on the other side of that paradigm shift.

Most people do not have the attention span or frame of reference for the long haul of learning and self-development in fighting. They come out for one or two shooting classes and think they are good to go. This is the definition of “you don’t know what you don’t know”. It’s very difficult to cultivate the thought process that is necessary for a non-fighter to realize that there is a vast of world of training that exists solely within the mind. Especially with the American Way of commercializing the “cool” stuff: technique, gear and lots of BANG action in the gym and on the range.

The big reward comes when the students who have never been in a confrontation recognize the genuine quality of the information provided by those who have. This enables them to realize that there is a big world inside the topic of violence, and no one has all of the answers. But the answers simply don’t come from people, who have never really been there, hypothesizing about how it all works. When they recognize those limitations within themselves, they begin to recognize them in sources of information about the subject, and learning ensues.

Take the concepts and roll them around in your head until you wake up one day and it’s there. The light will break through. Don’t let anything get your heart rate up, no matter how bad it looks. With clearly established Mission, legal boundaries, threat assessment, and repetitive training, eventually you can roll through the problem and just look for work. You will know what you can and can not do. You will also know what eats at the mind of your opponent.

(1) Chuck Spinney (who some exclusively credit the diagram to) directly credits Boyd with the diagram, explaining how the diagram was developed as a “joint effort in the late 1980’s” between Spinney, Richards and Boyd himself. Both Spinney and Richards, who were there when the diagram was made, directly refer to the diagram as Boyd’s depiction of his OODA loop. see Spinney’s citation here and Richards’ citation here


Tools to Combat the Issues of Complacency vs. Reality Part II – Tim Boehlert Matt Swartz, NYSP, Ret.

Day One – Planting the Seeds

During the first night, Use of Force against a citizen was the opening salvo. One participant felt very strongly about the subject of shooting citizens, and spoke out – “why can’t you just shoot him in the legs?”

And so the journey to enlightenment began. By the end of day 3, it wasn’t an issue anymore for this student. Her viewpoint had been changed, not without a bit of effort, but changed nonetheless. She had been educated.

Now think about what we as Martial Artists do. Many of us are equally indoctrinated into a specific way of thinking. I grant that much of this is due to and out of respect to ‘never question the sensei’, ignorance, and /or personal moral viewpoints – pick your poison. We’ve all done it, and likely continue to do it – until we become enlightened. Until we see or experience that irrefutable evidence to the contrary.

It may come in the form of being beat by someone smaller than you, or even at a belt level or two below you. It really doesn’t matter other than the fact that if it doesn’t happen, you will continue on your path until it does, and let’s hope that’s not too far down the road from and for you today. I hope this article at least convinces you to start down that path – to educate yourself, and to face the ugly truth. You have not been training for reality, but merely playing in a fantasy of what you think reality is.

Indoctrination Principle

As an example, and getting back to my reading/research, you may have heard of the word ‘othering?’ This happens during indoctrination and it’s a way to change your viewpoint to create a precept for direct action against another human being in this case. We’ve all been indoctrinated in some form and at one time or another, but most likely we’ve been exposed to indoctrination continually throughout our lives. It starts in childhood, and continues through adulthood. We go along with it until we no longer do so based on the reality of our experiences and or re-education.

To make soldiers ‘perform’ better, it was determined that they needed to change their way of thinking and feeling – in order to become better and more effective killing machines. To do so, meant learning first what makes them tick, and then learning how to manipulate their thoughts and feelings about the enemy. Simple. But was it truly effective? It’s hard to give a detailed answer. Because effective is also a multiplier – it may have helped with the math side, but the soldiers were broken. The numbers may have given them better results, but at what cost?

During the Viet Nam War, the military machine expanded their indoctrination efforts of our soldiers to great effect. It was done so, but only after the research that was done after WII by S.L.A. Marshall as revealed in Lt. Dave Grossman’s book titled ‘On Killing.’

Our soldiers, young and old were taught to hate the enemy and to ‘other’ them using simple concepts, and by using very simple triggers – words and images. They were taught to treat the enemy as less than human. This type of indoctrination can be very effective, and its ramifications are far-reaching, and go beyond it’s use on the battlefield.

(I suggest that you locate and read Col. Dave Grossman’s book titled ‘On Killing’ for more background and education on this subject as one resource example that comes immediately to mind. It’s enlightening for several reasons.)

What we learn in the typical Dojo environment are many new things: classical ‘respect’, classical kata, and yet we learn a lot of very bad habits as well. We train to control our power, to pull our strikes and kicks, to stop after a point is scored by your partner during sparring sessions, and even to hand over the weapon after you’ve been able to seize it during weapons sessions.

‘Train as you fight, fight as you train’ has become an all too common call to ‘arms’ for far too many Martial Artists and Self-Defense ‘experts’.  We have deluded ourselves by using titles to demonstrate our mastery of an art to the uninitiated. Think about this slogan. Tear it apart, and really read it. It’s a special kind of stupid when you really take all of the emotional and egotistical baggage out. ‘Other’ it. Let go of your personal viewpoint and just really get the concept of what I’m telling you here and why the slogan really makes no sense. I hope you can, but many won’t take that challenge easily or willingly.

Fear-Based Marketing

By teaching our students using slogans akin to this one – words that sound cool and make great bumper stickers, or ‘wall’ banners for our social media pages, is it any stretch of the imagination to see the indoctrination principle of marketing slogans like this? “The most deadly art?”, “Krav Maga as taught to the IDF”, “Fight Like a Navy Seal” and other juicy morsels that all have one thing in common – to separate you from your money. “Fear-based Marketing 101.”

In defense of slogans and marketing ploys like this, there really are some ‘systems’ out there that are better than others, yet it’s still all context sensitive. If you are a student that is in fear of what the world has to offer, you’ll likely get sucked in. There is no shame in that, and that’s why it’s good and effective marketing. Been there and done that, for my own reasons, and yes fear is/was a strong selling point.

So what really is the likelihood that you’re going to draw your weapon on someone – let’s just say a gun? Have you researched the legal ability to do so? Have you thought about what it may cost you? Here I strongly suggest that you find and read Marc MacYoung’s book titled ‘In the Name of Self-Defense.’ Do it now if you haven’t already done so. It’s going to not only open your eyes, even if you think you know it all –  but it’s going to change your perspective – for the better. It’s what truth looks like, from the perspective of a real-life ‘master of violence.’ That’s not his title, but it could be. Marc makes you look strong and hard at the ugly. He’s seen it, and even done it. He’s here to educate you – but only if you’re smart enough to seek him out.

Now go back and read ‘On Killing’ after you’ve read Marc’s excellent book. Explore your psychological ability to wield that tremendous tool against another human being. I caution you that reality is ahead.

So, these are but two insights and references to get you more up to speed. Do yourself a favor now, and digest that for more than the time it takes to read it. Let it simmer for several days. Contemplate what has been offered up in these two excellent resources.

I can point you to several other excellent reads as well:

  • Alexis Artwohl, PH.D. & Loren W. Christensen’s book titled ‘Deadly Force Encoun
  • Charles Remsberg’s book titled ‘Street Survival

Educate your mind further. This stuff is enlightening, and uncomfortable at the same time. My goal is to make you face that uncomfortable side of this equation. Look into it deep and hard, and then ask yourself – could I do violence to another human being using my skills and weapon of choice? Can I draw a weapon and use it to stop another human being from existing. It’s not an easy mirror to look into. There are no right or easy answers, but if you don’t ask the question(s), you won’t have the answers if and when you may need them the most.

An Effective Alternate-Facts Cure

So, the ‘cure’ for some of this is to change how and what we study and teach and maybe when. Today, stop and figure this out for yourself, and more importantly for those you are responsible for and to – you, your family and your students.

In Kapap we say “I’d rather be a student of reality, than a master of illusion.” A very responsible and appropriate slogan in context of the purpose of this article.

If you want to test your mettle, educate yourself – read and understand things that make you uncomfortable. If it’s difficult to look into that mirror and honestly assess your ability to do what you are practicing to do to another human being without remorse, you are the bad guy. I’m not saying there may not come a time, or that you may be justified in doing so – it all depends on circumstances and context, but reality isn’t something you go into unprepared. And how does one prepare to take another’s life? Indoctrination. Which leads to a false sense of skill and ability, up and until reality shows up and shows you something you were never prepared for in the first place, then your fantasy world comes down around you. Your reality shatters and leaves you vulnerable, or worse.

The Gun Solution

If you fancy yourself a gun guy, do the research. Again, I suggest researching some of Marc MacYoung’s books – learn about the ‘Dead Man’s Ten’ study as just one example of what you are likely to face. Watch the YouTube videos of Police shoot-outs. These people are skilled practitioners as well, and in context.

Part III is in next weeks issue.


What It Really Takes to Live with Violence, and Forgive it Part II – Heidi MacDonald

It was not easy. It was brutally, achingly difficult. I had to cut ties from people who were not in my best interest. I also lost friends for a short time, who did not know or understand the full scope of what happened to me, until later.

There were countless nights that I was either crying to sleep, or having nightmares, or sometimes both. I lost a comfortable QA job with a software company somewhere in the mess of this Tall Badness of a relationship. That meant taking menial labor jobs, only given to high school dropouts. And I have a college education.

Talk about swallowing one’s pride in order to put some food in the cupboards.

I had to accept financial support from family members, which as much as I deeply appreciated it, it was also a brutal blow to the self-esteem at an all-time low in my life.

I had to struggle with the fact that I was psychologically damaged when I tried to date again, and found myself quite simply, scared as fuck and running for the door, whenever somebody tried to touch me.

I struggled with being angry that other people could easily date, enjoy intimacy, do the regular Tinder hook-ups, or Netflix & chill. I just simply couldn’t do it. This was a point where I had to give myself patience, and grant this same consideration to people who couldn’t figure out why I was not quite myself again. I can do it now, but I am understandably guarded.

I had to learn to like myself. It may sound simple, cheesy, perhaps even lame. But this? Damn, it was a difficult one. And it was anything BUT simple.

I had to recognize that if I liked myself, then I had to start making choices that were in my best interest. That meant honestly believing that I deserved high quality people who respected me, cared about me, and wouldn’t dream of hurting me, or playing selfish, cruel games.

If I kept on the current path thinking that I was an awful person, and didn’t like myself, well then…I was just going to keep making choices that allowed people to take advantage of me, prey upon this nagging need to prove myself worthy, to be loved and cared for.

Which path did I want to take? It may sound like a no-brainer, but making that decision to change, and then put it into action required serious mental reconditioning. I was not raised in an environment where positive, healthy love was in abundance. Far from it. So taking a different road, it was not without trial and error. I had moments where I would hit a wall, trust the wrong person, get depressed, and then try unsuccessfully to avoid life’s messiness.

But I had to get back into living, and keep trying. Fall down seven times, get up eight, right? As martial arts and self defense practitioners, we do not see a move only once, and we know it perfectly immediately, right? We learn and master it by repeating it. Over and over, until we get it flawless, until we get it right.

So that’s what I did to re-learn being human, with a normal level of self-worth again.

All of this lead me to consider whether forgiveness was possible. It sounds rather simple, doesn’t it? Kind of a sweet, saintly ideal.

Well, I discovered that it’s not a simple, sweet thing. It’s complicated, and it’s hard.  Some days are great, and I feel that “light as a feather” feeling.

Other days, I feel angry, indignant, outraged.

I learned that forgiveness does not have to equal forgetting what happened to me. That’s an impossibly tall order. It happened, and it changed me on a cellular level. But, I do have the choice to determine how I want it change me.

Not long ago, I was watching a clip of Tony Robbins, the motivational speaker talking at one of his seminars, to a guest in the audience. He spoke about blaming people for the bad shit that happens, but also blaming people for the good shit that happens. He openly acknowledged to the audience that he was physically abused by his mother. And yes, he blames her for the abuse. He didn’t skirt around that. But he also blames her for the wonderful marriage that he has. He loves and adores his wife, because he learned what the opposite of a healthy, loving relationship is.

And this, really spoke volumes to me. I can blame the person who hurt me for all the bad memories, and the psychological damage. But…I can also blame him for the fact that the bad events, and his behavior forced me to re-evaluate myself, and determine that I deserved better, and that it was time to make more conscientious choices.

It’s made me more patient with myself when I screw up, say or do the wrong things, and it’s made me more empathetic when I see people I also care about, making their own gaffes.

We’re human. We hurt ourselves, we hurt each other. Let’s not stay in neutral.

My bad experiences ended up helping others at surprising, unexpected moments. There were a few times over the past two years, when I found myself holding someone’s hand, and listening to the recounting of a horrifically damaging situation, that mirrored my own. I was able to relate, to have compassion. I may not have had that capacity if my personal Ground Zero hadn’t happened.

Funny how that works, kind of paying forward compassion.

Have I completely forgiven, or completely healed? Eh…Yes and No. I have good days and bad days, just like anyone else. The good thing is that the good days, far outnumber the bad nowadays.

I’m hoping that time and patience will take me the rest of the way.

If you are a self-defense or martial arts instructor, I hope that this helps you gain some understanding when teaching persons you recognize to have undergone some sort of trauma or violence. It really can happen to anyone, and the process of dealing with returning to a normal life, well….It doesn’t happen easily, just because you teach them how to get out of an armlock.

We can teach all the physical maneuvers and defenses we want, but we should also encompass a certain level of empathy and understanding into HOW we teach. Learning to live a life outside the training hall/dojo, it’s hard for your students. And it takes a lot of grit.

Don’t ever mistakenly think that you’re too mentally tough for this to possibly occur to you, or someone you love.

Don’t trip on your ego, your belt level, your certifications.

If it can happen to me, it can happen to you.


Tools to Combat the Issues of Complacency vs. Reality Part I- Tim Boehlert with Matt Swartz, NYSP, Ret.

The Seeds of Enlightenment

I had a very interesting talk with my Sensei yesterday when discussing a book that we are working on. It will be about HIS Martial Arts, and his seminal contribution to Reality Based Training – Kapap.

While talking we were discussing how some Martial Artists have gotten a bit away from the reality of what they are ‘training for’ and teaching it to others as the truth.

He spoke for several minutes about the efficacy of their goal. He has found a very sobering and straightforward way to open their eyes to what they might really face.  Reality. It’s nothing like what they think it is or will be.

His solution got me to thinking and I asked, “do you think that they’ve become too comfortable working with willing uke’s and the safe ‘sport’ rules adhered to in training in their home Dojo’s, and the rules generally extended to visiting ‘teachers?’

My sensei replied: “Yes, exactly.”

There’s nothing more sobering than seeing what the realities of ‘your art’ are when used in the capable hands of an untrained assailant – one that doesn’t follow the rules that you follow. The reality is that you don’t need to be an expert to prevail – it’s proven that un-trained people are every bit as capable and often even more so – because they don’t follow the rules. They aren’t going to follow your conventions, your body movements, your flow drills. They’re going to kill you by using your ego and ignorance to this fact against you.

Of course, this is nothing new, but over the last 9 years that I have been involved with Martial Arts, I had a gut feeling based on my reality – dealing with non-compliant types on a daily basis.

I write this article to speak to this unspoken and deadly issue. Not to offend anyone for the sake of doing so, but to make those that continue to delude themselves stop and think. Think hard.

The Concept of Change

Think about this concept. You feel very strongly about a subject that’s important to who you are. Using this subject as an example, I propose that you can change either side’s viewpoint through education.

There is a universal way to get a portion of the other side (differing viewpoint) to change their minds about this subject. If you are pro or con doesn’t matter, it only matters that you can be persuaded to at least consider changing your stance. It won’t take more than a minute or two to do this effectively. That solution is education.

I can think of many subjects where this would be effective – hot topics all, but the method would work as effectively.

Testing… testing… is this thing on?

I’ve read more than a few articles and books about de-humanizing people, soldiers specifically, but it could/would work on most any civilian.

To make change happen, sometimes it forces us to endure and experience things that make us uncomfortable.  Viewing real violence makes us uncomfortable, and it can do so on many levels –psychologically, and physically. It changes us, and we can’t ‘un-see’ it. It may lie dormant, never to be seen again, or it may have an instantaneous effect. It may simmer for now and be triggered at a later date. But undeniably it changes us.

Now the reality is that humans are very crafty and capable creatures – we can love and yet hate. We can create beautiful things and yet be capable of destroying those very same things.

We’ve had millennia of striving to become civilized, and yet we still possess the universal instinct of survival – it is after all what keeps us alive and allows us to propagate the species, and yet it’s not going away anytime soon.

For too many years we have been spoon-fed another reality though – through the glass teat we know as ‘TV.’ For many years, Police agencies have had the daunting task of trying to wipe that slate clean in the brains of our young officer recruits.  Think: Hollywood vs. Science. As an example I offer: When shot the bad guy always dies right away, but only after being forced backwards by the impact of the bullet(s). The reality is: it doesn’t happen like that.

Erasing Our Alternate-Facts Realities

I recently attended a Civilian Police Academy – the first of it’s kind in my area, to my knowledge. It was an invite-only affair, and the main qualification for this no-fee three day, 10-hour course was that you’d agree to attend all three days. Class size was limited to 35 students, and we represented not only the curious and willing, but also a very diverse group of community activists, professionals, and just plain civilians.

The primary objective was to educate the public – and I’d guess to turn their heads away from the misleading and outright deceitful rhetoric coming out of that TV and/or in print or social media about the truth and facts of Police Use of Force Incidents.

To their credit, it was always truthful and very enlightening. As you might not have guessed it was also open to any questions and the officers were willing to answer without hesitation. They did so in a positive manner and never once took it as you’d face an opponent, but as you’d face a partner. I would not have thought this possible. They were passionate and educated. The young officer that was the primary speaker had a depth of knowledge that was comforting to me. It made me curious, as I haven’t spoken with too many people that possess that level of depth and knowledge about violence.

My resources have brought me to a new level of education on violence, and I’ve coupled that with more than 8 years of real-world violence interaction.

Part II will follow next week.


Resting – Garry Smith

As it is winter here in England with short days, dark mornings and evenings, I have been dog walker in chief in the Smith household. This is not a moan, far from it, I love being outside walking, absolutely love it and we have had some fantastic days this year, good hard frosts and crisp clear skies. I particularly like walking in the dark of early evening when there is virtually nobody else around, it is nice and quiet then and it is surprising how quickly your night vision kicks id once away from streetlight.

Now we are mid February and it is warming up more. Recent rain has made some of the paths we use very muddy and you spend a lot of your time looking where to put your feet rather than looking around at the beautiful surroundings. We live on the edge of the city and access to beautiful walks is easy, we could stick to the tarmac covered paths in parks but getting out on the crags and paths through the fields is much nicer.

Apparently the Old English name for February was Solmonath (mud month), sounds right to me, I think I will start using it. Other countries and cultures have different names for February and most relate to the conditions and temperature they experience. The emergence of the mud from the previously, well mostly, frozen earth (this depends on the variations we experience as a temperate clime), is a sign that we are moving towards spring.

Heading towards is not there yet. However, as the mornings and evenings lightening and the mud squelches underfoot we know that spring is around the corner. I never bother with new year resolutions and the flood of I will get fitter false promises people make and do not carry through on. I do though, around now, start thinking about getting out and about more and starting the build up my fitness levels. I can imagine little more depressing than heading to the confines of a gym to workout in artificial light in an artificial atmosphere surrounded by many, not all, artificial people. It is not my scene, (exceptions allowed when on holiday).

I like my weights, I like my exercise bike a bit less, I love walking and cycling. A motorcycle crash in early April screwed my training regime last year, it was followed by a problem with my right bicep followed by a series of coughs and chest infections that I thought would never end. Then just before Christmas it all, almost, lifted so I decided a period of rest was needed.

I am still in that period of rest, I did train in preparation for my 4th dan in Ju Jitsu in November and sneaked the examination in between infections, I think the bruised ribs worsened the next chest infection though and I was close to pneumonia, but apart from that, I carried on teaching. I rested from the exercise not from being involved, how can I when I run the training?

Well a 2 week shut down lazing around in the sun, and wind, on Fuertaventura certainly recharged the batteries and on return I have kept on with the just teaching strategy with just a few dabbles here and there. Rest has done me good and I am now feeling ready to resume training, ready both physically and mentally. Many people do not, or worse still cannot rest, and this is very dangerous, in my opinion. The earth revolves and the seasons change, nature renews and restores itself. The human body needs periods of rest, each day we rise, engage in our waking lives and then retire to sleep again, we have 4 seasons in one day and our bodies need this. Regular sleep is good for us, our bodies repair the damage done throughout the day whilst we sleep.  Poor sleep eventually wears you down as does a failure to take a break from our training.

Building in regular periods of relaxation into our training programme is good practice and a sign of dedication and not neglect. Whilst we may train twice or three times a week at the Dojo it is important, given all the other pressures of everyday life, to make sure we have a couple of nights a week set aside for relaxation. That does not mean that we must neglect our art completely on these nights, rather than push the body further we may take the opportunity to chill out but set aside a period for virtual training where as part of our relaxation we engage in imagining our kata and techniques.

Relaxation is the gateway to the renewal of both body and mind. By engaging in relaxation techniques one can quite quickly recover from the tiredness and stress of everyday life. Whilst there are many ways this can be done as there are ways to become tired and stressed it is important to find the method that suits you best.  On the occasions I have to get up early I find I function better if I take a siesta in the afternoon. This leaves me refreshed and raring to go in the late afternoon and evening. For some a quiet period is enough or a period listening to whale songs. It does not matter what you do as long as it works for you and is relaxing.

Most evenings I indulge myself in a very hot bath with some nice bath oils to soak my muscles and completely switch off for a few minutes, often falling asleep. This has now become a ritual in my life and works for me, it is my retreat. I know some people who prefer a form of Spartan regime where rest is a sin, a sign of weakness and failure. Well each to their own it is not for me to judge. However, take a look around you, observe how things happen in nature, look at the process of how the earth regenerates itself and learn from it.

At the moment I am extending the length of time I walk and my stride. I am walking further and faster and the dog is a happy boy. As the weather improves this will continue and the mountain bike will come out too.  Happy days ahead. The weights will come out to play and I will be joining in the training and not just teaching.

Right now I have a little dog to walk on an overcast Solmonath day, more fresh air and exercise and all for free. After that I have a little more admin work to do before teaching an early evening class, then there will be a nice hot soak and an early night, that is part of my training.


Strangers in a Strange Land Part I – Darren Friesen

As a Canadian having now lived in Costa Rica for 7+ years, I often get asked by expats on smooth(er) integration and immersion into a new culture. With some cultures having an innate dislike for foreigners relating to “stealing” jobs from nationals, losing unique elements of culture, cultural disconnects and the like, it can at times make one a target that stands out like the proverbial sore thumb. This article is the result, though not limited to the list itself as this is just the tip of the iceberg. Some conceptual ideas on survival and safety when living abroad as an expat:

  1. Be aware. Situationally aware. Yes, it’s a broad general term but it simply means noticing things that stand out, that don’t seem right, that set off your intuition, that can be perceived to be a potential issue: strange people hovering in the neighbourhood, cars parked in areas for extended periods of time, items left in places you don’t recall leaving them. Smoke billowing around corners you have limited vision. Shadow reflections of oncoming unseen individuals. Mirrors to see people’s actions/body language/tells without them knowing. Movement inside a car you thought was uninhabited. Silhouettes in the dark. It can be as basic or as diverse as you want to make it.
  2. Accept the fact that you’re a stranger in a strange land and act accordingly. Whether you fall into this category or not, you are perceived as being “American/North American”, having money and, oftentimes correctly, not being part of “their” world (meaning the criminal). The more you showcase this in public and draw attention, the more you’ll likely receive.
  3. Fit in as much as is possible, even if it means learning a little Spanish and attempting to speak to the locals with it. Get to know your neighbors. Support local business. Talk to people. Be friendly.
  4. Accept the fact that you, too, could be a victim and, yes, it COULD happen to you. Oftentimes people who live scared and pray that it couldn’t happen to them transmit this through body language in public. Be confident, act like a hard target and carry yourself like you know the territory and are comfortable in the culture.
  5. You don’t need a pitbull or Rottweiler. Simply something that makes a lot of noise and draws attention is a) enough to make them go to another house, b) make your house a potentially harder mark than is worth their while and c) give you enough time to clear your head (if in the middle of the night) and take the appropriate steps. (eg. escape, call 911, get to your gun/weapon.) I like the dog idea as much as the alarm idea. This is a loyal friend/family member and if you treat them right they instinctively protect their owner in various ways. If your dog is barking at-length there may be a legitimate reason for it, don’t brush it off. Remember, everything is contextual. If it ends up being the neighborhood kids having a mahenga in front of your house, no harm no foul. It took 10 seconds to find this out.
  6. Weapons are a great force multiplier and are far more effective than anything someone can do without one, which I realize is a moral issue for many…or the majority. That being said, to go heavily along with what Paul said at the meeting, if you have the intention of using one, get training. The last thing you need is a criminal taking it away from you and using it against you. Improvised weapons are everywhere around the house and it takes someone who can envision how to use them, how to handle them and what kind of damage they can do. (flexible, bladed, penetrating, projectile, impact, shielding, etc.) If you have the will to use a weapon, use it with intent. We have a catchphrase: “He who hesitates, meditates…horizontally.” Use it with commitment and visualize what you’re protecting. What’s important to you and what are you willing to fight for. Could you move on having lost them or they you. Be feral and vile if you need to survive. Mindset is far more important than physical skill (But, remember, training enhances this although I realize not everybody can or is able to partake in training nor has any inclination to fight.) Here’s a cold truth most people are not able to accept: the only way to defeat violence (when all other avenues are spent) is utilize greater violence. Be brutal. Self-defense implies that there are 4 elements present: ability, opportunity, intent and preclusion. Your first 3 have already been passed by context, the 4th isn’t required. It is you or them if you decide to act with aggression. If you’re not able to come to terms with this…remember, for those who haven’t delved into this arena, it is not a walk-in-the-park – the pre-, during and post- parts are traumatic and life-changing. Another reason to get proper training on the whys/hows/whens.
  7. Yes, some are expensive but they are a great deterrent and if they work only once they will have justified their cost. (You don’t want to find out AFTER you’ve made the decision that they’re TOO expensive that it was worth the investment. Too late.) That being said, pick someone reputable as there are many offering this service that will immediately in turn pass on the knowledge to their burglar friends of how to trip the alarm. I would recommend going through a reputable security company. Oftentimes, these companies actually monitor through remote CCTV, will let you see the footage and take their business seriously as it’s extremely competitive and losing a client is not something they want, nor the bad reputation that’ll come from taking the above route. (Independent companies may not often care, remember, you’re a Gringo to them and they predominantly work with and in their community)
  8. Pretending to be asleep can sometimes work (as the adamant gentleman insisted at the meeting) and, like the story I mentioned, can save lives. But, remember, from this story, they were actually fully asleep and there were no physiological anomalies needed to be controlled. If the burglars want money (and think you have it), want to kidnap, be violent and take their resentment out on the homeowner for whatever reason, it can backfire. There is no one right solution and a catch-all response to every scenario. Home invasions are always contextual so plan accordingly. (And “pretending” to be asleep is often easier said than done with adrenal dump/tachypsychia-heart pumping 250 bpms, perpetual shaking, uncontrolled breathing, fearful wife or kids beside you, involuntary responses, etc.) Ever tried it with an angry wife/husband after a fight and they’re not quite finished? How’s that worked for you? (If it doesn’t work on her/him it just might not work on them)
  9. Do a quick scope of the house upon return (and upon leaving). Don’t get caught off-guard. This goes for car safety as well. Before getting in your car, look underneath the car, backseat, vehicles beside/behind/in front of. Don’t stop too close to the car in front of you. Lock your doors while driving. Put your seatbelt on after you’ve locked the door and take it off before unlocking to get out. Pay attention to strange cars following you and don’t lead them to your home where you’re isolated. (A better idea is to lead them to the police station or a populated public place you’re familiar with. Act like you’re calling someone to report them WITHOUT getting out of the car. Never get out when challenged or pull over to a place of their terms. Everything regarding safety should always be made on your terms. It’s your life and only you are in control of it).
  10. Check for escape routes and safe(r) hiding places if needed, both in the house, in the yard and through neighboring land. In a pinch this saves you decision-making time under the effects of adrenaline if the proverbial shit does hit the fan. (And remember, if you can get out of that exit, someone can also get in) The last thing you want is to make new decisions while under intense pressure for your life. Which leads me to my next point….

This will be in Part II next week.


On Models – Erik Kondo and Rory Miller

Rory and I have a basic disagreement about models. I love them. He doesn’t. No. We are not talking about the beautiful models you see in print or on TV. That a whole different discussion. We are talking about educational models used for teaching.

Rory will explain why he doesn’t like them. But first I will explain why I do.

I see models as teaching tools that provide a framework for understanding. The world is a complex place. Trying to figure out how the world works is a difficult task. Therefore, I see models as a pathway to building a general understanding of a subject. The basic idea is to take a subject and break it down into it’s component parts. Then each part can be examined and discussed both separately and also in combination with the other parts.

Flexible models allow for understanding to grow and become more complex as the person’s understanding of the subject increases. Models provide the student with mental anchoring where he or she can “chunk” information together. As the person’s understanding increases, so does the connections and relationships between the “chunks” increase.

Therefore, I see models as problem solving tools. They are starting points on the journey of understanding.

“Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.” — Box, George E. P.

But,  I do agree that models also have their disadvantages. Models are only representations of reality. They are not reality. As famously stated by mathematician, George Box, they are also invariably wrong to a certain extent.

For example, Newtonian Physics is essentially a model that is wrong under certain conditions. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is a model that is also incorrect under certain other conditions, but it solves some of the flaws of the Newtonian model. So why not skip Newton and go straight to Einstein? Because Einstein’s theory is very hard to understand and it requires a fair amount of prerequisite knowledge. And one practical prerequisite, is to understand the Newtonian model first.

I think that much of the practical problems of the Newtonian model can be mitigated by realizing that it is both an imperfect and limited model.

When it comes to models for conflict management, I think that people run into trouble when they assume that the Model will give them the correct answer to their specific problem. Instead of viewing the Model as a problem solving tool for them to use to come to their own solution, they see the Model as already having the solution.

In this case, blind faith in the Model causes them to be rigid and inflexible in their thinking. This is an example of not having a flexible or growth mindset. People without this type mindset tend to see models in this rigid fashion. As a result, learning a model actually could be detrimental for them.

These are the people who want a definite answer to the question of “If he does this, what should I do?”

This is a different question than “If he does this, what are some of my alternatives?”

Ultimately, I think models are useful for helping people who are willing to teach themselves. This type of person will benefit from a model as a starting point. Then he or she will discard the model in favor of his or her own personalized model or means of understanding.

But there is no telling how a person will use a model. Therefore, I think that if models come with full disclosure of their inherent flaws, then their advantages will out weigh their disadvantages. That is why I use them – a lot.

Here is Rory’s take on models.

Models have their place. In closed systems, models or formulas work very well. A closed system is one in which the conditions are known and there are right and wrong answers. Erik brought up physics. Newtonian physics (I don’t know enough about advanced physics to make the same assertion) is a closed system. There are a handful of known constants and laws and if you know the variables (length of lever, distance to both load and force from fulcrum, amount of force applied) you will a always get the same answer.

Most of what we learn in school are closed systems. Math. Geography. Writing is an interesting one, because the fundamentals of writing (grammar, spelling and even story structure) are taught as a closed system, but good writing can and does break all of the rules. Think of Faulkner. Effective writing is an open system, but we tend to teach it as a closed system.

Conflict management is a classic open system. It is broad and deep. There are many variables and the majority of those are outside of your control, unknown to you, or both. There is no single definition of a win and the exact same outcome in a situation can be interpreted as a loss or a win by two different people and each individual can even change their mind about whether it was a win over time.

Models are used for a lot of reasons. In closed systems, they make sense. Bureaucracies like measurability and open skills are not really measurable. But the nature of the beast is that surviving violence is predicated on adaptability. On changing the situation. On breaking social rules and taboos that try to keep a student on a socially acceptable script. Cheating, in other words. And you can’t make a model for breaking models.

But I think the most common reason people try to apply models to open systems is simply fear. If you can take this ugly, immense, complicated problem and give it nice neat labels and put it in a box, it looks less scary.

That’s classic fear management, not danger management. Willful blindness.

My take, as an instructor, is to normalize the chaos. Our world, life itself, is an open system. We evolved to deal with that level of complexity. Humans rock at dealing with unknowns, if they let themselves.

I do use models in my teaching. Partially because I went through the school system like everyone else and it’s a hard habit to break. But when I use them consciously, it’s never to give answers. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, for instance.

A prescriptive instructor would use Maslow to say, “An assailant working from the security level of the hierarchy will… and so you must…” Used properly (in other words, my way) the same level gives you, “If no one was going to help you and your children were starving, how would you get money for food?” Followed up, after the class has answered the question: “Get it? An addict doesn’t think differently than you, they just have a level of problem very few people in our culture have had to deal with…”

The purpose of models, when I use them well, is to add layers to the depth of understanding. Most models, however, are used to cut out variables and complexity that the instructor is unprepared to deal with.

There is one other reason to use models in an open system, and it hinges on the instructor’s assumptions and biases.

If you assume that your students are intelligent and adaptable, you give them tools and information and trust them to find their own best solutions by their own definitions with their own personal resources. This is the “gains maximization” strategy, looking for the best win.

If, however, you assume your students are stupid and will generally make things worse if left to their own judgment, in that case you will need to rely on models. You need to tell them what to do and be prescriptive. That’s the loss minimization strategy.

I personally reject that point of view. But that’s me.


Are We Hearing Voices? – Liam Jackson

In early February, 2017, an exchange of messages with Marc MacYoung led to a post I created on a social media site. The original post may be read below: (With very minor edits as to spare the delicate sensibilities of some genteel readers.)

In the Poles analogy, Pinker uses the North pole as an example of the “far-anything.” (My term, not Pinker’s) Anything south of absolute North is “different” and, possibly, not to be trusted by Absolute North. And following along that train of thought, anything or anyone not standing on our own compass points are also suspect. In reality, we all know someone who is a few degrees left or right of us but, humanity being what it is, we’re awful quick to look at the extremes rather than the commonalities. The word “moderate” has become an obscenity to those standing on the poles.

It’s self-defeating and polarizing, folks. Fecal matter is perilously close to hitting the oscillating device. It ain’t gonna’ be pretty when it happens, regardless of how well we all think we’re prepared.

Though this post may be interpreted as “political” in nature, it’s actually a sociological observation. Jus’ so ya’ know

 “In a recent exchange of messages with Marc MacYoung. I asked him if his hate mail had increased lately. Marc is a “violence professional” recognized by several legal jurisdictions as a subject matter expert. In truth, Marc is actually more of a “conflict resolution” specialist. He’s often a voice of reason when others are quick to yell, “Punch ’em” or some other such emotional prattle. And that alone can make someone a target for Far-lefts, Far-rights and the “Far-anythings.”

In reply, he asked me if I knew of Steven Pinker’s analogy regarding the “Poles.” (Pinker is a Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. He conducts research on language and cognition, writes for publications such as the New York Times, Time and The Atlantic.)

I knew of Pinker and his remarks. In the “Poles” analogy, Pinker uses the North Pole as an example of the most extreme compass point. This is the spot on which the “far-anythings” reside. (My term, not Pinker’s) Anything south of absolute North is “different” and, possibly, not to be trusted by Absolute North, and likewise with Absolute South. Following along that train of thought, anything or anyone not standing directly on our own personal compass points are also suspect. In reality, we all know someone who is a few degrees left or right of us but, humanity being what it is, we’re damned quick to look at the extremes rather than the commonalities. The word “moderate” has become an obscenity to those standing on the poles. It’s my humble opinion that it’s the very lack of Moderate Voice that we find ourselves in this current state of unrest.

Fecal matter is perilously close to hitting the oscillating device in the U.S. It won’t be pretty when it happens, regardless of how well we all think we’re prepared.

The post spurred some discussion among other “violence pros” and within hours, I found myself tempted to write a treatise on the State of the Union. I refrained and for that, most of you are no doubt eternally grateful. I did, however, post an additional comment or two that further spurred further comments, e-mails, and personal contacts. Below, you’ll find one of those comments, in part:

Here is the skinny. Plain English. Take it for what you will. Most of you who know me personally know that due to my body of work, I have SME status (subject matter expert) with several federal agencies. (Domestic and global terrorism among other “specialties”) I have an aptitude and skill set that lends to “aggressive violence mitigation.” I’m considered highly capable by my superiors. However, of the several hundred (thousands) of people whom I know who or worked in the same field(s), I barely register. Despite my level of training, experience and credentials, I’m a tiny blip on the radar screen. On both the left and right of the socio-political spectrum, there are machines walking among us. And there are far more of these boogey men than you know. Thank God most have the self-restraint and cognitive ability to refrain from open engagement at this time. And yes, there are other elements that factor into that restraint such as “the bad guys aren’t on my local radar yet” or “the pay-off isn’t right…yet.”

 For those of you erudite warriors sitting safely behind machine gun keyboards, thumping chests out on the sidewalks, or playing dress up and exacting violent revolt upon another’s person or property, I’m telling you…You have no idea what you’re asking for or inviting. None.”  

Many of my social media acquaintances have backgrounds similar to mine, but there are some whom I have met after my retirement and only know me via the lecture circuit, community involvement, or through various martial arts-related functions. It was from this group that I received the most private contacts. Via these contacts, the most common questions regarding my post and subsequent comments were: 1. Who are these “boogey men,” and 2. “Despite the bluster, what has stopped the increasingly verbose “other side” from countering recent violent demonstrations?”

The full answers to these questions would require another treatise. However, I’ll attempt to provide very short answers to both.

First, the aforementioned machines come in many flavors. Some of them are professionally trained, highly experienced and capable… and well-armed. Some are isolationists while others prefer close-knit, like-minded packs. Regardless, they share a commonality. They understand the mindset necessary to commit violence on another human being. We only need look at the number of troops who have served in combat theaters from 1964-2017 to understand the number.  And this doesn’t take into account the additional numbers of personnel who’ve worked in the clandestine services. Of course, this doesn’t mean that every combat-qualified person has the mindset of the aforementioned boogey man. The last thing most combat vets want to see is open armed conflict in Hometown, USA. It does, however, mean that the resource pool is huge. Huge. Again, keep in mind that those “machines,” aka the boogey man, exist on both sides of the political spectrum. (We haven’t even touched on the “professional” and “amateur” opportunists,” yet.)

Then you have the Weekenders who have worked diligently to prepare themselves for open, armed conflict. There are flavors of the boogey man within this group who operate more from an emotional mindset and thus are potentially far more volatile.

This brings us to the second question: “Why haven’t they acted, yet?” There is no single reason. A belief in the Rule of Law versus violent civil disobedience, a thus far lack of “personal stake,” the right catalyst is absent, etc. But there is one particular reason that stands out, especially with regard to the Weekenders. Much of the recent politic-related violent protests have been encouraged via a core leadership that has managed to find a national Voice. Structure and organization exists on a significant scale. The Weekenders aren’t so nearly well organized and lack a central, national Voice. Broad-brush organization, central leadership, and “command and control” are MIA. For the moment.

And perhaps most important of all: Violent protests simply haven’t reached the “wrong community” …yet. When conditions are ripe, prairie fires only require a single spark.

The most important puissant Voice missing from this equation is that of the Middle Ground. It’s out there somewhere, but it has remained silent thus far. But there’s always hope.


‘Mindset –Updated Edition: Changing the Way You think to Fulfil Potential’, by Dr Carol Dweck.

This work was drawn to my attention by Erik Kondo when we were discussing the open and closed nature of some groups attitude to learning. I see groups and tribes who interact with other groups and tribes and are prepared to grow from some of the things they learn from these interactions. Our ancient ancestors created vast trading networks in this way, their core cultures were changed by varying degrees by exposure to outside influences, it is how societies were formed and grown.

I had recently been reading Sapiens (see earlier review, as well as The Righteous Mind and when I got hold of Mindset it seemed to offer me a chance of finding the missing link in my thinking, pun intended. You see I am interested in how people think, how they act as well as the me they present compared to the I inside. I am a nailed on growth mindset person. I knew that, the excerpt of Dr Dweck’s book that Erik sent me confirmed it, I try new things, I have fun learning, I am not phased if the learning is hard, learning is itself a reward.

Thing is when I look around I see many people who did not get this, who’s mindsets were fixed, as members of a different and difficult to understand tribe. How could we have evolved as rapidly as a species unless we were a growth mindset species?

Of course I was well aware of the attitudinal differences and how this manifests itself in everyday life, lack of social mobility being one of the major ones. In 1988 was a window cleaner, I enrolled on an adult education course, my life has been a roller coaster ride ever since yet many of my peers from that date have not moved on at all. They were where they were because they were, a self fulfilling prophecy of going nowhere. The question of why we are of similar stock, similar background but see the world so differently has always been a puzzle, the old answers offered only partial answers. Dweck offered more.

In Mindset Dweck teases out the very subtle forces that influence how we see the world and our place within it, she looks at all different aspects of life and the pattern is there to see. Building on a lifetime of study and research this book, although repetitive at times, allows those with the will to learn, and even to change, to delve into the subtleties of human interaction and its consequences.

I really enjoyed it although not a fan of the style, I like my footnotes or references annotated so that I can go find them when I want them, not lumped together at the end of each chapter. It is a comprehensively researched book and well worth a read.


What It Really Takes to Live with Violence, and Forgive it Part I – Heidi MacDonald

What do you do when your worst fears are realized? When a scenario that you work on in your self defense training, actually comes to life? If you survive it, how do you process, get over it?

I wish that I could give you a simple, easy answer that could be of immediate benefit. I wish that somebody had been able to guide me, give me those answers…But it was kind of one of those things where you had to discover the answers for yourself, without anyone’s assistance.

Learn the Hard Way, 101.

I am the daughter of two insufferably, messed up human beings. My father had run-ins with the law and drugs, that resulted in a felony conviction with hard time to serve. My mother was a physically abusive person who also had issues with alcohol and drugs, that were never concealed very well. Long story short, I bore the brunt of her wicked short fuse for a good part of my life.

The end result was that I grew up and made choices in my romantic relationships, that were not always healthy or positive.

I chose one person who was emotionally unavailable with a heavy drinking problem, to boot. I stayed long past this particular relationship’s expiration date, because I thought I should prove myself worthy enough to love. I put this person on an incredibly high pedestal, and myself at the base, basically.

After exiting that, I then chose another person who caused a spectacular level of damage to my life, that I never thought was possible. He was charming and charismatic, but exhibited dangerous traits of narcissism and psychopathy. I didn’t quite understand until it was too late. Instead, I ignored it, and made excuses for his behavior, even as I was self-destructing under the weight of his demands. The end of the relationship was sexually violent and left me suicidal, cut off from friends and family.

 Why? Well, for one simple reason: I did not believe in my own worth as a person, as a woman, and in the face of doubt, I put myself through an endless cycle trying to please everyone.

See me, look at me. Tell me that I deserve to be loved

I hadn’t yet learned that I should not have to grovel for love and acceptance, and most certainly not from darkly flawed human beings who had nothing to offer but psychological mind screws and violence.

Do you find me weak so far reading this?

I am not a weak, simpering female. Once upon a time, I may have thought that of myself. But now? Far from it. Don’t fool yourself if you’re a male self-defense/martial arts instructor reading this, and think that what I discuss here, does not apply to you your teaching, or your life.

Quite the opposite. I am one of you.

I am a black belt, and a women’s self defense instructor. I’ve been on the path exploring how to prevent physical violence to myself and others for about 15 years.

I am roughly 120 pounds, and pride myself on being a scrappy groundfighter, despite my five feet, 4 inch height & size. The problem in my case, was that despite all of my training learning preventive techniques against violent action, I simply did not learn or understand how to defend myself against psychological games. How to spot predators of the intimate kind. And equally as important, if not more so – how to have confidence and value in who I am, as a person.

Do me a favor, and try not to immediately scoff & think,

“Pfff, this crap would never happen to me. I can spot psychos from a mile away. How stupid is she, an MA practitioner of all things, to get involved with someone like that?”

Because..he was one of us. A member of our world of Self Defense, Martial Arts practitioners.

The details of what happened, I don’t think are really important anymore. I’ve lived it, and re-lived it a million times in my head, spent time on both the shrink’s couch and did the pop psychology reading. Going back and recounting it, can sometimes put me in a dark place, that I’d rather not go back to.

What is important, is the process that came after.

Two years ago, I found myself at a very personal Ground Zero. I was pretty much broken in every way you can think of: emotionally, psychologically, physically, financially. And yes, there was a dance around the edge of suicide, too. Believe me when I tell you, that is a damn scary place to find yourself on.

Nobody ever thinks they could go that low, that dark, that far, until it actually happens.

At a point that is that void of hope, that desolate, one of two things can happen: You will either die, or you will rebuild. I like to think that the foundation of all my years of dojo training kept the will to live in me burning, because I chose the latter, to rebuild.