EDC Considerations and Reality – Terry Trahan

Every Day Carry (EDC for short) is a big part of the preparedness and self defense mindset. If you don’t have the proper tools at hand, for the particular situation, it obviously can be difficult to come out on top. However, like everything else, once an idea becomes big enough, commercial interests take over, and at best, can make it difficult to determine what you really need, and at worst, will sell you some hinky, poorly designed crap that is worth less than nothing.

One of the biggest problems is the dividing line between collectors and users. This is most obvious in the custom knife community, when a maker becomes famous, the collectors take over, and all of the sudden, that really cool gear is no longer available for the users. Another issue is the things that get pushed into the field by collectors. My biggest pet peeve is the EDC pictures that get posted with expensive knives, titanium combs, Single or Double Finger knuckles that aren’t actually designed to use, and toys like titanium tops and spinners, but no usable, effective gear. No medical, no back up weapons that work, just expensive toys that exist to separate the fool from his money. It makes serious EDC users look like the same kind of fool, and judgement soon follows.

Now, if you are a collector, and honest about it, that’s cool, but why try to attach yourself to a different community that you don’t actually participate in.

So, to avoid this, and other downfalls, I have talked with others, and here is what we, from a users point of view, think the real considerations for EDC should be.

A knife is not a less lethal back-up weapon

A knife is considered just as much a lethal force tool as a gun, and when you pull one, even if your intent and mindset is ‘less lethal’, in the eyes of the law, you introduced a lethal weapon into a confrontation. If this confrontation did not rise to the level of a lethal force encounter, you have just committed a major felony. There are several options, which may or may not be legal in your locale, that cover the less (or less than) lethal back up. Collapsible batons, pocket sticks, knuckle dusters, saps, blackjacks, monkey fists, pens, pepper spray, among many others. These are the areas you should be looking into.

Carrying more than one firearm

This is controversial, and opinions really do vary, but from most peoples experience, a back up gun is usually not needed in any encounters. Especially if you carry a modern, high capacity pistol, with a few spare magazines. Even though we do live in a world with terrorism, violent protests, and gangs, you are still more likely to deal with a mugging or a robbery than having to play anti-terrorist in the mall.

Not carrying medical gear

If your goal is to truly be prepared for bad things happening, and you skip over carrying at least a Blow Out Kit, you are not preparing yourself for reality. Even in the event of a terrorist attack, you will more than likely have a better chance of helping save somebodies life with a tourniquet than gunning down the bad guys. Look at how many people were saved in the Boston bombing by people using tourniquets. And do yourself two favors, get good gear, not budget made in China counterfeits, and get training. There are several amazing people and companies offering good training in real, life saving med skills these days. That will contribute more to your survival than anything else.

Buying things just to have them, or belong to the club

Once again, there is nothing wrong with having things, and if you want to collect, awesome, but collect and buy what you want, not what your peer group says is cool. If you like cheaper knives, do it, be you, don’t think you need to have the latest $500 custom knife to fit in. If that is your social group, no matter how cool they seem, they are not cool. Conversely, if you buy stuff because the group says you need it to survive, check with other sources. The price of this stuff can add up pretty quickly, and most of it is bunk. You really don’t need that much. Save your money for other cool stuff, like a date with your better half.

In closing, problems always comes up when we both over think and over socialize on things. We always need to come back to the reason we are doing something, and the reality of what is needed to accomplish what we are trying to do. Seek out opinions from people that really do what you are trying to do, and listen. A little bit of good gear is much better than an overload of crap.


Mental Conditioning and Neurolinguistics Part II – Darren Friesen

12. Give them context. I had a former student that told me he could never ever put a knife into somebody under any circumstance. I told him I could change his mind in less than one minute. He laughed. I asked to visualize, really clear and detailed imagery, a just- released violent criminal. Inhumane. Non-empathetic. Vile. No regard for human sanctity and precious human life. (Not evil incarnate, inhuman or a mindless killing machine as this takes away the humanity and if it can bleed, it can be destroyed.) He was coming home from a long day at work, the only thing on his mind seeing his beautiful wife and cute kids. He walks in to see his kids unconscious and bleeding on the floor. His wife has her mouth muffled by a hand and this guy is on top of her ripping her clothes off. There’s a knife laying on the dresser and there’s one thing standing between her and your kids’ lives…you. He will not stop and there are no police coming to help you. She’s looking at you with horrified eyes and the life slowly leaving them. Could you put a knife in somebody? (Now I know this is extreme, unlikely to happen for the vast vast majority and a horrible vision to have to picture but it goes toward context and the ability and moral/ethical justification within that context and to achieve scenario-specific goals…remember, the vast majority of us are deeply hardwired for resistance to taking human life….and this is a good thing, rendering a lot of what we learn in “martial arts” and “self-defense” moot…semantics are simply not semantics pertaining to violence) I saw his body language change during the process…red face, clenched fists, body rocking, smile vanished and a look of glaring intensity. He said “yes, under those circumstances I’d be able, without doubt.” It turned out to be about 90 seconds but you get my point. That’s context. Visceral imagery. We don’t train to stab a guy at the bar that accidentally (or not, for that matter) dumps a beer on us. We too often teach universal or general in a specific. Poor conditioning. (hard-wiring is already there so this is not hard-wiring, it’s conditioning…we’re altering the hard-wiring)

13. Mantras reinforced to develop proper mindset. Here are a few examples that I use: “When all else has failed and there is no other solution than a physical response, I will be brutal, unforgiving and un-empathetic in my attack until the threat has subsided. I will dominate with incredible speed and power, both of mind and body.” “I will learn to function with adrenaline dump and will overcome my fear and use adrenaline as power.” “I will do whatever it takes to survive, thrive and live for my loved ones.”

14. Learn targeting, not sequencing. Don’t have a specific response for a given attack. Train yourself to always see targets. They are ALWAYS available from ANY position. Ones that do damage, that create shock and awe, that give psychological trauma, that cause injury and inflict brutal pain..now…not later that evening.

15. Don’t (even unintentionally) put weapons in their hands and have them dismantle an unarmed fighter. A. It’s illegal and you’ve just taught them unbeknownst to them (and often unbeknownst to the blank instructor) to escalate the level of force exponentially given the circumstances. B. You’ve gone against the average person’s innate resistance to utilizing this type of violence on another human being. C. You’ve messed with their context and unconsciously given them a skill set most are simply unable to process, especially without that specific context.

16. No tapping or submission training. It is self-defeatist. If a student perpetually learns to tap when things start to hurt or as a “safe word” you are conditioning them to fail. Teach them to read body language so they know when they’re hurting someone, facial reaction. I once had a friend who had been training with some law enforcement friends on the weekends. They did BJJ and every time (he was a big guy so it took some effort on their part) he said they’d end the wrestling match with a rear naked choke and told him that there was no counter…once that was on, it’s over. He asked if I had any solutions. I told him, “tap.” He said, “Well, yes, then I’m done and the fight’s over. What can I do to counter once I’m caught?” “Tap.” “You’re not getting it, D, I need a counter.” I told him “I’m giving you one, you’re just not listening. Tap. They release instinctively, it’s how they’re trained. They’ve done it hundreds of times and, by now, it can’t be overrun. Tap. And when they release, attack them like a hungry f*$#ing tiger.” The lights went on. “But that’s dirty.” “I know, you’re right, it is. Do you want the counter or not.” “But we’re friends!” “Not during a real fight you’re not. You wanted a counter, take it or leave it. It will put you on top, they won’t be expecting it and the appalling shock of you not playing by their rules will put them on their heels while you get the first few shots in. That’ll change the bloody dynamic of the game. Permanently. They’ll never make that mistake again even while on the job. It’ll help you in the immediacy, them in the long-term. Everybody wins.” “Jesus, Darren, it’s just grappling with beers on the weekend!” “Yeah, well, that’s the difference, I look at it from a different mindset, I try and be a  problem-solver. You had a problem , I gave you a way to solve it. It’s not pretty, it’s not nice but, dammit, it sure is effective, isn’t it?” Tools like visualization allow the student to go through the steps needed to end the scenario, whether it be verbal, physical, intuitive, psychological, tactical or what have you. Have them do it successfully in their mind’s eye. Then have them do it with ugly success. Then imperfectly and with flaw. Then have them develop a plan b or a perpetually-adaptive method when their first avenue doesn’t work as planned. They aren’t given one-size-fits-all solutions, they’re given tools to adapt to the changing playing field. It will forever help them, in life or in the fire. Until what point to continue the assault? Until the threat ceases to be a threat if all else has failed and the physical is all that’s left. No gloating, no admiring your shots, no yelling in victory, no stopping. No re-dos. Dear God, if you want to get Darren mad, ask for a re-do. “That didn’t look good, stop and let me try that again.” Um..no. Billy, keep attacking Jimmy, please. Learn to thrive in the unpredictability of chaos. It’s human to be hit, to err, to screw up and have something look ugly. (Remember, if I do anything that looks absolutely beautiful, it’s by accident, not intent) Teach them to become focused, pragmatic and goal-oriented. Means to an end. Make your training your reality: a. Growl. Learn to become feral. Let the inner animal loose every so often so you know what he or she looks like and can recognize him or her when he/she’s needed. b. Train biting, pinching, scratching, twisting, tearing, ripping, clawing. Then practice counter-biting, counter-pinching, counter-scratching, counter-twisting, counter-tearing, counter-ripping, counter-clawing. c. Learn the physiology of that animal. What does he look like now that you recognize him? How do you access that state change on a dime when needed? What are the things that matter to you? Your trigger points? What’s worth fighting for and what is not? This is the definition of flipping/flicking the switch. It’s often paid reference to but very rarely explained. Plan before when it’s okay for him/her to come out and play ahead of time…during is too late. Again, the whats are usually what are stressed, not nearly enough of the hows, whens and whys. Eyes roll back in head, immense power runs through your body, a viciousness takes hold, something snaps. Look in the mirror and see what he looks like. Get a visual, auditory (what does he/she sound like? things he/she says? tone and intensity?), kinesthetic and tactile processing in place. Practice brings it to the fore, then returning back to the you that your loved ones see every day. Practice seeing how fast you can access Mr. Hyde from Dr. Jekyll. Again, use context. What matters to you? Who’s important? What would have to be done to them or you to pull Mr. Hyde out of the closet? Remember, he’s not you, he’s a part of you that only comes out when absolutely needed, not when your wife nags you or the kids are misbehaving. It’s okay to have him, it doesn’t make you an awful person as he has a voice, a rare one, but a powerful one nonetheless.

Context is bloody king. Remember, it’s not the system, the belts, the techniques but the will to utilize the tools necessary if and when needed. Mindset. The mind is by far the most dangerous weapon we possess.

This is just the tip of the iceberg and I’m often reticent to share openly information like this as it is both controversial and can be misused, from someone who understands and more so from someone who doesn’t. I have been pushed by some close confidants to put it out there as, who better than someone who uses the methods responsibly and with care to explain it with caution as opposed to someone egregious and negligent. High praise, let’s see what comes of it.



Developing Imagery Skills Part II – Garry Smith

As we train more and more we can continue to develop our imagery skills. Like any skill the more we use it the better we should get. Last year I took and passed my 4th Dan in Ju Jitsu, it was a massive test and a huge challenge, it was 8 years since I last graded. So whilst I had effectively been training for 8 years I had also been teaching more and more especially since I took over the club in 2014.

In April 2016 I crashed a motorcycle and sustained a long lasting injury to my right foot, just as that was clearing up I was injured, unintentionally by my training partner, and my right bicep was in a pretty bad way for a couple of months, then 3 weeks before the grading I picked up a pretty aggressive chest infection.

My training schedule was erratic to say the least but I did manage to train in a limited capacity. Thankfully our black belts rallied round and put in some extra shifts for me to throw them around. The trouble was as the grading approached I was not confident that what I was doing was of a high enough standard, yes I listened to and took advice, yes I tried and experimented with different defences to attacks, most of which were random. However, with a couple of weeks to go I was still unsettled and needed to think carefully about what I was doing. It felt too mechanical.

I needed to rationalize and deal with my inner doubts and I did some serious thinking. I came to the conclusion that my problem was that I was not trusting myself enough so I examined each defence and each technique using my imagery skills, well not each one individually because this is what happened.

I started to go through the attacks in my mind and imagined how I would respond, where and how I would move, how I would strike and throw. I closed my eyes and watched.  I started doing this with one set of techniques and then modifying my physical response and things started to become smoother, they made more sense and I was seeing not remembering, the thing is I was seeing it as the attack came in, my body seemed to be getting its shit together fast. It was an interesting experience, I stopped worrying about my performance and just decided to trust that my body, governed by my subconscious mind and many years of practice, would make things work.

I knew the theory, I had been teaching others but it took the impending pressure of being examined by my peers to make me practice what I teach others to do.

Well, it worked pretty damn well, if I say so myself I put in a pretty good performance and was complemented by the examiners, including a 6th dan owner of another Ju Jitsu club, and Ukis, I even pulled off some stuff during the grading that I had not tried out in preparation, I surprised myself to be fair. It just happened, I went with the flow and it felt good, you know when it is working and you are expressing yourself well.

Developing imagery skills is good for the mind and body, my experience, and I am really keen to hear of other peoples, was that the practical application was possible during the act of training. Not just stopping the physical act and creating images in the mind but during the physical act, yes as the punch or kick is coming in. Seeing it immediately before application, well that is what it felt like.  I am pretty convinced that this is in part due to the vast amount of hours spent on the mat and in preparation along with all the research and even reading and writing about martial arts, self defence, training and many other affiliated topics. Nevertheless, it was an interesting experience and a valuable one.


Developing Imagery Skills Part 1 – Garry Smith

When you use mental imagery or visualization you produce vivid pictures or experiences in your mind and this is a useful skill for students to develop in order to enhance their practical effectiveness. Students can use mental imagery to practice skills and helps you to decide what to do in a given set of circumstances by having already thought about the options, “If he does that I will do this.”

You can practise techniques and responses in your mind as well as with your body. Practised properly you can see and feel yourself training. You can use imagery to learn new skills, practice old ones just as one imagines other situations in life such as that upcoming job interview or date. An inability to visualize can mean that we lack the ability to complete ideas. If we cannot create an accurate mental image of what we want to achieve, then it’s unlikely that we will achieve it. And without that certain insight it’s hard to make progress even if we are using appropriate training principles as the two concepts need to be employed in tandem. If we train our mind to analyse our current and potential performance in Ju Jitsu it will help us to perfect our technique and application.

It works because visualisation has a measurable, physiological effect on our body. When you visualise doing a movement, punch, kick, throw or kata, there is a measurable response by the specific muscles used in that activity in response to your imagined movements.

For instance, in order to do a half shoulder throw in reality, a specific ‘program’ of neuro-muscular circuits has to fire in order for that to happen. However, if I just vividly imagine doing a half shoulder throw, it’s been found that micro-muscular stimulation occurs in those same muscles used to do the throw in ‘reality’.

In fact, neurologically, your body can’t tell the difference between a ‘real’ experience, and a vividly imagined one. You consciously know one experience is real and the other is imagined, but at the cellular level, your body can’t tell the difference. Its like dreaming although in using imagery skills we consciously choose the subject and use it for a purpose. In a dream the things we experience are ‘real’ whilst we are in that state, perhaps you even jerked your arm up in the dream in response to the imagined events! It was only a dream, but your body still responds like it was real.

Because there is this muscular response to visualised activity, it makes it possible to ‘program in’ desired shots, strokes, plays, movements, behaviours, and even emotional responses prior to doing them. In other words you can begin to prepare your body at a cellular level, developing a ‘muscle memory’ of what you want your body to do.

Further, visualisation allows you to practice your techniques perfectly – without error, without risk of injury and without breaking sweat and so train the optimum neural pathway for future successful performance.

Mental Conditioning and Neurolinguistics Part 1 – Darren Friesen

As neurology and neuro-linguistics develop, there has proven to be a direct correlation to the words one chooses to how the brain and body are conditioned, including and especially as it pertains to self-defense. A block of its own volition signifies a reactionary move which means the practitioner is forever behind the eight ball of real aggression. Words are not just words. They represent the images, sounds, feelings (both tactile and kinesthetic) and internal feedback of how we process meaning and, therefore, how we act based on that meaning. I have never been a big believer in quick solutions to evolutionary problems as they pertain to a wide variety of things – making money, being happy, having success – as these are all tangible things that are person-dependent. But for combatives or self-defense, my experience is they make a world of difference in the beginner mind. My intent here is to inform, give some different and progressive methodologies to conscientious and open-minded instructors to help keep their students safe. Just some examples of how this connection can be averted into a different entity in the mind of process:

  1. Block becomes destroy (example: “I defended against the punch with a high-rising block” becomes “I destroyed the punch with my elbow)
  2. .Fighting becomes terminating violence (A match or duel with a unknown outcome and no definitive answer for duration of conflict, expectation of victory, pain tolerance and threshold caveats and factoring in potential loss and doubt in the mind becomes a method to overwhelm the threat by any means necessary until the threat has ceased) If you see me “squaring off” outside of an attribute drill (which is what sparring is, it’s not actual violence) I’ve already let things get out of hand.
  3. Defend becomes hard counter/pre-emptive action (transfers the power back to the one on the receiving end and in a proactive manner)
  4. Joint-locking or joint manipulation (I’m not a big believer in either but it’s an example) becomes joint-breaking or hyperextension (a “lock” has no end – either you let go when he submits and start the dance from square one again, he/she becomes accustomed to the pain and resists or you hold indefinitely until tomorrow morning when one of you breaks mentally. A joint-break or hyperextension signifies damage, damage that cannot be undone without medical assistance and recovery time.
  5. Entry becomes overwhelming forward pressure/explosion
  6. Trap becomes limb destruction or disruption
  7. “You did that wrong, do it again” can be “What better and more efficient way do you think you could’ve done that to get the result desired?”
  8. Instead of yelling, cultivate their problem-solving ability
  9. Reverse engineer modern problems with potential and highest-percentage outcomes.
  10. Challenge their intellect and give them the avenue to solve the problems with their own analysis without spoon-feeding them.
  11. Push them. “I’ve seen you hit harder, did that bomb have emotional intent or are you just going through the motions?” Every strike needs emotional intent. What matters most to you that you want to return to. The audacity of this person to try and take that away from you or you from them.”


The Price – Rory Miller

Some advice I received long ago:

If you want to be successful, you only have to answer two questions. “What do I want?” And, “What am I willing to pay— in time, money and sweat— to make it happen?”

Time, money and sweat. Sometimes blood and tears, but we’ll leave those aside for now. Time, money and sweat are the currency of success. Anything you want to achieve, whether a skill or an object, requires at least two.

Time as currency is something all fighters understand. Like money, time can be saved, wasted, or spent wisely. It can also be stolen, invested and even counterfeited.

Anything you choose to achieve takes time. Everything takes time, including doing nothing. I can use time and money to buy another person’s sweat, and I can sell my sweat and time for someone else’s money, but there is no amount of money and sweat that can buy even a second of time.

Time can be used skillfully, however. You can borrow the fruits of someone else’s time. I just read a book that was the product of thirty years of research. The author spent thirty years. I spent two days. I don’t have his depth of knowledge, but the knowledge I did gain might have taken a dozen years of trial and error, not to mention a few dissected human corpses.

Learning a system of combat, you get the benefits of generations of mistakes. You would never survive enough encounters yourself to get that depth of knowledge. In a few hours, you can get the distilled wisdom of generations.

The benefits of time can compound, like interest. Skills you learn young are easier to assimilate and always there, even if you need a refresher. Habits, like fitness, laid down early have life-long effects. Years learning a marketable skill can become a lifetime career. Time spent at a job can, if managed, become a comfortable retirement.

When you really want something, you must manage your time. Be clear about what you want. Be specific about the steps that get you closer. Be aware of the activities that feel like progress, but aren’t. Watching training videos is not training.

Money. Time is a currency, but money is a tool. Money is just a symbol, an agreed-upon thing with no intrinsic power, but it can do almost anything. It can provide stuff, if the material is what you like. But if you like skills, money buys you access to the people who have those skills.

A lot of us come from the martial arts, and we have done a very strange thing with ideas of money and value. We traditionally expect commercially successful training centers to teach crap (we call them McDojos) and we expect some old man teaching out of his garage for love of the art to have the good stuff.

Even if that’s true, do you want the old master teaching in his garage to die in poverty? I don’t.

When you become a student, you aren’t paying for the two hours you spend with that instructor. You are paying for the decades that instructor spent to make those two hours valuable. Do your research. Focus on the instructor that will give you the best time value in the subject you want. If you want a course in defensive shooting, a tactical shooting course is an inefficient use of money and time. Look first at best material for you. Then best teacher for you. And then look at price.

Sometimes the good stuff is expensive. Sometimes it’s cheap, since many people with valuable skills are terrible at business.

And sweat. Sometimes it’s brain sweat, often physical, but most things worth acquiring, especially skills and attributes take effort. No one can give you a skill, you have to take it. No one can get strong for you— you have to pump the iron yourself.

Want to be a master musician? That’s gonna take ten thousand hours. Want to be a good pistol shot? You’re going to get blisters and a callous on the middle knuckle of your middle finger. Want to go to the Olympics in judo? That’s going to be years of sweat and impact.

You can buy sweat, if you want objects. When you buy a car, you are buying the labor of other people (and robots.) But for skills and attributes, no one can do it for you.

Everything worth having or becoming has a price.

Epilogue. About blood and tears. There are a lot of skills you can acquire in controlled environments and the only price will be time, money and sweat. When you test those skills in the real world, whether the skills are self-defense or first aid or hostage negotiations, sometimes the new price will be blood or tears. That’s what makes it the real world.


Don’t Forget to Bring the Violence! – Joseph Lamb

Violence is a funny thing. As a civilized society, we almost universally condemn violence. We all think of ourselves as being so evolved that we never have to stoop so low as to use violence in any way. Violence is not the answer. People, for the most part, forget that we are all just highly-evolved animals, and that violence is part of the animal kingdom. Walk into any urban court house on a Monday morning, and watch how many people are being arraigned on violent criminal charges. We are violent by nature, but we are conditioned throughout our upbringing that violence is wrong and unacceptable. This is a good thing, to a point; the vast majority of us are able to conform to social norms of non-violence, and we get through our days without acting out. This conditioning becomes a problem when violence is necessary. It can prevent a person from properly defending themselves. Despite what some people would want you to believe,words don’t stop violent attacks.

As an executive protection professional, it is my job to avoid violence for my principal/client. I conduct threat assessments and security advances prior to my principal’s arrival at a particular location. I also plan travel, evacuation, and escape routes in order to be prepared for a worst case scenario. I do not like violence, but I am mentally and physically prepared for it. I certainly don’t want to strike someone in the throat, kick them in the groin, or shoot them, in order to protect my principal, but I am prepared to use whatever level of force that is necessary because that is my job.

In a self-defense scenario where violence is either imminent or already taking place, you have to be able to flip the switch and bring the violence if escape is not an option. Generally speaking, if you strike first with the superior level of violence, you will be the victor. You do not want to be engaged in a prolonged encounter, you want to end it as fast as possible. This is part of the mindset needed for not only engaging in professional protection work, but for everyday self-defense scenarios. Quite literally, we are all in the protection business; you may not have a client paying you to provide protection, but you are responsible for your own protection, as well as your family and loved ones.

As a former law enforcement officer, I can assure you, the police do not prevent violent crime, they only respond to it after the fact. You can apply many of the same concepts and principles from executive protection work to your own daily life. Why travel through a bad section of the city when you can take a slightly longer route through a safer area? Why walk down an unlit street at night when you can go a block over and walk in a properly lit area? Why go to an ATM at night and withdraw cash, when you can likely just use your debit card for your anticipated purchase? Why vacation in a foreign country that is in the midst of political upheaval?  This list could go on and on. It’s all about mitigating risk factors to reduce your odds of being put in a violent encounter.

I am not imparting any new wisdom here. Nothing I am writing about is a new idea or concept. Heck, even the title of this article is not an original idea (Thank you, Jeff Burger)! The point is, although we would all like to avoid a violent encounter, many of us do not take the few additional steps necessary to increase one’s chances of mitigating that risk. The all-important, situational awareness is key. In fact, projecting that situational awareness into the future will help you consider what “could” go wrong in a given situation, thereby allowing you to plan for it accordingly. Many people, particularly those who do not train in martial arts or self-defense, never think about how they would react in a violent encounter. In my view, this is fatal. If you don’t train and you’ve never even thought about how you might react if thrust into a violent encounter, then you probably won’t react at all.

Years ago, while still working in law enforcement, I was conducting a scenario-based training exercise involving a new, female officer. For this exercise, the officer knew only that she was responding to a call for a man (me) acting strange. When she entered the room, I was standing with a chair in front of me, so my hands were not completely visible, and I was mumbling. The officer walked right up on me, as I drew a training gun out of my waistband and pointed it at her. She froze. She didn’t verbalize, she didn’t attempt to draw her weapon, she didn’t try to disarm me, and she didn’t even try to get out of the line of fire. Clearly, she had never given a thought as to what she would do if she was ever in a violent encounter such as this.

Previously, I had mentioned that the person engaged in a violent encounter who acts fastest, and with the superior level of violence, is usually the victor. Clearly, there can be legal ramifications to this. If you successfully defend yourself in a violent encounter, you may or may not be charged criminally, or sued civilly. So many factors play into the potential legal battle, and laws vary from state to state, and country to country. Generally, in the United States, to defend yourself legally you will need to be able to articulate why you acted the way you did to justify your actions, and this explanation must pass the “reasonable person” standard; would a reasonable person in the same situation and with the same level of training and experience have acted the same way.

In Massachusetts, where I am licensed to practice law, the claim of self-defense is considered an affirmative defense- you are claiming that you were justified in taking this action.  That is to say, once you assert this defense in court, the burden now shifts to the prosecution to prove that it wasn’t self-defense. This is not typically an easy burden for the prosecution, because it must be proved, “beyond a reasonable doubt” that you did not act in self-defense. All things considered, you are likely to end up in court one way or the other. Even if you are not charged criminally because the prosecution agrees that it was likely self-defense, that doesn’t prevent you from being sued successfully in civil court. Civil court has a much lower burden of proof than the, “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard in criminal court. Like many of the contributors here have written before, there are several stages to self-defense, and the potential court battles are all a part of it.

Think. Be prepared. Make smart choices. You ARE in the protection business, so take it seriously. Others may be counting on you.


Understand the Difference Between Safety and Security. It Might Save Your Life – Erik Kondo

It is common for people to want to increase security for themselves, their family, their neighborhood, their country, etc. In most cases, people think in terms of adding security measures in an existing security system. The basic thinking is that the current security system has a weakness that needs to be reinforced or a hole than needs to be filled.

For the sake of this writing, I am going to talk about security in terms of a security system and/or security measures while safety is the inverse of absolute risk from a harmful event. The lower the risk of a dangerous event occurring, the greater the safety. This relationship applies to both personal and public safety.

Security is some action or measure than is done to protect against a known risk. The simplest example is a home security system which is designed to help prevent home invasions and burglaries. Another example is carrying bear spray while walking in the woods. These are two means of raising the level of your security system.

Safety on the other hand is really a function of the overall ecosystem. Safety is determined by the result of the interconnected factors that make up the entire ecosystem. One of these factors is the security system.  The level of a person’s safety is a function of his or her risk to danger. Public safety is determined by the public’s level of risk to danger.

For many, security is thought of as being like a fence. The fewer weaknesses/holes in the fence, the more effective the fence will be at keeping people out. The same thinking goes for personal safety. In this case, the person is the security system. By shoring up his or her weaknesses, his or her personal security system becomes more effective.

The preceding methodology seems to be common sense. But as compelling and as reasonable as it seems, it has a logical flaw. Measures that strengthen a security system don’t necessarily lead to greater actual safety in the real world.  The reason for this is that actual safety is a function of the safety ecosystem in which the security system is just one of many interconnected elements. The strength of the security system is NOT the only factor that determines the overall safety of the ecosystem.

An ecosystem is a complex network of interacting elements. A security system is one element of this ecosystem. Since all the elements are interconnected, changing one element has the potential of changing the other elements too. In other words, strengthening the security system may have the unintended effect of upsetting the balance of the overall safety ecosystem. In this case, the result may be an ecosystem that is less safe despite the presence of a stronger security system.

How can this be? For example, assume that you wear a padded vest as protection against being punched in the chest. It is an undeniable fact that if someone punches you in the chest, you will be more protected than without the vest. Therefore, you must be safer, correct? And if everything stayed the same, you would be safer. But everything doesn’t stay the same in an ecosystem. Its very nature is to be interconnected. Therefore, changing one element has the effect of changing some or all the other elements.

In this example, it is very possible that wearing a padded chest protector in public will influence some people to want to punch you since you now are a juicy target. Therefore, your risk of being punched in the chest has just gone up. And while you may be more protected from the chest punch, you may end up falling and hitting your head. You may end up getting into more fights then before you had the chest protector. The overall result is that your safety decreased even though your security system has increased.

Getting back to the fence example. Let’s assume that the fence surrounds an apple tree grove. The fence has the effect of keeping all but the most determined people out. These few people climb the fence and steal a few apples every day. Therefore, you decide to make the fence higher and top it with barbed wire. Now even the most determined thieves will not risk climbing the fence. Your security system is stronger.

But the safety of the apples depends upon the ecosystem in which they exist, not just the strength of the security system. Since the determined thieves can no longer climb the fence to get the apples, they change tactics and join with many others to ram a huge hole in the fence. The net result is a hoard of people who attack the fence, create a hole, and pillage the apple grove. The overall safety of the apple grove decreased despite the increase in the security system.

What this means is that the level of safety can go down as a result of the level of security going up. For some people, this is a mind-blowing concept. That is because they erroneously think that safety and security are the same concepts. And if there was no safety ecosystem, then the level of safety would be the same as the level of security.

In real life, there is always an ecosystem. Therefore,

Safety = Security System +/- (The effect of everything else in the ecosystem which changes as the Security System changes).

Therefore, it is impossible to determine whether increasing the strength of the security system will increase or decrease overall safety unless all the elements of the ecosystem are taken into consideration. Every person and every entity exists in a unique ecosystem with different factors to consider.

Let’s consider a few more examples.

  1. Carrying a knife is a security measure. Doing so increases the magnitude of the person’s security system. But whether it increases their safety depends upon the person’s unique ecosystem. If carrying a knife increases the possibility that it will be taken and used against them, then it lowers their safety. If it increases the possibility that they will be shot, then it lowers their safety. If it increases the chance that they will go to jail, then it lowers their safety. On the other hand, if it doesn’t do the above and increases the chance that they will be able to use it for self-protection, then it does increase their safety.
  2. Increased police firepower and body amour represent an increase in security. If this increase creates a deterrence from people committing crimes, then it increases public safety. If on the other hand, many members of the public see this increase police security methods as menacing and decide to retaliate by rioting and committing crimes, then public safety is reduced.

Don’t be fooled by those who think that safety is that is always the same as security. Or those who consider that increasing security measures is simply a matter of “common sense”. They don’t know any better.

You live in an ecosystem. Your family lives in an ecosystem. Your neighborhood and your country, both exist in ecosystems. Increasing your safety requires more than just adding or strengthening security measures. It requires understanding all the factors involved and taking into consideration how they interact.


Predatory Niceness in Everyday Life – Teja VanWicklen

  Listen to Teja’s story.

This year at my son’s school has been problematic to say the least. Both his teacher and the administration have shown themselves to be old dogs, mired in bureaucracy. Things had been going well, but at the end of last year a new super intendant of schools was installed and his first move was to change everything, including many things that seemed to be working. One semester of inconsistency and lack of focus on the kids and my son’s longstanding A/B average has dropped fully to a C. He is acting out, disregarding authority and rushing through work – all behaviors that had vastly improved and which we thought were behind us. The details here are not important. I do not think I know better than others and prefer to let people do their jobs. But I know my son, and I know his work ethic. And I know it has changed drastically in tandem with the new administration.

At the beginning of the year, I met with the new teacher. She smiled. She loved children. She assured me she had my son’s number and all would be well. I know myself. I am quick to judge. I have to remind myself to be forgiving. I wish it weren’t this way, but it is. My first reaction is often to go in for the kill. To stop the bleeding before it starts. So my Neocortex steps in and convinces me to take a step back. I do, I try to have a little faith in people, to give them a chance.

It really doesn’t help when after I’ve calmed my inner monster to make way for the nicer, fluffier me, people disappoint me anyway.

At one point, we called a meeting with the teacher and the administration and went over the specific issues we were having. The teacher admitted to being unfair to my son and did so in front of her peers and the principal. My husband and I were so impressed by this we wrote her a letter thanking her for taking responsibility and showing such character. We left the meeting feeling we had reached the core problem and solved it. Instead, this teacher went straight from being unfair to my son and calling him out on every little childish indiscretion, to allowing him to get away with everything. New problem. So we asked ourselves: is she clueless, or is she actively playing the system? Is she simply doing whatever it takes to keep us off her back rather than helping children succeed?

And so it went, numerous correspondences with the administration. The word document I created from the emails is twenty pages long. Each email reply is the same, “We have met with teacher, we have addressed the issues and feel everything is back on track. Have a nice day.” The word ‘nice’ has so many meanings.

Whether someone is deceptive, untrustworthy or otherwise damaging on purpose or due to laziness or ignorance is for the most part irrelevant. The damage is still done. Some people use charm or niceness on purpose, most don’t. It is simply a habit that has persisted due to its efficiency. We are conditioned to expect bad behavior to be obvious. But, low level predators, victimizers and troublemakers (and bureaucrats!) live under the radar. They keep you off-balance but never push so hard that you push back. This kind of behavior is so much more complex and certainly more prevalent than most of the behaviors you will learn to guard against in a self defense class. As a general rule you are probably unlikely to be mugged several times a week.

I could of course have listened to my instincts early on as Gavin to Becker tells us to do and demanded a change of class without giving the teacher a chance at all. I could have, in other words, listened to the overwhelming voices in my head that said this teacher is steeped in old habits and just telling you what you want to hear – that, in effect, all my concerns were justified. For that, there likely would have been ramifications. For instance, in demanding a class change once classes were solidified on the books and teachers and children matched (more effectively than in our case one would hope) it would have raised hackles. It likely would have been more difficult to request help the next time since the alarm had already been raised. I would have given away my element of surprise – the fact that I am willing to fight if it comes to that.

So I held back in favor of diplomacy.

I could have, at any point, called an advocate or the State Department of Education and had someone intervene. An advocate would force the school to change my son’s class or address the issues in some other way. This too would have raised hackles and caused a closing of ranks against my family. In short it would have been a declaration of war. And my son still has a few more years at this school unless I want to home-school him.

Again diplomacy.

At any point I could have confronted the teacher, told her “I had HER number,” and I wasn’t going to let my son fail socially and academically without a fight. But what would that have accomplished. If I scared her it would make it difficult for her to do her job. More likely it would challenge her, piss her off and cause more problems.

Life is so much more complex than a good old-fashioned brawl.

Or I could wait and see – and put in the time. A lot of time. I could do the best job possible of working regularly and diligently with the school and with my son to make things work. This is the path I chose since this will likely be my son’s school system in the coming years. It is not ideal, we are in a holding pattern. I’m spending hours a day negotiating, writing letters, having meetings and tutoring my son (this, in addition to the usual daily grind). Now we wait for the next report card to tell us if any of it is working.

Ultimately none of this is about anything so fanciful as making a right or wrong choice. It’s about spotting problematic behavior as early as possible, making strategic choices and changing course, even multiple times, if the situation calls for it. It’s also about living with the fact that there is no perfect choice – no building theme music to herald the culmination of a long journey. And hindsight and second-guessing are futile and distracting. There’s often in reality, no way to know if you did the “right thing” or even “the best thing”.

In this case, I’m feeling a bit stupid. Even with years of training, I was blindsided by niceness. We often are. It’s such an excellent tool. It takes us by surprise. Who wants to punch the nice guy. Who wants to look like a bully and turn others against their cause. So often the preemptive strike can backfire.

So I continue to recalibrate. I have my eye on next year and hope to be well ahead of the game. The teaching staff next year is not stellar, I am told, and that is a formidable obstacle. But, there is still time and I am on it. We are creating allies and setting up the groundwork for a more successful year. It takes time and patience. Two words I’m not always fond of.

Strategizing – mental self defense – is underrated and underexplored. The issue at hand is how to spot low-level predators, victimizers and trouble makers as early as possible; to give name to the benchmarks of predatory niceness and create some sort of vetting system. Many date rapes happen this way – creeping niceness that builds trust.

It’s all well and good to talk about heeding your instincts and criminal ploys to watch for. But, what happens when someone says all the right things, always apologizes, smiles and never does anything obvious enough to point to. What happens when it’s not a matter of life and death, just quality of life and sanity. Or your child’s educational future.


Stranger in a Strange Land Part II – 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. ….Visualize situations in advance and come up with a plan as to how you would act if…

(eg. Burglar comes in through the back, catches you off-guard in the night, alarm goes off, you hear someone fiddling with the window) Have that reaction hardwired by the time it happens. It takes no time at all and puts you in a state of constant vigilance. Preparation, not paranoia.

  1. With what’s happening in the U.S. right now with law enforcement “profiling” certain races, there’s been a negative stereotype, whether justifiably so or not in certain cases. But profiling can be an extremely effective tool for a civilian/citizen. What have the invaders done in previous home invasions? Were there more than one? What’re the common qualities of the burglar? (lower-class, multiples, from in-town/from out-of-town, poor upbringing, expose to violence at a young age, are they violent, could they be, do they have a history of violence) This is infinite but always better to know what you’re looking at than being caught off-guard by it. What places are populated by this type of person, where are they in accordance to your residence. Criminals are different in every place. A home invader in the U.S. may have different strategies and tactics than in Canada. Canada different than in Costa Rica. It’s not a universal phenomenon. It’s location-specific.
  2. Change routine. Take different routes to work, go to different restaurants, change your activity patterns at home. The more you act in patterns the easier it is for criminals to predict your behavior and take advantage of it. (“Bill goes out for supper with his wife every Tuesday to ChiChi’s at 5:00pm” – they watch and pick-up on these things.)
  3. Learn to think like a criminal. I call it the “Predator-Prey Reversal”. If you were a home-invader/mugger/kidnapper/car-jacker..hell, sociopath, killer, mass-murderer, active shooter, violence-driven individual…what would YOU look for in a victim? Don’t be that. Be specific and be extreme, it doesn’t make you a bad person to get in touch with your inner animal, you’ll find you can relate that much more to how others operate and make yourself less of a victim.
  4. Learn to “people-watch.” I have at times taken students to the mall for class. Just to watch people. Who hypothetically looks like a potential problem, interaction between people, notice suspicious behavior, who’s watching you, why.
  5. The modern criminal. There are two types of violence: social and asocial. Social is at the bar over a spilt beer, two men cockfighting over a woman of vice versa, demonstrations of physicality and an agreement to “settle things.” These rarely turn really ugly as they’re over pride. Asocial violence has a completely different dynamic: it’s to benefit one of the two people/groups involved. It’s not a fight they’re looking for but a victim and they have a profile too. Body language: fearful, slumped, short steps, looking down/only straight ahead, meek, submissive. Don’t be these things. Even if you can’t authentically, ACT persuasively like this in public, when there may be eyes on you. (And, yes, these actions can follow you home so it pertains more than a little to a home invasion, without a doubt)
  6. OC sprays, homemade/improvised sprays, tasers, stun guns. It’s not a guaranteed problem-solver. Know your weapon always if you’re planning on using it and NEVER bluff. If you’re called on it, the ensuing damage could be greater and more personal to the criminal as you’ve aggravated him/her. Practice how to use your tools: accessibility (where do you carry it, can it be deployed rapidly, do you know how to use it, what obstacles need to be overcome to utilize it-locks, switches, Velcro openings, etc.) What are the advantages and disadvantages of using it. (A spray is far more effective in the house than outside with a 30km/hour wind blowing against you) If you think you’re armed simply because you’re carrying a weapon, let me assure you that without this pre-emptive planning, it is a decoration, nothing more.  I haven’t seen many tasers here in CR with the two extendable prongs. The majority being sold are of the stun-gun variety which means what? You have to be up-close and personal with your aggressor to use it. Close-range. If you have no training and have inner doubts that it may get taken away from you, it will. And some sprays don’t work on everyone. They do testing where some people (not many but this goes to pain tolerance, skin resistance, drug/alcohol usage, your accuracy, the volume of spray that actually hits intended targets and other intangibles that you will not know at that moment)
  7. Internet safety. DO NOT post your activities on Facebook or other social media. After the fact is one thing but to do so before invites the criminal to find out when’s the best time to invade your home. “My wife and I are going to the Juanes concert tonight! Can’t wait, it starts at 7!” Not a wise idea, in fact, pure stupidity. And for those of you that say Facebook is safe and you’ve put all the necessary precautions up, you haven’t. It’s free so that means ANYBODY and EVERYBODY is on it, including the criminals. Be cautious of accepting people on your friend’s list that you don’t know, don’t completely trust, just met or are simply friends of people you know somewhat.
  8. Police take in the U.S. an average of 11 minutes response time for home invasions, from what they’re announcing recently in the U.S. and Canada. (ADT advertises in Canada for 33 minutes before police arrive through their monitoring) How much more do you think it’d be here?? Significance? You can’t rely solely on this element to protect you and keep you safe. Most home invasions will be solved, one way or other (if you get what I’m saying) long before the 11-minute mark, if you even have time to put this train in motion. And, remember, police here aren’t always your friend as this is a small country and they may have grown up in the community along with many of the people who have intent to rob you.
  9. Get in habit of “proofing” your house to the extent you’re able…daily. This is one pattern that is a good one for both yourselves and onlookers. Lock windows and doors before leaving. Skylights. Check for other openings that you may not have thought of where they can get in. Are there weak points in your property that open themselves to unlawful entry? Points where the CCTV cameras don’t hit? Areas with poor visual acuity? Blind spots? Be prudent.
  10. Post-incident. Here’s one that doesn’t get enough respect: learn basic 1st You simply never know regarding the aftermath of violence. Loved ones may survive who’ve been left for dead or are dramatically injured, including yourself. A little damage control goes a long way.
  11. Post-incident. Never chase after your aggressor if you’ve managed to survive the initial robbery in-tact. A) Its no longer self-defense. B) You are re-initializing potential violence and C) could end up 6-feet under.