Boundary Setting: Emotion Based vs. Strategic Based – Erik Kondo

Boundary setting is a fundamental part of human life. Boundaries keep us protected from both physical and emotional intrusion from others. I think there are two main approaches for boundary setting. They are Strategic Based Boundary Setting (SBBS) and Emotion Based Boundary Setting (EBBS). Most people engage in Emotion Based Boundary Setting as the default. Effective Strategic Based Boundary Setting does not come naturally. It is a learned behavior. To engage in it, you must understand the cause and effect of boundary setting actions. You have a strategic goal that you are trying to accomplish.

On the other hand, Emotion Based Boundary Setting requires no prior knowledge or training. You engage in it based on how you feel at any given moment. Your actions are driven by your emotions. Since everyone has emotions, everyone also has the ability to use this approach from the get-go. Rather than being strategy driven, your goal is emotion driven.

Think of it this way. Regardless of the effectiveness of their actions, all people engage in boundary setting each day on some level. Since most people are not consciously aware of what they are doing and why they are doing it, they are not engaging in Strategic Based Boundary Setting. But these same people will respond in some manner to personal boundary encroachments and violations. Since they are not responding based on achieving a strategic goal, then they are responding based on achieving an emotional goal. Their emotions are the driver of their actions.

In some instances, their emotional goal will lineup with their strategic goal. But many times, their emotional goal will run counter to their strategic goal. Effective boundary setting involves purposely creating harmony between your emotional and strategic goals.

When it comes to Emotional Boundary Setting, there are basic two categories. Actions based on fear and actions based on anger. Boundary violations are unlikely to make you sad or only surprise you. But they are likely to make you fearful or angry. Based on your emotional response, you will react in some manner. This reaction is the essence of Emotion Based Boundary Setting. If you are fearful, you have a set of responses that are consistent with being afraid. If you are angry, you will respond consistent with being angry. The problem is that these responses don’t take into consideration their appropriateness for the situation. They are not goal oriented, they are emotion oriented.

Given that human beings develop their emotions well before their cognitive processes, it makes sense that people start off using EBBS. This method becomes thoroughly conditioned during people’s teen years. If some people are fortunate, they may learn effective boundary setting through modeling behavior. Or they may discover a method that works for them through trial and error. In that case, they may end up using a limited version of SBBS. But more than likely, they will condition themselves into habitually using ineffective emotional methods.

Emotion Based Boundary Setting looks like the following:

You are standing in line and someone steps in front of you.

What emotion you feel is situational.

You could have some degree of anger because someone unfairly stepped in front of you.

You could have some degree of fear because someone had the nerve to step in front of you AND he or she could be dangerous.

If you feel any other emotion, it is likely you did not consider the event a boundary violation. Therefore, there is no need for a response.

How you respond will be a function of what will make you feel better. If you are angry, then telling the person off will likely make you feel better. If you are fearful, ignoring or moving away from the person will likely make you feel better. But in either case, the question of what response will likely create the most goal oriented advantage for you is not part of your equation.

The problem is that if your response is anger-based, it is likely to escalate the situation. If your response is fear-based, you show yourself to be a non-enforcer of boundary violations. You create less external and internal respect for yourself. As a practical matter, one emotion based response usually leads to another from the other person and yourself. The result could easily be a situation that spirals out of control.

Many people, fearing the consequences of their actions, will use a low level response consisting of primarily body language. Unhappy with their response, their self-esteem will suffer. They may engage in all sorts of mental gymnastics to justify their response as adequate. They may fault the other person individually, or stereotype and blame the person’s gender, or race, or religion, or occupation, or social status, or anything that makes them feel better about their response.

Other people will allow their anger to obscure the consequences of their actions. They will use a higher level response of aggressive verbal and/or a physical action to teach the violator a lesson. As before, these types of actions are emotionally easier when faulting the other person individually, or stereotyping and blaming the person’s gender, or race, or religion, or occupation, or social status, or anything that makes them feel better about their response.

In essence, Emotion Based Boundary Setting is about attempting to create emotional satisfaction by whatever means available. Whereas Strategic Based Boundary Setting is about attempting to create strategic satisfaction by whatever means available.

What is “Weapon Retention? – Dan Donzella and Tim Boehlert

Weapon retention is described as protecting, while carrying, any weapon such as a firearm or knife from someone that willfully attempts to take it by force from you. For law enforcement it’s a course taught for keeping in your possession your firearm in or out of your holster.

Over the years firearms and holsters have changed dramatically. Up until recently holsters merely secured a firearm only via a button, a piece of leather or with nothing at all. So with this understanding early weapon retention training had to be purely preventative and defensive only, for example, by placing both of your hands on your firearm and holster to keep it in your possession when grabbed by an attacker. Even with today’s high-tech secure holsters this method is still being taught.

In 2007 a new larger regional Police Academy was being created in my hometown. The Captain in charge of this project realized that an upgrade of the Defensive Tactics course was needed. Since the Department was changing their choice of firearm and holster, a new weapon retention course would be needed. I was given the task for the new course. At the time I was teaching a patrol and a traffic unit, so I teamed up with the head of the patrol unit. He’d acquired the new firearm and holster, as both were not issued yet.

The new retention course would be taught when the new equipment was issued at the academy and during ‘in-service’ classes. I looked over the existing course and knew that we’d have to start over from scratch. Since the new holster was very secure, we’d all agreed to create a more offensive-minded course.

I worked on a simple, but very effective technique to defend against having the weapon being grabbed, from every angle and while in the holster or out of the new holster. It was very well received; the officers responded well and liked the new concept. I am very proud to say that an officer who’d just completed the in-service retention class had had a firearm drawn on him, and he was able to use one of the techniques to disarm his assailant.

As a result of this one incident, other doors were opened for me at the department. I began retooling the Defensive Tactics curriculum as well. Working with patrol, traffic, and S.W.A.T. units and even helping officers with testifying in court cases, but I’ll save that for another article.

Let’s change gears and talk about civilian carry issues.

Unless you’re in a state that allows open-carry, most likely you won’t be using a retention holster. Carrying your weapon concealed is to your advantage. No one should know you are carrying. Using, drawing or showing your firearm is the last thing you want to do. Always be on your best behavior, follow all the laws of your state, do your homework, research your state laws. Be aware too that even county laws in your state can be different.

Having the right and ability to carry concealed firearms comes with immense responsibilities. You will be expected to know the law, to understand the circumstances where you may be breaking the law – i.e. by carrying your weapon into certain buildings: government agencies, institutions of higher education, or onto school grounds as a few examples. You have the responsibility of knowing your weapon intimately. You should train on and off the range. You should learn empty-hand skills as well, especially since you don’t have a secure retention holster.

Your offensive response has to be more aggressive, quicker and more precise. I also teach how to use your firearm as a punching, pushing, cutting and locking weapon. You may need to make space, or where you weapon is jammed or even empty. “Cover all your bases” as we say in the United States. Think out of the box and above all be creative. There’s nothing wrong with carrying a knife as back up, especially in a grappling situation. And again: research the laws, and get proper training.

Most officers during their careers never draw their weapon. So, most likely you never will as well. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared in every aspect.

If you do draw your weapon, you’d better have a very good reason to do so. We had an incident in Florida where a civilian shot a man that was attacking a police officer. He was told by the officer to do so. After the fact the civilian dropped his weapon and backed away. Exactly what you are supposed to do with other officers arriving on the scene.

In an active shooter situation, you may be the only one that can stop the mass shooting. Remember the proper procedure afterward: Police will come in fast; don’t be mistaken as the killer. Obey their commands to the letter. Today, most likely, everything will be caught on video, so your actions will be studied and analyzed.

In my hometown we have a very large mall. As we all should know by now they are magnets for crime, gangs etc.… I knew most of the officers working overtime at the mall, and I was told to never come there unarmed, because they just can’t be everywhere, and that the mall’s security would be useless.

It’s sad but that’s the world we live in today. As a civilian or as a police officer, carrying a firearm imposes an immense responsibility on you. Remember your basic rules: always treat a firearm as if it is loaded, never point it in an unsafe direction unless you plan on firing, always keep your finger off the trigger until and unless you plan of firing your weapon, know your target and what’s behind it.

Dan Donzella has been teaching numerous Martial Arts systems and creating curriculums designed for law enforcement for over 40 years.

Tim Boehlert worked in Security for a large regional health-care facility in conjunction with numerous Federal, State and Regional agencies. He’s authored numerous internationally published articles on Martial Arts and Security issues.

Fatal Attraction Part II – Mirav Tarkka

The love story begins

Back to our “love story”, since the person who feels more guilty and more submissive then the non-victim has been selected (as a victim), he/she has to deal now with a face-to-face aggression. Sometimes, in order to create an emotional defensive mechanism, the victim develops positive feeling towards the aggressor, in order to minimize the damage (in his/her mind) and danger.

Remember also that an attack, an aggression (even if it is not domestic or with someone you know) is a relationship. One doesn’t exist without another. The aggressor isn’t one without a victim, a victim isn’t one without an aggressor. There is a subconscious agreement between these two, a Symbiosis; just like in nature. Changing that balance will change that relationship.

Stockholm’s syndrome

To demonstrate an extreme kind of relationship between the aggressor and the victim I am going to explain a little about the Stockholm’s syndrome – the “capture bonding”.

The Stockholm’s syndrome consists of “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.”

The victims, in this case hostages, end up defending their captors, would not agree to testify in court against them, and even fall in love with them. “We” (who are not “living” the situation) see it as a paradox, as captives’ feelings for their captors are the opposite of the fear and disdain we expect to see as a result of their trauma.

Psychologically speaking, the Stockholm’s syndrome is considered a product of SURVIVAL INSTINCT. “The victim’s need to survive is stronger than his impulse to hate the person who has created the dilemma” (Strentz). A positive emotional bond between captor and captive is a “defense mechanism of the ego under stress”.

The more the victim believes (or led to believe) the likelihood of their survival is poor, the more the victim is likely to develop “love” towards the aggressor in a “face to face” scenario, especially when the captors perform acts of kindness, fail to abuse the victim and so on.

The Stockholm syndrome spreads beyond a hostage situation. “Child abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, incest, prisoners of war, political terrorism, cult members, concentration camp prisoners, slaves, and prostitutes” can also fall prey to Stockholm syndrome.

Dee Graham (1994) brought the Stockholm syndrome to the “world” of domestic violence. She claimed that the threat of male violence around women, and women’s fear of the men, defies women psychologically and socially. Meaning, women act in a way they know will please men in order to avoid emotional, physical or sexual assault (caused by male anger). Women bond to men to survive, same like hostages bond to their captor to survive, and therefore women are more likely to develop this condition.

Your call!

You can now understand how every victim is responsible for “being chosen”, and how we all make choices that can change our life courses forever. You can adapt a non-victim mindset (and behavour pattern) and empower yourself mentally, spiritually and physically, creating a harmonic self – immune to the external circumstances as much as possible, or you can develop a victim’s mindset, let your guilt and submissiveness take control over your life instead of you taking control over them.

The question remaining is, HOW? How can you avoid being chosen as a victim or being attacked?

In many of my videos, I speak about situational awareness (SA), pre preparation and avoidance as physical “concrete” ways to not be attacked.  Remember, the more prepared you are the less likely you will have to deal with what you are preparing for. Having a preventive and protective (but not paranoid) mindset and awareness, having always an improvised weapon, keeping your “guards up” and so on is very important, and you can read and watch more about this on my blog (

But here is something new, fascinating and extremely important. I have been discussing in this article the fact that feeling guilt and the need to be punished contributes to your “atmosphere”, to the energy field you carry around you that tells your aggressor if you are an easy target or a difficult one. So the true prevention of these potential “punishments”, and this is related also to your relationships with people and yourself, your habits, your personal life, events that “happen” to you (nothing is by accident!) comes from… the inside – YOU!

Stop punishing yourself! Love yourself more!  Surround yourself with positivity and happiness! Replace the feelings of guilt, self-sabotage, and anger with compassion, love, and gratitude. Once your energy field, your frequencies, no longer match your aggressor’s ones, he will look for someone else to perfect his match. So, self-work always produces a better you, even here.

Free yourself of the idea you should be punishing yourself. Think of it this way; even if you did do something worth suffering for, punishing yourself won’t fix it. It will make it worse not just for you, but for your environment too. You might become an aggressor yourself! Self-sabotage and suffering don’t lead to self-forgiveness.

Into action

I know it sounds simple, maybe too simple. To be truthful, self-work never ends, and there are always ways to do more and do better.  Meditation, self-reflection, and writing (to yourself) help, but there are some really good “quick fixes” that help quite fast, almost immediately (I used them myself).

One is the “Ho’oponopono” an ancient Hawaiian practice that works on your guilt-forgiveness process. You can download it from YouTube and play it to yourself or just say the four phrases to yourself several times a day. It really works like magic.

The second quick way is just to do good deeds, at least one – even little- good deed every day. Make someone smile, give a compliment, help someone struggling with the groceries, and so on. The good energy that your deed will produce inside you, will “fight” the negativity of the guilt and anger.

Surprising, eh? Speaking about self-defense, violence, love, temptation, meditation, forgiveness, anger, guilt, good and bad… all connected together, creating a deadly chaos, or a harmonized and safe being. It is all about your self-awareness, and choices.

I hope you enjoyed this article.

Please feel welcome to contact me for questions or comments via email:

Stay safe and loved.

Self-Defense and the Helping Professions – Alan Jensen

In the ten plus years I’ve been in the social services field, I have had multiple confrontations and aggressors.  However, I have also had the good grace to train in traditional martial arts and self-defense for almost twenty years.  On the other hand, most clinicians in the field or in out-patient settings have not.  Most agencies, such as my own, understand the risks that we take on a daily basis and have some form of self-defense programs.  Some have been implemented for years, others were created after the deaths of other clinicians.  I can emphatically state that these programs do not work and many times, instill a false sense of security for the clinician.  But what system does and how can it be implemented?

I cannot remember how many seminars or talks I have attended where I was told by a man with a microphone and long credentials how to act in the moment, lacking an understanding of real world interactions or verbal de-escalation training under stress.  This is followed by a supposed “expert” explaining in multiple steps how to protect oneself, e.g. hair pulling, allowing staff to practice only a few times, before moving on.  This does not teach anything.  There is no practicing verbal de-escalation and no movements are done to become ingrained or could be done under pressure.

My current agency has a program called S.O.L.V.E.: Solutions of Limiting Violent Episodes.  It was developed by a former Law Enforcement Officer (LEO).  There are two trainings for the SOLVE, twelve and twenty four hours, depending on if you work in a group home.  A yearly recertification is required.  This training includes verbal de-escalation and self-defense techniques, cumulating in a written test and mock real world scenario.  It sounds like a good program on paper.  In reality, you cannot fail, all answers are given before the test, and you need to demonstrate the skills with an agreeable aggressor.  The verbal de-escalation advice is sound, but not stressed.  Once you pass the course, the recertification is around skills only.  Again, you cannot fail.  I’ve seen them pass people who don’t know their lefts and rights.  How does this help clinicians in the field?  It hinders them.  “I passed SOLVE, I must be okay.”  This is akin to the person who just got their black belt.  “Because I’m a black belt I can defend myself.”  No, you, most likely, cannot.  When that client becomes verbally aggressive, can you remember what someone said months ago?  Can you remember a skill you practiced five times?  In almost all circumstances I can say “No!”  It is a false sense of security.  The big question I have, is what can?

Many years ago, I was trained in the “spear” technique: observe and act.  It worked.  However, I quickly realized, that I would hit many of my clients when they got close in a session with no malicious intention.  The goal is psychiatric rehabilitation, not to hit someone who is already traumatized.  Recently in a master class with Sensei George Mattson, he was taking about aggressors and how much distance one should have between yourself and the aggressor.  I have some knowledge about keeping space, I have an idea of what to do if someone makes me aware that they are an aggressor, I can work with that.  It’s when people are close that I don’t know what to do; I have had physical contact multiple times before I could respond accordingly.  So I asked Sensei Mattson about this.  He told me that there was a lot of “infighting” that one could do, and continued on with the class.  What does one do when in close contact but is trying to help?  Identifying the threat and being attune to situations helps.

Gavin de Becker is right, fear is a gift.  However, those in the helping professions tend to ignore this gift.  How many times does a clinician from a psych triage program go alone into an unknown home to do an assessment?  How often does a clinician go to a new client’s home without reading anything about the person, regardless of the safety issues?  We, many times, talk ourselves out of these feelings, stating that we are in the helping profession.  I teach listening to oneself and removing oneself before the situation escalates, but only filed a Harassment Prevention Order (HPO) after twenty-four logged voicemails, multiple threats, and a death threat.  He broke part of my car and I continued working with him.  What, do we in the helping professions have to rely on to keep ourselves safe in our work?  This is the big question for me.  We are out in the home, in the community, in the school every day and there is no adequate way to address the safety issues that we encounter.  What there is to rely on is not sufficient.  Spend some time, talk with a social worker, talk with a psychologist, or a clinical nurse.  They all will have stories and their own take on this issue.


Abduction Training – John Titchen

The sobering reality of a fake abduction

On Saturday, under my supervision, four teenage boys (aged 13-14) experienced a fake abduction. This was a single scenario in a multi faceted training day for both adults and teenagers. While this is a very rare event, it is perhaps one feared the most by parents, and so we wanted to see what we could learn from replicating an example.

Like all training, we had to make compromises for safety. The most glaringly obvious compromise was that the boys knew they were going to experience an abduction attempt. They also knew which vehicle the attacker(s) would use. What they didn’t know was how many people would be involved or how we would set them up.

That wasn’t the only compromise:

– due to a scheduling clash we had to stage our scenario outside a venue filled with young children with open doors for ventilation, so the teenagers couldn’t shout for help or bang on the vehicle,

– the vehicle wasn’t scrapped so we couldn’t kick it or hit people into its bodywork.

– for safety all shots to the head were pulled; the attackers wore headgear in case of backward uncontrolled strikes,

– the teenagers were bare-headed and we decided to proceed on the basis that the attackers would use body shots to subdue them so as to preserve their looks.

Each teenager entered the scenario ‘blind’, not having seen the ones that went before or having had opportunity to get any information from the previous participants. They were asked to walk down a particular passageway as if on their way home from school or visiting a friend. An aggressor would run up behind like a jogger, and then grab the boy to lift him into the van where a second person could assist in controlling them. A third man was behind the wheel.

This obviously represented a possible attack. More people could have been involved. We could have used a fake weapon for intimidation. The aim of the exercise was for all of us to see how difficult it was to escape once the attack had begun, and how quickly it could be done.

The results were chilling as you can see.

Of the four participants, three were taken with the van ready to drive away within 12 seconds from first contact. The longest resistance lasted 35 seconds, and had he not been pulling his shots (for safety) that young man might have escaped or caused his attackers to abandon their attempt for fear of being caught. As it was we did attract some outside attention.

One of the most obvious things to take away from the exercise is that awareness of your environment is everything. Anyone listening to music on headphones would be easy prey. Hoodies would reduce peripheral vision and reaction time. Choice of routes, walking in company, wide corners and how you react to people around you in terms of innocuous hand positions (scratching the back of your neck for example) would make a difference in reducing the odds of being a victim and in being in a better position to resist.

These abductions featured bear hugs in what is their most likely use. These particular scenarios reinforced that unless you act before it is fully on, you are not going to get out very easily, and you probably won’t have a stable ground platform to work on. I teach bear hug defences to illustrate principles of movement, and to try and ingrain the reaction to move before it is on, but I recognise that the attack is both rare (because there are very few scenarios in which someone would do it) and that once it is on then most defences I’ve seen demonstrated (including my own) are ineffective until the person starts to release you.

If you want to theorise about bracing against a van, or pushing off from a van, or a car boot… try it. Come up with ideas, but then try them until you have some high percentage solutions.

This was nothing more than a training exercise, but it has given all those participating something to think about.


Fatal Attraction Part I – Mirav Tarkka

Guilt and Punishment 

All of us are prone to feel guilty about something or other. It’s quite normal, no need to feel guilty about it.

We all feel guilty about something, eating too much, eating too little, praying too little, loving too much or too little,  being too honest or not telling the whole truth, wanting someone we shouldn’t or not wanting the one we “should”, believing in God, not believing in anyone, workaholics, shopaholics, drug addicts,  alcoholics, pheromones, nymphomaniacs…and what else?! We all have our little “sins”.

But what does this actually mean? Well, if we all feel guilty, we all have a need (subconscious or not) to be punished. “Horrible” as it sounds, in one way or another, this is how you attract violence into your life. Whether you are violent in some ways towards yourself, you let someone treat you badly or you attract an aggressive incident.

Sigmund Freud (1916) explained that most of us aren’t strong enough (character-wise speaking) to “supress” our guilt without feeling self-deceived and therefore diverse forms of self-punishment are formed. He divided these into “the criminal from a sense of guilt”, “those wrecked by success” and “other self-sabotaging and self-tormenting character types”.

Friedrich Nietzsche believed (1887) that we want to experience guilt as we have a rooted desire to cause suffering, in order to dominate others and express power. It is our integration into society and culture that prevents us from doing so, but the instinct is always there.

From a religious point of view we grow up believing we “should be” or “could be” better people, but consider ourselves unable to (due to our nature/instinct), therefore we feel guilt (and confess, donate, fast, cry, suffer, pray for forgiveness etc’).

In all these explanations the common factor is that the feeling of guilt leads to the “agreement”, or even the will, to suffer. Once we pay that price our guilt feeling diminishes and we are able to feel good again until the next time.

How This Impacts Our Vulnerability 

So, if you subconsciously (or consciously) feel guilty about something, you are more likely to look for trouble, or let trouble look for you. Now, I am not saying that you wake up in the morning, leave your home and try to find someone out there to beat you up. But I believe that you create, knowingly or not, an energy field around you (“I feel guilty, I should be punished, I feel unworthy, I feel vulnerable”) which will attract an aggressor more readily. Aggressors look for this type of “easy victim”, people who are submissive and not likely to fight back. If you believe you should be punished, your inner strength and will to survive will be weaker than if you believe your life is worth living that you are worth living.

On the other hand, if you are a person who is generally more connected and aware of your feelings, and self-being, you have been working on your guilt and anger, and the energy around you “feels” to the aggressor as if you are “not the right one”. In this sense it would be challenging to fight you and it won’t be that pleasurable. The aggressor is looking for a submissive person in order to feel more powerful (himself); if you are not that, then the “power trip” is …. pointless.

It has been scientifically proven that aggressors, like wild animals, choose their victims by picking up on subconscious signals. The “predator” knows in a matter of a few seconds who is a suitable target and who isn’t.

Hardening the target

“If I had the slightest inkling that a woman wasn’t someone I could easily handle, then I would pass right on by. Or if I thought I couldn’t control the situation, then I wouldn’t even mess with the house, much less attempt a rape there.” (Brad Morrison, a convicted sex offender who raped 75 women, quoted in Predators: Who They Are and How to Stop Them by Gregory M. Cooper, Michael R. King, and Thomas McHoes) “Like, if they had a dog, then forget it. Even a small one makes too much noise. If I saw a pair of construction boots, for example, out on the porch or on the landing, I walked right on by. In fact, I think if women who live alone would put a pair of old construction boots—or something that makes it look like a physically fit manly type of guy lives with them—out in front of their door, most rapists or even burglars wouldn’t even think about trying to get into their home.”

Betty Grayson and Morris I. Stein (1984) tried to find out what attracts aggressors to certain victims and what doesn’t. After videotaping pedestrians (without their knowledge) on a busy street in New York, they asked convicts to make their selection of who they would choose to attack, within seven seconds. The results were surprising. The selection was not depending on age, race, size or gender (for example, some small women were passed over and some large men were selected). Even the convicts themselves didn’t know how to explain their choice. But what was common to all the “potential victims” selection, was a few things in their body language, that sends messages to the subconscious mind that that person is weak, is distracted, can’t defend themselves, and feels as if they deserve to suffer (lack of self-love, again the guilt feeling).

To give a few examples, the potential victims that were selected dragged or shuffled their feet when walking, while “non-victims” had a smooth stride stepping heel to toe; potential victims walked slower than non-victims, or had an unnaturally rapid pace when nervous or scared, while non-victims had again a steady “normal” pace of walk; potential victims had a slumped posture that indicates weakness or submissiveness and a downward gaze (the guilt again!) whereas non-victims had a confident, “correct” posture and looked straight and around (situational awareness).

So, Can you “fake it till you make it”? Can you fake the body language to seem more confident and not be potentially selected by aggressors? The answer is YES, you can walk more confidently, you can seem to be more centered, you can be more aware of your environment, you can change the pace and stride of your walk… but can you really fake confidence? can you fake inner strength? Can you fake self-love…? The non-verbal signals your body will give up in a stressful situation is not something you can easily camouflage.

Human Killing – Marc MacYoung

A study at a University of Granada found that when it comes to species who ‘murder’ their own, humans don’t even make the top 50. Meerkats top the list. However, primates DO dominate the killer list’s top 100. So while humans don’t do it as much, killing our own is kind of a family tradition.

Tribalism is an elephant in the room — especially when it comes to violence. But that elephant is the baby of another, bigger elephant in the room too. Namely that violence comes in many levels, has different goals and there are … well lacking a better terms… many flavors.

Things are far more complicated and involved than “Violence never solved anything” popular among moral narcissists. (I argue that’s an extremist, absolutist and completely unsupportable position and an attempt to keep the adults from talking about the subject).

Let’s take a walk through a few points about violence and killing. Having said that we aren’t very good murderers, humans ARE pack predators.

Also, as a species we’re the most effective predators on this planet. We have literally industrialized our preying on other animals for food.  During a visit to the Spam museum at the Hormel factory (long story) I was told 18,000 pigs a day go in one door and come out another — as little cans of ‘spiced ham.’ This industrialization and sanitation of our killing habits removes the normal, modern person from the realities of our food supply. Ask yourself, “What does this disconnect from having to kill to eat, do to our thinking?”

Seriously it’s a simple question, but it gets real deep real quick. The more you gather information to make an informed answer, the more you realize why there is no simple answer, which is why we need to ask it. (An added benefit is when you hear someone who claims to have ‘THE ANSWER” you recognize the following: If you aren’t confused you don’t understand the problem.) The next step is how does that influence our understanding of violence?

I’m about to give you an important foundation, even though at first it won’t seem relevant. Scientists are studying oxytocin. You know that wonderful chemical inside humans that bonds mothers to their babies, is the biological basis for love and bonding? Yes, oxytocin, the stuff that makes us all warm and fuzzy to our fellows. When we’re dosed, we’re compassionate, concerned and giving, which really, really helps make us ‘better’ people.

It turns out there’s some fine print though. The fluffy stuff from oxytocin is reserved for those we consider our ‘tribe.’ The downside of this exclusivity is it’s perfectly okay for us to … well let’s see, ignore, neglect, screw over, oppress, rip off, abuse, attack and even kill those we deem ‘other.’ All the while priding ourselves for being such good people … because you know, what we do for our family and tribe.

Then you get into Jonathan Haidt’s work on Moral Foundation Theory and how our beliefs, bind us together, blind us and separate us form those ‘evil, rotten, selfish, haters and freakish’ groups. Groups we have deemed different than us.

People we have ‘othered’, you know the people that it’s okay to act against in moral certainty. That may sound like I’m condemning folks, but in fact, I’m not. It’s how we’re wired. A wiring that modern society not only insists we ignore, but pretends doesn’t exist in the push to everyone becoming a giant, kumbaya singing uber-tribe of humanity, a push that people are pushing back against and not even realizing it.

According to anthropologist Robin Dunbar the function numbers of our immediate ‘tribe’ ranges between 100 and 250 relationships. Knowing that, you begin to see where things start getting wobbly. To think of groups of more requires certain mental gymnastics — including identifying ourselves as part of a super tribe, (generally along political, racial, religious and sub-cultural lines). We don’t know them, but we’re a super-group. To be able to identify as a part of this super tribe, you have to adopt said tribe’s ‘thinking’ and standards.  Like all tribal societies, there are established and perpetuated feuds and tensions between your super-tribe and those evil, rat bastards….

All that opens the door to what I want to talk about next, (I told you this subject gets deep.) When we become most dangerous to other humans is when things go tribal — and ‘othering’ occurs.

As an FYI, every time I talk about humans being such lousy killers of fellow humans, someone always asks, ‘What about war?” – or if not brings up genocide. Well, kiddies, here it is. Tribalism, pack predation and ‘othering’, that’s also where you see our tendency for industrialized killing.

But you don’t have to be in a war to encounter ‘othering’, all you have to be is in the wrong part of town and/or a stranger.

The kind of violence you’ll face in these circumstances is different than what happens between members of the same tribe.  This kind of violence escalates faster and has a greater chance of injury. Because you’re an outsider — and especially if the group thinks you’ve done something wrong — they’re often trying to injure you. Maybe even kill you… because you’re not ‘one of them.’  Violence without the intent to injure is usually inside the group disputes or a professional standard (e.g., arrest and restraint).

This dynamic really kicks in when you’re facing multiples.  That’s where the pack predators ‘switch’ get flipped, you too have to mentally shift gears.

However, there’s something that’s just as important. That is being able to explain WHY you knew you were in greater danger facing a group than an individual. See people don’t understand it these days, why? Because they’ve seen too many movies where the hero fights off multiple attackers.

Understanding this is a big part of explaining why you ‘reasonably believed’…


Bride of Frankenstein – Garry Smith

Anyone who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s will remember those old black and white Hammer Horror films, Dracula, Frankenstein and their spin offs, bride of, son of. Well this article is a spin off in that ilk, In my last article ‘Not my circus, not my monkeys’, I reassessed my opinion on the McDojo, this is not a part 2 but an exploration of something writing that article made me think about. Let me explain.

As I was writing I received an email from my friend and fellow instructor Bill Barrott containing a link to a Youtube video, the message read “Watch this video. It’s what I always do to anyone who even looks at me funny. This is the real deal!” Take a look.

OK so Bill was joking, we are used to his regular emails sharing all sorts of martial arts goodies and baddies. So I decided to take a look, the title screen drew a sardonic smile, ‘Kinje-Te, the forbidden fist of the ninja’. Here we go again. Sure enough it is Grandmaster Ashida Kim, and yes I have seen this before circulating on social media, usually being mocked in the same way we have all laughed at the no touch knockout merchants and the jedi jitsu brigade. I hit the pause button quickly.

Chuckling I replied to all, “I got 3 seconds in there, because I have seen it before. This has to be a spoof, IF this is for real may their poor dead souls rest in peace.” I thought I had the source of the inspirational Master Ken from whom we have all learned so much, but Bill assured me it was no spoof and sent me a link to a pdf book by said Grand-master Ashida Kim. Here it is, help yourself..

I gave it a go, I got about 3 paragraphs into the first chapter before deciding I had better things to do. The cover picture and ‘Hands of Death’ were off putting but for me the opening paragraph echoed the Youtube clip.

Entitled KATA DAN’TE – Dance of the Deadly Hands, the book opens with, “Ninjitsu has been called the most savage and terrifying martial art known to man. The Ninja, practitioners of this unholy science, are, without doubt, the most effective and ruthless fighters the world has ever known. Much of this reputation is based on their skill in battle and espionage.”

Now I am going to be clear here, this is not lets slag off Ashida Kim time, but ripping off ears and testicles, tearing off faces etc with our bare hands is all a bit far fetched for me. The thing is if you put yourself out there in film and print you invite comments both positive and negative, mine are merely my opinion on how I perceive things. I like martial arts in general, I like the diversity, some stuff looks great other stuff less so. I hear claims like deadliest art known to man, savage and terrifying techniques and begin to switch off. Likewise when I hear Steve the plumber from Oldham, fictitious by the way, referring to himself as a warrior because he trains Shotokan twice a week, I switch off there too.

For the record, I am a 4th dan in Ju Jitsu, no stranger to getting into fights in the past either, I am not, never have been and never will be a warrior, I will never be a master or a grandmaster either (1). We now live in a world where biological gender and identity are becoming confused in ways none of us could have imagined even a few years back, where a white women was running a black rights group because she relates to being black so she ‘self defines’ as black, some identify as transpecies and these do not have to be real species either, they can be alien species or mythological species, You think I am kidding?

“Riviera identifies as a dragon. He decided this 15 years ago after having what he describes as prophetic dreams of a past life. As an “otherkin,” he is one of the hundreds of Australians who identify as another species—whether from Earth or myth.”

And if  that  is not enough what about those who define themselves as transable? Becoming disabled by choice, not chance: ‘Transabled’ people feel like impostors in their fully working bodies, like this guy.

“When he cut off his right arm with a “very sharp power tool,” a man who now calls himself One Hand Jason let everyone believe it was an accident.

But he had for months tried different means of cutting and crushing the limb that never quite felt like his own, training himself on first aid so he wouldn’t bleed to death, even practicing on animal parts sourced from a butcher.

“My goal was to get the job done with no hope of reconstruction or re-attachment, and I wanted some method that I could actually bring myself to do,”

I could go on, and on, I personally feel that I am a rich person born into a poor person’s body.

I have written before in Conflict Manager about identity and the presentation of self. It is very simple to label those who present differently to the world as oddballs, loonies even, and that way we make a clear distinction between them and us. Personally I think there are many in today’s society that are very troubled, confused, ill, attention seeking even.

The phenomena of trans whatever’s has probably been with us for a very long time. What has changed is access to audiences is now in the hands of anyone with a phone. But back to my world of martial arts and self defence. Like the McDojo the ninja, the warrior, the jedi jitsu have a right to exist, indeed I can argue that the world is a better place for them and not a worse one.

They are only problematic when they use their kung fooey powers to exploit the gullible and vulnerable. Just like the McDojo. Everyone has their right to an opinion, everyone has the right to be a ninja if they wish, to stride around like a warrior, when not plumbing of course Steve.

As children we learn by experimenting with other roles through play, being mummy and daddy, a racing car driver, a soldier or a nurse, anyone remember playing doctors and nurses?

Why do we have to stop playing as adults if it gives us pleasure? Think about that for a moment, are we all not playing nicely when we step into the dojo?

The more disturbing question is when imagination morphs into mental illness. For me, this is just my opinion backed by science, there are two genders. Gender confusion is a mental condition not genetic as are many of the other confusions noted above including our Ninja friends. You are not alien you are screwed up, if you want to disfigure yourself then so are you, I will stop there. Gender identity politics, whatever is fueling this nonsense is stupid and if we play stupid games we win stupid prizes, well you play, I opt out. But hey ho live and let live, you have the right to be who or what you want to be, and I reserve the right to my opinion that you are a loon.

So if you believe you are a Ninja, a warrior, an ‘otherling’ or even the Bride of Frankenstein remember it is all in your imagination. I am pretty sure nobody reading this in Conflict Manager Magazine is one of the above but we work in an industry within a society where the frequency of imaginary identities appears to be growing so should not be surprised that these imagineers are within the industry itself.

These are my opinions, my thoughts, please tell me yours. Oh one last one, what about the guy who is now the new Hitler, yep, you got that, take a look.

  • When I took over the running of what was previously Abbeydale Ju JItsu Club, I created a management triad including Jayne and Bill, We reviewed how we operated then consulted with all the black belts, we held a big black belt breakfast meeting when we discussed and agreed the changes we wanted to make.

A couple of these changes were important for me and it was great the others agreed. We got rid of the use of the title Sensei, students call us by our first names now. We stopped standing in ranks, we bow on and off in a circle now with everyone facing everyone. We just do a standing bow now, no kneeling and prostrating ourselves.

Respect is gained by behaving properly and acting correctly.



You Are a Hunter-Predator – Mark Hatmaker

We are all hunters, predators, warriors. Everyone of us. I do not care whether you are a card-carrying member of PETA, a strict vegetarian, an avowed pacifist, or have never laid a finger on a hunting rifle or compound bow let alone fired a bullet or bolt into an animal.

We are all hunters by the sheer dint of historical and biological forces. We are all the offspring of forebears that hunted for millennia and thrived because of that evolved prowess for hunting.

Let’s toss all the contemporary arguments pro or con hunting aside, the titled observation is not telling anyone to abandon whatever moral precepts they possess regarding hunting, animals, and any perceived cruelty to animals.

To declare human beings as a hunting species is not a value judgment but a statement of fact.

Evolutionary biologists, paleo-ethologists, and anthropologists from Robert Ardrey to Richard Wrangham have gone so far as to say that what makes the human species so distinctly different from its simian brethren is this very penchant, this evolved drive to hunt.

Other animals can and do hunt, some solitary and some in packs, but no animal exceeds the human animal in applying technology to the solo hunt or the exceeding depths of cooperation in the human-pack hunt.

Dolphins may work together to “bubble-net” a school of fish but this is in no way a match for the hauls fishermen made off the coasts of New Foundland even 400 years ago. Wolves may hunt in families [the pack idea is a bit of a myth] and bring down prey larger than themselves, but the wolf is still no match for our forebears who brought down mammoths and other gargantuan prey that we just may have hunted to extinction.

There are many authorities in the field of human development who surmise that our ability to communicate and cooperate so successfully was borne out of this evolutionary group-hunting path. There is also some very convincing evidence [from Dr. Richard Wrangham particularly] that the combination of meat and fire, i.e., cooked meat, is what led to the relatively sudden growth spurt in the neo-cortex. Robert Ardrey surmises that the birth of the individual began with the mastery of the bow and arrow, hunting technology, that allowed individuals to break free of the pack.

Now, whether we hunt or not in our own personal lives matters not a whit to the fact that you, me, every human you meet is here because ancestors who put millennia into developing the skills and attributes that make a good hunter survived and passed along some of those successful hunting attributes to you.

The human brain is wired to be alert to patterns, to clues, to solving. Why? To better track prey. To better understand whether this sign means good foraging or that sign means “Uh-oh!”

Our modern hunting selves have little need to hunt or forage for ourselves anymore, we allow the market to provide but that does not mean that these hunting bits of our selves lie fallow.

It has been surmised that this inherent “solving” is part of the reason we enjoy puzzles, mystery films, suspense television, thriller novels to the degree we do. We are looking for clues, paths, tracks. It is also the reason we abhor spoilers, our intellect craves the hunt, the tracking and even this weak tea of trying to out-guess the third act of “Law & Order” fulfils some inherent need.

Is there any danger to being a hunting species that perhaps never hunts?


Consider this, hunting animals are keen and alert to their surrounding environment. This is, of course, necessity. Flagging attention may mean missing a meal, or missing the signal that a larger or smaller but venomous predator has you in its sites.

Flagging of attention is not rewarded with full bellies or long lives, let alone the passing along of your unsuccessful hunter genes.

Hunting animals must be reflective animals, that is reflecting and adapting to the external environment they are currently in.

External Reflection. This is key.

I repeat—This is key.


Philosopher John Gray [the real philosopher and not the “Men Are from Mars/Women Are from Venus” guy] states [and I simplify] that the human animal has gone from being a reflective being for the most part to a self-reflective one and this is the cause of many self-inflicted woes.

This is that key difference. Successful hunting animals are keen observers of their environment well aware of signs of prey, signs of good foraging ground, and also signs of potential upper-apex predators. Hunting animals must reflect on all that is before them, all the sights, sounds, scents, tastes on the air, the shift of wind signalled by the fluttering of the hairs on your arms.

As we progressed technologically, civilization was and is able to do more and more of our actual hunting and gathering for us, but this mere 40,000 year blip of agriculture is nothing in the scale of millennia when the hunting attributes were key. We can no more minus out the seeking and the solving of the hunter mindset than we can minus out familial affection. Hunting instincts are part and parcel of who we are as a species.

But, with the hunting prowess left with little to nothing to work on it has, in many cases, turned inward. Our powers of reflection have turned from reflections of the external/actual world, to self-reflection. We spend far more time pondering the fallible recreations of the real world inside our skulls than what goes on in the actual world. John Gray and others say that is a bit of a problem.

And we can’t turn that off. Reflection, that is.

If we do not reflect, we are no longer human. The key is whether we embrace the hunter’s reflection of the world, the external reflection that allows us to see and recognize patterns, tracks, make real associations, the day to day concrete observations that make up a sort of personal science, a pragmatic mechanistic understanding of the world comprised of the real and not the imagined.

Or, we mull and chew over only our own thoughts and the phantoms inside our skulls. Looking for dubious patterns and tracks in the words and acts, the perceived slights of others that may, in fact, be indicative of nothing.

All the while keeping in mind that being lost in thought also means being lost in the world.

It is inescapable that we will hunt and track whether self-reflective or outward reflective, this is a symptom of being a hunting being.

I wager that one form of reflection is of far more value than the other.


Book Review – Processing Under Pressure: Stress, Memory and Decision Making in Law Enforcement by Matthew J. Sharps

Life is a series of weird coincidences. A friend sent me a copy of Processing Under Pressure because the cover used the same stock photo as my book, Force Decisions. It was good for a laugh and it sat on my shelf for months. I finally picked it up for a read and tore through it in two days.

Professor Sharps teaches cognitive psychology in California. His wife is a practicing police psychologist. He has made a point of consulting with active officers in this book, and also in the experiments he has designed and published. As Sharps says, “… modern psychological science and modern law enforcement have a lot to say to each other… Both groups, the shrinks and the cops, are in possession of critically useful information, information that can enhance both fields.”

This short, readable book covers the effects of short- and long-term stress on the nervous systems; how stress affects perception, decision making, and memory; and gives practical, useful advice on constructing training and formatting information so that it is easier to access under extreme stress.

The writing style is comfortable, even conversational. There is a mix of science, statistics, documented laboratory studies and anecdotes the illustrate the main points clearly and effectively. The language was clear— you don’t need a background in neuroscience to follow along. If you are familiar with the world of risk management, you’ll find some interesting cross-overs, e.g. Gordon Graham’s concept of “discretionary time” fits very neatly with Professor Sharps’ Feature Intensive vs Gestalt continuum.

Reviewed by Rory Miller.

If you’ve read Laurence Gonzales’ Deep Survival and you want some of the scientific theory underlying Gonzales’ observations. Processing Under Pressure is a good start. I’ll be adding it to the recommended reading list at: