The Four W’s – Darren Friesen

I want to say this with a ton of sobriety, clarity and seriousness and zero machismo and testosterone. I’ve always been known as a high-skill/explosive-speed guy. However, as I get older, I question the validity of these alone in any kind of serious violent struggle for my life. They are traits and fallible traits at that.

I am a 45-year old foreigner in Central America, 5’10”, 170 pounds that stands out so take this into consideration (objectivity) as you read this as you’ll have your own personal caveats that affect your evolving life scenarios. As I get older, the need to stay safe and protect my family stays the same. There’s another gap that inevitably widens for everybody. I have visualized and analyzed deeply when I would be able to use lethal force, when I wouldn’t, when it’s inappropriate, when I would have inner resistance over doing so and what the consequences would be of doing so. I have not taken this lightly and, as you all know, I don’t talk tough nor see this industry as a forum to act like a killer. That all being said, speed, skill, strength, stamina…all these things fade as we age, to one degree or another. As I’ve grown older and wiser, I believe that there are 4 elements that will/can keep me upright if shtf and have tried to cater my training and those of my students around:

1. WILL. The intent, drive, intensity and full commitment to go home at the end of the day. Whether peacefully or not so. One of many intangibles that simply cannot be read from a video, a post, a commentary but an internal fire.

2. WILE. Cutting corners, dirty tactics, misdirection, subterfuge. Being creative, inventive and diverse. Gaining the edge psychologically, physically, emotionally, mentally. “The one with the most flexibility on the system, most often controls the system.”

3. WITS. A cerebral approach to self-defense. One that doesn’t dive head-first into the storm without thinking but finding a varied method approach with the holistic view of “being safe” that circumvents style, system or art. Taking into account legal, social, ethical, financial, emotional, mental factors that dictate outcome pre-, mid- and post-conflict. Smart overrules cocky/tough the vast majority of times.

4. WEAPONS. Yes, there is a huge stigma that is omni-present in this area. Online, the ego of will-to-use, aggressive commentary, zero forethought as to consequence, the psychological state that goes into using one on another human being. I have not thought lightly on this. They are, however, a force equalizer and to not acknowledge this would be as naive as the other end of the spectrum just mentioned. As I get older, having to defend my life against someone bigger, faster, stronger or with their own weapons or friends is a monumental task and will increasingly become so as the years pass.

Just some thoughts, think heavily and profoundly on this, base your personal training accordingly and do research on how difficult real violence can be if you haven’t lived it yourself. It’s not as organized and cookie-cutter as many will have you believe.


Problems with the Training Establishment – Raymond Dettinger

The same old problems exist in both the martial arts and firearms training. I always called it the “Training Establishment” setting up the rules and training lesson plans. These rules and lesson plan writers have their own methods of creating experts being certified with paper certificates.  The qualified experts teach others the same ole stuff passed down for a hundred years. Or, somebody just sets themselves up as an expert just for fun or whatever.

Let us take a look at how most firearms training is done. You shoot behind a barricade at 25, 15 and then 7 yards from your motionless paper target. If you get half your shots on paper, you are now “qualified” to protect yourself from a person behind you and going to hit you over the head with a brick.

Now, let’s talk about how real gunfights go down. Low light conditions, so there goes sight alignment. Firing distance is about a couple of 7 feet. One hand is usually used to fire with. An average of 3 shots are fired. Missing the target is common because of the adrenal stress problem. So, what does barricade training do for us when it does not match with street reality?

This is why modern pistol craft has to be multidisciplinary like the martial arts. No one shoe size fits all. Also, all of the upfront awareness and risk assessment skills should be taught before anybody picks up a gun. Also, legal, adrenal, aftermath should be taught before touching a gun. Guys, shooting is easy. People can accurately shoot targets blindfolded from 7 yards out if properly trained. Just think what they can do with their eyes open. We all know that we must understand how violence gets started in order to avoid it or prepare to shoot it out. The biggest point to firearms training is learning EMPTY HAND skills to avoid the first blow so you don’t get knocked out, disabled or killed right off. So a gun without empty hand skills is can be hazardous to your health.

When I started out learning all this in law enforcement, I wanted to learn only effective stuff. I could not find it. I went to local Karate Schools and the instructors all bragged about making their students to 50 knuckle pushups. I needed to know immediately how to handle people trying to kill me with a knife. I had to go the the old WWII manuals to learn. I am sorry that the martial arts could not have helped me at all during that time.  Reality is the best filter for BS methods.

There are the other problems of just what type of training do you need in self-defense with a gun? There are many styles of sport combat shooting like IPSC, PPC, Cowboy Action Shooting and a hundred more. These are sport combat competitions. The participants in them are good. However, they have $5,000 specially built handguns with special ammo usually given to them for free by gun companies. The problem is that these sport combat people sometimes think that their skill sets are also self-defense based on their firearms marksmanship skill which based on the process of shooting: Sight Alignment, Sight Picture, Trigger Squeeze, Breath Control and follow through.

These things may be hard to do in a dark alley when suddenly attacked by a gang out to hurt you. Believe me, you will not have the time or the rational to do them. Some schools sell the sexy military house clearing methods. These are ex-military guys trying to make some money by selling the sexy stuff in the name of self-defense. Clueless people flock to the previously mentioned instructors because they are “experts”. Indeed, they are experts in what they do, and they are darn good at it. Good for them.  But when they claim their methods are transferrable to street and home defense, things can get screwed up. Buyer beware as they say.

People must do their research to find good instruction but, like many things nowadays, it is hard to find professionals in any endeavor. Bullshit Artistry seems to be the thing now days.


Cyber Safety Part II – Ashtad Rustomji

Safety on Facebook

There are many things you can do to keep yourself safe from potential threats and cyber criminals on Facebook.

1- The most important thing to do is to never make any personal photos public, especially of your kids wearing any swimming clothes. Your photos be used by predators to sell them to certain kinds of websites and are also sold to highest bidders. They can also use these photos to estimate and track your location, if you don‘t already have it mentioned on the profile.

2- Don’t make your day-to-day activities public and avoid posting updates about when and where you are traveling. If you do want to post them, make it private or for friends only, but that may not work, as if you add someone, they can now view your activities and jobs, etc. getting all they wanted from your profile.

3- Which brings me to my third point, never accept friend requests from individuals who you don’t know or haven’t spoken to. Especially avoid individuals with no profile pics or only a handful of friends when they’ve been members for years. Some of the fake profiles usually just spam search. It’s done by typing in the most common names, when the results show up, they send friend requests to all. Then when their request gets accepted by target, they get to their friends list as well and most accept requests due to them being mutual friends with someone they know and trust. Plus, there’s also a possibility of a sex offender or a PI creating a fake profile to see your ‘friends only’ posts.

4- Never post personal likes and dislikes as this can be used against you. Once an individual knows what you like and don’t like, whether it’s food or a movie or anything, they can use that data to either direct you to a phishing website if they’re a cyber predator or if they’re a predator who searches their victims online, they can strike up a conversation with you basing it on common grounds.

5- Don’t use the same password you did for you email and other accounts, for your face book account. In fact, never have the same password for all accounts as a general rule.

6- If you access Facebook on your phone, log out of the Facebook app you use, after each visit.

7- Post nothing on Facebook that you wouldn’t want anyone to know about. Nothing, once it gets on the internet, is safe or private, especially on a social networking site like Facebook.

8- Be sure to have a good anti-virus installed. There is a possibility of a virus infecting your email list, the virus then sends friend requests to everyone in your email contacts, infecting them with the same virus as well. IIRC, this is done to gain access to not only your personal email, but other email addresses as well, it also leads you to a fake site to get your personal information that you may enter in the form.

9- Report suspicious profiles.

10- Be careful of external and third-party applications and websites asking permission to access your Facebook account information. Once you have given the permission to access your Facebook account, the website or application now has access to all of your personal information, including email, number, posts, address, job and location. Never accept it, unless you are absolutely 100% sure that you trust the application and it is reputed as safe to use.

11- Visit the help center for more information on Facebook safety.

12-  Some good tips are mentioned here in this info graphic;

Safety on Twitter

The following are some simple tips to stay safe on twitter.

1- Whenever you tweet, never add your location to it. Turn off the ‘add location to tweet’ option from the settings. You can also remove all location information by clicking ‘delete all location information’.

2- Strip geo-tag information from your photos before tweeting them. When a photo is tweeted, the location information that many camera phones add to the metadata of the photo file would be provided to anyone viewing the photo, any EXIF viewer software/application that can read the location information embedded in the photo would be able to determine the location of the picture. There are apps available that strip the geo-tag from the pictures; deGeo, metapho and pixelgarde are some of them.

3- Enable security and privacy options. The ‘HTTPS Only’ option ‘Settings’ menu will allow you to use Twitter over an encrypted connection which will help protect your login information from being hijacked by hackers using packet sniffers and hacking tools.

4- Twitter is actually more public than facebook, which means that you have to keep your personal information very minimal to virtually none. I.e. No phone numbers, no emails and no address in the location section.

5- Avoid using any third party apps on twitter. If you have any unrecognized app or an app you don’t remember installing, remove it by revoking its access to your account information from the app tab in your ‘settings’ menu.

6- Turn on the ‘protect my tweets’ option. This is a helpful tool when it comes to preventing unwanted individuals from following you on twitter. Once turned on, it will only show the tweets to people that are approved by you. This will not stop the current followers, it’s only for the future ones.

7- Remove unwanted or unknown followers. Delete the follower from your Followers list by blocking their account. The user is not notified when you block them, but your tweets no longer show up in their searches or timeline.

Here are some good sites with much more information about safety on twitter.




Gaining Experience by Proxy Part II – Marc MacYoung

Unfortunately, all too many people who ‘haven’t been there’ are guessing what it’s like — based on their training. (How do I apply what I know to what I don’t know about violence?) As such, they often come up with fantasy solutions to fantasy problems. (Or as Peyton Quinn sums it up: “They come up with ingenious solutions to non-existent problems.”) This technique works reliably in the street … right? Well no, but by gawd, the next time you get attacked by a midget riding a Shetland pony, you’ll be ready with that flying side kick.

But that’s not going to stop a lot of folks from teaching that tournament-winning-move and claiming it is not only self-defense, but a battlefield tested technique from their traditional martial art.

Or they take limited personal experience and extrapolate it to cover every kind of violence. I’ve seen entirely too much training by ‘studs,’ who are teaching you to win your next high school fight. Incidentally, this stuff *will* work to win a fight. Unfortunately, it will get your ass killed in other kinds of violence where the goals and rules are different than that of a ‘fight.’

I say ‘unfortunately’ because not using the definition of self-defense found in the dojo/gym but using instead a more legal one, actual self-defense is more likely to involve you facing those other kinds of violence. Self-defense is not about fighting, so training someone to ‘fight’ and calling it self-defense is going the wrong way. Training to fight doesn’t prepare you to handle the kind of stuff you’ll be facing in the other kinds of violence.

Oh yeah, it’ll also get your ass arrested, prosecuted and convicted because ‘fighting’ is illegal. And — if you’re being taught a weapons system —  you might as well buy a dildo and practice sucking it and sitting on it because you’re going to end up in the prison showers. That’s both with what they’re teaching you and what they’re not (like Use of Lethal Force laws and consequences).

This is why I say there are only two problems with most training. One is when it doesn’t work. The other is when it does.

It helps to think of the subject of ‘self-defense’ as a multi-circle Venn diagram. (Those diagrams with overlapping circles. Each circle is a different issue, topic or factor by itself — but where they overlap something else, they mutate into something that is neither one nor the other.) Self-defense is in the middle of all those circles. There are lots of overlapping factors. Things that can spell the difference between you being safe, alive and free or, going to the hospital or prison.

When you ask can someone who hasn’t been there, be good at teaching ‘self-defense,’ the real answer is a question. Is the person teaching these multiple factors?

If yes, then yes. If no, then no.

Oh and BTW, it doesn’t matter if the person *has* been there. If he or she is not teaching these factors, then she or he sucks at teaching you ‘self-defense.’ He may be doing a smash-up job teaching you how to fight or get convicted for murder, but that ain’t self-defense.  (I’ll add a caveat to this in a bit — where it really does matter having been there — but for the moment let’s just stick with the quality of the information being provided.)

One of the *best* introductory books about ‘what is missing’ from most training is “Facing Violence” by Rory Miller.

Having said that, I will also tell you: It is *not* the final word on the subject. I tell you that so you don’t read it and think, “Okay I know that, so now I can teach it.” It’s an important introduction to what you don’t know you don’t know. You’ll have multiple boatloads of subject matter you need to research after reading it. But now you have seven specific topics you know you need to research in order to provide quality training.

For example, do you teach your students how to make a statement to the police after an incident? Do you teach your students how to articulate their use of force decisions? Do you teach them how to recognize and assess developing danger? Do you teach them conflict de-escalation and how to assess options? Do you teach them how their own behaviour is going to either add to their claim of self-defense or convict them when they admit to a crime by claiming ‘self-defense?’

Oh while we’re at it, you should know that threat assessment and articulation aren’t just legal issues. It’s critical personal safety strategy that can safely extract you from a potentially dangerous situation or — if things get ugly — it is a critical component of overcoming the freeze response.  Again, this information isn’t just ‘legal,’ it’s a critical step in being able to act.


The Worlds Inside Our Heads – Garry Smith

In recent articles I have tackled, well offered my opinion, on the old chestnuts of the McDojo and the not unrelated ninja/warrior/grandmaster crew. I suppose the common theme in these two articles is unreality, many people in the martial arts and especially the self defence world emphasise how what they teach will work in reality. Well who’s reality, or who’s version of reality?

This is a sensitive subject among instructors in particular and I have witnessed some epic name calling and insults in recent years, all put out in the public domain, as one tribe calls out and insults another tribe. Sometimes the dummy has been well and truly been spat out and most often they are challenging each other’s credibility. My system is better than your system, my gang is better than your gang, it often gets really silly especially the threats of violence, all made in writing on a public forum. Lawyers love that.

Anyway I digress; the thing with reality is that it is perceived differently by different people and different cultures. Each individuals beliefs, values and norms affect how the perceive reality and how they produce and reproduce reality on a daily basis. Humans being active agents in creating their worlds far more effectively than other animals do not only help create and sustain, produce and reproduce, worlds external to themselves but worlds inside their heads too.

Well guess what, martial artists and self defence instructors do this too, we all do and it all helps us create our sense of self. We all occupy multiple roles and we all manage multiple relationships and each comes with its own set of rules and appropriate behaviours. Together they form a whole; we are in effect made up of a sum of parts. With the majority there is balance between these parts and this presents a reasonable balanced whole, it is what we call normal. Now just as reality is open to interpretation based on how it is perceived so is normal. So we may have many similarities on how we perceive both reality and normality with others in our culture or sub culture and this will differ from how reality and normality are perceived in other cultures. Cultural relativism is the idea that a person’s beliefs and activities should be understood based on that person’s own culture.

Shared meanings, values and beliefs exist at a societal level, but they can vary greatly between cultures within that society, between subcultures and interest groups they can vary even more. Hey presto, fertile ground for conflict because if I define what I see and experience as real and normal, and that is reinforced by my tribe (echo chamber), then what you say is real and normal cannot be, in fact it sucks.

So we get the name calling and the insults because we operate to different codes, like any conflict it happens because people lack tolerance. It also happens because some people are so busy bigging themselves up the need to knock other people down, or try to. This kind of interpersonal conflict has existed right through evolution and can be observed in other species too, we have not learned as much as we think during our long evolution. Well, it’s tiring and reflects badly when the public see people, warriors remember, sometimes masters and grandmasters too, slagging each other off. Not only do they denigrate the ‘other’ but in the opinions of some themselves too and the ‘industry’ too.

Personally I enjoy sitting in my own backwater steadily seeking to improve what and how I train, trying to help others improve too and I hold firmly to the belief that I should be training all our students to be better than me, helping all our instructors to be better than me. I am no saint, I make mistakes, I fuck up, however, instead of looking quickly around for an excuse or a scapegoat I apologise and make good. I am not really interested joining in the chest beating behaviour, driven by ego, by those who post memes reminding that a warrior must be humble and the first thing s/he (its almost always he) must conquer is their own ego, then off they go like wind-up toys winding up their chums to have a go at that bunch of ****** from over there.

Unfortunately in our profession there are many people who have not yet left the playground, well I have a solution, stay away from the playground, come along and play with the cool gang who can accept and discuss differences without all the yah boo name calling, because after all we know it’s all inside your head.


Cyber Safety Part I – Ashtad Rustomji

Being Safe From Identity and Personal Data Theft

1- The most important thing and the most common sense thing to do is to not put up any private info, including your full name, date of birth, or even address on any public forum.

2- Never give any of your bank information or credit card/debit card information to anyone who claims to be calling from the bank or from the credit card company. This can also happen if you get a call from one of your currently subscribed magazines, etc. If you want to renew the subscription, do it from the website itself, by typing the address in the address bar, never do it over the phone.

3- Never post any of your private pictures or family photos, photos of your home online or in a cloud storage, they can and have been easily hacked. (Example is the leaked celebrity pics scandal). Store them offline and off computer.

4- If you have any passwords written down, always store that file offline and off computer, store it in a usb drive and connect the usb only when you’re offline and encrypt the usb storage with  strong password. There are softwares available that help you create strong passwords.

5- Never give out your primary email. Always use a secondary email with not much information in it (like your name, address, location, etc, while signing up), to sign up to websites, etc. It’s called a dummy account. This can also help with avoiding spam emails in your main email inbox.

6- Always make sure to check the validity of the secure encryption certificate on websites, while making any transactions online. Usually if you have an anti-virus installed, it warns you of fake pages.

7- Always password protect your data with a strong password that contains letters, numbers and symbols.

8- Install a strong anti-virus that gives you protection from the latest threats and protects your offline data as well.

9- Never check your emails in a cyber café.

10- If you use Wi-Fi, make sure the connection is secure and password protected.

These are some simple tips to protect your data and online identity.

Safety tips to secure your wireless connection.

Without going into too much technical details, I’ll make this category simple and direct to the point as if I did go into details, you‘ll have to spend a whole day on the internet googling the terms. So to begin;

1- Turn on WPA2 Encryption on Your Wireless Router. If you have an older router, it will have an older encryption which is easily hackable. You’ll need to upgrade your firmware to WPA2.

2- Use the most unique and uncommon name for your network. If it’s one of the common names, you will be on the list with the most common names and will be more susceptible to your password being cracked. According to some sources, even WPA2 may be vulnerable to this kind of hacking.

3- This connects to the above point. Use a long and unusual password for your wireless network. The longer the password, the harder it is to crack using the rainbow tables. The max password limit is 64 characters, so go crazy. Wi-fi devices usually store the password as cache, you will have to do this only once, when you connect a new device.

4- Turn off the admin via wireless option. What this will do is restrict the hacker’s access to your wireless router’s administrative settings.

5- Enable firewall (If your router has it built-in, most do).

6- If you are in a smaller house, but the range of the wireless connection is high, reduce it. Decrease the signal range or hide it in a box or in any enclosure that could restrict the signal direction.

7- Be careful of something called piggybacking.


Do You Choose Situational Blindness? – Mark Hatmaker

“The only fights you truly win are the ones you don’t have.”-Lee Child

Keeping the above quote in mind, along with the fact that crime is a product of opportunity, we go a long way towards being “masters of self-defense” if we simply remove as many opportunities as possible from our behavior.

With that said, let me point to a bit of advice from former CIA operative Jason Hanson, who says that the number one tip he can offer to making anyone and everyone a bit more like Jason Bourne in the modern world, is simply this “always be aware of your surroundings.”

Easier said than done, right? Well, he goes a bit further by offering what he considers the number one concrete tactic to becoming aware of your surroundings-don’t use a smartphone. That’s it.

He says spy craft prohibits the use of smartphones not simply because of the tracking potential but because it encourages absorption, a retreat from where you are to someplace else that is not here.

He points to the numerous instances of car crashes related to smartphone use, but says that observation does not go far enough. He has catalogued an impressive battery of incidences where victims were chosen simply because they were the unaware animals at the watering hole with their heads down blind to their surroundings.

Lest anyone think that the use of the word blind goes too far, he backs up this contention with copious examples of security camera footage of people simply blindsided in all sorts of public surroundings simply because their eyes were glued to the screen.

Two astonishing examples come to mind-the first a bar is robbed at gunpoint, the predator actually stands next to our smartphone user during the robbery. The smartphone user moves down a seat as if in courtesy giving the man next to him room. He never looks up from the screen. When the police arrive after the robbery, the smartphone user has nothing to offer in assistance, he had no idea the robbery even took place.

The second example sent to me some time back, a man boards a bus in San Francisco the camera shows EVERY other passenger with their faces glued to screens. The newest rider pulls a gun and brandishes it, no one notices it. The predator looks confused, puts the gun away, seems to think for a moment and then pulls it again, this time he uses it-the precious window of reaction to avert a tragedy has been lost.

If (if) we think “Well, I’m not that way, I’m perfectly aware of my surroundings even while I use this marvel of technology” your self-judgment goes against all the science of the brain’s executive function. We simply do not multi-task well.

In a recent study of “time loss perception” smartphone users were monitored while they periodically checked their phones in a casual dining experience. They were being timed by observers on the scene unbeknownst to them.

When approached and asked how long they thought their interaction with the phone had lasted, they unanimously underestimated the phone interaction by 80%. That is, they (we) have no idea how long our attention is actually lost, how long we are blind.

Blind to our dinner companions is one thing, blind to predators with a gun is another.

Since even highly trained spy personnel are told to drop the smartphone, do you think we the lesser-trained citizens of the world will be any less resistant to its temptations?

I offer a drill, for those brave enough to survive electronically-teatless for a day, dock the phone and be awake in the day. Be aware.

Shoot for a week, particularly if you found the exercise uncomfortable.

I will say, it is an oddity of the power of these devices that often when I offer some clients drills such as complete 500 burpees in the course of a single day or some other such physically taxing challenge, more often than not people step-up. They do it.

When this “wean yourself from the electronic teat drill” is offered the failure rate is far, far higher.

In short, we can’t have it both ways, we can’t be prepared operators in the world who claim to give value to awareness and self-protection and at the same time be checking every ping and chime that sounds in that electronic leash.

Aware animals, operational professionals don’t text, and don’t surf the web outside of the home. It’s either no-phone or a flip-top phone that is, well, a phone.

So, ask yourself, are you aware? If you’re reading this on your phone and you are not at home Mr. Hanson and I both would say you most definitely are not.


Youtube Video of the Week – Noah Yuval Harari

Seventy thousand years ago, our human ancestors were insignificant animals, just minding their own business in a corner of Africa with all the other animals. But now, few would disagree that humans dominate planet Earth; we’ve spread to every continent, and our actions determine the fate of other animals (and possibly Earth itself). How did we get from there to here? Historian Yuval Noah Harari suggests a surprising reason for the rise of humanity.

Gaining Experience by Proxy – Marc MacYoung

I am often asked that question. Can someone who hasn’t spent years fighting teach you anything about self-defense?

Well aside from the first glaring error that fighting is not self-defense, the answer is “It depends.” It depends on something very specific. Below is my answer to someone who asked this very question.

The answer lies in the information, not necessarily the teacher.

What is important is that the information is accurate, legit, complete, applicable and all kinds of other words that go under the general heading of ‘good.’

If it’s bad, it doesn’t matter how much experience the teacher has or doesn’t. It’s still bad information.

If it is good, it’s less important that the instructor has experienced it first hand.

I had a friend, who was shipped to Afghanistan. One of the problems with IEDs (improvised explosive devices) is — if they don’t kill you — they can flip the vehicle. The armour on the Humvees has gotten a lot better, but flipping and rolling is still an issue. The Army, as part of pre-deployment training, has you get inside the cab of a Humvee that is attached to a giant ‘flipping machine.’ You are then rotated over and have to practice getting out of a ‘rolled vehicle.’ After you get that basic skill down, they start training you in different scenarios (half flips, one of your guys is wounded, this door is jammed, etc., etc.). These different scenarios, acquaint you with realistic possibilities and challenges you will face if it happens to you. In short, they teach you how to think and function under these circumstances.

Do you think the guys teaching that course have been blown up and flipped in a Humvee? Do they have to have been?


What is important is that this situation happens. It is a known problem. Here are the conditions. Here is the most effective training in response to that. If it happens to you, this is what you do. We’ve got proven, stable and reliable data people who do this have a much better chance of survival. In short, what matters is the information, not whether you’ve been blown up before.

To be clear, this information and training is based on data collected from people who have been there. It also has been vetted by those same people. Not just one guy, but a lot of experienced people.

The information is not a “well, I think this is what happens” by someone who has never been there or doesn’t understand the subject. As a friend of mine once put it, “Do you know the actual problem or are you just guessing?”

To be continued next week.