The Angela Meyer Interview, Part I – Erik Kondo

Who is Angela Meyer? —————————————————- 2

Pushing Your Students and Red Lines —————————- 5

The Effects of Female Socialization ——————————– 7

Running and Personal Safety —————————————— 10

Female Interest in Women’s Self-Defense ———————– 14

Understanding Risk vs. Reward ————————————— 16

Boundary Setting: Communication and Enforcement —– 19

Fear and Anger —————————————————————— 21

Emotional State and Mental Images ———————————- 24


Erik: Please tell me a little about yourself. I am interested in hearing about your background and current activities.

Angela: Ha ha…these days if someone were to ask me that question, my answer off the bat would be to laugh and say, “it’s complicated, but I’m actually always working on the act of balance to make it ‘more simple’.

I was a collegiate soccer player, did not speak as a little girl, to the point of therapist wondering if some sort of “trauma” was involved in my “muteness.”  Found voice through tapping into deeper currents through the team mentality of soccer and spirituality.  After graduating college, I lived in Brazil favelas with a family for a year because I felt drawn to the “edges.”  I got a Masters of Theological Studies from the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO and volunteered/ lived/ worked for over 10 years at an AIDS hospice in DC for homeless men and women called Josephs House. In this time span I also started teaching Yoga, and became an End of Life Counselor through the Metta Institute in San Fran.  I left DC to live in NYC and study as a Buddhist Chaplain through the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care.  Working in the “liminal” space between life and death has been one of the most life-giving spaces for me, as it is “real”, and there is no “bull-shit.”

While I was in NYC I found, a practice called Budokon through a Yoga studio where I taught.  That was my first introduction into Martial Arts.  I had had therapist for years telling me I should do Martial Arts, and my response was always, “I don’t have time for another thing.” After my first taste of Martial Arts, I had visions of being Million Dollar Baby and trained seriously in all aspects since then.

Upon moving back to DC a year later, I trained very seriously in Krav Maga and MMA, Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu, wrestling.  From the beginning, I had a desire to compete, but I also suffer from anxiety which kept getting in the way.  I also had to do a lot of internal work, around my identity of being a “caregiver.”  All the work I had done professionally, was in an intense caregiving role.  I had to work out internally what it meant to be a “caregiver” and also what it means to be “violent”.  I wanted to fight so bad in a ring or cage, but didn’t think I’d be able to hit someone in the face, ground and pound and make them bleed. I had to work through my own inner violence, and integrate the feelings and meaning attached to it.

In the last year and a half…I finally stepped into a Muay Thai ring four times and am currently training for a fight at the end of April.  Although the fear and anxiety is there every time, I’m learning more and more about my “limbic threshold” and through great coaching being able to access more than I thought was there.

I’ve trained in self-defense for the past six years through Fit to Fight, an organization that recently broke away from Krav Maga, but focuses on both Self-defense and training students to fight. I will be testing for my Black Belt this August in San Antonio.

Currently I teach Yoga, lead Yoga Teacher Trainings, teach a lot of Women’s Self-defense, travel and teach workshops with my partner who is also my coach. I normally train 3 hours a day and am always looking for balance which I’ve accepted is not a destination but a continual act.  I am fascinated between the similarities in Yoga, Fighting (Martial Arts/Self Defense) and working with Death, breathing is the common thread.

I’ll stop there and we can continue.

Erik:  Well, I had a suspicion that you had an interesting background and you definitely do.

In terms of women’s self-defense, what is the focus of your teaching? What is the primary message/take-away that you want your students to receive from your classes?

Angela: To stop waiting for prince charming or someone to come save them.  To learn to be your own hero.

To stop apologizing away their lives and instead say, “I wish a mother fucker would.”  To understand that it’s possible to still be fiercely compassionate and violent in the same moment.  To not fear their own violence, but to channel it, creating boundaries, not just in a self-defense scenario, but every relationship in their lives.  To say no when they want and yes when they want.  To understand that if someone chose to attack them, they must dehumanize them…they have become an object, therefore no one cares how you “feel”, or if you are tired or don’t want to right now.

I want students to become more intimate with their perceived “red line”…the place where physically they think they have nothing more to give. They can’t go on…where they are highly uncomfortable…and I coach them to see if they can access more…to realize that they may just a little bit more to give.  To understand that if someone crossed a line in the sand and they had to “fight”, no one would care if they were fucking tired, or uncomfortable, they just should go.

This comes full circle to the psychological work.  The “pre-emptive” self-defense.  Questions like What would you be willing to fight for?  What are you fighting for currently? (doesn’t have to be physical), Could you kill someone? What would you be willing to do?

I think it is very important to do the “inner” work of self-defense, as well as the physical.

Erik: Please expand on what you mean by “I wish a motherfucker would…”

Angela:  “I wish a mother fucker would” is of course used more for effect than a literal expression.

When I’m teaching, I make sure I clarify that I am not literally walking around the world, hoping someone will attack me. I am a small woman, and even though I “train” am under no assumption that size, terrain, surprise, weapons, etc, don’t matter, they do. I use this “phrase” to explain walking around as a woman with confidence. I explain to the women I teach, that after training in Self Defense/Fighting, I walk different on the streets of DC. I am still fully aware of my vulnerability, I just have a different awareness. If I am walking on the street and I hear someone sketchy coming behind me, I am more ready, more alert. I look if there are places I can run, are there other people around, is there anything I could use as a weapon? I want to show that I would not be an easy target. This is what I’m talking about when I say “ I wish a mother fucker would” mentality, like a game face on, even if inside my bones are shaking.

Erik:  Based on what you said about pushing your students and their Red Lines.

How do you deal with the fact that what you really want to do is push these women both physically and mentally, but there is always the very real possibility that due to past history with trauma (or something else) that one or more of them will have an emotional breakdown?

This creates a situation in group training where the students are effectively limited by the weakest member(s) of the group.

For example, you simulate a high-pressure assault and the student breaks under the pressure. The result is that she ends off being psychologically worse off than before. Her confidence is lowered, not raised.

On the other hand, the other women in the group would benefit from dealing with having their limits pushed, tested, and ultimately expanded.

Many instructors deal with this issue by creating “fantasy fights” where everyone “wins” regardless of the effectiveness of their actions.

The side effect being that the students leave the training with an unrealistic assessment of their ability and never really get “tested”.

How do you deal with this problem?

Angela: Wow, these are great questions and very real ones. I have had several students who have had a history of trauma from mild to very severe and I think the key word is TRUST.  I lead with a no bullshit approach, and I push students to their breaking points, but because of my background in Chaplaincy, hospice and counseling, I never do this without having first created a safe space.

I lead with ferocity but also a feminine energy (not meaning, because I’m a woman, just more circular).  I sit the women down in a circle before we start, I share a little bit about my fear and vulnerability, not in a sense of oversharing, or being “soft”, but so that they will trust me. I tell them that I am okay holding any of their “feelings” and that my job is not for them to like me, but to ruffle their feathers.

That said, because I am a trained professional in creating community, safe spaces and counseling…I feel able to not baby women who have had past experiences, but go at their speed.  Many of the women are also seeing therapist in conjunction with self-defense training.  I’ve had so many different experiences and deal with them each on an individual basis, through deep listening and a mutual trust relationship.  If I have not established trust or created a safe space, I would not be able to do this.  I think that is why it can be so healing to have a Woman teach all women’s self-defense.  In these environments, it can feel safe enough to break down, fall apart, get angry, and work through trauma.    Even though my goal is to explore their limbic threshold through pushing physically and psychologically, I am also a fierce nurturer, and energetically embody a safe presence.

I also am not an advocate of protecting or babying women, but I don’t think it is black and white, especially when dealing with real trauma. This is where I think self-defense is such a personal journey and there are no “right and wrong” answers.

I do not change the intensity or ferocity of my teaching, but I am highly aware and sensitive, to those who have had prior experiences.

Sometimes I’ll have them work with specific people, like my assistants.  I always provide techniques for self-care after.  I also make sure to let these women know that they are in charge.  I do not force anyone to go where they are not ready to go, but I work with them in an intimate way to take their power back…again, for each woman I’ve worked with, it’s been a personal journey.

So, I guess, my “circular answer” to your great question is…I could not do the work I do, I could not ask women to go to the places that scare them the most, if I did not first create trust and a safe space.  This is one reason I think it is helpful to have female teachers of Self Defense.  It’s hard to fully understand what it’s like to walk around the world as a woman if you are not one.  Just like as a white woman, I can never understand fully what it means to walk around as a person of color.

End of Part I.


Video of the Week – Do you want to Change the World?

United States Navy Admiral William H. McRaven delivers a powerful speech about the importance of doing the little things and embracing fear in life.

Book Review by Mark Hatmaker -Voices of the Foreign Legion: The History of the World’s Most Famous Fighting Corps by Adrian D. Gilbert

Exactly what the title says, but tells the story of the Legion via diary entries, memoirs and interviews from Legionnaires themselves, from its romantic inception in the deserts of North Africa to the post-colonial anti-terrorist operations of today. This sort of skin-in-the-game/boots-on-the-ground history fascinates me more than academic history, as here we get the eyes-on view of top-down policies, that is, we hear what the folks in the comfy chairs think should happen in the world, and then we see what happens when real men must trek through sucking jungle, scorching desert, hostile streets to attempt to render these pseudo-manly pipe-dreams coherent. The real-world view never matches the academic view.

The book is harrowing in places, graphic in many, sad in most, and in the end so so so so much death and destruction and suffering for what? Colonies in Algeria, Vietnam, the Congo, Morocco that don’t exist today.

Compare with our own experience today  in the United States’ longest war ever. In some cases fighting the same foe the Legion was fighting in the  19th century; it’s a sucker’s game with other men’s blood on the line. The days of joint-suffering on the Home Front are over. We have no rationing, coupons for days we can buy dairy products, we do not toil in Victory Gardens, we share no hardship with our fighting forces—imagine telling folks “We will ration your data plans or tamp down on streaming until our sons and daughters are home.” Maybe we’d see some resolve or sensible draw-down if for nothing else to make sure we don’t miss an episode of Game of Thrones.

Distance renders us callous or indifferent-same result—other people die, we pretend to care with bumper sticker sayings, and quickly forget as the “smartphone” beckons for another input of loving parental attention. It should shame us that our memories are not longer than two days of the year: Memorial Day and Veterans Day. It might ought to fester on our consciences that others are at risk, right this very minute, and we may not be able to point to that dying ground on a map or articulate what our “goals” are “over there.”

This fine volume reminds us that history has not changed: empty suits set policy and set strategy, a distracted populace seldom pays attention beyond a rote “Rah-rah!” here and there, and real flesh and blood suffers.

Smartphones get smarter, the users, not so much.

This excerpt from the book, is  a Legionnaire speaking of the catastrophic loss at Camerone. It seems to echo the sentiments of many military I speak to today.

“The appeal of Camerone to a legionnaire is as natural as instinct. He reaches out to it in his own heart, because it is part of his own pain. It is the great reminder to the legionnaire that the sand is always blowing in his eyes, the battleground is always ill-chosen, the odds are too great, the cause insufficient to justify his death, and the tools at hand always the wrong ones. And, above all, nobody cares whether he wins or loses, lives or dies. Camerone gives the legionnaire strength to live with his despair. It reminds him that he cannot win, but it makes him feel that there is dignity in being a loser.”

To all the “Losers” of our military, past and present. VALE!

To all the “Winners” state-side [self-included] may we do a better job monitoring all those “smart” folk who dig war so much without ever having fought.

Beyond the Cul-De-Sac – Malcolm Rivers

The first time I encountered the principles of self-protection I was very young. The house had been shot into for the first time, giving my bedroom an oddly soothing breeze, and my father and I were walking to our corner store. On the way, he explained the importance of vigilance and comportment. We encountered a group of young men standing outside the store, affiliated with some gang or other-the names were always changing. My father made a point of raising his voice to an off-putting volume and maintaining eye contact with each one. We were outnumbered, outgunned and unwelcome but the young men were perplexed by his boldness and let us pass without incident. As we walked home dad explained “the appearance of weakness invites aggression.” I pondered that, as long as a young child reasonably would, and came to the conclusion I would try to be strong too.

A combination of divine intervention, awareness, and savvy allies kept me alive and out of trouble until I grew up and had the opportunity to work with young people, frequently from worse situations. All throughout, I tried to reconcile the realities we’d faced with what I saw in  self-defense industry. It looked confusing. Often instructors didn’t come across as aware of the types of violence I’d seen: their answers were too simple, their techniques too complex to function in that reality. Later I realized the reason for the disparity: most “self-defense” was the security blanket business: selling things that don’t work to people who don’t need them.

Valiantly Defending the Suburbs

I found that even solid self-defense instruction wasn’t built for life outside the suburbs. I saw instructors who’d served as violence professionals explain the primacy of escape, knowing that there was little likelihood their students would ever see their assailants again. This didn’t jive with the world my students lived in or how I’d grown up. We all knew that the issue often wasn’t the initial interaction, it was the aftermath. When challenged, I’d heard students credibly reference armed reactions from friends or family and if I’d been robbed or shot growing up, my more serious friends would have…addressed the problem. The first encounter would not have been the last: one side evening the score, the other pre-empting assumed retaliation. Most instructors seemed to have little to no interest in the aftermath: when revenge brought the dulcet tones of automatic fire to a family dinner.  Why not? Because that stuff is messy and self-defense in the suburbs is a whole lot easier to sell.

The Security Blanket Factory

People in nicer places are a much better demographic for the security blankets sold by SD instructors; they’ve more to lose and are more likely to be scared shitless by largely imaginary threats. More importantly, people of means have the resources to make “self-defense” work for them. They can afford the thousand-dollar “deadly technique” weekend class, the DVD set, the CCW license, the lawyer on retainer, and all the rest. Though they’re more likely to get hit by lightning than bullets, their unjustifiable fear persists, often because they have minimal exposure to life outside Mayberry. Folk in rougher areas are a lot harder to teach: they tend to have experience, a low bullshit tolerance, and more complex problems. Taking a “fence” and pre-emptively knocking someone out might work well for them the first time but when they live two blocks away from the predator and his friends, events might play out differently, the next time. Most importantly, folk from violent neighborhoods know a harsh truth that uproots significant amounts of self-defense theory: you can’t blindly trust the state to keep you safe.

Fairly Tales of Super Cops

Put simply: most self-defense instructors I’ve met have levels of faith in the state that confuse the hell out of me. Some are in law enforcement or corrections, with a vested interest or a legitimate belief in the system. Others feel it would be irresponsible to talk about when they wouldn’t get law enforcement involved. Some are probably just trying to avoid accusations of impropriety or lawsuits. Regardless, it seemed strange to me because of how I’ve seen law enforcement handle violence. Early in my stay in D.C. a rival crew began a shootout with the drug dealers next door. I remember hearing sirens approach around 45 minutes later. The precinct was 2 minutes away and, apparently, responded to other crimes in the interim. Nothing surprising there; I’d learned early that depending completely on the state to handle potential threats was dangerous and stupid: they’re mostly people with jobs and no responsibility (or interest) to protect you. More important than being jaded with law enforcement’s utility, was learning that keeping yourself safe required careful balance of the legal and the practical.

Legal v. Practical

The American justice system at the municipal level is a reactive organization designed to catch and prosecute criminals, not to preemptively protect citizens. Often folk who used the law to handle all their problems found themselves in violation of street code and facing enemies who knew the law well enough to get around or ignore it. Shunning, beatings, or more dire consequences ensued. Folk who focused too much on the practical found themselves in unenviable lifestyles filled with paranoia, dead friends, and prison sentences. Often what began as protecting their own evolved into a path they’d never escape. Those able to achieve this tenuous balance developed complex skills to manage interactions.

Survival Skills

In most dangerous neighborhoods, even the citizens know the predators and their politics, helping them survive encounters. Young people I’ve worked were always well versed in the in’s and out’s of these environments: one teen planned his bus routes based on time of day and conflicts between rival crews. Family and friends of mine have also used knowledge of the landscape to help negotiate with predators. Hierarchies, however unstable, absolutely exist and reaching out to members or affiliates of influence can also help address problems in the making or find terms of negotiation to avoid bloodshed.

As these kids traverse the environment, they learn to manage their presentation. The image one presents is paramount and the savvy learn to develop a manner that keeps them off predators’ menus without looking like a threat to the foodchain. Once, at 16, I had to change my shoelaces during a bus ride to another neighborhood after a call from a friend indicated the colors were wrong.  Some teens use social media threat displays like posing with guns to ward off higher order predators. One boy began representing his gang at 8 years old because of the murder of his uncle, admitting in a moment of vulnerability that he felt stronger with a “crew” to back him. Knowing how to cultivate and maintain an image to keep the crowd from identifying a new victim, or new threat, is an essential skill.

The strategic minding of one’s business is as important as air in violent neighborhoods. Knowing which conflicts, yours or others, are essential and which can be ignored can diminish the number of engagements, and thus the risk, without the appearance of weakness. In a recent discussion, students openly admitted a refusal to intervene in conflicts or get police involved. Many had personal examples of folk who’d learned this lesson the hard way. In these environments, the refusal to assist law enforcement and theoretical “bystander effect” are frequently products of careful consideration and years of watching the mistakes of others. Because I’d seen the consequences of such calculus, instructors and students in the self-defense community always confused me when they waxed poetic about sheepdogging and the like. I wondered how many of them had ever smelled the blood on a wolf’s breath.

When legal options are minimal, having allies that can contribute overwhelming force makes a huge difference. In many tough areas, even the most upstanding citizen is related or connected to an individual or group ready to do violence on their behalf. The deterrence of knowing that someone’s gang banger cousin is ready to kill in retaliation is sometimes enough to squelch a more serious conflict.

Final Thoughts

Very few instructors are willing to acknowledge the complexity of regular civilian engagement with violence or the fact that many innocents are forced to manage these engagements, without the resources of their suburban peers, from a very early age. Coaches and sensei wax platitudinous about how anyone regularly defending themselves needs a change in lifestyle without considering how many decent people can’t visit the money tree in back yard to buy a new life. Study of self-defense has taught me a lot, much of it retroactively, but it’s time for the field to expand beyond well entrenched boundaries of the cul-de-sac.

Stalking Part II: Getting Past the Obvious – Tammy Yard McCracken

“I stalked you on the internet…”

“I’ve been lurking around his Facebook page”

“I totally follow every social media site for ________”

Sounds creepy. Only it isn’t in our world of social media. Constant internet access has created a culturally acceptable context under the nomenclature of stalking. We follow each other around on Facebook, Instagram, webpages, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. and joke about stalking people online. We joke about it because it is acceptable behavior. Sometimes we tell on ourselves, sometimes we don’t. If someone tells you they stalked your Facebook page, it is because they are perfectly comfortable with their actions and expect you will be too. It’s what we do because we can – information at our fingertips and all that. This is not an overt indicator of future violence. Nor is it an indicator –in and of itself – of twisted social scripts, and if they never tell you…you will be completely unaffected. Calling this new form of voyeuristic research stalking is an unfortunate, albeit loosely accurate application of the language; but it is not an expression of violence or risk.

What puts stalking on the spectrum of violent behavior is when it involves evident assumptions of license against the autonomy of another human being. While it’s true that not all stalking includes physical violence causing pain, injury, damage, or imprisonment; it is nonetheless well inside the parameters of violence dynamics. It assumes license against autonomy because, at a point, the hunter has made unilateral decisions about the target’s future. Before taking this deeper, two quick reminders from the first article:

  • all stalking, socially sanctioned or not, is hunting
  • there is a point along the trajectory of the hunt at which the stalking becomes evident to the intended target

On the first point: predators stalk their prey. Humans are predators. Therefore, if you are stalking someone’s Facebook page, you are hunting. Maybe you are just curious about what an old friend from high school is up to, but it is still hunting.

On the second point: the hunter must reveal itself to complete the hunt. This reveal may be overt, like an ambush; or it may be a gradual build from secretive to evident behaviors demonstrating a toxic spin of standard social scripts. In either category there is a point along the continuum in which the target becomes conscious of the hunter.

When the awareness hits, our understanding of what it means to be prey kicks in. Our lizard brain opens both eyes and knocks on the back door of our monkey and human brains. Senses heighten and a variety of physical warning signals begin to flash in the target’s body. Reports of feeling the presence of the predator long before there is visual contact are not paranoia. This is our instinct-driven ability to identify subtle changes in the environment necessary for survival when we lived on the savannah following herds.

In our current reality, most people have never met their Lizard brain. This is not a bad thing. It is good to experience safety and security. Because most people have not met their primitive Lizard brain, most people in domesticated societies do not know what it feels like when the Lizard brain begins to stir. The consequence is dismissal. If the Lizard brain begins to shake off its hibernation and you have no context for it, your monkey brain will resist it.

This is critical. Even in the mid stages of a stalking timeline when the Threat’s actions are becoming more obvious, targets will create justifications for their primal alarm system and work to dismiss/justify the Threat’s behavior.

I have the odd distinction of being hunted by two distinct types of stalkers[1]. Drawing from these experiences, I can look back at the timelines and see any number of red flags that were present early on in the hunt. I did not identify them consciously because they didn’t match any of my mental blue prints. My Lizard brain stirred and I ignored it. Too primitive. Too visceral. Too antithetical to my social scripts and schemas.

This is what makes conscious boundary setting a complex and uncertain process when we try to apply boundary setting to stalking dynamics.

Dismissing the early indicators guarantees the hunt will progress and the hunter will grow more confident. Early awareness is no magic wand. Awareness is insufficient without action and early action may or may not shut the stalking behaviors down. Early detection does give the intended target a greater number of options. Uninterrupted, the stalking timeline escalates. Always. As the timeline escalates, options for the target shrink and standard boundary setting becomes increasingly ineffective and has been known to periodically escalate the stalker’s aggression.

What are the early indicators? In reviewing the common published bullet points, the material generally addresses behavioral indicators of the stalker, which means the hunt has progressed fairly deep into the timeline. If the behavior is observable by the target or a third party, the hunter is getting more confident and doesn’t mind being seen. Again, once the hunting behavior is openly observable, the timeline is deep.

I want to press back even farther. Instead of trying to find ways to see a hunter in stealth mode, let’s go to something potentially more reliable at an earlier point on the timeline. The movement of your Lizard Brain.

The subtle internal markers of your Lizard Brain coming awake can show up before observable behavioral flags in the Threat. If the hair stands up on the back of your neck or you feel like you need to shake off an interaction – literally – this is the Lizard brain stirring inside its hibernation. There are other indicators of your lizard brain waking up; the instinct to stop and look around for no apparent reason, a gut check that you’re being watched, eyes narrowing (yours) in response to an interaction with someone who bugs you, the little voice in the back of your head that was weird, again as it relates to bumping into the person hunting you.

One of the responsibilities of your primal survival programming is to make you invisible to the Threat. Eyes (and the brains processing the visual information), like things that move. Predator’s eyes are designed to really like things that move. Moving shadows under the cabinets mean potential meals for house cats. It’s why cats like to play with pieces of string pulled across the floor. It is also why mice freeze when Fluffy makes the scene. So do we. Another indicator your Lizard brain is being summoned is when you feel the need to just go still. You are more noticeable when you move, easier to see, easier to assess, easier to track. When you are still, you are less attractive. It is why playing possum works for the possums. No, it’s not quite that simple but the Lizard brain is working off some pretty primal cues.

These are a few examples of what it can look/feel like when your primal survival instincts are beginning to influence your perception. There are more and some will be unique to you and your circumstances. Our lizard brains have not gone extinct for a reason. When yours wants to come out of hibernation, make note. The earliest of warning signs won’t stand up in isolation but if you keep track of little Lizard Brain Alerts, you gain an advantage in the timeline.

Note: I would be remiss to ignore the obvious. Lizard Brain Alerts do not automatically mean you are being stalked, it is a correlation of sorts. Our eyes narrow when we experience something distasteful, that could be any number of things. Right now, this is all theory and throwing darts to see what might be useful, or not.

[1] There are several taxonomies for categories of stalking patterns depending on the research and researcher. No one taxonomy is universally accepted as best I can ascertain.


Curriculum Matters – Garry Smith

Many years ago, it seems like several lifetimes ago, I worked in further and higher education. I taught sociology, plus a few other subjects as diverse as map reading and orientation (theory and practice), psephology, statistics to name a few, and I managed a programme responsible for half of the college’s total recruitment. It was overall an interesting period in my life bearing in mind less than 10 years earlier I had walked into that same college as a student with no qualifications at all.

The programme that I ran started with 300 enrolments a year onto part time courses typically lasting 2 to 3 days, within 2 years I had absorbed another programme area into mine and expanded it. We then recruited around 3000 students a year. A lot of students attended a series of courses and some continued onto full time study and eventually to university. I learned a lot from the experiences and together with my experiences managing a number of companies, creating a few companies, and being a director of a few, has helped me in setting up and running my own company for the last 9 years.

So this morning I was chatting with my wife Karen over tea/coffee in the conservatory, I was running some ideas past her, again, she is a very patient woman having put up with me for 28 years. It is true that she knows me better than I do myself. The ideas I was running past her were ones I have also discussed a lot with my CRGI colleague and friend Jayne. I am also influenced by some of the things I have read recently and our steadily growing student numbers.

To date our curriculum offer has had 3 strands, Ju Jitsu, self defence and self defence and fitness, each with its own separate and differentiated content, aims and objectives. I am comfortable with this and yes it is proving successful, we incorporated the Ju Jitsu into our offer in September 2014 and created a management triad of myself, Bill and Jayne and we have around 8 other senior black belts who we consult with when making any significant changes to the Ju Jitsu. The self defence is run solely by me although both Bill and Jayne teach this too.

The decision we have taken is to expand our number of classes and the curriculum offer. There are a lot of very small factors influencing our decision and a few bigger ones. Going for growth presents many challenges but I have realised I am currently sat snugly in my comfort zone. It is an easy thing to do like boiling a frog; I have sat here with the water slowly warming around me so to speak. Luckily for me, I hope, I have an inquiring mind and am open to the opinions and ideas of others. Insular thinking is the cause of stagnation and the enemy of progress. So message received, thank you Karen, thank you Jayne, it is time to begin the process of putting ideas into action.

There will be no sudden change, there is much yet to discuss, but it is now a time to commit to action. I am currently reading Smarter Faster Better; the Secrets of Being Productive and it is very interesting, Duhigg uses great analogies and storytelling to put across some fascinating ideas and concepts, it is consolidating and building on my prior experiences and learning. It has given me the encouragement I needed to make my decision to expand the business.

Instead of thinking about all the crap that is out there, see previous articles on McDojo’s, Warriors etc, it is time to build on what we have created so far and take it to the next level, we have good product delivered well by competent, well informed people who I trust.  So I am listening to the voices of those I trust, preparing the ground with the start of a business plan, bringing in those who can help make this happen and visualising the journey ahead. The old maxim that “the only thing constant is change”, Heraclitus, is true.

So it is time to build the team and develop a more expansive, or at least expanding curriculum offer. This is not simply a lets bolt on whatever we can method of building, grabbing random martial arts to fill the timetable so we appear to offer everything to everybody. I have seen that happen and I have seen it fail. Firstly I have made a formal business offer to Jayne and am pleased she has accepted, there is a lot to do and we need to build an academy with a coherent curriculum.

When the terms curriculum or curricula are used in educational contexts without qualification, specific examples, or additional explanation, it may be difficult to determine precisely what the terms are referring to—mainly because they could be applied to either all or only some of the component parts of an organisations academic program or courses.

Having a background in academia I am keen to avoid misusing the terms curriculum or curricula. I personally think it is central to building a lasting and coherent educational organisation. For me, and I would like to think us, the term curriculum refers to the lessons and academic content taught in a school or in a specific course or program.

In many cases curriculum is often defined as the courses offered by an organisation, school or college depending on how broadly those using it define or employ the term.

For ourselves curriculum typically refers to the knowledge and skills our students are expected to learn, which includes the learning standards and learning objectives they are expected to meet; the units and lessons that are taught as well as any books, materials, videos, presentations, and readings used in a course; and the methods of assessment, (grading/tests), we use to measure student achievement and learning. This will involve learning facilitated at the Academy and supported by digital learning packages developed via CRGI.

So we have our emergent plan based on experience, observation and discussion, we have our ambition to build a growing thriving learning organisation and we have the intention of basing it on a sound academic foundation. We have some support from Sheffield Hallam University and we will seek to accredit our learning in appropriate ways where that will improve our offer.

If this does not work out, and it is clearly a work in progress, then we may just be forced to return to the back of an envelope.

So what is the moral of this tale, well we run a Dojo, but it is an aspirational Dojo. The professionalization of what we do is important to us, it is what differentiates us from our competitors, and it is our USP,(unique selling point). As we progress this will be key to our ability to market what we do as gold standard and as such allow us to develop a commercially viable business. We have seen a number of full time Dojo’s come and go as they launch on a well meant wing and a prayer.

Anyone who has built a house, or even an extension, will know that you cannot do so on dodgy foundations. Carefully defining what will be our curriculum offer is the foundation of our expansion; it is worth taking a little time deciding what it will be and how it will facilitate the kind of high quality learning experience we want it to provide where both the learners and the organisation itself operate with a growth mindset and culture as opposed to a fixed one.

We are sure we will learn valuable lessons along the way but if you have already done this and wish to offer us some advice, we are all ears, thank you.


Institutionalized Darwinism – Erik Kondo

Many people have a basic understanding of Darwin’s theory of National Selection a/k/a Survival of the Fittest. The premise is that as a species evolve, the stronger more effective traits and characteristics survive and propagate, while the weaker ones dwindle and die out. As a result, the species as a whole is always improving.

Natural Selection can also be seen in certain fields of human performance and their associated training methodologies. Specifically, those areas where the high end of absolute performance in a given field keeps improving. For examples, look at many fields of athletics or extreme sports where performance records are constantly being broken. Achievements and stunts once considered impossible have become routine. Speed records for running, jumping, climbing, swimming, and more are broken regularly. For aerial stunts, single backflips have morphed into doubles, then into triples.

But then there are also those areas of human activity where improvements haven’t occurred. Or even worse, performances have become inferior over time. How can this be? Shouldn’t the effect of Natural Selection create steady improvement in all areas as better methods replace worse?

The first answer is that Darwinism requires a reason/motivation to create change. Without a reason to change or a motivating threat of some sort, Darwinism doesn’t apply. In that case, inertia rules and nothing changes. Training methods are static and handed down from generation to generation. The philosophy is that it is done this way because it has always been done this way.

Now look at areas where absolute performance is deteriorating.

What if Natural Selection is actually happening, but this type of Natural Selection is geared towards to benefiting the associated Institution rather than the Individual?

For example, look at the Martial Arts Industry as a whole (the Institution) in terms of self-defense. Darwinism as applied to Individuals would mean that martial arts practitioners would keep getting better and better at defending themselves. Absolute training times to achieve reasonable proficiency would get shorter. Self-defense effectiveness would increase for more people, and a greater variety of people. But that isn’t happening.

Despite Institutionalized claims to the contrary, overall martial arts effectiveness for self-defense is arguably getting worse, or at least not improving. Does that mean that Darwinism doesn’t apply to the Martial Arts Industry? Or is the Institution of the Martial Arts benefiting at the expense of individual performance?

Institutionalized Darwinism is my name for the process in which the ongoing change benefits the needs of the Institution rather than the needs of the individual. And that may also mean at the expense of the Individual.

What are the needs of martial arts organizations? A few are: to grow in size and scope, to attract more students, to make more money, to sell more products, to become more influential in society. Making martial arts classes non-challenging to student’s egos and promoting fantasy fighting disguised as self-defense training benefits the Institution, but does nothing to advance Individual self-defense effectiveness.

Institutionalized Darwinism explains the majority of YouTube self-defense videos, moves, and tips. The Process of Natural Selection doesn’t weed out the bad and promote the good from the standpoint of the Individual, but it does benefit someone or something. It is up to you to determine who or what benefits from these promoted training methodologies, most likely, it isn’t you.


Youtube Video of the Week – Jordan Peterson on Nazism and Communism

After a week of more conflict it is interesting to reflect on what Nazism and Communism actually did, the millions killed, the misery and pain inflicted on billions.

Jordan Peterson describes his motivation to fight back against all forms of totalitarianism, this is for my friends in America in particular, if you want the whole book ‘Maps of Meaning’ is available from the link below.

Stay safe people, lose your strings, don’t lie to yourself and think freely.

Regards, Garry.

Facebook Post of the Week – Liam Jackson

As expected, the defense team for James Fields is already at work painting Fields as a “victim” who was merely fleeing from the scene rather than targeting anti-protesters. Allegedly, people associated with Antifa had assaulted his car with baseball bats just prior Fields driving his car into the crowd. Supporters of Fields claim he wasn’t attacking anyone. He was “just afraid for his life.” Those same supporters claim Antifa and BLM supporters came to the rally armed with bats and other weapons.

Meanwhile, the white supremacist site, The Dailey Stormer, promises “bigger and better” neo-nazi rallies in the very near future. (The Virginia rally begs the question, “How does the DS define “bigger and better? By body count?”

The point of all this? Several, in fact. First, as Fields traverses the legal system, it’s reasonable to expect both extremist sides to become rather animated. (re: violent as hell) If by some twisted act of fate Fields is exonerated or receive a reduced sentence based on mitigating circumstances, the alt-Left will make all previous protests and rallies look like a slow day at Sunday school. And the Neo-Nazi movement will be screaming “blood and soil” from the top of the proverbial mountain.

If Fields receives the maximum penalty, he’s an instant Neo-Nazi martyr.

Now, an excerpt from the Idiot’s Guide to Civil Warfare- Chapter 1: “Escalation”

“Boys and girls, “escalation” works like this: First, you have “differences.” Differences in appearances, social mores, ideals, motivations, and in some instances behaviours. Thus, the Us and Them mindset begins to establish itself. Next, someone from Side A articulates those differences, pointing out the perceived , or perhaps in some cases legitimate inadequacies of “Side B’s” position(s). Side B responds in kind, yet in a higher volume. This, of course, really infuriates Side A. So Side A responds in kind, yet louder still by an order of magnitude. And all the while, both A and B are screaming at any remaining sides “Those rat bastids are out to get ya’! Your only hope is to join us!”

At this point, rational thought has surrendered with a whimper to Emotion. Armed with the ever dangerous Emotion, the arch enemy of Logic, someone resorts to physical violence. He punches someone from the other side. This where the real fun (not!) begins.

A punches B. B retaliates by buying mace. A retaliates by hitting B in the head with a stick. B retaliates by hitting A with a thrown brick. A says “Screw this hand-to-hand stuff, I’ll just run over B with my trusty Prius.”

B is madder than hell, now, and says “you can’t run me down if I shoot you!” A responds with, “You can’t shoot me if I blow your home up while you’re sleeping!”

Meanwhile, Sides C and D. neither of whom have any other direct involvement with either group (other than a love for drama, or are easily moved by fear-mongering) are slowly but surely drawn in, eventually drinking the Kool Aid from A or B.

And Side E, safely insulated from the chaos, sits back, prodding all the aforementioned sides with a very long stick, waiting patiently to devour the “winner.” (re: the last standing Loser)”

End of excerpt.