Xavier Knox; Real Defensive Knives from South Africa – Terry Trahan

There are a lot of knife makers out there, and a lot of them say they are making fighting or defensive knives. And while some of them are, most are not. It takes a special blend of things to make a real, hard use, defensive knife package. If you look, you will see that most knives fall short in at least one of three areas. Sheath, ergonomics, or understanding of how the blade style should be used.

Xavier Knox hits on all of these. I became aware of him through Kelly McCann. Kelly is one of the top instructors in real world combatives, and when he chose Xavier to make a few of his designs, I had to take a look at what this guy was offering. The blades that Xavier makes for Kelly are the Canis, the Nasty Bastid, and the Gouge, and having had a chance to handle these models, I am really impressed, from the great design by Mr. McCann, but especially by Xaviers execution of them.

It has not been a secret that I favor Reverse Grip Edge In or Forward Grip Edge Up for my method of knife work, and as I was checking out Xaviers work, I saw that he made a few models in this manner. So, after some messages and talking, he was kind enough to send me one of his Slim Pik models. What impressed me, and made me see that Xavier understands knife combatives was the fact that he makes a trainer to match the knife, and, as important, a sheath for the trainer. This is so important for practicing every facet of knife combatives, but is more often than not, ignored by most in the community.

So, when the package arrived, which was a funny story in itself, I was immediately impressed, and that just grew over these months of carrying and testing this knife, and even more so with the trainer. The fit and finish is incredible. You can tell that the handle of the knife was given serious consideration, and tested.

Retention, draw, and security in the hand are excellent, among the best I have experienced. And this is the most important aspect. The handle is the interface for the knife user, it is the part you are in contact with. It needs to inspire confidence in the fact that you won’t ride up on the blade during use, yet remain comfortable while using it.

The handle is a skeletonized tang that is cord wrapped, very grippy and rock solid in a good grip. A plus for me, is that it was a full sized handle. Since, as the name implies, this is a thin knife, the lack of bulk in the handle is made up for by the length, which gives added security and control while it is in use. The blade is a reverse edge design very much like the Disciple, but with a back grind that aids in penetration. The edge is great and precise, even though the knife is not designed as a slasher.

It goes to point for use in RGEI instinctually, and lines up with the natural angle of the wrist and hand for a very strong ‘pikal jab’. But to me, where this knife shines is in FGEU use, like the Clinch Pick or the Sakit that I reviewed previously.

This is a very up close style of knife use, point oriented, and this is the best use of the Slim Pik.  One of the reasons for it excelling at this style of use is the thought and design Xavier put into the sheath. Multi-positional with the included “Pull the Dot” loop, I find it basically disappears when worn at the 11:00 position just to the left of your center line angled slightly downward. From here, it is a smooth draw due to the nice work on the kydex, and ample length of the handle to aid in a full grip on the draw. The great news is that the trainer also has all of this excellent work, so it operates in exactly the same way, so training is seamless. I cannot recommend this package enough.

Xavier makes so many other models and kinds of knives and accessories, that you’re sure to find a lot to meet your fancy or needs. I am also fortunate enough to own One steel and one G-10 version of his Dragonscale grind Thumb Daggers, which are great hideaway last ditch defensive tools. Xavier also brought to reality the design of the Vixen, from my Brother, so his work is broad based, he listens to what the customer wants, and then makes it happen. So, I would recommend checking him out on Facebook at Echo.Delta.Charlie Knives & Tools, take a look, and if you want to enjoy some great edged tools, contact him. I am more than confident you will be happy with your choice.

Training ‘Tools’: Does What You’re Using Make Sense? – Tim Boehlert

In a recent post of an Active Shooting seminar, I’d seen an image where one attendee was role-playing and holding a ‘typical’ yellow rubber Beretta 92F style Martial Arts-style training pistol.

One person had asked what it was and I pointed out what I thought I knew about that specific model. I mentioned a few other more realistic options that I’ve used in different training seminars and explained that it depended on the goal of the class as to how effective this prop would be.

What really struck me though was another comment that some of the attendees “might be concerned if there was a more realistic prop.”

After pondering this response, it got me to thinking – is this really a useful seminar or are we actually watering down the seriousness of the subject matter by introducing standard Martial Arts training tools – rubber guns or knives. Are we trying too hard to whitewash violence here? Is it responsible to train others in this serious subject matter without being as realistic as possible?

It came to me that maybe this prop wasn’t the ‘proper’ tool for the job, at least not nowadays and maybe specifically for this class. I am assuming that this was an Active Shooter Scenario in a class of the same meant for a group that would likely encounter an active killer. In the ‘industry’, the term Active Shooter is going away – slowly – but it’s going away and being replaced with Active Killer, at lest by Law Enforcement or in LE circles. A good start to get away from the whitewash, feel-good, limit-our-liability practices that I’m seeing around active killer events and the requisite follow-up training that is hastily thrown together for a buck.

What piqued my interest was the thought that maybe we ought NOT coddle our audiences. It’s akin to teaching Martial Arts as self-defense — one is about sport, the other is about survival. If we’re teaching others how to survive during an active killer event, wouldn’t we be doing our audiences more harm by being ‘polite’ than by showing them the realities of such an event in a realistic manner, or as realistically as we can in a classroom? Sometimes you just need to take off the kid gloves and put on your big boy pants.

Should we consider using at least more realistic training tools – like Airsoft handguns and long guns, and maybe aluminum knife trainers vs. their counterparts, the rubber feel-good ‘polite’ solution tools?

I’m suggesting that both tools do not hold equal value in this educational arena. In fact, I feel that using the more realistic replicas has MORE value than playing to the ‘polite’ notion of ‘not offending’ participants. Violence is ugly, and no one really likes to talk about it. An active killer event is likely the worst anyone will ever experience, and yet we’re afraid to offend someone that is attending a class to learn how to survive this type of event, really?

We are training these attendees how to survive a deadly encounter – gun or knife, and yet we’re refusing to look at the realities of what that encompasses. Why not at least expose them to something that is at least a bit more realistic. Remove the fear and misunderstanding, and try to use it as a teaching moment. Imagine being able to show attendees HOW to disarm a pistol by demonstrating how to remove the magazine from the pistol! Many of these alternate modern training weapons are designed to demonstrate many functionalities of their real-life counterparts. Semi-automatic pisol slides that move, safeties that actually work, removable magazines, moving triggers and even working takedown mechanisms.

In classes and seminars that I have attended, we’ve used both. It wasn’t an issue, and for those not intimidated by a gun specifically, they proved to be more valuable teaching and learning tools – they’re so realistic that they LOOK like real guns (if you ignore the BRIGHT RED muzzle) and often function nearly identical to the real thing. They are also made of metal and plastic, and some can even fire 6mm pellets. In fact, in some Police Academies they use Simmunition – about as realistic as it can get and still be mostly safe for the participants. Yes, they use an extra layer of safety measures, including special body covering, goggles, gloves, etc…

I think it’s time to address the watered-down A.S. classes and step-up up our game. If we’re going to teach about violence in this manner, it should be as realistic as we can safely make it. If we don’t, we fail our students. It should be responsible – we’re not selling fear, and should not be. It’s not and should not be about purchasing the advanced class(es).

I can share that I was on an Active Shooter committee for a large regional facility. I asked the hard questions. My goal was that whatever we wanted to put out there to my fellow employees had to be as complete and realistic as possible, but it also had to be responsible. As an example the facility chose to run with the new FEMA offering – Run, Hide , Fight. Bullshit. Still is. That’s not just my opinion, it’s what we were told at some other government-funded training that I had attended on my own dime. Think about that feel-good slogan being provided to our citizens. Sure, it might work, but if you don’t show people HOW/WHERE/WHEN and give them the TOOLS, you’re blowing smoke up their asses. And that is being irresponsible.

If you want to flesh it out, you need to provide the proper tools – posted maps: trained and drilled – where to run. It’s different for everyone, so be responsible and demonstrate, discuss, drill those routes and avenues of escape if  escape is possible as your first or only option.

Hide – where? What is an effective hiding spot, and how effective is it? Show them how to barricade-in-place. Show them how to improvise and barricade.

Fight – really? Okay, HOW? What will be effective? So many options once again. And remember, there are all kinds of people without my skills or your skills perhaps, so how do we train them and what do we train them that will work for them?

There is no single solution, and thus a slogan is nothing more than empty, feel-good bullshit marketing. See it for what it is. The only reason they put shit like this on your training sign-off is for their liability. “Look, he signed it right here and attended our seminar…” Don’t be stupid. That is ALL it is – a sign-off for liability reasons. CYA at the insitutiona level.

So next we were told by the chairman of our commitee that “it will likely never happen here. The chances are better of you getting hit by lighting more than once today.” O.K. More bullshit. In my opinion, he’s dead wrong and should have known better, and been more responsible for thise he was responsible to protect and I’m just not that stupid to think otherwise.

Next they wanted to sell us plastic covering for the windows. Oh, that’s awesome! You have found a bullet proof glass solution for those of us at the front doors? Well, no, it won’t stop bullets, in fact they will pass right through, but the glass wont go everywhere, so when the HEROES come rushing in, they won’t slip and fall on it or get cut by it. Basically, I’ll still be dead, but I guess that’s considered acceptable. Not by me it’s not, and boy is my family going to be pissed when they find this out!

You get the point? There are still professionals out there selling products and services based on fear and income-boost based on that fear. It’s NOT responsible by any measure. And it’s not alright by me.

Look deeper. Educate yourself.

Re-Thinking Resistance Part III – Rory Miller

Real Life Levels of Resistance

Professionals and people who train professionals must understand the levels of resistance thoroughly. The level of danger and the dynamics of the force situation determine what is appropriate. Using too little force will get one hurt, using too much force gets one sued.

For civilian self-defense instructors as well, it is imperative to understand how different the body mechanics and psychology of different real-life attacks can be from any sport, training, or simulation experience. Overcoming a high level of resistance is very different than overcoming a low level of resistance.

Cooperative, compliant (and undecided.)

Cooperative and compliant are not really levels of resistance. I list them to remind professionals that there are levels that require no force. If you say, “Sorry, folks, but this street is closed off. We have a situation.”

And the person says, “Oh. Thank you officer,” and takes another route, that person is cooperative. If the person grumbles, “Dammit, now I’m gonna be late,” and takes another route, the person is still compliant. These are the good guys. The citizens you are sworn to protect. They are not targets for force or shows of authority. Never bully your allies.

The undecided threat should rarely, if ever, go to force. As a rule, if you address an undecided threat and it goes to force, you fucked it up. You shifted it from undecided to resisting.

An undecided threat can present in a number of different ways and can be triggered in different ways.

The two most common versions of undecided threat that a professional will face are the coward and the indignant.

The coward will become a physical threat if and only if he thinks he can get away with it. An officer who maintains good presence, awareness, and control of space leaves the coward with no opening. Without an opening, most cowards will comply and many will shift to cooperative, sucking up. Don’t lower your guard,

The indignant will fight if they can find an excuse— if they see something in your demeanor or hear something in your words that lets them blame you. A “hook” is an excuse to blame the victim that triggers and rationalizes an act of violence. That’s not just for undecided against a professional. Many violent people like to have a justification, to be able to say, “The bitch was askin’ for it.”

The solution for professionals is to be professional. Doing a job impartially and fairly leaves no hooks. Understand, however, that this applies only to the undecided. People who have already decided to be violent will find, manufacture, or imagine hooks to justify their violence. Look at any riot.

That said, if you’re a dick you can set off an undecided. If you’re a big enough dick, you can shift a compliant or even cooperative person through undecided and into full-on resistance. You might do the paperwork and file the charges, but don’t fool yourself. Shifting a good person to a bad person with your attitude is entirely on you.

Passive Resistance.

You politely tell the patron to leave the bar. He says, “No” and turns away. The protesters sit down and refuse to move. Your two-year-old won’t eat his peas.

In passive resistance, the threat’s not a danger to anyone, is not threatening you and is not even using muscle power. It’s a level of resistance rarely addressed in training and it often has complex ramifications. When is making your child eat peas abuse? What level of force will play well on TV when used on people who are not a physical threat but clearly breaking the law?

This level of resistance rarely comes up in self-defense. There’s no need to defend yourself from a non-attack. But for people who have a duty to act this is a common problem.

Active Resistance.

You politely tell the patron to leave the bar. He says, “No. You can’t make me” and wraps his arms around a pillar. The protesters sit down and lock arms. Your two-year-old won’t eat his peas and covers his mouth with both hands.

In active resistance, the threat is still not a threat, still not a danger. The only difference is that the threat is now using muscle power to resist, but not using that power on you. This is the bad guy who runs away, not the bad guy who attacks.

The questions and problems are similar— when and if you have a duty to act, what is the appropriate level of force to overcome very real but not dangerous physical resistance?

Assaultive Resistance.

This is the level of resistance that inspired my initial rant on the Myth of the Fully-Resisting Opponent. This is the other side of the coin from training’s full resistance. This is someone trying to take you out. The threat has chosen time, place and victim. Has stacked everything in his favor—size, numbers, weapons, surprise— and will attack with absolute ruthlessness, speed and power. He gives no thought to defense because he fully expects that his onslaught will prevent you from doing anything he might have to defend against.

Assaults happen faster, harder, closer and with more speed than most practitioners can imagine. Until you have experienced it these words will have no meaning, but your hardest training for the most intense mixed martial art competition is as relevant for an assault as non-contact point sparring is for MMA. Or to put it another way, kickboxing helps with rape defense about as much as being raped will help with your kickboxing.

The nature of assault starts with a bigger, stronger opponent, who has a tool (and you don’t) from behind or the flank and with you psychologically off-guard. It is nothing like sparring at any level.

Lethal Resistance.

Lethal resistance has all of the elements of assaultive resistance but with one other factor: the goal is not to beat you into submission, but to kill you. Sometimes it will start as an assault but with the intent to kick your head into mush afterwards. Other times it is a cold-blooded assassination. Just a knife in your back, quick and clean, with the perpetrator walking away as if nothing happened.

Whether the intent is assaultive or lethal, the bad guy has made the decision to take no chances. That means he has done everything in his power to give you no chance.

Asymmetrical Resistance.

Asymmetrical resistance is probably the most common level of resistance and the least discussed or trained. Violence and exploitation happen in the real world, and the real world is immensely complex. There are many ways to victimize a person and many ways to punish a target for attempts to stand up.

Asymmetrical resistance can take many forms, from exerting psychological control to prevent you from physically resisting to invoking third party intervention against you.

“My brother’s upstairs with your kids. One peep out of you and he shoots them. Do what I say and don’t make a sound.”

“You can’t hit me back.  I have AIDS!”

“Hello, Joan, I’m the director of human resources and we’ve had a complaint. Did you tell Frank that he was standing too close to you and making you feel uncomfortable? You did? Well, he’s filed a hostile workplace complaint…”

In real life, whoever plays the game the most broadly has the advantage. Seeing self-defense as either physical skills or reactive skills (see the article “Self Defense Failure Zone” Conflict Manager  May 2016 https://conflictresearchgroupintl.com/self-defense-failure-zone-rory-miller-conflict-manager-may-2016/) is inherently limiting. Your goal is to use and see the situation more broadly than any would-be predator.

The Missing Link in (Almost) Every Self-Defense Class – Mirav Tarkka

You made the first step, physically, and enrolled into a self-defense class.

Feeling proud of yourself, but also a bit scared, you walk into the gym. Most probably it is all full of men, most probably the instructor is a man. “OK, cool, because a man will probably be the one I will be attacked by” you think to yourself. The class begins. An active warm-up, presentation of a threat, and a solution. “How will I remember this under stress?” you ask the coach. “It is a matter of practice. The more you practice, the better your skills will be” the coach answers. “OK, but … what do I do if I freeze? If I don’t remember? If I am too scared?” “Well”, the coach answers “you have to practice so many times that there will be no place for fear”.

Obviously, he has no idea what fear is. He also has no idea what it means to be a woman.

Being a woman means you will be a much more probable target for rape. It means you are ALREADY considered a weak and easy victim, because you are one (sorry to be in your faces like that, but it is true). It also means, that at a psychological level, when you are attacked your brain goes in millions of other directions, instead of the male brain that goes in….one. A woman’s brain can think seven thoughts all at once, while a male’s brain thinks one at the time. At a time of stress, you might be thinking about what you are going to make for lunch, your shopping list, your house work, your hair, the new eyeliner you wanted to get on the way, it is pay-day and so on.  Meaning it will take you so much longer to react to real time danger, and to use your intuition properly to avoid that danger, so no amount of repetitions, tornado kicks and knees to the groin will help if your mind shuts down or even slows down.

It is very likely that your instructor doesn’t know that. Doesn’t even understand that. The understanding of the body as a unit of physical, mental and emotional components is not a common one, unfortunately,

Luckily, you have me to help you. Your mind is, and always will be, your strongest and undefeated weapon. There are so many ways to train it, to train yourself psychologically not to eliminate fear, but to work with it, as well as your memory, your inner power and your calm (most important to avoid panic). You can be the weakest, most unfit and unskilled person but with an oiled up mind and good situational awareness, not to mention the energy field you create around you by using your mind in a certain way, you will be much more likely to survive and even avoid certain situations, than a martial arts specialist.

To be honest, most people who actually practice martial arts are falsely confident and ruled by their ego, lacking the capacity to tune themselves to the situation mentally and psychologically, ending up badly injured or even dead in a street situation.  As much as you can be a world champion fighter, there is not much you can do vs. a knife or gun attack, for example. But with the “correct” behavour and thinking, you can either avoid getting into danger in the first place, or talk your way into survival (NLP manipulating).

So what  I am saying is, yes by all means train physically, make your body stronger and your skills better, but try to find a coach that understands the importance of mental training. If you can’t find one, or even combine with one, you can use my mental training methods with your class or within your every day activities.  Remember that the only power that can never be taken away from you, is in your mind.

The Mark Hatmaker Interview Part I – Erik Kondo

Mark Hatmaker is one of our excellent contributors and a true professional, he is the author of numerous books and a highly respected practitioner. Mark is the founder of Extreme Self Protection, a company that compiles, analyses, and teaches unarmed combat methods. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. – Garry.

ERIK: I read an interview with you by Richard Dimitri where you talk the concepts of randomness and complex systems as opposed to set systems, fixed curriculum, and dogmatic answers in domains in relation to Self-Protection and more.

I view a Domain as an environment where specific rules, factors, and variables apply. For example, a biker bar in Texas is a Domain which differs from a college bar frequented by MIT students which is another Domain. Both of these Domains are bars, yet the individual “rules” of behavior differ and so do the consequences of breaking the rules.

I view set systems, fixed curriculum, and dogmatic answers as Closed Systems that are designed to “work” in a specific Domain under certain predefined variables. A Domain can also be a dojo or a martial arts competition.

A Closed System doesn’t take into consideration differing Domains, and thus provides a static (fixed) “solution” to a given “problem”. For example, if someone does X, you do Y, regardless of the Domain (environment) you are in.

I define Closed Systems that correspond to Simple Domains (few variables and factors to consider) to be Simplistic Systems.

The opposite of a Simplistic System is a Complex System. A Complex System is open to change and constantly evolving. It corresponds to a Complex Domain with many variables and factors including randomness to consider.

In terms of Self-Protection, applying a Simplistic System solution to a Complex Domain problem can have disastrous consequences.

My question is: How would you relate what I have just described in terms of your own views on Systems and Domains?

MARK: Good question, Erik. Before I get started, to make sure we’re on the same page with my idiosyncratic phrasing.  I use the term “environment” for differing physical surroundings (the physical terrain indoors or out), “culture” for the human element or “attitude” of the environment, and “domain” to refer to fields of knowledge (biology and physics being two separate domains within the overall schema of science).

In your given bar example I would assess the given environment (exits, improvised weapons, etc.), allow the culture to determine my level of presumed readiness (me being less heightened in the MIT culture and a bit more cautious in the biker bar-with no slight to bikers or MIT students, simply playing to type for our discussion-rightly or wrongly.)

My curious use of the term domain will not apply here.

In a perfect world, I will have already presented myself with a myriad of potential self-protection tactics that I have drilled in isolation-that would be my nod to complexity. But this skill set means nothing without culling the tactical herd, so to speak.

After the complex drill sets educated in sterile conditions I would then have placed myself (and clientele) through a series of chaos drills we call The Outer Limits (60+ drills before overlays take it into the 100’s). We allow the drills to “set the personally tailored curriculum.”

We have found, that The Outer Limits allows each individual to strip the excess chaff/baggage of learned tactics down to what will actually emerge for each given individual, this culling usually manifests in seeing two heaping handfuls of go-to tactics idiosyncratically “forced” onto each individual. That is, what is my go-to may not be yours and vice versa.

Once we have simplified the complex and sterile we continue the drill sets to see how often we can make this culled arsenal apply and manifest in an ever growing variety of environments and cultures.

In a nutshell, we drill complexity at the outset to get to simplicity that has a high overall application value.

ERIK: I think my use of the term Domain maybe confusing since as you said a domain can be considered a field of knowledge.

So, I am using Domain = environment + culture. Maybe it is clearer to use Environment = environment + culture and my use of System is more of a subset of your domain. Do you see that?

The way I understand your methodology, you provide the Student with a large number of movements/techniques/tactics to determine which ones the Student has a natural inclination to use. Using the Chaos/Outer Limits is the filtering process that eliminates the majority of M/T/T leaving a customized set. The point being is that this is what the person will naturally do, so don’t teach them stuff they aren’t going to do anyway, correct?

I would call this customized set a Customized System.

Now that the System has been created, you apply the System in different Environments (environment + culture) to make sure the System is complex enough to handle multiple Environments. If it fails in
certain Environments, then you then modify the System in order to make it work in that Environment.

The end result is that different Students have different Systems that they apply in multiple Environments. But the goal is to keep the System simple to use as opposed to complicated.

That it?

MARK: Bingo, sir!

ERIK: The reason for all the terminology is so that we can be on the same page.

MARK: Agreed, sir.

ERIK: Here is a quote from Rory Miller

“If you are teaching self-defense, you are teaching students, not subject matter. This is the hallmark difference between self-defense and martial arts. When I am teaching martial arts, I am teaching a system that has been handed down for many generations, and I have an obligation to teach certain things to a certain standard, in a certain way. When I am teaching martial arts, I am teaching a subject.

When I am teaching self-defense, I am teaching students. Every single student is different. They have different brains and bodies. “

QUESTION: How would you expand upon or interpret it in terms of your teaching philosophy?

MARK: I see a marriage of the two in my approach. I don’t teach from dogma or set canon (and I’m not implying that Mr. Miller is either). What we do here is less teach than coach and where that may sound like hair-splitting to some I see a stark distinction.

If I were to “teach” I would be handing down set formulas and incontrovertible axioms.

Coaching allows me to give exposure of broad categories to the athlete and then observe their own varying attributes-we then coach, push, prod, cultivate the individual’s use of the general movement to a (hopefully) better fit with their own talents and abilities.

ERIK: I have always liked the idea of coaching rather than instruction because coaching implies that it is the student’s responsibility to learn whereas teaches implies it is the teacher’s responsibility to make sure the student learns. Could you expand more on how you coach students?

MARK: In a nutshell, we have a conversation to see what the athlete’s goals are, then we tailor a preliminary plan to start along that goal path using a few pre-sets. All the while we pay attention to how the athlete moves and responds to the material and make adjustments along the way for individual attributes. We tweak and add material where it seems wise and just as importantly we remove and cull where possible as reducing exposure to downside effects is often just as important (if not more so) than gaining new material.

Two examples to illustrate what I mean by emphasizing reducing downside as opposed to upside.

In self-defense/street work-In response to a query along these lines “What if I were in a biker bar and it goes bad?”
First, the less often you have to be in a given biker bar known for outbreaks of violence the less you have to work tactics that may or may not work when chaos hits. Where initially the query seems to want the upside of this or that self-defense tactic to respond to street-evil, the counter is to question the wisdom of continuing exposure to possible violence.

Yes, I am aware that we can’t reduce such exposures to nil, but we are a bit less than honest if we spend more (or all) of our time on how to respond in a fight that may never happen and little to no time on what we can do every day about being aware of practices and environments with increased risk.

Reduce downside and upside automatically increase.

In the sportive aspect. Let’s say I’ve got a new athlete and his footwork is a mess. Rather than belabor him with the dozen-points of solid footwork he or she needs to keep in mind to become more fluid, I will find one and only one negative aspect and say “Hey, let’s do it again but no matter what, I do not want to see that rear foot come off of the ground.”

Once we’ve killed that downside habit there is an automatic upside gain-stability, we move on to the next downside to be culled.

It’s sort of a negative injunction “Thou shalt not…” athletic approach but handled point by point rather than throw all of the concepts against the wall at one time leading to cognitive overload.

Part 2 to follow in December.

For more from Mark please go to www.extremeselfprotection.com/

CRGI, the Origin Story – Garry Smith

In mythology there are many narratives of how the world began, how creatures and plants came into existence, and why certain things in the cosmos have certain yet distinct qualities. Most origin stories are simply that, stories full of the thing Marc MacYoung calls lies we tell to children.

There are many origin stories and most cultures have them and many have become major religions, some were invented by religions, all have true believers and are deeply entwined with our social and cultural practices, they influence almost every aspect of our life. Some exist as they did thousands of years ago, some were adapted and absorbed into newer forms of religion such as Christianity which appropriated then claimed as their own many of the Roman and Norse traditions for example.

The thing is they are all stories, not facts, they only exist because people choose, not always freely, to believe them, they have no objective reality. To one group the origin story of the other group may be seen as nonsense, heretical even, and we know where this leads.

So whilst I know there are many origin stories, as an Englishman I have mine, it starts with the arrival in post Roman Britain of two Germanic brothers, Hengest (Stallion) and Horsa (Horse), they were mercenaries who for a time served the weak Vortigern, King of the Britons, then they sent for their own and the rest is Anglo Saxon history.

Of course there is an origin story for Hengest and Horsa, who’ actual existence has never been definitively proven but long argued over. There are many legends of horse associated brothers which stem originally in proto Indi-European religions. Its a good story and may be based on some truths but there is little evidence Hengest and Horsa existed but it provides a heroic back story for those who choose to believe it.

So there are many origin stories, this is CRGI’s and it is not a myth.

“How did CRGI come to be? A few years ago, Garry Smith (the man who is now editor of Conflict Manager) asked, “If we were to do a full blown, accredited, bachelor’s degree program in self-defense instruction, what would be in the curriculum?”

I said I didn’t know exactly what would be in it, but I had some definite ideas who I would tap to help design the curriculum. That list, with Garry’s insight and experience, became the board of CRGI.

The members of the board are very different in some ways. Some were bad guys, some very bad. Some were good guys. Some are physical monsters, some were monsters in the day— and a few have physical concerns that affect every decision they make. One has been dead, and many have been close. Most are martial artists, but not all.” Rory Miller, ‘Conflict Manager Magazine’, July 2016.

That is how CRGI got started, a question was asked and that question sparked the creation of the first board. Then, as in most good origin stories we wandered in the wilderness for a few years whilst we debated and discussed what our purpose and mission were, we built our nascent infrastructure in cyberspace and began to communicate what we were trying to do and not very effectively either, we reformed the board and brought in new blood and fresh ideas, we gathered followers, but here is where we differ from other origin stories, we discouraged the true believers.

CRGI is not a quasi religion or a social organization promoting a vision of how the world should be, we have no ambition to create an inward looking entity, CRGI exists to promote discussion, polite disagreement included, a space where people can share and learn, a place where people can do sets sapiens above all other organisms on this planet, co-operate.

Being part of CRGI means people are welcome to be members of their own tribe with their own totems, talisman and beliefs but can come to CRGI to meet, to talk and treat with other tribes without resorting to trolling and name calling and questioning their origin stories and the totems, talisman and beliefs of other tribes.

CRGI is about creating a place where tribes can gather together instead of the alternative world where the ‘my tribe is better than your tribe’ mentality persists. As Marc MacYoung says:

“Now if you have people who don’t know how to behave at tribal gathering, how well do you think they’re going to be doing dealing with people of other tribes?

Here’s a hint. Not well. Especially if you consider them stupid, wrong, inferior — if not evil — for thinking differently than you do.

One of the lost aspects that smearing the lines between tribes to create an uber-tribes is how to treat with different tribes. If we’re one big uber-tribe why would we need that? Well, simple, we’re not. People are trying to revert to super-tribes without understanding tribalism. We self-identify ourselves with a tribe and feel we must hate this other tribe — even though we’re technically all one big happy uber-tribe.” Conflict Manager Magazine, December 2016.

CRGI is not some safe place for precious snowflakes it is a space where interesting, challenging and robust discussions can take place between mature adults and this is reflected in our mission statement.

CRGI is dedicated to creating an unimpeachable source for pertinent, accurate information on all aspects of conflict management.

Our mission statement shows our focus.

  • Unimpeachable’ means we vet our contributors.
  • ‘Pertinent’ because we seek actionable information over trivia or speculation.
  • ‘Accurate’ speaks for itself, but we understand we live in a world full of ambiguity.
  • ‘All aspects’ refers to the fact that we are not just about martial arts, we reach out to the self defence practitioner, the firearms community, the survival community, LEO’s, the armed forces, friends in academia and all those who share our thirst for knowledge and learning throughout life.

That is why we use Yggdrasil as our logo. Yggdrasil was, reputedly, a giant Ash tree with branches that reach out into the heavens and roots that went to the center of the earth. The thing is Yggdrasis is not just a tree it is a whole ecosystem rammed with complex conflicts with many gods, eagles, dragons, snakes, squirrels and deer together with no end of mythical characters, not least the highest of the Norse gods Odin himself

“The most satisfactory translation of the name Yggdrasil is ‘Odin’s Horse’. Ygg is another name for Odin, and drasill means ‘horse’.

When Odin hung, speared, for nine days on the Yggdrasil, he uttered the words that he had ‘sacrificed himself onto himself’. This stanza gives us a description of the unity existing between the Godhead and the Tree in the myths. To emphasise this connection, we find in old English the word treow, which means both tree and truth. Etymologically, then, truth and tree grow out of the same root. Subsequently, in the Norse creation myth, man and woman originated from trees. We are all the sons and daughters of the Ash and Elm tree: the first man was called Ask, born from the Ash, and the first woman Embla, born from the Elm. Their oxygen offers us the primordial conditions for life. Ask and Embla sprouted from Yggdrasil’s acorns, and so it is that every human being springs from the fruit of Yggdrasil, then to be collected by two storks, that bring them to their longing mothers-to-be.”

Yes we too like an origin myth but it is Yggdrasil symbolising the search for knowledge and truth that we relate to in an ecosystem, ours and real not mythological, full of conflict from wars to micro-aggressions.

CRGI seeks truth, we pursue and share knowledge and we seek to understand and to manage conflict, join us and one day you may find yourself at Mimir’s Well, and that is another story for another day my friend.

Boundary Setting and Anti-Social Subcultures – Malcolm Rivers

Recently, I asked Malcolm Rivers to apply the concepts of the Everyday Boundary Setting Matrix to his understanding of inner-city boundary setting for urban youth. The following article is his response.  The Matrix is a flexible framework that can be used to help understand and teach the basic elements of boundary setting and apply them to specific environments. – Erik Kondo


I like the ideas and expression here a lot. I think of particular use are visuals. The boundary setting matrix is a great tool that really encapsulates the ideas involved. I like the boundary zones a lot too. The underlying adjustment that I think would be useful is based on the interplay between peer relationships and institutional relationships.

In many ways, schools are microcosms for society so the model I’m using is based on an inner-city school and interactions with the neighborhood. Within that school you have school rules and peer rules which are comparable to society’s laws and street law. The difficulty is that for students, peer culture is often based on variations of real street law. For all intents and purposes, society, as represented by social workers, teachers, cops, etc. only visits and the networks that dictate street law and peer relationships live in those communities, making them, in many ways, the true dominant force. Young people in those communities might spend 6 or 8 hours in school but have to spend the remaining 18 or 16 hours in environments dominated by street law. Moreover, school and society often can’t protect these young people from consequences of peer/street code violations which often carry significantly higher penalties than most that institutions can dish out. Thus, respect, as understood in those communities, is a crucially important currency that can literally be the difference between life and death and is governed by different factors.

The version of respect that exists in these environments is based on a couple of factors: willingness to resist or stand on principle, adherence to cultural rules, goodwill and respect for others, and determination to enforce boundaries. Of particular importance is boundary enforcement, which, in many ways, lays the foundation for the rest because respect isn’t so much earned as enforced. Due to various forms of social disorganization, young men have outsized influence in inner cities, leading to environments where respect is an invaluable commodity due to its role in the young men’s competition for dominance. This makes the concept of mutual respect a harder sell because the individual or group with the most respect “wins” and respect can only be earned by enforcing their boundaries or violating others’. If a mutual respect has been established, the first person or group willing to violate that respect, if successful, can shift the balance of power toward their favor. Thus, challenging the boundaries of others is frequently a good way to grow resources (peer respect, etc.) and can even be a form of preemptive defense. Contempt borne of underenforcement can lead to loss of resources or even something more permanent, thus, the willingness to enforce boundaries becomes paramount in this version of respect.

One of the elements that affects this matrix, however, is the role of noncombatants: those who are, for whatever reason, not participating in the pursuit of peer dominance. Most of these noncombatants don’t have much in the way of respect and are more ignored than anything else which can make them safer but keeps them powerless, should a combatant turn their attention in their direction.

“Trying” and “testing” are a big part of the aforementioned competition in these schools and neighborhoods. The idea is that in many interactions, even with authority figures, young people test the boundaries of others, looking to see whether they’ll enforce them and to what degrees. It’s an aggressive way to establish a pecking order or to “score points” off of someone they perceive as weak. The additional difficulty is that, as a result, giving respect to get it can be seen as weakness, especially when combined with a perceived inability or unwillingness to enforce boundaries. This perception of weakness can invite a greater number of respect violations which necessitate more regular, or more extreme, enforcement. On some level it’s almost beneficial for folk working and living in these environments to be tested so as to give them a chance to be seen enforcing their boundaries because the perception, at least, is that everyone is watching and looking for someone to “score points” off of.

In many communities and schools, the perception that the peer group is watching to see how an individual reacts and to assess the level of respect to give them is a significant factor. It’s this consideration, the balance of society/school’s rules and peer/street law, that causes individuals who know they’ll be caught and face consequences to use violence to enforce boundaries anyway. This seems ridiculous from the perspective of the larger school/society but when the goals are adjusted for peer respect, it makes a lot more sense. If the peer audience values the willingness to enforce boundaries and stand on principle, even in the face of consequences, using violence, even when you know you’ll be caught, makes perfect sense. Violence in these instances is just another form of communication to the victim and the larger peer audience: “here’s what I’m willing to do because someone violated my boundaries. No one can protect you from my wrath, so leave my boundaries alone.” In such cases, “overenforcement” is a variable concept, because extreme violence as part of boundary enforcement can be beneficial, depending on which matrix we’re considering: peer/street or school/society. This can lead to inability to code switch and contextually inappropriate communication and enforcement like the woman making a scene in a grocery store, etc.

Thus, the boundary setting matrix works perfectly but is goal dependent. If a young person wants the respect of peers who’re associated with the types of subcultures prevalent in inner cities, their boundary setting matrix, by necessity, will look different than a peer whose focus is on success in the larger school/society, etc. The big challenge is finding ways to balance the two boundary matrices so that the young people don’t have to choose between putting themselves in danger with peers or sacrificing their futures in society. Another potential solution is to significantly damaging the street/peer hierarchy to establish the school/state/society as the dominant force in the environment more directly. This derails the insertion of street consequences into school environments and such. As for respect for institutions, I think you hit the nail on the head. Ultimately, those balances of communication and enforcement contribute to institutions remaining functional and not breeding significant contempt.

Mixed Martial Artists Wouldn’t Last a Second – Randy King

The reality-based self-defense world and all of the people teaching self-defense and commando kill style, all keep saying, keep harping on the fact that mixed martial arts fighters wouldn’t last a second in a street fight. You see it on all the forums, all the Facebook pages, everyone’s always ranting, “oh my ninja style would destroy you”, “my Krav Maga would destroy you in this situation”. This is so ridiculous to me, I can’t stand it. The point of the rants is for me to vent on stupid shit mostly that I see on the internet and this is definitely one of them.

Mixed martial artists are athletes. They are professional athletes that fight with the best in the world all the time. Are all of their skills transferable? No. Are some of the skills transferable?  Yes!  If I am in better shape, can hit harder, last longer, kick harder and take more damage than you, am I going to win the fight?  Yes!

People who train twice a week who think that they can go out there, after whatever their instructor tells them and thinks they can take on the biggest meanest neck tattoo-iest mixed martial artists, are insane!  These people are conditioned athletes who put a lot of time into this, this is their career for most of them. They cut weight, they train hard, they train for, some of them will train, in one day, longer than a lot of reality-based self-defense people will train in a week to two weeks. And they train longer than a lot of police forces require their cops to train for a whole year. They get that in a week. They prep for fights, they’re always in constant camps, they’re always constantly watching what they do, improving their technique and their fighting, the best people around them.

In a fight, reality-based self-defense people had better be using the plan A for reality based self-defense which is get the hell out of there. If he’s bigger and stronger than you, as I’ve mentioned in multiple rants, he’s going to have a distinct advantage. Now take a high level of training, you’re in trouble. Even if they are training in the worst MMA gym in the world. There’s a whole bunch of good ones, but even if they are training in a crappy one, with a fake instructor with fake credentials, who has glamour-ed them and talked to them about how awesome they are, if you’re putting in three hours a day sometimes in any system, you are going to be good. You’re going to be able to take a hit, you’re going to be able to move, you’re going to be able to take the fight to the place you want it. They’re able to transition faster than most people, they can stand up, they can take down, they can put the fight where they want, which gives you a huge advantage in the street.

Yes, probably if there’s a weapon involved they’re going to get hurt. Are they going to lose because of their training? No!  If I knock you unconscious because I have a wicked right hand then there’s no way that person’s knife’s going to be able to stab me as they’re unconscious.

Stop using this sport combat thing like it’s not real. It is real, there are rules, yes, to protect the fighters, so they can fight again, and gain more experience. I’m not saying run out and join an MMA club, I’m not saying stop teaching what you’re teaching, I’m saying stop saying stupid stuff to your students to make them feel invincible against people that literally get punched in the face all of the time.

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