Stop Using Fear to Profit – Randy King

It has been an intense couple of  weeks since the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history happened  in Las Vegas. Just one day earlier, here in my hometown of Edmonton, we had a “terrorist” attack.

Sadly, attacks like these are becoming more and more common.

A lot of people have weighed in on these recent events. I am not going to do that – I want to talk about something different. I want to talk about the after-effects.

It has been shown time and time again that when tragedy strikes, the scum seems to rise to the top. Whether that is people pushing political agendas, using tragedy to boost their own profile, or, in our industry, using this tragic time to make money.

Seconds after the mass shooting in Vegas, my Facebook feed was flooded with mentions of active shooter courses. A few minutes after the Edmonton attack, people here were promoting self-defense lessons.

Tragedy should never – I repeat – never be “good for business”. Anyone who is trying to make money off this situation does not deserve your money. Anyone that needs to use fear to fill their gym is shit at what they do.

No system on the planet has an answer for how to deal with a man with multiple high-powered weapons shooting from an elevated cover position … this would take out even the most well-trained and elite soldiers in the world. An ambush of this nature is survivable only if you are not among the first hit, and then by gaining as much distance as possible from the situation. Or, by not being there at all … which is of course just luck, and impossible to predict.

Anyone who is trying to sell you the snake oil that “their” training would have helped you is a liar, and is trying to profit from your fear.

This type of marketing has always made me sick, for two reasons.

Reason one – it is dangerous. You are selling a bullshit answer to a legitimate problem. A solution that, if people buy into your slick marketing campaign (which they do all the time), may actually get them killed.

Reason two – trading on fear makes the world seem worse, not better. If you bring people in who don’t want to be victims, and you try to retain them by constantly reminding them how scary the world is, they will stay victims. Or worse – they will become even weaker, and more likely to be victimized … all while you keep your clients scared in order to pay the bills.

I have personally been speaking out about this for a while … I have ranted about it on my YouTube page (KPCMartialArts). Being as vocal as I am, I have heard all the excuses! As you read this, bear in mind that I already know all your self-justifying tactics; the reasons why it is ok for you to do it (but no one else). So, let me squash those as well.

“Yeah, but … what I teach is important! It doesn’t matter how they get in the door!”

Wrong: It does matter. Our job in this field is to build up, not exploit. The ends do not justify the means here. If your stuff is really that good, don’t start advertising minutes after a tragedy – let your brand stand on its own and see what happens. If people call you, and you give them honest answers, and they come and train … then your stuff is good, and you didn’t have to be a slimeball to get new clients.

“I know it’s wrong, but it’s the best way to collect students.”

Wrong(ish): I will admit that capitalizing on fear is a great way to boost those numbers … but only temporarily. You then have two options to retain these fear-based leads: A. Make them confident and not afraid (which is your job) … but then you have solved their problem … and so they leave. Option B is to keep them scared so you keep them long-term, and if you are willing to do that … then please go back and reread this article from the beginning.

“What I have actually solves the problem though Randy!” / “My system is based in …“ / blah blah blah.

Wrong: You’re not special, and neither is your system. You are problem-solving the same way we all are. If you did your job, you’ve read the reports … and there was no way to stop that attack once it started. Same as the attack that happened here in Edmonton. I don’t care what mystical pseudo-religious figure founded your system – I guarantee that they don’t have a defense against getting hit by bullets or a large truck.

“Randy, you are wrong! The world is the worst it has ever been, and without Combat Krav Jitsu-do, we will all just be lambs for the slaughter!”

Wrong: Please consider figuring your own shit out before you counsel others. (Also, please remove me from your friends list.)

I’ve said it before, and I feel like I will keep saying it for as long as I have a platform to speak from. Stop. Using. Fear. To. Profit. We have enough problems in this world, so please don’t be one more.

Teaching Self-Defense in the Face of Domestic Violence Part II – Tammy Yard McCracken

In the first article we hit a brief overview of why the cycle of domestic violence is self-perpetuating and stubborn. The cycle demands repetition and assuages a deep anxiety triggered by potential tribal instability.

If you are in the self-defense industry this is going to become a factor in your reality. You will have students who are actively in a domestic violence relationship. Teach long enough, you will have a student who is in a DV situation and who decides you are integris enough to entrust you with this information.

Think about why you teach. Take a minute and list out the deep, personal reasons why you choose to invest all the time, money, injuries, cost against family etc. to do this work. At some level, a good instructor knows s/he teaches because they want good people to be stronger people. Oversimplifying it, you want good people to have the power to choose their responses to bad situations.

If you have a student in a DV situation who shares this information with you, it may come to light after she has violated a series of tribal taboos – meaning, after she has left the relationship. This is the easy one. There may still be threats to her safety impacting her choice to train, but she is off the script. The student who is training with you and continues going home to the abuse is the tough one. She is going to trigger all sorts of frustrations for a self-defense instructor. Her subconscious allegiance to the script is going to highlight your glitches.

Note: Glitches are the emotional trigger points that interfere with our capacity to consider a situation, belief, interaction, etc. through a purely logical observation

What is your gut response? Are you angry with her for staying in the pattern? Do you feel helpless? Are you tempted to dismiss her? Do you want to track down the violent partner and meet out justice?

Do you want to save her?

And what exactly is your role? What is your duty to her? What is overstepping? When, in your righteousness, will you accidentally do the same thing her violent partner is already doing – treat her as damaged and less than?

For now, I am forgoing any dialogue about Duty To Warn obligations as it relates to professions who may have reporting obligations. The number of self-defense instructors who also carry these may be more the minority and warrants a separate conversation. What follows are a handful of basic guidelines for a complex dynamic. This is not exhaustive and the guidelines may, in fact, be wrong depending on the specific situation.

Guideline #1: Honor her trust. You may be the only person in her life right now who can demonstrate what respect looks like. The respect that communicates she is, in fact, capable of making her own choices about her own circumstances. Respect that honors her right to make those choices. Now that she has disclosed her situation to you, do not assume you know how she wants you to support her. Instead, ask. What kind of support do you want from me? Another variation of this is what does support [from me] look like to you? Do your damnedest to honor her response. If she tells you she doesn’t know, try not to dictate it to her, she already has plenty of that happening. One request she may make could be particularly difficult for you. She may ask for your silence. If she doesn’t want you telling anyone, don’t tell anyone.*

Guideline #2: You are not a social worker or a psychotherapist. Even if you are credentialed for these professions as her self-defense instructor, this is not your role. Don’t pick up the mantel for it. If you are untrained in this role you have a better than average chance of making the situation worse for your student. You will almost always make your life more difficult as well.

If you take up this role will you be prepared for phone calls at 2 am? For long conversations after class? Are you up for holding in confidence detailed information about one of the darker aspects of human behavior? Are you personally equipped for processing this violence? You can’t unknow this stuff. There is such a thing as secondary post-traumatic stress. What if she calls you to help her move out? Where will you set your boundaries with her? This gets slippery fast so don’t step onto the slope. Licensed therapists have rules and training for how to manage personal boundary-setting with clients. It is unlikely you have this training if you are not licensed. You could end up in the deep end of the pool with no understanding about how to swim through the water.

Guideline #3: You don’t get to save her. It is not your job. I don’t care what argument you want to throw back at this. It just isn’t your job.

It is her job. We know when DV victims are rescued they typically return. When they make the decision personally, when they have reached their own clarity – it sticks.

I have a decent amount of experience working with DV victims and survivors. I am about to offer a series of suggestions and encourage you to take them as a first step, not as the final word. There are people who have a significant degree more experience than I have and there is an extensive body of research available if you are interested.

  1. About Guideline #1. Silence. This comes at a cost. If you are asked to keep her story in confidence, how will you process the impact it has on you? If she tells you and doesn’t want you to do anything, watching her continue in the script can take you to places of frustration and anger that may be new for you. You are her instructor and you get to set your own boundaries about what’s necessary for you to successfully work with her (including not losing your mind over this). Options include telling her you need counsel on how to best support her, get her permission and then get counsel. If she refuses, talk it out with her. If she still refuses get counsel but leave every single piece of personally identifying information from the story and reach out to someone that does not know your tribe. This is risky. She may experience it as a violation of her trust. You may have to decide between the two.
  2. Be Prepared. With the statistics being what they are, assume you are going to have domestic violence victims in your class. Know what the resources are in your community. Have them at quick access and be able to hand this information to a student. This will help avoid a sense of powerlessness and can help assuage your inner hero’s desire to save her. No, it isn’t going to automatically fix everything. That’s not going to happen no matter what you do.
  3. If you feel compelled to get involved, understand this. Law enforcement officers are taught that a DV call is particularly volatile and dangerous…for the officer. The violence can turn on the neutral party. You could end up as a target for the violent partner. You could experience your student turning on you as well. In class, at your dojo this may not be physical but, it doesn’t have to be for her to wreak havoc. Hold to a Do No Harm rule. Ask yourself if your involvement will make things better and how it might make things worse.
  4. This is not your fight. It is her fight. And sometimes people die. She can do all the “right” things and not survive.

If she dies, or is seriously injured in a violent encounter you are going to take impact. The voices in your head will be noisy. They will want you to feel blame and fault. These voices are going to sound off in other situations as well. It’s part of the territory for the emotional make-up of a lot of people who go into the self-defense instructor profession. Get to know your glitches and blind spots. Cultivate a relationship with a violence industry colleague to whom you can extend a deep level of trust. This needs to be someone you can talk to openly and without filters. Let this relationship be strong enough to function as a crucible for conversations about your glitches and possible blind spots. Cultivating this relationship should live in your thinking as a Hard Rule. The crucible relationship will be a critical component for hanging on to your sanity in an industry which daily addresses the elements of humanity most people avoid.

*Trust and Confidentiality. This is one of the murkier issues. If you tell someone, will it help? If you violate her trust will it be for a better outcome overall?


Re-Thinking Resistance Part II – Rory Miller

Sports Resistance.

Sports resistance is what you will get in competition. It isn’t full resistance, no matter what you tell yourself. In any competition, there is a balance between trying to win and trying not to lose. The desire to win requires taking some risks and those risks create vulnerabilities.

Full Resistance.

Full resistance is an unbalanced version of sports resistance. This is when a competitor focuses entirely on defense, putting all of his or her energy into denying your technique with no offensive attempts at all. It can be frustrating to face, and sometimes it’s a trap, cf Muhammad Ali’s “rope-a-dope” strategy.

Specific Resistance.

The resistance levels in this essay are arranged in order of difficulty, not in order of applicability. The last seven levels have mirrored a progression from training to sport. But this last, hardest level goes back to training and specifically to bad training.

Specific resistance only occurs when a specific technique is expected. It is always an egotistic power play. Any technique— throw, strike, lock, stab, combo, whatever— can always be made to fail if the practitioner knows what is coming and chooses to directly resist. When a beginners is learning the basics of a lock, anyone can disrupt his or her process. Even when an expert is demonstrating a technique, the technique can be disrupted. A boxer demonstrating a response to a jab will almost always get nailed if his partner feints the jab and throws a hook.

Specific resistance is extremely unrealistic. Outside of training you will never have both foreknowledge and an agreement not to adapt. It is a pure training artifact, but it is very easy to laugh off, “Are you saying I attacked you wrong?”

There are two advanced versions of specific resistance that can ruin a lesson or even harm an entire system.

The first is Gaming the Drill.

People are naturally competitive. Often an egotistic partner, instructor, or role player will not let a solution work. A role player might simply choose to never let de-escalation succeed. A partner who sneaks a weapon into a grappling drill. A scenario facilitator who punishes a student for the safe, easy and tactically superior option of simply leaving a dangerous situation. It is imperative that partners understand how to play a proper bad guy.

The second advanced version of specific resistance is Inbreeding.

It follows this pattern:

  1. There is a tactical or self-defense problem that actually exists e.g. pushed up against a wall with a knife at the throat.
  2. You have a workable solution to the problem.
  3. The person playing the threat comes up with another way to present the same problem such that the solution no longer works.
  4. You come up with a workable solution to the new presentation.
  5. Repeat steps 3&4. Possibly forever.

Within one or at most two repetitions, you will have a solution to a problem that never has and will never exist in the real world but is required for rank testing. It creates an excessive complexity that can make an entire system unworkable.

To be continued.


Teaching Self-Defense in the Face of Domestic Violence Part I – Tammy Yard McCracken

As a topic, Domestic Violence is complex. There is a multitude of research on the causes, the correlations and intervention strategies aimed at reducing the incidence of domestic violence. In the United States, for example, statisticians generally settle on 1 in 3 women will experience some sort of domestic violence in their lifetime. This is an unsettling statistic and has driven funding and research for decades. Add to this, 1 in 10 female homicide victims are murdered by someone known the them, frequently by a former or current domestic partner.  These stats are generated by a variety of sources and the numbers do vary. Do not take them as solid numbers but rather as a context for the prevalence of the dynamic.

It is also important to shift the numbers out of a statistical context and into the reality of people. The next time you are out in public, look for three women. By the numbers, one of these three is in a domestically violent relationship. If there are six women in the group, two of them are being abused by their partners, etc. Put real people to the numbers and the gravitas shifts.

This will be a two-part article series and is the product of conversations I have had with self-defense instructors from different parts of the globe over the past few years. The question comes up: how do I handle a student in a domestic violence situation?

I am glad the question is being asked because what lives under the question in many of the instructors I have talked with is an instinct that the instructor should be doing something to help her.

-Note: I am using the feminine pronoun for ease of writing. This does not negate that there are men in domestic violence situations but instead reflects the provenance in women is significantly higher based on what is reported.

To get started, we need to look at why domestic violence is the cycle that it is. The abuser lashes out, she gets hit/beaten, etc. In the aftermath the abuser expresses remorse – which does not always mean accepting responsibility – the couple puts the violence behind them and then the gradual tension begins again until there is another physical outburst. Even if she leaves, she typically comes home in the remorse stage.

Our discussion of why this happens is going to be a short and, as a result, an incomplete review. There are entire books written on just this piece of the topic. Here we go:

As humans, we are deeply social creatures. It is part of our survival blueprint. In hostile territory a single human’s survival chances are questionable. With a tribe, survival chances increase. For the individual to survive, the tribe must survive. The family unit is interpreted by primitive brain function as our current concept of tribe. Add to this, the social and cultural ideas of family structure, which are equally powerful and programmed into our thinking from birth. This is the concept of the Monkey Brain.

Instability in our tribe is interpreted as a threat. Remember, if the tribe doesn’t survive – you die. If the tribe is unstable or at risk of falling apart, then your survival is threatened. These perceptions are deeply unconscious and primitive. Logic based conversation will rarely be enough to overpower these instincts.

All of this adds up to two things.

  1. The pattern of domestic violence becomes one of the defining scripts of the relationship. As the cycle continues, the Monkey Brain see this as stability. “My tribe is stable; therefore, it will survive. Tribe survives, I survive.”
    2. Leaving means the tribe is no longer stable. The family disintegrates = the tribe disintegrates and this feels like a powerful threat to personal survival.

Logically, we all know this doesn’t make sense. Domestic violence can be fatal. It is clear the abuse is a direct threat to the physical well-being of the victim.

BUT…and this is a very powerful and important “but”… the Monkey Brain and the more primitive survival mechanisms see the pattern rather than the physical violence. The pattern indicates that whatever the victim of domestic violence is doing, it is working exceedingly well.

How? Simple. Each time there is a physical altercation, a slap, a beating, the primitive survival mechanism in her brain notices something very important “I am still alive. Whatever I did during this violence, it kept me alive.”

Being alive is more important than being injured. If the decision she is making gets her hurt but doesn’t kill her, the unconscious primitive mind will see this as a good decision and will work to have her repeat this choice in similar future events.

The pattern of domestic violence becomes a script defining stability and survival. Leaving and stopping the pattern is experienced as a powerful threat to survival.

So the pattern continues and for self-defense instructors, this pattern can be deeply frustrating. If you teach, you likely teach because you want to help people lead stronger, happier, healthier lives. You want people to find strength and the internal fortitude for liberty v. oppression. Knowing one of your students leaves class only to return home to a situation of violence and presumed oppression is vexing enough to keep you up at night.

Managing that is for article number two.


Training and the Joy of Cake – Peter Jones

I attend seminars, lots of seminars. The first year of full time work, post-university, I estimate that I spent the equivalent of a month’s wage on seminars. I recent years I’ve become much more discerning over what seminars I attend. Seminars have to have value.

Value in terms of information learned, techniques practiced, principles absorbed, bruises earned. But there’s more to it than that. There’s the social aspect, friendships forged, laughs shared, stories swapped and deals made. And then there is cake.

Until recently I have found no pleasure in cooking, it was just a necessary chore. However, I love food, my abdomen gives evidence of that despite how much I train. I have great respect for those with the ability to create dishes that tempt the senses and pleasure the palate. I suppose I’ve just never had the time or inclination to get good at cooking and I was terminally uninspired by food preparation in school and at home. The food I create is bland and simple, but functional. I am a true product of university where beer is more important than nutrition and cutlery should not be necessary as we eat with one hand and scribble annotations to lecture notes with the other.

As an aside, and there is a link here, I’m also a Star Wars fan, I love Star Wars. The wise words of Master Yoda frequently feature into my dojo teachings and I’ve read too many of the novels to recount. So my best friend bought me the Star Wars Cookbook for my birthday one year. Yes, there’s a Star Wars Cookbook, two of them actually. Well being the man of manners that I am, if I am going to be bought such a thing then I am going to appreciate it. So, with trepidation I had a try of Wookiee Cookies. Like a kata, I copied the recipe precisely initially. Over time I’ve experimented. These cookies seem to have become a trademark of sorts. In the not-too-distant past my club held a first aid update day to which I brought some of these cookies. I recall vividly our teacher talking us through anaphylaxis whilst chomping on yet another cookie! I have to say I started to take pride and pleasure in my cookies and so my adventurousness began.

My current love is making cheesecake, chocolate orange cheesecake, Aero mint cheesecake, crème egg cheesecake. I’ve never had one fail, and I starting taking my cookies or my cheesecake to seminars. The third Bunkai Bash saw a bake-off of sorts and I would like to believe our respective deserts were the highlight of the visit for Kris Wilder from West Seatle Karate Academy.

or me, the social aspect is every bit as important as the training aspect of classes, seminars, camps and residential weekends. I have formed what I would like to believe is an extended family through different organisations and through meeting and training with fellow martial artists over an almost thirty-year plus period. Everybody brings something to the table, be it humour, experience, wisdom, knowledge, philosophy. Me, I bring cheesecake.

Creating these dishes is actually therapeutic, I enjoy doing them. I take pleasure in friends taking pleasure from them. I’m humbled at being asked specifically to bring my cakes to seminar. I’m gratified that they’re seen as part of the event. And after a day of training, sitting down and taking in guilt-free and gorgeous-tasting calories is therapeutic too.

Training should be a joy. Cake is a joy. Make cake part of your training!


Re-Thinking Resistance Part I- Rory Miller

Years ago I wrote an article, The Myth of the Fully Resisting Opponent ( In that article, I was ranting. Largely because the force I dealt with working the jail was so unrelated to what I saw or felt in sport. The most extreme full-contact combat sport was as close to a violent assault as non-contact sport sparring was to the most extreme full-contact combat sport. The article was a rant, and while it was pertinent and accurate, it wasn’t actually very useful.

In this article, I want to explore resistance, both in training and real life.

Any time you apply force, whether in practice or in danger, that force must overcome some level of resistance.

In training, those levels can be described as:

  • Cooperative
  • Compliant
  • Situational
  • Scaled
  • Directed
  • Sport
  • Specific

In real life, the resistance levels are:

  • Cooperative
  • Compliant
  • Undecided
  • Passive
  • Active
  • Assaultive
  • Lethal
  • Asymmetrical

Training Levels of Resistance

In training, the goal is to build skills. The level of resistance should be geared toward maximizing the learning process but can easily be perverted to manufacturing an illusory level of competence.

Cooperative Resistance.

The cooperative level isn’t a level of resistance at all. Almost the opposite. This is the student who throws himself. Or who stumbles back before the demo punch has even landed. This is the student who responds to the “no-touch knockout.”

I’m going to try hard not to talk about systems, styles or instructors here. Kicking over a tribal hornet’s nest is fun, but rarely (if ever) makes for good communication. I’ve seen an instructor teach his students that, “Your body knows that two pieces of matter cannot occupy the same space, and so when I thrust my palm toward your face, your body has no choice but to fall.” His students would actually throw themselves onto their backs if faced with anything that looked like a palm heel strike. That technique worked on nobody except his own students.

I’ve seen students so damaged by previous instruction that they fell down before I had actually touched them.

Either the students are faking, or they are not. If the students are faking, it’s pretty dark stuff. The student has been taught that in order to get along, he or she must victimize themselves. The instructor applies the technique and the student responds though there is no reason. This prepares the student for failure and it allows the person who applies the technique as well as any observers to have a completely unfounded faith in the technique and the system.

If the student is not faking, it may be worse. It implies an extreme level of brainwashing. Brainwashing can be quick. The students who want “secrets” and “magic” are especially vulnerable and can be conditioned to fall in a matter of minutes.

This is an abomination. There is no learning advantage to this level of “resistance.”

Compliant Resistance.

Compliant resistance is simply going along with the technique. It has two good training purposes.

When a student is first learning a skill or technique, excessive resistance can convince them that a good technique doesn’t work. A good BJJ or judo partner must let a beginner get the armbar at first so that the beginner learns the flow of the technique. Same goes for a rookie officer learning a handcuffing technique.

This is appropriate at a very specific, early time in training. Once the technique is understood, resistance has to increase so that the rookie learns how to overcome resistance.

Compliant resistance becomes toxic when it spreads throughout the system. Let’s face it an instructor can look really good if he or she only works with compliant partners. Some instructors, consciously or not, start rewarding compliance and punishing resistance. Compliance can then quickly spread through a class or even an entire system. The system quickly becomes useless outside of that particular system.

Compliance is also appropriate when it becomes too late to resist safely. Resisting a throw after you are in the air and hurtling to the ground can result in serious injury (writes the man who dislocated his own shoulder to deny an opponent a point). This mostly applies to well-executed locks and throws and especially throws from locks.

It’s a safety rule and a good one. It doesn’t become toxic unless the students are told that all locks and throws are equally dangerous regardless of quality and they start practicing going along with even poor technique.

To be continued.


The Angela Meyer Interview Part V – Erik Kondo

Erik: I think that much of self-defense can be thought of in terms of boundary setting. IMO, boundary setting is comprised of the three elements of Respect, Communication, and Enforcement. Most people think that all physical self-defense is Enforcement.

But I think physical self-defense can be divided into two overlapping categories:

  1. Physical actions that are primarily Communication.
  2. Physical actions that are primarily Enforcement.

Defense actions that are “resistance” based are really Communication. These actions send a message of non-compliance. But Enforcement requires actions that go beyond resistance and actually “force” resolution by injuring and/or disabling the attacker.

I think that many times WSD instructors and students confuse these two different types of physical actions. For example, Resistance/Communication is only effective against lowly motivated attackers who are looking for victims that will not resist. But a highly motivated attacker will not be stopped by Resistance/Communication. This type of person must be dealt with through the use of true Force/Enforcement.

Problems come about when the Defender employs Resistance/Communication when she should be using Force/Enforcement or the Defender uses Force/Enforcement when Resistance/Communication would have been sufficient.

Therefore, effective self-defense requires knowing the difference between Communication and Enforcement and when which type is required.

What are your thoughts on what I said? Can you think of specific examples of what I am referring to?

Angela: I agree completely and really like the language you’ve coined around this.  I think so often when we are talking about Women’s Self Defense, we have this idea of being a badass on the streets and being able to “I wish a motherfucker would” stare down an attacker, when the reality is, most attacks will happen from men you know.  AKA, highly motivated, or driven by emotional content.

So, how do we teach this in WSD classes/ workshops?  Like any type of Self Defense or Martial Arts that is taught, there are layers to the teaching.  For the foundational classes or “one off” workshops, in Women’s Self Defense, I think the most important take away is boundary setting through physical intensity and becoming more familiar with limbic brain processes.

For those who continue to train and become more serious, the key word is “stress inoculation”.  I do not think this is just physical, although I do think physical is the “gateway.” Physical, mental, emotional training is all connected.  For example, I have trained in Muay Thai,  Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling for many years.  I think I’m highly competent in the physical movements during training.  That said, I still struggle with freezing if my brain goes into a limbic state. Consistent training and stress inoculation in a safe and controlled environment has greatly helped me to access the ability to act in these situations instead of freeze, but I do still have a lot of work to do.

Circling back to your question, I think we must start with the psychological realm (also knowing that when we are talking about “Women’s Self Defense” we must take into consideration different cultures, socio economics, age, well/sick, etc., and not lump all women into one category)

How do we live our everyday lives?  This needs to be brought to light… day one… through some type of stress inoculation.

Once a woman has entered this realm, then I think introducing weapons into the equation is necessary, since 99 percent of the time, women will not be successful in “beating up” a larger man even if he is “untrained” and she is “trained”.  It’s just bullshit to think that can happen. It’s a Hollywood mentality.

I do believe learning to fight and becoming stress inoculated is the first step, because without this, it’s not realistic to add on a weapon.  If I don’t understand “push/pull” energy, if I freeze when I’m hit, if I lay down and die, a weapon will certainly not save me.

I think it is extremely important and intellectually honest to make the distinction between lowly and highly motivated attackers.  This is why I think it is bullshit to teach “moves” in a WSD workshop or class and insinuate these “moves” will save you. This work is much deeper and complex than earning moves. I’m going to bring it back to working with psychology (especially, limbic response) through physical, emotional and mental stress inoculation.

Erik: I think that honesty and authenticity are two qualities that are missing in much selfdefense instruction.

I have a theory that instinctive movements are influenced greatly by the person’s emotional state. And a certain group of movements are consistent with the emotion of FEAR and another is consistent with the emotion of ANGER. Many of these movements are opposites. For example, the emotion of anger creates movements that bring someone closer to the person that she is afraid of. I call these IN Movements. While the emotion of fear drives the person to want to move away. I call these OUT Movements.

When you consider many physical self-defense techniques, you will notice that many of the technically effective ones require the defender to “attack the attacker” by closing/shutting him down or engaging in close quarter strikes, joint locks or chokes. What this means is that the defender needs to move closer to the person that she fears. These movements are not consistent with the defender’s primary emotion of fear. They are consistent with anger.

In other words, regardless of the theoretical effectiveness of the technique or how well the student can perform the technique when not fearful. She will most likely not be able to perform these techniques when in a fearful state. On the other hand, she is more likely to execute techniques that are consistent with being afraid such as kicking and pushing away in order to create the opportunity to escape.

For example, making a fist and punching is an anger action. Whereas an open-handed push away is more likely to be a fear action. This is not a question of which movement is more effective. It is a question of which movement is more likely to be executed given the projected emotional state of the defender. If the action is intended to be used by a female defender against an attempted stranger attack, it is highly likely that fear will be woman’s primary emotion. Therefore, those techniques that involved the woman pulling IN her attacker to choke/gouge/bite him are unlikely to be carried out, regardless of their underlying effectiveness.

It is for this reason that WSD self-defense instructors are constantly trying to get women to “get mad” when simulating a self-defense scenario. Or they use the analogy of the “protective mother” fighting to save her children. The instructors intuitively recognize that anger is an essential element for success in their fighting methodology. I think these instructors also need to understand is that they need to teach an alternative methodology that is suitable for the fearful defender too. It is not enough to only provide students with an Anger Toolbox. They must also have a Fear Toolbox. And students need to understand how their emotions are likely to override the trained movements that are not consistent with their emotional state.

here are small group of movements that are consistent with both the anger and fear state. I think that the hammer fist striking qualifies because you can use it in anger and also in fear to hit someone away with or without a weapon.

What are your thoughts on IN and OUT Movements?

Angela: I am in complete agreement with this theory and from my experience in teaching Women’s Self Defense, most women who have been through traumatic experiences, express anger and rage when training, because when the actual attack took place, they froze in fear.  They use mottos like “never again mother fucker (s)” Anger is a very powerful energy and when used properly can fuel a sense of fearlessness needed to create “IN” movements.

I also think it is important to use anger as a tool for women to find voice and authenticity in the world.  A woman who has been told to shut up and look pretty her whole life can find a lot of power through physical modalities that ask her to become bigger, aggressive and not selfconscious. That said, as someone who is a fighter and struggles with anxiety, I know first-hand that when put in a fight or flight situation, where huge adrenaline dumps are a factor, my fear or “OUT” movements are dominant.

In my most recent fight, I was able to override anxiety, by changing my eyes to “mean eyes” and sounding off in a very scary way every time i would strike.  These “anger” actions made me feel more powerful, therefore actually physically exhibiting more power.  This tactic worked beautifully in round one, but in the second round where her forward pressure didn’t stop and I was met with a situation that I had not planned for, fear became my dominant response, my eyes changed and I had more freeze responses, not able to think or take action.  After round two in the corner my coach sat me down and basically slapped me awake with his words, “What the fuck are you doing?  You are not scared of her.  Change your eyes right now.”  With just the coaching and shifting my state through my gaze and energy, I was able to translate the fear back into anger which felt more powerful.

These shifts take time, and self-awareness practice.  I think this is vital in teaching women’s self defense.  How do we, or can we in a limbic state, choose how you want to show up?  What are tools that can get us there?  Changing your eyes from deer in headlights to slits? Changing facial expressions and posture?

I think we start here and then move to other physical techniques that address the reality in an attack most women who are untrained or very little trained are going to have the natural response of fear.

Erik: In the example of your ring fight. When you are feeling Angry what images flash into your mind? And when you are feeling Fearful, how do the images change?

What do you “see” happening, if only for a moment?

By images, I mean rapid flashes of the future within the context of the fight. These images are part of your emotional mind communicating with you.

 Angela:  “In the example of your ring fight. When you are feeling Angry what images flash into your mind?”

Blood.  Lion with sharp teeth devouring its prey. Goddess Kali. Predator animal that kills without concern or thought for another’s humanity.

“And when you are feeling Fearful, how do the images change?”

I see myself scared…more as a little girl. Tender. tears. an animal who plays dead for survival purposes.

“What do you “see” happening, if only for a moment?”

First round of last fight.  Saw me as the predator.  Kill shots. Dominating.  Out for blood.  Invincible

Second round of last fight: Saw her crazy eyes.  Constant pressure forward without technique, but just animalistic aggression. I saw myself getting mentally tired, because I was afraid that physical I could gas out if I was that aggressive.

Third round of last fight:  I saw me losing and didn’t want that outcome. I still didn’t go back to the kill switch, but I was not running.  I saw me winning because I wanted to.

“By images, I mean rapid flashes of the future within the context of the fight. These images are part of your emotional mind communicating with you.”

When angry:  Predator animal.  Wild animal.  Fangs out. ability to kill without concern for humanity or feelings

When afraid. Myself as a little girl. hiding. running. not trusting in my own capacity to fight.

CRGI would like to express our sincere thanks to Angela for this interview.


The Violence Triangle – Clint Overland

Fire needs three things to burn:

  1. Fuel
  2. Heat
  3. Oxygen

Without one of these components, you will never achieve flame.  Remove one of these components and you will stop the combustion.

Violence is a fire. If left unchecked it will consume everything in its path.  One of the main things I teach young Violence Professionals is to be able to spot the sources of the fire.

Whether it is a person or a reaction to a person.

You must be able to remove at least one source of the violence.

I am going to use a situation where you have all three elements of a possible confrontation and try to show you that by thinking before you act you will be able to stop what can destroy everything.

Situation 1

Cell block B

Inmates are beginning to yell and beat on walls. Officer responds

Sees two inmates arguing.  Steps in to further assess the situation.

Confirms that it’s not a set up to harm him.  Has one of the inmates step out of the cell to tell him what is going on. Inmate confirms that he has a problem with several people in the cell do to situations from the street. Officer removes the inmate and places him in another cell.

Situation calms, violence averted.

Simple right. Removed one source and the situation calms.

But what if you are no longer in a controlled environment?

Now let’s look at a much more dynamic situation.

Situation 2.

Barroom full of drunk happy people.  Everyone is having a good time.

Music’s loud people are laughing and enjoying life.

Bouncers on edge. His gut tells him it’s one of those nights.  There is going to be trouble and if he doesn’t watch close the whole damn place will erupt. He watches as there is a pause in the frivolity over in the corner where a group of bikers are partying.  People are moving away and body language is shifting from happy to on edge. He moves over quickly to find out what’s wrong.

Oh, joy of joys. It’s one of the frat rats that come in hitting on the President’s old lady.

Bouncer steps in and attempts to regain control. Hey there kid, you need to come with me right now.

Bouncer doesn’t give the kid a chance to argue. Slips a wrist control on the kid and walks him to the bar.

Shouts behind him. It’s ok guys I got this. Takes the kid to the bar and explains the situation.

Kid apologizes and agrees that it’s best if he leaves. Pays his tab and begins to walk out.  Everything is ok, right?

Not even close.

The bikers are pissed and they want to stomp the kid. Bouncer walks the kid out and faces off with the club. Hey guys, there is no need for this. We’ve all been young and stupid right.

Bouncer holds them at the door just long enough for the kid to drive off. I tell you what. I will buy your next round, what do you say. Bouncer knows that one or two of the members have turned and walked out the back door but he’s got to deal with the fire in front of him right now

The club agrees and returns to their corner.  Bouncer tells the waitress to take a couple of buckets over to the club. Then steps outside to see if the kid got away.

Club members are walking back in.

Bouncer checks the parking lot.  Nope no bodies.  Whew that was close.

Now we’ve looked at two situations that one thing was removed from the equation.  So, let’s examine a conflict with all three of the fire triangle in full swing.

Situation 3

Again, another Barroom.  This time there is no Bouncer.

Hard bellied Blond is on the dance floor.  Her husband is watching her shake and move. So is everyone else. A vulture (individual that swoops in on a woman hoping for an easy score) wings his way over to her.

Now the Blond is a fire starter. She likes to see her husband get jealous and save her. Vulture starts dancing with her and the Blonde replies by bumping and grinding all over the Vulture. Husband watches and begins to get super pissed off. Why is that guy trying to hit on his property?

Blonde knows the signs, he’s started to crack his knuckles and stands up. Time for the fun to start.

Husband walks over and blindsides the Vulture with a beer bottle across the skull. Blood flies.

The Vulture goes down. His friends rush over and jump on the husband.

Knife comes out and before you can blink, someone’s intestines are on the floor.

The Blonde screams, it’s the husband’s guts. He falls and the Vulture and crew run.

All because she needed to get her rocks off.

Folks, I have watched and been involved in every single one of these situations.

Now the questions I want to ask you is, “Are you one of the sources needed for violence to start?”

Are your reactions and responses one of the key components for violence to break out when a situation arises? Because if they are, then you are going to be in a continuous shit storm.

There is an adage: Don’t add fuel to the fire.

Well letting your monkey brain overload your hummingbird ass is a sure-fire way to turn a single spark into a full-on conflagration. Any action based in emotions can and will be a fuel source in one form or fashion. Whether it is intended or not.

You are responsible for 99% of the shit storms you get into if you allow yourself to overreact or over exaggerated your responses to stimulus. If you start getting angry because someone doesn’t respond to your demands or bow to your wants then you are the one responsible for any bad that happens.

  • Screaming at people has never accomplished anything other than to piss the other party off.
  • Demanding that others do what you say without the power to enforce your demands does nothing but add heat to the mix.
  • The threat of Properly Applied Violence is only useful if you have the capacity and capabilities to enforce it.

Think about it this way. Violence is either the best way for you to end the situation or the worst way to receive an education

  • Screaming at people.
  • Demands
  • Overreacting
  • Emotional outburst

All the above are fuel in some form or fashion. The Violence Triangle requires three things, same as the Fire Triangle.

  1. The Monkey Brain is the oxygen.
  2. Emotional reactions are the heat.
  3. Actions are the fuel.

Remove any of these three elements and you can remove the threat of violence.  Add to any of these elements and you will be engulfed in the outcome.


The Angela Meyer Interview Part IV – Erik Kondo

Erik: I have noticed a common complaint among instructors who teach WSD. They complain there is a lack of interest from most women for participating in self-defense classes. There are bursts of interest that usually coincide with a highly publicized assault, but in general, women don’t seem to be motivated to take classes.
What are your thoughts on this issue and how do you feel more women can be encouraged to get involved in self-defense training?

Angela: I feel like it’s all about the environment created. We live in a world that is still operating with gender norms and socialized patterns of behavior that differ for men and women. I definitely see “bursts of interest” coinciding with current events, (Our recent administration has caused a huge rise in WSD in Washington DC), but I also see something more.

Within any Movement, people need to be inspired by the “why.” Why will it benefit a woman to train in Self Defense? To make her safer from a statistically low violent attack? To have better skills to deal with assholes on the street who say shit? For therapeutic reasons from previous trauma? To burn calories?

When we are dealing with people who have busy lives, limited resources, schedules, and proximity to training facilities, the question becomes what will be the motivating factor(s) to commit? I’m not sure the latter reasons are a strong enough catalyst, especially when we are dealing with a significant “intimidation” factor for most women.

For instance, I know it is MUCH safer to wear my bike helmet biking through DC, but I don’t always wear it, because I forget or I don’t want to carry it around. The potential risk is not enough catalyst for me, but I wholeheartedly agree wearing it could prevent serious injury if I had an accident.

But, if for me, wearing a bike helmet had a direct effect on my everyday life, I may be more serious about making that happen.

Or take a practice like meditation. At some point, I need to directly understand how a daily meditation practice will positively affect my life. If I don’t believe it will, am I likely to do it? I may “will” myself for a period of time, but if I don’t have my own “why” and a direct experience for my everyday life, I would be less likely to make the time to meditate.

These are random analogies, but…when we are dealing with Women’s Self Defense, we are also dealing with a high level of intimidation, lack of comfort, and fear on top of all the other stuff.

So how can we create a “why” that has an immediate effect on their everyday lives? Because I wholeheartedly believe it does. (boundary setting) This is where Self Defense begins WAY beyond learning techniques and how to fight. As a teacher, I use the physical modalities to tap into something much deeper and shed light on daily patterns, belief systems, mannerisms and habits.

I also do not think anything exists in a vacuum. The physical training is a necessity to tap into the deeper work.

I come full circle in answering your question. I see the “trend” of women’s self-defense rising and I see out of this trend, more women seriously interested and committed to training in Self Defense. I think this starts with the way we teach. Not wishy washy, “Sex in the City” shit, but some serious physical intensity, AND the encouragement to pay attention to what bubbles to the surface…aka: self-awareness. What happens when you are physically uncomfortable? Do you habitually say, “I’m sorry”? Do you feel self-conscious when you yell? Do you love hitting shit? Do you make excuses? This kind of awareness and training has a direct effect on women’s everyday lives because it is all integrated. Every relationship: work, intimate, family, strangers, has a direct correlation to this deeper awareness of how we are showing up in our lives. (boundary setting) I’ve found that women get this. They are inspired by it. They find a “why” in it, which inspires them to find the time, resources, commitment for continued training.

Erik: You brought up several points that I think are worth expanding up.

Self-defense training is a matter of the Risk vs. Reward a/ka Cost vs. Benefit equation. In this case, for most women, the Benefit is not worth the Cost. Where the Benefits are defined solely in terms of dealing with some future unlikely stranger attack and/or verbal harassment and the Costs are the immediate use of time, money, and the intimidation created by participating in the class itself.
In this case, the immediate and certain Costs outweigh the future and uncertain Benefits.

Question #1: How would you describe the female “Intimidation” aspect? And how can it be reduced?

Question #2: Many in the Self-Defense Industry (The Merchants of Fear) use FEAR as the means to circumvent the Cost/Benefit equation. They use the motivation of fear as the primary driver for getting women to attend classes. This situation results in students attending a class or two as a means to reduce their fear (Fear Management). But as soon as their level fear dissipates, so does their desire for training.

I think you are talking about expanding upon the Reward/Benefit side of the equation so that it becomes greater than the associated Risk/Cost. Not being attacked/harassed is a Negative Reward in that you get the reward when something doesn’t happen. And most people in safe communities get this reward automatically. Dealing with an actual attack and/or harassment has a negative association since you still have been attacked and/or harassed.

On the other hand, Positive Rewards are tangible benefits that have an immediate benefit. Some of these benefits revolve around creating more respectful interpersonal relationships, greater self-esteem and confidence, improved self-awareness, effective boundary setting skills, and more. These expanded benefits can be obtained without having to actually be attacked.

Question #3: In my opinion, the commonly used Self-Defense Training is like an Insurance Policy analogy provides the wrong impression. The implication is that the Payout only happens if/when you get attacked and there is a continual associated cost. I think Self-Defense Training is more like your health. The more effort you put into improving your health, the greater the benefit regardless of if you get ill or receive an injury.

You said: “Self Defense begins WAY beyond learning techniques and how to fight. As a teacher, I use the physical modalities to tap into something much deeper and shed light on daily patterns, belief systems, mannerisms and habits.”

I think this is the root of an issue that causes great confusion in the Self-Defense Industry. The physical fighting aspect of self-defense is only a fractional part of complete Self-Defense (personal safety). Therefore, it should also be a fractional part of self-defense training. But physical training is also a vehicle needed to reach the student’s authentic self. In other words, self-defense training that is not physical is likely to only reach into the student’s cognitive mind. While this aspect is very important, it takes physical training to reach into the student’s nonconscious processes and emotional mind. And not just any kind of physical training will do that. It takes authentic physical training to access the student’s authentic self.

Question #4: It is here that opinions start to diverge. What fraction of self-defense training should be physical and what fraction be non-physical? What should the non-physical fraction entail? What constitutes “authentic physical training”? What are the diminishing returns of physical training? In other words, once the student has received a certain quantity and quality of physical training, does it start to have less and less ability to reach the student’s authentic self? And if so, how can the physical training itself be modified to keep providing solid returns on investment? Is it necessary to replicate the actual circumstances of an attack to create authentic physical training, or depending upon the individual involved, can authenticity be created WITHOUT making the training as realistic as possible?

In a nut shell, I think the authenticity of the student’s response created is more important than how it is actually created. That leaves open for a wide variety of different methodologies for physical training, but they should produce a relatively narrow result.

These are general questions. It is not necessary for you to answer them all. Please feel free to respond as you wish.

Angela: RE: Question #1. My initial response would be, more female teachers. We are primal creatures who see pattern recognition. When I see a woman teaching, I also see the possibility of me being like that. If I see a man, that’s great too. I have had numerous male instructors and coaches that are phenomenal, but there is also an unconscious understanding that I can never be that for obvious physiological reasons.

RE Question #2. YES a million times to this paragraph. After all of the Women’s Self Defense workshops/events that I teach, I make sure to spend time talking to each woman or groups of women and just listen. what I am hearing as a common thread is, they love the fact, that I make Self Defense not just about the physical stuff, but also applicable to their everyday lives. The majority of women in these workshops have a personal “aha” moment about how they are showing up in their daily life, and “in turn” asking the question, “why?” From this awareness they can choose consciously to do something different. There is extreme power in this conscious act of choosing.

As a teacher, I am not concerned about pushing women to their physical red lines…. I’m a natural at it. I demand it of myself. I ask others to hold me accountable. I tell them at the beginning, I am not there to be their friend or get them to “like me,” My job is to ruffle feathers and if they felt uncomfortable, or hated me just a little bit, I did my job. I do not teach anything physical, without understanding a “why” to the technical part of my teaching, therefore I don’t feel any sense of being a “poser” in the physical realm.

From that “real” and tangible space, I can ask these deeper questions without fear of being “too soft”, “woo woo” or conceptual.

RE Question #3: A million times yes to this statement.

RE: Question #4: I think my answer to the latter questions is, Live relentlessly into the questions, not the answers. Be okay with, “I don’t know.” As a Buddhist Chaplain, End of Life care counselor, and hospice worker, the “money” answer would be….“I don’t know” It takes gritty courage to live into the questions, without a need to find ground or certainty beneath us. Because the most honest answer is, there are not hard and fast rules. We are all going to die and thinking we can out-smart, out-buy, or out-control, that reality will always bite us in the ass.

I also understand this way of thinking is on a much broader and conceptual reality plane. We as human beings want and need answers and structure “Knowing and controlling” are not necessarily limiting, unless bastardized into truth and concrete “answers.” So at this point, it is vital to have the conversations, communicate and practice. Being willing to try and fail, or try and get feedback, or try and succeed, it necessary.


[decisiontree id=”4868

A Gaping Wound in Self Protection Training for the Care Industry – Peter Jones

Let’s start by stating some facts on self protection law

  1. Boxers, Karate practitioners, Taekwondo people etc must register their hands and feet with the Police as weapons
  2. Martial artists are not allowed use their skills in self defence


Now given that you’re reading Conflict Manager you may well be a serious martial artists well versed in self protection law. My guess is you won’t tolerate bullshit so you will have read the above with your mouth agape, wondering how someone could make these statements. Please allow me to explain.

I should start by explaining my background. I’ve been training in martial arts for over twenty-seven years and have amassed a variety of grades in different arts including some dan grades. These days my emphasis is very much on pragmatic self protection and as a result I’ve developed a very fine bullshit filter. I’m also a specialist nurse in the NHS working in emergency care.

These two disciplines of emergency nursing and martial arts compliment and influence each other, but that’s an article for another day. I also do a little agency work on the side. All of my nursing roles require annual mandatory training and this includes conflict management. For my main job I get an hour every other year. But this particular agency insisted on my doing a full day and had no interest in my credentials or experience. So I did it. Just to “tick the box.”

My suspicion is that they put the training out to tender and gave the contract to the cheapest company.

The day started well. The lady presenting was confidant, articulate, practiced and prepared. We covered the usual things; causes of aggression, types of language, a model for de-escalation and so on.

After lunch we covered law as it relates to self protection. Now, I knew going in that she needed to be careful, on my iPhone is the Kindle app, containing the latest Star Wars novel and the books of Mr Mark Dawes and Mr Leigh Simms. The latter two lack the entertainment value of x-wings engaging TIE fighters or indeed the deep discussions on ethics, actions and The Force, but they are the foremost authorities on self protection and the law and their books are very accessible. I keep them to hand for quick reference for when I’m teaching this material.

Our presenting lady started well in the right place, 1967 Criminal Law Act and all that. She got a little confused over the implications of imbibing alcohol and self protection but we can write that off as irrelevant to nurses on duty (we hope.), but then without warning or relation to anything previous she dropped the bombshell: anyone that does martial arts, Karate, boxing or whatever has to register their hands and feet with the police as weapons. Furthermore, us martial artists can’t use our skills in self protection.

Those that know me know that at times I’m as subtle as being whacked around the head by a lemon, where said lemon has been wrapped around a brick. I lost it.

I would like to think that normally I am an articulate, and I would hope erudite, person I think I simply declared “that’s utter tosh!”

But she persisted. We were clearly disrupting the class at this point so I gave her my business card and invited her to e-mail me the reference to these supposed “laws” and said she was welcome to peruse my iPhone Kindle library.

I wish I could say that I was exaggerating all of this using artistic licence in my writing for effect. But in the immortal words of Han Solo “it’s is true, all of it.” I worry about how many people she’s fed this misinformation too. I genuinely worry that someone might have some workable skills developed over a number of years in the dojo and now have the fear to use them when it matters due to the supposed consequences.

And then we did the practical session. Oh hell! I suspect you wouldn’t believe me if I did explain what she taught us, and again I didn’t hold back my opinions on it. She maintains that the techniques were endorsed by her son who is in the SAS or Royal Marines or Spetsnaz or something. I maintain that they were based around concepts that all sensible instructors dropped years ago. They were devoid of principles. Several times I asked about context. Was our attacker a 19 year-old six-foot-three unit with their brain addled by M-Cat? Or were they a frail 85 year old lady with a screaming urine infection? In my job both are possible. She wouldn’t even answer my question. (As a point of interest, one of my Aikido Sensei was a retired mental health nurse, his answer is to knock out the 85 year old and share a coffee with M-Cat boy. I think he’s joking, but I’m honestly not sure!)

So, what do we learn from this? Well primarily, if you pay with bananas then you’ll get monkeys. A well trained monkey might have been a very effective trainer but unfortunately this particular paid primate wasn’t well trained and was repeating how she’d been trained. Sadly I don’t know what we can do about it, aside from continuing to be the paragons of correct information and effective methods.

For reasons I won’t go into, I feel that there is a chronic wound in the way that (most) front-line NHS staff are training to deal with conflict. On this occasion the wound was gaping wide open.