Book Review – ‘Extreme Adventures at the Highest Temperatures on Earth’ by Ranulph Feinnes.

I read this whilst on holiday recently in the Canary Islands where it was fairly hot for the time of year. To be fair I have been to some incredibly hot countries and experienced extreme temperatures so I can feel some of what Ranulph Feinnes writes about.

I will admit he is one of my heroes and I have read a lot of his books so I am a little biased. I really enjoyed reading it, its a tremendous collection of stories, some are recreated from previous books and articles. I do not see this as a downside as this time Ranulph goes into much more detail and the Kindle version, which you can read on a laptop too, was free.

The main focus of the book is his time attached to the Sultanate of Oman fighting Marxist rebels. I have read a little of this before but this time with much greater depth into the social and political conditions and how cultures, language and diet are affected by heat. This is true when he describes how he and his companions recreated the journey up the River Nile, another epic expedition fraught with a huge variety of dangers all associated with the heat.

If you want examples of resilience and determination, Sir Ranulph Feinnes has this by the bucketful, it was a compelling read and excellent for a holiday read on the sunbed soaking up the sun. Working and training in heat presents tremendous problems and I learned some interesting ways of minimizing the affects that I did not know before, Like anything else they are obvious when you read them, learning from the environment we are in and what lives there, flora and fauna, is more the territory of my colleague Toby Cowern but there are a couple of gems in this book.

The writing style is at times a bit swashbuckling but I understand why that is having read a lot of his books, there is humour here too as some of the worst encounters with disease, giant insects, snakes, crocodiles and the rest also often have a funny side.

Reviewed by Garry Smith

Problems: Systemic, Situational, Personal – Erik Kondo

Part I

If you want to find a Solution to a Problem, you need to understand the Problem. That means you need to determine what type of problem you are trying to solve. Problems can be primarily Systemic, Situational, Personal, and/or any combination thereof.

A Systemic problem is created by factors that are structural and inherent to the overall system in question. For example, each year in the U.S. approximately 30,000 people die in automobile accidents. These deaths are systemic to the US Driving System and present a Systemic Problem. A Systemic Solution to this Problem will reduce the overall rate of annual deaths. For example, the use of airbags in automobiles is a Systemic Solution that reduced the rate of driving fatalities and serious injuries.

A Systemic Solution may inadvertently cause Situational Problems. For example, airbags that inflate and prevent drivers from exiting the vehicle in water crashes are a Situational Problem that is increased by this Systemic Solution. Situational Problems result from similar circumstances and are a subset of the overall Systemic Problem. A Situational Solution to this Problem would be a means to deflate the airbag rapidly after a crash.

A Personal Problem is the result of primary Personal factors. A person who is a consistently poor driver is more likely to be injured or killed in a driving accident regardless of having an airbag. When the poor driving is the result of drinking and many people do it on a regular basis, it becomes a Systemic Problem. A person who only drinks and drives when other people around him or her consumes alcohol, has a Situational Problem.

Real world problems are made up of factors that are Systemic, Situational, and Personal making solutions difficult to determine. In addition, how a problem is described depends on the viewpoint of the person looking at the Problem. Since solving significant societal problems requires the cooperation of many people, it is important that there is a common language to describe the problems, solutions, and the factors involved.

In other words, an effective Systemic solution to a Systemic problem may be an ineffective Personal solution to a related Personal problem. An effective Personal solution to a Personal problem may be an ineffective Situational solution to a related Situational problem. An effective Situational solution to a Situational problem may be an ineffective Systemic solution to a Systemic problem and so forth. Difficulty arises when people are all talking about different type of problems and different types of solutions, yet they think they are describing a singular problem with a singular solution.

Another way to think of the labels is that Top-Down Problem Solving is a way of focusing on a Systemic problem that effects people. Whereas Bottom-Up Problem Solving starts with focusing on people’s Personal problems. Regardless of the exact terminology used, it is important to recognize that a problem can be viewed in multiple ways and so can its solution.

Bullying, sexual harassment, mass shootings, youth violence, domestic violence, police shootings, rape, robbery, etc. These are all problems in society that create a huge amount of arguing and debate over what the problems and solutions are and are not. But what percentage of the time are the people who are arguing actually focusing on the same thing?

Now For Something Completely Different – David Brown

So this is a draft for the new advert I’m going for next…

Fancy a black belt? Wanna be the talk of your friendship group when you tell ’em: ‘hey look, I can now kick arse?’

Of course you do …

Want to train in complete safety and never get hurt? Then great. We offer no contact martial arts classes … train for that black belt now, without ever getting blood on your uniform.

What about discipline? You need it right?

Come to us, your parents are shit at providing it, let us do their job.

Friends? You need friends? Well come to us, meet new people and, of course, our no contact classes mean that your potential soul mate ain’t gonna get punched in the face!

Nervous? Apprehensive? New people make you uncomfortable? Don’t worry, with our patented ‘SNOWFLAKE-ARAMA’ technology glasses you’ll be able to take part in our classes from the comfort of your own home merely by plugging into your computer.

What about fitness? You wanna get fit right? Okay, well we’ll get you fit. Our 45 minute class comprises 10 mins, bowing to a flag belonging to a country beginning with the same letter as Korea (you see what I did there) good for stretching the back. Followed by 15 mins on the spot warm up routines. Another 10 minutes free sparring, by free we mean you’re free to actually not make contact with anyone… you know what, just come along to our classes – you’ll love ’em.

Stranger danger concern you? Well me too. Mind you Uncle Fred in the corner, there’s a few stories circulating about him. And he’s no stranger – am I being too subtle?

Okay then, in celebration of this subtlety we’d offering every new student who signs with us, a free uniform, free insurance, a bag, a ball, shares in Aston Martin, a star named after you, false aspirations, delusional targets and an afternoon with Uncle Fred.

Confidence low, self esteem deflated? Let us help. Doesn’t matter that your dad’s standing there repeatedly telling you that you’re not very confident. We’ll give you what he is failing to provide!

Got a 3 year old champing at the bit? Constantly jumping in their ball pool making chop-soky, kung fu movie sounds. well bring ’em down! In fact our young-buck-ninja-samurai-future-black-belt-kindergarden-plan is just what he needs. His lack of fine motor skills are well suited to our non contact school and by the time he’s five, he’ll have a shiny new black belt!

Plus! Launching this February our new: feotal-jitsu! That’s right, the moment your imminent offspring starts kicking in the womb, we’ll teach it how to kick with purpose, focus and discipline.

So what are you waiting for we have everything you could possibly want from your martial arts journey and what our bank balance needs …

… and if you’re not too scared I’m happy for you to share the bejeebers out of this:)

Becoming A Contact Professional – Tim Boehlert

I have been doing Hospital Campus security for 8+ years. When I signed on, I immediately undertook a journey into darkness. I found out within a year that I was going to need all the help I could find elsewhere. To that end, I am not a professional Martial Artist in the strictest sense. I learn from the traditional and modern martial arts. I pick and choose those pieces that I know I can use, and I know that I can justify and defend in a court of law. I train and educate myself as too many have excuses not to do so.

For the last 8 years I have sought out a different type of education and a group of professionals that ‘have-been-there-and-done-that’ – a small group of talented trainers, educators, teachers. Not everyone that deals with violence in our profession can articulate or try to explain the what, why and how of things. I trust ALL of the people in CRGI for that, as well as some other like-minded professionals from other areas of expertise – LEO, Corrections, Military trainers.

In this group I totally support and endorse Marc MacYoung, Rory Miller, Peyton Quinn. They were my first clue as to what was out there, and how I was going to deal with it successfully.

What I can bring to the table is dealing with violence in a health-care setting. The way I see it, I deal with the same people that Rory did during his career as a Corrections Officer, but from a different set of guidelines – no in-house training, no support, no weapons, no first-strike capabilities, no striking/kicking/chokes etc., no backup, no staff support most of the time, no real outline of rules, lots of cameras and lots of Monday-morning-quarterbacking AFTER the fact. In short, not a job anyone in their right-mind would take knowing all of these limitations going in. Add to that starting out at 52 years old. Getting the picture now?

So, I can share a lot of stories and examples of things that I have experienced dealing with those people that live alternate lifestyles – drugs, alcohol, abuse etc. Dealing with the physical may be the easiest aspect of this type of job, dealing with the verbal aspect IS one of the hardest, yet most rewarding aspects.

Marc MacYoung once told me that I’d already shown him enough ability with the physical aspects of the job, and he recommended getting more training on the verbal aspect – great advice. To that end, and at the time he and Rory were pairing up on a new concept – Conflict Communications is what they were going to call it. It was going to be a traveling seminar road-show, maybe a book, maybe a DVD. CRGI is one end-result of those years of collaboration by two of the BEST minds in the business of violence.

I own almost every book that Marc has produced, but not too many of his DVD’s – most of his early work was only accessible via VHS tapes. At first, reading Marc’s output was challenging. Not because it was difficult to read, but it WAS difficult to read from a ‘normal’ perspective. I had no real introduction to violence previous to taking this job. I’d led a fairly safe life – due in part to being white, middle-class, and non-violent as my norm. We’ve all seen a lot of violence, particularly of late, but in our previous adult years and teenage high-school years as well. What we were particularly not aware of though was REAL violence. The kind of violence that the mere mention of gives us concern. We don’t want to hear about it, know about, and especially see it or experience it.

Marc started to open that dark cellar door for me. SO, reading his stuff WAS difficult. Not knowing him personally, and reading how cavalier some of his thoughts were WAS disturbing to me. Kind of like sidling up next to a group of bikers – you WANT to hear some of it, but hope they won’t notice you’re eavesdropping in on them. That’s what my first couple of Marc’s books felt like. “What kind of guy DOES this shit, and then writes about it? How’d he get away with THAT?” Well, that’s how it started. Marc admittedly came from a rough up-bringing, turned his life around, and then chose to educate others that could appreciate, learn from, and stay safe based on his lessons.

Thank you Marc.

Part 2 will be in the March issue of Conflict Manager.

What No One Wants To Talk About – Tammy Yard-McCracken

Part 1

In the martial & combat arts industry there is a dark corner in the back of a closet full of skeletons that many of us know about but don’t want to acknowledge. If the topic comes up, it’s in a small group, away from the students of the gym/dojo and in horrified, hushed tones.

Yes, I am being dramatic. On purpose. Because it’s important and we should be talking about “It” – and often.

IT is the rather robust occurrence of Instructors and students falling into the sweaty arms of romance and sex. I know of two relationships in which an instructor dated a student and the experience ended with a lot of happy people, marriage (or committed relationship) and happy little babies. I know of significantly more than two instructor/student affairs ending badly.

Very badly.

As an instructor and school owner, I have a simple rule for my coaches and instructors: the students are not your dating pool. Because I know of these two relationships that ended happily, I know it’s possible. My rule comes with a caveat to the instructors…if you think there’s something brewing between yourself and a student, come talk to me first. I am not interested in being anyone’s dating police. I am interested in protecting the physical and emotional integrity of the training center, because these things happen:

Example 1 –  Student flirts with instructor – instructor flirts back (for sport, naturally). Student schedules private lessons. Lots of grappling happens. Sweaty grappling turns into sexually charged wrestling and then a kiss and then more. Backstory? The instructor is married. The student gets pregnant. Rumors fly through the student body and the culture of the school takes a big, unpleasant shift.

Example 2 – Student working hard for the next rank test schedules privates with all the instructors. One male instructor (female student) crushes on her. Schedules more privates and starts training as a student in any class she attends in which he isn’t also teaching. Students start to complain that when he teaches, he only helps her – only offers her correction – ignores the rest of the class.  She’s married, he’s getting a divorce. Other students are super surprised to meet her husband at an event because they all think she’s dating the instructor. And then they actually are (seeing one another) and the husband finds out and there are ripple effects through the gym. She stops training and the school loses a solid instructor because the head of school sent him packing.

Example 3 – Student flirts with instructor, instructor flirts back. Instructor wants to do this “right”. They have coffee, during the day – no formal dates, no touching, etc. Just getting to know each other. Both are single and the instructor thinks the relationship may have potential and wants to keep doing it with integrity. He keeps the rate of motion slow and gradual. The student gets pissed by the slow rate of motion – wants the status of roping an instructor, and accuses the instructor of sexual harassment…to everyone at the gym, loudly. The instructor never quite recovers his reputation and the student continues to train in his classes and openly defies him, ignores instruction and makes comments to training partners that “he’s an idiot, he doesn’t know what he’s doing”. The head of school hides in his office.

Three examples of so many stories I have heard that I have, frankly, lost count. Almost everyone I meet who has trained for any length of time, has a story of someone they know (or their own story) that has had their training interrupted or terminated because of a distorted emotional and physical relationship in the student-instructor paradigm.

Let’s clean out the closet and talk about it. There are at least four specific reasons this happens and the same four reasons are why no one should be surprised.

Part 2 will be in the March issue of Conflict Manager.

Open Quarters Vs Closed Quarters – Mark Hatmaker

Today a wee bit of history from the days of Fighting Sail and then we wade into how we might learn a thing or two from these 18th & 19th century sailors.

Picture if you will a wooden sea vessel, make it a swift sailing sloop or a heavily armed man-of-war or whatever vessel floats your boat. Conjure up images of the ships seen in any of the Pirates of the Caribbean flicks or, better yet, Master and Commander.

Ok, got those images in mind?

Now picture the superstructures on the main deck. For the landlubbers, a superstructure is any structure/cabin rising above the main deck. On larger ships there were typically two superstructures the forecastle and the aftercastle.

Got that?

When any such ship was engaged in maritime battle with another they would often draw themselves broadsides to allow cannons loaded with a variety of mayhem to do damage to the ship itself (below decks firing to sink the ship and above decks firing if you intended on capturing the vessel). At this point of the battle the ships are engaging in open quarters fighting.

If/when a boarding by an enemy vessel seemed inevitable, the vessel that feared boarding would close a series of doors/shutters that ran along beams or supports bridging the superstructures—the crew would retreat behind these barriers which were called, yeah, you guessed it—closed quarters.

Now, just because the quarters have been closed we are not at actual hand-to-hand closed quarter fighting yet as we commonly envision it. There are a series of loopholes (small openings) for musket and small arms fire.

If/when the marauding vessel’s crew is finally able to board and breech the closed quarters barrier the one-on-one melee began with combatants wielding boarding axes, pistols, cutlasses, dirks, and perhaps here and there a musket or blunderbuss.

The point of today’s little historical aside is twofold—

One-To illuminate the origins of the phrase closed quarters and…

Two—Most importantly to allow the historical use of the closed quarters strategy to inform our modern self-protection thinking.

99.9% of the time (fake but representative number all the same) when talk is made of real-world self-protection or street-defense we move directly to an assumption that the predator has breached our closed quarters status.

Yes, I am aware that we do not walk along this earth with doors and shutters ready to be closed when we first spot trouble on the horizon but…we do, more often than not, spot a bit of trouble before it actually reaches us where we must engage in what we now call closed quarters battle.

This earlier awareness can be thought of as the beginning of our open quarters status. It is at open quarters that we must assess whether the enemy is too heavily gunned to engage and thus we must set sail, or whether to pull broadsides and begin firing with cannonade. This is the nautical equivalent of fight or flight.

Open quarters weaponry, in the modern sense should always err on the side of flight, but…but we must never assume flight is always an option. There are times when flight is simply not possible and engagement must be made. But even in these circumstances modern self-protection trainees must alter how we think of our open quarters weaponry.

We cannot and do not have the option (in most cases) of leaping immediately to our own personal cannonade (in my case a .357 Magnum) nor should this be our first thoughts in what is still an open quarters situation.

We must defer to our prevention, our awareness, our decision to remain vigilant no matter how calm the personal seas may seem. In most situations this persistent scouting for an enemy flag on the horizon will serve us with all the self-protection skills we’ll ever need.

If our vigilance does lag, if we are blind-sided, if even after spotting a threat we may sometimes find our initial flight options sparse to none we then begin open quarters tactics, this can be your own personal cannonade (if warranted of course) whether this be personal firearm, blade, designated weapon or X-Weapon use as defined in our X-Weapon Self-Protection Unit.

We do not, absolutely do not if at all possible want to get to a closed quarters fight from the word go. Closed quarters battle assumes that we may have been less than vigilant in our scouting, less than diligent in our open quarters preparation. Closed quarters battle in the days of fighting sail was the last ditch effort (to mix military metaphors) at survival, the tactical fall back for when our earlier strategies and tactics have failed.

It seems to me that we spend more time in this modern era pondering and training closed quarters tactics than we do open quarters work. We use No Second Chance Book of Drills to rectify this strategic inversion and return the primacy of open quarters battle to the top of the self-protection food chain where it should be.

The Need For Pre-Existing Knowledge – Marc MacYoung

Prosecutor: “So how did you know he was going to attack you?”

You: “Because he was running at me, screaming and waving a knife.”

Prosecutor: “But he might have stopped.”

You: “What?”

Prosecutor:  “You don’t know if he was going to attack you. He might have been bluffing.”

You: “He was charging me.”

Prosecutor: “But he hadn’t attacked you. How do you know he meant to attack you? Is it possible he was bluffing?”

You “But he was charging.”

Prosecutor: “Answer the question. Is it possible?”

You: “Well…yes.”

Prosecutor: “So you admit you weren’t sure he was going to attack when you murdered him?”

About this time you’ll be wondering how the prosecutor’s head doesn’t explode from all that stupid. What you don’t realize is, in the minds of the jury, he just convicted you.  That’s his job and he’s good at it. Once your case lands on his desk, he’s out to convict you — regardless of what happened.

Most self-defense training obsesses only with the physical. Dealing with the aftermath is gaping hole in training. While some give threat recognition a hand-wave (“of course we teach that”), pre-attack threat assessment is critical for the aftermath. Claiming self-defense is more than “I was afraid of being attacked.” You will have to explain and provide evidence about why there was a credible threat.  That’s normally where the prosecutor will nail you, because most people can’t — even with self-defense training. When you hear “guilty” you realize you should have spent less time on the physical and more on learning how to recognize when you’re about to be attacked. If, for no other reason than to explain it afterwards.

This is why I tell people I don’t care what it is, but have a court recognized threat assessment ‘model.’ It could be:

AOJ (Ability/Opportunity/Jeopardy),

JAM (Jeopardy/Ability/Means),

IMOP (Intent/Means/Opportunity/preclusion)

or my Five Stages (Intent/Interview/ Positioning/Attack /Reaction).

This constitutes ‘pre-existing knowledge.’

Pre-existing knowledge can be summed up this way, “it allows you to explain how you knew someone charging you waving a knife is dangerous.”  To most people that’s so obvious, it sounds stupid and useless. That is until you are being interrogated by a cop (looking to arrest someone) or have a prosecutor gunning for you. Then being able to do it isn’t just smart, it’s all kinds of useful. Starting with not being arrested at all.

Pre-existing knowledge can easily be thought of in five basic ways:

1) what you knew about such situations

2) what you call it

3) where you learned it

4) when you learned it


5) how it applied.

Not just “I’m a black belt.” This is, “How I know getting jumped by five guys is dangerous.” It the credibility for when you start talking about how those five guys set you up and tried to jump you. In combo, the pre-existing knowledge, the correlation of what was happening, and the supporting evidence you can bring to the table you’ll need to justify your self-defense actions.

Even if you can explain, you have to be prepared for the prosecutor’s ‘you didn’t really know’ strategy.  Understand, what trips up most people is while the goal (conviction) doesn’t change, the tactics do.

First, in court, it doesn’t matter if actual danger existed. What matters is your ability to explain why you reasonably believed there was danger. (Fastest example: someone drawing a toy gun vs. a real one.) Second, what nails most people — even when danger existed — is their inability to explain the danger. Third, if they can explain, the prosecutor will go after how you knew. Fourth, if you knew, he’s going to try to undermine it. Fifth — and common through all — he’s going to go after “it could have been something else.”

He’s going to nitpick every detail to show you were in the wrong about your assessment of the situation. You have to be prepared for this, otherwise you’re going to convict yourself for defending yourself.

Unfortunately, if training on how crime and violence happen (pre-existing knowledge) is rare, then training on being able to explain how you knew it wasn’t something else is non-existent.  Well, okay, I teach about Normal/Abnormal/Dangerous, but I’ve dealt with too many lawyers on too many cases that were self-defense.

It’s not enough to be able to say, “I saw him start to draw the gun” you have to be able to explain why… in a deserted parking lot … at night…two  strange men approaching you … one lifting his shirt and reaching for his waist band … WASN’T him trying to show you the scar from his appendectomy surgery. Do not assume the danger will be self-evident to the jury, especially when there’s an attorney trying to trip you up. Be able to explain why such situations are dangerous.

There’s an old advertising slogan, “Don’t leave home without it.”  We can change that to “Pre-existing knowledge. Don’t claim self-defense without it.”