The Mark Hatmaker Interview Part II – 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.

This should have appeared in the December issue but a disastrous computer crash plus very busy events leading up to Christmas caused me to miss a beat here, so here is part 2 and I hop[e you enjoy it. – Garry.

Based on your answers, it seems that your clients are all highly motivated and receive individualized attention and instruction.
How do you instruct less motivated people in a group setting?

MARK: Well, we’re not all motivated in all things. None of us. Personal example, if someone says to me “Hey Mark, I want you to make your way through all 55 volumes of The Loeb Classical Library” I say “Sir, yes sir!” Why do I jump in feet first to this Greek and Latin compendium? Because I want to, I am motivated to do so. Compare with “Mark I want you to sit down and watch yet another super-hero movie with me” and all you get from me is hemming and hawing and foot-dragging. It would take far less time to sit through another one of these than read the aforementioned volumes but the charm of grown men and women wearing costumes and beating up bad guys is lost on this adult. Millions (billions) enjoy these flicks, they win, me, I feel like I’m being punished-I have zero-motivation to view them.

As a coach I do not see it as my (our?) responsibilities to “sell” the athlete on why what we’re doing is good for them or the wise way to go. I always assume from the get-go that the athlete is attending because they are a hard-charger, if not in body yet, at least in mind. We are then a team and can work together.

I assume if hard-work and/or the brand of madness we dish out is not to an individual’s thinking they will move on and play elsewhere or at a different game altogether. Just as I don’t want to sit through more adults-in-tights movies against my will, I do not want to force anyone to train as we do-I allow the natural peel-off or culling to occur.

To assist this choice we use a buy-in, ante up, earn your rounds protocol. Do the conditioning with us, do the necessary athletic work with us and you’ve proven that you want to be there.  Then, and only then do we start handing out the candy, so to speak.

If someone chooses not to ante up or sandbags the conditioning we have a nice conversation about what it is they really want-if it ain’t this, we scoot them off the mat and allow them to find what it is they really want to do and not force what we do on them. At the same time this insures that a non-earnest individual will not drag the attitudinal level of the team down.

Nobody minds working with a hard-charger no matter their skill or current conditioning level, but, come on, really, who enjoys coddling anyone along. The behavior already indicates that they may simply may not want to be there-have the polite conversation and allow them the liberty to ante up and join the team (if that’s what they really want) or to move on and find what moves them in life.

I see this approach as a courtesy. Life’s too short to focus on the unwilling. Focus your energies and attention on the can-do hard-chargers at hand, don’t make the unwilling watch your super-hero movie or read your pretentious books.

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

Read Part 1

Part 2

There are at least four specific reasons this happens and the same four reasons are why no one should be surprised.

Reason One: Training touches emotional, monkey brain places that are rarely activated inside the context of close, deeply physical personal contact. In our current society, the only other socially acceptable activity for this is on the dance floor at the nightclub…which also frequently ends up in sexual activity because biologically, it’s supposed to. There’s a reason the majority of people who take to the dance floor are young and/or single – it’s the human form of the animal kingdom’s mating dance. The level of personal contact and give-take behavior in martial/combat arts training carries a strong parallel to the dance floor. It feels like, to the social-monkey brain as a mating ritual.

Reason Two: Training can tap at the windows of the primal survival stress response (SSR). What we often reference as the Lizard brain can lift an eyelid in subtle activation. Not enough activation for the person to become distinctly aware of the experience though, which means s/he is unlikely to notice. If the student does feel the tremors of adrenalization, it is equally unlikely s/he will understand the experience for what it is (as most people have not had a personal experience of having their SSR fully engaged).

Why is this a contributing factor to a potential sexually charged interaction? Remember F/F/F stands for flight, fight or freeze. There’s actually a fourth F: flight, fight, freeze or fuck. The drive to get laid is high on the radar when adrenalized, once the Threat has passed anyway.

Back to the dojo with this explanation. We have lots of little, minor adrenalization episodes occurring in the context of Reason One and the potential for a strong drive to procreate gets reinforced by the SSR.

Reason Three: Attention. How many adults get a weekly experience of someone who pays close personal attention to a developing skill set? Close enough to offer subtle corrections and positive reinforcement? How many people in your life are standing on your personal sidelines cheering your small accomplishments? I’m not talking about the overt signatures of a rank testing.

These are the momentary successes during class. A punch improves, the footwork smooths out, a difficult technique finally clicks and the instructor smiles and nods. Maybe, there’s even verbal recognition and a reinforcing touch on the shoulder. A hungry place inside human desire for recognition/support gets fed by a “badass” authority figure. The instructor gets a perk out of this interaction as well. The student beams back, clearly happy to have earned an accolade and the instructor’s own status is reinforced.

This is a great recipe for presumed closeness or positive escalation in the relationship. It isn’t as if the student runs home gushing about how the instructor is madly in love with him, or her. It is a gradual and semi-conscious increase in expectation between one or both parties in the dance.

Reason Four: This is my last one for the article. It is by no means the last one worth discussing. Being an instructor in martial arts is the one profession in which you can guarantee others will bow to you. There are overt and subconscious expressions of power, strength and authority in this role. Power that can be easily abused and power that can be easily attached to in a parasitic sort of way by the student who doesn’t want to discover power; opting instead for just borrowing the instructor’s by association.

These four reasons can be in play without conscious awareness on either the student or the instructor’s behalf. Whether conscious or not, the dynamic will play out until light dawns on the unraveling integrity of all parties involved and the ripples reach out through the student body and the community.

There is an apparent deleterious impact on the business potential of the training center if the ripples reach broadly enough. Students leave, new students shy away and if there isn’t a sharp correction, the trajectory reads like a crystal ball predicting the dojo’s doors getting locked up due to lack of payment on the lease. No one wants to face the repercussions of a failed business, no matter how valuable the life lessons from the experience may be.

And as true as that is, perhaps the more critical failing is in the meta message: in this place where you are invited to learn strength and power, strength and power will be misused.

There is enough of that across our cultures and post-modern societies. Most people who become professional instructors do not enter the profession to abuse their authority or seduce their students, but it happens. The results can create trips to the therapist’s office when the mat might otherwise have been therapy enough.

Talking about this reality in our profession is one of the necessary steps to changing it. So…there you have it. It’s out here, in print, out in the open. Do with it what you will.

Becoming A Contact Professional – Tim Boehlert

Part 2

Rory I found probably through Marc, or maybe Loren Christensen – I can’t recall specifically. I am immediately drawn to Rory because of what he does or did. He was working with the safe ‘clientele’ that I was, with the main exception being that he was in a prison setting. Without hesitation, I recommend him to all LEO, or Security professionals because his experience is directly related to what I do. Marc’s is as well, just from a different perspective. Rory was writing a blog at the time I ‘found’ him. Large parts of that blog became the first e-books that I purchased – Chiron Training. After reading the very first volume I was hooked. Here was I guy that I totally ‘got.’ I can’t tell you why in so many words, but he ‘spoke to me.’

In one of his blog/e-book entries Rory describes a ‘typical’ day on his unit. He was asked to respond to an inmate that was acting out in his holding cell. Rory headed a CERT team, and his job was to move this individual after subduing him using whatever level of force was necessary. The inmate had already made preparations for the soon-to-happen assault by unusual means. Rory’s team was prepped, kept just out of sight while he chose to offer an alternate solution before breaching the cell. In a moment of genius (and Rory really is a very deep thinker) he chose to keep the team out of sight, but ready to perform a cell extraction by overwhelming force. He pulled up a folding chair about 6 feet from the cell door, and simply sat down, crossed his arms, and waited… NOW, go find that story and learn from it what I learned. What happens next is sure to change your world like it did mine – if it doesn’t, you’re either in the wrong job, or you already possessed that knowledge and foresight, which frankly I find hard to believe. Thank you Rory.

Peyton Quinn – another of the unknowns. He is a character every bit as much as Marc is. THEY are two of the originators of what this group has been assembled because of. Violence. I have known Peyton for about as long, and did find him through my connection with Marc. Another book. Suffice it to say that Peyton is as unique as any of these commanders of violence. Peyton is also a Martial Artist, a rogue of a man with a huge heart, and some really intense depth of knowledge as well. He’s an educator, a writer, and he knows his stuff as well. He’s also willing to pass this stuff on. About four years ago I had the pleasure of working on a few projects with Peyton. Specifically a book that he was writing at the time about Musashi’s Five Rings. Peyton asked me to read it, and help him out with some editing, which I did out of respect, friendship, and admiration. Thank you Peyton.

There are many others here that have helped me along the way, and I am very thankful for all of those contributors as well. What I do is not unique, but you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone talking about let alone teaching what it takes to get out unscathed. I can only say that in 7 years, I have been assaulted more, hospitalized more, hurt more both physically and verbally, than in my entire previous life. Without the support of these proponents and educators, without their output, their advice, their willingness to share the ugly, I wouldn’t be writing anything remotely like this at all. I’d either have quit a long time back, been injured and beyond repair OR worse. It’s not an easy job, not just anyone can do it either – even if you are physically able to – and most of the young ones are that at least, it takes a LOT of maturity, it takes a lot of drive, it takes a lot of deflective capability to do this job to serve your community, and your fellow man. You have to do this job because you care, not because it pays well – it’s not even worth it for that alone. I do it to make a difference, to feel better as a human being, and because someone has to deal with people in crisis, period.

If you’re up to it, do the research UP FRONT. If you can get through several of the steps necessary to educate yourself, and still thin positively about it, MAYBE you’re the right person. MAYBE.

Power by Proxy – Malcolm Rivers

Indoctrination in self-defense and martial arts can be pretty amazing. I’ve watched strong, skilled, well-trained grown men and women convince themselves some guy they’ve known an hour was an undefeatable titan of battle. This phenomenon is incredible and a huge component is the perception of significant experience with violence. This has led to the rise of that character ubiquitous in self-defense industry: Billy Badass.

Billy Badass sells the DVD’s with the skulls and scary music with a history of violence as extensive as it is unverifiable. He’s got it all figured out while the rest of these SD/MA (self-defense and martial arts) pussies are doing stuff that would never work in The Streets™. Quick reminder of the obvious: experience matters. Always. But, metaphorically, having a heart and brain doesn’t mean legs aren’t useful; having been there and done that isn’t the only qualification for empowering others. Thankfully, there are experienced, skilled instructors out here doing incredible work, many of them writing for this publication. But there are also folk doing…other things. In all things and with all people: caveat emptor.

Let’s start with one crucial understanding: whatever alleged history your instructor has, you weren’t there. The power he derived from surviving isn’t yours to use. Moreover, all you know, often, is who he markets himself to be. Beyond the flat-out hoaxes lies the natural predisposition toward embellishment, especially when coupled with the temptation of fiduciary gain. And, to be fair, we, as consumers, support all of this because instructors are only human. The cults of personality we build around them exacerbate the problem.

Students need someone to believe in. Two central premises of the industry read: ‘someone else knows the dark world of violence and can teach you its ways’ and ‘we don’t know enough to teach ourselves.’ Thus, we turn to people with long, bloody resumes; reasonably assuming that experience is crucial but ignoring the symbiotic dynamics of seeking power by proxy. Students laud an instructor’s history and presumed capacities, as if, somehow, we could attain his strength osmotically. We can’t. We turn to hero worship and create a backward power dynamic that enhances instructors over students. We give them the limitless authority of ‘unimpeachable experience’, ignoring the responsibility to question or challenge. In doing so we make violent people special, further exacerbating the power imbalance. How can I expect to avoid, deter, or defeat current predators when I can’t even disagree with my instructor, a former predator? This level of indoctrination is tacitly or overtly encouraged by many instructors as their egos swell. Because, apparently, someone has found a monopoly on violence.

The cults of personality are problems; instructors aren’t the point of self-defense or martial arts training. Decent instruction is about the students and therein lies the rub: when building up students isn’t the focus, egotistical nonsense is much easier to get lost in. If our friend Billy survived hundreds of violent incidents…as a 6’3 290-pound professional in his mid-20’s, what he was able to do in his heyday shouldn’t mean much to the 5’3 115-pound 50-year-old woman he’s teaching. Even when an instructor’s experience is verifiable, the plural of anecdote isn’t “proof.” If he’s handled 20 attempted stabbings, he certainly knows more than most. But that may not be enough to create a model that applies to different people from other backgrounds with varying frames of mind, skillsets, and target profiles. And, beyond the difficulties of calculating experience’s value, other considerations remain.

Many experienced and effective SD/MA instructors have very little experience doing what they teach: defending themselves from predatory criminals as civilians. That distinction is important because having been a cop, crook, or bouncer carries over…sorta. If your instructor was a pro, his legal and ethical machinations were likely appropriate for his context…not yours. If he’s smart, he’ll encourage you to think for yourself and do your own research. If not, he’ll try to directly apply whatever lessons he’s learned in a (likely) much more extreme circumstance directly to your life. It won’t end well. Moreover, having a history of violence has nothing to do with teaching.

Good SD instruction is, at its core, emotionally engineering people to empower themselves. It’s creating stronger people. There is a lot of complexity to that and capacity for violence is only one piece. Thus, a violent resume is far from enough. In some cases, whatever made an instructor able to survive his heyday was natural, or part of his upbringing, or so deeply ingrained that he wouldn’t even know how to explain it. There are plenty of people who can teach but can’t do. There are also people who can do but can’t teach. This is not a rejection of experiential knowledge or expertise, it’s a reminder that choosing an instructor with a “history” as your idol does not preclude the capacity for being wrong or ineffective at transmitting ideas. And worshipping at the altar of experiences you didn’t have; and, often, can’t even verify he had; isn’t always the best way to make yourself safer and stronger.

Ultimately, a healthy dose of skepticism wouldn’t hurt any of us. Instructors, consider the power dynamic you exhibit with your students and whether you’re empowering them or more focused on you. Students, remember that your instructor is a person. If he’s experienced and not an idiot, he knows that he’s got a lot to offer but needs more than a history to help you become more effective. Most importantly, remember that training is about you gaining power, not basking in the power of someone else, no matter how cool their background sounds.

Caveat emptor and all that.

On Aggression – Rory Miller and Terry Trahan

Authors’ note: This is deep water stuff. Mimir’s Well stuff. We have done our best to make it understandable to people who may not have had certain experiences, but odds are some words have come to mean different things to us.

One example: For almost everyone, “smart” implies your ability to retain and apply information. For us, “smart” means your ability to recognize the situation and adapt to it. And that usually involves rejecting irrelevant information. In the normal world, a “smart” fighter will know a thousand techniques and the nuances of self-defense law. In our world a “smart” fighter forgets all but the handful of techniques he or she needs in the moment and understands that under SD law your options are either none, graded, or unfettered, and knows where those thresholds are. In the common world, a smart fighter is expected to be cognitively engaged. In our world a smart fighter is expected to reject that. Sort of.

“You have to be aggressive.”

“You have to tap into your rage.”

“The winning mindset is righteous indignation.”

We’ve all heard variants of this theme. To a professional, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Aggression is an emotion, and emotional fighters make mistakes. Aggressive people get into unnecessary conflicts. They walk into set-ups. When they do fight and prevail, they often continue– aggressive fighters can easily turn a legitimate use of force into assault.

Within a very limited scope, aggression makes sense. For novices at violence one of the big problems, maybe the biggest, is getting them to act at all. Despite years of training, in the first encounter, the hindbrain knows that training is unreal, and wants to use tactics that have evolved over millennia, like freezing. Also, the trained knowledge that one must act with force runs head-on into the social conditioning that ‘force is wrong’ and one ‘should be polite.’ In the brain, conditioning trumps training.

Encouraging and tapping into emotion is one way to bridge this gap. People will do things for “feelz” that they won’t do under objective need.

Here’s a potential language problem, because what professionals use can look an awful lot like aggression and is frequently even called aggression, but it is a different thing. It is decisiveness.

Decisiveness encompasses explosive motion, violence of action, speed of perception, processing and execution, all working towards a goal. The difference between decisiveness and aggression is that decisiveness is aimed at an objective, professional goal: to escape or to disable or to handcuff or to… Aggression is aimed at an internal goal. An emotional goal. Usually to assuage fear. As a rule, novices use force because they are afraid, they use as much force as their fear dictates and they continue to use force until the fear dissipates.

In a word, aggression makes you stupid, not decisive.

And this goes into language again, because being stupid is generally safer and more effective than being passive. And if you equate stupid with uncivilized, well, most civilized people don’t fight very well.

People (talking students here) tend to be very out-of-touch with the emotional intensity of physical conflict. Because of that, most people misread their own emotional intensity. For example, the person who was insulted and felt such a huge rage that years later he talks about the darkness within him, and never grasped that he didn’t actually do a damn thing. Or the common advice that if you want a student to be assertive, you usually have to instruct that student to be aggressive.

On that level, “Be aggressive” might be excellent advice.

For students.

When you are aggressive, you will use the highest force option available* to you and you will use it a lot. As a rule you will also use it inefficiently. When you are using an emotion as the basis and motivator for your action, it becomes entirely too easy to go overboard, perceive things as dangerous that aren’t, and not know when it is time to stop. A force professional must be in control during every step—the initiation of action, the scale of force used and when the forces ceases. Often, when to stop is the hardest call, especially when emotions take over. Violence is a tool to achieve an end, whether keeping peace in a jail, safeguarding people, or throwing drunks out, it is a tool to do a job. When you are based in emotion, that stopping point is not as obvious.

Our experience is that lower levels of force applied decisively are more effective than higher levels of force applied emotionally. Aggression is a very easy trip to the land of excessive force and decisiveness is not. When you decide, you are in control, when you react with emotion, you are riding a train that is not driven by your rational mind.

Essentially, decisiveness may not be accessible to novices and so there is some utility in emphasizing aggressiveness and rage. However, it is only a doorway to reach the ability to be decisive. Decisiveness gives you all of the benefits of aggression without the pitfalls.

*Available both physically and emotionally. When an armed officer goes into a feeding frenzy with a baton, his firearm was available physically, but not emotionally.

Internet Warriors WiFi Jutsu – Avi and Ishai Nardia

The Backfire Effect: Why Facts Do Not Win Arguments

What should be evident from the studies on the backfire effect is you can never win an argument online. When you start to pull out facts and figures, hyperlinks and quotes, you are making the opponent feel as though they are even more sure of their position than before you started the debate. As they match your fervor, the same thing happens in your skull. The backfire effect pushes both of you deeper into your original beliefs.

Many Martial artist claim I am not an internet warrior, but in the modern era internet wars are common. Unfortunately, the internet warrior uses the safety of distance to slander. People with big egos and flexible morals who like to criticise others whilst simultaneously stand on their shoulders just to appear a little taller.

Internet wars are often between open minded teachers that will try any idea and closed minded teachers. The latter will shut themselves, and more sadly their students, from opening their mind as its scare them that their students may find that there is more than one solution to a problem. An open mind is a mind that is receptive to new ideas and information as opposed to a closed mind that will reject ideas and is stuck in ‘my way is the only way’ mode.

Many martial artist that believe that what they do is best and only way, sometimes this comes from arrogance but it can also be caused by an inferiority complex. This is where cognitive dissonance kicks in and to observers manifests itself as what is called the Dunning-Kruger effect.

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein people of low ability suffer from illusory superiority as they mistakenly, (deliberately), assess their cognitive and physical ability as greater than it is.

It occurs where people fail to adequately assess their level of competency, or more specifically, their incompetency at a task and thus consider themselves much more competent than everyone else. This lack of awareness is attributed to their lower level of competence robbing them of the ability to critically analyze their performance, leading to a significant overestimation of themselves.

In simple words it’s ‘people who are too stupid to know how stupid they are’.

The reverse also applies. Competent people tend to underestimate their ability compared to others and this can lead to experiencing impostor syndrome.

With the above cocktail of factors lead to a fertile ground for internet wars and many times I heard friends say I am not an internet warrior. However, a warrior is a warrior no matter what or where the battlefield is, a physical place or cyber space.

Take for example Socrates the Soldier – Most people think of Socrates (470-399 BC) as a, old philosopher. People are often surprised to learn that Socrates was in fact, also a decorated military hero. Renowned among army veterans for his courage on the battlefield and for his extraordinary endurance and self-discipline. Some scholars believe that it was actually Socrates’ heroism at the Battle of Delium that catapulted him to fame in Athens.

In the Book the Republic he set the first solider or warrior problem.

Solider thinking; if we assault and win we can do it even without me any way, as some will lose life even when we win, if we lose why should I risk myself? I better stay behind and we call this moral issue ” fix your shoe ” as one droop and tell his friend I will just fix my shoe and join you.

The moral and warrior code did not start today on the internet but for sure the internet can be a platform for discussions that are legitimate and helpful The sad reality is that most internet warriors are only their to slanders and criticise others and if they get an answer they they do not like they run hide behind backfire effect.

Some people take pleasure when others fall or fail, the Germans have a word for this, Schadenfreude; is the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another.

Some martial arts will have Based their skills on statistics (not necessarily facts) and statistics are like bikinis, what they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.

Internet warriors can go as far as character assassination using the power Google as a weapon to try take someone better than them out of the game.

Quite often these internet wars are witnessed by many bystanders, many of who are simply voyeurs enjoying the spectacle, whilst others are scared to get involved.

Let’s keep open mind and good attitude on the internet and educate our self as that is the value of having an open mind.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Aristotle.