Tripod – Clint Overland

A buddy of mine asked me to fill in for him at the bar that he works at. No biggie, we cover each other whenever there is a need. It’s a part of being Brothers. I should have turned him down. The night is almost over and everything has gone smooth. No fights, no puking, no blood. It’s all good. The guy that’s playing on stage is a midget, long haired little cat, plays a hell of a guitar and has a great blues voice. What I don’t know is that all night several patrons have been buying him shots of Jaeger. I talked to the bartender later and she said he drank almost an entire bottle by himself.

It’s about that time and I am hollering out LAST CALL. When all of the sudden, this little naked long haired midget runs right by me.

Now let me pause here and say I froze in my tracks. There are times when you can’t move because you are not sure what the hell it is that you saw and you are not sure you know how to deal with it. In my mind, I pull up everything I can remember from every Marc MacYoung and Peyton Quinn book I can remember. Nada, nothing. I look into the old memory file inside my head and, nope, not one thing about dealing with drunken naked midgets. Fifteen years of the violence trade and not one idea of how to deal with a naked hairy midget! Have I got my point across? I was frozen in my tracks. Now back to the story.

He runs right up to a table full of middle aged biker mamas and starts gyrating wildly while they start screaming and laughing hysterically. There I come, like some twisted leather clad version of Frankenstein’s monster, “STOP IT! COMMME HERREEEE YOUUU!!! He zips away from me and runs up to a table of Mexicans. Then does the same thing and everyone is applauding and laughing.  I get close enough this time to grab his arm, and he starts flailing away trying to twist out of my grasp. At this point, his gigantic penis slaps me across the shin. Second freeze in less than 2 minutes.

Let me try to put this into perspective for you. He would have needed a blood transfusion to get a full blown hard on or he might have passed out from lack of blood to his brain. It was a trip hazard. He could stand on a pool table and play golf with no hands. Crawl across the desert sands on all fours and leave five tracks. Do you have the picture? It is fucking HUGE!!  Gary Lawson, in his Far Side Cartoons, drew one of a guy that worked in the Herpetarium for 20 years and all of a sudden had a cumulative case of the HEEBIE JEEBIES! That is exactly how I felt at that moment. GWAAAA get away get away now!!!

He runs off and after I unfreeze, I start chasing him again.  Finally I got close enough to grab a handful of his hair with a straight arm, didn’t want that thing to hit me again. I lead him back to the manager’s office where they bring his clothes to him. It was then I learned that this was not the first time it had happened and that his nickname was TRIPOD.

So folks, don’t think that you won’t freeze just because you have dealt with things in the past. Trust me, it can get weirder than you would ever imagine and if you’re in the violence trades you had better damn sure be able to change gears on the run.

This is something I do not even consider to be one of my worst nights at work. In a Dallas dive bar I watched a man get gutted by a broken beer bottle and had to fight my way through a brawl to get on my knees and hold his intestines in while a fight is going on around me and kick people away so he didn’t die. It took almost 15 minutes for the ambulance to show up all the while the cops are breaking up the fight and I sat there just thankful that someone hadn’t decided to bust a chair over my head or slit my throat while my hands were full.    This is a reality check folks, life is a precious commodity and if you want to save yours you need to learn to adapt and adjust to whatever comes your way.  How you react as well as respond to a situation can very well mean whether you and others live or die.  In my opinion one of the first things a person has to learn to do to be a good Conflict Manager is the ability to think while acting. If you can’t do this find another line of work, it’s a simple as that. One of the best lessons I ever learned from twenty seven years of dealing with drunken, chemically enhanced primates is to read situations not from what was actually happening but from what should be happening and wasn’t .

I would position myself where I could view most of the bar, and what I was looking for was people not having fun, individuals that were drinking alone and acting sad or frustrated. For groups backing away from an area, or moving into tactical position. I would watch for people that might be either blocking the flow of traffic or entrance into bathrooms. Go out some night to a local bar and look for what is happening and what disrupts that flow or what should be happening and isn’t. Then go to a nightclub and sit away from everyone and watch as the same things occur but in a different speed. This gives you a position of experience to draw from. Do the same at a mall or in a crowed venue, each situation has many similarities and will flow the same way if you know what to look for and what not to look for. You should then begin to look into yourself to see how you will or could respond to anything that happens. Remember that the first goal of a good conflict manager is not to outfight people but to outthink them. This is the difference between a Professional and an Amateur, a pro wants to end it as easily as possible a fool wants to fight.  It took me 10 years of broken noses and missing teeth to get this point driven into my thick head. The next 17 I spent learning not to fight but to win no matter what it took.

Let me give you another example. Middle aged man walks in one night with a hot 20 something year old woman. I recognize him from another bar across town I used to work at, real asshole that likes to make a fool of himself and show everyone how much of a badass he is. But what I know that he doesn’t is that two days before I saw him with his wife at a local Walmart. I waited a bit and sure enough he starts acting the way I knew he was prone too. I walked up and leaned over and told him “I know your wife.” He stopped everything and left a little later without causing a scene.  I won and kept the peace by simple outthinking the person without the use of violence.

I teach young people that want to go into the bouncing trade a list of rules that if they follow to the best of their ability they will be able to survive. My number one rule and this one is as sacred as anything you will ever read or learn and all the other rules lead right back to rule number one.


If that means we have to apologize to someone we hate, we apologize. If we have to act as a priest and hear a confession from someone that disgust us, then we listen. If we have to bust someone in the mouth with a chair then that’s what we have to do but we go home tonight. We will take the easiest win that we can get and by win I mean we live. To be a conflict manager doesn’t meant to be the best fighter or martial artist. It means to use the best tool for the job and the ability to adapt is one of the most important.


The Never Complain Dictum – Mark Hatmaker  

In the world of street-response to potential violent conflict one often encounters the word “de-escalation.” I want to define that term, not to insult intelligence but to make sure we’re on the same page about a tactic I find of nominal value as it applies to the everyday citizen. De-escalation is, in short, a micro-version of hostage negotiation. I keep you talking with this or that bargaining chip or appeasement patter in hope of you not engaging in violence (or any more violence).

Now, law enforcement and security professionals (LE here on out) have a serious need for de-escalation tactics and strategies as LE, by the very definition of their job, must deal with the violent or potentially violent. Their professional contract, their sense of duty says that the LE professional must deal with what is in front of them and not walk away. Whereas, we the non-LE citizen do not have that professional onus to stand pat and work our way through a potentially dangerous situation with some possibly dubious advice. (We’ll get to why I regard de-escalation advice being of dubious merit for the citizen in a bit).

First, we would be wise to think of confrontation in the physical realm and the non-physical in the exact same way, with the exact same response continuum. That is, as non-LE professionals we have no duty or burden to respond to or restrain an offender. At the first sign of trouble if the exits are clear we would be wise to exercise the most important F of the Fight or Flight dichotomy and choose Flight. Training/Drilling/Accepting a de-escalation strategy is choosing to prolong a confrontation by default-when phrased that way, does prolonging contact with the violent or potentially violent seem wise? If assault looms imminent, you should get out of Dodge. If it’s too late to get out of Dodge when the violence is upon us, we should respond only long enough to create our flight opportunity. It is not our job to “see it through to the end” as, again, that is not our job as non-LE citizens. To move laterally into de-escalation where a simple exit is available is less than wise. It may feel “cowardly” in some circumstances and not as easy as our combative simian natures will allow, but it is wiser than engaging in wordplay with another simian in an agitated state.

[In regard to cowardly vs. “knightly honor” I can do no better de-bunk of this notion than the masterful distinction between honor and responsibility delivered in Schopenhauer’s “The Wisdom of Life.” In short, not everything is “fightin’ words.”]

Let’s look at how well de-escalation works in non-violent scenarios for a moment. I want you to picture the “ambush” seat on a cable news show. That is the seat or guest spot reserved for the partisan enemy; the guest spot where a single representative is supposed to stand-in for all of the “other side” while a bombastic anchor or table of the “enemy” goes to town on you.

For this example, picture a conservative guest on an MSNBC show and a liberal guest on a Fox News show. There should be something here for you no matter where you are on the political spectrum. Now, how often have you seen the “ambush” guest use de-escalation/appeasement/justification conversational tactics and win? The answer is never, if/when it happens that will be front page news: “Noted [Insert Conservative or Liberal of choice] says, “You’re absolutely right.”

Let’s take another example home. If you are already familiar with de-escalation ask yourself how often you use it in a debate/argument with your spouse/boss/co-worker (insert your personal arguer of choice)? How often do you really, really keep your eyes on the appeasement prize? If we are honest with ourselves, we often (before we move to resolution) realize “Hmm, am I actually a wee bit of the problem here? If so, why do I keep on opening my big mouth?” Appeasement/de-escalation doesn’t happen because, we simians dig in on contentious matters, we seldom shift our opinions in the heat of the moment-we must calm before (if even then) we can see the other point of view. In short, we’re an aggressive species whether that aggression is violence, threat of violence, finger pointing political argument, or passive-aggressive gossip.

Now keep in mind these examples where we don’t exercise our de-escalation skills occur with no threat of violence. Imagine how much more heated a scenario we are talking about when we suggest “How about some de-escalation talk?” If we don’t see it manifest in less-threatening situations (i.e., we don’t drill it in daily life) what makes us think we will be calm and cool enough to utilize it and utilize it well when it hits the fan?

OK, let’s pretend you see my “If it doesn’t manifest in low-stress situations it ain’t gonna rear its head in high-stress” point. Is there something that we can do in its stead, something that gets closer to the true intent of the Flight F, and also actually allows us to drill in day-to-day scenarios to get the gist of the thing down? Yeah, I think so.

I’m going to reference a strategy used by comic/magician Penn Jillette of the Penn & Teller duo. It’s called “Never Complain.” He uses it in a cost-to-benefit, return-on-investment (ROI,) don’t waste your time in matters of free market choice. We’ll explore how he intends it being used and then we’ll add some “You can complain here” allowances, and then move it to the world of potential violence.

Penn means for the “never complain” axiom to apply to low-key disagreements in everyday life. For example, poor service in a restaurant-there is often a strong inclination to make your dissatisfaction known (I was formerly that guy). But let’s ponder the strategy of letting it be known you were not served how you expected to be served. In essence we are telling the server or the manager “Go back into the past and fix what has already occurred,” “Here’s how I would run your business/do your job,” or at most we complain in hopes of “getting something” for being the squeaky wheel which allows you the privilege to return to the environment that you did not enjoy and potentially risk a bit of extra-ingredient comeuppance introduced into your meal.

The “Never Complain” dictum states that instead of putting the time in, raising your own “fighting ire” you consider the poor service or meal as market information, you simply move on and try different establishments. In most matters domestic we have plenty of choices, plenty of outlets where we will be offered good meals, good service, good prices, what have you. I wager that this strategy will be tough for some of us out there where the urge to stick to your guns and “go to the top because nobody treats me this way” will be hard to overcome.

Enjoy your victory, enjoy your fight.

For others who are piqued by the strategy and might be asking yourselves, “but what if money is involved?” Well, then sure you may have a reason to fight that fight, but only if the amount in question will warrant the time and effort involved. For example, if upon arriving home from a department store you discover that you have been shortchanged a hundred bucks, you might wanna drive back out. If the amount is $1.75, you might want to ponder the gas and lost time and do some math.

The “never complain” strategy once fully embraced frees up a lot of time if you are a “get your due” sort. It also allows you to find businesses, environments, and folks that dovetail with your tastes better than trying to re-make the world into your own personal whim. It also supplies real world training for conflict management-in that in situations that do not warrant your time and attention you simply walk away. That’s mighty freeing, and perversely satisfying to see the person who wanted to argue over a parking space not sure how to process your shrug and walk on to the next good thing in your life.

Never complain” in small matters trains us in flight from trivia in a way that bargaining, negotiating, and “winning” with poor service-providers never does.

Never complain” also allows us to get our nervous systems, our egos a little used to the practice of “If it ain’t worth it, and I’ve got options I’m taking a hike.” I wager that this trivial real-world practice may serve us better than hypothetical classroom encounters where we all behave as if we’re amateur hostage negotiators.

In short: Treat violence like a fire-get low, get out, and leave it to the firefighters.


Reading the Signs, Part II – Garry Smith

Welcome back dear reader, remember how in the June issue I asked you to pretend you were a visitor from another planet, with no experience of human behaviour of any kind. I asked you to suspend ALL your values and beliefs for a few minutes and take a look around you and at you. To reflect upon what you saw. The idea was to adopt the position of anthropological strangeness,  so that you could try to see how you look to others you look, how others look, how they interact, what appears to govern those interactions, I hope you tried it.

It is a kind of out of body experience and if we try it we can begin to see our day to day behaviour, the vast majority of which we go through on a form of autopilot, from a whole new perspective. Let us go back to our Goths, either type, the symbolism in their dress, jewellery and artefacts tell us who they are, what tribe they belong to, we do not need to ask them, the symbols they display scream out the message loud and clear. Spike Milligan’s ‘Cockanees’ in his spoof anthropological expedition had their own artefacts and culture too, I share their love for the fish and chips.

We all belong to tribes, we all display our membership. The rituals of tribes are important for their identities too as are their belief system. Our intertwining biological and cultural evolution are the two key forces that have shaped our identities and the identities of the tribes we belong to. Our very languages separate us, within the same language groups regional differences and dialects do the same. In the UK, one small island, there are people who all speak English but who’s dialects make them uterley incomprehensible to one another. Received pronunciation, (the posh BBC voice), is uncommon, dialects are not. I love them, I like the different sounds, the different things they tell me about a person.

In the same way I love the different uniforms different tribes adopt, their badges, hairstyles, preferred music etc. It helps me read them like I read books. People very often do wear their heart on their sleeves so to speak. The express their personality, beliefs and even their sexualities through what they wear and how they wear it. Graffiti marks out a gangs turf,  a tattoo can mark out many things, piercings, flags and all manner of iconography blast out the message, here we are, this place is our place, I have a tribe, I belong, I am in the group and you are outside the group.

I am not sure what this says about me but I love a bit of crazy and Jayne, formerly, Wayne County and the Electric Chairs do it for me, musical break.

Yes I went punk in the late 70’s and that hit the anarchic spirit in me that added to the skinhead defiance already in me helped shape the me I am now. Throughout life we leave behind old tribes and join new ones, we migrate alone and sometimes with friends, its a complex life and we do it largely without effort. Of course there are those who are raised to a kind of cultural certainty for religious/ideological reasons who’s tribes erect such effective barriers that it is possible to remain insulated from outside influences from cradle to grave. I will return to a discussion on the sacred and the profane later. For now it is enough that we begin to recognise that we do live in the time of the tribes, The diversification of most societies that we see reflected most in the western world has brought with it a conservative fundamentalist backlash from societies far away and from sections of our own societies (I refer here principally to the USA and UK).

I read Left of Bang a while ago, iconography was rightly recognised as a key source of information. We process vast amounts of information daily, hourly, we are quite expert at sifting that information for the key pieces.  If we buy products they often come complete with universally understandable warning signs and symbols often accompanied by explanatory texts. When Mo Teague writes about the cowboy code we all understand the symbolism that was imbued in the white hat black hat movies of old. Now we will have different visual clues as to who is good and who is bad, politically correct clues probably, but clues nonetheless.

Last month I mentioned the symbolic importance of the black belt to many martial arts. Last Saturday one of my students pointed out I had the wrong belt on as I had a plain black belt, no red tabs to represent my dan grades (lets not go there yet), I pointed out that it was a nice new one and not faded like my old one. In the last week or so we have graded a number of students who have all now got new coloured belts as they edge towards the desired black one. We all know, whether we have trained in a martial art or not, that there is a mystique attached to the coveted black belt, a kudos that many aspire to and few achieve…….. Or am I just believing my own bullshit?

Well that debate aside the point of this article is to explore the central importance of the use of symbols to all of us, that and the fact that we all belong to multiple tribes, hold multiple identities and ranks and nearly always we actually know this, we just do not think about it consciously in the hurly burly noise of everyday life. Conscious reflection often gets drowned out in the increasing pace we live our lives, I think that is why I like to walk and cycle, to escape into the green that surrounds the city I live on the edge of. To find a space where the brain can switch off from doing all those things and in the pleasant tempo of exercise let it wander where it will. As this issue goes to publication I will be in Austria, up in the clean air of the Tyrol, recharging my batteries for a whole week. No martial arts, no self defence classes, no Gi and no black belt, no bag full of equipment and other props. I will be wearing the uniform of the walking class, the shorts, the boots and strolling around with my knapsack firmly on my back. I will meet others of this tribe and share pleasantries, we may not speak each others languages but we will recognise one another easily enough, the signs are all there if you care to read them.

Next month I will conclude this piece by examining the use of symbols in conflict, nothing raises passions like a good flag waving parade or a flag burning protest. Flags are pieces of coloured material imbued with incredible amounts of meaning, they go beyond expressing our membership of nation or state and deep into the personal identity of individuals, love them or hate them, flags are the most used and abused of our symbols, so until next month, Auf Wiedersehen.

Secrets of the Elite – Karl Thornton

The Intentional & Unintentional Murderer.

I am an undercover operative as well as trained in, and a trainer of, the physiology and psychology of violence. As well as trained in human behaviour and operational areas of the anti-human trafficking profession.

The information in this article is sensitive yet supplied to give the general public an idea of some of the training that goes into working undercover in the world of special operations personnel, in the area of Anti-Human trafficking. It is only a taste of what is involved. But I hope it sparks interest.

My specialist field is training personnel for high risk environments dealing in child trafficking. I have, and am still involved in intelligence and surveillance operations, as well as undertaking rescue operations globally. I also have the unique opportunity of training other operatives in this specialised field. Not to mention also training law enforcement officers in Anti-Human Trafficking.

Much of an undercover operatives work in our field is unarmed, so there is a high importance on unarmed self-preservation and self-protection skills.

Unarmed, we face the need to deal with individuals whom are armed as well as unarmed, and one of the main things we need to understand is the enemy. So when training in our type of undercover work, we need to be trained in many different areas. One area we need to be highly trained in, is RPD (Rapid Prime Decision) making, we need to minimise information in relation to how we asses a threat as quickly as possible, and how a threat sees us as a confirmed target for assassination or whatever their purpose, or mission is.

This article is about the process of training, where we deal with the possibility of dealing with, or applying lethal force. And part of the RPD making process.

So when we talk about “kill or be killed” in a real life situation, we train operatives in the physical hand to hand combat skills of undercover tactics including dealing with blown surveillance and blown intelligence missions, as well as physical response units where things go wrong. But equally important is training in the psychological side of understanding the possible enemy.

Part of our specialised training, looks at what we call “The Intentional & Unintentional Murderer”.

The following will explain the classifications, not the training process on how we identify the classifications.

First, we will look at what we call, the Intentional Murderer.

The Intentional Murderer, is the hardest to deal with. In this classification we look at individuals like assassins, hitmen, gang members (from criminal syndicates) and those who are intent on murder.

For this article we will use the term attacker.

In the majority of cases here, you won’t see the attacker coming, you will be ambushed and before you know it, its lights out permanently. This includes attacks with knives, firearms, blunt objects or even their bare hands, single and possible multiple attackers. Basically, this classification is taught to our operatives, where you won’t know it is coming, but still train in hand to hand combat for survival. If you can, as you cannot fight off a bullet to the back of the head. However, where there is still that slight opportunity for survival, we train in a system of combative tactics where there is no prior warning. Working on the physiological and psychological aspects of survival under ambush conditions. Even under conditions of what we classify “deceptive engagement” where one deceptive attacker will distract the operative, while his associate completes the physical attack. Basically where you are blindsided.

As this article could go on to become a novel, I am keeping it as brief as I can.

In an operatives’ world, all the OSA (Optimal Situational Awareness) in the world cannot protect you from a professional individual that has intentional murder on his agenda. I am not saying you cannot survive the Intentional Murdered, what I am stating, is even when the likelyhood of survival is next to zero, we still train for survival.

Now let’s look at the Unintentional Murderer.

The Unintentional Murderer is easier, if you can use that word, to train to survive against.

The Unintentional Murderer is classified under 4 subcategories. Remember in the world of special operations personnel, we need to train in OSA, RPD (Rapid Prime Decision) making, as well as other physiological and psychological skills for high risk environments. And keeping in mind, that the vast majority of missions require the operative to go into environments unarmed, with only his training and improvised weapons as his self-preservation and self-protection tools.

So in the area of RPD making and OSA, we teach behaviour analysis, and clusters of behaviour to assess a possible threat. But we also train in what we call “Forced human responses”, Natural defensive responses and deceptive tactics to deal with the Unintentional Murderer.

So why the term Unintentional Murderer?

The 4 subcategories are set to allow RPD making, and to respond. As the unintentional murderer is not intent on killing you. Not to say that isn’t the case all the time, as we can never give a 100% guarantee of an attacker’s intent, or what we call their outcome. However, we still have the 4 classifications to help identify the attacker’s objective, and how we can deal with them, as in this category murder is not considered the intent.

The 4 classifications are:

  1. Evade
  2. Escape
  3. Maim
  4. Gain

Once again, as this is an article and not a book, the following are brief descriptions of the 4 classifications.

This classification is based on the attacker that the operative may face, due to interrupting the attackers assignment or objective. Say for example, the operative finds himself in a situation where he has cornered the attacker and the attacker is going to try to evade capture, and is going to physically respond to evade capture. If they are armed, then they may use this weapon to evade capture. There may be a verbal situation where you have a chance to deceptively negotiate to gain control in a tactical manner, to physically defend yourself when possible.

So the reason it is still classified as “Unintentional Murderer”, is that in any physical and violent encounter with a weapon (or even without a weapon) there is still the possibility of you being killed during the process. The attacker (especially if not well trained) may use the weapon, let’s say in this case a knife, to lash out and slash or stab you to evade capture. Their intention may not be to kill, but simply to evade capture. Yet we know that any trauma caused by a knife or any weapon, could lead to death. We need to train the operative to know that, if a weapon is involved, you are most likely going to sustain trauma, train for the worst outcome, and fight for the best outcome.

There are so many examples that I could give, to cover the “Evade” classification, but the above example should give you an idea.

So now we look at the next classification, Escape.

Escape, is similar to evade, except we use this classification to look at if an individual has been captured, and will use whatever they have at their disposal to escape. Once again the individual trying to escape may be armed, and will use whatever weapon they are carrying to escape. If for example it is a knife, they will produce, and or use the knife to escape. Now, in this article I am not going into all the physical techniques and tactics used. I am simply giving you information on how we classify for, RPD making, how we assess intent based on behaviour and what we call clusters of behaviour. And how we use physiological and psychological training to deal with these potential killers. So similar to the evade classification. The individual’s intention may not be to kill, but simply escape. Yet we know that any physical encounter, in these high risk environments, could lead to death.

Now we will look at the classification, Maim.

Maim, is where the operative is faced with an attacker that is trying to warn the individual off. Simular to say, gang violence, or a turf war, where an individual will maim, as a warning to the rival gang member. Keeping in mind that the “Intentional and Unintentional Murderer” also relates to general street situations as well. But we will go into that in another article.

So as an example here. If the operatives cover has been blown, and the attacker has found out who the operative is, they may inflict harm, be it a beating or weapon related attack. For example, a gunshot wound to the leg as a warning and as a deterrent. There is still a possibility of dying from any related trauma. It may be minimal, but where any trauma is caused, there is always the possibility of death. There have been cases where an operative has been slashed as a warning, and still bled out and died. It was meant to be a warning, but turned out to be a fatality. Many of us have heard of what could be seen as basic and superficial wounds, which have led to death. We need to train, that any trauma could be fatal, so your survival on a psychological and physical level needs to be trained to deal with all levels of aggression, violence and the related trauma. Once again simular to the other classifications. The attackers’ intention may not be to kill, but simply inflicting trauma as a warning, could still end in death.

Finally we will look at the classification, Gain.

Gain is basically situations like armed robbery etc. The attacker will utilize what it is they have, be it a weapon or not, to gain what it is they require. So in an operatives’ world for example, where we deal in anti-child trafficking. The operative may have gained some valuable Intel, or in the case of a rescue operation, where say a child is involved. The attacker may use what is necessary to regain their asset (the child that makes them money). Or regain the Intel the operative has. So the attacker will use the weapon to achieve the result they require. Once again, they may use that weapon as a tool to gain what they need and once again the attackers’ intention may not be to kill, but simply inflicting trauma while regaining their asset. Can once again, still end in a fatality.

The above are a few examples. However, it gives you a brief understanding, of how we train our operatives to make decisions in high risk environments, and with minimal time to make those decisions. How they need to be trained in specific physiological and psychological areas to achieve their objectives.

Combative hand to hand combat skills are no less important. Our operatives, as am I, are trained in unarmed hand to hand combat, as well as the use of weapons from sharp edge weapons, firearms through to improvised weapons. Yet the world of covert operations and undercover work, is a world where the physical is only one aspect. There is much to learn about human behaviour, but not just what we call normal human behaviour. But learning about criminal intent, sociopathic and psychopathic behaviour, as well as instinctive and learnt behaviours. We need to train to be deceptive and yet objective.

I hope this article has sparked interest in the world of undercover operations in the area of anti-child trafficking…


….In the next issue, I will delve into another Secret of the Elite.

“Covertly engaging the enemy.” Looking at manipulating the proxemic push and forcing proxemic pull. Learning to deceptively manipulate behaviour.


Why Personal Safety Rules Simply Don’t Work – Gershon Ben Keron

Many people believe that personal safety is little more than formalized common sense, and that by following a few sensible rules it is possible to thwart the plans of those who intend to cause us harm. They will gladly accept the top 10 safety tips that some magazine posts, and nod as they read each one, without questioning the credentials of the author, and whether these “tips” are the result of a study, or even somebody’s experiences (and experience by its very nature is limited). As long as the advice given makes sense, then it of course must be true. Whenever I do personal safety seminars and training for beginners, I come up against these rules all the time.

New students might insist that you can tell when somebody’s lying to you because they look away, that if you’re talking on your mobile phone you’re safe because somebody knows where you are etc. Every predatory individual we are trying to protect ourselves from, knows these rules, and has a plan to navigate round them; the pedophile soccer coach who is taking your child to see a professional game, will look you squarely in the eye as they tell you that no harm will come to your kid, and the sexual assailant who is looking to rape you knows full well that they can commit their assault before the person on the other end of the phone can get to you, or get others to you, etc. Next time you read an article on personal safety (including this one) be aware that there is probably a predatory individual reading it as well, and arming themselves with the same knowledge, but for very different reasons.

Even the rules that we think we would never bend, that we believe we’d always adhere to, can be broken if we are dealing with a skilled social predator. If you asked every woman who had ever gotten into a car with a stranger, let a stranger into her home, etc. and been assaulted as a result, if beforehand she would do such a thing; I guarantee they’d emphatically say no. This is not to blame these individuals for their actions, but to illustrate that these predators understand the rules we work to, and know how to either get us to break them, or to think that they don’t apply in the context in which we are interacting with them. You might think you’d never get into a car with a stranger, and if you’re thinking of a situation where a driver pulls up next to you and asks you to get in, you’re probably right – however few predators will target adults in such a direct manner, and prefer to create a situation where you would “willingly” get into their car, maybe because it would be socially awkward not to.

Imagine that you have met someone on the internet, on a dating site, and have arranged to go out for a meal with them, and towards the end of the meal they say, “This has been a really great evening, I’ve not had so much fun in a long time, it would be a shame to end the night now. I know a great bar across town, why don’t we go and have a drink there?” Throughout the course of the meal with this charming and interesting guy (yes, that’s the profile of many predatory individuals), you’ve been hoping that he’d ask you on another date, and it seems that he just has. He’s got you to want what he wants; something that many predators will work towards. This includes the pedophile soccer coach who wants to take your child to see a professional game – you’d love to take them, however you simply don’t have the time to do so, but fortunately this guy does and wants to and because of this you are willing to bend a few rules that you wouldn’t think you’d be prepared to do – why should your child lose out on this experience?

Getting back to the date scenario – as you walk out to the parking lot/carpark to get your car to drive to this bar, and have a final drink, your date says, “Tell you what, let’s take my car. It’s not the easiest place to find, and I can be designated driver.” You want to go with them to the bar and it would be awkward to refuse the ride; after all, they might be offended if you’re insistent about taking your own car. It would be very easy to convince yourself that your rule doesn’t really apply in this situation; is your date really a stranger? They seem so nice, and you have already spent the better part of an evening with them, with no ill result. With this reasoning, you may well find yourself getting into a car with a stranger.

Personal Safety Rules, just don’t work. Skilled predators can quite easily get us to convince ourselves that they don’t apply to a particular situation. Also, the more times we break a rule, and there is no consequence to doing so, the less relevant that rule seems to be. Let’s say you move to a new house, and there are two ways to access it: one is a well-lit route, enjoying natural surveillance, whilst the other means you have to go down a dark alley – the advantage being that it takes you half the time to get to your house. Normally, you take the hit on the time and use the safer route but one day, because you’re in a hurry, you chance the dark alley. On this occasion nothing happens. You still prefer, and believe you’re safer using the other route, but you’ve broken your rule of, “don’t walk down dark alleyways” without suffering any consequences.

After several more occasions of breaking your rule, you conclude that the dark alleyway is actually safe, and it becomes your default route; and it is safe, until the time it isn’t, and that’s the time you get assaulted. Our society is generally safe, and that allows us to do unsafe things, a lot of the time without disastrous endings, and the more times we break the rules that we believe will keep us safe, the more we become convinced that the rule doesn’t apply to us or our/a particular situation.

There are also times when it may be in our best interest to break a rule. Imagine that you are walking home, and just before you get to the entrance to the dark alley (that you have yet never taken, because you favor the well-lit route back), you notice that a large scale fight has broken out on the street that you normally walk down. You now have a choice, you can go down the dark alley, or you can keep walking towards the street fight. In such a situation – although it may be somewhat contrived – it makes more sense to ignore your rule of not walking down dark alleyways, rather than to blindly stick to it. In this instance you will have ignored the rule, and made a dynamic risk assessment of the situation that you have found yourself in, and this is how we should deal with all our personal safety issues and concerns.

Rather than blindly following rules, we should seek to understand the situations that we find ourselves in, and understand the processes that violent predators use. Armed with this knowledge, we don’t need to rely on our flawed common sense and specific rules, for our personal safety. We can question why a single male in their mid 20’s is so interested in taking our child to a soccer match that we can’t, we can understand why our date is so insistent, and is working so hard to get us into their car. It takes effort to make risk assessments, and it’s not as simple as blindly following our common sense (a skilled predator will be able to make everything make sense to us), but it’s the only way of truly ensuring our safety. On the one hand, we are fortunate that the relative safety of our world allows us to get it wrong so many times when we follow our rules, without suffering any consequences, however this does not mean that we or our rules are right, or should be trusted.

When you make a dynamic risk assessment, you need to first consider whether you are facing a High Risk situation, or one that contains Unknown Risks. If you have to make a risk assessment, then you are not in a low risk situation, and thinking in terms of low risk, will only get you to drop your guard. If it is a high risk situation, how can you mitigate these risks? Could you go with your kid to the soccer match (personal safety does take effort) or take them to another one? If it’s somebody offering you a ride, assess your relationship to them – do you know how they will act and behave in this situation? If you’ve just met them, then the answer is definitely no. Forget the rules, and think about the risks.


Principle Based Teaching, Part II – Rory Miller

Part 2: Principles

I have heard, since the very beginning of my martial arts career, that there are a very small number of principles on which everything else is based. It always sounded good, until I asked exactly what those principles were. Usually I got a blank look or a fragment of philosophy: “Hit hard!” or, “Him down now!”

It sounds obvious, it is obvious, but you can’t teach from principles if you don’t know principles. And if your system is based on core principles, every instructor in your system should have an answer to the question, “What are your principles?” And, all of those instructors should have the same answer.

What is a principle? A principle is a law of physics or a property of physiology that makes your techniques work. As such, they are universal and apply to all styles and systems. Leverage, for example, is a universal principle. I personally identify something as a principle if:

It applies to striking, grappling and weapons

  • There are no exceptions

Leverage, for instance. In a sweep, the greater the distance between the high and low force, the less energy is required. Every lock has a lever arm that should be maximized. And sticks hit harder than hands because the lever arm is longer. And no exceptions. Perfect leverage won’t always get the job done– it would take a truly enormous lever and an impossible place to stand to move the world– but good leverage is always superior to poor leverage.

This articles is going to get a little interactive, so go grab a pen and some scratch paper. I’d like you to sit and think and write down a list of your principles before we go further. I’ll ask Garry to insert an advertisement about here so that you don’t scroll down too fast.

Got your list? Good. Now let’s talk about what isn’t a principle. You’ll probably wind up scratching some things off your list, and that’s fine. Because something isn’t a principle by my definition, doesn’t mean it isn’t important.

Things that aren’t principles, but show up on a bunch of lists are goals, strategies, tactics, techniques, concepts, and aphorisms.

“Don’t get hurt” for instance, is a goal. It isn’t a principle. Getting injured makes everything harder, so not getting hurt is a good goal, but it isn’t even a plan. It is the result of doing everything right and a lot of luck. Where you want to end up is a goal, but it doesn’t help you get there, so it isn’t a principle. It isn’t even a strategy or a tactic.

“Do damage” Is a strategy. It is the vague path to your goal. Again, desiring to do damage does not increase the efficiency of the damage dealing itself, so not a principle.

Counter-punching is a tactic. It can serve your goals and implement your strategy, but it doesn’t make things work better. Rather, it is one of the things you use principles to make better.

“Use the appropriate level of force for the situation” is a concept. It is a way to think that can be very important and can inform every aspect of training as well as fighting, but it is not a principle. Nothing in that statement makes the level you decide to use more efficient.

Aphorisms are little bits of wisdom such as “Hard to soft, soft to hard.” They are sound-bite sized pieces of principles that are not understood. “Hard to soft, soft to hard” is only sometimes true. A solid stick, which is hard, does more damage to exposed joints and bones than to muscle. The principle behind “Hard to soft, soft to hard” might be, “Choose a target appropriate to the weapon.” Does this hold true for striking, grappling and weapons? Are there exceptions? Is there any time where using the wrong tool for the job or applying a tool to the wrong target is a good idea? “Choose a target appropriate to the weapon” fits my definition of a principle.

Note here that aphorisms will be one of the clues to discovering your principles. Dig in deep and find what the underlying truth is.

Another thing to note: Training trivia, like, “You must turn your foot at 45 degrees in this technique” is almost always a clue to a principle. When a principle is not taught or not understood, trivia must be memorized to fill the gap. Once the principle is understood, the trivia becomes unnecessary because the reason becomes obvious. And the principle will also show the boundary when the situation changes and the trivia becomes untrue and ineffective.

Good? So power down the screen, pour yourself a cup of coffee or whatever, and take another stab at writing your list of principles. I will share mine at the end of this article, but it is imperative that you write yours first. Humans, like all animals are lazy. If you see a good enough list, part of your brain will turn off. If you see my list before you write yours, you will either turn off or, at best, your list will be polluted with my ideas. If, however, you see my list with a strong and complete list of your own, the ideas can cross-pollinate and become stronger. Don’t cheat yourself on this.

Rory’s list of principles:


  1. Leverage: the longer the lever arm, the more power you can apply.
  2. Structure: Using bone instead of muscle. Bone doesn’t get tired. Bones are levers. Use and understand your opponents skeleton and your own, offensively and defensively.
  3. Balance: Understand the elements of balance (Base and Center of Gravity) and how those elements apply to you, the threat and the combined four-legged animal you become when you make contact.
  4. 2-Way action: When possible, hit things from two directions: push and pull locks; crash and sweep takedowns; exercise and eat right to get fit.
  5. Gravity: Gravity doesn’t telegraph, it is stronger than you and you can’t accelerate at 32 ft/sec2. Whenever possible, use your weight instead of or in addition to your strength.
  6. Action/Reaction: He who moves first lands first. Take and keep the initiative.
  7. Gifts: Each of the Threat’s attacks comes with momentum you can exploit. The world is full of obstacles and weapons you can use. Learn to see.
  8. Space and Time: A big one and complex. This includes ranges, fighting against emptiness instead of force, creating and using deadzones to be safe in a fight, controlling pace, mentally altering your opponent’s perception of time and distance, creating freezes, feinting… this one is big.
  9. Line and Circle: The geometry of conflict. Linear and circular movements have different possibilities, power generations, strengths and weaknesses.
  10. Environment: Use everything around you, from terrain to the social attitudes of the audience. This has strategic, tactical and immediate applications.
  11. Targeting: Some places hurt more than others. Hit the one that hurts most.

There aren’t a large number of principles. I think if my understanding were deeper, the list above would be shorter, not longer. A future article will talk about how to apply the concepts to training. For now, it’s important that you have your list.

Fighting is complex, but it’s not complicated. Here’s what I mean. There’s a lot that goes into it– physics, physiology, social constructs, internal states of all parties involved– but the effective solutions tend to be simple. Physics in school can be hard and take a lot of math, but in the end there are only six simple machines and almost all work from variations of one principle, leverage.

And that’s why, as simple as training through principles can be, as quickly as students can make gains, it can still be a life long study. There is incredible depth available at this game. When I first learned of structure, it was simply a tool to keep energy from being lost. “All of your joints and muscles give,” I was told, “and when they give, that power is not going into the enemy. So hit with bone, not with muscle.” Like most young men, I couldn’t even tell structure from stiffness at that time.

Fast forward thirty years and in a short introduction to structure we still covered power conservation. But also power, unbalancing, bone slaving, void defense, vectors along bones versus angled against, structure disruption, resting in grappling, and structuring against a lock. All just structure.

And as cool as all that is, I know I’m barely scratching the surface.


One Little Word – Kathy Jackson

There’s a sentence I don’t like to hear people use in my classes. Actually, I hate it. Hate it so much that I used to stop them from saying it.

The sentence is, “I can’t.” I can’t hit the target from here. I can’t shoot as fast as you’re asking me to shoot. I can’t picture making the choice to defend myself. I can’t…

I can’t.

“You’re not allowed to say that in my class,” I’d tell them when they said it. “It’s not allowed.” I’d say it playfully, jokingly, in a friendly way, working for the laugh. And they would laugh. And we’d go on with the lesson.

But I came to realize that I was being profoundly disrespectful when I said that. Disrespecting my student, disrespecting their learning process, disrespecting their decision to be part of my class. Disrespecting my own skill as a teacher – and my own limitations.

It was profoundly disrespectful because they weren’t lying when they said they couldn’t do whatever-it-was. They were telling the truth.

They just weren’t telling all of it.

“I can’t” is an admission of failure. It hurts. And we hate to see our students hurt. That’s why I always wanted to flatly deny the place the students found themselves when they declared, “I can’t.” It’s a horrible place to be.

Here’s the shocking news:

By adding just one little word to that hateful sentence, we can their world upside down. And our own.

“I can’t do that” is an admission of failure.

“I can’t do that … yet” is a promise of victory.

Always add the yet.


Mental Models – Teja Van Wicklen

Wherever You Go, There You Are:

Mental Models and Emergency Management Skills

You are walking down a familiar block. You have lived in this area all your life, the buildings, lampposts and trees are as familiar as the inside of your house. You turn a corner and there is an immense park where your house and your friend’s houses used to be. You were only gone for twenty minutes so this reality isn’t possible. It’s like someone erased your world and put something else here. You stare, close your eyes, open them, try to reconcile the discrepancy. Your brain hangs in the space between what should be and what is. Then you start to panic….

In Deep Survival, Laurence Gonzales talks about Mental Models, an important element in understanding why some people, trained or not, survive emergencies while others don’t. Mental Models are short cuts the brain creates–maps of people, places and things we count on so we can make other more urgent decisions like, whether to cross the street against the light. Early in the book Gonzales talks about how mental models work, “You scour the house looking for your copy of Moby Dick and you remember it being a red paper back book but you don’t know where you left it. When you search, you don’t examine every item in the house, that would be tedious…”  He explains that your mental model of the red paper back allows you to screen out everything else, but that if you are wrong and it’s a blue hardcover, you may not find it even if the title is right in front of you. In other words, we get into trouble when our internal and external worlds don’t match. We say we are lost or confused when what we see or hear doesn’t make sense.  Gonzales argues that being lost is more a state of mind than a state of being. If you are at home wherever you are, you are never lost. The feeling of being lost creates anxiety and hinders both instinct and logical thought. Anxiety gives rise to panic and in an emergency, panic is often the last thing we feel. Being truly lost can feel a lot like suffocating. Substitute the absence of comfort and safety for being lost and you can see this discussion reverberating across many different types of circumstances. Think the end of a long and deeply ingrained relationship or the sudden loss of a child. It seems that older adults who adapt better to the loss of loved ones are documented as living longer. Of course there are lots of variables in these studies, but they make sense. If we spend too much time holding on to what used to be or grasping desperately for the comfort of the familiar, we have less energy to expend adapting to our new and urgent reality.

Quicker recognition and recovery from emotional shock in emergencies large and small may be an emergency management skill we can cultivate during the course of daily life. As with most issues, the first step is to recognize the problem-then to learn to arrest it’s forward momentum and redirect our energies. Easier said then done. Again, action follows recognition. Remember Colonel John Boyd’s OODA loop: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.

Lots of things contribute to survival in tough situations–widely varying and appropriate experience, self-awareness, physical fortitude, humility, determination and will to live. But if you refuse to accept the situation that presently assails you, all your training and worldly experience may be for naught. This may at least partly explain the many instances in which the most unlikely people survive things like plane crashes where lifelong pilots and survival experts fail. Some people are just born with an empty cup and the ability to start from zero with few expectations.

In general, we don’t necessarily train to adapt to a great discrepancy between the multitude of things that are most likely to be and the thing that goes vastly wrong. The emotional space we have not mapped and are not in tuned with is vast and can exert a powerful effect on how much of our knowledge we are able tap into. Gonzales talks about a firefighter lost in the woods who doesn’t make a fire because he knows it’s forbidden in the park. He might have been found earlier if he had thought to break the rules. Sometimes the answers are right in front of our faces but our mental models blind us.

In martial arts, survival training, rock climbing, long distance swimming, indeed any extreme endeavor, we can only train for what we think will happen. And, there are many emergencies that can only be partially recreated for training purposes. The military is probably the most experienced in this capacity. Even so, we can’t effectively simulate a rape without it actually being rape. We can’t effectively simulate starvation for the same reason. We are consistently wrong in thinking we are training for the scenario that will occur in the future. Only part of our experience will apply. Adaptation to the unfamiliar is something to keep constantly in mind. The worst thing you can do is assume you are ready for anything. You are, in effect, creating a static mindset that will be your downfall. The more set you are in your overall sense of yourself and the world, the harsher it is when those two things fail you.

The stages of being physically or emotionally lost are apparently virtually identical to the Kubler-Ross stages of grief–denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Gonzales explains, “The research suggests five general stages in the process a person goes through when lost…. first you deny that you’re disoriented and press on with growing urgency, attempting to make your mental map fit what you see. In the next stage the urgency blossoms into a full-scale survival emergency. Clear thought becomes impossible and action becomes frantic, unproductive, even dangerous. In the third stage, usually following injury or exhaustion, you form a strategy for finding some place that matches your mental map. It is a misguided strategy for there is no such place now. You are lost. In the forth stage, you deteriorate both rationally and emotionally as the strategy fails to resolve the conflict. In the final stage as you run out of options and energy you must become resigned to your plight. Like it or not, you must make a new mental map of where you are. You must become Robinson Crusoe or you will die. To survive you must find yourself. Then it won’t matter where you are.”