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You’re not you when you’re scared.
More precisely, you’re only a small part of you, that part where your normally rational mind-set has been hijacked by the survival brain and its adrenaline response (freeze, then fight or flee). The freeze takes time, time you may not have.
To reduce freeze time (the perception-action gap) requires developing the objective mind (OM) through knowledge, training and experience.
OM is the 4th Brain, the one that is NOT the rational, emotional or survival brain but is a coherent (hierarchically consistent) synergy. OM is the ‘anchor’ of the personality, a ‘place to stand’ and view the internal (psyche) and external (the world) environments. By realizing, and remaining anchored in OM, you are able to act, correctly and successfully, without waiting for the rational mind to grind through its processing procedures. It’s a type of mental reflex: see it, it’s done.
First, knowledge – the academic pursuit of information – reading, listening, contemplation and discussion. Think about these basic questions in order to gain a better understanding of the self: what are the levels of the personality and how do they express and interact, how do the three brains perceive, process, store, recall and share information, what are your ‘buttons’ and how do you react, and recover, when they get pushed – is there a pattern? What do you need, what do you want, which environments and activities make you feel happiest, saddest, fearful or angry?
Second – training in the inner and outer environments. Inner training (developing mindfulness) must include some form of meditation, a way to still the still the incessant chatter of the rational mind and the pressure of the emotional mind to act on feeling instead of thought. As with any training, meditation should be done daily. How many hours do you spend on fitness, or forms, or drills? There should be, must be, Balance.
Outer environment training should include all of the martial arts from the Spectrum, with emphasis on that category necessary to your needs. For instance, in the criminal justice field, the ability to CRUSH THE BAD GUY (defensive tactics) (following a sensitive and caring conversation, of course) is necessary.
Last is application of your knowledge and training. But, absent getting into the criminal justice or military career fields, finding environments and situations where your life might be on the line is difficult. You can get at least a dose of adrenaline from certain sports such as rock climbing, skydiving, bungee-jumping and tournament competition. Whatever makes your heart pound, mouth dry, bowels loose, palms sweaty and eyes a’google will give you some inoculation against the stress of startle adrenalization – the fear factor.
Then, if you get scared, you’re more than you.
- Know your limitations. I have had to cut people off that wanted to argue that they are not drunk while piss runs down their leg. (Notice I said people not person, it happens regularly.) I watched as a young sorority girl who was dancing shit herself and just kept dancing till her friends grabbed her and took her out. I was headed that way but couldn’t stop laughing quick enough to get there on time. Drinking is fun, it relaxes you, it help’s deal with stress. I get it. I have been known to imbibe myself heavily at times, but I stay at home to get that fucked up. I won’t even go into the horror stories of watching another human being throw up in a glass then drink it because he was that far gone. If a bouncer, security/bar staff cuts you off, it is for a real good reason. You are a problem or are on your way to becoming a problem. Also, you can and will be cut off for being an asshole. Don’t argue with the staff. You are there as a guest. You can and will be asked to leave. We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone and that includes you! Think about this, do you really want to make someone mad who is going to be serving you something to drink? The head bartender at a bar I worked at kept a vile of what he called Tijuana Tap water behind the bar for patrons that pissed him off. Not real sure what was in it, but two or three squirts in your drink and within fifteen minutes you’re running to the bathroom with the worst case of explosive diarrhea that you’ve ever known short of dysentery. Think about that next time you bitch at a waitress or bartender. Sure, it was illegal but that didn’t help you at the time and your night was ruined all because you were not nice.
- Know where you are at. In other words, if you decide to go “slumming” and step away from your socioeconomic level bar and go to a rougher establishment then know the rules that apply there. Every culture and subculture has its own rules that were never written down and posted for you to read but they are there as solid as any law passed by legislation. The joints that pay me my asking price do so because there is a reason for me to be there. I am paid well to keep a lid on the rules and do my best not to let anyone get killed or maimed. If you go to a biker bar, don’t sit on someone’s motorcycle, touch someone’s patch or colors, do not hit on the women, mouth off or disrespect the waitresses. Bikers are territorial and you are the stranger in a strange land. Oh you’re a respected business man and pillar of the community, that’s sweet. See how far that gets you when 8 or 9 guys get mad at you and want to have fun playing field goal with your testicles for crossing a line you didn’t know was there. Be nice, respectful, and polite. Manners do not cost anything and can save hundreds on your health insurance. This goes for any bar or nightclub you might go into. A Hispanic bar is completely different from a club that caters to black or Asian people. Each one has its own rules. The regulars at any bar are protective of the staff. They may even consider them family or friends. My wife bartended in a pretty rough little joint, she was the only staff there during the day but if anyone got out of line with her there were 30 to 40 regulars there that would jump on the offender with no restraint. You are visiting another world when you go to a new bar, and most of the regulars don’t like you for coming into their territory without being asked.
- Bartending and waiting tables is a rough job. Long hours, standing on your feet all night, dealing with drunks, people thinking that because you work there they can put hands on you because that is just part of the deal. Listening to crappy bands who mistake playing well for playing hard and loud. Listening to karaoke singers butcher the newest top 40 song or think they can croon like Sinatra. All for less than minimum wage. Hoping that by the end of the night your tips will be enough to cover the rent and electric bill due Monday morning. So please tip your bar staff. It is sad but when I have to interview people to work in a bar and the first thing I ask them is, “So, do you like people?” If they answer yes, then I know they have not been in the business for very long. If they answer, “I hate people!” I know this is someone that has some experience, and can probably do the job correctly. Do not holler at your waitress, or act like a bitch to them (LADIES)! Whistling, shouting and demanding is not a good thing to do. All they have to do is come and get me and your ass is out of here. I don’t care who you are, what you think or if you can have me fired (good luck on that). Don’t be an asshole! A good tipper can get away with a lot more than a shitty one. Waitresses are less prone to involve me in your life if you are taking care of them.
- Don’t prod the bear!!! I am talking to you young guys who by chance might read this. You’re young, full of life and testosterone. You think you are tough and can handle yourself. Probably not! There are individuals in every bar that it is best to leave the hell alone. They will hurt you as quick as a snake strikes for messing with them. Youthful exuberance is one thing. All that Martial Arts and BJJ/MMA you do at the dojo is great. None of it will stop a bullet from blasting through your heart or a broken beer bottle from ripping out your throat. Life is a marathon, not a 40 yard dash. Men and some women of a certain age got there by being tough, and/or smart, maybe even lucky. They do not have the time nor the patience to deal with you. Being older does not mean that they are any less of a man. It means they were smarter (or just luckier) than all the friends they had to bury along the way. There is a reason that some people are referred to as OG (Original Gangster), Tusk Hogs, Bad Men and other terms. If you are going to be frequenting certain bars, you need to learn that respect and courtesy is a lot cheaper to give than paying for hospital visits or funerals.
One bar I worked at was frequented by an older gentleman that had lived a very interesting life. He was so mobbed up that people would still call him Don as a term of respect. He never got mad, he paid people like me to get mad for him. The guys in his employ did not care who you were, what you thought you knew or what Martial Art you trained in. One would beat you with a hammer while the other one tried to punch your kidney throw your torso.
- Leave the Bouncer/Security staff alone guys. They have a tough enough job to do. They are watching 300 plus drunken monkeys play grab ass with each other. It’s not a fun and glorious job. It’s a nerve wracking headache every shift. You are hoping that no one gets stupid and puts a knife in your kidney. They don’t need you there asking questions or pestering them.
Now let me try and answer a few of the questions I get.
- No, we don’t want your help. If you come up to the bouncer and tell him you have his back in a fight you have just red flagged yourself as a trouble maker. You are looking for a way to fight without getting into trouble. The first thing I will do is from that point on is keep my eye on you and see what kind of bullshit you are up to.
- No you don’t have to be big to be a bouncer, and no, just because you are big does not mean you can bounce. It is people skills and critical thinking that makes a good bouncer. 95% talk 5% ass puckering terror not knowing if you are going to go home that night.
- Yes they are tougher than you. Most bouncers fight more than the average patrol cop. So trying to prove that you are tougher than them is a losing bet. Plus, with a bouncer it is not about social dominance it is just business and the quicker it is over the better for everyone. As Ron White said, “I don’t know how many it would have took but I knew how many they were going to use. All of them”.
- You have to volunteer for the bouncer to get involved in your life. Your actions and behaviors at the bar are all signs, and believe me, they’re watching. Just like a poker game certain things you do, tell them what you are capable of or thinking of doing.
- It’s not personal. Asking you to leave or cutting you off is just business. Don’t come after them when the night is over. Sure you may win but you will go to jail or, on another night you might meet a bouncer that remembers…and paybacks a bitch.
- Leave your ego behind. Who you are, what you are, and what you can do are just red flags. WE DO NOT CARE!
- Show your ID when asked, it’s the law, even if several people ask for it, the bar is simply covering their investment.
- No you are not my friend. You are a patron and a customer. Friends are earned; not just because you drink where I work.
- This is a business. Just like a grocery store or a Walmart, the bottom line is it’s about money. Don’t interrupt the flow of it. If you do be prepared to either pay the cost of a good old fashion ass whipping, being banned/barred from the club or going to jail.
- If the bouncer or security staff are looking for a fight and are known to be quick to hurt a person, don’t frequent that place. Call and complain to the owner or the management. Tell your friends and family not to spend their money there. It can and will make a difference. A security staff that is prone to violence is usually an underpaid bunch of bullies looking to get their rocks off in a fight. Use your money to force the owners into bringing in a better quality of staff. Red Adair said it best, “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional wait till you figure out the cost of hiring an amateur!” As a bouncer my number one job was being a conflict manager. It’s hard enough dealing with you shit slinging primates when you are sober, Add alcohol or drugs into the mix and WEEEEE you go from just an asshole to God I really want to skull fuck this twerp in his eye socket. But I am there to protect the owner’s investment, so I am going to do my absolute best to treat you correctly and be nice to you till you choose the course of actions that it will take for you to either calm down or be thrown out. But I will get you out of the establishment one way or another. And chances are I know the cops on patrol and guess whose side they are going to take.
Look folks it’s really easy to die or get hurt in this world. In the long run you and your safety are up to you. You can be the greatest conflict manager in the world and act like an ass-hat one time and wind up with your guts on a dance floor. Nobody ever wanted that but I will be dammed if I haven’t seen guys volunteer for it.
- In Part I, I listed my 5As of Accomplishment/Performance which are:
1. ATE – Your Attributes, Training, and Experience.
2. Awareness – What you perceive based on your ATE.
3. Assessment – What you decide about what you perceived based on your ATE.
4. Action – What you do based on what you decided based on what you perceived based on your ATE.
5. Articulation – How you explain what you did based on what you decided based on what you perceived based on your ATE.
The idea is that your skillful accomplishment of a task is the result of five interdependent steps. Each successive step is based on the previous ones. The foundation of these steps to accomplish a task begins with your natural attributes, your formalized training and education, and your life experience.
In terms of the Iceberg diagram above, when we observe other people accomplish a task, we see what they have done. We see how they explain what they have done. But what we don’t see is how they decided to do what they did. How their perceptions influenced their decision. And how their individual attributes, training, and experience affected all of it.
In terms of Teaching
Given that no two people begin with the same ATE. It is unreasonable to expect that those two people would accomplish a given task in the same manner. Yes, you can theoretically provide two people with the very same training and education. But their individual natural attributes and life experience will differ. Therefore, their results will differ.
If you are teaching a class of twenty people to respond (accomplish a task) to a certain stimulous (a punch for example), you should expect twenty varied responses. If some of them respond in a manner vastly different from what you would do, then mostly likely, they have a vastly different ATE than you.
When an instructor’s ATE is very different from his students’ ATE, his “qualifications” may actually interfere with his ability to teach his students effectively. Unless, the Instructor consciously takes into account how his own ATE differs from his students. But to do so means being aware of how an individual’s ATE influences his or her accomplishment of any given task.
Take basic juggling for example. Once you are able to successfully juggle three balls, it is a relatively simple task. You are just throwing balls into the air, catching, and throwing again in a certain order. It doesn’t take great hand-eye coordination to accomplish. But it looks impressive. After you have been juggling for a while, it is easy to forget how difficult it was for you to learn. You can demonstrate juggling with ease.
What you have forgotten is that the Now-You is different from the Before-You who didn’t know how to juggle. The Now-You has a different ATE then the Before-You. Your Attributes may be the same. But your Training and life Experience has changed. Your brain wiring has been modified. You can never go back to what you were before your learned how to juggle.
Let’s say students come to your class saying they want to learn how to juggle. Yet they are only willing to devote a few hours to your class and will not practice afterwards. Can you really teach them to successfully juggle? There are always those few people whose extraordinary natural Attributes allow them to skillfully accomplish a new task quickly, but the majority cannot. In this example, you must realize that unless the students have prior juggling training or life experience, they will not learn to juggle three balls. But they could learn to juggle two balls (which is not really juggling).
So what do you do? Try to teach them to juggle three balls which is more fun for you and allows you to demonstrate your skill, but knowing the majority will fail. Or teach them elementary two ball throwing which is unexciting, but something that all your students can realistically accomplish given their limitations?
Or do you tell them that their stated goal of learning to juggle is unrealistic? That they need to reconsider their commitment to learning to juggle. That they can learn to juggle, but it will require more time and effort on their part. All of which they will not want to hear and will most likely make you unpopular. Or do you just take their money and pretend that they will actually learn how to juggle due to your specialized teaching methods?
The Importance of Feedback
Your ATE is not static. It is only fixed in any given moment in time. It is always subject to change and evolvement. But if you are unwilling to train yourself and you limit your life experiences, then your ATE will remain in a narrow change. Your ATE is analogous to a Closed Belief System. People with a Closed Belief System are not open to new information. Their Belief System does not evolve. It is effectively static over time.
On the other hand, people with an Open Belief System are constantly evolving their beliefs in response to new information. And so it is with your ATE. You ATE will grow and evolve overtime if you allow it too. And you can actively evolve it by seeking out new training and new experiences.
What causes an ATE to change is a willingness to respond to Feedback.
Having static ATE is like being a computer running a fixed program. The computer responds in the same manner to identical input. It disregards feedback. Computers with artificial intelligence on the other hand modify their programing in response to feedback. Their programming evolves.
But the quality of a person’s learning is limited to the quality of the feedback received. You can’t develop a high level skill without realistic feedback. This applies to both physical and mental skills. You need to know what you are doing correctly so you can keep doing it. And know what you are doing incorrectly, so you can stop/limit doing it. The more complex the skill, the more feedback is required.
Think of these main concepts in terms of self-defense instruction. The accomplished student is able to Articulate why he or she Acted in a certain manner, based on what he Assessed, based on what he was Aware of, in response to a particular threat, with all steps taking into consideration his individual ATE.
There will be a result stemming from the student’s Action. This result is feedback. If the feedback is realistic, then the student’s ATE will evolve and improve. If the feedback is unrealistic, then the student’s ATE will evolve in an undesired manner. If the student rejects the feedback, then the student’s ATE will remain static.
If you can’t provide your students with realistic feedback, then they can’t really accomplish skill. But, they can develop the belief that they can accomplish a skill.
When I was a child at school one day I got into a bit of a playground scrap with a boy who was bigger than me and a bit of a bully. During this struggle he was attempting to apply some sort of crude strangle or headlock upon me when I managed to pull free and swing around and quite by chance I ‘clocked’ him one with the back of my fist on the side of the neck.
I saw the shock register on his face (he must have also seen the bigger shock on mine!) I then saw pain register and that closely followed by fear. He held his neck and mumbled something about ‘next time’ and wandered off. I never really had much more trouble out of him after that episode. I didn’t realize then that I had used an attribute so often taught in Martial Arts systems.
When I hit him it wasn’t because I had suddenly become bigger, stronger or harder, that wasn’t the reason that made him back off. It was because I had hit (totally by accident) a vital point on his body that hurt and confused him and he didn’t fancy getting another! What a stroke of bloody luck for me!
Years on in my Martial Arts journey I began to learn about weak spots, vital points, pressure points and began to understand that no matter how big or muscular a person can be, these areas are vulnerable on everybody.
I was curious and enthusiastic to learn as much as I could on this topic, as most of the people I began to encounter in my life were larger than me.
The more this area of skill was tried and tested the more things I learnt and the more myths I dispelled about the subject of vital points/Atemi, waza etc. Some areas of the body as soon as they are struck give an immediate profound and instant reaction to an attacker, i.e. eyes, groin, throat. By attacking these areas it also opens up other vital points, i.e. finger claw to the eyes, knee to the groin. Other areas are highly sensitive but very difficult to hit accurately. Accurate targeting is a big factor, knowing exactly where and how to strike and knowing what potential effect and affects the strikes will have is also essential.
Here is a short test, do you know where these following points on the body are if you had to strike or attack them? Clavicle, spleen, patella, cervical vertebrae, mastoid, coccyx, femoral artery, sciatic nerve, liver, sub-clavical artery?
How well did you do? It is important not only for your own self-protection but also for your ability as an Instructor.
‘Play a mind game’
I used to play a little mind game with people that I came into contact with. I would play the ‘what if’ game. What if this person wanted to attack me then how would I go about striking them? What are their obvious strengths or weaknesses? How big are they? How tall? How heavy? Etc. I still use it now and it’s a great way of running through planned pressure point strikes and routines. Learn to study people’s body shapes and think where best would it be to attack them.
There are basically three body types: Mesomorphs, Endomorphs and Ectomorphs.
- Mesomorphs are naturally athletic build with wide shoulders and narrow hips. They tend to have thick bones and muscled readily.
- Ectomorphs have naturally slim build with long, lean limbs, little muscle and narrow shoulders and hips.
- Endomorphs have a stocky rounded build with wide shoulders and hips. They tend to have an even distribution of fat and muscles.
Body types and physical characteristics can affect how you may attack the various vital points. Confronted by a tall opponent, who is slim, you may decide to attack their legs with kicks and sweeps to bring them down to your size. A smaller person you may decide to grab and grapple and hold them in place while you pick your strike.
Attempting to attack the neck area of someone like Mike Tyson for example may not be the best of strategies. His bull-like neck and heavily muscled shoulders protect his windpipe and carotid arteries. These things can be considered when studying potential opponents.
You can have a situation when there are two people who have strikingly different body structures and characteristics, by looking at this you can see how a strike can be instantly effective or not.
Again for example the chin/jaw can be a great KO target but if you are 5 foot 2 and your opponent is 6ft 6, how the hell are you going to reach the target without help of a stepladder (more details of this in my book ‘I thought you’d be bigger’). So you will have to go for something else first. Punch the opponent in the groin and bring him down and forward and you can then execute a perfect blow to the jaw.
If you are faced by a 17 stone body builder, whaling punches at his chest or abdomen isn’t a smart tactic but if you strike the sternum (breastbone) with the point of the elbow it would have an effect. Just by targeting and being accurate you get a result. Again faced by the same opponent and you ‘kicked off’ with a hard stomping kick to his shinbone, no amount of pumping iron can protect this vital spot, then followed up with a thumb gouge to the eye you could be on a winner! There are no muscles in the eyeballs.
But these things have to be practiced on a daily basis to work. The difference between gouging an eye and a cheekbone can be a matter of whether you win or lose.
In my training and teaching I have noticed how people, even senior black belts, have an idea where vital points are but not the exact spot and that makes a big difference to what works and what doesn’t. Time spent studying and practicing Atemi to vital points is time well spent. Don’t just throw something in the general direction, but try and hit the right spot. Remember my little story at the start?
As a training drill you could for example use a knife hand strike to the carotid artery (the exact point for striking the carotid sinus is underneath the angle of the jaw line an inch or so back from the windpipe and not the side of the neck where a lot of people hit.) Now start off slowly and ‘touch’ strike the spot and then build up gradually your speed. If you perform a dozen touch strikes try and accurately hit the carotid sinus a dozen times without fail. If you manage 9 or 10 at speed that’s good, 6 out of 12 you’re halfway there but must improve, any less and you need to get to work on your targeting. You can do this with any strike and improve the targeting immensely.
Another drill is for your partner to call out a vital spot on the body and you must instantly and accurately hit that spot. This not only improves the targeting and your reaction time but also gets you familiar with the names and placement of the vital points. These are just two ideas to work on to improve your skills.
When you also study a person’s characteristics other things can be taken into consideration in relation to what may motivate you to go for certain targets.
Trends can also have their disadvantages. Long hair can be pulled; twisted and painfully manipulated, earrings can be tugged and wrenched free. Long facial hair can be grabbed and twisted for control or ripped out. Glasses can be shattered into the eyes etc.
Also certain dress can go against you. A motor cyclist’s full-face crash helmet can inhibit most face strikes; heavy leather jackets can nullify a good body shot etc. These are all useful things to consider in the reality world of combat.
If you are studying a potential assailant then become attentive. If his hands are covered in heavy rings, know they can be lethal knuckle-dusters. If he has heavy boots on he may favour kicking and stomping. If he’s wearing a muscle vest he may want to maul and grapple you. If he’s wearing a dress run like hell! No, but seriously these things all go hand in hand with your vital point’s knowledge. They can give you the edge you need.
Much rubbish has been pedalled about pressure points. Striking a compliant person where you have also planted the suggestion in their mind that the strike will hurt or drop them is a world apart from some ‘crackhead’ coming at you in fighting mode.
Some of the pressure points being mentioned are so small you just wouldn’t have the accuracy to strike them. Remember one of the first things to deteriorate in real combat is fine motor skills. Any technique that replies on fine motor skills is going to fail.
We have even got demonstrated on face book now ‘no touch knockouts’ were so called experts will point at an opponent and they will hit the floor as if they have been shot. What the f..k? If these things work why haven’t we seen them in the Octagon.
A human being in full fight mode is a formidable creature. The body can take untold punishment. Most pressure points will fail or come up short. You will need the ‘big guns’. These are what I refer to as ‘Manstoppers’ using my ABC system. They are based on empirical knowledge not bullshit.
Now close your eyes and imagine your worst nightmare. He’s in front of you now. Huge, strong, ugly (par for the course) face like a road traffic accident. He’s foaming at the mouth; he wants a piece of you, he says he is going to tear you limb from limb, then start on your family. What are you going to do? Are you really confident you can hit those recommended spots that the Guru’s online tell you will magically work or haven’t you done your homework and your training to really be sure? Don’t wait until this nightmare materializes get to it now so if your nightmare becomes a reality you know what to do!
If you enjoyed this then maybe you would like to download my MANSTOPPERS FREE REPORT now at the link on my homepage of www.kevinohagan.com.
Another simple but effective part of verbal de-escalation is to avoid “you statements” and as much as possible stick to “I statements”. “I statements” show you are taking responsibility (or at least give the impression you are) and are more likely to help people calm down and promote co-operation. “You statements” however can come across as argumentative, judgmental and accusatory. Saying, “I’m sorry but I’m having trouble understanding” is more effective than saying, “You are not making yourself clear.”
Remember it is not about being “right”; it’s about calming things down and avoiding things getting physical. It’s time to put your ego to one side and say what needs to be said to de-escalate not saying what needs to be said to “win the argument”.
Violence can often be triggered by “the small things” when we are dealing with volatile or agitated people. We need to avoid making the other person feel weak, small, trapped, frustrated, pressured, afraid, and so on. Say what needs to be said to calm the person down and know that you are not “loosing face” but being smart enough and skilled enough to prevent things getting physical.
Tone of voice is also an important consideration. Here in the UK raising your voice can be seen as a sign of losing your temper or trying to dominate the other person. Keeping an even tone is therefore very important if we wish to calm a situation down. Things are different in different parts of the world of course and in Southern Europe raising your voice would not be automatically associated with aggression. It is important to be aware of the cultural norms and work within them. This is especially important for those who travel a lot as judging things by the standards of another culture (or subculture for that matter) can cause problems. Both we and the person we are trying to calm down are likely to judge what is said, and how it is said, and all aspects of non-verbal communication, by the standards of our own culture. We need to be aware of this in order to avoid confusion.
A simple example is the distance at which people talk to one another. In the UK and the rest of Northern Europe conversations typically take place at just outside an arm’s length. If a person were to move inside that space while talking it could be taken as an attempt to invade “personal space” and hence a threat (quite legitimately). However, in other parts of the world (i.e. southern Europe, the Middle East, etc) it would be the norm to be closer when talking and hence a negative reaction to a person being a little closer could inflame things unnecessarily.
Generally speaking, people are more trusting of those who speak and act like themselves. This could make you think that “mirroring” the person you are trying to de-escalate could be the way to go. However, “acting the part” is unlikely to work with a person from another culture, part of the world or subculture. It can be taken as mocking, belittling, or being false and is unlikely to help. Looking for common ground can be helpful though, as can trying to develop empathy by using the LEAPS communication model discussed earlier.
One other communication model that is relevant here is “Betari’s Box”. Basically “the box” is made up of four parts and essentially can be summed up as:
“My Attitude” affects “My Behaviour” affects “Your Attitude” affects “Your Behaviour” … affects “My attitude” and so on in a cycle.
To give a simple example: Person A is in a bad mood (their attitude) and hence they overreact (their behaviour) to Person B accidentally bumping into them. The behaviour of Person A affects the attitude of Person B towards them. If Person B were to take an aggressive attitude they are likely to respond with aggressive behaviour. The aggressive behaviour of Person B affects the attitude of Person A who, now convinced that the accidental bumping was an act of aggression, responds in kind. Before we know where we are the situation escalates out of control and physical conflict ensues. The trick therefore is not to let the cycle run away with itself in a negative way, and to break the cycle if it looks to be heading that way. Also, and this is very important, know that controlling your own attitude and behaviour can have a big effect on the attitude and behaviour of the other person. Don’t fuel the situation, but remove that fuel.
To take the example I’ve just given, if Person B had immediately apologised in a warm and sincere fashion that could have affected Person A’s attitude toward them and hence conflict could have been avoided as different cycle could have ensued. Essentially, your behaviour will affect the other person’s behaviour so be sure you do what you can to avoid unintentionally promoting aggression.
So far in this article we have looked at some of the basics surrounding verbal de-escalation. I now want to quickly touch on a few key points of the verbal side of self-protection generally. I’m not going to go into much detail here, but I feel it is important that I mention these things in order to put what we have discussed so far into some kind of context.
Firstly, be aware that sometimes the criminal wants to talk so they can engage you, detain you or distract you. Get good awareness training and trust your instincts about people and situations. Don’t talk to people you should not be talking to. Just keep on walking and flee if appropriate.
Secondly, don’t try to talk your way out of a situation when you should be fighting your way out or fleeing. Remember that you can’t reason with the unreasonable and you can’t talk your way out of all situations.
Thirdly, be aware that it could go physical at any moment and that processional criminals will be experienced at lulling potential victims into a false sense of security. Just because it looks like a situation is de-escalating does not mean that it is! The criminal could be playing along in order to get you to drop you mental guard. The old samurai saying of “when the battle is over, tighten your helmet straps” applies here. Keep your awareness up and be ready to go physical at any moment: even if it appears as if things are being de-escalated. It could be a ploy.
Finally, don’t try to de-escalate when the situation has progressed beyond that point. At that point you should pre-empt and flee. You’ll know when it has gone beyond the verbal by what the person does; not so much by what they say. The person who is walking away issuing threats is much less of an immediate danger than the guy who appears to have calmed down, but who is not backing off. If that person should try to close space then it would be a good idea to “stun and run”.
I think we have touched upon the main points I wanted to address in this article. Before we start to wrap things up, I’d just like to draw attention to what should be the obvious fact that all skills need to be practised if they are to be useable. Just as the physical side of what we do needs to be honed and refined through training and practise, the non-physical skills, such as verbal de-escalation, also need to be practised.
Those interested in teaching and practising realistic self-protection should ensure that realistic role-play, where things may or may not get physical, is included in what they do. In many martial arts schools / self-protection training the mistake is made of all scenarios ending up being physical. This reinforces the notion that physical technique is always the solution to all situations and that is obviously not the case. Our training needs to include verbal de-escalation as the useful and effective methodology it can be.
If we can avoid the physical through verbal de-escalation then obviously we should do so. However, if we don’t have that skill set then we will needlessly put ourselves at risk as situations that could have been avoided will escalate to the physical. There are times to walk, times to talk, times to fight and times to flee. Don’t mix them up or believe that one solution is right for all situations.
As I said at the start of this article, verbal de-escalation is a huge subject and it’s impossible to do it justice in an article like this. There is much left untouched, but I nevertheless hope you’ve found this article interesting and it has encouraged those new to the subject to seek out further information on it. There is lots of really good stuff out there and some very knowledgeable people. Those interested in teaching and practising true self-protection should be seeking that information out and not limiting themselves to the purely physical or believing martial arts / fighting to be one and the same as self-protection. You can be a skilled martial artist and a good fighter without possessing verbal skills. For self-protection verbal de-escalation skills are vital though and I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look at some of the key issues surrounding them.
Today I saw this picture of some Goths, the ones with the pale faces dressed all in black, it was juxtaposed with a picture of another type of Goth, a version of either a Visigoths and the Ostrogoths who were two branches of East Germanic people who, along with the Vandals, were associated with the downfall of Rome way back, remember that? The original Goths were fierce warriors who dominated vast parts of Europe by the 4th Century. If you messed with the Goths you generally got your fingers burned, and your village.
The picture I cut from a meme on FB it asked what the hell happened? The question implies all sorts of things and the main message is that we have gone from Warrior to Weirdo in not that many generations. I had one of those, I get this moments when I saw this pic, and it was to do with the nose to mouth jewellery of our black clad Goths of today. You see it is made of Jet, Unlike most gemstones, Whitby Jet is actually fossilised wood, similar to our present day Monkey Puzzle or Araucaria Tree. which has been compressed over millions of years. The colour of Whitby Jet is unique; its blackness is so intense that the expression ‘as black as jet’ has been a commonly used phrase for hundreds of years. Whitby is a seaside port in North Yorkshire commonly associated with Captain Cook and Dracula.
The Abbey ruin on the South Cliff inspired Bram Stokers epic novel, that and a few white lines of a certain powder, and that is what drew the first modern day Goths who now hold two festivals here a year, My wife and I love Whitby and travel there several times a year, we just spent a week there, I always get asked if I am off for the Goth weekend, and there are always a few Goths wandering the streets, last time we saw a family of three generations of Goths crossing the bridge over the Esk. The modern Goths descend on Whitby not to burn and pillage but to drink, dance and shop (no doubt boosting the trade in Whitby Jet no end that was a bit of a wash out after the boom in Victorian times).
Apparently the Goths, who have been coming here for years now do not gather and party alone, they are now joined by Punks, Steampunks, Emos, Bikers, Metallers and all genres of the alternative lifestyle. It sounds like I may be off there in October, especially as Spear of Destiny are performing. http://www.whitbygothweekend.co.uk/
Anyway, get to the point Garry. Well often it is the more dramatic sub-culture that allow us to see ourselves better. Not that we must all be Goths or Emos, Bikers or Skinheads, Mods or Rockers but there are subcultures in virtually every culture, they are mostly associated with youth but youth is no longer a determining factor of membership. Indeed our fascination with the different, the spectacular and the weird is largely associated with youth culture and its emergence alongside, and stimulated by the explosion in popular music in the latter half of the 20th century.
However, the old Goth, the warrior Goth as represented above is also key to this article. Just look at the pic for a few seconds. Look at the clothes, the weapons, the hair, the adornments, jewellery. If we look closely the amazing thing is not how different the two representation of Goth are but how strikingly similar. Centuries apart and as one in their expression of their identity. Each culture and sub-culture has at its core its own idea of its identity, identity is central to culture, shared identity as expressed in how we are, how we speak, how we eat and how we look.
Clothes, music, dress, jewellery, hairstyle are all part of the rich cornucopia of artifacts we use to express our identity and by extension interact with others.
Think just for a moment about how you dress. What do you wear, what influenced your choices and what are you saying to others in the wearing? What you wear and what you do may be different for different occasions, think about that too?
We cover ourselves with symbols, we badge ourselves up from cradle to grave, we put on our patches to tell the world who we are, and, which tribe we belong to. Everyone is in a tribe. Please do not try to deny it, the thing is we may not recognise it, we may not wear the spectacular clothing of the Goth, Emo or Punk, we may not wear the leathers or the 1%er patches of the biker gangs, we may wear the grey suit of the corporate tribe, the colours of a sports fan or the mom and dad suitable clothing sold in the department store but even that identifies us as who we are or who we like people to think we are.
We interact using symbols, it is called symbolic interaction. We humans, unlike other animals, attach meaning to things and social actions. Sometimes a simple symbol can get everyone all fired up. Like this one.
Well no points for guessing why the symbol used by the Nazis upsets many people, because of their evil actions the symbol has become, for many imbued with evil as its meaning. If you want to shut down a political opponent then calling them a nazi generally does the job, that and painting Swastika on their door. I used to be a window cleaner and one home I worked on had two of these painted on their doorstep. If you knocked on the door to get paid you were not greeted by your stereotypical (yes you have a picture in your head don’t you) white power supporter as in American History X but a lovely old Indian lady (as in Indian sub-continent).
You see the swastika is considered a sacred and auspicious symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, it appears as a Chinese character and has been in use since Neolithic times. A bit earlier than the rise of Adolf Hitler. However, the catastrophic events of World War II and the Holocaust have left the negative association of the swastika (also called a Gammadion Cross, Cross Cramponnee or Manji) remains dominant in most minds.
It is impossible to live without belonging to a tribe, whether you identify as part of a sub-culture or part of the ‘mainstream’ culture, you have an identity. Every aspect of your behaviour is related to that identity including the central characteristic of all groups, language in all its wonderful complexity. Much of that complexity is handled by our use of symbols. The very colour black is symbolic for the modern Goth, so for those involved or in contact with those involved in martial arts, self defence or related fields, you will have come up against the powerful symbolic meaning connected to the revered black belt. But symbols do not only convey messages to others, the act back on the user too, so what happens with this whole black belt thing?
This article is not a tease, there is more to come next month, for now I want you to do some homework. I want you to do an experiment, come on it will be fun. I want you to adopt the position of anthropological strangeness. Anthropologists study human beings, usually in their natural environment. I want you to study yourselves in your environment for a short period. To do so you need to have a kind of conscious out of body experience.
Pretend you are a visitor from another planet, you have no experience of human behaviour of any kind. Suspend ALL your values and beliefs for a few minutes and take a look around you and at you. Reflect upon what you see. Look at how you look, how others look, at how they interact, what appears to govern those interactions, free the mind to see what is actually happening in your day to day life and how we use symbols to interact (like the letters and words on this page), it is far more interesting than you think.
Here is a little clip from a comedian I really love doing a little ‘anthropology’. It should give you a few clues how to do the experiment. See you in July.
Last installment we covered the first part of The Self Defense Continuum and what it means to Deter a criminal’s Intent to harm us. But what is a criminal Interview and what does it look like?
An Interview is the way a criminal, who thinks you have what he wants, makes sure he won’t be injured or captured in the process of attacking you. This, by the way, is your last chance to read him, figure out his game and take off. Once he pegs you as a good bet, you will be peeling him off you instead of walking away.
Five Types Of Interview
According to Marc MacYoung, there are five basic types of criminal interview. Get the full scoop directly from Marc at www.nononsenseselfdefense.com (or NNSD.com). No need for memorization it’s the concepts that count. Even if these aren’t familiar they will make perfect sense. This is the highly abridged version.
The Regular Interview A criminal will approach you expressing a need–the time, a cigarette, whatever. He’s distracting you. While he’s talking, or you are, he’s checking your awareness and also your commitment to defending yourself.
The Hot Interview is a sudden, usually loud, mind-jarring emotional bombardment. Marc says, “The success of this strategy relies on you not being accustomed to dealing with extreme emotional violence and reacting in a stunned and confused manner.” A stunned victim is an easy victim.
In an Escalating Interview, the criminal tests your boundaries with behavior that quickly goes from normal to nuts and will increase until it becomes physical if he gets away with his strategy. This is basically a Regular Interview that quickly ramps up to Hot.
The Silent Interview is where a criminal watches you. You may never have a face-to-face encounter until he attacks. This is the one that scares people most since they feel they have the least control here. The criminal goes through the Intent and Interview stages as he follows you through the grocery store and into the parking lot, hopefully (for him) without you noticing.
The Prolonged Interview can take weeks or more. Think stalking.
Just knowing there is a bomb is pretty important information. Action beats reaction. Once you see the bomb or hear it ticking, you can begin to disarm it or get away. If you don’t know what a bomb even looks like, you are fodder. The five types of interview give shape to your instinctive feelings about a situation.
Gavin DeBecker’s work is another very important part of honing the ability to read a predatory interview. If you haven’t already, grab a copy of The Gift of Fear. DeBecker writes about the kind of stuff you would usually see in Regular Interviews.
Regular Interviews can be perpetrated by well-dressed people with nice manners. The Persuasion Predator’s motto is, you get more bees with honey. This is true in general, but the Persuasion Predator raises it to an art form. This guy’s primary goal is gain your trust and keep you off guard so he can Position himself to get what he wants. This is where being able to think like a criminal can help you out, but you don’t have to go quite that far in order to tap into your persuasive side. Have you ever made promises you didn’t intend to keep in order to get something you wanted? Or told a lie in order to persuade the officer to let you keep your driver’s license?
There are ways to persuade without dishonesty as well. Persuasion Predators use those too. Whatever gets the job done. Of course, not everyone using these methods is a criminal. The key is to use what you’re learning to spot groups of signals together. If you spot more than one ploy there may be something more going on.
DeBecker describes Forced Teaming as a stranger implying a connection between the two of you in order to get under your radar, as in “we are in this together”. There’s a certain natural distance with strangers that only time and trust will change. The idea here is that anyone trying to rush the natural progress of trust should be watched.
Another Ploy DeBecker discusses is Charm, which he explains is a verb not a adjective. People use charm to get what they want. Sometimes all they want is conversation, but sometime they want more.
DeBecker goes on to describe Too Much Information, Unsolicited Promises and others. Go get the goods, it’s on Amazon along with everything else.
If there were a 6th “D” it would be Deescalate. Deescalation plays an important part in deterring some forms of social crime. Deescalation is about slowing or stopping the flow of energy in an exchange that is gathering heated momentum-starving the fire of oxygen. Staying calm while someone berates you is easy and natural for some and near impossible for others. We can all probably think of lots of times things didn’t need to go wrong, but someone lost his cool and the interaction went to hell in half a second. This is a social skill so practice on your kids, on your loud obnoxious neighbor-every day and as much as possible.
Deescalation is a tool you can use to change or redirect an interaction with someone you’re starting to recognize as unstable or aggressive.
Peyton Quinn came up with a few things not to do in response to someone’s excessive anger. These may seem obvious, but common sense is less than common.
Don’t insult him. Insulting is escalation not de-escalation. Usually we only insult people we aren’t afraid of, but we all do dumb things in the throws of anger and other high emotions. Marc MacYoung says, “four letter words have no place in Deescalation.” Don’t tell him to calm down or relax. We all know this never goes well and yet we all say it in that same sarcastic tone every time. Telling someone to calm down is an insult. You are in essence telling him he is nervous and out-of-control.
Don’t challenge him. When you challenge someone with an unstable ego you are forcing his hand. “What are you going to do about it!” can only be construed as an escalation.
Provide him with an honorable exit. Make it easy for him to disengage without feeling like a coward or a looser. This often means you back down first. You have to be willing to stop making your point in the middle, or to apologize even if you’re right. Easier said than done, especially when emotions are high. Try phrases like, “I see your point”, or “I was out of line.” Give him the benefit of the doubt. Get more on Peyton at www.rmcat.com.
Deescalation is about remaining calm in the presence of someone who wants you in an emotional state that makes you less rational and less likely to see the truck coming. Here comes the caveat. Rory Miller says de-escalation techniques don’t work with asocial predators. They don’t see you as a person anyway, so your apology means nothing. This means you may not know what’s going on until you try deescalating the situation, but you will understand what it means when it doesn’t work.
Erik Kondo came up with a wonderful concept called the Goldilocks Principle, which says any response that is out of proportion to the situation upsets the balance. If you under react you may be seen as weak. Apprehension can look like fear, which can have a galvanizing effect on a predator. On the other hand, if you are aggressive in return you have nitro and glycerin. The Goldilocks Principle is Erik Kondo’s way of describing the Just Right Reaction that says, I’m not looking to make a big deal, but I’m not cannon fodder either. You can find more on Erik’s work at Not-Me.org or ConflictResearchGroupIntl.com.
To all this I would add, watch out for the power of wanting. When we want things it makes us vulnerable. Any decent predator can use what we want against us, whether it’s a good deal on a car, a pair of shoes, or the opportunity to audition for a television commercial. Wanting is the bait on the end of the hook. Always check yourself when you are in the throws of want.
The criminal Interview is one interview you really want to fail. Whether it’s up close and personal or from a distance, what you know, how you walk, your general demeanor and awareness and the power of preparedness are your weapons.
There is no award or parade for de-escalation and avoidance or for failing a criminal interview. There is no sign that says, “phew! You just escaped dismemberment by a serial killer.” But you do win another day to eat spaghetti in front of the television or toss a frisbee with your kids. And that counts for quite a bit.
Part One Laying the Foundation
Managing conflict can be approached as a huge and complex field. You can find books of techniques, lists of indicators to watch for. You can fill your mind with endless datum and detail. This approach, whether in a verbal communication class or a martial arts class, is common. It is also, in my opinion, largely ineffective. It is teaching and memorizing trivia so that one can give the impression of understanding. This gives the student reams of knowledge and completely bypasses understanding. This approach is the downfall of much of the technique-based training in the martial arts, producing people that can throw a visually perfect punch, but can’t fight. Useless to the student, but the teacher has nice clear lesson plans and infinite detail to correct.
Conflict management can also be ignored: “It’s a natural part of your life, something you see every day. You don’t need to be taught this.” This approach leads to improvement only through trial and error, and error can be expensive in conflict. It doesn’t even require a teacher, and I have seen it used as an excuse not to teach critical skills to rookies.
And conflict can be deliberately mismanaged and mistaught: “I don’t need to learn how to manage conflict! Everyone else just has to learn to be nice to me.” Which is not just an expression of pure selfish ego, but designed to keep anyone who takes that stance as helpless and dependent as possible.
All three of these approaches are easy to teach. I mean that the process is easy for the teacher. They are not good ways to develop complex skills in the students.
Principles-based teaching is more challenging for the instructor. The instructor can’t get away with just parroting what he or she was taught. It requires a depth of understanding.
“You must turn your toe out at 45 degrees in this technique,” is sufficient for technique-based instruction. The foot position is part of the technique, defines whether the technique is correct or not. The teacher and student can both see it. The teacher can grade it, and if it is taught consistently, the foot position will be part of the system far into the future. A tiny bit of information is all that is necessary, and no real thought whatsoever.
You must turn your toe out at 45 degrees either has a mechanical advantage or it doesn’t, simple as that. There is a simple law of physics or physiology that makes that foot position important (in that position/time/situation) or there isn’t. And if there is, that 45 degrees will be completely wrong in a different situation.
Technique based: “You must turn your toe out at 45 degrees in this technique.”
Principles based: “Generally, you want to keep your knees bending over your toes to keep your knees from getting injured.”
Learning your principles is getting into the “why” of things. Why do techniques work or fail? What are the physics of techniques in general?
The “why” leads to the “how.” Once you understand the principles and start learning how to apply them in action, the “whats” (the techniques) flow from that. They don’t need to be taught, because they can be automatically derived.
That may seem counter-intuitive, and it would be if the training methods of rote training were applied. More on methods later.
You need a few things to get skilled at this way of teaching:
- You need to understand the principles of your system inside and out
- You need to understand the goal of your training
- You need to have a way to gauge (I did not say measure) progress towards that goal
- You need to know your audience/students
- You need a thorough understanding of how humans learn complex skills
- And you need humility, because your students will get good, maybe better than you, very quickly
After outlining this teaching method to a very successful school owner in another country I got one of the best compliments of my life. “I see what you’re doing, but you couldn’t keep a school running that way. The students will get too good too fast. There’s no way to make a living at it.” Cool. But I don’t think he meant it as a compliment.
Understanding principles will come in a later article. If you want homework, though, here it is: Sit down and derive a list of the principles critical to your system.
How do I define a principle? Principles are the underlying things that make techniques work. It’s a principle if it applies to striking, grappling and weapons and there are no exceptions. Leverage, for example, is critical to all three and good leverage is always superior to poor leverage. Now, I went with my hand-to-hand core there, but you can pick anything– business, gardening, negotiations, auto mechanics– and there will be a solid core of principles.
Understand the goal of your training. This one blends with gauging, knowing your audience and humility. Quite simply, many people are not teaching what they think they are teaching. They intend to teach self-protection but put hours into how to win a one-on-one sparring match against a friend in a controlled environment.
Gauging your training. People like measurability. “That which gets measured gets improved.” But in certain fields, measurability has almost no correlation with applied ability. The arrest and control techniques taught at police academies are often complex, multi-step locks. Very easy to grade the students in class, almost impossible to apply in real life. In high school or college, were the people getting A’s in English or Communications the ones getting dates?
For physical skills, and particularly self-defense, there is no way to measure. The only applicable measurement would be whether someone survived, and the possible range of dangers makes survival in one situation likely irrelevant to the next. You can’t truly measure it, but you can and should develop ways to gauge progress and to see what progress is needed. Conflict management is an open-ended skill. Neither you nor your students will ever get to the end point where you know it all.
You need to know your audience/students. In my mind, the biggest division between martial arts and self-protection is that in MA I am teaching subject matter, and in SP I am teaching students.
Each student is different. They all have different abilities, strengths, talents, resources and weaknesses. They will be targeted for very different types of conflict. Further, they will each have different learning styles.
Understand teaching. Most of what we know or what we think we know about teaching comes from our own experience as students in schools, primarily grammar school and high school. Those were places of regimentation, top-down training, with huge power disparities between the instructor and student. Measurability trumped applicability. And everything was aimed at teaching children, not adults.
It would be hard to design a worse model for teaching assertiveness or conflict management. You can’t teach people to be strong while demanding that they obey.
Principles-based teaching has to be applied with principles of teaching. And principles of learning.
Humility. In conflict training, the instructor’s ego is probably the student’s most dangerous enemy. The instructor will be trusted, will be seen to have the answers. If the instructor needs or desires a sycophantic relationship, it will be toxic to the student. If the instructor is too prideful to acknowledge what he doesn’t know and makes shit up to answer questions, he actively endangers his students. All of teaching is about creating students who will be better than you. If you can’t emotionally handle not being the best, you have no business teaching.
This is the end of Part One, laying the foundation. I’m going to make a suggestion. If you can get a copy, watch my video “JointLocks” available from YMAA.com, Amazon and, I believe as an app. It’s not really about the locks. My stealth purpose for shooting that video was to get a solid example of the principles-based approach in front of people. Locks have a reputation for being difficult. The method we show in the video has gotten untrained rookie cops improvising locks under stress in one hour of training. If you get a chance, watch the video, but for the training method, not just the locks.— Rory