Take What You Can Afford Part 2 – Jake Goldstein

So what can we learn from this, and extrapolate about how road rage incidents (or really any conflict or negative social interaction for that matter) unfold? I think most people would agree that the way someone reacted to my wife’s admittedly passive aggressive (though by today’s standards, not unreasonable) reaction to being cut off in traffic was extremely far off of reasonable or normal. Let’s call this an outlier. What would a rational person do? Do nothing and keep driving? Act surprised and apologetic? Probably respond in kind is the most likely, but all of those seem well within the realm of possibility. But that’s not what happened at all. Instead the reaction was extremely disproportionate to the perceived slight. There was certainly no regard for the safety of anyone on the road. It was a single-minded emotional overreaction to get “the last word” and feel vindicated. There was certainly no sense of mission, as advocated by Varg Freeborn.

My purpose in all this isn’t to pick on or berate my wife, but to force her to start thinking through her choices and courses of action so she never has to experience anything like this again, ideally. If I’m being honest though, the more likely best outcome I can hope for is simply better preparing her to respond appropriately when it does. That means managing the situation through more effective setting of boundaries and a happy medium of enforcement of them per Erik Kondo’s model, as well as understanding and defining mission. What is the ultimate desired end state? How does each choice we make advance toward that?

So let’s return to the concept of what you can afford. Let’s think of the sum total of everything you are and possess to bring to life’s situations (“the fight”, if you will) as a bank account. You make deposits by what you invest in yourself. Your choices often cost you something, which we will call withdrawals. How much of a reserve do you have? I will take the analogy one step further. Just as a wise investor will diversify their financial assets, your skill-set and tools should be diversified as well.

It is important to have self-awareness. What tools have you made available to yourself? Again, what investments have you made? This takes the form of not just the physical items you carry with you, but also the training, conditioning, and inoculation you have gained from experience. The more well rounded your portfolio is, the more potential solutions are available to you, which in turn increases your likelihood of finding a suitable solution that leads to a desired outcome. The problem is when you only carry a hammer everything begins to look like a nail. Simply being completely unequipped is also a non starter. Both can be equally bad.

My wife is a rather petite, diminutive woman. Despite her intelligence and common sense, she has virtually no training, conditioning, or inoculation relevant to the issue at hand. I think her rather naïve reaction to what happened makes that fairly evident. It seemed to exist outside of her frame of reference that anyone would behave in such a manner. What should you deduce from this? She probably shouldn’t be engaging anyone where there is any viable alternative. She doesn’t project anything remotely aggressive or otherwise threatening. What does this mean? She doesn’t typically engage people in the same way as, say, someone like me. On the other hand, there are those that look for victims, people who present soft targets on a cursory evaluation. I guess this all begs the question of what is more likely to invite conflict. I suppose the short answer is both equally. It depends largely on the very specific circumstances and with whom you are dealing, even down to particular stages in the process where the wrong course of action or approach can make things worse. Over and under enforcement of boundaries are both huge problems.

How do you know at what level you are operating? Well in truth you really do not know for sure. The best thing you can do is develop your skills to take a read on people and situations. Beyond that, you’ll generally know when a situation is not improving toward a positive resolution and is even likely worsening. That means it is time to adjust and/or change tack. Would the outcome of an otherwise identical situation have changed had I been in it instead of her? It is tough to know for certain, at least in terms of the factor that is furthest from my control. That is to say, the other party always gets a vote. Would he have backed down or been deterred seeing me as a harder target? Or would that have simply provoked more escalation? I know I would have made the choices presented to me differently, but there are so many variables that we get to choose and some not that can completely alter the course at any time.

People who appear to be victims on the surface benefit even more than others from weapons as equalizers. Unfortunately the sword is double edged, so to speak, in reality. Weapons in play increase the risk of any encounter and raise the stakes. They cannot be discounted, especially vehicles. Yes, your vehicle is a weapon that is just as dangerous as any instrument purposely designed as such. We live in this day and age where the conversation about violence revolves around guns and seems to default to that, especially in the United States. What’s to stop someone who is angry over a traffic dispute from ramming the target of their rage or running them off the road? What if said target doesn’t expect it, or is driving something much smaller that can’t withstand or contend with the weapon being deployed against them?

There are a couple of other points about vehicles that demand consideration where conflict is concerned. The first is about both communications and judging intentions. All you can see of someone in a vehicle is typically from about the chest or shoulders upward. You often can’t see their hands or what is in their vehicle. Now add to this the proliferation of tinted windows to obscure even more, and the fact that you are both variably in motion much of the time. It is a very impersonal, almost detached experience as compared to a face to face interaction within personal space. What this can create is a lack of empathy, understanding, and sound communication. There is simply no context for anyone else’s behaviour. This makes it far easier to misread someone’s actions and escalate into hostilities. It also makes it much harder to correctly perceive capabilities and intentions should that happen. Think about the challenges of managing an unknown contact, and now add all these further complications. Talk about muddying the waters in the already complex process of making a reasonable determination of how you should defend yourself.

The final piece of this puzzle is your own discipline and self-control. Effective strategy based boundary setting is as much about oneself as those around you. Read the situation. Take your own ego out of it to prioritize achieving an outcome of your own choosing. Make no move that does not advance this end. “Right” though you, or my wife in the aforementioned case, or anyone else may be; what have you gained by escalation? If you make that choice, what are you prepared to follow it up with when the other party follows suit? You have now potentially lost control of the situation if you haven’t thought it through and prepared for all outcomes. What it all comes down to is a bunch of gaming of “if _____ happens, then I will _____” ad infinitum, with a healthy dose of soul searching about your internally and externally imposed parameters and boundaries. Define what your mission and ethos are. If you’re not clear on any of this, you can’t begin to even formulate how you will go about standing your ground and enforcing your boundaries. Stand ready and be confident, in yourself and what you bring. Do NOT be too eager to use what you possess. Remember that every action has a reaction, and it may not be what you expect. Everything costs you something. Could be your pride, blood, money, freedom, or life. Make choices that advance your goals, not feed your ego. First and foremost, you should always be asking yourself what you can afford.


Do What You Can Afford Part 1 – Jake Goldstein

Newton’s Third Law states that all forces in the universe occur and act in equal and opposite pairs, and that nothing occurs in isolation. How does it relate to conflict management in general?

Well it both does and does not. On one hand, the base assumptions carry over and ring true. I will say it again: NOTHING OCCURS IN ISOLATION. Any force exerted will typically produce an opposing reaction. What doesn’t quite track is the equal part. Are the reactions proportional? Not necessarily. It is not nearly as simple and far less predictable when talking about the psychology of human interaction instead of physics. For the purposes of what we are discussing, let’s establish some basic framework. Not all forces are physical. Projecting force can take many forms, as simple as words or a gesture. The reactions can cover a full spectrum as well, to include doing nothing. Inaction is still a choice where reactions are concerned. We will call them consequences and repercussions. These in turn will prompt a response of some kind, and this process continues until some resolution is reached in the form of both belligerents either being satisfied, dissuaded of the value of continuing, or some combination. This framework of understanding begs a rather simple yet complicated question that one must ask and answer for themselves: “What can I afford?”

My wife was recently party to an incident that occurred on her commute home from work. It apparently began when an older, rough looking SUV in somewhat heavy but moving traffic cut her off very close at speed. This was close enough to severely set off the vehicle’s anti collision warnings. She of course laid on the horn, which used to be a legitimate warning and signalling device. At some point that was apparently deemed super offensive, and admittedly people do abuse and overdo it. She then made an all too common and somewhat understandable, if not necessarily well advised, decision to flip off the driver. He returned the gesture. She apparently at this particular moment laughed because of something on the radio in her own vehicle, paying no more mind to what had just happened.

Apparently that was not to be. My wife believes the other driver thought she was laughing at him, and that was the trigger for an immediate increase in aggression. He honked persistently pulling up next to her to try and get her attention for a span of approximately 3 miles. He darted in and out of heavy traffic pulling next to her and stopping to get even alongside whenever possible. She did her best to not make eye contact or appear to pay any sort of attention out of fear and trying not to escalate the situation. She felt the best course of action was to stay in traffic with witnesses. The driver eventually pulled in front of her vehicle, which she willingly allowed. He flipped her off a couple more times before aggressively cutting across all three lanes of traffic to make a U-turn in the opposite direction.

This situation happened to end rather unremarkably. But it could have spiralled much further out of control. I will admit, even from my considerably different perspective, this encounter seemed like a relative outlier and the reaction of the other party rather extreme.

Part 2 will appear in the August edition.

The Day Chooses You – Terry Trahan

My wife is waiting on me, ready to head out the door. “I’m just about done, Baby” I tell her as I finish lacing up the steel toed Docs, and securing the ankle rig with tools in it. Stand up, arrange the clothes to eliminate any tells, check the tools one more time, and throw on the jacket. There, ready to go.

Every once in a while, she’ll ask why I always gear up before we leave, even just to the corner store, but after 20 years, she knows. I don’t get to choose when bad shit will happen, and I made a dedication to this lifestyle and my Family long ago, to be ready when it does happen. Because it will.

You don’t get to choose, the day chooses you. Think about it logically and it makes sense, but let’s spell it out. Do you think the people attending the Boston Marathon knew shit was going to happen, and ignored it. How about New York, Vegas, the church in Texas. Nope, they didn’t know, the day chose them.

Personal Protection is many things, but at its core, too me, it is a way of life, something that needs conscious consideration, everyday. So, everytime I leave the house, I go through the checklist…

Med kit, tourniquet, tools, weapons, comfort items. Just like making sure I wash my face. I’d say brushing my hair, but ya’ll who have seen me would laugh.

And this is what I teach my students, it is not a fad, or a pick and choose. It is something to take seriously. Don’t buy gear just because someone says you should. In order to support the mission of personal protection, you need to be picky, analyze your life, circumstances, and level of training, and pick your gear from there.

Why would you carry lock picks if you can’t pick a lock? Carrying and trying to apply a tourniquet on someone when you aren’t trained in it doesn’t make sense, and is potentially dangerous.

Everyone is different, our lives, our circumstances, and our talents are different also. And this should influence what choices you make. Play to your strengths, find ways to help with the weaknesses, whether that is gear or training, and then, the important part. Always realize that you are your own first responder, you are the first responder for the ones you are with also. And you never get to decide when something bad happens. You never get warning on what kind of bad stuff might occur. But being mature and thinking, you take the responsibility of being as prepared as possible, and flexible of mind enough to use your training to make up for the other circumstances the tools won’t cover.

But, in the interest of expanding your outlook on this, some of the things I carry, with the proper training, of course, are;

Medical kits: One BOK(BlowOut Kit) on my person, a fuller trauma kit in my bag

Weapons: At least one impact weapon, and a couple knives, strategically placed for access, and a few surprises

Tools: Leatherman tools, mini screwdrivers, pry bars, cutters, they come in handy

Escape tools: Maybe for another day

Flashlights: two, because light is our friend

Miscellaneous items based on comfort or need under specific circumstances

I carry these things because I have made the commitment to myself, my wife and my family to be as ready as I can to handle situations as they arise, whether a fight, a casualty incident, or a busted headlight.

Personalizing Broken Windows Theory – Mark Hatmaker

Today let’s have a look at a partially-discredited theory of crime-prevention that was proposed to work on the large-scale [cities, etc.]

We’ll discuss the aspects that did and do, indeed, work.

We’ll briefly ponder the unintended consequences of following “broken windows” to the extreme.

Then we’ll wind this whole thing down discussing how the “broken windows theory” can work in your life, both in self-protection and the mundane aspects with none of the negative unintended consequences, unless you dig randomly stopping and searching yourself, then it’s a win-win.

Let’s start with, what exactly is the “broken windows theory”?

In 1982, social scientists James Wilson and George Kelling start the ball rolling with a paper titled “Broken Windows: Police and Neighborhood Safety.”

In precis, Wilson and Keller postulated that by increasing focus, or policing of small crimes [vandalism, public intoxication, toll-jumping, and the like] there would be a decrease not only in these petty crimes but also in major crimes.

The “broken windows” of their research paper’s title points to the fact that neighborhoods with high incidences of broken windows and other such vandalism are also signals of higher crime areas. This is a no-brainer as this is basic signaling 101.

We are not surprised by such observations, and lest anyone is skeptical that broken windows may or may not signal something I offer the following thought experiment.

You are alone in an unfamiliar city, walking back to your hotel. You are confronted with a choice of routes.

One shows neatly parked cars, freshly painted building fronts, well-maintained landscape, bright tasteful curtains in unbroken windows.

On the other route, we see a car on blocks with broken windows, graffiti on walls, and an over-turned trashcan.

Which route back to the hotel do you choose?


Now, at this point we simply see confirmation of broken windows as a signal to something, but what? Why would we assume the evidence of vandalism is also evidence of crimes a bit beyond.

Wilson and Kelling demonstrated an interesting linkage between petty crime [and I hate using that word, as to the property owner “petty” still means loss of time, money, and peace of mind] and more egregious crimes.

It seems that habitual petty crime committers are following Pareto’s Principle, that is 80% of ALL crimes are being committed by 20% of the “lawbreakers.” In other words, most of the damage in the world is done by some very busy perpetrators. Those with no compunction about randomly damaging property or toll-jumping also showed a higher likelihood of committing other crimes.

Keep in mind the link is not 100% causal, meaning that every kid with a spray paint can caught tagging a building is not necessarily destined to commit a major crime but…it does mean that that petty-crime signaler does show a far far higher likelihood of something more dire or damaging in the future than the kid we see pushing the broom in the supermarket.

Broken Windows Theory found that greater vigilance on the small reaped large-scale rewards.

Now, where this went awry had nothing to do with Wilson or Kelling, it was more a case of overreach or prior restraint. Some police departments moved from cracking down on petty criminals to attempting to stop petty crimes before they occurred—and prevention is always a great idea, but the distasteful tactics of stop and frisk and, in some cases, overzealous profiling took a solidly researched idea and moved it to something akin to the “precrime” storyline of the film “Minority Report” based on the Phillip K. Dick story.

Lest, any of my brothers in blue think I have simplified, and I have, I’m on your side—bad guys should be stopped—thank you. But, also, the constitution is pretty sweet, too.

Let’s take this to an area where we can probably all agree, and extract some personal utility out of the “broken windows” theory.

I’ve been doing this martial arts, self-protection thing for years upon years and I don’t think my estimation is off-base when I say most every self-defense class I’ve witnessed, self-protection tome I’ve slogged through, “How to be Safe & Kick-Ass” article I’ve ever read begins in SHTF territory.

There is indeed a place for SHTF tactics, but jumping to there from the beginning and perhaps, too often, gives far too little weight to all the wee tactics and observations we could be making along the way. Tactics and observations that might render all this SHTF side of things a bit less than useless [if we’re lucky, that is.]

I think we can all agree that locking doors, a worthy alarm system, well-lighted entrances on a home in a “good” area are all more useful than being slack in these areas and spending all your time on working dry fire “Clear the home” drills each weekend.

Locking doors, good lighting, using the wisdom of real estate agents everywhere of “Location, location, location” is essentially exercising “Broken Windows” strategy.

Take care of the small things and the large will often take care of themselves.

Let’s run a brief and admittedly incomplete checklist of personal “Broken Windows” tactics and see how many we adhere to:

  • Eyes up and off phones, aware of surroundings when in public.
  • Ear buds out, taking in the sounds of what’s around when out and about.
  • Scanning each new environment for alternate exits and less than savory types.
  • Paying attention to gut feelings and leaving locations before your gut has a chance to be right or wrong.
  • Realizing that never losing your keys, always having your personal items squared away and good to go is just as important, if not more, than that emergency weapon you’ve got tucked away somewhere.

You get the idea, policing ourselves for the small habits will prepare us for greater vigilance if ever needed. Always jumping to SHTF is akin to skipping the purchase of the small kitchen fire extinguisher for a chance grease fire, and rather opting for your own fire truck if the house should ever goes up in a blaze.

Take care of your leaky faucets, your creaky doors, your broken windows before they bring the whole house down.


Political Upheaval, Social Issues and Self Defense – Terry Trahan

If you live in the US, or if you have been watching the news, I’m sure you’ve seen all the footage of the rallies, riots, protests, and various vandalizing and unpleasantness that we are experiencing in the country right now.

I have seen much good advice written, and contributed some, about avoidance, ways to survive a rally turned riot, and all of those are good, I back them, but I’d like to add some different thoughts here.

Firstly, the best advice is to avoid them all together. For me, there is no good that can come from a gathering that has at its core, confrontation with passions running high. But, sometimes you must pass through the area, or the riot comes to you. I used to live smack dab in the middle of downtown Denver, two blocks from the park used for rallies, and 5 blocks from the State Capitol, we would, at times, get caught in the middle, so it is not always possible to avoid.

The first thing I want to cover is your own mindset and internal awareness. If you are mad, passionate about an issue, or anything else that alters your normal mindset, you need to be aware of how that will affect you if things go down the crapper. You can’t make good decisions with a bad outlook.

It’s also easier for you to be manipulated into looking like the bad guy when you are not in control.

One of the best mindset sayings I have heard, and made a mantra of comes from my friend, author S.A. Bailey, and he uses it as an occasional tag line or autograph. It is as follows, and then I will break it down.

  • Zen Up
  • Carry a gun
  • Be Love

Until it’s time to shoot a motherfucker in the face

A little crude, perhaps, but easily understood, and addresses dealing with people caught up in our current social environment.

  1. Zen Up; Be calm, don’t get distracted, pay attention without becoming a part of the proceedings. Assess, judge and be present.
  2. Carry a gun; While this is great as a tool, it may not be feasible or acceptable to some, but the mindset would dictate that being armed in a possibly dangerous situation is a good idea. Be it knife, pepper spray, cane, baton, or gun. Be prepared, be safe, be dangerous if needed.
  3. Be love; Be calm, be nice, don’t get in arguments, don’t antagonize anyone. Even if you hate the subject or the people, no good comes from expressing your opinion when you are outnumbered by people who are willing to use violence.
  4. Until it’s time to shoot a motherfucker in the face; When it is time for action, it is time, you need to act now. No second guessing. Have your escape route planned beforehand, know that action is needed, and do it. Denial of pain and avoidance of needed violence can get you injured or killed. Be ruthless about your safety, and those with you.

When you are in the middle of a disturbance or riot, it is not the time to assert, or expect, your right to express your opinion to be honored. Swallow your pride, and just concentrate on the mission of getting home. Needless arguing gets all sorts of people in trouble, and the more your ego is invested, the more trouble you can get in.

In general, the only thing that is a threat is physical actions. Words do not injure you, rocks, sticks and cars do. But, in a rally or riot situation, you need to pay attention to the words around you, as they can trigger action against you. That doesn’t mean you can start blasting away because you felt threatened, it means you need to move your ass now.

Hive mentality/herd mentality is a real thing in a mob, and the guy you work with and joke with at lunch can turn on you and beat you to a pulp in a mob.

Hopefully you can see that it is important to avoid these gatherings, no matter how passionate you are about an issue. But if you won’t or can’t please keep these words in mind and stay safe.

Oh yeah, please,as always, I would highly recommend carrying some basic

First aid/trauma gear, and a charged up phone.


Do You Choose Situational Blindness? – Mark Hatmaker

“The only fights you truly win are the ones you don’t have.”-Lee Child

Keeping the above quote in mind, along with the fact that crime is a product of opportunity, we go a long way towards being “masters of self-defense” if we simply remove as many opportunities as possible from our behavior.

With that said, let me point to a bit of advice from former CIA operative Jason Hanson, who says that the number one tip he can offer to making anyone and everyone a bit more like Jason Bourne in the modern world, is simply this “always be aware of your surroundings.”

Easier said than done, right? Well, he goes a bit further by offering what he considers the number one concrete tactic to becoming aware of your surroundings-don’t use a smartphone. That’s it.

He says spy craft prohibits the use of smartphones not simply because of the tracking potential but because it encourages absorption, a retreat from where you are to someplace else that is not here.

He points to the numerous instances of car crashes related to smartphone use, but says that observation does not go far enough. He has catalogued an impressive battery of incidences where victims were chosen simply because they were the unaware animals at the watering hole with their heads down blind to their surroundings.

Lest anyone think that the use of the word blind goes too far, he backs up this contention with copious examples of security camera footage of people simply blindsided in all sorts of public surroundings simply because their eyes were glued to the screen.

Two astonishing examples come to mind-the first a bar is robbed at gunpoint, the predator actually stands next to our smartphone user during the robbery. The smartphone user moves down a seat as if in courtesy giving the man next to him room. He never looks up from the screen. When the police arrive after the robbery, the smartphone user has nothing to offer in assistance, he had no idea the robbery even took place.

The second example sent to me some time back, a man boards a bus in San Francisco the camera shows EVERY other passenger with their faces glued to screens. The newest rider pulls a gun and brandishes it, no one notices it. The predator looks confused, puts the gun away, seems to think for a moment and then pulls it again, this time he uses it-the precious window of reaction to avert a tragedy has been lost.

If (if) we think “Well, I’m not that way, I’m perfectly aware of my surroundings even while I use this marvel of technology” your self-judgment goes against all the science of the brain’s executive function. We simply do not multi-task well.

In a recent study of “time loss perception” smartphone users were monitored while they periodically checked their phones in a casual dining experience. They were being timed by observers on the scene unbeknownst to them.

When approached and asked how long they thought their interaction with the phone had lasted, they unanimously underestimated the phone interaction by 80%. That is, they (we) have no idea how long our attention is actually lost, how long we are blind.

Blind to our dinner companions is one thing, blind to predators with a gun is another.

Since even highly trained spy personnel are told to drop the smartphone, do you think we the lesser-trained citizens of the world will be any less resistant to its temptations?

I offer a drill, for those brave enough to survive electronically-teatless for a day, dock the phone and be awake in the day. Be aware.

Shoot for a week, particularly if you found the exercise uncomfortable.

I will say, it is an oddity of the power of these devices that often when I offer some clients drills such as complete 500 burpees in the course of a single day or some other such physically taxing challenge, more often than not people step-up. They do it.

When this “wean yourself from the electronic teat drill” is offered the failure rate is far, far higher.

In short, we can’t have it both ways, we can’t be prepared operators in the world who claim to give value to awareness and self-protection and at the same time be checking every ping and chime that sounds in that electronic leash.

Aware animals, operational professionals don’t text, and don’t surf the web outside of the home. It’s either no-phone or a flip-top phone that is, well, a phone.

So, ask yourself, are you aware? If you’re reading this on your phone and you are not at home Mr. Hanson and I both would say you most definitely are not.



You Could Die Laughing – Al Overdrive

Street prank videos – What they can teach us about conditioned response, context and situational awareness.

At first glance prank videos are mindless entertainment; taking advantage of the element of surprise and have little value or interest to people interested in self-defence or street awareness and conflict-survival. Like many people, I find some of them funny, and some I find cross a line making me wonder “ How did these people not get knocked out for doing it?

Recently after Escrima class, my Instructor (Charlie Warren @ Urban Escrima) and I were discussing how physical training is only part of the self-defence puzzle; Regardless of if you have spent years perfecting a technique in the dojo or bench-pressing in the gym, you can’t rely on this alone, nor on the assumption that people will react the way you expect them too. Environmental awareness and consideration of unexpected factors are just as important.

This is where prank videos can be a useful tool in the self-defense practitioner’s repertoire by critically assessing the behaviour and reactions of both the prankster and the victim during an unexpected interference in public. Most conflicts we experience in ’the street’ begin either by ambush or by escalation from a minor unexpected interruption, which one party having intent and the other wondering what is happening. This is where the prankster and the attacker share a starting point and mindset.

In this piece we are going to look at four videos, from low risk through to high risk pranks, with the final video leading to a massive escalation in reactions which could have ended in a fatality.

In this first light-hearted video the pranksters film unsuspecting people using the public showers on a beach, constantly adding more shower gel until the victim realises something is wrong.

Each victim is targeted at their most vulnerable, when their ability to see and respond to a threat is reduced. Luckily for the pranksters only one lashed out blindly, nor did any passers by decide to intervene. It is up to use to decide if this was lack of awareness, lack of public spirit or that people saw it as a harmless prank. We see that the last victim panic and run off, believing he is bleeding. Imagine the scenario if what could have happened next if someone passing by him was mistaken for the prankster, or if the pranksters had been caught mid-act by him. Here a lack of consideration for others could have lead to this prank ending in court or the hospital.

The second and third videos show the importance of context and how it affects responses, and response time; The prankster pulls out boxing gloves and challenges random people to a fight. In one he is dressed as Santa, in the other he is dressed in boxing gear. While dressed as Santa most people instantly work out it’s a bit of a joke and there is no risk of harm. Without the Santa suit, people take longer to drop their mental guard and in the final situation, take their response to a higher level than the prankster was prepared for. Again the pranksters were lucky that no-one walking by decided to get involved or escalate. Again we see the pranksters relying on the public perceiving the gloves as an indicator that its not serious, instead of it being an attack by someone wanting to cause harm.



In this final video the pranksters deliberately target people they think will be up for a fight in the street, goad them into escalating to a physical fight and then use a disruption technique to stop the fight from happening. Each time just as the fight is ‘on’ they strip to a mankini, and the shock of this causes confusion triggering he ‘fight or flight’ response.


This video can teach us a lot ; The pranksters were relying on their previous experiences to survive the confrontations, and were totally unprepared for the final victim response.

The first 2 minutes of the video is interesting to test yourself to read the body language of the victims and see when they decide that the fight is ‘on’. Some of the victims take a while to comprehend what is happening, then give the pranksters verbal fences, physical fences and finally prepare to square off. Others go straight to squaring off.

At 2:27 the prank becomes more of an interesting study in pre-fight ; The victim first looks around and attempts to diffuse the situation with laughter, then resorted to verbal and physical fence to distance himself from the aggressor. His body tenses up and he becomes more focussed on the threat. When his boundry is crossed a second time he uses a more forceful push as a last resort readying himself to fight.

At 3:07 The pranksters reliance on previous ‘wins’ makes them take a risk too far and they challenge a gang of five guys. The guys at the back are laughing and aware that 2 vs 5 is not good odds, and don’t take it seriously. At 3:17 you see the guy in red move leave the group and his buddies at the back go from laughing to ‘ready’. The pranksters are so used to this prank ‘working’ that they haven’t considered what could go wrong, and do not pay any attention to the guy in red moving away and circling behind them.

Oblivious to the changes in behaviour around them or the red hooded guy drawing a firearm, the pranksters continue to goad the group of guys into getting physical, and they whip off their pants to reveal the mankini. Only after the video crew join them do the pranksters even realise that they had a gun pointed at the back of their heads.

So what lessons can self-defence practitioners learn from these prank videos?

Here are a few to start it off:

  • People tolerate different levels of space invasion before responding.
  • People have different ideas of ‘appropriate level of response’ to you
  • During a conflict always be aware of the possible involvement of third parties.
  • People may share different values and not get ‘the joke’

People are unpredictable when you threaten their self-image.



Seems like an eye blink ago when I was sixteen. This thing called time has over taken me. A mere moment ago I was young kid living in New York City. I was young teenager enjoying the seventies in the Big Apple and all that it offered. How can you even begin to explain to the young people of today that they really missed out on some the greatest music that ever will be? Or what a disco experience was like? How does one describe the smell of the old Bowery along with CBGB’s and the grit? When I visit Forty Second Street today, it looks like Disneyland to me, Lion King Reigns supreme. Gone are the porn shops and Kung-Fu stores that sold posters of Bruce Lee. Union Square Park is so gentrified I feel like I am in a foreign country.
Martial Arts in the City were a very different thing back then. You knew peoples provenance. If your lineage was not traceable you were put on notice. A few guys from an infamous dojo on the lower East Side would have fun “visiting” people who seemed suspect in their so called “credentials”. Tournaments pitted “East Coast versus West Coast”, “Karate versus Kung-Fu”, and Aaron Banks put on the greatest martial art extravaganza on the planet. There was still some semblance of stylistic “purity” back then, in that you could tell a Goju-Ryu man from a Tae Kwon Do man. Shotokan was clearly distinguishable from various Kung-Fu. No such thing as what is now called “MMA” back then. Although when we had style versus style disputes in a tenement hallway or South Bronx rooftop, things became a bit dicey to say the least.
When it came to the street of course it was all about survival. We had guys who would show us “Jail House” boxing, and we would always have fun with the brothers “slap boxing” in the street. Improvised weapons ruled the day. Cheap, simple and efficient were the guiding ideology. None of us knew anything about “FMA” back then. We had seen some Iaido and Kendo but not much else. Some guys knew a bit about native weapon fighting from family, like some guys we knew from the islands. I had experienced a bit of Magyar Gypsy knife while visiting Hungary. But nothing was fancy or full of heavy “theory”. Pointy end goes in this way was the operative theme.
Quick deployment and concealability, and the ability to ambush someone dominated our approach. An icepick in a paper bag was unseen but felt when thrust forward. A cheap fish weight attached to a dog collar hit like a black jack. A box cutter and screw driver were subway specials – and I don’t mean the sandwich version.

Cheap, accessible and disposable made sense to us. None of us could afford a nice knife, although some guys would carry a Case pocket knife. We knew about the “throw away”. We learned that from many of the underworld types – gangsters, gang members and guys we knew from the “joint”. No glamor in shanking a dude multiple times with an ice pick. No movie fantasy about guts spilling open from a box cutter slash through a thin t-shirt on a hot summer day. When the stuff hit the proverbial fan it was on.
Today I see a lot of what I call “fancy stuff”. Expensive exotic looking curved knives from faraway places are sold all over the internet. Beautiful folders and fixed blades that while costly and nice eye candy, you would be hard pressed to throw away if ever used. I see knife “templates” that while fun to practice, are too complicated to perform under unpredictable circumstances and duress. By and large I don’t see deployment taught and the need for a truly predatory mind set. Some guys are making money selling workshops teaching the fancy fluff and stuff. While I don’t begrudge them in trying to earn a living, it would be nice if they could interject an occasional “real” method or principle in what they propagate.
But I get it. People say they want to learn “self-defense”. But in my experience when you attempt to teach that, people get appalled. They blanch and change color right before your eyes. They say things like “wait that is too intense for me, can you tone it down” or “I don’t know if I could ever do that to somebody”. But teach them a form of religion disguised as martial arts, or a form of rolling around the mat like dogs in heat, and they sign up in droves. Some families have made a great deal of money brain washing the masses on the efficacy of their invincible legendary methods. And yes, maybe on some beach in Brazil, mano a mano with mucho machisimo, it has validity, but in crowded bar, or moving crowded subway car, I don’t know. If you are in the street when you are being ambushed by multiple predators, probably armed and in low light conditions, it ain’t a Jackie Chan movie. And a huge obese aging pony tailed Aikido Guy who never gets a scratch in the movies when fighting the bad guys, is not coming to your rescue. And what if the defender is unarmed? Are people by and large still so gullible? The first mistake of a defender is that he was caught unarmed. And if he is armed, he needs to be trained and willing to use his covert weapon of choice.
The combat mindset should be an important principle to inculcate. Does not matter what you know if you are not willing or unable to make it so. Keep it simple. Learn blunt impact and edged weapon methods with an eye toward ultimate survival. Become familiar with firearms. It never ceases to amaze me how so many martial art “experts” I know who are teaching public workshops and classes know nothing about firearms. They self same Guros also make lame excuses about this ignorance. But yet they often teach gun disarms! In my simple logic how can you defend yourself against something if you don’t know how to use it and how it functions (and hence its strengths and weaknesses)? This is also my logic when I see martial art “experts” teaching students how to defend themselves against a blunt impact weapon or a knife. And of course if you don’t understand the mind set of true predator, it puts you in a moral and ethical conundrum. The predator has no “compassion” or “empathy” as a so called “normal” person would be conditioned to have. So that passive “just re-direct and control” “non-Violent” approach is gonna get ya killed. Doesn’t anyone see the lack of logic in the term “non-violent” martial arts? Self-protection will be anything but non-violent.
Train hard. Use your common sense if you can. Become well rounded in your approach. Keep it simple. Don’t buy into the fancy stuff. And if you do, have fun with it but don’t confuse it for authentic self-protection. If you train in a so called martial-art for the exercise benefits, that’s wonderful. But try to comprehend that authentic martial arts for real world survival is not about just the workout. If you live in a gun culture please at least become familiar with what that means. You don’t need to be an expert shooter by any means. But at least have a cursory knowledge for your own benefit.


Strangers in a Strange Land Part I – Darren Friesen

As a Canadian having now lived in Costa Rica for 7+ years, I often get asked by expats on smooth(er) integration and immersion into a new culture. With some cultures having an innate dislike for foreigners relating to “stealing” jobs from nationals, losing unique elements of culture, cultural disconnects and the like, it can at times make one a target that stands out like the proverbial sore thumb. This article is the result, though not limited to the list itself as this is just the tip of the iceberg. Some conceptual ideas on survival and safety when living abroad as an expat:

  1. Be aware. Situationally aware. Yes, it’s a broad general term but it simply means noticing things that stand out, that don’t seem right, that set off your intuition, that can be perceived to be a potential issue: strange people hovering in the neighbourhood, cars parked in areas for extended periods of time, items left in places you don’t recall leaving them. Smoke billowing around corners you have limited vision. Shadow reflections of oncoming unseen individuals. Mirrors to see people’s actions/body language/tells without them knowing. Movement inside a car you thought was uninhabited. Silhouettes in the dark. It can be as basic or as diverse as you want to make it.
  2. Accept the fact that you’re a stranger in a strange land and act accordingly. Whether you fall into this category or not, you are perceived as being “American/North American”, having money and, oftentimes correctly, not being part of “their” world (meaning the criminal). The more you showcase this in public and draw attention, the more you’ll likely receive.
  3. Fit in as much as is possible, even if it means learning a little Spanish and attempting to speak to the locals with it. Get to know your neighbors. Support local business. Talk to people. Be friendly.
  4. Accept the fact that you, too, could be a victim and, yes, it COULD happen to you. Oftentimes people who live scared and pray that it couldn’t happen to them transmit this through body language in public. Be confident, act like a hard target and carry yourself like you know the territory and are comfortable in the culture.
  5. You don’t need a pitbull or Rottweiler. Simply something that makes a lot of noise and draws attention is a) enough to make them go to another house, b) make your house a potentially harder mark than is worth their while and c) give you enough time to clear your head (if in the middle of the night) and take the appropriate steps. (eg. escape, call 911, get to your gun/weapon.) I like the dog idea as much as the alarm idea. This is a loyal friend/family member and if you treat them right they instinctively protect their owner in various ways. If your dog is barking at-length there may be a legitimate reason for it, don’t brush it off. Remember, everything is contextual. If it ends up being the neighborhood kids having a mahenga in front of your house, no harm no foul. It took 10 seconds to find this out.
  6. Weapons are a great force multiplier and are far more effective than anything someone can do without one, which I realize is a moral issue for many…or the majority. That being said, to go heavily along with what Paul said at the meeting, if you have the intention of using one, get training. The last thing you need is a criminal taking it away from you and using it against you. Improvised weapons are everywhere around the house and it takes someone who can envision how to use them, how to handle them and what kind of damage they can do. (flexible, bladed, penetrating, projectile, impact, shielding, etc.) If you have the will to use a weapon, use it with intent. We have a catchphrase: “He who hesitates, meditates…horizontally.” Use it with commitment and visualize what you’re protecting. What’s important to you and what are you willing to fight for. Could you move on having lost them or they you. Be feral and vile if you need to survive. Mindset is far more important than physical skill (But, remember, training enhances this although I realize not everybody can or is able to partake in training nor has any inclination to fight.) Here’s a cold truth most people are not able to accept: the only way to defeat violence (when all other avenues are spent) is utilize greater violence. Be brutal. Self-defense implies that there are 4 elements present: ability, opportunity, intent and preclusion. Your first 3 have already been passed by context, the 4th isn’t required. It is you or them if you decide to act with aggression. If you’re not able to come to terms with this…remember, for those who haven’t delved into this arena, it is not a walk-in-the-park – the pre-, during and post- parts are traumatic and life-changing. Another reason to get proper training on the whys/hows/whens.
  7. Yes, some are expensive but they are a great deterrent and if they work only once they will have justified their cost. (You don’t want to find out AFTER you’ve made the decision that they’re TOO expensive that it was worth the investment. Too late.) That being said, pick someone reputable as there are many offering this service that will immediately in turn pass on the knowledge to their burglar friends of how to trip the alarm. I would recommend going through a reputable security company. Oftentimes, these companies actually monitor through remote CCTV, will let you see the footage and take their business seriously as it’s extremely competitive and losing a client is not something they want, nor the bad reputation that’ll come from taking the above route. (Independent companies may not often care, remember, you’re a Gringo to them and they predominantly work with and in their community)
  8. Pretending to be asleep can sometimes work (as the adamant gentleman insisted at the meeting) and, like the story I mentioned, can save lives. But, remember, from this story, they were actually fully asleep and there were no physiological anomalies needed to be controlled. If the burglars want money (and think you have it), want to kidnap, be violent and take their resentment out on the homeowner for whatever reason, it can backfire. There is no one right solution and a catch-all response to every scenario. Home invasions are always contextual so plan accordingly. (And “pretending” to be asleep is often easier said than done with adrenal dump/tachypsychia-heart pumping 250 bpms, perpetual shaking, uncontrolled breathing, fearful wife or kids beside you, involuntary responses, etc.) Ever tried it with an angry wife/husband after a fight and they’re not quite finished? How’s that worked for you? (If it doesn’t work on her/him it just might not work on them)
  9. Do a quick scope of the house upon return (and upon leaving). Don’t get caught off-guard. This goes for car safety as well. Before getting in your car, look underneath the car, backseat, vehicles beside/behind/in front of. Don’t stop too close to the car in front of you. Lock your doors while driving. Put your seatbelt on after you’ve locked the door and take it off before unlocking to get out. Pay attention to strange cars following you and don’t lead them to your home where you’re isolated. (A better idea is to lead them to the police station or a populated public place you’re familiar with. Act like you’re calling someone to report them WITHOUT getting out of the car. Never get out when challenged or pull over to a place of their terms. Everything regarding safety should always be made on your terms. It’s your life and only you are in control of it).
  10. Check for escape routes and safe(r) hiding places if needed, both in the house, in the yard and through neighboring land. In a pinch this saves you decision-making time under the effects of adrenaline if the proverbial shit does hit the fan. (And remember, if you can get out of that exit, someone can also get in) The last thing you want is to make new decisions while under intense pressure for your life. Which leads me to my next point….

This will be in Part II next week.


How to Deal with a Stalker – Clint Overland

Friend of mine is having trouble with a stalker/ex and isn’t getting any help from the police or the DA’s office. This is common among anyone that is not wealthy enough to warrant certain protections from the government. It is all about the money folks sorry to bust your bubbles. If you are not wealthy enough to cause trouble for the upper management of the local, state or federal government you are not worth them spending the money on. That is as simple as it can get. If your family isn’t spending money on reelection contributions and fund raising you will not get the same protection or help as you would if you lived in the Lake Ridge area. So what can you do.

1st if you have already talked to the police then start keeping a journal of what you have been going through. Don’t embellish simply state facts of time, date and what occurred. Include any exchanges by text, Private message, email, phone calls whatever, Include time date and a copy or screenshot of what was said.

2nd Hire a lawyer, it is worth the money to protect yourself from any legal repercussions and harassment by certain parties. Have them file the paperwork for a Restraining order or Protective order. Does this protect you from harm? NO absolutely not but if you have to kill the individual to protect yourself from legal and civil problems later. Your lawyer will guide you through this process. That protective/restraining order is a hunting license

3rd Do not get mad at the police they really don’t have a say in the way the laws are written and enforced. BUT list every time you talk to an officer, their name and badge number in your file. This again is evidence in case you have to take protective measures to defend your life or the lives of your children.

4th. USE SOCIAL MEDIA to tell your story, write it out, video your side of things and let people know what is going on. Also if you have to contact the local media and tell them what you are going through and that you are not getting any help from the police and the DA, remember the ones in charge are POLITICAL ANIMALS and when its time for the votes to be counted every one they lose because of you is one they will never get back.

5. Learn to either use a gun to defend your self or at the very least learn to use pepper spray and a knife.Folks you life is worthless to anyone else but you and it is on you to learn how to protect it.