Using Time to YOUR Advantage with Brain Processing – Erik Kondo

The ability to manipulate time is the ultimate super power. The benefits of time travel are obvious. So too is having the capability to slow time down and dodge bullets Matrix style. If you can control time, you will always be faster than your opponent. This advantage would virtually guarantee your victory in a physical contest. But let’s face it, you can’t control time. But you can optimize the manner in which you use time.

You can optimize the use of time through efficient brain processing which allows you to move and think as fast and smoothly as possible. Just like a computer with a faster microprocessor, you can get more done and quicker.

Your brain can be thought of as having two systems. System I is the fast processing part of brain that doesn’t think on a cognitive level. It processes movement, touch, and balance and is based, in part, around your Cerebellum. System II is the slow processing part of your brain that thinks, strategizes and is based around your Prefrontal Cortex. Most complex tasks such as human physical performance and competitions require both System I and System II utilization. The trick is to deconstruct these tasks so they are accomplished in the most efficient manner by your utilization of System I and System II.

As an analogy, imagine you have two friends Flash and Geeky. Flash moves very fast, but he can only do certain tasks and follow known patterns. Geeky on the other hand, moves slow, but his actions are creative and strategic. Your job is to locate a needle in a haystack. One method would be to divide the haystack in half and have Flash and Geeky sift through their respective piles. A more effective method would be to have Geeky devise a clever searching strategy that both he and Flash could implement.

When it comes to optimizing your overall task processing, your System II devises a plan of action that your System I is able to execute for certain aspects of the task.

Let’s examine juggling three balls as a complex task to be accomplished. If you pick up three balls and attempt to juggle without prior experience, you will fail. You will not know how to get started other than to throw the balls up in the air. No pattern will emerge. There is nothing instinctive about the standard three ball juggling pattern.

As an aside, you can learn to juggle two balls in one hand by doing nothing other than practicing. That is because it is intuitively obvious how to do it. You just need practice. Rock climbing is the same. Put someone in front of a rock face (not too hard) and he or she can just start climbing. She may be technically weak, but she can get started. The same goes for fighting. Emotions aside, anyone can physically fight without training. He or she may fight poorly, but he can do it.

In order to juggle, your System II must discover and learn the three ball juggling pattern. Once you intellectually understand the pattern, you still must implement it on a physical level. You will throw the balls up in the air as before, and they will still fall to the ground. It will appear to you that you have no time to throw, catch, throw, and repeat the pattern. You will feel rushed and overwhelmed. The problem is that your System II processing is too slow to be able to juggle three balls. And your System I has not had enough pattern training/repetitions/practice to take over primary processing control. Therefore, if you are like most people, you decide that juggling is too hard to learn and you quit.

But if you are determined to persist, you need a strategy for success. In the beginning, you need to slow down and reduce the inputs to your System II to a manageable level. You start with one ball. Your System II can handle one ball with ease. You have plenty of time to throw and catch back and forth. You add a second ball. Now it seems that you have less time to respond. The balls seem to move faster (they don’t). Two balls results as many throws and catches (inputs) as your System II can handle.

The more you practice, the more your System I will become involved in the processing. As System I builds proficiency and takes over processing from System II, you will feel as if you have more time. You throw and catch without thinking about the movements. They just happen. It seems as if the balls slow down. Eventually, you will notice that you have time to throw a third ball into the pattern. But once the 3rd ball is in play, you will feel rushed again.

At this point, your System I doesn’t know how to process the three ball pattern. Your System II must guide the pattern which slows down the overall processing. Hence, your feeling of having no time. The more you practice, the more System I processes and the less System II processes. With enough training and repetitions, you will be able to juggle three balls and feel as through you have plenty of time. When System I is primarily processing, System II is available to focus on other tasks such as observation of your surroundings, talking, planning future movements/tricks and so forth.

Now imagine that the processing doesn’t involve juggling. The task to be performed is hand-to-hand/stick/knife/gun fighting. The overall concept is the same. The more pattern movements processed by System I, the more time you feel is available for higher level System II cognitive tasks. Time seems to have slowed down for you (It hasn’t). But you have optimized your brain processing and resulting performance.

When competing directly against another person(s), you want to reverse to happen to him or her. You want to degrade his performance. You want him to feel as if time has sped up, and that he has no time to think or act. You want his System II processing to be overwhelmed. You want him to feel like you did when you first tried to juggle three balls. To want him to give up.

Your goal is to force him out of fast System I processing into slow System II processing. You can accomplish this goal in multiple ways. Here are a few:

  1. You change the movement pattern to an area that the other person’s System I is unable to handle, but your System I is able to handle.
  2. You put your opponent in an emotional state that interferes with his System I processing ability.
  3. You force him to “think” by making him uncertain, hesitant, or fearful. You want his System II to second guess his System I, thus degrading his overall efficiency.

The bottom line is that accomplishing complex tasks effectively requires prior brain training and maintaining optimal brain processing in real time. While you can’t manipulate the actual passing of time, you can still use time to your advantage.

Problems: Systemic, Situational, Personal – Erik Kondo

Part I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turning Tigers Inside Out: The protective power of the unexpected – Tamlan Dipper

My godfather, Donald Milner, used to tell stories. He had been a Royal Navy officer aboard torpedo boats, a godfather to what felt like a battalion of other children, and a distinguished correspondent for the BBC covering everything from suffragettes to rebels in the Congo[1]. In addition to teaching me how to make cocoa properly (custard powder and condensed milk are key) his motto might have been “Expect the unexpected.” Instead I think his motto was “be unexpected.”

The best example of his “be unexpected” maxim is from his coverage of the Indian partition in 1947. Moving alone on foot during the violence, he ducked down a side street to avoid an oncoming mob of people whom he assumed would not take kindly to a young representative of Empire. However, emerging from the alley he came upon two Indian men. There was a long pause, terminated by the older Indian handing the younger Indian a brick, gesturing at Donald, and walking away. The implication of the brickbat was clear.

Donald never knew what gave him the idea. But when the man hauled back his arm to hurl the brick, Donald went into the catching pose of a cricketer – bent knees, hands open and placed together. And when the brick was thrown, it arrived as an under arm lob, which Donald caught. Donald then rose holding the brick, and when the half-astonished Indian saw this he also dropped into a catching stance. Donald politely threw the brick back to him, under arm. Nonplussed, the Indian simply dropped the brick where he stood, and walked quietly away.

My godfather maintained that what he had done was to change the story. On his arrival the older man had ‘said’ (without saying more than a few words) “Right, my boy. Our country is on the verge of breaking free of colonial influence. You had better do something to this Englishman if you are a patriot. Throw this brick at him and prove your chops.” Donald, in turn, had used body language to excite a narrative of playing a sport – cricket – with all the civility implied. Fortunately, because the younger man shared this conception of cricket, and it ran deeper than his instinct for violence, cricket won out.

On film, I have only seen this used in the classic Fort Apache, The Bronx[2], where Paul Newman’s patrolman character ‘defuses’ a knifeman rather than shoot him dead, by acting unexpectedly (to put it mildly). Newman turns asking for the knife into an eccentric, even crazy request, rather than a demand. And when the knife is handed over, the initial aggressor looks like he has solved a problem, and receives applause from the initially hostile onlookers.

Scientifically speaking, what changed in this exchange was what is called a ‘schema’ (Norman, 1981), and success can be called an ‘action slip’ (Sellen & Norman, 1992). Schemas can be grand, like a love affair, or technical, like swinging a tennis racket to serve. One theory is that schemas activate by environmental triggers, which is why like many people I find myself staring into the fridge for no reason, simply because I’m in the kitchen. To give some examples, schemas have been linked to experimental (Carver et al. 1983) real world (Gee, 2010) and online aggression (Runions, 2013).

In each case of aggression above, the effective action succeeded through activating a powerful alternative schema. Although in scientific theory one may change a schema any way you choose, it is my firm belief that you have to ‘be unexpected’. It is not enough to simply ask for a change in the story, particularly not when blood is up. It is best if it is shockingly different, implying that it is the aggressor who has misunderstood the nature of the  engagement. A story from my own experience may illustrate.

Approached at night by five men at a cash point and asked for money, I used the maxim of unexpectedness. I exploded that I was fed up with “Steve expecting money I didn’t owe him,” And why, I wanted to know, was he asking anyone else to collect it for him? This fully formed narrative was confusing, and derailed the encounter. When they looked shocked I quickly backpedalled and apologised profusely for being rude. I explained that I was angry because I didn’t owe the money and did not even have the money. I then asked what they had wanted originally.

At this point, the potential muggers’ instincts rebelled at restarting a mugging on a man they had just been talking to – and who was also on edge and apparently short of cash. They wished me luck and moved on, completely leaving the vicinity of the cashpoint.

What we take away from this understanding is problematic. Do people commit terrible acts of violence and cruelty because they live according to mean and boring narratives created by mean and boring people? Probably. is it possible to change the narrative by being unexpected and shifting to a more humane script? Sometimes. It should not be the only thing in your toolbox, but it might save you grief.


·         Carver, C.S., Ganellen, R.J., Froming, W.J. & Chambers, W. (1983) “Modeling: An analysis in terms of category accessibility”; Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 1983, Vol.19(5), pp.403-421

·         Gee, C (2010) “Predicting the use of aggressive behaviour among Canadian amateur hockey players: A psychosocial examination” ProQuest Dissertations Publishing

·         Norman, D.A. (1981) “Categorisation of Action Slips”; Psychological Review, 88, pp.1-15

·         Runions, K.C. (2013) “Toward a Conceptual Model of Motive and Self-Control in Cyber-Aggression: Rage, Revenge, Reward, and Recreation”; Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 2013, Vol.42(5), p.751-771

·         Sellen A.J. & Norman, D.A. (1992) “The Psychology of Slips” In Baars, B.J. ed. “Experimental slips and human error : exploring the architecture of volition”; New York ; London : Plenum Press


[2]   WARNING – SPOILERS,_The_Bronx



Fighters Time – Rory Miller

I was teaching a class for writers about realistic violence. One of the students said, “You think about time differently than anyone I’ve ever known.”I hadn’t realized it but, yeah.

Fighters think about time differently. For most people, as near as I can tell, they think of time as a medium they move through. They are in time the way a fish is in flowing water. They move through it, always in one direction. Or, more accurately, it flows past them continuously.

Fighters see it as a resource. Time can be spent or wasted. It can be borrowed and stolen. It can be invested.

When I give you false information, like feinting, I force you to spend/waste time figuring it out and responding. I have stolen time from you. When I concentrate on getting the job done, putting the bad guy in handcuffs, I spend time. When I think for even a second about possible complaints, that second is wasted. Training is an investment in time now that may pay off in a single incident years from now.

We learn this in fighting but apply it to the rest of our lives. Investing in healthy habits, skills and education at a young age pays off forever. If I wouldn’t waste a fraction of a second in a fight, why would I waste hours with someone I don’t enjoy.

And stolen moments are awesome.

Time is Life

Murder is nothing but stealing time. Kill a young adult and you have stolen fifty or more years of their time. Fifty years they will never experience, fifty years of amazing things they will never do or see. And time-theft is an especially heinous crime because the killer doesn’t get any of that time himself. It is completely wasted.

But turn it around. Wasting other people’s time is slowly killing, taking minutes and hours in dribs and drabs that they can never get back. If time is life, then wasting time is murder.

And wasting your own time is suicide.

Chaos Management

You’ve probably heard the grappling saying, “Position before submission.” The idea is that it is much easier to submit an opponent (to win) from a position of advantage, so time is usually better spent improving your position than going for the quick win. I don’t categorize this as a winning strategy. Thing is, if luck (a handmaiden to chaos) presents me an early, easy win from a weak position, I’ll definitely take it.

It may not be a winning, strategy, but it is a winner’s strategy. When things are going well for you, you want to minimize chaos, minimize the role that luck will play in the future. When things are going well, you want to better your position. When things are not going well…

Chaos and uncertainty usually is an advantage to the person in the weakest position. This is common sense— things continuing as they have been will obviously serve those who have been successful under those conditions. The only reason the word is “usually” instead of “always” is that the person in the weaker position must have the mindset and the resources to exploit the chaos.

To manage chaos, the mindset needs adaptability based on awareness of the situation and interactions of the components; and a willingness to act, without the possibility of knowing the outcome. This is sometimes called courage. But no mindset will compensate if luck breaks when you are too weak or damaged to act.

Rock Bottom

Within the context of Fighter’s Time. You have hit rock bottom when you have nothing to lose. When death is certain— whether a stranglehold from a true enemy (7-9 seconds left) shot in the heart (roughly ten seconds left) a pistol aimed at your head with a finger tightening on a trigger (maybe two seconds left, probably less) or trapped in a burning skyscraper (minutes)— you have nothing to lose.

If that strangle hold is on, you have nothing to lose by holding tight and throwing yourself (and your attached assailant) in front of a truck. Correction, you have a fistful of seconds to lose. Your enemy has much more. Chaos management from rock bottom is recognizing this. There are four basic outcomes:

  • You die and the threat does not. This is what was going to happen anyway. You only lose 7 seconds.
  • You die and the threat dies. You were going to die anyway, but the threat doesn’t get away with it.
  • Neither dies. This is where you started but it’s damn likely the stranglehold is gone and the playing field is more equal.
  • You live and the threat dies. You might be injured, but this is the best outcome.

The worst possible outcome is where you started. From rock bottom, things can only get better.

Discretionary Time

I learned this concept from Gordon Graham, but I doubt if he ever applied it to fighting. And that’s fine, because it’s a valuable concept in almost any situation.

In a nutshell, discretionary time are the moments where you have choices. Outside of emergencies, that’s almost all of life. In emergencies is when the ability to recognize discretionary time becomes a superpower.

In every emergency field, one of the biggest differences between the rookies and the veterans is how they see and exploit time. When a rookie gets challenged and threatened, he feels he has to do something. When a veteran gets challenged, he appreciates that a warning gives him time— time to evaluate, time to plan, time to access resources. Conversely, when a rookie gets jumped, his first thought is often, “I’m under attack! I need a plan!” Planning takes time and under assault, time is damage. The veteran under attack moves. He or she knows that you can only plan when there is time to plan.

Planning takes discretionary time, under attack there is no discretionary time.


The Worlds Inside Our Heads – Garry Smith

In recent articles I have tackled, well offered my opinion, on the old chestnuts of the McDojo and the not unrelated ninja/warrior/grandmaster crew. I suppose the common theme in these two articles is unreality, many people in the martial arts and especially the self defence world emphasise how what they teach will work in reality. Well who’s reality, or who’s version of reality?

This is a sensitive subject among instructors in particular and I have witnessed some epic name calling and insults in recent years, all put out in the public domain, as one tribe calls out and insults another tribe. Sometimes the dummy has been well and truly been spat out and most often they are challenging each other’s credibility. My system is better than your system, my gang is better than your gang, it often gets really silly especially the threats of violence, all made in writing on a public forum. Lawyers love that.

Anyway I digress; the thing with reality is that it is perceived differently by different people and different cultures. Each individuals beliefs, values and norms affect how the perceive reality and how they produce and reproduce reality on a daily basis. Humans being active agents in creating their worlds far more effectively than other animals do not only help create and sustain, produce and reproduce, worlds external to themselves but worlds inside their heads too.

Well guess what, martial artists and self defence instructors do this too, we all do and it all helps us create our sense of self. We all occupy multiple roles and we all manage multiple relationships and each comes with its own set of rules and appropriate behaviours. Together they form a whole; we are in effect made up of a sum of parts. With the majority there is balance between these parts and this presents a reasonable balanced whole, it is what we call normal. Now just as reality is open to interpretation based on how it is perceived so is normal. So we may have many similarities on how we perceive both reality and normality with others in our culture or sub culture and this will differ from how reality and normality are perceived in other cultures. Cultural relativism is the idea that a person’s beliefs and activities should be understood based on that person’s own culture.

Shared meanings, values and beliefs exist at a societal level, but they can vary greatly between cultures within that society, between subcultures and interest groups they can vary even more. Hey presto, fertile ground for conflict because if I define what I see and experience as real and normal, and that is reinforced by my tribe (echo chamber), then what you say is real and normal cannot be, in fact it sucks.

So we get the name calling and the insults because we operate to different codes, like any conflict it happens because people lack tolerance. It also happens because some people are so busy bigging themselves up the need to knock other people down, or try to. This kind of interpersonal conflict has existed right through evolution and can be observed in other species too, we have not learned as much as we think during our long evolution. Well, it’s tiring and reflects badly when the public see people, warriors remember, sometimes masters and grandmasters too, slagging each other off. Not only do they denigrate the ‘other’ but in the opinions of some themselves too and the ‘industry’ too.

Personally I enjoy sitting in my own backwater steadily seeking to improve what and how I train, trying to help others improve too and I hold firmly to the belief that I should be training all our students to be better than me, helping all our instructors to be better than me. I am no saint, I make mistakes, I fuck up, however, instead of looking quickly around for an excuse or a scapegoat I apologise and make good. I am not really interested joining in the chest beating behaviour, driven by ego, by those who post memes reminding that a warrior must be humble and the first thing s/he (its almost always he) must conquer is their own ego, then off they go like wind-up toys winding up their chums to have a go at that bunch of ****** from over there.

Unfortunately in our profession there are many people who have not yet left the playground, well I have a solution, stay away from the playground, come along and play with the cool gang who can accept and discuss differences without all the yah boo name calling, because after all we know it’s all inside your head.


Understand the Difference Between Safety and Security. It Might Save Your Life – Erik Kondo

It is common for people to want to increase security for themselves, their family, their neighborhood, their country, etc. In most cases, people think in terms of adding security measures in an existing security system. The basic thinking is that the current security system has a weakness that needs to be reinforced or a hole than needs to be filled.

For the sake of this writing, I am going to talk about security in terms of a security system and/or security measures while safety is the inverse of absolute risk from a harmful event. The lower the risk of a dangerous event occurring, the greater the safety. This relationship applies to both personal and public safety.

Security is some action or measure than is done to protect against a known risk. The simplest example is a home security system which is designed to help prevent home invasions and burglaries. Another example is carrying bear spray while walking in the woods. These are two means of raising the level of your security system.

Safety on the other hand is really a function of the overall ecosystem. Safety is determined by the result of the interconnected factors that make up the entire ecosystem. One of these factors is the security system.  The level of a person’s safety is a function of his or her risk to danger. Public safety is determined by the public’s level of risk to danger.

For many, security is thought of as being like a fence. The fewer weaknesses/holes in the fence, the more effective the fence will be at keeping people out. The same thinking goes for personal safety. In this case, the person is the security system. By shoring up his or her weaknesses, his or her personal security system becomes more effective.

The preceding methodology seems to be common sense. But as compelling and as reasonable as it seems, it has a logical flaw. Measures that strengthen a security system don’t necessarily lead to greater actual safety in the real world.  The reason for this is that actual safety is a function of the safety ecosystem in which the security system is just one of many interconnected elements. The strength of the security system is NOT the only factor that determines the overall safety of the ecosystem.

An ecosystem is a complex network of interacting elements. A security system is one element of this ecosystem. Since all the elements are interconnected, changing one element has the potential of changing the other elements too. In other words, strengthening the security system may have the unintended effect of upsetting the balance of the overall safety ecosystem. In this case, the result may be an ecosystem that is less safe despite the presence of a stronger security system.

How can this be? For example, assume that you wear a padded vest as protection against being punched in the chest. It is an undeniable fact that if someone punches you in the chest, you will be more protected than without the vest. Therefore, you must be safer, correct? And if everything stayed the same, you would be safer. But everything doesn’t stay the same in an ecosystem. Its very nature is to be interconnected. Therefore, changing one element has the effect of changing some or all the other elements.

In this example, it is very possible that wearing a padded chest protector in public will influence some people to want to punch you since you now are a juicy target. Therefore, your risk of being punched in the chest has just gone up. And while you may be more protected from the chest punch, you may end up falling and hitting your head. You may end up getting into more fights then before you had the chest protector. The overall result is that your safety decreased even though your security system has increased.

Getting back to the fence example. Let’s assume that the fence surrounds an apple tree grove. The fence has the effect of keeping all but the most determined people out. These few people climb the fence and steal a few apples every day. Therefore, you decide to make the fence higher and top it with barbed wire. Now even the most determined thieves will not risk climbing the fence. Your security system is stronger.

But the safety of the apples depends upon the ecosystem in which they exist, not just the strength of the security system. Since the determined thieves can no longer climb the fence to get the apples, they change tactics and join with many others to ram a huge hole in the fence. The net result is a hoard of people who attack the fence, create a hole, and pillage the apple grove. The overall safety of the apple grove decreased despite the increase in the security system.

What this means is that the level of safety can go down as a result of the level of security going up. For some people, this is a mind-blowing concept. That is because they erroneously think that safety and security are the same concepts. And if there was no safety ecosystem, then the level of safety would be the same as the level of security.

In real life, there is always an ecosystem. Therefore,

Safety = Security System +/- (The effect of everything else in the ecosystem which changes as the Security System changes).

Therefore, it is impossible to determine whether increasing the strength of the security system will increase or decrease overall safety unless all the elements of the ecosystem are taken into consideration. Every person and every entity exists in a unique ecosystem with different factors to consider.

Let’s consider a few more examples.

  1. Carrying a knife is a security measure. Doing so increases the magnitude of the person’s security system. But whether it increases their safety depends upon the person’s unique ecosystem. If carrying a knife increases the possibility that it will be taken and used against them, then it lowers their safety. If it increases the possibility that they will be shot, then it lowers their safety. If it increases the chance that they will go to jail, then it lowers their safety. On the other hand, if it doesn’t do the above and increases the chance that they will be able to use it for self-protection, then it does increase their safety.
  2. Increased police firepower and body amour represent an increase in security. If this increase creates a deterrence from people committing crimes, then it increases public safety. If on the other hand, many members of the public see this increase police security methods as menacing and decide to retaliate by rioting and committing crimes, then public safety is reduced.

Don’t be fooled by those who think that safety is that is always the same as security. Or those who consider that increasing security measures is simply a matter of “common sense”. They don’t know any better.

You live in an ecosystem. Your family lives in an ecosystem. Your neighborhood and your country, both exist in ecosystems. Increasing your safety requires more than just adding or strengthening security measures. It requires understanding all the factors involved and taking into consideration how they interact.


Covert Self Defense – Terry Trahan

There has been a cycle throughout history of looking to the current war, and the veterans of it for martial arts and self defense. It is with good reason, as they are the ones being trained in the ‘newest, greatest’ training. In some cases, they introduced the world of martial arts to the greater public. The veterans of WWII, Korea, and VietNam all brought over arts we hadn’t heard of. Some arts were created during a war, like Krav Maga coming out of the Israeli Independance fight. Today, the explosion has been in firearms and tactical schools by veterans of the GWOT. But are these the people we should be looking to for our everyday training? That depends.

In matters of self defense, everything is relative and personal, and a lot of the lessons from war do not apply to all of us. I don’t have the need for breaching a door, clearing a room, or patrolling a street.

To me, a more appropriate place to look for applicable lessons is in the more covert arena, intelligence operatives, undercover police officers, and guerilla fighters. Their day to day existence is more akin to what I see as a problem I will have to face. For me, a great example is the partisans and the OSS from WWII.

Face it, guerilla warfare is closer to self defense than modern warfighting. You are either alone, or with very few people, little or no support, more concerned with the aftermath of any physical encounter, not in a uniform with visible gear, the list of similarities between modern self defense and covert personnel are much more parallel. Similarly, the weapons, equipment and gear invented or adapted to operatives are much more in line with our requirements. It is not likely that you are going to be out in public with grenades, a service rifle, etc. It is more likely that you would equip yourself with small blades, handheld impact weapons, escape tools, personal first aid kits, personal lights, rather than packs and LBE festooned with weapons and gear. All of these were things brought to life by the intelligence services in WWI & II and distributed to the OSS, SOE, and partisans in Europe.

Likewise, the empty hand aspects of their training match more closely to our needs. No matter the origin, all of the H2H training for them were streamlined, efficient, relied on gross body mechanics, easily retained, used forward drive and aggression, and kept in mind that you might not be facing just one opponent.

The firearms training given these agents was also more in line with civilian shooting than military engagement. Personal firearms such as the pistol or revolver, single target engagement or small numbers of necessary targets, ability to draw from concealment and use of regularly available cover and concealment.

Other ways this type of training was more applicable to us is in the use of everyday things versus military equipment, the wearing of everyday clothes, the necessity of performing everyday tasks, while being aware, and being able to melt into the crowd and make an escape.

Even if we look at other elements of training, particularly from WWII, we can find a great many beneficial things. Look into the Home Guard manuals from Great Britain during this timeframe. It taught civilians how to use everyday household items to defend against invasion, how to organize your family and neighborhood for imposed disaster or occupation, all things that are much more doable than trying to operate as a small unit or company.

Other resources are learning from people in jobs that are more closely aligned with the realistic conditions we will face in a real life altercation or assault. One of the reasons I like Rory Millers curriculum is because he developed it in an environment that was bound by legalities, use of force law, a Non-Permissive Environment for weapons, and the probability of having to face multiple opponents. Biker gangs and other criminal elements also have much to offer us in a more realistic look at threats we face and effective ways of dealing with them. Ed Calderon made a long term study of the criminal subcultures in his country, and brought them forward to teach people both how to survive and escape them, but also how to apply them to your own safety.

The base of the arts I teach are commonly called village arts. The reason for this is that they were created to train the people in the village to be able to defend themselves with what was at hand, in a minimum amount of training time, and be able to get back on with life. I like this as a model, and it tracks nicely with the ethos of the combatives based material I integrate that has its origin in the European Theatre in the 1940’s.

I am not saying that we cannot learn lessons from the military, or that they have nothing to offer. I am simply giving my outlook, and encouraging you to look outside of the normal paradigm in order to increase your ability to survive should that time come.


Context Matters – Kathy Jackson

Defensive firearm skills are not learned in a vacuum—or they shouldn’t be. The context where we intend to use the skills really dictates which skills we need, how well we need to learn them, and how we prioritize our time in learning them.

Ordinary people use firearms for self-defense in very different contexts than law enforcement and military people do. That’s because they have different missions, different rules of engagement, and different available resources.


The mission for ordinary citizens is radically different than the mission for the military, and somewhat different from the mission for law enforcement.

  • Military mission: kill people and break things.
  • LE mission: track down criminals and bring them to justice.
  • Citizen mission: stay safe and keep your family safe.

The difference in mission means that both law enforcement and military, to some extent, go through times when they fully expect to come in contact with people trying to kill them, and often, they actually set out to make that contact happen. But an ordinary person who wants to protect her own life will do the opposite: rather than seeking out dangerous people, she will avoid people, places, and circumstances that might put her life in danger. The ordinary citizen’s only contact with violent criminals will therefore be at a time and place of the criminal’s choosing, during circumstances most advantageous to the criminal and most dangerous for the good person.

The other day, I was talking with Rory Miller (author of several excellent books, including the recent Scaling Force: Dynamic Decision-Making Under Threat of Violence, which he co-wrote with Lawrence Kane). Rory pointed out that law enforcement officers usually get very, very good at talking to people and at dealing with situations where low- to mid-levels of force are appropriate responses. That’s what they do most often, and it’s what they know best. They also become well-practiced at managing planned dangers, such as traffic stops and warrant searches.  Ordinary people don’t often face even low levels of violence, and they aren’t experienced at interacting with criminals. On the other hand, when an ordinary citizen does interact with a criminal, it will often be in very extreme circumstances—circumstances where the skills involved, and the difficulty of performing those skills, may be far beyond what a law enforcement officer might ever expect to need at work.

The skills needed by ordinary people are not the same as the skills needed by a SWAT officer managing the planned danger of a drug bust. If a mere display of the weapon isn’t enough, 1 the encounter will very likely demand different skills, and higher levels of skill, than even the most experienced officer will ever exercise on the job. When ordinary people face violence, they face a violent criminal attack from the standpoint of the intended victim, during a time when they are almost certainly caught off guard. That’s a very different thing from dealing with a crime from the standpoint of someone assigned, after the fact, to find out what happened and who did it.

Rules of Engagement

The rules of engagement are different.

  • Military ROE: may easily include killing every human being in a given area.
  • LE ROE: use of necessary force to bring the offender to justice.
  • Citizen ROE: use of reasonable force to defend self and loved ones.

For more about the rules of engagement for ordinary people, see the booklet, “What Every Gun Owner Needs to Know,” written by Marty Hayes of the ACLDN. You can also find a somewhat briefer overview, written by me, right here: using deadly force in self-defense. That’s an entire field of study on its own—a critical one that has too often been neglected or glossed over.


The available resources to accomplish the mission are totally different. “Bring all your friends who have guns” applies very nicely to a military combat unit, and it works somewhat well for a law enforcement officer who can call for backup before serving a warrant. But it does not work too well for John and Jane Doe in their everyday lives.

  • Military resources: soldiers have instant communications between multiple units; armed buddies often within yelling distance; long guns and grenades and lots of other goodies; body armor that includes helmets and flak jackets; all firearms are carried openly and instantly accessible, including keeping long guns within arm’s reach at all times within danger zones. And, of course, there’s also that whole “Nuke ‘em from orbit” thing.
  • LE resources: even a solo patrol has instant radio communication with backup personnel who will drop everything and come running if the officer gets in trouble; most have long guns available, in addition to a handgun and a backup handgun, both with multiple magazines; bullet-resistant vest, pepper spray, Taser, baton, and training in unarmed defensive tactics; the full-size handgun is carried openly on belt with a Level 3 retention holster, but long guns are typically kept in the vehicle so officer must retreat to obtain weapons with longer reach (and sometimes must wait for the boss to arrive on scene with the rifle).
  • Citizen resources: may or may not be able to dial 911, and 911 operator may or may not understand urgency to get help immediately on its way; typically, handgun (often a compact or sub-compact) is carried in a concealment holster, and except in the home, no other weapons are immediately available; typically, citizen has either no reload available or just a single reload, and no body armor at all.

Techniques and Tactics

Obviously, the differences in mission, ROE, and available resources tend to dictate that different techniques and different tactics are appropriate for these different groups. For example, if we took a guy straight out of military combat in Afghanistan and put him to doing law enforcement work in an American city, that guy would find that a lot of what he learned overseas just did not translate well to domestic police work. It isn’t that it would necessarily get him in trouble; it’s that most of the skills he had used as a soldier operating in a war zone simply would not apply to the new task. Knowing how to launch a grenade at an enemy combatant isn’t going to help him when the task is to talk a confused drunk into complying with a roadside sobriety test; being well-practiced at transitions from a slung long gun to a handgun in a thigh holster doesn’t help him one bit when the rifle is either in his trunk or locked up back at the station under his supervisor’s control; knowing the proper military protocol for organizing an area engagement doesn’t mean anything when the mission is to find and arrest a single individual. It’s just a different mission, with different resources on hand and different rules for using those resources.

The physical skills required to manipulate a handgun under stress remain the same, no matter who you are and not matter what you’re wearing. Or do they? Change the full-size handgun typically carried by law enforcement and military people for a compact or sub-compact model more typically worn by concealed-carry folks, and you might find yourself making some changes in how you hold or manipulate the gun. Carry just a few rounds, as many ordinary people do, and you might have to make hard choices about your priorities in some situations—choices that wouldn’t be faced by law enforcement or military personnel. Carry a spare magazine in a pocket rather than in a pouch on your belt, and you’ll find that the physical act of reloading has become a very different thing—especially if you are crouched or seated when you need to reload.

Carry the gun in a tuckable holster or put the gun in a pocket, and the well-practiced drawstroke you see in law enforcement qualifications is going to look a bit different. Law enforcement trainers sometimes recommend a specific stance based on the presence of body armor, which is a factor that does not apply to most ordinary citizens. That specific stance might still be a good choice, but we can’t simply accept it without looking at other reasons for it that would apply to our own context. Military trainers often recommend a specific reloading technique because it’s critical that their people maintain control of their magazines at all times, never leaving a bit of equipment behind them on the ground. Does that apply to ordinary people in a civilian setting? Almost certainly not—and yet some teach the same technique without considering whether their non-military students have the same need.

All of this means that while we may learn a lot from military and law enforcement trainers, we also recognize that their needs are not always the same as our needs—and that our needs aren’t always the same as theirs. When someone recommends a technique, we should always look carefully at the context it came from and the need it was designed to meet. Then ask, “Does this technique work within my context and meet my needs?” If not, look elsewhere!


  1. Which it is, the vast majority of the time!



The Hand of SD Expanded The Palm (Part Two) – Marc MacYoung

Last time I asked you to start thinking about external limits and conditions (the back of the hand). While there are a great many environmental issues that are beyond an individual’s control, the biggest issues stem from internal limits.

Let’s start with a big one regarding the palm: Where is the person’s locus of control?

In case you’re not familiar with that term it’s from personality psychology. It — basically — means how much control an individual believes he or she has over events that affect him or her. Internal means you believe you’re in control over what happens. External is you are controlled by outside forces. For example a woman who says, “I am an independent, competent woman who makes my own circumstances” is displaying a strong internal loci. Whereas a woman who says “Women are conditioned by society not to stand up for themselves and always be polite” is assigning control over her behavior to external sources. Locus of control has a lot to do with a person’s sense of victimization, acceptance of personal responsibility and willingness to change.

Before we go on to the training issues arising from this, realize  — while either locus can be taken to the pathological extreme — most people are a personalized mix. Some things they consider themselves in control of, others not so much. However, don’t hold your breath waiting for consistency. People tend to flit back and forth erratically about self-control and ‘can’t help myself,’ positive and negative rights, and of course what they ‘should be’ allowed to do without consequence.

Where this affects training isn’t with what they can and ‘can’t do’ to protect themselves. (That’s more an external issue.) What really chains them to the wall is internal. It’s what they will and won’t do. Can do and will do are not the same.

Where people are most inconsistent are 1)  levels of force and 2) personal responsibility (especially about participating in, creating and escalating dangerous situations). These two are often intermixed in strange and erratic ways. But to understand the mix it helps to look at them individually.

Example of the first: Gouging out an eyeball out is both extremely easy and an effective way to stop a rape. However the idea is so repugnant to many people that the option is not taken. This even though rape is considered in most states ‘grievous bodily injury’ and the eyes are in range. What I just said is even though lethal force would be justified many people can’t bring themselves to maim their rapist. Nor does the idea even cross their minds during the attack. This is entirely an internal limit.

Example of the second: Insisting it is one’s ‘right’ to engage in high risk behaviors while refusing to take safety precautions, accepting limits or negative results. Common manifestation #1: Aggressive, hostile and intimidating words and actions to achieve a goal, but then being caught off guard when there’s a physical responses. Common manifestation #2: Same verbal and emotional abuse, but claiming victimization and blaming the provoked person. #3: Blaming the circumstances of one’s life on external locus of control

Example of a mix: Insisting on one’s right to go alone into dangerous parts of town at night, but refusing to carry a gun.  That is very much an internal attitude about external conditions. No amount of empty handed training is going to make those external conditions safe. (For the record, even carrying a gun doesn’t guarantee safety.) Yet the person willingly puts him or herself into dangerous circumstances and just as willfully refuses to take safety measures. While the obvious candidate for this combo of behavior would seem to be the younger person (who insists on going clubbing in bad parts of town), I’ve seen this behavior from middle aged, middle classed people as well. People believing it is their ‘right’ to go where they will and they should not have to carry a gun while doing it.

How does all of this manifest? Many people don’t have the commitment to ‘do what is necessary’ to get out of an extreme situation. As such, the only viable answer is: Don’t put yourself into situations where such responses would be necessary.

This is a hard pill to swallow for people who are seeking confidence and empowerment from self-defense training. A lot of people don’t want to be told ‘no’ and that’s what brings them to training. But there are always limits. Real life limit: Just having a gun doesn’t mean walking through a bad part of town is a good idea. The absolute worst time to discover you don’t have what it takes to pull the trigger is when facing a robber who will pull the trigger.

Conversely, if someone has no patience or desire to learn about the restrictions surrounding force, (such as how to assess different degrees of danger, learn to recognize when it’s legal to ‘pull the trigger’ or believes the consequences of making a bad use of force decision) then

  1. A) They are more of a physical danger to others than others are to them.
    B) the greatest danger to them is themselves

First off many such people aren’t looking for self-defense. Often they’re looking for an excuse. Others are looking for revenge. While others are looking to enhance their bullying (stand up to them and you’ll get punched).  While still others are so terrified at the idea of losing, that ‘not losing’ is their self-permission to excessive force.

Any of these are a fast track to disaster. We live in a country of laws. A country with a legal system that frowns on using force on your fellow citizens. You will be held answerable to your involvement in situations — even if it was ‘self-defense.’  Giving people the ability to physically injure their fellow citizens without warning them or preparing them for the aftermath is negligent. Basically the training hasn’t created loose cannons, but it’s loaded them.

This brings us to another issue: Is it the instructor’s responsibility to install what’s missing?

Simple question, yet one you’ll find massive mental gymnastics over. Often in the form of “we’ll teach you how to effectively do violence on others, but we won’t teach you how to keep from getting arrested for illegal violence.” (Being as self-defense is legal and fighting is illegal that’s kind of important.) Another common version, we’ll ’empower’ you, but not address how not to abuse that power. Still another hole you can drive a truck through is how to avoid unnecessary violence in the first place. While this might seem a little more about the fingers than the palm, there is one simple question: How close or far is the student from be able to correctly use the information you’re providing?  Or, because it’s ‘self-defense,’ is that not your problem? Like I said, we’re in the realm of mental gymnastics here when it comes to what is and is not being taught as ‘self-defense.’

Let’s look at one more issue about who is being taught. Sure we want to help, but is the instructor qualified to do so? This is a far more complex question than it might seem. First there are many self-defense courses actively pandering to individuals who have had traumatic events in their pasts. Many of these claim to empower people so they can defend themselves. While training can be therapeutic, it is not the same as therapy.

But even if do allow for these benefits, some questions we need to ask are: Does this training actually give the person the necessary skills and mindset to defend him or herself? Or does it instill overconfidence? (“I can do what I want, I know how to defend myself!”) Does it serve as therapy or does it actually empower dysfunction (e.g., dysfunction backed up by the willingness to be violent)? Is the person ‘self-medicating’ by taking this training instead of getting professional help? Is the training helping recovery and moving past or encouraging a variation on the self-identity of a ‘victim?’ (“Never again!” may sound anti-victim, but it’s still defining oneself in the context of victimhood.)

Unfortunately there has been a strong trend in some self-defense training to focus more on attempted therapy and social engineering. Even allowing for the best of intentions, this is another aspect of the disconnect. Self-defense is an individual issue. It is the individual acting in defense of her or himself. It is not a social movement, cause or issues of rights or group solidarity. It’s what the individual can do. As such, those issues have nothing to do with self-defense; introducing them muddies the waters of the subject and widens the disconnect between what is being sold as training and the actual dangers and issues of defending oneself.

Having said that, often that empowerment, false confidence and faux-therapy is what the customer wants. It is the basis of the customer’s willingness to pay for training. One manifestation of this is what we refer to as ‘fear management instead of danger management training.’ The training doesn’t actually reduce danger, it just convinces the person he/she is equipped to handle it. Another form is ‘talisman thinking’ (“I have a _____ so I’m safe”). Still others are there for … for a lack of a better word .. the macho. (That’s ’empowerment’ for young men.)

This, plus people being easily bored makes a difficult set of conditions for the instructor to provide quality information. Do you provide exciting training that is beyond the limits of the student? Do you pander to the fears, preconceptions and neurosis of the students? Do you train them for their immediate skill level or do you train to some distant goal (what they can do now or what the could do in five years of training with you?) How much foundational work do you have to do to get the person up to the point he or she could effectively do a bare minimum, physical technique? (Like say, reliably not getting hit.)

What knowledge and skills does the person have already vs. what would it take for that person to be able to judiciously use what you’re teaching?  Also, in terms of groups, cops have radically different skills, knowledge and attitudes than office workers. How much boring legal information do you supply to students to keep them out of prison for using the skillsets you’re supplying? How much should you work on impulse control and not putting oneself into dangerous situations because you’ve just handed the student the ability to injure or kill someone?

The Palm may not be all that exciting of a topic, but it is very, very important in how it affects the rest of the fingers when it comes to the Hand of Self-Defense. This whether you are an instructor of the person wanting to learn.


Options – Rory Miller

I’m part of that generation of police and corrections officers who was raised with the idea of a “Force Continuum.” We were taught that there were specific levels of force, each level had certain effects and was justified by certain criteria. Most agencies have moved away from the idea of a continuum. Not because it is ineffective or out of a fear that people would misunderstand and think it was a “connect the dots” game that required every step be touched on the way up the ladder.

They have been rejected because the courts have stated explicitly that the court would not consider the continua as elements of reasonableness. That doesn’t make the continua bad practice or bad teaching or even inaccurate, it simply makes them an unacceptable part of one piece of the legal process.

The continuum I was trained on had six general levels of force. Force for our purposes means anything that can make a person do something they don’t want to do or stop them from doing something they want to do.

Our six levels were: Presence, verbal, touch, physical control, serious physical control, and deadly force. For conflict resolution, I’d like to propose eight categories. Not definitive, just for this discussion. The eight options I want to mention are: Avoidance; Acquiescence; Presence; Verbal; Touch; Force; Pain; Damage; and Deadly Force.

There are always three over-arching factors that dictate what level of force is appropriate. The first is the necessary outcome. If you are under serious attack, your own survival should be non-negotiable. If you have a mission to accomplish, such as arresting a felon, that job must be finished. If you are negotiating a contract, there will be things you need in the contract and things you need excluded.

The second is your safety. Not just survival, but a scale from discomfort through pain to injury, to long-term injury, to death. You want the least impact on your life.

The third is the bad guy. Legally and morally, you will be expected and required to solve the problem (accomplish the mission) with the minimal harm to the bad guy.

These three things are always a part of the equation, but they will have different weight depending on the situation and your individual value system. I was taught as a military 91A (medic) that “A dead medic never saved anyone.” My safety first, the mission second, and the enemy a very distant third. In practice, however, many medics put their own lives second on the list. And in some circumstances, the combative person is the mission, and the medic will not and should not harm a combative patient in order to help the combative patient. It’s a balancing act, with few simple solutions.

Somewhere in the balance of mission and the intent to minimize harm to all involved, there is a “best” level. Generally, higher levels of force are faster, easier, more effective and safer (for the one using the force.) Shotguns simply solve problems faster than negotiation, and the problem solved with a shotgun tends to stay solved. But the higher levels of force require higher levels of justification. Boundary setting doesn’t draw the legal or social scrutiny that shooting does.

The Lower Levels of Force.

Avoidance is simply not being in the bad place at the bad time. The skills involved include reading terrain, reading social patterns, reading people and profiling places. Those skills must be combined with the will to act on your decisions. If you know that one of your friends is a trouble magnet, the information is useless unless you are willing to be rude and act. “No, I’m not going to the pub with you.”

Acquiescence is on this list because it has worked. Like many strategies, however, it only works until it fails and when it fails, it fails catastrophically. Acquiescence, without a higher-force back-up plan, cedes all initiative and power to the threat. In addition, under adrenaline and with high stakes, the hind brain looks for any strategy that has worked and acquiescence quickly becomes a habit. Acquiescence as a strategy only makes sense when one is certain that other options will fail and will be met with punishing force. Don’t be fooled, since this is what a threat will want you to believe. Acquiescence is sometimes a survival choice for the victim, but it is exactly what the predator wants.

Is there ever a time to acquiesce? It’s a personal decision when dealing with bad guys, but I’ll give you one example. Lawful arrest, when the person arresting you has the power of the government behind the badge and not just the right but the legal responsibility to overcome resistance, you will lose. And you will be punished. “Resisting arrest” is its own separate crime.

Presence is idiosyncratic. How you move, dress, stand, and what you look at largely determines your victim profile. Some people present as harder targets than others. Being large and fit certainly helps, but small people who move well are also avoided by predators. Your clothes can send a “hard target” message, but without the body language to back it up, particularly the alertness, wearing 5-11 clothes and Oakley sunglasses marks you as a wannabe.

Presence as an action is simply adding information. When you show up as a witness, many bad guys will cease their crime. This can be accentuated as well. I’ve stopped road rage incidents by visibly picking up a cell phone and prevented a probable burglary of a neighbor’s house by walking up to the suspicious car, visibly taking a picture of the license plate and walking back to my own home.

Verbal prevention and de-escalation is a vast skill. It includes everything from pleading to negotiation to naked threats. It is just as personal as presence, but almost infinitely expandable. A hostage negotiator might need to cajole, calm, threaten (rarely) and run a con all in a single conversation.

Presence and verbal are the best options when they have any chance to work. Excellent chances of success with very little chance of physical injury. But part of the skill, especially in verbal de-escalation is recognizing the point of no return, the moment where it will go physical no matter what you say.

Touch is barely a level. That is the soft hand on the shoulder to get a drunk’s attention or a calming embrace. It is definitely communication and can be seen as an extension of verbal. I separate it out for two reasons. The first is that in many jurisdictions, touching someone without consent can be construed as battery. For this reason alone, I prefer to use verbal tactics rather than escalate to even the lightest touch. The second reason is that if I can touch the threat, the threat can touch me. If I have misjudged the danger, touch without control puts me at risk.

Force is using strength and leverage to make someone do something or stop that person without resorting to pain or risking injury. Pushing someone away, or holding back a friend who wants to fight. It has many of the dangers of the touch level.

Pain is also idiosyncratic. Inflicting pain is a form of communication. Which means that if someone is not willing to communicate, or unable due to mental illness, emotional distress or a bad drug reaction, pain by itself rarely works. Pain compliance works through an unstated bargain, “If you quit fighting, the pain will stop.” A threat in excited delirium feels the pain of a pressure-point gouge, but is incapable of reading the bargain and often fights harder.

There is a hard transition between this level and the next. Tactically, morally and legally the levels we have just covered are very different than the higher levels. The levels so far have been appropriate when you are at little or no risk, when you are in control, when you are winning. In police terms, these are the techniques that will likely work on a non-compliant threat. A non-compliant threat is resisting, but that is an entirely different world than a threat trying to injure or kill you.

This split is critical to understand. If you attempt to use a low level of force in a high level situation, you will likely lose. If you use a high level of force in a low level situation, it won’t be legal self-defense.

The Higher Levels of Force

Damage is different than pain. Pain hurts, but doesn’t hamper your physical abilities. When damage is justified, I am trying to break the threat or part of the threat in such a way that he loses the physical ability to hurt me.

Realistically, there is an element of communication to this as well. Most people quit psychologically. I’ve stayed in fights with shoulder dislocations, broken ribs, fingers and (this is sport) twice with complete ACL tears. The shoulder, finger and knee injuries hampered my abilities. The ribs just hurt.

Deadly force is appropriate when you need to shut down the entire threat immediately. Jurisdictions vary slightly in the wording of the legal definition, but “deadly force” doesn’t just mean killing. It is death or “grievous bodily harm.” Again, the definition of “grievous” in the moment is going to be hashed out in court by lawyers. Generally, anything that has a permanent effect or impairs a life function will be called grievous harm. Permanent scarring. A permanent limp. Partial or total blinding…  If you want to use an eye gouge, you need to be able to justify deadly force.

Deadly force is only justified when faced with deadly force. For anything less than immediate death or grievous bodily harm— or rape, every jurisdiction I have checked includes rape under the definition of grievous bodily harm and a rape attempt therefore justifies lethal defense— killing and maiming is out of bounds.

There is a saying, “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” When all you have is training in a single option, it is easy to convince yourself that it’s enough. It isn’t. A pacifist who eschews the physical force options is left with only acquiescence, relying on the mercy of others. Negotiation from a position of weakness, whether that weakness comes from a lack of skill or of will, negotiation without force options is only begging.

Conversely “kill them all and let god sort them out” is almost never legally, ethically or even tactically appropriate.

If you are ignorant of an appropriate option for a given situation, you are helpless in that situation. And always remember that none of these skills have an end-state. You can always get better and learn more.

For more information on different force options, we recommend Scaling Force” by Rory Miller and Lawrence Kane.