Another Page in the Book of Knowledge – Tim Boehlert

When we discuss the many and varied aspects of violence dynamics, including preferences, techniques, styles and more, we should also keep a few key points in mind:

[01] Violence is different with every encounter. What worked once, may not work in a similar situation somewhere down the road, which effectively forces you to pick alternative responses, preferably before-hand, and no matter who you are or how good you give yourself credit for being. Don’t believe your own story, that’s the first thing that will get you in trouble.

[02] Limiting what you learn may be a great choice, but it could also cost you. For instance, if you choose to limit your exposure or your training for only specific types of encounters, you’ll come up empty when that doens’t happen, but ‘this’ does.

Perhaps you should consider reading more about the differences between possible and probable events, and change your training, or modify it to the most likely (probable) scenarios primarily, but not to entirely discount the other possibiltiies?

[03] Violence in the form that most of us will encounter is going to be social-based, and not asocial violence. Thus, your goals may be merely to set social status, or to protect property, or maybe even to send a message/threat, implicit or otherwise that “it would not be wise to cross this line” or some such similar reasoning.

[04] Having a weapon on your person at the time of any encounter may determine to a judge/jury an outcome that you didn’t expect, foresee or plan for. Think of how others will see your actions – “You planned it.” Thus, a pre-mediation factor creeps in by the other sides legal team. And again, you need to understand your laws, because I can guarantee you that the arriving officials may not, and/or do not understand the laws concerning the UOF and threat of UOF when displaying/brandishing as an example a ‘pocket knife.’

I will give you an example of how and why my path differs from yours. In one of my jobs in a Security force function, we had to follow policies (those of the institution – the employer.) We were never allowed to strike, kick or throw anyone. Now if you’d already learned your ‘art’, a lot of your go-to options have effectively been taken off the table. What now? You’ll spend a lot of time un-learning everything you know about your MA or your combatives training.

We were also limited in our responses and options by local, state and federal laws. Have you got any familiarity with any of the typical laws regarding the use of force in your community? If you do, that’s a good start. Now, throw in dealing with a vulnerable population – the homeless, those with substance abuse issues, those with mental health diagnoses, those showing altered mental status (AMS) symptoms – which could include some of the above, but also consider the autistic, those with dementia and those with alzheimers disease.

Now, add these restraining factors:

[a] You are being watched and recorded in almost every interaction – by the institution, and many times by the public. And while the institution may back you up in your response, the public likely won’t. Why? because violence is ugly, no matter who you are. And the only way that you can even approach ‘getting it’ is by studying it, doing it and learning from it all, good and bad.

[b] You could be reprimanded, suspended, fired, sued or some combination of all of these possible ‘disciplinary’ actions. And then there may be the media exposure…

[c] There’s also a toll you pay – with every, single transaction. With some, you may feel confident beyond a doubt that your use of force (violence) was justified. but with many events, you’re going to question what you did, how you did it and more, if not now, based on how your work develops and the amount of support or lack of support that you receive along the journey. Unfortunately, you still need to make your own choices with almost every encounter. The toll may be feeling guilty, or bad, but another cost is in your future performance factors – will you step up the next time, will you throttle back your response stance for better or worse? Again, these are personal choices based on several factors – the law, the policy, your moral compass, the views of your peers, the views of the public or other employees that surround you.

[d] There are also environmental factors that need to be considered, maybe specifically in my model, but I’d say likely in yours as well. As a much used training example: after hitting another combatant, he goes down, and hits his head on a curb. He dies as a result of his injuries, and your actions. Your life as you knew it ended when he died.

Now of course there are times when you may have no worries, but I can’t think of a specific one at the moment. Even as an employee, whose job description cites protecting property and the public in/around your facility, and even if he’d pulled a knife on you, and you may have legal grounds to justify your actions, it’s not over – not by a long shot. Knowing your environment may convince you to re-think the options you choose to deploy in all or most of your actions. Sometimes that’s not possible, but you may have to plan that into your ‘threat response kit.’

Violence is an ugly option, but it’s also a necessary one when dealing with violent people. The only outcome should be in your favor, and in conjunction with all of the legal and moral lines that we all typically follow and/or are held to. There are more mental aspects to dealing effectively with violence than there are physical aspects perhaps, but years of study has shown me that, and your experiences may be different. One quote that I learned early on was: “to stop a violent act, you need to be better at violence than they are.” For me, that set the tone of every encounter. It started the ‘conversation’, helped set my mindset when ‘the dance sequence’ began, and added confidence at the beginning of every dance.

I dealt with hundreds of acts of violence over the years that I was active, and I can honestly state that I never had a plan other than to end it in my favor. I never used more than a few go-to techniques. I transitioned into control after the ‘attack’ with no abuse, no ego issues, and no threat of retaliation or to punish. It was never about punishment. When it was over, it was over – not personal, just a business transaction between two parties that didn’t view the transaction in the same terms you might say.

I can also state that I dealt with a varied population – MH patients, family members, friends and acquaintances, but also substance abusers, those at risk, child molesters, murderers, rapists, thieves, juveniles, men, women, transgender ad all of it’s associated labels and children. They all had one thing in common – they were all violent. The one takeaway for me is that it was a great learning time, with either willing or unwilling participants that all had one thing in common: they knew how to use violence. It mattered just a little about why, but you need to let that go too. Rather than to reject their reasoning, or to argue about it, you just need to embrace the fact that you may not change their minds, and when it’s time, it’s time. You need to pick the when, where and how. Everything else is open for discussion, but perhaps afterwards.

I’ve even had to address other Martial Artists. I had one technique that I used under those circumstances. It never got physical, despite their sometimes impressive attempts to convince me that I was not going to be able to stop them because of their knowledge, which was scary during more than one encounter. Any Martial Artist has this knowledge, and knows what my solution was. There was of course a backup plan, and that was just too easy – it makes me smile to think about it, because might isn’t always right. And that is a technique too.

Give choices – it MAY work… A lot of social violence is about saving face – learn that. Respect goes a long, long way, even when it’s not deserved or earned.

Learn to actively listen without feeling the need to respond – immediately at a minimum. Most of us listen half-heartedly while we are formulating a response. STOP doing that! Be conscious of it when you are doing it, and work at getting better at not doing it in the future.

Expand your vocabulary, expand your training potential, expand your capacity for discovering that you’ll never know it all, you’ll never be the best, or undefeated even. Embrace the possibilities, educate yourself, and share.

This knowledge, my knowledge, is specific, to and for me, because I know what worked for me. I wasn’t ever the best, but I was never the worst. I was effective, and had only a few close calls where it could have gone the other way, but the social aspect of the struggle was on the table and in play, to my advantage. I was maybe the most studied. I continue to learn, and expand my horizons and educate others based on my knowledge and experience, because it can make a difference for someone, somewhere – you’ll never know.

The book of knowledge is deep, and it needs to be shared.

Power by Proxy Part 2 – Malcolm Rivers

Experts have to make themselves special. “Who are you to teach me?” is the rational question of a discerning consumer. Accordingly, SD/MA (self-defense and martial arts) instructors find ways to reflect expertise: certifications, ranks, or stints as violence professionals. Awhile back I wrote a piece called “Power By Proxy” warning students of the tendency to thoughtlessly surrender power to chosen gurus, believing in the osmotic absorption of their instructor’s perceived potency. But that dynamic is almost always a two-way street; it’s not just students at the altar of assumed badassery. Martial training aims to empower, sometimes requiring resources held by these experts who, logically, must have more power than their students. This reasonable assumption often festers, producing a toxic social ponzi scheme: the power hoard.

For many instructors, the power hoard begins as a quiet addiction: they start drinking their own kool-aid. Suddenly, their power over students is all they have and they need it. What else are they when there are no more bones to break, ranks to earn, or competitions to dominate? So, they make people like them as special and different as possible because, surely, power is a finite resource. Besides, the more power they have, the better they can use it to help students, right? Their charges need them to be powerful so they can benefit others!

I’ve seen power hoarding dynamics so often that I didn’t notice it until I felt myself start exhibiting them. I started very quietly assuming that I was somehow different than students who’d grown up in less volatile environments or hadn’t spent time professionally babysitting inebriated adult adolescents. My few stories made me feel powerful as I watched students’ reactions to my narration. It felt good to be special, even if my being special had nothing to do with making them stronger.

You see it everywhere. Youtube videos explain how helpless women are; coaches sell their training as the only path to power; instructors chortle as they condition students to weakness and humiliation. Every once in a while, I see it in person: an instructor egotistically punking someone. I went to an active shooter seminar where one instructor threatened to “kick the shit out of” a student after spending most of the day overcompensating with her sport grappling background. Later, I performed a gun disarm on the instructor and explained to her that the weapon was out of battery. She hadn’t known what “out of battery” meant…at an active shooter seminar. The worst exhibition, though, was at another (surprise, surprise) active shooter seminar run by former military operators.

The main instructor began showing footage of shootings without much analysis as part of a ploy to evoke emotional reactions from students. When role players stormed the safety briefing, a student was publicly humiliated for ineffectual resistance, though hiding and running weren’t great options. Throughout the scenarios, participants were prohibited from resisting the shooters physically, told repeatedly how often they “died”, and sent into tactically improbable scenarios for which they were conditioned to fail with little regard for the effects. Within 2 minutes of the final “lockdown” drill, I was outside the staging area, waiting out the end of the scenario. We’d been told repeatedly that we couldn’t leave because, apparently, this was an active killer situation on a submarine! I was reminded to go back in, literally toward a couple of well-armed murderers, after achieving the theoretical goal of both the exercise and the situation it sought to simulate: getting away alive. Upon reentering, a commando loudly informed me that I’d been shot dead while sprinting away. I kept running. My mindset is simple: you’ll have to prove to me I’m not immortal. I understand how significant crappy conditioning can be and refuse to let it in. I also know at least a couple of people who found out they’d been shot when they stopped running so the realism angle wasn’t compelling. Why it made sense for me to pretend I was dead was beyond me. At the end, our central trainer offered the icing on the cake: “too many of you died, more than any other group; but, you know, good job.” Most of the experience was a power hoard. Lines were drawn between high-speed operators and mere civilians; resistance was restricted, prohibited, or punished; students were reminded more of failures and “deaths” than anything else. All we learned was these guys were badasses and we weren’t. I see the same things in everything from Krav Maga intro classes to MMA tutorials.

If these dynamics existed in environments without stacked decks, my attitude would be different. But most self-defense participants are tacitly acknowledging weakness and handing experts power to shape them. Anything that doesn’t fit directly into empowering them is bullshit. These are folks, sometimes with open wounds, who are making themselves vulnerable. Stop making yourself special because you’re supposedly better at violence. If you’re special, so is their future attacker, current abuser, or other threat and it *will* make it harder for them to move. With that said, it’s an understandable phenomenon.

The road to power hoarding is wide and well-lit. All it takes is some unexamined epistemology and a class of neophytes. For example: you want an attentive respectful class. Occasionally someone’s skeptical, disturbed, or even bored by your content or style. Their disrespect threatens to derail the learning of others. So, in a moment of irritation, you show them just how misplaced their self-superior attitudes are. But, in doing so, you’ve failed. A professional conflict manager, so skilled he’d been empowered to teach, couldn’t handle a minor blow to the ego or see past a façade to a student’s needs? You’ve dis-empowered one student and likely alienated several others. Depending on the crowd, this will read as obvious insecurity and/or petty tyranny. Or, worse, they’ll assume that “this is just how powerful people are” and look to become petty tyrants themselves. If you’re not careful, this becomes a trend. You’ll leave squashed students in your wake and collect acolytes, eager to bask in your glow.

To my fellow “experts”: get over yourself. A friend, well acquainted with lethal conflict (because that’s the only reason to listen to someone, right?) always balked at the idea of anyone being special because of a title, rank, former job, or violent history. His response? “Who cares what you did a decade ago? What are you doing NOW?” I take that to mean: make sure whatever you’re doing is contributing, no matter how “special” you are or were. True teaching is much more about empathy than knowledge or even experience. Get better at it so you’re adding value beyond “guts and glory” stories or endlessly reminding students of membership in a martial clique.

Be human and vulnerable to your audience. Use your power to continually show and tell students they can be just as capable as you remember yourself being. Many instructors tacitly or overtly communicate that their students could never “take” them. This is laughable (no one’s found monopolies on physics nor mortality) but students pick up on it and think you’re another species. You’re not. Show them that so when they meet someone more dangerous than you, they’ll remember that everyone bleeds. Be secure enough in whoever you are (or were) that you don’t need to maintain the invincibility aura. If you’re worthy of your status, knowing that even they can beat you will make them stronger, making you more valuable.

To the schools, make the accolades mean something. If you’ve got tokens or talismans, make them empowering to students and not just reminders of gulfs between social strata. Focus on creative problem solving and not paint by numbers solutions. Stop punishing people for being better than they should be. Power isn’t finite; share it. Hoarding power doesn’t make you strong, it comes across insecure and needy. Show students how powerful they can be, it can only make you better.

The Truth Behind My Resting Bitch Face – Beverly Baker

A new homeless woman has been hanging around the Boulevard lately. Dressed in dark blue institutional pants and a white t-shirt, she carries a large black plastic trash bag jammed with unknown contents. As she wanders the area, she is usually screaming. While most of those who rant on the Boulevard yell at no one in particular, this newcomer targets people with her verbal tirades.

As I headed down to the Metro platform today I had my game face on — that resting bitch face effective in warding off the creepers and would be threats.

As I approached the turnstiles I spotted the woman. As usual, she was in the middle of an incoherent rant. I gave her a wide berth as she screamed in my direction. I avoided eye contact but kept her in my peripheral sight as I made my way down the escalator to the train platform.

Below a child cried, which seemed to draw her down behind me. She fixated on the child’s cries and began bellowing about child abuse as she descended the escalator.

My heart breaks for her every time I see her:

How is this the country that I live in? The city that I live in, that allows such a desperate and mentally disturbed human being to live on the street?

As she howled about child abuse, I wondered if the sounds of the crying child touched on some painful memory.

As I reached the bottom of the escalator the child was now quiet and nowhere to be seen. Alert to her coming down behind me I instinctively turned right. I judged the platform in this direction as out of her sight and attention.

As I settled onto the bench I rested my heavy laptop bag on my knees to take the pressure off of my shoulders. There was no one around and for a moment I enjoyed some peace while I waited for the train. Then suddenly she came around the corner screaming in my direction.


I stood up and pretended to look at the monitor displaying train arrival times. But my real motivation was to be on my feet and ready to run if needed. She headed my way continuing to scream. Maintaining her in my periphery I circled behind a large concrete pillar which I hoped would make me out-of-sight and out-of-mind.

It worked.

She slid down the pillar, sat on the floor and continued to wail. At least it was no longer aimed at me. I considered slipping past her to get to a more populated area with more accessible exits. But as prey instinctively knows to freeze while weighing whether to flee or fight, I stayed where I was — out-of-sight to avoid attracting her attention.

All was going well until a woman with two young girls, about five and seven, approached to take a seat on the bench. They made it safely past her, but the presence of the children aroused another outburst.

The woman got up and began pacing the platform again screaming about child abuse. The mother calmly braided her youngest daughter’s hair while I stood nearby trying to appear as casual as possible. I pretended to look for the train as I nonchalantly pivoted as she circled so she would never have my back. She never came within striking distance of myself or the family, but I was on edge. I prayed that when the train came she would not get on.

The train arrived and my prayers were answered; she stayed behind while the family and I piled on.

It was then that the little girl asked her mother, “What was wrong with that lady? Why was she yelling?”

Stroking her hair, the mother softly replied, “Sometimes people are very sick and yell unkind things. But they can’t help it. We need to be careful around sick people. But we should never hate them because it’s not their fault.”

Throughout my vigilance and strategic maneuvering, my heart broke for the woman. With the little girl’s question, my heart shattered all over again as reality intruded on this child’s innocence.

But the cracks of the heartbreak were filled by the mother’s compassion. At her words, I turned my head as if I were looking out the window. But really, it was to hide the tears that would betray my resting bitch face.

And the train pulled out of the station.

Facebook Quote of the Month – Bradley Welsh

This UWCB (Ultra White Collar Boxing) mob are going to get someone killed….

16 hrs training in a hall, with no Boxing Coach is not enough to then throw someone into a boxing ring, add to that they don’t adhere to matching opponents by similar weights and levels of Experience, all combining to create the most dangerous life threatening EVENT…….. this money making model is a CIRCUS… a complete joke, masquerading as a Charity event…. CANCER RESEARCH is nothing more than a business paying its employees and CEOs millions of pounds yearly…. it’s been researching cancer for over 150 years FFS …… it’s greed knows no boundaries… allowing young men and woman to be thrust into danger on a weekly basis in pursuit of financial gain….. for the record UWCB does not pay 1 penny to Cancer Research….. nope it’s YOU the MUG taking part in this LIFE THREATENING CIRCUS that gets all your friends and family to donate the monies they claim to have donated……. they UWCB sit back and take the Ticket Money you gave them for themselves…. money from your friends and family as they cheer you on, baying for the blood of your likewise untrained unevenly matched , heavier or lighter opponent…. ???

Someone is going to die…. a brain clot incident earlier in the year…. hundreds of Knock-outs and concussions…. now this ( just for the record… in thousands of Amateur Boxing Contests up and down the country yearly… there is no such injuries… because it’s PROPER BOXING PEOPLE running it with codes of practices in place to facilitate it…. as we have done for decades under the stringent AIBA rules and regulations.

If you know someone in Scotland, taking part in one of these GLOSSY PROMOTED easy access ( it appears to be Free but costs all your family and friends money and you perhaps your life ) then it’s more than likely that even after you show them this …. they will still do it… ( that’s my Experience in the past on warning people ) they are caught by the cancer lie but in the most are deluding themselves and won’t pull out…. I have a message for anyone signed up or considering…

Boxing is not this easy… you are fooling nobody but yourself…. proper boxing people LAUGH at this UWCB and see it’s set up and designed for people, somewhat lacking… in what I’m not sure…. but if you want to box… there’s hundreds of proper boxing gyms in our communities…. GO DO IT PROPERLY and not make a fool of yourself…. sorry but that’s how it is…. it’s by calling out the people who do this as well as the UWCB CIRCUS that will eventually stop this, giving the government don’t care and while unscrupulous INSURANCE COMPANIES like BLUEFIN give them dubious insurance policies on the basis of self accredited details… it’s going to take a death to shine a bright enough light on this to unpick the lies and failures to adhere to basic boxing rules.

Now anyone who would wish to disagree with the above, please. You only qualify to comment here If you have at least 25 years of specific boxing Experience… I’m not interested in your opinion or defence of this because you had a jolly old time having your ego rubbed when you took part in your mis-matched spectacle.

Strong words for a Wednesday morning as the kids go back to school….. yup this summer I took Amateur boxing training to some 2600 Edinburgh kids…. I’m sure to have these Clowns destroy what I work hard to build.

Please take a moment to Tag in people who might be considering this and also our brothers and sisters in the REAL BOXING WORLD… it’s your duty to your sport to speak out against this Circus

In sport and community…/dad-34-nearly-killed-after-130821…

Bradley Welsh
Former ABA Lightweight Champion ( 1993 )

40 years in Boxing

As Boxer / Coach / Promoter

Just finished kids initiative in Edinburgh delivering Free Boxing Classes in 12 communities for kids 2600 participated in partnership with Boxing Scotland Ltd .

The Rory Miller Interview Part 5 – Elie Edme

English version reprinted in Conflict Manager and on CRGI website with kind permission from Corps Global.

Rory – Do you have any tips for how to cope with this aftermath (besides seeing a qualified professional) as a civilian who just went trough an episode of brutal violence?

Rory – Some. Remember I’m not a counselor or clinical psychologist, but I definitely have some opinions.

Long before the event, know yourself. Know where you draw the line for right and wrong, what you could do and could or could not live with. What you would rather risk a beating, your life, or your health rather than tolerate. And don’t romanticize any of this. It’s easy to fantasize about dying in a noble cause. Don’t forget that only some people die. Some are blind or condemned to wheelchairs or shitting into a colostomy bag.

If you ever have a use of force, you will either be the good guy or the bad guy. The more solid you are in your knowledge (not bullshit belief or rationalization) that you acted as the good guy, the better you will recover.

After the event, let yourself be okay. It’s actually kind of weird that society thinks this is supposed to be traumatic. This is how many of our ancestors lived to be our ancestors. Anyway, your feelings are yours. There are no wrong feelings. If you’re dealing with it pretty well, don’t let anybody convince you that you’re supposed to be messed up.

There’s a growth/assimilation process afterwards. I don’t want to call it healing. That implies you’re broken. It’s more a recalibration. In this process, don’t mistake process for pathology. For instance, dreams are one of the ways our subconscious processes events. If those events were bad, you can expect some bad dreams. Bad dreams aren’t a problem, they are a sign of healing. So if you medicate— or self-medicate with alcohol— to bypass the dreams, you also risk losing the healing benefits.

You will change. Big events change you and there’s no going back. It’s not a big deal. You’ve changed before. Your first taste of violence is usually far less profound than falling in love the first time or having a child. But, because violence is more rare, we think the aftermath is more intense. It’s not, it just feels that way because we usually have fewer people to guide us through the process.

I think the people who are most damaged are the ones who decide that who they were before the event was the “real” them, and they try to get back to that. You can’t go back. But you can grow forward, and grow into something stronger.

If you need help, like a professional therapist, absolutely get help. Look for someone who will listen and not judge. If you get the slightest feeling that your counselor is using your experience to work out their own issues, get another therapist.

Elie – Would you have some insights about a remedy or a solution, from an individual and a collective standpoint, to world violence? (Tough question I know, it’s just to put things into perspective :D)

Rory – It’s not a tough question, it’s a stupid question (sorry). Remedy implies it’s a problem. Take a look at the sun. The sun is an unshielded atomic fire, something that would never be allowed in any industrial setting. It causes skin cancer, burns, and eye problems. It also feeds the plants that feed all other animals. It makes the wind and water move. It evaporates the water to make the rain fall. You would never consider seeking a remedy for the sun.

Violence is similar. It’s a primary element and driver of nature. It’s the way animals are nourished. It’s a tool, and if we decide only bad people can use violence, we cede the world to bad people because the will to do violence becomes a super-power when it is rare.

For the most part, the answer to violence is in the nature of violence itself. It’s a high-risk, costly strategy. That’s why animals freeze first, and then run, and only after freezing and running have both failed do they fight. (Hunting is a different thing).

So violence is always in the background, but humans are coming up with better strategies all the time. Trade gets almost all of the benefits of war without the risk, cost or damage. It was technology that shifted slavery from the economic necessity it was to the morally repugnant act it is.

Violence will decrease whenever humans use their cleverness to come up with safer, easier strategies to accomplish the same goals. But it will not go away, not as long as we have anything like nature.

Haven’t you ever wondered at the irony— the only way to get a perfectly peaceful society is to kill all the people who disagree with that goal. And then create a mechanism to kill anyone who figures out violence after that.

Elie – What link do you make (if you do) between your experience of violence and spirituality?

Rory – I had a really strong spiritual training long before I got into a force profession, so taking that out of it, most of what I learned from violence echoed with Buddhism. I can’t remember who said, “Nothing clears one’s mind as much as being shot at” but I have to agree.

In the instant, you have to be a perfect animal, mind, body and spirit working together as a single entity. No voices in your head, no doubts, no hesitations. That is an immensely powerful feeling.

In the aftermath, and especially over multiple exposures, you realize how few things are important. When people have tried to stab you, someone calling you a bad name doesn’t mean anything. Violence orders your priorities. Once you know what’s precious, you also know that 90% of everything is bullshit.

You see things as they are, without attribution. Attribution are the things you add on. This echoes with the Buddhist attachments. If a blade is coming at your belly, that’s the only fact. You can’t waste any brain power on “why” or whether or not the guy trying to stab you is a bad person. Or whether good and evil exist. Or any of that. Because it’s all bullshit.

And, if you can hold onto the mental space it’s still all bullshit even when no one is stabbing you. Judging, rationalizations—all attributions. Attachments. Bullshit.


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.


There Is Nothing New Without The Old – Kevin O’Hagan

Between the ages of 16 and 22 years old I was fortunate in my Martial Arts journey to spend a great deal of time training under the direct tutelage of Japanese Sensei.

I learnt many lessons from these Masters. Some of these lessons were immediately apparent, others took years to suddenly make sense.

Here I am going to discuss one particularly valuable lesson I learnt as I progressed to my black belt and beyond.

I hope it will help and clarify some prominent issues for those on their own journeys.

The Japanese have a term in Martial Arts named SHU-HA-RI.

This term isn’t just exclusive to Martial Arts but generally how they learn any traditional art.


HA- Means to BREAK


Let’s look at these 3 points individually.

In Martial arts terms SHU (preserve) means when you first learn a technique you practice it exactly how your Instructor showed you. You don’t deviate from it in anyway.

The way it is initially shown might not be the only way, but it is a starting point that you adhere to until a time were another piece of the puzzle will be revealed to you.

As a ‘Gung Ho’ young man full of testosterone and a burning desire to prove myself I used to get frustrated when I was told to perform a technique repeatedly.

I wanted more. I was eager to run before I could walk. I didn’t want to wait.

I see now that physically I may have got the technique down well but mentally I wasn’t ready to move on.

Training back in those days under Japanese Sensei was 2- hour classes of repetitive training of maybe tops 3 or 4 techniques. That was it. Fuck telling them ‘I’ve got that, what’s next?’

No, you kept your mouth shut and kept on drilling unless you wanted a broken arm or leg.

SHU is the foundation of your art. It is the deep roots of the tree going way under the soil.

The tree and its various decorative branches is only as strong as its roots.

Many of us as Westerner’s cannot grasp these principles. We live in a society now that can’t wait for anything and need instant gratification.

I now firmly believe in the saying. ‘All good things come to those who wait.’

Ask any high ranking black belt of their art that trained under Japanese supervision how many front kicks, wristlocks, hip throws, sword cuts they have done over and over.

The widely touted theory, highlighted in a 1993 psychology paper and popularised by Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, says that anyone can master a skill with 10,000 hours of practice.

Scientists, however, remain sceptical. They also say you can add intelligence, age, personality or maybe something else into the mix.

But let’s say it takes you 10,000 hours to learn a Martial Art.

How long would you need to train a day? Well to put it in perspective if you trained 90  minutes a day (which is the usual length of a training session) it would rough take 20 years to be on the ‘tipping point’ of greatness.

Train 8 hours a day that time will drop.

The question is how good to you want to get?

Also, what is the quality of the training you are doing?

We have the old example of the guy who says he trained for 3 hours in the gym today.

Reality says he trained an hour, scratched his balls and looked in the mirror for another hour and the final hour was taking up chatting to his mate and eyeing up the woman.

When you see an athletic at their peak winning gold, a football team winning the world cup a tennis player winning Wimbledon or a fighter winning a world title then you are beginning to understand what it takes to master your chosen art.

Dabbling isn’t going to cut it. A once a week 90-minute class isn’t even going to get you to average.

Japanese Sensei didn’t want average. They demanded greatest. Most students didn’t cut it. Many fell by the wayside when the going got tough.

Now don’t get me wrong after 40 years of training I am still looking for greatness, but the difference is I am still on the mats trying.

The lesson to be learnt here is a good instructor at the top of his game and his intentions honourable and not for self-gain will know when it is time for you to grade, move on or learn something new. Not you.


This means at this level the student can now start to take apart technique and examine the material. Now with solid roots in place they are ready to play around with things and determine the principles and reasoning behind them.

Their technique now is not just a bunch of ‘tricks’ they are delving deeper into their origin, inner core and meaning.

You may have learnt a technique in a certain manner up to this point, but it doesn’t mean that is the only way to do it. Also, you will begin to understand why that technique has been taught that way up to now and why you are going to see it in a different light.

Again, many don’t stay around for this level and have given up with a half assed idea of what that Martial Art is all about.

My base art of Japanese Combat Jujutsu originates from the Katana (sword). How many people out there training or teaching jujutsu know this let alone be-able to show the links between sword and unarmed?

I know this because this is what my Japanese Sensei showed me at HA level. Why? Because I stuck around and came through the SHU level.

Ri means to separate.

At this point in your training you are now expected to take those core principles and techniques and add your own expressions to them. To have the knowledge and ability to come up with new or different interpretations.

You should have gone through the rough, scrappy training phase and now developed a smoothness and flow to your technique. You will have been through your ‘proving stage’ and you will be now working towards a higher level of mastery.

This really outlines your journey from white to black belt.

Higher mastery goes with you through further Dan grades and how far you wish to go in your chosen art.

I recall as a young man hell bent on achieving my black belt and Japanese Sensei telling me that you will have only then learnt the basics. Once you have reached your goal of black belt that is when you really start learning.

Now I know they were right.

In this rapidly evolving world of Martial arts we must always be working to move forward after all we are only as good as the last time we stepped on the mats, but we must never forget the lessons learned from those who went before us. Those lessons are surprisingly still relevant today.

But as Winston Churchill once said, ‘Wise men stumble upon the truth and get up and walk away.’

Book Review: ‘Wrong Fu’ by Jamie Clubb – Garry Smith

First let me make clear that Jamie and I have never met, we have corresponded and talked but not in person, and no money has changed hands. I have read, quite literally thousands of books, I am pretty widely read. I have reviewed many, many books, most I have enjoyed, some that have been more than that, ‘Wrong Fu is one of the latter’.

I edit Conflict Manager Magazine and work closely with a couple of the people mentioned in this book. I teach Ju Jitsu, I have graded to 4th dan and I run the Academy of Self Defence. I know my mMA and my SD are different creatures, there is a little overlap so I just about completely agree with the messages delivered in this book.

The amount of research and underpinning knowledge necessary for Jamie to write this is extraordinary. I was once an academic, I was immersed in a world where opinion was fine but needed to be based on evidence. Jamie draws on some fantastic sources and refers to many theoretical models to identify and argue against all the major problems that exist in the MA/SD world.

However, it is not a rant. This is an incredibly concise observation of some quite complex issues and fallacies, they need challenging and this book contributes to that process. I loved it. Like any great read I will let this swish around and return to read it again another time.

I am looking forward to Enter the Bull, (even though I have trained with Master Ken and did the tiger pose, I use the pic to make my students laugh).

Final point, when I took over the teaching of Ju Jitsu nearly 4 years ago the first thing I did was scrap the use of the ‘Sensei’ title, our students call me Garry. Stop the bowing, scraping and kneeling in rank order, we still bow with a nod but stood in a circle and make it clear we did this for fun, we are not warriors, failure is inevitable and should be embraced as much as success. We are growing steadily. The MA/SD world would improve more if people listened to Jamie Clubb.

Reviewed by Garry Smith.

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.

Talking to Savages 60 Podcast with Karen Moxon Smith – Randy King

Karen Moxon Smith is an experienced criminal defence lawyer and senior partner at a Norrie, Waite and Slaters in Sheffield. She has over 25 years experience of dealing with every type of crime from driving offences to murder. Karen has extensive experience of the English legal system and how it works, which is very often different for how the public think it works.