Secrets of the Elite – Karl Thornton

The Intentional & Unintentional Murderer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For this article we will use the term attacker.

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

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

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

Now let’s look at the Unintentional Murderer.

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

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

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

So why the term Unintentional Murderer?

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

The 4 classifications are:

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

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

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

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

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

So now we look at the next classification, Escape.

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

Now we will look at the classification, Maim.

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

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

Finally we will look at the classification, Gain.

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

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

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

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


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

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


Overtly Covert: Stepping Out of the Shadows – Karl Thornton


My World is a juggling act of the Overt and Covert Worlds, and it is not a position I want to be in, more a position I have found myself in.

An overt World of training and advocating the need to deal with the global child trafficking epidemic. And the Covert World of dealing directly with the dangerous undercover world of fighting child trafficking and rescue operations.

I run MDTA (Modern Defensive Tactics Australia), my training services business. Part of my service is to train NGO (Non-Government Organisations) Field Personnel, Covert Special Operations Operatives as well as Law Enforcement personnel.

I provide a specialised training program for personnel deployed into high risk environments. Training for covert surveillance, intelligence gathering and physical response personnel. Also training Law Enforcement in Anti-Human Trafficking.

This obviously puts me in an overt environment where my face and services are known Worldwide.

I train undercover operatives for operations that many times are one-up missions, where our training in the physiology and psychology of the realities of the environments and dangers faced, is based on individual survival skills. We train for the specific environment faced by one-up operatives that have minimal if any help and or support when it hits the fan. Depending on the mission involved, and the organisation they are deployed by.

Then on the other hand, I run an NGO myself. Silent Integrity.

Silent Integrity’s mission is to raise funds for training, deployment and rescue missions globally to help fight child trafficking. Silent Integrity also provides volunteer personnel to complete these services. My team and I are directly involved in rescuing children from child trafficking specialising in rescues from the child sex trade.

Once again I train operatives that will deploy with my team and I in the skill sets required for covert undercover operations that place us in high risk environments, where survival can be a based on WILL and SKILL. Training not only in the physical aspects of unarmed combat and weapons defence, but in optimal situational awareness.

In the Covert world of dealing with undercover operations you need to be trained in intelligence gathering, and a unique set of combative skills. You also need to be trained in rapid acclimatization and being able to think and respond under pressure. You need to be trained in Observation skills, Behavioural Analysis and your survival skills will be based on training in RPD (Rapid Prime Decision) Making.

So what qualifies me in this area? Other than my formal qualifications.

Been there – Done that.

For many years now, I have been working in High Risk CPP. Specialising in mainly 1 up protection in the area of Anti-Human Trafficking. Entering high risk zones, offering CPP to NGO (Non-Government Organisations) personnel and individuals that need to enter high risk areas. Obviously this is mainly what we classify as low profile. Covert.

It takes a different set of specialist skills to undertake this type of role, and one I have had to adapt many existing policies, procedures, and learn skills to deal with this specialist role.

Blitz Martial Arts Magazine.

“A lifelong martial artist and security professional’ Karl Thornton today teaches the Modern Defensive Tactics Australia system to security and law-enforcement personnel. Karl is one of Australia’s most accomplished, security professionals, Karl Thornton used his 30 years of martial arts training to create Modern Defensive Tactics Australia.”

Although my job description has changed over the years where I offer a unique service. A service that grew out of what I do dealing in high risk environments, in a one up situation, taking individuals into high risk areas. I am still always aware of the precarious position I have found myself in.

On the Overt side, I am training specialist personnel, raising awareness about child trafficking, and providing services throughout the anti-human trafficking environment. All you have to do is Google “Karl Thornton and child trafficking“ and there I am.

Then on the Covert side, I am undertaking Intelligence and surveillance operations and rescue operations, saving underage children from the child trafficking epidemic. Placing myself in environments and situations that are basically do or die.

I have been personally and directly responsible for the rescue of 23 children from the child sex trade, and indirectly responsible for hundreds of rescued children.

Unfortunately, as I stated earlier, I am not in a position I want to be in, more a position I have found myself in.

My fight to help eradicate child trafficking has led to the need to be overt in my push to effect change and to offer my services wherever I can to deal with this epidemic. Yet on the other hand, I am still active in operational missions where I am “hands on” in environments that I may not return from.

My team and I, are under no illusion that we are not placing ourselves in harm’s way, we deal with and against individuals and criminal syndicates that will do whatever it takes to stop us from disturbing the cash flow. Taking what they classify as assets, the children they are trafficking.

We know we work in areas where professionals like us disappear and are later found murdered, dismembered, burnt and just simply disappear. But the fight MUST continue.

So why am I writing this article. Well, two reasons really.

One, to give those in the martial arts, defensive tactics, and reality based self-defence world an insight to the diversity of work that can be achieved with their skill set.

Two, and more importantly, in my overt role, push awareness of the realities of child trafficking and that it is a growing epidemic that needs the world’s attention to try and stamp it out. I know we will never stop it, but we can fight to make a difference. Even for one child, and that is our belief. If we can save one child at a time, then we are making changes. I have been involved in operations that have saved one child, as well as operations that have saved more than one child. The point is we need to fight for these children.

For more information on what I do, and what my team do. Visit as well as