The Mark Hatmaker Interview Part II – Erik Kondo

Mark Hatmaker is one of our excellent contributors and a true professional, he is the author of numerous books and a highly respected practitioner. Mark is the founder of Extreme Self Protection, a company that compiles, analyses, and teaches unarmed combat methods. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.

This should have appeared in the December issue but a disastrous computer crash plus very busy events leading up to Christmas caused me to miss a beat here, so here is part 2 and I hop[e you enjoy it. – Garry.

Based on your answers, it seems that your clients are all highly motivated and receive individualized attention and instruction.
How do you instruct less motivated people in a group setting?

MARK: Well, we’re not all motivated in all things. None of us. Personal example, if someone says to me “Hey Mark, I want you to make your way through all 55 volumes of The Loeb Classical Library” I say “Sir, yes sir!” Why do I jump in feet first to this Greek and Latin compendium? Because I want to, I am motivated to do so. Compare with “Mark I want you to sit down and watch yet another super-hero movie with me” and all you get from me is hemming and hawing and foot-dragging. It would take far less time to sit through another one of these than read the aforementioned volumes but the charm of grown men and women wearing costumes and beating up bad guys is lost on this adult. Millions (billions) enjoy these flicks, they win, me, I feel like I’m being punished-I have zero-motivation to view them.

As a coach I do not see it as my (our?) responsibilities to “sell” the athlete on why what we’re doing is good for them or the wise way to go. I always assume from the get-go that the athlete is attending because they are a hard-charger, if not in body yet, at least in mind. We are then a team and can work together.

I assume if hard-work and/or the brand of madness we dish out is not to an individual’s thinking they will move on and play elsewhere or at a different game altogether. Just as I don’t want to sit through more adults-in-tights movies against my will, I do not want to force anyone to train as we do-I allow the natural peel-off or culling to occur.

To assist this choice we use a buy-in, ante up, earn your rounds protocol. Do the conditioning with us, do the necessary athletic work with us and you’ve proven that you want to be there.  Then, and only then do we start handing out the candy, so to speak.

If someone chooses not to ante up or sandbags the conditioning we have a nice conversation about what it is they really want-if it ain’t this, we scoot them off the mat and allow them to find what it is they really want to do and not force what we do on them. At the same time this insures that a non-earnest individual will not drag the attitudinal level of the team down.

Nobody minds working with a hard-charger no matter their skill or current conditioning level, but, come on, really, who enjoys coddling anyone along. The behavior already indicates that they may simply may not want to be there-have the polite conversation and allow them the liberty to ante up and join the team (if that’s what they really want) or to move on and find what moves them in life.

I see this approach as a courtesy. Life’s too short to focus on the unwilling. Focus your energies and attention on the can-do hard-chargers at hand, don’t make the unwilling watch your super-hero movie or read your pretentious books.

Open Quarters Vs Closed Quarters – Mark Hatmaker

Today a wee bit of history from the days of Fighting Sail and then we wade into how we might learn a thing or two from these 18th & 19th century sailors.

Picture if you will a wooden sea vessel, make it a swift sailing sloop or a heavily armed man-of-war or whatever vessel floats your boat. Conjure up images of the ships seen in any of the Pirates of the Caribbean flicks or, better yet, Master and Commander.

Ok, got those images in mind?

Now picture the superstructures on the main deck. For the landlubbers, a superstructure is any structure/cabin rising above the main deck. On larger ships there were typically two superstructures the forecastle and the aftercastle.

Got that?

When any such ship was engaged in maritime battle with another they would often draw themselves broadsides to allow cannons loaded with a variety of mayhem to do damage to the ship itself (below decks firing to sink the ship and above decks firing if you intended on capturing the vessel). At this point of the battle the ships are engaging in open quarters fighting.

If/when a boarding by an enemy vessel seemed inevitable, the vessel that feared boarding would close a series of doors/shutters that ran along beams or supports bridging the superstructures—the crew would retreat behind these barriers which were called, yeah, you guessed it—closed quarters.

Now, just because the quarters have been closed we are not at actual hand-to-hand closed quarter fighting yet as we commonly envision it. There are a series of loopholes (small openings) for musket and small arms fire.

If/when the marauding vessel’s crew is finally able to board and breech the closed quarters barrier the one-on-one melee began with combatants wielding boarding axes, pistols, cutlasses, dirks, and perhaps here and there a musket or blunderbuss.

The point of today’s little historical aside is twofold—

One-To illuminate the origins of the phrase closed quarters and…

Two—Most importantly to allow the historical use of the closed quarters strategy to inform our modern self-protection thinking.

99.9% of the time (fake but representative number all the same) when talk is made of real-world self-protection or street-defense we move directly to an assumption that the predator has breached our closed quarters status.

Yes, I am aware that we do not walk along this earth with doors and shutters ready to be closed when we first spot trouble on the horizon but…we do, more often than not, spot a bit of trouble before it actually reaches us where we must engage in what we now call closed quarters battle.

This earlier awareness can be thought of as the beginning of our open quarters status. It is at open quarters that we must assess whether the enemy is too heavily gunned to engage and thus we must set sail, or whether to pull broadsides and begin firing with cannonade. This is the nautical equivalent of fight or flight.

Open quarters weaponry, in the modern sense should always err on the side of flight, but…but we must never assume flight is always an option. There are times when flight is simply not possible and engagement must be made. But even in these circumstances modern self-protection trainees must alter how we think of our open quarters weaponry.

We cannot and do not have the option (in most cases) of leaping immediately to our own personal cannonade (in my case a .357 Magnum) nor should this be our first thoughts in what is still an open quarters situation.

We must defer to our prevention, our awareness, our decision to remain vigilant no matter how calm the personal seas may seem. In most situations this persistent scouting for an enemy flag on the horizon will serve us with all the self-protection skills we’ll ever need.

If our vigilance does lag, if we are blind-sided, if even after spotting a threat we may sometimes find our initial flight options sparse to none we then begin open quarters tactics, this can be your own personal cannonade (if warranted of course) whether this be personal firearm, blade, designated weapon or X-Weapon use as defined in our X-Weapon Self-Protection Unit.

We do not, absolutely do not if at all possible want to get to a closed quarters fight from the word go. Closed quarters battle assumes that we may have been less than vigilant in our scouting, less than diligent in our open quarters preparation. Closed quarters battle in the days of fighting sail was the last ditch effort (to mix military metaphors) at survival, the tactical fall back for when our earlier strategies and tactics have failed.

It seems to me that we spend more time in this modern era pondering and training closed quarters tactics than we do open quarters work. We use No Second Chance Book of Drills to rectify this strategic inversion and return the primacy of open quarters battle to the top of the self-protection food chain where it should be.

The Mark Hatmaker Interview Part I – Erik Kondo

Mark Hatmaker is one of our excellent contributors and a true professional, he is the author of numerous books and a highly respected practitioner. Mark is the founder of Extreme Self Protection, a company that compiles, analyses, and teaches unarmed combat methods. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. – Garry.

ERIK: I read an interview with you by Richard Dimitri where you talk the concepts of randomness and complex systems as opposed to set systems, fixed curriculum, and dogmatic answers in domains in relation to Self-Protection and more.

I view a Domain as an environment where specific rules, factors, and variables apply. For example, a biker bar in Texas is a Domain which differs from a college bar frequented by MIT students which is another Domain. Both of these Domains are bars, yet the individual “rules” of behavior differ and so do the consequences of breaking the rules.

I view set systems, fixed curriculum, and dogmatic answers as Closed Systems that are designed to “work” in a specific Domain under certain predefined variables. A Domain can also be a dojo or a martial arts competition.

A Closed System doesn’t take into consideration differing Domains, and thus provides a static (fixed) “solution” to a given “problem”. For example, if someone does X, you do Y, regardless of the Domain (environment) you are in.

I define Closed Systems that correspond to Simple Domains (few variables and factors to consider) to be Simplistic Systems.

The opposite of a Simplistic System is a Complex System. A Complex System is open to change and constantly evolving. It corresponds to a Complex Domain with many variables and factors including randomness to consider.

In terms of Self-Protection, applying a Simplistic System solution to a Complex Domain problem can have disastrous consequences.

My question is: How would you relate what I have just described in terms of your own views on Systems and Domains?

MARK: Good question, Erik. Before I get started, to make sure we’re on the same page with my idiosyncratic phrasing.  I use the term “environment” for differing physical surroundings (the physical terrain indoors or out), “culture” for the human element or “attitude” of the environment, and “domain” to refer to fields of knowledge (biology and physics being two separate domains within the overall schema of science).

In your given bar example I would assess the given environment (exits, improvised weapons, etc.), allow the culture to determine my level of presumed readiness (me being less heightened in the MIT culture and a bit more cautious in the biker bar-with no slight to bikers or MIT students, simply playing to type for our discussion-rightly or wrongly.)

My curious use of the term domain will not apply here.

In a perfect world, I will have already presented myself with a myriad of potential self-protection tactics that I have drilled in isolation-that would be my nod to complexity. But this skill set means nothing without culling the tactical herd, so to speak.

After the complex drill sets educated in sterile conditions I would then have placed myself (and clientele) through a series of chaos drills we call The Outer Limits (60+ drills before overlays take it into the 100’s). We allow the drills to “set the personally tailored curriculum.”

We have found, that The Outer Limits allows each individual to strip the excess chaff/baggage of learned tactics down to what will actually emerge for each given individual, this culling usually manifests in seeing two heaping handfuls of go-to tactics idiosyncratically “forced” onto each individual. That is, what is my go-to may not be yours and vice versa.

Once we have simplified the complex and sterile we continue the drill sets to see how often we can make this culled arsenal apply and manifest in an ever growing variety of environments and cultures.

In a nutshell, we drill complexity at the outset to get to simplicity that has a high overall application value.

ERIK: I think my use of the term Domain maybe confusing since as you said a domain can be considered a field of knowledge.

So, I am using Domain = environment + culture. Maybe it is clearer to use Environment = environment + culture and my use of System is more of a subset of your domain. Do you see that?

The way I understand your methodology, you provide the Student with a large number of movements/techniques/tactics to determine which ones the Student has a natural inclination to use. Using the Chaos/Outer Limits is the filtering process that eliminates the majority of M/T/T leaving a customized set. The point being is that this is what the person will naturally do, so don’t teach them stuff they aren’t going to do anyway, correct?

I would call this customized set a Customized System.

Now that the System has been created, you apply the System in different Environments (environment + culture) to make sure the System is complex enough to handle multiple Environments. If it fails in
certain Environments, then you then modify the System in order to make it work in that Environment.

The end result is that different Students have different Systems that they apply in multiple Environments. But the goal is to keep the System simple to use as opposed to complicated.

That it?

MARK: Bingo, sir!

ERIK: The reason for all the terminology is so that we can be on the same page.

MARK: Agreed, sir.

ERIK: Here is a quote from Rory Miller

“If you are teaching self-defense, you are teaching students, not subject matter. This is the hallmark difference between self-defense and martial arts. When I am teaching martial arts, I am teaching a system that has been handed down for many generations, and I have an obligation to teach certain things to a certain standard, in a certain way. When I am teaching martial arts, I am teaching a subject.

When I am teaching self-defense, I am teaching students. Every single student is different. They have different brains and bodies. “

QUESTION: How would you expand upon or interpret it in terms of your teaching philosophy?

MARK: I see a marriage of the two in my approach. I don’t teach from dogma or set canon (and I’m not implying that Mr. Miller is either). What we do here is less teach than coach and where that may sound like hair-splitting to some I see a stark distinction.

If I were to “teach” I would be handing down set formulas and incontrovertible axioms.

Coaching allows me to give exposure of broad categories to the athlete and then observe their own varying attributes-we then coach, push, prod, cultivate the individual’s use of the general movement to a (hopefully) better fit with their own talents and abilities.

ERIK: I have always liked the idea of coaching rather than instruction because coaching implies that it is the student’s responsibility to learn whereas teaches implies it is the teacher’s responsibility to make sure the student learns. Could you expand more on how you coach students?

MARK: In a nutshell, we have a conversation to see what the athlete’s goals are, then we tailor a preliminary plan to start along that goal path using a few pre-sets. All the while we pay attention to how the athlete moves and responds to the material and make adjustments along the way for individual attributes. We tweak and add material where it seems wise and just as importantly we remove and cull where possible as reducing exposure to downside effects is often just as important (if not more so) than gaining new material.

Two examples to illustrate what I mean by emphasizing reducing downside as opposed to upside.

In self-defense/street work-In response to a query along these lines “What if I were in a biker bar and it goes bad?”
First, the less often you have to be in a given biker bar known for outbreaks of violence the less you have to work tactics that may or may not work when chaos hits. Where initially the query seems to want the upside of this or that self-defense tactic to respond to street-evil, the counter is to question the wisdom of continuing exposure to possible violence.

Yes, I am aware that we can’t reduce such exposures to nil, but we are a bit less than honest if we spend more (or all) of our time on how to respond in a fight that may never happen and little to no time on what we can do every day about being aware of practices and environments with increased risk.

Reduce downside and upside automatically increase.

In the sportive aspect. Let’s say I’ve got a new athlete and his footwork is a mess. Rather than belabor him with the dozen-points of solid footwork he or she needs to keep in mind to become more fluid, I will find one and only one negative aspect and say “Hey, let’s do it again but no matter what, I do not want to see that rear foot come off of the ground.”

Once we’ve killed that downside habit there is an automatic upside gain-stability, we move on to the next downside to be culled.

It’s sort of a negative injunction “Thou shalt not…” athletic approach but handled point by point rather than throw all of the concepts against the wall at one time leading to cognitive overload.

Part 2 to follow in December.

For more from Mark please go to

Personalizing Broken Windows Theory – Mark Hatmaker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which route back to the hotel do you choose?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Book Review by Mark Hatmaker -Voices of the Foreign Legion: The History of the World’s Most Famous Fighting Corps by Adrian D. Gilbert

Exactly what the title says, but tells the story of the Legion via diary entries, memoirs and interviews from Legionnaires themselves, from its romantic inception in the deserts of North Africa to the post-colonial anti-terrorist operations of today. This sort of skin-in-the-game/boots-on-the-ground history fascinates me more than academic history, as here we get the eyes-on view of top-down policies, that is, we hear what the folks in the comfy chairs think should happen in the world, and then we see what happens when real men must trek through sucking jungle, scorching desert, hostile streets to attempt to render these pseudo-manly pipe-dreams coherent. The real-world view never matches the academic view.

The book is harrowing in places, graphic in many, sad in most, and in the end so so so so much death and destruction and suffering for what? Colonies in Algeria, Vietnam, the Congo, Morocco that don’t exist today.

Compare with our own experience today  in the United States’ longest war ever. In some cases fighting the same foe the Legion was fighting in the  19th century; it’s a sucker’s game with other men’s blood on the line. The days of joint-suffering on the Home Front are over. We have no rationing, coupons for days we can buy dairy products, we do not toil in Victory Gardens, we share no hardship with our fighting forces—imagine telling folks “We will ration your data plans or tamp down on streaming until our sons and daughters are home.” Maybe we’d see some resolve or sensible draw-down if for nothing else to make sure we don’t miss an episode of Game of Thrones.

Distance renders us callous or indifferent-same result—other people die, we pretend to care with bumper sticker sayings, and quickly forget as the “smartphone” beckons for another input of loving parental attention. It should shame us that our memories are not longer than two days of the year: Memorial Day and Veterans Day. It might ought to fester on our consciences that others are at risk, right this very minute, and we may not be able to point to that dying ground on a map or articulate what our “goals” are “over there.”

This fine volume reminds us that history has not changed: empty suits set policy and set strategy, a distracted populace seldom pays attention beyond a rote “Rah-rah!” here and there, and real flesh and blood suffers.

Smartphones get smarter, the users, not so much.

This excerpt from the book, is  a Legionnaire speaking of the catastrophic loss at Camerone. It seems to echo the sentiments of many military I speak to today.

“The appeal of Camerone to a legionnaire is as natural as instinct. He reaches out to it in his own heart, because it is part of his own pain. It is the great reminder to the legionnaire that the sand is always blowing in his eyes, the battleground is always ill-chosen, the odds are too great, the cause insufficient to justify his death, and the tools at hand always the wrong ones. And, above all, nobody cares whether he wins or loses, lives or dies. Camerone gives the legionnaire strength to live with his despair. It reminds him that he cannot win, but it makes him feel that there is dignity in being a loser.”

To all the “Losers” of our military, past and present. VALE!

To all the “Winners” state-side [self-included] may we do a better job monitoring all those “smart” folk who dig war so much without ever having fought.

The ‘Real’ Gladiator Diet – Mark Hatmaker

Imagination Time-Call forth images of the lean and mean, jacked and ripped cast of the television show Spartacus. You know the body-type I’m talking about, the taut, toned, chiseled body-fat of 5% physiques that reek of 2-3 HIT workouts per day and scrupulously avoiding all sugars and carbs, while piling on all the paleo-approved goodies that you can choke down.

Got those enviable images in mind?


Before we get to The Gladiator Diet, allow me to ask another question of our Spartacus cast-members.

No matter how jacked and ripped these performers are, no matter how much undoubted discipline and hard work goes into attaining these forms, do we think this translates to true gladiatorial skill? Actual combat prowess?

Of course, not.

Don’t get me wrong, hard-work is hard-work and we are able to do more with a fit athlete than an unfit athlete but these performers would be the first to tell you they eat and train to look like warriors not to be warriors.

With this said, what did the actual gladiators consume to fuel for actual gladiator combat? Might there be a difference between training to be a gladiator and training to be a pretend gladiator?

You betcha.

Paleo-pathologists Karl Grossschmidt and Fabian Kanz, both of the Medical University at Vienna, have been doing analyses of more than 60 gladiator skeletons found buried in a mass grave in western Turkey [formerly Ephesus.] They subjected the remains to isotopic analysis which allowed them to assay for trace elements and determine the composition of the diet that went into making these warriors of the Colosseum.

So what did they find? Were they Paleo? Were they on the Zone? Were the gladiators on the South Beach Diet? Surely, to God, they were at least on the Mediterranean Diet considering where they were. What exactly fueled these real gladiators?

Turns out, they were primarily on a vegetarian diet. Not just that, a vegetarian diet heavy on the carbs.

Keep in mind the diet was not based in poverty or a dearth of protein sources as other non-gladiator skeletons from the same region do not show this same dietary make-up. Also keep in mind gladiators, whether slaves or voluntary were a valuable commodity and it seems they weren’t being deprived of meat, but rather being fed as well as the gladiator Ianista [trainer] could afford to keep his athletes in peak condition for the performances.

The results of the isotopic analyses should be of little surprise to the deep digging historian who is aware that contemporaneous accounts of gladiators often referred to them as hordearii [that is, “barely men.”] Many extant purchasing bills for the gladiatorial schools reflect a diet heavy on barley, heavy on legumes, that is lots and lots and lots of beans. Lots and lots of carbs.

It seems, despite our images of Spartacus or 300 cast-members, that gladiators were groomed to be a bit, well, fat, and what is more, purposefully so.

One To increase mass as we are dealing with a no-weight class competition [the opposite of what we have in today’s tamer combat sports] and…

Two To allow the subcutaneous fat to act as a sort of dermal armor. Grossschmidt states, “Gladiators needed subcutaneous fat. A fat cushion protects you from cut wounds and shields nerves and blood vessels in a fight.”

Three This layer of fat provides a better show. Grossschmidt again, [Surface wounds] “look more spectacular. If I get wounded but just in the fatty layer, I can fight on. It doesn’t hurt much, and it looks great for the spectators.”

Think of this as being akin to blading, juicing, gigging, or getting color in professional wrestling in which the athletes intentionally cut themselves on the sly to add to the drama of the spectacle.

An intriguing addition to their isotope analyses reveals a high calcium content, meaning that the gladiator athletes were supplementing their carb heavy diet with calcium supplements. The historical record shows that gladiators often garnered this calcium not with a trip to the nutrition store, but by chugging concoctions that included calcium rich substances such as charred wood or bone ash.

Then, as now, anything to pursue an advantage.

So, with the science and history in mind, real gladiators looked less like Gerard Butler in 300 [Spartans and not gladiators I know, but you get my drift] or anyone in the cast of Spartacus and perhaps a bit more like UFC fighter Roy “Big Country” Nelson.

Whether or not this actual gladiator diet would work for us or not is not the point of today’s fun. But rather to point out what is often the wide gulf between reality and the comic book images that we often allow to intrude on fact.

The proof, more often than not, is in the hard work and the diligent drilling than it is in what you digest and/or look like on the beach.

At least that’s what the gladiators and scientists would tell us.




Do You Choose Situational Blindness? – Mark Hatmaker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


You Won’t Like Who’s Ready – Mark Hatmaker

“You can map out a fight plan or a life plan, but when the action starts, it may not go the way you’ve planned, and you’re down to your reflexes-that means your [preparation]. That’s where your roadwork shows. If you’ve cheated on that in the dark of the morning, well, you’re going to find that out now, under the bright lights.”-Joe Frazier

The great champion Joe Frazier is referring both to boxing and life in general, and his lesson is mighty powerful. Perhaps more powerful than he ever realized. I’m going to drive home just how powerful his advice is with an example from some horrifically evil people, but first, let’s take a sojourn through some Paleolithic anthropology and then a 16th-century observation on warfare before we bring it back to the 21-st century.

You are the weakest human being that has ever walked the planet since this species inception.

Don’t take that personally, I’m weak, too, and so is your neighbor, and your CrossFit coach down the road. The 21st century human is a pale copy of better versions of ourselves that colonized this planet up till about 10,000 years ago.

This weak estimation I have just rendered is not me talking-that’s the science.

“There is some evidence that the size of the average Sapiens brain has actually decreased since the age of foraging. Survival in that era required superb mental abilities from everyone. When agriculture and industry came along people could increasingly rely on the skills of others for survival, and new ‘niches for imbeciles’ were opened up. You could survive and pass your unremarkable genes to the next generation by working as a water carrier or an assembly-line worker.

“Foragers mastered not only the surrounding world of animals, plants and objects, but also the internal world of their own bodies and senses. They listened to the slightest movement in the grass to learn whether a snake might be lurking there. They carefully observed the foliage of trees in order to discover fruits, beehives and bird nests. They moved with a minimum of effort and noise, and knew how to sit, walk and run in the most agile and efficient manner. Varied and constant use of their bodies made them as fit as marathon runners. They had the physical dexterity that people today are unable to achieve even after years of practicing yoga or t’ai chi.”-Yuval Noah Harari Sapien: A Brief History of Humankind.

A little depressing, huh? Before we get too down on our weaker and dumber selves let’s not forget that we win when it comes to technological luxuries. But then again…

“Don’t talk about ‘progress’ in terms of longevity, safety, or comfort before comparing zoo animals to those in the wilderness.”-Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Your call if you dig the idea of being a domesticated animal.

You can strive to be either more like the wolf, or more like the golden retriever. Both fine animals, but…

The next stop on our journey, the16th-century Frenchman Michel Montaigne. Rather than quote from the lengthy section I have excised this idea, I will paraphrase in prose far less elegant than his.

Montaigne, while musing on warfare of the past up to his present-day remarks that each succeeding general or army would fare well or better than preceding champions.

For example, Alexander would easily dominate opposition that preceded him by a century, whereas Caesar coming after Alexander would handle Alexander and his armies easily, and that a French militia of Montaigne’s period would handle a legion of Caesar’s handily.

Nice, huh? Puts we gradually weaker humans back in the driver’s seat.

Not so fast.

Montaigne points out that these successive victories would only be possible because each succeeding army enjoys greater technology (i.e., better forged steel for Caesar vs. Alexander, early firearms for the French dragoons vs. Caesar). He then goes on to say that if we level the playing field by making each fighting force compete mano y mano, or with the preceding generations technology then the victory goes hands down to the earlier version of ourselves. Montaigne makes this assertion by observing that each generation of man seems to do less and less, and to be capable of less and less. Keep in mind he was making this observation in the 1500’s-I wonder what he would conclude after observing today’s texters, and tweeters, and gamers.

And now back to the 21st-century. I will quote from an exercise video available online. I will not provide a source for the video, I will not offer the name of the “instructor” as, well, because the video producers and instructors are scum.

The video is an outreach for potential ISIS converts on how to stay fit for battle.

I quote from the video: “This video is dedicated to the mujahedeen in Syria, and to others who plan on coming here.”

Our quite fit “instructor” then offers tips on how to get fit and stay fit for battle with no gym equipment. And, I will say, having been in this business for some time, his advice, unfortunately, is quite sound.

This video reminds us of the fact that the scum who perpetrated the atrocities in the offices of Charlie Hebdo and what followed, also met regularly for fitness sessions.

Which brings me to the point of this journey, what are we doing right now to be

Are we content to assume that our “protectors” somewhere out there in Washington, or wherever are the only preparation we need to make?

If we make this assumption how do we resolve this with the fact that most such attacks are not battlefield attacks, they are civilized world attacks-this puts us into Montaigne’s example where we have to ask ourselves how would we do against an enemy when we lack our technology which we use to bolster our weakness?

Would we be ready if we had to be ready?

Are we preparing to any degree whatsoever as Joe Frazier suggests versus a foe that takes such advice to heart?

We either makes ourselves weak, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of time dedicated to either is the same.

What are you going to do while some villain out there is doing what needs to be done?

Garry here, now please visit Mark’s website


Surviving a Suicide Bomber: Snowball in Hell Version – Mark Hatmaker

First and foremost, it is a goddamn shame that any human being has to take the time to seriously write an article with the above title, but the world not conforming to decency and honor at all times—here it is.

The very nature of the chosen environments for the majority of suicide bombings [crowded venues] and the added aspect of the scum not caring at all about being able to leave the scene of the crime makes specific measures and predictions tough tough tough to implement.

There are a few general guidelines to keep in mind. We will divide these into three tiers: 80/20 Scanning, Alarmed But Uncertain, Full-On.

80/20 Scanning

If you are in any crowded venue, whether that be sporting event, concert, farmer’s market, airport, mall, hell, all things in life where good people congregate to go about living and having fun, we’ve got to admit the possibility that bad things could potentially happen.

This is not an advocacy of shunning all events that would draw a crowd or living scared but it is an urging to use a bit of Pareto’s Principle vigilance. That is pay attention, to everything. Place 80% of your attention on the fun at hand and allow 20% of your attention/time be devoted to scanning what is around you.

Treat the event as a springbok might at the watering hole on the Serengeti, a place to slake thirst, mingle with other springbok, maybe get the cute one’s number, but always keep in mind there may be a lion in the bushes or a crocodile in the shallows.

Drink the water, mingle, have fun, but stay awake.

General Scanning Rules

Back-packs and large bags. Many venues ban these, some do not. Your job, my job, our job is to look for the backpacks and large bags in the venue and if we see them, report them if they prohibited at the event. If they are permitted, allow your self to do a bit of profiling of the backpack wearer or bag-holder. Look for intention signalling.

What those might be, we’ve discussed in many other past articles, but I’m sure you are already aware of intention signals at this point.

Allow your 20% Awareness scan to include any odd behaviour bag-holding or backpack-wearing or not. Awareness is and has always been the key in all survival situations—that and a huge dollop of luck.

We add to our luck by staying awake and aware.

With awake and aware in mind—PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY!

It is impossible to be here, now when your tiny screen has captured your attention.

Phones out mean you not only miss the snowball’s chance in hell of spotting trouble, you are less than fully present at the event you presumably freely chose to attend.

Putting the phone away is a win-win.

Alarmed But Uncertain

Obviously if we see something, we say something.

But…this is where we get a little dark, a little Machiavellian.

Let’s presume we see something a little odd, but not quite odd enough to raise an alarm. We’ve seen something that gets our gut going but we’ve got no real actionable “tell” we can point to but we want to pay a bit closer attention while at the same time playing it safe rather than sorry.

I’m going to say something mighty obvious and a bit self-preserving here, the further you are from a bomb-blast the greater odds of your survival and the lesser severity of injuries incurred.

No-brainer, right?

Dark Time

The more people between you and the suicide bomber the greater your survival odds.

With these uncertain tells in mind, I am advocating you begin removing yourself from the immediate area of your possible-concern.

By all means, keep your eye on your concern and if your ‘tell’ escalates give alarm NOW. If your tell-signal diminishes, well, nobody but you, and those in your charge know that you were silently using the crowd as shields.


We’re in full-on hell here.

If we have failed to spot and we are close to the epicentre of the blast, well, fortune will do what it does.

If there is a split-second between “Oh, shit this is going down” and the actual triggering of the device here is your snowball’s chance in hell protocol.

Hit the deck. IMMEDIATELY.

These devices are meant to fragment and/or send projectile material through human flesh. Whether this material be nuts, bolts, ball-bearings, what have you, dispersal physics says the vast majority of this material will go up, down, and outward.

Your job is to create the smallest profile in this dispersal cloud.

So, with that in mind…

  • Hit the deck!
  • With the soles of the feet pointed toward the scum-bomber. We are creating the smallest profile in this position and attempting to protect vitals.
  • Cross the legs to insure a smaller profile and to decrease the likelihood that the blast will catch a splayed leg and shear it.
  • Go facedown, hands over the head and ears, fingers interlaced, with elbows tucked to sides over ribs. Again, protect the vitals.
  • Close your eyes—tight.
  • Open your mouth. This is counter-intuitive but this tactic is to help equalize the pressure of the bomb blast. Opening the mouth can reduce chances of ruptured eardrums and lungs.


“Never do anything for the first time in combat.”

It is not enough to merely read an article and nod our heads and think to ourselves, “Good idea.”

We must put it into practice.

We can and should be drilling awareness/alertness every single day of our lives.

When it comes to the Full-On Survival Posture I recommend hitting it right now, hit the deck and assume the position.

And if you’re really serious, over the course of the next week, while at home give a tennis ball to your family members and ask them to do you a favour. Over the next seven days, a couple of times per day, at least, tell them to toss the ball onto the floor of the room you’re in, the front yard while your trimming the hedges, anywhere anytime that you aren’t really thinking about it.

Tell them to catch you unaware.

Treat where the ball lands as the bomber’s position, hit the deck and assume the position.

If we’re lucky two things will happen with the Drill Week.

One-Your friends and family members have a laugh making your lunge for the ground for seven days.

Two-You never ever need such dire advice.

Peace, love, and harmony to the good and kind!

Death to villains!

You Are a Hunter-Predator – Mark Hatmaker

We are all hunters, predators, warriors. Everyone of us. I do not care whether you are a card-carrying member of PETA, a strict vegetarian, an avowed pacifist, or have never laid a finger on a hunting rifle or compound bow let alone fired a bullet or bolt into an animal.

We are all hunters by the sheer dint of historical and biological forces. We are all the offspring of forebears that hunted for millennia and thrived because of that evolved prowess for hunting.

Let’s toss all the contemporary arguments pro or con hunting aside, the titled observation is not telling anyone to abandon whatever moral precepts they possess regarding hunting, animals, and any perceived cruelty to animals.

To declare human beings as a hunting species is not a value judgment but a statement of fact.

Evolutionary biologists, paleo-ethologists, and anthropologists from Robert Ardrey to Richard Wrangham have gone so far as to say that what makes the human species so distinctly different from its simian brethren is this very penchant, this evolved drive to hunt.

Other animals can and do hunt, some solitary and some in packs, but no animal exceeds the human animal in applying technology to the solo hunt or the exceeding depths of cooperation in the human-pack hunt.

Dolphins may work together to “bubble-net” a school of fish but this is in no way a match for the hauls fishermen made off the coasts of New Foundland even 400 years ago. Wolves may hunt in families [the pack idea is a bit of a myth] and bring down prey larger than themselves, but the wolf is still no match for our forebears who brought down mammoths and other gargantuan prey that we just may have hunted to extinction.

There are many authorities in the field of human development who surmise that our ability to communicate and cooperate so successfully was borne out of this evolutionary group-hunting path. There is also some very convincing evidence [from Dr. Richard Wrangham particularly] that the combination of meat and fire, i.e., cooked meat, is what led to the relatively sudden growth spurt in the neo-cortex. Robert Ardrey surmises that the birth of the individual began with the mastery of the bow and arrow, hunting technology, that allowed individuals to break free of the pack.

Now, whether we hunt or not in our own personal lives matters not a whit to the fact that you, me, every human you meet is here because ancestors who put millennia into developing the skills and attributes that make a good hunter survived and passed along some of those successful hunting attributes to you.

The human brain is wired to be alert to patterns, to clues, to solving. Why? To better track prey. To better understand whether this sign means good foraging or that sign means “Uh-oh!”

Our modern hunting selves have little need to hunt or forage for ourselves anymore, we allow the market to provide but that does not mean that these hunting bits of our selves lie fallow.

It has been surmised that this inherent “solving” is part of the reason we enjoy puzzles, mystery films, suspense television, thriller novels to the degree we do. We are looking for clues, paths, tracks. It is also the reason we abhor spoilers, our intellect craves the hunt, the tracking and even this weak tea of trying to out-guess the third act of “Law & Order” fulfils some inherent need.

Is there any danger to being a hunting species that perhaps never hunts?


Consider this, hunting animals are keen and alert to their surrounding environment. This is, of course, necessity. Flagging attention may mean missing a meal, or missing the signal that a larger or smaller but venomous predator has you in its sites.

Flagging of attention is not rewarded with full bellies or long lives, let alone the passing along of your unsuccessful hunter genes.

Hunting animals must be reflective animals, that is reflecting and adapting to the external environment they are currently in.

External Reflection. This is key.

I repeat—This is key.


Philosopher John Gray [the real philosopher and not the “Men Are from Mars/Women Are from Venus” guy] states [and I simplify] that the human animal has gone from being a reflective being for the most part to a self-reflective one and this is the cause of many self-inflicted woes.

This is that key difference. Successful hunting animals are keen observers of their environment well aware of signs of prey, signs of good foraging ground, and also signs of potential upper-apex predators. Hunting animals must reflect on all that is before them, all the sights, sounds, scents, tastes on the air, the shift of wind signalled by the fluttering of the hairs on your arms.

As we progressed technologically, civilization was and is able to do more and more of our actual hunting and gathering for us, but this mere 40,000 year blip of agriculture is nothing in the scale of millennia when the hunting attributes were key. We can no more minus out the seeking and the solving of the hunter mindset than we can minus out familial affection. Hunting instincts are part and parcel of who we are as a species.

But, with the hunting prowess left with little to nothing to work on it has, in many cases, turned inward. Our powers of reflection have turned from reflections of the external/actual world, to self-reflection. We spend far more time pondering the fallible recreations of the real world inside our skulls than what goes on in the actual world. John Gray and others say that is a bit of a problem.

And we can’t turn that off. Reflection, that is.

If we do not reflect, we are no longer human. The key is whether we embrace the hunter’s reflection of the world, the external reflection that allows us to see and recognize patterns, tracks, make real associations, the day to day concrete observations that make up a sort of personal science, a pragmatic mechanistic understanding of the world comprised of the real and not the imagined.

Or, we mull and chew over only our own thoughts and the phantoms inside our skulls. Looking for dubious patterns and tracks in the words and acts, the perceived slights of others that may, in fact, be indicative of nothing.

All the while keeping in mind that being lost in thought also means being lost in the world.

It is inescapable that we will hunt and track whether self-reflective or outward reflective, this is a symptom of being a hunting being.

I wager that one form of reflection is of far more value than the other.