AN HONEST ASSESSMENT ON THE STATE OF THE THING

Recently I’ve noticed some extremely disturbing  trends in the current martial arts world. Now I realize I may piss off a lot of cohorts by writing about this generally hidden-in-plain-sight issue in the industry, and I’m okay with that potentiality. The martial arts world simply does not provide what the majority of people want nor what they need. A paradigm shift would seem to be called for, as it would in any other industry during evolutionary processes inter-field but, alas, it simply won’t happen in this instance. I just don’t see it. That would take self-reflection. Doing heavy research in a vast number of areas. Handing in our pride, ego and maybe even all those colored belts. (I’m willing if you are)

We are bass ackwards in our view. Title-whoring. Idolatry. Politics. Pecking orders. Elitism. Hell, racism. Skewed histories and downright lies. We are a service industry and people pay us (like a plumber, carpenter, janitor, electrician) to provide them with something needed, hopefully with honesty and ethically. NOT to get a mountaintop guru that feeds them the bullshit they want to hear. We assume secretly that people are stupid and laugh about it behind closed doors with other killers-in-their-own-minds. They, the public, are not. This is, quite possibly, the most information-savvy public in the history of humankind, at this very moment. I hate to say it, but they are often the ones laughing at us.

The majority of instructors, I’d be willing to bet, have never done any market research on what the average citizen is actually looking for. From most average folk that I’ve talked to, the perception is two-fold: 1. The pyjama-wearing, barefoot, color-belted, screamer who hits air and goes through multi-cultural rituals that usually don’t pertain to his/her own. 2. The tough guy who walks around glaring at people and acting out on misplaced child opportunities to express him/herself demonstratively. Very rarely does the cerebral professional whose goal is to train you to stay out of the dangerous spots come to mind. We are missing a huge demographic that will never find themselves on the inside of a “dojo”. They see a never-ending supply of vast physical responses to all situations, outdated methodologies, no classroom time or analysis of current crime and reverse-engineering to address it. A systemic linear curriculum. (From my experience, which may or may not be correct from your vantage point – and that’s okay – violence is not, linear that is: it’s organic, fluid and varying and graduating suddenly on a sliding scale of escalation.)

We continue to play these parlor games of long-term syllabi and progressive learning curve, oftentimes being negligent at best, putting our students directly in harm’s way at worse. Teaching what in the real world would amount to murder. (16-cut lethal knife solution to single right cross, anyone?) No address of local laws. Post-event LE interactions. The varying phases of adrenaline. Spatial considerations. Situational and environmental awareness. Internet safety. Defensive driving and car safety – in the plainest terms, not like Jason Bourne, just learning how to simply drive defensively. Anatomy. Psychology. 1st Aid. What constitutes self-defense and what not. Body language – both yours and “theirs”.

Most seemingly do not understand, don’t care, only pay lip service as it’s boring content or worse, don’t even know about the difference between social and asocial (dueling/matchfighting and violent one-sided crime/victim selection) violence nor the difference in prep for each being unique unto itself. And when this is brought up, one gets the stereotypical response. “Come to my club and we’ll see who knows about violence!” “I’ll meet you at this time and this place to discuss this further” “If I were there, I’d kick your ass.” Listen, when I say the vast majority of martial arts don’t work, I’m not saying physically they’re not capable of being functional. (although this is another issue entirely, just not for this article) What I am saying is they simply don’t address modern needs, modern scenarios, modern problems, modern criminals nor modern legal/ethical/psychological/moral complexities. They don’t. At least not the way the majority teach them. We teach 95% physical, 5% mental. What people face is 95% mental (physiological/emotional/moral/psychological), 5% physical. Ass-backwards. I’ve far too often heard from instructors: “Okay, Johnny, be situationally-aware out there, alright? Great! Now let’s get back to hitting the heavy bag (grappling/striking/cutting ad infinitum)!” Meanwhile, Johnny is left to wonder that something really bloody important was just glossed over at the expense of curriculum/syllabus. As he has no clue of what “situationally aware” means, what he’s supposed to look for and what it means even if he does.

Here’s an axiom I always revert back to, it helps me both sleep at night and look in the mirror the next morning: “I teach nothing that I wouldn’t use personally to defend the lives of myself or my family.” Now, I know this will be perceived as a macho testosterone-filled statement but, in actuality, this also means not taking myself out of their lives and putting in jeopardy my ability to provide for them stupidly and irrationally. It means analyzing situations, both in the moment and well-before (visualization/risk analysis) so I have a plan of assessment as to what constitutes worthwhile and what simply doesn’t. (HINT: Social media doesn’t) It means not getting killed or seriously-injured nor doing the same to anyone else out of pride or ego. It means not screwing my family over with a mountain of legal bills post-incident. And it means not making important decisions with either my lizard brain or what’s conveniently-covered by my boxers. (boxers vs. briefs will be left for a future article) Now I know most would say they want someone who’s been there/done that with regards to violence or at least pressure-testing/resistance-training, and this I agree with. (Delivering damage is different than “squaring off”, all other avenues being exhausted) But I also often ask this as well, to play devil’s advocate, which allows for some thought a little further down the rabbit hole of context on one’s experience with said violence: “Can someone who simply can’t ever seem to stay out of the shit, away from violence, teach someone else counter-violence or personal protection?” It is a fine line and there are those out there who come from both worlds but they are becoming increasingly hard to find.

Maybe this is an overreaction. Maybe not. But we run the risk of becoming redundant in the martial arts world. A caricature of ourselves. Stagnant. We walk a fine line of self-importance that quite honestly wouldn’t be tolerated in another line of work or other industries. Hammer and nail theory. Evolution is good. Healthy. Self-assessment and self-realization are the pillars of that evolution. Ego, politics, status and status quo are the destroyers. I’ve chosen not to play the game any longer. The mirror? Well, still having problems but that’s a matter of prettiness or lack thereof, not ability to look.

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT ESGRIMA CRIOLLA (CREOLE FENCING) & WHY IT PERTAINS TO THE MODERN DAY

The art of the gaucho, a simple but hard and proud men, the Latino equivalent of the Wild West cowboys where reputation was everything, living off the land was an accepted part of living and being an outlaw and afoul of the law was a distinct possibility. These were rebels; individualistic and independent from the government, law and political affiliation. Outsiders. Creoles, specifically, are always associated with being from mixed race; local or aboriginal peoples mixed with what is often European heritage. The U.S., Africa, the Philippines, Brazil, Chile, the Caribbean and, of course, Argentina all lay claim to Creole peoples. So how does something from another era pertain to modern day blade usage and personal defense? Let’s go over a few points of interest for those uninitiated and unfamiliar with Esgrima Criolla, and those who speak predominantly English and aren’t privy to the main areas where it’s practiced:

Image result for esgrima criolla blogspot

  1. Focus on multi-use of the blade: eating, hunting, utility…not just self-defense so it pertains to modern legalities and ethical/moral issues regarding use-of-force and reason for carry.
  2. It was not meant to kill outside of something infinitely serious: to teach a lesson, to inflict injury, to disembowel, to mark permanently, to humiliate so it had a biomechanical, psychological and non-lethal focus that very much counters all the murder & knife-fighting we see from so many modern instructors of the blade.
  3. They stressed improvisation: even the varied blades (caronero, facon, daga, verijero, picazo, punal) were crafted with parts of swords and other tools by design. Improvisational weapons were used for great effect for a multitude of daily utilitarian purposes, the boleadoras (bolos, anything projectile and weighted: rock ‘n’ sock/blackjack/poolball in towel), rebeneque (compared to the modern-day sjambok or short whip), poncho (the modern jacket/hoodie)
  4. There was a code of conduct or ethics even within the conflict as they had respect for human life and the value of another man’s right to live, which coincided with the psychological barriers the vast majority of the population has with regards to utilizing violence as a positive tool (depending on circumstance) and reticence to inflict damage on another human being.
  5. Based more on knife dueling than what precipitates flashy knife defense with the idea that it was nigh impossible to deal empty-handed with a man whose very existence was born from the knife and used it every day. The truth is that far too many systems base their counter-knife program on hard-to-learn, harder-to-implement and complex knife defense, which simply won’t hold up to what reality dictates.
  6. The 3 methods of dueling are focused more on context and circumstance, conditioning this psychologically from the start in a very subtle, maybe unconscious way. 1. First blood (developing evasion, distancing, movement, natural bodily survival mechanisms), 2. To a point count of 10 with different values given for head, chest, hands (developing targeting, knowledge of anatomy, accuracy, not exchanging blows), 3. Duelo (showing the biomechanical stopping power of the blade, how to adapt and survive when injured, the desperation of not getting cut) Overall, this is a great way to demonstrate the sliding scale of lethality and use-of-force.

Image result for esgrima criolla blogspot

7.  They focus some attention on grips, deployment and concealment & carry – the fastest way to deploy a blade when needed and the carry stressed this (examples: facon carried blade down at the back of the belt for more rapid draw, the caronero hidden in a subtle pouch while on horseback (same can be done in the modern-day car)

8. It was inevitably big-knife fighting as most of the blades (outside of the verijero & picazo) started at 6 inches and made their way up to almost 4 feet (caronero). The punal was a South American version of the American Bowie knife. This length and size also allowed for blade-on-blade re-directions, flat-of-the-blade and spine usage and beat attacks (using the weighted flat of the blade as an impact weapon)

9. There is nothing complex about it, it is easy to learn. It was simple, functional and pragmatic…more a way of life than a “style of fighting” or “system” with adherent protocols, which was the beauty of the effectiveness. These people lived the blade, utilized it daily, carried numerous for different and specific purposes; it was a part of their existence, which conditions and hardwires the brain in a much different way than training complexity for an hour a week.

10. No politics, no belts, no arrogance. This is not a system as much as a method: what didn’t work was simply discarded as it had to be functional to keep someone alive. The effectiveness is in the trial-and-error and a mutual understanding and cultivating of knowledge. While it is an ongoing historical study, it is a study with direct implications to what modern reality dictates. It will not go the direction of larping, re-enactments and fairs. It is meant for function.

11. Dueling was a foregone conclusion if delving into this way of living. It was almost a right-of-passage so, while this is not accepted in modern society, it puts the impetus back squarely in the hands of the practitioner: you become practical and survive or you don’t, quite simply. No reliance on others, no soft training, no theory – you learned what worked under duress, through trial-and-error and put it into play in real-time…or you ceased existing.

12. Greater attention to the point. As many modern knife combat systems, Esgrima Criolla comes from Spanish influence. As with much of European/Spanish fencing, greater attention is placed on thrusting and becoming proficient at putting the point into the target.

For further information on Creole fencing/Esgrima Criolla, contact Jorge Emilio Prina (whose blog address is below) or myself.

http://esgrimacriolla.blogspot.com/

PREDATOR-PREY ROLE REVERSAL

This goes towards ability to relate and humanize potential violent attackers, their trends and their psyche. We continuously (with the media’s help) make the mistake of dehumanizing these people and calling them monsters, animals and predators when we need to be looking at the characteristics they have that are like ours to relate to them. Remember, the more we have in common the more we can start to use the element of prediction.) We have more in common than we know and think many of the same thoughts, if we’re honest. The difference is that these individuals act on theirs where we don’t. The element of shame and guilt shouldn’t factor in as we’re human in nature, truly. It’s not awful to get in touch with your inner monster to be able to relate to the one you may potentially face. If you were a criminal, what would you see in a potential victim:

  1. “Gazelle” group detachment: stragglers, lagging behind, slower/submissive
  2. Submissive body language: see body language program
  3. Lacking in situational awareness: blind spots, location, potential attack spots
  4. Inward body language, introverted
  5. Weakness in physicality: frail, thin, bent, lacking strength, handicap, infirmity, overweight, walking with aid-walker, cane, wheelchair, lacking physical definition
  6. Eye contact lacking, looking down
  7. Uncomfortable shoes: not able to run, high heels, dress shoes, boots
  8. Hands occupied: unable to fight back as encumbered by items carried
  9. Alone
  10. Aged
  11. Looking for someone not able to fight back physically, a target
  12. Attachments to grab for leverage: earrings, noserings, long hair,
  13. Setting: dark, poorly light, low populace, sidestreets, back alleys, rural/urban areas, isolated
  14. Combinations of above (9 & 13, for instance)
  15. Voice: meek, quiet, reserved
  16. Gait: short steps, limited/minimal/no arm movement, hunched over, body movements in, short distance between steps

 

STRANGERS IN A STRANGE LAND

 

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

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

(eg. Burglar comes in through the back, catches you off-guard in the night, alarm goes off, you hear someone fiddling with the window) Have that reaction hardwired by the time it happens. It takes no time at all and puts you in a state of constant vigilance. Preparation, not paranoia.

  1. With what’s happening in the U.S. right now with law enforcement “profiling” certain races, there’s been a negative stereotype, whether justifiably so or not in certain cases. But profiling can be an extremely effective tool for a civilian/citizen. What have the invaders done in previous home invasions? Were there more than one? What’re the common qualities of the burglar? (lower-class, multiples, from in-town/from out-of-town, poor upbringing, expose to violence at a young age, are they violent, could they be, do they have a history of violence) This is infinite but always better to know what you’re looking at than being caught off-guard by it. What places are populated by this type of person, where are they in accordance to your residence. Criminals are different in every place. A home invader in the U.S. may have different strategies and tactics than in Canada. Canada different than in Costa Rica. It’s not a universal phenomenon. It’s location-specific.
  2. Change routine. Take different routes to work, go to different restaurants, change your activity patterns at home. The more you act in patterns the easier it is for criminals to predict your behavior and take advantage of it. (“Bill goes out for supper with his wife every Tuesday to ChiChi’s at 5:00pm” – they watch and pick-up on these things.)
  3. Learn to think like a criminal. I call it the “Predator-Prey Reversal”. If you were a home-invader/mugger/kidnapper/car-jacker..hell, sociopath, killer, mass-murderer, active shooter, violence-driven individual…what would YOU look for in a victim? Don’t be that. Be specific and be extreme, it doesn’t make you a bad person to get in touch with your inner animal, you’ll find you can relate that much more to how others operate and make yourself less of a victim.
  4. Learn to “people-watch.” I have at times taken students to the mall for class. Just to watch people. Who hypothetically looks like a potential problem, interaction between people, notice suspicious behavior, who’s watching you, why.
  5. The modern criminal. There are two types of violence: social and asocial. Social is at the bar over a spilt beer, two men cockfighting over a woman of vice versa, demonstrations of physicality and an agreement to “settle things.” These rarely turn really ugly as they’re over pride. Asocial violence has a completely different dynamic: it’s to benefit one of the two people/groups involved. It’s not a fight they’re looking for but a victim and they have a profile too. Body language: fearful, slumped, short steps, looking down/only straight ahead, meek, submissive. Don’t be these things. Even if you can’t authentically, ACT persuasively like this in public, when there may be eyes on you. (And, yes, these actions can follow you home so it pertains more than a little to a home invasion, without a doubt)
  6. OC sprays, homemade/improvised sprays, tasers, stun guns. It’s not a guaranteed problem-solver. Know your weapon always if you’re planning on using it and NEVER bluff. If you’re called on it, the ensuing damage could be greater and more personal to the criminal as you’ve aggravated him/her. Practice how to use your tools: accessibility (where do you carry it, can it be deployed rapidly, do you know how to use it, what obstacles need to be overcome to utilize it-locks, switches, Velcro openings, etc.) What are the advantages and disadvantages of using it. (A spray is far more effective in the house than outside with a 30km/hour wind blowing against you) If you think you’re armed simply because you’re carrying a weapon, let me assure you that without this pre-emptive planning, it is a decoration, nothing more.  I haven’t seen many tasers here in CR with the two extendable prongs. The majority being sold are of the stun-gun variety which means what? You have to be up-close and personal with your aggressor to use it. Close-range. If you have no training and have inner doubts that it may get taken away from you, it will. And some sprays don’t work on everyone. They do testing where some people (not many but this goes to pain tolerance, skin resistance, drug/alcohol usage, your accuracy, the volume of spray that actually hits intended targets and other intangibles that you will not know at that moment)
  7. Internet safety. DO NOT post your activities on Facebook or other social media. After the fact is one thing but to do so before invites the criminal to find out when’s the best time to invade your home. “My wife and I are going to the Juanes concert tonight! Can’t wait, it starts at 7!” Not a wise idea, in fact, pure stupidity. And for those of you that say Facebook is safe and you’ve put all the necessary precautions up, you haven’t. It’s free so that means ANYBODY and EVERYBODY is on it, including the criminals. Be cautious of accepting people on your friend’s list that you don’t know, don’t completely trust, just met or are simply friends of people you know somewhat.
  8. Police take in the U.S. an average of 11 minutes response time for home invasions, from what they’re announcing recently in the U.S. and Canada. (ADT advertises in Canada for 33 minutes before police arrive through their monitoring) How much more do you think it’d be here?? Significance? You can’t rely solely on this element to protect you and keep you safe. Most home invasions will be solved, one way or other (if you get what I’m saying) long before the 11-minute mark, if you even have time to put this train in motion. And, remember, police here aren’t always your friend as this is a small country and they may have grown up in the community along with many of the people who have intent to rob you.
  9. Get in habit of “proofing” your house to the extent you’re able…daily. This is one pattern that is a good one for both yourselves and onlookers. Lock windows and doors before leaving. Skylights. Check for other openings that you may not have thought of where they can get in. Are there weak points in your property that open themselves to unlawful entry? Points where the CCTV cameras don’t hit? Areas with poor visual acuity? Blind spots? Be prudent.
  10. Post-incident. Here’s one that doesn’t get enough respect: learn basic 1st You simply never know regarding the aftermath of violence. Loved ones may survive who’ve been left for dead or are dramatically injured, including yourself. A little damage control goes a long way.
  11. Post-incident. Never chase after your aggressor if you’ve managed to survive the initial robbery in-tact. A) Its no longer self-defense. B) You are re-initializing potential violence and C) could end up 6-feet under.

LINGUISTIC SYMBOLISM

“They’re just words.” Words and their symbolic meaning can have a profound effect on the receiver, one that may not at all be intended by the messenger. We all have our own individual life experience and frames of reference and those uniquely individual experiences can change the way we take in meaning, unique from others. Words like ‘defense’, ‘defend’ or ‘self-defense’, ‘counter’, ‘reaction’  and ‘block’ when turned into ‘greater aggression’ or ‘overwhelming response’, ‘pre-emption’, ‘action’/’counter-action’ and ‘destruction’ can change the entire context of how one may need to utilize violence as a counter-violence measure. Simple changes in vernacular like women’s self-defense to women’s empowerment, self-defense to counter-violence, tactical response to tactical solution can drastically alter perception and therefore the mentality of how it’s absorbed and put into play.

People are innately and unconsciously affected and influenced by the term one gives them. Think of it as neurological conditioning. If, for instance, they believe it’s a strategy, they will act accordingly, that it’s neutral and effective as strategies are perceived as something with contextual positivity, an element that helps their cause. The term submission has an entirely different psychic definition to the vast majority. For example, utilizing ‘submissive postures’ in the interview phase of conflict may and can be a great tool to either de-escalate or to deliver a pre-emptive attack, context-dependent, but the issue isn’t with the concept itself, but in the terminology. Submission may indeed be a form of negotiation but it is widely perceived as a negative by the vast majority in the public. If your goal is to teach someone to utilize it as a tool for mutual benefit or for persuasion purposes, your approach may be entirely correct but if it’s subliminally absorbed as something relating to weakness, loss of advantage or cowardice, it may have the exact opposite impact on them when utilizing or attempting to utilize it. It may also transfer to other areas outside of the given circumstance like a domino effect.

The point isn’t that it’s a conflict with the methodology (whatever that may be), only the importance of the title you give it as it absolutely changes the mindset and implementation of the skillset to the receiver. Inevitably, it’s not the message but the delivery of said message. The meaning is very often in the receiver’s interpretation of it, not the sender’s desired intent and that, my friend, means everything as they are the one putting the skill into play and, in our industry, it could be a high price to pay.

Take the word ‘fuck’, for instance. Adding it to “What do you want?” can turn the meaning into a far more powerful one for the purpose of creating space, both psychological and physical. How the person on the receiving end understands the intent of the question is irrevocably change and may even create a momentary shock as to the audacity. A means to an end. (and preferably not when Mom shows up at your door with a pie and 2 cups of coffee) Swearing can be a useful tool to provide an exclamation mark on intended meaning. The reverse can be true regarding the name of your brand new shiny tactical folder, dubbed by the maker the “Headscalper 3000.” If ever actually needing to use this tool in an actual self-defense scenario (although I realize many simply do this a hobby or pastime and rarely even think of the consequences during their training of what it is they actually do) I’m sure your plea of self-protection may fall on somewhat more deaf ears with judge, jury and LE when explaining why your pet is titled so aggressively. (“Killer” the pitbull, anyone?) This goes towards all logos, school names and techniques as well. They represent you and your intent, your mission statement, if you will. Graphic, aggressive and macho terms, for instance…what you call them may put you in legal hot water later on. Mantras can have the opposite effect in the form of empowerment if utilized correctly and with achievable aims. I see discussions end in hostility, threats and challenges to agreed-upon “violence” on Facebook almost daily now as one word’s meaning can change the entire context of digital graphology. Factor in different cultures, machismo and pride and you have a powderkeg. (Facebook is not a self-defense scenario, by the way, but don’t tell anyone)

Next time you’re unwinding and watching TV or surfing the net, pay attention to commercials and ads. Notice the subliminal words, phrases and images they utilize to manipulate (another word that CAN be beneficial to move someone toward a positive mutual outcome but that has staunchly negative connotation) you into buying their product or service. Political and social propaganda is driven by this same methodology. For Americans, this is the perfect time for you to be aware of this: political rhetoric, subtle media manipulation, negative campaign ads, partial journalistic storytelling without context…they toy with your perception to push you towards another thought process. It is truly everywhere and it has a profound impact on how we think, what we do, our reactions to stimuli and, in this case, our ability to manage conflict or deal with violence once/if that avenue has past. Words have heavy neurological impact based on experience, emotion, trauma, euphoria, societal dictates and a host of other triggers. It truly pays to be cautious in the words you use.

A LITTLE ON UNCONSCIOUS SURVIVAL SIGNALS & BODY LANGUAGE: PAST AND PRESENT

This excerpt is taken from a body language program I had developed some time ago. As with all body language, it is circumstantial, contextual and person-specific. For any of you interested in a purely knowledge-based context, or for those whose lives may depend on profiling, reading or understanding other people’s aggression, I hope this helps in some way.

So much of our body language is through our original protection system developed evolutionarily. Adrenaline dump, fear, flight/fight/fright or freeze, protecting organs and vitals, mobility/respiration/vision flinch response that transfers to regular daily body language, so much of our history is from survival signals/instincts from thousands of years of highly-evolved development

Usually tells are derived from one of the three evolutionary fear responses:

FRIGHT/FREEZE (a neglected and sometimes utterly ignored element of the three, lip service is often only paid to the “fight or flight” axiom-temporary motion stop, visual/auditory/kinesthetic acuity (guilt, analysis of proper response/internal dialogue, emotion, surprise, shock), minimal bodily movement, momentary silence, making ourselves smaller, guilt responses, responses when placed back toward an open door/moving people/open window (increased respiration, heart rate, blood pressure and brainwave frequencies: Caveman reference with communal fire, tent, back to wall for protection from internal or external attack)

FLIGHT-shift feet toward exit, turn away from someone you don’t like, avoid conversations that threaten you, blocking behavior (closing the eyes, rubbing the eyes, placing hands in front of face, leaning away, placing objects on lap (purse) or in front of you, overall “distancing” (barriers, spatial creation, angling, body blading)

*exhibit caution as naturally visual people also lean back, create distance and have greater spatial “bubbles”

FIGHT-argument, insults, ad hominem phrases, counter-allegations, denigration of professional stature, defensiveness, goading, sarcasm; posture, eyes, puffing out chest, spatial violations, aggressive non-physical contact (ritual signs of violence, pacing, emphatic gestures, voice changes in tone), monotone response with minimal bodily gestures/motionless (James Bond/Jason Bourne examples)

Remember, to make a proper analysis non-verbal signs should be taken in clusters as one alone (although there are exceptions to the rule) is usually not sufficient to make a proper assessment of what’s happening internally with a person. Often this is a major mistake by those uncertain or a little too ambitious with their assessment. Since reading is done on the fly and some tells happen in a micro-second to assume is truly to make an ass out of –u and –me. Err on side of caution and if you can’t read properly and more evidence is needed, continue to develop rapport, be patient, keep them talking and ask specific leading questions. The type of question will obviously be different in regular conversation than it would be, for instance, during an interrogation. Connect certain reactions with parts of the conversation and topics that draw them out and ask connecting questions on the fly to determine a cause-effect.

Four intangibles for analysis:

  1. Different gestures mean different things (thus the multiple potential possibilities of so many individual gestures) in different contexts. The same tell can mean something totally different in a social setting vs. business meeting vs. home environment.
  2. This is why it’s so important to get multiples congruent signals to make a proper analysis. Very seldom does one gesture give enough of an explanation to make a firm deduction on its own.
  3. CULTURAL DIFFERENCES. What’s positive in one culture may be entirely offensive in another so factor this in and be aware of specific gestures to culture in question.
  4. Whether the gestures match each other and correlate for an overall picture or not. If differing or opposite signs come up ALWAYS believe the negative one as it’s far more telling and authentic. People can fake happy but don’t put a lot of practice into faking negative emotion, they come far more naturally
  5. Once again an evolutionary tool that’s been honed through centuries. The vaunted “feminine intuition” is prevalent in men as well but, being more logic-based and dismissive with metaphysical areas we tend to neglect development of this trait. Remember, one thing I always abide by: “if something feels wrong, it probably is.” Go with your gut, factor in your instinct along with your knowledge and “deciphering” capability. (Gavin de Becker’s “The Gift of Fear” as reference point for this)

Using the acronym, I call this “I4C or “I foresee” to remember the 1 I (intuition) and four C’s in the equation (clusters, culture, context and congruence)

One thing I always do if I’m somewhat uncertain about a certain nonverbal signal is to do it myself (tactfully of course so as not to mimic, an often clearly-perceived insult) and see how I feel or, more accurately, how it makes me feel.

It’s a proven fact that people tend to reveal far more clear and clustered body signals when comfortable than when stressed or tense. When we’re able to be relaxed and at ease we reveal much more than when we aren’t so the bad cop interview no longer holds water. The more at ease a person is and the more rapport we have with them the more important and imperative non-verbals can be detected. Rapport is also a strategy for just this reason. In this regard it is much easier to establish needed baseline behaviors, which cuts down the possibility of making critical errors in assessment. When a person is tense or threatened they tend to give off anxious, tense, nervous body language which can easily be mistaken for lying, aggression or anti-social.

CONTRADICTIONS

From our evolution and violent past, we often show remnants of body language that had direct purpose to survival but, as evolution always does, times have moved on and different survival systems have developed. These are, debatedly, somewhat scenario-specific:

  • Ventral showing: showing lack of fear by showing organs and sending message of other being non-threatening to person showing. Often in modern violence this show of perceived arrogance and show of vulnerable parts of the body have proven dangerous against an underhanded modern criminal (especially one with a knife) Option? Blading the body. One can still show confidence and status with an open body posture slightly angled in discussion/confrontation
  • Crotch display: showing confidence, machismo and competition to other men and sexual interest in a woman; one needs to be careful in a confrontation when opening legs too far apart and not paying attention to potential genital-related outcomes (including voice permanently etched with a higher pitch) Option? Once again, slight blading/angling of the body can still get the message across without being blindly confident and displaying a message of arrogance
  • Neck show: to show vulnerability and submission, potential attraction from the opposite sex, see number one (contains lots of vital areas vulnerable to attack as well: Vagus nerve, carotid arteries, jugular veins, suprasternal notch as well as the superior and middle thyroid veins, sternocleidomastoid muscle) Option? Slight angling of the head away to keep the vitals partially shielded while still showing polite deference and interest
  • Roots of the eyes: by looking down while maintaining eye contact is often perceived as submissive or negative in nature (though it can be perceived as judgmental as well), this is a very powerful confrontational tool that creates distance and sends a psychic message to one on the receiving end
  • Walking pace: in the modern business world, a brisk pace indicates the desire to get things done, being on a mission and being energetic. When in public and constantly under scrutiny by other testosterone-filled men measuring, a slower but purposeful gait is a powerful show of calm and control (slowER methodical walk though the validity of having a strong gait and purposeful pace cannot be over-emphasized)
  • Thumbs up: in the times of Roman gladiators, the crowd signified sparing or ending the life of the loser by either the thumbs-up or thumbs-down gestures
  • Crossed arms: body protection, in times past it was an intentional sheltering of the body’s vitals including the lungs and heart
  • Open palms: to show others that there were no hidden weapons being carried, a show of trust
  • Nostril flaring: allows more air in with which to oxygenate the body in preparation for either fight or flight when threatened
  • Hand shaking: originated from arm wrestling
  • Territoriality: leaning on our possessions (or neutral possessions) to show ownership and protectiveness: cars, houses, chairs, etc.
  • Hand gestures: karate chops, finger stabs & fist punches all signify reinforcement of message, the final word or emphasis of an important point, although as “communication is how the message is received, not given” these are all received relatively poorly by the one on the other end as they show dominance, aggression and argumentativeness

FROM THE ANIMALS

  • Smiling: originally used by primates as a show of either fear or subordination to a more powerful member of the group; in modern it is similar in that it shows a non-threatening and accepting attitude towards the receiver (in carnivores it’s actually a threat)
  • Chin jut: also from primates, showing aggressive intent for a forward and direct attack
  • Baring teeth and flaring of nostrils: again, comes from the act of attacking
  • Sneering: used as a signal to warn other animals of impending attack or defense if necessary
  • Freezing/stillness: when a predator is in the animal’s area, somewhat of a “don’t pick me” signal

We have many similar signs from the animal kingdom that, when put in proper context and researched, have maintained their validity in the urban jungle to this day. We have a more than passing (and less than coincidental) interest in animal movement, attack strategies and predatory methods and this, in an opinion, is far more valuable than looking back in history at our own past and methods/tactics. Theirs have stood the test of time without change.

One element of learning I try is when one of the family dogs is present, I go through various human body language signs and facial expressions to gauge response and even our friendly K-9s often react in predictable ways towards clear negative and positive projections.

Though not body language, per se, other examples of our survival instinct past and evolution that has manifested itself in modern-day scenarios:

  1. Sitting with your back to the door/open window creates increased blood pressure, heart rate, respiration and brainwave frequencies back from the Caveman days with the communal fire, multiple people eating in the tent after a kill, sitting with their backs to the wall for protection from both internal and external attack
  2. King Arthur’s round table: designed to create neutrality in meetings but not realizing that his own high-status created a pecking order of importance from those seated next to him (higher power) to those further away (lower power) to those seated diametrically-opposed (competitive)
  3. The term “right-hand man” coming from the fact that the one sitting directly to the leader’s right was the least threat due to the fact it was difficult to stab effectively with your left hand, considering in those days left-handed had a negative stigma attached to them and the staunch majority were right-handed
  4. The handshake. Originated from a grasping of the mid-to-lower arm to ensure there were no hidden weapons that could be pulled at a future point in the interaction
  5. 2nd arm during a handshake. Seemingly-kind, at times can be a hidden attempt to control through touch, establish dominance in a subtle and potentially hidden way
  6. Sitting across from each other at a table. Originally coined the “gunslinger” position due to the fact that squaring off the torso of the body was a sign of competitiveness. (although context-dependent in the modern-day)
  7. After eating, stomach takes blood away from the brain to help digestion (similar to fight-or-flight adrenaline response) and causing the person to not think as clearly. Bad for business decisions, good for romance, extremely good to take advantage of a vulnerable opponent with shady dealings
  8. Frontal display, showing confidence by exhibiting glibly one’s organs to show that they don’t find you threatening in any way, has come back to haunt some as they’ve transferred business tactics into the street world, where violence is a threat and this display is highly-unprotected

***Contagious actions that can give psychological openings pre-conflict: yawning, nervousness, confusion.

FACEBOOK IS NOT A SELF-DEFENSE SCENARIO

I find myself somewhat in awe (though not surprised in the least given the human kneejerk reaction to be heard) when I see the perpetual volatile arguments on social media. Over trite issues. To push through your opinion. To prove someone else wrong who doesn’t agree with your philosophy or point-of-view. To correct someone who’s clueless. I don’t support it, but I get it…and there’s a difference.

Running two Facebook pages myself pertaining to the industry, one of which is fairly active with response and retort, I see this all too frequently. However, to all combatives, martial arts, security, military, law enforcement exponents out there, social media is just that, media. There’s no immediate threat, no risk of injury, no danger. And herein lies the rub. It’s safe. So it’s very easy to post something controversial, explosive, antagonizing and provocative without having any repercussions and being held to the fire, so to speak. It’s a modern safe space. On the other hand, it’s also potentially judgmental for those posting. Everything we post is subject to scrutiny by others, many of which we don’t know, may never meet or, hell, aren’t real. Your content is up for public criticism. So it’s a double-edged sword.

That being said, my goal is not to promote myself, my methodology and my academy, although I’m also perceptive enough to know that this is inevitably a byproduct, good or bad, or what I post. (as what I post is often what I teach or support) So, I post content that attempts to be thought-provoking, informative and valuable to the average person listening in. And not nearly all of the group responds. However, knowing that the content will not (nor simply cannot) appeal or connect with everyone, it may reach that one person who needs it and can be helped by it. Not my peers, but those who legitimately need the knowledge for whatever reason, be it the military operative going to battle or the meek mild high-school student who gets bullied daily and has no voice. Those that can relate, want to talk shop and brainstorm with me, I’m always open. The ones that often disagree? It’s their wont and they’re completely at liberty to do so without condemnation. It is, after all, only Facebook.

COMFORT IN TRAINING

I find these days that far too many people treat martial arts like a comfort-driven, athletic hobby. Now I know the stereotypical hyberbole I’ll get for this: “different people practice for different reasons” (true), “some train just as a social activity” (also true), “some just want to stay in shape” (true again) and “many just want the traditional aspect, to learn about a culture” (true, true, true). However, this being said, I find so many want the comforts of home. Not to challenge themselves. Not to have to face themselves in the mirror and deal with their demons-not an easy task, to be sure. To not get tweaks, bruises, pulls, strains. To have a nice big beautiful dojo covered in expensive mats and the latest technology.

Now maybe I’m just jealous (I’m not but I digress) but I have a very old-school bothoan (club in Tagalog)-basic, hard floors, thin mats, paint cracking, no A/C with none of the comforts of your living room. My training tools are basic yet difficult, explosive and creative as I use what I have and what’s at my disposal. Combat (and, therefore, combat training) is not a comfort zone. It’s gritty, dirty, grimy, ugly and chaotic. I choose to train this way and have my students train this way. Hot, uncomfortable, unpredictable, grueling and sometimes downright intimidating. Safe? Yes, no question. I don’t want my tribe to go out on the street (where they really need these skills) injured or decimated due to the training. But I do want them to be hardened…battle-hardened, prepared mentally-physically-spiritually-emotionally-psychologically-on all levels for the realities of the worst-case scenario of what they may encounter from the modern criminal. I can assure you the modern criminal is not in an air-conditioned lodge with top-of-the-line mats, $2000 equipment and a hot shiny floor, getting ready to attack you. And, if it’s good enough in the old-school Filipino way of training, it’s good enough for us now. It’s an experience.

My top students have told me they never know what they’re going to get when they walk in the door. Which is how it should be. No preparation given, no alerts sent out, no time for emotional psyche-up. And when they complete the task, they’re euphoric, because they’ve overcome an obstacle thoroughly by using their adaptive, think-outside-the-box, honest-to-goodness gut instinct survival skills. Real pragmatic functional skill is built. At times through discomfort, anxiety and stress. Like a river over time wearing away rocks, their skills become ingrained, instinctive, natural, explosive and without thought. It’s a teaching methodology I realize not all are proponents of but inevitably the proof is in the pudding. What you put in, you get out. No forms, no pre-arranged sequences, no static response to static attacks. A problem-solving approach. Ironically (or perhaps not) the training is much like the bothoan. It’s there to serve a very specific purpose. Chosen for this very reason.

In conclusion, I guess my point is that for all the fancy equipment, state-of-the-art training tools, expensive new gym, top-of-the-line weights and machines-at the end of the day it’s the training methodology (concept-based) that makes the difference, not all the rest. Many will agree but few will practice what they preach.

 

copyright 2016, Mandirigma Filipino Martial Arts Academy & Civilian Preservation Technologies

 

 

Translate »