A DISTURBING SOCIAL EXPERIMENT

So, here’s a social experiment I tried this morning. I decided to see just how much information I could find out on a random person. As the car in front of me had some interesting bumper stickers, I picked it. I did not see the driver whatsoever and only recouped the license plate. That was all the info I had to go on other than what was visual about the car and inside within eyesight.

Here’s what I found.

Through the National Registry, I found out the owner of the car, the make, model, year purchased, how paid. I found out his personal identification number, his mother’s maiden name, his married status (divorced), ex-wife’s name, and nationality. From there I searched him out on social media. I found pics of him, his girlfriend, and his children. (who, smartly, did not have their faces shown) Now, he’s a former photographer who’s now trained in the field of behavioral psychology field (as his car has a bumper-sticker “psychologist and proud of it!”), as is his live-in girlfriend/wife, who specializes in working with children and high-risk youths in the same field. She also has a conflict resolution specialization so I figured, coupled with the psychology, this might be a hard “mark.” I found out her name (they’re not married), both of his children’s names, sexes, and their general ages. (one, the girl, is at least 3 or under due to the child-seat in the car and the “baby on-board sign, knowing a little about child-seat/age rules here), boy around 8. I found out the general area where they live and the exact areas where they go back-and-forth from points of work. I found both cell numbers and the company they’re subcontracted by, including their own offshoot companies.

No photo description available.

From here I found him on a heritage/geneology site and, not wanting to open an actual account and pay money, I went the general synopsis route and scraped together info stumbled across pertaining to his family tree. His father died in 2012 at the age of 51. He was divorced in 2012 as well. (connection?) I found out his grandparents’ names and mother’s age as well. Had I paid for site-entry, I would’ve found out his last 2 known addresses for census and voting purposes, likely opening the door to find his new and current residency, had I been inclined and motivated.

So, what’s the point of all this? It took me one hour. From someone who’s generally quite guarded and has a restricted online profile, who pays attention to behavioral issues, who blocked out his personal information, children’s identities, and restricted his content. One hour. From a license plate number. Don’t think that total strangers can’t find out a ton about you that you don’t think they can, in a minimal amount of time, with the smallest of information. Orwell was onto something…

SELF-DEFENSE CASE STUDY FROM BACK HOME

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/vincent-bunn-dakota-pratt-sentencing-1.5165442 

https://www.newser.com/story/276229/fatal-stabbing-of-intruder-took-self-defense-too-far-judge.html 

A good friend posted on this one in haste and without getting the latest on the case, and I get that. I’ve made some mistakes on posting over the years as well without proper research or while on-the-fly. I wasn’t going to address this one again but, since it’s from home and there seems to be an infinite number of comments on “how you can’t even defend your own home anymore from an armed intruder, what the fuck is the world coming to!” floating around, I’m feeling the need. Being that most foreigners that I see commenting on this do not seem to understand Canadian law nor have they done due diligence on what exactly transpired here to eliminate the self-defense aspect. People feed hyperbole and personal narrative to push SD programs or feed the fire on civilians losing all their rights but each case should be broken down of its own volition prior to such statements.
1. This was originally 100% a case of self-defense and the “home-occupier” had every right to fight back with full-force, yes. HOWEVER, when judges, lawyers, and juries hear phrases like “chased him throughout the house and out onto the deck” (as was stated in Newser's article above), “kicked him in the head numerous times after the fatal-stab was accomplished”, and “stabbed him 13 times” after he ceased being a threat (he was trying to escape, remember)….the law tends to frown upon that sort of thing. (and they don’t give a shit if you’re jacked on adrenaline, which is very likely mitigated by the fact you were under-the-influence while jacked.

2. There was personal history. The deceased was admittedly allowed in the house, according to the house owner, the home-occupier’s own mother-in-law. Both parties were under the influence of alcohol (a huge problem on Canadian First Nations/aboriginal reserves), both had prior history with each other, there was jealousy surrounding a previous relationship. Personal. Deeply-personal, and coupled with the alcohol, a very, very likely contributor to the overkill that transpired and clearly personal response to an ongoing fight that needn’t have continued. Through the main floor. Into the hallways. Onto the deck outside.
3. Always, always remember that judges, juries, lawyers are NOT part of your peer group and not your allies. They are normal, average, suburban civilians who do not (nor can they be expected to) relate in any way to the possibly-necessary stopping-power of stabbing someone 13 times, including a final one into the heart for the kill. Factored in with #1, 2, 3 & 4…we have an extremely high recipe for failure on a would-be self-defense case.

4. Pratt’s “only prior conviction was for an assault” so, regardless of justifications and reasoning, he did have precedence, as would have been factored into any forthcoming legal cases. Likewise, the deceased’s family stating how wonderful and funny and outgoing the victim was and how the courts only showed his “bad side” when he broke into a house and stabbed a sleeping-victim in the head….is somewhat moot in this context, I’d say. (I guess he should’ve been given a free hall-pass because he had a good sense-of-humor?) 

5. Always, always remember that judges, juries, lawyers are NOT part of your peer group and not your allies. They are normal, average, suburban civilians who do not (nor can they be expected to) relate in any way to the possibly-necessary stopping-power of stabbing someone 13 times, including a final one into the heart for the kill. Factored in with #1, 2, 3 & 4…we have an extremely high recipe for failure on a would-be self-defense case. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

HUMAN CONFLICT-RESPONSE – AN IN-DEPTH LOOK

It seems most industry-folk adhere to the fight-flight-freeze triumverate of response when faced with immediate fear, danger, or serious/immediate threat. In that intense context, I’d say that’s sufficiently explainable to the average layman/women. I’m going to go a different route, if nothing but for discussion-sake. As always, I’d like to bring up different aspects of what are usually considered accepted industry-truth. For thought and reflection, not necessarily making any statements as to concreteness but to subtly expand perception and option over subjective-truth and process. Consider it a general overview and reference-point for how highly-evolved we are as human beings. A psychological breakdown of reaction-, situation-, and escalation-types….all which factor in to the diversity of options available.

Let’s break them up into soft-wired (learned, developed, cognitive, “by-design”) and hard-wired (innate, instinctive, evolutionary) first. and cognitive. We have those evolutionary instinctive responses, like the above-mentioned 3Fs, that align us with the rest of the animal kingdom.  I’d say that’s at least partially why lip-service is predominantly given to solely the 3Fs, because so many seem to have this will, romance, and danger of referring to us as or relating us to the beasts. The very fact that we have so many other viable learned responses is exactly what separates us from the them. Animals also have fight, flight, and freeze responses. They also, like we do, have some others that instinctively play themselves out in threat/fear scenarios – posturing and submission, for instance. We, though, as humans, also have a very diverse number of learned responses that play-out during everyday conflicts – at work, with spouse, on the street, for instance, as well as during threat- or fear-based situations.

Now, even the fight (physical violence or defense), flight (run, escape), or fright (freeze, hide) responses can be super-imposed over non-threatening, non-fear-based scenarios. (showing that that these responses are not limited to adrenal-inducing life-threats) In verbal or communicative conflict or confrontation, fight can be argue, offend, disagree, attack. Flight can be leave the room, shut down the argument, change the topic, disengage entirely. Freeze can be to go quiet, refuse to take bait, ignore, “shrink” your body or posture. We can inevitably transmit these reactions to a number of variables in very diverse situations, all along the scale of seriousness.

Image result for human fear response

But when it comes to personal interaction, what others do we have available to us that aren’t so instinctive or immediately-reactionary? Is there overlap? Are different to the responses have to be to have their own separate category? Is it important? Maybe not, but for understanding, for instructor/informer-articulation, for clarity of strategic options, maybe it’s worth the breakdown….

  1. Posturing/projection. Elements like projecting strength, finger-pointing, raising voice, staring/glaring, non-physical aggression, swearing, verbal threats, and body-enlarging would fall here. They can be the pre-incident indicators so many pay lip-service to…but they needn’t be. Posturing itself is a means to an end. Intimidation, mitigating the will to engage by the other person, subtle/subliminal-messaging are all intended to either de-escalate and prevent the need to use force or further hostility….or to bluff when out of options. (I won’t get into the effectiveness as it’s not the scope of the outline here – they’re effective, or non-effective, entirely based on context and scale) We see this online as well in the form of challenge matches, namedropping, cred-spewing, tough talk, and exacerbated experience-sharing. (verbal or physical altercation)
  2. Submission. Giving-in. Accepting defeat. Apologizing. Acknowledging guilt in error. Surrendering. Fawning or complimenting. Explicitly expressing, either consciously or unconsciously, verbal or non-verbal, a will not to pursue the conflict in any way. (verbal or physical altercation)
  3. Avoidance/Evasion. It is not the same as flight/run/escape. It’s an active evading of the conflict altogether upon seeing it develop. Pre-conflict subtlety of nullifying or mitigating the event before it has a chance to happen. Seeing that cancerous co-worker coming your way before seen and changing trajectory. Taking a detour or alternate route than to a known hostile environment. NOT going somewhere where a tense situation would be present. Refusing to bring up a topic with an enraged family member that would engage a conflict automatically. “They” may not see you at all and yoour response is planned, conscious. (potential or pre- verbal or physical altercation)
  4. Negotiate/Mitigate. Different than submit in that you’re actively attempting to find resolution mid-conflict. A win-win alternative. (which submission often is not) A means to an end. How to benefit both parties saving face, getting at least something they both want and will be satisfied with – haggling over price. Soothe. Change body language. Change tone. This, admittedly, takes a level of control and self-control to implement. It won’t happen if you’re in panic, under immense stress, or with paralyzing fear. (Thus the scaled-level of conflict element mentioned above) (verbal or physical altercation)
  5. Deflect/Distract. Pass the buck. Blame someone else. Take the pressure off oneself by throwing someone or something else under the bus. A temporary distraction to hold-off the inevitable or to gain precious time for something more valid to make its presence known, transitional. It’s not a solution but a bridge until one is found. A neurological link from one to another while the brain catches up with the circumstances and works to not cognitively-overload. (verbal or physical altercation)
  6. Plea for Assistance. Trying to win over the crowd. Campaign for support or intervention. Strength in numbers.
  7. Attack. Going on the offensive. A sucker-punch. A pre-emptive strike. A “sentry” take-out from a hidden position. To minimize the chance of forceful response in-kind. These can occur in daily inter-communication as well. An accusation. A pre-confrontation verbal escalation. Spreading rumors. Planting seeds. Of course, it can definitely be a prelude to a fight, absolutely, and an unsuccessful attack can most certainly end up in mutual-combat or verbal-altercation. (verbal or physical altercation)
Image result for human fear response

To further this, even from these, what is overlapped, what is not? All above are designed for different purposes than their forebears. Deflect could be a flight byproduct, as threatening could for posturing, but if a threat is a committed will to cut off the conflict knowing the next step in the process, is the design different? Sometimes threats are not accompanied by posturing. Something to contemplate.

As we have broken them up into both innate and learned response and applied them to both verbal and physical response, we can also broaden this further, based on time. Verbal altercations can be solely unto-themselves (argument, intense discussion, disagreement) or a slow-burn lead-up to an actual physical altercation. What about delving into the sliding scale of physical-altercation types? Are there others that show themselves if we’re ambushed? Given no downtime to prep or ready ourselves? No signs of impending danger, at least that we caught prior?

  1. Turtling. I’ve been in a stick-fighting sport-match where the other gentleman went down one knee and instinctively put an arm up to cover as the pressure overwhelmed his senses. He said post-fight it was completely unintentional but he was helpless to prevent it as his system overrode his conscious will to respond. Unconsciously covering-up. Fetal or prone position. It’s somewhat of a mid-fight freeze but the physiological responses and event-point are different. (innate, instinctive)
  2. Flinching. An unconscious projection, usually outward. Blinking of the eyes. Putting up of the hands. Turning of the head. Turning away. Pulling a limb back. Jumping back. A recoil. All done to instinctively avoid incoming threat or pain. (innate, instinctive)
  3. Covering. We see many trainers now implementing intentional head-covers to counter incoming attacks. Head covers. Arm/forearm shields. Framing. All designed to withstand the initial surprise and connect or access either conditioned or innate fight or survival-skill response. (learned, conditioned)

How about ongoing stress? A looming threat or upcoming unavoidable confrontation? Enemies who pressure you over time? We can add a couple more to the above, as well.

  1. Hyper-vigilance. (panic, confusion, ultra-aggression and overkill regarding daily reactions, constantly tuned-in and jacked-up) It’s worth mentioning that hyper-vigilance and freezing are often coupled together in the industry but medically they are 2 VERY different sides of human trauma and PTSD, as most professionals will attest to.
  2. Informing. Educating oneself on fear, adrenaline, the enemy, the coming event. Planning tactics, re-evaluating options, reconnaissance. Studying the opponent and/or self. Anticipation of outcomes. Psychological warfare.
  3. Activate. Breathing, meditating, and the like to calm oneself, change state, frame the stress in a different way, and come to terms with the process-stress.

Note too that these aren’t the singular sole response to a conflict or given situation. A number of these can happen within the same conflict, whether physical or non-physical in nature. It’s not a finite one-dimensional response; these are dynamic scenarios, after all, with 3-dimensional reactions and plenty of room even in the seconds or minutes that transpire for multiple to reveal themselves. When another response’s desired-outcome fails, confidence or self-control is restored or increasing, adrenal-effects are lessened, different angles present themselves, the situation changes with outside influence/3rd-party intervention, the type of threat/conflict changes, and so on. So, is there likely some (or much?) overlap? Likely, granted. But it does pay to be intricate in the understanding of why they’re different even in micro ways, what each of their intended purposes are and outcomes desired, and when and what type of conflict they show themselves in. Often only then can we better compartmentalize them into categories for better and more streamlined understanding.

Regarding the desperate need to categorize or compartmentalize all these, I’ll leave that to you and your personal needs. Regardless of semantics, studying human responses to fear, anxiety, stress, and conflict certainly shows the vast array of resources we’ve picked up through “survival-learning” over the generations and how we have evolved past the animal-kingdom. I bet scientists are already doing studies on a new one and its positive results when implemented…don’t be surprised to see “blocking” or “unfriending” coming to a neuroscience conference near you.

NON-THREATENING SPACE INVADERS

I know, this is example is a little crude, cold, and aggressive, but it f brings up an interesting complex social-conundrum – unwanted public touching. Not of the sexual harassment or illegal kind, but of the generally socially-acceptable kind that infringe on personal-comfort. One of the major problems is that, regardless of how tactful or amiable you are in your rejection of unwanted hugs, cheek-kisses, physical closeness, and general non-threatening touching…are that the rest of society often looks at you like you’re the uncouth, rude, uneducated ass. At times, this may be unavoidable but it’s still a hugely important area of boundary-setting – one of the most awkward, most complex, and “unwinnable” socially ones present.

Here in Costa Rica, for example, kissing on one cheek from woman-to-man, woman-to-woman, and man-to-woman upon greeting and with familiarity is the norm. There are complexities here too. Hygiene, previous familiarity, safety, comfort level all factor in. Gauging is sometimes not at all easy. Hugging is far more common even from man-to-man than in North America. Spatial-closeness far more tolerated and accepted. Yet emotional distance is far greater, strangely enough. Open sharing, directness, showing vulnerability are practiced far more sparingly here. It can sometimes be a complex web to traverse for the uninitiated and outsider. If the proxemics dynamic and physical touching makes you uncomfortable, are there some ways to circumvent it without causing resentment, tension, or offence….or at least mitigating or limiting the “damage”?

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Admittedly, the number one is, if able, to accept the differences in proxemics, physical contact, and custom to fit-in and grow within the new culture. It tooks me some time but I’ve learned to appreciate the physical contact and closeness in a world where generally these elements are decreasing due to a number of societal and technological changes. Sometimes the fact you’re a foreigner (especially one from North America where spatial-distancing is more acceptably-acknowledged as the standard), you get a free-pass as they’re understanding of your spatial-preferences. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and the other person will understand the emotional/cordial distance between the 2 of you and want as little interaction with you as you do them. (they don’t like you or closeness either) Here are some that I’ve utilized over the years to varying degrees of success:

-handshake with elbow-grab gives control over distance and “entry.” (for men)

-utilizing general macho guy greetings before range can be altered (high-fives, fist bumps, half-hugs with inverted-handshake with thumbs intertwined, etc.) (for men)

-angling body to 45-degrees from them (especially if others are in the circle or within conversation-range, your physical-avoidance may not even be picked-up on if conversation is initiated immediately with others in the circle)

-subtly acknowledging another person in the vicinity/room can make a late hug intentionally-awkward or a head-nod/acknowledgement from a distance can at least put-off the potentially-inevitable, or avoid it altogether. A diversionary tactic.

-feigning illness (cold, flu, sinuses, allergies)

-others entering the room at the same time can be a distraction for avoidance if it’s someone specific you don’t like.

-drinks brought prior can be great physical-barriers.

-if the hug is unavoidable, I’ve found that creating space between bodies or the double-tap back-pat usually instinctively forces a quick hug-and-release.

-a friend of mine even brought up being direct and stating that you’re not a hugger, though in some countries that can be offensive regardless of how gently it’s put.

I think the smile and graciousness are imperative on all of this working. Remember, none of these are excuses to be rude, ignorant of culture, or intentionally-offensive. However, sometimes we have our cultural-norm and comfort-levels. Sometimes people are touch-phobic or with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some are germaphobes. Some have prior emotional trauma. Distrust in strange or unknown people. Bad or intuitive vibes. There are a lot of reasons why someone legitimately prefers emotional distance and, though these should be respected, we know how people can get offended at the drop of a hat these days at times, so it pays to have some alternative options available. I often think the “social-closeness” element is one of the most difficult rivers to traverse in boundary-setting as the subtleties are so nuanced and environment-specific that we neglect to address them as even being something worthy of discussion in modern conflict management. Taboos, even unacknowledged ones, are healthy-discussion points.

AN OPINION PIECE ON THE RECENT TOURIST ATTACK IN D.R.

https://people.com/crime/woman-speaks-out-nearly-died-attack-dominican-republic-resort/?fbclid=IwAR3a_Hj9gSc0DjJ4Ks00fxNNACazLq5cdjNuKKmdLvD09Qe7Xs–L8020Dng

https://people.com/crime/dominican-republic-assault-all-inclusive-resort-husband-slams-cops-police-question-claims/

Regarding the above links, an awful story however you look at it and I’d like to stress that none of what I’m about to say is a critique, none of this was deserved or fault-based, and that there are predators that will find a way regardless of how astute a person may or may not be. That being said, and living in one of “these countries”, if I could leave some thoughts to contemplate on when/if travelling abroad or even inter-country if living in a large one. Note these are just my opinion so take it accordingly:


1. If you’re a woman and absolutely need to go out after dark, bring a buddy or have a gentleman friend/colleague/partner/family member go on your behalf. Especially if you’ve been partying earlier in the night and may not be of entirely sound mind. This now applies to anywhere in the world when you’re travelling far away from home-base. It’s an advisement, not a critique or blame…and a heartfelt one.

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2. Once/if assaulted, make a report to local police, offer to give testimony if the case goes to trial (even if not really willing, intending, or wanting), and be voluntary with any ongoing investigation. The laws in “these countries” will, of course, be different than in your home-country – it’s a different culture, they’re not under any obligation to have the set of laws from home, nor are they obliged to conduct investigations as you’ve become accustomed. They’re not home and are often undeveloped, inexperienced, and technologically-lacking – this should be acknowledged. Some do a great job but don’t have the same protocols, and those are misread as incompetent or indifferent. Take this into consideration before traveling. Another important element: if you’d like them to pursue the investigation, are asking for damages, want to file lawsuits, have LE follow-up on leads and re-calibrate previous information….and you’ve chosen not to file a police statement, make any official report, or return to testify (based on the reported statements on DR-media and counter to the apparent advisement of her own embassy/consulate representative, as was apparently reported in their press, also now stated by D.R. law-enforcement)….you’ve just majorly tied their hands for doing so, regardless of how inept their process may (or may not) be. It’s a precedent for future legal action, pressure from the local government, and puts the resort under pressure to act proactively to protect their reputation. If you’re not willing to follow-up legally, it will likely be brushed under the proverbial rug. If you simply put pressure on verbally from afar, it’ll inevitably be your word against theirs….and, remember, they want this to go away and have no potential legal consequences to not make it do so if that’s the case.


3. The beach and anywhere near it in any country in the Caribbean or Latin America….is NOT a place to be for a foreigner after dark, especially a foreigner previously drinking, especially a foreigner that’s a woman, especially a foreigner who’s alone, especially at 11 pm at night. Don’t assume this will necessarily be different at a security-enforced resort (though, yes, I know, that’s a big part of what you’re paying for…) and, I’d like to point out, this is not victim-blaming and she admits error in this regard openly, knowing it was a mistake that she won’t repeat. Note that most security, maintenance, and cleaning-staff in places such as this are paid minimally (I know this first-hand as a former security-trainer in CR), are not vetted/without background checks, are most often extremely low-class and uneducated but with an intimate understanding of violence, and are transient and short-staying-including sometimes being illegal within the country. With that volume of rotating staff and that size of grounds, it’s not difficult for members of the surrounding community or ex-employees to obtain or have official resort attire, slip through security, be allowed in by unethical staff, or sneak onto the grounds from strategic points-of-entry previously-known. Now, to be sure, most are simply simple hard-working people trying to support their family, but every so often….


4. To be sure, the resort will or at least should be liable for much here. A resort this size (see Google) without any security cameras should set off major alarm bells. The front desk neglected to act at least 3 times according to public statement. They made broad insinuations about her to her family/friends. Positive public relations may well have dictated that a refund and covered medical costs would be in-order (as she stated and was pushing for), absolutely. HOWEVER, that insinuates at least some culpability and they may have been advised against it by legal counsel should a greater suit be coming. They are a corporation with shareholders and investors and funders, after all…and often from North America or Europe. (That will happen just as easily in the “1st-World” as it will in “these countries”)


5. There are predators that want something (capital) and those who enjoy the task/process (operational); ones who will attack for a specific reason (sexual gratification, money, valuables, vehicle, drugs, whatever) and those who do so because they enjoy or crave the act itself. Hard to say what this was. He took nothing, left all her belongings. He may have sexually-assaulted her but we simply don’t know and won’t. He was comfortable with extreme violence and had very likely participated in it before, of that we can be pretty solid.


6. Full points for her fight for personal survival. Again we see her innate survival instincts kick in at various points during the incident and, as she claims, she may be with her head on a swivel, with PTSD and hypervigilance, and far greater (maybe for the time being uber-) awareness….but she’s been given another shot to make them positive skillsets. Maybe her fighting, losing consciousness, opportunely having calm rush over her and have her survival instinct kick-in at various stages of the attack….all happened at exactly the time they should’ve. Of course, fortune also helped, but we tend to look at these as a “if only she had” situation when the end result is that she survived and lived to tell the tale, and able to advise other women along the way from a survivalist perspective.

As we’re seeing with updates from the police investigation and follow-up interviews, there are still a number of loose ends and contradicting information, some of which have left a nagging intuitive perplexity with me as well since the story broke. I’m curious as to how this all ends up…..

“WEAPON-CENTRICITY”

Youtube is littered with videos of robberies stifled because of a toy/plastic/fake weapon. I call this “weapon-centricity”, putting all your marbles in the jar that hopes people simply submit for the very fact you’re brandishing alone. However, when they don’t, the majority of time it seems the psychological switch or mental-shift needed to actually fight, retain, or pursue the original goal vanishes because of that very weapon-centric mentality. There was never a plan to engage, never the mindset to follow-through regardless of potential pitfalls or bumps in the road. The very premise of the act was predicated on the idea of there being no resistance whatsoever. *Also, remember that the exact same human response to being threatened also pertain to those doing the threatening themselves when the tables turn, sometimes even without – stress-response is not a one-way street when a bluff is called.

In training (and certainly Internet warriorism) we often see this as well, the “If I had a weapon, I’d…” lip-service. Training often neglects follow-up in close-space post-entry. No weapon-retention skillsets cultivated. No mentality that you may have to fight for the weapon at some point – whether it’s yours or theirs. No protection of that weapon in space. No discussion of whether you can actually accomplish the goal in real-life that you’re fantasizing about and role-playing in training. (capability, psychology, states, mental-switches, contexts, violence inhibitors, post-event acceptance, etc.) Weapons training is not just about replicating actions, it’s about assessing these elements of your own understanding of the whys/wheres/whens/hows of their usage and your ability to come to conclusions regarding the answers to these.

THE DICHOTOMY OF THREAT AND PERCEIVED THREAT

I´d like you to think hard on something that dawned on me…or maybe gnawed at me…today. The discrepancy (actually the chasm) between actual threat and perceived threat. Even industry “experts” propagate this myth. Actually predominantly. This´ll be short but sweet. In the previous little community/block in which we lived in Canada, we had a noted wife-beater who’d told his wife he was going to kill her at some point. (listen when people give you all the information you need to know) We had another gentleman who had multiple familial witnesses admit that he used to cut the heads off of little kittens when younger….with a machete or mower…and he thought it was hilarious. (But didn’t some serial-killers….digressing, never mind) We had someone who killed a 14-year old dog by smashing it over the head either with something heavy and hard, or bare-handed and repeatedly. The vet confirmed the cause of death and I carried that dog to be buried in the out-back after being a loyal family pet/friend/protector since birth. (Seniors, women, and kids be on the lookout, because when one can take their closet frustrations out on animals…)

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We had a long-time neighborhood employee who took a 360-degree video of the common area and all its entrances “for a friend” and got very, very nervous and defensive for no reason when he saw I was sitting there unnoticed. (He had all the gate codes and keys, ironically, we just prior had a group break-in in the neighborhood and coincidences are not a big thing for me) A thief worker that ripped off $1000 from his owner before being caught on video. (by yours truly) A neighbor with a serious drug-problem where he blew all his assets from a well-paying job and had a violent streak….but only when he was high, of course. A guy who beat up an aged-senior of 85. These s-t-i-l-l weren’t the worst indiscretions considering the seriously-criminal ones I’m not able to mention due to legal restraints. And these allll still weren’t even including the minor yet often disconcerting other elements that we heard “through-the-grapevine”…..little personal idiosyncrasies and secrets that others told us about: porn-addictions, professional ethics issues, slander, sabotage, bullying, love triangles, illegal gun-ownership, dangerous dogs that have since killed other dogs, etc. etc. etc. To be honest, the only difference I see with my previous and post neighborhoods lived…is that I wasn’t blessed with quite as much information on those elements of my neighbors, though I’m damn sure their versions of similar stories were present and accounted-for.

Yet, many in the neighborhood got together every so often for neighborhood-watch meetings to discuss how we could up the security-factor on the block from those potential criminals OUTSIDE THE COMMUNITY. It’s an irony that I sometimes had trouble fathoming. My point is: I do NOT believe this is any type of aberration or some unique glitch, either. I tend to think this is often almost every neighborhood in the Americas. (as it’s all I can speak on behalf of, first-hand, having lived in 2 parts of it extensively and traveled to others) We are just now starting to openly acknowledge that rape-threats to women far more often come from those who are in their already-established circle of friends, acquaintances, and satellites, not the random violent stranger in the dark of night on some street corner. That’s equally-true with “general” violence as well. Why do we treat general violence any differently? Blinders? Biases? Bad math and “animal” identification issues? (2+2 is usually 4, for the most part and if it looks/walks/acts like a fox, it’s generally not a groundhog)

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I wonder how many little hidden dangers exist next-door that we either are unaware of or refuse to acknowledge because they’re known entities – the people actually infiltrating our daily lives. (They could never hurt us, just others in the neighborhood or those in their own house, right? Let me tell you, if they’re willing to hurt the loved ones in their own house, torture or kill the neighborhood animals, psychologically do damage to other people’s kids, beat the senior next door….they’ll have no problem hurting you if they’re able and you cross them intentionally…even accidentally)

I’ve found the people around me – both sometimes by choice and not-so – to be far more of a personal-protection issue than the lurking-prowler, if evaluating the volume of both in my life to-date. At the end of the day, I guess bogeymen and the faceless criminal are far easier to prep for in a disconnected and desensitized (and unlikely…) manner than the one you say “hi” to every morning that lives next door – you know, the one that might actually be a legit concern and cause you some lifted eyebrows before continuing on with your day blindly….

Something to ponder.

TRAINING SCARS & SPORT LEAKAGE – MANIPULATING DESIGN-FLAW

Instead of the regular “street-vs.-sport” and debating the psychology or efficacy of training scars/sport leakage in traditional training, here’s a different angle. (*There have been countless videos of real-life violence where they’ve shown themselves, so they are certainly “a thing”…how much or regular of one is the part debatable) How to take advantage of potential training scars. To be clear, I’m not talking about the usual “how-to-beat-a-muay-thai” fighter but looking at systems themselves from the outside (or inside) to see conditioning elements that are (potentially) manipulate-able in the exponents of said system. Psychological, tactical, time-points/timing-ratios, spatial/distance, equipment, etc.

Here are some examples of what we refer to as potential training scars (often from traditional systems) and sport leakage (from sport-based ones), for those uninitiated:

*Boxing: absorbing shots with gloves/headgear, hands too close to face, ignoring lower-body attacks, “rope-a-dope”/absorbing unnecessary punishment, misalignment of closed-fist in gloves, “fouls” being punished, referee intervention causing guard-drop/lull in preparednes

*Grappling: tapping, gi/clothing-reliant techniques, reflexive guard-pull/butt-flop, training bare-feet, soft/absorbant surface, unlimited time-limits

*Martial arts: matching/preferred stances/ranges, training solely for other style-specific opponents, squaring-off and at-distance, often little taking punches/pain, comfortable clothing, low-hands…even an undying and unquestioning loyalty and deference to the instructor (bows/titles/roles/belts)

*Non-projectile weapons-training: cease of attack when opponent’s weapon dropped, range-selective and focused, lack of intangible-acknowledgement (pain-tolerance/threshold, human-will, adrenaline), glib perception of weapon’s damage capability, legal considerations, drill-based over fight-based, handing the weapon back immediately after performing a disarm

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Since so many armchair-fighters, everyday people, and criminals are now utilizing base training-knowledge they see from the overexposure of the fight game (they do “MMA”, grapple, box, knife-train in many Canadian prisons now, I know for certain from CO friends who witness it daily), maybe it’s time those system “design flaws” and how to manipulate them became an issue worth addressing. You can see the UFC and other prize-fighting organizations broadcast fights almost daily through their channels, or on YouTube or splashed around the Internet. Even generally uninterested lay-people now seem to know generally what an arm-bar or rear-naked choke are. Criminals and backyard/back-street fight clubs certainly do. We now have roughly 20 MMA gyms in this small country alone.

On that note, style/system-bias is a very pronounced thing. By acknowledging how your system’s/systems’ design flaws can be taken advantage of by those not willing to play your game by your rules, it immediately allows you to see a different perspective of those tactical cracks. View your system/style from the outside looking in, a 3rd-person perspective, fly-on-the-wall, 3-dimensionally. Ever walk into another club and note the protocols, rules, agreed-upon stipulations that they utilize in training? That could be manipulated or skirted, if need be? I have. Sometimes they’re even unique to club even within that style/system construct. Safety features, equipment-reliance, mutually-agreed-upon rules-of-engagement, club-etiquette, training-surface, etc.

How to counter-balance or prevent them? That’s fairly rectifiable with a little creativity and forethought. Leaving on locks a little longer (without extra strain) to acknowledge the tapping flaw. Moving your hands out a little to address the gloves-to-jaw flaw. Continuing past range-preference in stick-sparring to counter the range-reliance flaw. Fight no-gi. Bring up the intensity and energy by always trying for dominant position and not settling for bottom. Put shoes on. Wait a couple of seconds before handing back that knife or stick. (if you must work the disarm…) Grapple multiples. See what it feels like to grapple on concrete/cement. (you’ll get a different perspective of the potential repercussions of doing so on the street, and how much you won’t like it) Have others standing around randomly through some light kicks or punches while you’re down there. I’ve seen a number who do this already. They’re definitely out there.These design flaws can be trained out, as bad habits can and without much issue if aware. That’s the rectifiable part, people are doing it. But….

….how to MANIPULATE them in others…at least hypothetically, if for no other reason than to plant a seed in your own head? Tap-out intentionally to see what predominantly transpires – they let go. After tapping-out, keep attacking and see what happens. Most often the other person, after letting go, will cry foul, stop fighting, complain, or call fairness issues because they submitted you already – exactly to the point. Practice deploying a hidden training weapon without being detected. Add a (subtle) element of fouls – skin-grabs, eye-brushing, groin-grazing, light-biting, even as solely a transition to something more impactful but to plant that “no-restrictions, flip-the-switch” mindset in your own brain. (nothing that will cause an escalation of hard feelings or resentment, just something subtle and under-the-radar for self-usage)

Change the range…invade space. Step on exposed-toes. Feign injury. Question their style or instructor. Add some intense verbal aggression. Swear. Don’t square-off, force an interview. Act unstable and irrational, be unpredictable. Serpentine movements. Odd angles. Step on dropped blades or attack him while he’s picking his up. Drag surrounding things laying about into the fray. Pin him in a corner. Use training gear as either a weapon itself or a tool to use against the wearer. (grab his trunks/gloves, metal/wooden weapons are weapons too, focus mitts can be great distraction-projectiles) Discuss how your style/system would fare out of its comfort zone and come up with some tactical ideas on how that could be averted for others trying to manipulate your own training. Real-life case studies where you superimpose your style into the scenario and measure (as unbiased as is possible) what flaws would’ve presented themselves. All these things can be used to off-balance, provoke, trigger, or otherwise disrupt/manipulate emotional stability….outside of class and if needed…but to be noted.

A short anecdote. I once had a student/friend who trained muay thai and MMA. Good fighter, authentically. He was telling me how he’s covered all the ranges and was becoming a “complete fighter”. (grappling, clinching, striking, kicking) I started explaining to him the thing about complete fighters, snarled viscerally while attacking him aggressively, clawing his face, and biting his shoulder before throwing him to the ground and lightly neck-cranking him. He admitted to freezing entirely and shutting-down. I mentioned that he hadn’t yet covered the “psychological range.”

How can you manipulate systems-training? Turning-the-tables on your regular thought processes is always healthy to tune-out from the scope you’ve adopted. Reverse-engineer and think from the other end sometimes. Bigger pictures are clearer pictures. Remember, as more and more people train in martial arts, more and more training scars are out there. It may not just be an untrained lacking-in-knowledge street-guy any longer that you could face. “Training” is no unique thing any longer.

THE THINKING RESPONDER – AN AVIATION ANALOGY

Running solely on instinct. Reacting and responding to danger, risk, conflict, and threat without thinking or with high-level conditioning, is what they’re telling you. Instinct is a reaction, not a proactive pre-event assessment. (and remember the truth is that most “events” are simply not of the ambush variety – thought they absolutely do exist, to be sure) That always sounds like a dangerous game to me. I’ve always felt like self-defense and violence are more than a little like flying a plane. (As an aside, I think the airline industry has other elements – like self-policing/accountability/multi-lateral consensus-building, etc.- that the self-defense could learn from but that’s another article entirely) Now, don’t get me wrong, we are blessed with a ton of actual survival-skill instincts from evolution – those things that rear their powerful heads when survival itself is in the balance. But that’s not how “instinct” is most often peddled in the self-defense industry. To define how it’s generally utilized by SD gurus the world over, let’s use this: “a conditioned (hugely-universal/cookie-cutter) response to a given dynamic, rapidly-changing, and intricate stimulus on a vastly sliding-scale of aggression, one that precludes thought or assessment or analysis or alternate solution.” There, how’s that. That’s how I most often understand it to mean by violence-professionals. So, in that light, my metaphorical dissertation on aviation, noting that I’m not a pilot nor an aviation expert, and am going on the minimal information I’ve researched.

In the airline industry, being on autopilot (which is inevitably what SD/MA instructors tell you is instinctive – the ultimate goal of training) always seem to assume by the public to mean that a computer is flying the plane all by its lonesome while pilot and co-pilot take a break. That’s not exactly true and the minutiae make all the difference. It doesn’t mean that things are running without human thought or situational-processing, it means there’s a mechanism in-place (in humans, we’re referring to intuition or instinct) that aids the pilot/co-pilot while they’re with split-attention on other areas of safety and efficiency.


Think of the cockpit as a human brain. Flying a plane manually (read: being on high-alert for extended, unnecessarily-long periods of time….much like stress or anxiety or paranoia or fear – note the correlation) is extremely-taxing and wears down human focus. That’s why the autopilot is implemented, so that the co-pilot and pilot can measure other areas of flight safety and efficiency in lower-stress compartments. So, as like violence preparation, if we’re “on” all the time, we’re depleting our resources and wasting valuable energy.

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Unlike generally what we see in the self-defense industry, the aviation industry has a self-policing, consensus-building, uniform approach to overall customer safety. When mishaps happen, studies are undergone and changes are immediately made to ensure the same won’t happen again. Cowboys with wild claims and inaccurate information are ousted quickly and decisively for the benefit of the industry.

Instinct and intuition are there to guide us, and can be cultivated or developed based on a number of intangibles: hard-wiring/evolution, experience, nature, social conditioning, training, and others. To me, they’re both innate – genetically-given. Conditioning (read: training) doesn’t provide real instinct. Instinct is already present. What training can do is to cultivate what’s already there, innately, develop it further. You can tweak it, but you can’t create it from scratch. For so long we’ve under-estimated human performance to the point that many claim we “only” have accessibility to gross-motor skillsets, “only” are capable of the most efficient of reactive-conditioning, “only” are capable of replicating the one-dimensional scenarios we replicate in the “dojo”. Science, physiology, and human-performance research have all proven this false, as have countless real-life case studies on human survival. It’s simply not true.

We humans are capable of extremely high-level processing under immense duress. Fine- and complex-motor skill. Adaptive capability. Advanced decision-making with multiple stimuli. (Not to mention what I stated above, that real instinct isn’t something built by training) For far too long, this has been misunderstood and regurgitated to the masses based on prior misinformation or outdated research. (we’re pretty familiar with a few of the most guilty parties) Gross-motor skills, one-dimensional thinking, instinctive conditioning, heart-rate charts, performance restrictions. New studies and cutting-edge fields are starting to prove this drastically wrong.

So, back to flying a plane. Autopilot, or intuition and instinct, are there to alleviate over-exertion of your survival senses. (Again, back to “look at what’s in front of you, not what your brain is telling you could be there “if”….facts, not guesswork) Programs running in the background so you don’t have to be jacked 24/7. (or, in the example above, when/if needed when-shit-hits-the-fan) They’re there so other choices can be made in other pertinent areas, until they’re actually needed and make themselves known in a big, blatant way. (authentic threat, survival, when under actual attack) It, a plane, at least as of yet, cannot land, take-off, take important safety or efficiency decisions, cannot prevent catastrophe. It’s a mechanism that’s been pre-programmed by humans with no adaptation, decision-making, or choice-acknowledgement. Like instinct. Instinct doesn’t factor in legal repercussions, social stigmas, financial damage, psychological trauma, human empathy, viable alternatives, calculate risks….it simply acts. Without taking into-consideration….well, anything.

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Think of the cockpit of an airplane working akin to a human brain under duress.

Here’s a clearer definition of instinct vs. conditioning, one that might shed some light on the idea of “making training instinctive”, as is so often claimed:

https://wikidiff.com/conditioning/instinct

Whatever aspect you take from this, whether it’s in the violence arena, or risk, conflict, safety, preservation….the goal should be to build and cultivate “thinking responders.” People who can read and understand unfolding scenarios and factor in all the incoming information before making a solid (or solid-enough, remember there is never only one “correct” way of doing a thing…) decision that facilitates their survival, avoidance, escape, resistance, cover, concealment, etc. Not reacting blindly. “Instinct” has become an industry buzzword, yet almost every time I’ve seen it utilized or watched it being pushed….it’s simply erroneous within the context of aggression. Context is deeply lacking, like it is so much of the time. Instinct, if replacing thought/analysis is what lands people in jail. Gets them killed. Escalates conflict. Assesses situations really poorly.

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Are you following them or allowing them to give you valid and accurate information with which to best make a tangible smart decision?

It’s been proven that we fallible humans can function quite effectively under duress and adapt to almost anything given even micro-time and micro-knowledge. We can alter-course mid-situation under explosive stress. We can make snap judgment calls on things where life hangs in the balance. “Fueled by instinct” is just not how I choose to go through my day and I hope the pilot on my next flight has fundamentals and pre-planned procedures in-place prior, that allow him/her to make the best decisions possible for my personal safety. If an engine blows, I’m not particularly interested in having Jim-the-Personal-Computer-Program dictate my outcome. Human-process may be flawed, but the levels of human stress performance have shown to be something of pure amazement. Maybe time we started training people with this in mind….

CONTEXT: THE INDUSTRY BUZZWORD IN-WAITING

If there’s not explicit context in your scenario, circumstance, or concept…it’s invalid. There. I said it. Really, I should end the article here but, alas, that would make me cryptic and mercurial.

Context is this amazingly-underused word that floats its way around the periphery of the industry. Really, it should become a buzz-word unto itself, replacing the likes of sheepdogs, Valhalla, judged by 12, and instinct. Yet when you ask a lot of folks what exactly that means, that “it” requires “context”, they act like they shouldn’t have to define it as it’s simply common-sense that everyone knows. (Thus, the “common”) Yet, as we find in monstrous volumes of martial arts and self-defense videos, articles, blogs, techniques, responses…..context seems to be the one major thing left out. Almost entirely. Yet it’s absolutely imperative for the student to understand the whos, whats, wheres, whens, and whys of why he/she’d be using that thing in the first place.

What circumstances brought this person to this particular situation. What time of day is it. Where, exactly, is it taking place. Why is it happening. What’s the tangible element that’s required by the interloper. What type of crime is this. How would de-escalating or avoiding or mitigating or terminating this scenario affect the greater outcome, regardless of what’s simply legal or admissible socially. What are repercussions and reverberating-effects of those actions. Do they fall within the realm of national/provincial/state/municipal law. Are there witnesses that may see this differently than you. Context takes away the general or universal and makes it specific and defined.

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Context is that little element that clarifies exactly why you’d be doing the thing that you’re being taught to do. And there are a ton of things that go into that action. Legal repercussions. Social acceptability. Collateral damage. Alternate options. To use a vast chasm of difference, what’s acceptable in prison on a long-term incarceration is probably not equally-acceptable against a drunk guy telling you he’s going to kick your ass is probably not equally-acceptable to the little old lady flipping you the bird in rush-hour traffic.

Why, exactly and in nauseating detail, would you choose to do what you’re doing. If context isn’t given (and given explicitly), ask. Ask intricate and detail-drawing questions that draw equally clear and precise answers. Any instructor should know this and be able to concisely explain it if he/she’s worth his/her salt. (If not, maybe that 5th stage of the learning cycle we often talk about – articulation – should be next on the priority list) Martial artists are noted for being generally context-free. Universal, general, one-size-fits-all solutions to complex, dynamic, rapidly-changing problems. Often hidden behind the claim that it’s “style”, “art”, “cultural”, “historical”, or “systemic” to justify the laziness or negligence that goes into not defining the problem clearly.

Murder videos where the instructor is showing off flashy artistic skills by cutting the throat of an offender who threw a right-cross….not contextually viable. Videos from the interview stage that have the “sucker-punching” the offender for telling him to fuck-off….also not contextually viable. Your instructor doing a 33-step complex drill and not knowing at all why, what skills it’s developing, and how it pertains to the focus of doing it….not either. You training to break the neck of a guy who called your girlfriend a whore….again, not contextu…well, you get the point. Yet tons of instructors don’t seem to.

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Not only all this from the negligence perspective, but on a more functional level, context gives clarity. It makes action more decisive. It allows students to develop adaptive, transferable, confident decisions on-the-fly (yes, it’s possible) and eliminates fear or self-doubt hesitation because they’ve had the parameters and intangibles defined. The more explicit the context, the less doubt and hesitation will exist. The more explicit the context, the more self-confidence and calm and discipline the student will show when it’s needed….including in the pre-conflict or preventative stages. It’s not a “good idea”, it’s the foundation on which viable, real-world fundamentals are built. Demand it. I ask my students to…it holds me accountable and forces me to know precisely why I’m doing and teaching everything I’m doing and teaching. I’m providing a service, and a relatively important one that demands detail due the dynamic interactive social construct my optional, fluid solutions are built on. You owe your students context, and you better know it intimately….without them constantly needing to ask you.

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