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)

Now, let me be clear, I am not downplaying or undermining the idea of “stranger danger.” I have experienced a lot of it in my life, without question. They exist, they are real, and they are active – and it pays to prepare for them. BUT, if we are talking cumulative damage outside of a one-time or short-term incident, I can honestly tell you I have experienced far more profound, long-term, ongoing, and deeply-internal pain from those I knew. “Friends” that come as a wolf in sheep´s clothing, bad crowds, resentful or jealous allies, romantic partners who want to break you down from the inside out, satellites who come with your seeming best-interest in-mind, and yes, family. By far and no comparison a greater pervasive and trauma-building issue to safety, security, and sanity. Really assess this in your own life as well, I bet you´ll come to some rather stunning conclusions, if you haven´t already. In this regard, so often the self-defense industry seems completely bass-ackwards in their threat assessment.

I also bet most instructors themselves, though not willing to admit as much, have far more emotional, psychological, mental, and spiritual damage done by supposed loved ones than street-predators – yet those events and the potential for those events in students generally go completely unaddressed so as to divert the attention onto the predator around the corner, which is far easier to fantasize letting loose on and avoiding the real underlying issues that aren´t so easy as you, I, and everyone else to address and acknowledge due to shame, perceived failure, trauma, and vulnerability.

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 rare…) 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.


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.