Lately the online chatter and rush to self-promote and corner the market has gotten pretty loud, maybe if nothing but in my own head as it becomes ever so tedious. It seems every SD/MA/combatives instructor and his/her dog are coming out with their superior and elite version of combat and conflict reality. Podcasts. How-to articles. Youtube videos. Marketing gimmicks. Unbeatable techniques. Exorbitant self-promotional claims. 5-step cookie-cutter approaches for all who come their way. Evvvveryone is trying to set the market and have their voice heard above the chatter. Allll to set themselves apart from everyone else in the industry and be unique….usually with amazingly unique experience that no one else could possibly have. (As an aside, from personal experience, case studies, videos…..most violence seems to have a lot of similar and overlapping traits so I’m not sure how everyone’s experience and approach can be such a unique snowflake in the life-blizzard but, hey, digressing…)

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I’m planning on being relatively short here, considering the potential vastness and complexity of the topic. All of the above are ironically confirmed by a quick look at how people process information in their world. Everybody’s experience is staunchly unique, to be sure. First, let’s quickly define what “perceptual filters” are. Perceptual filters are the lens one looks at, assesses, and perceives the world around them and the events within it. It’s the criteria that they use to make decisions and deductions about important input. Decipher the information present(ed). Analyze situations. Form opinions. Develop “databases” and the framework for future like scenarios or situations. But where do they come from? How are these elements cultivated? From what sources?

1. Experience/experiences (events and decisions in life that shape our way of looking at things and making future decisions)

2. Nature (personal values/beliefs/morals/internal wiring/personality/mindset) *nature/nurture can tend to overlap and have influence on each other, so as to be clear

3. Nurture (parental grooming-influence/learning from example/upbringing/familial structure/familial dynamic/imparted lessons)

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4. Environment (surrounding people/habitat/neighborhood/influencers/micro-cultures)

5. Culture (rituals/superstitions/social norms & acceptances/taboos/practices)

6. Age/gender/race/class (filters and their assessment can dramatically change whether from a woman’s perspective vs. a man’s, a black person vs. a white one, older vs. younger, poor vs. well-off)

7. State/momentary physiology (tired/angry/sad/happy/distracted/euphoric/bitter/drunk/high/ stressed/aroused)

8. Long-term health/condition (mentally-ill, with disease or illness, disabled, gas-lighted)

9. “Mission statement”/spirituality (religious, agnostic, atheist, spiritual)

That’s quite a few (likely among a few others) that make the information-processing part of the human equation pretty intricate and unique to the individual, don’t they. To sum it up, everybody’s life-experience is uniquely individual. However, that also means that, if everybody’s perceptual-filtering mechanisms create amazingly unique perspectives and experiences….it also means that nobody’s a special snowflake in the snowstorm. All of our experiences help construct a “best-possible scenario” each time a decision need be made….including during a violent or conflictive or confrontational one.

Of course, as mentioned in a previous article ( ), the things we do with this information aren’t always accurate either as we all distort, delete, and generalize it to fit our current narrative or the one that’s needed at the time…both of which can change over time as perspective is gleaned, time passes, and memories become distorted. And, if this applies to most potential students…it most certainly also applies to your neighborhood self-defense guru, as well.

So, regarding the “seller”. How did your experience develop? What was your environment? What was your contribution to those experiences? Was most of it necessary or were you an active escalator…are you aggressive and confrontational? Context….was it in a war-zone or violent inner-city…safe surburban-living in middle-America…or in a war-torn country or undeveloped nation? From being a professional with a greater willing/obligated exposure to aggression…a doorman or LE officer or security guard, perhaps? Lots of questions should be asked on how your potential instructor’s perceptual-filters have developed his/her view of the world….and, more importantly, how they can correlate with yours. If your coach claims expert status because he’s been in 6,000 fights and can’t for the life of him avoid violence in any way with that lightning-quick trigger….maybe teaching you soft skills isn’t his lane. The reverse is also true. If you’re an infantry-person on the way to Afghanistan at the start of declared-war and your coach is a de-escalation, classroom-instructor solely with minimal pertinent experience, maybe he/she isn’t the right information source for you.

So, what then is my point? Well, the fact that so many are trying to claim that they have the market cornered on human experience, deeply-subjective topics, and each person’s universal needs….is pretty pretentious, in the least. Downright dangerously arrogant and blind at worst, considering we’re talking about “personal” safety. While this is, as stated, a deep topic for expansion, noting the above, my will is just for anyone reading this to exhibit a “buyer beware” approach to self-defense/martial arts hyperbole. Nobody has all the answers. No one source is so much better and more qualified than all others that they’re the top resource or final authority in the industry or on all things fighting. Nobody tells more than a partial truth from their seated position….readily including myself here as well. Really assess what it is that you feel you’ll be needing with your lifestyle, environment, culture, and dynamic. An honest self-assessment is usually the first stage in developing an idea towards that need. Your experience by-proxy is but one element in a matrix of others needed to learn functional personal-safety…

2 thoughts on “PERCEPTUAL FILTERS”

  1. In this industry, the only thing two martial artists can agree upon, is the third one fucked up completely.
    Even on Pages from my mates, i dont answer to questions anymore, because of the Comments from strange People i never heared of, tho i normally answered very sensible sometimes. I gave my opinion, what i would do, and suddenly i was attacked from to me entire strangers. Why someone would be upset because of what i would do is beyond me.
    I mean, i didnt say, he should do so, have i?
    One style attacks another, same styles attack each other, i dont need this kind of shit anymore…

  2. It’s one of the reasons I don’t fully trust anyone else’s “expert” opinion without thorough assessment. Nobody gets a free-pass because of previous body of work and that includes my own and my own perceptions and conclusions I’ve come to. Everything should be questioned, everyone should be constantly evolving and self-assessing. It’s the only way to not become obsolete and redundant in this industry….or any other.

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