The original Hick´s Law was based on computer logarithms from the 1950´s, and, of course, computers have come a rather long way from then, obviously. A law based on outdated computer logarithms has more than a little design flaw in terms of standing the test of time, and not all arenas adhere to the “exponentially greater time slows down decision-making time.” The numbers affixed to increasing choice as it relates to additional time to process were never stated in the original research, those came much later by the people manipulating the law itself. There were never numbers and times attached to decision-making time as it pertains to increasing options of selection. And this much is true, as was stated in the original premise – to some areas it simply does not apply. I´m not quite sure how the model ever really ended up so prevalent in the combat world, to be honest as it´s simply not relevant in that arena. It has long been disproved, improved, or upgraded with discoveries on various topics that we´ve covered previously, some not: BDNF ( https://blog.mandirigmafma.com/index.php/2022/04/07/bdnf-the-correlation-between-exercise-mental-health/ ), neuroplasticity ( https://blog.mandirigmafma.com/index.php/2021/11/10/neurogenesis-neuroplasticity/ ), systems 1 & 2 ( https://blog.mandirigmafma.com/index.php/2018/06/06/intuition-and-reasoning-systems-1-2/ ) , and the Pareto Principle, for a few examples.

Alright, so choice. The idea that the greater the choice, the greater time the human brain takes to formulate a decision has been around a long time. This has, as stated, been proven to be untrue over time and with greater knowledge of the science of the human brain. Here´s where Hick´s is used (and used successfully) today. Hick´s Law, in unison with a variety of other models depending on the industry and context dictated, is still used successfully even today, if even from a reverse-engineering perspective. Let´s take the restauranteur business. In menu-design, a vast array of selection is streamlined into something tangible and ordered that assists the consumer in making an easier and quicker selection of product that will satisfy their need or craving. They are created in a way so that one can a) make a weighted selection on something in the least amount of time from b) a grouping of information most organized in a manner to facilitate highest or greatest ability with which to make that choice. That creates satisfied customers that aren´t overwhelmed by a vast array of delicacies in random order that they have trouble selecting and get frustrated with the process as opposed to enjoying the experience. Simplification, not over-simplification. The choices are still vast but the process has been whittled down so that only the most viable options are left – though still multiple. It´s also prevalent in web-design in the form of drop-down bars, categorical organization, and task-management. The user simply will not stay on your landing page without an organization or compartmentalization of important elements. Now, we know that “customer experience” is simply not the same as “combat”, high-performance, or athletic endeavor.

The original Hick´s Law concluded that, for each and every additional component added to a solution, reaction-time goes up accordingly, and we want it to go down. So, the logarithmic part of that model is outdated…clearly and without doubt. And, as stated, the numbers associated with those increasing decision times are moot, created by people who did NOT get them through the model or its creators. But, though the data compiled was flawed and, yes, done logarithmically through a rather old-model computer, the original overarching idea was to simplify – the easiest way – or ways – from point A to point B would yield the best results and I think that´s still to this day something in the combatives field that we all, if admitting such, are striving for. That is one thing, in a general sense, that Hick´s Law in all its flaw relating to violence, can offer an avenue worth exploring, though it still does not legitimize the original law´s intent. To lower reaction-time. Increase speed on momentary decision-making capability. Simplify processing and processing-speed. Streamline choices into a handful of high-percentage options under duress. Maybe that reverse-engineering (which is how most in the business world are using it in the modern day anyway) Hick´s Law would be a more pertinent lesson to take away from the original law. To get that best possible outcome or highest-percentage result, we need to limit to learn to compartmentalize the choices presented to increase neural-processing speed.

Let´s not misunderstand the aspect of simplification because it seems many so often do. It´s not dumbing down the process or eliminating choices, it´s cutting the process so only the most logical, high-percentage, greatest chance of success choices remain, and the brain can choose between only a few choices that improve our experience, or in the case of violence, up our chances of living, getting out unscathed, minimizing damage, upping survivability.

1,162,103 Choice Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

The oft-quoted K.I.S.S principle that´s so often utilized in conjunction with Hick´s Law is repeatedly lip-serviced as Keep It Simple Stupid but that always affiliates a lack of intelligence from the user or consumer. People are generally more intelligent than we give them credit for. The original design of the principle was “Keep It Simple & Straightforward”, not the stupid part which, along with the increasing micro-numbers of added task-load, are 2 major misnomers when I see people clinging to the validity of Hick´s Law, and which lends far more credence to the idea of simplifying the decision-making process when pressure, tension, stress, risk, conflict, or danger are inherently present. We in the industry are always looking for faster, simpler, smoother transitions to the correct selection. What we often don´t acknowledge, as I´ve stated repeatedly, is that there´s always a number of ways of doing a thing, doing it successfully, and achieving the desired results. This doesn´t infer that things are more complicated, complex, or reactionarily-stunting. What it means is that in simple terms, one can be successful and up the survivability-quotient with a number of simple, easier-to-apply, high-percentage solutions to a problem. Hick´s Law has inadvertently added an element of stress to decision-making. Over-simplifying for the sake of time and length, it has to be 1 of 2 things, for example, and one of them HAS to work (or we´re fucked), perfection (or a close proximity thereof) limits choice so error is potentially catastrophic (and builds hesitancy and fear), resiliency and adaptability with sometimes rapidly-changing circumstance is not addressed, and the experience, immersion, and exposure of a particular human in a given area is not factored-in, all this at least as it pertains to combat or violence. Not to mention that people´s will-to-survive and stories of untrained, inexperienced people making the “right” choice when survival hangs in the balance are regular news stories in national media.

The KISS Principle - Keep it Simple, Stupid | Marketing91

We tend to look at Hick´s from the lens of performance when maybe it should be looked at through the lens of optimizing said performance. (I know, also not the original intent of its development but let´s stretch its premise for the sake of the avenues we´re exploring) That´s where experience, experiences, immersion, and exposure et al come in. The more one does a thing, the more familiar one gets with the process of easing cognitive load with which to make faster, better, and simplified decisions. Pressure adds to that load, whether in sports, performance, or combat, to give three examples. Just as a jump-shot doesn´t land – or isn´t taken due to the abundance of contextual-free overwhelming choice“, so too a defender” isn´t in the moment to react to the stimuli presented within that moment and is stuck in their head trying to decide – guess, as it were – which response will be appropriate for which type of incoming attack. Like the former two examples, the latter does not operate in a vacuum. Every situation is fluid, contextual, and organic – not mechanical and formulaic. So while the law alone may not pertain to certain arenas, it´s inevitably the context of how the law operates and what we should learn from it that holds significance. The more choices we have alone does not tax decision-making universally and clearly does not hold water but the need to simplify those choices to make the best possible or highest-percentage decision within those choices…can or may.

Many I see compare it to sports like basketball, baseball, football, hockey, and high-performance athletics – which is a good example. The theory would generally go, according to Hick´s, that, with all the choices presented in a given high-stakes sports game, if reaction-time exponentially went up with the number of choices presented, the athlete would neurologically shut down or freeze. However, that very process itself is a great example of why Hick´s Law loses validity. These athletes are not neuro-processing these choices in volume but reacting to the stimulus at hand from years upon years of training and practice, delving into the “database” of past experience and success, and picking the highest-percentage solution or solutions within the context of that moment. They´ve all inevitably learned to simplify the process exactly so their selection brain does not get overwhelmed with the abundance of personal choice.

U.S. Men's Basketball Will Play France in Gold Medal Game - The New York  Times

Now, a top basketball player in the offensive zone has a vast array of choices: shoot, jump shoot, pass to one of four teammates, dribble closer to the basket, lay-up, dunk. But those choices are most often whittled down by context – defender in their face, passing lanes closed-off, covered teammates, no look, physical contact. As well, we´ve all seen the example of the uncovered player blowing something simple because they had “too much time” or too many choices because they´re used to having that choice whittled down. The best players in the NBA have only a 50% shooting percentage, going down to about 33% for 3-point shots. A great baseball player hits the magical .300 average, hitting less than one out of every three at-bats. A top hockey-player scores on 20% of his shots. An elite NFL quarterback completes 65-70% of their passes. Yet somehow throughout this process, improvement is made and skill developed. They learn to make the best choice under the pressure of resistance so that the volume of potential is sculpted away. “Failure” is part of the equation and perfection is an impossibility, where making mistakes toughens the mind to increase rates and percentages, repetition and play being the mothers of all steep learning-curves. Point being? That one doesn´t need to be perfect to be exceptional – one needs to narrow-down the scope of decision-making, know the highest-percentage choice to create the highest probability of success from past experience, and understand how the game is played – and won. The reason they have so many choices but pick one that most immediately and decisively is believed to up the ante of success is where elite performance is derived. I would say that sounds a lot like the original premise of what Hick´s Law was supposed to convey – that lowering or narrowing the amount of low-option choices at the expense of higher ones creates success. 

Driving. When a driver suddenly makes a maneuver that throws our peaceful drive to work Monday morning into a state-of-flux, we have a plethora of options presented to us in milliseconds. Veer left, speed-up, hit the brakes, stay our lane while reading intent and knowing the move isn´t great enough to cause a collision or contact. Even down to the micro of veering a certain specific distance, hitting the brakes gradually knowing there are other cars behind us who may not be paying attention or may not have the reaction-time available at the distance they´re following to brake in time. Micro-movements to avoid even slight contact. Crossing over into the other lane of traffic going one way or the other with the vision to see it´s clear. And all this going on with the complex environment of other drivers, barricades, oncoming traffic, multiple lanes, varying speeds, size discrepancy of other vehicles, and the unpredictability of the human brain behind these rapidly moving 2,000-pound+ machines at our disposal. YET, we make the correct, highest-percentage, or high-percentage of a number choices daily. Years of experience behind the wheel provide heuristics that facilitate that “highest-percentage” scenario.

The undesirable driving 'effects' and their consequences

As my students have repeatedly heard me say, it´s not that “that” thing is necessarily bad but is it contextually relevant? Is there a better, more efficient way to do a thing that simultaneously ups survivability and success while minimizes taxing the brain´s processing speed in the process? If there is, we should explore that option. We´re not accumulating potential solutions – or one-dimensional solutions to three-dimensional problems, what we´re doing is chipping-away the complexity of option to a final sculpture of a few high-percentage options that have been tried and tested through experience, immersion, exposure, training, visualization, and a host of other perceptual filters. We learn to chunk our options from previous learning. Utilize metaphorical “mnemonics” or heuristics to access that neurological reference-point or points of past experience to give us greater odds. Grouping high-stakes options into an order based on the given context of the moment.

So, in conclusion, my personal issue with Hick´s Law is the manner with which Hick´s Law has been utilized and, pertinent to combatives, that it´s still utilized at all. Its original conception and testing methods do not have the same validity as they did in the 1950s, maybe they never did – evolution occurs, technology advances, ideas improve, understanding of human performance via neuroscience, physiology, sociology, psychology et al increases exponentially. This much is true, and I think we can all agree on this basic premise. However, laws also evolve and the original premise of “simplification” to speed-up decision-making and a quick categorization of high-percentage options remains true today in high-performance. That´s where THE IDEA of Hick´s Law may still hold some water if taken out-of-context and used in a (very) general sense. The problem is that Hick´s has created an inevitable game of telephone, where “exponential increase in the decision-making process” has been given universal micro-times from out of someone´s proverbial hat, “The KISS principle” has been twisted into something negative and derogatory, and the concept of simplification has been given a concrete number of choices that are needed. There are always multi-faceted aspects to a thing and it pays to delve deeper into that thing to find out which parts are outdated and which remain tangent and fundamental, though I realize that goes against the grain of obtaining rapid surface knowledge. Instinct from experience or blindingly rapid non-conscious choice are two of those intangibles working against Hick´s…simplifying or streamlining choice as opposed to being bogged-down by it. There´s a distinct difference and there are other “models” with which to work from now that have far more credibility…


What are “street smarts”? Street smarts, to me, are simply how one carries oneself outside of one´s home. They are a sub-system of common-sense and the ability to think logically, rationally, pragmatically, sometimes under varying scales of duress, tension, stress, and conflict. I´m going to give a brief overview from the perspective of someone living abroad, in Central America, in a middle-to-lower-class neighborhood here in Costa Rica. There are certain elements that go into making one “street smart.” Let´s take a look at just some of those:

  1. The criminal element within that particular environment. How is the crime in the neighborhood. Is it high, what types of crimes are most common, are there drugs and parties, do they target foreigners. These are some of the questions one needs to ask oneself and, seeing as we´re discussing “smarts” – how to avoid the above, not how to best engage within them. Here, through the neighborhood “watch” program and the private channel that locals engage in the community to keep all members abreast, we´ve come to realize some examples of those things listed above:
  • Crack is a problem here and a number of locals one sees daily working within the community are involved and under the effects on an addictive level.
  • Home invasions are also an element that are present here on the micro-level of the neighborhood.
  • Robberies via scooter or motorcycle have occurred at various points with some frequency as well.
  • Brandishing weapons during those robberies or random criminal interactions as well – both guns and knives.

Learning to identify the difference between a resource predator and a process one can also greatly help with understanding context and the whys and for whats of given circumstances. Resource predators are actors and agents who engage in crime out of necessity, whether (for instance) poverty, desperation, need, or pressure. Process predators enjoy the process, whether that process be control, dominance, adrenaline, or simply joy. Resource, here, generally aim to acquire that resource with as little chaos or problems as possible without finding themselves in a amok of potential trouble while doing so. High-success, minimal-risk, in-and-out, low-potential for identification, and as little “mess” as possible. Process are generally more dangerous as they´re willing to take greater risks to accomplish their goal, they don´t always need or even want resources, and there´s a status involved – the thrill of the actual act itself.

So finding out the sources of local crime and knowing when they´ve taken place is a rather invaluable knowledge tool for avoiding them. Staying informed and keeping tabs on things and how to go about preventing and mitigating them is imperative to that avoidance.

Neighborhood Crime Watch | Baytown, TX

2. The comment above introduces our second point – engaging with the surrounding community or environment. The neighborhood watch, small business owners, respected people within the community all keeps one informed on the above and some of the others that will follow. Being an upstanding decent member of the community allows for information to transfer that could be invaluable to staying safe. Talk to people, engage with locals, support local business, get to know the daily members of the environment that will trust you – legitimately, not as a ploy – and trust you enough to share valuable information about the goings-on in the community you live or the environment you frequent, whether it be for work, errands, resources, or supplies.

3. The above does not usually occur without the idea of blending. We´ve talked about the “grey man” but this is more than that. As a white North American with imperfect Spanish and blue eyes, “going grey” fully is simply not a proposition for me so I do my best to blend into whatever environment – or class – I happen to be traveling in at that required time. Dressing-down, not wearing jewelry or any accessories that will draw attention, no high-quality colognes or smells, carrying only the cash I may need for that specific excursion. Taking the opportunity to speak to the locals in their language. Being humble, respectful, and empathetic instead of the stereotype so many have come to resent alleviates a ton of attention and negative feedback – especially within a small, tight-knit, recognizant community. I stand out like a sore thumb regardless but I am able to mitigate or control some of that of my own doing and make myself “as innocuous as possible.”

4. Criminal tactics. In the wider national sense, certain areas have come to be known for specific gimmicks to take advantage of unsuspecting travelers.

  • Placing tacks or spikes on the road so that tires are blown or flattened. When the driver gets out to check on the tire, one member of the “team” offers to help change the tire while the other cleans out the backseat, passenger-seat, and/or trunk. Note they pick specific targets to accomplish this – lone motorists, women, novice drivers – people that will be an easy mark for multiple participants. (move to a different location prior to repair, a populated area, a business, or a shop that can repair the tire, lock the doors, keep someone in the car with those doors locked, firmly refuse assistance)
  • Unsuspecting tourists who want to dip their feet in the ocean for the first time upon seeing the ocean are often met with having their tech (computers, cells), cameras, passports, travel money, credit cards, and identity cards taken by waiting locals who know where that first gorgeous ocean view is coming from the airport and in various touristic havens across the country. It has happened to a number of our guests already and it makes for a rather time-consuming annoyance when one already has limited time on holiday. (Take your valuables with you, keep someone in the vehicles and take turns, go to a secondary, more inauspicious location, stop where you have immediate access to the vehicle)
  • At the top of the hill in our barrio to get to the main street, it´s known as a somewhat uncontrolled intersection where extended wait times and unsafe inability to cross lanes or traffic or merge into traffic-flow is part of the joy of driving. Inevitably, it´s a funnel, a bottleneck where there is simply nowhere to go. Recently a group of two or three young men take that disadvantage of immobility to throw rocks through the car windows and make a quick-grab of anything valuable in the front passenger seat while simultaneously shocking and freezing the victim, whose mind is already with full attention on the rather auspicious traffic and somewhat chaotic driving found here. This “smash-and-grab” is also done with two people on a motorcycle while rush-hour traffic builds on the main roads and knowing that pursuit or engagement is nigh impossible with the bumper-to-bumper situation often present. (Here´s where pattern-alteration is applicable. We talk so much about changing patterns but the circumstances given don´t match-up with the risk presented. I don´t alter my patterns because I feel people are constantly monitoring my behavior, tailing me, or have me under surveillance. I alter them because of specific incidents – tangible incidents – I´d prefer to avoid and have already been confirmed to be happening. Most of us aren´t Jason Bourne so a constant behavioral change often isn´t necessary)
  • Stolen manhole covers can be both valuable on the black-market and used as a set-up to blow tires or cause accidents while that vehicle is then stolen from a frustrated or time-restrained driver. (pay attention to “home-made” holes or ruts in the road, keep your head about you if you break-down, and don´t neglect to stay attentive should it happen)
  • Home invasions occur from social-media announcements, geotagging, GPS locations given freely on the Internet. Remember, almost everyone has instant access to the Internet and social-media now – it´s not an upper- or middle-class-only game any longer. It costs as low as $10-15 here to have monthly access, which means that as easily as you log in, so to do street gangs, lower-class denizens, and the criminal element. (don´t geo-tag, announce when you´re going out for the night or on vacation, post your GPS location)

The ”street smarts” aspect comes not only in being aware of these tactics but coming up with contingency plans to either avoid, evade, mitigate, or neutralize the tactic itself.

Breaking and entering Images, Stock Photos & Vectors | Shutterstock

5. Identification. Knowing who has what role in the street community. As we live in a 3rd-World country, everybody does what they do to get about, some of it honest, some of it not. There are what´s called “watchimen” who offer to watch your car while you´re in somewhere running errands or obtaining resources. They most often don´t ´really´ watch your car and certainly aren´t going to be proactive should something – or someone – happen to it, it costs fifty cents or less for their trouble and they have been known the key or scratch your car as it´s driving away if you ignore them. Sometimes their presence and alert is enough for the criminal element to avoid them. They can be your friend or foe and for a handful of change it doesn´t pay to find out which one. There are street hustlers who “perform” for the crowd at red lights or traffic jams. Indigent people begging for change at intersections. And a sometimes very subtle criminal element that operates by blending into these elements. Knowing which one is which can be identified by clothing, type of conversation, where they´re situated, and the activities – or lack thereof – they´re doing while all this is going on. It´s not easy but immersion and experience often give valuable tells if you´re paying attention. IF you´re paying attention. This would also include paying attention to markings on buildings, graffiti, subliminal-messaging within the environment. Gangs and gang members have certain hand signals here, distinguishing marks they use to identify gang territory, signs in graffiti, and clearly-marked territory – again, if paying attention.

6. Situational vs. environmental awareness. Note that we´ve distinguished between these two before. Situational is the interaction with other humans and the scenarios we find ourselves in pertinent to those other humans. Environmental is the overall perception of what is going on in the physical space around or peripheral to you. It pays to make that distinction as the environment and the humans interacting within it present two rather different and unique challenges. Notice also that the context and emotions of those two interacting can be a rather complex interaction that leads to multi-levels of understanding in terms of what exactly is going on around you.

7. Time. I rarely, if ever, go out after dark unless it´s for my own required resources out of need – children´s or family medication, supplies for the bed-and-breakfast, emergencies, etc. and NEVER without a car. After dark my profile stands out even more for opportunists to take advantage of. I´ve learned this the hard way at times when stalked, followed, called-out, or threatened but that´s also an element of the learning curve and street smarts – through that experience, immersion, environmental-understanding I add to my street smarts repertoire through experiences that fine-tune or hone it. Making micro errors is part of the learning curve, making macro ones can be hard to bounce back from, as some recent tourist deaths have highlighted while walking alone, off the beaten path, at night thinking they were in the familiar environment and not this one, have demonstrated. Trauma, psychological/mental/emotional damage, even death can occur. Knowing which are the micro and which are the macro is a sometimes quite nuanced but achievable – and absolutely invaluable.

Quotes about Situational awareness (38 quotes)

8. Bribe stops. Police will often have “random” stops to check for any plethora of things like drinking-and-driving, license authenticity, if proper equipment for emergency stops is adhered to, all in the guise of getting a little something from locals or a little something more from perceived rich foreigners. There are very often different prices for foreigners than for nationals and that staggered pricing has caused tension in both communities from time-to-time. Knowing where discourse and negotiation is applicable, where posturing and projection are, acquiescing, and where silence is bloody golden is an art-form and not always so clear to the uninitiated. Law enforcement here is not nearly always your friend. They have been known to bribe, steal evidence at crime scenes, go easier on nationals than foreigners, look the other way in traffic infractions, and inaccurately fill out crime reports for personal benefit. This is not to say all, certainly, but to point out that it is a rather prevalent thing here.

9. Carrying oneself. What do you want to project to the attentive public and doting criminal-element. We hear things like “walk confidently”, “a fast pace shows them you mean business and are location-focused”, “walk with intention and never show fear.” These are all great but they also neglect to acknowledge context, that great magical pie-in-the-sky theory where every theory delves from. I´ve found that sometimes a deeply-aware, slow gait, confident posture can be every bit as effective as a ultra-focused, fast-paced, intentioned one can be, depending on circumstance. How is your body positioned? Curved, ready to pounce like a cat, lithe, and ready? Straight-up, stiff, rigid in anticipation of worst-case scenario? Are “submissive postures” a potential benefit while briefly stationary? Is clothing concealment a benefit or a hindrance? Are any weapons easily accessible or within reach, or hidden in a place where instant access is an impossibility? There is way to carry oneself that is applicable to circumstances, and sometimes those circumstances can change suddenly. Remember that nothing is carved in stone, there´s never a single way to do a thing – and do it successfully, and context is always the guiding light behind the why and for what that we do, when we do it, what we do within that context, and where it´s applicable.

10. Traffic. Driving here is sometimes an adventure at best. “Rules of engagement” are sometimes simply recommendations as much as rules themselves. We have had a reputation as one of the worst driving countries in the world in the past. There is no driver´s education, law enforcement sometimes is very laissez-faire in enforcing conduct and infractions, and quality is not something regularly found. Accepted protocols and gestures are very different than in Canada and North America. Gestures, symbolism, and subliminal-movements mean different, more unpredictable things here than there. And a simple middle-finger has gotten people shot on more than one occasion since I´ve lived here. Defensive-driving is not just a “good idea” but paramount for a multitude of reasons. Accidents are negotiations as so few have vehicular insurance and on-the-spot payoffs avoid more expensive legal-entanglements. Standstill traffic is often an opportunity for the criminal element or opportunist to take advantage of. Advertising on the vehicle with macho, testosterone-driven bumper-stickers often puts a target square on one´s back either due to the fact it reveals money, demonstrates there are things of value in the vehicle, or that you have an elitist, entitled attitude that makes robbery a higher-alternative to frontal engagement. Do not showcase your wares or take away your advantage of concealment, learn how to play “the game”, and minimize your exposure to circumstances that will not end favorable to you.

11. Be calm. I know, easier said than done. But quick decisions, cognitive coherence, highest-percentage problem-solving, come from calm, not panic. Maintain your composure. Breathe. Nothing happens in a vacuum and there are always tells and give-aways to the perceptive mind. Being hyper-vigilant draws unnecessary attention, taxes the physiological system, and forces one to see threats everywhere – even when they´re not there. Remember, notice what´s there, don´t self-create what´s not.

12. After all this reconnaissance, plan ahead with making a solid mission-statement on what precautions you´d take and how you´d handle some of these incidents or avenues when they happen. It´s never too early to assess potential occurrences and go through fail-safes, alternate options, or pre-planning methods of management should you be faced with them.

13. Set personal biases, stereotypes, and arrogance aside, as much as is possible outside of heuristics and your own relatable and pertinent experience(s). In new environments you simply don´t know what you don´t know. Not everything is transferable, but everything is context-dependent and you will not always know the context in unfamiliar arenas. Listen, engage, learn the difference of when to do one over the other, be attentive (I did not say paranoid), learn, and leave your mind open. There´s nothing worse for taking away common sense than transferring everything you think you know to another totally different unknown. Walking in with previous established perceptions and biases. Assuming. Becoming one of the stereotypes. Misunderstanding your place in the matrix. And, as a close friend of mine always states, talking when you should´ve been listening. (take that both literally and metaphorically)

Street smarts – common sense – delve from experience, experiences, immersion, exposure, and a host of other perceptual filters that contribute to “upping survivability-quotient” and making daily seamless decisions that keep one safe. There´s not a one-stop shop for becoming proficient at being smart on the street – it´s an accumulation of the above over time, understanding, and learning intimately one´s environment, whatever that environment may be. Making smart decisions, keeping emotion as far removed as possible from those decisions, making the highest-percentage calls on problem-solving that leaves all saving face and with as much of a win-win result as possible, and knowing your limitations – an often under-valued acknowledge that keeps ego, pride, and biases at-bay, or at least minimized under some semblance of control.

*Note this is a microcosm of being “street-smart” and not at all comprehensive as one could write a book on this. It is simply one perspective to open the door of possibility from a micro-environment in which a single person lives.


So, for you violence-mongers who claim constantly on the Interweb to not be able to wait to get to Valhalla (because you’re a “warrior” of some repute), some things that you might consider:

1. You will actually have to fight…consistently, violently, and forevermore upon arrival…unlike your real perceived LARPing life.

2. You have to die violently, murdered or killed barbarically in this life to get there.

3. There will most likely be few women, pacifists, or calm rational people there so you’ll be surrounded by other Neanderthalic boneheads that will trying to bludgeon, dismember, and mutilate you for the rest of eternity.

4. You will be sent there at the whim of some all-powerful being’s whimsical gameplaying and entertainment before he gets tired and obliterates you out of boredom.

5. You have to be chosen to go there by being one of the bravest and most talented – not just anybody who considers themselves a “warrior” or alpha male is admitted.

6. Your fate was thought to have been decided long before the battle even commenced at the hands of Odin and the Valkyries. Chess pieces on a moving board.

7. Valhalla was in a constant state of war where violence, conflict, damage, and aggression were the norm. After a life filled with said traits, I think I want to rest peacefully in my afterlife.

As with real violence, I don´t think people that talk about “meeting others in Valhalla” in the afterlife really know of what they insinuate. As much as I try to avoid real-time violence in my current life, of which I have only one, so to is it prudent to avoid talking about the same in some kind of spiritual haven for

I don´t know where I´m going in any afterlife, if anywhere, but I do know that if I have to spend eternity with a demographic of people, it´ll be with loved ones in a peaceful non-glorified setting, not a battlefield where Neanderthals, violence-mongers, fetishists, keyboard-warriors, predators, and shit-talkers correlate. Had enough of that in real-life, thanks very much.

Have at ‘er, not in.


There´s always been something deeply wrong about this catchphrase in the self-defence community to me. It wreaks of a double-bind – that is, giving only 2 options when various are always present outside of the most extreme of circumstances. If death is the only option other than life, I suppose it has some validity but for the wide majority of circumstances, this concept would seem to leave a ton on the cutting-room floor.

When we look at the rather stratospheric possibility of outcomes of the bulk of situations, we find ourselves in pertaining to risk, threat, conflict, and danger, ´twould seem that viable options are greatly overlooked. Rarely, if ever for most, is the one-dimensional view of death vs. potential jail one of them outside of our own egregious momentary actions and lack of wider view of possibility.

For instance, let´s break down one singular event of a street interview when correlated with human-response. Also noting that there are greatly varied alternatives to physical engagement, we have:

1. Verbal de-escalation. Attempting to talk the opposing party down and dissuading that very physical outcome.

2. Exit. Safely leaving the scene to avoid physicality and the high-risk outcome of physical altercation.

3. By-proxy intervention. Covertly or overtly gaining support, witness, or moral high-ground from 3rd-parties in the vicinity to what´s transpiring.

4. Feigned submission. Saving face of both parties through intentional and directed submissive posturing.

5. Command presence. Corporal projection and emotional intent of all the linguistic and corporal elements toward a violence-negated potentiality through subliminal and covert means.

6. Barriers. Putting blockades and movable or immovable objects in-between the two parties to impede the possibility of physical engagement.

7. Presentation. Though intent on a called bluff is imperative should the opposition not buy into the tactic, oftentimes the presentation of greater force or a force multiplier can be a very effective tool if the situation is read right. ***

What to expect as a jury member on a high-profile case - Leicestershire Live

Even such a seemingly simplistic (it´s not) situation such as “the interview” is not nearly so cut-and-dried as a non-physical vs. physical outcome. Various ploys and strategies can be implemented given accurate assessment of the context and rarely acknowledged in-conflict changing context. Even regarding the rules-of-engagement (ROE) of a violence altercation, which there always are, contrary to industry perception, depending on escalation there are rather high-stakes decisions to be made.

1. Continuing a beating after a threat has been negated can land one in jail.

2. Laying a beatdown on your own property is not as easy as just “dragging a body inside the house.” They have cutting-edge forensics now that make these simplistic ideas entirely moot.

3. Chasing a person down the street who stole your tv is legal here – but it doesn´t make it a good idea. Most times what you receive at the other end will be a resource predator with far more violence experience than you have and the repercussions could be more than you bargained for, and certainly more than you thought you were willing to pay.

4.  Running after a suspect after the immediate threat has desisted makes you the initiator the 2nd time around.

5. Pulling a weapon in a purely innocuous conflict makes the threat you´ve now provided high stakes to the other person and allows them to up the lethality ante in their own right. You´ve now increased their capacity exponentially to utilize lethal force.

6. Utilizing knives or firearms in almost any context will at minimum cause your legal bill to rise uninhibited in even 3rd-World countries – even if entirely “in the right.”

Situations are ALWAYS far more complex than most industry rhetoric will have you believe. There are legal, fiscal, social, psychological, emotional, and moral issues that few address in the safe confines of dojo scenario-training – ones that are imperative to your freedom, moral-compass, and social-stigma. We simply do not live in a Hollywood period-piece, an underground fight club, or in the criminal underworld. There are repercussions to our actions.

Who Can Serve As Pallbearers?

Now, I am absolutely not saying that there is no place for lethal force if life is hanging in the balance. If your life is legitimately on the line and there are absolutely no alternatives present, then only you can decide what action to take to protect human life, whether yours or that of another or others. However, even that presents some rather big questions. Can you live with yourself after the action? What are the stigmas or social blowback that you´ll receive upon doing so? Can you financially support yourself in a potential legal case that follows and, if so, will it deplete your family´s savings and add to their debt in the process? Spiritually, emotionally, psychologically – can you and your loved ones accept the burden of your actions? Will your children be okay with living without one of their parents for a while and the damage that may cause them? Can your partner support the family while you´re away? How will your actions affect your employment? Some of these may be moot in a momentary event, granted. HOWEVER, they should all be thought about well before that particular action is needed as they´ll paramount to the aftermath should something so extreme ever happen.

Note as well that the odds of that happening go up with a number of intangibles that you are within your cycle-of-knowledge prior to any potential events creeping up. Environment (where you live – neighborhood, country, area, type of crime), immersion (your patterns and habits pertinent to that type of lifestyle), exposure (the odds and chances of being privy to the type of people that are violence-prone, your occupation, social circle, social habits, etc.), way of life (choices you make with regards to increasing that exposure).

And the opposite is also true on the other end of the proverbial spectrum. Can you afford a good lawyer and the retainer that goes along with it? Do you have the finances to pay for bond or bail? Will a long case siphon your savings entirely? Can you pay for damages and opposition legal expenses if you lose? With even a short jail-term what happens to your ability to make money for your family or your income-potential or employability? Even if you “win”, do you really think it´s a collateral-damage-free event?

So, in conclusion, and without running the risk of turning this into a novel, there are simply a ton of intangibles that go into every single serious decision regarding personal safety – even (and especially) at the highest of levels where it would seem that only 1 of 2 solutions present themselves. Refuse to be pigeon-holed into believing there are always one of only two options available and always assess whether the more likely reality of multiple options is.


Okay, I am not a scientist nor do I play one on tv but after a discussion with a very respected and high-caliber mental-health professional in Costa Rica that the family knows, I am going to try and decipher and transfer this knowledge to the best of my ability – because I think it´s immensely important.

Two years of hyper-vigilance and being in survival-mode during the pandemic drains serotonin levels as burnout and exhaustion hit home. (I am going through this now) We can start looking for other avenues to replace the physical interaction we had before in martial arts, combatives, or self-defence, swimming, running, tennis, whatever – most often quick-fix and negative. Cigarettes, alcohol, becoming sedentary, relying more on tech to fill the gap, etc. 

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor - Wikipedia

A study done in 2006 that has since to this day provided progressive and even more advanced studies, by the University of California with specialists from San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, have correlated a direct relation between exercise and mental-health. This pertains to what is called “brain-derived neurotrophic factor”, a gene which encodes a protein active in the pre-frontal cortex, basal forebrain, and hippocampus imperative to learning, memory, cognitive function, and higher-thinking. In a nutshell, neuroplasticity. (https://blog.mandirigmafma.com/index.php/2021/11/10/neurogenesis-neuroplasticity/ ) Some of the conclusions arrived at from that vast, intensive study and those following, in point-form:

-30 minutes of exercise every day – walking, running, swimming, wrestling, playing tennis, whatever. Any amount – 60 minutes, 90 minutes – over has no greater effect on endorphins, though can increase stamina & fitness, build muscle, strengthen the heart, etc. but zero additional effect on endorphins – fundamental. Walking is sufficient – 15 minutes one way, 15 minutes back, no special shoes…just. walking. If you want to intersperse it on other days with a different activity, fine, but get back to walking the following day

-1-3 times a week – won´t help, 4 times a week has greater value, 5-6 times a week leads to endorphin-accumulation

-preferably outdoors as there are lots of different stimuli in the environment to alleviate negativity and focus attention on that stimuli

-endorphins are the equivalent of the body´s natural morphine, they last for hours oftentimes into the night or next day to affect our behavior and positivity, and sometimes accumulate when done over a period of time

When should you exercise? Study finds effects of morning, evening workout |  Health - Hindustan Times

-most psychological, medical, psychiatric follow-ups are 6 months, a year, or 2 years before losing response to a particular medication for mental-health – with regular routine of exercise, many follow-ups stay positive up to 3 years on-average

-endorphins are the equivalent of the body´s natural morphine, they last for hours oftentimes into the night or next day to affect our behavior and positivity, and sometimes accumulate when done over a period of time

-exercise can stimulate beneficial brain-responses, which results in an increase in BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which is a protein that increases neurogenesis, cognitive function and has been linked to countering conditions like depression-schizophrenia-OCD-Alzheimer´s-dementia and others, acts as a clean-up function for your brain

-natural way to keep brain sharp and muscles relaxed

-feel more intelligent, inventive, active, creative / improve daily routine of sleep/awakening – endorphins also diminish cortisol which is an energy-drainer (cortisol is that thing whose release is triggered by sustained and ongoing stress or sudden high-adrenaline-dump)

-if our Circadian rhythm (here the sleep-wake cycle) it can have a drastic effect on mental-health with ongoing and increased cortisol levels. We can become flat or emotionally-dead upon waking with ongoing stres due to lowered serotonin levels. Exercise is also believed to aid in this process and increase serotonin levels that ongoing stress and anxiety deplete

In 2019, a study was done on 56 elite judo athletes from the Brazilian national judo team before and after a hard training session that yielded an exponentially higher BDNF-level in all participants, both male and female. ( https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30970084/ )

1,156,512 Choice Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

As BDNF also has been found to increase or decrease in accordance with daily stresses, anxiety, and state, and how the brain responds to these daily elements from an emotional perspective, if it´s high it also has the great potential to manage these elements. Greater and quicker decision-making capabilty, higher-percentage choice selection, stress-management, resilience, and the like. And I don´t think I need to explain to you how imperative those areas are to the areas of risk-, danger-, and threat-assessment, conflict management, and combat-efficiency. (They´re paramount)

What are some things we can do to improve BDNF?

  1. As mentioned, exercise. ( https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30077618/ )
  2. Get sufficient sleep. ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5725585/ )
  3. Reduce processed foods and sugar. ( https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12088740/ )
  4. Get ambient sunlight. ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3487856/ )
  5. Be socially-active, developing social-connections wisely. ( https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28593903/ )
  6. Manage your stress levels and see #2 when already consistently stressed. ( https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0076050 )
  7. Meditate or do yoga. ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5483482/ )

So, those in a nutshell, are some pretty important reasons to exercise totally apart from fitness and martial-achievement or combat-readiness – and to generally create practices that keep BDNF high. And to combat a far greater and more dire threat – one that´s not lurking around the corner when we stumble upon a bad place but a daily, innocuous, covert one that wears aware the fabric of our mental-balance. The self-defense benefits, if we truly understand that mental-health, mindset, mentality, mission-statement and the like are of utter importance and far supersede physical ability, are written in-between the lines in the above points. We have always understood that martial-efficacy and combat-efficiency are connected to physical-ability but we rarely look at exercise as a tool to enhance mental-capability, cognition, the ability to make sharp quick decisions, think critically, adapt, develop resiliency, and a host of other intangibles that far supersede physical talent.