It´ll be a relatively short one today. Criminals always seem to get a bad rap. For years I´ve continually seen martial arts instructors assuming and referring to the “dumb criminal.” Easy to take out, openly transparent on their motives, and deeply lacking in tactics in some way. Criminals evolve just as we do and most are hardly unintelligent in their “craft.” Remember that they often work daily at said craft and the reason they have such a high success-rate of victimization is due to that very fact.

“From the streets”, “street-savvy”, “street-wise”, when utlized here and in North America – likely everywhere – are terms often used to describe someone who´s slick, sly, and sharp; someone who won´t get taken to the cleaners on most days. They are complimentary terms used for regular civilians that have developed a sixth-sense for cons, scams, and schemes and know how to handle themselves in the face of street-level tactics of “doing business.” Yet when it comes to actual street-smart people that are involved in street-level crime, they tend to be neglected or trivialized as bumbling or incapable, at least in this industry. I hear it all the time and see it in demonstrations by martial arts instructors who perpetually make it look like all criminals are daft idiots – static attacks, one-dimensional attacks, unresponsive to stimuli, squaring-off on neutral ground, zero experience martially, and easily-manipulatable. Afraid that just isn´t the case.

They know how to read people, who´s bluffing or feigning confidence, who´s a legitimate threat to their goal. Here, at least, as that´s my current frame-of-reference, many criminals are quite intelligent, vastly experienced, blessed with ingenuity, and with constantly new and developing tactics and strategies, methods, and implementation. We´re not talking about standard IQ, but that very street-smart element. They´re very often extremely intelligent in their niche/environment. And, while there are always exceptions to the rule – and the “dumb criminal” does absolutely exist (the drug-addict, the neophyte, the simply unintelligent), generally the ones I´ve come across know how to read people, who´s bluffing or feigning confidence, and how to access a potential mark.

Let´s stop preparing for the dumbass. Let´s assume that they´re, at the bare minimum, our equal or even superior in terms of violence, aggression, and conflict. Remember that many have all day with which to perfect their craft and they learn “on-the-job.” Meaning? Their skills are generally pragmatic, tested, and utilized in real-time. As in real-life, there are echelons – pecking-orders – of criminal organizations and there are always those exceptions-to-the-rule that we mentioned above, but here you don´t get to the mid- of top-levels of an organization by being stupid, gullible, and ineffective at what you do. You get there by being street-savvy.

Now, to conclude, I am not putting “criminals” or street-folk on some pedestal or giving them credit for their actions, nor supporting said actions. I am, however, giving them the benefit of the doubt in terms of experience, cunning, and ruthlessness of goal. They are generally more experienced with their craft than the majority of martial artists. And, remember, they also don´t have the moral code that most of us abide by that restricts them in their actions either. Nor are they working with the legal framework or ethical/spiritual considerations. They´re mission statement is much broader and less streamlined, and no less adherent or clear. They know what they´re capable of and how far they´re willing to go to achieve it, unlike many in the industry. So, again, let´s start training with these things in-mind – it might alter your entire perception of what that training should entail.


Is it really that “easy” to utilize a fence projecting a “Look, bro, I don´t want to fight” message and simply de-escalate potential violence. I often question this – deeply. Don´t get me wrong, giving off a message of non-violence for onlookers, potential witnesses, and the 3rd-party interveners is an invaluable element that could come into play in the aftermath. AND, tactically speaking, having hands innocuously half-way to the target, creating depth-perception problems for potential attack or counterattack, and active hands where ballistic and non-telegraphed make a strike out of motion that much more difficult to defend are all golden. But that is often not what I hear the explanation presented giving off. The above in the previous sentence are the “for what” the thing is done. The aftermath elements the “why.” And is it really so easy? I mean, you´ve already been singled out by someone as an easy or desired target, is “I don´t want any trouble” messaging even a good idea all the time when inevitably if it´s gotten to the point where you´ve already found it?

In my experience here, if someone has picked you as a potential target and already approached you on it, the “I´m just minding my own business, bro…” messaging has generally already passed. You´re already “in the mix” at that point. For me – personally, me, and my experience – projecting a “I don´t want this but I AM ready for it should you choose to persist” is far more invaluable. So, what´s the difference. Well, nuance. Curved, prepared, forward-leaning torso. Staggered feet. Looking through the roots-of-the-eyes. Intensity on face. Calm, intentioned scanning of the area without turning the head. Circling or altered angles. Dictating and dominating your space and subliminally enforcing entry into that space. Shifts that make covert weapon-deployment achievable without drawing attention and escalating response. Low growling or feral vocalizations. These are all little intricacies that I rarely hear mentioned when discussing “fences” or “frames” and there´s simply a lot more to this than “just a posture.” There are psychic, subliminal, corporal micro-messages that are given off to subtly deter a potential predator into assuming you´re anything but a very hard-target and one that will “up the cost or price paid .”

I so often see videos of the fence that make it so simple as to be stupid and unbelievable. Understand the dynamics of how violence begins. If you´re projecting a passive reaction, note too that you are behind the proverbial 8-ball to sell your will to disengage. And in most videos, I see the “victim” back-peddling, with straight body, verbalizing weak or non-convincing commands, and psychically giving-off target-messaging. To sell what it is you´re claiming to peddle, you will inevitably be reacting second, the timing-ratio, space, and initiation will be in the control of your opponent, and, well, adrenaline and stress-physiology will have time to build to a crescendo in the anticipatory phase – especially if you don´t buy your own bullshit. Predators, at least here, can smell that. They know when you´re feigning submission, and when you´re projecting it non-consciously.

It so often seems we still universally believe in the “stupid criminal” (assume they´re more experienced and clear on these events than we are), one that capitulates almost instantaneously (they are most often resource predators with resource needed quite clear), and that they´re inferior with violence (they´re out there daily doing just what we only train for). Something to think on long and hard.