System-subversive, hoplologist, and sport-duelist, I've been focusing on the weapons-arts and human behavior for over 25 years. Let's call what I teach a bastard mix of backyard, low-tech, 3rd-World, shoestring budget methods on a number of different thoroughly-studied arms added to from nature, experience, nurture, influence, environment, and training. Some of the programs will be fight-fundamental-based FMA/Filipino Martial Arts (both my own blend, Terra Firma FMA Adaptations, and my base, Burokil Alambra Arnis de Mano and their various subsystems), Argentinean Esgrima Criolla (both modern and classical), La Canne Vigny, and Chi Kung/breathing/meditation. ALL of these will be directly-applicable to the current time we live in regarding the current global crisis. The world is changing - and I'm changing with it, bringing you programs for new situations, with new training methodologies, and for changing dynamics. Come try! The investment is minimal, the knowledge extensive, the effort intangible.
I had originally told a friend that I likely wouldn’t even be writing about this as these events are omnipresent here and are hardly abnormal. As for many in other places these are not quite so common and can be a rather traumatic event, I decided to document it if nothing else for posterity-sake.
A little background on what transpired and is transpiring. I am a target here. No ifs, ands, or buts. I have blue eyes, light-brown hair, a different complexion, and sometimes wear clothing that, although intentionally tattered or ripped or dirty, still gives me away as a foreigner. There is literally minimal I can do to “go grey” at certain times during the day, in certain places, and with certain people that will not reveal me as foreigner. Not speaking Spanish, not blending, not a clothing change, because some things I possess are clear indicators. During the day, shades, hat, and certain clothing may aid but it’s not a guarantee.
That day, 2 days ago, I was also in a very bad mood. Tension at home, son was disrespectful, bad day at work and I was going to the store to pick-up a couple of beers and snacks to chill-out after a long week of work. I was snarly, admittedly.
The minute I pulled-up there was a guy standing in the parallel-parking area in front of the store. Now, this alone doesn’t stand-out because we have here what are slangly-termed “watchimen”, those guys who stand around claiming to watch your car for you while you are inside shopping (they don’t), in case anything happens to your car they’ll take care of it (they won’t), and in exchange you give them some change after your shopping experience for doing so. There are regulars that run areas/radii and sharing/taking that area is frowned-upon and will cause sometimes violent altercations when livelihood is threatened. I’ve seen this happen first-hand.
As we use this store for small-stuff or stuff in a pinch in the evening on occasion, it’s not at all unfamiliar and the regular watchimen were accounted and present but keeping distance from this guy, an early point-of-note. I got out of my car and immediately the guy approached me – hardly surprising. In Spanish, he started aggressively asking for money, calling me a gringo (it’s assumed I have millions), and telling me what he was going to do to me if I didn’t comply. I had my mask on and he didn’t advance physically in any way so I ignored him completely without giving away any signs of annoyance, bother, or intimidation whatsoever.
Inside, I knew this would escalate as I left so I found an aperture I could look out of to see if he had any apparent accomplices with him. No signals, no interaction, no focused looks. Seemed to be working alone. Went about my business. To get an idea of how my mind works in these circumstances, the thoughts that crossed were – there will likely be no intervention on my behalf (and, therefore, on his either) due to social-distancing and fear of the virus so I will be given the time and space to handle things how I see fit. Any potential legal-case will be backlogged until way into 2021 at minimum due to the pandemic and logjam of the national court-system so there will be no fear of legal repercussions should this escalate, from him and, therefore, for me as well. I was wearing a mask and face-shield, and it was night, so my identity was somewhat questionable, or potentially claimed as such.
Upon leaving, he approached again as he was waiting by my car for me. I remember being intense, focused-anger, very irritable – but attentive. He stepped in front of me and I made one command – “distancia” – distance. He backed-up but told me he was going to take my money and assault me. I ignored completely with zero care, attention, or change. As I opened my car-door, he started reaching inside his pocket. I shut the car-door and just stared intently at his hands, focusing on nothing but. Not his words, his face, his “body language”, just his hands and my body was square, coiled, and ready to move suddenly – in his direction, not away.
He seemed to notice and quickly pulled his hands out, going “tranquilo, tranquilo, todo bien, mae!” (Calm down, calm down, everything’s good, dude!”) I turned my focus to his eyes and I remember my gaze being super-intense and blank. As he kept backing-up, I quickly opened my car-door and jumped-in, locking the doors behind me. He kept his distance and starting berating me, threatening what he was going to do to me had I not gotten in my car. (the universal male sign for trying to regain pride after target-picking incorrectly) The worry at this point is having your car keyed or knifed as you drive-off, so as I was leaving, I slowed down and started at him in parting. He put his hands up palms-out and I drove home, really thinking nothing of it.
These events here are pretty common-place (and will increase as time goes on with the current crisis) so I didn’t really think anything of it. Forgot about it after I got home, probably after driving away. Didn’t even mention it to my wife until this morning after something reminded of it. After talking to a couple of people about it, I guess it was actually an attempted-mugging gone wrong. I didn’t have the time, the care, or concern to over-think or post-event assess. We often take these events here for granted, whereas in Canada it would be a rather big deal.
I have had a lot of these instances happen over my 10 years here – attempted property-entry, target-profiling, attempted-muggings, posturing from distance, hands going into pockets, aggressive panhandling. They have really become commonplace, especially for a foreigner. Often, foreigners become victims. I hear it regularly on social-media: expats that have mugged, robbed at gunpoint, targeted, home-invaded, pick-pocketed, etc. It is a different playing-field from down-home so events that often happen here and are treated nonchalantly, are not so much down home. I tend to gloss-over that fact rather regularly.
Now, I have no doubt buddy-boy got lucky as the night progressed and was successful as time went on. He does this for a living, especially now. This is his profession and he knows it well. A lot of people that enter his territory are fearful of distance, uber-focused on item-retrieval, probably tired after a long-day at work, making just a quick-stop (so what could happen), and in familiar area close to home. Perfect for a victim-in-waiting.
Again, I am documenting this solely for learning, understanding, informative purposes or I likely wouldn’t have bothered but I realize people can glean info from these anecdotes. If you’re one, it was worth putting pen-to-paper.
To be clear, I don’t mean “poor” or “bad” training in the above. I mean flawed. Imperfect. Error-filled. Challenges presented. Aesthetically-displeasing. Regardless of what you call whatever it is you do – fighting, sparring, resistance-training, play, whatever – if there’s not an element of imperfection and struggle, of weak-linking an opponent, pattern-breaking, overcoming – however can we find more out about our own mettle? Without these elements, how would you ever find out that:
There is ALWAYS more than one way to do a thing, do it well, and get a successful result from it. (Sometimes the scale of effectiveness, time, or efficiency is sliding but results are results at the end of the day)
Learning through struggle is healthy and through it comes decisiveness, adaptability, problem-solving, inventiveness, and three-dimensional thinking.
Resilience and robustness are 2 elements that are only gleaned during trial-and-error. You do a thing differently than I do – but we may acquire the same desired result.
Let’s do a quick definition of what I mean by “robustness” (thank, Erik) and “resilience”. Robustness, we’d define as the preparation leading up to the event. What you do to prepare yourself for a sparring/fighting/play session. How do you build-up your body for punishment, for moving explosively, breathing while under duress, develop the tools that go into being efficient within your particular body & mind. Whether they were the correct avenues depends on the result or performance under the dynamics of the activity prepared for. Resilience is that ability to adapt, solve, counter, create, change course, read pattern, and alter plan in the midst of that particular activity. They are inevitably 2 sides of the same coin. Without one, the other generally fails.
I don’t have a particularly aesthetically-pleasing body, and it’s not something that’s been particularly high on my to-do list. Certainly not a beach body that will make the lasses swoon and the lads admire – but that’s not been my motive. What I do have is a body that I’ve built for 25 years for the punishment of play against another human, sometimes giving away almost double my weight. It at times (pandemic, for instance) can get flabby or with a few extra pounds – but the explosivity, on-demand movement, connectedness, and connection from mind-body-and-back is always present, at least thus far, knock-on-wood.
I’ve trained and trained with a number of pure bodybuilders, the kind whose aim is to look good on the beach for the ladies and feel that having a little fight-capability adds to the package-view. Generally, though admittedly not universal, those muscles are often not “functional” muscles, not the kind made for that resilience and robustness. Sudden movement. Aerobic and anerobic shifts. O2 capacity. Long-term stamina. The understanding of lactic-acid build-up. I’ve also played with a number of trained-folk over 300 pounds of farm-boy muscle and natural-strength who were ominous, the exact opposite of the previous. Gradual exertion, utilization of power and bulk, and very coordinated.
Micro-movements, those unique things that we do individually that make a thing go and make us successful under repeated duress over the time of experience, exposure, diverse context, and consistency. Micro-movements are those things cultivated under stress when robustness and resilience come together and confidence and calmness are built. The things hard to teach because everyone has a way to make their nucleus of go-to concepts, methods, baits, feints, counters, fail-safes, secondary-options, and applications go, unique unto them through means of trial-and-error, by actually fighting, sparring, playing, resisting…struggling.
And, NONE of these things above are achieved through one-dimensional, static, compliant, patterned training, complex with foregone outcomes. The kind that much traditional martial arts uber-focused on hierarchy, idolism, rank, belt, and title simply rarely provide. The reward should be in the independence and self-sufficiency of the student, not the carbon-copy efficiency of cloning generations of mechanical-repeaters.
I have never understood why sparring, testing, play, broken-rhythm, unknown-conclusion drills, and the like can’t be utilized every. Single. Class. Instead of as some kind of finished end-product that a curriculum seemingly culminates in. Ass. Backwards.
Go out and make errors. Learn. Fail. Understand that one can make mistakes, errors, take punishment, absorb shots, get hit, miss a block or hit, be in trouble, be over-classed, have a technique fail – and STILL be in the battle and even win. That alone is an absolutely invaluable skill.
Now with some foresight and understanding, some of the abilities that have turned-out to be most valuable to this point
First of all, I’m a neophyte when it comes to “prepping” or the traditional definition of survivalism as they pertain to wilderness or harsh climate or off-grid living, admittedly and openly. I don’t at all claim to be an expert or an industry-leader. However, I do know a thing or two about surviving. Harsh climates, both physical and mental – most of it wasn’t planned or orchestrated by formal-skill, but I’m here nonetheless.
So, that being said, that “when-shit-hits-the-fan” moment that everybody claimed to have been training for, finally arrived and the off-grid views of what was needed to survive a global-crisis have generally yet to come to pass, which is not to say they won’t at some point – on a long-enough timeline – but they haven’t at the moment. On that note, what are some necessities, both tangible and intangible, that have become imperative after 6 months of duration? Toilet-paper was overrated. Bulk chlorine build-up as well. Monstrous supplies of your favorite name-brand foods that’ll run-out have been moot too, even here. Loading-up on product and trying to re-sell them at higher-price on E-Bay apparently didn’t work either. So, what is there that was probably underestimated by most at the outset of this pandemic? What are some skillsets that have shown to legitimately and authentically be imperative to the day-to-day survival of the numerous threats and risks posed by this crisis? Some may surprise even the pros to this point…
Information & data-assessment. The ability to decipher numbers, details, and information. Which is valid, which is not. What does it all mean? Where does it imply this is headed? What do those numbers signify for upcoming trends and leanings? Have or will “the essentials” shift as time passes? Which parts are important, which less so? Can you tell which is which? The ability to sift through misinformation, partial truth, false flags, conspiracy theoreticism, media-manipulation, semantics, statistics, and cherry-picking can be the difference in seeing upcoming patterns (consumer, risk, asset/resource, governmental, viral) that alter whatever the current existence is build on.
Diversifying incomes. In a world where businesses are closing at a more rapid rate than any other in our lifetime and business-models adapt drastically to fit a dynamically-altered global-economy, it pays to have multiple sources of income streams coming from a number of different sources. The “all-of-your-eggs-in-one-basket” play was always risky – far more so now.
Food management. For example, what will be your base foods and can you stick to a fundamental diet that both keeps you healthy, gives you what’s needed, and keeps spending at a minimum. Routine is a key to getting out of all this not just in one piece but in at least a pseudo-solid standing that allows you to hit the ground running whenever things get back to some semblance of normalcy. Routine and continuity are fundamental and skill-perfection.
Skill-pliability. How far can the skillsets you currently have take you? Can they go into diverse arenas and be stretched exponentially? Now is the time to test your skill limits and see how far they can truly take you. How transferable are they really…what aspects of them had you never previously explored…what juice can be claimed out of them after squeezed.
Comfortable discomfort. Learn to be comfortable with those things and situations that are uncomfortable. That’s a pillar of success. Be able to change seamlessly with the changing dynamics and become smooth with rough.
Loan/Debt consolidation. Where can secondary sources of money be found. Retirement funds, RRSPs, savings. How will they play-in, will you need them, are they accessible, are they even available. Will using them, or a portion of them, still give you opportunity to take care of yourself as you age or retire. Will it matter if you can’t make it out of this. Can you combine or lower or alter payment and amount strategies with car loans, mortgages, assets. How will you go about doing it and what leverage can you utilize to achieve such?
Trigger-restraint. We’re going to be in confined spaces (restrictions/quarantines/lock-downs/working-from-home/unemployment/children not in school) with the same people for extended periods of time – people who’s triggers and set-off points we’re intimately familiar with and can exacerbate on a dime. Can we utilize self-control and greater patience to maintain and protect those relationships that are most valuable to us? It might be the most imperative skillset of all.
Pattern-recognition. The planning and foresight to foresee different forks in the road before they make themselves known. What assets, resources, skills, and mindsets will those require that aren’t being utilized now and how might you obtain those on short-notice. Seeing it before others becomes a crucial advantage as the stages evolve from one period to the next. If you have an equal-partner who’s on the same page as you, what a huge benefit to the overall schematic.
Satellite-reading – neighbors, family, peers, acquaintances, friends. How has their planning, assessment, risk-management, and trouble-shooting been. Do they pose a risk to you and yours in some way due to that, should they assume that things are or will be “as normal” briefly. Could they be a burden. Are they as self-sufficient. Are they generally others you may have to help take care of or aid in supporting. Aging parents, children, suffering friends. Can you do so and still stay afloat.
Emotional detachment. Other people’s actions, extreme tribalism that’s in some places seemingly replaced virus/pandemic-prep, low tolerance points, anger, frustration, desperation, even violence are by-products of what’s happening the world-over at this point, to varying degrees. It’s not personal. Any of it. It’s par-for-the-course and you may find yourself on the train-tracks. Staying calm and being able to separate these elements from your own existence may save a ton of grief later-on. People struggle differently, suffer diversely, and vent uniquely. Acknowledging that goes a long way to understanding human duress-behavior and your ability to manage it like the mine-field that it is.
Internet viability. That’s right. The grid hasn’t gone down – it’s become imperative. More so than before. Business is moving online at an astounding pace. Those who had Internet-based business prior, have thrived and become necessary. With less public- and social-interaction, less facetime, less product/service-to-client exchange, mass working-from-home, desperation start-up business – it’s become a matter of surviving on-grid, not off. Online business, work-from-home, social-media marketing, global-potential. Learning to make money on the Internet is no longer just a luxury, it’s a necessity for many.
Self-sufficiency. Should shit-hit-the-fan to an even greater extent, are we capable of being self-sufficient. In income. In resource-creation/extension/manufacture. In mobility. In personal-preservation. In communication. In counter-violence. We all need to rely on others, even if “self-sufficient”, with black-markets, micro-economies, under-the-table endeavors with community apart from organized entities. This should be a main element to your long-term planning and current mindset. There should be a future-aim that drives the bus. Minimal reliance on the powers-that-be is a major element to strive-for the longer this drags. Be open to whatever potential income-projects that cross your way – be diligent as per usual, but you’d be surprised the different avenues that open themselves up by like creative, self-reliant, ingenious people.
First-hand account of some anomalies to widely-accepted industry myths
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
I have had a rather large number of injuries – and inflicted some, both in training and in daily-life – over the years. As there are a rather monstrously-large body of misnomers out there regarding how much – or how little, as it were – bodily-punishment the human-body and spirit can handle, I thought I would at least open the discussion with my own personal experienceand the aftermath.
1. “A poke to the eyes will render him blind and unable to defend himself.” Well, I have had varying levels of things in my eyes over the years with varying results. A thrust with a plastic-knife deep into my left-eye rendered me on the ground covering with both hands. A tip-hit with a bokken left me almost unconscious upon impact from shock and cerebral shut-down, then sent me to the hospital with first zero vision in my left-eye, gradually blurred with eye-patch, and then “tracers” – a cognitive lagging to focus on moving objects for weeks, if not months. I still get it randomly to this day. So “impact” on the eye, yes, I can concede that fully. Gouges, rakes, close-range pokes from thumbs and fingers, less so. Digits can penetrate pretty deep into the eye-socket before there´s shut-down, will to fight subsides, and a counter-prevention (whether instinctive/evolutionary or intentional away) is applied with no immediate or sudden pain or damage.
2. “A broken nose will leave him with blindingly-watering eyes and the rather vast blood-flow that follows causes shock, ending the fight.” Nope. Had my nose broken on 3 separate occasions in training and, while the watering-eyes are true, they are hardly preventive-enough to completely take away vision, prevent counter-measures, or stop fighting-spirit. The blood, remember, can have varying effects on varying people. Blood can be a horror or a driving-motivator that sets of greater-intensity and will to punish. As these were training-partners, that fortunately didn´t happen but in one instance of sparring with a competitive kickboxer and RCMP-member, we continued for another 15 minutes of boxing prior to the blood becoming a safety, footing, and mess issue. Never in the 3 did I stop fighting, was hugely-impaired with any senses, or think it was a fight-stopper.
3. “Deep gashes and to-the-bone cuts are immediate fight-enders.” In my (more) stupid days, we used to put on old hockey-helmets, hockey-gloves and nothing else and do full-contact boxing. I was punched by a 230-pound judo-player so hard the cage on my helmet pinched (I think viced might be a better word) the skin on my jaw so deep that it went to the bone. I could see my own jaw-bone in the mirror and there was a flap of skin hanging loose. I didn´t at all notice at first and continued engagement. It was only after another 30-60 seconds or so that a third-party noticed and called for a halt to the action. There was zero pain. Zero. No acknowledgement of disfigurement. No huge volume of blood that seeped out, likely due to the momentary adrenaline. I went willingly to the hospital to get stitches, not because of awe and horror, but because I knew after it healed, if I didn´t have stitches it would likely be a very noticeable, pronounced, and ugly scar.
4. “Heavy ankle shots can discontinue fight-ability.” Yeah, I can vouch for this one. I blew out my ankle once during a knife-sparring session. It popped. And I writhed. Prone and vulnerable. Again went to the hospital and limped-along for a week before I was hobbling, but back training and teaching the following weekend. So, recovery was much quicker than anticipated but zero question that had that been a real-scenario, my survivability-quotient would´ve gone down to nil were there an intent-filled opponent. I also left an achilles-lock on too long on a tough security-guard here that was hellbent on fighting out of it and it ripped a number of tendons in and around the ankle. He was off for days and limited in capacity for weeks, he admitted fault but it shouldn´t have happened and I was the more experienced, but as I´ve discussed in previous blogs, the landscape for testing and ground-proving is different here. He did nothing but grip the ankle for 10 minutes on the floor and this was a gent with a history of violence back home.
5. “Broken bones are fight-enders.” Well, this is one is a little more complicated. Which bones? What kind of break? Clean? Large or small? To me, this is the “real” meaning of a bio-mechanical stoppage, not muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other surgical targeting. Impact-breaks. Fingers I have fought through, though gripping, maneuverability, and transitions becomes exorbitantly more difficult. I have also broken some fingers and a thumb. I have watched them be momentarily popped back into place and training continued. I have seen one where system-shock hit and the fighter was down for a few moments until he re-gathered himself, popped his own digit back in-place, and finished the day of training. I have seen wrists popped and sprained and, while movement was limited, training continued. I have also blown-out the knees/legs of 2 others´ years ago and it was a horrific pop, to be clear. Not a sound one likes to hear too often in life and they were done “for the day.” No movement, no footwork, no agility, no base – no fight.
One was from a hip-throw where the knee stayed where it was, planted. One was from a knee-lock where the lad refused to tap and thought he could tolerate it and knew the limits of functional-pliability. He was wrong and I should´ve known better but here we are. Broken leg, blown-out knee – done, has been my experience. You´re out. I also had to re-set a security guard´s separated-shoulder that came-undone during a sparring session mid-workshop. While he screamed in pain and winced for minutes, after re-setting he was good-to-go and admitted he had a chronic problem. But painful? You bet. A fight-ender? Maybe, maybe.
6. “The face and top-of-the-head are very vascular – attack those.” Yeah and no. See above. Some people see their own blood and snap, pushing the aggression-envelope way the hell up from previous. Some fold and go into shock. Some gradually build panic as the blood flows and they get concerned about accumulated blood-loss and onsetting weakness. I have had a bad cut from a jacket on the top of my head. I bled like a stuffed-pig, had it flow into my eyes, but had every intention of continuing until my surgeon-student told me we needed to patch it up and get stitches or scarring, again, would be rather unsightly. I was joking and chatting while the stitches were being put-in, however. No harm, no foul. I´ve also received a deep facial-gash from a hockey-stick spear that caused momentary pause and pain-acceptance before continuing. One also gets accustomed to the smell of blood, which can be very powerful for the uninitiated, an element often neglected to be mentioned. Coupled with the sight of blood-flow, the smell can make one nauseous, dizzy, or faint.
7. “Stomping on the toes can shut-down folk.” They hurt awfully, make no mistake. Getting your toes stomped hard is more than just “a little pain to work through”, it is brutally and instantaneously painful. Is it fight-stopping? Circumstantial. If a momentary advantage is on the docket, it may just give you enough to add levels of pain and created more immediate damage. If it´s your go-to, remember that there are some who, the second their system acclimatizes to the pain, they adapt and move-on. If you´re pausing and hoping that´s the be-all-end-all of the thing, you might be in for a rude-awakening. Remember too how close you have to be to another determined, intentioned human-being to pull this off…
8. “Hit him with a stick, he´ll wilt.” Again, circumstantial with intangibles but, doing full-contact stick-fighting, we have noticed again and again that it´s amazing how much impact-trauma one can endure in the moment. Later on that evening you may have some pretty awful hematomas/bruising, welts, and some ugly skin-patches but I have both myself and seen others take full rattan shots to the arm, side-of-the-leg, top-of-the-hand, even collarbone and continue fighting until battle-day was through. I have, on the contrary, hit a 300-pounder so hard that it cracked and broke the hockey-helmet and left an indent on the side of his cheekbone, admitting it likely would have killed him if not for that shattered-helmet.
But adrenaline is a funny thing and, remember, the adrenaline you feel in regular class-time is NOT the same as it is when fighting, playing, sparring, dueling, etc. Heightened circumstances? Heightened pain-tolerance and pain-threshold. Some people just feel “pain” on another level. I have always been fortunate to be one of those, it is mental and all in your head. You can choose to feel the full-brunt of what medical-books tell you to feel – or you can act of your own volition and dictate yourself what level you´ll decide to feel. At the end, what is the stick made of, how big and heavy, who´s wielding it, is he or she prepped for impact? If heavy-enough to “defang the snake” by breaking an arm entirely – digressing.
9. “Pop his ears, you´ll blow his eardrums and the excruciating pain that will immediately follow will be a fight-ender.” Not in my experience. I have had my eardrums popped. They have bothered me for days, likely rupturing my eardrum, causing sleepless nights, sharp and random pain on a moment´s notice for days – but did NOT do much in the moment. Certainly not stop me. Now, note that that was my experience, a full-blow with cupped-hands from a very powerful man may have different results and I am open to standing corrected, as I am on any of these (note again these are my experiences only and results may vary) but I wasn´t deterred from the task at-hand.
I have had a former training-partner tell me he was at a bar and confronted by a drunk patron when he just wanted a beer and didn´t want to fight. He told me he “double-tapped” both ears, blowing-out both of his eardrums and dropping him to the floor while he made his way out of the bar. Anecdotal as well, but another side to ponder if true.
10. Concussions. I´ve had two and I suffered for days from “brain-fog”, slow-comprehension issues, dizziness, and balance issues. However, in the moment, it didn´t stop me from either motion or from continuing fighting as they were 2 different circumstances, one in daily-life, one in sparring. As people with resilience continue to fight through heavy shots to the head, fluctuating coherence from impact, and revert to “auto-pilot” for survival (covering, clinching, arm-wraps/traps/hooks) before (at least) temporary “recovery”, it´s possible to continue on taking note results may vary from the grade of concussion. Mine were generally considered on the lighter side.
11. You want to know one injury that is simply not “workable?” A serious back injury. I had a bad car-accident years and years ago where I was rear-ended. No immediate repercussions due to the shock and adrenaline BUT as the days went on, I could barely walk. It was utterly-incapacitating. No movement, no footwork, no power-generation, no body-control. So, while it was not training-related, it affected 100% my training for months. 3-4, to be exact. So, if in the midst of a violent-confrontation where things can and do happen in the midst, a back-injury mid-chaos can absolutely render you immediately disadvantaged in a big, big way. As we age, these types of injuries become more-and-more a possibility and violent confrontations exponentially increase the very real issue of these occurring, thus the “avoiding violence at all costs” maxim.
*Learning to “up” your pain-tolerance and pain-threshold, learning to function with bio-mechanical damage, overcoming strong sights and smells, dealing with adversity, learning how to circumvent-avoid-mitigate-evade these above elements through movement, footwork, body-contortion, covers, counter-intuitive body-jerks, and the like becomes an imperative skill, yet another often neglected by artists and stylists. If you “play” you start to learn that this aspect of in-fight micro-movements is a fantastic learning-tool to replicate real-response based on natural body-movement.
Some others, of note:
a. Appendage-tearing. Could be bad but people generally respond fast-enough and non-consciously enough that the time needed is rendered moot. I would say “no” on the fight-ending aspect.
b. Biting. Can be very uncomfortable, hurt immensely, but it´s temporary, the gore and shock are worse than the thing itself, and you can´t bite forever. I´ve seen people fight through it time and again. If anything, it can send a message of ferality for the feint-hearted that aren´t committed to seeing the whole thing through. Some it can make more mad.
c. Pressure-points. To hit? Sure. To press? Transitionary if temporary to move a body to a better position or to something more damaging, useless if it´s your big-finisher. I don´t even think Dillman is real, let alone his pressure-point theories. If you consider liver, mid-to-back part of jaw, temple, side-of-knee, chin/button, occipital lobe (where the brain-stem/spine meet at the back-of-the-head) as impact pressure-points, I digress. I´m with you.
d. Skin-grapples/pinching/skin-twisting. Annoyingly-discomforting but nothing anyone worth his/her salt can´t handle. Nope.
e. Finger-breaks. See above under bone-breaks. As a fight-ender alone on 100% reliance, I tend to disagree – quite profusely.
Remember that will, intensity, dedication, mission-statement, intent, mindset, nature, internal-rage, positive-adrenaline, are amazing motivators and they very (very) often tend to supersede what a medical-anatomy book will tell you. And people can move “away from pain and suffering” or “towards doing damage” but both are drivers of immense belief behind them. So all this “bleed-out times”, “pounds-of-pressure-per-square-inch”, “vital-point targeting”, “surgical-cutting”, “bio-mechanical attacking” talk can all be potentially lumped in the “theory” pile on a bad day (yours). Remember that.
Regarding knife-attacks, I´m attaching this invaluable, researched, and medically-viable article from 2002 by Darren Laur, as I find it as equally-invaluable in the modern-day as it was 20 years ago when put out for accurate and legit information, noting the above paragraph. I have also sent this article to nurses, doctors, and other top medical professionals I know personally and have and do engage with for verification, and they have universally concurred with the base-idea and backing-knowledge.
The ability to establish and re-establish proper everyday limits on others
Boundaries. Boundary-setting. An oft-overused term and one I find is associated with a ton of misunderstanding. Unlike self-defense, personal-preservation, and martial skills, boundary-setting is an everyday life occurrence. Every day we set boundaries…or let them pass. Address them, or ignore them. They can be invasive, angering, subtle and time-built, or innocuous. NOT boundary-setting can be strategic as well, whether to learn patterning and whether the boundary is going to be ongoing or not. To see what a person´s underlying motive is over time for the boundary-infraction by feigning obliviousness or brushing it off as unimportant or non-invasive. To create a more impactful strategy to defuse it after a time has passed. Or acknowledging that it´s a one-time or singularly-focused boundary-cross from a strategic ally that alliance is better-served. Far too often, though, they are ignored because we are soft-wired to accept them, tolerate them, ignore them, or be fearful or hesitant at siphoning them off. Fear. Conflict. Repercussions. Aftermath. They can gnaw-away at one´s self-confidence and resolution. Add another unwanted stress to our already-stressed lives.
I guess at this point a good idea would be to define specifically what type of boundaries can be crossed and following by certain general strategies can circumvent them noting that, as always, context is king and strategy and tactics are created by the dynamic of the situation. That being said:
Categories of Violations
Spatial. People that position themselves too close for comfort, invade space, or are constantly within the confines of our designated ring-of-personal-security. Criminals do this ad-infinitum in the interview phase of pre-targeting to gauge your capability to reinforce boundaries, re-establish space, or impart strong subliminal-messaging. It´s a far more imperative boundary-invasion than we often acknowledge because if we let this slip, generally the perception is that we´ll let a lot greater infraction occur with minimal resistance. Reinforcing spatial-infractions is a great place to start to maximize your capability in other areas.
Physical. Inevitably an off-shoot of #1 because if they´re already to close, unwanted or uncared-for physical-contact can easily follow. Touching, perceived signs of affection, intentional or unintentional bodily-fluid transference, casual light-hearted pushes or grabs or hugs, fingers in face or chest, overzealous handshakes, etc. As they can often be innocuous, they´re rarely taken as a potential assault or act of violence or aggression, but inevitably they are if they are unwanted. Often they are a sign of attempted dominance-imposition.
Verbal. Continued beratement, subtle derogatory comments, erosion of self-esteem and self-confidence. They can be momentary or time-built, subtle or transparent. Insults, jabs, unwanted nicknames, terroristic or implied threats, semantics,
Psychological or emotional. The continued presence of something anxiety-creating, stress-building, or tension-inoculating. Diminishment through intentional ignoring or over-looking. Implication gestures. Gas-lighting. Symbolism. Using professed vulnerabilities and emotional traumas against you.
Material or resource. The continued non-authorized borrowing of personal-property, extended-time possession of authorized borrowing of personal-property, misuse of personal-property, damaging of personal-property, all the way up to non-payment of debt-owed, will-manipulation & pressure, and theft.
Privacy. Constant attempts to glean personal-information off-bounds, ask inappropriate questions of private topics, spy, trespass, access online social-media accounts, hack into e-mail account, eavesdrop into personal conversations.
Time. Here when people say they´ll be over for a dinner-engagement at 5, expect them between 5:30 and 6, generally. Time is perceived differently in different parts of the world and even in our own backyard, people manage time differently. Time can be manipulated for impact and information-gleaning as well. But many continually waste, command, or monopolize your time simply because it´s not respected and/or theirs is mismanaged.
Sexual. Since we´re talking more low-order, daily, often-occurring boundaries, let´s acknowledge that rape, sexual-assault, and sexual-predation are different animals. However, even during consensual sex with partners or trusted people can have elements that one feel uncomfortable or unnecessarily vulnerable. Unwanted touching in certain areas, uncomfortable acts, level of aggression being too overwhelming or over-stimulating, and even mid-event will to end the engagement with second-guessing and doubt.
Note that some or all of these can cross-over into others on the list and may contain a progression of escalation or inter-connection between one or more of the above in the same scenario. Certainly not out of the realm of possibility.And, getting back to the opening statement, what good is being a fighting-machine if violent conflict possibilities occur in a fraction of a portion of a percentage in your life and boundaries are broken with you daily? How valuable is #1 without #2? If you have no or minimal boundary-setting capability, who´s to say you won´t or wouldn´t hesitate, freeze, submit, or go on auto-pilot in the midst of a potentially-violent altercation, even with all that fight-ability? I have often found that the two have at least some correlating overlap. Strong boundary-setters are pretty good at knowing exactly what, why, and when they´re willing to utilize physical violence as well. While not at all always the rule, I have noticed that if decisive and efficient at one, generally the opposite is true as well. Which leads into the level of boundary-setting. We can:
Categories of Enforcement
Over-enforce. Where an egregious amount of strength, aggression, or other means to set or re-set a boundary can cause backlash, resentment, revenge, and future hostility.
Under-enforce. Where the method utilized clearly did not have the desired effect or was not acknowledged in any way by the offending party.
Effectively-enforce. Efficient effective boundary-setting. (just the right amount) Generally, that ideal amount where the planned result of the boundary-invading stops, an enemy wasn´t made…or elevated, the person is cut-out of our lives, the alliance continues yet the infractions stop…whatever the best-case scenario would be in a particular context, including multiple outcomes. A “win-win”, both sides at some level of co-existence, offending action ceases, some semblance of normalcy restored and boundary re-established. I think it is also important to note that for some boundary-invasions, over-enforcement, under-enforcement, or no-enforcement CAN BE the desired or “just-right” outcome. Sometimes “just-right” or win-win just isn´t achievable. Sometimes either a hammer, or a feather – or a nothing – can have just the required impact of need. Sometimes we have to cut ties entirely, kneejerk react to stop a serious infraction, be rude, put a hard foot down, or offend/shock someone to stop higher-stakes invasions. Sometimes we want to keep a valuable relationship or alliance, have a strategic plan or long-term goal in place down the road for greater-anticipated offenses or big-picture motives. Sometimes we are in delicate situations, bilateral or satellite impacts from the main situation, or where tolerance will save something far more important – a marriage, a child, an income, a house, a resource, etc. Everything is contextual and there are varying strategies involved for over-, under-, or non-enforcement that maybe aren´t the best solution for the immediate issue at-hand.
As we´ve stated, these being staunchly-contextual, and every scenario being uniquely-different, there are an infinite number of ways to manage boundary-offences – including compound-uses of multiple methods on a long-enough timeline or if an ongoing singular-issue won´t be averted, mitigated, prevented, or stopped requires more than one. So, in a general sense, what are some of those methods of boundary-setting, noting that these are far more appropriate for some of the variations above, not as much for others…
Methods/Protocols of Enforcement
Articulating – properly your state-of-being and emotional-reaction to said boundary-setting. Clearly enunciating what your end-goal is and an imperative in not having any misunderstood aspects of the boundary-setting, so that´s laid-out in 100% clear terms.
Subliminal-messaging – looks, gestures, body-language, flat unemotive non-reactions, ignoring, facial-changes…all have their place in transmitting inner-thoughts and formations in the thoughts of others.
Metaphors and anecdotes – here in Central America there´s a saying “speaking to Peter so that Paul can hear.” Subtle-messaging stated to a 3rd-party that has secondary- or tertiary-impact on the people guilty of the infractions while in their presence or knowing it will get back to them. Telling other shared friends, acquaintances, peers, satellites knowing it will be sent to the person in-question or knowing they are within earshot. Or telling a story where the end-result is your firm stance on a similar circumstance and how it affects future interaction.
Mirroring – sometimes I´ve found that in specific circumstances read well, doing the same back to the other person has worked immediately and long-term in shutting that person up. It should be noted that this does not work on others and can escalate a situation exponentially so is very scenario-specific.
By-proxy – similar to metaphors and anecdotes but actually having someone else – co-worker, family member, peer, superior, shared-friend – explain things to that person if you´re not able to keep a cool head or engage with a sense of calm, self-control, and discipline. Others also may be more apt to connect or communicate the person in-question.
Subtle-threat or intimated-consequences – without crossing the line into illegal verbal-threat, subtle messages have oftentimes sent clear messages across to more dangerous or volatile boundary-crossers. The key, as we´ve stated before, is being willing to committedly follow-through on said threat if necessary and bluff-called. Bluff-called and response negated or halted sets the tone for being seen to cry-wolf every further attempt at the same.
Simple commands or interjections can work well on the meeker, milder, non-conflictive, or potentially-submissive interloper. Or on the one with repeated offences and previous boundary-setting. “Stop.”, “Cut it out.”, “Enough.”, “Second/third warning.”, “No more.”, or “No.” can work quite suddenly with the right people. Note also that these are complete sentences and really need nothing to follow even if the offender isn´t playing dumb, feigning innocence for the benefit of onlookers, or building a support-base from pandering. That just adds to the impact of the interjection.
Legal-action – sometimes the threat of legal-action or authority-intervention is sufficient to back someone up from line-crossing, knowing that it could have repercussions and collateral-damage potential.
Fences – either physical or psychological. Denying information, going cold, silence, drawing-inward, denying apertures/vision.
Physical separation or spatial-distancing. Angling, circling, subtle steps backward or offline, recoiling, detaching of body-parts being touched, hard pushes of limbs, “feeler-hand” to gauge subtle distance and keep people at-bay (touching back in ways that create-space, give breathing-room, and maintain distance). Or cutting-out the person entirely from your life might be a better option if the infractions continue.
Again, these are but a few that I have utilized with success in specific cases. The trick is knowing what those cases are and applying the appropriate technique without either over-enforcing, under-enforcing, or non-reacting out of fear, freezing, or forced inaction due to collateral influence. That takes experience, exposure to very diverse and unique social-situations, acknowledgement of culture differentiations and taboos, class-differences, and varying scaled degrees of conflict or potential conflict.
As always, and here akin to self-defense, personal preservation & martial application, mixing-and-matching and knowing the high-percentage responses to the given situation goes a long way towards success. As does knowing that there´s never only one way of doing a thing – and doing it well. Cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all, and mix-the-solution-to-the-problem are never practical, they´re one-dimensional solutions to three-dimensional problems. Again and again, critical-thinking, high-stakes decision-making, adaptability, and resilience are the tilting factors with self-control, patience, and discipline in situational-processing. Situational tactics being led by solid pre-event strategies.
A closer look at martial over-importance and task-specificity
I am, as many know, generally results-focused, not process-focused. I have not always been that way. I used to be smitten by fantasy, magic, mysticism, minimal-input-for-maximum-output…well, that one I´m still a little taken by, if being honest. But, as maturity, age, and life experience take hold, often one has a far more critical-eye on these things. I am practical sometimes to a fault, even mechanical with the clarity of why I invest in the things I invest in. I know the reason. The goal. What the by-products of it are. The bilateral benefits. Where it fits in my particular matrix.
That being said, tai chi and chi kung are akin to many martial arts in their “classical form”, where little minutiae is often treated with reverence and ultra-importance. Stances being 70-30 weight distribution. Hand exactly a foot-and-one-eight away from the body, index-finger curled at 45-degree angle, posture curvature, ad nauseum. Best placement for chi to flow to the meridians. Which organs representment which types of illnesses and how to heal and massage them. Mind-control. Precise pressure-points on the body and their associated numbers, and of course dim-mak, the famous touch-of-death. It is, outside of style-preservation and self-importance – all. utter. bullshit.
It places inherent value on the process over the end result. If these arts were, in their original incarnate, use, culture, environment, need – used for combat, violence/counter-violence, function it is simply all bullshit. Minutiae has never been, nor will it ever, be the final-straw in a successful usage of a thing. It is a multi-layered contributor of the overall picture, but not the picture itself. Faaarrr too much importance and emphasis are placed on perfect technique (whatever that is), stances (we never stand still), body positions (dictated by engagement), weight-distribution (fluid, never static), posture (form has little place in play), and the like.
Let´s take the 2 examples above. IF their inherent goal is to improve overall fight-fundamentalism, function, practicality, adaptation, why are these things utilized with such dogmatic allegiance? Is that mentality even viable or useful anymore? Does it really matter? I dunno. I´ll leave the answers to the individual person, as it should be. You probably can guess where I stand on this. These little adherences have never, ever manifested themselves in any tangible way in any violence, counter-violence, self-defense, combatives, personal-preservation, hell, business, inter-personal interaction, or functional-toolbox in any skillset or trade that I´ve ever experienced…nor seen, outside of the aesthetic realm.
It´s why when I hear “experts” telling me my practice is flawed, my posture not exactly culture-acceptable, it´s not like the “creator” meant it to be, my movements not extended sufficiently, my form not ideal…it is, to me, like having a to-and-from work-driver telling a race-car driver that what he/she is doing on the track is illegal. Like an auxiliary police-officer or ride-along telling a military-vet he/she is shooting all wrong. A newly-graduated childless child-psychologist telling a mother or father of 4 that the books say she/he is doing it all wrong. It all comes out in the wash, doesn´t it. Add on top of this the extremely-diverse reasons for doing a thing or becoming proficient at it and it makes it even more trivial and pretentious.
So, instead of just being a whining critic, what are those macro-tangibles that the little micro-ones add to? Well, personally, I care little for form, minute-details, how the old “masters” would perceive me, nor how the new ones like what I do. The old lived in a different time. Different culture. Different society. Different need or necessity. Different social-construct. So, no, I am not allegiant to keeping things the same as they were – for the simple sake of keeping things as they were. The new are predominantly infatuated with mimicking other cultures, pecking-order, maintaining the status-quo, being part of a lineage, and holding exotic titles.
I, personally, find practicing tai chi & chi kung makes me more loose and relaxed during fighting, sparring, or playing – or personal conflict itself. I find it triggers and anchors me to my breath and what it´s doing in the midst of stress, tension, pressure. I find it focuses my mind entirely on the task at-hand without distraction. It streamlines my movements for greatest impact or affect by concentrating and grounding my power. It wires me in to exactly what my body and all of its moving parts are doing under that duress and connects them as a moving, 3-dimensional unit. It is an intrinsic element that allows my external skillsets-training-experience-exposure-tactics to do what they have been taught to do – when they were taught to do it.
And maybe that´s where the term “internal” gets so abused and misused. It is not a magical chi element. A thing that makes you believe you have so much power and efficiency, that external-force is entirely unneeded and moot. To be lazy in one´s training because, dammit, I have chi-powers. That power and explosivity are somehow generated entirely without muscle-exertion or external-effort. Maybe, MAYBE, it is internal because it forces one to deal with one´s physiology, state, mind, energy-expenditure (force-to-fatigue ratio, not magic) as one´s “system-2” (voluntary/conscious) does what is supposed to. A system-1 (involuntary/non-conscious) progression from system-2 training, development, awareness. Maybe. It is not LARPing, fantasy, magic, mystical…but something very tangible and pragmatic. Yet, I do not honestly think I have heard more than a handful (if even that) of internal-folk discuss this in any meaningful way. They are often far too busy critiquing form, position, minutiae than to just. figure. this. all. out. by. exploration. Play. Test. Trial.
We, succinctly, have 2 systems simultaneously functioning in times of duress. Our “internal” – physiological reactions to adrenaline, human-conflict responses, emotions & past traumas, capability – and our “external” one – training, experience, physical-condition, natural ability, physical gifts, etc. The internal one often goes hand-in-hand with time, experience, exposure, training, immersion – just like the external one does. The more we are “in-the-shit” in whatever capacity that refers to (business, combat, politics, relationships), the more our systems adapt and respond to uncomfortable incoming stimulus. The problem in most martial-training is that it often entirely neglects the first over the second without acknowledging the first whatsoever or with lip-service only. If you fail, it´s inevitably on you, not failure of methodology or instructor: a traumatic event for the student is met casually by the instructor with just simply “train harder”, “spar more”, “more sweat in training, less pain in battle”, “always training or lose ability”, “you put-in what you take-out”, and so-on and so-forth.
On that mention, does this explanation also transfer over to interpersonal interaction, business, politics, etc.? Of course it does. It always does. Doesn´t it? Next business meeting, political-speech, debate, discourse, conversation, business-deal – notice the very direct correlation between “performance” and physiology. The more comfortable in one´s body, jointly-connected, at-ease, comfortable with the uncomfortable – the higher generally the ability. The greater the capability, the greater ability is showcased. (Insert infinite metaphor-choice here). Remember, one can have the single-most dominant ability in the world, but without the capability to implement or apply said ability, it´s a decoration. An anecdote. A cool party-trick. A well-versed shallow-understanding vs. a deep- and profound-understanding of the potential of where a thing can go and what a thing can do. I simply don´t care what the “stylists” say as I´m not particularly allegiant to style. System. Art. I am interested in the functionality of a tool because I understand that, at the end of the day, whatever and however wide the context, it will be on me – not my style, art, system, method, belt-ranking, title – it will all be on me, as a person.
In fairness, if your entire shtick is process, aesthetics, artistic merit, style-preservation, really, that is absolutely fine. Forgive me if you´ve taken offense here. I have literally zero issue to take-up with you in any way. BUT…not everyone is. Acknowledge such. Just as there are a number of ways, successful ways, to do a thing well, there are a number of reasons to do a thing and a number of definitions of “successful.” So, don´t get caught up in the martial-dogma of perfection, uber-importance, minutiae-significance, and elitism. Most often it´s pushed by self-important folk that think the minute “errors” (remember, perspective equals subjective) they can point-out in a painting are more unfortunate than the fortunate way the overall image takes one´s breath away. I, for one, would rather have holistic-understanding than compartmentalized-expertise any day of the week.
The brain´s ability to learn new skills can do so as we age
Neurogenesis is the process of creating new neurons for learning (new learning) and new connections between existing neurons (creative new aspects of old learning), which recently has been found to extend to adults (adult neurogenesis, of course) throughout the majority of their lives as well. Neuroplasticity delves from this process, and is the brain´s ongoing lifelong ability to re-wire and alter the brain from new knowledge and experience. That experience, knowledge, adaptability, exposure, learned methodologies constantly grows and adds to its capability. They are directly-linked processes that are quite intimately-related.
As we get older, the age-old theory was always that we cease learning new things, that our ability to absorb new information and updated knowledge became minimal. After a certain point, that was it. It was a somewhat depressing idea that led one to really start feeling one´s mortality after a certain point so there was an even greater need to learn and take-in as much as one humanly could before time ran out on that amazing thing called skill-learning.
However, as time has progressed that theory has, by numerous legitimate studies and sources, proven to be false. New discoveries in science and neuroscience have uncovered that we do, in fact, keep learning as we age. Less, slower, but nonetheless ongoing. Relief. Our ability to retain new knowledge and new skill-sets was seemingly back as a life-long endeavor. But was it really that big of a deal? Would it have really been so tragic? Sure, I guess it definitely disappointed in its scope, yeah. But…
What we often tend to forget is that even though we aren´t currently retaining new skills, learning new things, uncovering brilliant new life developments – we can always still “tamper” with the old ones. This is the difference between deep and shallow understanding of one´s craft and a robust way of absorbing knowledge. If one has only learned on a surface-level, one has far fewer options in terms of branching or diversifying one´s knowledge-base. If one has done so on a profound-level, it can be a never-ending matrix of interconnecting possibilities. If the “body of work” is holistic, diverse, in-depth, and comprehensive we can perpetually re-arrange the knowledge we currently have. Think of a puzzle. One rarely starts with the same order of pieces and maintains that order throughout the process, yet the same beautiful picture continues to be the final product. Think of gardening or land-scaping. One can re-arrange one´s backyard jungle infinitely, never run-out of different configurations, yet always come-up with something lush, colorful, and fresh. Or driving. One can take a number of different routes to one´s favorite places of nature or peace and still get to the same enlightening place. Cooking. Ingredients can change, flavors added or subtracted, methods altered but the end product is always uniquely delicious.
Now, let´s take that concept a little further. Imagine if one had multiple gardens. Or infinite routes or different ways of travel. A plethora of different recipes. One could cross-reference from a number of places and still come-up with something entirely unique and creative-stimulating. Such is it with varied skillsets. The more ingrained or invested skillsets one may have, the more potential there is to cross-over very different ideas and come-up with a thoroughly-interesting mix. For the industry that most often reads these articles, an example would be of inter-mixing different styles over the years to see how smoothly the transition is and synergistic the cross-over, exploring the very inner nuances of the styles one chooses to invest time in, and some deep-exploration of how far down the rabbit-hole goes. Few actually delve far-enough to understand the elements that can further be expanded and evolved with even a single style, system, method, or art – that robust template for multi-function of the branches of the proverbial skillset tree.
Then we could take ideas one and two and combine those as well. With a deep-knowledge, great experience, time-invested understanding of a thing, the possibilities are almost infinite. Taking a number of ways to do a thing and combining that with a number of ways to do another, entirely-different thing – and “learning new old things” could keep the creative juices flowing and satiate a voracious will to learn would never need to grow old. And, remember, our kids can still help us with the rest like flying a car, teleporting, having coffee with someone virtually in-person, and levitating. An example would be of mixing martial arts or combatives with something completely foreign or generally non-affiliated in any manner as some, including myself, have done with real-world neuro-linguistics, human behavior & psychology, cognition, and dual-processing.
So, in the end, we get the best of both worlds. Our learning has now been believed to occur well into old-age – and we can stimulate the creativity, adaptability, and diversity along the way. Maybe growing old won´t be so bad, and maybe this will ultimately dispel the “you can´t teach an old dog new tricks” metaphor and reinforce the “old age and treachery can overcome youth and skill” one in the process, unique context of course being everything. (though maybe age and experience have greater chance of dictating that context)
The ultimate trick might be to fool or mislead your brain into staving-off “feeling old”, self-restricting, and maintaining high cognitive-function as long as able, learning either new things, new ways to do old things, or mixing-and-matching all the way down life´s proverbial exploration. Ride the wave – don´t fight the current. And, to achieve this, maybe it pays to invest heavily into the root of what it is you study, train, research, practice, work at. Really exploring the fundamentals and understanding as in-depth as is possible. Depth with breadth instead of breadth superceding depth.
Far too often we are technique-, method-, style-, system-, art-hoarders instead of exploring the outer-reaches of our overall knowledge-base. Fast rewards, acknowledgements, fame, titles, certificates, rankings in whatever field has replaced a profound understanding of what one simply does and how to do it well with holistic-comprehension. The doing of the thing instead of the perception of credibility. Deep-knowledge is always superior to surface-theory. Maybe that´s a new analogy we should be using, regardless of age.
Though the “Triune Brain” theory has been disproved, the base theory stills holds weight
The Triune Brain Theory from Paul D. MacLean was a 60´s formulation on brain activity which explained that we have 3 unique and independent structures, or brains, that dictated action and worked inter-connectedly with each other.
The Lizard/Primitive/Reptilian Brain, which operated involuntary processes like breathing, heart-rate, body temperature, and proprioception. Also aggression, dominance, territoriality, and the like.
The Limbic System, or the emotional brain, where the fight-or-flight response delved from, as well as other emotion, body language, and behavior.
The Neocortex, or the rational brain, where language, logic, the abstract, planning, tactics, and other elements delved from.
Since the rise of neuroscience, this theory has been inevitably debunked as wildly-inaccurate and disproved, yet it still finds its way into conversations with regularity, including academic and scientific circles. It has become one of the hallowed neuro-myths along with the idea we humans only use 10% of our brain, that we have a preferential learning method (visual-auditory-kinesthetic), and the left-brain vs. right-brain default, all of which have fallen by the wayside yet still seem to have every bit the momentum regardless. As learning tools, I can see why they, as metaphors or allegories, have appeal to the over-simplification crowd, but is propagating outdated erroneous theories the best way to teach the average person wanting base information? Aren´t there better ways? Is even a relatable analogy for easy-explanation a viable usage model when that use is inevitably complete garbage? Debatable.
Anyways, instead of moving into current, updated times, maybe some (like the Triune Brain Theory) we should dive into where they originated and go back in history. Sometimes history has brilliant ways of staying true today regardless of how it´s been mangled or manipulated into something seemingly “new and fresh.”
In Plato´s “Republic”, he talked about something dubbed the “Tripartite Soul”, which was not a split-brain concept but based on human desire from the psyche or soul, to which “the mind” would be a good relation in modern transferability. We have 3 elements that make up our decisions and direction:
The logos (logic mnemonic), located in the head or brain, is connected with order, logic, reason, discourse. (reason, rationale)
The thymos (thyroid/hormonal mnemonic), located in the chest or heart, is connected with emotions. (spirit, emotion)
The eros (erotic mnemonic), located in the gut or stomach area, connected with desire or necessity. (appetite, desire)
Freud had his own version with the Tripartite Mind, describing the “Id” (primal/eros), the “ego” (analytical/logos), and the “superego” (emotional/thymos), and affixed it to systems of personality, not brain-function.
So it´s not hard to see MacLean´s original inspirations for the Triune Brain theory. Logos/ego being the neocortex, thymos/superego the limbic system, and eros/id the lizard brain. Not a coincidence whatsoever. That being said, Plato´s (and Freud´s as well) original theory was based on it being soul-, psyche-, personality-, totality-of-mind-applicable, not a neuroscientific theory on cerebral function.
So let’s take this one step further. We are, quite simply, driven by different states and behaviors that affect our actions throughout our daily lives.
ANALYTICAL. We have the logical, rational, reasoning mind. The one grounds us throughout our day. Causes existential-thought. High-level processing. Problem-solving. Analytical-thinking. Critical-thinking. It tries, sometimes desperately, to constantly regulate, reel-in, control, or restrain the other two.
EMOTIONAL. We have emotion, that at its both positive and negative extreme end, runs rampant and threatens to overrule logical thinking – and sometimes does when anger, sadness, joy, euphoria, stress, anxiety, tension operate at their utmost levels. (Hormonal and chemicals have long been linked with our emotions and moods as well.) Is it self-created and artificial or controlled and containable? I won´t get into that here as I´ve about that particular debate in another area already.
PRIMAL. And we have the daily necessities of human-living, evolutionarily. Hunger, sleep, thirst, sex, species-survival. The daily desires and regulators that we require to get through our day from urge, survival, and functionality. (Recently, studies have found a direct correlation between the gut and the brain through the vagus nerve, which has been found to regulate breathing and heartrate as well, so possibly a greater connection to the common-metaphors than we think)
It often takes great conscious-effort to keep restraints on the latter two by the first. When there are too extreme ups-and-downs from the emotional and too desperate a desire or need from the primal, the rational has to intervene to calm things down and put them into perspective. Eventually it usually takes precedence and gets things under control again but how much “damage” has been caused physically, physiologically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically – is another story. Sometimes it can´t and this is often where mental illness, disease, trauma, or addiction manifest. All 3 of these “mind-frames” are present throughout our day for one reason or another.
There’s nothing theoretical about all this. There have always been 3 clearly distinguishable parts of our mind´s diurnal process, not the brain´s. States-of-being based on the incoming stimuli throughout our day and how we manage it and choose to perceive it´s impact. And, yes, those are 2 very different things. The mind is the resultant experience gathered from perception, emotion, instinct, decision, analysis, memory, resilience, creativity, and a host of other elements. It is the result of process, not the cause of it.
Let´s take this even one step further. How do these elements pertain to personal-preservation and societal-safety? Business? Politics? Culture? Ethics? As always, there are 2 angles to look at this: how we control and contain them in ourselves and how we can manipulate them in “opponents” we may end up facing. Well, let´s take a look at how the 3 can impact performance and capability. (It is intentional that I use “CAP-ability” and not “A-bility.”)
Emotion can be good if utilized in a positive directed manner. Audacity, nerve, drivers, motivations are all elements that can super-charge cause and belief, and we all know with even placebo cause and belief how powerful these tools can be. However, many times emotion is affixed, and rightly so, to negativity when it comes to survival, danger, combat, threat, risk. The proverbial “losing one´s head”, irrational decision-making, and “thinking with the liver” traditionally are not good bedfellows with violence-effectiveness. The other end of the spectrum as well; causing the opponent to react with emotion by toying with and drawing-out things they hold dear, provoking or taunting, disrespectful displays or actions, attacking secondary targets while the opponent has prepared for a head-on battle, manipulating arrogance or ego, finding weak-links in the chain, etc. Remember that the “fight-flight-fright” response (AND others) also resides here. https://blog.mandirigmafma.com/index.php/2019/06/12/human-conflict-response-an-in-depth-look/
Need and necessity have often been weapons-of-war to manipulate a vulnerable or weak opponent. Playing with the senses, sex, even love or wont, the intentional depletion or destruction of one´s resources to cause daily-necessity panic to rule over trained rational-thought. Attacking while the enemy is tired or in desperate need of downtime, while sleeping. And, if they can be utilized against one´s opponent, no matter what scope (war, battle, psywar, asymmetrical threats), they can definitely be utilized against us from those agents.
The rational mind is a difficult one to attack, especially if it has learned to be detached from all things dogmatic, reliant, or attached to. The rational mind is ever-changing based on knowledge, fact, accuracy, education, and understanding. In business, interpersonal interaction, or combat. However, one who relies too heavily on rationale – things that make sense, that are solely based on logic and clear-thought, formulaic – can have those tools manipulated in them as well. Robots and machines can short-circuit. Emotion and unpredictable behavior can throw them. Necessity can break-down resolve. Trauma can defy logic. Belief can supersede order.
Clearly a healthy dose of the 3 can be and often is most effective, at least in drawing elements from all 3 to form a high-functioning, well-rounded human being that can learn and understand diverse and adaptive situations and circumstances. Best of all worlds, so to speak.
Have you clearly outlined your personal task-orientation?
It´s always cut-and-dried, right? Intervention. Chivalry. Good samaritanism. We always aim to do the “right thing.” Be noble. Help the weak. But what if “the weak” isn´t so easy to identify? What if helping the weak puts our own tribe in immediate jeopardy? Do you have all the information to make the call? To some, those who see things forever in black-and-white with no shades-of-grey or a kaleidoscope of colors, this read may make you somewhat uncomfortable and simultaneously put my morality up for debate. But read ´til the end before making either of those calls.
I used to be one of those guys. ALWAYS stand-up for the downtrodden or picked-on or vulnerable or weaker. Many times it paid-off and I interjected on behalf of someone who wasn´t either capable, able, or willing to do so on their own behalf. Some times not. Often things aren´t as they seem and we make a judgment call. We see a brief, fleeting moment in a much greater and wider scope of an event and we guess wrong, and that misjudgment runs the risk of coming back and biting us in the proverbial ass.
I remember a friend of a friend from back home that saw a male-aggressor being rude to a female he obviously knew. Roughing her up. Yelling. Berating. He noticed that no bystanders were getting involved. So he jumped-off the bus and intervened. The result was an attack from both parties at knife-point. FOF was lucky to be alive after multiple stab-wounds. You see, often we take a very big, hypothesized-guess as to what´s transpiring and commit our 3rd-party righteous-standing to that rather vague guess. It happens all. The. Time. The 3rd-party taking the brunt of animosity from the other 2 parties when involving themselves in a situation they really know very little about.
Let´s quickly peruse just some of those possible scenarios:
Lover´s quarrel. You have no idea what their personal dynamic is. They may get-off fighting in public, roughing each other up, fire their sex-life with yelling and name-calling, be jointly pulling-off a scam or robbery on that unsuspecting good Samaritan (you), or any number of other scenarios. While it doesn´t give any right to assault physically, that man may have just been assaulted multiple times by the woman prior to your arrival, he may have been robbed or attacked by her, she may have scammed him. You. don´t. know.
Family lines. One family member steals from another. Cheats with the other´s spouse. Mistreats the other´s child. Slanders or defames the other. You get involved to be just or even just to maintain family unity. How many times have we seen you end up being the villain while the other two walk happily into the sunset and patch things up at a later date while you look the fool, being ostracized, or shunned for “butting your nose in where it didn´t belong.” You may have the had the best interests of one or even both the parties involved but it doesn´t change the outcome.
Work issues. Mistreatment of allies, friends, or peers. You give a show of unity to a victim of seeming unfairness and end up losing your job while the victim keeps on going and collecting that paycheque and feeding his or her family.
Friend or match-fight. The pacifist. Trying to separate to (generally but not always limited to) males in a duel. Over a woman. A spilt beer. Money owed. Drunk or high and snarly. Whatever. The peace-maker trying desperately for everyone to “just get along” and “let bygones be bygones.”
To be clear, every one of these has ended in loss at one point, likely on multiple points. Whether it´s losing family, income, alliances…or life. A lot of these are explosive and when we appear on the scene with half-knowledge of the back-story, it can often be a very risky proposition. Now, let´s take that a step further. What if we decide to get involved in a potentially-explosive situation when out with our family; our wife, young children, aged parents, beloved family pet along for the ride? Do we jeopardize their safety through no choice of their own? Do we dictate the risk and threat of loved ones by our own unilateral choice? Is putting their well-being in the line-of-fire justifiable by our own chivalry and do-gooding? Who is more important to you, a stranger, acquaintance, satellite, or disloyal family member….or the tribe we live with day-to-day? What are some unseen intangibles that could even more greatly affect outcome that you may not see or be privy to?
To be fair, sometimes a situation is exactly as it seems, we see the full-spectrum unfold, and intervention may seem like a very good and safe idea. Sometimes heroes are called for born. These are rare, however, compared to the low-key, daily, unpublicized scenarios. We most often are Johnny-come-lately and are missing some very enlightening stimuli. Sometimes a situation is simply not what it seems and we have bigger priorities at-hand. Sometimes we don´t…but we risk taking ourselves out of the equation by doing so collaterally. Can your wife and children get-by without you, your income, your protection, your efforts should you end up in jail or dead? Or even incapacitated for a lengthy period? Can the family afford a lengthy trial, lawyer fees, fines, court costs, settlements, bonds to get you off of a reverse self-defense or assault claim? How about targeting or vulnerability from revenge-tactics or the regular threats of daily-living while you put in some time?
And what about capability? You may have the greatest combative ability in the world but without the capability you´re the most-effective firearm in the world walking around with no bullets in the chamber. Meaningless. Are you capable (not able, ask yourself the right questions) of hurting another human-being? Badly? Life-alteringly? Can you utilize a tool on another person? Under the right circumstances? What are the “right” circumstances? When couldn´t you? When are you not willing? What situations would you definitively be capable of doing so? Which are sketchy? Can you deal with the post-event consequences for those “right” reasons? Will they be the “right” reasons to others holding your fate in their hands down the line? Would it matter with certain contexts? Hard questions, to be sure. If they make you deeply-uncomfortable…that´s good. They should. They are designed to. They are neither easy questions to hear nor answer and they take some real soul-searching for those who take all of this as more than fantasy role-playing. There´s a lot hanging in the balance of their conclusions.
I, nor anybody else – your self-defense coach, martial arts guru, pistol-instructor, father or mother, local law-enforcement, life-coach, psychologist – can make them for you and they have to be decided on prior to events, not during. During is too late. When decisiveness and action take precedence of hesitation and analysis is NOT the time to decide legal, moral, spiritual, ethical calls on choice. (Sometimes enough where your decisions are made for you with disastrous result.) That should long ago have been made clear in your personal mission-statement, task-orientation, force-purpose, violence-or-counter-violence-manifesto – whatever terminology you use. The human brain loops and freezes and hesitates and stalls when having to split attention both on the threat at-hand and your personal momentary moral-conundrum. Peace with (your) Ggod, readiness for death, fear of injury, family´s future, internal peace are not accomplished under extreme duress with high-stakes. Funny how that´s never mentioned in most martial-arts or self-defense classes, isn´t it – seems like pretty heady stuff that shouldn´t be glossed-over or ignored.
So, take some time. All the time. A lot of time. And go through some of the above questions. Dig deep. Be uncomfortable. Be honest about your capability. Go over scenarios, situations, circumstances, chance, fate, karma. Make peace with whatever you need to make peace with. And be clear. Clarity allows for task-focus, with full-attention. And remember, this is where a very clear understanding of “don´t be a dick”, “mind your own business”, “keep your mouth shut”, “suck in your pride”, and “priorities” should also be part of an honest internal conversation. Remember, sometimes a live family-man/woman is better than a dead hero.
An interesting trial with rough-housing during pandemic-times
I have done some of this in the past and posted on it. I had stopped for a time but, as the pandemic has drawn, I´ve started continuing with this rather obscure experimentation. It has always given good, positive, calming results, ironically. My son, now 9, had developed more than a little frustration and some pent-up anger from the current state-of-things, not unlike millions of other kids his age. So, I decided to see how returning to an old method of release for him worked, at my own expense.
Ground rules were laid and explained explicitly. He had no rules. He could go as hard as he wanted. I would not fight back with anything offensive or aggressive in-nature. There was a green light-red light caveat laid-down as well, when it was “go” he could let loose with all his ability and capability at full energy and stamina, until either the “red light” message was transferred…or until he ran out-of-gas. (Added benefit here was that it was done – intentionally – right before his bedtime, benefit being for myself and my wife)
So, some interesting points to draw from this experiment.
He has never been in a fight himself before, had rank-minimal training from me, is not generally allowed to watch the majority of classes I teach due to content restrictions, has seen minimal violence on tv outside of comic-book, video-game, and playing with friends.
I limited myself intentionally even when hit hard. Elbow-covers. Head-shields. Limb-passes. Shifts in body-weight. No ground-positions like guard, bottom-side, mount, side-mount….just scrambling. Minimal movement.
Despite this, it was amazing what he came-up with. He attempted to eye-gouge. He head-butted, and not only to the head, but to various parts of the body, knowing to hit soft-tissue, vulnerable places. He scratched, bit, clawed, pinched. He punched…hard. (I had previously posted a picture of the black-eye he gave me a couple of years ago to drive home that point) He donkey-kicked. He tried appendage-yanking with the ears, nose, and cheek. He downward-elbowed. He tried bending (he would´ve broke had I not been on-the-ball. Hell, he even tried a few pressure-points (behind knee, collarbone fossa, behind ear, inner-elbow) and a bloody bronco-kick and “cannonball.”
There were times we paused and I asked him what else he could come-up with and gave him a little processing-time to think of things he could attempt or apply. He never ran out. There were other times where I lightly-taunted, asking him if that was all he had and that he wasn´t getting his point across, to which he had 2-3 other gears of aggression and motivated-intent instinctively. He could escalate and shift-gears as well, understanding that conserving energy and bursting were kinda´ important elements.
When “red light” was called, he stopped almost immediately, did not continue to test or attack someone vulnerable. No cheap-shots. No accidents. And he was satisfied, content with the burst of energy and letting some steam off. He went to bed calmly and collected.
We shared a big hug as I explained to him that when 2 friends fight hard to better-prepare themselves for future tests-of-mettle, that is what was shared and it allowed both parties to not have ill-will, forced containing emotion, and broke with a sense of mutual-accomplishment shared by combatants. He liked that part and it teaches fight-culture and rules-of-engagement.
Now, while I have experimented with this on-and-off for some time, it´s still early BUT there are some theories (remember, theories, not conclusions but worthy of further study) that can be drawn from this type of exposure to healthy aggression-release.
-It is positive for children to have some healthy and controlled outlet for releasing aggression, frustration, anger, emotional-discontent.
-We are given some quite effective tools for self-defense and counter-violence innately and without any form of training. There are some things we do when we are allowed to let loose and given the moral go-ahead to do so that manifest themselves pretty quickly and effectively. I am convinced that there are elements implanted that often, as we age and mature, change those elements entirely. Religion. Passivity. Social-boundaries. Worry of punishment, whether parental, educational, legal, or societal.
-The above goes to show that “training” is often over-valued in the sense that people often have these things inside of them already. They don´t need to have them ingrained incessantly, but to be given the correct context, boundaries, circumstances, and capability (not ability) to utilize them correctly.
-That the “inner-switch” to turn-off that aggression can be implanted early-on and that those elements above that stunt that those innate instincts can be worked-around with that context and the understanding of restraint, self-control, and sufficient-exertion…inevitably the nurture part. (morals, values, ethics, principals) Mindset can be built early and correctly. Physical-violence can starting becoming understood instead of taboo, fear-building, and misunderstood. – and misused.
While I realize this is likely one of those seemingly unending methods that create controversy, gasping, and horror even within the field, it´s been safe, controlled, accident-minimized, and healthy. The results have been solid and, even more importantly, it´s given a platform of positive physical-interaction with my son, allowed for some tactile/kinesthetic physical-contact in a time when that is at a premium during this pandemic, AND given an outlet to maybe both of us to roughhouse, bond, play-fight, and game-play in a healthy masculine manner.
Will keep you posted on further developments.
"Un-Hammering" Nails: a cerebral approach to personal preservation, self-defense, combatives, and martial arts.