All posts by Darren

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.


While I realize this is a controversial topic, even among high-level experienced fighting exponents, I’m an advocate in training of learning not to divulge important information to your opponent on pain tolerance or threshold. Learning to control screaming/yelling, minimizing facial reactions, controlling body language under pressure, testing limits of tolerance (the maximum level of pain you can withstand, within reason or hitting a safe tolerable level) AND threshold (when you start to acknowledge pain), extending “time ’til tap” or eliminating “submission” training altogether (even the term infers of learning to submit to a superior opponent when things get tough, which can lead to bad neural conditioning), extending past your believed maximum limit in cardio, etc. Up to and including pain-conditioning itself. These elements build both critical areas of mindset and self-control/resilience mid-physical training. Stacking both simultaneously leads to faster and correct conditioning.

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An example of an implementable specific breathing program that I worked on over the last few years and use for my own training. This can be for a 30-, 45-, 60-minute jogging session I go through during the week, working both aerobic and anaerobic capacity. 4 minutes at pace (whatever pace-of-the-day dictates), 1 minute bursts, 35-40 second recovery time; I tend to go late morning or early afternoon when the sun is at its hottest here, making it more of a battle of attrition and suffering, but that’s personal choice.

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AT PACE – breathe in (mouth closed), out through mouth blowing, breaths in rhythm to 4 steps. (inhale for 4 steps, exhale for 4)

EXPLODE – breathe in (as with a cold, runny nose – quick “inhalations”), blow out hard (a “shhh”, as in trying to shush someone when loud, obnoxious, or disrespectful – like a misbehaving child), following the “every 4 steps” idea but with increased breathing as there’s an increase in steps.

RECOVERY – panic breathing (quick inhalation), quick exhalation (as in blowing out candles). Panic breathing puts you back in-control faster than stopping/deep breathing/abdominal breathing can and while moving-replicating stress response far more accurately, much faster recovery time

MONITORING: All the while, I’m using “autogenics” or “moving mindfulness” (paying close attention to my body’s responses: lightening steps for foot impact, knees tightening up from heavy footfall, muscles tensing, shoulders down…go up-and-down body acknowledging and fixing what’s not)

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LEVELS OF BREATHING: find comfortable level (chest, mid-level far more accessible under physical exertion than the always-recommended abdominal variety). As you move into your cooldown, start moving down with your breathing until it becomes controlled abdominal/meditative breathing. (where most do yoga, meditation, qi gong, etc.)

In tai chi/qi gong we’re explained the difference in Taoist (breathe in/chest expands) vs. Buddhist (breathe in/abdomen expands) breathing but never “when” to use them. (regarding the Japanese kiai as well) For any who’ve fought, abdominal breathing during is almost impossible, which usually “internal” stylists have never done or simply don’t have a reference point. Keep your gaze up while running, pulling in details, working situational/environmental awareness under stress/close inoculation replica. (Harder than you think, often the tendency when participating in heavy exertion is to look down)This kind of breathing expunges any excess CO2 from lungs and immediately fills them with fresh air without any leftover CO2 so at their maximum capacity.  A “sigh” can be used either directly before the panic breathing or momentarily thereafter . Sometimes this is involuntarily and will happen after the burst but still acts as a calming mechanism to help keep your breathing on-line.

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The goal is:  a) to start forming an anchor from walking/movement/steps to breathing. This can be transferred to daily movement as well, timing your breaths to your pace of walking, running, wheelchair rotations…whatever preferred.

b) to control your breathing throughout the activity, never having to gasp, pant or hyperventilate, over the length of the run, thus learning to correlate your movement with your breathing. I’ve noticed, since implementing this into my training regimen, a far greater stamina in activities related to combat (grappling, clinchwork, boxing, stickfighting, knife sparring, etc.), a far shorter recovery period and a greater explosiveness during training.”


To add, while I agree with much of the attention paid to the idea of “being gray” (blending in, #3 in the “On Concealment” article), I think it’s often harder than many give it credit for. It’s not just solely “being gray” but being truly adaptive and improvisational to the social circumstances dictated (in another culture, for instance), where prying eyes or different orders are often watching within those same circles. I had to alter some adaptation methods that work very well in Canada to acclimitize here in CR as they simple failed and exposed me to some situations that I otherwise would have avoided easily.

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Here overlying societal and traditional stigmas can sometimes cause someone foreign to stand out in a greater way than they even imagine and I’ve seen it countless times with North Americans living here. (and poor patterning, cultural awareness and lack of transferable skillsets to the new environment are big drivers here and often go unrecognized) And it’s most often them that become targets for low- and high-level criminals. It’s sometimes a very profound element when living abroad. Me blending as a white, blue-eyed, North American in transparent ways is simply not achievable but dress, language ability, colloquialisms, acceptance of certain cultural aspects and ability to blend with both lower-, middle- and upper-classes (that have very different stigmas and I have times where I’m accessible to all, sometimes in the same day) give greater tools.

For me, here, #3 is a far greater ability of equal value to the other two whereas, for others on the page, it may have far lesser value. (Intra-state, intra-province holds minimal need for big changes and can be adapted to fairly easily, granted and admitted)


Cover, camouflage, and concealment….often go hand-in-hand. Just a quick note on concealment. There are usually 3 areas of focus when talking about “concealment” in this industry that I refer to, only 2 of which are usually acknowledged. Concealment via hiding one’s true intentions or identity….the ability to play down one’s true capabilities and skillsets. Concealment via carry: blades, firearms or any primary, secondary or tertiary weapon on-body and protected from public view, including the ability to subtly deploy those tools under specific circumstances. The final is concealment by blending- crowds vs. individual interaction, dress for context, fitting into different classes with different mannerisms/dialogue, environments and types of people (work, personal, social), cultures (I can attest to this one) and social groups within class. Adapting to the daily scenarios of life and becoming “chameleonic” in the ability to shape-shift and fit. This is the one most neglected: hiding in the open… you have preferred niches or are you able to merge with any group dynamic to become diverse….

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To add, while I agree with much of the attention paid to the idea of “being gray” (blending in, #3), I think it’s often harder than many give it credit for. It’s not just solely “being gray” but being truly adaptive and improvisational to the social circumstances dictated (in another culture, for instance), where prying eyes or different orders are often watching within those same circles. I had to alter some adaptation methods that work very well in Canada to acclimitize here in CR as they simple failed and exposed me to some situations that I otherwise would have avoided easily.

Gray Man Theory: How to Be a Gray Man - Survival Straps

Here overlying societal and traditional stigmas can sometimes cause someone foreign to stand out in a greater way than they even imagine and I’ve seen it countless times with North Americans living here. (and poor patterning, cultural awareness and lack of transferable skillsets to the new environment are big drivers here and often go unrecognized) And it’s most often them that become targets for low- and high-level criminals. It’s sometimes a very profound element when living abroad. Me blending as a white, blue-eyed, North American in transparent ways is simply not achievable but dress, language ability, colloquialisms, acceptance of certain cultural aspects and ability to blend with both lower-, middle- and upper-classes (that have very different stigmas and I have times where I’m accessible to all, sometimes in the same day) give greater tools.

For me, here, #3 is a far greater ability of equal value to the other two whereas, for others on the page, it may have far lesser value. (Intra-state, intra-province holds minimal need for big changes and can be adapted to fairly easily, granted and admitted)

Sometimes being “as you are” is far more imperative than intently trying to be something you´re not.


I’ve heard instructors mentioning 3 times now in the last week how they’re “not freeze or flight guys.” I think there is some misunderstanding, misconception and misinterpretation about the fight/flight/fright response. One can be experienced and not freeze Monday through Thursday but still freeze on Friday. Nobody is a “freeze guy” or “fight guy” or “flight guy.” It is circumstantial, no one is immune (some are better at managing it but not immune to it, that escapes no one) and can be affected by any combination of a number of intangibles: mood, state, scenario, coherence, time-of-day, wakefulness, current physiology, past experience, hell…whether you had breakfast or not that morning.

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Are there ways to get the neo-cortex back online upon freezing? Yes, but not the scope for this post. It’s not a choice in that one decides the day before, “Tomorrow I’ll have a conflict and I’m going to decide to flee.” The point is that constant vigilance needs to be paid and no one is universally one or the others. Education helps one understand this biological process. One can freeze, one can fight, one can flee based on circumstance, need, ability, training and experience, among others…just as one can have these effects dictated by the reverse: circumstance-controlled, inability, lack of training or lack of effective training and inexperience. Often the correct choice is made for us and that gives the greatest chance of survival by our evolutionary internal wiring, helped along greatly by our ability to stay calm, manage ASR and understand the process itself. And, while so many mock freezing and fleeing, they can be of huge tactical/strategic benefit in the survival process. If “fight” is the only response you’re blessed with, you may best do some self-evaluation and consider a paradigm-shift in thinking. Great toolboxes have innumerable tools inside with which to handle an indefinite number of varied problems.


Many often neglect or acknowledge potential internal inhibitors within themselves or their students that prevent the ability to utilize violence when and if needed.

These, even after many many years of training, can have a dramatic effect on one’s ability to implement needed physical skillsets under duress. Most of the time these are innate or time-conditioned and need to be addressed. Too many times I’ve seen martial artists who “failed” or froze in a self-defense scenario and blame their training on this calamity instead of looking at the real cause. Even instructors are forever telling their students such bullshit as “You need to put more hours in” or “This is a matter of training harder” or regurgitating statistics on Hick’s Law and the number of times repetitions need be made to condition something to reflexive use. If these inhibitors aren’t addressed, NONE of that matters as it will be overridden and manifest itself in the worst times of duress.

Some of these inhibitors we’ll address below. Granted, this is a glossing-over  and a general overview as in-depth issues are not within the scope of a short article.

  1. Morals/value of human life (nurture-nature). Pre-disposition to violence. Exposure. View on the need for violence and its stigma. Home environment and views of both parents, siblings, extended family. Morals, ethics and values as pertaining to other areas of social constructs.
  2. Lack of experiential/3-dimensional training. It needs to replicate as close as possible to the real thing. If your training looks nothing at all like what can be seen regularly in real life, social media or statistics readily-available, there’s a gap. This also goes back to the 3-headed monster of fallible traditional training: single committed attack, static opponent post-initial contact, non-dynamic follow-up. Other elements are stamina, pressure,  broken rhythm/pace-changes, hard surface, environmental factors and a host of others.
  3. Self-control including emotional triggers, breathing & heartrate management, physiological responses to adrenal stress-response. If you have no trained response to the effects of adrenaline, you have no switch to turn on the light bulb, regardless of how innately powerful the rays of that light may be.
  4. Martial arts/ego. Branching off from #2, if your training is based on elements from a far-away culture, from a time long since dead, from a system irrevocably lost in time, to practices within these constructs that are outdated and don’t match modern research on physiology, sociology, legal and ethical entities, historical clothing and type of battle….they will not transfer to modern violence. I get the response regularly that “violence/crime hasn’t changed for thousands of years! Violence is violence!” Simply not true. The modern criminal tactics, knowledge base, mindset and strategies have evolved. Modern technology (weapons, computers, vehicles, communication) has come a long ways from 15th Century Japan. The myth of the universally-stupid criminal or single-type general criminal should be long dead. Unfortunately, they’re not.
  5. Religion/spirituality. Restrictions on using violence, pacifism, guilt, shame, social perception, place within that religion/church, post-life concerns, judgment from above. I made a personal mistake years ago with a student. I had taught him knife and other weapons for over a year before he finally admitted he’d really never be able to use these skills “for real” as he was a Christian and  it went against his belief structure. We had a to have ongoing discussions on context to overcome this for a long time, which brings me to the next point.
  6. Context. Context is king, quite simply. Without context, a universality or generalized training will run smack dab into often multiple of these inhibitors. Context gives clarity, specifics and appropriate response for given stimuli. Martial arts is filled with generalizations and, with this being statistically the most peaceful time of human existence, the need to truly find out workability is low so often one can go through one’s life without having need to delve into these. However, this element coupled with the most over-saturated time of misinformation known to humankind, and added to that lack of need for empirical proof of functionality due the period of history with which we live, we have a perfect cocktail of functional questionability. To put it succinctly? If ever needed, even 25 years of training can come crashing down in a heartbeat.
  7. Visualization and mission clarity. If you haven’t gone over what your mission is and what lengths you’re willing to go to maintain that mission, your training is vague and cryptic. Why are you training? Do you know? Do you understand what constitutes a justifiable response? What’s worth conflict and what’s not? Who will be affected long-term by your actions? Who’s present with you when making these decisions and does that factor in? If your goal is to stay safe, protect your family and live a relatively-comfortable life, does training lethal knife factor into this mission or is the mission flawed? Is it of necessity due to other intangibles – culture, location, employment? All questions that need be asked before, not during or after. Visualization is a tool that often clarifies many of these and puts them into clear perspective.
  8. Poor self-talk/will to survive. If you go through life in fear, with self-doubt, low self-esteem and a negative perception of self, it will affect your ability to achieve your mission. Self-mindfuck is the ultimate enemy, far greater than any physical threat you’re likely to run into as your ability to deal with said threat will already have been decided by you prior.

Now, these are not always so easy to discover in students, moreso in one’s self with self-reflection and an honest assessment of where your own personality factors in here. To help with this, I often use the logical levels template to uncover certain internal restrictions. If there’s resistance, either seen or sensed, it will always fall on one of these platforms. The higher the resistance, the likely the higher on the pyramid and more work needed with which to overcome it.

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*There may be other inhibitors, admittedly, but these are the most frequent I tend to come across.



Introduction : Who, Where and When ?
Everyone can be a target, it should be assessed by the user why he could become a target, and how to prevent it at best. Even a not very wealthy woman can still be abducted by an erotomaniac, an ex-boyfriend/husband, a rapist, a sex-trafficker, etc… A rich person might be the target of robber, home-invader, interested in taking the target’s money from a safe deposit, asking a ransom, etc… Then, there’s also some jobs that will make you a target, especially when working in poorer parts of the world. Also, it should be taken in consideration that sometimes, the appearances might make you a target as if you live in a great, beautiful house but you’re not that rich for example. Also, you can drive a beautiful car leased by your employer and still be a simple employee. You can be abducted about everywhere, depending on the hostiles targeting you. Usually, ex-lover and known people tends to target you on your routine, including your home and the usual home-job travel. Opportunity abductors will usually target you outside a secure area (home, work) but professional abductors looking for your wealth will usually provide a good plan to catch you wherever you’ll be. If it’s the job that makes you a target, consider it your most dangerous area of being a target.

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First Part : Passive Defense & Prevention
Safe for maniac/obsessional people, most predators and robbers of all kind tend to like to have an easy target and an easy job. If the difficulty is superior to the reward, the hostiles won’t probably give it a try. So, the more of a difficult target you look (including home, car, job, your person) the better it will be for you to repel potential abductors. Also, the less intelligence you give to the public, the less options you’ll give to your potential enemies. The first area to protect is your home, it’s where you spend most of your life, including the times when you’re not “combat ready” like when you’re sleeping, taking a bath, etc… Secure doors and windows is a basic. Add alarm to both of them after having invested in good quality, hard to break through locks. Basic magnetic alarms work well for me, but don’t forget to change the batteries and to test them at least once a year. Good wall for your garden, or fence with barbwire, spikes, or whatever is hard to climb. You should also add lights with movement detector to your entry and garden. Security cam’ and fake ones are also a good add to protect your properties, and to fact check when having a bad feeling about a possible surveillance. If it can be done, add noisy window glass in case a hostile break it, it shall be heard from far away. Dogs if you can afford them are also very efficient for active and passive defense. Also, if you have a garage, keep it secure like all other access. Next, you shall secure your car, it’s far harder, as you can’t probably make it look like a Sherman Tank to repel the problems… Keep it locked at all times, and if possible, keep the windows closed. If possible, don’t take the same route every day, avoid routine if possible, it will help a lot. If you feel like you’re being followed, think some times about checking that you haven’t a GPS stuck to your car. Securing your work place is far more complicated, as you’ll have to make compromise with both your boss and co-workers, and sometimes customers also. Adding secured locks and lights to your workplace if you’re the boss is easy… Otherwise, try at least to avoid too much of a routine. About your personal appearance, you’ll have to look as “neutral” as possible… Avoid too much jewelry or other flashy stuff. You might also avoid to over-expose yourself in bad neighborhood for example, and for the girls, sexy clothes might become a problem when wanting to stay out of the eyes of sexual predators or sex-trafficker. I don’t mind what do you wear, but understand that becoming a potential target, by crossing appearance with area might imply to end the threat by shooting and stabbing your aggressors… If you can avoid to add risk to your life, it might be better…

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Second Part : How to Spot Those Threats
Usually, abductors don’t catch you by pure opportunity (it can happen but still, there are small indicators), so, if you feel observed, watched, followed or whatever. Double check, change your routine, and so on. Usually, pure opportunity abductors are hunting in the area, and will often have some missed tries before you… So, if there were weird disappearance or kidnapping tries, you shall probably be more careful. When feeling observed at home, use your security cam to watch if you see anything suspect, not known neighbor also are a good indicator. For so, it’s better to have ties with the neighbor, talks to the people of your area, and know their cars ; it will help catch anyone unusual in the area. Another good indicator is if you catch someone checking your trashes, hacking your social web accounts, etc… If you see more wheel tracks than usual in your front yard, it might also mean more passage than usual and that shall be a little suspect. Also, calls to know “indirectly” who is at home (like trying to reach your husband) might be an other indicator that shit is coming… Remember, it’s far easier to abduct you when you’re alone. For the dog owner, and I sincerely wish you it will never happen to you, but a poisoned dog usually means that someone is already after you, and he took out actively your best bodyguard and alarm system by poisoning it. For the woman, all harassment types might end in an abduction if the hostile is crazy enough, and it can include family members. Mainly, trust your damn instincts, they’re there for a fucking damn reason so listen to them.

Third Part : How to Train/Prepare
A few stuff to take into account, counter-surveillance and basic security to building is a big base of work here, then, all personal protection training when SHTF will help you a lot, then you can add SERE skills (for civilian, you ain’t gonna do a black ops job in Colombia, so adapt to YOUR life). For the martial arts part, choose what fits you, but damn, include modern weaponry, ideally, improvised weaponry too. Then, add combat shooting with weapons that you can use in reality (if you’ve a concealed carry permit, train a lot in handgun and carriable blades for example). Also, even if gears don’t beat usually skills, having some tools might help a lot ; like options to carry undetectable weapons (ceramic blades), passkey for handcuffs, wire saw in cord to cut some restraints, and so on. I highly suggest to buy a bit at a time, don’t ruin yourself please. Invest between twenty and fifty bucks a month to get a great gear-up. Invest about the double of that amount in training and you’re not going to expense too much in those survival skills. If you read that article, you’re already paying some fees in a martial arts school or equivalent. You just have to add to it some SERE skills for urban or rural environment, including lock picking, urban camouflage, etc.

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Fourth Part : Tips to Escape/Survive
Firstly, if, without compromising your physical integrity (and for some operatives, moral integrity), you can pay/give what the abductor wants, do it. Try to create a human link between you and him/them to avoid more prejudice if possible. Observe everything you can, it will help you to know when doing something (like their routine taking a few guards of your watch), where you are (if you can hear some noises, or gather other intelligence about where you are like a fast food delivery system), you can also find some useful tools for the close future, like something to build a lock pick, an improvised weapon, etc… If your life is in danger, you’ve been abducted, and so on… Lethal force is a viable option, and hell, whatever happens is far less worse than staying in a cave, being tortured, raped, or something like it… Then, when in the streets, it will depends on the neighborhood mainly, are they hostile to you or not is a good example. Then, if they’re hostile, go as low profile as you can, act like a homeless citizen till into a safe area… If it’s the opposite, screaming is probably the best damn option you have to gain enough attention from civilians, and maybe LEO.

Christophe Caruso
Kali Tactical System founder/lead instructor.
Stay Bladed Martial Mafia Belgium Capo – The Belgian Wild Boars.


For the longest time I’ve been disenfranchised with the martial arts, self-defense and personal preservation communities. There’s a lot of b.s. floating around claiming itself to be “what works” as opposed to the rest, that never does when matched up with what you’re doing.

Immense martial tribalism with style, system, lineage, methodology, etc. where the followers of that one authentic way to personal counter-violence glory knows all the answers and the followers are so blessed to be part of that of which is the only one right in the business.

Lately I’ve been having some rather huge, at least to me, epiphanies about the entire industry. I’m going to tell you about 5. After seeing and hearing daily the plethora of unique and different response to various levels of escalating force, I’ve come to these conclusions, respectfully, and to those of you who follow our page, some of this will be familiar:


There is simply not one effective way of doing something. Many very experienced people have managed to get this far doing things unique to them that may not work at all for others but have proven to be highly-successful. (Or they wouldn’t be here to have discussion) Who’s really to say what always works when there are a million-and-one scenarios we can come up and that are changed on a dime or with the slightest alteration. Sure, some things are staunchly questionable, some downright garbage, but what I’ve grown to appreciate the most is the diversity of successful counter-violence approaches that we’ve seen. We often talk about success not being style/lineage/system-specific but based on the individual, but SURVIVAL really is, on many levels, just as person-specific and on the individual. If you’re not researching, seeing flaw, assessing, evaluating and constantly improving, no style in the world is going to save you when push comes to shove.

I had a friend in the industry ask  “You are on Fantasy Island. An average person with no self defense skills comes up to you and says that a big and mean 200 pound muscular man is going to beat him up in 15 minutes and there is no way he can get out of it. He must fight for his life. What advice would you give him? What would you teach him?”

My response: ” I would say there’s zero point in teaching him anything physical for fear of the exact thing we were just talking about…overriding innate survival mechanisms and countering what he may do instinctively to survive, including grovelling (empathy/pity play?), freezing (see grovelling), running/escape, hiding (size of island? ability to run/hide indefinitely?), attempting to appeal to the other man’s empathy and potential solitude, etc. Breathing would be one to help act as a trigger to better access the above-mentioned and hardwired survival skillsets…coupled with mental/psychological reinforcement/visualization (flicking/flipping the switch)”

The parameters of the question are flawed in the first place. If he had no way of getting out of it, he wouldn’t be talking to me at this very moment, alone.

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Continuing on the survival trajectory, there are internal inhibitors that can counteract the innate survival skill reactions we (not regular untrained citizens, “we” being ALL of us…every bloody one) possess, which also are never addressed or acknowledged in a standard martial arts class. They’re thought of as unimportant or a sidenote when, in fact, they are elements that can, at minimal, stunt, and maximum, cancel anything trained.  Morals/value of human life (nurture-nature), lack of experiential/3D training as close as possible to reality, self-maintenance including heartrate/breathing management/emotional containment, specific context neglect, lack of visualization/mission clarity/internal justification for use-of-force, poor self-talk…among others. And while I know I’m going to take a lot of industry shit for this, martial arts itself and religion are two huge inhibitors of evolutionary survival response. These inhibitors can override entirely any survival mechanisms we have in-place and when there’s an incongruence in the system, that causes hesitation or system shut-down. Congruence, putting all these elements together in-unison, creates clarity of mission.

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On top of that, those in traditional martial arts have often cultivated confusion on that mission clarity by instilling the need for various falliable notions like heroism, chivalry, doing the “right” thing and good samaritanism…many of which can often put one in the very situations one is innately trying his/her best to avoid and putting one’s loved ones in that situation along with him/her.  If your mission is to get home to your loved ones at the end of the day, do these nouns always coincide with the goal? I’m not talking about going through life not helping people when able, or being a decent human being or having strong values. What I am talking about is being very cautious and overtly aware of what situations you choose to participate in that could negatively affect the outcome of your underlying goal. Do you have all the necessary information? Is there something you’re missing? Will both parties turn on you? Are you clear on whom the real threat is? Are there legal consequences of involvement? If I’m with my family, these are of utmost importance and they (my family) are first, period. No situation is worth putting them in legal, physical, financial or psychological danger.

What is your mission statement? Once defined, reverse-engineer EVERYTHING based on that and with that one goal in mind. Adhere to it without deviation.

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An offshoot from this issue is the difference between skill acquisition vs. skill learning. They are often 2 utterly different methods of skillset development.  One through absorption, experiential learning and 3-dimensional training in tangible and relevant environments. One through on ongoing process of breaking down the mechanics of the act and fitting all the pieces together. Both avenues CAN work, though one often doesn’t. The myth resides in the fact that most traditionalists believe only “b” works and that is highly-debatable. Take, for example, boxing and wrestling, regardless of their sport context. The majority of time, after learning a multi-dimensional approach of basic skill delivery, acquisition in the ring and through sparring is developed…under duress. In many TMA, the reverse is true, multi-layered and often complex skillsets (with sometimes questionable explanations for their pertinence) are developed in a skill learning environment. 3D or experiential training (as close to approximated reality, asap, with minimal periphery/unimportant skillsets) leaves much for the student to figure out using those base sets (with guidance from someone experienced) under pressure. (Which also serves to stack those skillsets in their proper context and create active problem-solving within the student)

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As if far too often seen, ego rules, style/system dictate, protocol abounds and far too few accept that they are simply not good at everything, some things they teach may be deeply flawed and not everything everybody else does is shit. With the negative conditioning going on in martial arts, I often wonder if we are actually “un-conditioning” innate hardwired survival skill in people and replacing it with a very subjective, isolated and complex system of responses that overrule the actual things human physiology and evolution gave them to survive. We’re often, in actuality, and I mean even exceptional instructors (not just the fly-by-nighters or wingnuts we see on Youtube daily), de-programming them to respond in ways that are completely counter-intuitive to ways that would innately wire them for success. Anti-evolution. Complex methodologies, techniques that take years to work and little based on the already neurologically-, psychologically-, physiologically- and emotionally-proven way the mind and body work. The whole thing is utterly counter-intuitive to me at times and growing increasingly so. Yet we argue, dissect, chastise, berate and call out others who don’t have like mind of something where like mind may also be wrong. (hive mind, a social media disease) We are most often “un-conditioning” the body’s natural response mechanisms with things that are foreign and unnatural, which is exactly why so many martial artists fail when it comes to reality. There’s a disconnect that the vast majority aren’t even aware of. (I call it “gap consciousness”)

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Instead of finding purpose in putting out good accurate information, knowledge that’s backed by science and truth, countering the frauds in the world and getting “our” (if we are even a we at all) message out to the demographics that need it the most, I am starting to wonder, with all the politics, ego and false truth in the martial arts, if we aren’t better off just leaving people alone. Stop marketing fear, stop telling them what they need, stop offering what they don’t. We forget that, for every brutal attack or violent murder, many survive violent attacks daily, I would go so far as to say most (the absolute majority) didn’t survive on martial training. (If you’re going to go the learned avoidance and situational awareness route, do you think that could be taught without all the fluff? Let it fester for a while before answering..) And it certainly doesn’t look like what most martial arts do when they do survive. Some may lay claim to martial training or pay it lip service but I assure you the vast majority don’t look like they did in the dojo and, if it’s solely the self-confidence they gained from the training, what’s the real difference between this and body language/proxemics courses, self-confidence/public speaking courses, a good sales course, some NLP or psychology seminars? Why aren’t more of us studying anatomy, psychology, physiology, anthropology, sociology, communication, proxemics, body language? We pay lip service to the fact that some past popular guy said “a fight is 90% mental, 10% physical” but we go on teaching purely the physical without being called on our own bullshit. Perceived boredom or not, there should be a huge healthy does of “classroom time” to discuss these imperative issues. I refuse to even take in students any longer who only want the physical. There are martial arts academies on every corner to get de-programmed.

Yet, in spite of all this in an inevitably and predominantly misleading and cliqueish industry, somehow people survive and will continue to do so without us….and I assure you, it’s more due to evolution than a grand master. All the while martial arts and self-defense classes go on and we bicker about semantics, foot placement, style superiority, functionality, what works and what doesn’t theoretically and hypothetically (it’s person-specific, event-specific and a variety of things can work – “success is survival”), preparing for every possible scenario imaginable, normal everyday civilians go on surviving violent attacks without us and in spite of us. Even the demographics we claim need us the most yet get neglected (many women, adolescents, the infirm, disabled, handicapped, aged) go on managing quietly….surviving. (And fewer and fewer will ever find themselves inside a dojo) Rapes, assaults, murder attempts, muggings, kidnappings. (By the way, few of these actualities are addressed in any martial arts class) We have a self-importance that borders on delusional as to what the public needs vs. what we believe they need. (Don’t tell anyone but it’s most often not us or what we’re peddling) I am really starting to believe, outside of those that actively seek us out (those of us who’ve had to use real violence before), maybe it is just truly best to leave people the fuck alone.

P.S. A paradigm shift IS needed but it’s not the one you think.



I want to say this with a ton of sobriety, clarity and seriousness and zero machismo and testosterone. I’ve always been known as a high-skill/explosive-speed guy. However, as I get older, I question the validity of these alone in any kind of serious violent struggle for my life. They are traits and fallible traits at that. I am a 45-year old foreigner in Central America, 5’10”, 170 pounds that stands out so take this into consideration (objectivity) as you read this as you’ll have your own personal caveats that affect your evolving life scenarios. As I get older, the need to stay safe and protect my family stays the same. There’s another gap that inevitably widens for everybody. I have visualized and analyzed deeply when I would be able to use lethal force, when I wouldn’t, when it’s inappropriate, when I would have inner resistance over doing so and what the consequences would be of doing so. I have not taken this lightly and, as you all know, I don’t talk tough nor see this industry as a forum to act like a killer.

That all being said, speed, skill, strength, stamina…all these things fade as we age, to one degree or another. As I’ve grown older and wiser, I believe that there are 4 elements that will/can keep me upright if shtf and have tried to cater my training and those of my students around:

1. WILL. The intent, drive, intensity and full commitment to go home at the end of the day. Whether peacefully or not so. One of many intangibles that simply cannot be read from a video, a post, a commentary but an internal fire.

2. WILE. Cutting corners, dirty tactics, misdirection, subterfuge. Being creative, inventive and diverse. Gaining the edge psychologically, physically, emotionally, mentally. “The one with the most flexibility on the system, most often controls the system.”

3. WITS. A cerebral approach to self-defense. One that doesn’t dive head-first into the storm without thinking but finding a varied method approach with the holistic view of “being safe” that circumvents style, system or art. Taking into account legal, social, ethical, financial, emotional, mental factors that dictate outcome pre-, mid- and post-conflict. Smart overrules cocky/tough the vast majority of times.

4. WEAPONS. Yes, there is a huge stigma that is omni-present in this area. Online, the ego of will-to-use, aggressive commentary, zero forethought as to consequence, the psychological state that goes into using one on another human being. I have not thought lightly on this. They are, however, a force equalizer and to not acknowledge this would be as naive as the other end of the spectrum just mentioned. As I get older, having to defend my life against someone bigger, faster, stronger or with their own weapons or friends is a monumental task and will increasingly become so as the years pass.

Just some thoughts, think heavily and profoundly on this, base your personal training accordingly and do research on how difficult real violence can be if you haven’t lived it yourself. It’s not as organized and cookie-cutter as many will have you believe.


  1.  Never offend or insult the other person. A quick trip to escalation. “Fucking idiot.” “This moron won’t leave me alone.” “Are you stupid?? It’s just a beer, man!” “You’re stupid chick looked at me funny.”
  2.  Never leave them zero option outside of physical conflict. When cornered, pride and ego take over, especially if friends, spouse/girlfriend, siblings, group are around to up the peer pressure factor or impress. If there’s a chance everyone can go home without a brawl, shut up and put your tail between your legs. If the only thing hurt was our pride at the end of the night, we all go home safe, nobody ends up in-hospital and no loved ones need worry.
  3.  Never challenge the other person. “You wanna go?!” “Is that an offer?” “Are you threatening me?!” “You think you can take me?!” “You want some of this?!” “And who the hell do you think you are?!” All are invitations to escalation. See number 2.

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4. Never touch the other person. While this may be circumstantial, if you’re not within their circle of trust, physical contact will cause an immediate physical response. A push off, a push, a removal. You’re invading their space bubble and territoriality increases exponentially during conflict.

5. Never give an order to the other person. “Calm down.” “Chill out.” “Relax.” “Take it easy.” “Settle the f*&^ down.” All are taken as an order from a stranger and, therefore, not taken well. You’re not their friend or confidant. They’re not getting paid and you’re not their boss.

6. Aggressive body language. Like we always say, if there’s an incongruence between body and words, believe body. If your body is showing instinctive signs of aggression, it will often be taken as such and a pre-emptive attack or sucker punch may be in the works. Learn to keep your body language under wraps as much as is possible. Self-control.

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7.Active listening. Sometimes if the other person is heard and knows they’re being heard, they’ll calm down. If they feel they’re not and you’re not understanding what the problem is, it’ll increase the odds of a physical lashing out. It may be as simple as you stealing their chair, taking their place in line or being rude on their night out with their significant other.

8. People often say to use humor. This can be an instigator as well if they think you’re making a mockery of their feelings in a serious situation, at least to them. Best to stay away from it.

9. Use submissive posturing. There are a number of pre-conflict postures that both give signs of calm and de-escalation but also give opportunity to launch a pre-emptive or simultaneous attack if needed in a pinch. (1. hands on head-frustration, 2. hands grabbing jacket-calm & listening, 3. hands on belt-confident yet prepared, 4. folded arms with low hand not intertwined-under the adrenalized depth perception line, 5. active hands – be like the French/Italians- and learn to strike out of movement, 6. rubbing chin, 7. pleading, 8. palms facing in the traditional “I don’t want no trouble” pose, 9. One or both rubbing neck-feigned exasperation, 10. Slow rubbing hands: self-comforting/in-thought)

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10. Talk slowly and calmly. As you’ll likely only have monosyllabic options under the likely effects of adrenaline, practice controlling the delivery mechanism. High-pitched, loud, frenetic and swearing will often cause the same reaction in the other person. Be the influencer.

Now all of these can also be used as a feint, bait or for deception if the situation calls for it and violence is a foregone conclusion as well. Something to keep in mind when planning strategies and tactics.