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.


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.

  1. The Lizard/Primitive/Reptilian Brain, which operated involuntary processes like breathing, heart-rate, body temperature, and proprioception. Also aggression, dominance, territoriality, and the like.
  2. The Limbic System, or the emotional brain, where the fight-or-flight response delved from, as well as other emotion, body language, and behavior.
  3. 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:

  1. The logos (logic mnemonic), located in the head or brain, is connected with order, logic, reason, discourse. (reason, rationale)
  2. The thymos (thyroid/hormonal mnemonic), located in the chest or heart, is connected with emotions. (spirit, emotion)
  3. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  1. 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.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.


Negative cyclical-responses to high-stress situations

Neural-loops are something that are omni-present in everyday-life. Thinking. Fighting. Decision-making. Habits. Patterning. Communication. Driving. Almost everything. They occur because of routine, comfort, default, connection. What happens is one automatically returns to either what is perceived to be working well, will get you out of a mess, or what one is most comfortable with. We’ve talked about heuristics previously and, while heuristics certainly can cause looping to occur, they are, in fact, two different entities. Heuristics give highest-percentage chance, best-possible outcome, or a good-enough solution in whatever context it’s needed. There is some consciousness that goes along with it in that decisions are made based on similar past circumstances, experience, exposure, and intuition (from experience, not a sudden burst of spider-sense that comes out of thin-air, to be clear. We have “good intuition” because it’s a situation that’s been crossed before. The greater the familiarity, the greater the intuition, generally)

Neural-looping is different from this. It’s a repetitive cycling of the same (not similar) thing over-and-over, whether successful or not, generally brought-on by pressure, stress, and tension and the brain being stuck in a perpetual circle of limited-options. A break-state needs to occur for one to get out of that loop. It can be positive, but generally it’s a thing one needs desperately to get out of as the thing looping – is not working. We also have both micro- and macro-loops. Momentary, situational, circumstantial looping and grand-scale, big-picture, universal looping.

We see it in communication, where an individual repeats the same thing over-and-over trying desperately to drive home the nail with a hammer because a new idea, data, information, perspective has been presented. One is so concretely of the belief that one’s own “thing” is the correct, the only, the best “thing” that we simply are not able to process the new “thing” that came along, most often because it could be better. More progressive. Obscure. Unique. Three-dimensional. New. And it’s simply not at all something that could have been anticipated, has the potential to discredit or disprove or improve or de-value one’s own thing. One is stuck in first-person perspective and the loop becomes a defensive mechanism to defend oneself from perceived inadequacy, inferiority, or irrelevance. This can be micro (a scenario or single-engagement) or macro (repetitive ongoing behavior).

We see it in fighting, where under extreme pressure, one defaults to the same go-to move over-and-over. Hanging-on for dear-life or enthralled by the moment of connecting the first time or “forgetting” (from that extreme pressure) that there are other opportunities to do something finite. One goes to the well one too many times, misunderstands that a success may only be a success one time, that no thing works with high-efficiency over and over at high-levels and daunting opponents, and that others pick-up on patterns. I’ve seen one of what most call one of world’s best combatives/self-defense instructors loop in an adrenalized-state. He was powerful-enough, voracious enough, and sufficiently experienced where his looping was sufficient – but he did it, it was clear, and in an uncontrolled environment it could have been a different end-result – might not have…but could have. Maybe not, but the point to take from the event was that we all do it, and we generally don’t notice we do it. Being aware is invaluable in that it can happen even to the best of us. This would be an example of a micro-loop. (situation, single-event, one-trial)

We see it in thinking, where a person continually falls back on a viewpoint or thought process that one is far more comfortable with, has experience with, or one so deeply believes to be “the key” that one fails to see other potential and viable alternatives. Or noticing that the pattern has generally yielded non-positive results repeatedly in the past to our detriment. Paradigm-shifts, different paths, alternative ways of thinking, fundamental changes, radical-diversions in thinking are simply not easy to achieve. People generally stick to what (they think) works. It’s the “they think” that is the catch. What you “think” is working for you may not be working for you at all. Many others may even be able to see this clearly but you are adamant in your path and fully believe your map is, indeed, the territory. A blind dedication to a method that is no longer working or works initially giving a false sense of ad-nauseum success. (macro: scaled, time-driven)

We see it in relationships, in the friends we keep and the relationships we invest in. We pick the same profile of friend, girlfriend, wife, husband, peers, satellites, acquaintances to affiliate ourselves with. Many times those can be venomous and counter-productive to our emotional equilibrium but we do it anyways because, unbeknownst to us, we think that comfort represents success and reinforcement. While it’s a bit of a stretch, if a thing looks, talks, and acts the same, it often behaves the same as well. Looking desperately for the exact same thing but hoping and praying for different results has never yielded positive benefit. (macro, again)

I have at various points in my life “cleansed” my entire friend-base, daily routines, jobs, extra-curricular activities, and gone 180-degrees the opposite when picking a life-partner before. I noticed that, at various points, the friend-niches I was keeping were repeating the same routine – disloyal, unethical, limited, often illegal. I decided it was better to be completely alone than to be with others and feel, well, completely alone. And, while I truthfully do not have the vast volume of friends that many others seem to have, I also have far less problems with the ones I have chosen to spend my quality-time with and surround myself with. Tribes, to me, are unhealthy outside of immediate-family ones.

I also realized I was gravitating towards the same type of woman for a rather long time as well. Same color hair. Same family background. Same aspirations. Same manner of thinking. Same worldly-view. When I *finally* (years, and years, and…) came to that realization, I decided to start connecting with women that were the total antithesis to what had clearly caused immense heartache, loss, lack of self-confidence, emotional yo-yoing, and deep emotional trauma. Now, those things can be present anywhere and it pays to acknowledge this, but it sure does pay to search-out avenues that minimize and mitigate it. (macro)

I’ve made countless paradigm-shifts in my life in the last 20-25 years that were caused by varying degrees (macro & micro) of neural-looping. Universal, lifestyle-altering, full-cleansings that can leave one completely alone, isolated, ostracized, and hermetic. BUT, they can pay off. Short-term losses for long-term gains. It can be hard to see at first but countering neural-looping can be a new-lease on life – or circumstance. Long-term benefit and short-term. Breaking patterns and loops is a very conscious decision-making process but it’s very difficult to do if one isn’t aware of the loop itself. That’s an imperative element – that one becomes aware of the fact one is looping at all.

Neural-loops are behavior, habit, decision, and even environmentally-driven. (small- and big-picture – trust-circle, home environment, work atmosphere, all the way to daily decision-making loops, as mentioned) We try and repeat the legitimacy of our actions in an unconscious manner to the point they get stuck, repetitive, and unbacked, even when greater evidence or option presents themselves. Spinning our tires in the metaphoric mud. A cerebral short-circuit. We all have them. Note also that they can, if noticed, be manipulated by someone pattern-coherent, astute, or even nefarious. Noticing that you can’t break from a non-effective cycle can be a valuable tool for someone trying to gain the upper-hand in whatever capacity, and it’s often beneficial to keep you in that cycle instead of allowing or assisting you in breaking-out.

Deep-understanding can help break those states – of big-picture, self, and result. Shallow-understanding generally presents the idea that habitual-decisions are comfortable, normal, “us” decisions…or that something is off but it’s probably nothing. Take a deeper look where your loops preside.


A Personal Look at Trauma and Self-Damage

After my book, “Battles of Attrition”, was released, I find I have searched for projects that challenge my limits of skillset and knowledge-base as far as possible – generally away from the previous directions I found myself in. Time to expand. To test. To break-out of comfortable niches. Some of those challenges, in hindsight, have uncovered other surprises that I wasn’t quite prepared for. The book hashed-out a lot of hidden, protected, and ongoing feelings and emotions about my youth and maturation and gave catharsis and understanding to a lot of it. Little did I know it wasn’t quite finished where the book ended…

While doing research for a personal project on PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), a number of traits common to those who suffer from it jumped-off the page. Thinking it was entirely coincidental because I had never been to war…never been in the military or law-enforcement or prison-security or the like I, for my own curiosity, took a Canadian online test for PTSD from a reputable, specialized body. I’m not sure one could label it “with flying colors” but let’s put it this way, most – the majority – of symptoms are things I experience in some manners to this day. Others had an epiphanic impact. Memories came rushing back from deep hidden places that I had either forgotten and turns out had far more significance than I had ever imagined, some entirely buried and repressed for protective purposes.

I have to admit, it was a rather horrifying realization. I reached-out to a friend who I know has lived through a lot of childhood trauma himself and he assured me those elements were completely normal and par for the course for people who had lived the things we had, I was just coming upon mine late(r) in the game. Realizations that your youth was not in any way how you remember it always runs the risk of losing confidence in one’s perceptive capability or distorting one’s future perception. Fortunately, being almost 50, that is likely a rather great edge in my case with maturity, understanding, adaptability, and revision of my personal “map-of-the-world.”

Looking back, as is often the wont of our/my generation, we generally just look at rather impactful and prognostic elements as “just part of childhood”, or “every kid likely went through them”, or “don’t look back, only forward.” And, to an extent, this has some validity, it does. However, I find without knowing precisely and intricately who I “was” it’s rather hard to understand who I “am” and “will be.”

I admit to always having a rather curious (although that might be a bit of an understatement) interest in the macabre. The dark. The foreboding. But so as not to misrepresent, it was never for inflicting pain on others or upping my “dangerousness factor.” I used to be intrigued by studying serial-killers, mass-murderers, cults & cult-leaders not to emulate them in any way but to find cracks to not be subverted by them, to “beat” them at their rather complex game, to conquer their psychological-warfare and turn it back on them. The reasons were multi-fold:

  1. My wife always says I have a rather large attraction and comfort in the dark places of my psyche. I delve deep into the black. I’ve explored it more than most, understand it intimately, and am likely innately more in-tune with mine than many. I know this from the people I’ve talked to (including high-level professionals & specialists), interacted with, and engage-with throughout the years. Few understand our alter-ego with the depth I know I do. I always wanted to understand that lure of mine because I realized it led to a far more profound understanding of myself and all my interchanging parts, faces, facades, and intricacies. You simply cannot understand yourself if you only look at the light.
  2. I had a lot of anger, rage, frustration, pent-up aggression, and unheard-voice when young. Going over to the dark often gave me comfort, companionship, and a place of solitude. It was better to explore the blackness of my own self than take it out on others who wronged me, who loved me, or a combination thereof.
  3. Unfortunately, that led to some very heavy dramatic bubbling-over of those emotions that needed a place to be released, which led to what I now realize was self-harm and even self-torture.

Without getting too graphic, this was a list of some of the things I would partake in when alone: putting sewing-pins under my fingernails, flipping my eyelids up, punching inanimate objects to the point of breaking my knuckles (to see if I could overcome the hesitation/resistance of anticipated physical damage), biting incessantly the inside of my mouth/lips until they bled profusely and lots of blood was swallowed to the point of becoming sick, hitting myself, touching burning objects to see for how long I could manage, pinching my eyeballs to the point of them coming-out or being damaged, ripping long strips out of my cuticles, all the way to various normal and abnormal forms of addiction.

When I started martial arts/self-defense/combatives years later, I would not understand until later why so much physical punishment never hurt me in any way. It was labelled various things: high pain-tolerance, double-jointedness, skeletal-durability, mental-strength. Looking back, I simply think that after the pain I had felt, nothing that others could do to me physically would be able to shut me down, stop me, or often even cause facial-reaction or acknowledgement. It was a decided edge in those areas we refer to as mindset, the intangibles, and pain tolerance/threshold. (2 different things, as we’ve mentioned) No physical pain could hurt more than the torment I and others had put me through over the years. And it wasn’t a macho, testosterone-fuelled, intense thing – it was an unemotive, numb, detached, blank thing. And this pertained to both acute and chronic or ongoing pain. A matter-of-fact reality for me, not a tool in my toolbox to project against others. It allowed me to bypass some psychological and mental elements others have to work past gradually and move right on to endgoal and result. A benefit, sure, but an unhealthy one, let’s be abundantly clear.

However, that self-damage also caused, rather expectedly, a great emotional and psychological toll over years. Numbed emotion. Blankness. A form of my own pseudo-narcissism. Lack of empathy at times. Unconscious responses to conflict that would lead to increased pain and suffering (physically/psychologically/spiritually/mentally) for myself as a result of those negative responses so as to feel far greater than was ever necessary. Self-destructiveness. I’m sometimes very tired of being inside my own head and mind. I also believe that a large part of this whole article and my book itself in no small part contribute to the way I think and process in the personal-security world I find myself a part of and make my voice what it is, however miniscule and drowned-out. A possibly unique perspective.

The goal, I think, was to take out my frustration, rage, anger on myself instead of projecting it outward and hurting others, including those that I love, which always has a rather large price to pay on oneself. I like to think now that maybe a fraction of all this knowledge has and can at least inform others, connect with others with like experiences that are too ashamed or frightened to speak-out, and maybe prevent a few from going too far one way or the other in that pain and dark arena. It’s a very fine-line where one can easily get lost or immersed in. I have a relatively routine, regular, normal, even mundane (kind thanks, pandemic) life now – and I’m not sure how it happened. But I’m grateful nonetheless. If “uneventful” will be my norm from here until through the rest of my days, I will have accomplished something pretty special from my vantage point – legitimately and without an ounce of sarcasm or cynism.


The manipulation and prevalence of time as a functional tool

Time. Time is, and has always been, a fleeting thing. I turned around the other day and I was approaching my 50th birthday. Just like that. Bang, there it was. The interesting thing is that time is a multi-faceted thing perception-wise. It can viewed on a plane that runs through you laterally or parallel to you moving forward. “Through-time” where deadlines, cut-off points, time-limits, and being prompt, timely, or on-time is of the utmost importance. “In-time” is more laissez-faire and without an internal-timeline clock ticking-away dictating your actions and their being streamlined. In-the-moment, as it were. Linearly vs. cyclically. Distortion, perception, manipulation. It can also be seen from very different perspective – some cultures retain old, ancient, conservative traditions (seen as being somewhat “lost in time” from others) while those others adopt a very modern, progressive, constantly evolving society and methodology (“in modern times”).

We have copious volumes of time metaphors and analogies. Time is money. Time is a resource. Time waits for no one. Time is the wisest counselor of all. Time flies when you’re having fun. Time is an illusion. Time flies when you’re having fun.

I noticed a huge discrepancy when moving from Canada to Costa Rica. Canada being part of the “western world”, time is everything. Accomplishment. Rapidity of market-arrival. Beating the competition. The volume of things gotten done during the day’s time-allotment. Education and manners being reflected in one’s capacity to adhere to time and it’s social-stigmas. Being late, not adhering to dictates of time-starts, deadline-passing are considered a sign of irresponsibility, rudeness, disrespect, and lack of dedication.

Here in Costa Rica, time is fleeting. When giving a time-of-arrival or time-deadline, it’s considered a ballpark estimate to generally work-around. Showing-up late is the norm and hardly disrespectful if everyone adheres to it. Being tardy is a consistent issue for North American & European businesses that operate here. “Si Dios quiere” (If God wants…) is something always heard regarding the events of tomorrow. Family-time is more important. Siestas. Breaks. Fun. Entertainment. Down-time. The little things. Less intensity.

Time-distortion can cause time to speed-up, have one get lost in time, be taken-away by time. Time flies when… A great piece of music. A transfixing piece of art. A painting that takes you back to a different time and place of fond memory. A dose of intriguing foreign culture. Nature’s beauty. We can lose track of time because the moment, experience, enjoyment, company causes us to forget about the time. It can also cause time to slow-down. This is generally affixed to trauma, fear, or great physical exertion. Events that force us to have time drag, have time become the enemy, or be amazed at how slowly time moves. All time-distortion but at opposite ends of the proverbial spectrum. Time can expand (when positive experience is occurring) or contract (when negative).

As mammals, we all have unique Circadian rhythms that based on the Earth’s rotation and 24-hour time-clock, our sleep-awake cycle. These are affected by a number of filters that are dependent on elements like the amount of light, temperatures, climate. In North America we have Daylight Savings Time. People suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) based on the 4 seasonal-changes. Time can disrupt functional biological-process as well. Airline pilots and crews that fly into numerous time-zones regularly can affect greatly their sleep-patterns, time awake, light-dark transitions, and the like. Travellers, owning a bed-and-breakfast and seeing this almost daily, suffer from jet-lag for the same reasons – a drastic acclimatization to different stimuli that alters their body-clocks and patterning. Hallucinogenic and other drug-use and alcohol-consumption can greatly alter perception of time, space, and distance. Depression and disorders as well can alter regular time-routine and cause misperception of time and context. Even lighting (bright/intruding/invasive lighting vs. tranquil, “low-volume” soothing) has heavy studies being done on how it can affect one’s sleep and time-perception.

In the self-defense, martial arts, combatives, counter-violence, personal-protection industry, we sometimes hear the term time-distortion as it pertains to tachypsychia, or adrenal-dump. It’s given heavy reference to it’s importance in understanding yet rarely is that understanding delved-into or explained.

In combat, conflict, danger, threat-assessment, violence – time can be a weapon. Let’s do a little of that delving and go a little further down the rabbit-hole to explore some intangibles in the coherence of this concept.

Elements: Time-distortion, as we refer to it, occurs during situations of high-stress, heavy physical-exertion, anaerobic-range, multiple/simultaneous-stimuli, sense-overload, fatigue-fear, and pain threshold/tolerance concerns (both acute and cumulative).Intangibles: Time limits create different fighting-styles and game-plans. Time limits call for staggering endurance, interspersing rest and intensity, burst-capability. It promotes more tactical-time for setting a game-plan to accomplish overall strategy. One can utilize an opponent’s fatigue, wear, accumulated damage, pain-levels all as tools to manipulate time and force it to work against an opponent where the things above cause time to become a desperate factor working against their cause.

Presuppositions: Well, let’s put it in a very succinct way. If I find time flies while you find time to drag due to preparedness, calm, experience, vision (to see the happenings above), and confidence advantages – who will have a better “time?” Who will function more calmly and efficiently in-spite of ability, training, talent? Who will handle the stress of the event better? Who will have more lengthy-plans and multiple-strategies at one’s disposal? Who’s reaction-time will go down? Dictate pace and tempo? Generally the greater one’s perceptual-filter accuracy: experience, exposure, nature, nurture, context-understanding, knowledge, education, training, etc. in those high-risk, high-order, high-price scenarios has the edge and the one with the edge can manipulate time better than the one who doesn’t. Stamina, clearly, is also a major tool in the toolbox, obviously. “Gas-in-the-tank” is a great time-manipulator as well when knowing that it’s greater than one’s opponent early-on. If my time-perception speeds-up while yours slows-down, “all things being equal” has a major caveat kinking the hose. And this isn’t just in sparring, fighting, combat, conflict, it’s also in business, personal-interaction, politics, discussion.

Development: I use a number of time-distortion drills but there are some required-elements that go into this type of training. It is NOT for everybody and a clear understanding of its repercussions and negatives is absolutely needed. Trust is a huge element that’s imperative to hitting that correct-state without unneeded concern for excessive-force, egregiousness of training-partners, bullying-mentality, unnecessary punishment, will-to-hurt, etc. Without that trust, one simply cannot focus on the improvement of time-utilization.


  1. Grappling without submission with high-intensity, 3rd-person barking to maintain that intensity, no time limits. No position-comfort or “resting”, dominance-maintenance, consistent high-pace movement
  2. Multiple-attackers standing or on-ground. One can either do it standing with controlled-impact until the person calls enough, standing-grappling, or on the ground again without submission.
  3. Static isometric poses without time-limit.
  4. Psychological-engagements. Yelling, swearing, screaming, pushing – basically a replication of the “interview” up to and including physical-contact but pre-fight. Serious and really pushing and provoking. As you generally know the people in front of you to at least some extent, one can use very personal, private, privileged methods of provocation to get one into the state of anger, fear, stress, etc.
  5. Hyperventilation/panic-breathing. The “tire-throw”. One starts holding one’s breath, throws a tire as far as one is able, sprinting to the tire and, while circling and maintaining breath-hold, shadow-boxes until one has extended one’s capacity, picks-up the tire and sprints back to the starting place. While others partake, recovery-breathing is utilized until regained in time for upcoming turn. (timer/heart-rate monitor – how does your internal assessment of time compare with the actuality of time)
  6. Simple clock-gauge. In calm while simultaneously doing some monotonous, simple (yet minutely-distracting) activity (clapping hands, tapping foot/feet, walking-in-circles, humming), allow a person to start at the same time as the timer and go between 30-60 seconds just to gauge how in-line their perception of passing-time is with actuality. It’s amazing how off and disconnected many people’s internal-clocks are with the external one.
  7. Pain threshold/tolerance. Body-walking, ground-punishment with body/emotion/relaxation-control, the “stick-tap” on the prepared-body with various levels of impact, gradual joint-lock/strangulation/choke/pressure-point tolerance or pain-capacity.

Note that the elements of pain, exertion, and fear are all present and accounted-for here. Also note that, with all of these, both a heart-monitor and timer are invaluable tools to help one understand one’s maximum capability, extending that capability, and increasing one’s overall threshold for difficult situations.

***Be very aware of your clients’/students’ limitations, previous health-risks, time put-in, and restrictions. This is NOT training for everybody.

So, in closing, nobody really has the all the answers with time, time-perception, time-distortion. Many have simply experimented with it to gauge performance-improvements, increasingly calmer-states, less gaps in internal and external biological-clocks, and having one develop greater confidence in one’s extended-capacity to manage trauma, pain, and fear. I do not have all the answers – but I am a constant-experimentalist.

“Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them.” ~Dion Boucicault


Unconscious evolutionary “techniques” designed to protect us

I generally tend to stick to human behavior as that’s a lane I’m much more comfortable in and dealing with body function is often rather convoluted, over-simplified, or simply regurgitated from sometimes questionable subject-matter experts. Usually, that’s an entry-point for me where I can both hash out my comparative-experience and break-it down in a way to articulate it to other industry-related instructors for whatever use they’re able to make of it. Plus, this element deals with certain stress and tension behaviors, so there’s an intersecting point-of-reference here to be had, both for me and for you, the reader.

As innate survival-skill mechanisms, fear-physiology, and systems 1 & 2 are things rarely discussed, let alone implemented, in the self-defense industry, the idea of involuntary attack responses likely falls on deaf ears for the most part.

However, there are numerous things that our body does in what we call “system 1” (or unconscious/instinctive/evolutionary response) when attacked that are designed to minimize damage, give us a chance to “weather the storm”, stay alive, and/or get to our system 2 (conscious response, training, education, knowledge) for the necessary response to facilitate upping-survivability, best-outcome, or good-enough-to-live results. We’ve delved into the idea of the 2 systems potentially working in alignment with each other to ensure those outcomes.

Now, is system 1 always present, needed, or defaulted into action? No, of course not. There are different types of context leading-up to an attack, confrontation, threat, danger, conflict, etc. There’s the measuring or pluming: the slow-burn that escalates gradually into something far more ominous than was anticipated at the outset over generally trivial issues. The interview where you’re profiled and marked early to find out what type of mark you’ll end-up being based on current state, physiology, body language, confidence, etc. (Note that even if you’re a “tough-guy”, these things radically change throughout the day and what makes a good criminal, well, “good” is that they know this, even if you’d be a potentially-hard mark at other times, other days, or even later that very day.) The ambush. The sucker-punch. The stalking.

There are a number and the situation dictates the systemic response. Some we’ll be in-tune with, prepared-for, 100% focused, and having full accessibility to system 2…some not. Sometimes system 1 will be defaulted into initial action. Sometimes that’s enough. Sometimes it won’t be and it will last just long-enough that you’ll have to snap into consciousness and access that training, resiliency, adaptation, mindset, intensity – whatever makes you you. Sometimes you’ll be entirely on-top of things, sometimes not. BUT, the greater the experience, exposure, knowledge, education, evolutionary-aligned training – the more chance you have of being under-control and with full repertoire at your disposal in a number of diverse circumstances. An important element to be aware of is that, to get out system-1, a break-state change will have to occur. Triggered, learned, innate. A will to survive. Audacity. Gall. Hatred. Animosity. Survival-instinct. Something will have to switch via sheer-force the risk of being stuck in system-1 or a system-1 loop and connect to system-2. Remember that system-1 is instinctive and transitioning, not a solution for a committed, dedicated, or intent threat.

We all know the system-2 responses. They’re prevalent in every duel, cockfight, MMA-match, martial art, boxing-ring, match-fight. Punching. Kicking. Choking. Joint-locks. Takedowns. Throws. Head-butts. Weapons. Palm strikes. Knife-hands. Elbows. Knees. You get the picture. So let’s give a little breakdown of how things work prior to getting into the why and for what.

First of all, the human nervous-system is itself made-up of 2 distinctly different systems – the central nervous system (brain/spinal-cord) and the peripheral nervous system, also made-up of 2 unique systems – the somatic and autonomous. The somatic is responsible for sending messages to (sensory neurons) and from (motor neurons) the central nervous-system, and is generally responsible for all voluntary movement – as well as reflexes, or “reflex arcs”. Voluntary movement is any conscious movement, even sudden, where heuristics or conscious thought come into play and decisions have to be made. Walking around a fire. Steering clear of a hole on the highway. Jumping over a water puddle. Reflex arcs include putting your arm up if an object is thrown at your face, jerking your hand away from a hot-stove recently touched, the “knee-jerk” reaction of your lower-leg snapping-out when hit by the doctor’s reflex-mallet, blinking, sneezing, pulling-away from a needle or pin-prick, pupil-dilation or contraction of pupils towards light, yawning, “sleep-spasms” while fading, mouth-watering when seeing desired food, etc. etc.

The autonomous itself is made-up of 2 distinct systems – the sympathetic and parasympathetic. These 2 systems act in polar-opposite manners to counter-act each other. The sympathetic nervous system is triggered during times of arousal and ignites the “fight-or-flight” response (though after previous articles we know this term is greatly over-simplifying both the simple and complex explanations of its function). It’s well-documented in that the effects are nauseatingly repeated incessantly by industry-people. Increase in blood pressure and heartrate, blood moved away from the limbs to the torso/internal organs for protective purposes, the release or “dumping” of adrenaline, increase in pupil-size for greater focus on object-of-interest, shaky hands, a cessation of non-related functions, lung-expansion, etc. These responses are designed to optimize performance and function when under short-term duress and immediate-attack – and also a rather large reason why the continually-backed hypervigilance is a bad idea as it taxes the body and creates all kinds of long- and short-term problems for the body’s protective mechanisms. The parasympathetic is in-charge of re-stabilizing the body post-event: pupil- and lung-contraction, non-attack essential function-return, heart-rate calming. The first, as if the body jumps-up, the second, as if it lays down. Regardless, not the focus of the article but needed to give a brief overview of function leading-up to focus.

So what are some system-1 responses? We’ll discuss some involuntary attack responses, then give offshoot examples of follow-up, triggered system-2 reactions in-alignment with the “IAR” (involuntary attack responses) listed above them. While “IAR” are inevitably endless and can include a vast array of micro-movements ( ) that attempt to minimize damage, maximize protection, transition to some positive result (escape, evasion, absorption, disruption, etc.), some are quite well-defined.

1. Startle reactions. Auditory/kinesthetic-tactile/kinesthetic-sensory. Increase in grip-force, clenching of fists, eye-blinking, tension of body, shoulder-lift, neck-freeze, head-at-12 o’clock, dilation of pupils, limb-movement-restriction/freezing on-the-spot. Note that startle reactions are definitely part of reflex-arcs but all reflex-arcs are NOT startle-based, as seen in the above examples.

As seen in America’s Funniest Home Videos, any number of prank shows, TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes, Youtube, Punk’d and any number of current shows with real-time responses, the type of response is vast – anything from extension of arms away from face to get-away from object/individual, lifting a leg, a push, blinking/closing eyes, covering your face, jumping, lashing-out/hitting, limb-flailing, turning one’s head, yelling/screaming.


TRANSITIONAL MOVEMENTS: immediately POST-action/conscious is when conscious “weaponization” occurs, your reaction AFTER the flinch/startle-response is what counts and that is the part that can be wired-in, of imperative understanding for the transitional movements that come IMMEDIATELY AFTER the system-1/involuntary response for each of these examples. TRANSITIONAL MOVEMENTS: Highly-dependent on the type of position and response given. However, practicing fight-fundamental attributes from a number of awkward, obscure, angled, positional peculiarities would help, as would cutting response-time from unconscious-to-conscious using unprepared-for, surprise, non-predictive attacks. (I’ve used an example of a tai chi-like grounded push has a dual-effect of hard-impact/space-creation/escape-opening, plus the psychological-stimulus of one’s opponent having to cover-ground again to re-engage with some hesitancy.)

2. Balance-recovery. Lower-limb correction for lower-level balance-impediments/upper-limbs when actually falling forwards or backwards. Lower-leg re-stabilizing, bracing-arms (for fall), grabbing/reaching for an object to keep upright. TRANSITIONAL MOVEMENTS: falling, shoulder-rolls, break-falling, turtling/roll-absorbing.

3. Turtling. Covering when overloaded by an overwhelming attack, sudden or surprise attack, a beating by multiple people or superior opponent. TRANSITIONAL MOVEMENTS: any of the vast array of head-covers/elbow-shields now fashionable in the martial arts, each one so much clearly superior tactically than the one previous. (Pick one or two you’re comfortable with, that can be used multi-directionally, and covers most upper-vitals best – you’ll be fine)

4. Fences/Frames/Frameshifting. The double-arm brace in front when pleading, begging, wanting to create distance, to alleviate the effects of adrenaline not giving a big, clear picture when opponent is too close, unconsciously creating space. TRANSITIONAL MOVEMENTS: above head-covers/elbow-shields, driving forward to steal space back, destroy or damage soft-tissue, hit nerves.

5. Sympathetic contractions (bilateralism/bilateral symmetry/limb mirroring) – When fearful, panicked, exerting high-levels of muscle-force, the other limb not performing the action tends to mimic or mirror the action of the acting-limb – and the higher the intensity of the force or emotion, the greater the sympathetic contraction. TRANSITIONAL MOVEMENTS: bilateral asymmetry practice (under duress or high-stress, having both upper-limbs doing different functional things, or offensive/functional-usage of bilateral symmetry itself (various judo/grappling/shoot/sambo lapel-throws, double-hammerfist/knifehand/push/palm-strikes/eye-thumb/double back-of-neck slap/double-grab for ballistic head-butt/ear-pop/cupping/2-handed stick-strikes/punching while lapel-grabbing, etc. etc.

6. Clinging/hugging. We see boxers and MMA fighters do this all the time when being battered by an overwhelming offense, hurt by a hard shot, fatigued or on the verge of exhaustion, giving time to recuperate or expire time. I’ve seen it a lot in street-fights or attacks for the same reasons when a fight draws-on, injury occurs, punishment needs to be minimized. TRANSITIONAL MOVEMENTS: holding and hitting, recuperating breathing, throws/takedowns, weapon-deployment if high-order, neck-control, arm-wraps/arm-hooks/2-on-1s.

I think we should note that, while these are generally unconscious at the onset, they are caused by extreme surprise, fear, or pain-response – all reactions under momentary or immediate duress. So, as with the “flinch” or startle-response, “mindset” is a factor that clicks-in when situation-acknowledgement occurs, not during. With either surprise/fear/pain-attacks, or even at times from a threat within our sphere-of-trust/acquaintances/friends/family/loved ones, mindset is something that needs to be trained or triggered – and sometimes it’s not accessible at all, even mindset doesn’t bail one out of a particularly galling fire. And, while one can alter or prolong responses to an extent, restricting or containing it is a different entity entirely than “weaponizing” it. (I once held-on to an extremely hot-plate and overcame the reflex to drop it and have it break on the floor, receiving 3rd-degree burns for my troubles in the process but absolutely could not have thrown it with power at someone’s head – a conscious choice with heavy stimulus altering senses and noting that one demands full and heavy focus, one demanding split-attention with that overload). As a finishing aside, Professor Dr. Roger Enoka has done some interesting research involving involuntary discharge of firearms (with legal and non-legal ramifications) including elements of the above as a rather large part of the work. (link below)


Red flags to our concrete thinking that present glitches in the matrix

As we’ve discussed, heuristics are designed to speed-up the processing-analysis using a combination of perceptual filters we have discussed previously – experience, exposure or immersion, nature, nurture, age, gender, class, state, environment, culture, previously-training & education, by-proxy learning, et al. Perceptual filters not only help one develop credibility in certain areas of specialization over time (and generally cumulatively), but they inevitably make us, well, “us.” It’s important to know that we are not a one-dimensional entity but a three-dimensional that is made up of the whole of the sum of our parts. We are “us” due to a vast array of influences, experiences, personality, impactful events, genetics, moods. And THIS is why it is ALWAYS the individual (man or woman), not any system, method, art, style, technique, tactic. Those are the stable elements to the forever fluidity of that individual – and fluidity…context – always reigns supreme. Most know this whether they are able to articulate it or not. Easy, at least we think.

As many seem to perpetually thinks it’s the other way around (stage 1/surface) and that the important thing is those things listed above, it’s much rarer to find someone who knows it’s always “the individual.” (stage 2/shallow) They know it through and through as their cumulative life experiences have consistently led them to that conclusion. Fewer understand what makes up those intangibles that make it the individual – what we term those “perceptual filters.” (stage 3/mid-level). They grasp that we are shaped through a number of influences along the way that make us us and give us our understanding of things. Yet fewer are those who understand that, while the above may be true, the map is not the territory. Our experience is just that, even with the whole sphere of knowledge and perception we’ve obtained over our lifetime from the various sources. Our perception is still flawed as our truth is not at all necessarily the full and complete one that exists in actuality. It is just our version of it. The way we filter it.

And, because perception of reality is ALWAYS flawed and unreliable when lined-up alongside actual reality, there are certain caveats that come with our perceptual filters – the inevitable and irresistible “flawed filtering.” That’s an important discrepancy to acknowledge as it allows us to manage and factor-in these issues with our perception of situations, scenarios, circumstances to more closely align the two when utilizing heuristics to make important decisions.

That being said, what are some of those caveats? What skews our view of things? Alters assessment, analysis, dissection of important, risky, conflictual, dangerous, threatening situations? Why is it important? When we accept and acknowledge our limitations on the current state-of-things, our abilities and capabilities, our discrepancies with the actuality, any contextual lag – it gives us a greater chance on performing in the necessary manner to achieve whatever the desired result may be; survival, success, performance, best-case scenario, good-enough…inevitably whatever is dictated by that circumstance. It’s entirely one thing to find out what makes yourself tick – yet another to understand the limitations of that understanding so one can align with the current reality of things and make grounded decisions based on the incoming stimuli.

So, again, we ask, what are some of those red flags?

a. BIAS. Cognitive biases that are skewed by faulty and disconnected perceptual filters. There are many, including confirmation bias (pilfering information that backs an already-believed axiom), Dunning-Kruger (the simple road with minimal information is always the easiest to fathom), status-quo (denial), eternal-optimism (always looking on the bright side), eternal-pessimism (always looking on the dark side), the halo effect (gesture doesn’t signify personality), anchoring (1st bit of pertinent info sets the table), hindsight (always 20-20, right, looking back…crystal-ball narratives are always created post-event), group (I’m in with them and they’re all doing it, so…), self-serving (my work when rewarded, their fault when blamed), and so-on-and-so-forth. Biases are vast and multi-functional and always context-appropriate; they cloud our judgment, period. (eg. You overrule or disregard valuable advice given to you by someone with better, clearer, or emotionally-detached perspective than you in a specific context because you da’ man; even though your inner-alarm is going off, you side with your posse because they couldn’t possibly steer you wrong…could they; They look more like me, therefore, I relate more to them and will side with them)

b. CONTEXT-MISDIAGNOSIS. You erred in your assessment of what was actually unfolding before even relying on conscious decision-making or heuristics. The context was not at all what you diagnosed and, therefore, either that conscious decision-making or heuristic-recall/rolodex were never a given a chance to succeed. (eg. You cause a very unneeded scene when a gentleman was staring at your wife from across the room – when they went to grad-school together and hadn’t seen each other for 20 years; You get involved in a lover’s spat thinking the girl was in trouble and it turns out she is the aggressor and turns on you; That panic in the parking lot with screaming and running is for a movie)

c. OVERCONFIDENCE. You over-estimated your ability and capability to get the job done. Ego. Cockiness. Pride. Either way, your belief in yourself in certain complex or difficult circumstances can be overblown or your view on achievable outcome extended past your ability to pull it off. (eg. You believe that, even though there are 4 of them, you’ve beaten 4 in controlled-sparring class before so you should have no problem here either, regardless of their holding weapons; Since you’ve spoken in front of family at Christmas, doing so in front of 300 strangers should be no different; Fake-it-until-I-make-it)

d. UNDER-ESTIMATION. To some degree, the mirror-image of the above. While they often go hand-in-hand – they needn’t. I can be grounded with ego and pride yet still under-estimate an opponent or situation. (eg. The common industry misjudgment of assuming that the boogeyman, stranger-danger, or the predator “outside-the-gate” is the one we predominantly need to prepare for when it’s far more often true it’s someone we know, trust, interact with, work with, or is a satellite to our life; She’s young and inexperienced and a “she”, I should have no trouble putting her in her place; I bet I could finish that project all by noon…)

e. TRANSFERABILITY. The unerring belief that because you have experience and exposure in a given area, it automatically transfers to every other relatable or offshoot area. (eg. Since you’re a martial arts master, you also know about firearms, defensive-driving, 1st-Aid, and survivalism as a by-product because all things safety is clearly your lane; I had a like-situation once, I bet if I do the same thing here, the outcome should be the same; I’ve dealt with people with his profile before, I’ve got him figured-out before we even begin this; I can skate on ice, this roller-blading should be no different; It worked in Canada, it should work the same here in Costa Rica)

f. LOCUS-OF-CONTROL/INFLUENCE. Though our experience and exposure far greater, instincts more finely-honed from our perceptual filters, have handled similar situations with far more frequency, have already acknowledged any personal biases that could blind clarity – we listen to someone else for whatever reason. Our significant other who knows us best – sometimes to their and our detriment (read: their own biases.) Our boss who has more power and clout over us. Peer pressure from others “outvoting” you en masse. Someone else driving or paying the bill. An ally more uninhibited, risk-taking, reckless, naïve, or oblivious than we are. Loved ones slow to react or unknowing of the dangers or having no familial protocols in-place for this sort of occurrence. A group of people with previously-thought similar goals and motives who display shades to the pure colors we originally thought. Tribalism.

These are some of the issues with personal perceptual-filter overreliance that can influence both conscious decision-making and heuristic-recall. They cloud our judgment and make that very perception designed to help us all blurry and foggy, taking away the big advantage we may have from the appropriate tools we may have for a given thing. It’s imperative that these are understood prior to important decision-making as they act as blind-spots that take away our edges we have over potentially-diverse situations.

While this is getting a little more into the deeper-end of the pool, the shallow can get us in trouble as it only partially-educates us. Gives us an unfocused perspective. Leaves out valuable information. Renders some otherwise valuable knowledge obsolete. And I’m positive you can handle the deeper-water if it ups success on potentially-serious and impactful life decisions for you.


A view of the Cooper Color Code for the 21st Century’s 2nd decade

Time to delve just a little further down the rabbit-hole of another sacred industry-cow, the Cooper Color Code.

For those of you who use the “Cooper Color Code” for risk-assessment (and note there’s nothing wrong with this unto itself and keep on trucking if that’s your thing, but…), some things you may not (or may be and ignore anyway) be aware of if passing this on to others as the original intent.

a. It was originally intended to be a mindset tool for lethal-force scenario reaction to escalating violence, not a situational-awareness or threat-assessment one. An escalating in-fight dynamic of thinking-while-fighting (remember “the thinking fighter”…) to assess when the risk of serious injury or death was present or increasing and be able to switch accordingly, applying the gradual or sudden amount of intentional violence needed according to circumstance.

b. That that act, lethal-force, is not nearly as easy as so many industry-people and online-warriors pay lip-service to. Cooper acknowledged that in its inception, it was “…a means of setting one’s mind into the proper condition when exercising lethal violence, and is not as easy as I had thought at first.” It is not easy to end someone’s life, not nearly as easy as Internet cowboys talk. (Note that when I speak of this, I speak not of someone who’s partaken in the act – I have not killed and that should say something – but have assessed, evaluated, and contemplated on it very thoroughly, have been faced with the choice, and had serious damaging intent in a number of high-order events) Talk is cheap, context is a thing, innate human resistance to take another life of the same species too. This is why many, including myself, train what I term “gears.”

As I’ve discussed in a previous entry, we ALL have 2-3-4 extra gears on a sliding-scale when we leave the comforts of our training, every one of us. We can all learn to turn it up on command. We can all crank-up the aggression and intensity. And we all have innately another level of violence within our internal animal when it’s needed. This bears itself out in countless survival stories. With proper context, that act becomes a far greater possibility if needed – an act of situational necessity, not one of impulse, process, or emotion. The question is, can we bring it up when we need to…thus the invention of the color code – an understanding of gear-shifting. That’s a far more profound internal question to ponder and think deeply on than a daily threat-assessment one of daily living.

*Note that I also distinguish heavily between mindset and the vaunted “killer instinct” that many use as a buzzword. I find that killer instinct, as generally used, is the willingness to flick some magical switch and turn from humble, mild-mannered librarian into someone capable of suddenly killing. Generally, a pretty damn unachievable pipe-dream. Mindset is something cultivated over time. With great internal analysis, context, and pre-event assessment giving explicit detail to the when, why, and for what. How one carries or handles oneself daily and ongoingly with a clear contextual framework and having adapted that mindset to one’s perceptual filters – nature, nurture, higher-calling/greater-place, experience, knowledge/education, capability, training, etc. One simply cannot develop the first without factoring in the second. You are who you are and that does not change suddenly. Just as one doesn’t suddenly become capable of being cruel to animals, creating a Ponzi scheme, or faking it until you make it. It was either there or it wasn’t in some way, shape, or form. I am not a Jekyll-Hyde theorist.

c. That the creator himself was heavily against the use of the model as a risk-assessment one, though admitted that the other use of the model was not necessarily wrong, just that (paraphrasing) it wasn’t what the original model was intended upon creation. He also made reference to the idea that the combative mindset was not impacted or directed by the amount of danger perceived or present at the time of assessing. It’s one’s ability to overcome psychological resistance, innate restraint, nurture/nature, spiritual-belief, cultural taboos & social-stigmas, affected states…. Inevitably those perceptual filters…again. (and again, and ag….)

Cooper’s words in 2005, roughly a year before his death:

“In White you are unprepared and unready to take lethal action. If you are attacked in White you will probably die unless your adversary is totally inept.

In Yellow you bring yourself to the understanding that your life may be in danger and that you may have to do something about it.

In Orange you have determined upon a specific adversary and are prepared to take action which may result in his death, but you are not in a lethal mode.

In Red you are in a lethal mode and will shoot if circumstances warrant.”So, moving on, some downsides of the utilization of a situational-awareness model (as it is so often used, at least, from irresponsible regurgitators) pre-violence over an escalating-force one mid-violence:

1. Hyper-vigilance: over-taxing system/exhaustion, long-term health risks, unfocused attentiveness to loved ones present, agitation, paranoia, prolonged anxiety, and sleep issues. After over-excess one might become disconnected from normal society and suffer from the same long-term health risks as uber-stress, anxiety- and nervous-disorders.

2. As we’ve discussed here, it’s accepted in some circles that we operate with dual-systems intrinsically. One (system 2) that is soft-wired: assessing, deducting, analyzing, rationalizing, deciding, hypothesizing, etc. (trained, experienced, exposed, learned, educated) One (system 1) that is like a hard-wired response to spontaneous, quick-need, immediate-circumstance situations where best-outcome/highest-chance/good-enough solutions are demanded. (evolutionary, innate, natural, inbred)

This system 1 response is a built-in warning or alert that lets us know when and if something is off and intimate something is amiss, in need of attention, or worth assessment for risk, threat, danger, conflict, or violence. By being hyper-vigilant, there’s also a risk present of dulling this system 1 and choosing to see everything, desperately looking for something odd, curious, or out-of-place instead of being alerted to something authentically of concern. Translation? We’re so intense on what could, might, may be there that we may actually miss the actual things that may be important in the background. So, in a nutshell, NOT “always, forever, and inevitably” BUT “when, until, and if.” We are constantly in self-defence trying to re-invent the wheel, overwrite evolution, make things better that are there for a very precise reason and have kept as alive over the centuries from far more determined predators than we generally have now.

3. Being so constantly tuned-in when we’re with loved ones all the time worried about their constant and perpetual safety will distract from what is actually important – enjoying our time with those very loved ones. Remember, as we’ve repeated on this blog over-and-over, one can split attention but not focus. Our focus should be on those very loved ones so as not to waste a minute of our time attentive to the unnecessary and irrelevant, waiting for something that may never come. Even from an industry-perspective, one CAN be split-attentive. One cannot be split-focused. Again, somewhat repeating the above, If you are focusing on what’s NOT there consistently, you WILL NOT be on the thing that is. That’s the danger of incessantly looking at things that aren’t present or existent…constantly, it gradually tunes you out to the thing that eventually may be that actually is of-importance. Contemplate on that for a time. Be split-attentive on things that warrant it, not focused on things that aren’t.

4. An add-on to being hyper-vigilant is the actual fact that you likely draw much unwanted attention by actually being in the state itself. Anxious, paranoid, uber-aware, on-guard, scoping people and situations out – will likely do the exact thing you do not want: draw gazes. If you’re scoping everyone else out, there’s rarely a doubt that the attentive-eye also does the same with you, now searching for the same things you’re looking for – but with more ominous intent. They notice things that stand-out as well. I find simply walking confidently, acting calm, moving with intent, and projecting that I’ve been at the races a few times is generally a far greater deterrent than acting jacked-up and tuned-in incessantly. You’re not acting comfortable, calm, and in-control when you’re hyper-vigilant, it’s simply not possible. I’ve tried and generally found far more trouble than I was trying to discourage.

5. “Situational awareness” is rapidly becoming a redundant industry-buzzword akin to “tactics.” Pre-incident indicators. Body language. Micro-expressions. Flinching. Restaurant seating positions. Strategic body-positioning. Jesus. Over-significance on the insignificant. Be in the moment. When. Until. If. The current utilization of the Color Code adds to this and gives it greater credibility when many in the industry are trying to downplay its significance already.

It’s also uber-important to have transferable tools in a holistically-diverse toolbox, and I believe in having a well-rounded full life over one-dimensionality. So, IF this was intended as lethal-violence model and not a situational-awareness one, AND the odds of us facing lethal-violence with ongoing regularity in our daily lives are rare if for many non-existent, I like to play with the idea of these models having viability in other, more occurring areas of my current life. Where else could the color code fit? Or is it a one-dimensional mindset tool? If it is indeed mindset-directed, the levels of intensity or commitment would seem to relevant to almost everything in life that have a focused intensity to accomplish and mission-statement with which to do so.

To me, one of the major elements of all these models – dual-systems processing, perceptual filters, the OODA Loop, the Color Code & gears, man vs. system, heuristics, flow, aviation and driving allegories, the adaptability/critical-thinking/momentary decision-making/resiliency – ALL interact with, off-of, and in a vast process of behavioral components to achieve one thing, performance-capability. Every one has its own cog in the wheel and contributes synergistically and symbiotically in the whole of that capability, whether it’s success, best-outcome, good-enough result, excellence, or whatever the appropriate end-goal, which is determined by circumstance, scenario, or situation.

While it may not seem like an important thing in the whole, understanding that none of these works independently from the others as stand-alone entities, and knowing that they all interact in some extremely important way, is a far more important clarity than compiling some vast amount of techniques, moves, sequences, or tools. They are inter-dependent…not independent.


Decision-making shortcuts designed to aid overloaded cognition

Heuristics is a generally invisible term in the self-defense/martial arts, even in branch areas of pertinence. What are heuristics? Consider the previous OODA-Loop article the “what” and “how”, heuristics the “why.” Heuristics are those little mental shortcuts and internal scripts we utilize to make the “best decision possible” under current circumstances, situations, and scenarios. They are designed to speed-up the processing-analysis using a combination of perceptual filters we have discussed previously – experience, exposure, nature, nurture, age, gender, class, state, environment, culture, previously-training & education, by-proxy learning, et al.

Mental shortcuts are taken based on reference-points to the most alike, closely-aligned, previously-similar occurrences we’ve had and the most successful outcomes we’ve come to with those occurrences. As this is generally not a fully-conscious process and is innate, we’re generally or often not even aware we’re even making these mental connections and references. The mental rolodex is generally surfed for closest successful (or unsuccessful with limited familiarity and rapidly assessing previous errors for unsuccessful result) scenario with which to make a like and highest-percentage or greatest-“survivability”decision.

We use heurisitics daily…and often. What should we wear. What list of things we need to accomplish within our day, and in what order. What do buy for groceries. Whether to put gas in the car or not. Whether to have that second or third cup of coffee. All the way to whether to make that big business deal, buy that house, or trade-in that car.

They are also shortcuts that can be to better understand and become effective at a thing. Taking a route to the beach where you remember that there was recently bad weather that wore-away a part of the road might lead to a route-change. Visualizing images to better understand that mathematical problem to help come to the proper solution. Making judgment on someone who does yoga and has long hair falling into a certain profile. Lumping someone who believes in a certain political-party into a universal bucket of their representation as a person.

It’s also very pertinent to risk, threat, danger, violence, and conflict, where the immediate risk is exponentially higher.

For example, you see a very sketchy individual staring at you from the street corner while you’re inside a retail-store. Instead of knee-jerking into a volatile response, we peruse that rolodex rapidly for previous experiences with this, including those that are similar yet different. Context is rapidly glossed-over with potentialities that factor-in – time-of-day, volume of people around, other things he could be staring at or things on you that catch his attention (the writing on your shirt/your stand-out clothing), his threat-potential (age/gender/disability/physique/clothing), and a host of others. All within seconds. Then a highest-probability-of-success conclusion that may include a simple acknowledgement of awareness, greeting, smile, glare, ignoring, approaching, questioning, restricted-vision aperture, exit, etc.

Heuristics increase in that success-probability the greater experience, exposure, knowledge, training, understanding of these decisions we have. Flaw is a built-in element, noting that there’s always number of positive outcomes that can be gleaned from a number of different choices. And error is also present, in which case this process is repeated and, with greater information and developing-circumstance, those heuristics refer back to other, more refined and more accurate incidents of reference.

Regardless, heuristics are designed to limit the cognitive-load and alleviate indecisiveness, hesitation, and inaction from the vast input of incoming stimuli. Now, they can be very wrong very easily as well. Cognitive bias and misunderstanding of the circumstance itself can cause that quick decision-making to be offline from the get-go. An overconfidence (Dunning-Kruger) of one’s previous experience, exposure, success, and environment can absolutely lead to overconfidence, underestimation, or misdiagnosis. That’s an element that needs to be addressed and acknowledged. No single incident transfers directly to another. Different context; people, dynamics, environments, times, cultures, and the like can all lead to those heuristics leading us to entirely wrong conclusions.

All of the above perceptual filters independently can affect the accuracy of those heuristics as well. Different assessments come with different states. If I’m happy I may assess the same situation differently than if I was mad, or distracted, or anxious. My childhood may contribute to me analyzing things from a perspective of isolation or one-dimensionality. My outdated lessons learned from one generation past from my parents/grandparents/uncles/aunts may be outdated and not pertain at all to current, modern circumstances – or to the environment/culture I’m currently living in. Spiritual-belief may cloud my ability to see the danger or risk in a given situation. Training in one thing may not transfer well to another thing – or even an unprepared-for scenario or mis-evaluation of opponent.

While I don’t think these elements can be completely reeled-in or controlled, I do think that self-awareness, cognitive-bias checks, and regular re-evaluation of blind-spots and emotional-state can help with increasing accuracy. Regardless, they are there to assist in problem-solving, learning, and judgments that generally has higher-stakes, bigger repercussions, more risk, and minimal time. Yet another in a long-line of innate tools that help keep us alive that generally go either ignored, misunderstood, or unknown – and yet another thing most martial arts instructors won’t/don’t/can’t explain to you.