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Running solely on instinct. Reacting and responding to danger, risk, conflict, and threat without thinking or with high-level conditioning, is what they’re telling you. Instinct is a reaction, not a proactive pre-event assessment. (and remember the truth is that most “events” are simply not of the ambush variety – thought they absolutely do exist, to be sure) That always sounds like a dangerous game to me. I’ve always felt like self-defense and violence are more than a little like flying a plane. (As an aside, I think the airline industry has other elements – like self-policing/accountability/multi-lateral consensus-building, etc.- that the self-defense could learn from but that’s another article entirely) Now, don’t get me wrong, we are blessed with a ton of actual survival-skill instincts from evolution – those things that rear their powerful heads when survival itself is in the balance. But that’s not how “instinct” is most often peddled in the self-defense industry. To define how it’s generally utilized by SD gurus the world over, let’s use this: “a conditioned (hugely-universal/cookie-cutter) response to a given dynamic, rapidly-changing, and intricate stimulus on a vastly sliding-scale of aggression, one that precludes thought or assessment or analysis or alternate solution.” There, how’s that. That’s how I most often understand it to mean by violence-professionals. So, in that light, my metaphorical dissertation on aviation, noting that I’m not a pilot nor an aviation expert, and am going on the minimal information I’ve researched.

In the airline industry, being on autopilot (which is inevitably what SD/MA instructors tell you is instinctive – the ultimate goal of training) always seem to assume by the public to mean that a computer is flying the plane all by its lonesome while pilot and co-pilot take a break. That’s not exactly true and the minutiae make all the difference. It doesn’t mean that things are running without human thought or situational-processing, it means there’s a mechanism in-place (in humans, we’re referring to intuition or instinct) that aids the pilot/co-pilot while they’re with split-attention on other areas of safety and efficiency.

Think of the cockpit as a human brain. Flying a plane manually (read: being on high-alert for extended, unnecessarily-long periods of time….much like stress or anxiety or paranoia or fear – note the correlation) is extremely-taxing and wears down human focus. That’s why the autopilot is implemented, so that the co-pilot and pilot can measure other areas of flight safety and efficiency in lower-stress compartments. So, as like violence preparation, if we’re “on” all the time, we’re depleting our resources and wasting valuable energy.

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Unlike generally what we see in the self-defense industry, the aviation industry has a self-policing, consensus-building, uniform approach to overall customer safety. When mishaps happen, studies are undergone and changes are immediately made to ensure the same won’t happen again. Cowboys with wild claims and inaccurate information are ousted quickly and decisively for the benefit of the industry.

Instinct and intuition are there to guide us, and can be cultivated or developed based on a number of intangibles: hard-wiring/evolution, experience, nature, social conditioning, training, and others. To me, they’re both innate – genetically-given. Conditioning (read: training) doesn’t provide real instinct. Instinct is already present. What training can do is to cultivate what’s already there, innately, develop it further. You can tweak it, but you can’t create it from scratch. For so long we’ve under-estimated human performance to the point that many claim we “only” have accessibility to gross-motor skillsets, “only” are capable of the most efficient of reactive-conditioning, “only” are capable of replicating the one-dimensional scenarios we replicate in the “dojo”. Science, physiology, and human-performance research have all proven this false, as have countless real-life case studies on human survival. It’s simply not true.

We humans are capable of extremely high-level processing under immense duress. Fine- and complex-motor skill. Adaptive capability. Advanced decision-making with multiple stimuli. (Not to mention what I stated above, that real instinct isn’t something built by training) For far too long, this has been misunderstood and regurgitated to the masses based on prior misinformation or outdated research. (we’re pretty familiar with a few of the most guilty parties) Gross-motor skills, one-dimensional thinking, instinctive conditioning, heart-rate charts, performance restrictions. New studies and cutting-edge fields are starting to prove this drastically wrong.

So, back to flying a plane. Autopilot, or intuition and instinct, are there to alleviate over-exertion of your survival senses. (Again, back to “look at what’s in front of you, not what your brain is telling you could be there “if”….facts, not guesswork) Programs running in the background so you don’t have to be jacked 24/7. (or, in the example above, when/if needed when-shit-hits-the-fan) They’re there so other choices can be made in other pertinent areas, until they’re actually needed and make themselves known in a big, blatant way. (authentic threat, survival, when under actual attack) It, a plane, at least as of yet, cannot land, take-off, take important safety or efficiency decisions, cannot prevent catastrophe. It’s a mechanism that’s been pre-programmed by humans with no adaptation, decision-making, or choice-acknowledgement. Like instinct. Instinct doesn’t factor in legal repercussions, social stigmas, financial damage, psychological trauma, human empathy, viable alternatives, calculate risks….it simply acts. Without taking into-consideration….well, anything.

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Think of the cockpit of an airplane working akin to a human brain under duress.

Here’s a clearer definition of instinct vs. conditioning, one that might shed some light on the idea of “making training instinctive”, as is so often claimed:

Whatever aspect you take from this, whether it’s in the violence arena, or risk, conflict, safety, preservation….the goal should be to build and cultivate “thinking responders.” People who can read and understand unfolding scenarios and factor in all the incoming information before making a solid (or solid-enough, remember there is never only one “correct” way of doing a thing…) decision that facilitates their survival, avoidance, escape, resistance, cover, concealment, etc. Not reacting blindly. “Instinct” has become an industry buzzword, yet almost every time I’ve seen it utilized or watched it being pushed….it’s simply erroneous within the context of aggression. Context is deeply lacking, like it is so much of the time. Instinct, if replacing thought/analysis is what lands people in jail. Gets them killed. Escalates conflict. Assesses situations really poorly.

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Are you following them or allowing them to give you valid and accurate information with which to best make a tangible smart decision?

It’s been proven that we fallible humans can function quite effectively under duress and adapt to almost anything given even micro-time and micro-knowledge. We can alter-course mid-situation under explosive stress. We can make snap judgment calls on things where life hangs in the balance. “Fueled by instinct” is just not how I choose to go through my day and I hope the pilot on my next flight has fundamentals and pre-planned procedures in-place prior, that allow him/her to make the best decisions possible for my personal safety. If an engine blows, I’m not particularly interested in having Jim-the-Personal-Computer-Program dictate my outcome. Human-process may be flawed, but the levels of human stress performance have shown to be something of pure amazement. Maybe time we started training people with this in mind….


If there’s not explicit context in your scenario, circumstance, or concept…it’s invalid. There. I said it. Really, I should end the article here but, alas, that would make me cryptic and mercurial.

Context is this amazingly-underused word that floats its way around the periphery of the industry. Really, it should become a buzz-word unto itself, replacing the likes of sheepdogs, Valhalla, judged by 12, and instinct. Yet when you ask a lot of folks what exactly that means, that “it” requires “context”, they act like they shouldn’t have to define it as it’s simply common-sense that everyone knows. (Thus, the “common”) Yet, as we find in monstrous volumes of martial arts and self-defense videos, articles, blogs, techniques, responses…..context seems to be the one major thing left out. Almost entirely. Yet it’s absolutely imperative for the student to understand the whos, whats, wheres, whens, and whys of why he/she’d be using that thing in the first place.

What circumstances brought this person to this particular situation. What time of day is it. Where, exactly, is it taking place. Why is it happening. What’s the tangible element that’s required by the interloper. What type of crime is this. How would de-escalating or avoiding or mitigating or terminating this scenario affect the greater outcome, regardless of what’s simply legal or admissible socially. What are repercussions and reverberating-effects of those actions. Do they fall within the realm of national/provincial/state/municipal law. Are there witnesses that may see this differently than you. Context takes away the general or universal and makes it specific and defined.

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Context is that little element that clarifies exactly why you’d be doing the thing that you’re being taught to do. And there are a ton of things that go into that action. Legal repercussions. Social acceptability. Collateral damage. Alternate options. To use a vast chasm of difference, what’s acceptable in prison on a long-term incarceration is probably not equally-acceptable against a drunk guy telling you he’s going to kick your ass is probably not equally-acceptable to the little old lady flipping you the bird in rush-hour traffic.

Why, exactly and in nauseating detail, would you choose to do what you’re doing. If context isn’t given (and given explicitly), ask. Ask intricate and detail-drawing questions that draw equally clear and precise answers. Any instructor should know this and be able to concisely explain it if he/she’s worth his/her salt. (If not, maybe that 5th stage of the learning cycle we often talk about – articulation – should be next on the priority list) Martial artists are noted for being generally context-free. Universal, general, one-size-fits-all solutions to complex, dynamic, rapidly-changing problems. Often hidden behind the claim that it’s “style”, “art”, “cultural”, “historical”, or “systemic” to justify the laziness or negligence that goes into not defining the problem clearly.

Murder videos where the instructor is showing off flashy artistic skills by cutting the throat of an offender who threw a right-cross….not contextually viable. Videos from the interview stage that have the “sucker-punching” the offender for telling him to fuck-off….also not contextually viable. Your instructor doing a 33-step complex drill and not knowing at all why, what skills it’s developing, and how it pertains to the focus of doing it….not either. You training to break the neck of a guy who called your girlfriend a whore….again, not contextu…well, you get the point. Yet tons of instructors don’t seem to.

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Not only all this from the negligence perspective, but on a more functional level, context gives clarity. It makes action more decisive. It allows students to develop adaptive, transferable, confident decisions on-the-fly (yes, it’s possible) and eliminates fear or self-doubt hesitation because they’ve had the parameters and intangibles defined. The more explicit the context, the less doubt and hesitation will exist. The more explicit the context, the more self-confidence and calm and discipline the student will show when it’s needed….including in the pre-conflict or preventative stages. It’s not a “good idea”, it’s the foundation on which viable, real-world fundamentals are built. Demand it. I ask my students to…it holds me accountable and forces me to know precisely why I’m doing and teaching everything I’m doing and teaching. I’m providing a service, and a relatively important one that demands detail due the dynamic interactive social construct my optional, fluid solutions are built on. You owe your students context, and you better know it intimately….without them constantly needing to ask you.


Varg wrote a great post a couple of days ago regarding someone who left their car at the pumps after filling-up while going inside to use the restroom, order food, get some snacks, and look around. (blocking-off that pump entirely for the customers behind) It drew a ton of attention, and justifiably so, but it left me wondering how many people who liked it actually understood the bigger picture of what it meant with regards to personal behavior. I thought it brought up a great point on one’s social responsibility to act innocuously in public and with some responsibility for one’s affecting actions…all with having the byproduct of lessening conflict-risk. I’m going to paraphrase one of my responses here to get to the point I’m trying to make:

This is going to seem alien to many who thrive on drama, live for conflict, or generally try their best to piss on someone’s Corn Flakes (*trademarked by Kellogg’s/product-placement rewarded) whenever able, but I actively seek out social situations where I can subtly and quietly make things easier for others by doing my part to be socially responsible. Generally, by simply not being a dick. Many talk about “don’t be a dick” being a staple in modern self-defense/personal protection but few seem to actually know what that entails or how to go about it. How it’s referred to by many is in the vein of not treating people badly, offending others unnecessarily, not acting without decorum and escalating unnecessary conflict. But it’s much more than that, and most of this refuses to acknowledge the preventative aspect, the things that actually circumvent the need for de-escalation or disconnecting skills. It’s as much about “dos” as it is about “don’ts”.

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I’ll give some examples. I take the express/less-than-10-items lane at the grocery store when applicable. I use my turn-signal to alert other vehicles that I’m going to actually do so. I park within the little white lines so I’m not taking up 2 spots. I don’t park in handicap even if it means (sweet Jesus) that I’m going be walking an extra 300 meters. When I leave a line to grab a forgotten item, I go to the back of the line. I put my shit on my lap on the bus when It’s filling up. When I go through the ATM drive-through or do my personal banking, I organize my wallet after I move my car and park it off to the side or step out of the active line. I let old people take my spot on the train or bus. I try not to tailgate whenever possible. Say “please” and “thank you” whenever I can to show grace and appreciation. Apologize when I slip and am that dick I work at not being. Etc. etc. etc., ad infinitum.

As a side benefit, I actually find it to be cathartic for a lot of the stupid shit I’ve done in the past that’s caused the reverse and escalated conflict entirely unnecessarily. It also flies under-the-radar, which makes me feel good for not being that dick that needs good deeds to be publicly acknowledged and omni-viewed by others to have egocentric validity.

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I have never actually thought these things as being necessary or in need of being taught, as I thought it was generally a nature vs. nurture (or some fine combination thereof) issue that’s generally pre-conditioned before people come to me…yet now it got me wondering. Wondering how many times simple good manners, social etiquette, and basically being well-educated has kept people out of trouble..and the reverse being true with those without….and about whether they have a place in personal protection instruction.


This topic is, and is always, a hard pill to swallow when I talk about it with long-time martial arts instructors, heads-of-style, masters, experts, and title-hunters. While many of these types in the industry think on future remembrance, perpetuating style or system and building lineage, creating a name that will last the ages, and finding heirs to hand their vaunted method down to….the rest of the world ignores.

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Whether we like to admit it or not, in the grand scheme of things, as the world turns….we’re pretty irrelevant. This is still a micro-industry in comparison to so many others. A very small piece of the pie. Yet many have a self-importance that borders on delusional. Comparing themselves in title to long-time academics and intellectuals and industry-leaders, fields of far superior importance world-wide, and a lineage that you’d think was comparative to Roman dynasties. The reality is that, in the big, big world, we are generally unimportant and maybe it’s time we started accepting that uncomfortable fact.

Part of the truth, as well, is that we think personal safety is so utterly important in the big picture…and it is, to a great extent. But most people, truthfully, have long tuned-out the martial arts master, indomitable systems, and even the increasingly-cloudy “self-defense” world. We don’t like to admit or acknowledge it, but I’ve talked to many, many people who’d never find themselves in the stereotypical martial arts dojo or MMA gym…clubs either dripping with machismo and elitism, or traditional/cultural martial arts that often recreate a specific historical incarnation of culture that has zero to do with modern personal-protection. We are generally only hugely-important by those who suckle at our teet of own-importance….or in our small corner mouse-hole of a global mansion. It’s a hard truth, but a reality-based one.

Most normal citizens tend to think we’re grown men re-enacting our little-boy youth, playing fantasy, and indulging in ego-centric back-patting. (Is it often far from the truth?) Ridiculous self-important exotic titles, quick certificates, 2-day instruction courses, camo pants, outlandish claims, gimmick-advertising…all contribute to this image. I was once told by a jiujitsu instructor I called that if I was training at a secondary location and showed them any of their techniques, he’d break my arm. Watched an aikido instructor intimidate his wife during class to the point she admitted to us that was a teddy-bear when “out-of-character” but was actually scared of him while teaching. Talked to witnesses that have seen first-hand, multiple instructors engage in sexual harassment, inappropriate behavior with students, and drinking during class hours. One of my old training partners is in jail on rape charges. Clubs scurrying to give themselves greater importance by changing their name to combatives, or reality-based self-defense, or combat martial arts or whatever latest fad is selling tickets these days – a “get-them-in-the-door-at-all-costs” mentality. These are a handful of the things I’ve seen over the years.

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This allll is absorbed by the public, even if it’s the exception and not the rule (it’s not), and, coupled with all the misinformation, false claims, and disconnect from reality, drives the majority of people away, if we’re being truly honest. And the common belief that we just need to try different marketing, convince “them” more definitively, or explain how important “martial training” is for their personal well-being, is most often untrue and mis-diagnosed. (Most martial arts instructors struggle mightily to find students unless they have a gimmick, and a tweak in approach or marketing is often only temporary and fleeting) They, the public, do, indeed, know how important safety is…they just don’t believe that they’ll glean that knowledge from the neighborhood/corner traditional martial arts club. They often believe they’ll be just fine on their own. Which makes all this jockeying for position, ensuring enduring legacy, stepping on those on the way up the ladder to industry-importance, ego-trips….moot in the real-world (where it actually matters). So then, we must ask ourselves, if a martial arts instructor calls himself a supreme grand-master or final-expert-on-all-things-fighting in the woods, and nobody’s there to believe it….or even care if he actually is…does it actually matter….


There are 2 things that, personally, I find imperative to “success” in the physical counter-violence side of things. Mentality, how your mental resolve is to conquer violence, and physical conditioning. You can make up for a lot of absent technique, systemic training, and martial prowess with these 2. A lot.


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I break down mentality into 2 usual areas, states and mindset. States are the daily fluctuations in current mood. Anger. Sadness. Tiredness. Frustration. Distraction. Generally how your mind-talk is affecting your current state. They’re constantly in a state-of-flux throughout the day due to the rapidly-changing incoming stimuli that we all have coming in. Different points of the day draw different states due to a ton of variables: fight with the wife, long day at the office, sitting in rush hour traffic, a million things to get done, death in the family, school calling for child misbehavior, poor night’s sleep, etc. etc. etc.

Note that these fluctuating states also affect the physiology of your body as well. Oftentimes drastically. Tension in the shoulders, deterioration in peripheral vision/head stops moving side-to-side, rapid and often negative thought processes, feet stop moving, posture-changes, altered breathing, quick knee-jerk reactions.

The second is mindset, your overall view of utilizing violence. The when, where, why, how, who, and for what. The more clear, detailed, and precise the picture, the less indecisiveness and hesitation present.

-When would it be required? Under what circumstances? Does time-of-day matter? Do witnesses or potential witnesses make a difference? Is location a factor? The presence of potential 3rd-party aggressors? Mis-reading the situation and the dynamics of the people involved?

-Who would you defend or protect? Family? Random strangers in a good Samaritan position? A woman in an escalating conflict with her significant other? A robbery victim? A friend who’s instigating with his mouth at the bar? A dog, child, or senior?

-Why would it be required..or not? Under what circumstances? Potentially-lethal outcome? Much weaker party on the receiving end? Your moral perception of who’s wrong and who’s right/moral high-ground? Is it your business to intervene? What are the consequences of involvement? Is your family with you and would you participate if it meant their involved-risk or endangerment as collateral damage or a byproduct?

-How is it best implemented, if you decide to involve yourself? Direct physical confrontation? Video? Taking down notes or noting information so as to be the best possible witness? Calling law-enforcement? Trying to gain/rally crowd support for group assistance?

As you can see, there are a lot of complex questions involvement brings up, ones that we can ask ourselves prior for clarity of mind. With new scientific study, personal-involvement or good-samaritanism are often foregone conclusions in that they’re done reflexively or instinctively, not consciously. However, by giving yourself some concrete direction, that instinct or reflex may be given pre-event intel with which to gauge situations in the seconds leading up or making that instinctive choice more unconsciously informed.


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As a lot of street violence is of the ambush variety, meaning unplanned and not agreed-to, we’re not referring to dueling. Acknowledging that, a strong counter-ambush has a much better chance at succeeding with a tank full of gas, and the confidence that you know it’s full, to lean back on. Though it was dueling, I used to focus heavily on my stamina. Sometimes “physicality” can be the equal of physical conditioning/stamina/endurance – the will to be physical.

Remember the old saying, “fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Now, I don’t believe that “coward” is a fair coining, but unlike what so many martial arts instructors will tell you, it’s not a tool that super-charges martial technique. It’s a tool that allows mindset, physicality, aggression, audacity to accelerate and build. That full tank of gas gives confidence and security that the counter-ambush can be boosted, continued…and escalated….until the job is done. We used to call it “levels-of-aggression.” Sparring or fight-training could be as tame or aggressive as was agreed-upon. If it elevated (through intensity, friendly competition, or sometimes even through offense, anger, or frustraton), could you match the intensity and pace of your opponent? At what point was enough? Too much? What pacing and “aggression-distribution” and momentary-acceleration spotting weakness/vulnerability do you need when it’s you playing with more than one person? Regardless of how intense you train, real-violence is a higher-level yet.

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I’ve found that the best, most difficult people I played with had a blending or melding of both in equal parts – intensity of aggression and the pace to see it through. If you can put someone on the defensive with high-pressure and do so indefinitely….you’re most often just fine, training or not…and we see this play out in many case studies and real-life violence videos. The training and conditioning that I’ve experienced, for me, very much holds true to that axiom as well.


Just a quick note to remind you that “triggers” seems to solely have negative connotations everywhere. Always controlling and self-regulating and containing our own personal triggers. It’s a four-letter word in an 8-letter body. I so very rarely hear any correlation with positivity, yet triggers can be just that…positive triggers are a thing.

Does seeing a picture of a past vacation with your loved ones not “trigger” positive mental images? A connective group of sensations that take you back to that time? Smells, mental pictures, kinesthetic or tactile feelings that you remember? How are they set? Well, though not the scope of this article (maybe a later one…), it can be a keepsake, a physical reminder, a picture carried in your wallet, a favorite song, a visual that you pass-by every morning, a written note on your hand, almost anything, an act like pinching the webbing between your thumb and index finger, a word or phrase…as long as it has an anchor that reminds of that which we’re trying to change for the positive.

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How about little personal rituals that we partake in every day. Deep breaths, stretches, stances, body positions or postures, tones-of-voice, looks that we give that immediately change our state and intended message? Positive triggers to change our mood or confidence or the particular message we project to others.

Now, I’m not referring to any neuro-linguistic quackery, just daily (often) unconscious things we do to alter our current state, give a jolt of confidence, prevent negative triggers (or changing negative ones into positive ones) from clicking-in, get ourselves under-control, or remember times where we most enjoyed life. Neural-connectors to anchor or link in a different set-of-mind or reverse traditionally-negative stimuli. (i don’t think I need to nauseatingly ad-lib on the impact these could have on self-defense or the general self-confidence we glean in life that prevents us from needing self-defense skills) We use them daily, many of us…yet negativity seems to get all the press. Shame. Keep in mind that “triggers” isn’t always a bad word.


We, in the self-defense industry, often stress changing patterns. Driving patterns to work. Stores we shop at. Haunts. Weekly routines and times. Check for tails. Actively look for strange driving behavior. Take note of faces that you see more than once. Pay attention to high vantage-possibilities and entry points. Really, why?!! If nothing’s happening, you’re not in the professional counter-violence industry, no one’s after you, you’re not in illegal trouble with powerful enemies, and THERE’S NO LEGITIMATE REASON TO DO THIS….why the hell is this advice always given?!!

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If your life or location is not high-risk and not in constant danger, and you live in the ‘burbs, just bloody live it. You’ll be just fine. Focus that paranoia on where it might be better-off being….are you paying enough attention to your loving wife and attention-asking kids? Interacting enough with the folks as they age? Reaching out to valued friends you haven’t heard from for a while? You’re not Jason Bourne or John Wick….hell, the majority of you aren’t even the traffic cop or neighborhood pub bouncer. Bloody hell, you’re not even the shifty vacuum-cleaner salesperson that just ripped off that nice couple on Berman Avenue. Just. live. life. Repeat as needed until it is, actually, needed.

Here’s a bit of advice: look at things, not for them. Make deductions from what’s present, not what’s not. The tangible, not the imaginary. If you’re conscious and cognizant and something’s off, you’ll know and your sensors will go off. If nothing is, your constant searching elevates blood-pressure, heart-pressure, paranoia, anxiety, psychological disorders, unnecessary fear – which all lead to far greater internal enemies than the invisible one you’re constantly searching for. At, not for. “If needed”, not “just because”.


Placebos work. They do. It’s been proven. Now, you can’t build a house on the premise, nor base an entire plan around them working…but they do work. Understanding and awareness of their extent or limits are in their infancy but we do see their power in the medical and therapeutic fields quite frequently. They’re also omnipresent in the self-defense/martial arts fields. “I’m a kalista, a jujitsoka, a karateka. I do krav maga. I’m an expert in systema.” Utilizing their martial title online in their name. All reference points on violence and fighting coming from their subjective exposure within that system/art. And on and on, et al. Note that these practitioners take exceptional pride in representing all that system embodies. It’s become a part of their very identity, not just a hobby or passion that they partake in. Taking on rituals and adornments and clothing and micro-language of the home country. Talking with idiosyncrasies that nationals do. Becoming an expert on all things cultural that originates from the home country of that particular system, methodology, or art…very akin to religion, in many ways.

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It’s a strong motivator..unbelievably strong. Now, it’s very easy to mock these people as cultists, or delusional, or imbalanced. Maybe that is a part of it at times, maybe not always. But one thing that can’t be neglected is the fact that that unbridled loyalty acts as a placebo – it gives them power, and unshakable belief; belief that gives them tremendous motivation to defend that system..even it often gets them into trouble doing so, the same trouble they’ve often pledged to avoid. And belief is a mighty thing, even if off-base. A tremendous drive of something enduring and continuing a living tradition without letting down the proponents of that lineage is a huge motivator for success, even if misplaced. Sometimes it can get one in trouble, but even a misplaced, under-educated, and one-dimensional deep-seated belief is a powerful thing to overcome. At the end of the day, that loyalty is dogmatic. Pay attention when intense practitioners talk. This industry seems, at times, to run on the placebo-effect.

Safety placebos from the average untrained citizen is a thing, too. Decisions, beliefs, or steps that you have, take, or do and think you’re going to be safer or avoid or improve, are also an omnipresent thing, that these micro-things will negate entirely your risk of being a victim:

-living in/moving to the suburbs, which alleviates you from being a victim of crime (placebo is the area)

-simply going armed/getting an alarm/having a guard/attack-dog, which deters or mitigates potential attack or targeting (placebo is the weapon/dog/alarm) Carrying pepper-spray in your zipped-up purse, never having deployed or shot it, for example. Having a blade in your glove compartment another. Going to the shooting range once a month, yet another.

– that if you have a weapon you won’t need to fight because the weapon will replace the need (placebo is, again, the weapon)

-that taking some self-defense classes or a seminar is sufficient to up your protection-factor (placebo is the class/seminar)

– that being big or heavily-muscled or tattooed prevents you from being a target (placebo is your size, biceps, or tribal marks)

-that being in a certain amount of fights make you prepared for all types of violence (placebo is your ego or cred or one-dimensional experience) I once had a gentleman tell me he was perfect for my training because he had “been in 16 fights the last year.” I’m not sure why he felt he needed my services, he seemed to be just fine at finding his own conflict on his own. And I guess the fact he was talking to me after 16 street-fights demonstrated that he was good-enough at violence that my training and I were moot anyways, in hindsight.

-that others/police will be there to defend me (placebo is other people, the law, society in general)

Sometimes the belief that simply doing nothing (really, the nocebo-effect) will suffice as it simply couldn’t or wouldn’t ever happen to you – it’ll always happen to them. (kinda’ the reverse form of “othering”, in a way, if you think about it) If one goes through one’s entire life not having anything happen to them, clearly it exacerbates these faulty belief structures. Truthfully, many can go through an entire life running on placebo and believing that is was your decisions (or lack thereof) that has protected you for so long. (Congratulations, you can successfully blow sunshine up your ass predominantly because of luck and fortune)

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So where am I going with all this? Is there a point for something that’s generally known throughout the industry? Well, the first is deciphering the difference. Have you remained safe because of savvy decision-making and some thought-driven real-world prep and research from reflection….or have you been “blessed” by fate, which can always potentially run-out? Take stock. Fortune may have smiled upon you thus far, but are there ways that you could up that fortune factor? Remember, it’s said that luck is the child of planning meeting opportunity.


A quick word on systems training. A problem is that many believe that perpetually expanding the number of (unneeded) fundamentals is the way towards mastery, not exploring the diversity of the base fundamentals themselves, in ever-increasingly problematic scenarios that cultivate adaptability and address variability. (Adaptability and organic skillsets are simply not innate in any systems training, nor cultivated with any regularity. They may be added or factored-in, but that’s almost always due to the instructor and his/her methodology)

Most people (the majority) need and crave that system to answer all related questions. (It’s THE major inherent flaw in systems training – over-reliance and universality) Systems, if used at all, should be used as a tool – they should work for you, not you them. You are the great variable in your system, not the other way around. *The other end of the spectrum is the deep-seated belief that a system is needed in any way. (they’re not, but that’s another topic altogether)

That being said, deep-seated belief in a system (or deep-seated belief in anything) can be quite a powerful bloody monster, as we see with the protectiveness, investment, aggression, constant comparisons, and defensiveness on the Interweb. People are often willing to do crazy things for dogmatic adherence to system, similarly as many would for religion, so there’s something to be said for that in and of itself.


There’s debate in the industry as to whether innate survival-skill mechanisms are just as or far more important than most training that one can undergo. Actually, maybe it’s just me that’s debating it, as I often run into huge defensiveness, protectiveness, and resistance to the idea. And, to be clear, that top professional training that reinforces evolution, intrinsic survival-skills, and natural-instinctive response, I believe can authentically help. But, as I’ve stated countless times online, people survive the world over (daily) with their Evolution-given tools. Even when survivor/victim claims of past or current martial arts experience aiding in that survival, we often see it being almost completely anecdotal to the actuality, taking a very secondary role to instinctive-response to threat.

As we’ve noticed on the page for years, most people look truly awful when fighting. We see it on Youtube and in case study and on home-video…people, even trained people, look like fish out of water when fighting. Uncoordinated. Awkward. Flailing. Imbalanced. Entirely normal. Even highly-trained, reputable fighters, when put under the pressures of adrenaline, cycle. They repeat the same move over-and-over again. They loop. The good ones loop/cycle successfully and know how to make it work but little in the way of martial arts is present. That being said, people, while often looking awkward and uncoordinated and flailing while fighting, often tend to instinctively do just the thing that’s needed when surviving. They react much more efficiently, with purpose, and decisively when their very survival is hanging in the balance. (See System 1 vs. System 2 article that might at least partially explain this).

While I have little interest in opening this up for debate, as it’s admittedly my theory….but one that I’d say has more than a little validity from volumes of case studies….the question is whether knowledge of these innate survival tools can be incorporated into a training environment. I’m not entirely sure to what extent but it is a question worth discussing. That being said, I’d say it would be entirely useful to understand, learn about, and study how these survival skills work from a scientific perspective. Knowledge begets clarity and alleviates fear of the unknown and panic at their onset. I’m going to transfer the file from The Human Protection Collaborative page here. Maybe more civilians and citizens and normal everyday people will read it than set-in-their-ways professionals did. It’s a big database, unlike any I’ve seen previous, compiled on stories, case studies, science-based explanation on how the body works under duress. Worth the time investment, it was for me…

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Brain stands guard while sleeping:

Brain stands guard while sleeping:

Flinch reflex:


Human reflexes and natural instincts:

Sound-encoding by human brain:

Intuition blindspots:

Anatomy of Intuition:

Visual recognition:

Visual recognition:



Stress adaptation:

Pain perception:

Effects of corticol release:

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Eye-movement evolution:

Hand evolution for fighting:

Evolutionary psychology of war:

Human anger:

Aquatic adaptation:

Memories can pass between generations through DNA:

Case study: adrenaline effects and superhuman capability:

Fascia-nervous system correlation:

Physiological effects of exercise:

Object-size perception and light reflext:


Lost survival skills:

Personal space:

Voice-pitch control:

Brain biases:

Flat-footed fighters:


3-dimensional vision:

Selective-noise assessment:


Gut feelings/senses:

Innate fear-hardwiring:

Darkness fear/adaptation:

Legitimate/healthy fear:

Human senses:


When humans were prey:


Secondary visual system:

Evolutionary directional sense:

Pain tolerance & threshold:

Reflexive bystander intervention:

Your brain is not a computer: