PLACEBO SAFETY

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.

THE SYSTEM IS NOT THE THING

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.

ON INNATE SURVIVAL-SKILL MECHANISMS (INCLUDES FREE DATABASE!)

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: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/04/21/474691141/half-your-brain-stands-guard-when-sleeping-in-a-new-place

Brain stands guard while sleeping: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sleeping-with-half-a-brain/

Flinch reflex: https://www.wayofleastresistance.net/2011/03/flinch-reflex.html

Saccades: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_y56PQvZZA

Human reflexes and natural instincts: https://listverse.com/2012/01/28/top-10-human-reflexes-and-natural-instincts/

Sound-encoding by human brain: http://debuglies.com/2017/11/13/the-brain-encodes-sounds/

Intuition blindspots: https://digest.bps.org.uk/2017/08/03/the-intuition-blindspot-just-because-you-like-going-with-your-gut-doesnt-mean-youre-good-at-it/

Anatomy of Intuition: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/articles/199305/the-anatomy-intuition

Visual recognition: http://debuglies.com/2017/09/20/identified-signals-not-entirely-visible/

Visual recognition:
https://neurosciencenews.com/neuroscience-terms/visual-recognition/

Amygdala/fear-learning: https://www.inverse.com/article/37657-amygdala-brain-fear-aversive-learning

Infection-detection:http://debuglies.com/2018/01/03/humans-identify-infected-peers-from-photo/

Stress adaptation: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320172.php

Pain perception: https://www.ucalgary.ca/pip369/mod7/tempain/theories

Effects of corticol release: https://www.facebook.com/ashtad.rustomji/posts/1700278030031872?hc_location=ufi

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Eye-movement evolution: www.cogsci.nl/blog/bird-brains-and-fish-eyes/148-a-bit-about-the-evolution-of-eye-movements

Hand evolution for fighting: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/human-hands-evolved-for-fighting/

Evolutionary psychology of war: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1474704917742720

Human anger:https://www.pnas.org/content/106/35/15073.short

Aquatic adaptation: https://www.sciencealert.com/indonesian-bajau-genetic-changes-adapt-them-to-aquatic-lifestyle

Memories can pass between generations through DNA: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1319435594855362

Case study: adrenaline effects and superhuman capability: http://m.vs.bles.com/historias/el-increible-hulk-de-caballito-para-salvar-a-su-padre-levanto-el-auto-que-bloqueaba-su-cochera.html

Fascia-nervous system correlation: https://www.doctorschierling.com/blog/fascia-acts-as-second-nervous-system

Physiological effects of exercise: http://debuglies.com/2018/04/30/link-between-exercise-and-appetite-loss-explained/

Object-size perception and light reflext:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5133426/

Anxiety/threat-assessment: https://theconversation.com/brains-transform-remote-threats-into-anxiety-33350

Lost survival skills: https://io9.gizmodo.com/here-are-some-essential-survival-skills-weve-lost-from-1732594841h

Personal space: https://neurosciencenews.com/personal-space-9283/

Voice-pitch control: http://debuglies.com/2018/06/29/humans-are-the-only-primates-that-can-flexibly-control-the-pitch-of-our-voices/

Brain biases: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200306/our-brains-negative-bias

Flat-footed fighters: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170215084113.htm

Propioception/low-light: https://renovahandcare.com/spooky-phenomenon-invisible-hands/

3-dimensional vision: https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/brain-sense/201208/3d-vision-and-the-brain

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180628120111.htm

Selective-noise assessment: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-09-brain-natural-noise-cancelling-circuit.html

Energy-conservation: http://time.com/4027942/lazy-walking-exercise/

Gut feelings/senses: https://neurosciencenews.com/hard-wired-gut-sense-9897/

Innate fear-hardwiring: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anxiety-files/200805/are-we-born-be-afraid

Darkness fear/adaptation: https://www.sciencealert.com/here-s-the-evolutionary-reason-why-we-re-afraid-of-the-dark

Legitimate/healthy fear: https://theconversation.com/why-well-always-be-obsessed-with-and-afraid-of-monsters-65080

Human senses: https://bigthink.com/philip-perry/think-you-have-only-5-senses-its-actually-a-lot-more-than-that

Fear: http://debuglies.com/2018/10/30/psychologists-examine-why-haunted-houses-creep-us-out/

When humans were prey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_hl804lSfc

Mind-talk:https://marketbusinessnews.com/brain-learns-ai-development/193035/

Secondary visual system: https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2018/12/412926/surprise-discovery-reveals-second-visual-system-mouse-cerebral-cortex

Evolutionary directional sense: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/talking-apes/201806/why-only-some-people-have-great-sense-directionh

Pain tolerance & threshold: https://www.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/jn.00457.2012

Reflexive bystander intervention: https://aeon.co/essays/it-looks-like-human-beings-might-be-good-samaritans-after-all

Your brain is not a computer:
https://aeon.co/essays/your-brain-does-not-process-information-and-it-is-not-a-computer

“INSIDE-OUT” PERSONAL SECURITY

The theory goes that we are personally-responsible for the majority of conflict we find ourselves in, or at least we contribute in a very tangible way to its happening. I have, upon introspection, found this very much to be true of me. Not all, but definitely quite a large volume of past conflict, whether violent, verbal, psychological, and emotional. I’ll make this post a shorter one. Hypothetically, what if we exchanged striking, grappling & groundfighting, clinch-work, weapons-training and other “outside-in” things….even interviews and OODA loops and pre-incident indicators and situational awareness with:

a) Trigger-exploration and assessment. What sets you off? How does it build? What scenarios are they most present and apt to go off? What topics lead to ignition?

b) Verbal accountability/communication-skills/active-listening. Do you know when to talk and when to listen? How many examples can you give of escalating conflict that were instigated by interruption? Do you monitor tone and pitch when talking with unfamiliar people? What are some strategies you’ve used with success to calm or soothe potentially-explosive situations?

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c) Breathing. Do you have a breathing-cycle that you use when you feel your physiology changing for the worse? Are you able to anchor negative physiological responses to that breathing cycle? Do you practice simple breath-awareness throughout your day?

d) Adherence/mindfulness of states/moods. Do you how being tired, being hungry, being in rush-hour traffic, seething prolonged at a fight with your spouse or child, being anxious from work-stress…do to your potential conflict probability? Are you conscious of your state changing from various stimuli? Are you self-controlled when any of these are acknowledged or do you let the emotion flow?

e) Physiology/posture. Are there certain anatomical reactions that you exhibit from fear, anxiety, stress, or depression? What are they? I know, for me, I get neck and shoulder tension, the pit of my stomach tightens, my feet stop moving, my breathing becomes erratic, and my posture changes. What can one do? I loosen my neck and shoulders, make sure my peripheral vision is engaged. Abdominal breathe for a few minutes. Get my feet moving, even if sitting in the same spot.

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f) Sleep levels. What amount is enough for you, personally? How does it affect your mood? Your conscious thought? Your reactions to unwanted elements? What levels are insufficient and cause issues? Or is it more broken-patterned sleep? “Undeep” sleep from input that can be altered or eliminated?

g) Defensive-driving. Not combat-driving courses, just regular. defensive. driving. Here, at least, a ton of conflict and violence originates from behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. It’s a hugely-neglected area of addressing. Are you reactive and combative or can you let it be blown-off as an element you won’t be changing.

h) Mindset or mentality. Do you have it clear what exactly it is that’s worth fighting for or participating in the physical part? What circumstances, specifically, or worthy of a strong reaction? Which aren’t? Legal, social, familial, fiscal, psychological consequences of involvement?

Now, to be clear, I’m not alleviating the need for physical capability against high-order, predatory violence. It’s out there, and to deny that it could happen to you would be delusional. But, a lot of the daily conflict variety goes to the 3 elements I always preach, both in that daily self-defense and on social-media personal-preservation pages I’ve run. Self-control. Patience. Discipline. Change you, change your reaction to potentially-escalating dynamics….inevitably to conflict. Change your stress response. Your illegitimate fear. Your unheeded anxiety. Your knee-jerk responses. Just for kicks, what if (what if…) training or conditioning in these elements precluded the actual need for much of the over-reliance on the physical ones usually rendered as so utterly important….imagine…

THE INTERNET & SOCIAL MEDIA, PART 2

Social media is not just slightly like an “actual” addiction akin to drugs, alcohol, and various others. Some reasons I find I continually come back to social media and continue posting, most of which I know are extremely unhealthy due to the backing reasoning.

1. I’m sometimes lonely in the real-world. I have few friends in this country. I’m an immigrant (it’s interesting that most North Americans call themselves “expats” when settling abroad but call like-situations in their home country “immigration”) from a continent that’s often despised here for their political intervention, entitlement, and qualification as higher-quality people (1st-World vs. 3rd-World) I am often ostracized, ignored, or secretly resented, whether due to perception or reality from person in-question. Coupled with the fact I’m now 46 and set in my ways, it’s hard to make friends here….I really don’t have any in the stereotypical definition of the word, so I stay to myself. The Internet offers an escape from this, especially when things aren’t going well at home, which they can’t always. My color/nationality, outspokenness, comfort in my masculinity, and unwillingness to settle in a “safe/protected” expat community of other North Americans have generally isolated me from acceptance.

2. I find a kinship with other people of like mind, both inner-industry and life-perspective. I find many don’t think the way I do nor have my same views on all things self-defense-related or with life-outlook. Online I get a fix of this, where I’ve found some people I generally like, trust, and can talk to.

3. Addiction itself. I continue to go back out of pattern, routine, reflex. When there’s a gap in my time, I instinctively see what’s going on online. I post thoughts. I crave feedback. I like being “liked.” I am respected here where, outside of seminars/workshops/classes/consultations – generally my own niche, I may not be in the real-world.

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4. The false view I’m making some small difference and that I’m important or impactful. While less than the others, there is the small flame in the back of my mind that I and cohorts like me, may be having a positive effect on the way self-defense and personal protection are being thought of…and it’s untrue. Huge industry, microscopic niche. However, impact is both a moral/value-driven positive and a self-delusional/ego-driven negative. I have an ego and like to think people pay attention to what I say, which in the grand scheme of things, few do. That’s the reality and my ego is inevitably moot, but we all need, crave, and maybe even deserve to be accepted in some way, through some avenue.

In conclusion, none of these are healthy, productive reasons to waste as much time on the Internet as I do, yet I do. Why? I have a wonderful marriage. Great, loving, big-hearted kids. A solid business that I enjoy. A jungle-like garden and immediate accessibility to nature right outside my front door. Hobbies and passions that I’m good at. Good parents. Yet I cannot seem to break entirely from being trapped in the Matrix. While it’s easy to say that balance is key and none of us want to get left behind in the information age, I have recently found myself deeply-concerned at the long-term effects of prolonged and conditioned social media use. There’s a niggling intuition in the back of my mind that there are costs to this. Costs that can end up being quite high. It may be only a “I’m-getting-older-and-I-don’t-want-to-waste-precious-time-online-doing-things-that-are-generally-useless-with-many-people-I-don’t-know-in-real-life-whatsoever” vibe (I’m sure we’ve all thought this at some point)….or maybe something more sinister that, when combining the illogical reasons I can come up with above with the side-effects listed in Part 1, has consequences that are unknown and, therefore, disconcerting to me. Something to ponder for each of us.

(A)SOCIAL & (A)SYMMETRICAL: (AN)EXPLANATION

Every top professional in the industry seemingly has their own terminology, whether it’s based on personal linguistic preferences, intentional marketing to draw in greater student volume, or to differentiate from other instructors. Sometimes, when we get-together and “talk shop”, many of us can come to a consensus on what the definitions are of the terms used, regardless of the language used. There is a lot of talk on, and therefore confusion on, symmetrical vs. asymmetrical violence, social vs. asocial violence, whether they are the indeed the same terminology, and what constitutes one over the other. I want to clarify here that these are the definitions and explanations I give, personally, when discussing these terms. If you disagree, vehemently or not, that’s okay. To each his own and I’m not one who’s interested in getting stuck on terminology, as long as we acknowledge that there are unique scenarios involved here. There is some overlap here, admittedly, but I define each of the 4 uniquely from the other 3.

SYMMETRICAL VS. ASYMMETRICAL.

SYMMETRICAL VIOLENCE. As the diagram shows, symmetrical violence would be 2 combatants, agreeing either by stated or implied intent, to “duel.” Over a perceived offense or slight. A female/male interest. Drunken misunderstanding or miscommunication. Interpersonal dislike. And a host of others. Though predominantly illegal in the West, which most don’t seem to acknowledge, it’s a willing participation without outside interference. MMA fights, boxing and kickboxing matches, full-contact karate fights, grappling tournaments, prize fights in general…all symmetrical. Opponent is known. Environment is relatively controlled. Agreement is present. Prior build-up as well.

ASYMMETRICAL VIOLENCE. An altercation where unknown intangibles factor into the outcome. A third-party jumping-in. A sucker punch. Multiple attacker scenarios. An attack by an animal, which changes the dynamic entirely. An ambush where uneven advantage is taken. Weapon-introduction mid-conflict which drastically alters the favor. Obstacles, barriers, or moving parts. This is where things deviate from the standard “mano-y-mano” situation. The same conflict can evolve from symmetrical to asymmetrical seamlessly and without warning or awareness. Just as asymmetrical, upon strong counter-ambush, can at times becomes symmetrical.

SOCIAL VS. ASOCIAL.

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SOCIAL VIOLENCE. Some overlap here from the symmetrical category. The factors that make for social/asocial vs. symmetrical/asymmetrical are location and dynamic. Bars. Public. Social events. Over elements of social consequence and cause. Spilled drinks. Public insult. Things caused by social norms and acceptances that have been broken or crossed. Educational beat-downs and public-exampling would also be included here, even if asymmetrical in nature.

ASOCIAL VIOLENCE. Home invasions. Muggings. Robberies. Kidnappings. Random street assaults. Rape. Isolated, apart from regular society and areas constructs frequented by large public membership or attendance, predominantly. Not caused by social offenses or broken public-acknowledged protocol. It has a goal or motive driven by a criminal means, by nature.

Now, within asocial violence dynamic, we have 2 types of predators, high-order and low-order. High-order are far more dangerous as the stakes are exorbitantly higher. They will kill, maim, rape, or otherwise brutalize the victim to accomplish their objective. Sometimes the act is the objective. Assassins/sicarios, serial-killers, serial-rapists, violent home-invaders, mass murderers…all fall in this category. Some call this a “process predator”, as the process is the focus. They enjoy it, have need for it, crave it, or love the fact they impart deep fear in their victims.

Low-order, though some of the above outcomes may result, due to botched scenario, are decidedly more driven by necessity. Your wallet, your car, home valuables. The less need they have to utilize extreme violence, usually the better. Their goal is to obtain something of need or desperation or survival. Others have called it a “resource predator.” While I’m sure these 4 terms (resource vs. process, high-order vs. low-order) could be separated and broken-down as well, not the scope of this article.

If this doesn’t correspond with your current teaching definitions, that’s fine. The issue is we hear so much industry jargon floated around by industry people that it becomes hard to keep up as explanations or precise definitions are rarely given. (read: unnecessarily complex) The goal is to a) educate yourself and expand your knowledge base so as to become a better teacher yourself, or b) be able to impart that very knowledge in as succinct and easy-to-understand manner to your students as possible without confusing them.

Another major issue is that, as we’ve mentioned, so many self-defense/combatives/martial arts/personal protection instructors give universal catch-all responses to all attacks, regardless of whether the above types of crimes/criminals are factored-in, whether the “attack” is or starts off as psychological/emotional/mental, regardless of social dynamic involved, and regardless of bilateral elements/intangibles present that can drastically alter outcome. (see: context ignored) Cookie-cutter and one-size-fits-all approaches to violence, crime, conflict, or psychological attack are NEVER viable or even valid.

THE INTERNET & SOCIAL MEDIA, PART 1

What if I told you that constant and heavy perusal of social media was a distraction to your self-protection tools? Not the situational and environmental awareness ones we all hear about, but ones that decay gradually over time that subtly deteriorate your innate ability to keep yourself safe?

1. It causes tracking problems….peripheral vision and the ability to split attention on multiple elements that may or may not be important. (And I’m not even talking about the criminal elements or risk-assessment – the general ability to assess and orient on potential dangers and safety hazards, even while not looking at it) Generally, it dulls the senses on multiple levels.

2. It decreases actual communication ability (or capability) or focus on other people you interact with daily, even if the cellphone isn’t in your hand. (causing strain on interpersonal relationships of value or annoying/irritating those you interact with that aren’t)

3. Neurologically, it’s constantly “on your mind”, pervasive in your daily ability to interact in the real world – a very real addiction and how clear do you think a crack-addict is when being cohesive to their actual environment and functionality within it…

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4. It acts as a depressant, having a countering effect to that of exercise, nature, movement, and self-reflection. (increases feelings of loneliness, isolation, and co-dependence)

5. It lowers motivation and vitality. I know, personally, when I’m engrossed online my energy hits slug-like proportions and I have zero proactivity, drive, or life intensity.

6. It increases anxiety, stress, and nervousness, which have a negative effect on your physiological, mental, psychological, and emotional well-being. So, as much as many online keyboard self-defense instructors tell you daily and perpetually that training with them is a necessity, sometimes getting off of social media for a time (or limiting one’s presence) exponentially increases one’s self-care, health, daily “safe” capability, and positive outlook on life. These things, in turn, lower triggers, paranoia, anxiety, and irrational thought processes (negative mind-talk)….long before the online self-defense classes are needed, possibly even making them moot. Just something to think about…could you stay off of social media for a full week, if asked?

DOES YOUR TRAINING CORRELATE TO YOUR DAILY REALITY…

Here, in Costa Rica, there are a number of unique areas where the chance of conflict goes up exponentially in the social-conflict arena.

1. Driving. Due to the exorbitant amount of traffic, traffic jams, bottle-necking, rush hour – a society whose general passivity and passive-aggression is manifested as pure aggression on the roadways. Violence from road rage, entitlement, and lack of driving culture (no driver’s education, loosely-regulated traffic rules, minimal LE enforcement) contribute to likely the highest-percentage chance of engaging in mutual-violence, symmetrical self-defense, or rage-attack. One of the acknowledged worst driving countries in the world, not just the Americas.

2. Alcohol-frequented places, not limited to the stereotypical ones and not nearly with the clear-profile as in Canada/the US. Latinos/Central-Americans drink. A lot. There was even a time open-booze was allowed at a children’s prom I attended, “graduating” grade 8 and moving into high-school. Alcohol plus machista culture plus perpetual-need to be alpha male (especially in front of female) and you have a good chance at being singled-out for various forms of social violence. Most often in the form of: a) match-fighting/dueling/agreed-upon combat, b) projection or posturing for submission, or c) non-lethal surprise “attack” to mark/”brand” or otherwise leaving a “scar” (whether psychological/mental/emotional/spiritual, not nearly always physical – a lesson-giving, we’ll call it a knowledge bomb).

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3. Football. It’s a proven fact here that domestic-violence statistics skyrocket when the national soccer/football team plays – and loses. Men seem to, en masse, get so frustrated at the result of a football game (I’d hazard a strong guess as to say that #2 also factors in here, quite heavily) that they take their frustration (at a football team, some skewed sense of patriotism) on their wives, children, and other men. My own father-in-law and brother-in-law could not watch games in the same room when their local club teams played each other. Hooliganism is also a thing here, where known groups of thugs are “hired” or planted by each team to cause chaos when things go wrong or to create divide, a clear “othering” to enhance the idea it’s not just a football game but so much more. (A man had his skull bashed-in with a cement-block just last year in broad daylight outside the stadium)

The first 2 can often be avoided. The third as well – if you’re not a spouse or child, then it becomes exponentially more difficult, granted, and different fail-safes need to be in-order and available. (there are, thankfully, increasingly more out there now as safe-houses and organizations for women are on the rise and active) The rest are more of the high(er)-order variety – asocial. Robberies. Muggings. Drug-war collateral damage. Home invasions. These can be mitigated to a certain extent as well. (I once had an American friend here who had been mugged/robbed on the street 7 times. 7!! He blamed Tico culture instead of looking inward. If you’ve been mugged 7 times, there’s a pattern you’re emitting that needs self-addressing. It’s not me, it’s you. If after 7 marriages you’re still claiming “haven’t found the right woman”, I have news for you)) These need to be addressed differently, yet I see few (if any) addressing the differences in attack or approach. There’s a one-size-fits-all catch-all mentality that permeates all martial arts/self-defense classes here. And social and asocial violence, symmetrical and asymmetrical attacks (more on these differences in another article), are very different animals that need to be prepped for quite, quite differently.

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My point here, is that the general underlying sentiment from those paranoid and fearful of the country’s violence-prognosis…is askew from their current daily existence. Most citizens tend to generalize and play to media angst-building, surrounding country-comparisons, and paranoia that doesn’t correlate with their own actual life. Compartmentalize and contextualize every scenario of its own volition. What caused it. What contributed to it. What were the intangibles that may have exacerbated it. What were your/the victim’s contributions to it. (an especially hard one for people to healthily dwell-on) Could it be alleviated in your personal circumstances. The 5Ws. Where did it take place. Who were the players involved. What time/when. How did it transpire. Why did it happen to that person.

While these are often seen as detached and somewhat cold….they serve an intrinsic purpose. They’re detached for a reason…so you can see them from a detached (read: unemotional) point-of-view so you can make personal assessments on your own current situation. Think. It’s free.

INDUSTRY PERPLEXITIES

Strange. Not even my the majority of my own (past/present/potential) students read my blog, which contains likely far more important information on staying safe than any physical/fight training I can give them, yet the reverse is (as usual, as has been discussed) true. The physical classes are deemed and perceived as far more important to real-world skills than commentaries that actually have to do with the daily reality of things and things that can be immediately-implemented into their day-to-day to up safety levels. Than books I’ve been asked to testify to. Than friends programs I push. Than the page I ran. Safety, risk-assessment, patterns, self-containment (triggers, breathing, state-awareness), mentality/mindset, pre-crime/pre-conflict assessment (“what would you dos” with complex social interactions and sliding-scale escalation of conflict). Truly a case-study that has piqued my curiosity, the inability to see reality for what it is and get over the “fight-only” hump. To see how many ways there are to stay safe, assess risk, avoid violence, manage conflict, communicate, self-control.

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There’s a ton of free information out there, that can be incorporated into real-life almost immediately, that ups the safety-factor exponentially, and takes far less physical-investment to achieve. Yet they’d rather pay for the physical avenue that most-often has not a thing to do with any threat they’ll face during the extent of the days. It doesn’t correlate with their patterns, routines, interactions, or environments. As one of colleagues stated the other day, “it’s hard to even give this stuff away.” Indeed. I guess I’ll lump this into the “self-defense conundrum” pile that seems to grow ever-bigger with the days.

FEAR EXACERBATION AND KNOWING YOUR LANE

People, unlike the animal kingdom, have justifiable experiential fear triggers both based on something at least partially tangible, and with our human consciousness, some that are not legitimate or rational. That being said, and due to this, we have an abundant numbers of ways that we attempt to overcome or manage our fears (whether effective or not is another story):

1. Simulated-recreation. Scenario-training that replicates the experience(s) as close as is possible to the real or imagined fear to attempt to re-live the original or feared experience and manage it or react differently.

2. Exposure. Picking professions or activities that put one in direct and ongoing contact with the source of the original fear, eventually lessening or eliminating the fear over time.

3. Time. Gradually the fear naturally lowers or is mitigated over time as it is shown to have diminished or obliterated impact the further away from the stimulus it travels.

4. Professional therapy or assistance. Tools are given to lower the fear or put it into contextual accuracy by someone disassociated. Conditioning, inevitably.

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5. Breathing or meditation. Controlling the negative mind-talk that compounds and exacerbates the problem and turns it into something far grander than its origin would’ve dictated. (passive/proactive)

6. Avoidance or evasion. Not addressing the issue in any way and avoiding any situations that could trigger that fear/anxiety. (passive/defensive)

7. Hypnosis/visualization/guided imagery. Designed to lower anxiety and alter thought patterns and state-management to mitigate the physiological effects of the source of the fear.

8. Education, information, and further study. A common sense and pragmatic self-reflection as to why you feel fear at this particular element, understanding fear itself, research on the focal-point/central-concern…all to become more educated by looking through a clear lens.

9. Empowerment. Martial arts classes, self-defense classes, combatives classes. Motivational speeches or seminars. Personal-empowerment classes. “Re-wiring” those cylinders that gave us the original fear and build independent self-confidence apart from the fear as well.

Here, on this list, we have a lot of direct correlations to the counter-violence world as many professionals delve dangerously into areas they’re simply not qualified for…like many listed above. (therapy, psychology, phobia-curing, PTSD-treatment, hypnosis, etc.) Martial arts instructors have a nasty habit of transferring capability to other arenas not within their knowledge base – philosophy, psychology, therapy, mountaintop guru, spiritual guide, life coach, and pretty much everything in-between. In other words, generally not knowing their lane. (We see the other side of this as well through combat-driving, defensive tactics, firearms courses, where instructors/clubs try desperately to “holistic” – your one-stop shop for allll things protective) This all, when done poorly and without actual education and study, runs the gamut from subtly doing psychological damage, creating (far greater) daily paranoia, conditioning unhelpful or even negligent fear-management methods…to the interpersonal side of unhealthy instructor hero worship, a co-reliant relationship, and a cult-like group environment…to outright re-wiring horrible mindsets that end up exacerbating fears exponentially….NONE of which are healthy replacements for the actual original fear-based problem.

Can you tell by an instructor’s (MA/SD/PP/CM/whatever) digital imprint and language if they’re intimating to help alleviate or subtly (or not-so-subtly) add to the fears of potential or current clients? Remember, innate/authentic fear, psychological trauma, and past emotional damage are very intricate and finicky things, hardly the realm of most self-defense instructors with no outside or supplemental training or experience. (though that will be denied thoroughly by most, whose skills transfer over to any number of abundant logical offshoots from traditional martial arts training. I’m a very good defensive driver but it doesn’t make me a combat-driving tactics instructor….) Pay close attention to the type of communication utilized and the hyperbole (or lack thereof if pragmatic and legit…), it’s very revealing as to the method of student retention they aim for. (away from fear…done out of fear….or towards self-reliance and logic)

If they’re peddling selective or isolated statistics, claiming the world is at its most dangerous point in human history, that those without their vaunted “training” are helpless sheep, that they offer something special that no other industry professional does, that they have capabilities “outside their lane”, and don’t address modern elements of personal protection that can educate and ground unheeded fear (legal, ethical, moral, psychological, physiological, fiscal, social, familial)….buyer beware. Or run. Probably better. There are other sources available with half the bluster and twice the credibility.

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