We´ve long heard industry-exponents name-dropping the “grey man” idea – blending would be another word for it. It´s seemingly used ad-infinitum for everything about being innocuous and subtle about one´s appearance. Being a Canadian white-guy living in Costa Rica/Central America, I´ve always thought that like so many of the terms so loosely referred to (the OODA Loop, Hick´s Law, the 21-foot “rule”, for example) there´s a lot of nuance and intricacy that seems to be glossed-over or utterly ignored. I´d like to present some caveats and context to the theory here as I think, like the others I´ve addressed in past articles, it pays to be clear about the 5 Ws and how of the thing. The manner of “going grey” in one arena may not be at all wise or effective in another.

Now, getting back to context, there are a number of different civilian (I stress civilian as with military, law-enforcement, corrections, or any other high-risk occupation the context changes yet again) arenas that draw different avenues entirely of the gray-man, adding further nuance to the theory again.

ENVIRONMENTAL. Here, where I live, going completely grey is simply not achievable. I´m white, I have blue eyes, I dress differently, I speak Spanish as a second language, I´m more direct, I like greater spatial-distancing between conversationalists…the list goes on. Being also the only foreigner living in the barrio/neighborhood I live in, that potential decreases even more. I´ve been here for 12+ years and I´ve found that the best way to “blend-in” is to become a visible member of the community. I speak Spanish with the neighborhood locals. I support small local business. I interact with neighbors to get tabs on what´s transpiring in the area crime-wise. I walk out in public and know who the owners of the surrounding businesses are. I attend local events to show support for community-building. Now, while I am still stereotyped and even sometimes targeted, that has been by far the best avenue of immersion as many have simply gotten used to my presence here. Trying to dress differently, cover my eyes, put a baseball-cap on, and driving everywhere will only draw unnecessary attention that I generally don´t want or need.

Many expats here live in expat-enclaves, gated communities, well-off neighborhoods, drive around in expensive cars, throw money around, have security preventing the locals or nationals from entering their compounds, and never learn a word of Spanish. These enclaves are often treated with justifiable resentment and draw far more criminal-intent than they are thought to. Their very own security tracks their routines and patterns, gives that information to local criminals they know or have grown up with, and home-invasions are a regular occurrence. So are street-muggings from foreigners wearing expensive jewellry, top-of-the-line clothing, and carrying a wad of cash on their person. All of these things, while intended to up safety and survivability, often have the exact adverse effect than the intent.

There are also many times where law-enforcement will pull-over foreigners (I´ve had this numerous times throughout the years) intentionally, thinking they have money for bribes, will pay them off, and establishing a trend for future interaction. Sometimes “going grey” doesn´t work. Simply. I´ve feigned ignorance: “didn´t know the laws”, “new in-country”, “don´t speak Spanish” and it´s worked. Other times I´ve needed to stand firm and put a more dangerous façade on to project a harder-target. Sometimes manipulating the personality of the person targeting you can be effective by taking advantage of their mannerisms, hesitance, motive, threat-level, etc. While these are not the purest definition of going grey, they are blending. We adapt quickly based on the stimulus we are presented with in those times when going grey isn´t working. It´s putting up an intentional persona for a desired result knowing the reason one has been targeted.

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There are cultural stigmas that resonate throughout the countries here that are hardened through time, and not all of them unjustified. Remember that many foreigners move here and complain, demand, act entitled, treat locals as second-class citizens. Locals, in-turn, label everyone white and from “out-of-town” gringos, resent past political interference and superiority-complexes, and often are bitter that so much of the country has been “Americanized” by Americans, Canadians, Europeans, et al. That can also be manipulated in threat, risk, danger, and violence situations, in-turn. One can use those established stigmas to play the cards one is given. A couple of years ago, our car was in the shop and I had to run and pick it up mid-afternoon. I needed to pass-by a local pub, a pub that opens early and closes late and that always has locals drinking heavily. Of course, this time there was a thoroughly drunk Tico standing on the sidewalk when I was walking by. As I approached, he pointed his finger at me and said “Yo odio los gringos!” (I hate gringos) to which I replied in Spanish “Me too, man! I´m Canadian, agree with you completely, have a nice day and have a beer on me!”, grabbed his hand and shook it while I patted him on the shoulder and kept walking at my intentioned pace. I looked back and he was standing there scratching his head in confusion. Playing on the stereotypes – and blending with those same stereotypes.

Trying to hard to fit-in is not blending. Note that it´s far easier for a Puerto Rican American businessman from Texas (for example) that speaks Spanish as a native-language to go truly grey than it is for someone like me. That´s a fact, not a whine. Note, too, that understanding your limitations and knowing what is the most “accepted” form of grey is imperative. Me trying to look like the locals or nationals in every way and try desperately to fit-in by doing everything they do, acting every way they do, changing my dress, personality, phrasing is often a bigger attention-draw than just acknowledging your differences and utilizing them to minimize ostracization.

OCCUPATIONAL. There have been multiple times during my tenure here where I´ve had to take jobs that were in rather bad environments. Security and guard-training paid well but it was often high-risk. A lot of the guards came from a history-of-violence, whether it be growing-up or via inner-country civil war. They were hard and they were “battle-tested.” So part of the initiation at times was to take-on physical challenges or proof-of-testing on technique, concept, and strategy. I accepted all, to the dismay of my wife. There was never a “take your word for it” mentality as there often is in North America. It was inevitably trial-by-fire and me being a foreigner, it put a big red bullseye on my back. There were times during workshops where I had to stop and have a very physical session with attendees, on more than one occasion I got jumped, had intimated threats on acts some of the guards had committed in the past. I accepted all of them and, in hindsight, it concreted my reputation as well. It was a steep learning-curve. However, along the way, it was like a rite-of-passage from hard men that was invaluable. Once those tests were passed, the learning-absorption was fast, alliances were established, and unity was formed.

They – and I – shared personal information on trauma, shared harsh stories of upbringing, talked openly about situations we´d all been through, the effects of violence. It was a very visceral experience that I wouldn´t change at all, looking back, though acknowledging the high-risk. Had I not accepted those challenges – and some who came before me did not and left with their tail between their legs, I was told – I would not have blended into those tribes. I would have had more scrutiny, the challenges would have replaced any potential knowledge-transference, and I would have lost their ears and respect. “Going grey” here was risky, emotionally-taxing, physically-exhausting, though with high payoff. This may not seem like a “grey” issue, but being in front of a group of men with high-exposure to violence doesn´t leave a lot of room for being invisible. But this is the definition of blending with the crowd.

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Other times in the early days here I had to take jobs at call-centers, and you can bet that few expats were present but we struggled early-on. I immersed myself by putting my head-down and working, though I could feel a lot of negativity my way. The way I was finally accepted was in a team-meeting with a Canadian and couple of Americans fast-talking the workers about what they were doing wrong and what their potential earnings were. I knew, as a business-owner, that these guys were feeding these nationals with bullshit and I saw that as an opportunity to meld with the side I needed to get through my days, and noting I wouldn´t be there long anyway. I called the management out and broke-down exactly why they were misleading the workers and misdirecting them from what was actually going on. While it didn´t exactly endear me to the bosses, it did put in a stark new light with the workers, whom I sat beside, lunched with, and was lumped-in with. The fact a foreigner went to bat for them gave me access to the clique (a far more potentially-dangerous element), a better sell than aligning with foreign management.

Webster´s Dictionary defines blending as 1 : to look like things nearby. “The fish settles on the sandy ocean bottom where it blends in perfectly.” 2 : to look like one belongs with a particular group. “She tried to blend in by dressing like the other girls. —often + with “I’ve always found it difficult to blend in with my peers.”

I, personally, call this the difference between covert and overt blending. Covert blending being to merge in seamlessly – or as seamlessly as is possible in the given context by innocuously and subtly not seeming out-of-place. Overt blending with areas such as infiltration or doing out-of-the-norm things to fit-in to a certain group for a specific purpose, whether strategic, security-based, safety-based, or other. It´s important to distinguish between the two as they both have very different purpose and motive.

CLASS. Being able to slip smoothly through the classes (upper, middle, lower) is a great grey-man exercise. As in Canada, I have always had the ability to shift-gears and faces to fit with the crowd I´m interacting with. Here, in CR, it´s been everything from upper-class political figures, high-level business folk, and well-off foreigners to very low-class neighborhood working-class who are one grand misfortune away from poverty or indigence. The body-projection, lingo, tells, and type of coherent awareness are elements that are noticed and noticeably-absent with people who´ve lived a life often of mistrust, abuse, trauma, and struggle. What makes things easier for me is that I have actually lived within the paradigms of all three classes so my experience interacting with all three is authentic, not feigned. The nuances, intricacies, and subtleties of each one is something I´ve lived personally so my understanding of each comes across as legitimate, no small thing as often classes can smell one that “isn´t theirs.”

Gray Man Theory: The Art Of Blending Into The Crowd

I have lived from paycheque to paycheque struggling to put food on the table as I watch the bills pile-up, debt grow, and panic set-in. I have lived comfortably in the middle-class as inevitably that´s how I grew-up, middle- to middle-lower class. Comforts and safety were there, food always present, but still living frugally. I´ve also always had people around me from the upper-class – friends, family, business partners, day-to-day accomplices that came from money. That´s an important distinction as it is not always so easy (though not impossible) to fit-in with a class of people you´re not intimately familiar with. I have intimate exposure to the criminal element. I grew-up in a crowd that dealt drugs, utilized violence as a utility-tool, binge-drank every weekend and during the week, had law-enforcement on the periphery of our activities many a time. I also have intimate exposure to the academic, high-level business, political elements where I have been cerebral and thoughtful enough to sit down for a long conversation on the topics of intellectualism.

There are always signs – how one carries oneself, how one talks, the vernacular one uses, the type of clothing one wears, the confidence – whether authentic or fabricated – one exudes, the preferences and quality one refuses to be without or accepts. These are minutiae that are often rather hard to hide or falsely project. Note too that having the chameleon-like ability to blend through the classes is one thing – some are blessed to naturally have that gift, I´m not one. I had to go through many hard lessons, learn many times from grand error, become well-versed in a ton of holistic topics, and be willing to not only alter but completely revamp your lifestyle to get that intimate understanding. There have been many times in my life where I´ve had to make vast, sweeping, universal changes and start from absolute scratch to reinvent myself out of necessity, and not necessity to become “grey” but necessity if I wanted a better-life, a chance at happiness and success, and to prevent my own falling down the proverbial rabbit-hole of no-return. But this is not about me and my life – it´s to demonstrate that your ability to slide through the classes is most often not projected, it´s earned. Going grey requires an exposure and immersion to have taken place. The more experienced and holistically-versed one is, the greater the ability to “go grey” at the drop of a hat and whenever needed. If you have to prep heavily, you´re working from the back-end to the front and often on your heels unless this is a full-time occupation for you.


Remember that every culture has its own taboos, superstitions, proxemics, adherences, linguistic-colloquialisms, and dynamics. Learn. Them. Here, for instance, there is a heavy Catholic influence, churches are in the center of every city and town. Spatial-distancing when talking is much closer than in Canada or the U.S. Physical-touching is much more prevalent. There´s lots of imagery and influence from legends and myths that transfers to metaphorical impact in daily-living. Ticos are generally not direct, do not always say what they mean, can be passive-aggressive, and hide their intent or true sentiment for self-protection or withholding information. None of these are “bad” or “good” – they just are. Canadians and Americans have their elements like this as well, whether wanting to admit so or not.

Blending is not so easy when one has for forty years acted and intrinsically-accepted things as being a different way. I have had to become warmer and more spatial-invasion-accepting. Kiss on the cheek. Hug from the upper-torso up. Talk closer…and louder if I want to be heard as volume is high compared to North America and interrupting not so socially frowned-upon. I´ve had to accept and welcome religious vernacular, metaphor, and analogy openly as it´s used in most conversation. I´ve taken an interest in the metaphysical, superstition, and taboo-culture to glean more what makes people tick – and found it a fascinating area-of-study, to be honest. Belief is a hugely powerful thing. Here, where poverty is high, homelessness around every corner, zero in the way of benefits from the government, and pay exponentially lower…belief is often the one thing that gets people through their day and gives them hope for the future. To take belief away or discard it as ridiculous or irrelevant is inevitably to be “1st-World entitled with 1st-World problems” and will make you enemies rather quickly.

Gray Man Theory: The Art Of Blending Into The Crowd

It is also likely why so many North Americans and Europeans feel they can move down here and have a niche capitalizing and taking advantage of that belief. Ayahuasca camps, yoga cults, shamanism, crystal-healing, reiki groups – cults, in general – all abound here and are most often run by foreigners who want to scam, reinvent themselves, are on-the-lam from something back home, or take advantage of local taboos. They. Are. Everywhere. It has become it´s own form of tourism, but also many times it´s own criminal-industry. I´ve interacted with a lot of these people and, while it may work for a while, it generally lacks staying-power. Preying on belief is a very bad way to be grey. While it´s often said that things happen here roughly 15-20 years after they become popular in the U.S. and Canada, that knowledge can be manipulated in-advance by foreigners and often is with very negative consequences.

We once attended an organic-foods fair which often draws this type of element peddling their wares. I saw a “chi kung” instructor and asked about him. He was within ear-shot when the young woman at one of the stands told me about his credentials and that he was renowned master and pointed him out. I mentioned that I had done chi kung and tai chi for 20+ years and would love to chat with him. He – quite literally – grabbed his bag, covered his face, and walked briskly out the back-end of the fair. Lesson learned? Be grey but know how to maintain grey. There are always bigger fish when false-projecting so know your lane and where your strengths are. If your version of grey is by putting a grey overcoat on a beige façade, it´s only a matter of time before you´re exposed and that exposure here can have far more repercussions than the ones this gentleman yielded. Know your “product.” Why and for what is the need. How can you maintain it for as long as is needed. How long is it needed. Time is a factor here as well. Minimizing ostracization, as mentioned above, within a lifestyle of ongoing daily living calls for a different methodology than a two-week job-experience immersion. The changes are more gradual, subtle, slowly-transitioning.


My family and I were once stalked in the marketplace in San Jose by a clearly high-order predator.  We, to this day, do not know exactly why he picked us out as targets though, were I a betting-man, my son and my own blue eyes, North American dress, blond or light-brown hair, were likely triggers to something more sinister, whether it be kidnapping, extortion, or violence. (story documented here: ( , , ) He was well-dressed, his body language, dress, and “randomness” pointed-out his own subtle grey-man exposure, which likely drew no attention from less-experienced people in the crowd. We both identified each other almost instantaneously so the stakes immediately go up as we both exposed each other´s failures (whether glaring from mine and my son´s or spotted from his). It was a real-time cat-and-mouse dynamic played-out.

Grey changes from minute-to-minute. His was merging into the crowd, vanishing down different side-streets only to reappear in different places, carrying a plastic-bag to conceal a weapon, wearing black, being Latino. Ours was utilizing angles, covers, concealment, positioning beside present law-enforcement (never a guaranteed ally, but a strategic move to add an element our pursuer didn´t want), and moving within a moving crowd to take away visual and create our own apertures. It ended with our coming face-to-face from about thirty feet away. I sent my family to the car to prepare for a quick departure. He reaching into his plastic bag, me deploying my own weapon as he did so. We stared at each other with people walking in-between, none of whom noticed the subtly-deployed weapons we each carried and palmed. We both seemed to recognize that the other was a particularly hard-target and he slowly started making his way back into the crowd going the opposite direction while I did the same on my way to the car.

Man Standing Silhouette - Gray Simple, Isolated - Vector Stock Vector -  Illustration of human, horizontal: 138235195

“Grey” here became a sort-of contest. A real-world test to see whose grey-skills were superior. If it came to a draw and his goal was something more nefarious, I´ll chalk it up to a victory as we left, got home safely, and no criminal activity was successful. But here we see the challenge aspect of “dueling grey” where two people are utilizing it to a very high-stakes level against each other for an outcome with particularly large repercussions, yet another aspect that so many often neglect to factor-in to their understanding of the theory.

These are just some elements that I´ve experienced, and some anecdotes, on my short- and long-term grey man methods. It´s an overview of an area far more in-depth and profound, goal being to give it some nuance within all the erroneous simplism affixed to the theory within the industry. In closing, “going grey” has a purpose and that purpose can be quite diverse. It is not just blending into a crowd momentarily, though that is one example as demonstrated above. It has far greater scope when specific purpose is defined and that range of purpose is vast. Finalizing with those 5 Ws and 1 H we mentioned, as with everything personal-safety relative and regarding “upping survivability-quotient”, a mission-statement and playing-out a vast array of scenarios and circumstances is imperative PRE-EVENT. Going over the whos, whats, wheres, whens, whys, and hows prior to the need to use them. Who or what might be the threat, danger, or risk. Where might it play-out and does the where alter the methods you´d need to utilize, when would going grey be important and for what worthwhile endgoal, why would it be the desired method as opposed to a different method, and how would you go about achieving “grey” or constantly-changing shades of that grey.


A technique is never “just” a technique. And there can be quite a large chasm between technique-application “in the dojo” and as it pertains to the impactful bodies and intent-driven movement of combat or full-resistance. If you were to apply a technique gradually and smoothly with minimal chance of injury and not being negligent in class with students, classmates, training partners, instructors – what would you do to ensure their safety and continued training? If we reverse-engineer that process and ask ourselves what would be added if applying that same technique to a threat on the street…what would go into it that wouldn´t be for the precaution of safety? Of course, we can mention maximizing power, speed, full impact, follow-through and elements that are pretty transparent at the onset. But there´s much more that I´m referring to, much more nuance and micro-elements.

I was play-fighting with my son the other day and softly applying techniques with minimum strength and impact and it dawned on me that, even then, things could go wrong with a fluke, unpredictable body-movement, or knee-jerk reflex-action. While those things are present in the club, they are mitigated, controlled, anticipated but we often take them for granted as being “just a safety protocol” but they are actually the things in reality that make a thing “go”, implement cumulative damage, turn something from a technique into a termination, destruction, break, wrench, or impact.

Martial Art Technique Royalty Free Cliparts, Vectors, And Stock  Illustration. Image 13111040.

A joint-lock becomes a break or hyper-extension. (Many times we tend to forget that a “joint-lock” in the club is a “joint-break” in intended reality. A wrap or 2-on-1 becomes a wrench. A disarm become a destruction or actual “dis-arm.” A push becomes an impact. , The presence of bumping, jerking, barriers and obstacles, pushing & pulling, tighter circles, pivot-steps and short, compact, subtle foot-movements. All can change the entire complexion of the application of a thing.

A stick-strike preceded by a handful of sand, dirt, or salt increases in landing exponentially. A knife set-up with misdirection and deception, live-hand distractions or “hypnosis” and geometric-pattern diversions, deception, serpentine motions of weapon or body or both, oddly-delivered angles, the presentation of depth-perception problems, weapon-“dressing” (barbershop-taping of the sticks to give a perceptive timing issues, black blades, flexible-extensions), awkward body-mechanics. Utilizing the “ergonomics” of a weapon to maximize its potential – unique grips (reverse, extension, quarterstaff, baseball-bat, etc.), often under-utilized points-of-usage (mid-section, puños, reverse puños, reverse, two-handed deliveries), methods of impact and delivery (elastic-recoil, kinetic-chain, isotonic-explosivity, etc.). Different weapon-types in each hand that enhance and reinforce the other. (As we see with the poncho in esgrima criolla visteos) Even footwork and eye-movement at a high-level become subtly-manipulative for unseen range-changes, angles and geometric shapes, switched-leads, and with subtle covert-clothing (baggy-pants, long shirts, hats to shield eye-intent). All these things super-charge a thing and increase its potential multi-fold, which we seem to often neglect in the club – or forget they exist. (Not to mention creating confusion, hesitation, and discombobulation in our opponent(s)) The idea becomes learning to counter a thing in its base-form as delivered in the club – which is not at all how it should, could, would be delivered if needed under-fire. And then countering-the-counter, where every layer becomes further and further away from truth and we become problem-solvers for non-existent problems or club-resolutionists.

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Adding multiple levels of pain to overload the “punishment-system” and pain-receptors is another element highly-neglected. Varied forms of pain-application distract the mind and shut-down the senses in a manner where one would not or has learned to tolerate. A slap, palm strike, toe stomp, ear-cup make a joint-lock much more achievable. A lock or choke applied with an eye-attack, fish-hook, appendage-tear, knee-buckle, skin-twist, utilizing barriers or obstacles to limit movement and escape-possibility. A throw into the wall or onto a table is a force-multiplier. All of these make a simple “Hey, I know this move!” counter much more difficult if nigh-impossible.

Even accidental movements caused by panic, scrambling, unfamiliarity with technique hurting them – sometimes we can facilitate our own damage without knowing we´ll be doing so due to that unfamiliarity or innate survival-instinctive response. Sometimes “counters” or escapes, on the opposite end-of-the-spectrum, can surprisingly work on the same principles, our natural body-movement to escape or avoid pain are things never seen in the training environment. It´s why it´s so important to work with individual micro-movements, innate survival-skill responses, adaptability elements, natural body-movements, critical-thinking, unpredictable reflex-response, and pain-tolerance and -threshold in training. We learn not about the style, system, or art but about ourselves. How we move, react, flinch, recoil, and generally innately respond to a variety of situations. It is, quite simply, irreplaceable in the learning-matrix. We are not the systems, arts, or styles we train in. We are the users and appliers of those bases. They are designed to be manipulated, altered, even bastardized if required and I´ve said incessantly throughout the years that “I control the systems, they don´t control me” – often met with backlash, perceived disrespect, and loyalty to systemic-dogma. ( )

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Obstacles in the environment, unpredictable elements present (witnesses, onlookers, 3rd-party participants, moving agents like cars/motorbikes/bicycles/people). Even yelling, kiais, low-growling, and releasing that animalistic ferality. Clothing manipulation. The adept, application-driven, testing agent understands these things and has long learned that these “gap-fillers” are what makes the deep-understanding of technique go. As much as they can work AGAINST us and are often considered a potential-hazard to function, they can also work FOR us based on the same criteria, especially to the open-, active-, and perceptive-mind. The two work in-unison to heighten percentages and give greatest chance of success. One without the other is lacking. Deep-understanding of the outer-reaches of technique, tactic, and strategy and their most-appropriate application, coupled with “filling in the gaps” to prevent “pain-relief” (temporary or permanent) or applying the reverse transitionary damage is the high-level part. Being “good” at the technique itself is the tip-of-the-iceberg. Just because you´re good at a thing doesn´t mean you can apply it three-dimensionally, in diverse contexts, or with an understanding of human physiology, anatomy, and response.

The inevitable goal, and this seems to often be over-looked, is damage, not control. (Most of us are not violence-professionals where legal, occupational-protocol, and willing involvement in violent-situational issues are present. If purely “self-defense” or with clear mission-statements being true and pure, not violence-mongering or provocateurs – this is important to acknowledge, no small thing.) Our aim is not control – control is fleeting, temporary, transitory, and momentary, a means to an end but NOT the end itself. People adapt to control, learn to manage it and continue functioning, understanding how to resist it. Damage is momentarily-finite and starts chipping-away at resolve. Ceasing of biomechanical-function, the need for medical-repair or management, the entrance of shock-and-awe, a needed thing no longer working. These are things that have a profound effect of nullifying the threat both physically and emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. If the will becomes lacking, hesitant, or self-doubting, it also creates macro-cumulative-damage.

Joint locks – Martial Arts Videos

In closing, each of these independent areas is worthy of a full article unto itself so I gloss-over intentionally. However, the main point to take away here is that, while we so often regurgitate the “what happens in the club doesn´t happen in the streets”, I´m not sure the full-extent of that differentiation and the elements entailed are often fully-explored. Nor the nuance understood. Nor how the ideas of resistance, play, 3-dimensional scenarios where adapatability, criticial-thinking, resilience, and problem-solving and their cultivation are so much more than just “Dude, if you´re not sparring, you´re not really martial!” There is a multi-faceted personal-growth element present where individual truly supersedes system. Where high-level independent skill is bred. Where understanding nuance and intricacy replaces regurgitation.

Where real learning takes place.


In a weird mood so thought I´d write about something a little different today.

We so often hear people calling “Darwinism.” Someone does something stupid and gets themselves hurt or killed – Darwinism. Someone makes a bone-headed error – Darwinism. In the wrong place at the wrong time, with bad luck, and has a tragic or unfortunate outcome – Darwinism. I know, it´s making fun and done tongue-in-cheek, the survival of the fittest, right? Those critiquing never make big mistakes from distraction, overcharged emotion, split-attention, surprise, or unpredictable stimuli – and they couldn´t possibly be a victim of Darwinism. Note that the original intent for “survival of the fittest” or natural selection was for reproductive efficiency and potency, first and foremost, NOT the general stereotypical context of power, dominance, superiority, wealth, physical-intimidation variety we usually see it attributed to today. That actually had very little to do with things and took a very clear backseat to adaptability, resilience, robustness, intent, and determination. Evolutionary viability, we´ll term it. So…self-dictated, innate, and manifest to a vast extent, not “God-given”, socially-created, or fortunately-achieved. And certainly not fantasy-driven, as we see so often on social-media by those so often utilizing the term.

1,000 Scientists Publicly Sign 'Dissent From Darwinism' Statement | CBN News

So let´s use it as a modern term in the current-context. What determines being “the fittest.” I´d say that term has a rather wide berth for interpretation. It is certainly not the most athletically-gifted or physically-imposing. It used to be attributed to the warriors of society – those deemed the most survivable in the inevitable “apocalypse”, those most greatly-prepped for the violent storm so often predicted to be coming around the corner. Yet, the lines are now blurred as we´ve hit a point not of mass-violence but attrition. Is it a medical professional in the face of a global outbreak? The Internet-savvy that can hack, make quick and vast money, minimize work-stress, cover themselves from government scrutiny? The rich who can isolate themselves in “bunkers” of solitude indefinitely while still gathering and compiling vast amounts of perceived necessary resources? It´s hard to tell, isn´t it.

Society has always functioned most efficiently as a “community” by protecting the weakest members – in whatever context. Remember, a chain is only as good as its weakest link and a society only as strong as it´s weakest members and how we protect and aid them. Yet, during the pandemic, we see bubbles and tribes and communities that turn on each other and “eat their young” the minute one person is infected, non-conformist, not blindly-tribal, with bipartisan insight, and the like. Then it becomes an immediate shift to protecting the “strong” – or healthy, deemed sane, towing the party line…alike us. Those are certainly the strong who unite the tribe, I suppose. (And won´t get into the staunch difference between “tribe” and “community” and which is more beneficial during a timeline like this but I bet you´ve figured out my views on this already) But, maybe for the first time in generations, what if “the tribe” is wrong and “strong” are the independent thinkers and creative-processors, and non-affiliated outside-the-box developers? What if the “lone-wolves” of society represent the strongest faction of said society? What then? They´ve clearly been established to be the minority, the outlier, the smallest portion, the “weakest” demographic.

Interesting Facts About Charles Darwin

Do we sacrifice them for the greater good and to maintain the dogma of the overall tribe when they can turn-out to be the ones that turn the tide for the overall betterment of society? The “non-tribal”, I´ve often noticed, have been the ones who´ve taken a leadership and informing role upon themselves. Played devil´s advocate. Been the guiding voices of reason. Provided deep food-for-though to both sides of the tribal aisles, whichever side. The ones that see through the tribal boundaries for what they are – separation, segregation, ostracization, and dogmatic. Logical. Reasoning. Common-sensical. Rational. Minimally-biased. Deductive. And a host of other adjectives that can be placed here.

One of my great concerns throughout this global event is that minimally-biased assessors – those who think, just fucking think, without affiliation or tribe or faction or side – are suddenly labelled as some form of usurper or blasphemer or even a danger when they can be the very people who hold some keys to getting out of this shitstorm we find ourselves in. They are not partisan. They are not tribalized. They are not agenda-driven. They are simply for the version of the truth closest to the actual truth itself, whatever that may be. We sacrifice the lambs – be they sick, in disagreement with our tribal lines, playing that very devil´s advocate, not blindly-loyal, black, law-enforcement, Republican, Democrat, Liberal, Conversative, pro-gun, anti-gun, pro-medicine, anti-invasiveness, whatever (and the lions seem to often be missing-in-action recently) – but how many independent-thinkers even  within each of those groups have we lost or stopped listening to simply because they were a part of those groups? Or part of none but a perceived card-carrying member of one of the above? Or within those groups held a worldview that took into account factors outside drawn tribal-lines?

Darwinism is such an easy fallback to attribute a thing to, to make ourselves look somehow superior and yet most who utilize the term have no fucking clue what it actually means or where it actually derived from. I´ve seen a wide array of supposedly top, name, influential martial arts, combatives, self-defense, and personal-protection instructors lose their ever-loving head throughout the pandemic – whether from fear of the virus, financial hardship, emotional instability, mental-health issues, triggers, false-projection, and the like. Cracking at the first sign of resilience, robustness, or adaptability demanded – which should be exactly their lane, no?? One might think… Now, “hard times” I´d say are expected and suffering through an experience that all or most will experience throughout this process so we ALL will hit low-points, periods of intense strain, or times where non-characteristic behavior – fully granted and understood. There have been periods for me, admittedly. And for other top-peers and industry-friends I know and vouch for. But that´s not what I´m referring to.  I´m referring to intently and consciously trying to “keep it together” and always post productive or positive themes when posting on social-media. Non-confrontational. Anti-tribal. Thought-provoking. Take ownership of the message one is putting-out – and the feedback received for it.

22 Survival of the fittest Vector Images, Survival of the fittest  Illustrations | Depositphotos

But “Darwinism”, as we´ve clearly seen during this event, is not the term most have become accustomed to using it as. Many of the prominent figures in the self-defense industry have been less than grounded and worse, manipulating suffering for personal gain. Taking advantage of people´s fear and anxiety and exacerbating it because they have the only solution available in all the land to get you over the hump. (Disaster-capitalism) Law-enforcement´s public-perception has taken a beating, justified or not, or the few giving the many a black-eye. Politicians have ALL become questionable in motive and agenda and a sense of apathy has taken over like nails on a chalkboard when they talk. Even the world´s military-personnel have taken somewhat of a back seat to a potential new way war is seemingly being fought – propaganda, false-flags, hacking of complex-systems, Internet information-planting, conspiracy-theoreticism, resource manipulation, psywar, plane-shifting guerrilla warfare, and subtle-misdirection. Corporations have been questioned and now struggle filling employment and keeping wages low while we´ve seen the worker gaining leverage. Many authentic scientists and medical professionals have been the unsung glue of society for the duration of this event, regardless of your theories on the virus or pandemic itself. Internet-savvy folk have been creative and forward-thinking. Virtual platforms and message-delivery altered maybe permanently. The definition of “essential worker” clearly was often not what we thought it was. The “nerds” and cerebral-thinkers have thrived. People are even listening to factions of the nutty survivalist-crowd again because, well, they´re all-of-a-sudden not quite so nutty, are they. The top-down order has become bottom-up and flipped almost entirely if we look at things from a detached eye.

Now, it´s never this cut-and-dried and the upper-class continue to get wealthy, corporations continue to make their money, politicians continue to scam and corrupt, and power-brokers continue to wield power. Yes, this is true, undeniably. But things have the feel of change. The digital-age has also brought a very different version of “survival-of-the-fittest” – maybe the greatest shift of its ilk in human-history. As much as we have never had such immediate access to information in the evolution of humankind as we do now – so equally has the playing-field dramatically shifted in terms of what “the fittest” actually means.

65,218 Evolution Photos - Free & Royalty-Free Stock Photos from Dreamstime

Something to think about. So, while you continue to work-out, flex, project, and awe at your hot warrior-self – the world has done up and changed under your nose and in front of your eyes. And maybe that´s a good thing. Like the rest of the world, maybe it´s time that the self-defense, personal preservation, martial arts, and combatives industry stand-up and take notice and start to realize that it could be a very good thing that the “fittest” no longer simply represents who can fight the best, is athletically-gifted, and is the most physically-imposing, but who can adapt, be resilient, be robust, can critically-think under duress, can contextualize, can be a chameleon, see patterns and trends, has diverse solutions for complex three-dimensional problems, can keep their proverbial shit together, and knows this isn´t all about fighting but being safe and secure under the threat of very diverse and unique “enemies” – and excelling under heavy tension and anxiety as a real-time example of their purported market-messaging. The dawning of the cerebral-“operative”, the thinking-fighter, a hard-target because of what´s above his/her neck – not what´s below it, and a modern influence on a far greater sphere of influence. More “MI”, less “SF”. Remember, evolution is inevitable, whether you´re prepared for not or not is up to you. And Darwinism. I don´t think word means what you think it means – at least anymore. Time to change the narrative because it´s shifting. Be aware of it.


An anecdote on methods, strategies, and counters

I had originally told a friend that I likely wouldn’t even be writing about this as these events are omnipresent here and are hardly abnormal. As for many in other places these are not quite so common and can be a rather traumatic event, I decided to document it if nothing else for posterity-sake.

A little background on what transpired and is transpiring. I am a target here. No ifs, ands, or buts. I have blue eyes, light-brown hair, a different complexion, and sometimes wear clothing that, although intentionally tattered or ripped or dirty, still gives me away as a foreigner. There is literally minimal I can do to “go grey” at certain times during the day, in certain places, and with certain people that will not reveal me as foreigner. Not speaking Spanish, not blending, not a clothing change, because some things I possess are clear indicators. During the day, shades, hat, and certain clothing may aid but it’s not a guarantee.

That day, 2 days ago, I was also in a very bad mood. Tension at home, son was disrespectful, bad day at work and I was going to the store to pick-up a couple of beers and snacks to chill-out after a long week of work. I was snarly, admittedly.

The minute I pulled-up there was a guy standing in the parallel-parking area in front of the store. Now, this alone doesn’t stand-out because we have here what are slangly-termed “watchimen”, those guys who stand around claiming to watch your car for you while you are inside shopping (they don’t), in case anything happens to your car they’ll take care of it (they won’t), and in exchange you give them some change after your shopping experience for doing so. There are regulars that run areas/radii and sharing/taking that area is frowned-upon and will cause sometimes violent altercations when livelihood is threatened. I’ve seen this happen first-hand.

As we use this store for small-stuff or stuff in a pinch in the evening on occasion, it’s not at all unfamiliar and the regular watchimen were accounted and present but keeping distance from this guy, an early point-of-note. I got out of my car and immediately the guy approached me – hardly surprising. In Spanish, he started aggressively asking for money, calling me a gringo (it’s assumed I have millions), and telling me what he was going to do to me if I didn’t comply. I had my mask on and he didn’t advance physically in any way so I ignored him completely without giving away any signs of annoyance, bother, or intimidation whatsoever.

Inside, I knew this would escalate as I left so I found an aperture I could look out of to see if he had any apparent accomplices with him. No signals, no interaction, no focused looks. Seemed to be working alone. Went about my business. To get an idea of how my mind works in these circumstances, the thoughts that crossed were – there will likely be no intervention on my behalf (and, therefore, on his either) due to social-distancing and fear of the virus so I will be given the time and space to handle things how I see fit. Any potential legal-case will be backlogged until way into 2021 at minimum due to the pandemic and logjam of the national court-system so there will be no fear of legal repercussions should this escalate, from him and, therefore, for me as well. I was wearing a mask and face-shield, and it was night, so my identity was somewhat questionable, or potentially claimed as such.

Upon leaving, he approached again as he was waiting by my car for me. I remember being intense, focused-anger, very irritable – but attentive. He stepped in front of me and I made one command – “distancia” – distance. He backed-up but told me he was going to take my money and assault me. I ignored completely with zero care, attention, or change. As I opened my car-door, he started reaching inside his pocket. I shut the car-door and just stared intently at his hands, focusing on nothing but. Not his words, his face, his “body language”, just his hands and my body was square, coiled, and ready to move suddenly – in his direction, not away.

He seemed to notice and quickly pulled his hands out, going “tranquilo, tranquilo, todo bien, mae!” (Calm down, calm down, everything’s good, dude!”) I turned my focus to his eyes and I remember my gaze being super-intense and blank. As he kept backing-up, I quickly opened my car-door and jumped-in, locking the doors behind me. He kept his distance and starting berating me, threatening what he was going to do to me had I not gotten in my car. (the universal male sign for trying to regain pride after target-picking incorrectly) The worry at this point is having your car keyed or knifed as you drive-off, so as I was leaving, I slowed down and started at him in parting. He put his hands up palms-out and I drove home, really thinking nothing of it.

These events here are pretty common-place (and will increase as time goes on with the current crisis) so I didn’t really think anything of it. Forgot about it after I got home, probably after driving away. Didn’t even mention it to my wife until this morning after something reminded of it. After talking to a couple of people about it, I guess it was actually an attempted-mugging gone wrong. I didn’t have the time, the care, or concern to over-think or post-event assess. We often take these events here for granted, whereas in Canada it would be a rather big deal.

I have had a lot of these instances happen over my 10 years here – attempted property-entry, target-profiling, attempted-muggings, posturing from distance, hands going into pockets, aggressive panhandling. They have really become commonplace, especially for a foreigner. Often, foreigners become victims. I hear it regularly on social-media: expats that have mugged, robbed at gunpoint, targeted, home-invaded, pick-pocketed, etc. It is a different playing-field from down-home so events that often happen here and are treated nonchalantly, are not so much down home. I tend to gloss-over that fact rather regularly.

Now, I have no doubt buddy-boy got lucky as the night progressed and was successful as time went on. He does this for a living, especially now. This is his profession and he knows it well. A lot of people that enter his territory are fearful of distance, uber-focused on item-retrieval, probably tired after a long-day at work, making just a quick-stop (so what could happen), and in familiar area close to home. Perfect for a victim-in-waiting.

Again, I am documenting this solely for learning, understanding, informative purposes or I likely wouldn’t have bothered but I realize people can glean info from these anecdotes. If you’re one, it was worth putting pen-to-paper.


The intrinsic need for unscripted play

To be clear, I don’t mean “poor” or “bad” training in the above. I mean flawed. Imperfect. Error-filled. Challenges presented. Aesthetically-displeasing. Regardless of what you call whatever it is you do – fighting, sparring, resistance-training, play, whatever – if there’s not an element of imperfection and struggle, of weak-linking an opponent, pattern-breaking, overcoming – however can we find more out about our own mettle? Without these elements, how would you ever find out that:

  1. There is ALWAYS more than one way to do a thing, do it well, and get a successful result from it. (Sometimes the scale of effectiveness, time, or efficiency is sliding but results are results at the end of the day)
  2. Learning through struggle is healthy and through it comes decisiveness, adaptability, problem-solving, inventiveness, and three-dimensional thinking.
  3. Resilience and robustness are 2 elements that are only gleaned during trial-and-error. You do a thing differently than I do – but we may acquire the same desired result.

Let’s do a quick definition of what I mean by “robustness” (thank, Erik) and “resilience”. Robustness, we’d define as the preparation leading up to the event. What you do to prepare yourself for a sparring/fighting/play session. How do you build-up your body for punishment, for moving explosively, breathing while under duress, develop the tools that go into being efficient within your particular body & mind. Whether they were the correct avenues depends on the result or performance under the dynamics of the activity prepared for. Resilience is that ability to adapt, solve, counter, create, change course, read pattern, and alter plan in the midst of that particular activity. They are inevitably 2 sides of the same coin. Without one, the other generally fails.

I don’t have a particularly aesthetically-pleasing body, and it’s not something that’s been particularly high on my to-do list. Certainly not a beach body that will make the lasses swoon and the lads admire – but that’s not been my motive. What I do have is a body that I’ve built for 25 years for the punishment of play against another human, sometimes giving away almost double my weight. It at times (pandemic, for instance) can get flabby or with a few extra pounds – but the explosivity, on-demand movement, connectedness, and connection from mind-body-and-back is always present, at least thus far, knock-on-wood.

I’ve trained and trained with a number of pure bodybuilders, the kind whose aim is to look good on the beach for the ladies and feel that having a little fight-capability adds to the package-view. Generally, though admittedly not universal, those muscles are often not “functional” muscles, not the kind made for that resilience and robustness. Sudden movement. Aerobic and anerobic shifts. O2 capacity. Long-term stamina. The understanding of lactic-acid build-up. I’ve also played with a number of trained-folk over 300 pounds of farm-boy muscle and natural-strength who were ominous, the exact opposite of the previous. Gradual exertion, utilization of power and bulk, and very coordinated.

Micro-movements, those unique things that we do individually that make a thing go and make us successful under repeated duress over the time of experience, exposure, diverse context, and consistency. Micro-movements are those things cultivated under stress when robustness and resilience come together and confidence and calmness are built. The things hard to teach because everyone has a way to make their nucleus of go-to concepts, methods, baits, feints, counters, fail-safes, secondary-options, and applications go, unique unto them through means of trial-and-error, by actually fighting, sparring, playing, resisting…struggling.

And, NONE of these things above are achieved through one-dimensional, static, compliant, patterned training, complex with foregone outcomes. The kind that much traditional martial arts uber-focused on hierarchy, idolism, rank, belt, and title simply rarely provide. The reward should be in the independence and self-sufficiency of the student, not the carbon-copy efficiency of cloning generations of mechanical-repeaters.

I have never understood why sparring, testing, play, broken-rhythm, unknown-conclusion drills, and the like can’t be utilized every. Single. Class. Instead of as some kind of finished end-product that a curriculum seemingly culminates in. Ass. Backwards.

Go out and make errors. Learn. Fail. Understand that one can make mistakes, errors, take punishment, absorb shots, get hit, miss a block or hit, be in trouble, be over-classed, have a technique fail – and STILL be in the battle and even win. That alone is an absolutely invaluable skill.


Now with some foresight and understanding, some of the abilities that have turned-out to be most valuable to this point

First of all, I’m a neophyte when it comes to “prepping” or the traditional definition of survivalism as they pertain to wilderness or harsh climate or off-grid living, admittedly and openly. I don’t at all claim to be an expert or an industry-leader. However, I do know a thing or two about surviving. Harsh climates, both physical and mental – most of it wasn’t planned or orchestrated by formal-skill, but I’m here nonetheless.

So, that being said, that “when-shit-hits-the-fan” moment that everybody claimed to have been training for, finally arrived and the off-grid views of what was needed to survive a global-crisis have generally yet to come to pass, which is not to say they won’t at some point – on a long-enough timeline – but they haven’t at the moment. On that note, what are some necessities, both tangible and intangible, that have become imperative after 6 months of duration? Toilet-paper was overrated. Bulk chlorine build-up as well. Monstrous supplies of your favorite name-brand foods that’ll run-out have been moot too, even here. Loading-up on product and trying to re-sell them at higher-price on E-Bay apparently didn’t work either. So, what is there that was probably underestimated by most at the outset of this pandemic? What are some skillsets that have shown to legitimately and authentically be imperative to the day-to-day survival of the numerous threats and risks posed by this crisis? Some may surprise even the pros to this point…

  • Information & data-assessment. The ability to decipher numbers, details, and information. Which is valid, which is not. What does it all mean? Where does it imply this is headed? What do those numbers signify for upcoming trends and leanings? Have or will “the essentials” shift as time passes? Which parts are important, which less so? Can you tell which is which? The ability to sift through misinformation, partial truth, false flags, conspiracy theoreticism, media-manipulation, semantics, statistics, and cherry-picking can be the difference in seeing upcoming patterns (consumer, risk, asset/resource, governmental, viral) that alter whatever the current existence is build on.
  • Diversifying incomes. In a world where businesses are closing at a more rapid rate than any other in our lifetime and business-models adapt drastically to fit a dynamically-altered global-economy, it pays to have multiple sources of income streams coming from a number of different sources. The “all-of-your-eggs-in-one-basket” play was always risky – far more so now.
  • Food management. For example, what will be your base foods and can you stick to a fundamental diet that both keeps you healthy, gives you what’s needed, and keeps spending at a minimum. Routine is a key to getting out of all this not just in one piece but in at least a pseudo-solid standing that allows you to hit the ground running whenever things get back to some semblance of normalcy. Routine and continuity are fundamental and skill-perfection.
  • Skill-pliability. How far can the skillsets you currently have take you? Can they go into diverse arenas and be stretched exponentially? Now is the time to test your skill limits and see how far they can truly take you. How transferable are they really…what aspects of them had you never previously explored…what juice can be claimed out of them after squeezed.
  • Comfortable discomfort. Learn to be comfortable with those things and situations that are uncomfortable. That’s a pillar of success. Be able to change seamlessly with the changing dynamics and become smooth with rough.
  • Loan/Debt consolidation. Where can secondary sources of money be found. Retirement funds, RRSPs, savings. How will they play-in, will you need them, are they accessible, are they even available. Will using them, or a portion of them, still give you opportunity to take care of yourself as you age or retire. Will it matter if you can’t make it out of this. Can you combine or lower or alter payment and amount strategies with car loans, mortgages, assets. How will you go about doing it and what leverage can you utilize to achieve such?
  • Trigger-restraint. We’re going to be in confined spaces (restrictions/quarantines/lock-downs/working-from-home/unemployment/children not in school) with the same people for extended periods of time – people who’s triggers and set-off points we’re intimately familiar with and can exacerbate on a dime. Can we utilize self-control and greater patience to maintain and protect those relationships that are most valuable to us? It might be the most imperative skillset of all.
  • Pattern-recognition. The planning and foresight to foresee different forks in the road before they make themselves known. What assets, resources, skills, and mindsets will those require that aren’t being utilized now and how might you obtain those on short-notice. Seeing it before others becomes a crucial advantage as the stages evolve from one period to the next. If you have an equal-partner who’s on the same page as you, what a huge benefit to the overall schematic.
  • Satellite-reading – neighbors, family, peers, acquaintances, friends. How has their planning, assessment, risk-management, and trouble-shooting been. Do they pose a risk to you and yours in some way due to that, should they assume that things are or will be “as normal” briefly. Could they be a burden. Are they as self-sufficient. Are they generally others you may have to help take care of or aid in supporting. Aging parents, children, suffering friends. Can you do so and still stay afloat.
  • Emotional detachment. Other people’s actions, extreme tribalism that’s in some places seemingly replaced virus/pandemic-prep, low tolerance points, anger, frustration, desperation, even violence are by-products of what’s happening the world-over at this point, to varying degrees. It’s not personal. Any of it. It’s par-for-the-course and you may find yourself on the train-tracks. Staying calm and being able to separate these elements from your own existence may save a ton of grief later-on. People struggle differently, suffer diversely, and vent uniquely. Acknowledging that goes a long way to understanding human duress-behavior and your ability to manage it like the mine-field that it is.
  • Internet viability. That’s right. The grid hasn’t gone down – it’s become imperative. More so than before. Business is moving online at an astounding pace. Those who had Internet-based business prior, have thrived and become necessary. With less public- and social-interaction, less facetime, less product/service-to-client exchange, mass working-from-home, desperation start-up business – it’s become a matter of surviving on-grid, not off. Online business, work-from-home, social-media marketing, global-potential. Learning to make money on the Internet is no longer just a luxury, it’s a necessity for many.
  • Self-sufficiency. Should shit-hit-the-fan to an even greater extent, are we capable of being self-sufficient. In income. In resource-creation/extension/manufacture. In mobility. In personal-preservation. In communication. In counter-violence. We all need to rely on others, even if “self-sufficient”, with black-markets, micro-economies, under-the-table endeavors with community apart from organized entities. This should be a main element to your long-term planning and current mindset. There should be a future-aim that drives the bus. Minimal reliance on the powers-that-be is a major element to strive-for the longer this drags. Be open to whatever potential income-projects that cross your way – be diligent as per usual, but you’d be surprised the different avenues that open themselves up by like creative, self-reliant, ingenious people.


First-hand account of some anomalies to widely-accepted industry myths


I have had a rather large number of injuries – and inflicted some, both in training and in daily-life – over the years. As there are a rather monstrously-large body of misnomers out there regarding how much – or how little, as it were – bodily-punishment the human-body and spirit can handle, I thought I would at least open the discussion with my own personal experienceand the aftermath.

1. “A poke to the eyes will render him blind and unable to defend himself.” Well, I have had varying levels of things in my eyes over the years with varying results. A thrust with a plastic-knife deep into my left-eye rendered me on the ground covering with both hands. A tip-hit with a bokken left me almost unconscious upon impact from shock and cerebral shut-down, then sent me to the hospital with first zero vision in my left-eye, gradually blurred with eye-patch, and then “tracers” – a cognitive lagging to focus on moving objects for weeks, if not months. I still get it randomly to this day. So “impact” on the eye, yes, I can concede that fully. Gouges, rakes, close-range pokes from thumbs and fingers, less so. Digits can penetrate pretty deep into the eye-socket before there´s shut-down, will to fight subsides, and a counter-prevention (whether instinctive/evolutionary or intentional away) is applied with no immediate or sudden pain or damage.

2. “A broken nose will leave him with blindingly-watering eyes and the rather vast blood-flow that follows causes shock, ending the fight.” Nope. Had my nose broken on 3 separate occasions in training and, while the watering-eyes are true, they are hardly preventive-enough to completely take away vision, prevent counter-measures, or stop fighting-spirit. The blood, remember, can have varying effects on varying people. Blood can be a horror or a driving-motivator that sets of greater-intensity and will to punish. As these were training-partners, that fortunately didn´t happen but in one instance of sparring with a competitive kickboxer and RCMP-member, we continued for another 15 minutes of boxing prior to the blood becoming a safety, footing, and mess issue. Never in the 3 did I stop fighting, was hugely-impaired with any senses, or think it was a fight-stopper.

3. “Deep gashes and to-the-bone cuts are immediate fight-enders.” In my (more) stupid days, we used to put on old hockey-helmets, hockey-gloves and nothing else and do full-contact boxing. I was punched by a 230-pound judo-player so hard the cage on my helmet pinched (I think viced might be a better word) the skin on my jaw so deep that it went to the bone. I could see my own jaw-bone in the mirror and there was a flap of skin hanging loose. I didn´t at all notice at first and continued engagement. It was only after another 30-60 seconds or so that a third-party noticed and called for a halt to the action. There was zero pain. Zero. No acknowledgement of disfigurement. No huge volume of blood that seeped out, likely due to the momentary adrenaline. I went willingly to the hospital to get stitches, not because of awe and horror, but because I knew after it healed, if I didn´t have stitches it would likely be a very noticeable, pronounced, and ugly scar.

4. “Heavy ankle shots can discontinue fight-ability.” Yeah, I can vouch for this one. I blew out my ankle once during a knife-sparring session. It popped. And I writhed. Prone and vulnerable. Again went to the hospital and limped-along for a week before I was hobbling, but back training and teaching the following weekend. So, recovery was much quicker than anticipated but zero question that had that been a real-scenario, my survivability-quotient would´ve gone down to nil were there an intent-filled opponent. I also left an achilles-lock on too long on a tough security-guard here that was hellbent on fighting out of it and it ripped a number of tendons in and around the ankle. He was off for days and limited in capacity for weeks, he admitted fault but it shouldn´t have happened and I was the more experienced, but as I´ve discussed in previous blogs, the landscape for testing and ground-proving is different here. He did nothing but grip the ankle for 10 minutes on the floor and this was a gent with a history of violence back home.

5. “Broken bones are fight-enders.” Well, this is one is a little more complicated. Which bones? What kind of break? Clean? Large or small? To me, this is the “real” meaning of a bio-mechanical stoppage, not muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other surgical targeting. Impact-breaks. Fingers I have fought through, though gripping, maneuverability, and transitions becomes exorbitantly more difficult. I have also broken some fingers and a thumb. I have watched them be momentarily popped back into place and training continued. I have seen one where system-shock hit and the fighter was down for a few moments until he re-gathered himself, popped his own digit back in-place, and finished the day of training. I have seen wrists popped and sprained and, while movement was limited, training continued. I have also blown-out the knees/legs of 2 others´ years ago and it was a horrific pop, to be clear. Not a sound one likes to hear too often in life and they were done “for the day.” No movement, no footwork, no agility, no base – no fight.

One was from a hip-throw where the knee stayed where it was, planted. One was from a knee-lock where the lad refused to tap and thought he could tolerate it and knew the limits of functional-pliability. He was wrong and I should´ve known better but here we are. Broken leg, blown-out knee – done, has been my experience. You´re out. I also had to re-set a security guard´s separated-shoulder that came-undone during a sparring session mid-workshop. While he screamed in pain and winced for minutes, after re-setting he was good-to-go and admitted he had a chronic problem. But painful? You bet. A fight-ender? Maybe, maybe.

6. “The face and top-of-the-head are very vascular – attack those.” Yeah and no. See above. Some people see their own blood and snap, pushing the aggression-envelope way the hell up from previous. Some fold and go into shock. Some gradually build panic as the blood flows and they get concerned about accumulated blood-loss and onsetting weakness. I have had a bad cut from a jacket on the top of my head. I bled like a stuffed-pig, had it flow into my eyes, but had every intention of continuing until my surgeon-student told me we needed to patch it up and get stitches or scarring, again, would be rather unsightly. I was joking and chatting while the stitches were being put-in, however. No harm, no foul. I´ve also received a deep facial-gash from a hockey-stick spear that caused momentary pause and pain-acceptance before continuing. One also gets accustomed to the smell of blood, which can be very powerful for the uninitiated, an element often neglected to be mentioned. Coupled with the sight of blood-flow, the smell can make one nauseous, dizzy, or faint.

7. “Stomping on the toes can shut-down folk.” They hurt awfully, make no mistake. Getting your toes stomped hard is more than just “a little pain to work through”, it is brutally and instantaneously painful. Is it fight-stopping? Circumstantial. If a momentary advantage is on the docket, it may just give you enough to add levels of pain and created more immediate damage. If it´s your go-to, remember that there are some who, the second their system acclimatizes to the pain, they adapt and move-on. If you´re pausing and hoping that´s the be-all-end-all of the thing, you might be in for a rude-awakening. Remember too how close you have to be to another determined, intentioned human-being to pull this off…

8. “Hit him with a stick, he´ll wilt.” Again, circumstantial with intangibles but, doing full-contact stick-fighting, we have noticed again and again that it´s amazing how much impact-trauma one can endure in the moment. Later on that evening you may have some pretty awful hematomas/bruising, welts, and some ugly skin-patches but I have both myself and seen others take full rattan shots to the arm, side-of-the-leg, top-of-the-hand, even collarbone and continue fighting until battle-day was through. I have, on the contrary, hit a 300-pounder so hard that it cracked and broke the hockey-helmet and left an indent on the side of his cheekbone, admitting it likely would have killed him if not for that shattered-helmet.

But adrenaline is a funny thing and, remember, the adrenaline you feel in regular class-time is NOT the same as it is when fighting, playing, sparring, dueling, etc. Heightened circumstances? Heightened pain-tolerance and pain-threshold. Some people just feel “pain” on another level. I have always been fortunate to be one of those, it is mental and all in your head. You can choose to feel the full-brunt of what medical-books tell you to feel – or you can act of your own volition and dictate yourself what level you´ll decide to feel. At the end, what is the stick made of, how big and heavy, who´s wielding it, is he or she prepped for impact? If heavy-enough to “defang the snake” by breaking an arm entirely – digressing.

9. “Pop his ears, you´ll blow his eardrums and the excruciating pain that will immediately follow will be a fight-ender.” Not in my experience. I have had my eardrums popped. They have bothered me for days, likely rupturing my eardrum, causing sleepless nights, sharp and random pain on a moment´s notice for days – but did NOT do much in the moment. Certainly not stop me. Now, note that that was my experience, a full-blow with cupped-hands from a very powerful man may have different results and I am open to standing corrected, as I am on any of these (note again these are my experiences only and results may vary) but I wasn´t deterred from the task at-hand.

I have had a former training-partner tell me he was at a bar and confronted by a drunk patron when he just wanted a beer and didn´t want to fight. He told me he “double-tapped” both ears, blowing-out both of his eardrums and dropping him to the floor while he made his way out of the bar. Anecdotal as well, but another side to ponder if true.

10. Concussions. I´ve had two and I suffered for days from “brain-fog”, slow-comprehension issues, dizziness, and balance issues. However, in the moment, it didn´t stop me from either motion or from continuing fighting as they were 2 different circumstances, one in daily-life, one in sparring. As people with resilience continue to fight through heavy shots to the head, fluctuating coherence from impact, and revert to “auto-pilot” for survival (covering, clinching, arm-wraps/traps/hooks) before (at least) temporary “recovery”, it´s possible to continue on taking note results may vary from the grade of concussion. Mine were generally considered on the lighter side.

11. You want to know one injury that is simply not “workable?” A serious back injury. I had a bad car-accident years and years ago where I was rear-ended. No immediate repercussions due to the shock and adrenaline BUT as the days went on, I could barely walk. It was utterly-incapacitating. No movement, no footwork, no power-generation, no body-control. So, while it was not training-related, it affected 100% my training for months. 3-4, to be exact. So, if in the midst of a violent-confrontation where things can and do happen in the midst, a back-injury mid-chaos can absolutely render you immediately disadvantaged in a big, big way. As we age, these types of injuries become more-and-more a possibility and violent confrontations exponentially increase the very real issue of these occurring, thus the “avoiding violence at all costs” maxim.

*Learning to “up” your pain-tolerance and pain-threshold, learning to function with bio-mechanical damage, overcoming strong sights and smells, dealing with adversity, learning how to circumvent-avoid-mitigate-evade these above elements through movement, footwork, body-contortion, covers, counter-intuitive body-jerks, and the like becomes an imperative skill, yet another often neglected by artists and stylists. If you “play” you start to learn that this aspect of in-fight micro-movements is a fantastic learning-tool to replicate real-response based on natural body-movement.

Some others, of note:

a. Appendage-tearing. Could be bad but people generally respond fast-enough and non-consciously enough that the time needed is rendered moot. I would say “no” on the fight-ending aspect.

b. Biting. Can be very uncomfortable, hurt immensely, but it´s temporary, the gore and shock are worse than the thing itself, and you can´t bite forever. I´ve seen people fight through it time and again. If anything, it can send a message of ferality for the feint-hearted that aren´t committed to seeing the whole thing through. Some it can make more mad.

c. Pressure-points. To hit? Sure. To press? Transitionary if temporary to move a body to a better position or to something more damaging, useless if it´s your big-finisher. I don´t even think Dillman is real, let alone his pressure-point theories. If you consider liver, mid-to-back part of jaw, temple, side-of-knee, chin/button, occipital lobe (where the brain-stem/spine meet at the back-of-the-head) as impact pressure-points, I digress. I´m with you.

d. Skin-grapples/pinching/skin-twisting. Annoyingly-discomforting but nothing anyone worth his/her salt can´t handle. Nope.

e. Finger-breaks. See above under bone-breaks. As a fight-ender alone on 100% reliance, I tend to disagree – quite profusely.

Remember that will, intensity, dedication, mission-statement, intent, mindset, nature, internal-rage, positive-adrenaline, are amazing motivators and they very (very) often tend to supersede what a medical-anatomy book will tell you. And people can move “away from pain and suffering” or “towards doing damage” but both are drivers of immense belief behind them. So all this “bleed-out times”, “pounds-of-pressure-per-square-inch”, “vital-point targeting”, “surgical-cutting”, “bio-mechanical attacking” talk can all be potentially lumped in the “theory” pile on a bad day (yours). Remember that.

Regarding knife-attacks, I´m attaching this invaluable, researched, and medically-viable article from 2002 by Darren Laur, as I find it as equally-invaluable in the modern-day as it was 20 years ago when put out for accurate and legit information, noting the above paragraph. I have also sent this article to nurses, doctors, and other top medical professionals I know personally and have and do engage with for verification, and they have universally concurred with the base-idea and backing-knowledge.

Surviving an Edged Weapon Attack


The ability to establish and re-establish proper everyday limits on others

Boundaries. Boundary-setting. An oft-overused term and one I find is associated with a ton of misunderstanding. Unlike self-defense, personal-preservation, and martial skills, boundary-setting is an everyday life occurrence. Every day we set boundaries…or let them pass. Address them, or ignore them. They can be invasive, angering, subtle and time-built, or innocuous. NOT boundary-setting can be strategic as well, whether to learn patterning and whether the boundary is going to be ongoing or not. To see what a person´s underlying motive is over time for the boundary-infraction by feigning obliviousness or brushing it off as unimportant or non-invasive. To create a more impactful strategy to defuse it after a time has passed. Or acknowledging that it´s a one-time or singularly-focused boundary-cross from a strategic ally that alliance is better-served. Far too often, though, they are ignored because we are soft-wired to accept them, tolerate them, ignore them, or be fearful or hesitant at siphoning them off. Fear. Conflict. Repercussions. Aftermath. They can gnaw-away at one´s self-confidence and resolution. Add another unwanted stress to our already-stressed lives.

I guess at this point a good idea would be to define specifically what type of boundaries can be crossed and following by certain general strategies can circumvent them noting that, as always, context is king and strategy and tactics are created by the dynamic of the situation. That being said:

Categories of Violations

  1. Spatial. People that position themselves too close for comfort, invade space, or are constantly within the confines of our designated ring-of-personal-security. Criminals do this ad-infinitum in the interview phase of pre-targeting to gauge your capability to reinforce boundaries, re-establish space, or impart strong subliminal-messaging. It´s a far more imperative boundary-invasion than we often acknowledge because if we let this slip, generally the perception is that we´ll let a lot greater infraction occur with minimal resistance. Reinforcing spatial-infractions is a great place to start to maximize your capability in other areas.
  2. Physical. Inevitably an off-shoot of #1 because if they´re already to close, unwanted or uncared-for physical-contact can easily follow. Touching, perceived signs of affection, intentional or unintentional bodily-fluid transference, casual light-hearted pushes or grabs or hugs, fingers in face or chest, overzealous handshakes, etc. As they can often be innocuous, they´re rarely taken as a potential assault or act of violence or aggression, but inevitably they are if they are unwanted. Often they are a sign of attempted dominance-imposition.
  3. Verbal. Continued beratement, subtle derogatory comments, erosion of self-esteem and self-confidence. They can be momentary or time-built, subtle or transparent. Insults, jabs, unwanted nicknames, terroristic or implied threats, semantics,
  4. Psychological or emotional. The continued presence of something anxiety-creating, stress-building, or tension-inoculating. Diminishment through intentional ignoring or over-looking. Implication gestures. Gas-lighting. Symbolism. Using professed vulnerabilities and emotional traumas against you.
  5. Material or resource. The continued non-authorized borrowing of personal-property, extended-time possession of authorized borrowing of personal-property, misuse of personal-property, damaging of personal-property, all the way up to non-payment of debt-owed, will-manipulation & pressure, and theft.
  6. Privacy. Constant attempts to glean personal-information off-bounds, ask inappropriate questions of private topics, spy, trespass, access online social-media accounts, hack into e-mail account, eavesdrop into personal conversations.
  7. Time. Here when people say they´ll be over for a dinner-engagement at 5, expect them between 5:30 and 6, generally. Time is perceived differently in different parts of the world and even in our own backyard, people manage time differently. Time can be manipulated for impact and information-gleaning as well. But many continually waste, command, or monopolize your time simply because it´s not respected and/or theirs is mismanaged.
  8. Sexual. Since we´re talking more low-order, daily, often-occurring boundaries, let´s acknowledge that rape, sexual-assault, and sexual-predation are different animals. However, even during consensual sex with partners or trusted people can have elements that one feel uncomfortable or unnecessarily vulnerable. Unwanted touching in certain areas, uncomfortable acts, level of aggression being too overwhelming or over-stimulating, and even mid-event will to end the engagement with second-guessing and doubt.

Note that some or all of these can cross-over into others on the list and may contain a progression of escalation or inter-connection between one or more of the above in the same scenario. Certainly not out of the realm of possibility.And, getting back to the opening statement, what good is being a fighting-machine if violent conflict possibilities occur in a fraction of a portion of a percentage in your life and boundaries are broken with you daily? How valuable is #1 without #2? If you have no or minimal boundary-setting capability, who´s to say you won´t or wouldn´t hesitate, freeze, submit, or go on auto-pilot in the midst of a potentially-violent altercation, even with all that fight-ability? I have often found that the two have at least some correlating overlap. Strong boundary-setters are pretty good at knowing exactly what, why, and when they´re willing to utilize physical violence as well. While not at all always the rule, I have noticed that if decisive and efficient at one, generally the opposite is true as well. Which leads into the level of boundary-setting. We can:

Categories of Enforcement

  1. Over-enforce. Where an egregious amount of strength, aggression, or other means to set or re-set a boundary can cause backlash, resentment, revenge, and future hostility.
  2. Under-enforce. Where the method utilized clearly did not have the desired effect or was not acknowledged in any way by the offending party.
  3. Effectively-enforce. Efficient effective boundary-setting. (just the right amount) Generally, that ideal amount where the planned result of the boundary-invading stops, an enemy wasn´t made…or elevated, the person is cut-out of our lives, the alliance continues yet the infractions stop…whatever the best-case scenario would be in a particular context, including multiple outcomes. A “win-win”, both sides at some level of co-existence, offending action ceases, some semblance of normalcy restored and boundary re-established. I think it is also important to note that for some boundary-invasions, over-enforcement, under-enforcement, or no-enforcement CAN BE the desired or “just-right” outcome. Sometimes “just-right” or win-win just isn´t achievable. Sometimes either a hammer, or a feather – or a nothing – can have just the required impact of need. Sometimes we have to cut ties entirely, kneejerk react to stop a serious infraction, be rude, put a hard foot down, or offend/shock someone to stop higher-stakes invasions. Sometimes we want to keep a valuable relationship or alliance, have a strategic plan or long-term goal in place down the road for greater-anticipated offenses or big-picture motives. Sometimes we are in delicate situations, bilateral or satellite impacts from the main situation, or where tolerance will save something far more important – a marriage, a child, an income, a house, a resource, etc. Everything is contextual and there are varying strategies involved for over-, under-, or non-enforcement that maybe aren´t the best solution for the immediate issue at-hand.

As we´ve stated, these being staunchly-contextual, and every scenario being uniquely-different, there are an infinite number of ways to manage boundary-offences – including compound-uses of multiple methods on a long-enough timeline or if an ongoing singular-issue won´t be averted, mitigated, prevented, or stopped requires more than one. So, in a general sense, what are some of those methods of boundary-setting, noting that these are far more appropriate for some of the variations above, not as much for others…

Methods/Protocols of Enforcement

  1. Articulating – properly your state-of-being and emotional-reaction to said boundary-setting. Clearly enunciating what your end-goal is and an imperative in not having any misunderstood aspects of the boundary-setting, so that´s laid-out in 100% clear terms.
  2. Subliminal-messaging – looks, gestures, body-language, flat unemotive non-reactions, ignoring, facial-changes…all have their place in transmitting inner-thoughts and formations in the thoughts of others.
  3. Metaphors and anecdotes – here in Central America there´s a saying “speaking to Peter so that Paul can hear.” Subtle-messaging stated to a 3rd-party that has secondary- or tertiary-impact on the people guilty of the infractions while in their presence or knowing it will get back to them. Telling other shared friends, acquaintances, peers, satellites knowing it will be sent to the person in-question or knowing they are within earshot. Or telling a story where the end-result is your firm stance on a similar circumstance and how it affects future interaction.
  4. Mirroring – sometimes I´ve found that in specific circumstances read well, doing the same back to the other person has worked immediately and long-term in shutting that person up. It should be noted that this does not work on others and can escalate a situation exponentially so is very scenario-specific.
  5. By-proxy – similar to metaphors and anecdotes but actually having someone else – co-worker, family member, peer, superior, shared-friend – explain things to that person if you´re not able to keep a cool head or engage with a sense of calm, self-control, and discipline. Others also may be more apt to connect or communicate the person in-question.
  6. Subtle-threat or intimated-consequences – without crossing the line into illegal verbal-threat, subtle messages have oftentimes sent clear messages across to more dangerous or volatile boundary-crossers. The key, as we´ve stated before, is being willing to committedly follow-through on said threat if necessary and bluff-called. Bluff-called and response negated or halted sets the tone for being seen to cry-wolf every further attempt at the same.
  7. Simple commands or interjections can work well on the meeker, milder, non-conflictive, or potentially-submissive interloper. Or on the one with repeated offences and previous boundary-setting. “Stop.”, “Cut it out.”, “Enough.”, “Second/third warning.”, “No more.”, or “No.” can work quite suddenly with the right people. Note also that these are complete sentences and really need nothing to follow even if the offender isn´t playing dumb, feigning innocence for the benefit of onlookers, or building a support-base from pandering. That just adds to the impact of the interjection.
  8. Legal-action – sometimes the threat of legal-action or authority-intervention is sufficient to back someone up from line-crossing, knowing that it could have repercussions and collateral-damage potential.
  9. Fences – either physical or psychological. Denying information, going cold, silence, drawing-inward, denying apertures/vision.
  10. Physical separation or spatial-distancing. Angling, circling, subtle steps backward or offline, recoiling, detaching of body-parts being touched, hard pushes of limbs, “feeler-hand” to gauge subtle distance and keep people at-bay (touching back in ways that create-space, give breathing-room, and maintain distance). Or cutting-out the person entirely from your life might be a better option if the infractions continue.

Again, these are but a few that I have utilized with success in specific cases. The trick is knowing what those cases are and applying the appropriate technique without either over-enforcing, under-enforcing, or non-reacting out of fear, freezing, or forced inaction due to collateral influence. That takes experience, exposure to very diverse and unique social-situations, acknowledgement of culture differentiations and taboos, class-differences, and varying scaled degrees of conflict or potential conflict.

As always, and here akin to self-defense, personal preservation & martial application, mixing-and-matching and knowing the high-percentage responses to the given situation goes a long way towards success. As does knowing that there´s never only one way of doing a thing – and doing it well. Cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all, and mix-the-solution-to-the-problem are never practical, they´re one-dimensional solutions to three-dimensional problems. Again and again, critical-thinking, high-stakes decision-making, adaptability, and resilience are the tilting factors with self-control, patience, and discipline in situational-processing. Situational tactics being led by solid pre-event strategies.


A closer look at martial over-importance and task-specificity

I am, as many know, generally results-focused, not process-focused. I have not always been that way. I used to be smitten by fantasy, magic, mysticism, minimal-input-for-maximum-output…well, that one I´m still a little taken by, if being honest. But, as maturity, age, and life experience take hold, often one has a far more critical-eye on these things. I am practical sometimes to a fault, even mechanical with the clarity of why I invest in the things I invest in. I know the reason. The goal. What the by-products of it are. The bilateral benefits. Where it fits in my particular matrix.

That being said, tai chi and chi kung are akin to many martial arts in their “classical form”, where little minutiae is often treated with reverence and ultra-importance. Stances being 70-30 weight distribution. Hand exactly a foot-and-one-eight away from the body, index-finger curled at 45-degree angle, posture curvature, ad nauseum. Best placement for chi to flow to the meridians. Which organs representment which types of illnesses and how to heal and massage them. Mind-control. Precise pressure-points on the body and their associated numbers, and of course dim-mak, the famous touch-of-death. It is, outside of style-preservation and self-importance – all. utter. bullshit.

It places inherent value on the process over the end result. If these arts were, in their original incarnate, use, culture, environment, need – used for combat, violence/counter-violence, function it is simply all bullshit. Minutiae has never been, nor will it ever, be the final-straw in a successful usage of a thing. It is a multi-layered contributor of the overall picture, but not the picture itself. Faaarrr too much importance and emphasis are placed on perfect technique (whatever that is), stances (we never stand still), body positions (dictated by engagement), weight-distribution (fluid, never static), posture (form has little place in play), and the like.

Let´s take the 2 examples above. IF their inherent goal is to improve overall fight-fundamentalism, function, practicality, adaptation, why are these things utilized with such dogmatic allegiance? Is that mentality even viable or useful anymore? Does it really matter? I dunno. I´ll leave the answers to the individual person, as it should be. You probably can guess where I stand on this. These little adherences have never, ever manifested themselves in any tangible way in any violence, counter-violence, self-defense, combatives, personal-preservation, hell, business, inter-personal interaction, or functional-toolbox in any skillset or trade that I´ve ever experienced…nor seen, outside of the aesthetic realm.

It´s why when I hear “experts” telling me my practice is flawed, my posture not exactly culture-acceptable, it´s not like the “creator” meant it to be, my movements not extended sufficiently, my form not ideal…it is, to me, like having a to-and-from work-driver telling a race-car driver that what he/she is doing on the track is illegal. Like an auxiliary police-officer or ride-along telling a military-vet he/she is shooting all wrong. A newly-graduated childless child-psychologist telling a mother or father of 4 that the books say she/he is doing it all wrong. It all comes out in the wash, doesn´t it. Add on top of this the extremely-diverse reasons for doing a thing or becoming proficient at it and it makes it even more trivial and pretentious.

So, instead of just being a whining critic, what are those macro-tangibles that the little micro-ones add to? Well, personally, I care little for form, minute-details, how the old “masters” would perceive me, nor how the new ones like what I do. The old lived in a different time. Different culture. Different society. Different need or necessity. Different social-construct. So, no, I am not allegiant to keeping things the same as they were – for the simple sake of keeping things as they were. The new are predominantly infatuated with mimicking other cultures, pecking-order, maintaining the status-quo, being part of a lineage, and holding exotic titles.

I, personally, find practicing tai chi & chi kung makes me more loose and relaxed during fighting, sparring, or playing – or personal conflict itself. I find it triggers and anchors me to my breath and what it´s doing in the midst of stress, tension, pressure. I find it focuses my mind entirely on the task at-hand without distraction. It streamlines my movements for greatest impact or affect by concentrating and grounding my power. It wires me in to exactly what my body and all of its moving parts are doing under that duress and connects them as a moving, 3-dimensional unit. It is an intrinsic element that allows my external skillsets-training-experience-exposure-tactics to do what they have been taught to do – when they were taught to do it.

And maybe that´s where the term “internal” gets so abused and misused. It is not a magical chi element. A thing that makes you believe you have so much power and efficiency, that external-force is entirely unneeded and moot. To be lazy in one´s training because, dammit, I have chi-powers. That power and explosivity are somehow generated entirely without muscle-exertion or external-effort. Maybe, MAYBE, it is internal because it forces one to deal with one´s physiology, state, mind, energy-expenditure (force-to-fatigue ratio, not magic) as one´s “system-2” (voluntary/conscious) does what is supposed to. A system-1 (involuntary/non-conscious) progression from system-2 training, development, awareness. Maybe. It is not LARPing, fantasy, magic, mystical…but something very tangible and pragmatic. Yet, I do not honestly think I have heard more than a handful (if even that) of internal-folk discuss this in any meaningful way. They are often far too busy critiquing form, position, minutiae than to just. figure. this. all. out. by. exploration. Play. Test. Trial.

We, succinctly, have 2 systems simultaneously functioning in times of duress. Our “internal” – physiological reactions to adrenaline, human-conflict responses, emotions & past traumas, capability – and our “external” one – training, experience, physical-condition, natural ability, physical gifts, etc. The internal one often goes hand-in-hand with time, experience, exposure, training, immersion – just like the external one does. The more we are “in-the-shit” in whatever capacity that refers to (business, combat, politics, relationships), the more our systems adapt and respond to uncomfortable incoming stimulus. The problem in most martial-training is that it often entirely neglects the first over the second without acknowledging the first whatsoever or with lip-service only. If you fail, it´s inevitably on you, not failure of methodology or instructor: a traumatic event for the student is met casually by the instructor with just simply “train harder”, “spar more”, “more sweat in training, less pain in battle”, “always training or lose ability”, “you put-in what you take-out”, and so-on and so-forth.

On that mention, does this explanation also transfer over to interpersonal interaction, business, politics, etc.? Of course it does. It always does. Doesn´t it? Next business meeting, political-speech, debate, discourse, conversation, business-deal – notice the very direct correlation between “performance” and physiology. The more comfortable in one´s body, jointly-connected, at-ease, comfortable with the uncomfortable – the higher generally the ability. The greater the capability, the greater ability is showcased. (Insert infinite metaphor-choice here). Remember, one can have the single-most dominant ability in the world, but without the capability to implement or apply said ability, it´s a decoration. An anecdote. A cool party-trick. A well-versed shallow-understanding vs. a deep- and profound-understanding of the potential of where a thing can go and what a thing can do. I simply don´t care what the “stylists” say as I´m not particularly allegiant to style. System. Art. I am interested in the functionality of a tool because I understand that, at the end of the day, whatever and however wide the context, it will be on me – not my style, art, system, method, belt-ranking, title – it will all be on me, as a person.

In fairness, if your entire shtick is process, aesthetics, artistic merit, style-preservation, really, that is absolutely fine. Forgive me if you´ve taken offense here. I have literally zero issue to take-up with you in any way. BUT…not everyone is. Acknowledge such. Just as there are a number of ways, successful ways, to do a thing well, there are a number of reasons to do a thing and a number of definitions of “successful.” So, don´t get caught up in the martial-dogma of perfection, uber-importance, minutiae-significance, and elitism. Most often it´s pushed by self-important folk that think the minute “errors” (remember, perspective equals subjective) they can point-out in a painting are more unfortunate than the fortunate way the overall image takes one´s breath away. I, for one, would rather have holistic-understanding than compartmentalized-expertise any day of the week.


The brain´s ability to learn new skills can do so as we age

Neurogenesis is the process of creating new neurons for learning (new learning) and new connections between existing neurons (creative new aspects of old learning), which recently has been found to extend to adults (adult neurogenesis, of course) throughout the majority of their lives as well. Neuroplasticity delves from this process, and is the brain´s ongoing lifelong ability to re-wire and alter the brain from new knowledge and experience. That experience, knowledge, adaptability, exposure, learned methodologies constantly grows and adds to its capability. They are directly-linked processes that are quite intimately-related.

As we get older, the age-old theory was always that we cease learning new things, that our ability to absorb new information and updated knowledge became minimal. After a certain point, that was it. It was a somewhat depressing idea that led one to really start feeling one´s mortality after a certain point so there was an even greater need to learn and take-in as much as one humanly could before time ran out on that amazing thing called skill-learning.

However, as time has progressed that theory has, by numerous legitimate studies and sources, proven to be false. New discoveries in science and neuroscience have uncovered that we do, in fact, keep learning as we age. Less, slower, but nonetheless ongoing. Relief. Our ability to retain new knowledge and new skill-sets was seemingly back as a life-long endeavor. But was it really that big of a deal? Would it have really been so tragic? Sure, I guess it definitely disappointed in its scope, yeah. But…

What we often tend to forget is that even though we aren´t currently retaining new skills, learning new things, uncovering brilliant new life developments – we can always still “tamper” with the old ones. This is the difference between deep and shallow understanding of one´s craft and a robust way of absorbing knowledge. If one has only learned on a surface-level, one has far fewer options in terms of branching or diversifying one´s knowledge-base. If one has done so on a profound-level, it can be a never-ending matrix of interconnecting possibilities. If the “body of work” is holistic, diverse, in-depth, and comprehensive we can perpetually re-arrange the knowledge we currently have. Think of a puzzle. One rarely starts with the same order of pieces and maintains that order throughout the process, yet the same beautiful picture continues to be the final product. Think of gardening or land-scaping. One can re-arrange one´s backyard jungle infinitely, never run-out of different configurations, yet always come-up with something lush, colorful, and fresh. Or driving. One can take a number of different routes to one´s favorite places of nature or peace and still get to the same enlightening place. Cooking. Ingredients can change, flavors added or subtracted, methods altered but the end product is always uniquely delicious.

Now, let´s take that concept a little further. Imagine if one had multiple gardens. Or infinite routes or different ways of travel. A plethora of different recipes. One could cross-reference from a number of places and still come-up with something entirely unique and creative-stimulating. Such is it with varied skillsets. The more ingrained or invested skillsets one may have, the more potential there is to cross-over very different ideas and come-up with a thoroughly-interesting mix. For the industry that most often reads these articles, an example would be of inter-mixing different styles over the years to see how smoothly the transition is and synergistic the cross-over, exploring the very inner nuances of the styles one chooses to invest time in, and some deep-exploration of how far down the rabbit-hole goes. Few actually delve far-enough to understand the elements that can further be expanded and evolved with even a single style, system, method, or art – that robust template for multi-function of the branches of the proverbial skillset tree.

Then we could take ideas one and two and combine those as well. With a deep-knowledge, great experience, time-invested understanding of a thing, the possibilities are almost infinite. Taking a number of ways to do a thing and combining that with a number of ways to do another, entirely-different thing – and “learning new old things” could keep the creative juices flowing and satiate a voracious will to learn would never need to grow old. And, remember, our kids can still help us with the rest like flying a car, teleporting, having coffee with someone virtually in-person, and levitating. An example would be of mixing martial arts or combatives with something completely foreign or generally non-affiliated in any manner as some, including myself, have done with real-world neuro-linguistics, human behavior & psychology, cognition, and dual-processing.

So, in the end, we get the best of both worlds. Our learning has now been believed to occur well into old-age – and we can stimulate the creativity, adaptability, and diversity along the way. Maybe growing old won´t be so bad, and maybe this will ultimately dispel the “you can´t teach an old dog new tricks” metaphor and reinforce the “old age and treachery can overcome youth and skill” one in the process, unique context of course being everything. (though maybe age and experience have greater chance of dictating that context)

The ultimate trick might be to fool or mislead your brain into staving-off “feeling old”, self-restricting, and maintaining high cognitive-function as long as able, learning either new things, new ways to do old things, or mixing-and-matching all the way down life´s proverbial exploration. Ride the wave – don´t fight the current. And, to achieve this, maybe it pays to invest heavily into the root of what it is you study, train, research, practice, work at. Really exploring the fundamentals and understanding as in-depth as is possible. Depth with breadth instead of breadth superceding depth.

Far too often we are technique-, method-, style-, system-, art-hoarders instead of exploring the outer-reaches of our overall knowledge-base. Fast rewards, acknowledgements, fame, titles, certificates, rankings in whatever field has replaced a profound understanding of what one simply does and how to do it well with holistic-comprehension. The doing of the thing instead of the perception of credibility. Deep-knowledge is always superior to surface-theory. Maybe that´s a new analogy we should be using, regardless of age.

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