I’ll leave this:

1. People survive violence daily, the world over, that have zero training. Far moreso than are trained, regardless of your reasoning why.

2. The highest kill-count, by far, in the world  is from completely untrained civilians. Jails are full of them. Many walk free among us. Some are waiting to happen. But the fact remains…

3. The ability to inflict violence has minimal to do with physical systemic or stylistic training…it has to do with will. (which supersedes any training)

4. Yet, through all this, we live in the generally the safest time in recorded history.

All 4 of these are usually denied vehemently by the majority of martial arts instructors, as they don’t go along with the rhetoric needed to create a business usually based on fear, anxiety, and paranoia.

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The theory forever perpetuated that we ‘need’ all these systems and subsystems and styles and arts and methods and belts and titles and certificates and self-defense classes and fight records to protect ourselves…is just that, pure theory. Evolution and experience have given us a ton of tools with which to do so and they’ve been pretty damn effective to get us this far on the timeline, long before any organized syllabi ever existed.


a. Most modern systems are ‘very’ new in the grand scheme of things, if we’re really researching their origins, and were created for an abundance of reasons specific to their culture, location, time, creator, need – much of which likely has absolutely nothing to do with your current existence.  Others of old have been lost forever, often for the same reasons.

b. Instructors constantly bring their rather subjective opinion on violence based on their personal experience/s, which may (or may not, as is far more often the case) have anything at all to do with yours.

c. Methods are predominantly gimmick-driven by nature…some new inventing-of-the-proverbial-wheel idea that no human since the dawn of time has ever thought of with regards to physical conflict.

Head up, eyes open, logic and common sense activated.





Some elements worth noting:

1.   The fight is linear and symmetrical, not circular or asymmetrical.  (“agreed-upon” violence) Footwork is all forward and back, not lateral or circular. (possibly as circular wasn’t needed due to the vast expanse of space and they intuitively knew this)

2.   The shuffle step, not the vaunted v-stepping everyone preaches, is instinctively used.

3.   For dueling, the weapon hand predominantly leads…again instinctively…to have weapon protect body, not other way around. (In fact, it was the backhand cut attempt that got him caught, as it presents both a telegraphing/timing ratio problem from the elbow, and a target-proximity one)

4.   Due to the ergonomics of the machete (not a pure cutting/slicing tool but an inevitably impact one with cutting power – hacking, not cutting), notice the elastic recoil on the striking: like a whip, the motions maximize the impact of the tip/head. The misnomer is that one telegraphs strikes this way but, due to the dramatic mid-strike increase in speed, simply not true and irrelevant. (as with the low-line sucker punch that so many martial artists make fun of, but lands with regularity in the really-real world)

5.  Here is a good example of the FMA defanging-the-snake theory and bio-mechanical cutting….rarities, if we’re being honest….but present. The cut to the arm’s extensor tendons on the outside of the forearm  inevitably terminated the confrontation. (Noting that, again, this is an agreed-upon duel, not an ambush, which presents another set of problems to solve entirely)

6. Regardless of what the majority of instructors will tell you about what these 2 did wrong, this WAS a real machete fight, not a theoretical one. No grand movements were made, no dojo-successful techniques, no catch-all universal conceptual ideas…just subtle body evasions under heavy (the heaviest) duress. All else is moot. Reality dictates and provides valuable case study, not bullshit to pick apart for stylistic/systematic theory.


I decided a short time ago to write this for a friend who had asked me about my thoughts on the viability of tai chi/chi kung training as it pertains to combatives training. While many are either seemingly pushing the woo-woo, chi-power, metaphysical powers of chi kung or tai chi, or trying desperately to re-transform it into a powerful fighting art, I thought I’d take a few minutes to offer some rather tangible functional benefits it ‘can’ contain, as is:

  1.   It teaches one to lengthen movements. As movements are shortened dramatically by the effects of adrenaline, fast styles and techniques over-reliant on speed often fall by the wayside and don’t have near the desired impact in real situations as “in the dojo”. (As an aside, the techniques, poses themselves, and positions aren’t nearly as important the control, relaxed power, and deliberate movements it promotes. Actual combative concepts can replace traditional ones with the same mechanics in-play)
  2.   It can teach proper use of the kinetic chain for maximizing power and efficient movement. Proper power development…and power is a more important than speed in a violent scenario, the vast majority of the time.
  3.   It teaches slow deliberate practice, which leads to efficient myelination/”uploading” from proper, progressive, and correct conditioning of skillsets for function. We’ve likely all heard the “slow-is-fast” maxim but training things deliberately and with purpose sets them more permanently, in proper context, and with greater efficiency.
  4.  It can teach breathing, both while static (the “interview” phase of developing conflict) and while moving in a dynamic arena (active/aggressive). I realize this is given tons of lip service but many don’t seem to really know why, but the major reason is because when adrenaline floods our system, we tend to predominantly stop breathing, putting access to our training and conditioning “off-line.” (We panic, forget, disconnect from) Remembering to breath and having done so out of various constructs, triggers us to do so when it matters and keep us “online”, therefore having accessibility to prior training. (hopefully correct and aligned with what actually happens pertaining to real violence)Image result for chi kung

5.  It teaches body control and relaxation. Simply, the more relaxation one can achieve within the restraints of adrenal-stress response, the more subtle, explosive, and decisive the movement(s) following and the less chance of a powerful counter.

6.   The grounding/rooting and balance helps one to “sit on” one’s shots, as well, putting proper body weight into those mechanics. Footwork is the fundamental fighting tool. Without balance, agility, movement, power generation, angling, zoning…..all other skillsets fall by the wayside.

7.  As an aside, I often hear critique on the hip-punching done in tai chi/chi kung/karate/kung-fu, etc. However, as we can see from case studies, violence videos, mixed martial-arts matches, personal experiences from experienced people….taking longer trajectory to the target has shown little to no problems of connection from the various ranges/stages of fighting. Punches from the hip often fall under the depth perception line caused by adrenaline/extreme focus, are heavy in power, and connect far more often than the bullshit myths in martial arts will have you believe.

8.  While this may be a stretch to those long-timers in the “internal arts”, I’ve often (personally, so take with salt) made a correlation of the 2 types of Chinese breathing (Buddhist – regular, belly expands when inhaling & Taoist – reverse, chest expands/belly contracts when inhaling) with relaxed or controlled breathing and tension or stress breathing. Relaxed when at rest, at ease, or able to be controlled when under minimal or containable stress. (including during low-level or pre-escalation conflict) Tension breathing when exerting oneself physically (including fighting).

9.  It can teach self-control, discipline, and patience…3 monumentally-important elements when dealing with conflict management and pre-violence escalation, not the least of which are important in cultivating proper violence mindset and state-change capability.

Notice I use the word “can” for more than one of the examples given as, remember, this is in reference to this practice being combined with actual fight training, that which hopefully correlates and reinforces our innate survival skills and instinctive fighting mechanisms. Can all these things be found in other training methodologies and personal manners of fight training? Absolutely. However, I find these elements often go unexplained as to their reasoning (or unknown, for most trying to make the correlation) or context as it relates to real-world issues.


The “Dual Process Theory” of human thought has been around for some time, in varied incarnations, how generally decision-making is done by 2 different processes. The most recent that has gained momentum is from Daniel Kahneman, who in 2003, came out with the terminology of “system 1” for what’s inevitably intuition, and “system 2”, regarding reasoning.

Now, these 2 systems sometimes overlap, let’s take driving as an example. As we learn to drive, a lot is going on upstairs – focus on what others are doing on the road, our pressure on the pedals, reeling in the environment around us, worrying about directions, etc. A lot to take in. This would qualify as system 2, as we’re perpetually having to make conscious decisions based on analysis of best possible outcome. As we become more experienced, a lot of these processes become automatic based on time, like-scenarios, prior familiarity –  system 1, intuitive. There are also times where these processes come into contact with one another. In events where our safety or protection is at stake, system 2 may take too long to come up with precise solution to the problem, so we default to system 1 – intuition takes over and, based on prior experiences, comes up with the best possible solution to the immediate problem, “overruling” system 2, which is taking too long to give finality with something that needs immediacy.

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While, apparently, there are still some flaws in the theory (I’m not a neuro-scientist nor do I claim to be), it’s an interesting and relevant theory pertaining to self-defense and personal preservation.  Even if some parts of the theory are unsound or the theory itself is proven lacking over time, there’s still a lot of validity here when explaining threat analysis and recognition to students or civilians.  There are 2 points I’d like to gloss over here:

  1. It has the potential to make for a much easier idea to transmit to students or the general public as opposed to something like the Cooper Color Code, which often tends to draw a lot of confusion, over-thinking, and paranoia in the average student, even when given clear explanation. Telling them that they’re hardwired to notice important things in their vicinity that may affect their well-being automatically and their rational thought will be alerted when more complex decisions need to be made makes for less paranoia, less overthought, and less confusion over the minutiae that so many self-defense instructors love to harp on. Stop being paranoid and perpetually looking for irrelevant things that stand-out, analyzing constant stimuli, assessing people – and let what’s already innate look for the important things that ‘are’ relevant to your safety, while you continue on with your day as needed. Being jacked and forever honed-in is not healthy.

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2.   Maybe entirely hypothetical (maybe not) but what if (just what if) this is related to actual violent conflict as well? It would explain a lot of things we see regularly with real violence, social media, Youtube videos, case studies, first-hand reports, etc….even with trained people. Under heavy duress, most people revert back to primal means of survival – innate survival skill/instinctive fighting/naturally-occurring technique, – those things which system 1 gravitates to to overrule system 2 (trained response), which often takes conscious thought or “upload time” when/if it goes against what’s survival-driven evolutionarily. If System 2, or trained responses that aren’t in line with evolution, take too long, are too complex, or don’t go along with what’s hardwired – system 1 or intuitive response to something that threatens our safety or survival, kicks in, overwriting poor or unnatural training, no matter how conditioned or for how long. If it’s in-line, it can enhance and supplement our natural innate survival response mechanisms.

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Something to think about. If oftentimes, the simplest explanation is usually the correct one, or at minimum the one that helps us understand and go about our day with the most calm and confidence, then maybe this has more than a little validity. And now, to wait on the theory’s durability…


What if (just what if) so many grandmasters and masters (and sokes and sifus and datus and guros and tuhons and pendekars and….) have it all wrong? What if mastery isn’t intricate knowledge ‘within’ the system, its protocols, and its techniques they’ve chosen to dedicate their life to representing loyally and thinking they’re part of some delusionally-important generational chain? What if true mastery is knowing not to be duped into believing that the system is greater than you, knowing you control the system, that the system is nothing without you, and that it’s simply a vehicle or tool to be used to achieve a specific temporary purpose (and then move on)?

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Remember, those who have the greatest control over a system…aren’t bound by it. Those with flexibility and adaptability control the system, not the other way around. The minute there are parameters, blind loyalties, limits, paradigms, rules…you are inevitably controlled by that very system. Been thinking on this lately…starting to think that all those that use titles proudly are simply exerting control over others and flaunting ego from a projection point of utter weakness. Big fish, tiny pond.
*As an aside, the top people I know in the industry that are breaking the most ground, educating people on violence, are not affiliated with any system whatsoever, though this is not limited at all to solely violence.


FLINCH RESPONSE(S): I’d like to leave this here as I’ve had the same belief for a long time. So many are stressing the importance of THE startle flinch response when, in fact, it should be made very clear that we have startle flinchES. There is no universal flinch response we all have to every given surprise stimulus, despite the claim of many self-defense experts. Do some people-watching. I’ve seen people scared from surprise heavily increase breathing while grabbing their heart. Getting burned by a hot stove causes an explosive pullback and often a grab of the burnt body part, but not raising the hands up in front of the face. Tripping and falling forward causes an outward/forward-moving and often double-locked arm extension but torso doesn’t retract back, for obvious reasons. (that falling thing) I’ve seen someone getting salt or sand in our eyes recoil back, not with an arm projection and body jerking back response, but with an “elbow shield” covering the eyes. Blinking without any other reaction at something light and non-damaging coming towards our face. (How does the brain distinguish?) Someone pulling your chair back at a party causes a flail or “spasm”, desperately looking for a way to regain balance. A great idea is learning to re-focus quickly on “the target” or cause of the initial surprise and at least training your brain (hitting one’s significant other from having a water fight is not recommended) to think of immediate counter-offense.

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So, to summarize:

  1. As stated multiple times, there is no one universal flinch (even for the same person at various times of the day/different mental states/daily intangibles/different stimuli) Watch America’s Funniest Home Videos, When Animals Attack, or any number of “Fear Factor”-like videos on Youtube for confirmation.
  2. It cannot be weaponized (we can dictate what comes after, not during) To weaponize the flinch itself would come from prescience. With not knowing any of the stimuli mentioned above until  that moment, repeated prepping/training for multiple different flinches still presents a lag in selection, rendering “weaponization” moot.  The minute anything is altered, whether by experience or training, it is no longer unconscious, reflexive, or evolutionary…it’s familiar/experiential or trained. A flinch, by its very design, is a reflex (the “startle reflex”). Conscious response to known stimuli is not a flinch, it’s a conscious response projected outward.
  3. Not every scenario draws a flinch. Sometimes some people, or some people in some scenarios, simply don’t flinch. It doesn’t happen 100% of the time.



A close friend happens to be a chef and over the years we’ve found that many of the knife safety rules of proper usage that apply with cooking and knife management for self-defense cross-over seamlessly. It’s an often neglected part of teaching knife as a tool for self-protection. Specific to self-defense purpose: safe carry, safe/fast/protected deployment, dropped blade protocol, accessibility, no showing off, no fancy handling for demo, blade AND point awareness, knife etiquette (handling of others’ tools, perceived but unknowing threat display), multi-uses to justify daily carry for potential legal consequence, vision to notice signs of carry in others, clean cutting over the multi-cutting flash we often see on Youtube. It’s a far cry using a blade within the art than it is practicing it for isolated and specific purpose. Whether teaching, or at least practicing for personal use, an important part of understanding and implementing proper blade use. Attached is a very simple, basic document pertaining to cooking but you can see some transferable elements already:



In the knife community, here’s what we mean by “successful presentation.” Many tell me “Then what? What if he calls your bluff?” It’s more than this. In Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada we have the largest Pinoy population in Canada. (As an aside, this is where I grew up in my combative martial arts youth, surrounded by quite gifted weapons folk, which I benefitted from being surrounded by sometimes 4-5 times a week) There are a lot of Pinoys here that can take care of themselves…FMA, boxing, street smarts, predisposition to violence…many 1st generation immigrants so they grew up in PI. In high-school, we had a group of guys that were always heavily into bodybuilding, steroids, aggression that always went out to the bars to fight and intimidate, etc.

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Now this is a second-hand story but it was confirmed by the individual in question, to me directly at a later date. Roid rage with alcohol can be a very dangerous combination, often for those around the individual as they become very unpredictable and aggressive. One of the gents that I know was looking for trouble outside. He saw a short Pinoy gentleman standing outside the night club having a cigarette, minding his own business, as most Pinoys do until provoked…a target. He approached the guy and started getting in his face (easy mark: small, seemingly peaceful, not looking for trouble, having a cigarette) Face-to-face, a couple inches away, frothing at the mouth, threatening, finger in face. Next thing he knows the gentleman has a knife to his throat, pressed up against the wall, asking politely and with total calm “I’m sorry, I didn’t fucking hear you the first time, could you repeat, please.”

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Turns out that while my acquaintance was beaking off, the other man had been deploying his blade while finishing his cigarette with the other hand. My acquaintance started whimpering and apologizing, actually shedding a few tears, seeing his life pass before his eyes. Naturally, the Pinoy let him go. Upon asking the guy the next time I saw him what had happened, he filled me in on these exact details, admitting he filled his drawers. He told me “Isn’t what you do FMA and knife?” I nodded and he said “Respect. Never again. Total calm and I had no idea where that weapon came from.” This is what successful blade presentation can accomplish coupled with calm, subtle deployment, surprise and the perceived will to use. It’s not just showing it as a deterrent. (Of course, legal consequences always omni-present, as usual)


I’m going to post this in response to a couple of requests on the OODA (observe, orient, decide, act) Loop. There are some I know have/can explain this with greater precision than I but I’ll get the post going and they’re welcome to add, subtract, multiply or divide. First of all, someone tried to tell me the other day that the “LOOP” is solely linear and in-order. (No, no it’s not. Webster’s can help greatly with this) Context is imperative in the processing ability of the orient and decide phases of the loop. The more context available, the better the ability to process the level and type of threat and decide on A (a, not “the”) correct action, or no action, sometimes also a completely valid response, context-dependent. How we process internally is a combination of what I call/use as “I foresee” (or i4c): a mix of *intuition (from previous like experience of similar/relatable stimuli that transfers) and external stimuli including *congruence (what’s actually happening vs. your perception/accurate previous experience, etc. – are you over- or under-reacting), *culture (prevalent here for me, what the cultural norm is in one place is not in another and will stand out), *context (the 5Ws and appropriation of the 5 – do they fit into the given context – person, activity/action, location, time-of-day, reason) and *clusters (usually more than one signal presents itself to give you growing information to validate course of action)

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These can be pre-influenced internally by a number of things as well: religion, upbringing, previous training, experience, belief structure, etc. and processing speed is based on the above)
Now, this all is great outside of the ambush or surprise attack where situational/environmental awareness is a hugely beneficial tool. In my estimation, this circumstance has one fall back on an instinctive combination of proper/correct previous training and innate survival response coupled with self-control and the ability to push forward from the point-of-reference, which far too few work….knife already in stomach, on-ground being kicked, having taken a big shot, etc. etc. etc. (Another post but keeping it simple for the sake of post-length)
Though complex, all this takes a far shorter time than it takes to explain to someone else. As they’re infinite, I’m not going to delve into specific examples. As usual, the more this is researched and understood, the faster one comes to understand what happens cognitively.


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

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