Introduction : Who, Where and When ?
Everyone can be a target, it should be assessed by the user why he could become a target, and how to prevent it at best. Even a not very wealthy woman can still be abducted by an erotomaniac, an ex-boyfriend/husband, a rapist, a sex-trafficker, etc… A rich person might be the target of robber, home-invader, interested in taking the target’s money from a safe deposit, asking a ransom, etc… Then, there’s also some jobs that will make you a target, especially when working in poorer parts of the world. Also, it should be taken in consideration that sometimes, the appearances might make you a target as if you live in a great, beautiful house but you’re not that rich for example. Also, you can drive a beautiful car leased by your employer and still be a simple employee. You can be abducted about everywhere, depending on the hostiles targeting you. Usually, ex-lover and known people tends to target you on your routine, including your home and the usual home-job travel. Opportunity abductors will usually target you outside a secure area (home, work) but professional abductors looking for your wealth will usually provide a good plan to catch you wherever you’ll be. If it’s the job that makes you a target, consider it your most dangerous area of being a target.

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First Part : Passive Defense & Prevention
Safe for maniac/obsessional people, most predators and robbers of all kind tend to like to have an easy target and an easy job. If the difficulty is superior to the reward, the hostiles won’t probably give it a try. So, the more of a difficult target you look (including home, car, job, your person) the better it will be for you to repel potential abductors. Also, the less intelligence you give to the public, the less options you’ll give to your potential enemies. The first area to protect is your home, it’s where you spend most of your life, including the times when you’re not “combat ready” like when you’re sleeping, taking a bath, etc… Secure doors and windows is a basic. Add alarm to both of them after having invested in good quality, hard to break through locks. Basic magnetic alarms work well for me, but don’t forget to change the batteries and to test them at least once a year. Good wall for your garden, or fence with barbwire, spikes, or whatever is hard to climb. You should also add lights with movement detector to your entry and garden. Security cam’ and fake ones are also a good add to protect your properties, and to fact check when having a bad feeling about a possible surveillance. If it can be done, add noisy window glass in case a hostile break it, it shall be heard from far away. Dogs if you can afford them are also very efficient for active and passive defense. Also, if you have a garage, keep it secure like all other access. Next, you shall secure your car, it’s far harder, as you can’t probably make it look like a Sherman Tank to repel the problems… Keep it locked at all times, and if possible, keep the windows closed. If possible, don’t take the same route every day, avoid routine if possible, it will help a lot. If you feel like you’re being followed, think some times about checking that you haven’t a GPS stuck to your car. Securing your work place is far more complicated, as you’ll have to make compromise with both your boss and co-workers, and sometimes customers also. Adding secured locks and lights to your workplace if you’re the boss is easy… Otherwise, try at least to avoid too much of a routine. About your personal appearance, you’ll have to look as “neutral” as possible… Avoid too much jewelry or other flashy stuff. You might also avoid to over-expose yourself in bad neighborhood for example, and for the girls, sexy clothes might become a problem when wanting to stay out of the eyes of sexual predators or sex-trafficker. I don’t mind what do you wear, but understand that becoming a potential target, by crossing appearance with area might imply to end the threat by shooting and stabbing your aggressors… If you can avoid to add risk to your life, it might be better…

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Second Part : How to Spot Those Threats
Usually, abductors don’t catch you by pure opportunity (it can happen but still, there are small indicators), so, if you feel observed, watched, followed or whatever. Double check, change your routine, and so on. Usually, pure opportunity abductors are hunting in the area, and will often have some missed tries before you… So, if there were weird disappearance or kidnapping tries, you shall probably be more careful. When feeling observed at home, use your security cam to watch if you see anything suspect, not known neighbor also are a good indicator. For so, it’s better to have ties with the neighbor, talks to the people of your area, and know their cars ; it will help catch anyone unusual in the area. Another good indicator is if you catch someone checking your trashes, hacking your social web accounts, etc… If you see more wheel tracks than usual in your front yard, it might also mean more passage than usual and that shall be a little suspect. Also, calls to know “indirectly” who is at home (like trying to reach your husband) might be an other indicator that shit is coming… Remember, it’s far easier to abduct you when you’re alone. For the dog owner, and I sincerely wish you it will never happen to you, but a poisoned dog usually means that someone is already after you, and he took out actively your best bodyguard and alarm system by poisoning it. For the woman, all harassment types might end in an abduction if the hostile is crazy enough, and it can include family members. Mainly, trust your damn instincts, they’re there for a fucking damn reason so listen to them.

Third Part : How to Train/Prepare
A few stuff to take into account, counter-surveillance and basic security to building is a big base of work here, then, all personal protection training when SHTF will help you a lot, then you can add SERE skills (for civilian, you ain’t gonna do a black ops job in Colombia, so adapt to YOUR life). For the martial arts part, choose what fits you, but damn, include modern weaponry, ideally, improvised weaponry too. Then, add combat shooting with weapons that you can use in reality (if you’ve a concealed carry permit, train a lot in handgun and carriable blades for example). Also, even if gears don’t beat usually skills, having some tools might help a lot ; like options to carry undetectable weapons (ceramic blades), passkey for handcuffs, wire saw in cord to cut some restraints, and so on. I highly suggest to buy a bit at a time, don’t ruin yourself please. Invest between twenty and fifty bucks a month to get a great gear-up. Invest about the double of that amount in training and you’re not going to expense too much in those survival skills. If you read that article, you’re already paying some fees in a martial arts school or equivalent. You just have to add to it some SERE skills for urban or rural environment, including lock picking, urban camouflage, etc.

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Fourth Part : Tips to Escape/Survive
Firstly, if, without compromising your physical integrity (and for some operatives, moral integrity), you can pay/give what the abductor wants, do it. Try to create a human link between you and him/them to avoid more prejudice if possible. Observe everything you can, it will help you to know when doing something (like their routine taking a few guards of your watch), where you are (if you can hear some noises, or gather other intelligence about where you are like a fast food delivery system), you can also find some useful tools for the close future, like something to build a lock pick, an improvised weapon, etc… If your life is in danger, you’ve been abducted, and so on… Lethal force is a viable option, and hell, whatever happens is far less worse than staying in a cave, being tortured, raped, or something like it… Then, when in the streets, it will depends on the neighborhood mainly, are they hostile to you or not is a good example. Then, if they’re hostile, go as low profile as you can, act like a homeless citizen till into a safe area… If it’s the opposite, screaming is probably the best damn option you have to gain enough attention from civilians, and maybe LEO.

Christophe Caruso
Kali Tactical System founder/lead instructor.
Stay Bladed Martial Mafia Belgium Capo – The Belgian Wild Boars.


For the longest time I’ve been disenfranchised with the martial arts, self-defense and personal preservation communities. There’s a lot of b.s. floating around claiming itself to be “what works” as opposed to the rest, that never does when matched up with what you’re doing.

Immense martial tribalism with style, system, lineage, methodology, etc. where the followers of that one authentic way to personal counter-violence glory knows all the answers and the followers are so blessed to be part of that of which is the only one right in the business.

Lately I’ve been having some rather huge, at least to me, epiphanies about the entire industry. I’m going to tell you about 5. After seeing and hearing daily the plethora of unique and different response to various levels of escalating force, I’ve come to these conclusions, respectfully, and to those of you who follow our page, some of this will be familiar:


There is simply not one effective way of doing something. Many very experienced people have managed to get this far doing things unique to them that may not work at all for others but have proven to be highly-successful. (Or they wouldn’t be here to have discussion) Who’s really to say what always works when there are a million-and-one scenarios we can come up and that are changed on a dime or with the slightest alteration. Sure, some things are staunchly questionable, some downright garbage, but what I’ve grown to appreciate the most is the diversity of successful counter-violence approaches that we’ve seen. We often talk about success not being style/lineage/system-specific but based on the individual, but SURVIVAL really is, on many levels, just as person-specific and on the individual. If you’re not researching, seeing flaw, assessing, evaluating and constantly improving, no style in the world is going to save you when push comes to shove.

I had a friend in the industry ask  “You are on Fantasy Island. An average person with no self defense skills comes up to you and says that a big and mean 200 pound muscular man is going to beat him up in 15 minutes and there is no way he can get out of it. He must fight for his life. What advice would you give him? What would you teach him?”

My response: ” I would say there’s zero point in teaching him anything physical for fear of the exact thing we were just talking about…overriding innate survival mechanisms and countering what he may do instinctively to survive, including grovelling (empathy/pity play?), freezing (see grovelling), running/escape, hiding (size of island? ability to run/hide indefinitely?), attempting to appeal to the other man’s empathy and potential solitude, etc. Breathing would be one to help act as a trigger to better access the above-mentioned and hardwired survival skillsets…coupled with mental/psychological reinforcement/visualization (flicking/flipping the switch)”

The parameters of the question are flawed in the first place. If he had no way of getting out of it, he wouldn’t be talking to me at this very moment, alone.

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Continuing on the survival trajectory, there are internal inhibitors that can counteract the innate survival skill reactions we (not regular untrained citizens, “we” being ALL of us…every bloody one) possess, which also are never addressed or acknowledged in a standard martial arts class. They’re thought of as unimportant or a sidenote when, in fact, they are elements that can, at minimal, stunt, and maximum, cancel anything trained.  Morals/value of human life (nurture-nature), lack of experiential/3D training as close as possible to reality, self-maintenance including heartrate/breathing management/emotional containment, specific context neglect, lack of visualization/mission clarity/internal justification for use-of-force, poor self-talk…among others. And while I know I’m going to take a lot of industry shit for this, martial arts itself and religion are two huge inhibitors of evolutionary survival response. These inhibitors can override entirely any survival mechanisms we have in-place and when there’s an incongruence in the system, that causes hesitation or system shut-down. Congruence, putting all these elements together in-unison, creates clarity of mission.

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On top of that, those in traditional martial arts have often cultivated confusion on that mission clarity by instilling the need for various falliable notions like heroism, chivalry, doing the “right” thing and good samaritanism…many of which can often put one in the very situations one is innately trying his/her best to avoid and putting one’s loved ones in that situation along with him/her.  If your mission is to get home to your loved ones at the end of the day, do these nouns always coincide with the goal? I’m not talking about going through life not helping people when able, or being a decent human being or having strong values. What I am talking about is being very cautious and overtly aware of what situations you choose to participate in that could negatively affect the outcome of your underlying goal. Do you have all the necessary information? Is there something you’re missing? Will both parties turn on you? Are you clear on whom the real threat is? Are there legal consequences of involvement? If I’m with my family, these are of utmost importance and they (my family) are first, period. No situation is worth putting them in legal, physical, financial or psychological danger.

What is your mission statement? Once defined, reverse-engineer EVERYTHING based on that and with that one goal in mind. Adhere to it without deviation.

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An offshoot from this issue is the difference between skill acquisition vs. skill learning. They are often 2 utterly different methods of skillset development.  One through absorption, experiential learning and 3-dimensional training in tangible and relevant environments. One through on ongoing process of breaking down the mechanics of the act and fitting all the pieces together. Both avenues CAN work, though one often doesn’t. The myth resides in the fact that most traditionalists believe only “b” works and that is highly-debatable. Take, for example, boxing and wrestling, regardless of their sport context. The majority of time, after learning a multi-dimensional approach of basic skill delivery, acquisition in the ring and through sparring is developed…under duress. In many TMA, the reverse is true, multi-layered and often complex skillsets (with sometimes questionable explanations for their pertinence) are developed in a skill learning environment. 3D or experiential training (as close to approximated reality, asap, with minimal periphery/unimportant skillsets) leaves much for the student to figure out using those base sets (with guidance from someone experienced) under pressure. (Which also serves to stack those skillsets in their proper context and create active problem-solving within the student)

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As if far too often seen, ego rules, style/system dictate, protocol abounds and far too few accept that they are simply not good at everything, some things they teach may be deeply flawed and not everything everybody else does is shit. With the negative conditioning going on in martial arts, I often wonder if we are actually “un-conditioning” innate hardwired survival skill in people and replacing it with a very subjective, isolated and complex system of responses that overrule the actual things human physiology and evolution gave them to survive. We’re often, in actuality, and I mean even exceptional instructors (not just the fly-by-nighters or wingnuts we see on Youtube daily), de-programming them to respond in ways that are completely counter-intuitive to ways that would innately wire them for success. Anti-evolution. Complex methodologies, techniques that take years to work and little based on the already neurologically-, psychologically-, physiologically- and emotionally-proven way the mind and body work. The whole thing is utterly counter-intuitive to me at times and growing increasingly so. Yet we argue, dissect, chastise, berate and call out others who don’t have like mind of something where like mind may also be wrong. (hive mind, a social media disease) We are most often “un-conditioning” the body’s natural response mechanisms with things that are foreign and unnatural, which is exactly why so many martial artists fail when it comes to reality. There’s a disconnect that the vast majority aren’t even aware of. (I call it “gap consciousness”)

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Instead of finding purpose in putting out good accurate information, knowledge that’s backed by science and truth, countering the frauds in the world and getting “our” (if we are even a we at all) message out to the demographics that need it the most, I am starting to wonder, with all the politics, ego and false truth in the martial arts, if we aren’t better off just leaving people alone. Stop marketing fear, stop telling them what they need, stop offering what they don’t. We forget that, for every brutal attack or violent murder, many survive violent attacks daily, I would go so far as to say most (the absolute majority) didn’t survive on martial training. (If you’re going to go the learned avoidance and situational awareness route, do you think that could be taught without all the fluff? Let it fester for a while before answering..) And it certainly doesn’t look like what most martial arts do when they do survive. Some may lay claim to martial training or pay it lip service but I assure you the vast majority don’t look like they did in the dojo and, if it’s solely the self-confidence they gained from the training, what’s the real difference between this and body language/proxemics courses, self-confidence/public speaking courses, a good sales course, some NLP or psychology seminars? Why aren’t more of us studying anatomy, psychology, physiology, anthropology, sociology, communication, proxemics, body language? We pay lip service to the fact that some past popular guy said “a fight is 90% mental, 10% physical” but we go on teaching purely the physical without being called on our own bullshit. Perceived boredom or not, there should be a huge healthy does of “classroom time” to discuss these imperative issues. I refuse to even take in students any longer who only want the physical. There are martial arts academies on every corner to get de-programmed.

Yet, in spite of all this in an inevitably and predominantly misleading and cliqueish industry, somehow people survive and will continue to do so without us….and I assure you, it’s more due to evolution than a grand master. All the while martial arts and self-defense classes go on and we bicker about semantics, foot placement, style superiority, functionality, what works and what doesn’t theoretically and hypothetically (it’s person-specific, event-specific and a variety of things can work – “success is survival”), preparing for every possible scenario imaginable, normal everyday civilians go on surviving violent attacks without us and in spite of us. Even the demographics we claim need us the most yet get neglected (many women, adolescents, the infirm, disabled, handicapped, aged) go on managing quietly….surviving. (And fewer and fewer will ever find themselves inside a dojo) Rapes, assaults, murder attempts, muggings, kidnappings. (By the way, few of these actualities are addressed in any martial arts class) We have a self-importance that borders on delusional as to what the public needs vs. what we believe they need. (Don’t tell anyone but it’s most often not us or what we’re peddling) I am really starting to believe, outside of those that actively seek us out (those of us who’ve had to use real violence before), maybe it is just truly best to leave people the fuck alone.

P.S. A paradigm shift IS needed but it’s not the one you think.



I want to say this with a ton of sobriety, clarity and seriousness and zero machismo and testosterone. I’ve always been known as a high-skill/explosive-speed guy. However, as I get older, I question the validity of these alone in any kind of serious violent struggle for my life. They are traits and fallible traits at that. I am a 45-year old foreigner in Central America, 5’10”, 170 pounds that stands out so take this into consideration (objectivity) as you read this as you’ll have your own personal caveats that affect your evolving life scenarios. As I get older, the need to stay safe and protect my family stays the same. There’s another gap that inevitably widens for everybody. I have visualized and analyzed deeply when I would be able to use lethal force, when I wouldn’t, when it’s inappropriate, when I would have inner resistance over doing so and what the consequences would be of doing so. I have not taken this lightly and, as you all know, I don’t talk tough nor see this industry as a forum to act like a killer.

That all being said, speed, skill, strength, stamina…all these things fade as we age, to one degree or another. As I’ve grown older and wiser, I believe that there are 4 elements that will/can keep me upright if shtf and have tried to cater my training and those of my students around:

1. WILL. The intent, drive, intensity and full commitment to go home at the end of the day. Whether peacefully or not so. One of many intangibles that simply cannot be read from a video, a post, a commentary but an internal fire.

2. WILE. Cutting corners, dirty tactics, misdirection, subterfuge. Being creative, inventive and diverse. Gaining the edge psychologically, physically, emotionally, mentally. “The one with the most flexibility on the system, most often controls the system.”

3. WITS. A cerebral approach to self-defense. One that doesn’t dive head-first into the storm without thinking but finding a varied method approach with the holistic view of “being safe” that circumvents style, system or art. Taking into account legal, social, ethical, financial, emotional, mental factors that dictate outcome pre-, mid- and post-conflict. Smart overrules cocky/tough the vast majority of times.

4. WEAPONS. Yes, there is a huge stigma that is omni-present in this area. Online, the ego of will-to-use, aggressive commentary, zero forethought as to consequence, the psychological state that goes into using one on another human being. I have not thought lightly on this. They are, however, a force equalizer and to not acknowledge this would be as naive as the other end of the spectrum just mentioned. As I get older, having to defend my life against someone bigger, faster, stronger or with their own weapons or friends is a monumental task and will increasingly become so as the years pass.

Just some thoughts, think heavily and profoundly on this, base your personal training accordingly and do research on how difficult real violence can be if you haven’t lived it yourself. It’s not as organized and cookie-cutter as many will have you believe.


  1.  Never offend or insult the other person. A quick trip to escalation. “Fucking idiot.” “This moron won’t leave me alone.” “Are you stupid?? It’s just a beer, man!” “You’re stupid chick looked at me funny.”
  2.  Never leave them zero option outside of physical conflict. When cornered, pride and ego take over, especially if friends, spouse/girlfriend, siblings, group are around to up the peer pressure factor or impress. If there’s a chance everyone can go home without a brawl, shut up and put your tail between your legs. If the only thing hurt was our pride at the end of the night, we all go home safe, nobody ends up in-hospital and no loved ones need worry.
  3.  Never challenge the other person. “You wanna go?!” “Is that an offer?” “Are you threatening me?!” “You think you can take me?!” “You want some of this?!” “And who the hell do you think you are?!” All are invitations to escalation. See number 2.

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4. Never touch the other person. While this may be circumstantial, if you’re not within their circle of trust, physical contact will cause an immediate physical response. A push off, a push, a removal. You’re invading their space bubble and territoriality increases exponentially during conflict.

5. Never give an order to the other person. “Calm down.” “Chill out.” “Relax.” “Take it easy.” “Settle the f*&^ down.” All are taken as an order from a stranger and, therefore, not taken well. You’re not their friend or confidant. They’re not getting paid and you’re not their boss.

6. Aggressive body language. Like we always say, if there’s an incongruence between body and words, believe body. If your body is showing instinctive signs of aggression, it will often be taken as such and a pre-emptive attack or sucker punch may be in the works. Learn to keep your body language under wraps as much as is possible. Self-control.

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7.Active listening. Sometimes if the other person is heard and knows they’re being heard, they’ll calm down. If they feel they’re not and you’re not understanding what the problem is, it’ll increase the odds of a physical lashing out. It may be as simple as you stealing their chair, taking their place in line or being rude on their night out with their significant other.

8. People often say to use humor. This can be an instigator as well if they think you’re making a mockery of their feelings in a serious situation, at least to them. Best to stay away from it.

9. Use submissive posturing. There are a number of pre-conflict postures that both give signs of calm and de-escalation but also give opportunity to launch a pre-emptive or simultaneous attack if needed in a pinch. (1. hands on head-frustration, 2. hands grabbing jacket-calm & listening, 3. hands on belt-confident yet prepared, 4. folded arms with low hand not intertwined-under the adrenalized depth perception line, 5. active hands – be like the French/Italians- and learn to strike out of movement, 6. rubbing chin, 7. pleading, 8. palms facing in the traditional “I don’t want no trouble” pose, 9. One or both rubbing neck-feigned exasperation, 10. Slow rubbing hands: self-comforting/in-thought)

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10. Talk slowly and calmly. As you’ll likely only have monosyllabic options under the likely effects of adrenaline, practice controlling the delivery mechanism. High-pitched, loud, frenetic and swearing will often cause the same reaction in the other person. Be the influencer.

Now all of these can also be used as a feint, bait or for deception if the situation calls for it and violence is a foregone conclusion as well. Something to keep in mind when planning strategies and tactics.


An area in martial arts/personal defense rarely discussed and often hidden that many don’t want to relive or address, but have experienced: “A couple of points here regarding third-party intervention problems (or self-defense, in general) and faulty communication with/expectation of students. I’ll throw my own ass on the fire from humbling personal mishandling earlier in life, admittedly making this somewhat subjective experience:
1. There is often a miscalculation on the extremely powerful effects of adrenaline/ASR/tachypsychia. (confusion over which avenue to go-fight/flight/fright, underestimation of the flight/fright responses, decision-making loops) For many with long-term training, coupled with misinformation as to these effects, it can be a crippling in-moment realization where, if having survived, shame and disillusion can ensue regarding one’s training or flaws in it, being in a very machismo-driven industry. (I have zero doubts that a ton of people likely will respond to the most recent subway stabbing incident, for example, with “How could this happen?!! There were 3 of them!!”)

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2. There is often an over-assessment of the situation and one’s own abilities to “solve” it. This goes back to the “When taught to train for perfection/beauty, even successful chaos management is deemed a failure”. Our perception of what successful survival is can be skewed if our training led us to believe it had to “look” or “be” a certain way, and this can lead to unrealistic expectations. An mid- or pre-conflict self-doubt can creep up, a faulty view of “it didn’t go this way in the dojo” (zero or minimal pressure-testing) or a shutdown of access to previously-trained abilities can rear its ugly head.
These 2, to me, are huge points that are most often neglected in much traditional training and do a huge disservice not informing students.

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3. Many times, there is a combination of both of the above simultaneously, which will simply inhibit the person from reacting at all, reacting erroneously (overreacting or underreacting), or reacting with an incongruent response to the situation (response doesn’t fit the situation)

No, not everyone will react like this and, no, not even experienced people will avoid this all of the time (each event is scenario-specific and unique unto itself) but it, from my experience, definitely points out innate and integral parts of training, or at the very least discussion, that are missing.


Improvised weapons are often an add-on to most self-defense or martial arts curricula. They’re paid lip service to but rarely delved into outside of that “bonus” territory. As gun and knife laws continue to be put under the microscope and restricted with greater frequency in many societies, this is an area of study that should more-and-more become an integral part of one’s combatives training.

I’ve heard many complain that there are only so many ways to implement this into a class environment but, inevitably, it’s limited to the instructors’ creativitiy. In my estimation, as many skillsets that promote adaptability, behavioral flexibility and mental acuity the more prepared you’ll make that student for the realities of real violence. I break down weapon usage in terms of categories: bladed/cutting, penetrating, impact, flexible, projectile, shielding and combinations thereof. Some can utilize leverage and reinforce breaks/hyperextensions or chokes.

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Here are some that I advocate and utilized with my student base and security personnel:

  1. Thunderdome. Lay a number of training weapons on the periphery of the mats or floor – knives (folders, kerambits, Bowie – vary the type, length and weight), pocket sticks, flexible weapons, sticks, household weapons. Have 2 students start in the middle of that square – in the clinch, kneeling and on the ground, from various ground positions – and have them go at it. You’ll see pretty quickly the loyalty to submissions and position-based groundfighting flying out the window as they move into simple and gross-motor survival mode. Fighting for control of the weapons, learning how to limit the “damage”, understanding how the tool is held/what category of weapon it is/how one can best inflict damage with it.
  2. Rooms of  the house. Take students through various areas of a daily living or working area – bathrooms, bedrooms, office, front or back yard, kitchen. Have them see everyday items that can be used in a pinch in a self-defense scenario. Get them to manipulate the item for a time to have them understand how to best grip it, what category (or categories) it falls into, what anatomical targets it would best work on, and what part is the strongest for impact/penetration/cutting. Is it a finisher? Would it allow you to get to a more-effective tool? Could it be used in cqc (close quarters) range or would it be better served from a distance?
  3. Makeshift day. Lay a relatively large number of household items on the floor and have them do the same. Type/grip/best utilization and could some be used in unison with others? (eg. a broken lightbulb protecting your hand with a towel, a “rock-in-sock” (any hard weighted object wrapped in a discloth, modified slingshots, etc.) Fistloads, garrottes, knuckledusters, blackjacks/saps, improvised bucklers will likely all make themselves visible if enough items are brought out.
  4. Advanced people watching. Go to the mall or any highly-populized area and instead of just watching body language, behavior and profiling, look at carried items (whether on-body or carried) and think of how that person could best utilize that item. Restaurants, bars, retail stores, grocery stores, all have unique items that could present themselves.

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We, as humans, are and have always been toolusers but, ironically, the self-defense world is one of the only industries where this area has “devolved.” We believe that counter-knife is best served against empty-hand because of some moral code. (religious, moral, ethical, social restrictions – but our life should be taken with the same moral highground, we only have one, after all) Multiple attackers can be beaten with trained empty-hand systems. Utilizing weapons because it’s unfair or unjust. It’s become bass-ackwards. I see self-defense experts getting out of their car in a road rage incident to teach the other a lesson on who they’re screwing with, when the greatest weapon that we utilize on a daily basis is the very bloody car we’re in at the time. Going outside when a potential burglar is on the roof (territoriality) when our best tactical advantage is staying inside the very area we know better than anyone on the planet…our home – which is filled with improvised weapons, tools and household items.

Regarding even general weapons use, so many go and purchase the latest cool-looking, cutting-edge, carbon-fiber (and expensive) weapon, which is fine. (This does not have to be super cost-prohibitive). I always say that my LED flashlight is tactical not because it’s black but because I use it tactically if need be. Combative names for knife models, labelled tactical, blades that can’t be used for utilitarian purposes. Remember, if you can’t throw it away in a pinch because it brings some loyalty from you, there’s some personal investment or it’s too expensive…it shouldn’t be carried in your EDC kit. When I lived in Canada, I’d tell students that the two places I did most of my self-defence shopping were Canadian Tire and Home Hardware, not the local armory. Being innocuous is a huge advantage when being processed legally after having to defend oneself lethally, for whatever reason.


Roughly 2-3 years ago, I took some intensive private classes in graphology. It was quite interesting how our writing can reflect certain personality traits, backgrounds, histories and the like. Now after a time, I started disbelieving some of the premises of assumption affiliated with assessment. While writing unequivocally gives a lot of information about a person, I simply didn’t think at the time that it told accurate tales of overall picture. I did, however, see a lot of possibilities to micro-analyze the smaller things: mood, specifically. Pressure a person’s under, whether annoyed or angry, agitated, penmanship reflecting being detail-oriented or generally lax. A case can be made for big picture traits like self-confidence, arrogance, shyness, introversion or extroversion being available.

However, as writing is generally not as pronounced  in the digital age as it once was and the majority being left to the scrapheap of signatures, receipts or bureaucratic documents or forms that already draw frustration and annoynace prior, it greatly limits the field’s modern importance or even validity. That being said, one area that popped into mind where it might have some validity would be in that exact digital landscape. Emojis/emoticons, memes, online shorthand, NetLingo, clumped phrases, tone, message accuracy and the like have profound significance in this age of social media communication. We use them unconsciously to make assessments of the people we allow into our lives. As I work most often in the self-defense world, I started wondering how this pertained to that field. Keyboard warriors, online conflicts and challenges, finding consensus with others in a predominantly testosterone-driven industry are the norm. Here it has value. Is there a way that these things can be compiled to glean an accurate picture of what someone is trying to say? To relate better without getting offended, to not get lost in the battle to be heard and have our point defended? Or to allow overall profiles to be made of the people we interact with everyday yet have never met in the real life?

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Inevitably, most we talk to  on the forums that we’re on daily are known strangers. We know very little about them and the only things we have to go on are previous experiences (comparison to people in our lives already, that have been in our lives previous or people we’ve come across positively or negatively – bridging the divide to try and label or categorize those in front of us now from this) coupled with the things they type and post (and our analysis, whether accurate or not, of this volunteered info – whether honest, restrained or falsified). I know I am constantly analyzing and making assessments of the people that contribute to the site and I think this is completely normal, as I expect fully most do the same of me.

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Through what methodology and how accurate can it be outside of placing some trust in a handful that they’re telling the truth and we can relate to them as similar like minds. Can it be deduced and how do we continually make these diagnoses of the people online we let into our lives. I’ve had some old-school martial arts and personal defense instructors e-mail me privately and tell me this digital communication thing is highly-perplexing and difficult to figure out. (Confrontation without repercussion, empty challenges, critique of our posts from invisible detractors, aggressive liberties that in real life likely wouldn’t happen) Food for thought as it again goes towards safety and personal protection in this rapidly-developing and relatively-new playing field. This is a new animal in the personal protection field that most of us are learning on-the-fly, and I’ve labelled it “digital graphology.” Add it to your repertoire.


I’d always wanted to do a companion piece to the first article I put out on this, as I realized I left a bomb at the end that likely got a lot of tradionalists up-in-arms. Without definition and explanation, maybe rightly so. I also had wanted to complete this two-part idea before I was on my way out of the FMA community but a little late. Maybe this is out of respect to my FMA friends and my own instructors. The “some myths” part I had left somewhat hanging but I’d like to take the time to delve further into this and maybe the traditionalists can relate with a little more clarity. Or, as is often the case, maybe not. That, unfortunately, I can’t help. Really, many of these are deserving their own full and independent analysis but let’s gloss over some of the finer points:

  1. Sinawali/2-stick drills build true ambidexterity. This has always been a point of contention in the FMA. Now while they do get both sides of the brain activated, this may less the fault of the drill but the manner of practicing it. As a predominantly “patty-cake” drill, one robs oneself of the ability to truly develop raw power in one’s “off” (or live if thinking in terms of single-weapon usage) hand. Slowing the drills down, breaking down the individual parts and discovering anatomical power generation is a far more effective delivery system. I always tell my students, “Teach the left to do what the right does effectively. What are the minutaie that makes one more powerful than the other. Feel it.” Another method is to break rhythm, step back and fire a full-power shot at the opponent, alternating hands randomly in the midst of the flow. At best, maybe it can 1. get one used to bilateral symmetry, a very real side-effect of ASR (adrenal stress response) which sometimes causes both arms  to do the same thing due to solely gross-motor accessibility and 2. cultivate pattern recognition in the practitioner that can be transferred to other pertinent areas of physical body movement.                                                 
  2. V-stepping is the predominant and only method of footwork you’ll need. (You’ll usually know who’s pressure-tested/fought with minimal or no protection/done resistance training from this one as replacement stepping and the shuffle take front and center) While zoning is important, as one can see from any pro boxing match, it needs to be cultivated from actual mutual movement – meaning, your attacker needs to actually using intent. Angling and zoning in an actual dynamic environment. One can see more clearly what I mean from a boxer like Lomachenko, who uses an active form of v-stepping after initial exchange:  We, however, most often practice it from one committed attack with minimal intent, no multi-dimensional follow-ups and no follow-up movement. Another thing makes itself known when sparring for the first time as well, the v-step as trained simply does not work. What replaces it is usually regular replacement-stepping (no crossing, feet constantly equidistance apart and balance under center – horizontal footwork) and the shuffle – forward or back, like the more compact version of the fencing lunge. (vertical footwork) A natural progression out of respect for distancing from and the actual weapon itself.
  3. A huge number of angles of attack need be trained for effectiveness. (Back in the fightbooks of medieval Germany/Italy, they used 7 angles, including the thrust but infinite variations and combinations can be made from this template) I saw a video with 40+ angles of attack the other day. Over-analysis, pure technique orgasm. Where on the body it lands or what target it hits: a forehand strike high, middle or low is the same strike. A backhand the same. A downward strike at a 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock or 11 o’clock angle is still a downward strike. A thrust is a thrust and travels the same routes if done with 1 or 2 hands or with a punyo. Whether slicing, thrusting (singles or multiples), tip-ripping, using flat-of-the-blade  or push cuts (with bigger, heavier blades), a “number 1” strike is a number 1 strike. As mentioned above, Fiore de Liberi, the Italian swordsman, used 7 angles – 6 cuts and 1 thrust. Basic and simple is better. Image result for fiore siete espadas
  4. Defanging the snake is all that’s needed in weapons combat/defense. It hurts, have no doubt. But often later that night. Tomorrow will be a bitch, too, with even less movement. But adrenaline often takes care of the rest in the moment. We over-rely on this as a stopper. Let’s isolate the knife as an example, so many quote the “just cut the extensor or flexor tendons and you shut down complete arm function.” Well, for that to happen, some intangibles need to be at play: sharp knife, clean cut, clear angle, clothing-dependent (a Canadian winter, I can assure you this ain’t happening), target accuracy, size of opponent (the muscles/tendons/ligaments/nerves can be far deeper on an overweight or large person than on a regular-sized one, to be clear)
  5. Biomechanical cutting is always the quickest and best way to shut down and stop the human body (adrenaline factors/depth of cut/sharpness of knife/cleanliness of cut/dynamic movement factor). See above as another example. Here’s the thing, if you’re in such dire straits that you need to deploy a blade to save your ass from the fire, are you truly going to be protecting his life first-and-foremost? Are you going to, under extreme duress, be adherent to hitting small, finite and specific targets that vary in depth from the surface from person-to-person? And what if you hit and they don’t have sufficient stopping power, what then? Guaranteed stoppages are the CNS (brain, spinal cord), heart, etc. Even arteries or veins aren’t a sure thing with adrenaline and its physiological effects. I know doctors who’ve seen first-hand victims of multiple stabs walk into the hospital white, with a small portion of blood left in their body but still talking coherently (albeit it in bad shape) so trusting the slash (or the slash alone) is flippant at best.
  6. “Trapping hands” or de cadena works the way it does in the club (though “trapping” is an element used regularly in boxing, grappling, clinchwork but not in the way most FMA people train it) It does not. Try it while sparring with a boxer. There’s no over-commitment, few over-extensions other than by mistake. However, trapping does work but within context. BJJ, sambo, wrestling and shoot proponents utilize traps all the time, often just not knowing it. My definition of a trap is this: “any temporary containment to facilitate a greater overall goal.” Is trapping permanent? No. Is it a momentary containment to gain a greater overall advantage, though. Try grappling against a resistant opponent and not use some sort of trap to gain submission or position advantage. It’s there,  in the FMA it just tends to be over-complicated, over-hyped and under-applied. Subtle, not grandiose.
  7. Knives magically appear in your hand whenever needed (deployment/weapon retention/concealment & carry skills need to be implemented into one’s training) I don’t know how many FMA instructors I’ve met who have minimal idea of how to open a modern tactical folder. We train from the duel, knives already in-hand. Deployed. I want to make this one clear, if you’re a “knife specialist” or call yourself a “knife fighter” (I don’t, I’ve been in knife encounters but never a knife fight) and don’t teach blade awareness, dropped blade protocol and retrieval, deployment, testcutting, weapon retention, different types of modern blades, concealment and carry, you are neglecting a huge part of modern knife self-defense, if that’s even an applicable term. (Another time, another topic)
  8. That if you train with weapons you’ll simply conquer any attacker as you’re a “weapons man” now (you’ll need more and nothing is a fast guarantee of success with the vast number of scenarios that can unfold) Here we see 2 examples and Youtube is littered with many many more:                                                                                                                      Though training makes the odds better,  there’s no guarantee that simply presenting, using or knowlege of using a weapon ensures success, let alone survival. If you’re measuring stick is simply that you have one and that makes you more dangerous, I’ve got some bad news for you. I used to have a student who said she walked around armed, she had pepper spray in her purse. I asked her where she had it in her purse. “Somewhere on the bottom.” Have you ever practiced getting it out of your purse as fast as possible, if ever needed? “No.” Do you know how to use the spray, have you actually shot it, you know where the deploy button is? “Not exactly.” Have you ever trial shot it before? “” Then you have a decoration, my friend, not a weapon. And this isn’t even factoring doing all those things right but not counting on the other person’s adrenalized state – pain tolerance, pain threshold, your own survival stress state, will and innate justification to use it and the factors already listed above. (Innate justification can include spiritual/religious factors, appropriation of extreme use-of-force internally, societal/legal worry, moral/ethical resistance, among others)
  9. That gunting/nerve destructions/pressure point attacks shut down the moving adrenaline-filled human body (later that evening they can hurt like hell but hardly helps in the moment) I think we covered most of this above already.
  10. that complex flow drills build attributes or that some flow drills build attributes at all (drilling for the sake of drilling, becoming a drillmaster or not knowing the reason for your drilling makes it moot, period). I have talked to FMA “masters” before that have no idea WHAT attributes they’re cultivating but they can sure regurgitate the phrase in a hurry. “They build attributes.” Tell me which ones, what the purpose is of building them and why that’s important. Example, we’ll take the uber-popular hubud flow drill. Practitioners add one small element to the drill (a low kick being a most popular one) and call it “progressive hubud” or that they’re using it in a totally unique manner. Hubud is a construct drill, a base drill for beginners to get a feel for the unique sensisitivity and flow that inhibit the FMA. But it’s done in the same non-dynamic construct, the same dummying for technique, demo or not. Here are some ideas, if drilling is your thing and you’re not replacing it with resistance training, pressure-testing or any form of active resistance. Incorporating forward, linear or changing pressures. With breakoffs – a push to create distance for deployment or spatial reinforcement followed by the “pushed” giving a hard charge or tackle (you won’t be standing upright for long, one way or the other if you’ve been doing hubud like a piece of plywood, I can assure you) or wearing boxing gloves to start throwing upon  engagement. (If a knife drill and you couldn’t deploy, using empty-hand skills to get to deployment phase, clinch to learn to control attack, or use closed-folder tactics until full deployment (or half- or quarter-openings) can be facilitated. Have one of the 2 participants break off and throw a sucker punch with the other slowly getting over the backward flinch response and learning to do it forward-aggressive utilizing various methods of striking within the construct (ax hands, hammerfists, palms, etc. or even methods of delivery – wave, explosive, ballistic ,etc.) Hubud in buno/groundfighting range into joint hyperextension opportunities using an entirely different type of sensisitivity. All heavily pressure-based and with active resistance. Abecedario is another that stays in the “self-defense” phase, I used to use 3 levels of abecedario. 1. working the basics with no resistance. 2. increasing levels of feedback, opponent starts moving with varying types of pressure. 3. you have 3 seconds after first-contact to finish or opponent starts fighting back with full resistance.

Now these are within the framework of traditional FMA, I’d like to point out. This should be a bare minimum type of legitimate self-reflection on how you train. For those who aren’t interested in taking their training to extremes or push the envelope, these are some things to consider that we, in the FMA world, simply assume and accept to be truth. Question. Challenge the norms and the stereotypes. We simply do not live in an age where pressure-testing is always needed to legitimize a system due to the time we live in. And I’ve sometimes been critical of this, maybe overly, and maybe therein lies the problem with my own fun and passion. But I had also put a lot of effort into developing my own expression of the arts and ensuring, at least from my small corner of the globe, combat arts derived from function and with unique learning, movement and kinesthetic learning methodologies, don’t go the way of tae kwon do and ninjutsu – a caricature of their original inception.

*As a final comment here regarding the FMA community at large. I have respect for all sides, I do. I respect those that want to maintain the traditional, hereditary and cultural authenticity of their native arts. That is their prerogative and it is a relative heirloom in that regard. It it were part of my birthright and had historical significance to my country of birth, I can definitely see the passion and protectiveness one might have for it. I would. I can also understand the progressive side wanting to modernize things and further these arts into the 21st Century. (often a North American thing, admittedly) But I’d like to give a parting note for thought to both sides. If a Canadian invents something, puts it on the market, it’s always going to be a “Canadian” product, one that was originally made in Canada, will always have its origins there and Canadians can take pride in the fact it was one or more of their own who came up with the idea. That being said,  let me put this in the context of relatable terms regardless of nationality: if a German (company, individual or entity) purchases the product – invests money in doing so, worked hard for that money, put the effort into developing that product, promoting it globally, tweaked it to fit his demographic/culture – it will still be of Canadian origin. But it will be his product now. He bought it. Invested in it. Put the effort in for a price – be it financial, physical/labor or emotional. It’s his. Period. No Canadian has a right to tell him what he can and cannot do with that product. They can be proud that the German has taken it to different or at times even greater heights, knowing that that product is Canadian-made and the German will always give credit for it being so. But it’s his. Legally. Socially. Ethically. In every way. He bought it. Now that German could hypothetically be Filipino/Pinoy, another Canadian, Asian, of Middle-Eastern descent. Really, it doesn’t matter. We’ve struck globalization on products, maybe it’s time for the martial arts to catch up in some way. Think on that for a bit while you make the correlation.


I’d like to give a commentary on the recent  “no holds barred” fight in China between retired MMA fighter Xu Xiaodong and tai chi “master” Wei Lei that’s drawn so much online attention recently. (and continues to do so)

I realize I’m a little late on the take with posting about this but I wanted to see what kind of input it drew around the web first. There’s talk of this being the deathknell of traditional Chinese martial arts, that it wasn’t fair to tai chi as Lei wasn’t a “true” tai chi master, that because Xiaodong was 13 years retired from MMA it sent an even clearer message on the state of functional Chinese combative arts, etc. etc. etc. There are always people complaining about the protocols of the bout and how it played into the other’s hands. Could this happen to any traditional art? Sure, this came as no surprise. Should one art or methodology be represented and spoken for by one individual who may or not be qualified to be the spokesperson of that said art or methodology? No. (It’s always the individual at the end of the day. What if it was a streetwise aggressive tai chi specialist who came up from a violent street background and an MMA fighter who was 5th-rate and never fought in the ring or with resistance? Meaningless.) Does it say something on the state of traditional Asian martial arts in general? Maybe. But I’d like to make a comment from a different angle.

Xu Xiaodong Interview

DISCLAIMER: Jiayoowushu does NOT condone Xu Xiaodong's actions or his conduct. HOWEVER, due to the spread of misinformation going on about the recent "Taiji vs. MMA" incident by Western news outlets that don't know Chinese, and thus don't know the precise, accurate details from the source, we are sharing this translated interview with Xu Xiaodong in the spirit of free speech and sharing of all opinions, even those critical so that we can further discussion of Wushu and Chinese martial arts. We at are dedicated first and foremost to the promotion through spreading awareness, and better understanding through discussion of all opinions of not only modern Wushu, but all of Chinese martial arts practice.Credit to Wong Yuen-Ming for translation on Facebook.Want to hear from another perspective on the Xu Xiaodong incident? Get it here on our newest article "Tai Ji vs MMA" by our newest contributor Frank Zhong:

Posted by Jiayo Wushu on Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The interview with Xiaodong post-fight explaining his viewpoints and the escalation.

From a purely tactical point-of-view, this is what happens when you allow the other person to dictate context: the rules (start, time limit, referee, rounds), the time, the place, the date, the crowd, the exposure (filmed for Youtube and Facebook entertainment). You lose. Look at this from a bigger purely pragmatic view from a personal defense/conflict management position because we too often tend to look into the micro-aspects and become anal-retentive. This is also caused by ego: the Internet is, again, not a self-defense scenario and Lei took the bait – hook, line and sinker. )He actually did his share to provoke it after seeing the video that Wim posted. He let ego and pride get in the way of something that could have easily been brushed off (or ignored) but “defending his style’s honor” was at stake, whatever the hell that means. This is about two individuals at the end of the day, not a methodology over a methodology. Two willing individuals (who agreed willingly to settle this with aggression) who escalated a social media feud and now it’s been blown into something much greater than need be. One lost, and fairly, might I add. Deservedly? Maybe that as well with the poor choices made and the predicament he volunteered himself into.

*And, for those who think I’m biased in any way, I’m not, I don’t care one way or the other. I look at these things from a learning perspective, solely. But, if needed, I have instructor-level rankings in both tai chi/qi gong and in shootwrestling (a modern MMA-type hybrid combination of striking, grappling and clinching) after over 20 years in both.


Well, let’s reverse-engineer this and list some things of concern pertaining to the martial arts world that may be equally-prevalent in cults or may hint at the fact your academy is bordering on cultish:

  1. You’re not allowed, either intimated or openly stressed, to train at any other clubs or any other systems or there’ll be repercussions: belts stripped, “excommunicated” from the club, rankings revoked, your training stops or is restricted.
  2. Other ideas, concepts, methods of performing techniques are met with stern disapproval as they’re not in-line with the set curriculum or methodology of the system/style/instructor/lineage. (Freedom of thought and experimentation should be a huge part of the martial journey – developing our own thought process of evaluation and filters is part of the self-evolution)
  3. You are required to bow and call the instructor by his title (and these titles are getting more and more ludicrous by the generation – Grand Master Supreme, anyone?), even when talking outside a training environment in social settings. (He/she can’t separate one identity from the other. I knew an aikido instructor who was so consumed by his training identity, his wife was actually scared of him outside the club and admitted so. His persona transferred to their relationship and the construct of power balance – it was an abusive relationship.)
  4. Your instructor crosses the boundaries of his/her expertise and starts becoming a mountaintop guro, business advisor, career counsellor, psychologist/therapist simply because of his/her position of stature within the club dynamic. (Outside of scope of instructor’s level of knowledge. While advice from personal experience is one thing, giving professional advice outside of our sphere of knowledge pertaining to serious life decisions affected by potentially outside-of-our-knowing intangibles is not)
  5. Great investments, either financial or time, are required early-on. (I was once part of a club that demanded one-year’s tuition and contract signed in advance sight unseen, extra for secret behind closed-door training that was above-and-beyond and recommended if you “really wanted to advance”, no watching classes prior to signing up, no family members inside the club or able to view classes)
  6. On that note, the practices of the club are “secretive” and not for the public eye. Lots of “closed-door” practices are promoted. (We live in perhaps the most oversaturated time of information in recorded history. There are simply no secrets any longer, all information is readily available to inevitably anyone. “Secret” is a marketing gimmick, nothing more.)
  7. You find you have trouble separating your personality from the training or “your style.” I’m a karateka, a judoka, an aikidoka, an arnisador, etc. (You are you, not your rank, and have a distinct identity apart from the club, your style, your system or your title)
  8. Your ranks carry-over into your day-to-day. You identify yourself so innately with your title that it’s even listed on social media in front of your name.
  9. The instructor starts making unwelcome advances either sexually, socially, religiously, politically or otherwise from a position of power towards the student body or members thereof. Individual members are isolated with private meetings, personal attention, unwanted extra-curricular communication, inappropriate physical contact. A subtle recommendation to their way of thinking.
  10. You start becoming more and more isolated from the outside people in your life and your social activities are progressively surrounded by solely people from the club or academy-based activities. (A lead-in to groupthink)
  11. Rankings and titles dictate specific order of control to the point liberties are taken, either physically, verbally or psychological through isolation, derision or punishment.
  12. Upon leaving the club, you’re called out and badmouthed to the internal community as being a “traitor” or “disloyal”
  13. The instructor continually screams, yells and issues orders that he/she clearly is not following themselves. (elitism and clear superiority)
  14. The student is expressly made to believe that any open questioning on functionality (technique, for instance) or lack of understanding of direction is disrespectful, out-of-line or worse, blasphemous or mutinous.
  15. Peer pressure to do things one is unprepared for or uncomfortable with on a psychological, moral, ethical or emotional level, outside of scope of justified training for learning progression.
  16. The student feels his/her well-being is at risk from constant physically-unnecessary and potentially-injurious training. (Bullying, club chain-of-command, one-way impact abuse where the instructor inflicts but never receives)
  17. You find that situations you would otherwise have handled in a calm and controlled manner previously, are now handled with an eye toward utilizing violence. Greater aggression, hostility, volatility and reactiveness are present after training has started.
  18. The club is considered clearly-superior to all others, that nothing else is needed by the student and everything they’re searching for can be provided at this one place.
  19. More and more ridiculous claims and practices are implemented by the instructor. Chi knockouts, telepathy, mind control, special abilities, no-touch control, etc. all come to mind in this vein.
  20. Demonstrations that look they’re influenced by hypnotism, suggestion, magic trick or influence to create a mythic or indestructible reputation of the instructor and higher-ranked students.

Now, admittedly, some of these may well be acceptable of their own volition or independently. When all of these or a vast majority are omnipresent, there is an innate problem internally within the club and it starts to look very parallel to the cult stereotype. Very subtle in nature so one has to have a clear vision of what’s transpiring and ask internal questions for a normalcy baseline, which is often extremely difficult to do when absolute power and subtle manipulation is present, all in the name of tradition, fraternity, ego and order are driving forces.

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