Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Demystifying Violence

"You always fear what you don't understand"

Humans give weight to words.  Sometimes that weight prohibits understanding.

Violence is one of those words.  For many violence has an "evil" connotation.

This was highlighted not all that long ago in a discussion among instructors.  One instructor took great strides to make a distinction between "violence" that bad guys use and "force" that professionals use.   Wrapping the justified application of violence in flowery language, romanticizing it.

100% disagree

The discussion of violence today is not all that different than talking about sex in the 50's
Aunt Susan is pregnant...We don't talk about that.
Clearly sex is happening.  It is a natural biological behavior.  We are here today because it happened.

But we don't talk about it.  Because we don't talk about it we don't understand it. always fear what you don't understand.

Make love

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

If the word violence makes you feel icky.  So icky that you can't use the word.  How are you going to be able to use actual violence.

If you vilify violence (violence is something only bad guys use)  You are building glitches into yourself and the people you train.

Violence is a tool.  Its application can be just, or evil.
If you make it something it is not, if you make it evil in and of itself, then you take that tool away from the just.

You always fear what you don't understand.

How do you make violence less fearful?
You develop an understanding of how evil people use violence.

How do criminals use violence?

Questions are free...Answers cost.

Bruce Wayne traveled the world and became a criminal to understand how criminals use violence.

You don’t need to travel the world

You don’t to need to actually commit crimes

You do need to put yourself in the shoes of a criminal.

The best way I have seen to do this is through Rory Miller's Logic Of Violence presentation.
You can attend live, by clicking HERE

To supplement that experience you can buy this video...

... by clicking HERE

Developing defenses against criminals (people that use violence for evil) makes no sense if you don't understand how criminals attack.

Batman said, “Criminals are a cowardly, superstitious lot.”

A predator will use tactics he has developed to get what he wants from you in the safest surest manor.  This is in no way a “fair fight”.

The predator will take every advantage using speed, surprise and ferocity to prevent you from responding in any way that could be effective in stopping him.

Ritual and rhythm - The hind brain is concerned with survival.  What ever you are doing hasn’t gotten you killed yet  - keep doing it. Modus Operandi (MO)

This is also exactly the way the professionals use "force"

Criminals are human just like the rest of us.
When you come up with your own answers to questions criminals face you begin to see the logic behind their actions.

When their actions make sense they are far less fearful.

Violence is a tool.  Its application can be just, or evil.
Don't let words limit your survival responses.  Be a friend to the wolf, and find the light within the darkness.

The Japanese have a phrase for this as well
Satsujinken - Katsujinken
Life taking sword - Life giving sword
The sword that kills is the sword that gives life

Satsujinken is the "Murdering Sword" which takes the lives of the weak, propagates evil, and eventually destroys one's humanity

Katsujinken is literally the "Life-giving Sword" and embodies all that is righteous: protecting the weak, destroying evil, and cultivating one's own spirit. 

Katsujinken does not mean the absence of killing but "to kill only in the last instance, to eradicate evil and protect the weak". 

It is just a sword, how it is used is entirely up to you.  However, if we allow the narrative to label all swords as evil there will be no sword that gives live. 

Train hard, train smart, be safe...use violence judiciously when necessary, don't let public narrative limit your response

Sunday, March 4, 2018

When the going gets tough

In any physical confrontation there are four factors:

  • You 
  • The Threat
  • Luck
  • The Environment
Personal protection training can be boiled down to improving and mitigating these factors to increase your probability for success.

Looking at the YOU factor, there is an entire industry built around personal improvement.  No particular need for another voice in that field.
However, the Violence Dynamics Team consistently receives questions on mental preparation.

How can I become mentally tough?  How can I prepare for the mental stress of interpersonal violence.

These questions along with some challenges I am facing, got me thinking...

What do you do when things suck?

Things are going to suck from time to time.  That is just life.  However, as the Rabbi in the above video suggested I feel things are supposed to suck.  The suck has a purpose.  The Universe is telling you things need to change.

That suck sensation is instinct.  The Lobster needs to expand.  It is a natural stimulus to change.  
How does one become mentally tough?  Embrace the suck.  The Japanese have a term for this Shugyo 

To ignore the suck, to become comfortable with circumstances that are not right is settling, stagnation.

Stagnation is just a slower form of death.  Which reminds me of my favorite Wolverine quote.

“The key isn’t winning — or losing, it’s making the attempt. I may never be what I ought to be, want to be — but how will I know unless I try?

Sure, it’s scary, but what’s the alternative? Stagnation – A safer, more terrible form of death. Not of the body, but of the spirit.

An animal knows what it is, and accepts it. A man may know what he is — but he questions. He dreams. He strives. Changes. Grows.”

Inspirational memes have their place, but they don't get things done.
How does one become mentally tough? What does one do when things suck?
Stimulus - The Suck Sensation
"A man may know what he is — but he questions."  - Why does this suck?
What can be done to improve this?
  • Develop a plan
  • Work the plan
  • Assess the plan - is this working?
    • If yes continue
    • If no adapt
      • Develop an improved plan
      • Repeat as necessary 

How does one embrace the suck?  How can the suck, suck less?

Stress management:
  • Exercise
    • Not only will this help burn off negative emotions, it will increase positive feelings with the release of endorphins, and you receive all the positive benefits that working out provides

  • Train
    • My new number one new student demographic at the Dojo has become people with high stress life styles that walk in the door because they have an interest in personal protection, but stay because of they grow to love the stress relieving effects of choking folks.

If I didn't have that outlet I'd be lost
  • Eat & Sleep
    • Make sure you body has everything it needs to repair damage and grow.  To be the best version of you while you are facing a challenge.

  • Celebrate small victories.
    • You've made a plan to change.  That plan has steps.  It's a long road.  Allow yourself to be human, celebrate the successful completion of those steps.

    • Don't start down the slippery slope.  When things suck it can be easy to justify drinking, smoking, snorting, eating that negative stimulus away.  Numb the pain.  Like the Rabbi said if the Lobster popped a Percocet every time it felt discomfort, the suck, it would never grow.  Celebrate success, don't try to kill the suck with chemicals.  Its still going to suck the next day.

  • Count your blessings
    • Embrace and cherish the things that don't suck

Without these guys and their mom I'd be lost.

Not everything can be improved.  If the suck sensation continues and no improvements can be made to change that, I believe that is a signal to find a different area to succeed in.

Everyone has gifts and talents.  If a fish has to climb a tree, there is very limited probability for success.  That is going to suck for that fish.  If the fish has a vested interest it can work hard to develop the mechanisms that would allow it to climb a tree, and would be better off for having gone through that process.  However, that fish might just  be better off finding where swimming is needed to succeed and being a super star!

Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson wanted to play basketball.  He got hurt, that sucked.  When he was in physical therapy he discovered that he was very strong and had a natural aptitude for strength sports.

Last week he won the title of the world's strongest man

No one knows the name of a mediocre basket ball player from Iceland.
Everyone knows "The Mountain"

Train hard, train smart, be safe...embrace the suck until its done

Monday, February 26, 2018

Helping Others

Help me, to help you, to help others.  This is something my Sargent Jerry Johnson use to say to me tongue and cheek when we needed to come up with a creative solution to an unfortunate situation.

Not too long ago I wrote about my friend Jeff Long's death.  You can read it HERE if you like.

Last week was Jeff's birthday.  We used to go for sushi to celebrate every year.  People get busy, you don't see your friends as much as you used to, or would like to.  I can't remember the last time I ate sushi with Jeff, which made me sad.

My father once told me you can sit there and cry about it, or you can get up and do something about it.  So I started working on ways I could do something about it.  Looking for ways to help others.

I discussed it on the video blog, you can watch that HERE

I am fortunate that I have surrounded myself with a fantastic team, and we have found a way to help.

My criteria was:

  • A charity that helps force professionals dealing with PTSD
  • A charity that helps the families of fallen force professionals
  • A charity that deals with suicide prevention
  • A charity where the overwhelming percentage of funds raised goes to the people that require help

The Violence Dynamics team suggested Blue H.E.L.P. so I looked into them further.

When I saw the the Force Science Institute was a sponsor, I knew that this was an organization that I wanted to partner with.

If you are unfamiliar with the Force Science Institute you should check them out HERE.  Also if you are eligible you should sign up for their news letter.

The Force Science Institute is run by Dr. William Lewinski.  Dr. Lewinski was my adviser at Mankato State University.  He was also my first Karate Sensei, and is a friend.

Sadly, I know that Dr. Lewinski's life has also been touched by suicide.  So when I saw his organization supports Blue H.E.L.P I didn't need to look any further.

H.E.L.P stands for:

Blue H.E.L.P - Mission Statement

It is the mission of Blue H.E.L.P. to reduce mental health stigma through education, advocate for benefits for those suffering from post-traumatic stress, acknowledge the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers we lost to suicide, assist officers in their search for healing, and to bring awareness to suicide and mental health issues.

Honoring the Service of Law Enforcement Officers Who Died by Suicide

We believe that officers who suffer emotional injuries should be recognized and their service to the community honored.

We believe it’s time to put names and faces to the men and women who have died because their emotional injuries became too much to bear.

We believe it’s time to support the families who have lost loved ones to those injuries.

We believe in the saying, “It is not how they died that mattered, it is how they lived”.

For further information please click HERE

In the video I mentioned earlier, I outlined a broad reaching plan I want to implement in October of 2019.  You can see Jeff pictured above role playing the bad guy, as he often did, for my SWAT team.

The big plan is to raise funds for Blue H.E.L.P. via a learn through play exercise at Violence Dynamics 2019.

However, big plans require several smaller steps.

Our (Violence Dynamics team) first step will take place in Boston in May (further details to follow)

If you would like to be part of that please sign up HERE

You can sit there and cry about it, or you can get up and do something about it.  This May I start doing something about it.

Help me, to help you, to help others.

Train hard, train smart, be safe.

On a positive note, as I was writing this blog I received this message from Jeff's father Denis.

Thank all of Jeff's friends for the birthday wishes, he would have been 40! Thanks for sharing in his life and just know, YOU MATTERED! We really miss him, but know he will always be with us, in spirit. 

Because of a huge Christmas miracle, he will be with us in a different form! Annie is expecting a baby boy about late July or early August. After all the in vitro attempts and finally getting little Aubree, this time it is from themselves, Doctor said it was a 2 percent chance, well the odds were in our favor. The baby boy will be named Jeffrey Aubree Long, in honor of them! Just imagine what this has been like during this grieving time! Makes it bearable now, but still hard. Love to you all!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Flipping the switch

Flipping the switch

The Instructors at Violence Dynamics have made a commitment to provide meaningful weekly content.  I am very pleased about that in and of itself.  I'm also very excited about residual effects it is having.  Thought provoking content as a catalyst for discussion and debate.  The network is working.

As such, discussion from this last week found a common thread - The high end use of  force by civilians.

If several people had similar questions, those questions merit further inspection.

One source of discussion came from my buddies Jesse and Andi again

Here they are with their 3rd favorite Violence Dynamics Instructor

We teach techniques and principles that require one to inflict potentially life ending harm or damage on attacker. However, we don’t believe most Average Joe's could pull it off when protecting themselves. 

We do, though, think that when protecting a loved one the situation would change. I’d rip the head off someone raping Andi but would I feel the same about someone attacking me? 
 Where do you find your inner animal while still remaining in the constructs of social appropriateness. 
We place so much value on life and we’re afraid of death and so how do you cause this to someone else. 

Easier to experience death than to cause it.

A similar question was posted on last week's live from Facebook video
If you haven't already you can watch it HERE

What differences have you found between training people who's professional identity involves violence, 
verses those who's personal identity involves violence, 
verses those who don't feel that violence is part of their identity?

I'm interested in two aspects of the question. 

Firstly, how "professionals" and "amateurs" with some investment look at violence and how it affects the potential options they see.

Secondly, what kind of work can be done with people that have little or no investment in violence and the higher levels of conflict, in particular medical professionals undergoing statutory training. What are realistic goals and what would be most useful within peoples practice?

To start addressing these concerns let's look at Rory Miller's comfort with violence scale:

Lethal (Willing to kill)
Assaultive (Willing to damage)
Aggressive (Willing to go physical)

Roughly the scale works like this, The level of violence you are comfortable with works on all levels below you.  You don’t like people willing to go one level higher, and although you may need  them, people 2 levels or higher make you uncomfortable (may seem like monsters to you).

For example, professional force users by definition have to start at assaultive and be able to bump up to lethal on demand as circumstances dictate.  So as an Operator if your wife who is nice is having problems with her boss who is manipulative, to you it seems a natural solution for her to just stand up to him (be assertive).

However, that is a 2 level leap which is very difficult for people to do.

It is easy for higher levels to use the tactics of lower levels.  That is how professionals stay married to nice people, assaultive and be able to bump up to lethal on demand can use the mechanisms of any level below that including those of the nice.

But it is very hard for someone comfortable being nice to even manipulate.

For more information on this check out "Violence: A Writer's Guide" HERE

What kind of work can be done with people that have little or no investment in violence and the higher levels of conflict?

The starting point for Instructors is to help people understand where they are on the comfort with violence scale, and find where they glitch ethically. Once that is acknowledged, helping them become very good with the level of force / violence they permit themselves to operate at.

An exercise we use at Violence Dynamics to start looking at ethical glitches is the capacity drill

It is not physically difficult to maim or kill a human being.  That is capability.  Even the toughest most bad ass human you can imagine is just seven liters of blood in a skin sack.  Everything that monster needs to be human (spinal cord) is only protected by thin rings of fragile bone.  Everyone reading this has the capability.  

In training if you get a sinking feeling in your gut when you work on putting your thumb through someone’s eye, or apply pressure to someone’s neck in a way that would break it outside of a training environment you may not be emotionally equipped  maim or kill a human being.

There is nothing wrong with that.  That is capacity.  However, if you don’t have that in you it does you no good to practice it.  You will have to get really good at lower levels of force.

It is imperative that you discover your capacity for violence before you are in a situation where you are forced to use violence.

Capacity drill:

Someone comes at you with a knife.
You have a gun.  You have nowhere to retreat, nor lower force options – Preclusion
The threat has Intent, Means, and Opportunity to kill you.
Do you shoot?  
Do you shoot to kill?  
Are you okay with that?  Take a minute to think about it.  To feel it.

Now change one element and ask yourself those questions again

The threat is:

  • 12 years old
  • 6 years old 
  • 4 years old
  • A woman
  • A pregnant woman
  • Mentally disabled
  • Your spouse / partner
  • Your child

It is not physically difficult to maim or kill a human being.  

A four year old child with a knife could end me.
Cold math dictates that lethal force is not only justified but logical.

However, personally I’d rather die trying to disarm the little amazon pictured above than maim or kill my daughter.

The point is we need to know our own personal capacity before we are forced to test it.

Questions are free, answers always cost.  I feel no one can honestly answer the questions of the capacity drill until they pay the price of being there, or somewhere similar.  However, this exercise is a good start to finding our own personal capacity before we are forced to pay the price for an answer.

Once you have an idea of what you capacity is, the task then turns to building skill at that level of force, and if necessary expanding our capacity.

An historical example of this would be the founding of Aikido.

Reader's Digest version - Morihei Ueshiba was a fantastic Jujitsu guy.  He goes through a difficult time during his father's death and becomes deeply involved in religion.  How does one balance their career teaching Jujitsu, a violent career, with their newly found religious beliefs, their new ethics? 

Ueshiba developed a new form of Jujitsu called Aikido.  Roughly translated as the way of peace and harmony.

Ueshiba found what level of force / violence he was comfortable with and developed an entire art around it.  

Ueshiba stated that Aikido was for “the loving protection of all beings” - So he had to get really good
at protecting him self with out damaging the attacker.

Being able to control someone with out hurting them is an extremely difficult task!
If you don't believe me try being a cop for a week or two.

Not everyone has 8-12 hours a day, 7 days a week, over a span of 30 some odd years to develop that skill as Ueshiba did.  That may be a worthy end goal, but you have to survive 30 some odd years to get there.

Until then it will be necessary to use all levels of force to protect yourself.

Where do you find your inner animal while still remaining in the constructs of social appropriateness?

How do you help someone expand their capacity?

This is no easy task either.

Terry Trahan spoke about it in part on his Facebook live video last week.  You can watch it HERE

Terry mentioned, and I agree that a large part of expanding capacity is acknowledging self worth.

As Jesse asked:
I’d rip the head off someone raping Andi but would I feel the same about someone attacking me? 

I could kill for someone I love but I don't think I could kill to protect myself.

This also shows up a lot as Momma Bear Syndrome - A mother says something like I'd rather die than hurt someone.  Then you put them in a situation where there child is in danger and this mother that could not envision causing damage to a threat is like "I will tear out your throat and butt fuck your soul!!!!!"

You have to understand you are worth killing for

The philosophy of Aikido to protect all living things.
However, you have to put yourself on the top of that list of living things or you can't protect a warm cup of piss (extra credit points to anyone who can name that movie in the comments).

Terry also spoke about imagination.
So if you have checked your glitches, and you feel you can use high levels of force to protect someone you love from pain, but are unsure if you could to protect yourself  - play this plastic mind exercise with me.

The picture above is of my sister-in-law Barb.  The love of my brother's life.  She died in surgery 15 years ago.

Although he hides it, I know my brother is in pain.  He hurts every Christmas.  He hurts every birthday.  He hurts every anniversary.  He hurts every special moment because she was taken away from him, from all of us.  That is a lot of pain.

So if you would kill to protect a loved one from pain, are you going to let some asshole cause a lifetime of pain by taking you away from your loved ones?

 "I will tear out your throat and butt fuck your soul!!!!!"

You are worth killing for.

Train Hard, Train Smart, Be Safe
You owe it to those that you love to do what is necessary to continue to be part of their lives

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Chemical Cocktail

This week I discussed the effects of adrenalization on a Violence Dynamics Facebook live video.
If you haven't already you can check it out HERE

The effects of adrenaline is one of the topics discussed in the Context of Violence class at Violence Dynamics.  I think adrenaline management could be an entire class in and of itself.  So, I though this blog post would be a great opportunity to dive in a little deeper

You may have heard stories of Grandpa storming the beach at Normandy.  Grandpa probably never told you that he shit his pants.  That his whole crew shit their pants, and charging at the enemy with shit in your pants is a pretty common occurrence.

Which is sad, because when you faced the bully, you did not feel heroic at all.  Your stomach felt sick.  You had to hold in the tears.  You couldn’t think of anything to say.  You were awkward.  You felt like a coward.  Not at all like your brave grandfather or the heroes form times past.

It is important to know that these feeling as are natural / biological.  They have nothing to do with your courage or who you are as a person.

It is also important to be able to recognize the symptoms of adrenalization,“ride the wave” and use this chemical dump to your advantage.

There is plenty of fear based marketing out there that would have you believe adrenaline will turn you into a worthless quivering puddle on the ground.  If this were true we would not be the apex predators on the planet.

In order to minimize the negative effects of adrenaline and maximize its positive effects first we have to understand adrenaline.

Adrenaline gets a bad rep.  It is not working alone.  

Behind the wide range of both physical and mental reactions to stress are a number of hormones, a chemical cocktail if you will.  

Kind of like a boy band, adrenaline is just the most famous, and the only one anyone ever remembers.

Let’s take a closer look at that boy band – Chemical Cocktail
{Notice: the next several paragraphs are an expansion of a joke I blatantly stole from Randy King}


Justin Timberlake

What It Is: 
Commonly known as the fight or flight hormone, it is produced by the adrenal glands after receiving a message from the brain that a stressful situation has presented itself.

What It Does: 
Adrenaline is largely responsible for the immediate reactions we feel when stressed.  Your heart is pounding. Your muscles are tense, you’re breathing faster, you may start sweating. That’s adrenaline.

In and of themselves those reactions are not negative.  However, often we tag them as negative because we commonly feel those reactions while experiencing negative emotions.

(Adrenaline is the front man that is the most famous)


Lance Bass

What It Is: 
A hormone similar to adrenaline, released from the adrenal glands and also from the brain.
Although norepinephrine might seem redundant given adrenaline we have both hormones as a type of backup system.  High stress life styles can burn out adrenal glands.  We need something to save us from acute catastrophe

(So like Justin Timberlake but not quite as good, and is always available if JT is too busy)


Joey Fatone

What It Is: 
A steroid hormone, commonly known as the stress hormone, produced by the adrenal glands.

What It Does: 
It takes a little more time — minutes, rather than seconds — for you to feel the effects of cortisol in the face of stress.  The release of this hormone takes a multi-step process involving two additional minor hormones.

First, the part of the brain called the amygdala has to recognize a threat. It then sends a message to the part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). CRH then tells the pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which tells the adrenal glands to produce cortisol.

(Cortisol is Fatone because it is slow and over time can make you fat) 

Estrogen & Testosterone

Chris Kirkpatrick & JC Chasez

Estrogen and testosterone are also hormones that affect how we react to stress, as are the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin

(These guys are also in the band)

Your heart is pounding. Your muscles are tense, you’re breathing faster, you may start sweating.  You have “butterflys” in your stomach and feel like you want to puke.  You lose fine motor, even complex motor skill and feel clumsy.  You experience sensory occlusion, tunnel vision, loss of hearing

If these are our natural biological response to stress how are we still alive today?  How come sabre tooth tigers didn’t just gobble up our ancestors?

It is like that scene from the 300 where it looks like Leonidas is going to surrender to Xerxes.

Along with the increase in heart rate, adrenaline also gives you a surge of energy — which you might need to run away from a dangerous situation — and also focuses your attention.

Sensory Occlusion - Under stress you will be trying to take in as much information from the environment around you as possible to develop a plan.  Too much information coming in, and taking time to gather.  Too much information to process causes freezes.  Time under attack equals damage.  Having your senses focus only on what is necessary allows you to process information faster and move.

The primary role of norepinephrine is arousal. You become more aware, awake, focused.  It also helps to shift blood flow away from areas where it might not be so crucial, like the skin, and toward more essential areas at the time, like the muscles, so you can flee the stressful scene.

In survival mode, the optimal amounts of cortisol can be life saving. It helps to maintain fluid balance and blood pressure, while regulating some body functions that aren’t crucial in the moment, like reproductive drive, immunity, digestion and growth.

These are literally superpowers.  You just became stronger, faster, more focused and capable of taking more damage.

Not only did sabre tooth tigers not gobble up our ancestors.  Our ancestors wore sabre tooth pelts.  This chemical dump helped us become the apex predators on the planet.

Adrenaline Bitch

Generally we associate this with feeling bad because the negative circumstances we were under caused us to label this chemical process as bad.

However, this can feel really good!

What did it physically feel like the first time you fell in love?
Was your heart is pounding?  Were your muscles tense, were you breathing faster?  Did you start sweating?  Did you have “butterflys”?

Sound familiar?
1st kids, don’t do drugs!  2nd adults, I’m not your daddy you make your own decisions.

However, any drug you take to alter your mood has to be similar enough to the chemicals your body naturally produces or they wouldn’t work.  They would just poison you to death.

So drugs have to be chemically similar to the chemical cocktail to make you feel anything.

Generally people take drugs to make themselves feel good.

Not just drugs either.  You have heard of Adrenaline junkies.  Folks that enjoy the rush of high risk activities.  Cough Cough SWAT Officers.

The point being the chemical dump doesn’t not have to wreck you.  It can give you super powers and can feel great.  If you know how to use it.

How do you learn to use it?

A good start is to learn how you personally adrenalize, and what that feels like.

The following graphs are from  "The Armored Rose" by Tobi Beck

You can buy that book HERE

One of the biggest takeaways people have from Violence Dynamics is learning that men and women tend to adrenalize differently.

One is not better than the other.  However, along with recognizing the symptoms of adrenalization, knowing how you adrenalize is a vital factor in being able to use that chemical dump to your advantage.

Depending on the long-term impact of whatever is stressing you out — and how you personally handle stress — it could take anywhere from half an hour to a couple of days to return to your normal resting state.

Men tend to spike fast then come down fast.  Which means men get stronger, faster, more tolerant of pain quickly, but only for a few minutes.  It is harder to use cognitive skills during this time.  Once the effects of the chemical cocktail subside, things like planning and strategy become easier.

Football players may have experienced this "nervousness" until first impact, then you are good to go.

Or on the range you feel sloppy until you "warm up" a few rounds then you are much sharper.

Caveat – Not all men adrenalize this way, there are men that adrenalize the way women typically adrenalize.  Also not all women men adrenalize this way, there are women that adrenalize the way men typically adrenalize

Women tend to to have the chemicals rise more gradually and maintain out put for longer.
Which means women have better cognitive function longer under stress allowing them to plan what they are going to do when they get stronger, faster, and more tolerant of pain, a state which they tend to maintain longer.

Women feel the effects of adrenalization as much as 15 minutes after the incident.
Heart is pounding, muscles are tense, breathing faster, sweating,“butterflys” in the stomach, eyes tearing, all of which may take place after the incident is all over.

If you don't understand this is natural, these delayed reactions can feel uncomfortable and scary.  Like an uncontrolled emotional breakdown.
Nothing could be further from the truth, they are not negative emotions, they are a super power.

You do not rise to the occasion, you fall to your level of training… in an adrenalized body.

How can we drive this adrenalized meat powered skeleton?

How can you take conscious control of a subconscious process?

In for a count of four
Hold for a count of four
Out for a count of four
Hold for a count of four

This looks a lot like...

1st off don’t smoke kids, smoking is bad ok.

Nicotine is a stimulant, coffee and a smoke in the morning to get going right?  So why do people smoke when they are stressed or just experienced something scary?

Take a drag - Inhale for four, hold for four, exhale for four.  Does that seem familiar?  This process chills people out.  It also oxygenates the blood stream, helping delay the effects of decreased cognitive function, or help restore cognitive function. 

That is why there is an old Hollywood trope of the tough guy lighting a smoke showing no fear.  

Because your hands shake...

or your knees knock because you are a coward right?

Well that is actually your body's natural mechanism to burn off adrenaline, shaking isn't cowardice, it's prepping for battle.  But if you don't know that before it happens it gets labeled being afraid.

So the other side of it, is people who have experienced this before.  They have learned to mitigate the negative effects.  They also experience the effects less (why adrenaline junkies need bigger and bigger thrills).  These people don't show the obvious physical reactions of adrenalization.

So slowly lighting a cigarette under pressure looks really cool.

OK so controlling your breathing can help mitigate the effects of the chemical dump.  What are some other ways.

After breathing - self talk

Self talk:
What would coach say, then be your own coach.


Make yourself do something that affects the world
Keep repeating this step, until the stimulus that is causing the stress has been controlled.

This closely resembles the steps successfully used to break a freeze as well.

Adrenaline gets a bad rep.

It is important to know that these feeling as are natural / biological.  They have nothing to do with your courage or who you are as a person.

In order to minimize the negative effects of adrenaline and maximize its positive effects first we have to understand adrenaline.

When you learn to recognize the symptoms of adrenalization, and “ride the wave” this chemical dump can give you super powers.

Now you know....
And knowing is half the battle.

Train Hard, Train Smart, Be Safe.

Saturday, February 3, 2018


I have mentioned I got into martial arts because I wanted to be Snake Eyes from GI JOE.
Another major influence along that journey was a movie I saw on cable television when I was 10 some odd years old.  A little gem by the name of "Berry Gordy's - The Last Dragon"

In that film, the hero, Bruce Leroy, is on a quest to reach the ultimate level of martial arts "The Glow"

Of course a 10 year old boy is going to think New York is full of rival martial arts gangs, which are run by the Shogun of Harlem, Sho Nuff.  Not at all ridiculous.

Of course a 10 year old boy is going to think that the glow could be a real thing.  And maybe spend the next 33 years of his life chasing it.

So imagine my joy and my surprise when about a decade later I came across a story about the founder of Aikido Morihei Ueshiba

In 1925 an upstart kid went his own way, and opened his own martial arts school.  Bold enough in and of itself but even more outrageous, he was teaching his own art.  Or rather his own version of an established art.

Dojo Arashi (school storming) was a common practice at the time.  You can see this in plenty of Kung Fu and Samurai Movies.  Someone from a rival school comes and challenges the "Master".  Usually they have to face a few of the top students first.  In many traditional Japanese martial arts this is why the senior students line up nearest to the door to this day.

If the Dojo Stormer works his way through the top students, then they fight the head of the school.  If they win the school closes down.

A Naval Officer trained in the same background as Ueshiba, Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu, came to challenge this upstart teaching his own version of the art.

So they had a duel.  Ueshiba defeated the Naval Officer.  He didn't use Aikijujutsu, nor what would come to be called Aikido.  He did what was necessary as the circumstances of the conflict dictated.  He spontaneously created technique.

Ueshiba is known for flowery prose, so feel free to take this next part with a grain of salt.
Ueshiba said after the duel, stopping at a well to pour water over his head, he experienced a golden glow that sprang from the earth and was divine in nature.

Ueshiba claimed to have experienced the god damned glow.

Of course a 22 year old young man, with an active imagination is going to think that the glow could possibly, maybe, be a real thing.  And maybe spend the next 21 years of his life chasing it.

Who knows if Ueshiba actually glowed or if that was just a way to describe how it felt when he was able to spontaneously create technique as the circumstances of the conflict dictated.

Ueshiba labeled that feeling the highest level of martial art - Takemesu

"Take" is the same Japanese character as the Bu in Bushido, meaning martial.
"Musu" means to give birth to, or create.

The highest level, just like Bruce Leroy was chasing in "The Last Dragon"

Being able to glow might be ridiculous
Being able to spontaneously create technique as the circumstances of the conflict dictate is a worthy pursuit.

Which begs the question, if said young man (me) has spent 33 some odd years in that worthy pursuit, what has he found, how does one reach Takemusu?

I have found that the best return on investment (bang for the buck) to be able to spontaneously create technique is principle based training.

So, how does one engage in principle based training?  Well, shameless plugs, sign up for a Violence Dynamics Seminar.

Sign up HERE

While you are waiting, read this book

You can buy it HERE

I have never witnessed a golden glow.  However, I have experienced spontaneously creating technique as the circumstances of the conflict dictate.  There was a threat - something happened - the threat is pinned and I am cuffing him.

Damn!!! that was great!  What the fuck did I just do?

When it has happened to me, it was a very cool, almost scary feeling.  If I were alive in 1925 and fond of poetry I might describe it as feeling... golden.

Using principle based training to pursue the highest level of  martial art does create a type of paradox though.

My man crush Jesse Boyer and his lovely wife Andi were having a discussion which they shared with me on line.  That discussion spawned this question (which was the inspiration for this entire blog)

You may have written about something like this before, but the other night Andi and I were talking about the collision between the formal technique of a system (BJJ, Krav, TKD, Judo, etc) and the concept of learning through play. How play and improvisation helps one learn but how the adherence to the “rules” of a system is a requirement for advancement and progression. There can’t be play in a rank test - do this EXACTLY this way or you fail. So it’s important to learn via play and have fun, but balancing the play with the required techniques is also important. So, in the self-defense sense - no rules, maximum violence, maximum efficiency - play paves the way. But to establish a base in a system, you’re required to be precise and specific. 


If principle based training, learning through play, and individual specific instruction is the best way to reach the ultimate level of the martial arts.  How do you balance that with the strict testing / progression / rank requirements of martial arts?

Great question.

First, the strict requirements of martial arts, are primarily longevity oriented.  To make sure students stay part of the organization, and that the organization lasts for generations.  Not necessarily task oriented.  Nor necessarily in the best interest of the individual.

So the question becomes how to balance your task oriented (becoming the best version of you as quickly as possible) goals with the longevity oriented goals of an organization...

An organization you need to pursue your goals, to chase the glow.

How is this done?

The best Judo folks I know take from all of what Judo is, and develop what works best for them (task oriented)

This is known as tokui waza

The Japanese word tokui, pronounced "toe-KWEE", is translated to mean pride, or triumph. It is also often used to mean something that one excels at, or one's forte.

To pass rank tests (longevity oriented) they also have to show proficiency in all of Judo, including Judo kata.

Why???  So that they have the skill to help others develop their own tokui waza.

How so?

If I can't show you how to do a technique that I don't necessarily like, but may work perfect for you then I'm not much of an Instructor.

I can't help develop individuals if all I can teach is carbon copies of myself.

The system was there and I took from it what I needed.  I have an obligation to give back.  I have to make sure the system is there for someone else to take what they need from. What they need may be vastly different from what I needed.

The strict requirements of a specific system can also be used to help you reach individual goals.
Because they are strict, and because they are difficult, these benchmarks can serve as rites of passage, and to help develop discipline.

The strict requirements for progression within a formal system can be very frustrating.  Do them to help others, do them to develop discipline in yourself.

After that, I suggest you follow Mr. Downey's advice

Listen, smile, agree, conquer the obstacles put in front of you, then do whatever the fuck works best for you anyway.

How is this done?

I would argue that the most difficult / frustrating part of requirements for advancement and progression within a system is the route memorization of techniques.  The how, without the why.

Not only is this the most frustrating, but this type of memorization wires the information to parts of your brain that you will be unable access under stress.

Your foot has to be here, at this exact angle.  Why?  Because.

A solid understanding of the principles should provide the why, making memorizing the how, much easier, and wiring the information to the right parts of your brain.

Your foot has to be here, to block their leg, and at this angle so if they attempt to counter you can sweep.

What does this look like?  How do you get there?

The following example is very Jujitsu specific, because this is how it is done at The Keishoukan Dojo, but you can adapt the idea to fit your system.

When we train throws we start with a leverage and lever points game so that students gain an instinctive feel of how to manipulate a skeleton.

Then applied Tai Sabaki - body movement.

  • The best way to move them
  • If you can't move them what does that feel like, and what is the best way you can move around them.
  • Lastly, after those first two drills what is the most efficient way to put someone on the ground from the position you find yourself in. Felling resistance and not fighting it but using it to your advantage.
Only then do we go into technique.  However, because we have been working principles and naturally occurring throws, the technique of the day becomes fairly self evident.

Then we finish with some sort of force on force / pressure test.  Can you use the principles to make technique work against resistance?

Check out the Violence Dynamics Facebook page HERE next week to see video of the above mentioned drills

If principle based training can be used to create technique spontaneously under pressure...
Then every increasing mastery of the principles makes technique become self evident, and instinctive.

Instinctive - to do something with out consciously thinking about - to spontaneously create - the ultimate level.

"You knew without knowing"

The balance then is, to find the principles in the specific techniques you "have to do" so that the technique becomes self evident.  You don't have to memorize technique, the technique is just a name used to describe how these principles fit together in a particular way.  You know without knowing.

That makes the rites of passage easier and more worthwhile, further developing you as an individual, further developing your tokui waza.

Bringing you closer to "The Glow"

Otherwise, if the requirements of a system are too stifling for your continued growth, feel free, give yourself permission to say fuck it.

You may have to go your own way.

"You knew without knowing our time together is done"

If the organization becomes more detrimental than beneficial you may have to find the courage to leave and do your own thing.

You are not the first, and you won't be the last.

If you find yourself in this position (as I did) and you still have a need for an organization I suggest taking a serious look at the WWMAA

You can click HERE for more information.

The WWMMA is a legitimate international organization.  It can help provide structure and quality control while giving you the freedom to find your own path.


Train Hard, Train Smart, Be safe....When I say who's the baddest you say  SHO NUFF!!!