Saturday, February 28, 2015


The following is the introduction to my chapter on injury, which also references pain, in my book on the science behind fighting/self-defence techniques:

A distinction is made between offensive and defensive aggression. Offensive aggression is when a person seeks to inflict injury or pain upon a person who is or has not been attempting to inflict injury or pain upon them. Defensive aggression is when a person seeks to inflict injury or pain upon a person who is or has been attempting to inflict injury or pain upon them. Offensive and defensive aggression are at the heart of all activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter (‘Survival Activities’). Injury and pain are at the heart of offensive and defensive aggression, therefore, injury and pain are at the heart of all Survival Activities methods. What are the two subjects that are never explicitly studied in any Survival Activities text? Injury and pain.

My book is unique in explicitly studying pain and injury, both of which are at the heart of martial arts methods.

SBS Insight had a fascinating episode on pain with the forum being comprised of the members of the general public, professional sports people, and experts on pain from various disciplines.

The opening of the topic involves a professional Australian cricketer and a female boxer who won gold at the Olympics. They show vision of her in the ring being repeatedly hit in the face, head, and body, but she informs the audience that she has only ever felt pain twice in the ring in her career. It's not because she has a high pain threshold because she explains how it hurts like hell when she stubs her toe at home.

I was pleased to see that my description of pain was in accord with the pain experts, however, I go further in that it is focused on interpersonal violence.

It is fascinating viewing and I highly recommend it.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sexual Harassment and Martial Arts Instruction and Training

The martial arts is a physical activity and some martial arts, e.g. the grappling arts, involve frequent intimate physical contact. This intimate physical contact could involve sexual harassment or be construed by the female student as constituting sexual harassment.

Do you have a sexual harassment policy that all instructors and students are familiar with? If not, why not? Do you even know what sexual harassment is? Not think you know but actually know from study and with authority to support your knowledge.

All instructors in the largely amateur activity of the martial arts should be able to answer these questions in the affirmative in order to protect the welfare of both students and instructors. The protection of the welfare of students and instructors takes priority in my view over the legal risks associated with the issue.

The Australian Human Rights Commission defines sexual harassment as: Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature which makes a person feel offended, humiliated and/or intimidated where that reaction is reasonable in the circumstances.

When a male instructor or student executes a bear-hug attack from behind or in front of a female student, which involves intimate physical contact of both bodies, and which makes said student feel uncomfortable, is that sexual harassment? Could it be construed by said student as being sexual harassment? Demonstrating a scooping throw (sukui nage) where the defender puts their arm between an opponent's legs when that action makes her feel uncomfortable, is that sexual harassment?

I don't know, but thinking about sexual harassment and how it is dependent upon how the conduct and contact makes the other person feel alerts us to a greater awareness of how we conduct classes.

I became acutely aware of this issue when I was conducting many private lessons with female students. I developed my own way of dealing with the issue because the school I taught for did not have a sexual harassment policy nor instructed instructors on how to deal with this issue.

With all female students, whether in a class or in a private lesson, I'd inform them that they should feel free to inform me if any particular attack or technique made them feel uncomfortable. I'd also inform them of the physical contact ,if the attack or technique involved intimate physical contact, prior to the contact.

I have discuss the above with some male martial artists who dismiss the idea. They suggest that the female student should expect and accept intimate physical contact when training. That is dismissive of the concerns of the student and there are better ways of dealing with the issue.

What remedial action do you take if sexual harassment happens? Without having thought about the issue of sexual harassment prior to teaching, which would include the drafting of a sexual harassment policy, there is no way of knowing what to do in these circumstances.

I was giving private lessons to three female students because they felt 'uncomfortable' with one of the male instructors and the 'attention' he paid them. They decided upon private lessons rather than attending his class. Naively, and ashamedly, I did not take their concerns as seriously as I should have, however, ultimately I did inform the management of the school. The manager's response was to chastise me for saying such things and the claims were never investigated nor the welfare of the women asked after (and please don't confuse manager with principal).

There were failings in this regard in the school I taught at, however, they are common failings because the martial arts industry is essentially amateur in nature and lacks poor governance. The way to rectify this particular failing is to understand the issues associated with sexual harassment and develop a sexual harassment policy that deals with ways to prevent it from happening and how to take remedial action if it does happen, and to ensure that all instructors and students are aware of the policy.

The reference to writing a policy may sound overly officious or ureaucratic to some, however, the discipline of drafting a policy forces one to study and understand the issues involved with sexual harassment. If for no other reason it is a worthy exercise.

A very good start is with the concise information brochure on the subject published by the Australian Human Rights Commission: Effectively Preventing and Responding to Sexual Harassment: A Quick Guide.

A rare example of the martial arts attempting to address this issue is the Australian Ju Jitsu Association's sexual harassment policy. This and other OH&S policies were written by the late Brierley Bailey who was the National Secretary of the AJJA for many years. He was attuned to the need for good governance in order to protect the welfare of students and instructors.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Self Discipline II

Stu provided some comments on the last post. Stu was dead right when he wrote that the Cambridge Dictionary definition of self-discipline was simplistic. It is. And that is precisely the reason I referred to it, because it would be controversial and promote thinking and discussion. And it has.

I've corresponded about the issue of self-discipline with three intelligent, thoughtful, and experienced martial artists and each has responded with different ideas on the subject. Wonderful. One is for it, another rejecting it, and the other in between. Let's keep this discussion going.

Stu has raised the issue of balance. That martial arts teaches you balance.

I do not disagree, but I also do not agree. It is a complex mix of instructor and student.

I was an exceptional practitioner of jujutsu. I have an above average understanding of the technical elements of jujutsu. Did I ever have 'balance' - God no! In fact, my philosophy was that in order to excel at anything you had to have absolutely no balance. Extreme = unique excellence. There is no Olympic athlete that is 'balanced.'

Mas Oyama wandering off to a forest for a few years to commune with goblins in order to found Kyukoshin kai karate is not the poster child for balance. Musashi living in a cave for years is not a poster child for balance. They are, however, poster children for unique excellence.

This leads to philosophical questions, which unfortunately instructors cannot, or at least should not, shy away from. Can you attain greatness by being balanced? Can you advance anything by being balanced? And ultimately, as I now understand, what is the price you pay for greatness by not being balanced? Is it worth it?

I may not have all the answers dear readers, but I do have the questions.

Balance or unique excellence?

Monday, November 3, 2014


Many martial arts promote the benefits of martial arts training as including the acquisition of self-discipline. This got me thinking, what does self-discipline mean?

I'm researching an article on self-discipline that I hope to have published in Blitz. I won't go through the entire discussion because posts on the Internet are suppose to be short to cater for the average reader's attention span of a brick.

Cambridge Dictionary defines self-disciple as forcing yourself to do something even though you don't want to.

If that is the case, I've never exhibit self-discipline in my martial arts training, nor has my martial arts training taught me self-discipline.

I started out training by attending two classes a day, six days a week, and supplemented that with additional training. The attending classes changed from student to teacher but that regime continued for 20+ years. Many would remark on my self-discipline based on that training and teaching regime. They were wrong based on the above definition of self-discipline.

I never had to force myself to train or teach. Nobody had to force me to train or teach. I enjoyed it and wanted to do it, therefore, by definition that is not self-discipline.

Following this analysis, it is paradoxical that those martial artists who suggest that martial arts training teaches self-discipline must first find students who do not want to train in order to receive the benefits of learning self-discipline.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Angering Your Opponent is a Good Strategy - Sometimes

'Angering your opponent is a good strategy - sometimes' is the title of an article published by Discover: Science for the Curious.

Humans understand how anger in another can influence their performance, for better or worse, and use the emotion strategically against competitors, new research confirms.

Researchers predicted that anger would enhance performance in the strength tests, and that participants would choose not to upset their opponents so as not to give them an advantage. In the mental task-based tests, however, researchers predicted that participants would try to anger competitors, and that the emotion would impair their mental acumen.

Any activity associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter (e.g. martial arts, self defence, law enforcement methods, close combat, etc) needs to understand emotion and their effects.

The strategic use of emotion is a part of your plan to defeat an opponent.

Anger produces a cascade of hormones that are evolutionarily designed to promote survival. The hormones are evolutionarily designed to increase strength, speed, endurance, decrease sensitivity to pain, and to reduce the inhibition to aggress. It also results in 'tunnel vision' and reduces the search range of solutions to a problem.

So it depends on how you plan to defeat your opponent whether or not you attempt to elicit the emotion of anger in them.

Emotions are always a double-sided coin. What emotion do you want to elicit in yourself in order to defeat your opponent or at least not to be defeated by them. Anger is one such emotion that can assist or detract from your efforts.

When you study techniques and tactics, also study emotion. It is a huge part of a combative encounter.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Who is the Vector?

The author of a recent article in Blitz suggested that we should question our martial art. What are the right questions to ask?

I've drafted an article that assists in identifying the right questions to ask. Martial arts and self defence are designed to prevent or minimise injury from a violent encounter. Injury science studies injury with a view to preventing or controling injury. A tool that is used to analyse injury and brainstorm preventions that are designed to prevent and control injury is the Haddon Matrix. Rather than go through the matrix, I'll focus on one aspect of it here.

Injury science sees injury resulting from three interrelated factors: host, vector/vehicle, environment. The host is the person injured or at risk of injry, the vector is the animate organism and the vehicle the inanimate object that inflicts the injury, and the environment is the physical and social environment in which the injury event occurs. All three combine to produce an injury and all three provide intervention opportunities to prevent and control injury.

Learning martial arts or self defence is something the host (you) can do to prevent and control injuries resulting from an act of interpersonal violence. But the martial art or self defence you learn are highly dependent on the defintion of the vector.

Taking a quote from the end of Platton: 'I think now, looking back, we did not fight the enemy; we fought ourselves.'

Karate teaches defences against karate attacks. Boxing teaches defences against boxing attacks. Wing chun teaches defences against wing chun attacks. Even the mixed martials, which was originally designed to pit different martial arts against each other, evolved into a martial art of itself which is designed to defend against similiarly trained opponents.

The martial arts are generally designed to fight themselves.

Women's self defence (WSD). Most WSD courses are based on, explicitly or implicitly, a stranger attack, however, statistics show that the overwhelming majority of attacks on women, sexual or otherwise, are perpetrated by someone they know. Surely the strategies, tactics and techniques would differ depending on whether the attacker was a stranger or a familiar.

The author of the abovementioned Blitz article quite rightly suggested this is a major area of concern when developing or evaluation the self defence potentional of a martial art or self defence program.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Kiai is a Japanese word that means ki, energy, ai, to join or fit. Aside from the often philisophical and down right ridiculous ascertions made of many things in the martial arts, does kiai have any practical benefits.

The TV show Sports Science investigated the practical benefits of a shout/yell when breaking bricks (aka kiai). They found that a shout/yell increased the force applied to the bricks by 25 percent. They then go on to explain how. It has to do with an adrenalin increase associated with the kiai. But how does that work?

I've written before about Facial Feedback Hypothesis (FFH). FFH postulates that an emotion can be elicted by physically simulating the actions associated with that emotion. Emotions for the emotion discipline is not just subjective feelings. They are a feeling, physiological and action tendency responses to a stimulus. The physiological respone prepares the body for the action tendency associated with the emotion.

Shouting/yelling is associated with anger. The physiological response prepares the body to fight which includes an adrenalin release along with blood being shunted to the arms and hands in readiness to fight.

The same works for beating the chest with fists, making fists, putting on a 'war face.'