Saturday, December 10, 2016

Courage or Fearless

Image result for courage war 
Which would you rather be when engaged in a violent encounter? Courageous or fearless?

Many confuse the two. Many use the terms interchangeably. Some even use the terms together to describe a medal of whatever winner as courageous and fearless. Often the use of the terms are to express our admiration for the actor with no regard to the inner state of the actor.

Courage is generally defined in terms of acting in spite of fear. Acting in spite of fear cannot by definition be described as fearless.

What do you train for in a violent encounter: courage or fearlessness? In order to answer that question we need to take one step back.

When writing about fear and war, Ardant du Picq in On War wrote: 'Nothing is changed in the heart of man.' The heart of man (and woman) to which du Picq refers is fear. Fear was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual. Now we need to take another step back.

Colonel John M. House wrote in Why War? Why an Army? that soldiers must overcome their fear of death and injury in order to act and survive on the battlefield. Fear was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual. Why then do soldiers need to overcome their fear of death and injury in order to survive on the battlefield? The answer to that question lies within House's ordering of military priorities: act first, survive second.

This priority is seen in the pledge associated with the U.S. Army’s Medal of Honor – ‘I will always place the mission first’ – which is also a part of the U.S. Army’s Soldiers Creed or Warrior Ethos. Nature’s priority is survival first, which is facilitated by fear, the instinct for self-preservation. The instinct for self-preservation and its priority for survival is often at odds with the military priority of mission first. For instance, French explains that ‘The core motivational challenge for warriors to overcome is that they must counter the (perfectly natural) fear of death (or desire to remain alive, to give it a more positive frame) when necessary in order to successfully complete their martial mission.'

General Sir Peter de la Billiere, in the preface to Lord Moran's classic The Anatomy of Courage, explains that 'Courage conquers fear' and that without courage in battle all is lost. The underlying assumptions here is that (a) fear is present, and (b) fear interferes with the priority of mission first. Courage, acting in spite of fear, is needed in order to resist the instinct for self-preservation in order to promote the military priority of mission first.

What about fearlessness? The lack of fear, which means there is no need for courage. The samurai trained for mushin no shin, mind of no mind, which means no emotion. No fear, nor anger. By the by, anger is an empowering emotion which has been used since time immemorial to motivate people to overcome fear in order to fight. Why don't our modern-day military and law enforcement train for mushin no shin? De la Billiere, House, and many others have said that a person who does not fear death and injury in battle are stupid. Were the samurai stupid?

De la Billiere said that anyone going into battle must understand courage. I disagree. They must understand fear. In fact, they must understand emotion full stop. In the AFL they say that 90% of the game is played above the shoulders. What they are referring to is that emotion determines the outcome of the game. Miller in The Mystery of Courage refers to military training as an exercise in fear management. Keegan in The Face of Battle suggested that the study of battle is always a study of fear and usually of courage. Study fear; study emotion; if you are training to engage in a violent encounter.

My current work on my current work is such a study.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Real Fear vs Intellectual Fear

I'm currently working on a chapter in my book which applies the theory I've developed by integrating the theories of fight-or-flight, stress, and emotion to understand such things as fear and courage.

Many refer to the fear of failure, dishonour, shame, letting your mates down as being a bigger fear than the fear of death and injury and which motivates a person to fight rather than flee in military combat. Based on my research, I wondered if the first mentioned fear is a 'real' fear, one that involves an appraisal, subjective feeling, automatic physiological reaction, and impulse to act? Searching for an answer to that question led me to the work of Jon Elster.

Elster distinguishes between visceral (emotional) and prudential (rational) fear. Visceral fear is an emotional experience whereas rational fear is an intellectual exercise.

How does the rational fear of failure, dishonour, shame, letting your mates down overcome the fear of death and injury and turn flight into fight? The answer to that lies within the decoupling of stimulus and response in emotion. The decoupling of stimulus and response means that emotion is more than simply stimulus-response, e.g. danger-run away. It provides an opportunity for other actions to be considered and/or enacted other than the emotionally motivated action, e.g. fight instead of fear although fearful.

So how does the rational fear of failure, etc, promote fight rather than flight when fearful? That rational fear motivates willpower or the exercise of intellect to fight rather than flee even though fearful. That rational fear is part of the 'courage process.'

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Courage and the Samurai

Were the samurai courageous?

Courage is most often defined as acting in spite of fear. Therefore, in order for an 'actor' to be courageous they must first be fearful.

I've written previously how the term 'courage' and fearless' are most often used by a third party to express their awe of another person's actions with no regard as to their inner state, that is to say if they acted even though scared. However, by definition those who are not scared are not courageous.

Courage, as Lord Moran wrote in his classic The Anatomy of Courage, is will-power. This means the intellect being used to check emotion, in this case fear. Do the samurai use will-power/intellect to check fear and therefore act on the battlefield?

The samurai train for mushin no shin, mind of no mind. It is a state in which the samurai do not experience emotion or thought and act anyway. Therefore, by definition, the samurai at least aspired to be non-courageous.

This brings into question fearlessness, which I have also written about. General Sir Peter de la Billiere in Moran's book, Colonel John M. House in his Why War? Why an Army?, and Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith, winner of the VC, all state words to the effect that anyone who says they were not scared in combat is either a fool or lying.

Are the samurai fools or are they lying if mushin no shin training is successful? Is mushin no shin/fearlessness something the modern military should be aspiring to and therefore should be studied in order to teach to their trainees?

Monday, May 30, 2016

Can Women Defend Themselves?

My second book develops a theory on our evolved survival mechanism and the survival process based on the integration of fight-or-flight, stress, and emotion theory (among others). The chapter I'm currently working on is using the theory I have developed in order to better understand women's self-defence teachings and improve thereon. The issue I'd briefly like to look at in this post is the question, can women defend themselves?

To cut a long story short I'll refer to Professor Jocelyn Hollander's article, ‘Challenging Despair: Teaching About Women’s Resistance to Violence’.
For example, women successfully resist at least 75% of all attempted sexual assaults (Bart&O’Brien, 1985; Gordon & Riger, 1989; Ullman 1997); in other words, they escape, they stop the violence, and they protect themselves as much as possible. Rozee and Koss (2001) note that attempted rapes are in fact instances of successful rape avoidance; sadly, these stories are rarely reported in the media (Riger & Gordon, 1981), which focus on sensational cases of extreme violence. ... On the individual level, in other words, there is considerable evidence that many women resist violence, and they do so successfully.

 Of course women can defend themselves against men's violence. Nature didn't leave them unprotected in a potentially dangerous world. Nature developed a highly sophisticated and comprehensive survival mechanism over millions of years which has proved extremely effective over that time period, as the studies and statistics above attest.

What is of more interest is, women can and do defend themselves against men's violence without the aid of any women's self-defence training nor the aid of a man (as the cultural cliche of a damsel in distress being rescued by a man suggests). This fact, as Hollander explains, is mostly ignored by all those interested in violence against women and the prevention thereof.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Book #1 Progress

My first book, the book that inspired this block, is nearing completion. It is about the science behind the techniques taught by activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter and the teaching thereof.

1. I need a 'snappy title' to process ':The science behind the techniques taught by activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter and the teaching thereof.

2. I need to shorten the explanation after ':'.

3. I need a phrase that includes martial arts, self-defence, combat sports, law enforcement methods, and military close combat. I initially was using 'Survival Activities', however, the primary teachings of those activities is sometimes not survival.

Would appreciate your help on these matters.

I have a professional photographer on board, complete with lights, cameras, consent forms, and copyright issues.

I have two 'models' complete with contrasting gi.

I have a dedicated location.

Within the body of the book, there is only one small part missing. An anatomical description of wrist twists and wrist locks. I have, for the first time in this literature, an anatomical description of all shoulder locks, elbow locks, forearm locks, and side wrist locks.

As I explain in the book, the medical literature is of no assistance as >85% of all injuries to the upper limb occur as a result of a fall on an outstretched hand (FOOSH injuries) and the forces experienced then are very different to those experienced when a joint-lock (kansetsu waza) is applied.

The Australian Institute of Sport has a Combat Centre that focuses on combat sports. I am trying to get in contact with anyone associated with the AIS CC to discuss this matter. If anyone can help, most appreciated.

Monday, May 16, 2016


Interesting article on jujutsu and the suffragettes of yesteryear:

My book on the science behind all fighting techniques and the teaching thereof is about complete. There's only an anatomical explanation of wrist twists and wrist crushes to be obtained.

The photo shoot and illustrations are in the process of being organised.

The above photograph shows a shoulder lock that can be understood and studied by reference to the applied forces and their effect on the humerus. It will also be explained that additional forces need to be applied to keep the officer from bending further forward as the body naturally moves to release the tension in the shoulder joint.

By the way, any reader who has a 'snappy' title suggestion, I'd appreciate it. The above description can follow after the ':', however, need a snappy title apparently. Unfortunately 'Fighting Science' is already taken.