Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Articles published in Blitz Magazine

Blitz magazine is Australia's premier martial arts magazine.

I have just received a list of my articles that have been published for inclusion on my CV. Decided to do so given that it has transpired that it is not a one-off affair.

The details are:

Use the Force, 27:7, p 72, July 2013.
Fight or Flight: Have We Got It All Wrong?, 27:10, p 72, Oct 2013.
The Evolution of Power, 27:12, p 72, Dec 2013.
Fighting Fear Part 1, 28:1, p 70, Jan 2014.
Fighting Fear Part 2, 28:2 p 68, Feb 2014.
Wax On, Wax Off: How Essential is Blocking in Martial Arts?, 28:5, p72, May 2014.
Combative Breathing: Controlling Breathing to Beat Fear, 28:7, p 78, July 2014.
The Art of Learning, 28:9, p 46, Sept 2014.
Questioning Your Self-Defence?: (The Haddon Matrix), 28:10, p 72, Oct 2014.
What is Jujutsu? Part 1, 29:6, p 76, June 2015.
What is Jujutsu? Part 2, 29:7, p 78, July 2015.

I have been advised that another article will possibly be published in the next edition. That article has to do with Shihan Jan de Jong OAM 9th Dan and his legacy.

I have been hampered in the articles I can submit due to photographic and illustration constraints, however, those may have been resolved and thus further articles which are more technical in nature will be submitted (and published) along with my first book.

What enables courage?

General Sir Peter de le Billiere states that 'fighting in war creates an environment where fear is prevalent, and unless courage prevails, all is lost.' Courage is only possible because of the impulse to action component in our evolved survival mechanism.

One of the most important adaptive attributes of emotion is the decoupling of stimulus and response. We are no longer organisms that have reflexive-type responses to stimuli. Stimulus and response are decoupled enabling our body to be prepared for action but the action to be considered.

We want to flee when fearful, however, we don't necessarily flee. We want to fight when angered, but we don't always lash out. This non-action associated with an impulse to act is an adaptive feature of emotion that provides for increased behavioural adaptability to environmental stimuli.

De Le Billiere encourages anyone who goes to war to understand the enigma of courage and its critical importance in overcoming fear. My work does just that but from a unique perspective.

Reflections based on the work I'm currently doing on a chapter in my book on the survival process. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Moral Courage

Image result for moral courageMoved from working on the chapter about fear and courage to the impulse to action component within the survival process which enables courage, however, while researching fear and courage I came across the common military distinction between physical courage and moral courage.
Physical courage is acting in spite of fear. Fighting when Nature screams to flee. Moral courage ... now that is another beast entirely.

Moral courage is doing what is 'right' even though it may be unpopular. Writers on the subject suggest that men are prepared to walk into the face of cannons but are reluctant to stand up and be recognised when moral courage is required. In fact, they suggest that those with moral courage possess physical courage but those with physical courage do not necessarily possess moral courage.

From my work, what I am investigating is the role of emotion in the moral concept of courage. Physical courage involves the use of will-power to override the instinctive impulses of fear. Moral courage does not tend to involve the emotion of fear. It involves the cognitive/intellectual concept of fear but not the 'real' emotional experience of fear.

I was involved with a school where a particular situation tested the moral courage of the instructors and senior personnel. To a person they failed. There is no doubt they possessed physical courage as they'd demonstrated it on many occasions, however, they failed when moral courage was called for. Why? How?

Loyalty is the enemy of moral courage. Take the military for instance. Loyalty to the chain of command, to a commander, to one's own fellow troops can compromise an individual's moral courage.

The most common way to train physical courage is to engage in 'realistic' training. How do you train moral courage? ... and does it really matter?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

9/11 Hijackers - Courageous or Cowardly?

I've more finely focused the chapter I am working on to fear and courage. During my research I came across Susan Sontag's controversial article in 2001 in which she held the 9/11 hijackers to be courageous.

Peter Olsthoorn in Military Ethics and Virtues, who refers to SS's article, refers to the definition of courage as being to act in spite of fear as 'the scientific view of courage.' This scientific view of courage is 'morally neutral' as SS explains.

Were the 9/11 hijackers courageous? How could we know? We do not know what their inner state was when they crashed the planes.

The US government et al described (branded) the 9/11 hijackers as cowards. Were they cowards?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines coward as a person who is not brave and is too eager to avoid danger, difficulty or pain.

It is difficult to describe the 9/11 hijackers as cowards based on that definition.

This leads me to wonder how the 9/11 hijackers overcame their fear of death and injury. The fear of death and injury is the produce of our survival mechanism that was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual (the subject of my book). How did they resist their instinct for self-preservation?

The survival mechanism is based on an appraisal process. Did the hijackers' religious beliefs change the nature of death for them so that crashing the planes was not appraised as a threat?

'the FBI’s investigative reports on the combat teams’ activities during the months leading up to September 11 make it clear that the members were not fundamentalist Muslims. Rather, it’s pretty obvious at this point that they were secular activists – soldiers, really.'

The 9/11 hijackers may very well have been courageous, as soldiers are taught to be, by using will-power to act in spite of fear. They may have used anger to overcome or replace fear, with fight being anger's action tendency. Or, they may have overcame or replaced fear with spite, with spite being a variant of anger but with a different focus. With spite a person will die just to inflict pain and loss on another (see Petersen and Liaras' article on the strategic use of emotion in Journal of Military Ethics).

These musing are no mere academic exercise. How do we motivate soldiers to fight and overcome their instinct for self-preservation that comes with fear? How does our enemy do the same?

I've come across a very interesting book on military matters written by Ardant du Picq, a French officer in the nineteenth century who was preoccupied with the role of fear in combat and how to overcome it. In his classic Battle Studies, du Picq said that the human heart is the starting point in all matters pertaining to war. The human heart to which he refers is the survival mechanism that is responsible for fear, therefore, the starting point in all matters pertaining to war (or any violent activity) is the study of our survival mechanism - the subject matter of my second book.

These musing also demonstrate that the terms courage and cowardice often reflect something about the speaker rather than the subject they are speaking about. They are also used to motivate others and have very little descriptive value of the subject.

Next time you see or use the words courageous and cowardice, think a little more about what is actually being said.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Navy SEALS and Courage

Still working on the chapter on overcoming fear in my Survival Process book.

Saw a Navy SEALS website that described them as the most courageous warriors.

Given courage is defined as overcoming fear and not the absence of fear, doesn't that mean that in order for the Navy SEALS to be the most courageous warriors they also need to be the most scared?

In fact, Plato and Socrates maintained that the most courageous were the less trained and the better trained were less courageous.


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Different Types of Courage

Working on a chapter about overcoming fear. Overcoming fear is considered essential in order to act and survive on the battlefield.

Courage conquers fear - General Sir Peter de la Belliere.

Courage is an individual's exercise of mind over fear through self discipline - General Sir Peter de la Belliere.

Without fear there would be no requirement for courage - General Sir Peter de la Belliere.

Courage is will-power - Lord Moran, The Anatomy of Courage.

From this analysis courage requires fear. If an action is taken, then in order to determine if it was courageous one has to know if the actor was fearful. If the actor was not fearful, then the action is not courageous.

Or is it?

It is often said that the greatest fear of a solider is not the fear of death and injury but the fear of failure and letting down his comrades. The fear of cowardice and dishonour.

Are those 'true' fears? Has an appraisal of a human idea elicited a subjective feeling of fear that motivates a particular instinctive action tendency that an automatic physiological reaction prepares the body to enact? And if so, how do these fears that motivate actions fit within the flight and freeze paradigm of fear?

These are the issues I was dealing with when I came across and reflected on military concepts of physical and moral courage. Physical courage involves overcoming emotional fear, however, moral courage involves 'doing the right thing' with no mention of 'physical fear.'

I'm playing with the idea that physical courage involves overcoming emotional fear whereas moral courage involves overcoming some intellectual construct. The former is based in emotion whereas the latter is based in the intellect.

Thus, fear can be emotional or someone people might use the term 'fear' to refer to an intellectual based conflict which is not based in emotion.

Thus, when Cprl Ben Roberts-Smith charged the Taliban positions to free his comrades where were being pinned down, that might have been a situation of moral courage if he did not experience emotional fear at the time.

Maybe the intellectual based fears are part of the will-power construct. They motivate or support will-power and maybe have some overriding or distracting effect on physical/emotional fear.

Just some musing of the inconsistent use of the term fear by many.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Anatomy of Courage

 Image result for courage

 I received a request to for a post that continues to look at courage. I chose to use the 2007 edition of the classic, The Anatomy of Courage: The Classic WWI Study of the Psychological Effects of War by Lord Moran and in particular the introduction penned by General Sir Peter de la Billiere. De La Billiere explains that when he was commanding officer of the British SAS, he instructed every knew recruit purchase a copy of this eminently readable book so they might take Moran's experience into battle with them.

What does De La Billiere have to say about courage?

Courage conquers fear. Fighting in war creates an environment where fear is prevalent, and unless courage prevails, all is lost.

Courage and fear are in constant conflict, for without fear there would be no requirement for courage.

Intelligent people are more readily subject to fear, because in a battle they have a vivid appreciation of what is happening all around them, and of the threat that danger poses to them and their unit. An intelligent person has to make a positive effort to control himself, and may well break down because of his temperament and imagination. On the other hand, an unimaginative person, who fails to appreciate the significance of a threat, may achieve deeds that appear to be brave but are less so, simply because he lacks imagination. Courage is an individual's exercise of mind over fear through self-discipline.

The most important personal requirement for those who go to war is to understand the enigma of courage and its critical importance in overcoming fear.

Lord Moran summed it up: Courage is willpower.

There are a number of researchers who postulate a basic set of emotions. Only Magda Arnold in 1960 included courage as an emotion. Given the above is a fair representation of what people think courage is and no other researcher refers to courage as an emotion, we can safely assume that courage refers to willpower that is used to overcome the effects of fear. The use of intellect to overcome emotion.

The effects of fear? Emotion is not just a feeling. It is a process that involves an appraisal that elicits a subjective feeling that motivates an instinctive action tendency that an automatic physiological reaction prepares the body to enact. The effects of fear that courage overcomes is the action tendency of flight. What about the physiological effects of fear?

The physiological effects of fear are unfortunately considered under the ambiguous and abstract concept of stress. Bruce Siddle's work is based on the debilitating effects of the physiological response on survival and combat performance. It would appear that courage will not effect those debilitating effects on survival and combat performance as fear continues to be experienced when using willpower to be courageous.

There are more instinctive behavioural responses associated with fear than the simplistic fight-or-flight model. For instance, tonic immobility (often referred to as freeze) is an involuntary catatonic state. Does courage overcome fear induced tonic immobility?

When a person is described as fearless, a quality much admired in battle, how do you know they did not experience fear unless you ask them? If they are fearless then be definition they cannot be brave. Maybe they lack imagination as De La Belliere suggests. In like manner, how do you know a person experienced fear when performing a 'courageous act.' Medals are awarded for courageous acts, however, are they first quizzed over their emotional state at the time?

Cprl Ben Robers-Smith explains how training kicked in when his mates were pinned down and he charged a Taliban position for which he was awarded a VC. Training (including stress training) is designed to lessen or negate fear. If that training is successful then there can be no courage as courage requires fear as De La Belliere explains.

A lot of people refer to fight-or-flight but they don't understand the concept. They associate it only with fear, however, Walter Cannon, the originator of the concept associated flight with fear and fight with anger, and that fight was only enacted when fear is obstructed. Nature's way to overcome fear to support fight behaviour is to change the emotion from fear to anger. If a person performs a 'courageous act' while angry, as Nature designed, is that courage?

Countering Fear in War: The Strategic Use of Emotion refers to a strategy of turning fear into anger. This strategy is commonly taught to women in women's self-defence courses. The berserk warrior tradition takes it further to rage. This strategy is taken straight from Nature's playbook. In all of these instances, 

A recent study concluded, based on the responses of 51 winners of some bravery award, that those acts were by-and-large the result of instinctive responses to risk one's life to save another. They were awarded bravery awards but there is no mention of fear. There is no mention of willpower to overcome fear as they were split second decisions taken without conscious thought. Intuitive as the study refers to them as. Are these medal recipients courageous?

It appears to me that the term courage is often used by third parties to describe the actions of another when taking action in the face of danger. That is why I refer to 'courageous acts' as they are acts that others find courageous. How many bravery/gallantry/courageous medal recipients of those lauded as 'heroes' in the press refer to themselves as brave, gallant, courageous, or a hero?

Isn't it funny though, most people will not describe themselves as courageous, however, we have no such hesitation in describing and deriding ourselves for being cowards.

It is important we understand what we mean by courageous because we praise, respect, and denigrate those who do and do not exhibit courage when in a dangerous situation. The military rely on the concept of courage and attempt to instill it within their personnel, so it behoves one to have an understanding of what this man-made, artificial construct is. It's man-made and artificial because there is no courage nor cowardice in nature.