Monday, April 7, 2014


What is kaizen?

Kaizen is a Japanese term made up two characters that mean 'to change' and 'for the better.' Kaizen has been embraced by Western business as 'continuous improvement,' but kaizen is much more than just a mere business concept. It is a way of thinking. It involves exploring, knowledge, learning, growth, reflection, change, and improvement.

I am currently the finance director on a not-for-profit organisation and engaged in a 'discussion' with fellow board members and management over governance issues. I have applied kaizen to develop strategy and tactics that promote continuous improvement in real terms. This direction is being resisted as the imperative of fellow board members, as it is with many boards, is to maintain the status quo all the while paying lip service to the principal of continuous improvement.

I shared my frustrations with a local shopkeeper who I frequent regularly. He brought up the issue of kaizen without my prompting. I was very surprised. He explained how he knew of the concept because his son is being taught traditional jujutsu and the instructor refers to the concept.

The managing director particularly, but all of the directors generally, pay lip service to the concept of kaizen. They do not explore, gain knowledge, learn, and MOST importantly, reflect. Reflection should never be underestimated. In addition, the managing director mistakes expending energy for movement in a direction.

In a martial arts sense, simply training will only get you so far. In order to continuously improve you need to explore, gain knowledge, learn, and reflect. Reflection is critical to the growth process. Many in the martial arts are action oriented. That is not a commitment to continuous improvement.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

'Nobody Deserves To Be Raped'

'Brazilian women rally: "I don't deserve to be raped"' is the title of an article published in the age today.

Among the very many valid points the article makes about rape and rape culture is the following:
These are just some of the facts, not feelings, that make up the reality of sexual violence. Most sexual assaults are inflicted by people known to the victim (with roughly 40% of all reported sexual assaults taking place in the survivor’s home). Just over 18% of American women are the survivors of sexual assault, and only a quarter of these are inflicted by strangers. Almost half of survivors were assaulted by a friend or acquaintance, with almost a fifth assaulted by an intimate partner. Almost one tenth of survivors were raped by a relative. Only a quarter of all reported rapes were perpetrated by a stranger.
What does this mean? It means that I have more to fear from seeking the protection of a male friend to walk home at night (as a victim blaming culture urges me to do) than I do from the stranger I’m taught to believe is lurking around the corner.
Yet the rhetoric persists around ‘evil monsters’ who hide in the dark waiting for unsuspecting, na├»ve and improperly dressed women to walk by and become cautionary tales.
As I've discussed in previous posts, the fact that the vast majority of rapes are perpetrated by familiars rather than strangers should have a profound impact on women self defence courses and other methods that train women to protect themselves from sexual violence.

The tactics and techniques devised and taught by these activities should be different when the attacker is defined as a familiar than when defined as a stranger as is the basic assumption of most tactics and techniques taught by current women's self defence courses and other activities designed to prepare a female to survive a violent encounter.

It behoves anyone designing or teaching these types of courses to have an understanding of the realities of the threats faced by their trainees. Not beliefs or opinions but facts and knowledge gained from studying the subject from reputable sources.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Understanding Evolved Responses to Sexual Assault

An episode of Law & Order: UK aired in Australia just before Christmas involved the rape of a young women who did not say no, scream nor fight back. The defence argues that this passive response to the alleged rape implies consent. The young woman starts to doubt and judge herself and enter into a spiral of self blame. The prosecutor explains to her that she is not to blame and that 'freezing' is a normal and common reaction to a sexual assault.

I contacted the writer of the episode and commended her on bringing this issue to the attention of the general public. As it turns out, the episode was informed by the writers personal experience of being raped and experiencing the 'freezing.'

The freeze response is technically known as tonic immobility (TI). It's an instinctive response where the person cannot speak or move. It was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual. It is a common response with victims of sexual assault of both sexes and all ages.

Nature does not judge. Nature is only interested in our survival. People judge. Law enforcement officials investigating the assault, medical personnel, everyone involved in the judicial system, friends and family, and worst of all, the sexual assault survivor can all judge the individual who did not/could not say no, scream or fight back when being sexually assaulted. These judgements can lead to increased risk of anxiety, depression, self harm and suicide.

An understanding of these evolved, involuntary responses enables third parties to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem for survivors of sexual assault. It also promotes the interests of justice in these cases.

What if the person did not say no, scream, or fight back but did not suffer TI? Would an explanation of TI alleviate the feelings of guilt and self recrimination for that individual? I'd suggest not. However, fight, flight and freeze/TI are not the only defensive behaviours that were selected for in nature because they conferred a survival advantage in an individual. Another behaviour that has been commonly observed is submission. Submission signals to the predator that the prey no longer poses a threat to the aggressor.

Instructors teaching self defence by whatever name NEED to understand these evolved, instinctive, and involuntary responses in order to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem for survivors of sexual assault.

If anyone would like further information on this issue, please contact me via email. An article on this issue is currently being worked on with a leading women's magazine. Further details will be forthcoming when they become available.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Do You Teach This?

Do you teach this in your martial arts or self defence class?

How do you teach this attitude?

I'm no expert, but the first thing I'd suggest is the Buddhist non-judgemental approach. Don't judge. Judgements are so destructive and debilitating.

Secondly, adopt Plato's quotation: Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.
The man in the story is more of a 'man' than any physical fighter.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

1% of rapes are committed by strangers

I tried to insert an image but for what ever reason I could not. The image was of advertisements for women's self defence (WSD) courses that advertised:

Scenario Based Training Approach: The Situation Determines The Solution.

There was a picture accompanying the advertisement of an attacker with a knife attacking a woman in a car. Another one was titled:

Reality Based Training: Sexual Assault; Rape; Street Robbery; Armed, Multiple Assailants; We Have The Solutions.

'Scenario based training.' 'The situation determines the solution.' 'Reality based training.' 'We have the solutions.'

The NSW Rape Crisis Centre executive officer, Karen Willis, is quoted as saying that 1% of rapes are committed by strangers.

So the scenario, the reality, the solution for WSD courses should be predicated on an attack from a familiar - partner, date, friend, colleague, family member, etc - rather than a stranger. Are WSD courses predicated on this fact? No.

Sun Tzu in The Art of War said that if you know yourself and know your enemy then you will not be imperilled in 100 battles. The odds decrease as your knowledge of yourself and your enemy decrease. Who is the enemy in the case of WSD courses?

WSD courses; WSD strategies should include assaults by familiars and well as strangers. The responses to deal with the situation should be different. The relationships, the fall-out, the relative power is different, so, the solutions should be different.

I'm developing a WSD course that is based on fact not myth. It is a tried and tested marketing strategy to scare the bejesus out of potential WSD participants by quoting the horrifying statistics of sexual assault against women. Unfortunately, that is with no study of those statistics. The approach I'm developing is based on fact not fiction. It's an evidenced based approach. It's not good marketing because I explain how nature has provided each and every one of us with an effective defence mechanism. The evidence to that fact is that the human race exists today. The first lesson is designed to inform the participant that they are already capable of surviving an attack. Not necessarily defending it off but surviving it. After all, nature does not judge and is only interested in our survival. People judge, and consequently people suffer. My WSD course will then try and improve on nature.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


I'm back.

My computer was 'hijacked' by hijackware and the remedy including industrial strength security prevented me from entering blogger to post posts. All has been remedied and I'm back.

In the mean time, I've had four articles posted in Blitz, Australia's premier martial arts magazine. Two articles are biomechanically based and two are based on fight-or-flight and fear. The latest is a two part article on the ways that have been developed to overcome fear by activities associated with violence. It involves the strategic use of emotion.

I'm working on an article that provides an evolutionary explanation of passive responses to rape. It was always in the back of my mind to write this article but a recent episode of Law & Order: UK prompted me to (a) write the article, and (b) to contact the writer of the episode. It turns out, the writer wrote the episode based on being group raped age 14.

More to come.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Zhuge and Fight-or-Flight

Zhuge Liang (181-234) is a famous Chinese military strategist. His reputation as an intelligent and learned scholar earned him the nickname 'Wolong' (litearlly: Crouching Dragon). Zhuge is an uncommon name and has become synonymous with intelligence and strategy in Chinese culture. He wrote:
Those who are skilled in combat do not become angered, those who are skilled at winning do not become afraid. Thus the wise win before they fight, while the ignorant fight to win.
Most martial arts would subscribed to this view, however, there is more to this than initially meets the eye.

Anger and fear and their accompanying physiological response were selected for in nature because they conferred a survival advantage on an individual. It's better known as the fight-or-flight response (which is the subject of my article in Blitz this month). Back in the first century, Zhuge is suggesting that these emotions have become maladaptive and now confer a survival disadvantage on an individual.

Before Zhuge was Sun Tzu. He advises that 'in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger.'

The berserker warrior tradition is a 3,000 year old, cross-cultural phenomenon whereby warriors deliberately enflame their emotions to rage to fight.

Many women's self defence courses teach to turn fear into anger.

Major Greg Mawkes OAM wrote that the SAS are taught to have controlled aggression. Aggression, according to Plutchik, is a combination of anger and anticipation. Anger is a negative emotion and anticipation is a positive emotion.

In Osama Bin Laden: Shoot to Kill, an ex-Navy SEAL explains that the SEALs would have experienced an adrenalin surge, but never fear. The adrenalin surge suggests and emotion is being experienced. Which one? Possibly aggression.

Aggression and violence are often divided into emotional and instrumental. Instrumental violence involves no emotional arousal. It is a well establish phenomenon in the natural world.

No emotion means no physiological response which prepares the body to fight or flee (among other behaviours). The SNS activation and hormonal cascade increases speed, strength, endurance, blood clotting abilities, and pain tolerance. Zhuge's approach, instrumental violence, does not obtain the survival advantages of these physiological responses that accompany emotional arousal.

The above are examples of fighting traditions that are not entirely prepared to forgo the survival benefits that nature bestowed upon us.

Nature's survival mechanism involves emotion, physiological reaction and instinctive behavioural responses. Fighting traditions teach tactics and techniques that are learned behaviours, but they have to be supported by an appropriate emotion and physiological reaction. What emotion do you train for, and why?