Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Women's Self Defence Courses - Effective or Not? Pt 2

This is part two of an as unyet defined number of posts based on a study on the effectiveness of women's self defence (WSD) training that I came across while researching Beyond Fight-or-Flight : L.R. Brecklin and S.E. Ullman, 2005, 'Self-Defense or Assertiveness Training and Women's Responses to Sexual Attacks', Journal of Interpersonal Violence 20(6): 738-762. The study investigated the relationship of self-defense or assertiveness training and women’s physical and psychological responses to subsequent rape attacks. This post will look at the results of the study.

The present study will examine the effects of self-defense or assertiveness training on sexual assault victims using data from 3,187 female college students through the National Survey of Intergender Relationships conducted by Mary Koss. Several published studies have been conducted using this national data set (...); however, no study has examined the relationship between self-defense or assertiveness training and women's responses to sexual attacks. Because there is limited research available on this important topic, this study will be the first using a national sample to examine whether self-defense or assertiveness training is associated with a decrease in women's sexual victimization. Until primary prevention of rape occurs, women should have access to tools for responding to this threat.
There are many 'opinions' concerning the effectiveness of WSD courses - mostly uninformed opinions. I've discovered there is a large body of research associated with WSD and sexual assault; but that research lies buried in academic journals and those who could most benefit from that knowledge do not have access to it. This in part reflects the prevailing tendency of self defence instructors and developers (no matter the discipline, and not restricted to WSD) to rely on commonly conceived or their own 'understanding' rather than adequately informing their knowledge base.
A national sample of 3,187 female college students from 32 institutions of higher education across the United States was administered an anonymous self-report questionnaire. ... For the sample, there was a 98.5% response rate.
The majority of the 1,623 victims in this sample were White (89.1%), unmarried (88.2%), lived off campus (60.4%), and were an average of 21.7 years old at the time of the survey.
Go back one step. A national sample of 3,187 female college students were administered a questionnaire and there was a 98.5% response rate. That is 3,139 respondents, of which 1,623 were categorised as 'victims' based on their responses. 51.7% of the female respondents reported having experienced some form of defined sexual victimisation. This alarming finding does not even rate a mention in the study. Given I have three adopted nieces who are 19 (twins) and 22, this finding registers with the urgency of an air raid siren during the height of the Blitz in WWII London for me.
Unwanted sexual contact was defined as women who experienced unwanted fondling or kissing without attempts at sexual intercourse because of a man’s continual arguments or pressure, his misuse of authority, threats of physical harm, or actual physical force. The group labeled sexual coercion included women who experienced sexual intercourse following the man's use of continual arguments or his misuse of authority but without threats of force or direct physical force. Attempted rape was assessed with two questions (e.g., 'Have you had a man attempt sexual intercourse [get on top of you, attempt to insert his penis] when you didn’t want to by threatening or using some degree of force [twisting your arm, holding you down, etc.], but intercourse did not occur?'). The second question assessing attempted rape using similar phrasing asked about attempted intercourse where the offender gave the victim alcohol or drugs. Completed rape was assessed with several questions meeting the legal definition of rape (e.g., 'Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn't want to because a man threatened or used some degree of physical force [twisting your arm, holding you down, etc.] to make you?').
This brings home to me that, in addition to protecting their daughters, parents have a responsibility to educate their sons about appropriate sexual behaviour. WSD course participants are mothers, or may become mothers.

I decided to suggest to people who wanted to buy me presents for Christmas to donate to CARE Australia. CARE Australia is an Australian charity and international humanitarian aid organisation fighting global poverty, with a special focus on empowering women and girls to bring lasting change to their communities. Why focus on empowering women and girls? Because, 'our research has shown that if we help one women out of poverty, she'll bring four others with her.' Mothers can influence the boy, and shape the man he becomes. Who better to teach the boy who becomes a man how to respect women than a women who the boy respects. Mothers can influence future generations of males far more effectively than any government or private institution initiated male 'education' program.
Sexual victimization severity for the sample was as follows: unwanted sexual contact (27.3%), sexual coercion (21.1%), attempted rape (22.6%), and completed rape (29.0%).

Of the 51.5% respondents who reported some form of defined sexual victimisation, 26.7% of respondents reported being subjected to an attempted rape or a completed rape. Now we are getting back to the 1 in 4 women experience rape or attempted rape statistic that is often quoted.

The victim offender relationship characteristics were: stranger 6.4%, acquaintance 44.5%, and intimate 49.5%. These findings are consistent with the common findings that the vast majority of rapes are attempted by familiars. This fact has huge implications in terms of understanding survivor's responses. Think about it. 80%-90% of all sexual assaults on a female are perpetrated by an acquaintance or an intimate. It is a very different scenario being attacked by a stranger than being attacked by someone you know, trust, and care about to varying degrees. The change in mindset that is required, in an instant, to defend yourself is ... inconceivable. It goes against our evolved natures.

The abovementioned fact has huge implications for WSD training and course development as well.
Self-defense training prepares women both mentally and physically for potential assaults (...) by providing them with opportunities to learn, observe, and practice physical, social, and cognitive skills through the use of role-plays, discussion, and simulation exercises (...). ... Women’s self-defense lessons often include learning how to create impromptu weapons (e.g., comb, keys) and how to use body parts (e.g., fists, elbows, knees) against the offender’s particularly vulnerable body targets (e.g., eyes, jaw, nose, groin) in various situations (...).
Stress training, stress inoculation training, stress exposure training, reality based training, etc. are methods designed to increase the effectiveness of the participants in 'real-life' situations by exposing the participants to simulated experiences. ... Can you see where I'm going? Most WSD courses have an implication, or are actually based on, stranger-attack/rape. Stranger-attack/rape make up a very small percentage of attacks/rapes on females. Stranger-attack/rape involves a very different mental/emotional experience than attack/rape by an acquaintance or an intimate. Do the WSD courses teach social and cognitive skills to cater for the latter, more prevalent, scenario? Do they use role-plays and simulation exercises featuring acquaintances or intimates as the threat?

I'm reading about WSD courses where women are taught to attack vulnerable parts of the attacker's anatomy. Sometimes with lethal effect. The attacker for training purposes is suited up with padded outfits. Some courses do not allow the men playing the 'attacker' to interact with the female participants of the course. How does not allowing the women to identify with their 'attacker' during training support the 'reality based' training methodology?

Is not referencing the 'typical attacker' in these WSD courses detrimental to the effectiveness of these courses? Or, does the 'non-reality' based methodology actually better prepare the participants for reality? I do not profess to have the answers (yet), but, course developers, instructors, and participants should be aware of, and understand, the questions; and the course developers and instructors should be expected to understand and explain the underlying assumptions of their course and methods.

'Close to one half of victims reported they used alcohol (41.6%), and their attacker used alcohol (50.9%) prior to the incident.' This should come as no surprise. Alcohol is a factor in a significant proportion of crimes and tragedy. Instructors should never shirk the issue of raising this fact for fear of being categorised as a 'wowser'.

FPR = forceful physical resistance; NFPR = nonforceful physical resistance, e.g. fleeing, blocking blows; FVR = forceful verbal resistance, e.g., screaming, yelling at, or threatening offender; and NFVR = nonforceful verbal resistance e.g., pleading, begging, reasoning.
To assess victim resistance, respondents were asked, 'id you do any of he following to resist his advances?'including the following categories: (a)turn cold; (b) reason, plead, quarrel, or tell him to stop; (c) cry or sob; (d) scream for help; (e) run away; and (f) physically struggle, push him away, hit, or scratch. Respondents were asked to check either no or yes for each type of resistance. Those victims who physically struggled, pushed, hit, or scratched their offenders were coded as using FPR, and victims who ran away were coded as using NFPR. FVR included those victims who screamed for help, whereas NFVR was coded as present for victims who cried, sobbed, reasoned, pleaded, quarreled, or told the offender to stop.
Findings: FPR 47.4%, NFPR 9.5%, FVR 6.4%, and NFVR 78.9%.

'Eighty-two percent of the victims used at least one type of resistance strategy.' A word on 'resistance'. Jan Jordan, 2005, 'What Would MacGyver Do?: The Meaning(s) of Resistance and Survival', Violence Against Women 11: 531-559:
Rape resistance is, at best, a thorny issue; at worst, an expectation by which victims of rape are assessed and judged. On one hand, women have been told that a little resistance is all it takes to fend off a rapist; it is only by submitting that a woman 'gets herself' raped (...). Hence criminal justice system agencies have interpreted physical injuries to the woman as evidence of her resistance, construing these as necessary indicators of a lack of consent (...). On the other hand, the prevention advice often given to women has been not to resist, that resistance may anger a rapist and provoke greater injury, even death (...). In the face of such contradictory advice, the message to women is chillingly clear — women are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Although women are socialized against being aggressive and expected to be submissive in their relationships with men, 'The irony is that when confronted with a rapist who is physically stronger and may be armed, a woman is suddenly expected to struggle, fight, and resist to a degree not otherwise expected' (Burgess, 1999, p. 8).
'Irony' is not a description that leaps to mind when I think about the world my adopted nieces face in this regard.
Traditional police advice often urged women, when attacked, not to resist. Police advice to women suggesting they submit to rape has been criticized on several grounds (...). First, it reflects a view of rape as simply unwanted sex—give in and let him have his way with you, and you will be okay. As Stanko (1990) pointed out, the woman is not submitting to sex but to rape, a vast violation of her body and being. The very essence of rape makes it impossible to 'submit' to; rape by definition implies being taken against one's will. Second, there are times when women, when attacked, have decided not to resist physically; however, to portray this as submission ignores the mental component involved. Submitting to his will is a different prospect from evaluating the situation and determining that physical struggle may not be the best strategy with a particular offender. A lack of physical resistance, then, does not denote a lack of mental resistance. Kelly (1988) was one of the few writers to have observed that 'Women resist by refusing to be controlled, although they may not physically resist during an actual assault. Resistance, therefore, involves active opposition to abusive men's behavior and/or the control they seek to exert'(p. 161).).
A sobering few words on sexual victimisation resistance.

'More than one half of respondents (52.9%) said that the offender stopped or became less aggressive because of their resistance.' This is a statistic that needs a great deal of investigation. For instance, there are studies that suggest that NFVR is not effective in preventing an attack, and might even encourage violence.
Women perceived that the offenders used a moderate level of aggression and that the offenders were highly responsible for their assaults. The victims also felt that they were moderately responsible for their own assaults and that they used a relatively high level of nonconsent or resistance.
Injury science analyses an injury event in temporal terms as pre, during, and post event. Injury science analyses an injury event in these temporal terms in order to prevent an injury, reduce the severity of an injury, and/or to improve recovery from an injury. Self defence courses ought to analyse violent events in the same manner, and develop strategies for each of these three temporal phases. Women are never responsible for a sexual assault. They may increase the risks of sexual assault, e.g. becoming intoxicated (see above), but they are not responsible for their assault. This understanding has implications for post-assault recovery.

'Women reported moderate levels of fear, anger, and sadness during the incident.' The reference to emotions is what drew me to this paper. WSD courses often teach women to become angry when attacked. The action tendency for anger is fight; and the emotion of anger energises the body to fight. Anger reduces inhibitions for aggression and violence. Anger is being used as a tool. Interestingly, another study I'm in the process of reading refers to advanced courses of the Model Mugger WSD course. The basic course uses anger. The courses that flow on from this course, often relating to the use of and defence against weapons, involves controlling your emotions. Much the same as most martial arts profess to teach. Manage the intensity of your emotions. Referring to a previous post of mine, this strategy attempts to instill learned responses to a threat that would be categorised as predatory/instrumental aggression or violence rather than affective/emotional aggression or violence.

'Approximately one half of respondents reported that they discussed their experience with someone (51.4%).' Why? Judgements. Society judges them. The law, by definition, judges them. Their family and friends judge them. We judge them. Is it any wonder they judge themselves?

I've always taught that WSD courses are not just about the participants experience of assault (no matter how it is defined). Given 1 in 4 women experience an attempted or completed rape, and according to this study, 1 in 2 women experience some form of sexual victimisation, the female course participants are likely to know female friends, family, and even colleagues who have undergone these experiences. Knowledge is power, in this case, power to help.

'Approximately one fifth of women said they seriously contemplated suicide after their index assaults(19.1%).' Post assault/victimisation strategies. If WSD courses are to be the complete package, they must cater for pre, during, and post phases of an assault.

There is a great deal of food for thought in the findings arising out of this study's questionnaires concerning sexual victimisation. The next blog looks at the differences self defence or assertiveness training has.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Women's Self Defence Courses - Effective or Not? - Pt 1

I'll use the Women's Self Defence (WSD) course developed by Debbie Clarke while she was an instructor with the Jan de Jong Self Defence School (JDJSDS) as a case study to study the issue of WSD courses generally. See http://southerncrossbujutsu.com.au/martial-arts-taught/self-defence-for-women.aspx for her current work.

Clarke's WSD course was designed as a six week course with lessons of 2 hours duration per week. Variations of the format were developed when teaching the course to female students at various high schools in the Perth metropolitan area. One elite private girls school included it as a compulsory course for all their year 11 girls.

A feature of the course was that it was designed by a woman for women based on a female experience of violence. It was also designed to be taught by a woman to women. I was the only male instructor within the JDJSDS to be trained in teaching the WSD course, and to teach it for a number of years. This was because I was working full-time for the JDJSDS at the time, and the other (senior) instructors did not hold the WSD course in high regard. They taught 'martial arts', something that has to be trained for years, with dedication, before you can be effective in surviving a violent encounter.

One thing that is never in short supply of in the martial arts is opinion. Most people involved seem to have one on many violence related subjects, and they are not adverse to sharing their opinions. One commonly held opinion, particularly by male martial artists, is that WSD courses are largely, if not totally, ineffective. Or worse, they provide participants with a false sense of security.

One thing that is also never short supply of in the martial arts is uninformed opinions. The martial arts are bastions of anti-intellectualism for the large part. God forbid that research would be undertaken in order to inform these opinions, including those associated with the effectiveness of WSD courses.

In researching Beyond Fight-or-Flight, I came across this article in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence: Self-Defense or Assertiveness Training and Women's Responses to Sexual Attacks by L.R. Brecklin and S.E. Ullman, 2005, 20: 6, 738-762.
Self-defense classes aim to prevent violence against women by strengthening women's capacity to defend themselves; however, little research has examined the effects of self-defense training on women's attempts to fight back during actual attacks. This study investigated the relationship of self-defense or assertiveness training and women's physical and psychological responses to subsequent rape attacks.
In this and the next couple of blogs, we'll look at various aspects of this study and the content of the article.
Self-defense training prepares women both mentally and physically for potential assaults (...) by providing them with opportunities to learn, observe, and practice physical, social, and cognitive skills through the use of role-plays, discussion, and simulation exercises (...). Women's self-defense tactics are meant to be practical, simple, and effective in common situations, so that all women can learn them regardless of age, size, previous experiences, and physical strength (...). Women's self-defense lessons often include learning how to create impromptu weapons (e.g., comb, keys) and how to use body parts (e.g., fists, elbows, knees) against the offender's particularly vulnerable body targets (e.g., eyes, jaw, nose, groin) in various situations (...).
Firstly, the '(...)' replaces the references that Brecklin and Ullman have referred too. This will be consistently employed in direct quotes from the article in this blog. Secondly, their description of self-defence courses corresponds with Clarke's WSD course. Their discussion on self-defence courses generally refers to numerous other studies which, unfortunately, are hidden away in academic journals:
After completing self-defense classes, evaluations have shown increases in the following domains for women: assertiveness, self-esteem, perceived control, anticipatory behaviors, self-efficacy, masculinity attributes (e.g. active, independent), anger, dominance, self-defense skills, physical competence, and decreases in anxiety, depression, hostility, fear, and avoidance behaviors (...).
I wonder, did the increase in masculinity attributes include an increase in arrogance? Note the increase in anger. What do you think that is all about? My sourcing this article had to do with research into our evolved survival mechanism and our learned survival mechanism for Beyond Fight-or-Flight. Most people do not understand that the fight-or-flight concept is only associated with fear. However, the literature associates violence with fear, anger, no emotion, and positive emotions. Each of these emotions entails different subjective feelings, physiological responses, cognitive capabilities, action tendencies, and behavioural responses. Fight-or-flight is only looking at one small part of a larger 'violence elephant'.
Studies have found that successful rape resisters were more assertive, confident, dominant, perceived more control over their lives, and showed more initiative, persistence, and leadership compared with women who were raped (...), demonstrating that psychological changes because of participation in self-defense training may have substantial implications for subsequent rape avoidance. Increasing women's assertiveness skills is especially important in light of a recent prospective study showing that low assertiveness specific to situations with men was predictive of future victimization in a sample of 274 college women (...). Empowering women with the tools to respond to threats may serve to both protect and liberate them (...).
It's not looking good for the WSD course detractors.
Although self-defense training may have positive psychological and behavioral effects on female participants, very little empirical research has examined whether self-defense training is related to actual rape avoidance among women who later face a rape attack. In Bart and O’Brien's (1985) landmark interview study of 51 rape avoiders and 43 rape victims, rape avoiders were nearly twice as likely to have learned self-defense as women who were raped. In a descriptive study, Peri (1991) found that of 8,000 female graduates of Model Mugging, a self-defense course, 120 have reported using nonphysical strategies (e.g., screaming) to avoid an assault. In addition, 46 out of 48 graduates of Model Mugging who were physically assaulted after the course chose to fight back physically and reported being able to disable the offender enough to avoid further harm (Peri, 1991). This prior research suggests that self-defense training may be related to rape avoidance for participants; however, more rigorous studies are needed to verify this relationship.
If these studies were more generally known, they could be used to support the efficacy of these WSD courses. This in turn increases the confidence of the participants in the efficacy of these courses which could increase their commitment to the instruction and the implementation of the instruction.
Numerous empirical research studies have examined the role of victim resistance in rape incidents, using police reports and retrospective self-report surveys. Victims' use of forceful physical resistance (e.g. hitting, kicking, biting) is typically related to avoiding completed rape (...). In prior studies examining the temporal order of assault events (e.g. offender attack, victim resistance, rape or injury outcomes), forceful physical resistance (FPR) was not related to greater injury (...) but was still related to avoiding completed rape. Nonforceful physical resistance (NFPR) (e.g. fleeing, blocking blows) has also been found to be related to less rape completion (...) and unrelated to physical injury (...). Several studies have shown that forceful verbal resistance (FVR) (e.g. screaming, yelling at, or threatening offender) is related to rape avoidance ...), but its relationship with physical injury has been inconsistent. Forceful verbal resistance was linked to greater physical injury (...) in studies without sequence information (...); but in one study, analyzing sequence of events, this strategy was unrelated to injury (...). Finally, nonforceful verbal resistance (NFVR) (e.g. pleading, begging, reasoning) has been found to be related to greater severity of sexual abuse and unrelated to physical injury (...). Based on this research, it appears that the techniques taught most often in self-defense training (e.g. hitting, kicking, yelling) are related to rape avoidance, implying that self-defense may reduce women's severity of sexual victimization.
Firstly, it is not uncommon to see and hear of law enforcement officials advising females to not resist a sexual assault because it is likely to increase the violence involved. The studies suggest this is simplistic reasoning - which should come as no surprise in this area. The risk of increased violence appears to be dependent upon the type of resistance, rather than resistance per se. Secondly, all of the above behaviours are identified in Beyond Fight-or-Flight in the chapter which expands upon the original fight-or-flight concept in terms of behavioural responses. The reference to the fight-or-flight concept and related theory in terms of understanding violence is seriously limited. The question that needs to be asked, and which is not in the many academic disciplines I've been researching and integrating to write Beyond Fight-or-Flight, is: what emotion is being experienced when these behaviours are enacted? Fear is the obvious answer; but what about anger? After all, the action tendency of anger is fight as per emotion theory and Walter Cannon's original fight-or-flight model.

And finally, the research implies that WSD courses may reduce women's severity of sexual victimisation. Right now, it's 15:love in favour of WSD course supports vs their detractors. Next blog we'll have a look at the findings of this study and associated comments.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Martial Arts Develops Predators

Has the title of this blog got your attention?

Aggression and violence is often classified in the literature into two broad categories. Meloy provides the following explanation of these two categories with reference to violence. The same explanation applies to aggression.
Affective violence is preceded by high levels of autonomic (sympathetic) arousal, is characterised by the emotions of anger and/or fear, and is a response to a perceived imminent threat. Other researchers refer to affective violence as impulsive, reactive, hostile, emotional or expressive. Its evolutionary basis is self-protection. Predatory violence is not preceded by autonomic arousal, is characterised by the absence of emotion and threat, and is cognitively planned. Other researchers refer to predatory violence as instrumental, premeditated, proactive or cold blooded. Its evolutionary basis is hunting for food.

Meloy developed for forensic practice 10 criteria for distinguishing between affective and predatory violence.

Affective violence: 1. Intense autonomic arousal; 2. Subjective experience of emotion; 3. Reactive and immediate violence; 4. Internal or external perceived threat; 5. Goal is threat reduction; 6. Possible displacement of target; 7. Time-limited behavioural sequence; 8. Preceded by public posturing; 9. Primarily emotional/defensive; and 10. Heightened and diffuse awareness.

Predatory violence: 1. Minimal or absent autonomic arousal; 2. No conscious emotion; 3. Planned or purposeful violence; 4. No imminent perceived threat; 5. Variable goals; 6. No displacement of target; 7. No time limited sequence; 8. Preceded by private ritual; 9. Primarily cognitive/attack; 10. Heightened and focused awareness.

Firstly, what is violence? Violence is variably defined, but can be thought of as physical behaviour that is intended to produce deliberate harm to another. Violence can be thought of as a subset of aggression, which refers to any form of behaviour and not just physical behaviour. Aggression and violence can be defensive and offensive. All the activities that teach fighting behaviours are teaching their trainees to be aggressive and violent. They may not like to think so, and mostly do not describe their activity as such, due to the value-laden nature of these terms. Nonetheless, that is what they are doing.

Secondly, the second characteristic of affective violence is the presence of the subjective experience of emotion. This is why it has also been called emotional violence. What emotion? It is mostly associated with anger, hence why it has also been called angry violence. However, Meloy refers to both anger and/or fear.

Angry aggression and violence in humans is well studied within the aggression and violence disciplines. Fear aggression and violence in humans is not. So what? Fight is fight no matter the subjective feeling, right?

The concept of autonomic specificity has shown that different physiological reactions occur with different emotions (item 1). For instance, blood moves away from the hands with fear but moves to the hands with anger in an evolutionarily designed attempt to assist a person to fight. Fear and anger have different provocations (item 4) and different goals (item 5). Fear is about reducing the threat and getting away; anger is about harming the subject. Blanchard and Blanchard suggest there are different attack patterns associated with fear and anger, which is not unexpected given that 'different emotions produce different behaviours' (item 8). However, they also explain that it is difficult to verify the different attack patterns due to the paucity of direct human studies of physical aggression.

Interestingly, while basically studying the same evolved process in humans, fight-or-flight and stress focus on fear. Those activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter who refer to fight-or-flight and stress are therefore focusing on fear-induced physiological and behavioural responses. While the aggression and violence literature tends to ignore fear-induced physiological and behavioural responses, the fight-or-flight and stress based literature tends to ignore anger-induced physiological and behavioural responses. Just as Cannon incorrectly suggested the same physiological response is associated with fear and anger, so the aggression and violence literature incorrectly assume the same physiological response is present with all forms of emotional aggression and violence.

Related to the above, what about positive emotions? Howard refers to four types of aggression and violence which includes positive emotions. Appraisal theory in the stress discipline refers to three types of appraisal eliciting a fight-or-flight/stress response: harm, threat, or challenge. Challenge would be associated with positive emotions. Challenge-appraised fight-or-flight/stress responses are largely unstudied.

Thirdly, what do all activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter attempt to instill in their trainees? What is Siddle's model for designing a survival system attempting to do with respect to training warriors? What is stress training, stress inoculation training, and stress exposure training attempting to do when training law enforcement and military personnel for operational experiences? They are all attempting to reduce fear and therefore fear responses. They are mostly not attempting to replace fear with another emotion, but rather for their trainees to enact fight behaviours with no emotion. They are all attempting to train their trainees to enact predatory violence rather than affective/emotional violence.

Do any of the texts associated with these activities refer to predatory aggression or violence, but whatever name? No. Given predatory violence is the goal of these activities, would you not think it advantageous to have some understanding of what the training is attempting to achieve rather than what it is trying to prevent? For instance, Siddle's Sharpening the Warrior's Edge explains fear-induced survival stress and its 'catastrophic' effects on cognition and motor function in detail. Nothing on no-emotion-induced predatory violent effects. It's a little like describing in detail the place you want to leave without any understanding of the place you want to go to.

Lastly, Sun Tzu said if you know yourself and your enemy you'll not be bested in 100 battles; if you know yourself and not your enemy you'll only win 50; and if you know neither you'll lose all. Does an understanding of fear-induced fight assist you in understanding both yourself and your enemy, just yourself, or neither? Given violence can include fear, anger, no emotion, and positive emotions, a fear-induced understanding is but one small part of aggression and violence. A fear-induced understanding is but one of the blind men attempting to explain an elephant by touching just one part of it. My Beyond Fight-of-Flight is an attempt to describe the entire elephant.

PS: I refer to Siddle's work, not to denigrate it, but because it is the authority in the field of applying the theories and concepts of stress to combat performance. It is obvious illustration to use to demonstrate the limited insight that is gained by referring to stress theory.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fight-or-Flight: Different 'Fights'

Fight-or-flight is a concept developed by Walter Cannon to refer to our evolved responses to a threat. The fight-or-flight response refers to our physiological reaction which prepares our body for fight or flight.

When fight-or-flight is referred to within those activities engaged in preparing a person to survive a violent encounter, the action tendencies of fight or flight are associated with fear. For instance, Siddle refers to anxiety or fear initiating the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which begins a catastrophic spiral in motor and cognitive functions.

When fight-or-flight is recognised as being simplistic and limited, and is subsequently expanded, the expanded range of behavioural responses are all associated with fear. Freeze, flight, fight, fright (tonic immobility), flag, faint are all associated with fear. But does all fighting behaviour involve fear?

Blanchard and Blanchard refer to defensive and offensive attack and aggression. Defensive attack/aggression involves fear and offensive attack/aggression involves anger.

The aggression literature has a long tradition of categorising aggression into two broad areas. One of the more common typologies is hostile vs instrumental aggression. Hostile aggression denotes the specific intention of harming another person and is triggered by cues that lead to anger, fear, or frustration (McEllistrem 2004). Most homicides and assaults appear to be predominantly expressions of hostile aggression involving anger. Instrumental aggression is not accompanied by strong emotion and the aggressive act serves another goal. A planned assassination and an assault solely for purpose of theft are examples of instrumental aggression. A wide variety of terms have been used in the literature to describe what is essentially the same distinction, for instance reactive, retaliatory, impulsive, angry, affective, emotional, subjective, hot-blooded vs proactive, premeditated, non-angry, predatory, planned, cold-blooded. The former type of aggression is characterised by intense central nervous system autonomic arousal and a subjective experience of conscious emotion, hence why it has been called emotional aggression, while the latter is characterised by the absence of both.

Howard integrates the Blanchards' offensive-defensive typology with the traditional impulsive-instrumental typology to describe four types of aggression: offensive/controlled, offensive/impulsive, defensive/controlled, defensive/impulsive, each with its own specific goals, affects and emotions. Offensive aggression and violence are associated with positive emotions, while defensive aggression and violence are associated with negative emotions.

So now we have fight behaviours associated with fear, anger, no emotion, and positive emotions - not just fear. 'So what?' you may ask. Fight is fight, right?

Emotion means more than feeling. Emotion is a broader construct that involves an appraisal process which generates a subjective feeling and physiological response, a related action tendency which can lead to a behavioural response. Each emotion has its own unique signature in terms of these responses. For instance, your body reacts differently when you are fearfully than when you are sexually aroused. Fear and its attendant flight action tendency is accompanied by a physiological response which redirects blood away from the hands and face to fuel the muscles for flight. Anger and its attendant fight action tendency is accompanied by a physiological response which directs blood to the hands and face to fuel the body for fight.

Negative emotions, such as fear and anger, narrow a person’s momentary 'thought-action repertoire' by calling to mind and body an urge to act in a particular way (e.g. flee in fear, attack in anger). Fredrickson argues that positive emotions have a complimentary effect: they broaden people's momentary thought-action repertoires, widening the array of the thoughts and actions that come to mine.

Its long been established that the harm inflicted with hostile aggression is greater than with instrumental aggression. Blanchard and Blanchard refer to different attack patterns being associated with their defensive and offensive attack/aggression. Different fight behaviours are associated with different types of aggression, which in turn are associated with different emotions.

What is Siddle proposing in order to better prepare a person for combat? He proposes methods to reduce the catastrophic effects that the activation of SNS can have on cognitive and motor function. He is essentially proposing methods to change aggressive behaviour from fear-motivated to no-emotion-motivated aggression behaviour; from emotional aggression to instrumental aggression. How do you do that? By understanding the different types of aggression, that is to say, by understanding the different emotional states associated with the different types of aggression.

The threat-induced, fear-motivated defence cascade includes fight when flight is not available. Despite what is often promoted by many, we are not defenceless without some form of training. If we were, we would not have survived as a species. William James said 'ancestral evolution has made us all potential warriors.' Yes, but what is our warrior behaviour motivated by?

A women's self defence instructor suggested a strategy to her students: When fearful, think of the worse thing your attacker could do to you and your children; turning fear into anger. While flight is the action tendency of fear, and fight is the action tendency of anger, the defence cascade for fear includes fight behaviours when flight is not possible. The fight pattern is different for fear fight and anger fight because the motivation is different. Unbeknown to the aforementioned instructor, turning fear into anger also avoids the possibility of fright (tonic immobility), flag, and faint behaviours as they are all associated with fear and not anger.

Is there scope to develop positive emotion motivated aggression in trainees? Absolutely. When a violent encounter is seen as a challenge rather than a threat it elicits positive emotions along with sympathetic activity and a broadened thought-action repertoire.

In the Art of War, Sun Tzu wrote:
If you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperilled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but know yourself, you win one and lose one; if you do not know others and do not know yourself, you will be imperilled in every single battle.
What form of aggression is your opponent engaged in? If it is fear motivated, executing methods that are designed to elicit fear in the opponent may only inflame the aggressive behaviour. On the other hand, fear is a weapon that can be used to counter anger-motivated or no-emotion-motivated instrumental aggression.

Each form of aggression has its own goals. Withdrawal may resolve an aggressive encounter when the opponent is engaged in fear-motivated aggression as you no longer pose a threat. However, withdrawal may not resolve an anger motivated aggressive encounter as the opponent's goal is to inflict harm. Likewise with positive emotion motivated anger as the opponent is enjoying inflicting harm, and the aggression is being reinforced by your suffering. Harm is inflicted in instrumental aggression as a means to an end. Knowing the 'end' may provide a strategy to reduce the harm being inflicted.

Those who are engaged in activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter are engaged in teaching aggressive behaviours primarily when an opponent is engaging in aggressive behaviour. It behoves those so engaged to understand fight behaviour beyond the threat-induced, fear-motivated fight behaviour of the traditional fight-of-flight model.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fight or Flight - Did Walter Cannon Get It Wrong?

Fight-or-flight dominates threat-induced behaviour thinking. This domination has led to certain ingrained assumptions about what to expect of ourselves and others in response to a perceived threat. Fight-or-flight is a concept which is often referred to within activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter.

Walter Cannon proposed the fight-or-flight model in the early 1920s to explain the automatic physiological reaction (fight-or-flight response, aka stress response) that prepares the body for action: fight to defend ourselves or flee to escape the source of a perceived threat.

Behaviourally, the fight-or-flight model is obviously limited. I'll just consider the F models and those proposed by Bruce Siddle and Dave Grossman.

Siddle is described as an internationally recognised authority on use of force training and the effects of survival stress (aka fight-or-flight response) on combat performance. Those activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter who refer to fight-or-flight are referring to Siddle's theories. Whether they acknowledge the source of their wisdom, or even know the source, is another matter. Siddle proposed 3Fs: fight, flight, freeze in place (hypervigilance). With regards to Siddle's hypervigilance behaviour: 'Siddle uses a unique law enforcement interpretation of the term hypervigilance. ... the term, hypervigilance is used to denote what others might call panic or hyperarousal.'

Grossman is described as being one of the foremost experts in the field of human aggression and the psychology of combat. Grossman appreciates that the fight-or-flight model needs updating: 'One of the roots of our misunderstanding of the psychology of the battlefield lies in the misapplication of the fight-or-flight model to the stresses of combat.' He argues that adding posture and submission to the standard fight-or-flight model (fight, flight, posture, or submit) helps to explain many of the actions on the battlefield. Sadly he didn't use F words to describe these behavioural options. Grossman suggests the first behaviour is posture, and if that is unsuccessful then fight, flight, or submission behaviours are elicited.

Jeffrey Grey, a British psychologist, proposed a 3F model: 'freezing (keeping absolutely still and silent), flight, or fight.' This freeze response is different to Siddle's freeze response as will be explained below.

In 2004 Bracha and some colleagues asked: 'Does fight or flight need updating?' The answer is, absolutely! That is the purpose of my Beyond Fight or Flight.

Bracha et al propose 4Fs: freeze, flight, fight, or fright. When referring to Cannon's 2Fs, they suggest that 'both the order and the completeness of Cannon’s famous phrase are suspect.' The order should be flight or fight reflecting the initial tendency to flee when threatened with fight only being elicited if flight is not possible. Freeze is the initial response which they describe as the stop, look, and listen response. Fright is a term they use to refer to tonic immobility (TI)- a behavioural response all people involved in preparing a person to survive a violent encounter should be aware of, but of which sadly most are ignorant. TI refers to an evolved defensive response which is an involuntary catatonic state. It is argued that TI is elicited when fight is unsuccessful. Bracha et al provide an explanation for the use of the term fright, however, I'd suggest they chose the term because 4Fs are catchier than 3Fs and a TI.

Not long after the above proposal, Bracha, alone this time, proposed 5Fs: freeze, flight, fight, fright, and faint. The different between fright/TI and faint is that in the former the subject is still conscious and processing the experience whereas in the latter they are unconscious and not processing the experience.

Schauer and Elbert propose 6Fs: freeze, flight, fight, fright, flag, or faint. Flag appears to be a half-way house between fight and faint where the body goes from being rigid to flaccid - it starts to flag.

There are other defensive behaviour models proposed that go beyond the F models, however for our purposes the F models are sufficient.

All of the above F models refer to threat-induced behaviours. All of the above models refer to fear motivated behaviours. As fear increases, the behaviours travel along a defence cascade starting with freeze and ending with faint. Actually, there is one more evolved behavioural response - death. A previous post explained that the dominance of the parasympathetic nervous system in the latter half of the defence cascade can literally scare a person to death.

All of the above models refer to fear motivated behaviours - all except Cannon's, the originator of the fight-or-flight concept, 2F model. Cannon associated flight with fear and fight with anger. Did he get it wrong? Or did the others get it wrong? And does it matter?

Blanchard and Blanchard distinguish between defensive attack and offensive attack behaviours. They suggest that defensive attack is associated with physical threats and is motivated by fear. Defensive attack is engaged when an existential threat is proximal and imminent and escape is impossible. Offensive attack, on the other hand, is associated with threats to resources and is motivated by anger.

Defensive attack and offensive attack are also referred to as defensive aggression and offensive aggression. Aggression has been categorised as reactive aggression (also called hostile, affective, subjective, angry, impulsive, irritable, emotional, or retaliatory aggression) and proactive aggression (also called instrumental aggression). Reactive aggression is motivated by an emotion. It would include both fear-motivated defensive aggression and anger-motivated offensive aggression. In contrast, proactive aggression, or instrumental aggression, is not motivated by an emotion. It is cold blooded, premeditated, calculated behaviour that is motivated by some other nonaggressive goal (obtaining money, territory, social dominance, object acquisition). Sympathetic activation is usually absent and there is minimal negative emotion.

Did Cannon get it wrong? Based on the above, it would appear he did. It would appear that his fight response was actually motivated by fear and not anger.

This misattribution of the fight response to anger helps explain why Cannon thought the same physiological response is activated with both anger and fear. Plutchik explains that the notion of physiological differences between emotions seemed to be pretty much taken for granted until the researches of Cannon during the 1920s which apparently indicated the autonomic changes observed in cats and dogs during fear and anger were the same. This led many psychologists to assume that the autonomic changes for all emotions in humans were also the same, a conclusion which he suggests was by no means justified by the evidence. Since that time an increasing body of research has begun to show the existence of definite, physiological differences between emotions. Different emotions = different physiological responses.

Does it matter? Society seems to think so. If your aggressive actions result in the death of another person, to take an extreme example, and you are charged with that homicide, the difference between fear-motivated defensive aggression, anger-motivated offensive aggression, and nonemotional instrumental aggression will determine your fate.

Fear-motivated defensive aggression, within the limits of the law, will result in a self-defence defence. The difference between angry aggression and instrumental aggression could mean the difference between manslaughter and murder respectively:
In American common law, the heat-of-passion defence reduces a charge of murder to manslaughter if the defendant successfully demonstrates that he or she (a) was first adequately provoked by his or her victim, (b) became emotionally disturbed as a direct result of said adequate provocation, (c) did not have enough time to cool off before killing his or her perceived provocateur, and (d) did not, in fact, cool off before committing the homicide in question. (Fontaine 2008)
Emotion, as conceived by the emotion discipline, is more than subjective feeling. It is a construct that includes appraisal, feeling, physiological, action tendency, and behaviour. Feeling activates the other responses.

Different emotions = different behaviours. All fight behaviours are not the same. The Blanchards described different defensive and offensive attack patterns. It has long been accepted that anger-motivated violence is more vicious than instrumental violence. Stephen (1883) suggested, impulsive killings such as heat of passion homicide are crueler, more dangerous, and more ferocious than its premeditated counterpart. The reason for the difference is the goal of the aggression. Anger-motivated offensive aggression's goal is to cause harm and suffering. Nonemotional-motivated instrumental aggression's goal is a nonaggressive goal, eg. obtain money, territory, etc. Interestingly enough, society's law punishes the crueler form of aggression less than the less cruel form of aggression.

The different forms of aggression have tactical implications. Disengaging from an aggressive encounter when the other party is engaged in fear-motivated defensive aggression should terminate the encounter. It will not if the aggression is anger-motivated offensive aggression where harm is the goal, or nonemotional instrumental aggression where the obtaining of an extrinsic goal is the goal. A different strategy is needed to extricate oneself from those encounters when the other party is engaged in anger-motivated offensive aggression or nonemotional instrumental aggression. One has to know the resource which is being challenged or the extrinsic goal being sought in order to terminate the aggression in those cases.

Anger and fear are negative emotions. I'm working on aggression that is motivated by positive emotions. I've seen hints of these, but they are not as well studied as anger and fear motivated aggression.

Every activity that is involved in preparing a person to survive a violent encounter which refer to fight-or-flight, any of the F models, Siddle's theories, and any similar models and theories by whatever name, are only referring to threat-induced, fear-motivated behaviours and physiological responses. This applies to stress training, stress inoculation training, and stress exposure training which are training programs designed to better prepare military and law enforcement officers for operational duties. These models and theories are focusing only on one small part of human aggressive and violent behaviour. These fact are not explicitly acknowledged by these activities, if they are understood by them at all. Nor are the limitations of these models and theories understood when attempting to use them to understand aggressive or violent behaviour and to better prepare a person to survive a violent encounter.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

An Evolved Defence Mechanism - Hair

Evolutionary psychiatrist Randolph Nesse explains one of the most basic advances in biology during the past twenty years is the clear recognition that two kinds of explanation are needed for all biological traits: (a) a proximate explanation of how the trait works, and (b) an evolutionary explanation of what the trait is for. He explains that an evolutionary perspective provides a clear focus on the function of a particular trait.

I first came to the idea of adopting an evolutionary perspective when writing the first chapter in my originally conceived how-to book on Jan de Jong Jujutsu. It was titled 'What is Jujutsu?'. Jujutsu is often described in terms of the generic nature of the term, techniques, history, and the application of the philosophical concept of ju. When attempting to compare jujutsu to other martial arts, I started to come to an evolutionary explanation. Why is jujutsu different from karate, kung fu, pencak silat, boxing, etc? It's because of its evolutionary past; the evolutionary forces which shaped these different martial arts. I remember now, I was nudged in this direction by the work of Karl Friday in Legacies of the Sword.
To be sure, all such 'martial arts,' as forms of single combat, share some commonality of function - but then, so do Chinese tai chi chuan and US Air Force fighter tactics. They also, as arts developed in neighboring countries through which individuals - and armies - regularly traveled back and forth, show some degree of cross influence and even some common vocabulary. But the historical circumstances under which these various arts evolved, the purposes they served, and the statuses they assumed in their respective cultures diverged in fundamental ways. (p6)
The first kyu grading in the Jan de Jong jujutsu grading system includes an oral explanation of the history of jujutsu. The first dan grading includes a written essay on the history of jujutsu. The history does not necessarily tell why jujutsu is what it is. An evolutionary explanation does. I'll be changing these gradings to an evolutionary explanation rather than a historical explanation, as an evolutionary perspective has a clear focus on function.

I came across this paper this morning: 'What can animal aggression research tell us about human aggression?' by Blanchard and Blanchard in Hormones and Behavior 44 (2003) 171–177. They made the following comment which specifically refers to martial arts training:
Although factors such as weapons and specific training in martial arts undoubtedly alter the response characteristics of aggression in people, there are some hints that human physical attack may be more similar to the aggression of nonhuman animals than might be thought, for example, target sites for attack.
They go to explain that in some mammalian species, structural adaptations have evolved to defend vulnerable targets for attack.
Thus in lions, the only group-living large cats, males (only) have developed a thick mane that covers from the top of the head to the shoulders, potentially affording protection for this site during fights among males within social groups, as well as protection for the group and its young from nomadic males. The late Margaret Manning,a distinguished child psychologist working primarily with young children, suggested that in these children, the head is the primary target for offensive attack (personal communication). In this regard, two seeming anomalies of human physiology are of interest: first, human head hair is unique in growing indefinitely, potentially (and especially if unwashed, as it likely was during most of human prehistory) providing a thick mat offering a great deal of resistance to blows. Second, humans, like lions, have a gender-specific locus for particularly coarse and wiry hair; in humans, the lower face. Moreover, beards appear at precisely the developmental time period when male–male aggression becomes particularly dangerous, due to the enhanced strength that accompanies adolescence and the additional motivation associated with fights over access to females. While beards are often taken to have evolved as signals of sexual maturity, it is not clear why yet another addition to the many behavioral as well as structural signals of maturity in males would be necessary or adaptive. Similarly, if beards have evolved on the basis that they elicit sexual interest in females, one might expect at least some indication of this interest in contemporary women. However, a recent survey of 80 undergraduate women from a number of different cultural backgrounds indicated little (in fact a slight net negative)sexual response to male beards.
Now I'm conflicted over shaving off my beard. Evolution is about increasing the chances of survival and reproduction. It would appear the two evolutionary imperatives are at odds in this case. Increase my chances of surviving an offensive attack by a cospecific, or increase my chances of reproduction with a cospecific. What to do, what to do. ... I'm male, so it's pretty obvious which imperative is going to win out.

Just something of interest concerning our evolved defence mechanism.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Prerequisite Knowledge for Instructors

Beyond Fight-or-Flight is aimed at all activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter. These activities include martial arts, self defence, combatives, close-quarter combat, hand-to-hand combat, unarmed combat, and whatever politically neutral name law enforcement is referring to their methods in the various jurisdictions. I'll refer to these collectively as the Activities.

Hopefully, the instructors of the Activities are required to have and maintain an up to date first aid qualification. That takes care of the body, but what about the mind?

As reported in previous blogs, medicine is beginning to appreciate the mind-body connection. While I'm stretching the idea here, I believe there is value in having some understanding of the mind in the same way that first aid gives you some understanding of the body.

I've been working on post traumatic stress (PTS). PTS was officially recognised by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 1980 when post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was included in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) third edition. Prior to that, the condition was categorised as gross stress reaction. The definition of a traumatic event and the symptoms of PTSD within the DSM have changed over the decades.

In 2000, the APA revised the PTSD diagnostic criteria in the fourth edition of its DSM. Diagnostic criteria for PTSD include a history of exposure to a traumatic event meeting two criteria and symptoms from each of three symptom clusters: intrusive recollections, avoidant/numbing symptoms, and hyper-arousal symptoms. The diagnostic criteria are:

Criterion A: Stressor
The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following have been present:

1.The person has experienced, witnessed, or been confronted with an event or events that involve actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others.
2.The person's response involved intense fear,helplessness, or horror.

Criterion B: Intrusive Recollection
The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in at least one of the following ways:

1.Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions.
2.Recurrent distressing dreams of the event.
3.A sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes.
4.Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that recall the traumatic event.
5.Physiologic reactivity upon exposure to internal or external cues that recall the traumatic event

Criterion C: Avoidant/Numbing
Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by at least three of the following:

1.Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma
2.Efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma
3.Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
4.Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
5.Feeling of detachment or estrangement from others
6.Restricted range of affect (e.g. unable to have loving feelings)
7.Sense of foreshortened future (e.g. does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span)

Criterion D: Hyper-arousal
Persistent symptoms of increasing arousal (not present before the trauma), indicated by at least two of the following:

1.Difficulty falling or staying asleep
2.Irritability or outbursts of anger
3.Difficulty concentrating
5.Exaggerated startle response
Criterion E: duration
Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in B, C, and D) is more than one month.

Criterion F: Functional Significance
The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

It is not the Activities instructor's responsibility to diagnose PTSD. It is, however, their responsibility to be aware of the condition given the nature of the activities they are involved in. People who have experienced a traumatic event, such as being assaulted, often look to some form of self defence training to regain some sense of control over their lives. Obviously, law enforcement and the military are training their personnel who have often experienced traumatic events.

My work integrates stress theory and emotion theory to develop a survival process model (SPM). This SPM enables you to understand our evolved survival mechanism, the mechanism designed to increase our chances of survival when threatened. It also enables you to understand reactions such as PTSD.

Richard Lazarus argues that stress theory is a subset of emotion theory. They both study the same process, but stress does so in a limited fashion. Stress theory is like one of the blindmen studying an elephant by touching just one part of it. Emotion theory studies the entire elephant. Stress theory is considered a practical subject whereas emotion theory is considered of interest for its own sake. Nothing could be further from the truth. Emotion theory reveals so much more about our survival process than does stress theory.

Just to clarify, emotion and feelings are often used interchangeably. However, feelings are considered to be just one component of a larger construct that is emotion. Emotion involves a subjective feeling, physiological reaction, action tendency, and behavioural component.

I highly recommend Passion and Reason: Making Sense of Our Emotions by Richard S. Lazarus and Bernice N. Lazarus to the readers of this blog. It is a book written for laypersons by a towering figure in the stress and emotion fields.

The SPM involves an appraisal component. A stimuli is appraised, and based on that appraisal evokes an emotion, or not. The appraisal is personal to each person and to each situation. Lazarus argues that emotions are not irrational. They are entirely rational to the person experiencing the emotion. He emphasises:
again and again one could see that it is the way a person appraises what is happening, rather than the realities themselves, that determines the stressful impact. In emotion too, thinking is the powerful agent that influences both the kind and degree of emotion and the potential for coping. Research such as this provides the modern chapter and verse for Shakespeare's intuition expressed in Hamlet: 'For there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.
When a trainee/student reacts in what may be considered an overreaction, think on the uniqueness of their appraisal which shaped the nature and intensity of their reaction.

I recall a women in a women's self defence class who screamed and panicked when the instructor put her hands lightly around her throat to demonstrate a strangulation attack. Some considered it an overreaction. But we don't know how she is appraising the situation. By judging her and her reaction, are we not becoming part of the problem and not part of the solution?

Hopefully, the Activities have prospective students/trainees complete an application form of some kind. This form will hopefully ask questions concerning medical conditions and background. There is an argument that some form of generic question concerning traumatic events as defined in DSM-IV criterion A could be included on the application form. This may guide the instructor.

The above, and particularly the above recommended book, should reinforce to instructors that one size, one style of instructing, does not fit all. Those disciplinarian/militaristic instructors may not be as helpful as they think they are for people who have experienced trauma and are experiencing PTS to some degree; the people who need our help the most.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Does Fight or Flight Need Updating?

Does fight or flight need updating? This is a question that was asked by a group of mental health professionals in 2004. The answer to their question is: most definitely.

The authors of this question were looking at the evolved behavioural responses to a threat. I've looked at this in previous blogs. We've gone from 2Fs to 3Fs, and now up to 6Fs: Freeze, Flight, Fight, Fright, Flag, Faint. This blog looks at the automatic physiological response.

Those activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter who refer to fight-or-flight are referring to stress theory, whether they know it or not. Cannon, the author of the fight-or-flight concept, described the fight-or-flight response which is an automatic physiological response to mobilise our body to fight to defend against a threat or to flee from danger. The stress discipline adopted the fight-or-flight response and called it the stress response.

Seley, the father of stress, defined stress in physiological terms. He defined stress as the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change. He explains that the demand is non-specific in that any demand on a body to change produces the same physiological response. This has also been referred to as the global arousal model.

What colour does a person's face go when they are angry? Red. What colour does a person's face go when they are scared? White. Surely this suggests there is different physiological responses associated with different emotions.

The emotion discipline refers to autonomic specificity (AS). Autonomic refers to the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which regulates unconscious activities of the body. AS refers to different ANS activity with specific emotions.

Levenson (1992) states that 'following decades of controversy and uncertainty, there is now sufficient empirical basis for asserting the existence of a limited set of autonomic differences among emotions.' Support for AS is found in the metaphors we use to refer to emotions. For instance, heat is associated with anger while coolness is associated with fear. Levenson (2003) explains that the differences in the metaphorical language of anger and fear concur with consistent empirical findings of peripheral vascular differences between the two emotions.

In a study that supported AS, Levenson, Ekman and Friesen (LEF; 1990) refer to the functionality of emotions and their associated physiological needs:
If fear is primarily associated with fleeing, it would be functional for blood flow to be diverted away from the periphery and redirected toward the large skeletal muscles. This would be consistent with the decrease in peripheral finger temperature that we found for fear. Similarly, anger, with its close association with fighting, might recruit increased blood flow to the muscles of the hand to support grasping weapons and opponents. This would be consistent with the increase in peripheral finger temperature that we found for anger.
LEF raise an interesting theoretical issue. Is there different ANS activity associated with different behavioural responses/motor programs which are associated with the same emotion. They refer to freeze and flight associated with fear. A more salient example is fainting which is associated with fear. How does the activation of a physiological response which is evolutionarily designed to mobilise our bodies for action result in the complete opposite behaviour - fainting?

The ANS is made up of the sympathetic nervous system (ANS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The SNS is geared towards mobilising energy and to dealing with the environment, whereas the PNS can be seen as geared to establishing and conserving energy reserves. The SNS is often described as the fight-or-flight system while the PNS is described as the rest-and-digest system.

Ortony and Turner (1990) suggest situations in which actions such as flight or attack are desirable and possible, appear to produce physiological responses indicative of SNS activation, whereas situations where escape is highly desirable but impossible tend to be dominated by PNS activation. Frijda (1986) explains that stimuli that increase sympathetic activity tend also to increase parasympathetic activity, only less so. Fainting from fright, he explains, is a result of an increase of parasympathetic activity so that it comes to dominates sympathetic activity. He suggests that there seems to be a relationship between parasympathetic dominance and the inability to respond, which corresponds with Ortony and Turner’s observation.

The image reproduced at the top of this blog is Schauer and Thomas's (2010) defence cascade. It shows SNS dominance for the first half of the cascade, which includes fight or flight, and PNS dominance for the second half of the cascade, which includes fainting. All associated with fear.

A more extreme example is being scared to death. Cannon (1942) reviewed numerous reports of voodoo death in primitive cultures. In a typical case, a previously healthy person is cursed by a chief or medicine man and the victim quite literally dies a death from fear within hours or days. Cannon attributed the death to overstimulation of the SNS, however Richter (1957) has shown the PNS is to blame for these deaths.

Siddle is described as being an internationally recognised authority on use of force and the effects of survival stress on combat performance. Those who refer to fight-or-flight or stress in activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter are, in fact, referring to Siddle's work. His ideas have come to take on the authority of commonly conceived wisdom or popular theory. Whether those in the aforementioned activities acknowledge of even know the source of their insights into the physiological response is another matter.

Grossman is described as being one of the world's foremost experts in the field of human aggression adn the psychology of combat. His much lauded On Combat describes the psychology and physiology of 'deadly conflict'. His physiological explanation comes direct from Siddle. Siddle is referencing stress theory. Stress theory refers to one stress response. What is an underlying assumption when using the stress/fight-or-flight response to understand the physiological response to a threat in a violent situation? That the feeling response is fear. What if the feeling response is anger? In fact, Cannon, the author of the fight-or-flight concept associated the flight response with fear and the fight response with anger. AS tells us that there is a different physiological response with both emotions. Rather than the fight-or-flight response, stress response, or survival stress response, maybe it should be referred to as the fear response. In fact, Grossman does specifically associate his physiological discussion with fear.

Siddle states that PNS is 'dominant during nonstress environments where an individual perceives he/she is safe.' Grossman refers to 'parasympathetic backlash' and only discusses PNS activity in relation to its activation after combat has been completed. They both focus on SNS activity, not surprisingly given the source of their insights lay within the stress discipline. Based on Schauer and Thomas's defence cascade, they are only describing one half of the cascade, one half of the evolved stress responses associated with fear, for one emotion, fear.

Our evolved survival mechanism is more complex than this one-half-one-emotion response. Siddle and Grossman, and those referring to their work, would appear to be like one of the blindmen of Indostan who attempt to describe an elephant by touching only one part of it. This is a reflection of the reference only to stress theory.

Lazarus (1993) suggests: 'Use of stress as a source of information about an individual's adaptation to environmental pressures is extremely limited compared with the use of the full array of emotions.' This is most definitely true in relation to our evolved survival responses.

Does fight-or-flight need updating? Definitely! My work, presented in Beyond Fight-or-Flight, integrates stress theory and emotion theory to provide a more complete understanding of our evolved survival responses. This forms the basis for understanding our learned survival responses as well. This work is unique in that no other author has attempted to integrate the theory of these two disciplines for this purpose.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Survival Scores Research Project

The U.S. Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) provides training to law enforcement personnel from numerous federal, state, and local agencies. A law enforcement officer's survival requires that he or she is able with to quickly assess a situation and respond with appropriate actions in dynamic, life-threatening, time-pressured situations that are likely to be encountered in carrying out their duties. A research program was initiated to examine the extent to which stress training can better prepare law enforcement officers to perform under highly stressful conditions. Initial results from the research program have been reported in a technical report entitled the Survival Scores Research Project (FLETC 2004).

The report refers to an FBI report for the year 200 which 'provides some alarming statistics in the area of officer survival':
The number of law enforcement officers feloniously killed in the line of duty was up 21.4 percent from the previous year’s number – 51 officers were slain in 2000, and 42 officers were killed in 1999.

Slightly more than half (53%) of the felonious shootings took place at a distance of 0-5 feet, and 70% were at 0-10 feet. These close range killings are also representative of the ten-year period for 1991 – 2000.

Body armor appears to provide minimal protection in close range shooting scenarios, as 29 of the 47 (62%) slain officers wore protective clothing.
When discussing the requirement to train law enforcement officers to perform under stress:
A Department of Justice report on 40 attempted shootings of officers found that victim officers returning fire averaged a hit on their target 41% of the time, while the offenders achieved a 91% hit rate. Of course, each of these officers was reacting to being shot at (the majority were actually shot), and under severe stress ... Preparing individuals for such moments is among the challenges law enforcement trainers face.
FLETC researchers developed a scenario designed to replicate real-world law enforcement situations. One of the scenarios was 'gun take-away and shout-out':
Maximum levels of arousal were achieved as the scenario deteriorates with the return of the theft suspect, an escalating argument, and the decision by the 'senior partner' to remove the hostile theft suspect from the building. The 'senior partner' has his weapon taken and is shot by the suspect, who then takes the complainant hostage which he also shoots. Stress is further escalated by loud music limiting communication, the sound of a loud, barking dog in the adjoining room, very close quarters and very limited cover. The exit is blocked by the downed 'body' of the 'senior partner.' The suspect (a firearms instructor) has cover and produces a shotgun (simunitions) which he uses in conjunction with the downed 'senior partner’s' weapon to fire at exposed parts of the trainee with simunitions rounds. The trainee’s third round in the magazine in the weapon provided has been altered to not fire, forcing the trainee to respond to the development. The suspect is either shot by the officer and eventually falls, or commits suicide if the officer does not disable the suspect.
What were the results? 'Overall, performance deteriorated, as expected, and only 28.2% performed well enough to pass this event.'
Popular theory has long held that a loss of fine and complex motor skill could be observed as a result of high stress levels. The trainees observed in this study did not appear to be unable to perform fine and complex motor skills as noted when weapons handling skills were evaluated. Rather, they seemed to perform them in the incorrect sequence or perform the wrong function all together, thereby producing a 25.8% success rate.
The popular theory to which they refer is Bruce Siddle's theories first espoused in Sharpening the Warrior's Edge. His ideas appear to have taken on the authority of popular theory or commonly conceived wisdom. Many in activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter who refer to these theories often are unaware of their origins, and their limitations.

In Performance Under Stress (Hancock and Szalma 2008), in the contribution concerning Stress Exposure Training, Driskell et al refer to the FLETC research project. They explain that 'weapons handling skills were seriously degraded as trainees were unable to perform complex motor skills ...'. This observation appears to be at odds with the authors of the FLETC report.

Siddle's thesis is that as combat stress increases, a survival stress response is initiated which has 'catastrophic' effects on cognitive and motor performance. He suggests that 'fine and complex motor skills begin to deteriorate when the working heart rate accelerates beyond 145 beats per minute.' The trainees heart rate approached but did not exceed 140 bpm.
These scores show a majority of the trainees made poor tactical decisions as to courses of action, did not effectively resort to more advanced/complex and less utilized re-loading methods, could not perform a sequence skill under stress, did not employ tactical movement concepts of 'shoot and move', and did not use the instructed kneeling position behind cover.
The shot placement data was interesting, if not disturbing:
Overall performance in this element showed a 28% passing rate. Analysis determined only 3.4% of the trainees demonstrated 70% accuracy or better when all rounds expended during the engagement were considered. Only 19.4% of all rounds fired hit the suspect who was approximately 3 yards from the trainee. In addition to shots going low, trainees scored poorly in applying fire to center mass or available center mass. Approximately 20% shot the hostage. The only performance item in the upper 50 percentile was proper clearing on the weapon, with 63% passing this element.

Of note was the statistically significant difference in overall shot placement scores by gender. 94.74% of females failed the shot placement element, while 66.25% of males failed. Further analysis was conducted to examine firearms qualification scores achieved during training. Once again, a statistically significant difference was, observed (as expected), with females averaging 248 compared to 273 for males. These data would suggest that a lower degree of accuracy in a static training environment may translate into a lower level of accuracy in a dynamic environment.
One of the research questions was: 'Can specific psychological factors be identified that predict performance in a highly stressful law enforcement encounter?' In their discussion they suggest, 'the relationship of psychological factors to performance in a high stress encounter will require further examination.'

This is the basis of my work in Beyond Fight-or-Flight: Surviving a Violent Encounter (an extended title I'm trying out). Our survival mechanism includes an appraisal process and a subjective feeling, physiological, motor expression, action tendency, and behavioural response. These are all highly interconnected. The stress discipline studies this mechanism in a limited and biased way reflecting their disciplinary interest. Another discipline, the emotion discipline, studies the same process but in a more complete, survival focused, way. Integrating the theories and concepts of the two disciplines, as I do, provides a more complete understanding of our evolved survival mechanism. It also provides the basis for understanding all of the methods developed by those activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter. These methods are interventions in the survival process.

When differentiating between physical stress and psychological stress, albeit without the benefit of an explicit understanding of the difference, they suggest that, 'training under psychological/emotional stress will better prepare the brain to perform under those conditions when the need arises versus having trainees exercise. The focus should be in the process of how the stress is created (the stimulus), rather than in the product of how the stress is measured (the response). I agree, to a point. The first step should be to understand our survival process. This then would lead to an appreciation that the appraisal process and subjective feelings are the important elements in the process. The stress discipline tends to focus on the physiological response. This is reflected in Siddle's focus, and the focus of the FLETC research program.

In The Definitive Textbook for Military and Law Enforcement Reality Based Training, Murray refers to the FLETC research program. He suggests that 'trainers must have the knowledge and skills to decode student behaviour to achieve optimum results.' I agree, but I don't believe the knowledge is available when only stress theory is referred to in connection with a person's survival response. This is the basis of my Beyond Fight-or-Flight.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lemme See Your War Face

In one of the first scenes in Full Metal Jacket, Gunnery Sgt Hartman explains that he will be the marines drill instructor. One recruit, who Hartman nicknames Pvt Joker, makes a poor attempt at humour. When Joker picks himself up off the floor following Hartman's punch in the stomach, Hartman yells the following:

Hartman: Pvt. Joker, why did you join my beloved corp?

Joker: Sir, to kill, sir.

Hartman: So you're a killer?

Joker: Sir, yes sir.

Hartman: Lemme see your war face!

Joker: (confused) Sir?

Hartman: You got a war face? (He gives Joker an angry face and screams) Aaaaaaaaah! That's a war face. Now lemme see your war face.

Joker: (Grimaces as best he can and screams) Aaaaaah!

Hartman: Bullshit. You didn't convince me. Lemme see your real war face.

Joker: (Screaming even louder and with more grimacing) Aaaaaaaah!

Hartman: You don't scare me. Work on it!

What is going on with the war face? The obvious answer is an attempt to intimidate an opponent or adversary. This is reflected in Hartman's comment concerning scaring him. Is there anything more going on with the war face?

Within the emotion discipline, emotion is considered to be a hypothetical construct denoting a process of a person's reaction to significant events which is comprised of several components: physiological arousal, motor expression, action tendencies, and subjective feelings. All of these components are highly interconnected.

There is evidence that trying to regulate or control one component of emotion may have immediate consequences for another component, illustrating the extreme interconnectedness of the components during emotion episodes.

Proprioception refers to the capacity of internal organs to provide sensory information about changes in the body. Proprioceptive feedback refers to changes in one internal system upon detection of changes in another system. One recent version of propreoceptive feedback notions is the so-called facial feedback hypothesis (FFH). FFH is the notion that inhibition or amplification of facial expression of emotion will modify the intensity and possibly the nature of subjective feeling.

In a widely discussed paper, Ekman, Levenson and Friesen reported evidence that the induction of particular motor expressions may not only amplify feeling state but actually create a specific emotion as indexed by differential physiological responses and verbal feeling reports without any other kind of stimulation. There was a tendency for the actors to feel the emotion whose facial signs they had unwittingly produced in their face.

Smile, and you will feel happy.

Is putting on a war face an attempt at managing the emotion - the interconnected physiological, subjective feeling, and action tendency responses - of the warfighter? By putting on a war face, is the warfighter attempting to combat the emotion of fear by replacing it with another emotion? If so, the action tendencies of flight, submission, tonic immobility (a conscious catatonic state), and flaccid immobility (unconsciousness) are avoided. These are avoided in part by the different physiological reactions which accompany different emotions.

If putting on a war face is intended to create a specific emotion, which one is it? Each one has its own physiological response and its own action tendency. Is it anger? Or aggression? Anger and aggression are related, but anger is a negative emotion while aggression is a blend of a positive emotion and a negative emotion. Positive and negative emotions have different cognitive effects. Negative emotions result in cognitive narrowing while positive emotions result in cognitive expansion.

When fight-or-flight, or stress, is referred to within those activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter, they are referring, knowingly or not, to the theories and concepts of the stress discipline. As Richard Lazarus points out, stress should be considered a subset of emotion. Beyond Fight-or-Flight attempts to, for the first time, integrate the theories and concepts of the stress and emotion disciplines in order to provide a more complete understanding of the methods used to prepare a person to survive a violent encounter.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lethal Technique Dilemma

And yet another one punch death is reported in the press - albeit with a difference.
Tiffany Startz, 21, was charged with felony reckless conduct and battery charges in the death of John Powell, who had accepted a $5 bet to be punched in the face by Startz, police say.
This time, the death did not occur because the deceased hit their head when falling to the ground after being punched.
The impact of the punch ruptured an artery in Powell's neck, causing blood to pool around his brain and leading to his death soon after at Provena St. Joseph's Medical Center in Joliet, said Will County Coroner Patrick O'Neil.
In Forensic Pathology for Forensic Scientists, Police, and Death Investigators, Joseph Prahlow explains that 'a blow to side of the head or face, with the resultant twistings or sideways flexion motion of the neck, can result in a laceration of the vertebral artery' (2010: 322).

This injury can happen. In fact, I read a forum comment discussing this case in which a contributor stated that he was taught a technique in Shotokan karate that is designed to achieve this fatal effect. This injury is rare, but it does happen.

In a previous blog titled 'Neck Holds - Lethal Weapons', I referred to Donald T. Reay, M.D. and John W. Eisele, M.D. who published an article titled 'Death from law enforcement neck holds' in The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology in September 1982. In their conclusion they state:
Because of the structures involved, neck holds must be considered potentially lethal under any circumstance and used only when there is no other alternative. Use of neck holds must be viewed in the same way as firearms; the potential for a fatal outcome is present each time a neck hold is applied and each time a firearm is drawn from its holster. The neck hold differs in that its fatal consequence can be totally unpredictable. ... its use should be restricted to those situations where the officer or another person's life is in immediate danger. ... It must be viewed as a potentially fatal tactic and reserved to situations which merit its risk.
Should punches to the head be viewed as lethal techniques? The potential for a fatal outcome is present every time a punch to the head is executed, as evidenced by the weekly, if not daily, reporting of one punch deaths.

Here is the dilema. If Reay and Eisele's logic is followed, and punches to the head are viewed as being lethal techniques, then lethal force may be legitimately used to defend oneself in those circumstances. As martial arts/self defence instructors, we cannot teach one without the logical conclusion of the other. We cannot teach that a punch to the head is potentially lethal every time it is employed without the logical conclusion that the student may be fighting for their life when someone is attempting to punch them in the head. This could go against current law and be seen as excessive force.

There are many interesting aspects to this tragic case. For instance, those who advocate 'reality-based training' which involves hits to the head; is there a case to be made for them being negligent if an injury such as this occurs? Even when head protection is worn, the injury involves the movement of the head so it can occur whether head protection is worn or not. Is ignorance of the risk of this type of injury a defence? And ignorance of the effects of what is taught within the martial arts is more the rule than the exception.

If you teach that hits to the head can be potentially lethal anytime they are employed, are you morally and/or legally responsible if a student injures or kills someone who attempts to hit them in the head? Are you morally and/or legally responsible if you didn't tell a student these facts and they die after being hit in the head?
Startz's attorneys have argued the charges should be dismissed because the punch was consensual. While they have argued she was an untrained fighter whose fatal punch was a freak accident, Guy said she believes the point of the game was to demonstrate how well Startz, who had punched men at other parties, could hit
Much of the argument revolves around consent. This is a fascinating issue; one which is not as clear cut as one would initially think. Consent has to be informed. The deceased and Ms Startz would presumably have been unaware that a punch to the head can be fatal anytime it is executed. You could argue, in this case, that this fact does not effect the issue of consent, or you could argue the contrary, that you cannot consent to what you don't know.

This raises the question, in the public interest which shapes law, should the fact that punches to the head can lead to fatal outcomes be a subject of public education? Then the dilemma again. Educate the public about the possibility of fatal consequences of punches to the head implies they are fatal techniques and therefore can be defended with the use of fatal force.

Injury science is a relatively new science devoted to the study of injuries (which I have discussed in previous blogs). A maxim of injury science is that there are no accidents. The defence for Ms Startz is suggesting this was an unfortunate accident. Injury science would disagree. I wrote about the Japan Judo Accident Victim's Association campaign against judo deaths in Japanese schools in a previous blog, and a well known martial artist's comment that 'accidents happen'. Injury science would argue that accidents do not happen. Injuries happen, and there are reasons for those injuries happening; and people responsible.

I am most definitely not one of the 'I'd rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6' macho-infused instructors. The martial arts teaches serious, life affecting tactics and techniques. Life affecting for both the student and any potential adversary. It behoves martial arts instructors to understand the consequences of their teachings. We are not teaching a sporting activity, even when we are teaching martial arts as a sport. The techniques can injury and kill, even on the mats.