Saturday, September 7, 2013

Zhuge and Fight-or-Flight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 2, 2013

Updating Fight-or-Flight - Magazine Article

The July edition of Blitz, Australia's #1 martial arts magazine, published my article on force and how it helps understand all techniques in the martial arts.

The August edition of Blitz will contain an article of mine titled Updating Fight-or-Flight.

Many martial arts, self defence, security, law enforcement and military instructors refer to fight-or-flight. Most have a limited and flawed understanding of the concept. In fact, the fight-or-flight concept itself is limited and flawed. My article remedies those deficiencies.

'Those who are skilled in combat do not become angered, those who are skilled at winning do not become afraid' - Zhuge Liang, Chinese military strategist, 181-234.

While many martial arts, etc., will concur with Zhuge, there are some and some warrior traditions that do not. A more complete understanding of the fight-or-flight concept enables us to better understand Zhuge's comment and the teachings of the martial arts and other activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter.

Friday, July 12, 2013

What Are You Training When You Train?

What are you training when you train? Simple enough question, isn't it? Surprisingly, the answer is very simple although not very well understood.

Repetition is the bedrock of martial arts training. Many in the martial arts and other sports refer to 'muscle memory.' MUSCLES DO NOT HAVE MEMORY. The reference to muscle memory is a way for people who don't know the 'why' of techniques or training to explain the why of techniques or training. It is a constant source of amusement when my work on understanding the why of techniques is derided and yet those same deriders then attempt to explain the why of the tactics and techniques they are teaching. The why explanation that is anecdotal at best.

The brain is 'plastic.' Neuroplasticity refers to the ability of the brain to create new neuroconnections throughout its life. Habits are well established neuroconnections. If you want to create new habits, you need to create new neuroconnections. You then need to reinforce them with repetition.

The brain changes physically (anatomy) and functionally (physiologically). It's not just about 'the way we think.' Training is about changing the physical and functional characteristics of the brain.

Your training is developing new neuroconnections and reinforcing those neuroconnections. That is why visualisation works to improve your physical performance. The brain changes itself. You visualise your physical activity and that is establishing and reinforcing those new neuralconnections. There have been studies done were people how have never played an instrument have learnt to play that instrument without physically playing it.

There is training that trains the body - pushups, etc - however, the skill training, while you may think it is physical training, is actually mind training.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mastering Force Delivery: Why knowing the science will make you more effective

Blitz, Australia's #1 Martial Arts Magazine has published an article I wrote on the use of the biomechanical concept of force to better understand and study martial arts techniques.

The title of this post appears on the front cover of the July 2013 edition, with 'Use the Force' being the title of the actual article.
The Biomechanics of Biffo
All martial arts techniques can be explained using the description 'push' or 'pull' - or so says West Australian jujutsu instructor John Coles, who had devoted years to writing and researching a book on the biomechanics of martial arts techniques. Coles, a 3rd Dan in Tsutsumi Hozan-ryu jujutsu, 1st Dan in Yoseikan aikido and 3rd Degree in Suci Hati Pencak silat, all under the late, world-renowned sensei Jan de Jong, believes that a better understanding of the scientific basis for combative movements - or rather, their successful application - has long been buried in scientific texts. When revealed, he says, it could change the face of martial arts. He begins here by explaining the fundamentals of force.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Boiling Frog Syndrome

Wendy Squires wrote a very thoughtful and personal article on the Nigella Lawson domestic violence incident. 'Not another article on domestic violence' you may be thinking. Given the wide spread prevalence of domestic violence in our society, it will touch our lives sooner or later (see the statistics in the article). Hopefully not directly, but we'll know someone who is or has experienced domestic violence. The more we know of the subject, the greater the possibility that we may be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

While there are many aspects to this story, the one that stands out for me from Squires' article is related to the following passage:
We could have asked how such a smart, capable, successful, intelligent woman as Nigella found herself in this position, but there was no need. We've both been there and still can't answer that question ourselves. Neither of us can pinpoint just when it became OK to think that this is normal. This is love. This is what I deserve.
I've supported a number of women who have been involved in an abusive relationship. I've read a lot of articles and studies on the subject. The question how they ended up in an abusive situation when they know better is so common it has become cliché.

When I listen or read about the history of a relationship, I see the boiling frog syndrome. It is, of course, complicated by the relationship, but I see so often the boiling frog syndrome.

The boiling frog syndrome refers to the anecdote where a frog will jump out of a pot of boiling water, but will stay and be boiled to death if placed in cool water and the heat of the water gradually increased.

An abusive relationship often starts with a harsh word here or there. Then some name calling. A few derogatory remarks. A shove or two. Finally it ends in physical violence. The first time is a one off, and the relationship complicates matters. This graduation process normalises the process.

What I've seen with women who question how they got to the position they found themselves in - I must be stupid, I must want it on some level, etc - is simply re-victimising themselves. Suggesting the boiling frog syndrome I've found resonates with some domestic violence survivors, and has positively affected how they view how they view themselves.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Moral Courage

Lieutenant-General David Morrison made one of the greatest speeches ever in Australian history (see below). If you extend the message beyond female degradation and humiliation to that of degradation and humiliation of any human being generally, the message rings even louder.

This speech is not to be listened too. This speech is to be studied. But there is one aspect of the speech I'd like to speak too.

Every one of us is responsible for the culture and reputation of our army and the environment in which we work. If you become aware of any individual degrading another, then show moral courage and take a stand against it. No one has ever explained to me how the exploitation or degradation of others enhances capability or honors the traditions of the Australian army. I will be ruthless in ridding the army of people who cannot live up to its values, and I need every one of you to support me in achieving this.

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. That goes for all of us, ... it is up to us to make a difference.

Powerful stuff.

Many students come to the martial arts to learn to defend themselves. How much more empowering would it be if we encouraged them to stand up for others, which in turn makes it easier for them to stand up for themselves.

How do you stand up? In the martial arts, we tend to teach physical tactics and techniques to stand up against others. How are you going to teach A Force More Powerful? The power of non-resistance.

A recent news article reported how a lone man resisted in Turkey by simply standing up and putting his hands in his pockets - a force more powerful. Mahatma Gandhi and his followers walked willingly into lines of police who clubbed them and they did not respond violently. The unidentified man from Tiananmen Square in front of the tanks. How much more powerful than physical force is, 'No.'

Courage is an amazing, misunderstood concept. Shouldn't we be encouraging (teaching) moral courage rather than physical courage to defend oneself?

It was recently reported that Nigella Lawson was assaulted by her partner in a public restaurant. Patrons videoed the assault but NONE intervened. Do you want yourself or your students to be able to defend your/themselves but be one of the photographers at such an incident?

There was a recent event where a young man at an American college was secretly filmed being intimate with another male student. It was broadcast via Skype by the perpetrators and shared with a wider audience. The young man killed himself. What role do you and your student's want to assume in this tragedy.

A very good friend of mine's young son, testosterone fuelled, sporty lad shared with me a homophobic rant in order to demonstrate his manliness. Much to my surprise I was emotionally affected and distressed. I saw him as being the one standing up for the victims, fighting the tormentors. He would never be one of the perpetrators, but it still distressed me that he might have been one of the ones pointing the finger and laughing.

This post is designed to be a reflection on what we are teaching. If we wish to teach moral courage, we must also teach to say 'No' to those confronting us as well as those confronting others, even if we don't know them or even agree with them.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Karate Kids Get Lesson In Fighting Back

'Karate kids get lesson in fighting back' is an article that published in The Age yesterday. Given my work for my book, I found some of the comments interesting.

Most children are taught the ''stranger danger'' message from a young age, but many parents are viewing martial arts training as a means of reinforcing that message with some physical self-defence skills, as well as for its health and fitness benefits.

My book uniquely contains a chapter on injury science, a relatively new science that studies injuries and the causes of injuries. All of the factors that interact to cause an injury are considered: the host, vector or vehicle, and environment. In this case, the host is the kids, the vector is a potential attacker, and the environment includes social and physical.

Injury events are divided into three time frames over which the factors interact: pre-event, event, and post-event.

Creating a matrix with the factors and phases of an injury event provides nine possible intervention points to prevent and control injuries from violence.

The stranger danger message is an intervention for the host in the pre-event phase. The physical self-defence training is an intervention for the host in the event phase.

Does martial arts training provide self-defence training? That is a contentious question with different opinions.

One of the biggest problems of martials training in terms of preventing and controlling injuries in a violent event is in the definition of the vector, the potential attacker. The definition of the vector is crucial to designing strategies, tactics and techniques to prevent and control injuries in a violent event. Most martial arts focus on the host and not the vector, or, the vector is themselves.

Most martial arts develop defences against their own style of attack. Karate teaches to defend against karate attack; judo against judo attacks; wing chun against wing chun attacks. Mixed martial arts was suppose to solve that problem except, through the principle of counter-response and symmetry, a new martial art evolved and defences were designed against those same type of attacks. How effective is this approach in preparing someone to defend themselves against someone who does not attack in the same fashion as those similarly trained?

This raises the issue of teaching one martial art to different ages and sexes. In another blog, the question of the applicability of male centric karate for females was questioned and explored. What then of adult centric karate for kids? Should there be different tactics and techniques taught if self defence is a supposed benefit of training and the vector is defined as an adult or a child of similar age?

''Part of martial arts is [trying] to avoid a situation by potentially seeing what's going to happen beforehand. It's not always easy, certainly for a young child, but you can at least teach some basic lessons, and that could help them.''
Trying to avoid a situation by seeing what's going to happen beforehand is an intervention in the pre-event phase. Do the martial arts teach skills that allows one to avoid a situation by seeing what's going on beforehand? Do they teach conflict resolution strategies that do not involve violence? I would suggest they do not. The martial arts focuses almost exclusively on the host-event cell in the matrix to prevent and control injuries from a violent event.

I'm not suggestion martial arts training does not assist in preparing a person to defend themselves. I'm suggesting that it may do so indirectly. I think not a lot of thought has gone into the suggestion that martial arts teaches one to defend themself when that is touted as being one of the functions or benefits of martial arts training.

If we truly want to ascribe a self defence function to martial arts training, then we need to review the martial art and its training. The abovementioned matrix, known as the Haddon Matrix, is a wonderful tool to help in reviewing the self defence function of martial art training and to develop enhanced capabilities.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Strengthening the Weak Link in Combat

There is an article in The Age concerning a UN meeting on killer robots. One of the arguments in favour of using killer robots in combat was:

"LARs will not be susceptible to some of the human shortcomings that may undermine the protection of life," his report said. "Typically they would not act out of revenge, panic, anger, spite, prejudice or fear."

In a book that deals with soldier stress and soldier performance, Krueger explains that people on the battlefield haven't changed but the military tactics and technology of waging war have. Consequently, he suggests that the human combatant has been called the 'limiting element' in military systems and are often labelled as the 'weak link' in the harsh environments of battlefields.

Siddle makes a similar comment when suggesting our evolved stress response interfere with modern survival skills such as close quarter combatives, firearms and evasive driving.

When stress inoculation training is discussed in terms of preparing a person for operational experience by the military or law enforcement, training and stress training are often distinguished. To put it simply, training is learning to fire a gun, stress training is learning to fire a gun when someone is firing at you.

Grossman explains how the fire rate at the enemy increased from 20% during WWII, to 55% in Korea, and 95% in Vietnam. What changed? Stress training, albeit not under that name.

I don't like the word 'stress.' The father of stress research, Hans Selye, said that everybody knows what stress is, but nobody really knows. Emotion and stress guru, Richard Lazarus, argues that stress should be considered a subset of emotion. Why? Because the ambiguous and limited concept of stress is actually referring to the emotion of fear-anxiety. If 'stress' has detrimental effects on fighting performance, why not study what the real issue is, emotion.

Many women self defence courses tackle this issue head on - turn fear into anger. Anger reduces inhibitions to aggress, has an action tendency of fight, mobilises the body to fight, and avoids flight, tonic immobility and fainting which are only associated with fear.

Stress inoculation training and stress exposure training for law enforcement and the military would be better served if they focused on emotion. The martial arts is often criticised for not teaching self defence. One of the biggest failings is in not addressing the emotion issue. They are the training methods of WWII when self defence requires the training methods of the Vietnam War.

The last two chapters in my book are unique in integrating the theories of stress, emotion and fight-or-flight to develop a survival process model. This is our evolved mechanism that was selected for in nature because it provided a survival advantage on an individual. All of the methods developed by all activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter are actually interventions in this survival process.

A better understanding of the survival process provides a better understanding of violence generally, whether it be offensive or defensive violence. It has the potential of producing better fighters or those who want to defend themselves simply by an academic understanding of the survival process. This has been demonstrated with respect to stress training whose first stage is informational.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Understanding All Fighting Methods

This post is an update on Understanding All Fighting Methods - the book I have been working on full-time for the past 4-5 years.

The book is tentatively titled: Understanding All Fighting Methods. If any reader has a better suggestion for a title it'd be gratefully received.

The book is aimed at all activities that prepare a person to survive a violent encounter (Survival Activities). This includes martial arts, combat sports, self defence, security, law enforcement, and the military.

It is a unique contribution to Survival Activities and the general body of knowledge. All of the chapters contain information that has never before been used to understand Survival Activities methods.

It has 16 chapters plus a preface.

Chpt 1 Introduction
Chpt 2 Core of all learning
Chpt 3 Kaizan: Analysing techniques to continually improve
Chpt 4 Push and pull explains all techniques
Chpt 5 Balance and unbalance
Chpt 6 Stances and motion
Chpt 7 Throws and takedowns
Chpt 8 Joint-locking techniques
Chpt 9 Injury science
Chpt 10 Striking and kicking techniques
Chpt 11 Blocking techniques
Chpt 12 Nature's and martial arts breakfalling techniques
Chpt 13 Neck restraints and shime waza
Chpt 14 Pain
Chpt 15 The survival process
Chpt 16 The survival process applied

From an original 180,000+ words, the editing process has reduced the number of words to 77,000+ which equates to about 211 pages.

A graphic designer has commenced work on the illustrations. Permission is being sought for reproduction of figures and tables from other publications.

My editing of the vast majority of the chapters has been completed.

The chapters on neck restraints and shime waza, nature's and martial arts breakfalling techniques, and pain have been reviewed by experts in those fields. When I say experts I mean non-martial arts researchers in those fields.

There is one small piece of information I am still seeking. An anatomical description of a wrist twist. Among the many unique features of this book is an anatomical description of joint-locking techniques applied to the upper limb. No other book provides that information.

If any reader can direct me to any information or person that could assist in explaining a wrist twist, I'd be very grateful.

Each chapter is heavily referenced with authoritative sources. Studies that have hitherto been hidden away in academic journals are used to provide a deeper and more complete understanding of the methods taught by Survival Activities and those used in violence generally.

The final two chapters are unique in all literature in that new theory has been developed that explains all the strategies, tactics and techniques of Survival Activities and those used in violence generally.

Many misconceptions, misunderstandings, myths and errors that are commonly espoused in the martial arts are exposed and clarified. They are clarified with the aid of science, professional research, and hard work.

Soon the tedious task of submitting the manuscript to publishers will commence.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Teach the Essence of All Martial Arts Techniques

What is the essence of all martial arts techniques? What makes them work?

Forces account for the changes in motion and shape of all things in the environment, including the body and body segments (collectively body).

Any time a body starts, stops, speeds up slows down or changes direction, a force has been applied. A change in shape refers to deformation. Deformation of body tissues can cause pain and injury. Think about all the techniques taught in any martial art and you will see that they are designed to change the motion of an opponent or deform their tissues to inflict pain or injury.

The beauty of it all is that force is a biomechanical concept that is easy for the layperson to understand and apply.

Without providing the full explanation, the following is how you teach and learn by referring to forces, the essence of all techniques:

1. Identify the points of application of the forces - all contact points between the two bodies.
2. Forces are a push or a pull. Determine if it is a push or a pull at each point of contact.
3. Determine the direction of the force.
4. Determine the relative magnitude of the force.
5. Determine the objective of the combined forces (change the motion or shape (deformation) of the opponent's body).

First teach students about forces, then consistently teach using a force based approach. Students will be taught to, and will, focus on the essence of techniques; what actually makes them work. When they come to correct errors in their performance they will go directly to the essence of the technique.

While the above might appear to have limited potential to improve on teaching striking and kicking techniques, it does not when the third law of motion is also understood. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Action refers to forces. When we hit a body, that body 'hits' us back with a force that is equal in magnitude and opposite in direction.

When we hit or kick an opponent or some training devise, or block an opponent's attack, we must deal with reaction forces. What is being done in terms of posture and stance to increase our stability and ability to absorb those reaction forces?

Those martial arts that describe their stances in terms of mobility (which means less resistance to forces), what are they doing to increase stability when contact is made and forces are experienced?

Everybody understands what a push or a pull is. If a student is told to push or pull in a certain direction they will do so. If that instruction is not an accurate or complete description of the forces involved in the execution of a technique, do not be surprised if the student experiences difficulty in performing the techniques. A force-based approach 'forces' us to consider each and every point of contact where a force may be applied. All of those forces contribute to, or at times hinder, the execution of a technique. A complete analysis of the forces involved in the  technique avoids these issues and demonstrates a thorough understanding of the technique. And a complete analysis of the forces involved in a technique is so simple.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Nobody Can Make You Feel Inferior Without Your Consent

Eleanor Roosevelt, a far wiser person than her philandering Presidential husband, said: Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

A champion indigenous Australian Rules footballer was racially abused while playing on Friday night. He was very upset and explained how he was 'gutted.'

The person who racially abused him was a 13 year-old girl who escorted by security out of the grounds, and quite rightly so. The footballer, who is the epitome of grace and dignity, did not blame the young girl and did not see retribution. Rather, he sought support and education for the young girl and questioned the environment in which she was taught it was okay to racially abuse another person.

It is human, apparently, to be upset by what another person says. The footballer was made to feel inferior, or upset, because he gave the racist 13yo girl consent. What would have happened if he hadn't have given the racist 13yo girl consent?

Other people's words have no meaning until we give them meaning. It is only when we give them meaning that they affect us. Her calling him an 'ape' could have taken on the meaning of being called a 'tiger' if he had chosen to do so, irrespective of what she actually intended it to mean.

I was training two people who have had a falling out. One of them reacted to something the other person said. He felt he had to 'stand up' for himself, which means he felt he was being threatened in some way. Not physically, but in some other ego defined way.

Whether or not the other person means it in a particular way is largely irrelevant to how we respond. We have to interpret their words in a particular way in order to elicit a particular response from ourselves. We have to consent to feeling inferior. We have to consent to feeling offended. We have to consent to feeling threatened. We have to consent to feeling attacked.

In addition to attempting to address what people (e.g. bullies, racists, etc) say, shouldn't we also be attempting to empower people by teaching them how to take away consent. Shouldn't we be teaching people that what people say can be considered to be just 'white noise.'

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Samurai Leader

Correction. I am not a servant leader as my last post suggested. I am a Samurai Leader.

I am in a process of applying for senior or middle management positions. Most of those jobs in any organisation call for leadership abilities and examples of your leadership abilities. When I've thought how I'd address these requirements based on an organisational setting, I was stymied.

Leadership is a vexing topic. To paraphrase the father of stress research, Hans Selye, everybody knows what leadership is, but nobody really knows. I have determined what leadership is. Leadership is an ambiguous concept. There are many, many different definitions and explanations of leadership with no consensus. Above all else, leadership is an industry. Countless books and articles are produced on the subject, and countless courses, seminars and programmes are offered all in the name or producing or improving leaders. It is a multibillion dollar global industry. Leadership is also a cult. It is a religious movement where leadership is idolised and revered. Every one is to be or aspire to be a leader.

To cut a long story short that forms the basis of an article I wrote that is going to be published in at least one business magazine, I developed the concept of the Samurai Leader:

'When I considered my leadership abilities and leadership style, I found the focus on leadership distracting and misguided. Why would someone want to be a leader? There are many answers to that question but most involve satisfying personal desires such as power, ambition, prestige, status, material benefits etc. Are these the attributes we want of our ‘leaders’? As Douglas Adams wrote in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe: ‘It is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.’

When I considered how I would respond to questions concerning my leadership abilities, I found that I didn’t want to talk about leadership, rather, I wanted to talk about service. To serve means to be of use in achieving or satisfying something, in this case organisational goals. There is a scene towards the end of The Last Samurai where the Emperor asks Algren about the death of Katsumoto: ‘Tell me how he died,’ Algren replies, ‘No, I will tell you how he lived.’

Tell me how you lead. No, I will tell you how I serve. I am more proud of my service than my leadership, and I believe the organisations I served benefited from my focus on serving rather than leading.

Samurai is a Japanese term that is used to refer to the professional warrior of medieval Japan and is translated as, ‘to serve.’ ‘Samurai leadership-management’ is a concept that I have developed to refer to a focus on service and 'getting the job done' to advance organisational goals. Is it a leadership or management style? Who cares? It is a way of getting the job done and advancing organisational goals. ‘Leadership-management’ merges the concepts that some say are different, some say are different sides of the same coin, some include leadership within the functions of a manager, and some use the terms interchangeably. Now the focus is simply on how a person gets the job done and advances organisational goals. 

Do not confuse service for servitude. Samurai serve, but they are not servants. Robert Greenleaf developed the servant-leader model of leadership in 1970. The focus of the servant-leader is nurturing those who are served, generally those within the organisation, and generally those in subordinate positions. That is an idealistic, socially biased model of leadership. It is idealistic and biased because Greenleaf was a Quaker advancing a religious/social agenda. The samurai leader-manager is focused on serving the organisation and advancing organisational goals, not being a servant to other organisational members. This does not suggest sacrificing others for the sake of organisational goals as the US military ‘nobody gets left behind’ philosophy in Black Hawk Down exemplifies.

How does a samurai leader-manager serve? Ideally, through the application of jujutsu. Jujutsu is a Japanese martial art that was derived from the hand-to-hand fighting skills of the samurai. It is made up of two ideographs: ju meaning gentleness or giving way and jutsu meaning art, so jujutsu can be translated as ‘the art of giving way’ with the implication of first yielding to ultimately gain victory. The idea of yielding to gain victory is a philosophy that permeates East Asian culture and the East Asian martial arts, from judo to Mao Zedong’s (Mao Tse-tung) military strategy have recognised and implemented this principle.

The Taoist analogy of the yielding nature of water to overcome obstacles is often used to explain the principle of ju: ‘Nothing in the world is softer than water, but we know it can wear away the hardest of things. The supple overcomes the hard, and the so-called weak, the strong.’ How soft was the Boxing Day tsunami or the 2001 tsunami of Japan? How soft are the monster waves at Teahupoo, Tahiti or Pipeline, Hawaii? Another translation of ju is adaptable or flexible. This is a more useful interpretation of the principle of ju. The most efficient way of overcoming an opponent is to not resist their force but to use their force against them. But efficiency and effectiveness are two different things. Sometimes you simply need to use force to overcome your opponent. The attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbour fits in with this expanded idea of the principle of ju.


Shouldn’t we be more focused on service rather than leadership? Shouldn’t we be more interested in samurai leader-managers. Tell me how you lead. I’ll tell you how I serve. Domo arigato gozaimashita.'

What do you think about the concept?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Servant Leaders

The martial arts are often promoted in terms of building 'self perfection' rather than self protection. It is often promoted in terms of developing character, confidence, etc.

Let's look at the leadership issue. Modern Western society values leadership. I know. My business education focuses on leadership. I'm currently seeking a job and most I'm looking at require leadership abilities. What is leadership? If you know, then you don't know.

If everybody you employ is a leader, isn't there 'too many chiefs and not enough indians?' This issue does not appear to be considered by recruiters nor management.

What does leadership imply? Followers. Please, please forward me an advertisement that asks for applicants to demonstrate good follower abilities. Please, please forward me an advertisement or any organisational documentation that values followership abilities. What MBA program has a unit dedicated to followship?

Different leadership styles do achieve success. The authoritarian leadership style is much maligned, but it does achieve success in a particular environment. The transactional vs transitional style of leadership is often compared with the latter being described ad the more appropriate. It is more successful depending on the environment.

What leadership style do I adopt? The servant leader (research it). This is the only leadership model that incorporates followship. It is said that to become a good leader you need first to be a good follower. This is but one model of leadership, because dictators have often been successful leaders. The question becomes, what sort of leaders do you want to be and produce?

Many martial arts instructors are dictatorial. Why? Think about what you are trying to produce. Particularly, when you are producing instructors, what type of instructors are you producing and what have they been trained to produce.

Monday, May 6, 2013

'Researchers have found karate masters can anticipate where an attack is coming from before their opponent has even moved'

It was reported that researchers are studying karate 'masters' in order to improve cricket technique because they had found that said masters can anticipate where an attack is coming from before their opponent had even moved.

Is this ability magic? Is it mystical? The martial arts abounds with such magical and mystical myths. What are these magical and mystical myths? They are simply our inability to explain natural phenomenon.

The above article reminds me of Gary Klein's work on intuition. Klein was tasked by the US military to find out how veterans made decisions in high stress environments. His initial ideas were debunked when he observed veteran firefighters and asked them how they made life saving decisions. They responded by saying they didn't know, they just 'knew.'

Eventually, Klein deduced that intuition was a process of pattern recognition. It involved comparison, classification, and analogy - the core of all learning (see my book). Unconsciously, the individual compares the outside experience with the inside experiences which are conveniently classified. This becomes a process of analogy. When a similar experience is identified, action is then initiated. This is all an unconscious process, and is a cognitive ability that was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual.

Why is it that more experienced people have better intuition? It's because they have more patterns to compare to experiences they experience.

How do karate masters anticipate an opponent's action before they have moved. It's because they unconsciously can see certain stimuli that indicate the attack. This is the real subject of the above study. How can you improve 'intuition.' More experience of course, but also, more specific type of experiences. If you know what the unconscious cues are you can rearrange training around providing more patterns associated with these unconscious cues. Simply training more is an inefficient way of improving intuition. More targeted training with the aid of understanding produces an efficient training model that produces effective practitioners faster.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Crazy Accident

It was reported today that a five-year-old boy accidentally shot dead his two-year-old sister. The rifle was given to the boy as a gift. The rifle used in the accident is a Crickett designed for children and sold under the slogan “My First Rifle,” according to the company's website.

The coroner said it is just one of those 'crazy accidents.' An autopsy was set to be conducted on Wednesday, but the coroner said he expected the shooting will be ruled accidental.

One of the chapters in my book is dedicated to injury science. Injury science is a relatively new science that studies injuries. The main focus of injury science is the prevention and control of injuries, however, as the father of injury science explains, it can also be used to study the infliction of injuries. What does injury science have to say about this incident?


The term 'accident' denotes an unforeseen, unexpected event that is the result of chance, fate or destiny. It is also used to describe human error or mistake, which thereby excludes the person from the consequences of injury. 

When arguing for the need to discontinue the use of the word 'accident' when referring to unintentional injuries, Langley refers to a survey of women whose children had been injured. The results showed that many of them had not taken any action to prevent a reoccurrence of the event resulting in injury. The findings suggested that this was not because such events were perceived as being too difficult to control, or action was inappropriate, or that the event was useful education for the child. Rather, many mothers saw the incidents as something which by definition could not be prevented - an accident.

I've written before about the Japan Judo Accident Victim's Association which has been established in response to 108 deaths from training judo in school. An internationally renowned martial arts authority discussing the JJAVA experience commented, 'accidents will happen.' What impetus is there to find a solution to prevent and control fatal and serious injuries among students training judo if they are the result of accidents and accidents will happen? By definition they are unpredictable and unpreventable.

You often see coroner's findings as to the cause of death being accidental, even though there is an entire discipline that studies injuries, fatal and nonfatal, intentional and unintentional, whose mantra is: 'injuries are not accidents.' Findings of accidental absolve all involved of any responsibility. Is nobody responsible for the death of that young girl? Are not the parents for buying a four-year-old at the time of purchase a rifle? Is not Crickett for manufacturing firearms for children? Are not the law makers for allowing children to possess lethal weapons? Apparently none of them are responsible because it was an accident. By definition, nothing can be done to prevent or control injuries from similar events in the future because they are accidents and accidents are unpreventable.

Here is another idea. Direct coroners to study injury science - the science that is dedicated to the study of injuries. The science whose mantra it is - INJURIES ARE NOT ACCIDENTS.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Do We Need Explicit Knowledge of Techniques?

One of the shodan gradings in Jan de Jong's jujutsu grading system is a theory grading. The theory grading is an oral examination of the candidate's technical knowledge. A common question De Jong posed was: 'What are the forces involved in a tai gatame ude kujuki (body set are breaking)?' The candidate was required to answer the question verbally with no physical demonstration.

This is an example of explicit learning or explicit knowledge. The Australian Institute of Sport provide the following explanation of explicit learning which is contrasted with implicit learning:
Explicit learning can be related to traditional coaching approaches where verbal instruction is used to coach a learner about how to perform a skill. This process typically results in the learner being able to verbalise how to perform the skill, although it does not guarantee the learner can physically execute the skill. In contrast, implicit learning methods typically contain no formal instruction about how to perform the skill yet result in a learner being able to perform the skill despite being unable to verbally describe how they do it.
Do we need explicit knowledge of techniques? De Jong obviously thought so given he included an explicit knowledge grading within his shodan grades. The 'traditional' teaching method of Asian martial arts involves implicit learning where techniques are demonstrated and the student attempts to imitate them. Does the student need to be able to verbally describe techniques in addition to being able to perform them? Does the instructor?

De Jong saw his dan grades as producing instructors in addition to practitioners. He expected his instructors to possess an explicit understanding of techniques. Many others in the martial arts do not expect either their students or instructors to possess an explicit understanding of their techniques. One possible explanation for the traditional Asian martial arts teaching model being based on implicit learning may be because the instructors did/do not possess an explicit understanding of the techniques. If you come up under an implicit learning model, where do you gain the explicit knowledge?

Why would an instructor need to have an explicit understanding of techniques if they use implicit learning methods when teaching? One reason is that it provides a through understanding of the mechanics of the technique. It enables the instructor to analyse techniques and provide instruction to correct errors and improve performances. The problem is that an explicit explanation of techniques is hard to come by in the martial arts.

Let's return to De Jong's question; 'what are the forces involved ...?' De Jong intuitively knew that forces are important in understanding how a technique works. Unfortunately, neither he nor the candidates knew much about forces. My work remedies that shortcoming.

Forces are what causes every technique taught by every martial art work. The good thing is that forces is a simple concept for the layperson to understand and apply. First you identify all points of contact between the 'defender' and the 'attacker.' Next you determine if the force applied at each point of contact is a push or a pull. Then you describe the direction and relative magnitude of each of the forces. Finally you determine the intended effect of the applied net forces. This approach provides an explicit understanding of every technique taught by every martial arts.

A very good and rare example of this approach at work is with Jigoro Kano's Kodokan Judo. When you understand the concept of forces and adopt the approach described above, you'll see that Kano consistently describes all his methods in these terms. In this way, Kano focuses on the important elements in the techniques to provide an explicit understanding of judo techniques for the reader.

Friday, April 5, 2013

'Trust your instincts'

'Trust your instincts' - this is advice that is often proffered by activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter (e.g. martial arts, self defence, etc.). Sound advice, but what does it actually mean?

Instincts are often equated with intuition. Far from being a mystical, magical 'sixth-sense,' intuition is seen as being a product of knowledge and experience.

Gary Klein was commissioned by the US military to find out how experts made decision during periods of high stress. He initially studied veteran firefighters and has since gone on to study military, fighter pilots, oil riggers, air traffic controllers, nuclear power plant operators, etc, and how they make decisions during times of high anxiety-fear (although he refers to the ambiguous concept of stress). Much to his surprise, he found these experts could not tell him.

We'll take a step back. It has been found that the 'core to all learning' is the identification of similarities and differences. Four forms of identifying similarities and differences have been found to be highly effective: comparison, classification, creating metaphors, and creating analogies. Far from being literary or linguistic devices, these four forms of identifying similarities and differences are seen by cognitive theorists to be fundamental ways of thinking.

Klein found that experts, compared to novices, made decisions not through a conscious, analytical process, but rather based on 'pattern recognition.' Something in the situation they were experiencing was unconsciously matched with something from their experience which prompted a decisive action.

This pattern recognition involves comparison, classification and analogies (or metaphors which for all intents and purposes is the same thing). The expert compared the experience 'out there' with their past experiences, which have been conveniently classified (albeit unconsciously), and an analogy was drawn that enabled them to understand the unknown (the current experience) with the known (past experience).

So what? If you know the process by which experts make intuitive decisions, you can devise ways and means to expedite and enhance this process. This is precisely what Klein has done and his intuitive decision making (Recognition-Primed Decision Making) is being used by various organisations around the world (including the military of various countries) to enhance decision making during periods of high anxiety-fear.

Before I leave this post, I will make one point. The intuitive decision making model is heavily weighted in favour of experience. The more 'patterns' that a person has developed and classified, the more comparisons are available to be fitted which produces a decision. However, despite the experienced-biased proponents within the martial arts, it is not experience alone that produces faster and more high quality decisions. It is also the ability to identify similarities through comparison, classification and analogies. If we train these abilities, we leverage experience and experience produces the benefits it promises.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Implicit Learning vs Explicit Learning

The previous post looked at Being Taught vs Learning. This post looks a little more at learning, which an understanding of is important for both teacher and student of the martial arts.

Learning comes in two guises: explicit and implicit learning.

Explicit learning can be related to traditional coaching approaches where verbal instruction is used to coach a learner about how to perform a skill. This process typically results in the learner being able to verbalise how to perform the skill, although it does not guarantee the learner can physically execute the skill. In contrast, implicit learning methods typically contain no formal instruction about how to perform the skill yet result in a learner being able to perform the skill despite being unable to verbally describe how they do it.

Hurst, in Armed Martial Arts of Japan, suggests that in Japanese medieval times when fighting skills were still practical, the head of any martial arts school instructed his disciples in a manner analogous to that of many religious teachers. That is to say that transmission of the teachings occurred largely by example and not through verbalisation. Hurst is describing implicit learning as being the traditional model for martial arts transmission.

It has been found that athletes who are given instructions (explicit learning) were found to more likely preoccupy themselves with thoughts about how they were executing the skill, which in most sports is detrimental to performance. Under pressure, the players were found trying to consciously control normally automatic, implicit or subconscious processes, commonly termed ‘paralysis by analysis’. In other words, they were more susceptible to choking. Alternatively, players who did not have any instructions to refer to (implicit learning) were less likely to think about how to execute the skill because they did not consciously know what they actually did. That is not to say their bodies did not know what to do, they simply left the brain out of it.

The explicit-implicit distinction is not as defined in most modern day martial arts training. Instruction is provided, but that instruction focuses on the how-to with very little, if any, instruction provided as to the why-to. That is to say that instruction is provided as to how to do the technique with none provided as to why the technique works.

As with everything, there are costs and benefits. A benefit of implicit training is increased resilience to detriments in performance under pressure. A benefit of explicit training is that it is a faster way for a learner to acquire information. A cost of explicit training is the increased potential for choking. A cost of implicit training is that it does not provide the tools for a learner to self correct. I would go one step further, it does not provide the tools to teach others.

It was once explained to me that traditional teaching of Chinese or Japanese martial arts was for the teacher to provide 'one corner' and it was up to the student to find the other corners. All very mystical and philosophical, but does it not also reflect the fact that the traditional martial arts model provides the student with how-to knowledge and not why-to knowledge. That they do not understand why something does or does not work, only how to do it, and then only for them.

Most martial arts instructors can be viewed as being great tennis players. They know how to play the game. Andre Aggassi was asked to describe the wrist action of his forearm stroke. It was found with the aid of slow motion cameras that his description of his wrist action was incorrect. He could perform the action brilliantly, but he didn't understand it and couldn't verbalise the action. Who do you want to be taught by? Roger Federer or Roger Federer's coach who you've never heard of and is not an elite player?

This raises the issue of what a black belt (or any senior grade by whatever description) means. Should a black belt be able to instruct the tactics and techniques of their martial art? If so, what model do they adopt: implicit or explicit learning? By default, if they are expected to be able to teach, they must adopt the implicit learning model? They will be limited in their problem solving abilities because they have learnt the how and not the why of techniques. Looking back on my martial arts experience, I've known many instructors who knew how to do the techniques, and some who were very good at doing them, but very, very few who knew the why of techniques. They had a 'follow me' approach to teaching and were limited and less flexible in their problem solving abilities for individual students.

Related to the above question, what percentage of a black belt should be given to teaching/understanding compared to proficiency? Right now, most black belts focus on proficiency, which then fallaciously is used to suggest teaching ability. Would you award a black belt to a person who knew the why of techniques and could teach but was an average practitioner? It depends on what you think a black belt means, or what it means to you as an instructor or head of a school. What are you producing - teachers or practitioners?

This is where my work is directed. To fill that gaping chasm that is the lack of understanding of why martial arts techniques work and how to teach them.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Being Taught Versus Learning

What is the primary function of a teacher?
Noted systems theorist, Russell Ackoff, states that the primary function of a teacher should be to facilitate learning how to learn and motivating students to do so.

It has been my position for many years that students should first be taught how to learn before they are taught any subject. Being taught how to learn improves the efficiency and efficacy of the future learning experience.

My book is, among other things, about teaching the reader how to learn the methods taught by activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter. It empowers the student and challenges the teachers to be better teachers. It encourages the student to manager their own learning experience if not become their own teachers.

Ackoff has an interesting method of facilitating learning. He suggests that teaching is a very good way to learn a subject. That teaching others encourages and enables students to learn on their own and consolidate what they have learned. This, he suggests, is common knowledge especially among those who have taught a subject that they themselves have not been taught.

I can personally vouch for the fact that my learning and the consolidation of what I learnt in the martial arts has come from teaching. I vividly remember the night when I showed understanding rather than knowledge when I taught a technique differently than my instructors with insights I'd personally gained.

Ackoff recommends that all students should be given the opportunity to teach others. So, Instructors, this is an innovate approach to teaching your students. Get your students to teach your students. Ackoff refers to an innovative teacher in the US who did just that with primary school children with considerable success. Students in the second grade taught those in the first grade, and students in the third grade taught those in the second.

I would qualify Ackoff's statement about teaching being a very good way to learn a subject. Teaching a large class is less effective in this regard than teaching a small class or teaching one-on-one. This understanding comes from personal experience teaching many people via private lessons. Each individual is different and you have to modify your teaching to suit their individual capabilities. This truly challenges your understanding of the subject and your ability to adapt what you'd been taught to suit the individual.

Food for thought.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Be Kind, For Everyone You Meet Is Fighting A Hard Battle

'Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.' This is a quote that is often attributed to Plato but some suggest is Ian Maclaren. What is the battle?

Kasey Edwards wrote an editorial in which she explains how she was sexually abused as a child. She writes that after years of therapy how she understood intellectually she was not to blame but how emotionally she still blames herself for not fighting back. In this case the battle is between intellect and emotion.

This battle is a civil war. It is between the newly evolved intellect (neocortex) and the primitive emotion (amygdala). Like all civil wars, it is complicated by the interconnectedness between the combatants. Emotion is elicited by the unconscious appraisal of a physical or psychological stimulus. Appraisal is a cognitive function. Because of the interconnectedness of the emotion process, emotion can influence appraisal and the way we see the world.

There is an article written about an elite AFL premiership footballer who suffers from anxiety that informs on this battle.

Morton said he has never played an AFL game in which he has not thrown up in the rooms beforehand, but on grand final day he vomited 10 times before running out on to the MCG. And again at quarter-time, half-time and three-quarter-time.

But Morton is still only 26 and admits that, for him, even that ultimate success was accompanied with the heightened mental anxiety which he accepts will haunt him for the rest of his life.

"Everyone has their challenges in life and this is my challenge.''

Morton does not describe his condition as depression although he has sought varying forms of treatment and medication to achieve some form of equilibrium. ''What I have couldn't be further from depression,'' he said. ''My anxiety means I don't sleep and I jump out of bed every morning and want so desperately to be as good as Chris Judd or Dane Swan or Adam Goodes.

''But I can't find a way to get there. At Richmond, it got to the point where I wanted it so much and it wasn't happening and I'd drive to training and I'd almost be regurgitating my food before every session. I'll always be a worrier because that's how I am, but it was out of control.''

Morton is engaged in a constant battle with the combatants being his intellect and emotion. The article talks of the help he's sought and his allies that are a mentor, his coach, his team, and the football club. Read the article to see how some elite sports are now treating emotional conditions seriously, employing psychologists to look after their athletes mental welfare and not just sports psychologists to improve performance.

Unfortunately I can relate to Morton's story all too well. I am in the process of better understanding my battle and my enemy, emotion. As my profile will show, I am highly qualified in both business studies and in the martial arts. I have never suffered from a lack of confidence. This confidence was not unfounded given my experience in the business and martial arts world.

I now battle with a constant feeling of doubt in my abilities and constantly feel overwhelmed. I know intellectually there is no foundation to these feelings, but the intellect cannot seem to change those feelings. You continue despite these feelings, sometimes you don't. However, understanding this battle and the enemy bolsters your resources and abilities to take on this battle (as Sun Tzu suggested the The Art of War). You may never win, as Morton explains when he accepts this condition may haunt him for the rest of his life, but you can find a way of functioning nonetheless.

I suppose this means that while you may never win, you find a way where you do not lose. Having written that, I recall that Jan de Jong used to say that fighting is not about winning, it's about not losing.

Just as with Morton on his way to training, I was battling with the urge to vomit as I travelled to the first board meeting of a charity organisation I am a director of. My anxiety levels were raging and I felt I did not have the capabilities to attend to the task as finance director and felt overwhelmed. I was gripping the steering wheel tightly, which was a metaphor for the battle I was undergoing to resist the urge to turn the car around and return home. I knew, intellectually, that I could do this job standing on my head, but my emotion refused to believe it. I couldn't change that, but just as with Morton, I fought the battle and attended the meeting despite the continued anxious feelings.

Self-talk and 'positive thinking' are weapons used by the intellect to fight emotion. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. A weakness in these intellectual weapons can be that in order for them to be effective they require belief, and belief comes from emotion not intellect.

Here, as I've learnt from both sides now, we need to be careful when urging others to 'think positively' and using motivational quotes to urge them to think differently. This can have the result of alienating a person or even be the cause of further distress and a feeling of shame and failure when they cannot change the way they feel. These messages are well intentioned, no doubt, but they are also uninformed.

In my chapter on the survival process, I detail six strategies that the military (and other fighting-related activities) use to deal with fear. One is will to override fear. This strategy assumes the emotion of fear is present but that intellectual will is used to counter the flight impulse and get the combatant to fight instead. Will got Morton onto the training track and the competitive arena, and will got me to and through my first directors meeting. What must be understood is that while will pushes you forward, it does not vanquish emotion. You still feel fear but you fight nonetheless; you still feel anxious but you train and play nonetheless; you still feel panicked but you attend the board meeting nonetheless.

This post is written for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a mediation and possibly a way for me to explore this condition. Secondly, it is also designed to alert the reader to the hidden battles that many people fight. If we wish to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, we need to better understand these battles in order to be an ally rather than another foe. This is particularly true of martial arts and self defence instructors whose students often are struggling with these hidden battles.
Be kind, for everyone you meeting is fighting a hard, often unseen, battle.

Friday, March 22, 2013

'Rapists are to blame for rape.'

'Rapists are to blame for rape' is the title of an article by Kasey Edwards published on a news site today. What I found fascinating about this article is how my work on injury science and the survival process informed this article and provided opportunities for preventing and controlling 'injury' associated with these types of events. A number of chapters in my book are dedicated to these subjects.

William Haddon developed the Haddon Matrix to analyse injury events and to develop interventions to prevent and control injury. Firstly, it has been used to study and develop interventions not only for physical injuries, but also other types of injuries such as those arising from sexual assault, as well as damage generally. Secondly, prevention and control replaces the old paradigm of simply prevention. Under the old prevention paradigm, you were on your own should prevention measures fail.

The Haddon matrix juxtaposes all the factors that contribute to an injury with the time frame over which injury occurs. The factors are: host - person at risk of being injured; vector - person responsible for injury, or vehicle - inanimate object responsible for injury; and environment - cultural and physical. The time frame is pre-, during, and post injury event.

The shame and guilt Edwards refers to the host-post injury cell. She survived her abuse but now suffers post-abuse because of her own judgements about herself. What intervention can be developed to mitigate the suffering post-event/abuse. Knowledge. An understanding of our evolved survival mechanism is one such way. 'Why didn't I fight back,' she asks. She then judges herself for not fighting back.

How corrosive are judgements? Edwards survived. Isn't that something she should be thankful for. Unfortunately, nature provided us with cognition as well as instincts. They are distinct. Edwards writes about intellectual understanding and emotion, and insightful finds they are at odds with one another. Cognition developed after emotion. We use cognition to manage emotion, but, we humans, uniquely, use cognition to inflict pain on suffering on ourselves and others. What put us on top of the food chain also causes us pain and suffering.

Those who refer to mind and body as one are simplistic. Nature provided emotion before it did cognition. Emotion is designed to be used to promote survival when thinking is too slow. It gets a little more complicated as emotion is elicited via appraisal, which is a cognitive process albeit unconscious in the case of emotion.

Why didn't I fight back? My survival process concept goes far beyond the limited fight-or-flight model (and stress). Fight and flight behaviours are severely limited. We have been provided with a vast array of instinctive survival behaviours. Nature does not judge! Nature is only interested in our survival. Nature truly cares about our survival. Fair enough, nature also messed up a bit by providing cognition that then judges nature's handiwork.

Submission is an instinctive survival behaviour. Tonic immobility is an instinctive survival behaviour. TI is an involuntary catatonic-like state that is enacted when fight and flight fail. It resembles a dead animal as the person is unable to move or vocalise. Research suggests that up to 2/3 of sexual assault survivors experience TI during their attacks. Research also suggests that understanding that TI is an instinctive, involuntary survival behaviour lessens the corrosive effects of questioning the lack of action during an assault.

Edwards article is aimed at the pre- and post-event-environment cells. To change society's views on rape in order to reduce its incidence and reduce the psychological effects due to judgements. She is doing this through knowledge.

What this model and this information does is enable one to objectively analyse an injury event and understand all the factors that interact over time to produce an injury of any description. It then provides a means where interventions in multiple areas can prevent or control injuries that can arise from these events.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

'I asked him what I could do so that we didn't have to fight'

The linked article was published today in The Age concerning a road rage incident experienced by a lawyer. It is a wonderful example by which the survival process concept I've developed by integrating the theories of fight-or-flight, stress and emotion theory can be used to gain greater insights and understanding.

When physically confronted, the lawyer explains that 'the savage instinct of fight/flight battered against the calmer, resolution-seeking side of my mind.' Lets dissect this statement with reference to the survival process concept.

'Instinct of fight/flight' refers to our evolved survival mechanism. A stimulus is unconsciously appraised. Based on that appraisal, a feeling response is elicited which motivates an impulse to act in a particular way. At the same time, an automatic physiological response is experienced which prepares the body for the behaviour that the feeling response motivates. The behaviour is designed to deal with the stimulus. This is our evolved survival mechanism.

The lawyer, even given their training to be exact with the use of their terminology, incorrectly refers to fight/flight. Many people who refer to the fight-or-flight concept do not understand that Walter Cannon, the developer of this concept, associated fight with anger and flight with fear. So, what was the lawyer's instinctive reaction - anger or fear? The different emotions are elicited based on different appraisals and produce different action tendencies which are supported by different physiological responses designed to prepare the body for different behaviours.

The lawyer was correct in referring to it as an instinct. Emotions were developed in our evolutionary past to deal with survival problems in the environment without the time consuming cognitive process. Is the instinct 'savage'?

We are all still 'cave people in suits.' We have changed our environment, but we have not evolved to adapt to that environment. The aggressor was prepared to physically engage the lawyer because of action tendency elicited by his appraisal of the lawyer beeping his car horn at him which in turn elicited the emotion of anger. Emotions were designed by nature to deal with threats to our well-being. Honking a car horn at someone is not a threat to our well-being, but some of us have not evolved to distinguish between the two.

Why did the lawyer describe this evolved instinct, albeit misdescribed, as 'savage.' He is placing a judgement on his instincts. Technically, savage is defined by violence and aggression. Flight is not violence or aggression. Savage is also defined as being uncivilised. 'Civilised' refers to a judgement about a stage of development that is considered to be more advanced. Now this refers to (a) interventions in the appraisal process in order to elicit certain emotions in response to certain stimuli, and/or (b) the ability to manage emotions once they are elicited.

The latter is what the lawyer was referring to when he wrote about the calmer, resolution-seeking side of his mind. There is a disconnect in humans between the impulse to act and the actual behaviour. This disconnect has been described as providing the opportunity of considered other behaviours other than the feeling-motivated impulse to act. Rather than fleeing or fighting the road rager, the lawyer was provided the opportunity to consider alternative behaviours because of this disconnect.

Some people obviously have a limited disconnection between impulse to act and actual behaviour. It is said that the difference between animals and humans is the disconnect between impulse and behaviour. Animals experience the emotion process in terms of a stimulus-response chain. I suppose technically you could say that those people who react in terms of a stimulus-response chain are closer to animals than humans.

'The only sensible outcome was to talk my way out of this. Be calm, swallow my pride, engage him so as to placate him.' Be calm - all of the components of the survival process are interrelated. A stimulus is appraised as a threat which elicits a feeling of fear which motivates an impulse to flee. At the same time, a physiological response is experienced which increases both heart rate and breathing rate to increase the amount of oxygenated blood that is provided to the muscles that will aid in flight. By intervening in the physiological response by voluntarily controlling his breathing, the lawyer was able to manage his feeling of fear and its associated impulse to act, along with the other physiological reactions and even the appraisal of the stimulus.

'Swallow my pride' - now that is an interesting comment. Pride is an emotion, hence, pride is based on an appraisal and elicits a feeling which motivates an impulse to act which a physiological reaction prepares the body to enact. What does 'swallow your pride' actually mean? I'd suggest it means to deal with the emotion of humiliation which is elicited based on the appraisal of the stimulus. The question then to consider is why are you feeling humiliated?

I recently watch the classic movie with Ben Kingsley playing Gandhi. In that movie, it shows line after line of Gandhi followers moving towards the military armed with large clubs who then clubbed the passive protesters. Did they swallow their pride when they were beaten and dragged away blooded and injured. No. In fact, they were probably proud of their non-violent action. Funnily enough, armed with an understanding of pain (which is another chapter in my book), they probably experienced the 'pain' associated with the beating far differently than you or I would under different circumstances.

Listen to what people say. It often says more about them than it does about what they are talking about. 'Swallow my pride' tells me the lawyer feels bad to a certain degree about not standing up to his aggressor/attacker. There is a judgement associated with his appraisal of the situation. Take an objective view of the experience or change the way you appraise the situation, and their is no more swallowing of pride.

'Engage him so as to placate him' - emotions are evolutionarily designed to be short lived. If you can stall someone from enacting their emotionally motivated action for a short period of time, the intensity of the emotion or the emotion itself would have subsided. This then provides the opportunity for cognition to be engaged. Remember, emotion is evolutionarily designed to override cognition; the latter being a later development in human evolutionary history.

The more we understand of the survival process, the less we will judge ourselves and others, and the more we will be able to manage our emotions in emotionally excitable circumstances.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Kansetsu Waza Assistance Request

I only need a small piece of information to complete my book which facilitates the understanding and study of all fighting/self defence methods. I'm using this blog to request any reader's assistance in this regard.

I'm writing a chapter on joint-locking techniques (kansetsu waza), focusing on techniques applied to the upper limb because of their popular and tactical use. Incredible as it may seem given the popularity of these techniques, to the best of my knowledge there is no anatomical description of these techniques in the martial arts and related literature.

The medical literature is of no help because the vast majority of injuries that occur in the upper limb are as a result of a fall on an outstretched hand (FOOSH injuries). The forces experienced when falling on an outstretched hand are different to those applied with a joint locking technique. For instance, a fall on an outstretched hand involves an extended hand whereas most joint-locking techniques involve a flexed hand.

I've described the anatomical effect of techniques that target the shoulder based on the movement of the humerus in the shoulder joint. This produced a classification that can be used to understand and study familiar and unfamiliar techniques that target the shoulder joint.

I've described the possible dislocations (3) that techniques targeting the elbow might produce.

There is a technique that targets the forearm taught in aikido and some jujutsu systems. This technique is called kote hineri (forearm twist; see right) in Jan de Jong jujutsu and involves applying forces to the hand to rotate the forearm towards the body. I thought obtaining an anatomical description of the effects of this technique would prove the most difficult to obtain, but it turned out to be the easiest. A researcher was interested in the effects of hyper-pronation of the forearm and published the results of a study in 1949. He used 18 cadavers and stripped the forearm of the tissues andheld the shaft of the humerus firmly in a vice and the forearm was gripped in a wooden clamp just above the wrist and slowly pronated.

I'm interested in three basic wrist locks. The first is the popular wrist crush (see right), also known as 'goose-neck' wrist lock, and gokyo (fifth teaching) in aikido. A study was conducted on this technique and published in an academic journal so I have some information on the possible anatomical effects of this technique. However, it has to be said the study was a little light on.

The second wrist lock is what De Jong referred to as yoko tekubi hishigi (side wrist lock; see right and down), which aikido refers to as nikyo (second teaching). A study on the possible anatomical effects of this technique was published in an academic journal by the above author of the study on gokyo and another by another author. Again, these studies are not as comprehensive as they might be.

The third wrist lock is the ubiquitous wrist twist (see below right). I have no information on the anatomical effects of this technique other than a general possible explanation provided by a physiotherapist. While I would appreciate information on the above two wrist locks, it is a description of the anatomical effects of the wrist twist that I am missing. If any reader could assist with a description from an authoritative source (anatomist, biomechanist, etc), I would be very appreciative. You would be contributing to the general body of knowledge because no such description appears to exist today.

Thank you.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Effect of Sexual Assault Statistics

Most women's self defence courses (WSD) begin by informing the participants of the horrendous statistics associated with sexual assault. It could be argued this is problem solving 101: identify the problem and then provide a solution. It could also be argued that this is a marketing or motivational ploy in motivating the participants to enrol and actively learn and participate. But is this approach the best approach?

Jocelyn Hollander from the University of Oregan , based on her experience in teaching about violence against women, explains how she adopted the traditional approach of making a strong case about the pervasive and devastating nature of such violence. However, she found that 90% of her mostly female students felt disempowered by such information. The students felt vulnerable and that violence was inevitable. Emphasising women's victimisation reinforced the cultural fusion of femininity as vulnerability, weakness, and fragility.

Another source of discomfort for Hollander with her original approach was her increasingly firm belief that emphasizing women’s victimisation at the hands of men was, at best, telling only a partial story. According to a literature she had initially overlooked, women's victimisation is pervasive but not inevitable. For example, women successfully resist at least 75% of all attempted sexual assaults; in other words, they escape, they stop the violence, and they protect themselves as much as possible.

Hollander modified her original approach:
Together, these strategies help balance students' feelings of vulnerability and futility when learning about violence and provide a more complex picture of the realities of violence in women's lives. Information on women's resistance to violence included in class readings and lectures helps counter the myth that women can never defend themselves from men's violence and helps expand the students' understandings of resistance to include emotional, psychological, and verbal strategies. ... Information on those changes that have occurred challenges the sense of futility and powerlessness that often produces frozen inaction.
An approach I'm adopting is based on the evolved survival process concept I have developed. I've been thinking how I'd start a seminar or WSD course by asking the participants to raise their hand if they thought they were defenceless against a male attacker. I'd then explain that if they were truly defenceless, there would be no human race.

Nature provided a very sophisticated, comprehensive and effective defence mechanism for human beings. It involves an appraisal process that, if a stimulus is defined as a threat, elicits a feeling response which motivates an instinctive defensive behaviour that an automatic physiological reaction prepares the body to enact. There are numerous behaviours - flight, fight, tonic immobility, faint, help-seeking, submission, etc - that are evolved, instinctive defensive behaviours. These behaviours are supported by a different physiological response that supports the behaviour and promotes the survival of an individual.

The appraisal process is all important. It is made up of three parts: primary appraisal, secondary appraisal, and reappraisal. Primary appraisal results in a stimulus being appraised as irrelevant, benign-positive or stressful. Stressful appraisals are appraised as being harmful, threatening or challenging, and are subject to a secondary appraisal. Secondary appraisal determines the abilities and resources to deal with the harm, threat or challenge.

Constantly reinforcing a person's vulnerability changes their unconscious appraisal of their resources and abilities to deal with a threat. This shapes the feeling, physiological and behavioural responses to a threat in terms of its nature and intensity. If you don't believe you can defend yourself you won't be able to. You won't be able to take advantage of nature's defence mechanism to promote your own survival because your 'learned' appraisal tells you that you cannot defend yourself.

My approach is based on explaining to participants that nature provided them with a very effective defence mechanism. Society tends to undervalue and undermine this defence mechanism by the constant reporting of successful attacks on women in the news media as well as entertainment (movies, TV, books, etc). If our evolved survival responses are undermined, it reduces the possibility that those behaviours which are evolutionarily designed to promote survival and have done so successfully for thousands of years, will not be enacted when they are needed the most.

My approach goes on to say that the education and training I provide in my women's self protection program is designed to improve on nature. Nature's efforts is already effective, but it's usefulness is under-reported by the sensationalist and fear-provoking (which motivates sales) news media. I deliberately use the term 'protection' instead of 'defence' because my approach is holistic. It is based on injury science theory in which an injury event is divided into three phases: pre-event, event, and post event. It's also based on all the factors involved in an injury event: host (person at risk), vector or vehicle (person or object that can cause injury), and environment (physical and cultural).

Do not discount nor dismiss what nature gave you. Instead, learn more about what nature gave you and build on that.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Killer Commando

There is a fascinating article published on various news websites concerning a former Australian commando's (Paul Cale) developing a leading edge military close combat system based on martial arts. This could be read in conjunction with an interview with the same person in the Australian martial arts magazine, Blitz.

The original story is fascinating to me, not because of its 'warrior' story but because of the sheer nuts and bolts of it all which my work either informs or raises questions.

Cale tells of an incident in Afghanistan that became a hand-to-hand battle in which he strangled a Taliban fighter. Technically, despite the posted comments to the article, at no time does the article say that the strangulation killed the fighter. However, assuming it did, I'd be fascinated to know the details, not out of some morbid curiosity but from a purely technical point of view.

The forensic pathology literature time line proposed for neck holds/strangulation techniques/shime waza is approximately 10 seconds to unconsciousness, 2 minutes and will resuscitate unaided, 2-4 minutes and manual resuscitation will be required, 3-4+ minutes death.

Was the strangulation held on for 3-4 minutes to cause death? That's a long time to hold a technique in the middle of a combat scenario with multiple combatants. Or was the technique held on for long enough (approx. 10 secs) to induce unconsciousness and then released before the enemy was dispatched by another means? That is to say the strangulation facilitated a decisive technique and was not the decisive technique in and of itself.

This then raises the question concerning how this technique is taught to be tactically employed in a close combat system.

If the time line proposed by the forensic pathology discipline is mistaken, given they've no personal experience in using the technique to cause a fatal injury, Cale's experience would be a unique contribution to the body of knowledge.

Cale talks about breaking an enemy fighter's shoulder. Again, I'd love to know how as I've developed a simply anatomical classification that explains the mechanics of how a shoulder is dislocated by any technique that targets the shoulder taught by any martial art, combat sport, or activity associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter. This understanding then, through experience, facilitates the understanding, study, and use of the technique as you know precisely what your application of force(s) is designed to achieve (more than beyond 'break elbow').

Cale talks about the military kit not being suited for being engaged in hand-to-hand combat and that he developed a method which caters for this limitation. It is disturbing when you see any military close combat, law enforcement empty hand control training, and martial arts being used in those two environments, when the techniques taught to be used in an operational environment are trained wearing outfits that are not worn in operational environments (e.g. uniform with no kit or sports attire). I would dearly love to see Cale's modifications to his martial arts methods to cater for the wearing of the cumbersome military kit.

Cale makes the very important point that the combat sport is only used to train a combat ethos. It is a part of his overall training methodology. It is important to understand what the training produces. Combat sports does not teach combat methods. To be sure, there are overlaps, but there is also significant differences, as Cale points out. Many in the martial arts worship 'action,' 'doing things,' and disregard an intellectual study of what they are doing. Because you struggle and train with resistance, sweat, feel pain, get injured, injure and inflict pain, bleed and cause bleeding, does not mean that your training is preparing you for an operational environment. It most definitely trains a mind set, or a warrior ethos as Cale refers to it as, but the tactics and techniques may not 'fit' the operational environment.

Injury science's division of the factors of an injury event - host (person at risk of being injured), vector (person attempting to cause an injury), and the environment - forces you consider all of these factors. The martial arts tends to ignore the latter two factors, which then affects the development of the tactics and techniques of that martial art.

Taking Cale's methodology a step further based on injury science's methodology. You train your close combat methods in your military kit. Should your training partner do likewise? The Taliban fighter is not going to be similarly attired. If you develop tactics and techniques based on an enemy being similarly attired (and similarly trained), they may be flawed. A similar argument is applicable for the environment factor (dojo/training hall vs closed confines of a room in a house in Afghanistan).

The father-of-two said his program also helped returned soldiers suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. "It's very calming and we find a lot of guys are coming to classes just to unwind and release the pressure valve," he said. "I'm broken, injured and a little bit older than most. For me it's all about technique and being calm and centred. Our psychologists are looking into the calming effect and apparently there's been a body of work done on this issue and US veterans."
In the Blitz article, Cale refers to 'stress relief.' Stress is a limited concept. It looks at a survival mechanism that was selected for in nature to promote an individual's survival. Stress only looks at part of that mechanism, and from a biased viewpoint. Even those involved in the stress discipline describe stress and an ambiguous concept.

The survival process model I've developed provides a holistic approach to study the calming effects produced by combat sports training Cale refers to. Stress training, and some PTSD recovery programs, use an academic understanding of stress and stress effects/symptoms to help manage them. The survival process model, due to its comprehensive/holistic nature, improves on the stress approach.