Monday, November 24, 2014

Sexual Harassment and Martial Arts Instruction and Training

The martial arts is a physical activity and some martial arts, e.g. the grappling arts, involve frequent intimate physical contact. This intimate physical contact could involve sexual harassment or be construed by the female student as constituting sexual harassment.

Do you have a sexual harassment policy that all instructors and students are familiar with? If not, why not? Do you even know what sexual harassment is? Not think you know but actually know from study and with authority to support your knowledge.

All instructors in the largely amateur activity of the martial arts should be able to answer these questions in the affirmative in order to protect the welfare of both students and instructors. The protection of the welfare of students and instructors takes priority in my view over the legal risks associated with the issue.

The Australian Human Rights Commission defines sexual harassment as: Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature which makes a person feel offended, humiliated and/or intimidated where that reaction is reasonable in the circumstances.

When a male instructor or student executes a bear-hug attack from behind or in front of a female student, which involves intimate physical contact of both bodies, and which makes said student feel uncomfortable, is that sexual harassment? Could it be construed by said student as being sexual harassment? Demonstrating a scooping throw (sukui nage) where the defender puts their arm between an opponent's legs when that action makes her feel uncomfortable, is that sexual harassment?

I don't know, but thinking about sexual harassment and how it is dependent upon how the conduct and contact makes the other person feel alerts us to a greater awareness of how we conduct classes.

I became acutely aware of this issue when I was conducting many private lessons with female students. I developed my own way of dealing with the issue because the school I taught for did not have a sexual harassment policy nor instructed instructors on how to deal with this issue.

With all female students, whether in a class or in a private lesson, I'd inform them that they should feel free to inform me if any particular attack or technique made them feel uncomfortable. I'd also inform them of the physical contact ,if the attack or technique involved intimate physical contact, prior to the contact.

I have discuss the above with some male martial artists who dismiss the idea. They suggest that the female student should expect and accept intimate physical contact when training. That is dismissive of the concerns of the student and there are better ways of dealing with the issue.

What remedial action do you take if sexual harassment happens? Without having thought about the issue of sexual harassment prior to teaching, which would include the drafting of a sexual harassment policy, there is no way of knowing what to do in these circumstances.

I was giving private lessons to three female students because they felt 'uncomfortable' with one of the male instructors and the 'attention' he paid them. They decided upon private lessons rather than attending his class. Naively, and ashamedly, I did not take their concerns as seriously as I should have, however, ultimately I did inform the management of the school. The manager's response was to chastise me for saying such things and the claims were never investigated nor the welfare of the women asked after (and please don't confuse manager with principal).

There were failings in this regard in the school I taught at, however, they are common failings because the martial arts industry is essentially amateur in nature and lacks poor governance. The way to rectify this particular failing is to understand the issues associated with sexual harassment and develop a sexual harassment policy that deals with ways to prevent it from happening and how to take remedial action if it does happen, and to ensure that all instructors and students are aware of the policy.

The reference to writing a policy may sound overly officious or ureaucratic to some, however, the discipline of drafting a policy forces one to study and understand the issues involved with sexual harassment. If for no other reason it is a worthy exercise.

A very good start is with the concise information brochure on the subject published by the Australian Human Rights Commission: Effectively Preventing and Responding to Sexual Harassment: A Quick Guide.

A rare example of the martial arts attempting to address this issue is the Australian Ju Jitsu Association's sexual harassment policy. This and other OH&S policies were written by the late Brierley Bailey who was the National Secretary of the AJJA for many years. He was attuned to the need for good governance in order to protect the welfare of students and instructors.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Self Discipline II

Stu provided some comments on the last post. Stu was dead right when he wrote that the Cambridge Dictionary definition of self-discipline was simplistic. It is. And that is precisely the reason I referred to it, because it would be controversial and promote thinking and discussion. And it has.

I've corresponded about the issue of self-discipline with three intelligent, thoughtful, and experienced martial artists and each has responded with different ideas on the subject. Wonderful. One is for it, another rejecting it, and the other in between. Let's keep this discussion going.

Stu has raised the issue of balance. That martial arts teaches you balance.

I do not disagree, but I also do not agree. It is a complex mix of instructor and student.

I was an exceptional practitioner of jujutsu. I have an above average understanding of the technical elements of jujutsu. Did I ever have 'balance' - God no! In fact, my philosophy was that in order to excel at anything you had to have absolutely no balance. Extreme = unique excellence. There is no Olympic athlete that is 'balanced.'

Mas Oyama wandering off to a forest for a few years to commune with goblins in order to found Kyukoshin kai karate is not the poster child for balance. Musashi living in a cave for years is not a poster child for balance. They are, however, poster children for unique excellence.

This leads to philosophical questions, which unfortunately instructors cannot, or at least should not, shy away from. Can you attain greatness by being balanced? Can you advance anything by being balanced? And ultimately, as I now understand, what is the price you pay for greatness by not being balanced? Is it worth it?

I may not have all the answers dear readers, but I do have the questions.

Balance or unique excellence?

Monday, November 3, 2014


Many martial arts promote the benefits of martial arts training as including the acquisition of self-discipline. This got me thinking, what does self-discipline mean?

I'm researching an article on self-discipline that I hope to have published in Blitz. I won't go through the entire discussion because posts on the Internet are suppose to be short to cater for the average reader's attention span of a brick.

Cambridge Dictionary defines self-disciple as forcing yourself to do something even though you don't want to.

If that is the case, I've never exhibit self-discipline in my martial arts training, nor has my martial arts training taught me self-discipline.

I started out training by attending two classes a day, six days a week, and supplemented that with additional training. The attending classes changed from student to teacher but that regime continued for 20+ years. Many would remark on my self-discipline based on that training and teaching regime. They were wrong based on the above definition of self-discipline.

I never had to force myself to train or teach. Nobody had to force me to train or teach. I enjoyed it and wanted to do it, therefore, by definition that is not self-discipline.

Following this analysis, it is paradoxical that those martial artists who suggest that martial arts training teaches self-discipline must first find students who do not want to train in order to receive the benefits of learning self-discipline.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Angering Your Opponent is a Good Strategy - Sometimes

'Angering your opponent is a good strategy - sometimes' is the title of an article published by Discover: Science for the Curious.

Humans understand how anger in another can influence their performance, for better or worse, and use the emotion strategically against competitors, new research confirms.

Researchers predicted that anger would enhance performance in the strength tests, and that participants would choose not to upset their opponents so as not to give them an advantage. In the mental task-based tests, however, researchers predicted that participants would try to anger competitors, and that the emotion would impair their mental acumen.

Any activity associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter (e.g. martial arts, self defence, law enforcement methods, close combat, etc) needs to understand emotion and their effects.

The strategic use of emotion is a part of your plan to defeat an opponent.

Anger produces a cascade of hormones that are evolutionarily designed to promote survival. The hormones are evolutionarily designed to increase strength, speed, endurance, decrease sensitivity to pain, and to reduce the inhibition to aggress. It also results in 'tunnel vision' and reduces the search range of solutions to a problem.

So it depends on how you plan to defeat your opponent whether or not you attempt to elicit the emotion of anger in them.

Emotions are always a double-sided coin. What emotion do you want to elicit in yourself in order to defeat your opponent or at least not to be defeated by them. Anger is one such emotion that can assist or detract from your efforts.

When you study techniques and tactics, also study emotion. It is a huge part of a combative encounter.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Who is the Vector?

The author of a recent article in Blitz suggested that we should question our martial art. What are the right questions to ask?

I've drafted an article that assists in identifying the right questions to ask. Martial arts and self defence are designed to prevent or minimise injury from a violent encounter. Injury science studies injury with a view to preventing or controling injury. A tool that is used to analyse injury and brainstorm preventions that are designed to prevent and control injury is the Haddon Matrix. Rather than go through the matrix, I'll focus on one aspect of it here.

Injury science sees injury resulting from three interrelated factors: host, vector/vehicle, environment. The host is the person injured or at risk of injry, the vector is the animate organism and the vehicle the inanimate object that inflicts the injury, and the environment is the physical and social environment in which the injury event occurs. All three combine to produce an injury and all three provide intervention opportunities to prevent and control injury.

Learning martial arts or self defence is something the host (you) can do to prevent and control injuries resulting from an act of interpersonal violence. But the martial art or self defence you learn are highly dependent on the defintion of the vector.

Taking a quote from the end of Platton: 'I think now, looking back, we did not fight the enemy; we fought ourselves.'

Karate teaches defences against karate attacks. Boxing teaches defences against boxing attacks. Wing chun teaches defences against wing chun attacks. Even the mixed martials, which was originally designed to pit different martial arts against each other, evolved into a martial art of itself which is designed to defend against similiarly trained opponents.

The martial arts are generally designed to fight themselves.

Women's self defence (WSD). Most WSD courses are based on, explicitly or implicitly, a stranger attack, however, statistics show that the overwhelming majority of attacks on women, sexual or otherwise, are perpetrated by someone they know. Surely the strategies, tactics and techniques would differ depending on whether the attacker was a stranger or a familiar.

The author of the abovementioned Blitz article quite rightly suggested this is a major area of concern when developing or evaluation the self defence potentional of a martial art or self defence program.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Kiai is a Japanese word that means ki, energy, ai, to join or fit. Aside from the often philisophical and down right ridiculous ascertions made of many things in the martial arts, does kiai have any practical benefits.

The TV show Sports Science investigated the practical benefits of a shout/yell when breaking bricks (aka kiai). They found that a shout/yell increased the force applied to the bricks by 25 percent. They then go on to explain how. It has to do with an adrenalin increase associated with the kiai. But how does that work?

I've written before about Facial Feedback Hypothesis (FFH). FFH postulates that an emotion can be elicted by physically simulating the actions associated with that emotion. Emotions for the emotion discipline is not just subjective feelings. They are a feeling, physiological and action tendency responses to a stimulus. The physiological respone prepares the body for the action tendency associated with the emotion.

Shouting/yelling is associated with anger. The physiological response prepares the body to fight which includes an adrenalin release along with blood being shunted to the arms and hands in readiness to fight.

The same works for beating the chest with fists, making fists, putting on a 'war face.'

Monday, April 7, 2014


What is kaizen?

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

'Nobody Deserves To Be Raped'

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 24, 2014

Understanding Evolved Responses to Sexual Assault

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 28, 2014

Do You Teach This?

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

How do you teach this attitude?

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

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

Thursday, February 13, 2014

1% of rapes are committed by strangers

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

Scenario Based Training Approach: The Situation Determines The Solution.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


I'm back.

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

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

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

More to come.