Monday, December 21, 2015

The Anatomy of Courage

 Image result for courage

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

What does De La Billiere have to say about courage?

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

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

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

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

Lord Moran summed it up: Courage is willpower.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Criminologist Proves My Point

Image result for criminologist 

I exchanged messages with a professional criminologist today. Let's just refer to her as LS to protect her reputation.

I'd contacted LS to possibly exchange ideas after she posted a comment on the ABC website concerning domestic abuse and identified herself as a professional criminologist in order to give credibility to her views. It was because of that I contacted her in order to discuss and explore certain matters.

In my original email I explained that in my book I explain how many activities associated with violence refer to the fight-or-flight concept and how their understanding of FoF is limited and flawed as is the concept itself. She took exception to that:

LS: Fight or flight isn't flawed, it's a very real concept.

FoF is a real concept. I'm not disputing that. What I am suggesting, and which LS clearly demonstrated, is that most people's understanding of FoF is limited and flawed as is the concept itself.

Most people who refer to FoF do so in reference to fear and attribute both instinctive survival behaviours to fear, however, Walter Cannon, the founder of the FoF concept associated flight with fear but fight with anger. This small but important detail is often overlooked. It is important because if instinctive fight behaviour was associated with fear then there would be no need to develop ways and means to counter fear if fight behaviour was the desired behaviour.


LS: Anger doesn't activate flight or fight. I suggest that you do so,e (sic) proper empirical research instead of just relying on some guy's book.

The 'guy's book' I am relying on is Walter Cannon's, the guy would developed the FoF concept. The title of his book first published in 1915 indicates the association of FoF with anger and fear: 
Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear and Rage.

LS: No psychology text I have ever read talks about anger activating fight or flight.

LS is proving my point about the flawed understanding of the FoF concept that many/most people have.

FoF only offers two instinctive survival behaviours, however, that has been criticised in recent times. Read 'Does "Fight or Flight" Need Updating?' by Bracha et al. The updating they are referring to is in terms of the limited number of instinctive survival behaviours the FoF model provides. And even their updates are limited.

 LS:  Fight or flight is gender neutral. I'll stick to academic texts thanks. Don't think I can help you, sounds like you need to do more research.

I referred LS to Dr Shelley Taylor and her associates paper that attempt to update FoF for gender. They suggest that FoF is a male concept and most research on the concept has been done on male subjects, animal and human. The propose a female alternative, tend-and-befriend. They argue that females have different behavioural responses to a threat because they have had different evolutionary pressures.

Is Psychological Review a sufficient academic resource? The research came out of the University of California (UCLA). Is that sufficient credibility?

LS: Tend and befriend is not a concept I ever came across in my studies, ever.

Again, kind of proving my point.

LS: Fight or flight is a physiological response of the autonomic nervous system. Different behaviours may manifest when one experiences fight or flight, but it doesn't change the chemistry of the physiological response.

The stress discipline through the work of the founder of the stress concept, Hans Selye, hijacked the FoF concept and turned the focus off survival and the three components in our evolved survival mechanism and onto the effects of the FoF physiological response on health and later performance.

Cannon got it wrong. He describes two emotions that motive two different instinctive survival behaviours but only one physiological reaction. What colour does a person's face turn when scared or angry? The different colours indicate different physiological reactions are being experienced when different emotions are being experienced. The different physiological reactions are explained in terms of the different action tendencies associated with the different emotions. 

The FoF physiological reaction is a fear physiological reaction, and then only for a small part of the fear spectrum. FoF is associated with with increased sympathetic nervous system activation when fear is experience, however, another behaviour that Bracha (alone) identified as an instinctive survival behaviour is faint. Faint is associated with extreme fear but the parasympathetic nervous system dominates the SNS resulting in 'shut down.'

Taylor explains that the different gender responses to a threat, tend-and-befriend for females, is also physiological related. She explains that the same physiological reactions occurs for females as it does for the males (FoF) but when the hormones react with the sex hormones different results occur.

LS: Whatever man, I know what fof is I don't need schooling.

Again, proving my point. I really gotta get my work out there to 'school' people like LS (a professional criminologist).  

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Was Cprl Ben Roberts-Smith VC medal reciepent couragous?

Image result for cpl ben roberts-smithThis post is based on a chapter I've been writing in my book concerning our evolved survival mechanism and the survival process. An understanding of these concepts not only provides a better understanding of our natural responses to a threat, they also provide a better understanding of all of the methods taught by martial arts, self-defence, law enforcement, and the military as they are all interventions in our/the survival mechanism/process.

The chapter I'm writing is tentatively titled, Overcoming Fear.

I initially refer to Petersen and Liaras' article concerning the emotional strategies used to overcome fear in war published in the Journal of Military Ethics. They provide five strategies that have been used since time immemorial to get people to fight rather than flee when threatened. The first mistake they make is to associate both fight and flight with fear, as do most people.

Walter Cannon developed the fight-or-flight concept and what most people who do not bother researching his work do is attribute both survival behaviours to fear when he attributed flight to fear but fight to anger. This small but important detail has important ramifications when attempting to understand natural and learned responses to a threat.

I then move on and use Cprl Ben Roberts-Smith's awarding of a VC for action in Afghanistan to extend far beyond Petersen and Liaras' work.

Robert's-Smith says anyone who is not fearful in combat is either crazy or lying. Fair enough. Given the most common instinctive response to a threat is fear and flight, how did Robert's-Smith overcome fear in order to take out the Taliban position that was threatening his platoon?

Moran, in The Anatomy of Courage, states courage is willpower. Courage is often stated, as evidenced in oh so many US military manuals, as engaging in action even though scared. General Sir Peter de la Billiere in the same book states that without fear there is no courage.

This produces an interesting dilemma. Medals of bravery by whatever description refer to courage or gallantry, and De La Billiere states that without fear there is no courage. If Robert's-Smith did not experience fear at the time of his actions then, by definition, he was not courageous.

I have this image in my head of, after an action, troops have to fill in a questionnaire with a question concerning their feelings during a particular engagement. 'You rushed an enemy position without regard for your personal safety in order to save your fellow soldiers.' 'Yes sir.' 'Were you fearful.' 'No sir.' 'Right, on your way. You're not brave. No medal for you.'

I've been trawling through news reports of Roberts-Smith's interviews. He talks about training kicking in. Stress training, even when the term itself is not used, is designed to minimise or negate fear and anxiety, although that is lost because of the reference to the ambiguous and abstract concept of stress (Everybody knows what stress is, but nobody really knows - Hans Selye, father of the stress concept). If his (stress/anti-fear training) kicked in, did he not experience fear when he rushed the Taliban?  His training overcame fear.

A most interesting discovery is a study that looked at extreme altruism of heroism medal winners. They found that an overwhelming majority acted on instinct and did not think about the action. The authors of that study wanted to see if acted without thinking or with conscious self-control to override fear. They, being members of the fractured sciences, did not follow through on that thought.

When I read the descriptions of the medal winners, many referred to adrenalin rushes and feeling no pain, both of which are physiological reactions associated with an emotion being experienced. What emotion? In fact, the authors defined intuitive action and decision making including emotion. What emotion?

They state that learning is part of our evolutionary heritage and that this extreme altruism can be an inherited trait or learned from life experience, or taught. It would be handy to know what emotion we are trying to teach and instill when training someone to 'have their mates' backs' in combat.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Women's Self Defence and Bejesus

The standard women's self defence marketing model is to scare the bejesus out of women.

Step one - provide women with the horrifying statistics that is violence against women. Step two - provide anecdotes of violence against women which unfortunately there is no shortage of. By this time they will be convinced if they haven't been attack or abused todate then it is only a matter of time. That they are defenceless without the aid of the WSD product being offered. Step three - after defining the problem - problem solving 101 - present the solution, the WSD product being offered.

That is a very effective business model. Very effective. But I have a different approach ... which may explain my lack of financial success at this point in time.

I explain that women are NOT defenceless. That Nature equipped them with a sophisticated defence mechanism and that I can prove it. I can prove it because if they were defenceless, they would not be here; we would not be here; the human race would not be here

I prefer to explain to women that Nature did not craft them to be row boats cast adrift in a turbulent sea. No. Nature crafted them to be naval vessels equipped with a sophisticated defence system including a sophisticated radar system - intuition.

This is the basis that WSD courses, and other activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter should be forced to start with. What can you do that is better than Nature? After all, Nature provided a survival mechanism that has proven highly successful over millions of years.

WSD courses teach to turn fear into anger. Man has constantly used emotion strategically to motivate and support fight behaviour by turning fear into anger. Please ... That is taken straight out of Nature's playbook.

Fight-or-flight is a concept that is understood by most in a limited and flawed fashion, AND, it is a limited and flawed concept itself. Most associate fight or flight with fear, however, Cannon associated flight with fear but fight with anger. Flee when you can, fight if you must. The different emotions motivate and support the different survival behaviours.

Fear into fight in order to support fight behaviour when flight is obstructed - Nature survival 101.

My point is, understand Nature's survival process before you dismiss it. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

There Are No Cowards In Nature

Cowardice. A word that is used to denigrate and motivate. We learn to overcome fear in order to fight because to not fight is cowardice. To run away is cowardice.

The U.S. Army nearly got it right when they said that the mission of the soldier in a survival situation is to stay alive. That mission is taken straight out of Nature's playbook. However, the U.S. Army also refers to staying alive with dignity and honour. Nature doesn't care about dignity and honour. Those are man-made constructs that are designed to get people to act in a particular way. Nature is only interest in our survival.

There are no cowards in nature. Does the lioness who runs from a wilderbeast get chastised and ostracised because she ran away? No. Judgements are for humans, and judgements are designed to get people to act in a particular way.

Many people refer to fight-or-flight to describe our natural responses to a threat. Those many people do not understand that they have a limited and flawed understanding of a limited and flawed concept.

Fight-or-flight does not indicate choice. These are instinctive, meaning unconscious, survival behaviours that were selected for in nature because they conferred a survival advantage on an individual. And there is an order to the survival behaviours. It has been consistently shown that the order of survival behaviours is dependent on increasing proximity of threat with flight being the first option followed by fight if flight is obstructed.

Flee when you can, fight when you must. Nature's way.

Man then comes along and places judgements on nature's survival process. What's even worse is that those judgements then cause damage and gets people killed after nature did it's job and the person survived.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Courage and cowardice - subjects that are of great interest to fighting activities. Subjects that are of great interest to politicians, the military, law enforcement, society ... to all of us. Subjects that are judgement-laden, and subjects that most of us are blissfully ignorant of as we judge ourselves and others.

Courage has been defined as doing something even though fearful.

Cprl Ben Roberts-Smith received the highest award in the Australian honours system, the Victoria Cross for Australia and later the Medal for Gallantry. Gallantry is defined as courageous. Courage, bravery, gallantry are all included in the descriptions for these honours, however, Cprl Ben Roberts-Smith explains that when he engaged in the actions for which he was awarded those honours, fear was absent as training kicked in.

No fear, no courage. No fear, no bravery. No fear, no gallantry. No fear, none of those by definition.

No fear, just training. Training is designed to eliminate courage, bravery, and gallantry, by definition.

I am braver, more courageous, and more gallant than Cprl Ben Roberts-Smith ... by definition :). You see, I have been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder, therefore, I live most my life in perpetual fear, however, I do things, accomplish things, get things done despite anxiety-fear. Despite sometimes crippling anxiety-fear. Therefore, by definition, I am braver, more courageous, and more gallant than Cprl Ben Roberts-Smith.

But your anxiety-fear is not associated with life threatening situations I hear you protest. Do you think your amygdala differentiates between life threatening situations and not when you have an anxiety and/or panic disorder? No. Your amygdala goes into protection mode when it detects a threat ... like picking up kitty litter, visiting the adopted nieces that you love, visiting your mother who is in a palliative care unit in hospital, attending a coffee with a friend ...

My point is to expose the fallacy that is courage (and later cowardice). It is a concept that we embrace that reveals more about us than it does about the supposed courageous person.

There is a wonderful book, The Mystery of Courage, that is a meditation on courage. Within its contents the author writes about 'courageous acts.' Courageous acts are what we consider courageous irrespective of the actors motivations. Courage is something that seems to be divorced from the actor.

There is a lot more to courage and cowardice, however, fodder for future posts.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Stress Inoculation Training

Stress training of varying names is increasingly being used by law enforcement and the military to better prepare their personnel for operational deployment.

Stress training is different than training. The way I describe the difference is that training is learning to shoot a gun while stress training is learning to shoot a gun when someone is shooting at you.

Stress training is designed to counter the deleterious effects that stress effects have on survival and combat performance.

What is stress? I'll save you the embarrassment of answering by referring to the father of the stress concept, Hans Selye, who famously said that everybody knows what stress is, but nobody really knows. Thus, stress training used by law enforcement and the military to better prepare their personnel for operational deployment is based on a concept that nobody really knows.

Did you know that if Selye had a better grasp of English, he was Slovakian, that you would not feel stressed, you'd feel strained? Later in life he complained that if his English had been better that he would be the father of the strain concept and not the stress concept.

Everybody knows what stress is, but nobody really knows. I know. I know that stress is an ambiguous, abstract concept that is an umbrella concept for a whole host of responses to an external or internal stimulus.

In a book that focuses on soldier stress and soldier performance, Driskel et al explain that among the potentially deleterious stress effects on combat performance are the feelings of fear and anxiety. They also mention confusion when referring to deleterious feeling stress effects, however, confusion is a mental state not an emotion. Bruce Siddle, who many of you would be more familiar with, also refers to anxiety and fear as being survival stress reactions.

I've conducted stress training seminars for corporations. I explain that X is under pressure at work. He/she takes that pressure home thus disrupting their relationship with their significant other, which he/she then takes back to work which further increases the pressure they are placed under. Their colleagues are self involved and their bosses are only interested in results, the person snaps and shouts, 'Just leave me the f**k alone.' I then explain that the good news is that the person is not stressed because fear and anxiety are symptoms of stress, not anger. I cannot help that person because I am conducting a stress training seminar. What they need is anger management training, which I'll be conducting the next day and which looks exactly like the stress training seminar I am conducting that day.

Stress training is actually emotion training, however, by referring to the root issue you focus on the heart of the problem - emotion.

Emotion is more than a feeling. It involves an appraisal which elicits a subjective feeling that motivates an instinctive impulse to action which an automatic physiological reaction prepares the body to enact.

Emotions were selected for in nature because they conferred a survival advantage on an individual. However, emotions are now seen by most activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter as providing a survival disadvantage for an individual engaged in survival efforts.

Emotions are centred in the amygdala in the brain. They are separate to intellect which is centred in the neocortex. Stress training involves using the neocortex/intellect to manage the amygdala/emotion and to train the latter.

If we wish to counter the deleterious effects of stress on survival and combat performance, we should be focusing on the actual problem - emotion. That is what we should study, not 'stress' which only exists in theory. Stress and emotion guru, Richard Lazarus, said that stress should be considered a part of a larger discipline, emotion. It should be considered a part of the larger discipline of emotion because stress is referring to emotion but in a limited and skewed way.

You're in the martial arts and therefore you don't engage in stress training, or so you think. What is your free fighting, sparring, etc designed to do. In part it's designed to simulate the operation environment and thereby better prepare the trainee to use their tactics and techniques in the 'real-world.' That is stress training, or a part thereof.

Learn more about emotions. Learn more about the strategic use of emotions to counter fear in combat. Your tactics and techniques are worthless unless they are supported by emotion training.

I am writing a book on this subject that uniquely integrates the theories of fight-or-flight, stress, and emotion to explain our evolved survival mechanism and the survival process. An understanding of this process provides a greater understanding of all methods taught by all activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter because all of those methods are interventions in the survival process.

More to follow.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Not Giving Into Fear

Jan de Jong Martial Arts Fitness, the school that arose out of the Jan de Jong Self Defence School after Shihan Jan de Jong OAM 9th Dan passed away, recently advertised a Young Women's and Young Men's Self Defence Course. Within the advertisement was:

What makes this course different from our normal classes? We get really specific about your need to adapt to the charging world. In particular not going into fear, but recognizing that that is where you might feel like you are being drawn, and be better equipped to deal with it.

The first thing to note is the poor grammer, spelling, editing, and use of the so-called American English. However, of particular note is the reference to giving (not going) into fear. How do they teach someone not to give into fear? In fact, why would you want to teach someone not to 'give into' fear when fear is an emotion that was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual?

What do most, if not all, martial arts schools know about fear? Why do they demonise (Blogger is trying to get me to use American English but I will resist their attempt at American cultural imperialism) fear when fear is the reason the human race exists today? And then, what do they do to train their trainees not to 'give into' fear? Anything specific that targets fear?

'Giving into fear' ... the action tendency most associated with fear is flight. To run away when scared. If more people had have given into fear in the trenches during WWI, there would not have been millions of soldiers on both sides of the conflict killed. Giving into fear would appear to have been a pretty good thing to do for the individual soldiers at that time.

You see, here's the thing. Martial arts and other combative activities are not primarily interested in an individual's survival. They are interested in fight behaviour. They teach fight behaviour and they develop ways and means to support fight behaviour. Fight behaviour, for whatever reason, is the priority, not survival per se.

The soldiers on the Western Front, Gallipoli, and elsewhere where 'encouraged' not to give into fear through such abstract notions as patriotism, loyalty, duty, honour, cowardice, comradeship, etc. These are all abstract notions developed by man so that the intellect can rule over the survival-based amygdala.

You see, the amygdala, the home of emotion, truly cares about you. Survival is its only priority. When's the last time you saw a lion ashamed about running away from a fight it could not win?

How do you teach someone not to give into fear? Ah, there are countless ways to do so, but do the martial arts (a) actually train someone not to give into fear, and (b) if so, do they know that that is what they are doing?

Stress training is one specific way to train to not give into fear. Stress training is different from training. The way I describe it is that training is learning to fire a gun while stress training is learning to fire a gun when someone is firing at you.

What is stress? I'll save you from embarrassing yourself - you think you know but you don't. As Hans Selye, the father of the stress concept, famously said: Everybody knows what stress is, but nobody really knows. I know what stress is, when stress is referred to in stress training. Stress is anxiety-fear. Stress training is actually designed to counter the effects of anxiety-fear on performance.

Do martial arts, is Jan de Jong Martial Arts Fitness, teach stress training? Yes and no, although they don't know it and only indirectly and incompletely.

It's a fascinating subject and the subject of yet another book I'm writing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Hors de Combat

I'm writing the chapter on kansetsu waza (joint-locking techniques) in my book on the science behind fighting techniques (still haven't come up with a title). I quote the following from 'the original Japanophile', Lafcadio Hearn:

Jujutsu .. is an art of self-defence in the most exact sense of the term; it is an art of war. The master of that art is able, in one moment, to put an untrained antagonist completely hors de combat. By some legerdemain he suddenly dislocates a shoulder, unhinges a joint, bursts a tendon, or snaps a bone, - without any apparent effort.

Hors de combat, what a wonderful old-world expression.

Hors de combat is a French term that is literally translated as 'outside the fight.' It is also a term that is used in international law where attack is prohibited on a person who is hors de combat. The Geneva Convention provides this description of someone who is hors de combat:

A person is 'hors de combat' if:
(a) he is in the power of an adverse Party;
(b) he clearly expresses an intention to surrender; or
(c) he has been rendered unconscious or is otherwise incapacitated by wounds or sickness, and therefore is incapable of defending himself;
provided that in any of these cases he abstains from any hostile act and does not attempt to escape.

 Isn't that the intent of most fighting arts, including martial arts, for the techniques to put the opponent hors de combat? To render the opponent incapable of continuing their attack or to motivate them to withdraw from their attack?

What a wonderful term - hors de combat.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Human Hands Evolved to Fight

It's interesting. The following article was published on the ABC news website today: Scientists study arms of dead men, suggest hands evolved so males could fistfight over females.

What's interesting is that I reported on that study in 2012-13.

It's good to see that I am ahead of the game :).

What is also interesting is that there are studies being conducted that are useful in explaining practice but they remain hidden in academic journals. My book will introduce readers to some of those studies and hopefully encourage others to access those types of studies and share them with those who are engaged in the practice of those techniques.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

I am a fan of Law & Order SVU. Now I have confirmation that my fandom is positive for me.

A study has been published that found that exposure to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is associated with decreased rape myth acceptance and increased intentions to adhere to expressions of sexual consent and refuse unwanted sexual activity.

I like the way that they explore different aspects associated with sexual assault. The bring them to light in a way that the general public will pay attention and inadvertently learn from the experience.

One episode of L&OSVU focused on the the 'freeze' response.

'I was raped.'
'Did you say no.'
'Why not?'
'I don't know.'
'Did you fight back.'
'Why not?'
'I don't know.'

Detective Oliver Benson explains that 'freezing' is a natural response to a threat. It is not a voluntary action and by understanding this it alleviates the post traumatic stress associated with not actively resisting an attack.

Firstly, the natural response is commonly referred to as freezing, however, when instinctive behaviours are considered it is referred to as 'fright' with 'freeze' being the initial 'stop, look, and listen' response. A response that is linked with anxiety, a response that I am all too familiar with.

The freeze/stop, look, and listen response is also referred to as 'attentive immobility.' The 'freeze'/fright response is technically known as 'tonic immobility.' TI is an involuntary catatonic-like state where the person cannot move or speak. It also features numbing of pain and anger affect.

DOB: 'Don't beat yourself up. Freezing is a natural response to a threat. You can't move, talk to say no, or scream out.'
Victim: 'But I could.'

Now you're buggered.

The writers of the L&OSVU episode was informed by a psychologist who specialises in sexual assault trauma. I want to suggest that a further episode is made where other instinctive behavioural responses to a threat are explored. Submission for example.

We are talking about instinctive, meaning without conscious thought, behaviours that have been selected for in nature because they conferred a survival advantage on an individual. The fight-or-flight model only offers two survival behaviours - fight and flight - however, in recent times that limited number of survival behaviours has been challenged.

The freeze/stop, look, and listen, fright/tonic immobility ... faint. Also, submission.

'I didn't say no. I didn't scream. I didn't fight back.' And so the judgements begin. Judgements by first responders, law enforcement, health professionals, judicial system, friends and family, and most destructively of all, by the sexual assault survivor herself leading to post traumatic stress with all its destructive consequences.

I use the term sexual assault survivor deliberately. I'm not one for this politically correct, positive thinking, reinforcing use of terms. A person is a sexual assault survivor because they survived. And how did they survive? Because their inherited survival mechanism kicked in when their survival was threatened.

Here we are talking about emotion, where emotion is thought of as appraisal, subjective feeling, physiological, impulses to action, and behavioural components. This mechanism was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual. It is found in our amygdala.

But what put humans on top of the food chain was (a) the intervention of the impulse to act component between motivating subjective feelings and behaviours (not stimulus-response, you don't immediately punch your boss when he pisses you off), and (b) our intellect/neocortex.

However, it is our intellect/neocortex that judges ourselves after we've survive a sexual assault that prolongs the trauma long after the actual attack.

I sometimes wonder if Nature sits back and thinks, 'I really didn't think this whole intellect/neocortex thing through.'

I sometimes wonder if Nature would adopt a similar response as Col. Jessup in A Few Good Men:

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man [or woman] who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!

 Who are we to judge the manner of someone's survival? Nature did it's job, the person survived. Just say thank you and go on your way.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Women's Self Defence and the Vector

I've written before about Haddon's Matrix.

Haddon's Matrix is a brain storming tool developed by William Haddon to understand, prevent, and control injury.

Haddon cross-tabulated the epidemiological factors (host, vector/vehicle, environment) and the temporal phases (pre-event, event, post-event) to form a 3x3 matrix.

When teaching self-defence of any description, the host is the trainee, the person at risk of injury. Who is the vector that possesses the energy that potentially causes injury? An answer to that question is critical because it determines the strategies, tactics, and techniques that are developed, taught, and trained.

The National Research Organisation for Women's Safety (ANROWS) study shows that one in four women have experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner.

Ms Cox said the report also examined the gendered nature of violence.

"Women are most likely to experience violence in the home and they're most likely to experience violence from a partner that they're living with," Ms Cox said.

"Men on the other hand are more likely to experience violence at a place of entertainment and from a stranger."

For women, the vector is an intimate partner. That could be broadened to include family members.

Surely different, strategies, tactics, and techniques need to be devised to address aggression and violence by a familiar rather than what is currently the basis for those tools being an unfamiliar attacker.

That is the challenge for women's self defence courses. Not only in devising effective strategies, tactics, and techniques to be employed against familiar's who are aggressive or violent, but in marketing them and teaching them.

Haddon's Matrix also gets us to think of the environment which also shapes the strategies, tactics, and techniques. Based on the report, the environment would probably be in the home rather than in an alley.

Haddon's Matrix also suggests nine cells where prevention and control interventions. Strategies, tactics, and techniques could be developed for any of those nine cells, before, during, and after an attack. Most strategies, tactics, and techniques are devised for the host-during cell when the host and vector interact. What about the pre and post cells?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Smelling Fear

Fear is a major factor in activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter (e.g. martial arts, self-defence, combat sports, law enforcement, military).

Ways and means are developed to counter the effects of fear in ourselves while instilling it in others.

Stress training, such as stress inoculation training, is increasingly being used by law enforcement and the military to better prepare their personnel for operational deployment. Stress training is designed to counter the effects of stress on performance. There are three stages to stress training with the first being an informational stage where the trainee is provided with information on stress, stress symptoms, and the effects of stress on performance. The first question is, what is stress?

Hans Selye, the father of stress theory, famously said that everybody knows what stress is, but nobody really knows. I know.

With stress training, stress is basically anxiety-fear. Anxiety and fear are related with the latter having an object whereas the former does not. Stress training is actually anxiety-fear training and would be enhanced if the focus was on anxiety-fear and not the ambiguous concept of stress.

Thus, we in the abovementioned activities should study anxiety-fear if we are to manage it in ourselves and others during a violent encounter.

That is a big part of the book that I'm writing about our survival process and how all the methods developed by the above activities are actually interventions in that process.

This article is about a study that suggests that we can smell fear. This should come as no surprise when you understand that emotion involves appraisal, feeling, physiological, impulses to action, and behavioural components.

A physiological reaction that is unique to a specific emotion is experienced which prepares the body to enact the behaviour that the subjective feeling motivates. The physiological reaction has been described as a 'hormonal cascade' so it makes sense that these fear hormones would be secreted in a person's sweat when sweating from fear.

 There was a behavioural effect of the fearful sweat. It improved the volunteers' awareness and vigilance. They became 43 per cent more accurate in judging if another person's face was neutral or threatening.

 This also comes as no surprise when you look at our fight-or-flight/stress/emotion mechanism from it's evolutionary function perspective - survival. Experiencing a negative emotion such as anxiety, fear, or anger generates a physiological reaction that prepares the body to fight or flee. The effects of this hormonal cascade is increased strength, speed, endurance, and pain tolerance.

It also increases cognitive abilities (above) which is only to be expected given its evolutionary function of promoting and individual's survival.

This leads to an interesting question for survival activities. Do you train for an emotion or not? Most martial arts would suggest they train to fight without an emotion. Cprl Ben Roberts-Smith suggested training for no emotion because emotion clouds judgement. The price you pay for no emotion is no increased, strength, speed, endurance, pain tolerance, and now awareness and vigilance.

If you train for an emotion to gain those benefits, which emotion do you train for? Do you want to eliminate fear entirely or do you want to train for anther emotion, such as anger which many women's self defence courses teach. They are not alone. The beserker tradition has been used across many cultures and continents for centuries to prepare a person for war. They train for rage not anger to promote fight behaviour and to counter fear.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Wabi Sabi

There is often a lot of philosophy that is ascribed to Japanese martial arts. I will direct the reader's attention to one more - wabi sabi.

Wabi sabi represents a Japanese world view centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection ... imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.

It acknowledges three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.

I first came across the concept of wabi sabi when it was explained to me that traditional Japanese pottery deliberately incorporated an imperfection to reflect nature where nothing is perfect.

This idea may be seen in the Borobudur, a Buddhist temple near Jogjakarta I visited with Jan de Jong. At the very top of the temple, under a solid bell is an image of Buddah that is incomplete. The idea is that it is the pinnacle of human/spiritual existence but the image of Buddah could not be completed because we do not know what perfection looks like.


Friday, October 9, 2015

What Are You Teaching And Why?

I haven't posted anything for a while because of various reasons, however, I'm back.

I'm writing a book concerning the 'survival process'. The survival process involves a stimulus, our evolved survival mechanism, and an output that is designed to affect the initiating stimulus. It order to develop this theory I have had to integrate the theories of fight-or-flight, stress, and emotion, which, due to our fractured sciences, all look at the same thing but in limited ways and for different purposes which distorts their understanding of the original survival process. Integrating these theories and developing new theory then brings us back to it's core function - survival.

An understanding of our survival process is useful because it allows us to understand (a) our natural responses to a threat or challenge, and (b) all of the methods taught by the martial arts, self-defence, military close combat, and law enforcement methods because they are ALL interventions in the survival process.

What are you teaching and why?

Lets look Donn Draeger's martial arts dichotomy of self protection and self perfection.

The 'practical' approach to martial arts is to teach a person to protect themselves. Nature did not leave us unprotected and defenceless. I can prove that. I can prove it because we are here. If we were unprotected and defenceless, we would not be here. Nature provided us with an extraordinarily sophisticated defence system. What the martial arts are trying to do is to 'improve' on nature by teaching us learned defensive behaviours that are designed to improve on instinctive defensive behaviours.

Teaching tactics and techniques is an analytical approach to the defensive problem. A systems approach, a holistic approach, recognises that there is more to the survival process than behaviour. The behaviour has to be supported or not impeded by the emotion and physiological responses to a threat or challenge that an appraisal produces. What are the martial arts doing concerning the emotion and appraisal responses to a threat or challenge?

The martial arts moved beyond the mundane task of defending ourself to one of perfection ourselves. In this case, the defensive effectiveness of the tactics and techniques is of very little importance. But what does it mean to perfect ourselves through the study and training of the martial arts?

Many often speak of the battle, defeat, conquering, etc of the ego. It all sounds very grand, but what does it mean?

Nature originally provided most organisms with emotion, which in humans arises from the amygdala. Later, nature provided humans with intellect, which arises from the neocortex. Intellect/neocortex enabled humans to climb to the top of the food chain ... but at a price.

Neocortex ('Neo') and amygdala ('Amy') don't always get along. In fact, Neo often wants to control and subjugate Amy. 'Defeat one's own ego'- what that means is defeat one's emotions/defeat Amy. This is the very basis for religious doctrine. Don't give into your base desires, which is driven by Amy.

Don't flee when afraid. Don't strike out in anger.

How do you not give into your base desires? This is where Neo comes in. Neo is used to manage or control the older but more selfish Amy.

Self protection based martial arts need to manage or control emotions, mostly fear and anger. Fear does not support the fight behaviour that martial arts teach and anger may lead to uncontrolled fight behaviour. So, what is your martial art doing to manage or control Amy in order to ensure the tactics and techniques you learn are effective in a life-threatening situation?

Self perfection - control Amy. Defeat Amy. How is your marital arts training designed to defeat Amy?

There is so much to this subject. So much that I'm currently exploring in order to develop theory that will enable us to better understand what we are doing and just as importantly to improve what we are doing.

Buckle up. It's going to be an interesting journey.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Poo Don't Pee

I have written extensively about the core of all learning in my Kojutsukan blog and my The School of Jan de Jong blog, both explaining the core of all learning and applying the core of all learning to understand various things. I have had an article on the subject published by Blitz, the premier martial arts magazine in Australia, and chapters are devoted to the subject in two of the three books I've drafted.

The core of all learning is the identification of similarities and differences. Research has identified four forms of identifying similarities and differences that have proven highly effective. They are: comparison, classification, creating metaphors, and creating analogies.

I'm only going to refer to the effectiveness of creating metaphors in this post.

The martial arts classic movie, The Karate Kid, demonstrates the effectiveness of using metaphor to teach martial arts skills. Wax on, wax off; paint the fence; sand the floor; paint the house were all metaphors used by Mr Miyagi to teach Daniel-san karate skills.

I will share with you a personal experience where the use of metaphor had immediate positive effects on my execution of a sporting skill.

On my first skiing trip, I was taking snowboarding lessons in a group environment. While the lessons were getting me down the hill, it wasn't always in an upright position and not without risk of serious injury on the way down through multiple crashes. One particular cartwheeling crash had the other skiers being towed up the hill clapping.

I decided to take a private lesson. It was either that or stop skiing or risk serious injury. My instructor was this mature female 'ski rat' who followed the snow from country to country teaching skiing. After this and that technical instruction, she turned to me and said ... 'poo, don't pee.'

'Poo, don't pee' immediately changed my posture on the snowboard resulting in radically improved performances. I could actually make it down the hill without crashing while executing turns on the way down.

'Poo, don't pee' - teach and learn by the creation of metaphors.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Knowing Pain

A distinction is made between offensive and defensive aggression. Offensive aggression is when a person seeks to inflict injury or pain upon a person who is or has not been attempting to inflict injury or pain upon them. Defensive aggression is when a person seeks to inflict injury or pain upon a person who is or has been attempting to inflict injury or pain upon them. Offensive and defensive aggression are at the heart of all activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter (‘Survival Activities’). Injury and pain are at the heart of offensive and defensive aggression, therefore, injury and pain are at the heart of all Survival Activities methods. What are the two subjects that are never explicitly studied in Survival Activities texts? Injury and pain.

This book is unique in Survival Activities literature in that it explicitly studies injury and pain. Chapter 14 informs the reader on pain while this chapter introduces the reader to a relatively new science that studies injury and the causes of injury. 

 That is the introduction to chapter nine in the draft of my book on the science behind fighting/self-defence techniques.

You can view some of my work on pain in the posts with the tag 'pain' on this blog.

Strongly recommend referring to: 
Downey G (2007) Producing Pain: Techniques and Technologies in No-Holds-Barred Fighting. Social Studies of Science 37(2):201–226.

The linked article provides further information on pain. Fascinating subject.