Saturday, December 10, 2016

Courage or Fearless

Image result for courage war 
Which would you rather be when engaged in a violent encounter? Courageous or fearless?

Many confuse the two. Many use the terms interchangeably. Some even use the terms together to describe a medal of whatever winner as courageous and fearless. Often the use of the terms are to express our admiration for the actor with no regard to the inner state of the actor.

Courage is generally defined in terms of acting in spite of fear. Acting in spite of fear cannot by definition be described as fearless.

What do you train for in a violent encounter: courage or fearlessness? In order to answer that question we need to take one step back.

When writing about fear and war, Ardant du Picq in On War wrote: 'Nothing is changed in the heart of man.' The heart of man (and woman) to which du Picq refers is fear. Fear was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual. Now we need to take another step back.

Colonel John M. House wrote in Why War? Why an Army? that soldiers must overcome their fear of death and injury in order to act and survive on the battlefield. Fear was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual. Why then do soldiers need to overcome their fear of death and injury in order to survive on the battlefield? The answer to that question lies within House's ordering of military priorities: act first, survive second.

This priority is seen in the pledge associated with the U.S. Army’s Medal of Honor – ‘I will always place the mission first’ – which is also a part of the U.S. Army’s Soldiers Creed or Warrior Ethos. Nature’s priority is survival first, which is facilitated by fear, the instinct for self-preservation. The instinct for self-preservation and its priority for survival is often at odds with the military priority of mission first. For instance, French explains that ‘The core motivational challenge for warriors to overcome is that they must counter the (perfectly natural) fear of death (or desire to remain alive, to give it a more positive frame) when necessary in order to successfully complete their martial mission.'

General Sir Peter de la Billiere, in the preface to Lord Moran's classic The Anatomy of Courage, explains that 'Courage conquers fear' and that without courage in battle all is lost. The underlying assumptions here is that (a) fear is present, and (b) fear interferes with the priority of mission first. Courage, acting in spite of fear, is needed in order to resist the instinct for self-preservation in order to promote the military priority of mission first.

What about fearlessness? The lack of fear, which means there is no need for courage. The samurai trained for mushin no shin, mind of no mind, which means no emotion. No fear, nor anger. By the by, anger is an empowering emotion which has been used since time immemorial to motivate people to overcome fear in order to fight. Why don't our modern-day military and law enforcement train for mushin no shin? De la Billiere, House, and many others have said that a person who does not fear death and injury in battle are stupid. Were the samurai stupid?

De la Billiere said that anyone going into battle must understand courage. I disagree. They must understand fear. In fact, they must understand emotion full stop. In the AFL they say that 90% of the game is played above the shoulders. What they are referring to is that emotion determines the outcome of the game. Miller in The Mystery of Courage refers to military training as an exercise in fear management. Keegan in The Face of Battle suggested that the study of battle is always a study of fear and usually of courage. Study fear; study emotion; if you are training to engage in a violent encounter.

My current work on my current work is such a study.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Real Fear vs Intellectual Fear

I'm currently working on a chapter in my book which applies the theory I've developed by integrating the theories of fight-or-flight, stress, and emotion to understand such things as fear and courage.

Many refer to the fear of failure, dishonour, shame, letting your mates down as being a bigger fear than the fear of death and injury and which motivates a person to fight rather than flee in military combat. Based on my research, I wondered if the first mentioned fear is a 'real' fear, one that involves an appraisal, subjective feeling, automatic physiological reaction, and impulse to act? Searching for an answer to that question led me to the work of Jon Elster.

Elster distinguishes between visceral (emotional) and prudential (rational) fear. Visceral fear is an emotional experience whereas rational fear is an intellectual exercise.

How does the rational fear of failure, dishonour, shame, letting your mates down overcome the fear of death and injury and turn flight into fight? The answer to that lies within the decoupling of stimulus and response in emotion. The decoupling of stimulus and response means that emotion is more than simply stimulus-response, e.g. danger-run away. It provides an opportunity for other actions to be considered and/or enacted other than the emotionally motivated action, e.g. fight instead of fear although fearful.

So how does the rational fear of failure, etc, promote fight rather than flight when fearful? That rational fear motivates willpower or the exercise of intellect to fight rather than flee even though fearful. That rational fear is part of the 'courage process.'

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Courage and the Samurai

Were the samurai courageous?

Courage is most often defined as acting in spite of fear. Therefore, in order for an 'actor' to be courageous they must first be fearful.

I've written previously how the term 'courage' and fearless' are most often used by a third party to express their awe of another person's actions with no regard as to their inner state, that is to say if they acted even though scared. However, by definition those who are not scared are not courageous.

Courage, as Lord Moran wrote in his classic The Anatomy of Courage, is will-power. This means the intellect being used to check emotion, in this case fear. Do the samurai use will-power/intellect to check fear and therefore act on the battlefield?

The samurai train for mushin no shin, mind of no mind. It is a state in which the samurai do not experience emotion or thought and act anyway. Therefore, by definition, the samurai at least aspired to be non-courageous.

This brings into question fearlessness, which I have also written about. General Sir Peter de la Billiere in Moran's book, Colonel John M. House in his Why War? Why an Army?, and Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith, winner of the VC, all state words to the effect that anyone who says they were not scared in combat is either a fool or lying.

Are the samurai fools or are they lying if mushin no shin training is successful? Is mushin no shin/fearlessness something the modern military should be aspiring to and therefore should be studied in order to teach to their trainees?

Monday, May 30, 2016

Can Women Defend Themselves?

My second book develops a theory on our evolved survival mechanism and the survival process based on the integration of fight-or-flight, stress, and emotion theory (among others). The chapter I'm currently working on is using the theory I have developed in order to better understand women's self-defence teachings and improve thereon. The issue I'd briefly like to look at in this post is the question, can women defend themselves?

To cut a long story short I'll refer to Professor Jocelyn Hollander's article, ‘Challenging Despair: Teaching About Women’s Resistance to Violence’.
For example, women successfully resist at least 75% of all attempted sexual assaults (Bart&O’Brien, 1985; Gordon & Riger, 1989; Ullman 1997); in other words, they escape, they stop the violence, and they protect themselves as much as possible. Rozee and Koss (2001) note that attempted rapes are in fact instances of successful rape avoidance; sadly, these stories are rarely reported in the media (Riger & Gordon, 1981), which focus on sensational cases of extreme violence. ... On the individual level, in other words, there is considerable evidence that many women resist violence, and they do so successfully.

 Of course women can defend themselves against men's violence. Nature didn't leave them unprotected in a potentially dangerous world. Nature developed a highly sophisticated and comprehensive survival mechanism over millions of years which has proved extremely effective over that time period, as the studies and statistics above attest.

What is of more interest is, women can and do defend themselves against men's violence without the aid of any women's self-defence training nor the aid of a man (as the cultural cliche of a damsel in distress being rescued by a man suggests). This fact, as Hollander explains, is mostly ignored by all those interested in violence against women and the prevention thereof.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Book #1 Progress

My first book, the book that inspired this block, is nearing completion. It is about the science behind the techniques taught by activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter and the teaching thereof.

1. I need a 'snappy title' to process ':The science behind the techniques taught by activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter and the teaching thereof.

2. I need to shorten the explanation after ':'.

3. I need a phrase that includes martial arts, self-defence, combat sports, law enforcement methods, and military close combat. I initially was using 'Survival Activities', however, the primary teachings of those activities is sometimes not survival.

Would appreciate your help on these matters.

I have a professional photographer on board, complete with lights, cameras, consent forms, and copyright issues.

I have two 'models' complete with contrasting gi.

I have a dedicated location.

Within the body of the book, there is only one small part missing. An anatomical description of wrist twists and wrist locks. I have, for the first time in this literature, an anatomical description of all shoulder locks, elbow locks, forearm locks, and side wrist locks.

As I explain in the book, the medical literature is of no assistance as >85% of all injuries to the upper limb occur as a result of a fall on an outstretched hand (FOOSH injuries) and the forces experienced then are very different to those experienced when a joint-lock (kansetsu waza) is applied.

The Australian Institute of Sport has a Combat Centre that focuses on combat sports. I am trying to get in contact with anyone associated with the AIS CC to discuss this matter. If anyone can help, most appreciated.

Monday, May 16, 2016


Interesting article on jujutsu and the suffragettes of yesteryear:

My book on the science behind all fighting techniques and the teaching thereof is about complete. There's only an anatomical explanation of wrist twists and wrist crushes to be obtained.

The photo shoot and illustrations are in the process of being organised.

The above photograph shows a shoulder lock that can be understood and studied by reference to the applied forces and their effect on the humerus. It will also be explained that additional forces need to be applied to keep the officer from bending further forward as the body naturally moves to release the tension in the shoulder joint.

By the way, any reader who has a 'snappy' title suggestion, I'd appreciate it. The above description can follow after the ':', however, need a snappy title apparently. Unfortunately 'Fighting Science' is already taken.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Authenic Profits - A guide to runnning a martial arts business (Five Stars)

Ashley Read is the author of Authentic Profits: Run a Part-Time Martial Arts Business You Can Be Proud Of which can be obtained from Amazon on Kindle.

Reading my biography to the right you will see I have extensive qualifications and experience in business and the martial arts. In addition, I have direct experience of the martial arts industry having assisted in the running of the Jan de Jong Self Defence School which included the development and implementation of a business recovery plan which proved to be highly successful. Thus, I am uniquely positioned to opine on Read's book.

The books is based on theory and experience, however, the theory is only used to inform practice in a practical way. The advice, based on my qualifications and experience, is sound and will assist all in the martial arts industry no matter their motive.

Some of the advice is counter-intuitive and contrary to popular wisdom, however, based on experience it works. Some of the principals espoused by Read were featured in my business recovery strategy that successfully turned the fortunes of the JDJSDS around after nearly two decades of decline in a highly competitive industry.

I cannot endorse the book nor the advice provided in the book more enthusiastically. In particular the focus on relational practices rather than transactional. Transactional is a leaky bucket whereas relational attempts to plug up the holes in the bucket (business) so less water (students) have to keep being poured into the bucket.

The only thing I would add to Read's book, and which supports his advice anyway, is the effect of focusing on relational business can be quantified through a KPI known as 'life-time value.' If you can increase the life-time value of a student then you increase profits and decrease costs. L-TV is calculated as the average time a student spends at the school multiplied by the average membership fee. I focused on this KPI within the recovery strategy for the JDJSDS and it helped in turning a two decade decline in student numbers and income into an upward trajectory.

Read uniquely combines business, psychology, and martial arts. Read is a qualified psychologist and thus provides interesting insights into instructors (or teachers, you'll understand the difference by reading his book), students, marketing, and motives.

The only criticism I would have is that he uses so-called American-English, although, to his credit, he does explain to the reader that his school, Spirit Defence, is spelt 'defence' instead of 'defense' because that is the way English-English speakers spell the word. Okay, he doesn't exactly put it like that but he does inform the reader that others in the English speaking world do not use so-called American-English spelling. Okay, maybe he doesn't exactly put it that way as well, but you get my drift.

Highly Recommended. Five stars *****.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Kaizen - Latest Blitz Article

The following is the latest article published in Australasia's largest martial arts magazine written by moi: Kaizen.

Monday, March 28, 2016

What is Courage?

I am continuing to study the concept of courage for an article that has been requested and am thankfully now able to write one that I am satisfied with. It is tentatively titled, 'Do The Martial Arts Teach Courage?' I will be submitted a draft to be published very soon, however, the below is an insight I've gained based on my study of the 'enigma of courage,' as General Sir Peter de la Billiere refers to it.

What is courage? That has mystified people since Plato wrote Laches nearly 2500 years ago and probably even before. Books continue to be written about the subject which is exemplified by William Ian Miller The Mystery of Courage in 2002 (well worth the read if not to study). It remains a mystery today.

The image to the right contains a statement regarding the relationship between courage and fear. An understanding and appreciation of this relationship is extremely important when considering action in violent encounters.

Was Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith act that earned him the Australia Victoria Cross courageous? It was only a courageous act by definition if Roberts-Smith was scared. If Roberts-Smith was scared but acted anyway, the next question might be how much was he scared. Is there a quantity of fear that qualifies an act as courageous? Terrified and acting would qualify, but does mildly nervous and acting?

With regards to fearlessness (which by definition is not courage even though some medal recipients are described as exhibiting 'fearless courage' which is an oxymoron by definition), Miller explains,

It is striking how many of those uses of the word 'fearless' do not pretend to describe the inner state of the actor. They are meant rather to register the awe of the observer.

The same can be said of courage. We often do not know the inner state of the actor when we describe them as courageous but are in fact expressing our awe at their actions. But what actually made them act in the face of danger is of immense interest to those teaching and training to engage in a violent encounter. That is the real question. One that the enigmatic, mysterious, and ambiguous concept of courage does not answer.

Maybe more on that later.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Fearless Courage

I'm writing an article for publication on courage and fear. The part of the article I'm currently working on is to do with 'fearless courage.'

The phrase 'fearless courage' is often used. Many recipients of military honours are awarded their medals for fearless courage and exalted as examples of fearless courage. One of the members of St Kilda's hall of fame is described as possessing fearless courage.

'Fearless' and 'courage' are often used synonymously, so is 'fearless courage' a redundancy?

If courage is defined as acting in spite of fear, how can you have fearless courage when 'fearless' means to have no fear?

William Ian Miller in The Mystery of Courage says that 'it is striking how many of those uses of the word 'fearless' do not pretend to describe the inner state of the actor. They are meant rather to register the awe of the observer.' The same can be said of the word 'courage.'

How many recipients of bravery awards have been asked if they were scared at the time of their 'brave' act?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

"It's also taught me that I have to think before I act."

There is a wonderful article published on the ABC news website today about how police officers are engaging with 'at risk' youths through boxing.

The title of this post is taken from the article.

I've been working on an article to be submitted to martial arts magazines on courage and fear, and as part of that article I describe how emotion (fear) enables courage through the decoupling of stimulus and response. It is considered one of the most important adaptive features of emotion as it allows other responses to be considered in response to environmental stimuli other than the instinctive response.

That is, it allows us to not punch the fella when our appraisal of the fella elicits the emotion of anger whose action tendency is fight. Courage and restraint are both enabled through emotion which was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Articles published in Blitz Magazine

Blitz magazine is Australia's premier martial arts magazine.

I have just received a list of my articles that have been published for inclusion on my CV. Decided to do so given that it has transpired that it is not a one-off affair.

The details are:

Use the Force, 27:7, p 72, July 2013.
Fight or Flight: Have We Got It All Wrong?, 27:10, p 72, Oct 2013.
The Evolution of Power, 27:12, p 72, Dec 2013.
Fighting Fear Part 1, 28:1, p 70, Jan 2014.
Fighting Fear Part 2, 28:2 p 68, Feb 2014.
Wax On, Wax Off: How Essential is Blocking in Martial Arts?, 28:5, p72, May 2014.
Combative Breathing: Controlling Breathing to Beat Fear, 28:7, p 78, July 2014.
The Art of Learning, 28:9, p 46, Sept 2014.
Questioning Your Self-Defence?: (The Haddon Matrix), 28:10, p 72, Oct 2014.
What is Jujutsu? Part 1, 29:6, p 76, June 2015.
What is Jujutsu? Part 2, 29:7, p 78, July 2015.

I have been advised that another article will possibly be published in the next edition. That article has to do with Shihan Jan de Jong OAM 9th Dan and his legacy.

I have been hampered in the articles I can submit due to photographic and illustration constraints, however, those may have been resolved and thus further articles which are more technical in nature will be submitted (and published) along with my first book.

What enables courage?

General Sir Peter de le Billiere states that 'fighting in war creates an environment where fear is prevalent, and unless courage prevails, all is lost.' Courage is only possible because of the impulse to action component in our evolved survival mechanism.

One of the most important adaptive attributes of emotion is the decoupling of stimulus and response. We are no longer organisms that have reflexive-type responses to stimuli. Stimulus and response are decoupled enabling our body to be prepared for action but the action to be considered.

We want to flee when fearful, however, we don't necessarily flee. We want to fight when angered, but we don't always lash out. This non-action associated with an impulse to act is an adaptive feature of emotion that provides for increased behavioural adaptability to environmental stimuli.

De Le Billiere encourages anyone who goes to war to understand the enigma of courage and its critical importance in overcoming fear. My work does just that but from a unique perspective.

Reflections based on the work I'm currently doing on a chapter in my book on the survival process. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Moral Courage

Image result for moral courageMoved from working on the chapter about fear and courage to the impulse to action component within the survival process which enables courage, however, while researching fear and courage I came across the common military distinction between physical courage and moral courage.
Physical courage is acting in spite of fear. Fighting when Nature screams to flee. Moral courage ... now that is another beast entirely.

Moral courage is doing what is 'right' even though it may be unpopular. Writers on the subject suggest that men are prepared to walk into the face of cannons but are reluctant to stand up and be recognised when moral courage is required. In fact, they suggest that those with moral courage possess physical courage but those with physical courage do not necessarily possess moral courage.

From my work, what I am investigating is the role of emotion in the moral concept of courage. Physical courage involves the use of will-power to override the instinctive impulses of fear. Moral courage does not tend to involve the emotion of fear. It involves the cognitive/intellectual concept of fear but not the 'real' emotional experience of fear.

I was involved with a school where a particular situation tested the moral courage of the instructors and senior personnel. To a person they failed. There is no doubt they possessed physical courage as they'd demonstrated it on many occasions, however, they failed when moral courage was called for. Why? How?

Loyalty is the enemy of moral courage. Take the military for instance. Loyalty to the chain of command, to a commander, to one's own fellow troops can compromise an individual's moral courage.

The most common way to train physical courage is to engage in 'realistic' training. How do you train moral courage? ... and does it really matter?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

9/11 Hijackers - Courageous or Cowardly?

I've more finely focused the chapter I am working on to fear and courage. During my research I came across Susan Sontag's controversial article in 2001 in which she held the 9/11 hijackers to be courageous.

Peter Olsthoorn in Military Ethics and Virtues, who refers to SS's article, refers to the definition of courage as being to act in spite of fear as 'the scientific view of courage.' This scientific view of courage is 'morally neutral' as SS explains.

Were the 9/11 hijackers courageous? How could we know? We do not know what their inner state was when they crashed the planes.

The US government et al described (branded) the 9/11 hijackers as cowards. Were they cowards?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines coward as a person who is not brave and is too eager to avoid danger, difficulty or pain.

It is difficult to describe the 9/11 hijackers as cowards based on that definition.

This leads me to wonder how the 9/11 hijackers overcame their fear of death and injury. The fear of death and injury is the produce of our survival mechanism that was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual (the subject of my book). How did they resist their instinct for self-preservation?

The survival mechanism is based on an appraisal process. Did the hijackers' religious beliefs change the nature of death for them so that crashing the planes was not appraised as a threat?

'the FBI’s investigative reports on the combat teams’ activities during the months leading up to September 11 make it clear that the members were not fundamentalist Muslims. Rather, it’s pretty obvious at this point that they were secular activists – soldiers, really.'

The 9/11 hijackers may very well have been courageous, as soldiers are taught to be, by using will-power to act in spite of fear. They may have used anger to overcome or replace fear, with fight being anger's action tendency. Or, they may have overcame or replaced fear with spite, with spite being a variant of anger but with a different focus. With spite a person will die just to inflict pain and loss on another (see Petersen and Liaras' article on the strategic use of emotion in Journal of Military Ethics).

These musing are no mere academic exercise. How do we motivate soldiers to fight and overcome their instinct for self-preservation that comes with fear? How does our enemy do the same?

I've come across a very interesting book on military matters written by Ardant du Picq, a French officer in the nineteenth century who was preoccupied with the role of fear in combat and how to overcome it. In his classic Battle Studies, du Picq said that the human heart is the starting point in all matters pertaining to war. The human heart to which he refers is the survival mechanism that is responsible for fear, therefore, the starting point in all matters pertaining to war (or any violent activity) is the study of our survival mechanism - the subject matter of my second book.

These musing also demonstrate that the terms courage and cowardice often reflect something about the speaker rather than the subject they are speaking about. They are also used to motivate others and have very little descriptive value of the subject.

Next time you see or use the words courageous and cowardice, think a little more about what is actually being said.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Navy SEALS and Courage

Still working on the chapter on overcoming fear in my Survival Process book.

Saw a Navy SEALS website that described them as the most courageous warriors.

Given courage is defined as overcoming fear and not the absence of fear, doesn't that mean that in order for the Navy SEALS to be the most courageous warriors they also need to be the most scared?

In fact, Plato and Socrates maintained that the most courageous were the less trained and the better trained were less courageous.


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Different Types of Courage

Working on a chapter about overcoming fear. Overcoming fear is considered essential in order to act and survive on the battlefield.

Courage conquers fear - General Sir Peter de la Belliere.

Courage is an individual's exercise of mind over fear through self discipline - General Sir Peter de la Belliere.

Without fear there would be no requirement for courage - General Sir Peter de la Belliere.

Courage is will-power - Lord Moran, The Anatomy of Courage.

From this analysis courage requires fear. If an action is taken, then in order to determine if it was courageous one has to know if the actor was fearful. If the actor was not fearful, then the action is not courageous.

Or is it?

It is often said that the greatest fear of a solider is not the fear of death and injury but the fear of failure and letting down his comrades. The fear of cowardice and dishonour.

Are those 'true' fears? Has an appraisal of a human idea elicited a subjective feeling of fear that motivates a particular instinctive action tendency that an automatic physiological reaction prepares the body to enact? And if so, how do these fears that motivate actions fit within the flight and freeze paradigm of fear?

These are the issues I was dealing with when I came across and reflected on military concepts of physical and moral courage. Physical courage involves overcoming emotional fear, however, moral courage involves 'doing the right thing' with no mention of 'physical fear.'

I'm playing with the idea that physical courage involves overcoming emotional fear whereas moral courage involves overcoming some intellectual construct. The former is based in emotion whereas the latter is based in the intellect.

Thus, fear can be emotional or someone people might use the term 'fear' to refer to an intellectual based conflict which is not based in emotion.

Thus, when Cprl Ben Roberts-Smith charged the Taliban positions to free his comrades where were being pinned down, that might have been a situation of moral courage if he did not experience emotional fear at the time.

Maybe the intellectual based fears are part of the will-power construct. They motivate or support will-power and maybe have some overriding or distracting effect on physical/emotional fear.

Just some musing of the inconsistent use of the term fear by many.