Saturday, July 27, 2019

Systemic Approach to Defensive and Offensive Aggression

Getting toward the completion of Fear and Fight: Understanding Our Natural and Learned Responses to a Threat. The conclusion ties up the reading experience for the reader and helps them  think about the bigger implications of the book content, the next steps that they can take, and the lessons that they can learn from what they’ve read. I use systems theory to accomplish those objectives.


A system is a set of related components that work together in a particular environment to perform whatever functions are required to achieve the system’s objective. There are four basic elements to a system: input, throughput (process), output, and feedback. 

Our natural response to a threat is a system whose objective is survival - the 'survival system.' The survival system is comprised of cognition (appraisal), feeling, physiological arousal, impulses to action, and over behaviour components that are interconnected via feedback loops and which work together to achieve the objective of the system - survival.

McCaughey (Real Knockouts, 1997) explains that learning to fight involves the coordination of thinking, feeling, and acting. McCaughey is describing a 'fight system.' The fight system contains the same components as the survival system, however, the objective is to fight. To fight for a variety of reasons but to fight nonetheless. At the very least, the components of the fight system cannot work against the behaviour component (fight) if the objective of the fight system is to be realised.


An Australian female university student who is a taekwondo black belt with many years experience was sexually assaulted on campus. She explains that she was capable of defending herself because of her extensive martial arts training, however, at the time of the assault she was ‘paralysed with fear.’ An American female judoka who had studied judo for self-defence two hours a day, five days a week, for 2 1/2 years was sexually assaulted, however, ‘she found herself dangerously unprepared for what happened during the actual attack.’ She explains how she had plenty of opportunities to strike back but she did not even scream. ‘Instead, she froze.’ These female martial artists were let down by a systemic failing in their training.

McCaughey refers to an instructor who remarked that the biggest problem with self-defence courses is an overemphasis on the physical without the mental and emotional:

‘There are people who don’t quite understand what they are doing when they teach … and I think part of it is that instructors don’t offer what I call a balance – mental and emotional aspect of human beings combined with physical skills …’ (1997, 110)



The same may be said of most martial arts.


The first step in remedying this deficiency in martial arts training and that of any activity associated with preparing a person to engage in a violent encounter is in understanding our natural response to a threat.

Many people use the fight-or-flight concept to explain our natural response to a threat. Unfortunately, most of those that do have a limited and flawed understanding of the concept and the concept itself is limited and flawed.

Many people also use the stress concept to explain our natural response to a threat. They often follow Bruce Siddle's efforts in Sharpening the Warrior's Sword, whether they know it or not. The stress concept was derived from the fight-or-flight concept and therefore all of the limitations and flaws associated with the fight-or-flight concept in explaining our natural response to a threat are inherent in the stress concept when used for the same purpose. Those limitations and flaws are compounded as stress research focused on the deleterious effects of 'stress' on health, thus further limiting and skewing their interest in our inherited survival mechanism.

A complete and comprehensive explanation of our natural response to a threat is provided in Fear and Fight. It also enables us to better understand our learned responses to a threat because they are all interventions in the survival system.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Police: Head, Heart, & 'Graduation Day'

Legendary Australian singer-songwriter John Schumann has penned a new anthem, this time dedicated to our nation’s police.

Schumann is most famous for his song written for Vietnam veterans, I Was Only 19.

He released a new track, Graduation Day, a look into the lives of the men and women who hold ‘the thin blue line’.

Graduation Day comes off the back of a landmark Beyond Blue report that showed extremely disturbing levels of mental illness among emergency services personnel.

Proceeds from the song are being directed to the National Police Foundation to assist police officers and their families who are in need.

It is a brilliant song, however, a part of the chorus struck a cord with me given my research and writing of a book about understanding our natural and learned responses to a threat. A chapter in that book looks at the separation between passion and reason, emotion and cognition, feeling and thinking, heart and head.

Chorus #1: 'Head says run, heart says stay.'

Chorus #2: 'Heart says go, head says stay.'

Chorus #3: 'Head says run, heart says stay.'

The essence of courage is commonly described as being the use of willpower to overcome fear.

Fear is the principal emotion that is evoked in response to a perceived threat and its action tendency is flight.

'Heart says go' = perceived threat > fear (heart) > flight (go). 'Head says stay' = reason/intellect/cognition (head) > stay = courage.

I can understand the heart-head explanation of the second chorus, but what of the first and third where the head and heart are telling the officer to do the opposite? Did Schumann make a mistake in these choruses, or is he trying to say something more?

When I discussed this with my partner, she rounded on me asking why I had to over analyse/over think things and ruin a brilliant song.

I raised the issue with my 15yo stepdaughter the next morning as I drove her to school. She didn't round on me and actually gave me the answer. It is true that children often see to the heart of things and are not influenced by preconceptions.

She used an example of an injured child to explain the first chorus ... which is exactly the scenario being sung about before the first chorus. I will take some credit because I often share my work with her as I drive her too and from her various activities.

The officer cradles the body of a young boy who died in a car crash (injuries are not accidents; injury science mantra; chapter in book #1, The Science Behind All Fighting Techniques). It is a horrible, confronting, traumatic scene and his head is telling him to leave but his compassion tells him to stay. It's a similar scenario for the third chorus. The second chorus is singing about the courage shown by officers in response to life-threat.

It is a brilliant piece of song writing. An understanding of this nuance illustrates the brilliance, AND, it illustrates the emotional minefield (mindfield) that police officers have to traverse. Heart often being stimulated and head being used to control the urges of the heart.

Listen to the song with a great appreciation of both the song writing and the work our police officers engage in which often have a toll on both mind and body.



Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Women's Self-Defence Teachings and Natural Survival Behaviours

This post is an extension of the last post on WSD teaching help-seeking behaviour. Help-seeking behaviour is an instinctive behavioural response to a threat. So why does WSD teach help-seeking behaviour in response to a sexual assault threat?

One of the possible answer to that question which was proposed in the previous post was that instinctive help-seeking behaviour is an instinctive behavioural response associated with fear. WSD teaches to turn fear into anger in order to fight to avoid rape. Fight being an instinctive behaviour associated with anger. Turning fear into anger may mean that help-seeking behaviour is no longer unconsciously considered or enacted (instinctive) and now needs to be consciously considered to be enacted.

The main action tendency of fear is flight. Adopting the strategic use of the creation of anger in order to counter fear during a sexual assault, does that mean that WSD also needs to teach consciously considering and enacting flight in addition to help-seeking behaviour?

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Women's Self-Defence and Help-Seeking Behaviour

This post comes from my drafting of the chapter on women's self-defence in my tentatively titled, Fear and Fight: Understanding Our Natural and Learned Responses to a Threat.

Liz Kelly and Dr. Nicola Sharp-Jeffs (2016) were commissioned by the European Parliament Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs to examine research on the effectiveness of (women’s) self-defence and its place in policies at European Union and Member State levels. 
... After reviewing different forms of WSD, Kelly and Sharp-Jeffs proposed an outline of the minimum standards empowering feminist self-defence should contain:

Two of the minimum standards refer to the strategy of engaging in help-seeking behaviour.

Help-seeking behaviour has been identified as a natural, instinctive (unconscious), defensive behaviour. Why teach a natural, instinctive, defensive behaviour? It would be like teaching to run away from a threat (aka flight).

There are possible answers to that question.

It may be to reinforce a natural, instinctive, defensive behaviour.

It may be to promote it more toward the front of the 'defensive cascade' that is our natural responses to a threat.

It may be to refine our natural, instinctive, defensive help-seeking behaviour in which case it is seeking to replace our natural behaviour with a learned behaviour.

It may be seeking to provide a behavioural option to our natural response to a threat which may be chosen due to the 'latency time' provided by the decoupling of stimulus and response provided by emotion.

Or it may be because the basic WSD strategy is to turn fear into anger and help-seeking is not a natural instinctive behavioural response associated with anger.








Monday, March 25, 2019

Ken Tai Ichi no Kata and The Core of All Learning

The following is a link to a post on my Shihan Jan de Jong OAM 9th Dan blog where I use Yoseikan's ken tai ichi no kata to discuss the core of all learning which is the second chapter in my The Science Behind All Fighting Techniques.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Happoken no Kata

I published a post on my The School of Jan de Jong blog which uses the theory presented in my The Science Behind All Fighting Techniques to analyse the Happoken no Kata taught by Jan de Jong jujutsu, Yoseikan Budo, and Yoseikan Aikido.

The post is an example of the use of theory to gain understanding and insights into practice. It is also an example of the necessity to always question your teacher's instruction, but only when you understand the theory and the instruction does not stack up to the theory.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Strategic Use of Shame to Counter Fear and Women's Self-Defence

Petersen and Liaras published a paper on the strategic use of emotion to counter fear in war in Journal of Military Ethics 5(4): 317-333. One of their strategic uses of emotion to counter fear in war is the threat of shame.

Shame and the threat of shame have been used since time immemorial to counter fear in war and to turn flight into fight. Honour, mateship, courage, cowardice, etc. are the mainstays of military strategies to counter fear in war in order to turn flight into fight.

WSD teaches ways and means to counter fear during a violent encounter, however, they do not use the strategic use of the threat of shame to counter fear during a violent encounter in order to fight because ... a main stay of reputable WSD courses is to emphasise that a sexual assault is not a woman's fault. They are not to blame. Self-blame is a post sexual assault precursor to post traumatic stress, depression, etc. If the woman is not to blame, there can be no shame and therefore the threat of shame is rendered impotent.


Just an interesting observation when using the core of all learning - the identification of similarities and differences (see my The Science Behind All Fighting Techniques) - to gain insights into WSD instruction.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Why Doesn't Women's Self-Defence Teach Courage?

I'm currently working on the first draft of the last chapter in my book, Fear and Fight: Understanding Our Natural and Learned Responses to a Threat. That chapter uses the previous chapter's information on stress training and the discussion on our natural and learned responses to a threat to explore certain aspects of women's self-defence.

The first thing that always needs to be understood by 'Fight Activities' is why they teach to overcome fear. Fear was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual. Why then do Fight Activities teach ways and means to overcome fear. It's because survival is not the principal objective of those Fight Activities.

To survive is to live in spite of danger or hardship. The quintessential laws of nature are: survival, survival, survival.Nature is prepared to tolerate rape in order to survive. WSD is not. Survival is promoted by fear, therefore, WSD teaches ways and means to overcome fear in order to avoid rape.

The principal strategy taught by WSD to overcome fear is to turn fear into anger. The action tendency of anger is fight. The automatic physiological reaction associated with anger prepares the body to fight and anger decreases our inhibition to aggress.

The principal strategy taught be the military in order to overcome fear and act on the battlefield is courage. To act in spite of fear. I have found it very interesting that the literature on WSD, including feminist literature, does not mention courage as a means for women to overcome fear if attacked in order to fight.

WSD teaches to turn fear into anger. It uses ways and means, including forms of exposure, to develop confidence which reduces or negates fear. It uses overlearning so that fight behaviour becomes the instinctive behavioural response to a threat. But there is no mention of courage; of acting in spite of fear.

Shame and the threat of shame are major ways and means used by the military to overcome fear in order to fight. That tends to lead to anger which, as said above, promotes fight behaviour. WSD do not tend to use the strategic use of shame or the threat of shame in order to overcome fear if attacked in order to fight. Shame is described as a possible outcome of a successful rape and a predictor of PTSD, but it's not used to promote defensive fight behaviour as is the case with the military.

I just find it interesting to compare the different approaches to overcome fear in order to fight.


Sunday, January 20, 2019

Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

The same old lie that today sends men and women, boys and girls, to war.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Paradox of Anxiety for Law Enforcement and the Military

It is paradoxical that, law enforcement and military personnel run toward danger rather than away from it, act in spite of fear that naturally arises when exposed to danger, train to overcome fear in order to act, and yet they can be defeated by fear's close cousin (Lazarus and Lazarus, Passion and Reason), anxiety (disorder), which is elicited by no real threat.

Monday, January 7, 2019

I'll see you in Valhalla Annalise Braakensiek

Model, designer and actor Annalise Braakensiek has been found dead in her Sydney home.

Police went to her apartment in Potts Point just after 3pm yesterday after receiving concerned calls for her welfare.

The death is not suspicious.

Ms Braakensiek was made an R U OK? ambassador in 2017 and the organisation said she was "loved and respected".

Annalise Braakensie was a warrior. She fought the good fight against depression. She not only fought the good fight herself, she stood tall and encouraged others to fight the good fight. She was a a leader. But unfortunately she lost her fight. The enemy proved too strong.

Valete, socii mei! Farewell my comrade.

I do not suffer the black dog (depression). I suffer the Chicken Little (anxiety).

You cannot know the daily battle that is waged by us black dogs or Chicken Littles unless you suffer these conditions. 

We fight a relentless foe. If you are fortunate enough to not suffer these conditions; to not have to wage a daily battle against these determined foe, support those who do. Have their back. Stand side by side with them. Stand up for them. ... that means sacrifice and understanding. And not just for one battle, for these conditions may last for years which means they are a war. A war where the combatant is at risk of injury or death. Be their ally in this war. It'll cost you, but it'll be, as Stephen Fry said, the noblest thing that you'll ever do in your life.

Valete, socii mei Annalise Braakensiek. I'll see you in Valhalla.


Thursday, January 3, 2019

Know Your Enemy - Anxiety

I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder when, ironically, researching and writing a book about the mechanism responsible for that disorder. The disorder is distressing and at times debilitating, but it did provide me with an opportunity to assess theory and gain insights into anxiety disorders.

Plutchik's psychoevolutionary theory of emotion proposes eight primary emotions which when combined produces other emotions. When fear and anticipation are combined they produce anxiety.

fear + anticipation = anxiety

That is how anxiety is often described when explaining anxiety disorders. Fear is an emotional response to an immediate present perceived threat whereas anxiety is an emotional response to an anticipated perceived threat.

As the stimulus comes closer in time and/or space, anxiety merges into fear. That is to say the anticipation element in the emotion equation lessens leaving only fear.

When your only left with fear and facing the immediate present stimulus which turns out not to be a threat at all, fear dissipates and equilibrium is restored.

I have lived this analysis and having lived it, and knowing how it works, enables me to better manage my impulses and 'act in spite of anxiety.'

Sometimes when I was invited to my adopted nieces home for dinner, everything in my being was trying to stop me from going. It took enormous will-power and often anger to get me to drive to their home, however, when I arrived at their door - nothing. No anxiety, no fear, no emotion. Equilibrium was restored because anticipation had dissipated and the stimulus proved not to be a threat after all.


Klein says insight is produced through identifying inconsistencies.

Sometimes when my anxiety levels are elevated, rather than feeling the urge to avoid the anticipated threat, I instead cannot wait to engage with it. This is akin to soldiers who are anxious to go to war, anxious to fight, anxious to 'let slip the dogs of war.' How do you explain this type of anxiety? The medical textbooks don't even mention this 'symptom' of anxiety.

The above equation provides a possible explanation.

Fear is a negative emotion with a withdrawal action tendency. Anticipation is a positive emotion with an approach action tendency. The normal anxiety is when fear is greater than anticipation.

fear > anticipation = withdrawal anxiety

When anticipation is greater than fear you have approach anxiety. Still anxiety but with a different action tendency and not as much distress.

fear < anticipation = approach anxiety

Both are symptoms of anxiety disorders, at least in my experience.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2+2=?

Saw an episode of Silent Witness last night were a highly acclaimed pathologist asked his class, attended by another highly acclaimed pathologist, and as a lesson, what 2 + 2 equals.

Come on. What does 2 + 2 equal? 4!

What does 4 equal? :)

Infinity. There are an infinite number of answers to 4.

It's not the answer that is important. It's the question that is important.

It's the questions where insight lies.

Too many in the martial arts are about answers. Very few are about questions. That's why so few in the martial arts have insights.