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The Fight
January 18, 2021
Fights are not static. Things move. People move. Bear-hugs and headlocks and all that stuff happen sometimes in a fight, but they are transitional actions. You do not get bear-hugged just to be held (except by bouncers). A Threat wraps his big arms around you from behind either to pick you up and shake you (disorienting and intended as an intimidating show of strength) or to drive you into a wall. Maybe to throw you over a balcony. If you practice technique-based defense, will they work if the Threat refuses to stand there? If he is using that headlock to slam you from wall to wall?
The Lowest Level of Force
December 7, 2020
The Records area at Rusafa Prison Complex in Baghdad is enclosed by a chain-link fence and was almost always crowded. It’s a stressful place, with inmates being processed in and out, Iraqi military, police, corrections, advocates, politicos, and sometimes families of the convicts are present and a small handful of American advisors.
How to Cultivate Personal Power Amid the Coronavirus
March 30, 2020
Chinese Medicine focuses on preventing disease and illness from occurring. As Qi Gong practitioners, we view preventative medicine as true health care, because it is caring for our health while it is still… well, healthy.
Was St. Valentine a Qi Master?
February 10, 2020
This was the question I asked myself as I sat in a cafe some 17 years ago.  Saint Valentine is particularly close to my heart. In early 2002, I was studying for my acupuncture board exams, and I noticed an article about Saint Valentine in the local paper.  It gave a brief recount of the Saint’s life that I found fascinating.
Discovering Ancient Secrets for Modern Life
August 13, 2018
During college my greatest teachers were not professors, and the greatest lessons were not revealed in the classroom. The University of California at Berkeley, which I attended, was home to more than 20 Nobel Prize winning teachers, had an unprecedented research reputation, and was the number one public university in the country. Still, the wisdom I discovered came from teachers without doctorates who taught in a small building across town that I would never have known existed if I had not been lead there.
Introduction to Qi Gong Part 2 - August 21, 2017
I was ten years old, lying in my bed.  My dad was standing in the door way speaking in a low deep voice, "10 feel your body relaxing, 9, going deeper now, 8 very relaxed, 7, your body is so relaxed that it feels like your floating on a cloud…" He was guiding me through a visualization.  Every night before bed, either my mom or dad would guide us kids through a deep relaxation technique.
Introduction to Qi Gong Part 1 - August 14, 2017
Qi means life force energy. The ancient pictogram of Qi represented mist coming off water or steam coming off rice. The mist and steam signified that Qi was invisible. The rice meant that Qi nourished the body.
Introducing new YMAA Author! Lee Holden, Part 2, In His Own Words - August 7, 2017
For the next month, I would go to Master Chia's house and work out every day. We would train for about an hour and a half, practicing tai chi, qi gong, breathing exercises, and meditation techniques. What I kept realizing again and again was that this practice was not new age fluff, but a body-mind-spirit science. Master Chia was showing me formulas that had been tested for the last 4,000 years. He explained that these exercise and meditation routines were like a well-trodden path to the top of the inner mountain. If you practice them, you will reach the peak and enjoy the expanding vista of a clear mind and radiant health.
Introducing new YMAA Author! Lee Holden, In His Own Words - July 31, 2017
I was ten years old, lying in my bed.  My dad was standing in the doorway speaking in a low deep voice, "10, feel your body relaxing, 9, going deeper now, 8, very relaxed, 7, your body is so relaxed that it feels like your floating on a cloud…" He was guiding me through a visualization.  Every night before bed, either my mom or dad would guide us kids through a deep relaxation technique.  By the time I was 15, I was proficient in self-relaxation and visualization techniques. I would use the technique to help with school, sports and martial arts classes (Karate, Kung Fu, and even Capoeira).
Radiant Lotus Qigong for Women - March 6, 2017
Throughout China, Japan, India, Egypt and other Eastern countries, the beautiful lotus flower is famed for its ability to grow in muddy, stagnant waters, absorbing what is useful and releasing what no longer supports its optimum health.  Amidst challenging conditions, it breaks through the darkness to bring light, beauty, strength and grace to our world.
Simple Drills Worth Knowing - January 30, 2017
The following are important things, some little, some major, that lend themselves well to simple drills or exercises. Backing up is almost never the answer. Unless you are excellent at reading and remembering tactical terrain, you might not know what or who is behind you.
Evaluating Drills—Part 2 - October 31, 2016
I get especially annoyed with weapons. Unarmed defense against a weapon sucks. Never, ever, ever practice dying and do not train to be killed. The stakes are too high to blindly imprint a habit, even a habit as simple as handing a weapon back once you have disarmed someone.
Evaluating Drills—Part 1 - October 24, 2016
I'm not a big fan of most drills. There is a fine line, but conditioned reflexes are crucial in a fight and habits will get you killed. Conditioned reflexes are things you do without thinking about it. They are essentially trained flinch responses. If something suddenly comes at your eyes you WILL do something: block, move your head or, at the very minimum, blink.
DRILL: The One-Step - September 26, 2016
The one-step arose as a useful accident. Many years ago I was reading George Mattson's The Way of Karate and I completely misunderstood his description of ippon kumite.
Not Parlor Tricks - September 12, 2016
The following aren't actually tricks. They are exercises that you demonstrate once to show a deeper truth. Most will not work on people a second time. Some will learn to game it.
DRILL: The One-Step - August 29, 2016
The one-step arose as a useful accident. Many years ago I was reading George Mattson's The Way of Karate and I completely misunderstood his description of ippon kumite. I thought, "That's brilliant—unscripted but safe, just looking at this whole thing as a meat geometry problem…"
Training for Sudden Violence - August 15, 2016
I teach about violence. As I left “the life” I discovered that my niche wasn’t so much teaching cops as I had expected, or even teaching civilian self-defense. The material seemed to resonate most with experienced martial artists who were coming to discover how little they really knew about violence.
Self-Defense: A Unique Teaching Challenge - June 27, 2016
There are six very important distinctions that make self-defense different from almost every other subject we teach. Rarity. Emergencies are extremely rare, complex, and varied. Rarity means there is very limited experience available on how to deal with such an event.
Hooks in Violent and Non Violent Encounters - January 12, 2016
Dealing with people who routinely used violence to get what they want, they often sought a "hook." A hook is an excuse to act out or a rationalization that will allow them to excuse their actions later.
Boundary Setting—Society's Rules - August 3, 2015
One of the advantages of living in society with a set of rules and mores is that the boundaries are supposed to be set for you. In a homogenous society everyone has similar ideas of right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate. The rules say who you can and can't touch and how, what you can and can't say and to whom.
Don’t Take It Personally - June 15, 2015
What does that even mean? In Conflict Communications the meaning is very specific. It takes history to hate a person. There must be a history of wrongs or perceived wrongs in order to get a deep and personal emotional bond, positive or negative.
The Why and Wherefore of Conflict Communication - June 9, 2015
How often have you found yourself in an argument with your wife, husband, or significant other and thought, "Here we go again"? Have you ever found the answer to a real problem and had it ignored while the person you are trying to help wastes time and energy picking at you, trying to create a personal problem from a good thing?
The Practical Problem of Teaching Self-Defense - January 19, 2015
Self-defense is unlike anything else humans train for. Unlike engineering or architecture, you can't have any idea of the problem you need to solve. An engineer knows if he will be building a bridge or a tunnel. A self-defense student will never know if they might someday face a rape attempt, a kidnapping, a drive-by shooting, or a simple assault.
Common Sources of Knowledge About Violence - March 31, 2014
We are, all of us, both teachers and students. As teachers, we give our students information. As students, we learn from our teachers. The teachers give us knowledge. This knowledge came from somewhere, from one of four sources.
Teaching Joint Locks - February 3, 2014
About 2003, the training unit at my old agency got some pretty disturbing numbers. Assaults against staff and hospitalizations had increased dramatically. The programs taught at the academy and approved by our agency weren't cutting it. The Training Unit tasked a few of us to redesign the Defensive Tactics program from the ground up.