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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.
The First Rule of Self-Defense
April 8, 2019
I’m fond of telling my martial arts students that the First Rule of Self-Defense is “Don’t get hit.” After all, how can you be defeated if no one hits you? This rule makes perfect strategic sense from a pugilistic perspective. However, there is a better and more broadly applicable rule that I prefer to stand by: “Protect your best interests.” What is self-defense, really, if not protecting, or defending, your best interests? The advice “Don’t get hit” is simple and unambiguous, and therefore easy to understand.
Your Tai Chi Pelvis
February 11, 2019
Tai chi is a personal development discipline deeply rooted in ancient Chinese culture. One of the most basic tenets of Asian philosophy and of its many traditional mind/body disciplines is that neither the mind nor the body can ever be regarded as entirely separate from the other. This is a belief that I share.
Anatomy of a Warrior Spirit
December 23, 2018
Martial artists are, by definition, warriors. True warriors have warrior spirit. In martial arts, as in life, there are some people who are successful, and some people who are not. The most successful people are imbued with a warrior spirit, known in the Chinese tradition as Yi. Warrior spirit has nothing to do with fighting or aggression, even though skilled fighters often have a well-developed warrior spirit. On the contrary, warrior spirit is about having the wherewithal to resolve conflict or avoid it altogether, and most of all to muster the internal fortitude requisite to the process of mastering yourself.
Safety In Practicing Taijiquan - August 10, 2015
Is there a safety issue for practicing taijiquan? Yes. I occasionally listen to a program on learning taijiquan while in my car. A host once asked his guest (a famous master of taijiquan), "What physical conditions are required for learning taijiquan?" The guest answered: "You can learn taijiquan as long as your knees are fine."
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.
On Practicing Taijiquan—The Five Mindsets - June 29, 2015
Many people are aware that taijiquan is beneficial, but to obtain those benefits one needs "samutpada" (arousal of earnest intention) and one has to pay the price. Everyone can afford it, but most people are reluctant to pay. Whenever I run into taijiquan enthusiasts who want to practice taijiquan with me, what I first say is, "If you want to learn taijiquan you need to pay the price.
Mind Approach in Practicing Taijiquan - June 22, 2015
The Mind Approach in Practicing Taijiquan. The mind approach is a way of practicing with one's heart (mind and intent) as the guidance. It used to have no fixed patterns or rules; however, the mind approach I present has its principle based on the following six points.
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.
The Three Golden Rules - December 24, 2012
The three golden rules, first written by Dep. Paul McRedmond of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, must be the basis of all officer training. The fact that they exist, that they are explicitly taught, and that they needed to be stated so clearly says something about the profession.
A Police Officer’s View of Scaling Force - September 3, 2012
Fights are dynamic and chaotic situations. A simple escort hold, walking a drunk off the premises can turn into a knife fight or a struggle for your weapon in an instant. Or you and several other officers could be fighting against a large, vicious threat who is acting completely inhuman and have him suddenly go limp.
An Introduction to Force Decisions - April 30, 2012
This book (Force Decisions) is a gift, a peace offering. It is an attempt to communicate across a vast gulf in culture and experience, the gulf that exists between the Law Enforcement community and those whom they protect.
How to Evaluate a Force Decision - April 16, 2012
Fighting is ugly. Killing is ugly. Getting involved in any force incident is dangerous and it hurts. Violence affects humans at a very deep emotional level, and when we see or hear of an act of violence most people are sickened or outraged. And our default assumption is that anything that sickens or angers us so much must be wrong.
Conflict-An Antithesis to Tai Chi - October 17, 2011
If someone were to engage me in one of those word association games-“Say the first thing that comes to your mind when I say...Tai Chi”
Counter Assault: Surviving Attacks - September 12, 2011
Talking to a friend in a public place, her eyes suddenly focused over my shoulder and went wide. I turned fast, elbow up, spinning and drop-stepping towards the Threat. Didn’t feel the solid contact of a head, but felt an arm brush away and continued.
Counter Assault: Attack from the Front - September 5, 2011
When a threat attacks you, he has a plan and his is counting on your surprise. He is expecting you to freeze in fear and leave him free to do whatever dastardly things he has planned. He expects your own adrenaline to ensure that he wins. An operant conditioned response will kick in before the adrenaline surge that might trigger freeze rather than fight or flight.
Facing Violence: The Unconscious Stuff-Finding Your Glitches - August 1, 2011
In my own experience, almost everyone hesitates before doing a dangerous or uncomfortable thing. Whether jumping out of an airplane or diving into cold water or singing karaoke in public, very few people can just go for it without hesitation the first time.
More About Violence Dynamics - May 23, 2011
Social violence can roughly be delineated as the Monkey Dance (MD), the Group Monkey Dance (GMD), the Educational Beat-Down (EBD) and the Status-Seeking Show (SSS).  The MD and GMD were discussed in <a href="/articles/violence-dynamics">part one</a> of this article. We will continue starting with the Educational Beat-Down.
Violence Dynamics - May 16, 2011
Bill and I were talking to the warden in an Iraqi prison, drinking chai. A gun fired. Other than ours and the warden’s bodyguards there shouldn’t have been loaded weapons in that section of the building. I put down my tea, stood and drew my sidearm. I started clearing the building.
Self-defense: Down and Dirty - May 9, 2011
Let's start with one, very simple thing—power generation. A traditional martial artist is taught how to hit hard. Different systems have different methods of power generation, but two of the most common involve a solid connection with the ground and good structure.