The realization that changed my self-defense training forever

A long time ago, I had a paradigm shift that changed my martial arts and self-defense training forever. To explain this correctly, I need to give you a little bit of background information:

Many years ago, I started reading the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. Though these books take place in a fantasy world, the stories are deeply rooted in our own. If you haven’t read them, go ahead and give them a try. They’re tons of fun. Here’s the reason why I bring this up:

Mr. Pratchett wrote a series of accompanying books called “Science of the Discworld“. These books alternate a story set in the Discworld universe with chapters explaining how science works. In one of these books, he mentions “emergent dynamic systems” and “complex systems”. These concepts are complicated and hard to explain quickly, but I’ll post some resources at the end if you want more in-depth information.

For a layman’s explanation, you can view it like this:

Complex systems examine how the multiple components of a system interact with each other and cause the system to behave a certain way, but also how the system interacts and forms relationships with its environment.

The “emergent” part means that complex systems and patterns are formed out of relatively simple interactions.

When you combine these two, it means you can look at a system and create laws and theories of what you see happening and these may be true.

However, you cannot recreate an outcome from these laws and theories alone.

The specific elements involved and their interactions can give rise to radically new dynamics and behavior, completely unpredictable from previous occurrences. Or put differently, new patterns (and therefor laws and rules) become apparent as the system keeps going, instead of sticking to the previously established rules.

My paradigm shift was viewing fighting and violence as an emergent dynamic system. Here’s why:

We all form a theoretical model of violence when we train for it and after experiencing it. The problems start when we believe our model is the only possible reality. As human beings, that is exactly what we are wired to do, because violence affects us on such a deep level, it creates its own truth. We can easily convince ourselves that our model is universally true, like for instance gravity: we know it’s real, we experience it 24/7 and know that if we drop something, it will fall.  We accept the laws of physics as a given.

The issue is that the laws of physics alone aren’t enough to map out violence, let alone predict it or give your model the right structure to handle it. This brings us to emergent dynamic systems.

More on models later, but first, let’s look at how this works?

How does this work in Combat Sports?

Picture an MMA or boxing match:

  • You know the rules and allowed techniques upfront.
  • You know the strengths and weaknesses of both fighters
  • You know their past performances.
  • You can even do a statistical analysis of all these factors.

Yet despite all that, you can never predict with 100% accuracy who will win.

Because differences in seemingly insignificant elements or unexpected developments can alter the outcome completely: [Read more…]

Unintended consequences of the George Floyd protests and riots, part three

I had an interesting discussion re. the post I shared a few days ago about defunding the police and unintended consequences. It was a good-faith discussion, but we were very much at odds in our POVs.

One of my points is that you shouldn’t tear down a fundamental structure of modern society without a) having a detailed plan to replace it b) have broad support for it the citizenry c) most of all, you don’t cut billions worth of funding before a and b are a reality.
This has not happened; the contrary has. The consequences, LEOs moving away from those cities, retiring en masse, etc. are happening too.

The consequences to that are best illustrated by a French proverb:

“Si tous les dégoûtés s’en vont, il n’y a que les dégoûtants qui restent.”

Translation:

“If all the disgusted leave, only the disgusting stay.”

That means less than qualified officers on the job, corrupt officers can more easily do as they please; lowering of hiring criteria because nobody wants the job (going on in my country as I write this), etc. Many people can’t realistically foresee the results of such a dynamic so I wanted to explore that here.

One of the points I made to my discussion partner is that people have been throwing around terms like “fascist police” for years now. My position on that is:

  • If there is abuse, I’m all for prosecuting it to the fullest. LEOs should be held to a high standard. Period.
  • In my experience, the vast majority of people have no idea what that standard is. As in, not a single clue, because they have never read a police training manual, nor do they know the law enforcement policies and procedures their city or town approved and demands LEOs follow. And then there’s the “everybody is a lawyer” mindset. Hint: along with your constitutional rights come a series of obligations. It’s a package deal. If you can’t name them by heart, maybe look them up before you claim LEOs break the law when they come after you for doing just that…
  • “Facsist” has been so overused and devalued as to become meaningless. Same thing for “dictatorial” and “corrupt police force”. You can look at things on a sliding scale; that is one way and I won’t deny that. But you can also look at what clear examples of those terms are and compare them with your examples to get some perspective.

Here’s one:

Look up the reasons why this happened and then read on…

To the best of my knowledge, this is not consistently happening anywhere in the US right now. Nor is it pretty much accepted as normal life and no longer headline news after a few days, as is the case here. In most Western countries, political heads would roll…

I’m open to change my mind if you have evidence to prove me wrong.

Before you do: if your response is along the lines of “But Kent State!!!” then I will assume you only selectively read what I wrote here above and are cherry-picking sentences to make a failed comparison. That would make you a bad actor and I would not bother responding. Been told…

I’ve been fortunate to travel the world extensively throughout my life. I was in a fair number of countries where there was no such thing as democracy the way it is viewed in the West. Law enforcement and the use of violence by the authorities reflected that. The citizens there lived with it because it was a part of daily life. E.g.: insulting a police officer, as is commonly done in the West, gets you an instant beating at best, a bullet at worst.

Does that happen in the West too?

Yes.

But it is not the norm, which is my point.

An often neglected follow-up point is to ask how do you get to that point?

There are multiple factors but one of them is to:

Demoralize your LEOs by painting them all with the brush only the corrupt ones deserve.

Defund your police, which makes sure standards go down and thugs will replace the honest cops.

Repeat this cycle for a while and eventually, the breakdown will be complete.

 

What I find striking is how the folks shouting ACAB not only fail to understand this dynamic, but how they apply their solutions selectively. In most other professions, the first response to sub-standard performance is more training, not vilifying, and people are fine with that. But when it comes to law enforcement, that suddenly doesn’t apply anymore. Which brings us back to people not knowing what the standards are:

First, guess how many hours of firearms and use of force training the average LEO gets in a year. I mean official training, not what they do on their own dime.

Write it down.

Then contact as many officers as you can all over the country to see what the number really is.

Then ask yourself who decides how much money is spent on LEO training.

Answer: politicians. Of all parties, I might add…

If you want good doctors, engineers, programmers, etc. you train them. Not just once, but throughout their careers. If you don’t want to do that, then don’t expect to have professionals on the job. The same goes for law enforcement.

Which brings us to the final question:

How much additional taxes are you willing to pay to make this happen?

Joe Rogan and Jocko Willink often say that a LEO should be a BJJ purple belt.

That’s a great idea. Some thoughts:

  • How long does it take to become a purple belt? How many hours? How much does that cost?
  • All training means the LEO is not on the job. Who covers for them while they train? How much does that cost?
  • If the previous bullet means daily service can’t be guaranteed, that means hiring extra personnel. How much does that cost?
  • How about all the other training LEOs have to do? Firearms, driving, First Aid, etc. Is that important enough to increase those training budgets too or do those things suddenly don’t matter anymore? How much does that cost?

I could go on, but the point stands: how much more do you want to pay in taxes to get the job done properly? Failing that, which programs do you want to defund to fund law enforcement training?

Just because the questions aren’t comfortable to answer, doesn’t mean they are invalid or unimportant. Welcome to life among the adults, where things are rarely simple and easy and almost always complicated…

 

Conclusion.

I’ve said it before: for many people, you could make the case that everything they know about violence is wrong. So then it is not surprising they come up with unworkable solutions to problems they can’t even begin to understand. There used to be a time people accepted it as a given you couldn’t be an expert on everything, let alone having even a basic understanding. Today, having an opinion on everything is seen as critical, regardless of how uninformed it is. Multiply that by many years and you get to where we are now: fundamental pillars of modern society are torn down…

History is an able teacher. Look to what mankind consistently did when society got rid of the watchmen. While you’re at it, also look into the reasons why modern policing was created a few centuries ago. Hint: community policing failed miserably once population size and density increased…

Actions have consequences and this will be the same. I don’t fault activists for trying to create a better world, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We’ll see where it all goes, but invariably, societies with a bad police force tend to be violent, dangerous places to live for the average citizen.

Which is the exact opposite of what the activists claim is their goal…

Rites of passage and self-defense

This article is about self-defense, but it will only make sense when you get to the end of it. Hang in there…

Initiation rituals and “Rites of Passage” have existed in cultures throughout time. They have many purposes I disagree with, but there is one I will write about here: to mark the transition from childhood into adulthood. Once you passed this initiation, you were one of the adults of the tribe or family or whatever other social structure you came from. This typically came with some benefits but also responsibilities: you were allowed more liberty and freedom, but you also became more responsible for yourself and others.

Though there are still certain traditions today that uphold these rites of passage, they are slowly disappearing in Western societies. That is neither good nor bad per se. Societies changed tremendously over the last hundred years or so, which doesn’t make it surprising these rituals are less common now. But I believe there is still value in some of them, so I decided years ago to do something like that with my own children. My daughter turned 18 a few years ago and we did it then, my son became an adult earlier this Summer so the time had come for his turn.

Here’s what we did.

I told him I would “kidnap” him for an afternoon to have a talk and show him some stuff. The first thing I did was take him to Antwerp. I explained this would be my last talk from the typical position of a father teaching his son what he believes he needs to know.

My kids are used to this because I have spent a lot of time talking with them from early childhood. The reason was simple: I divorced my ex-wife almost 20 years ago and I knew I wouldn’t have as much time with my children as I would’ve liked. I wouldn’t always be there to teach them the things they need to know as they organically came up throughout their lives. The next best thing was to always answer all the questions they had and motivate my decisions towards them. I abhor it when somebody says, “Because I say so!” as an answer to the question of “Why?” I always explained why it was important for them to do certain things, like say “Thank you. and “Please.” Or learn to postpone rewards until after the work is done.

I’m very fortunate in that both my children are turning into wonderful young adults. I like to tell myself that my parenting had something to do with that.

All that to say that it is not uncommon for me to spend time discussing things with my children.

 

We went to a place just outside of the city where real estate is extremely expensive. We stopped in front of a huge villa and I asked if he recognized the place; he did.

This needs some explaining:

After my divorce, I was pretty much financially ruined. I had to work as much as I could to recover from that setback. That meant I often worked weekends, but I also had my kids every other weekend. I couldn’t afford a babysitter for the entire weekend, so I asked some of my clients if it was okay if my kids came along while we trained. Without exception, everybody was fine with that, for which I was extremely grateful. I then taught my kids what was expected of them: they had to behave while I was working, not trash the place obviously, be polite, and so on. In the meantime, they could watch a Disney movie on my laptop until I finished the training session. There were never any problems when they came along. It’s one of the things I am still proud of, to see them behave so exemplary.

The place we stopped in front of was the house of one of my oldest clients. He no longer lives in Belgium, but we used to train a lot, so my kids know that house quite well. I told my son that the kind of life he leads, the material things and status he acquired, it’s about as high as you can get. Then I explained how for the past 20 years, he averaged 14 to 16 hours of work every single day. Barring exceptions, all that wealth doesn’t come for free; you have to work extremely hard for it.

If that is what he wants, a career that takes him to that level, he would need to work just as hard and obviously get lucky too. And if that’s what makes him happy, then I’m okay with it. But he shouldn’t expect to get there with anything other than a full commitment.

 

Next, I took him to the red-light district. [Read more…]

Unintended consequences of the George Floyd protests and riots, part two

Read this first: Unintended consequences of the George Floyd protests and riots.

Then watch this:

  • A few things:
    She lies about not having a firearm on her. Breaking News! People lie to the police, in particular when they have done something wrong.
  • She is compliant, right up to the point where she isn’t. In the blink of an eye, the script is switched.
  • When she attacks, she immediately scales up all the way to lethal force. No slow ramp up, just skip straight to the killing part.
  • Notice how many times the officer has to tell the men to stay away. Why? Because they in no way help the situation and more likely than not make it more difficult to handle. E.g.: she immediately becomes verbally aggressive when they are close to her.
  • Despite being asked to hang back, the man stays close. When she runs, she runs in his direction. Notice how he then has to run for cover because suddenly, every bullet is coming in his direction too…

If you can accept the above in this case, apply the same logic to other incidents where you instinctively want to yell at the cops for not trusting the suspect, stopping them “without reason”, etc.

Why?

Because:

  • You don’t have all the facts. Unless you made the call, you don’t know why the police were called. In this case, the caller said the woman fired a gun. Unless you saw it yourself, you don’t know that. All you see is the police arresting a woman “for no reason”. You’d be wrong in thinking that. You’d be even more wrong in interfering because of it…
  • Even if she hadn’t fired the gun, she had an outstanding warrant for her arrest: you don’t know that. That “for no reason” narrative is only true in your own head.
  • There is no way to predict which incidents will explode into lethal force like this one and which ones will not. Rewatch the video. She is compliant all the way except for the end. Had she not pulled the gun, she most likely would not have been shot. Point is, what *looks* like compliance can *always* escalate in this way.
  • Re. the previous point: when an officer gives you a *lawful* order, follow it. There are reasons for this, including both their and your safety (remember the guy not hanging back when told and then bullets whizzing at him?) and not escalating a situation. There are procedures, no matter how imperfect, they have to follow for many reasons they don’t have to explain to you.

The folks at police activity do good work IMO. No drama, no outrage clickbait headlines, just (relatively) neutral presenting the video evidence, including the cases of bad use of force.

I wish PDs around the world would spend more time explaining what I just did here above, give examples of what they face every day, and why they do things a certain way. There is too much misinformation and delusional thinking about violence, as well as what it takes to handle it.

This is not without horrible consequences…

Which ones?

Let’s start here: [Read more…]