13 July 2007
The Camera Never Lies?

Fascinating account from the Force Science Research Centre. What seems especially interesting is the importance of instinctive reactions in the multiple shots - the decision to shoot had been taken and the three shots landed in around 1.8 seconds. Also, the inability of the officer, an experienced and capable-sounding guy to give accurate commands under pressure. This is especially important when we consider the need for similar commands when managing unknown contacts.

Brief, dark, and grainy, the video image is a punch to the gut.

A California sheriff's deputy trying to detain a subject who's on the ground after a high-speed chase says to him, "Get up! Get up!" The man says, "Ok, I'm gonna get up," and starts to rise. Without another word, the deputy shoots him, 3 times in quick succession.

With millions of others, you probably became a vicarious eye-witness when the scene was telecast over and over world-wide. Be honest. The man complied with an officer's command, and the shooting was not an unintentional discharge. Didn't it look like a slam-dunk case of egregious abuse of force?

Late last month [6/28/07], after less than 4 hours' deliberation following a trial that lasted over a month, a jury acquitted the deputy, Ivory Webb Jr., of attempted voluntary manslaughter and firearms assault. The charges could have sent him to prison for 18 years. For people who knew nothing more about the case than what they'd seen on TV or the Internet, the verdict seemed a puzzlement, if not an outrageous miscarriage of justice.

But jurors said the tale of the video took on a whole different flavor when considered in context with circumstances that were little known publicly until Webb's trial.

Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato, was part of the defense team. He was brought into the case "to explain the human factors behind the shooting," based on his expertise as a behavioral scientist and on FSRC's unique studies of lethal-force dynamics.

In a recent interview with Force Science News, Lewinski reprised his courtroom testimony and his insider's knowledge of the pressure-cooker confrontation that embroiled Ivory Webb and resulted in his becoming the first LEO ever charged criminally for an on-duty shooting in the history of San Bernardino County.

"It was important to paint a picture of what happened from Webb's perspective," Lewinski says. "The video was so vivid, so seemingly clear-cut, that people didn't properly factor in what led up to the shooting."

The Players. Ivory Webb was 46 years old at the time of the shooting, a former college football player (Rose Bowl '82), the son of a retired California police chief, and a veteran of nearly 10 years with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. Most of his career had been spent as a jail officer. Although he'd been on the street for over 4 years, "he had never been the primary officer on a felony vehicle stop," Lewinski says. "He performed pretty much as a backup officer."

The subjects he confronted at the shooting scene were Luis Escobedo, 22, who had a rap sheet from previous run-ins with police and would later be arrested for CCW, and Elio Carrion, 21, an Air Force senior airman and security officer.

The Chase. On the last weekend night in January, 2006, Luis Escobedo and Elio Carrion were at a late-night barbeque in Montclair, east of Los Angeles, celebrating Carrion's recent return from a 6-month stint in Iraq. They'd been "heavily" consuming beer and tequila when they decided to take a fellow partygoer's Corvette for a spin. Both had blood alcohol levels of more than double the state's legal limit.

Escobedo took the wheel (although he had no driver's license) and on a "lightly trafficked industrial road" near some railroad tracks, he opened up the sleek muscle car to see how fast it would go. Soon they passed a San Bernardino deputy who gave pursuit but couldn't keep up.

Webb, returning to patrol from another call, heard radio traffic about the chase and moments later saw the Corvette "coming directly at me. If I hadn't swerved into the other lane, they would have smashed right into me."

Webb barreled after them and soon was driving over 100 mph to keep up. The Corvette screeched around a corner, caromed off curbs, and at one point "spun around and came directly at me a second time." Before colliding, it suddenly smoked into a U-turn and wove wildly from one side of the street to another, then crashed into a cinder block wall facing opposing traffic and "hung up there." The chase had ended in the municipality of Chino.

When Webb pulled up, the vehicle was shaking as the occupants tried to force the doors open, he said. The trunk lid had popped up from the impact, blocking the view from behind. He nosed in slightly toward the right rear of the Corvette and stepped out of his patrol car.

The Confrontation. "Considering that they'd played chicken with him twice and had shown no regard for human safety with their reckless speeding, Webb reasonably assessed the car's occupants as really dangerous," Lewinski says. "He had his full uniform on, his overheads were flashing, and he had his gun and flashlight out, so there was no mistaking his authority.

"Carrion began to exit the vehicle and took a step in the direction of Webb's patrol car. Webb ordered him to show his hands clearly. Carrion didn't. Webb ordered him to get down. Carrion didn't. Inside the vehicle, Escobedo kept reaching his hands into areas Webb could not see." The deputy's commands to both subjects were repeated in a stream, with no compliance. In his frustration and concern, Webb ratcheted up his language with liberal infusions of profanity.

At trial a retired LASD lieutenant testified as a tactical expert for the prosecution and condemned Webb for not remaining "calm and assertive," as officers are trained to do. But Lewinski took Webb's words out of the context of antiseptic Monday morning quarterbacking and put them in the context of his on-the-spot fears.

The chase had led the deputy into an unfamiliar section of Chino and, essentially, "he was lost," Lewinski says. He knew the street he was on but in the blur of the pursuit he'd had a hard time tracking the cross streets. Several times he named the nearest intersection incorrectly when radioing for help. Deputies trying to reach him sometimes cited directions and their own locations erroneously, too.

The two suspects could overhear the radio jabber. "Webb knew that they knew his back up couldn't find him and that he was all alone with two drunken young men who were not complying with any of his orders," Lewinski says.

The pair was physically separated, so Webb constantly had to shift his focus and his flashlight from one to the other to keep tabs on their actions. And they kept trying verbally to intimidate him, Lewinski explains. "Carrion at one point told the deputy, 'I've spent more time than you in the fuckin' police, in the fuckin' military.'

"Webb recognized all this from his jail experience as a common tactic among gangbangers: separate, keep up a barrage of chatter to distract, then attack. Webb ordered them to shut up, but they didn't."

At a point when Carrion had gotten within his reactionary gap, Webb kicked him to take him to the ground. (The prosecution's expert would claim later that police are not trained to kick suspects because it puts them off-balance. But Lewinski points out that in fact kicks and leg strikes are common staples in contemporary defensive tactics.) On the ground, Carrion was propped up on his arms, "controlled to some degree" but not proned out like Webb wanted.

The grinding crash of the speeding Corvette against the wall and the flashing lights and all the yelling that followed had alerted a used car salesman living across the street that something worth filming was going down. He grabbed his Sony digital zoom camera and started recording after Carrion climbed out of the car.

This man, a Cuban refugee, was wanted on old felony warrants for aggravated assault in Florida. His past would surface after his sensational footage saturated the airwaves.

But for now, his camera was about to capture what photographers call "the money shot."

The Shooting. When the video was first reviewed and broadcast, the figures of Webb and Carrion could be grossly seen on the darkened street, the deputy with his gun out standing over the semi-grounded suspect. But subtleties were hard to distinguish. The audio track, too, was tough to make out, although what could be heard sounded discouragingly incriminating.
Carrion: We're here on your side. We mean you no harm.
Webb: OK, get up! (inaudible) Get up!
Carrion: OK, I'm just gonna get up.

Carrion starts to move up. Three shots ring out from Webb's .45. Carrion is hit in the left shoulder, the left thigh, and the left ribs. He's critically wounded but survives.

The digital recording was "enhanced" by an FBI laboratory to reveal more visual detail. Through ultra-sophisticated technology of David Notowitz, a video expert engaged by Webb's attorneys, it was then enhanced even further, to the point that images were recovered from a section of the recording that seemingly had been completely whited out by the amateur cameraman ineptly fiddling with the controls.

Webb had experienced difficulty articulating precisely what happened just before he started shooting. In Lewinski's opinion, he suffered memory problems that are not uncommon after high-intensity officer-involved shootings. "But when the enhanced footage was slowed down and time coded so we could study the action fragment by fragment, I became convinced he was reacting instinctively to a legitimate perceived threat."

As Carrion braces on his hands, resistant to going fully to the ground, he first can be seen jabbing a hand up toward Webb's gun. The weapon is well within his grasp, but he quickly lowers his hand without attempting a grab.

Then the video confirms that he twice reaches his hand inside his black Raiders jacket. Carrion would claim on the witness stand that he was just pointing to his chest. "But the enhanced image shows his hand buried in the jacket up to the knuckles," Lewinski says. "It was definitely inside."

Less than a second later, Webb jerks his gun barrel up slightly as if motioning with it as he commands, "Get up! Get up!"

"He's talking to the hand, focusing on it," Lewinski says. "What I sincerely believe he was thinking was, 'Get your hand up,' meaning get it away from where you may have a weapon hidden and out where I can see it. But the words came out different than his thought.

"Some of our studies have shown that when officers feel they are in control of a situation, they tend to give clear and relevant commands. But when they feel out of control, their commands often deteriorate. For Ivory Webb, that was an enormously stressful situation and there was nothing he felt in control of.

"Under stress and time compression, people commonly experience slips between thought and speech." En Route to the trial, for example, Lewinski asked a harried airline ticket agent for directions to a travelers' lounge. "Down there," she said-and pointed up. Even the prosecutor while cross-examining Lewinski misspoke in referencing something, and apologized for it. "It's easy to do, isn't it?" Lewinski softly replied.

Lewinski cited a case of an officer who, facing a suspect with a knife, repeatedly shouted "Show me your hands!" even though both hands were visible. The officer was trying to say "Drop the knife" but "resorted to familiar commands from his training under stress," Lewinski explained.

In the uncertain and rapidly evolving circumstances on the street in Chino, Carrion reaching into his jacket had "extremely threatening implications," Lewinski says. "He turned out not to be armed, but Webb couldn't know that. For the first time in the encounter, Carrion obeyed the command he heard. He began to rise up and a little forward, like starting to lunge. Webb had already made the decision to fire, thinking his life was in jeopardy, and pulled the trigger."

A tactics expert who volunteered for the defense, Sgt. Kenton Ferrin of Inglewood (CA) PD, said he would have shot under the same circumstances. Webb "thought he was going to die," Ferrin testified.

The prosecutor's expert, however, asserted that each of Webb's shots was a deliberate decision, bolstering the contention that the deputy in effect had committed a cold, calculating execution. But Lewinski pointed out that the time-coded video enhancement showed there was just 6/10 of a second between each round. He explained that FSRC's time-and-motion studies had proven that in that tight sequencing, with both the officer and the subject moving slightly, there's no possibility of conscious decision-making prompting each shot. "At that point, after the first round, it was just an instinctive process."

"The purpose of Dr. Lewinski's testimony," says Webb's attorney Michael Schwartz of the Santa Monica law firm Silver, Hadden, Silver, Wexler and Levine, "was to help the jury see that behavior the prosecution considered grounds for suspicion and criminal action could, in fact, be understood as common human behavior in circumstances of extreme stress."

The Outcome. The first poll inside the jury room was 11 for acquittal, 1 for conviction. The dissenter soon changed his mind. When the verdict was announced, Ivory Webb burst into tears and praised God.

That was just the first of the legal challenges he faces. Elio Carrion and his family have asked federal authorities to bring criminal charges against Webb, and a civil suit has of course been filed.

Meanwhile, with cell phone cameras and camcorders proliferating, a profusion of controversial police actions seems destined in days ahead to be seen and judged by millions who understand little about them.

After the Webb verdict, a reporter for the Associated Press interviewed Eugene O'Donnell, a former cop and prosecutor who now teaches police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

"Videos are drenched with caveats," O'Donnell cautioned. "One thing we've learned about videos is that there are often missing pieces."

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04 July 2007
A Quiet Mugging

From a link on TPI, I came across the following posted in theAikido Journal.

About a year ago, I was mugged (this article was mostly written at that time) on a BART train while returning from visiting a friend on the Eastern Bay of Northern California. I had been sensing sketchy vibes on the train right from the beginning: it was packed full of unsavory, creepy characters, wannabe gang members, or otherwise hardened, indifferent looking people who clearly had high mental barriers erected all around them. After the incident, I later wondered to myself: in attempting to retain a calm and relaxed mindset in the context of an unfamiliar and potentially threatening environment, perhaps the crudeness of atemi is sometimes the most sensible move.
I was sitting innocuously in my seat, when a thuggish looking African American man, age 25-30, came up and sat down next to me. I graciously offered the seat and even moved over for him! Imagine that. This action tied in directly to emotions and philosophies I had been grappling with during this time period related to sensing others’ energy around me and the openness (or lack thereof) of people to one another in the context of a public environment.
The previous day, while in San Francisco, I had been feeling particularly open, and the energy I observed and felt from people was almost overwhelming—I was exhausted by the end of the day. The trick to the best kind of empathy is to feel others’ emotions without letting them stay inside you; you have to let them flow through you or else you’ll going to be rendered helpless—or be taken advantage of, in this case. In the past day I had offered lychee fruit to three total strangers, feeling happy with myself for breaking down typical social barriers, thinking of all the times poor people in alleyways and trains in Morocco and China offered me food…
But then, this is America. I forgot. I forgot that we live in the most violent first-world society on the planet, even eclipsing quite a few less developed countries in our rates of homicide and levels of social and economic equality—largely relics of slavery, I am sure, considering the majority of both victims and perpetrators of violent crime in this country are young, black males.
This guy reeked of cigarette smoke. His teeth were yellow and silver. He leaned over and whispered, speaking softly to me. At first I thought he was just selling something. The second he started talking I knew I shouldn’t have let him sit down, but I was trapped by then; I allowed him entry in trying to blend in and not show fear or surprise in response to his swagger. I first thought he was trying to sell me drugs, as he had said something about “10 dollars.” Months of practice dodging scammers and potentially hazardous situations across alleyways and bus stations through unfamiliar places during travel experiences started flushing back to me. In a well-rehearsed monotone, I said, “Sorry, I’m not interested,” and turned away.
It was then that he said, very softly in a slight drawl (and it was this calm indifference that was the most frightening part), “No nigga, give *me* ten dollars…I got a piece.” He gently opened his jacket to show a slight bulge in his side pocket.
I stopped here and I realized how wrong and foolish I had been and I struggled to retain my composure. I suddenly realized that, for starters, I had no money in my wallet in the first place —and a very strong, warm rushing feeling of blood swept through my whole chest and spine. I began to recall stories about robbers killing their victims in a fit of rage when it turned out they didn’t have any money.
I said calmly, “I don’t have any money, I only have change.” He lowered his demand slightly, “Give me three dollars.” Pretty laughable, in retrospect. I realize all along he could have been bluffing, but was it worth dying over? As much as I was later outraged that this was allowed to transpire at 7:30 PM on public transportation surrounded by other people, at the time, I was not so much worried that he would truly be stupid enough to shoot me on board; I was more afraid of he and his friends following me out of the station after I got off.
All the same, I was wondering what was best to do. Should I call out? Just say no? My mom told me I should have gotten mad and said something like, “What!? Are you out of your ****ing mind?! Get the **** out of my ****ing face. This is a tactic that might work well for my mom, a 45-year old 5’4 woman, because people don’t expect a small white woman to be so aggressive and it throws them off guard. It’s part of why she’s such a fearsome lawyer, and I also know that she successfully warded off would-be attackers in the past. However, I felt that such a tactic was a little risky for myself.
I pulled out all the change from my pockets. “Gimme the money, yeah, give me all the money,” he repeated; it just so happened that I happened to have just about exactly three dollars in quarters.
As I was handing them to him, I said, “Will this help you get somewhere?”
“Do you need this, will this help you get where you need to go?”
“Ok, then take it, if you need it, I hope it helps you.”
It seems absurd in retrospect, but I think this was part of how I dealt with the situation to make it less scary; ho ho ho! Certainly this gentlemen isn’t threatening me bodily harm; I’m voluntarily giving money to someone who needs it! I think this rationalization just helped me get through these moments and allowed me to continue to act as calm and normal as possible.
Thankfully, he then left the seat and I quickly changed cars. He and his friends got off at the next stop. I got off two stops later.
I was relieved but shook up. I later felt sad and upset, not so much that this had happened to me, but that this could happen in such a veil of normalcy within a small radius of one of the wealthiest areas in the world.

I must admit I'm really not sure what to make of this.

The victim (and make no mistake, that's what he was, claims of voluntay charity aside) survived a potentially lethal encounter. It cost him a few bucks and he got home safe. However there is more to it than that.

" I had been sensing sketchy vibes on the train right from the beginning". There's the first fucking clue. If that is the case then MOVE. Get off the train and wait for another. Move to a different carriage. Don't just sit there iwth your head down and hope it will all be OK. Why is he sitting down in that situation? Sitting reduces your mobility and makes it very easy for a guy to corner you - as happened here.

I can't help but feel that the talk of energy and sadness at the inequalities of the world mask a lack of understanding about the realities of self protection, off the mat. perhaps less time handing out fruit to passers-by and more time in the real world?

I do like the comment made by J. Sorrentino:

However, given that the robbers chose YOU, rather than any of the other “hardened, indifferent looking people who clearly had high mental barriers erected all around them,” perhaps it is time for you to develop those skills. At the very least, it will give you the psychological tools to use when empathy and grace are not appropriate.

Any thoughts?

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27 April 2007
Slap KO

For all those who dismiss the power of a slap, this video shows an excellent example. Look at the lack of movement by the slapper - just the drop of the hand and a little coil of the waist. Also the slappee was completely unable to react, partly because he had no fence.

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Boxing vs multiples

Courtesy of the Shisha Den, a video of some very effective movement and striking against multiples. Look at the effectiveness of a solid base and good footwork - lets him eveade a lot of the blows coming his way, keep from getting surrounded and deliver some telling blows.

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10 April 2007
Combative Concepts

Morgan's excellent site with a number of articles and the like.

I especially recommend his ruminations on knife combatives.

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Just Yell Fire - Better Yell for Proper Instruction!

My pal Angel pointed me in the direction of these guys recently and asked me my thoughts.

Overall I can really see the good intentions behind this vid, and they have gathered some of what I would consider the main elements. However there is a heavy dose of bullshit in this as well.

Apart from the presentation style, which seemed pitched at a much lower age group and fairly condescending, the info in the first 10 minutes was solid. The police chief touched on the basics. In my opinion that should have been expanded to fill the whole vid with the principles being applied to the scenarios.

As is common in self-protection vids there was only lip-service paid to the awareness/avoidance/contact management element. For example there was only 1 passing reference to any kind of reactionary gap and one example of a (very poor) fence which was not made explicit. This is the kind of technique which could have been really well taught in a vid like this, much better than 'scoop kicks'...

The other techniques were, on the face of it, decent - eye gouges, tears, slaps, bites and knees. However they are done in a very unrealistic manner - no aggression or force. There is also a lot of shit grab defence stuff - that 'combing the hair' and 'hands up' stuff is bollocks. The defences are diagnostic, overly complex and do not allow for a lack of traction from being picked up or rammed backwards. I also don't think that pain is as effective a stopper as they make out. A tough, goal oriented attacker will fight through having his face torn to shreds. This vid gives the impression that the central casting thug will be stopped by a single eyejab - that's patently not true.

Whilst I really like the scenario ideas, they are very, very limited. No indication of the importance of awareness or contact management, and risible technique applications. Again they are diagnostic in nature and depend on a co-operative 'opponent' This is followed into the short illustrations of training - they give nothing of the actual type of training required for effective self protection.

Some of the statistics seem somewhat dubious. For example I would like to see sources for their claims on the number of date rapes or sexual predators in the US. Also, I think some of the time dedicated to the 'I have a right to' stuff would been better spent on reinforcing the need for safe behaviour. That is probably the most valuable message from this material and it is really only touched on.

In short, this vid is like a '70s self defence manual given infomercial treatment. It has some of the correct ingredients but so much is missing as to make all but that first 10 minutes worthless. The smug assumption that this will save lives is misplaced, and could be dangerous if people think they know how to fight off an attacker after one viewing of this. Kudos to those involved in doing the work and giving it away for free, but I am really not impressed with the content.

One final point is the advice to yell 'fire' that gives the video it's name. Not bad advice and I like the way it is mentioned that this should be a mental trigger (Although no detail on how to accomplish this is given). However they fail to mention how hard it can be to speak, let alone shout when in an adrenalized state. Since no understanding is given of the need to predicate training (as in more than just watching a vid!) on the failure of technique it is highly likely that the system as presented will fall apart at the first failure point and this is likely to be when the shout of fire fails.

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03 April 2007
Carjack: An Armed Response

Interesting article from Dennis Martin.

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29 March 2007
Mike's Self Protection Skills Stream Of Conciousness

He's a clever man that one!

1) Dont do stupid things, hang out with stupid people, or go to stupid places.

2) Get some good OC and spray yourself to see what it can do. Get a training unit at the same time and practice some drills with a friend or friends. When in doubt, paint everyone orange and run away.

3) Work the hell out of managing unknown contacts with said friend and said OC training unit. Practice painting everyone orange and running away. When in public, visualize painting people orange and running away.

4) Get thine ass to a boxing and/or grappling gym. Lose weight, gain muscle, gain confidence, work against truly resistant opponents. Is there a downside to this?

5) Get a 5 shot revolver, old makarov, Glock or whatever. Practice with it on occasion, carry it whenever possible. Get a pump shotty for the house for heavy artillery. If you live in some rathole that doesn't allow this, move. I file such locales under "stupid places" as mentioned in point 1.

6) Unfuck your finances. From what I can tell, Dave Ramsey is as good a guy to get info from as any to start this off, and better than most.

7) Get 3+ months worth of food, emergency cash and supplies stored up. The world might not come to an end, but your job sure might. Buying in bulk saves money, anyway.

8) See your doctor and dentist regularly

9) Carry a damn flashlight and a knife or multitool. You'll be amazed at how you got along without them if you never did before.

10) Get your house/apartment as secure as is feasible. If there are blind spots, fix that. If the locks suck, fix that. A dog is one of the cheapest alarms you can install.

11) Take some red cross CPR and first aid classes. Go for EMT if you have the time/money. Carry a windlass bandana a la JJ.

12) Learn to swim. Go geocaching. Learn to canoe. Take a wilderness survival class. Volunteer with the boy scouts. Some people are so afraid of the outdoors that its a wonder they ever dare leave the city. Hardly a way to build confidence and self-reliance.

I'd rate all of those higher than running around with a rifle, however much fun that can be.

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06 March 2007

In the words of Bel from TPI - Wrestling G&P and soccer kicks FTW. Again.

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Video of waved spydie opening

I'm a big fan of the waved Spyderco Endura, and in the course of trying to explain the opeing I made the following quick and dirty vid. Bear in mind this was done with no preparation and so is more than rough. I should still give an idea of how I approach the folder opening problem.

Video of waved spydie opening - Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

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03 March 2007
Groundfighting 101

Great aticle, pointed out by Mike at TPI

Groundwork or Newaza is essential to a well rounded knowledge of Jujitsu. It has been said that if you do not know how to fight on the ground you just do not know how to fight! Ideally we do not want to end up on the ground in a real street fight. Maybe there are other attackers we need to fend off or perhaps there is little room since quite often there is not a great deal of space to maneuver on the ground. Such reasoning has made many martial artists reluctant to even bother with Newaza. But statistics show that 75% of all streetfights end up on the ground in a matter of seconds! It doesn't seem to matter if we believe ground fighting is beneficial or not, the facts show that the likelihood is that we will end up on the ground in a real fight! Neither does it matter how many people attack. The more people that attack us the quicker we will hit the ground! A good knowledge of Newaza, then, will give us that added advantage and allow us to either finish our attacker whilst on the ground or even escape a stronger opponent and quickly get back to our feet!

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26 February 2007
And Another Cool Old School Gun Article

This time Bruce Nelson is discussing the quick draw. Ignore the wacky late 70s 'tache and there is some gold info there.

It's a shame we don't have that section on how to become a paid federal informant though...

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23 February 2007
Holster Analysis Article

The fine chaps at TPI provided this article which I have turned into a PDF. Interesting reading.

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Excellent Training

Some great training here, great verbal and no-nonsense technique. That dummy on a bungee is fucking excellent as well!

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21 February 2007
Disturbing Video

This is a video of a very nasty assault on an old woman, by a young man. Why am I posting it? Well it shows a number of important factors:

Look at the location - perfect ambush territory. The fact their is a camera there suggests to me that this is not the first assault in that place.

Second, see how the attacker, an apparently seasoned street predator, launches the assault when he sees the victim trying to get away.

You can also see a number of classic assault cues - see how he keeps scanning the area for risks, how he shifts his weight prior to throwing that first punch.

So, watch the video, be outraged certainly, but also learn from it. Imagine how you would deal with it and game the situation out in your mind.

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20 February 2007
Chapter Five - Line-ups: The Fence

The fence is an invaluable self-protection and the cornerstone of dealing with unknown contacts or escalating assaults. Geoff Thompson was the guy who codified this technique and is probably the best at explaining it. Courtesy of Fight Times, here is the relevant chapter from his book Dead or Alive

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You may think so, I couldn't possibly comment

Courtesy of Gabe Suarez, one of the greats in reality based self protection:

Carrying In The Non-Permissive Environment

First of all, nothing in this article is to be construed as an advocating of violating any laws. This is presented for those who may be interested in the academic nature of such studies and for education purposes only. There now that we got that clove of garlic out in the air, let’s get into the meat of the material.

This will be controversial, but I think it needs to be written. I have students all over the world, in some very dangerous areas. In many of those places, there is no NRA, CCW Laws, Second Amendment, or even recognition of Human Rights. The danger is real and I’m regaled with stories of brutality from infant rape to post-kidnapping dismemberments and other grizzly stories that would drive any sane man to carry weapons, regardless of the local laws, and be prepared to use them violently at any moment. The danger is even more real if you are a pale-faced American in our current age of drug wars, terror wars, and renewed anti-Yankeeism. Can this info be misused? Anything from beer to baseball bats can be misused. The bad guys already know this material, and it is part and parcel of their bad guy skill sets. Heck, who do you think we learned this from? Our friends who were once on the opposite side of the legal lines.

When Operating and Carrying Weapons in A Non-Permissive Environment:

First of all, be low profile. Try to fit into your environment. Don’t dress like a Yankee. Avoid loud clothing with bright colors or patterns and instead go for muted earth tones. Avoid the scruffy look as well. In general, neat, clean people get overlooked, dirty scruffy unshaved people get a second look. Avoid American brand clothing such as things with flags or slogans. Again, the entire idea is to dressed in a way that you can easily be overlooked.

If carrying a weapon, dress to hide it. No one looking at you should have any idea that you are carrying a weapon. Photographer vests from Royal Robbins may look and be the rage on the cover of Bitchin Guy Magazine, but you may as well carry openly because everyone knows its covering a gun. Same goes for baseball hats representing American tactical companies such as Glock or “certain shooting schools”. If it marks you as an armed American, do yourself a favor – get rid of it! Real operators are invisible, not poster boys for the American gun industry.

A note about weapons. Pistols of course are a fine choice if you can have one. If not, at least have a knife. Either bring one with you, or get one locally. If you cannot find a knife, get a screw driver a nice sharp Phillips screw driver. The idea is to have something with which to fight. Usually someone will bring up the idea of O.C. Spray. Well, here is my opinion on it. In the USA, that may be a fine idea due to various social issues, but with or without it, you must have something to back it up. You cannot OC three guys wanting to “stomp the Yankee”.

In this environment the idea of less lethal is secondary to having the ability to inflict instant and overwhelming damage on those who attack you.

With regard to firearms, there are some choices which are better than others. Avoid extremely expensive or “personalized” guns. Carry Mexican style. That is holster less. Why? Because if you need to discard you pistol to be instantly unarmed and not one to be paid attention to, the empty holster is as telling as the gun that it carried.

Something that is often done by those who venture into such environments routinely is to wipe all fingerprints off the cartridges and reinsert them into the magazines with gloves on. It is also interesting to note that polygonal bores such as found on certain pistols do not mark the projectile as do standard lands-and-grooves barrel. The end result is that it is more difficult to determine from which pistol a certain bullet came.

With regards to knives, they should be very very sharp and not used for routine day to day chores. They should be hidden and remain hidden until they are needed. I’ve seen guys whip out a $300 custom folder when some soccer mom asks if anyone has a knife to open a box of cookies. Stupid.

The knife should be inexpensive and easily replaced. The idea that you may have to ditch your knife should be remembered before you choose between that high dollar custom and the Spyderco Endura to carry in the NPE.

Finally, above the software and hardware is the background work. Have a plan, and follow it. If something goes wrong it should not surprise you but rather you should have thought of it before and planned for it. Be smart, be low profile, but be ready. Your safety and that of those around you whom you care about is in your hands alone. No one else will come to help you at such times.
Bottom Line - Be Armed At All Times

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29 January 2007
Fighting the Trained Wolf Pack

Via a link on TPI, this excellent article from Darren Laur.

Fighting multiples is a nightmare scenario. When thay have trained to act cohesively then you have a real problem.

It is interesting that the same principles which are key for more standard situations become even more important here - awareness, movement and violence of action.

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02 January 2007
Layers of Response

Excellent post by James Yeager on Layered Responses.

Often the Self Protection community pays lip service to the idea of awarenss and avoidance. It is described as the most important thing, but never actually trained or drilled. After all it is much easier to hit the pads or BOB than work through the mechanics of something as nebulous as awareness.

Whilst James' post doesn't give drills as such, it does offer an excellent paradigm for considering the "protective lifestyle".

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06 December 2006
More multiples

On a linked thread I found this video.

Thugs training like we do, but training to work as a pack.

Fucking terrifying.

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27 November 2006
SAFE Level One - The Presentation

This is the presentation that was used for the first part of the course.SAFE%20Level%20One.pdf

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SAFE Level One

This weekend was the first time I have taught a full length self-protection course, all of my own material. It was a little daunting to say the least but I think it went fairly well. It was open to males and females but given that it was being held at a hospital it was always going to have the majority of students as females.

One thing which made it so much easier was the help of my chums Raggedstaff, Molossus and Abomination (not their real names, obviously...). All are experienced martial artists and Molossus in particular is very experienced self protection instructor.

Here's a brief outline of what was covered:

The 3 golden rules of self protection and the three stupids
Awareness with discussions and drills on clearing and mobile commentary
Victim Selection and how to make ourselves less likely to be a victim
Colour codes

The fence
Default defence (RBSD's cowcatcher)
managing unknown contacts
basic strikes (eyejab, palm strike, hammerfist, elbow)
Managing the Fucked Up Tangle (FUT)
Defender floored, attacker standing
Both on the floor - rape position and mount

We also touched on weapon defence and improvised weapons, although not in any great detail.

The course seemed well received and I was very impressed with how people progressed, especially H who was very nervous at the beginning but kicked the snot out of a 6' 15 stone blacksmith on the second day!

I learnt a lot as well - specifically:

More drills are needed for the awareness session
A warning that people will find the drills stressful and that crying is normal when having dealt with a stressful situation
Less breaks to keep the momentum up
The second day flowed less well than the first with more improvisation required

So thanks to all those who attended and helped and I will post details about the next course which will be even better!

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14 November 2006
Superb KO

Blink and you might miss it.

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12 November 2006
Foot in mouth

lloyd de Jongh of the Piper system has been on TPI explaining more about his system. Looks like I jumped to completely the wrong conclusion about what seems to be a much more progressive and well-thought out system than I thought.


08 November 2006
Piper System - South African Knife Combatives

The Piper System is a South African knife system. Interesting stuff and the video looks reasonable. Get past the Dork Ops, Skullz R KewL!!!11 type marketing and it looks very FMA-like to me, although it is apparently based on traditional African systems.

I wonder why the choice of such an unusual video format. They know the user is going to be viewing this via their webste so why pic a format for mobile phones? The video shows production so it is not just lifted from a phone. The only thing I can think of is that they are aiming for soemone to view it on a small, lo resolution screen for some reason...

I'm also rather dubious about systems which claim a historical precedent but are unable to show either a lineage or documentary evidence.


03 November 2006
Video - forward drive and verbal misdirection

From YouTube. Fucking superb pre-emption by the cop in this vid.

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29 October 2006

Excellent articles from Den Martin.

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MACP Video

Interesting vid of the new(ish) US Army combatives program. You may get a pop-up with boobies and the like from the d/load site and it's an 86 meg file.

Full details of the system are in FM 3-25.150.

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27 October 2006
Be an Attack Dog!

Belisarius at TPI makes some excellent observations about the MMA fighter skillset as it applies outside of the ring.

There is a lot of bullshit about MMA vs. Comabtives whereas I view the two as complementary. MMA gives the vast majority of the skills (outside of the 'butt-scootin guard-puller' crowd) and is second to none for training. Combatives gives the real-world skills such as observation, line-ups and weapon skills. Of course this is nothing new - guys like Dennis Martin, Dave Armstrong and Geoff Thompson have been including MMA type training in ther classes for years. However, the halo effect provided by the current high levels in MMA competition and the resulting refinement of skills and training methodologies is making for some great improvements across the board.

To add to Cecil's posts about attitude being an important consideration, I think that effective use of these weapons does require a willingness to do what it takes to get to this range and to keep it. Under optimal conditions, the costs will be very low and you'll get in with a low-risk entry on a great attack angle, probably doing damage on the way, and everything will go smoothly. Wonderful. However, conditions can and will deviate wildly from the advertised optimal and pushing the action to force the fight to the clinch range can entail being willing to trade shots, i.e. Badman Contest style, with the risk of taking some heavy blows in the process.

Once you get the Thai clinch, you may find that the guy is unable to answer your technique and simply takes punishment from your close-range tools. However, you may also find yourself having to be a pit bull and refusing to let go of your 'bite' when he starts violently doing things designed to shake you off. If his hands go to his waistband in a real-world situation, for instance, you may have to transition to more of a Greco-based clinch strategy very quickly. I think that this smooth movement between MT and Greco techniques, putting Thai striking and 'dirty boxing' in the whole time, is a real key to this game.

I think MMA is a To add to Cecil's posts about attitude being an important consideration, I think that effective use of these weapons does require a willingness to do what it takes to get to this range and to keep it. Under optimal conditions, the costs will be very low and you'll get in with a low-risk entry on a great attack angle, probably doing damage on the way, and everything will go smoothly. Wonderful. However, conditions can and will deviate wildly from the advertised optimal and pushing the action to force the fight to the clinch range can entail being willing to trade shots, i.e. Badman Contest style, with the risk of taking some heavy blows in the process.

Once you get the Thai clinch, you may find that the guy is unable to answer your technique and simply takes punishment from your close-range tools. However, you may also find yourself having to be a pit bull and refusing to let go of your "bite" when he starts violently doing things designed to shake you off. If his hands go to his waistband in a real-world situation, for instance, you may have to transition to more of a Greco-based clinch strategy very quickly. I think that this smooth movement between MT and Greco techniques, putting Thai striking and "dirty boxing" in the whole time, is a real key to this game.

I think MMA is a bit like undergrad because you have both a liberal arts curriculum and you have your major. Everyone in MMA needs basic striking and grappling fundamentals (the liberal arts), and then will usually tend to emphasize certain tools for "attack" and to leave the others for contingencies and opportunistic use (declaring a major).

As has been written about extensively, the three majors are really Sprawl & Brawl, Ground & Pound, and Submissions Technician. If MMA were an ecosystem, these would be three predators who prefer to kill in different ways. Within these you even have subspecialties:

-G&P has relatively one-dimensional fighters that always try for the takedown as soon as possible and almost never get a standing KO or sub or bring the fight back to standing; and it has multi-dimensional guys like Fedor who can knock people out in the stand-up phase and pull off efficient submissions, too.

-Subs Technicians have the classical Gracie family strategies that generally look to pull guard---let's be honest---and are very comfortable with the idea of working subs from the bottom, and who are essentially uninterested in using techniques from outside of BJJ; there are the BTT types who prefer the top-position and incorporate a lot of wrestling takedowns, stand-up striking skills, and G&P (these are very close to the multi-dimensional G&P fighters); and there are the Catch/Shoot/Sambo type guys who will often try submissions before position, grabbing everything they can and emphasizing rolling techniques and leg attacks.

-S&B has the Counter-Punchers, the precision bombing guys who circle/push away from the clinch and use stand-off weapons as much as possible; and the Attack Dogs, the carpet-bombers who come straight at you and will trade leather in order to get what they want---clinch-based striking.

I personally think that the S&B guys probably have the most in common stategically with the emerging "Tactical MMA" type of fighter who combines MMA training with weapons and different overarching tactics.

This is a simplistic categorization scheme because all of the elite guys can and do employ techniques from all of the above. It is more a matter of portfolio concentration than it is anything else. In all cases except one (guard-puller) you have to be a solid wrestler, and that one stand-out is starting to go the way of the Dodo bird in high-level MMA because guys are getting killed.

To be a great standing elbows & knees guy against strong opponents, you probably have to have that Attack Dog mentality---this isn't always easy to bring out in people.

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25 October 2006
A Training Plan for the "Prepared Citizen"

The concept of the prepared citizen is an important one. For me, being prepared is a moral, as well as practical duty. I refuse to abdicate responsibility for my safety to the authorities, especially when they do such a poor job of it.

Preparation covers many, many areas from self-protection ability, first aid and knowing how to swim through to knowing how to store and prepare food. Simply put being prepared is knowing how to be a fully functional human animal.

Loudernhel at TPI has written the following article which gives a good idea of what is involved. Of course he writes for the US citizen but most of principles will apply equally in the UK.

This article had its genesis in a previous essay called “KSA’s for the Everyday Warrior.” I’ve decided to both revisit the topic and change the name. Unfortunately, the term “warrior,” much like its close cousin “hero,” has become so overused it is in jeopardy of having its meaning diluted. Therefore I’ve settled on the word “Prepared Citizen,” as I think this best describes the type of person I’m talking about here.

Please note that this list is merely an attempt to start a conversation, with the hopes that people who know more than me, and have a different perspective, will weigh in. It is a first draft and very malleable. I’m actively seeking comment and if you have constructive criticisms or additions, I would be honored to listen to them.

I have two goals:

The primary goal is to design a general training regimen that would prepare an ordinary citizen to survive acute emergencies such as a violent attack or "SHTF" type situation of short duration such as earthquake aftermath, hurricanes, civil unrest and etc. Survivalist, "end of the world as we know it" scenarios are beyond the scope of this, although there is certainly overlap in skills.

A secondary goal is research for a book that a friend of mine and I have talked about writing.

I’ve attempted to list a core set of skills. I’ve broken them down into “basic, intermediate and advanced” levels, because I think it is important to keep an overall perspective in our training. It makes little sense to me to spend the time, effort and money to become an “advanced” carbine shooter but pay absolutely no attention to empty hand skills, for example.

First a definition:

Prepared Citizen: Your ordinary, average person who is realizes that from time to time, life threatening emergencies may arise where the “proper authorities” may not be around to help. The Prepared Citizen is willing to step up and accept the responsibility for the safety of his or her self, his family, and perhaps his neighbors. The Prepared Citizen also enjoys side benefits of self confidence and advanced problem solving skills that come with training.

He is "Joe or Suzy Homemaker." He or she is a "civilian" not an "operator." Most of the "missions" he or she goes on involve getting a gallon of milk or taking the kids to swim practice. This is good and bad. Exposure to violence is much less likely. However, "professionals" whose job description includes dealing with violence, go forth expecting it and are generally paid to spend a certain amount of time training for it.

Any time he or she spends training is time that has to be squeezed into the demands of family, work and other expectations. Some families are comprised of warriors and may train together but most likely, he or she is the only one with an interest.

Any money that is spent has to be balanced against the mortgage, saving for the kid’s college, and orthodontist bills.

1) The Ability to unplug your ego.

You recognize the importance of self control in avoiding confrontation. You recognize that you may have some skills already, but learning is a never ending path. You do not fall victim to “The Rapture of The Shallows” and realize no matter how good you get at something, you can always improve.

The only thing worth fighting about is survival. The guy who cut you off in traffic is not worth fighting about. The guy who stood across the street and made the lewd comment about your wife is not worth fighting about.

When it comes to training, you have an open mind. For example, even if you have trained doing a tactical reload one way for years, if someone presents another, you will happily try it to see if it is better.

When it comes to the street, you are unflappable. When it comes to training, you absorb what is useful, regardless of source or preconception.

2) The Ability to blend in.
You recognize that one of the fundamentals of avoidance is to not attract special notice. You have political, religious and other beliefs but feel no particular need to advertise.

In dress, appearance and manner, you are not terribly remarkable, yet you also do not present a “victim” image.

You are the gray man.

3) The Knowledge of Use of Force Laws civil liability.

You recognize the importance of knowing your jurisdiction’s black letter and case law regarding use of force. You recognize that the moment you become involved with the criminal justice system or a civil suit, you loose, it is just a question of how much.

You had solid training in use of force and liability issues for the layman. You have a business card for both a criminal and civil attorney. If you were to become involved in a use of force incident, you would make decisions in accordance with the law, and be able to clearly articulate why you did so.


4) The Ability to be aware of your surroundings.

You recognize that the fundamental first step of avoidance of conflict is awareness of the potential. You focus on your surroundings as you go about your business.

You notice subtle clues in human behavior that are potential precursors to violence or unpleasantness in time to leave, or at least in time to brace yourself.

Little escapes your notice. You can remember descriptions of people, vehicles and events that at the time seemed unremarkable.

5) The Ability to Verbalize and Social Engineer

You recognize that your ability to talk to people is a useful defensive tool. You have perhaps read “Verbal Judo” or a similar book.

You are comfortable talking to people of all backgrounds, mental states and degrees of intoxication. You are able to firmly establish boundaries verbally without egging on conflict.


6) Skill at Strength and Conditioning

You recognize that you are fire more likely to die from heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure than a criminal assault. You recognize that fighting is a dynamic, physical activity and that no training, weapon or tool will make up for being out of shape. You formulate a fitness plan that includes diet and working on basic flexibility and cardio-vascular training.

You are at or within a few percent of an ideal weight for your body. Your cardiovascular fitness, flexibility and strength are adequate to survive a short violent encounter or emergency situation.

You are as fit as many professional athletes. You will probably out live all of us.

7) Skill at empty hand defensive techniques

You recognize that use of force happens on a continuum, and the basis for all other skills is good, solid, simple empty hand techniques. You seek formal training and begin to learn basic blocks, strikes, choke escapes, ground fighting and etc.

Instead of learning more complicated “fancy” techniques, you focus on delivering the basics with more speed, precision and power. You start integrating your empty hand with other use of force options.

You have developed speed, precision, and power in simple, direct, combat proven skills. Your transition between one type of use of force and another is seamless.

8) Skill at using OC spray.

You recognize the importance of intermediate weapons. You receive formal training in the use of OC spray.

9) Skill at using impact weapons, both designed and improvised.

You recognize the importance of intermediate weapons. You adopt some of your basic empty hand techniques (hammer fists, etc) to include a striking object such as a Kubaton, small flashlight etc.

You have formal short term training with impact weapons, such as a Kubaton class or ASP baton class. You begin long term training in one of the stick fighting disciplines. You start to integrate these techniques with your other skills.

You continue formal training. Your transition from one type of use of force to another is seamless. You could pick up just about anything vaguely stick shaped and defend yourself with it.

10) Skill at using a knife, and defending against knives.

You recognize the deadly threat that even a small edged weapon poses, and also realize that in many situations, the knife may be a better defensive tool than a gun. You can adopt some of your basic empty hand techniques to include a knife.
You attend formal training at a knife seminar and begin to integrate knives into your defensive repertoire. You may begin long term training in one of the knife based arts.


You continue training with the knife. Your integration is seamless.

11) Skill at using a handgun.

You recognize that while it is a valuable tool, a handgun does not make up for a lack of training in other areas, nor is it a guaranteed “fight stopper.” You have received formal training and can manipulate and handle a handgun without being a safety hazard to yourself and others. You are able to safely draw from a holster and shoot in a static “square range” environment.

You have received formal training on shooting and movement together. You have achieved speed with drawing, shooting, reloading and other gun related tactical skills. You are integrating your firearms skills with other use of force skills.

You continue to develop skills and integrate them.

12) Skill at using a short range long arm.

Note: The term “Short Range Long Arm” is somewhat clunky, but I wanted to differentiate between to different skill sets. “Short Range Long Arm” skills are from contact range out to perhaps 30 yards (for buckshot loaded shotguns) to 100 or 150 yards (for rifles/carbines and maybe shotgun slugs).

You recognize that if you are going to participate in a gunfight, it is best to have some sort of long gun around. You have received formal training and are able to safely manipulate and handle a long gun without being a safety hazard to yourself or others. You practice combat shooting skills in a “square range” static environment.

You have received formal training in shooting and movement together. You can transition from long gun to handgun or other use of force option.


13) Skill at using a long range long arm.

Note: Again “Long Range Long Arm” is clunky. This skill set is for shooting at ranges over 150 yards or so, out to the limit of the equipment and shooter.

You have received formal training and can safely manipulate a long gun without being a safety hazard to your self and others. You have a basic understanding of exterior ballistics and can zero your weapon for a specific range. You can reliably achieve good hits within the point blank zero of the weapon, and in calm wind conditions. You know what shots not to take.

You are developing skills for estimating range and the effects of wind, and are able to compensate for them. At this point you may actually begin to shoot at the mechanical limits of your equipment and have to upgrade.

If you can see it, you can hit it.

14) Skill at driving a vehicle

You practice basic safe driving skills, awareness and maintain your vehicle in good condition. You always leave yourself a path of escape. You recognize that the front bumper of a Geo Metro has more “stopping power” than any firearm.

You have some skill at driving off road. You take a class in evasive driving. You know the limits of your vehicle, how high a curb it can clear, how it handles on wet grass and etc.

You have received training in offensive driving and can PIT and perform similar techniques.

15) Skill at moving tactically

You recognize that there may be little call for the ordinary citizen to clear a building going INTO harm’s way, you may have to clear your way OUT of harm’s way. You have received formal training and understand concepts such as cover, concealment, slicing the pie. You have received training in low light techniques and tactical use of a flashlight.

Tactical movement, weapons skills and flashlight skills are becoming integrated with all your other skills.

16) Skill at providing emergency medical treatment

You have taken a Red Cross (or similar) Basic First aid and CPR class. You carry basic medical supplies such as a gloves and a CPR mask at all times.

You have taken advanced First Aid, First Responder, or (ideally) Wilderness First Responder training. You carry basic medical supplies such as gloves, a CPR mask and a blow out kit at all times and have ready access to a trauma kit.

You are an EMT, Paramedic, Nurse, M.D. or similar healthcare professional. You carry basic medical supplies such as gloves, a CPR mask and a blow out kit at all times and have ready access to a trauma kit and other drugs and tools appropriate to your level of training.

17) Environment survival skills

You have a basic understanding of the pricipals of survival and either formal training or some experience in back country living. You could keep your self alive by finding shelter if out alone in moderate conditions. You can reasonably expect not to get lost with a map and a GPS or compass. You can fabricate crude shelters and build a fire in moderate conditions.

If out in moderate conditions, you could actually survive in comfort for quite some time. You could survive extreme conditions for a short period of time. You can easily fabricate shelter and can make a fire in less than ideal conditions. You can reliably navigate with map and compass.

You can survive with minimal equipment for an extended period of time, fabricating your own shelter and foraging for safe food and water. You can navigate by stars and dead reckoning with survivable accuracy. You are tempted to live on a mountain with a pet bear and a cantankerous prospector as your only friends.

That’s where I’m at right now. What would you add, take away, change or move? And most importantly, why?

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Female Specific Unknown Contact Management

Surly at TPI makes some excellent points about Unknown Contact Management specifically for females.

I'm teaching a number of seminars later this month for female nurses and this is a very, very important part of what I will be covering.

1.) Teach the obvious visual scan: Due to socialization, women don't often learn a visual scanning technique. Use of peripheral vision and motion sensitive vision should be taught within a specific head movement pattern. Watch a woman performing a sector vision scan, and her head movement is going to look "out of place". That's one "Pre-don't-assault" queue. If in close to unknown contact, scan from hands to head/eyes. When subject moves hands, make obvious eye movement to hands. This says, " I'm watching YOU. and your hands".

2.) Posture and Movement: Natural female movement is loose, flowing. Watch Southnarc's UCM movement -- fighter like balance, precise, staccato. It's a deliberate move-hold-move cadence. Short circular arcs. Once again, unnatural for a female to move in this manner. Number two "Pre-don't-assault queue". This can be expressed in parking lot egress;, take momentary cover position, scan, move forward. A BG watching a female move across the parking lot, is going to take a mind pause. Combined with obvious vision scan.

3.) Take the Concealed-One position early: In ECQC lexicon, the "C-1" is establishing grip on the weapon. For my trainee, being female, I say make this early an obvious, dramatic movement. Even a citizen woman is going to get more leeway, if the C-1 is seen by a no-threat person. Emphasis can be added by dropping non-essentials ( like shopping bag ), to clear hands. As if to say, "I'm hands free, and weapons' hot". No need to present weapon unless warranted, but this is one major "Pre-Don't Assault" queue. Besides being an 'queue' it's good to free the hands. ( not so good for the eggs in the bag ).

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The Default

I'm a big fan of default defences. A diagnostic defense or block as seen in most traditional martial arts (TMAs) is just too slow to deal with a sudden assault, especially when the attacker has verbaled his way under your guard. Lee Morrison has put together a very comprehensive article on the matter which can be found here.

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Article on Unknown Contact Management

The following is from an aticle published by the Force Science News, posted by Southnarc at TPI.


Are there similarities between a driver on a cell phone and an officer in a

You bet! claims Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science
Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato. And 2 independent
studies offer fresh insights into the parallels, which may help officers
defend themselves in controversial force encounters.

Lewinski has long maintained that in any life-threatening confrontation an
officer's perceptions and memories are influenced more by what his
attention is focused on during the conflict than by what actually passes
before his eyes. Investigators, review boards, prosecutors and others
assessing the officer's decision making and later recollections need to
take this into account, Lewinski insists, rather than expect infallible
judgment and comprehensive recall and then suspect criminal culpability
when shortcomings emerge.

Research findings reported recently at a meeting of the American
Psychological Assn. in New Orleans support this position. "The fact that
the studies involve drivers using cell phones is not what's important
here," Lewinski stresses. "What matters most are the principles involved,
and those can reasonably be applied to officers in shooting situations."

One study involves a series of experiments conducted by psychologist David
Strayer and others at the University of Utah, who sought to learn more
about the relationship between cell phone conversations and the phenomenon
called "inattention blindness"--not seeing things you look at because your
brain is more intensely focused on something else.

Strayer and teammates monitored male and females subjects in a
sophisticated driving simulator and recorded how their performance while
engaged in conversation on a cell phone compared to their "driving" without
any cell-phone distraction.

First let's look at the findings, then we'll relate them to a shooting

Among other things, Strayer's research confirms:

--Drivers are much more likely to rear-end the car in front of them when
talking or listening on a cell phone in heavy-traffic situations. This is
because their perception of and reaction to vehicles braking in front of
them are slowed when they're on the phone. Drivers in the study tended
"sluggishly" to hit the brakes later and, if a collision was avoided, to
hold the brake pedal longer than they did when not occupied with a cell
conversation. Indeed, a twenty-something's reactions when engaged with the
phone equated to what would normally be expected of a 70 year old.

--Cell phone use significantly impairs memory. As the subjects "drove,"
digital billboards appeared beside the simulated roadway. In a surprise
quiz afterwards, drivers were able to recall more thoroughly and accurately
those signs they had passed while they were not having a phone
conversation. As the researchers put it, cell phone chatting induced
"failures of visual attention"--that is, inattention blindness--to objects
encountered in the driving scene.

--This is true not only for what passed in the subjects' peripheral vision.
Cell phone conversations "reduce attention to objects even when drivers
look directly at them," the researchers found. Billboards seen when the
subjects were engaged in phone conversation were less than half as likely
to be remembered than those that appeared when the drivers were not on the

Because the cell phone involved in the Strayer experiments was a hands-free
model, the documented interference with perception and memory could not
have been caused by manual manipulation of the phone itself.

Instead, the researchers concluded, the significant "disruptive effects of
cell phone conversations...are due...to the diversion of attention from
driving to the phone." That is, the brain makes a shift away from an
external, visual focus related to driving to an internal cognitive
concentration required for the phone conversation, with the result that
much of what was "seen" did not actually register.

The brain has a limited capacity for attention, Strayer explained, so
whatever is siphoned off by the cell phone is subtracted from attention to
driving. He says that being engaged on the phone cuts in half a driver's
measurable brain activity in a key area of the brain needed for tracking
traffic conditions.

While on a cell phone, drivers can be "as blind to a child running across
the street as to a Dumpster beside the road," Strayer says.

If a cell phone conversation is distracting enough to induce significant
inattention-blindness, Lewinski observes, "imagine the distraction
potential of suddenly being confronted with a situation in which your life
is in jeopardy, as an officer in a shooting would be. If you are in that
kind of emotionally driven scenario, focused on the threat and on saving
your life, you will necessarily have a diminished capacity to take in and
remember other details about the scene."

Psychologist Paul Atchley of the University of Kansas, coauthor of the
second study, agrees.

Atchley's team is conducting a series of experiments designed to gauge how
the emotional content of cell phone messages impacts on attention. In an
early phase of this research, reported in New Orleans, subjects heard and
responded to sets of words with positive connotations ("joy," for example)
as well as those with negative associations ("cancer" and "terrorist," for

Both word-sets caused distraction and a decrease in attention, Atchley told
Force Science News, but a decidedly greater impact was caused by the
negative words. He plans next to test the effect of full emotion-laden
conversations. But his findings to date suggest that "threatening
associations" take the most pronounced toll on perception and memory.

"If mere exposure to negative words produce this effect," Atchley says,
"without question law enforcement officers in a life-threatening situation
will find their ability to attend to peripheral information to be
significantly reduced.

"Officers have a tough situation in trying to grasp and retain everything
that is happening" in a shooting situation because "when something doesn't
grab your attention you won't have a memory for it. It simply is not in
your brain at all.

"People think that when you have your eyes open, you see the whole world
around you. But in fact the brain has the capacity to process only a
limited amount of information from the environment." In stress situations,
the "window of attention" may be only about the size of your fist, or less.

Lewinski cites a case he was involved in as an expert witness in which an
officer was struggling on the ground to control the hand of an offender
that was digging into his waistband--going for a gun, in the officer's snap
judgment. A videotape of the incident revealed later that the officer's
partner at that moment seemed to be beating the suspect with a flashlight.

The first officer claimed he was unaware of this, and was fired for
"lying." From interviewing the officer, Lewinski contends that in reality
he experienced inattention-blindness and legitimately could not report on
his partner's actions because he was so intensely riveted on controlling
the perceived threat to his own life that his brain screened out whatever
else was occurring.

"This issue of what officers are able to report on and testify to keeps
surfacing over and over," Lewinski says. "People are astounded by what
officers insist they can't recall.

"Investigators need to do everything they can to properly mine an officer's
memory after a high-intensity encounter. But they also need to realize that
human memory has its shortcomings. It is unconscionable to hold officers
accountable without taking science into consideration.

"Yet the disturbing truth is that cops are being charged, sued and fired
because they can't 'see' things their attention is not focused on. In other
words, because they can't do the impossible."

The studies by Strayer and Atchley, he hopes, will help skeptics see the

[For more information on the cell phone experiments, consult the paper
"Cell Phone-Induced Failures of Visual Attention During Simulated Driving"
by David Strayer, Frank Drews and William Johnston, available at:


Atchley's study has not yet been published.

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