The next attribute, after Coordination and Precision, in Bruce Lee’s Tao of Jeet Kune Do, is Power.  I think there is often a lot of confusion about what power is and what it is not.  Because an individual is strong, it does not necessarily follow that he or she is powerful.  Whosoever can “exert his strength quickly” and efficiently, regardless of how many pounds he can lift in the weight room, is a powerful individual.  In combat, I am much more interested in applied strength; developing strength can certainly enhance what I am doing, and Lee states that “high levels of strength lead to excellence.” 


Lee talks about the athlete who completes a brand new task.  There is no coordination yet—the neuromuscular system has not learned the best way to accomplish the new movement pattern. . .yet.  Lee explains that muscles tend to be “overmobilized” in the beginning.  I see this all the time with new students.  Movement is gross, for the most part, and there is little efficiency until the finer details are learned and honed over time through tweaking and streamlining (with the attentive and determined athlete).  Many I see are big, and many are strong, but at first they just do not meet their own power potential.  If each was placed in a fighting scenario with a faster, low-drag opponent, these bigger and stronger individuals would be too slow to hit the mark.  The mark would hit them first!  Add superior conditioning into the mix, and it would be a very bad day for our student.  With males especially, I have observed that it takes a while to discover how to effectively employ the powerhouse: the hips.  Punches tend to be all arm, and they tire very easily. 


“Power equals Force times Speed.”  Projectiles can be very tiny, but with enough force and speed, they can cause quite a lot of damage to an individual.  This is good news for small people, and for women, in general.  Nevertheless, a big strong guy who learns how to utilize his size and strength towards the production of power, is truly a force to be reckoned with!




Lee, Bruce.  Tao of Jeet Kune Do.  (1975).  Valencia: Black Belt Communications LLC.






The Least of the Herd: More Thoughts on Target Hardening


I recently read an interesting article in the January/February issue of Psychology Today, entitled “Marked for Mayhem”.  It discusses the soft target, as I have discussed before in previous posts, from the perspective of the criminal mind.  A study was conducted wherein violent criminals were asked to view a video of pedestrians on the street and pick out the individuals they would most likely target.  What was particularly compelling to me was that the criminals consistently picked out the same targets, many did not have a conscious reason for doing so (their intuition?), and they did not just pick on frail women.  They selected people whom they felt were “easy to overcome” for various reasons.  In profiling a victim, researchers found several subtle cues that made people more desirable targets to criminals, which determine their “exploitability.”


The exploiter zeroes in on the non-verbal information.  I’ve heard many times that what we don’t say speaks louder than what we do say, i.e. our actions and body language say the most about us from an outsider’s perspective.  For instance, the exploiter will take note of a person’s gait and the way she carries her whole body.  If she lacks “organized movement and flowing motion”, she might appear less athletic or fit, or even less confident.  The article states: “people who drag their feet, shuffle along, or exhibit other unusual gaits are targeted more often than people who walk fast and fluidly.”  This makes me glad my mother always harped on me to pick up my feet when I walk.  The exploiter, or the predatory wolf, as we sometimes call him, scans the herd for the slow sheep.  It reminds me of the BBC series Planet Earth, and seeing a pack of wolves in action.  They are patient and calculating, and surreptitiously circle to locate the least of the herd.  Body language is all they have to work with to find a suitable target, and they seek to gather this information without spooking the entire herd.  Wolves, just like human predators, are looking to increase their odds of success before engaging prey, and to expend the least amount of energy in taking it down.  This makes good common sense.  Hard targets, unless the wolf is completely desperate, are not generally regarded as worthy of his time and effort.


Besides walking style, other subtle cues included distraction and clothing choice.  If a person is busy on a cell phone, fumbling with keys, listening to an MP3 player, or otherwise engrossed in something apart from his or her surroundings, he or she is a softer target.  Interestingly enough, a woman who wears a lot of “body-concealing clothing, such as high necklines, long pants and sleeves, and multiple layers” is likely to appear as having a submissive personality to a would-be rapist. 


There was such good information in this article, and I encourage you to read it (get your local librarian to help you find it through a library database) if you can.  It had other interesting insights, but I want to pull out the essence that can be applied to target hardening.  Let’s focus not on the what-not-to-do’s and focus on the to-do’s:


  • Carry yourself with good posture and with purpose.


  • Be alert.  Condition Yellow–360° awareness at all times.


  • Engage yourself in electronic devices, reading materials, or even the task of finding your keys, while you are in more secure locations.


  • Minimize your risk by developing a pack mentality.  Move with the herd whenever you can.  Avoid isolation in unlit or deserted areas.  If you cannot avoid these areas, move quickly and purposefully to your destination.


  • Avoid flashing cash or expensive items around in public.  Some criminals with a chip on their shoulder will try to knock you down a few notches in order to, in their minds, even the playing field.


  • Make it a habit, if you can, to expand your understanding of body language and subtle facial cues.  I don’t think this is emphasized enough when people are learning self-defense/self-protection.  I’ve read that some people have a very hard time properly processing non-verbal information in their brains, while others have an innate sense about it from early childhood.  I truly believe most of us can gain some proficiency with practice and attention.


  • Avoid conversation with strangers on the street, especially if you are alone.  I was accosted the other night while leaving Wal-Mart.  The guy was persistent, but I was more persistent in my stride and my verbal language.  He yelled out as I climbed into my car, “You must be from New York!”  I don’t know what his intentions were, and I did not hang around to find out.


At times, the wolf will be desperate and pick the harder target.  As people who take full responsibility for our lives, our mental and physical training will come into play here.  Keep in mind this is not the predator’s natural tendency.  More importantly, if he picks you, you are not at fault in some way; despite his constricted view of the world, he is fully responsible for his criminal actions against you.  I have to mention here that I found a disturbing recommendation at the end of the article: cooperate if you are targeted because “they’re not going to hurt you unless they need to.”  This is a dangerous blanket statement that I cannot endorse.  The article details the dangers of being submissive, then it encourages people to be submissive.  I was left thinking, “Huh?”  While it might possibly be in someone’s best interest to give up a wallet or jewelry during an armed robbery, it would not be in a woman’s best interest to comply with an armed adversary in moving to another remote location.  Context will dictate the appropriate response.  In addition, we cannot know his full exploitive intentions.  It may be in my best interest to run.  Let him try to shoot a moving target.  Better yet, let him try to tangle with an angry wolverine.  I don’t believe in being a hard target to a point.  I will let intuition be my guide on my response, but I am determined to win that confrontation.  I make that decision NOW.  I encourage you to make your own decisions in advance to influence the outcome in YOUR favor.




Hustmyre, Chuck, & Dixit, Jay.  (2009, January/February).  Marked for Mayhem.  Psychology Today, 42(1), 80.

Local Crime Stories


Yesterday I was talking with the proprietor of a local Thai restaurant that I frequent.  While I was eating, a repairman was replacing the glass in the side door and cleaning up shattered glass on the floor.  Being the terminally curious person that I am, I decided to inquire about it.  The owner told me that the restaurant had been burglarized the night before.  This was the second of two incidents in which the same door was hit and cash was stolen.  She expressed her worry over feeling unsafe, and despite slow business in recent months, she was closing early on some nights because she felt unsafe.  She also described incidents experienced by other businesses in the area, including one restaurant owner being followed home from work and mugged at gunpoint in his driveway.


Today I was talking with the owner of my local print shop.  His business is located directly across the street from the Thai restaurant.  We were also discussing the local crime, and I listened to several stories from another patron who recently moved away from a nearby neighborhood.  I’ve known several people who lived in this large, well-kept subdivision, and there is a surprising amount of ongoing criminal activity there.  The customer talked about the dangers of living close to Atlanta, and how one real estate agent was giving six months of neighborhood watch patrol as a property closing gift.  Then he talked about his wife’s misfortune; she had left her purse in an unlocked vehicle in the driveway (her regular habit—yikes!  Can you say condition white?  I knew that you could.).  Amazingly enough. . .it was stolen. . .by kids. . .and sold. . .to thugs.  She did eventually find her expensive purse, discarded, missing all of its contents, of course.


I was thinking just how close all of this crime is to my home.  Within just a few miles.  People seem to have this rosy view of the suburbs.  I guess this city is much better than where I used to live three years ago; lots and lots of drug activity–also in the suburbs.  The police presence in our little city is not all that prominent in recent years, and even if it were, officers cannot be everywhere at once.  There’s just too much to do.  Maybe there always was!  All the more reason to take my safety as my personal responsibility.  The Thai restaurant owner certainly isn’t taking any chances; if she feels unsafe, she leaves the area.  I remember she mentioned her relief that the crime had occurred while she was away from the restaurant.  She made it clear that her life was more important than making money.  I wonder how many other people feel this way, although it is not fair for us to have to choose between our lives and our livelihood.  Not in this instance, anyway.  It makes me very angry, and I have to fuel that powerful energy into my own mental and physical preparedness.  It is the only way I know to NOT live in fear. 

Byrnes Combatives Demo


Last Saturday we drove to Duncan, South Carolina to do a Combatives demo for Coach Mike Srock and his boys at Byrnes High School.  I am never disappointed by the enthusiasm of the kids and their reaction to this kind of training.  We break out the boxing timer, wraps, gloves, thai pads and focus mitts and give them simple drills to do for two and three-minute rounds.  They performed with a lot of spirit; especially considering our demo followed the legendary John Brookfield and his Battling Ropes.  In addition to the ropes, John had a few other interesting (and exhausting) tricks up his sleeve to show these young athletes.


There is no training quite like punching and kicking pads.  Most people are amazed at just how tiring it is.  The kids also drilled hitting and covering (feeder feeds hook with thai pad and tech defends with thai cover, then returns a combination).  They practiced the fight without the fight, which is excellent for their mental and physical conditioning.


Much thanks to Coach Srock, Marty Mitchell, and all the participants!



Last month we looked at Coordination, one of the essential attributes of any good martial artist, according to Bruce Lee in his book, Tao of Jeet Kune Do.  Coordination involves the effective recruitment of muscles towards a physical task, and determines the limitations of our speed, endurance, power, agility and accuracy.


The next attribute he discusses is Precision.  When we say precision, we mean accuracy: “the sense of exactness in the projection of a force.”  As with the wiring of the nervous system involved in coordination, precision of execution comes with lots of practice and training.  Lee explains that practice is ongoing, for the novice and the experienced fighter.  He recommends that accuracy be trained with speed before adding power and speed.


I would not disagree with any of this based on the way skills are traditionally trained.  Nevertheless, from what I have been studying about how adults learn and acquire new skills, and how the brain processes information, I would have to say that it is possible to wire our brains faster, given the right inputs/stimulus.  Research suggests that with a positive training environment (positive in the sense that training language is positive, feedback is positive, and mistakes are allowed), focus on the correct way to perform tasks (shift focus from what NOT to do), and using full emotional content when performing tasks (facial expressions, body language, feelings), the skills can be acquired rapidly.  This does not mean, of course, that training should not be ongoing after the precision benchmark is achieved.  Far from it!  We still need to wire different contextual elements into our memories so that we may act appropriately in varying situations, whatever they may be; this does take time and experience.  Nevertheless, when we train with emotion, the memory imprint is stronger, and our competency level with the skill goes up much faster.  The stronger the emotion, the more indelible the mark left on mind.  It is all part of the marvelous way humans have evolved over eons to respond to the unpredictability of their environment and survive.





Lee, Bruce.  Tao of Jeet Kune Do.  (1975).  Valencia: Black Belt Communications LLC.







Chamber of Commerce Luncheon


Yesterday we gave a self-defense talk for a great group of women, the 1818 Club, of the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce.  Special thanks to everyone who attended, and our host, Lisa.  We did not prepare a canned speech because we wanted to hear their questions and concerns regarding personal safety, and they did have several.  I always struggle a bit with these kinds of short meetings because I want to tell people EVERYTHING I possibly can about the subject.  There is simply not enough time.  We did say a lot about awareness, which truly helps us avoid bad situations over 90 percent of the time.  Hopefully we got everyone thinking, though some individuals were already on top of things and had interesting habits and rituals they practiced.  I did leave feeling concerned about others, though maybe our conversations made them take another look at themselves.


I found it kind of interesting that several of them brought up the issue of their “clueless” children (some teenagers, some pre-teen, and some in their 20s), though many of these same women practiced vigilance daily.  Some of their kids had even admonished them for being “paranoid” or “rude”; getting off an elevator to avoid potential danger makes Mom downright “offensive”—why would she do that?  I am quite curious about this mentality; I hear about it fairly regularly, along with the complaint that these kids possess little mental toughness.  I cannot help but wonder where the breakdown is occurring.  Are there just too many distractions, or too many things vying for our attention that we are losing the ability to be aware?  Are we desensitized and culturally conditioned towards ADD?  Are we all insulating ourselves from subtle cues that provide insight and aid us in accurately predicting human behavior because we are nearly surgically attached to our electronic devices?  Many people now prefer texting to phone conversation.  Heck, I’ve seen people text each other while sitting side by side.  I am guilty, too.  I use email a lot in place of telephone calls.  I have noticed that so much valuable information in the communication process is lost in our methods of interfacing because we simply cannot observe body language.  I don’t mean to get on my soapbox and go on a tirade against modern conveniences, but there has to be some explanation for the all-too-common disconnect between people and their surroundings.  Do you suppose we would all notice more and see more reason for caution if we unplugged just for a bit? 


We need to find a way to impress upon our youth, without paralyzing them with fear, that there is a “dark” side to the human psyche; most of us are not keen on knowing anything about it, or even acknowledging the potential within us all to commit violence against each other.  Luckily, the majority of the population has inhibitory safeguards in place to prevent them from acting upon this potential, but there are aberrations within the gene pool!  There will always be the anomaly that preys upon other human beings.  Sad. . .but true.  Denial will not help our little ones, and it is our collective responsibility to help them see the light, or rather, the dark.

Changing Context Variables


Last week, we took our training outside and into the night.  It was not completely dark outside; there is always some ambient light.  Nevertheless, it is still a lot different to be training in a parking lot under security lighting than being inside with the bright fluorescent lighting where we can see everything.  In addition, we moved to areas in shadow, away from the street lamps, as well as into grass, between vehicles, etc.  We want to start building into our minds different frames of reference from which we can draw upon in an encounter.


How often do you change the environment in which you train?  Is it likely that you will be attacked in blindingly bright light, or even in the dojo?  I’m not knocking on your training space, by any means, but what I want to bring to your attention is that we all get locked into a comfort zone.  By the way our brains are wired, it is simply in our nature to be creatures of habit; just like the thermostat that governs the heating/air conditioning unit, our comfort set point governs us.  This is why it is so terribly important to train our scenarios in such a way that we change the variables of context AND train with full emotional content.  In a stressful situation, our brain is looking furiously to find a similarity to what it has seen and experienced before, so it can load the proper motor program.  In other words, our brains draw upon what is most familiar.  If the mind cannot find anything familiar to lock into, it is much more likely that we will freeze under pressure, to gather more input: i.e. we become like the “deer in headlights”.  I had gotten out of the habit of training with emotion, aggressive facial expressions, etc.  Now I am working to get back into the habit.  The more we can all make things realistic, on several levels, the more easily we will be able to respond to the threat when our heart rate skyrockets because we took the time to anchor the technique to an emotional state.  What does this mean exactly?  When you analyze your memories, don’t certain events stand out?  The ones that had a tremendous emotional impact on you are probably the most vivid, right?  If you use your mind properly in your training, and can evoke powerful emotions, when you revert to autopilot, it is highly likely those skills will be there for you when you need them.


There is certainly much more to this.  Some people get into terrible situations and have the ability to win even though they have never physically been there before.  What of that?  Not everyone freezes.  Training is certainly a critical component, but so is mental conditioning.  What if we are able to go there in our minds through imagery?  I use the word imagery instead of visualization because not everyone possesses the ability to see pictures in their minds on demand.  I personally have trouble holding onto mental images for extended periods of time.  Some people see absolutely nothing when instruct them to conjure up a mental image.  The harder I work to visualize, the more I fail.  It cannot be forced.  There are other ways to imagine besides visualization!  We have other senses that can be drawn upon: smell, feeling (kinesthetic sense), taste, and hearing.  We can imagine utilizing this sensory information as well.  Keep in mind that there is very little difference to the mind whether the body has been there or not, which is why imagery is such a powerful tool. 


Another factor is this: do you believe you will do what is necessary to win in an encounter?  Have you already made the decision to be ferocious?  Do you have resolve?  Belief is what drives action.  Think of it as your trusty bus driver that takes you wherever you go.  Whatever you truly believe, you will act upon, regardless of what you would like to think about yourself.  If you know in the deepest part of your being, that you will behave a certain way, and you get into an encounter (once your stress reaches a certain level, conscious thought goes out the window and you are left with subconscious programs—autopilot), then that is certainly what will kick in on race day.  If I recall correctly, Dave Grossman calls this the “puppy brain”.  Your survival system is the ancient and primitive part of your brain; it is primal.  When “puppy brain” is in control, the conscious brain, or your inner rational thinker, IS NOT in control.  This is okay, though, because it can react quicker than if you had to puzzle out the problem with your conscious mind.   This puppy can do tricks, no doubt, but you have to train your mind right and you have to be consistent.  I want to get into this in more depth in a later post.  I am currently digesting everything that I learned in a recent performance enhancement seminar with Brian Willis.  He is a phenomenal speaker, and the material he presented on the mind and imagery was outstanding.


The bottom line is, whether you train physically, in your mind, or both, change things up.  Make your mental box bigger (as Brian said this weekend) and use some creativity.  Train in confined spaces, such as between vehicles, or even in a car.  Train in low light and bright light.  Train with emotion, even rage, but take care to protect your training partners if you do train with others.  Train in other spaces, like your house, or outside in a parking lot, the woods, etc.  Where do you think it is a possibility you will be attacked?  Can you physically go there to train?  No?  Can you go there in your mind?  Of course you can.  Your mind, given the right inputs, can go anywhere, and this may take a little research on your part, but possibilities are endless.  I believe Napolean Hill says: “what the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”


As I said, I am still trying to process information from one of the most important seminars I have ever attended.  I believe the information to be an important piece of the puzzle not only for my training, but for my life as a whole.  My original intent in this blog post was to just focus on changing the training environment, but much more crept into my mind that I wanted to share.  More on this in future posts, but I want to get you thinking. . .