Archive for the ‘Martial Arts In General’ Category

Audio by Jonathan Fader with additional commentary

Foreword:  This piece was originally written and posted on January 12th, 2017, it has been updated and re-edited for 2020. Last week our editor posted about his experience with injury in the martial arts, as well as injury anxiety in the post “Once Bitten, Twice Shy: Overcoming Injury Anxiety“. As a Martial Artist and Instructor I can say, without a doubt, that fear of injury and injury anxiety are a common, if not the most common, the reason why people abandon their martial arts journey. For some students, it is a situation they experience, witness, or hear about in class that pushes them past their comfort zone, which in turn triggers this fear (or self-doubt) and they stop coming. For others, they suffer an actual injury and never come back due to this fear. Then there are those who finish our first test (which is VERY HARD) and they no longer want to continue because the fear of further challenges sets in. To me, however, getting injured and coming back stronger is the sign that you may in fact be a true martial artist or warrior. No one ever said it was going to be an easy, joyous journey, but the skills and personal development you gain from self-defence/combative practice is more than worth it. This post discusses the most disastrous injury I have ever had and my road to recovery. I believe that if you truly understand your body and become your own doctor, learning how to properly recover and become stronger (with proper research), then it will reduce the fear of injury (which may be inevitable in martial arts training for most) allowing you to continue to grow, develop, and challenge yourself. Something that is increasingly important in a world were people no longer like to be challenged. With that in mind, read on for my story of injury, pain, and recovery.

Pound for pound, the knee is the strongest offensive strike that the human body can generate. But many folks out there, whether athletic or not, find out that, with one wrong movement, or one wrong hit in the wrong way, this strong offensive weapon becomes as limp as a wet noodle.

In my case, it was the dreaded anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. I am not even 30 and my knees are already going! This can easily make a person feel old. It reminds me a line in the spoken word piece, Wear Sunscreen, by Australian producer Baz Luhrmann in which the advice is given:

“Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.”

Here I am, supposedly in my prime, and my ACL is torn on one side, making me I feel like an old man as my other knee is going too. Ironically, I’m surprised they lasted this long. As a Rifleman, Light Machine Gunner, and Sniper in the IDF, I often carried far too much weight for my little legs and knees to handle. Add to that all the road running I used to do… I guess my knees had a good run (pun intended).

People are consistently shocked by how quickly I recover, post-injury and post-surgery, and get back into regular activities. I’m usually met by skepticism and rolling eyes when I tell people, “don’t worry I heal fast!” As the doctor said, “It’s people like you I worry about the most.

Don’t worry, I heal fast!

wolverine_healing
I wish I could heal like Wolverine

I’m not Wolverine, and I don’t have a “mutant healing factor” or other superhuman resiliences. In fact, I don’t really even consider myself very athletic; one of the reasons I was drawn to Krav Maga. So why should I heal any faster than anyone else?

The truth is I don’t heal any faster than the average person. But I have a theory as to why people think and say such a thing.

Let’s begin by breaking down the injury and recovery:

First, I would like to be critical about the medical system. Even in Canada, we have a broken medical system, in my opinion. Generally, doctors are experts in acute injury diagnosis and treatment, but when it comes to post-injury recover they are almost clueless. They do not employ a holistic approach and they rarely understand, to the level that they should, aspects of medicine and healing. In Canada, though our medical care is largely covered (I say largely, since there are still costs…), there is a serious shortage of qualified professionals and equipment. In my case, when I was injured I knew it was something more serious than the “just a sprain” that the doctor assessed it as.

The day after my injury, my doctor was overbooked (it happened late at night). So I went to the ER instead, which had a long wait time, as usual, due to overcrowding. Finally, after several hours, I see a doctor, only to be told they think it’s just a sprain. They sold me crutches and prescribed me light painkillers. A week later, I finally managed to see my regular doctor and was told something similar. The idea of an MRI scan wasn’t even mentioned until I went to a physiotherapist, which was covered by WorkSafeBC. This is appalling to me because, as far as I know, the sooner a proper, accurate diagnosis can be made the faster a surgery or rehab can happen, and the faster I can heal and recover. All these things would lead to a better experience for both the patient and medical professionals, with lower cost for the medical system overall.

The idea of an MRI scan wasn’t even mentioned until I went to a physiotherapist.

So why didn’t I get sent for an MRI right away? Well, if you are unaware, the whole nation of Canada has fewer MRI machines than some individual cities in America. This results in a long wait list, and even when you can get bumped to the front of the line through WorksafeBC, there is still a resistance to sending you.

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ACL Injury

If I had been sent for an  MRI within 2 weeks of my injury, as should have happened, they would have discovered that I had a seriously torn ACL and meniscus. But since it took about 2 months to get the MRI, albeit it was faster than the normal 6-9 month wait, they would have discovered it sooner and not wasted time thinking it was something less serious.

This means that, even in a country like Canada with a so-called advanced medical system, there are serious problems and you really cannot rely on the advice of just one so-called medical professional. A lot of times, these people are tired, overworked, and too accustomed to patients who exaggerate their symptoms. Although in my case, I was under-exaggerating my injury since I have a high pain tolerance; so they assumed it was nothing despite the details I was verbally indicating.

When I finally had the MRI, I was referred to a specialist. Once I saw the specialist, things moved forward rather quickly. Her question was basically, “so when do you want the surgery?” Great, right?

Back to the main topic about my not-Wolverine healing abilities:

Here is my theory as to why people have the perception that I heal faster than average; One of the biggest problems in the medical system is the over-prescription of pain killers. In my opinion, this is one of the main hindrances to how fast a person can get back to their normal activities.

When I am teaching my kids’ Krav Maga classes, often every little bump and every little scrape becomes a big deal. I always teach these children the same simple lesson:

There is a difference between pain and injury.

Pain is your body’s natural way of giving you feedback to assess whether something is a possible threat. However, it is a very simplistic system and doesn’t always know the difference between something that is actually harmful and something that is not. As a reasonably developed species, we should be able to use our conscious mind, based on our experience and the mechanism of the pain, to know if it just hurts or is an actually injury. I always tell my students that “pain is good and injury is not.” You should fight through pain when it is just pain, but stop when pain is related to an injury and take the care of injuries seriously.

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Pain is your body’s natural way of telling you there is possible danger. (Image source)

Thus, I am not a fan of pain killers prescribed by doctors. Generally, medication should only be used when necessary; such as taking acetaminophen for a fever, or NyQuil and DayQuil for a serious cold. It should also only be used a long as needed, which is usually a day or two. Yet, doctors often prescribe 2 weeks to a month, or more, of serious, heavy-duty painkillers, which can be highly addictive to a lot of people. They tell you the maximum you should take and for how long, which means that you should not take all the pills you are given, but people still do. Which leads us to…

The issue with painkillers and other meds

By taking painkillers for longer than you need just because you were prescribed them, it dulls your body’s natural pain responses and you can no longer “hear” your body’s feedback. Eventually, if you take them too long, your body’s pain threshold will have shifted and your overall tolerance to pain without painkillers will have been reduced. By the way, this is the start of addiction when it comes to painkillers, as you will constantly be trying to maintain your new pain baseline, which is now only achievable through the pills themselves. This is why heroin, when medically supervised by doctors in hospitals, is a better pain alternative than morphine and is less addictive. Yes, you read that right, but I won’t get too science-y. The fact remains that the layperson’s understanding of painkillers and other meds is dramatically limited.

Addiction issues aside, there are two main problems: Either, you diminish you ability to feel when pain becomes injury, then you push yourself too hard, or, you become docile and don’t know when your injury is ready to begin rehab because you no longer know the difference.

This is why post-injury and post-surgery, I rarely take painkillers for more than 2-3 days. I typically only use them to help me sleep and overcome the initial acute pain, which is often a bit more than I would like to deal with. However, even if I have to walk with a limp, I would rather get rid of the medication as soon as reasonably possible, than to rely on it like crutches and lose my body’s natural senses and abilities.

Generally, in both studies and anecdotes, evidence shows that the faster you get back to regular movement (within reason) the faster you can heal yourself. The body is both an inefficient piece of junk and an amazing machine. If you take painkillers longer than you need to and cannot receive the appropriate pain feedback, then you cannot properly heal yourself. Many also go wrong by using painkillers to “push through” pain, which is not advisable because then you cannot know when the body moves from pain to injury, and this is a crippling mistake for many athletes.

Listen to your body

If that means you don’t do anything that day, then you don’t. If you can push another day, then you do. But the sooner you get back into simple things, like moving, walking, and doing regular day-to-day activities, the better.

Have you heard of those people who work their entire lives, and then in their late-70s or 80s, they just stop or are forced to retire and then die? I think this is a great analogy for muscle atrophy.

If you don’t use it, you lose it.

Have you heard of that? Surprisingly, muscle atrophy can kick in very quickly, usually at around 72 hours of non-use. Which means if you take most doctors advice and rest up to six weeks, you will see major muscle loss and the recovery will be much harder. Often, doctors and physiotherapists hesitate to push people, and thus continue prescribing fairly basic exercises, which may be great for office workers, but not for the athlete.

As an athlete, sometimes safe, yet serious, strength training is required. For me, the results of my post-injury recovery were not happening as fast as I would have liked. It was my first experience going to physio, and I did everything they said. However, my impatience comes from being told to do very boring exercises with minimal results. What’s more, I would have to stop what I was doing 4 times a day, for 20-30 minutes, to do the exercises. It became a hindrance to my work with no benefit to my recovery.

So I started doing my own exercises, which limiting myself to light squats and deadlifts. Two months after my initial injury, I was doing 200lb deadlifts, no problem. Of course, I was wearing my knee brace and would end a set if there was any discomfort. However, with this approach I saw far quicker recovery than when I had just listened to the so-called experts.

I am not trying to discredit medical professionals, this is not at all what I am trying to say. The problem is that, due to the system, or lack of experience, or scarce resources, there is often a disconnect between injury and recovery. The sooner rehab starts, the faster people can get back to normal activities, the faster and better the overall recovery.

How do I know when my doctor is right or wrong?

Sometimes, of course, you should listen to professional advice when it is legitimate. In my case, I listened when the doctor specifically asked me not to bend my knee more than 90 degrees for 6 weeks, regardless of pain. This is to allow the fixed areas, specifically the meniscus, time to properly heal and become as strong as required. However, all that it means is simply that I should be careful and modify my exercise to adhere to that specific limitation. I can still attempt light squats with limited range of motion, despite what the doc might think.

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How I’ll feel when I finally get to do BJJ after all these months…

Healing and returning to normal happens faster when I listen to both my body and the advice of the doctor and physiotherapist. Your body knows itself best. As long as you are fairly self-aware and attuned to your body’s messages, you should let your body guide you. And, seriously, don’t rush. As an athlete, I know that pushing too much too quickly because you want to get back in the game and prove yourself, is not a good idea. For me, this has meant no Krav Maga or BJJ for at least 2 months, and no rolling or sparring for 3-4 months.

There is still a dispute as to whether it makes more of a difference to get surgery ASAP and then do physio, or vice versa. It is my opinion, as an athlete, that surgery should happen as soon as possible, and you should do physio before and after surgery. It is fairly conclusive that doing physio and rehab to get back to regular activities ASAP means a better recovery. In my case, the longer I had to wait for my surgery, the worse my other (uninjured) knee got. Having a surgery done ASAP means your body will not have to go through multiple healing processes and can get back to what you love to do with less risk of degradation of your other areas of the body due to compensation.

So stay off the painkillers when you don’t actually need them. Get moving and get healing. When it comes to injury recovery, push when there is no pain, and rest or stop when you feel pain. Through time, you will know if the pain is related to the injury or whether it just hurts. Remember…

Pain is fine. Injury is not.

This is my secret. Simple, really!

Written: by Jonathan Fader

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Injuries can be frightening, recovery can be challenging, but keeping at it will stave off fear.
Audio by Jonathan Fader

Tearing my soleus – inner calf muscle – was the worst soft tissue injury I have suffered in my life (maybe I’m lucky?).  After skipping for 5min to warm up, I took part in an agility drill that involved jumping over a partner, then dropping prone and crawling under them.  On the third jump I felt and odd “squelch” sensation in my calf and tightness preventing me from extending my foot properly.  I stepped to the side and, thinking it was a simple cramp, I started stretching it out and working the muscle to loosen it, then continued into the next drill. (I found out later that stretching is the worst possible action of can take when dealing with a tear, as it, logically, exacerbates said tear!)

It turns out that tightening your calf/soleus through one activity (skipping), then immediately loading it in another (jumping) is a perfect storm for muscle mangling.  I was also informed, much to my chagrin, that soleus tears are so common in men over 40 that they are referred to as “The Old Man’s Injury” (ugh… time is real!)

Recovery was relatively straightforward; don’t stretch, take it easy for a few days, then slowly strengthen it by way of controlled exercise. I thought it wise to take time off of Krav maga, as bursting and kicking are fundamentals. Nothing too complicated, and not a terribly painful healing process.

On the road to a full recovery!  No problems!

However.

The first day back to training, after four weeks off, I was trembling as I prepared for class.  I felt totally fine on the way to the gym, in fact I was happy to get back at it, but as I took off my shoes to step onto the mats, my hands were shaking.  What if my first sprint sets me back to square one?

Over the years I have encountered many people who cite “fear of injury” as their main reason for not starting to train in the martial arts or self-defence (or to justify avoiding exercise altogether).  I get it; people don’t want to suffer injuries.  But, I’m not talking about “fear of injury” in the sense of “*whiny voice* don’t wanna get hurt”, that is simply good ol’ self-doubt paired with cowardice (let’s be generous and say “self-preservation”), I’m talking about the realistic fear of suffering a chronic, debilitating injury. 

I expect it is often the case that “fear of injury” in the latter sense is more accurately a “fear of re-injury;” you have experienced the physical/mental/emotional pain of injury and recovery, possibly accompanied by a loss of mobility for the duration, and most likely had to stop training, thus you don’t what to go down that road again (or worse, end up with a more permanent problem).

Of course, in the martial arts, or any physical activity, you must accept that there is a degree of risk involved simply from participating (some injuries are caused by partners and are, to a certain extent, out of your control.)  But in many cases the injury, as with my soleus tear, are surprising.  So it may be the unexpected nature of certain injuries that contributes to the onset of anxiety.  Sure, you walked in expecting to be punched, bruised, or, at worst, KO’d, you are at peace with those potential consequences.  But then you pull a bicep.  Okay, it could happen.  It heals, but not quite 100%.  Now you start to feel weaker along the chain or arm muscles.  This leads to you straining you wrist due to weakened overall punching form, etc..  Your willingness to take a punch did not prepare you for being hindered by a common sports injury.  Not only were you unprepared, but now this injury has led to diminished performance in a set of techniques, techniques that, in turn, diminish your overall performance.  Now you are less confident and less likely to push yourself and, by extension, less likely to improve.

When a nonathletic individual suffers an injury, he or she is faced with the difficulty of completing normal daily tasks due to pain and a loss of mobility. Once the person returns to pre-injury level, he or she is still only faced with the challenge of completing normal daily tasks. An athlete on the other hand, is not only faced with the challenges of daily functioning, but also faced with the challenge of returning to the field… the act of returning to play forces an athlete to participate in the exact activity that caused the injury initially.

(2008) “Fear of Injury, Kinesiophobia & Perceived Risk”, p.289, Injuries in Athletics: Causes and Consequences.

Thus the rational fear of injury, gained from experience, can be very real and, if left unchecked, can become a mental/emotional/physical hindrance. (In extreme cases, if your fear or anxiety is allowed to take hold and increase, you could end up with full blow traumatophobia, abnormal fear of injury, or kinesiophobia, fear of moving due to pain, both of which may diminish your quality of life and delay recovery.)

You enjoyed that activity you were engaged in (let’s assume so, otherwise why would you pursue it?), but now your recreation/fitness/lifestyle activity has betrayed you and the joy it provides is replaced by pain and fear.

I’ve been there, twice.  Trust me, it sucks.

So, how do we mitigate anxiety?

First off, when you are injured go see a doctor.  Have the injury treated if it requires immediate attention (eg. cuts and breaks). If it doesn’t require a trip to the Emergency Room, great, but still see a physician to check for related, possibly hidden injuries (eg. concussion).  Furthermore, seeing a doctor will help in determining the full extent and nature of the injury; for example, is it a soleus tear rather than the calf cramp you “expertly assessed” it as.

After receiving a professionally trained opinion regarding your initial injury, you want to take action.  While I am not a psychologist, it stands to reason that exerting or maintaining control and actively engaging in a solution that improves your situation should help reduce the anxiety surrounding the injury or mechanism of injury.  While this may not entirely eliminate the possibility of fear, as some is natural, it should reduce the intensity.  (Be mindful that “control” via avoidance could set you down the path of the aforementioned phobias.)

Know that, in the vast majority of cases, you WILL heal, you WILL get back to doing what you love.  Don’t give up, don’t stop taking care of your mind and body!  A positive mindset and an active participation in your own recovery will, logically, make it easier to face the injurious activity once more in the future:

  1. Get Checked Out – After the initial injury, you will want to see both a doctor and a physiotherapist, preferably a sports focused one (if you can, everyone’s resources differ.)  I say both because doctors are great for diagnosing and treating acute injury, but physio specialists are better for helping you develop and execute a recovery plan.
  2. Understand Your Injury – You don’t just want to heal your wounds and get back at it; you want to understand why and how you were injured, in order to reduce the chances of a re-injury and so to your fear of re-injury.  Take the responsibility of learning about the anatomy and physics that got you into trouble in the first place, and then get better.  Sometimes this means understanding basic kinesiology, sometimes it means learning to keep your hands up in sparring.
  3. Set Rules and Expectations – Be honest about your limitations and create guidelines for yourself in order to stay active in a safe manner.  Everyone is different, and every injury requires a different approach to healing and rebuilding.  Here are some general considerations:
    • Modify Activities – Go slower, engage in reduced intensity or lower impact versions of exercises/techniques/drills.  It is in your best interests to be honest and realistic. For example, in the martial arts, it is unlikely that you can train throws, takedowns, or groundfighting while recovering from an injury. But, again, it varies based on the nature of the injury. Talk with your instructor, any competent one will be able, and willing, to accommodate you.
      • Are you allowed to “audit” classes?  Ie. Attend class to watch and listen, but not participate.  This is a good way to stay in the headspace of your activity while healing.  Plus you will be surprised how much knowledge you pick up by watching others
    • Be Realistic About Severity – Be aware of how limited you are in range of motion and level of exertion. Are you able to participate safely (for yourself and others)? Will one wrong step re-injure you, or worsen the severity?  It may be that some time off is required.  Talk with your instructor!
    • Know Thyself  – Yes, more, deep self-reflection is required!  Are you the type of person who can actually sit on the sidelines, will you follow your own rules?  If you are like me, possessed of a sometimes reckless willingness go harder than you should, let those around you know your self-imposed limitations and let them help you stay accountable.  If you cannot keep yourself reined-in enough to train safely, maybe do something else to keep fit while you recover?
  4. Keep Active! – Don’t fully stop unless you really have to.  “Stay off it” isn’t always accurate, scientifically informed, advice, even coming from a doctor.  Broken arm?  Focus on your lower body, or use this as a time to start engaging more cardio work. I find that Humans have a sort of mental inertia, stopping fully will make “getting back on the horse” much harder.  Additionally, your removal from any activity allows you way too much time to think and creates a void for negative memories of the injury to grow and exaggerate, impacting your comfort level with said activity when you return, thus increasing the possible onset of fear and anxiety (if you return at all).
  5. Re-Check – Reassess the injury as it heals, then reassess the plan for recovery in parallel.  Also, don’t neglect your mental well-being throughout the process!  Consider how you are feeling; what are your thoughts regarding your return to action, do you feel a creeping dread, do you feel fine until it it’s “go time” (like I did)?  Should you see a counselor to help with overcoming the fear of re-injury or the anxiety of returning to 100%?  There are sports therapists who specialize in “Sports Counselling (Mental Strength Training).”

At the end of the day, you have to decide your own path.  I assert that if you be truthful with yourself, take an active role in your recovery, even if that means modifying exercises or sitting out on certain drills, you will be able to ease back into your favoured activity while you heal.  Yes, I have a hard time sitting on the sidelines, and too many times I have said “of course I’ll spar!” when I know I shouldn’t, and set my healing back a week.  So, for me, injuries often mean time off to protect me from myself.  (Honestly, if I was into mountain biking or rock-climbing I’d probably be in a wheelchair or a pine box by now.)

But that doesn’t mean I quit!

I’m currently dealing with a back injury.  But I’m actively dealing with it! When I’m not training Krav Maga, I’m doing my physio-assigned back exercises, I’m reading about self-defence theory, I’m working on basic kicks and punches with my daughters (“To teach is to learn”), I’m running, I’m working with a personal trainer for core strength, I’m focusing energy on changing my diet to improve my physical performance.  And before I know it I’m back into the lower impact basics (“Defence”) classes.  Those go well, so then I’m planning ahead for where my back needs to be in order to ease back into the “Warrior” classes. (and I probably should be auditing the “Novice” coloured belt classes)

Adopt the mindset that this is temporary and you WILL overcome it as you would any physical challenge.  Some people say “I was injured while biking, I’ll never get on a bike again.”  But, in my opinion that leaves behind a part of your life that you enjoyed, it narrows the breadth of your experience and allows you to give into living based on fear.  That’ a slippery slope, and life is too short!

Written by: Corey O

Have you assessed this situation critically? Is the short cut worth the risk? (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader with additions

Being assaulted, attacked, robbed etc… will always be a horrible, unwanted experience. Yet, at any given time, all over the world, it is happening to someone. For the purposes of keeping it simple I am only going to be discussing basic assaults (eg. muggings). This subject will, of course, become more complex with regard to domestic disputes, or when the assault involves close friends, relatives, or mentors; such situations are impossibly complicated, as they are interwoven with emotion, personal connection, betrayal, and often shame. Perhaps “domestic and close relationship violence” could be a topic for another time (likely requiring another series)

For our discussion, imagine you were attacked while walking home, or you were mugged at an ATM. These are terrible experiences, and yet they are often somewhat avoidable. If you still watch the news or follow trends, you may often hear the term “victim blaming.” Discussing fault is typically frowned upon as it is considered cruel to say the person who got attacked was (even partially) to blame. Particularly in cases where it may have seemed unavoidable, taking responsibility for what happened, for most people is a daunting and heart wrenching task.

Before you jump down my throat, know that no one has the “right” to attack you and that these attacks are inexcusable. In most countries there are laws against such things, some of which have been in place for thousands of years. Yet this has not stopped assault, robbery, rape, and other garbage behavior. The idea that laws will protect you outright is, in many cases, delusional. If someone is trying to rob you, will you be able to call the police? Probably not. Even if you are somehow able to call 911, the response times can range from 5 minutes to no response at all (especially in today’s anti-police climate); which means that, when it comes to your own personal safety, you are the only one who can prevent immediate physical harm or death.

Of course, size matters. And if you are underage, with less life experience, it matters even more. If your attacker is bigger than you and decides to target you, fighting may be considerably more difficult and risky.

So what do you do, and why may it be your fault that you got attacked?

Simple, the best self-defence is avoidance. Though Krav Maga teaches to fight with all you have, this is really meant for when running is not an option. The goal, however, should always be to take a step back, think critically, and try to make good decisions and assessments so that you do not even have to make a fight or flight decision.

Hearing or even thinking that being attacked was, in one way or another, your fault, is a difficult idea to swallow and yet, if you don’t want such things to happen in the future you will have to make some changes. (Again, we are not talking about assaults involving partners, friends, or relatives)

The concept of personal responsibility or “ownership,” (made more popular these days by Jocko Willink in his books “Extreme Ownership” and ‘The Dichotomy of Leadership,” and by others in various publications) is a difficult concept for many, even in the best of times. You see, we have this thing called an Ego, and it wants to protect us and shift blame elsewhere. So if someone did a bad thing to us, we rationalize that it must be completely their fault. Yet, when it comes to self-defence and protecting yourself, that may not be entirely true.

Were you walking in a way that made you seem like an victim? With your head low, shoulders rolled forward, for example, are physical indicators that will lead an attacker to believe you are an easy target. Or did you, as Jordon Peterson would say, “stand up straight, with your shoulders high.” It may seem silly, but this simple change will take you from “easy target” to “potential problem” in the eyes of the attacker.

I, myself, am not the largest person, being 1.6m tall and (in the past) around 65-68kg. Yet I managed, despite my big mouth and tendency to offend people, even when I was younger and did not know how to fight, to not get jumped, or attacked, or worse (much to my surprise). In my case, it’s an explainable confidence that probably kept people guessing whether it was a good idea to attack me or not. I managed because I talked big and looked the part. Of course, occasionally I would recognize that I said the wrong thing to the wrong person, and I was immediately aware of that instinctual feeling: “It’s time to leave.”

Knowing when you are about to get in over your head, in any situations, is difficult. But knowing when you must leave (early “flight” indicators) will save you great pain and hardship. Failing to recognize that you, A) just pissed off a bunch of people, B) are probably in over your head, and C) failed to avoid further conflict, means that you are largely responsible for the resulting hospital trip. You failed to manage a bad situation, you stayed in that bad situation, and you allowed it to get worse.

Another example is the classic “taking a short cut through a dark alley.” Didn’t your mother tell you not too?! You can say all you want that “the person who robbed you shouldn’t have!” And you are right, they shouldn’t have, but your attacker doesn’t care; they are operating on a different moral scale then you are. Even if they are just trying to survive, they don’t have the right to take from you. But it really doesn’t matter in the moment, because now you are in the situation, and they are doing it. Failing to recognize that you were making a bad decision, a decision that put you in the position of being an easy target, makes it your fault. Failing to maintain situational awareness, to know when to run when you must, might be your fault to.

You might say, “Wait a second, for some people their body will cause them to have paralytic fear, causing them to freeze up and prevent any decision making that will be beneficial. So how can it possibly be their fault?”

Well, why did you go into the dark alley in the first place? Even if you knew it was a bad idea? Failure to recognize that decision as your fault may cause you to make it again and further compound any psychological trauma you may have experienced from the results of the first bad decision.

Furthermore, what did you do to prepare for violent situations? For most the answer is “Nothing.” Which would then be your fault. You assumed it would never happen to you and when it did you may have found yourself asking yourself, “why didn’t I do more?”

Prevention is the number one way to stay happy and healthy, which includes the ability to defend yourself. If you never learned even the basics of defending yourself, and you didn’t keep your body in good health so that you can run, it is again your fault.

We can say all we want that “people shouldn’t attack people” (which they shouldn’t) and “it’s their fault,” but we cannot control other people, we can only control ourselves, which means our personal safety is on us and us alone.

This, of course, doesn’t apply to small children, but as a parent you can teach and inform your children, in age appropriate ways, to give them the best possible chance of survival in any situation.

So, do you want to be the victim? Or do you want to take a proactive approach to self-defence, taking full personal responsibility. Learn to make good decisions, avoid people who might be problematic in your life, and learn to defend yourself.

Remember, it’s your life and your responsibility. While others contribute to who you are and why you are the way you are, when it comes to assault, in that single moment of time, all the blame on society, your parents, your significant other, are completely irrelevant. In that moment it is only you and them.

Did you do everything you could to avoid that horrible situation, or did you do nothing and wait to be the victim?

Written: by Jonathan Fader

Police selection should be at least as rigorous as the demands in the line of duty. (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

This is the fifth in a series that started with “It’s Not So Black and White“, which was expanded upon in “Understanding Use of Force”. Specifics regarding techniques were discussed in “Understanding Use of Force: Knee-on-Neck”, and then we looked at overall police training standards in last week’s post, “Police Training Should be Better.” Over the course of this series I have frequently mentioned the need for better training and standards for policing.

This will be the last entry in this series on policing and use of force. It is my hope these posts have given you time and information to consider another perspective about police and the job, as well as use of force misconceptions. If your only source of information about the world is the mainstream media, it is likely you are getting heavily biased misrepresentation (often with the goal of gaining viewer attention rather than informing us). Or if you are only getting information from social media, a place where you may only follow people with similar beliefs and experiences to yours, then you could be living in a bubble, leading you to jump on poorly thought out causes (even if your intentions were good). No matter where you are in the world and what bubble you live in, seeking out other opinions and sources of information is key to forming well thought out ideas and policies. So, I hope this series has opened your mind to a perspective you might not have considered.

Which brings us to the next important topic: How do we select for policing? If you have followed this series you will have guessed that there is no single standard method of selection. Some require post-secondary, some do not. Some have age and fitness restrictions, be they high or low. It is likely we will never get it exactly right, but, as stated, it can be better. Some ideas in this article will be speculative, others are simply thoughts to further the conversation.

Let’s start with age. Personally, I think that the minimum age for policing should be 25, with no specific high-end limit so long as individuals can pass all required tests. Why? Simple, the idea that people are adults at 18/21 is an arbitrary number. A long time ago at puberty or around 16, you were generally considered an adult, because you could move to the next stage of life. The modern conception of 18 or 21 as the “age of majority,” other than it being after high-school or university, was based on our social/economic system’s needs. However, recent studies have suggested that the human brain does not finish developing until around age 25, at which point our brain chemistry and function is stable enough (scientifically) to be considered in the “adult” phase of human development. But I don’t think I need science to tell me that people over 25 are usually more stable and better at rational decision making. Which is why it makes sense that 25 should be the minimum age for a career in which decisions and reactions could have lethal consequences. Why do I think no maximum age? Well, as long as candidates are physically and mentally capable, why limit the selection? You will also be able to draw upon the expertise and experience from individuals who have lived and done more.

Why is it then that police organizations prefer younger candidates? The forces that do are likely seeking younger minds that can be molded to fit the existing police culture they want them to adhere to. Even Google does this, by hiring people right out of high school. Except, when it comes to policing I really don’t want someone who is young and has been conditioned to uphold the “old boys club,” or favouring your fellow officers over the law. Hiring older candidates will allow the institution to ensure that integrity is more likely to be enshrined in the force, both legally and morally.

Next, let’s talk about the obvious; physical requirements. Sometimes physical requirements are expected, with tests like the Peace Officers Physical Abilities Test (POPAT), while others have few or no requirements. First off, under no circumstances do I think it is acceptable to allow out-of-shape police officers to serve on the force, let alone as active street officers. Like shooting and tactics, fitness requirements should be maintained and assessed annually. While I cannot speak for other places, I can say that, from what I have heard in Canada, physical standards are often slowly being lowered. This is something I am very much against; the job doesn’t change but the standards do? That makes no sense, and is potentially dangerous. You may need to chase someone for a 100m sprint or a 2km run, with your gear on. Or you may need to grapple with an opponent to control them during an arrest; which is exhausting enough when you are in shape, let alone out of shape. Additionally, testing should be more realistic than it currently is, as the tests, like the POPAT, don’t really prepare you or assess you for fieldwork, rather it’s just generic fitness. There should be tiered levels of fitness tests required, each aimed at ensuring officers can operate for all aspects of their job. This can be done before, during, and regularly after initial training. The job doesn’t change, so the standards shouldn’t change, even if lower standards would allow more people in.

I personally don’t have an issue with shorter officers or smaller officers, but I do believe anyone with a “non-average build” MUST score higher on the physical combatives areas, as they are going to have to make up for their size with skill. It’s just physics. So, again, lowering physical standards for smaller officers is actually more likely to put their lives, or the lives of civilians, at risk.

Regarding combative skills; either through police prep schools or generic martial arts schools, candidates should probably start to have BJJ, wrestling, or Judo experience prior to hitting the academy. If, of course, out of high-school you want to be a police officer you could do 4 years of education related to the job, which is also plenty of time to get considerable martial arts experience. It also shows that candidates are serious about the job and are ready to get their egos smashed on the mats, rather than pursuing the job so they can impose their egos on others. This will further help screen people, as there is no better stress test than having a higher ranked, larger individual sit on you (even in a fun match).

Next is the question of education.

I like the German model that has POLICE SPECIFIC degrees. Such degrees, in my opinion, should have hand-to-hand combat and physical training aspects to it as well as theory. This would pre-screen candidates as well as provide them with all the training they need, well in advance of the actual job (which would also save tax payer money). Even if individuals do not end up becoming police they would walk away with practical, lifelong skills (martial arts, awareness, etc.). While Criminology degrees are good, like many degrees they are not specific to the job itself and will depend on who is teaching what, with regards to how practical the education is. Having a degree is also a screening method to ensure than individuals grow and develop, and show that they can work hard, prior to acting in the line of duty.

These are just a few items that should be in place, but there are other selection practices currently used that I strongly dislike.

First, is the fact that forces often want puritan candidates, with no “bad behavior” in their history at all. This I am very much against. How can you possibly understand how a drunk person thinks or feels if you have never been drunk? How are you going to understand the people you need to help if your life has never exposed you to anything negative. The no drugs ever, policies that many agencies enforce for pre-selection is insane and probably limit good candidates dramatically. Of course, you don’t want individuals with a severe history of addiction, but with the amount of alcohol police often drink, I see no difference between that and many categories of drugs. And, clearly, they MUST be sober on the job, if that wasn’t already obvious.

Another notion of selection is the common bias (even if subconsciously) to only select individuals who not only “fit in,” but also those who “won’t rock the boat.” This kind of selection bias is the reason why we have so many shitty cops out there (like many jobs), because you select for people who will not be honest about the problems they see in the behaviour of other officers, or the system, even though this is what the public demands (and is a self-scrutiny that will improve the force overall). I understand the concept of “brotherhood,” as I was in the military, however, while it may feel like, as an officer, you are going to war every day. It is not. Therefore, this idea of “protective brotherhood” I feel is less important in policing than in the military during wartime. While, yes, you want someone who you can trust with your life as a partner, for the sake of the job and your overall safety you cannot keep protecting bad behavior in the name of brotherhood. It is wrong, Full Stop!

What do you think?

These are just a few ideas about how to better select for policing. Many of these changes would require you communicating regularly with your politicians, mayor’s offices, and others, as the budget and changes are usually green lit by them and not the people who should actually be making the decisions. Everyone knows we need change and yet it often gets stopped somewhere in the blurry, inefficient mess that is bureaucracy.

So, if you had your way how would you select for police?

Written by: Jonathan Fader

For training online visit at www.utkmu.com, or if you are in the metro Vancouver area come learn from me in person www.urbantacticskm.com

RCMP cadets training at the academy’s Depot Division in Regina, Saskatchewan. (source)
Added contend in Audio. Audio by Jonathan Fader

This is the fourth in a series that started with “It’s Not So Black and White“, which was expanded in “Understanding Use of Force” and “Understanding Use of Force: Knee-on-Neck.” Over the course of this series I have frequently mentioned the need for better training and standards for policing.

Often, when this is discussed with officers, a few responses are common (I’m paraphrasing):

  • “I totally agree, but I don’t have the time or money to pay for my own training in my limited free time.”
  • “I totally agree, but the higher ups don’t seem to care and are not willing to make the change.”
  • “I don’t know what you are talking about; training and the academy was hard, so you don’t know what you are talking about.”
  • “I know enough, you are just trying to sell me something.”

No matter what the reason, whether the agree or disagree, the fact is simple; Police are not trained well enough!

Why do I say that?

Have you heard of the “10,000 hour rule” (popularized in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success)? It is estimated than for any ONE skill you will need 10,000 hours to gain mastery. Even a Black Belt who has been training 5, 10, or 15 years often doesn’t even have that kind of level. This is the reason why black belts often say when achieving that prestigious rank: “Now I am ready to learn.” Given how long it takes to achieve mastery it is unreasonable to expect this level of expertise from police, given the number of skills that they actually need to perform effectively. However, we can reasonably expect them to at least reach a novice or advance level in both use of force and firearms usage under duress.

Additionally, we need to select better candidates. Some places, like Canada, maintain physical requirements, and some do not. Some put in place an age requirements (not too old, not too young), some do not. Some uphold minimum education requirements and some do not. I will discuss selection in more depth in another article, but we must take into account the fact that the standards vary wildly.

Since I live in Canada, let’s start with discussing training standards within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Usually you do need a degree and some life experience, once you have been selected you will undergo 6 months of training at the RCMP Academy’s “Depot Division” (the details of which are broken down here.)

This is a general breakdown of RCMP training in “Depot”:

UnitNumber of Hours
Applied Police Sciences373
Police Defensive Tactics75
Fitness and Lifestyle45
Firearms Training65
Police Driving65
Drill, Deportment, and Tactical43
Detachment scenarios, exams, research, etc.120
As listed on RCMP Website

Before I move forward I will say that the standards of the RCMP in some ways are considerably better than those of many other police forces, especially in the US. However, the RCMP selection requirements have declined over the years.

Anyway, back to the point.

You can see how many scenarios, skills, and concepts they need to cover, and attain reasonable proficiency with, in only 6 months time. (Some agencies have less). What they consider “applied police sciences” could itself encapsulate numerous complicated topics.

Let’s take a look at “police defensive tactics,” which is allotted 75 hours of class/field time. I will assume this is the training of physical self-defence and control techniques, perhaps there is crossover with the material covered in Drill, Deportment, and Tactical (without more detail it’s hard to say), but let’s say these 75 hours encompasses the fundamentals. That length of instruction, 75 hours, is about the minimum time it takes to become a UTKM Yellow belt; the RCMP standard is therefore no more intensive than our CIVILIAN self-defence curriculum! (and this comparison assumes that the RCMP’s curriculum is up-to-date and comprehensive.) Objectively, most of my Yellow belts do not have enough skill to begin to safely deal with violent situations that are inevitable in policing.

In most cases my Green belts and up are the point at which students develop true proficiency in hand-to-hand combat and control techniques. That’s at a minimum 280 hours specifically in hand-to-hand combat; and they continue to train after the fact.

After completing Depot, RCMP officers usually do not engage in extensive training supplied by their own force. While America is different than Canada, the common lack of training is discussed by Jocko Willink during his recent appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience #1492 (around 17min in). Willink notes the range of training required for the duties of police officers, and how, on average, America police officers are no longer held to a physical fitness standard and receive only 2-4 hours of extra training a year. Which is nowhere even close to enough to maintain the skill to execute their duties with discretion and control.

While training Brazilian Jujitsu (BJJ), which I highly encourage for anyone, I have met RCMP officers who were practicing BJJ out of a desire to expand upon their past training, which had not included a focus on grappling. They became interested in the ground-fighting skill set through private training sessions run by a fellow officer who happened to be a BJJ brown belt. This training, however, was done on their own time and on their own dime, AND only a handful of their fellow officers took part. The fact that grappling and ground-fighting isn’t standard training at this point is beyond me. The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) at least have a Judo club for officers and recruits, so why don’t more agencies have wrestling, BJJ, or Judo training available to their officers? A while ago, former US Democratic Presidential nominee Andrew Yang suggested a reasonable requirement for police vetting could be a BJJ purple belt, and as we move forward this is something I increasingly agree with.

If Depot is the start of RCMP training, then it should be treated as exactly that, just a start. Officers should, at a minimum, be getting AT LEAST one hour a week of hand-to-hand training, EVERY WEEK! It should also be PAID and delivered within their REGULAR working hours. Jocko suggested a fifth of an officer’s time should be spent training, and I completely agree.

Now let’s look at the RCMP’s 65 hours of Firearms training. 65 HOURS?! There is no way that is enough time to become proficient with the range of firearms officers may encounter, especially working mainly with a pistol and especially under duress. In my 7-8 month army (IDF) training I would say most of the instruction and practice was related to firearms and weapon use, in combination, over hundreds of hours. I probably fired tens of thousands of rounds, in a variety of scenarios, across all platforms I was expected to be proficient in. Additionally, (while I am speculating) I suspect that much of the RCMP firearms training does not place candidates under (reasonably) realistic simulations that would allow them to develop the confidence to use their firearms effectively while under duress.

I have heard some agencies in Canada do pay for 10,000 rounds worth of training a year, but with the caveat that officers need to seek out and undertake this training on their own time. So I expect most officers do not bother (Many thanks to those who do!)

Basically, we are asking Police to do a good job, be experts in the use of force, maintain an even temperament, develop interpersonal skills, and gain an understanding of the law, but we barely give them any training or time to do so.

So far I have used the RCMP as an example, as, fortunately, they have a fairly detailed website on the matter.

Let’s now take a look at the Vancouver Police Department (VPD). Their training program isn’t listed in detail but the basic process is.

They undergo almost 3 months (11 weeks) of academy training at the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC), then they do approximate 6 months on the job (shadowing, etc), then a further 3 months of JIBC training. I actually like this model, as it mimics the apprenticeship model and is something that should be considered for continued development over the course of an officer’s career. However, without knowing the details of their curriculum it’s hard to say how much use of force training or firearms training is included. However, the total process is about a year of learning AFTER selection; which is good but, again, how much time is spent on what?

By the way, usually a degree or later age is required for the RCMP, whereas VPD may take applicants fresh out of high-school (which is more common than not.) Though someone recently suggested there is a min credit requirement prior to application (anyone care to confirm this?)

The famous LAPD, require applicants to be 21 years of age and to possess a high-school diploma (or GED), and once selected they will go through a 6 month course (the details of which I could not find). The NYPD, also internationally known, requires age 21, some post-secondary or military service, residency within the five boroughs of New York, and the completion of a written exam. The NYPD does have an academy which offers training for new recruits, civilian roles, and in-service officers, though I cannot track down a specific number for how long the in-class training is for prospective police. (The fact it is so hard to find details on their training program indicates a concerning lack of transparency.) The Minneapolis Police Department (MNPD), by the way, requires a 2-4 year degree and then some psychological assessments and aptitude testing; but, again, no specific mention of what happens at the academy.

Now let’s compare these North American programs to German police training (It’s difficult to find information in English but I have talked to several people about German programs). Training is generally the same for all Bundespolizei (Federal Police), but may vary to some degree across the sixteen Landespolizei (State Police) forces. After a degree their RECRUIT TRAINING is 2-3 years straight, before they can be certified as a police officer. By the way, in Germany they have degree programs SPECIFICALLY for those wanting to become police officers, so it is likely that these would be sought in candidates, if not required. Again, in Europe or much of the world such degrees in policing and security are normal. Here in Canada at least, individuals usually take a general Criminology degree which, while it deals with crime and the law, is not actually a degree program specific to policing. This is the best approach! Get an education, be a little older, and then we will train you EXTENSIVELY in the job, before you start doing it. German officers’ actual training time is 4 to 6 times longer than the average in North America.

It bears mentioning that the firearms training provided to German police forces centres first around safe handling and marksmanship, then on training to only use your service weapon as a last resort. This includes numerous hours of training under duress to avoid “tunnel vision” in order to learn how to manage your reactions and decisions when in real world encounters.

If you dig deep you will find that, in much of Europe and other areas of the world, police generally receive considerably better training.

Yes, your 3 or 6 months in Depot may be the hardest time you have ever had, but I am here to tell you that it is simply not enough. It does not even allow you enough time, in any one topic, to even be considered a skilled novice. Is this really the standard we want?

I don’t think so.

So, instead of jumping on the social media bandwagons, demand that the politicians force police to offer better training. If the job is harder to get into, and pays better, you WILL attract a better class of officer.

But if the job is overworked, underpaid, and poorly trained, why would the average person want to do that job?

The solutions are simple: Better training, more training, and consistent training during your entire career as an officer.

So, what do you think? Is 6 months of training enough for the people putting their lives on the line to keep us and our communities safe?

Written by Jonathan Fader

This is the third part in a series, starting with “Its Not So Black and White,” on the topic of police brutality, training, and various misconceptions thereof.

Audio by: Jonathan Fader – There is some additional commentary in the Audio
Regular training allows forceful restraint to be applied with caution and control. (source)

In last weeks post, “Understanding Use of Force,” I discussed the difficult nature of applying “use of force” concepts and making the correct decision, in the smallest amount of time, while under duress. While, yes, there are malicious police, I would say 10-20% (these are the ones that need to go), the rest are simply good people with an extremely difficult job. A job where everything you do and say is scrutinized to a level that would drive even the most stable person a little nuts. This is why even good officers will often side with their fellow members, even the bad ones, because of the “Us vs Them” principle.

In the media we once again see calls for removing more justifications for the use of force from police, rather than demanding better training and member selection. Slogans like “defund the police,” though popular on social media, are very misguided and misleading to the point that many top politicians who support the general movement are distancing themselves from them. What people need to understand is that the very LOUD minority on social media tends to disproportionately drive the conversation, causing “groupthink” to lead the masses into piling-on with out any real idea of what to do or how to make a meaningful change. “Defund the police” is no different than saying take away their tools.

Once upon a time the police were armed with batons and guns, and many times the smallest altercations meant extreme violence. Then they added non-lethal tools like bean bag guns, rubber bullets, mace, and tasers. Now we even see a trend toward a desire to take these tools away; this is akin to taking away a cat’s teeth. Then telling them they can’t even employ use of force concepts, because it isn’t nice, is like declawing that same cat. This idea that “no force is needed in many altercations” is, quite frankly, delusional. As, while there are certainly cases of police overstepping their bounds, most of the altercations resulting in violence are occurring due to extreme resistance. But before I move on, watch this video about why, with proper training (something I will discuss in another post), appropriate, controlled force (including Knee on the neck) is a necessary tool.

UTKM Lead Instructor Jonathan Fader – Shows appropriate use of Force with the Knee on the Neck

Please understand that, even if you don’t like this technique, if you read our previous post you may start to understand how difficult it is to control another person. As mentioned in this video, he is not resisting too much, mainly because he doesn’t want to; this is why controlled pain compliance is super important. Unless someone is on drugs or has a massive adrenaline spike most people will cease resisting and comply when you apply the appropriate pressure and give the appropriate verbal commands.

NO, two or three officers should NOT all be dog-piling or putting their knee on the neck. One trained individual should apply the technique, with others supporting by controlling the arms or legs.

I sincerely believe that most people who say police should not have any use of force options have no idea how dangerous the job is. Just because you will not be violent towards police doesn’t mean others won’t.

While there are definitely racial issues at play (on a global scale, stop pretending it’s just the US), when it comes to policing we should not assume every altercation is about race. If you believe it’s systemic then attempt to understand the issues within the system that make it appear that way to you. Remember, in a world with conflicting voices the middle ground is often where you need to be.

This means, better training and standards for policing BUT still allowing them to do the job while staying safe, which includes techniques like the knee-on-neck.

I have recently seen suggestions that there be unarmed, trained individuals available to deal with calls that require a lighter touch, such as social workers for calls related to non-violent mental illness. But, if you think for a second that their training should not include the use of force, then you are not being realistic about possible escalations. Talk to any ER Psych nurse or social worker and ask if they have ever been in a near violent or violent situation. These are hard jobs where getting attacked is a reality. Some people, for whatever reason, do not care about consequences and will be unpredictably violent; this includes towards the police and towards civilian role which require direct interaction. By removing use of force training and tools you are actually putting more people in unnecessary danger.

And to those of you who have multiple, negative police encounters (outside of racial contexts), you need to ask yourself “why are having so many bad encounters?” If you don’t take personal responsibility for your actions you are not being honest. Because, lets be reasonable, most encounters with the police are, by their very nature, negative experiences, as you only usually deal with the police in situations that are not ideal; from paying fines, to violent incidents. I have had both positive and negative encounters with the police, but for me the most frustrating issue, for both me and the police, is that often the responding officers cannot get involved because it’s “not an imminent threat.” Even if they agree that something should be done about a person, they don’t, because the system doesn’t always allow it. Which means they slowly become jaded and any time there is any “action” even the best of police can get caught up in the moment.

This is exactly why we must insist on better training for the police, and an understanding that the solution isn’t always going to be a move to “defang the police.”

Now that you have watched the above video and you have read these articles, it is my hope that you understand why techniques like knee-on-neck are important tools; they are, on average, less dangerous than other tools such as rubber bullets and tasers. So, before you jump on the Internet bandwagon, ask yourself, “Do I really understand use of force concepts?” and “Where does my hate for the police actually come from?”

Written by: Jonathan Fader

For training online visit at www.utkmu.com, or if you are in the metro Vancouver area come learn from me in person www.urbantacticskm.com

Judging when to use force, and to what degree, is complex and time sensitive (Tony Webster)
Audio by: Jonathan Fader

The other week I wrote about the recent police incident resulting in the death of George Floyd, in the post titled, It’s not so Black and White

As this has become such a large and complicated topic, with factors such as dissidents, political activists, misinformation, and the media all blurring the facts, I thought I would expand on a few aspects of policing and its complex, often intricate, nature. Perhaps you have never heard of these concepts, or perhaps you don’t care, but if you have an open mind you will at least attempt to understand both sides of any argument.

For most of the world’s population, fighting may be a daily reality, or even a way of life; though for many others it is the stuff of nightmares. Now imagine being in a job where at any point you may have to literally fight for your life. This is, for often the case for people in law enforcement. Now imagine being under a constant microscope, whether right or wrong, and having to deal with one of the most complicated situations an officer may ever have to deal with: The appropriate application of force in a given situation.

To clarify (again), in the George Floyd case the use of force was NOT appropriate.

Before I move forward take a look at this:

This is an old “Use of Force” chart I made. One of the regular comments I receive from viewers is, “This is too complicated!”

My response is always, “Correct!”

It is complicated, and that demonstrates the complexity of the decisions and processes that need to go through a person’s brain when making a use of force decision. Add to that the pressure from the awareness that if you screw up you could loose your job, or worse, your life. Then add the pressure of onlookers criticizing you, screaming at you, and filming you. Then add to that the fact that you may not have received the training you felt you needed, or not enough of it.

There could also be further considerations that are not immediately obvious: Is the person on drugs? Are they having a massive adrenaline boost? Are they bigger, stronger, and faster than you?

Forget being in a fist fight, have you ever been in a wrestling match with someone? Do you remember how difficult it was to think and act with someone’s entire body weight against you?

Believe it or not, trying to move another human being who does not want to be moved (or comply at all), is very difficult. It doesn’t really matter what your belief system is, because this is simply a fact. In one example, this anti-police activist found out how difficult it can be. It doesn’t matter the source of the simulation, as, done properly, the results would be the same; it will always be harder than you thought.

It is the hope of every officer, be they police, security, or military, that when an arrest is required verbal commands are enough to elicit compliance. Unfortunately, as you know, this does not always happen.

Even with training it can still be difficult (police generally do not get enough, a topic I will discuss in another post). One thing Krav Maga realized is that when it comes to violent people, you MUST use violence to prevent harm to yourself or others. You can use your words all you want, but if someone is coming after you, then you are going to have to apply force appropriate to the situation. Words do not always work, and whether you want to or not, you will find yourself in a complicated situation where even the slightest mistake can get you fired, suspended, or dead.

What about those who didn’t resist violently? Well, you are correct, in those cases extreme use of force would not be warranted. A lighter touch is certainly needed when the situation allows for it. But, let’s say someone is just being difficult when putting the handcuffs on, and despite multiple verbal commands to comply they chose not to? Then a slightly higher use of force is needed.

Prior to the recent protests many people believe (usually on the left) that the only people who should have the permission for use of force is the government and its agencies (the police, FBI, etc.). If this is the case, if you believe this, then you must admit you know very well that you should comply with the police when necessary. Yes, there are bad apples out there, as the internet has shown, and these should all be removed from duty completely and immediately. But, for the rest of them, they will never know if any given person is going to comply or not. If the answer is “not,” then given the authority granted to the police by you, the citizen, then you must understand use of force is warranted to elicit compliance.

Enter, the complicated decision tree above. The situation will go well, or not, depending on your experience, skill, and training. On a good day, the officer involved possesses all three. On a bad day, maybe only one.

Let’s add in one more complicating factor: Exhaustion. Police often work long shifts that may be physically and mentally demanding. Catch even a well-trained officer with good morals on a day they are at their limit, and even they are capable of making a mistake.

The point is, if you have never stepped in a ring, on a mat, or into and octagon (or just done some backyard wrestling), your ability to judge what is appropriate and effective use of force is severely limited.

It is HARD to wrestle, or tackle and control another person. It takes lots of consistent training. It takes a clear mind and consistent application. At the end of the day, all things considered, it is not so black and white. From moment to moment the appropriate use of force may change, and decisions need to be made in that moment, whether it was right or wrong in hindsight. Failure to choose and act could be catastrophic.

So, if you feel it’s appropriate to get educated on the facts, like trying to understand what it might be like for a Black person in American. Then I urge you to do the same and get educated on all the facts, including trying to understand how hard policing is and how hard it is to be good at appropriate use of force.

Fight the good fight, get educated, expand your horizons, and get out of that echo chamber.

(The next in the series will discuss police training.)

Written by: Jonathan Fader

Ancient bas-relief of Khmer martial arts training (at their school?) in Cambodia.

We are nearing the point in our collective COVID-19 journey where, legally or otherwise, businesses are starting to re-open. You can believe whatever you want, but I feel that, while the virus was terrible globally, the general populous and governments overreacted by shutting everything down.

However, no matter what I think, the damage has already been done. Now it’s about how can we grow and re-build from the metaphorical rubble.

Some martial arts schools are re-opening even though they are legally not allowed to; because if they don’t they will not be able to re-open, ever. Many businesses operate month-to-month financially, and I can say from experience that this is more often than not the case with regard to the martial arts community. This is why re-opening soon is essential for our type of business to succeed.

In other industries getting back to business within the context of rules requiring social distancing, group size limitations, and personal protective equipment (PPE), is a manageable constraint. Martial arts schools, by the very nature of physical, combative training, are going to have an issue. A temporary solution was/is to offer virtual classes, which is better than nothing and also serves to keep students in shape and in the learning mindset. However, in many cases (except, perhaps, for global brands) students may choose not to participate, for a plethora of reasons given our current circumstances, which makes it very difficult for the schools to stay afloat in an already challenging market.

With all this said, let’s assume that the school you train at is going to re-open in the near future, either legally or not. When it does, how should you proceed?

  1. Show Up – Now, more than ever, your school needs support. So show up! Even if you have to work out a modified payment plan for your school, due to job loss or other. SHOW UP! What this does is motivates your school’s instructors to build the school up with out worrying that the clientele won’t be there. It also motivates other students to come and train. There may be a group of people who might not want to start training when it comes time to open, but if other people are training and see that it is relatively safe (it is martial arts after all) they will feel more comfortable coming in. Additionally, if there is a great deal of community support, then it may be more difficult for local authorities to be to harsh on struggling schools; if there is one thing politicians hate, it’s public backlash. So, if you like your school, support your school. Make it a priority to show up even if schedules have changed or things are different at your school. Show up and support your school.
  2. Advertise For Your School – If you were not already, make social media posts. Talk to your friends and followers about your training. Make lots of posts and be public about it. The more your school is known the more people will want to come train. Even if you don’t feel comfortable training yet, you may have friends who have always wanted to try it and who do want(need!) to train. Now’s the chance for these people; it’s a win-win.

That’s it, it’s really just that easy. Show up and be loud about it! Remember, talk is cheap. Saying you want to train or saying you support your school is not the same as actually doing it. Talk all you want but if you don’t show up, and do so regularly, and help market your school, even schools that are able to re-open may not be able to continue if no one is there to pay the bills.

So, what are you going to do about your school re-opening? Will you support it or will you stay at home forever, while that thing you once loved fades to dust.

Audio By Jonathan Fader

During the Covid-19 lockdowns many people have found a lot of time to do a variety of things they might not normally had the time to focus on. For me, as many of the things I would like to do are not available or are sold out, I decided to reacquaint myself with one of my childhood passions.

POKÉMON!

Don’t lie, if you are under the age of, let’s say 40, there is a good chance that you too, at one time, wanted to be a “pokémon trainer” when you grew up.

Unfortunately, like many childhood dreams, this is one of those aspirations that is impossible in real life. Sigh, I can still dream.

Aside from the many cute pokémon, like Pikachu and Togepi, and the addictive nature of trying to achieve that lofty goal of “catching them all,” coupled with a brilliant cross platform global strategy, there are numerous reasons that Pokémon was, and is still, great.

While I did not think much of this as a kid, as I re-watch the original seasons, as well as the many, many, many seasons I missed (and they are still making new ones!), one of the great lessons the show teaches is that it is, in fact, OK to loose.

Even as a child I often thought the lead protagonist, Ash Ketchum, was a terrible pokémon trainer. This is mainly due to the fact that, in the original few seasons, he didn’t actually earn many of the gym badges by winning battles, but rather by foiling the plans of the “evil” Team Rocket. This means he probably didn’t actually deserve much of his respect as a trainer. So what did make him such a good trainer?

I think it’s the fact that win, loose, or draw, he would always keep going; he stayed consistent and kept a reasonably good attitude. Compare this to so many other cookie cutter kids shows or superhero series, where the protagonists always win in the end. I think Pokemon was a refreshing change, as it was far more based in reality than most other shows in regard to “winning.”

In most cases, these kids’ shows always result with the protagonist winning, which shelters young kids from one of the most important life skills; learning to fail. Pokémon, in contrast, showed you could win, loose, or draw, and still come out stronger.

For it is only in your losses that you can learn to improve. Only through adversity do you realize you need to change. If you only ever win, and only ever achieve the best, then you may not know how to truly assess and improve yourself.

A good, real life example of someone who clearly can’t handle loss would be Jon Jones. An amazing fighter who is one of the very best, yet is chronically having issues with the drugs and the law. Perhaps, had he faced a loss, or true adversity, he might have learned to be a better person as well as a better fighter. Maybe, had he been a pokémon trainer, this is a lesson he might have been forced to learn.

Whether you love Pokémon or hate Pokémon, the fact remains that it was and still is a worldwide phenomenon, one that experiences a resurgence in mass popularity every few years with some new version of the game. If you pay attention, you may realize that it’s a much better TV show for your child to watch than so many of the other cookie cutter junk out there; as it portrays the challenges of life (though in a fictional setting) in a much more realistic way.

So, whether it’s for your child, or yourself revisiting your childhood love, perhaps it’s time to look at Pokémon for some of it’s deeper lessons. Then learn to internalize the truth that it’s okay to lose, so long as you learn from it, and use that lesson to move forward and grow.

No matter what your endeavors are, keep going, stay consistent, and perhaps you too will metaphorically “catch them all,” as you will have built yourself up to the very best that you could be, a little bit at a time.

By: Jonathan Fader

Pad holding

Posted: April 7, 2020 by evanjex in Martial Arts In General, Training
Tags: , ,

Pad holding

You aren’t just holding some pads, you are helping each other train.

There is a fine art to holding pads for someone, and there are people out there who make a lot of money holding pads for the pros. While I’m not expecting you to flawlessly shift the pads to catch a 15 strike combo for the likes of Connor McGregor, if you’re training regularly you should have a firm grasp on how to safely and effectively hold pads for your partner so that you both get the best out of your session (and come out if it without injuries.)

So, here are a few places to start if you’re not sure how to properly hold pads for people, and points to focus on if you want to up your “pad game” a little.

Each time you hold a pad, whether it be a focus mitt or kick shield, you have to understand that the pad is there to represent a body part, one that we are training to attack. Therefore, when you position your pads make sure they are in a position that mimics that body part on an opponent. The centre of the pad should align with that same body part on you, so keep focus mitts at your head height for punches, kick shields at your knee height for low round house kicks and on your torso for push kicks or knees. Of course, you can’t just hold the pad directly in front of your body and expect to be absorbed, which brings me to my next point.

Safety

The pads are there to provide a target for your partner to strike, more so than they are designed to keep you, as the pad holder, safe or protected. To hold pads safely you need to keep your body in a position and stance that can take the impact without causing your joints to hyperextend or bend in directions they weren’t meant to. For your basic jab/cross, hooks, and uppercuts the target we are training to strike is usually the head, so, as I said earlier, you need to hold the focus mitts (or “target pads”) at your head height. Obviously, you can’t hold them in front of your face unless you want to cop a blow to the face from the back of your own hand, so you need to hold them at either side of your head, again, mimicking a real opponent’s positioning. That being said, if you are holding the pads further out than shoulder width apart they are no longer in a position that resembles a realistic head position.

So here is my guide to holding Focus Mitts:

Let’s start with positioning; just either side of your head and about 30cm (1′) in front of your shoulders (note: while this range works best for me, you may want to adjust according to your arm length). This positioning is important for two reasons;

1. It creates a target as close to your real head position as possible.

2. It protects your shoulders from hyperextension (and your face from the back of your own hand.)

Now, once you have the mitts in the right position, here’s how use them;

Imagine you are “catching” each punch. That distance in front of your shoulders becomes really important, as you need to add a little bit of forward resistance to “meet” the incoming strike. This catching motion and added resistance pays off two-fold; it protects your shoulders by not letting your hands fly backwards over them from the force of the punch, and it stops your partner’s arms from hyperextending and damaging their elbows.

That covers your basic, straight jab/cross (1,2) punches. For your hooks (3,4) everything remains the same that except you turn the mitts 90 degrees, to face inward and apply your resistance inward. With uppercuts (5,6), hold the pads facing downward, one on top the other, at your chin height (still with distance from your face) and apply the resistance downward to catch the impact.

As you become comfortable with each individual strike, work on combinations; slow at first, speed will come in time.

Kick shields are a different animal completely, as they are used for a much larger range of strikes and will mimic more parts of the opponent’s body.

They deserve their own post, so I will cover those in the future.