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Knowing how to avoid danger increases your chances of survival dramatically! (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

The “4 stages of self-defence,” as taught by UTKM, is the basic order of operation for what you are doing when presented with conflict; be it physical, social, or otherwise. The order, moving from best option to worst, is; Avoidance, Diffusion, Preemptive Self-defence (Strike First), Reactive Self-defence (React Last). Understanding the basics is easy, but, like all concepts, understanding when and how to apply them correctly can be trickier.

The major reason for this is the simple fact that if you do not truly understand what you are doing and you lack the experience to make a quick and correct decision (and you do not have your instructor whispering the answers into your ear), the real world situation is suddenly more complicated than it was in training.

Grasping the nuanced application of a technique, how and why it works, and when to employ it, can be the result of you being fortunate enough to possess an innate ability to understand intricate contexts, or, as is more common, it can be accomplished through consistent training. Consistent training makes up for talent by internalizing the details, purpose, and application of a given technique (or reaction in a scenario), to the point that your nervous system and decision making process will, more often than not, fire correctly under duress.

To help foster a better understanding of these key concepts, I, and others at UTKM, will be sharing real world experiences relating to the four stages. Each week we will expand upon one of the concepts and give examples.

This week it is the first and arguably most important stage: Avoidance.

“You win 100% of the fights you are not in.” – Nir Maman

First you must accept the fact that you cannot always avoid. For example, applying avoidance as a self-defence tactic for interpersonal conflict will most likely result in further problems. The concept of Avoidance simply suggests that it may be better to avoid than to confront in most situations However, and this applies particularly when it comes to bullying or active violence, sometimes the best option is to directly confront the source of conflict. After all, Krav Maga was built on the idea that sometimes running is not an option. So, please, do not interpret this stage as permission to be passive-aggressive or to never deal with life’s problems, that is not the correct application of this concept (and, honestly, if avoidance is always your chosen option in life, this may be indicative of other, deeper problems you are struggling with.)

So, lets start with some examples from my youth:

  1. It was Halloween night, and, like most young teens (I was maybe 15 or 16), I wanted to go out. In our area, big house parties were not a common occurrence, but what was all too common were hoards of teens and young adults roaming the streets like a hungry packs of wolves, looking for fun and perhaps trouble. I was with the group of friends I usually ran with at the time, and we ended up crossing paths with another pack of teens. Walking together with them, in costumes, masks, and painted faces, with candy and fireworks in hand (legal then, but illegal now, likely due to these same ravenous packs of ne’er-do-wells getting up to yearly mischief) we were on the boredom-fueled prowl. Some confident and bold, others just trying to fit in. In my case, the latter seems like it was the appropriate category. I mean, is that not what one of the best features of Halloween is; You get to dress up and pretend to be something else, something grander, something more powerful? It is after all, “All Hallow’s Eve,” where dressing up as something scary was meant to fend off the roaming spirits and demons that walk the earth on this night, every year (so the legend goes). But masks and make up can only mask you for so long. One of the older boys in a mask, I did not recognize. Clearly a leader, out front, loud and obnoxious, identified himself to me. It turned out this masked individual was someone whom I had issues with in the past. He was also dangerous, in the literal sense, much like that of a hungry alpha. He regularly got in fights (and won), regularly had police interactions, the circumstances of which were anything but innocent fun, and he “may or may not” have had ties with even more violent individuals who were known to police. He was also much bigger than me, a good bit stronger, and far more athletic. Which, through a child’s eyes, was a terrifying thing, even though I considered myself tougher than perhaps I was and, like most males, overestimated my skills. I had no training and no experience, just an over inflated ego. It was, of course, dark, and I did not like the things coming out of this guy’s mouth, nor the energy in the air. The feeling of fun turned to a dread and an uneasy churning in my gut (yet to be filled with candy.) It was uncomfortable. Concerned that the hoard was full of individuals who did not in fact like me, not to mention the de facto alpha, this was not ideal for an enjoyable night. So I decided to listen to my instincts; it was time to leave. My pace slowed, I fell to the back of the crowd, then quietly, but swiftly, faded into the dark, walking to my home a few blocks away. Later, when I was asked by my cohort where I had disappeared too, I made up some plausible story. The reality is, it was probably the right decision. Those uneasy feelings we have may be wrong sometimes, but it is often better to err on the side of caution, as we never know how things will escalate. There is one thing for certain; if you are not feeling your best, or you are uncomfortable, it can be easy to do or say the wrong thing and cause a situation to quickly shift from manageable to disastrous. So, in that case, with those personalities, avoidance was the best choice. No harm, no foul, no hospital.
  2. I was an awkward teen with no sense of who I really was yet. Which meant I was not so great with the opposite sex. So, when female friends came into the mix, it was always a joy, and an uneasy excitement (the kind only a teenage boy knows.) For a time, I frequently hung out with two girls who were a year or two younger than me. Feelings were always mixed, as I liked them each at a different time; which meant I would often go out of my way to spend time with them. Lacking experience and confidence, of course, things never went the way I had imagined. Nevertheless, it was fun at the time. Like many youths lacking good mentoring and guidance, I had trouble controlling my temper. I would never hurt anyone, but it was obvious to those all around me. Like a tornado striking down in an open field, I was loud, boisterous, and, to some, terrifying, as the fear that the destruction might come your way. (This is something I still work on daily, though with calmer mind, maturity, and fewer raging hormones it is much easier to manage.) One of these girls had a cousin, equally attractive in my eyes. Someone who I had met previously, at a random community party. She was troubled. If I am informed correctly those troubles continued to impact her in adulthood. Whenever she came around to join us, it never went well. I was POSITIVE she would intentionally say or do things to illicit my temper and unleash the tornado for her amusement. I was cold, dry air, she was warm, humid air, the inciting words and actions were the required updraft. Everyone said I was either crazy or imagining it. Nonetheless, there came a point at which I could no longer stand to be around her. So the strategy I employed was avoidance. Anytime she randomly showed up, I would find a reason to leave. If she was already there with my friends, I would make other plans. Everyone thought I was being unreasonable. However, I did not like having my fun outings turned into episodes of anger, thus, to me it seemed like the better choice. It also prevented me from hitting a breaking point and actually doing something I would regret. Despite the fact it made me look even more weird and unstable, socially, in many respects I probably made the right decision by practicing avoidance. (In hindsight, and perhaps re-framing the situation, it turns out that this girl may have actually liked me. I was told by someone, later down the road, that she was very likely trying to illicit my aggression on account of a secret, let’s say, fetish for violence. Had I been more confident, then perhaps I would have handled it differently and allowed my cold dry air to meet her warm humid air, but given my lack of knowledge at the time, avoidance was still the best strategy. Lest the tornado met the hurricane and all hell broke lose. It probably wouldn’t have been good for anyone.)
  3. If you think bullies disappear after high-school you may have practiced avoidance a little too much, and may in fact be a shut-in who is living in a perpetual state of self-imposed exile. As the internet has shown us, most people are not as stable and confident as you think, and many have bully-like tenancies at the very least; trying to use force, intimidation, or aggression to get what they want. Or, they simply have not learned to manage their anger like others and emotionally lash out at people when they are challenged, or whenever things do not go their way. I learned to deal with these people early in my youth, and as an adult I tolerate it even less. I, of course, generally employ Stage 2, diffusion, as much as I can; using my words and avoidance, as Stages 3 & 4 (outside of physical violence) are not at all appropriate in day-to-day life in a Civil society. Which means, as an adult, mastering the first two stages is that much more important. Especially when you live in a strata (eg. a condo or townhouse). Personally, I despise stratas, as it is all to easy for a bully, or someone who has a bully-like attitude, to get on the council and try to tell others how to live or act, or has a personality that leads them to take issue with being challenged (due to their perceived powers.) I personally think stratas have been nothing but a disaster, and will go the way of the dinosaurs eventually, but until then, you, like me, will likely have to deal with them at some point. Without getting too detailed, there was some conflict between me and those on a strata council. Whether I was in the wrong or the right isn’t important, sometimes I was, sometimes I wasn’t. However, several members of the council seemed to think it is acceptable and appropriate to yell and scream at people when they don’t like what was said or done. This is, of course, utterly inappropriate, and in the adult world could constitute bullying and harassment. Obviously, this is something I will not tolerate. Extensively researched, well-worded letters where sent! The goal of these letters was not to demand compliance one way or another, but rather to make it clear that I am not the kind of person to pick a fight with, verbally, physically or otherwise. Initially they got the hint and basically stopped bothering me. Later, another incident occurred where a member of council, once again, decided to scream at me. After making it clear that this was an inappropriate (and futile) tactic it didn’t seem to matter, they saw me as a threat to power, and continued. As an adult, I made the decision that, clearly, these individuals are old, unstable, and have never resolved their personal issues. I understand, but I still have no patience for it. I privately told another, calmer strata council member that their fellow’s outbursts were boarding on harassment. Moving forward, I just ignored the problem individuals and do not engage. Clearly they have problems, and those problems are not mine to solve. I made it clear that I will not be pushed around, they all seem to have gotten the hint. I avoid conflict with them, they avoid conflict with me, and we now all live in a cold peace where, so long as we don’t bother each other, all is well. While it is certainly not an ideal situation, I would rather have good relations with my neighbours, it is, in modern times, often quite impossible to get along with everyone. So, practicing a peaceful yet aware avoidance strategy will, in the end, help keep things calm, and less stressful.

Whether you are a teen, an adult, or a senior learning to practice good avoidance (and when to move to the next stage) can be extremely useful, not just in literal sense of physical self-defense, but also to help you manage the hardest part of life: Other people. These skills can be innate or learned. In my case, it seems to be more of the former, though through practice I refine them as I go along. Perhaps as an Ashkenazi Jew it is in my genes to be cautious, and avoid whenever I can, as thousands of years of oppression and living in fear is likely to impact your genetics a little bit. (Think Woody Allen, the stereotypical, nervous Ashkenazi Jew, albeit a extreme case.) Regardless of how you come to learn these skills, learning it early, and learning it well, will only mean one thing; a happier, more peaceful life. One in which your visits to the hospital due to violence are low, and your conflict related stress is that of calm waters rather than a raging storm. For if you find yourself raging too much, too often, you may find yourself battered, bruised, and broken; because you failed to manage your mental state (see awareness colour code.)

Written by Jonathan Fader

Getting a workout in could be as easy as challenging the kids to a “sit-up contest” (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

When my first daughter was born, my martial arts training faded into the rear-view mirror, and my overall fitness with it. It is a big adjustment to have another human being be more important than you in your own life. At some point you have to make serious changes to compensate for the new stresses, obligations, and pitfalls, otherwise you are in danger of becoming someone who you don’t want your children to look up to.

Finding the “Time”

I am a firm believer that, as a parent, you don’t “deserve time to yourself” (“deserving” things is a marketing ploy, an appeal to emotion in order to sell you spa packages and chocolate), in fact, sacrifice is your new normal. However, as parents we are still human (mostly), and therefore still NEED to take care of our bodies, maintain social ties, express creativity, and pursue passions; otherwise what type of role model are we?

Let’s be honest, we all “found” the nearly 3 FULL DAYS it took to watch all 8 seasons of Game of Thrones, so we aren’t really talking about “time” here, we are talking about “energy.” At the end of a long day you are tired; work, life, and the kids/partner have drawn the life force from your body, and the last thing you want to do is expend more of it on exercise.

Ironically, multiple studies have indicated that as little as 20min of low-to-moderate intensity exercise, just three times a week, can reduce feelings of fatigue. Whereas more committed regimes (30-40min of moderate-to-vigorous) will improve on your mood and fitness, in addition to your energy levels.

Logically, if you improve your energy level (and mood) you will find that you have more “time” for your family and a greater willingness to attain the balance we all need between Family and being human (ie. your physical, emotional, mental health)

Beyond energy, overall fitness is important for a few reasons:

  1. Maintaining your fitness means you will be around longer for your family.
  2. Physical fitness contributes to mental and emotional fitness, allowing you to contribute positively to family interactions.
  3. Teaching your family good health habits will mean they are happier and around longer too.
Finding the Actual Time

“I don’t have time to ______, I have kids!” is a classic excuse for not doing … anything. Once we have tackled the real, underlying problem of energy, it can, depending on your family’s schedule, be difficult to find the minutes or hours to engage in non-parenting activities. (Remember that “sacrifice is your new normal” concept?)

Step 1 is to make good health a priority. Not just “make time for it”, but actually make mental, emotional, and physical fitness a family value; talk to your kids about what you are doing, and teach them why it is important (especially as you get older), and invite curiosity.

Common tips for carving out this time:

  • In the morning
    • Get up before everyone else and fit in a work out, read, or meditate. Everyone else is asleep, so they won’t miss you. (Sleeping in is bad for you anyway!)
  • At night
    • As above, but hit that 40min routine after the kids are in bed.
  • Break into small chunks
    • If you cannot find a solid 30-50min span during your day, then sneak in exercise in the smaller gaps without being totally absent. I find that opportunities for an elevated heart rate arise throughout the day with my kids; running beside them on bike rides, playing tag, swimming,etc.. HIIT routines are great for utilizing gaps in the day, as they can be done effectively in as little as 20min (though you may need a quick clothes change and wipe-down if you are doing it properly).

Remember, this isn’t just about “working out.” While exercise has knock-on effects for your emotional and cognitive well-being, you should be seeking opportunities to maintain balance in the non-physical aspects of your life as well. If you can make time for exercise, you can make time to call an old friend, draw, meditate, etc..

Make Self-care a Family Activity

A fourth tip (more of a philosophy), for finding the actual time for your health and wellness is to involve your family in the activities you are engaging in. Combine any or all of the first three tips and incorporate the rest of your clan, directly or indirectly. For some families this becomes a bonding experience, a point of pride, or even a family tradition.

Whether you are sharing time in calm silence, challenging each other’s creative skills, cooking (a great way to teach nutrition, self-reliance, and science/creativity), or starting a basic exercise routine, you need to be aware that you are working in a group with varying levels of ability. Make sure that your expectations are realistic and plan accordingly. For example, have variations of each exercise that your kids can do safely, give time to your less proficient readers and have material they can work with, allow kids to “help” you if they can’t do something themselves. (I got lucky, both of my girls are very physical and are fascinated by the martial arts)

There is plenty of advice out there for how to tweak the activities you already love so that your “new recruits” can participate: Icy Mike, over at Hard2Hurt, has a great video on pad holding when training martial arts with inexperienced family members. And horror/B-movie superstar, Bruce Campbell, espouses the benefits of “Lollygagging” as a means of mental health maintenance. He defines Lollygagging as “the act of doing exactly what you want for an indeterminate period of time (preferably outdoors) for no particular reason.”

You will likely find that there are a lot of options for getting your crew into full-body health. The earlier you instill good habits in your young people, the easier it will be for them to maintain those habits throughout their lives, seeing these as an essential art of life (as we all should!). Children often don’t know the difference between play and exercise; you can use this blissful ignorance against them!

Be Wary of the Two “Busy Parent Fallacies”

Two common imbalances that I have seen among my fellow parents come in the guise of good choices, but are, in truth, thinly veiled excuses for neglecting yourself or your family:

  • Hiding from Family via Self-care
    • This occurs when you are never around due to the over-prioritization of your own health. You are always escaping family obligation and time with your kids (which can be tedious!) by forever having a workout, training session, or other “me time” requirement. Your brood needs you. Yes, working out or engaging in self-care is harder when you have to schedule it around others, but, re-read the above tips and you will be able to figure something out. Often you will end up with a hybrid (balanced!) approach, where some activities are done together, and some are on your own. Having a supportive and informed partner helps A LOT!
  • Hiding from Self-care via Family
    • This comes in the form of justifying the lack of action on your health and mental/emotional stability (and that of your family’s), due to claims that you are over-prioritizing “quality time” with your kids, or putting their needs first. While this may be noble in intention, it is often a socially acceptable excuse to let yourself go. I’ve been there, I know! It is really easy to say “I don’t want to be tired when I have to deal with the kids tomorrow.” But, eventually I discovered that shirking my workouts resulted in it being difficult to keep up with them and lift them over my head, plus I fell out of shape I became irritable (that’s not good for me or them). Again, re-read the sections above; exercise gives you the energy and mood stability to keep up and be chill!

Ultimately, this is a balancing act (the theme!), you will find that it is probably best to transition slowly at first; do some things early, some things late, and some as a group. This is a process, don’t be afraid to re-start, re-assess, re-think, and you WILL find something that works to get you back in the gym while fulfilling your duties as a parent, or back in the family while staying fit and sane.

In Summary

The goal is balance. Doing what you need to do to maintain your family life, while at the same time ensuring that you maintain yourself (so that you are of use to said family). Let’s not forget, as a parent you are now responsible for the well-being and development of a Human. They are famously complex creatures, and, like it or not, they are looking at you as the model for how to live and act; so it is of the utmost importance that you figure out how to maintain balance between improving their mental, emotional, and physical wellness, and your own. Ask yourself, honestly, what do you want them to see when they look up to you? For those moments when you feel weak, find strength in the example you are setting.

Written by: Corey

Attaining physical balance can be daunting, but the benefits far outweigh the effort (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

Last week I wrote about the need for balance, using the metaphor of the Jedi, Sith, and Grey Jedi. On a surface level it may seem it’s just about morality in Star Wars, something I hope you enjoyed (unless you had a severely deprived childhood). Really, however, it was a mirror of real life. Today, and perhaps always, us humans have a tendency to be drawn toward extremes when really the centre is where you must be.

On the macro level the “centre” is somewhere around the average of society as a whole, or the median behaviours and beliefs of that society. On the micro or personal level the centre can very wildly, as what the centre is for one person may be considered extreme by another. Yet we must all find our own centres if we expect to enjoy the rest of our lives.

The first aspect of centre balance, and in today’s world perhaps one of the most important, is finding balance physically.

Diet/Nutrition

Often we beginning making healthy changes by, logically, introducing exercise, but, really, what we fuel ourselves with is a more important starting point. The modern consumer advertising landscape can make it difficult to know what is healthy, given all the confusion created by marketing and cost-saving measures. The first thing you need to understand is that the food industry is demonstrably corrupt (ethically and technologically), which is why we have been dealing with so much misinformation for so many years. (Listen to this episode of The Rubin Report featuring Dr.Mark Hyman to get a idea of the big picture.)

Remember how, for many years, the Healthy Eating Pyramid focused on breads and grains? (Canada preferred circles and curves) This was partially due to the (continued) corrupting influence of various food & beverage lobby groups, but also due to the fact that, at the time it was developed, the major global nutrition problem was lack of calories (or rather access to food), so governments focused on getting people easy and cheap calories, like bread. Though, as we now know, heavily processed foods, like many breads out there, may not actually be good for us.

Now that the modern goal really is health and nutrition it’s time for the marketing machine (of corruption) to try to convince us consumers that their products are the best option, one way or another. In the same ad-space there are companies and groups touting the benefits of vegan/vegetarianism while others promote a fully carnivore diet. Polar opposites! While some people may benefit from restrictive diets due to specific issues such as the various autoimmune diseases, the best advice for most is actually a balanced diet, containing fats, protein, and healthy carbohydrates. In other words, eat a variety of whole fruits and vegetables, fresh meats and fish (with out hormones or additives), and a good dose of fats.

Fats are good you say? Yes, they are very important! For years cholesterol was demonized outright, and while there is good and bad cholesterol it is still not properly understood by and large. The CDC simply says that “too much cholesterol” puts you at higher risk for heart disease and stroke. and that “cholesterol can be confusing“, but new research out of the Mao Clinic (and others) suggests it is actually your cholesterol ratios that matter. Of course, most doctors will still recommend some kind of medication for higher cholesterol instead of checking the ratio or recommended dietary changes.

How about the word Carbohydrates. Lets make this clear in most cases you will at some point need them. Even the Keto diet is not meant to be long term, but rather a reset diet for your body and metabolism. By carbohydrate, again, I mean whole vegetables and fruits. Some breads may be okay, depending on your genetic make up and whats actually in them. Fresh, homemade bread will always be better on account of your control over the ingredients. “Wonder Bread,” for example, is so processed it is hardly bread at all.

And as far as meat is concerned, I can speak for myself in that whenever I have gone off meat for too long my body breaks down. Some people may be able to get away from that for the long term, but others may not. Remember, genetics and other factors can change who needs what. Without proper testing (which costs money) it can be hard to know how your body processes certain foods and nutrients. When it comes to meat, organic, grass-fed beef, without hormones or antibiotics, fresh fish, and free range chickens, are what you want. Factory farming is disgusting, and should be banned, that does not mean that we shouldn’t eat meat, rather, that means we should change the acceptable methods for raising and harvesting our meat. (And, yes, the damage that cows do to the environment has been widely exaggerated, so get over yourself if you are still confusing bad farming practices with eating meat in general.)

So how do you decide? Well, balance is what most of us need. Therefore, find a ratio of meat/fish/chicken, whole foods for carbohydrates, and fats that works for you best. Maybe even throw in some intermittent fasting and you will find that attaining the balance you seek, for all aspects of your life, was actually made easier by simply changing how you fuel yourself and what you put in your face-hole.

Exercise

This is normally our first thought when we consider getting healthy and finding our physical balance. It is a huge market and, yes, of course, full of BS and corruption. How many trends and “magic fixes” have you seen that took your money or your sanity?

Remember, in the absence of fancy programs or equipment, all you actually need is your body, some time, and movement to get in shape. Bodyweight exercises are some of the best, as they can be done anytime, anywhere, by anyone, and don’t put excess strain on our body. Which makes them a great place to start from.

Walking, jogging, and running are also easy to get into, even if you have to start slow and work up to full runs. Although, running, if done excessively can damage your knees and other joints, so change up your cardio and try not to do it too much. Sprinting is, in many ways, more efficient, especially if you do not have a lot of time. Try doing ten, 100m sprints, as fast as you can, and you will feel like you just ran 10 marathons.

Other ways you can work out to build muscle and other hormones, is the classic method of lifting weights. Personally I think the Russian methodology of “never going to your limit” is probably a healthier way to approach this type of exercise. I know many powerlifters out there will disagree, but, much like those who run all the time, the practice can eventually (and often rather quickly) wreck your body.

Yes, some people can run and lift super heavy their whole life without problems, but, remember, if we seek balance then using the outliers to measure ourselves may not be such a great idea. Most of us are in the middle of the bell curve on any given thing, and if we try to do what the outliers do, we may just wreck ourselves.

No matter how you choose to get physical, from running, to lifting, to the martial arts, you need to find something to do.

The importance is not what you do (although this does depend on your goals) but the fact you are doing it and doing it consistently.

Conclusion

If you eat poorly and don’t exercise, which is so many people these days (for example 40% of America is obese and the idea that it’s okay to be unhealthy is being pushed by pop-culture) just remember, you are not living a balanced physical life. Additionally, you will be prone to poor health and at higher risk of premature death.

Seeking balance means getting active and staying active by finding activities you actually enjoy doing. For example, I have enjoyed running and lifting for a while, but, in the long run, I don’t actually get that much enjoyment out of them. This is why I choose to train in the martial arts. However, for the sake of balance, I use the other activities to balance out my physical fitness the best I can, as that is the goal. Do what you enjoy most of the time, but supplement that with other, supportive activities, enough so that your body can stay healthy in a balanced way; not just cardio, not just strength, not just agility.

No matter what you do, stay active and eat properly, and don’t jump onto the next trend just because it’s what the media has told you to do. Look at the research, on all aspects of health and fitness, and you will see that the vast majority of health science points towards balanced diets and balanced exercise programs which involve activities that are enjoyable but also push you (without destroying you).

So what are you waiting for? Channel your inner Grey Jedi and start your journey towards physical balance. Correct your weaknesses and improve your strengths.

Written by Jonathan Fader

*I am not what you would call an “Expert” on these things as I do not have any letters after my name saying so. However, with direct access to those at the forefront of nutrition and health through the internet in many cases I (or you) may actually know enough to make informed and updated decisions.

A while ago, I wrote about taking control through training. What I was really talking about is achieving balance. Now, more than ever, Balance is what we need. In a world where it’s more important to “take a side” than to seek the truth, a world where it’s easier to believe what you are told rather than research it in depth from multiple sources. Now, more than ever, both as individuals and as a society, do we need to learn to take a more moderate approach.

 

Audio by Jonathan Fader

Enter the Jedi and the Sith. In the Star Wars universe, the Jedi are presented as the “good guys,” with the Sith as their polar opposite “bad guys.” This, of course, depends on who you ask.

The Jedi, disciplined warrior monks, claim to seek balance in the Force, yet their own moral superiority (among other things) blinded them to the quiet rise of the great Sith Lord Palpatine. If we look at the actions and beliefs of the different Force-user creeds, it could be said that the not so often spoken about Grey Jedi are actually the ones who seek balance.

(I am using the codes as in the photo though there are various versions.)

The Jedi Code is as follows:

“There is no emotion, there is PEACE. There is no ignorance, there is KNOWLEDGE. There is no passion, there is SERENITY. There is no chaos, there is HARMONY. There is no death, there is THE FORCE.”

Sounds nice right? So how did these warrior monks, bolstered by a set of seemingly simple guidelines, get so overwhelmed? Simple, they did not actually seek balance. Rather, they took a generalized, non-interference stance and planted themselves firmly on a “moral high-ground.” Even when asked or subtly manipulated they avoid getting involved in universal events. They assumed they were always correct and that their actions, as long as they are in line with their code, were beyond reproach. Can you relate? Maybe you can or maybe you can’t, but often this is the view we take of whatever group we have decided to latch onto, acting as though any other group might as well be the SITH.

The Sith Code is as follows:

“Peace is a lie, there is only PASSION. Through passion, I gain STRENGTH. Through strength, I gain POWER. Through Power, I gain VICTORY. Through victory, my chains are broken. THE FORCE, Shall free me.

Sounds ominous doesn’t it? Which is often how we view the Other. We assume someone or something we disagree with must only want to take power and control over us, to impose their ideals on us. While there is certainly truth in that regarding the nature of the Sith, their code is much more about personal growth than you may have realized.

This is part of the reason the Jedi failed; they became stagnant, unwilling to grow or change, the Sith, however, were adapting and changing, growing into better versions of themselves until they could strike.

Of course, it’s easy to demonize that which is the Other. But, if you really know Star Wars, then you know that not everyone thinks the Jedi are pure and innocent.

The problem with both of these creeds is that they do not actually seek balance, that which the Force (the universe) actually wants. The Jedi, much like many priestly sects, deny their true feelings and desires, and in doing so they deny the true nature of living. Their denial of what they truly are caused misstep after misstep because they were not using all the strengths they possessed, and refused to embrace their full potential.

The Sith, on the other hand, do not seek balance because they don’t deny any of their feelings. They don’t even try to control them. They unleash it all to try to bend the Force to their will. This, of course, leads to erratic and foolhardy acts. After all, there is a reason that there are not many Sith around at any one time. They all kill each other.

The irony of this is that, if you go too far in one direction they become one and the same. If you are too puritan, too ideological, then you may become so rigid and uncompromising that you find yourself eating your own (much like the Sith) because there is no balance to rein you in.

While the Jedi did not literally destroy themselves, their blind actions and/or inaction led to their downfall. But in a more real world sense, ask yourself: At what point does your group, based on strong beliefs and political ideology, come full circle and turn into the Other whom YOU though were the intolerant ones? When do the Jedi Become the Sith?

If you are honest, you will see it often throughout history.

The solution is true Balance; to control yourself and to embrace new ideas, to leverage the strength of both views and meet in the middle.

Enter the Grey Jedi!

Never heard of them? That’s because the movies don’t talk much about them but they were there (first mentioned in a comic and first seen in a video game).

They adhere to the following code:

“There is no light without the dark. Trough passion, I gain focus. Through knowledge, I gain power. Through serenity, I gain strength. Through victory, I gain harmony. There is only the force.”

Even on a quick read it is far more balanced. They embrace their true nature, while controlling and cultivating personal growth in the process., and they understand that the Force is something bigger and simply is.

The Grey Jedi tend to still be Jedi at heart, seeking peace and balance in the universe, but bending the code to allow for change and growth (in a balanced way).

It was, after all, a Grey Jedi who guaranteed the survival of the Jedi Order after most were gone. I am referring, of course, to Qui-Gon Jinn, who was the one who discovered the secret of life after death, despite the fact this is not something the Jedi would do. This allowed Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi to continue guiding those who came after them, keeping the Jedi alive.

So it is balance which we all, deep down, seek. Yet it is the hardest thing to do because we either define ourselves by rigid rules or labels that (we feel) cannot be broken, or we allow our emotions to overwhelm us. Both are disastrous in the long run. Any change is difficult due to the required self-reflection (you aren’t always right!), and the realistic assessment of your beliefs, behaviours, and choices (you can’t party ALL the time). Achieving balance is the hardest task many of us will ever face.

So most don’t.

Start by asking yourself: Am I truly seeking balance within myself? In my political opinions? In my religious beliefs? Am I being restricted by unbending rigidity, or losing myself in uncontrollable emotions?

No matter what path you take, if you are truly honest with yourself, then you will be on the first step on the journey towards balance, a mental and emotional stability which will help you find the peace and serenity that you seek.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

Choosing the wrong training partner could have disastrous consequences (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader w/additions

Recently, we have been doing a series on injury in martial arts, from the emotional aspect to recovery. In this one we are going to discuss one way to help in preventing injuries.

That is learning to pick the right partner.

The reason for this is the right partner can make your training experience even better, whereas the wrong partner can make injuries can happen. In Krav Maga and other martial arts there is phenomenon referred to as the “spastic white belt”. These are individuals who are chaotic in their movements or they are much bigger than others and try to muscle through everything (even if they do not know it the technique). This odd species of new student is common in any gym, and, while it is ultimately the instructor’s job to manage them, you have to watch out for them and know how to protect yourself. You are, after all, an adult; thus you can make adult decisions.

This means, when it comes time to pick a partner, know who you would like to be with to optimize your training.

Of course, if you are new then the Instructor should be assigning you a more experienced student to work with, in order to help guide you in the process. Although sometimes it’s simply the luck of the draw, as the instructor has no control over who shows up to any one class.

Beyond that, when an instructor says “find a partner” that’s when you need to act swiftly to pair with a person (or persons) who you know you can train effectively with. Often what happens when the students are told to get a partner everyone kind of looks around and waits, but this is how you often end up being “picked last,” and getting stuck with someone you, and everyone else, didn’t want to be with.

If you are lucky the instructor will be on point and notice your discomfort, or they don’t like the pairing, due to size or skill, and will change it for you. However, once again, you are an adult and there is only one instructor, so partner picking really becomes about ownership and taking responsibility for this very important task.

What things should you consider:

  1. Have you trained with them before? – This sounds obvious but it isn’t always. If you have trained with someone before and you are comfortable with them, then try to partner with them quickly. Or if you have trained with someone before and you didn’t enjoy it then try to avoid them (as politely as possible). Of course, if there is a big issue or a valid concern, make sure to talk to your instructor. In general, you want to partner with people you are comfortable with, so that you are relaxed and focused while learning, and therefore can train properly.
  2. Have you seen them training before? – If you have not trained with a person, then have you seen them train with others? If not, then ask yourself “were you practicing proper situational awareness?” If you were, then you should have some idea if they are a good option for you based on their actions, and the reactions of their past partners.
  3. Is their size and skill appropriate to the drill? – Unless the instructor has specifically asked you to train with someone much larger than you, then, especially as a beginner, it might be better to partner with someone who isn’t too big or too small. For some activities, like holding pads, size and skill won’t matter as much (unless they are a heavy weight, in which case it might not matter who holds the pads, it still hurts). Other techniques, like bear hugs or grabs, will be difficult at first if the person is to big and strong compared to you. When you are starting out you need to get the technical aspects down first before you can “go ham” with full aggression.
  4. Do they have a “reputation” at the school? – Have you heard people complain about this person’s power control? Have you been warned to watch out for them in certain context, eg. sparring? Are they known for going to hard or not following drills correctly? Forewarned is forearmed! Some people may be great to drill with, but in sparring they can’t control their power, some just don’t get the basics of holding pads. In any case, bring it to the attention of the instructor if the situation doesn’t improve or is dangerous.

Of course, at the end of the day, some people just need a bit of work and help to be good partners. Most people don’t want to do things wrong, and they certainly don’t want to earn the title “spastic white belt” and become pariahs in their gym. It could be that a few minutes before or after class is all it takes to clue someone in about how to hold pads, why a drill flows a certain way, or how to figure out pulling punches/kicks. Helping someone improve, or informing them of something they didn’t realize they were doing incorrectly will benefit them, you, and the rest of the students. While this is largely up to the instructor, again, if you are an adult, working on your communication skills with your training partners is important. It is, after all, a very important aspect of stage 1 and 2 self-defence.

Either way, mastering the art of picking a partner and/or building your partners up is more important than you think. After all, without good training partners you will not develop at the rate you want. Or worse, injury might be in your future if you pick the wrong partner. So, think hard, communicate effectively, learn to spot those who work for you as a partner, and get to them quickly for training.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

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

Most attackers are known to you, in domestic abuse they are likely repeat offences. (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

Last week I wrote the article, “If you were attacked, was it your fault?” Though it shouldn’t be, it is quite a controversial concept, as who wants to take responsibility, even partially, for being attacked? Usually no one. We tend to prefer our understanding of things from to be binary, we apply a black and white perspective to some categories, yet often, and simultaneously, we adhere to a belief in “grey areas” and “a spectrum” for others. The thing is, you have to pick; in reality most occurrences fit the bell curve model and are not so black and white. Ideally, all events in our lives should be analyzed case by case, but this is an energy intensive way of looking at the world (mentally and emotionally), so, as we are human and prefer easy answers, we apply blanket logic, even when it is the most inappropriate.

That being said, when you are mugged, robbed, or otherwise attacked by a stranger, it is considerably more black and white than when you are attacked by someone you know. As martial artists we often focus only on the former, even though most of the time it is actually the latter that is a problem. One Glasgow University study found that, of the 991 sexual assault victims they interviewed, almost 90% knew their attacker (with only 9% being victimized by strangers).

One of the reasons we don’t talk about it openly, on average, is because it’s difficult, messy, emotionally charged, and so grey (full of various shades) that it is like being colour blind and then trying to tell the difference between red and green.

Yet, as a self-defence instructor, both in my personal and professional life I have encountered many, many, many individuals who have experienced any combination of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Yes, it is mostly women who have lived through these scenarios, but I have also met men who have had such experiences.

As a society, while some people are willing discuss “violence within social circles,” family violence, or partner abuse (often politicized), the general attitude is to pretend like everything is alright, when, if you know where to find it, you can witness the worst of humanity.

To emphasize this point I would like to relate an experience I had dealing with “hoarder houses.” No, not some TV show, but rather what I have actually seen while working for company that handled large scale junk removal. Much to my surprise, extreme examples exist in an area like Metro Vancouver. In fact, they were far more numerous than one would think, and often these houses looked no different then the ones next to them, from the outside. One of the most unfortunately memorable and disturbing cases was a home in which a man, who was clearly a heroin junkie and single father with several kids. Our best guess, based on the conditions we encountered and the items we removed, was that this individual routinely locked his children under the stairs, in cages, leaving them to defecate in yogurt bottles while he got high.

Yes, you read that right.

Abuses by family or friends are very much like these hoarder houses; individuals, both victims and abusers, often go to great lengths to hide the fact that it is happening. This could be due to fear, shame, misguided loyalty, or any of various other reasons why silence occurs. One thing I know for sure is that in most cases society fails to reasonably deal with these horrible situations.

For adults, getting out could mean losing financial stability, shelter, and social support from friends and family. For children, it is far more complicated.

Of the abuse victims I have met, several have admitted privately that they “didn’t say anything” because they did not want it to break the family apart. For others it’s simply shame and fear of judgement. The responsibility to protect yourself, however complex the situation may be, is more on the victims themselves (and, yes, I understand the psychology involved is also quite grey).

When it comes to children the fault is primarily on the “responsible adults” in their lives, the ones who are often choosing to ignore the obvious signs of abuse.

Regarding adults, an example I encountered in my own life was a friend I had long ago. They regularly made bad decisions, even though they knew it was bad (they had a pathological case of cognitive dissonance). One time, late at night, they called me asking me to pick them up because their partner was being abusive. I showed up, and as they were walking to the car their partner started sprinting toward the vehicle. I pulled a move that I wish I had filmed. As I opened the passenger door, grabbed their hand, pulled them into the vehicle. I sped forward and did a 180, while their partner was punching the driver’s side window so hard they left bloody knuckle marks. My friend called the police and they asked if we wanted to press charges. My friend did not. (I could have, and I honestly don’t recall why I did’t.)

Later that night my friend asked me to take them back…

They were out and could have easily chosen to leave permanently.

One month later, their partner was stabbed and killed in a fight (after pulling their own knife in a struggle). The newspapers reported “what a saint this guy was” on account of him being a volunteer firefighter, and his mother couldn’t understand why her “lovely son” died. Except, I, like others, knew the truth. They ignored the fact that he was violent, had a criminal record, and was, quite frankly, a piece of shit.

When it comes to children it’s even more complicated, largely on account of what happens when it is deemed that they should be removed from their parents or guardians due to abuse. Well, they often end up in “the system”, a Child Welfare system in which in many cases is worse for the child than their own home. Yes, the home in which they were being abused.

Horrible, I know. The reality is, with kids or adults, one of the best things you can do is try to offer them sanctuary and, if possible with kids, try to gain some form of guardianship. Of course, “the system” doesn’t make this easy either.

If at this point you are having difficulty reading this, it is okay. It’s a dark subject (and I am barely even scratching the surface). Yet, while the world is currently the best place it has ever been to live (ignore the fear-mongering), there is still evil and darkness out there, even close to home.

We as a society have a tendency to only focus on that which can be politicized rather than that which is obviously wrong with what we have built. The simplest thing we can do is help those in our lives who may be at risk; by doing whatever you can. Whether that means paying for their self-defence lessons, providing them with shelter, or giving them financial support, you can do more than you think. Whatever you decide, know that you are probably better help than the system.

The government and the justice system have completely failed on this matter, at least in the West. In other countries there isn’t even a system to help those who are or would be abused.

For many the world is better than ever, for others it is still a nightmare.

When we talk about these topics we must be honest and not jump on one-liners, slogans, or broad statements. It must be case by case, requiring sincere consideration.

If you know someone, female, male, or other, adult or child, who you think is being abused, ask yourself, “What can you do to help?”

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

The divisions and reasons behind conflict are not always a clear as they seem (source)
Audio by: Jonathan Fader

Once again, another major event has occurred that has caused global issues, albeit more centered in North America. Yes, I’m referring to the death of George Floyd by Officer Derek Chauvin, which has sparked mass protests, both violent and peaceful. (These protests, by the way, are clearly in violation of Covid restrictions; something that, it seems, some people have already forgotten.) A month ago protests were seen as disgraceful and disrespectful but now such gatherings are justifiable, because the cause is just. Because, of course, this is a black vs white issue right?

Wrong.

The attitude that allowed former officer Chauvin to stay on the force is the attitude that is going on now. The fact that laws, standards, and morals are almost never applied equally, and justifications for one thing over another will always shift to suit your beliefs, or that of the general narrative that you support. The real problem is that, consistently and with out fail, standards and rules are never applied equally; not just in the government but also in your own world views.

Example: You took the stance that anyone violating lock-down was selfish and foolish. But you now believe that it is okay to gather en mass to protest the death of George Floyd. This indicates that you are okay with mass gatherings only if you agree with the cause. This is a failure to apply a belief equally. It was NOT okay for governments to destroy businesses via lock-down and it was NOT okay that George Floyd died in such a manner. In both cases injustice was done, but your stance changed because of your belief system.

Let me take a step back for a second and talk about the event in question.

First of all, let me be clear, what happened to George Floyd was a disgrace and unacceptable. The officer had numerous complaints related to similar behaviour over the years, and should never have been allowed to continue on the force. The failure of law enforcement agencies to apply the law equally to themselves is the problem here! (Just like when politicians break the law and are not held accountable.) This is the underlying problem and has less to do with Black and White than it does with flawed systems. Why do I say that? Well, it is simple: There were other officers present who were not white, yet they did nothing.

This is probably because of what psychology calls “in-group favouritism” (or “in-group–out-group bias”). Meaning that, though the other officers may see something wrong, most will not do or say anything because they want to protect their group (the police) and not the outsider (the suspect).

Additionally, there are cases in which black police officers abuse their power, yet you don’t hear much about it. A recent example can be found here (a little research turns up many more), albeit this example did not end nearly as badly. But in our modern culture, if you don’t hear about it, it doesn’t exist right?

SIDE NOTE: As someone who teaches use of force the knee on the neck is a perfectly legitimate and necessary technique to control those who are resisting. George Floyd was NOT resisting, so it was not the appropriate technique. If you do use it, it should only be for a short period to elicit compliance. It must be used appropriately and requires appropriate training! It is, in my opinion, a very necessary technique. Unfortunately, due to lack of training and a general dislike of the technique (due to misconceptions) it is often not allowed even where it may be appropriate. With training, this technique can be applied with control, in fact, I had to use it at a party once, after several drinks, to subdue someone for a lengthy period of time. Of course, I controlled my pressure appropriately, and even after 20 minutes the would-be aggressor was fine. If I am able to safely employ that technique for a long duration, while intoxicated, how is it that so many police officers fail to? That is the question you should ask yourself.

So let’s address the issue of the “bad apples.” In the police or military there are always individuals who met the entry requirements but who should not be there; yet they are often allowed to stay. In-group favouritism is certainly one aspect, but it might actually be something more simple.

To explain, I will tell another one of my stories! YAY!

When I was in the military, my infantry unit was tasked with arresting a high profile target known for weapons smuggling. He was notorious for running to evade capture. The target was so high profile that special forces were suppose to pick him up, yet we were the only unit available. After briefing and prepping we ended up waiting hours and hours and hours to get the command to go. We ended up going at 2am or 3am the morning after our day of prepping. This means we were all exhausted. We did arrest the target, without resistance, and he was placed in our armored car. As per IDF prisoner transport procedures he was handcuffed and blindfolded. At some point a fellow soldier, whom I had great distaste for, began to strike our helpless captive. I told him to stop, and it got quite heated; this individual saw no problem with his actions, but I did. Most other soldiers were passed out from exhaustion, including the commanders in the front. The commotion of our argument lead to the commanding officer telling this individual he must stop, as his actions were unacceptable. The solider in question was kicked out of combat. Three months later, I heard that he was being let back in. I went to the Battalion Commander and protested his reinstatement. I was told that he was being let back in because they were “short staffed and needed more soldiers.” This is the crux of the problem in the military and police: There are never enough people or resources to keep the good ones in.

So who’s fault is this? Why, the public of course! In North America first-responders are often the first to have their funding cut (this includes paramedics and firefighters), as a result they are often under-trained and poorly paid. We all know it, yet no one does anything about it. Politicians continue to cut training, over work them, and allow SHIT HEADS to stay simply because they need the bodies.

While I am not an expert on US policing, I can say that, without a doubt, the standards of US policing in many counties and cities is not great. One of the reasons could be because they don’t want capable people in the police, as suggested by a court ruling saying you can actually be too smart to be a police officer. This is common, as they want people who don’t rock the boat. In addition, it is common to see out-of-shape or fat officers, something which I think should not be allowed whatsoever.

In Canada, while our standards are much better, the standard of training is also quite shameful. I have talked to many officers who say they do not feel they are properly trained in use-of-force or even in shooting tactics. They are often required to train in their free time and pay out-of-pocket to do so. Furthermore, many feel that learning something not approved by the force will get them into trouble, even if they recognize that techniques and tactics being taught on the force are out of date.

So, how do we fix this problem? Simple. Demand from our politicians that they stop overworking first-responders, stop underpaying them, and train them properly. BUT, with the condition that they maintain high standards in order to attract only the best applicants.

With that being said, most officers are good people, as can be seen in many cases in the US where the police choose to kneel or peacefully interact with protesters. Which shows that perhaps the belief that “all police are bad” is wrong, and rather the system they operate in is deeply flawed as it is being run by those who are more “politician” than “expert on good policing.”

As this is one of the biggest problems with policing, I find it difficult to say it’s simply a matter of Black vs White. Why do I say that? In general there are more non-Black deaths by police then Black, and often this involves Black, White, Asian, or Hispanic officers. An example can be shown in these stats breaking down police shootings by race for the last few years. This, of course, does not include deaths as a result of the use of unarmed force, but it is likely those numbers would show something similar.

Would it not stand to reason, then, that the biggest issue is not race, but poor training, poor support, and the continued allowance, by politicians and justices, to keep shit head police on the force? (Recognizing that the officer involved in the death of George Floyd was likely a racist, as indicated by his history of complaints, to then assert that all death-by-cops is due to racism is a stretch.)

Additionally, if you would like to pretend like the majority of violent crimes are not committed by the same groups of people in any given country, then you are not being truthful. Unfortunately, in America a large percentage of violent crimes are committed in/by the Black community, just as in Canada they are committed in/by the Native communities. These of course are very unfortunate realities, often resultant from to lower socioeconomic status and poor education, which as fellow humans we should seek to rectify (these are complex issues!) If you think addressing problem at all is itself racist, then I am not sure you are someone who actually wants to solve the problems; rather you want to virtue signal to make yourself look good to the Internet mobs.

If you are not sure what I mean by addressing the issues meaningfully, I suggest you listen to the recent Joe Rogan podcast with Kevin Hart (Kevin Hart being one of America’s most successful Black entertainers today and someone worthy of great admiration and respect). To paraphrase Kevin, in an attempt to help the Black community he partnered with J.P. Morgan Chase to help educate Black communities in financial literacy. (Which is a FANTASTIC idea is actually a step toward solving a systemic problem.) Rather than pretending that it’s “all the white man’s fault”, Kevin Hart is offering up a meaningful and realistic solution.

So, let’s talk about the violent protests. I am sorry, but this kind of violence and destruction is unacceptable, no matter your stance. The reasons is simple: Destroying your own communities, your neighbours’ businesses, and generally upending everything around you, is not a healthy use of the anger and will only harm you and your community in the process. I do fully acknowledge that there are many “bad actors” at play, from ANTIFA to gangs to, yes, actual racists looking to insight violence. These groups should face the full wrath of the law, just as the four police officers involved in George Floyd’s death should. It’s disgraceful when people who are looking to cause mayhem and destruction detract from a just cause!

If you are sitting here, as a white person, saying “it’s justifiable” then why are so many Black leaders, or successful people who are not being political, in general calling out for peaceful resolutions:

(twitter.com)

Another issue I would like to addess is this idea of “white guilt.” Personally, I don’t understand it. If you did nothing wrong, why are you feeling guilty? I mean, as per my above statements, the only thing you did wrong is to allow politicians to run subpar police forces. Yelling about it without solutions is not a solution to that problem! How about another story: A while ago I took a “Psychology of Genocide” course as part of my degree. We had several Holocaust survivors come in to speak with the class. A question was asked about forgiveness of the Germans of today. For me, as a Jew, the answer given was one I had heard before: “There is nothing to forgive.” What the speaker actually means by this is that the grandchildren of the Nazis did not do anything wrong, so why should anyone forgive someone for something they didn’t do? The class seemed to interpret this as “Wow, these people are so empathetic and forgiving.” The truth is, in most cases they definitely would not be forgiving the individuals who were the Nazis who tortured them. Contrast this with the Rwandan Genocide survivor who also spoke, who was “less forgiving” because many of the people who committed that atrocity were still alive. Do you see the difference?

This idea that you need forgiveness for something you did not do is a waste of your emotional energy. Instead, why not put that same energy into making the police better, and increasing education in these communities like Kevin Hart is. Because, I am sorry, feeling guilty and saying it’s okay for entire communities to destroy themselves is shameful and not a real answer.

Okay, so, if I have not offended you to the point that you stopped reading long ago, I hope that I have given you several ideas to consider. The simple fact, is that things are never Black and White. Yes, there are racists out there. And, no, White people are not the only racists, so stop with that nonsense. But here’s the deal; whether you are Liberal or Conservative (Canada), Democrat or Republican (US) the fact is, whether you realize it or not, everyone agrees one way or another that the status quo system isn’t working! Rather than stoking violence and hate, why not educate yourself on how things actually work, or what actually happened, before jumping on the social media mobs. Actually attempt to make a difference through a vote that results in a policy shift.

Police need better training. The standards of officers MUST be higher so that these types of incidents never happen. And some communities need help with education and poverty, allowing them to lift up their people so that problems are solved at their source. If we make it about race these issues will not be addressed and problems will not be solved, because hate and frustration will drive the conversation instead of a desire for change.

So I ask, are you going to do something meaningful or are you just going to rage tweet, post, rage smash, and hate?

PS. Can you see now that the main stream media is only interested in spreading hate and violence? They are no longer here to bring you news, but to entice you to click and comment; paying their bills so they can continue this vicious cycle. (See Killer Mike, above, telling CNN that “Karma’s a ‘mother’.”)

Written by: Jonathan Fader

A healthy immune system can stop problems before they start. (pixabay.com)

Unless you have been living in a cave, in a jungle, you will be aware that the world is experiencing something different. Yes, Covid-19, certainly different… yet oddly familiar. You may also be very frustrated by the fact you are having difficulty assessing what is true and not true with regard to this virus. They say “listen to the experts,” but then change their minds because they did not actually know enough initially, at least on policy, to make fully informed decisions. But I am not writing today to debate this, rather I wish to talk about something I do know for sure.

Covid has shown that when it comes to potential death, or the loss of life of loved ones, humans will act to avoid this at all cost. Our fear of the unknown, or more specifically our fear of death, is so deeply ingrained in our psyche that it, along with bad or confusing advice, will cause mass panic.

There are things we can prepare for in life, and things we cannot. When it comes to Covid, or any virus for that matter, it’s actually a bit misleading to say we cannot prepare for such things, because we can.

As an individual the best course of action to prevent a premature death is be healthy; stay active and keep an eye on your dietary choices. For the average person this means that your best bet, in general, to avoid a premature death (aside from accidents) is to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and nutritionally, so that your immune system is as strong as it can be to fight off any would-be invaders.

I have written about this topic before, stating that eating well and staying active is the best place to start, but maintaining good nutrition also means ensuring your body is getting everything it needs.

If I walk into a doctor’s office seeking nutrition advice, they may just provide generic information that might not suit me. Yet there is one thing you can do for sure; make sure you eat your greens and take your vitamins (the ones you actually need, not the ones the guy in the store said to buy.)

So, how do you start? Well, the easiest additions are the vitamins and minerals that have consistently been shown, across numerous studies, to be good for you. These would be things like Vitamin C, D, Iron, etc.. And, NO, these will NOT cure Covid, but what nutrients like these will do is help your body to be in better shape to fight off any virus; so you can worry a little less about “premature death due to health issues.”

FACT: For Covid, the largest at risk group are those considered “elderly” (average 65+). See the death rates for these ages groups, also the devastating spread when Covid gets into “old folks homes.” For those who are younger, the number one risk factor is obesity (ie. being unhealthy.)

So, other than avoiding ageing (which, so far, we cannot) your best bet for the current, or next, pandemic, because there WILL be one, is to consider these questions:

Beyond this, optimizing your body through nutrition can be complicated; requiring a variety of tests, trial and error, and money (supplements are expensive.)

Most of us should start with a good, balanced diet plan, but some of us may need a boost for whatever reason (unfortunately, some will find they have bodies that don’t like to play nice, refusing to absorb nutrients correctly.)

Vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is water soluble (you just pee out the excess), it is a modest immune booster, it is readily available, and it is cheap (this is why i say it’s a great place to start)

Vitamin D, ergocalciferol (D2) and cholecalciferol (D3), is often considered a “happy drug” as it can impact mood (the sun feels good!) and is very useful for general health regulation. In a place like Vancouver it is quite common to have lower than ideal levels of Vitamin D (plus high levels of seasonal depression). However, in a place like California you may get enough by just being out doors. One thing to remember is you CAN take too much Vitamin D, so be careful and look into testing your levels first.

Iron deficiency is common for a variety of reasons, especially in women. It can lead to a weakened or anemic body, which in turn will mean a reduced immune system. One of my students said the best way to see if you have low iron is to donate blood, because they test for free and will let you know (a nice perk for helping save lives). Though direct Iron testing is readily available, simple, and important. You might not even need to take supplements, it may be a simple matter of adding more protein to your diet.

The last thing that can really help your immune system prepare to fight attacks is managing your stress levels. The easiest way to do this is to make sure you are getting enough sleep. While some 2.5% of the population hit the genetic lottery, requiring 4-6 hours of sleep a night, most of us “normal” people need a solid 8-10. The amount of research on sleep impacting immunity is so extensive it really is no longer theory but rather fact.

I am not an expert on these things (probably one of the most used words these days after “Covid,” and “stay home”), but I am someone who has investigated these topics myself, through primary sources rather than the mainstream media. BUT I understand how daunting navigation of health and nutrition information can be considering all of the conflicting data.

This is why I presented the most basic, cheapest, and easiest way to start, that is also backed by more studies than I care to read.

So, in preparing for the next pandemic, rather than running in fear and panicking, ask yourself “have I optimized my body so that it has the strongest immune system it can have?” Or are you just sitting around waiting to be told what to do when it is too late?

Be honest…

Written by: Jonathan Fader

Editor: Corey Owens

P.S. There are many other basic supplements that you may want to consider but we thought it would be best to keep it simple for now…