Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audio by Jonathan Fader

OK this is the LAST ONE! I promise…for a while. This is the third in a series I like to call “What Pokémon Taught Me.” The first being “What Pokémon Taught Me About Losing“, and the second being “What Pokémon Taught Me About Being OK With Who I Am.

When I was young, I was out of shape and overweight. Eating properly wasn’t a foreign concept in my house growing up, but, based on my knowledge now I can say it really wasn’t put into practice. In the ’90s it was very common and acceptable to eat a lot of prepackaged, sugary snacks, because they were cheap and easy for parents; as, in that decade more than ever, it was common to see households with two working parents.

At one point one, I’m not certain what age, the most frequent meal I ate was macaroni and cheese (YES IT’S DELICIOUS, BUT SO BAD) and several cans of Coca-Cola. Kids can be mean, and, of course, I was always seen as that chubby kid. I was by no means obese, but carried enough extra weight for it to be noticeable. In 8th grade I made a mental shift; I stopped eating so poorly. Though my eating habits weren’t perfect, I still ate crappy school cafeteria burgers, I did manage to stop drinking Coke for several years. BUT, some improvement is better than nothing. I also spent that Summer working out every day. The difference was noticeable, I felt good and I was happy.

This change came from within, not from an example set at home (I often wonder where it came from). Now I am not saying it came from POKEMON, but I am also not saying the opposite. On this one though I think it might have actually come from Pokémon. In September of 1998, when I started grade 6, the series came out on TV in North America. At the end of grade 8 it would have been 2001, which means I was exposed to the Pokémon tv show three years at that point. Which, if memory serves, might have been one of the few shows I watched that actively discussed nutrition in it’s content, albeit casually.

You see, in order to be a good pokémon trainer (the thing I really wanted to be, but knew I couldn’t), you needed strong pokémon. This meant eating well and training hard. The training component is obviously the main component of the show, but as early as the first season Pewter City Gym leader Brock, a friend of the series’ protagonist Ash, regularly discusses the fact that what you feed your pokémon makes them stronger.

While some pokémon do not want to evolve to their next form (see previous post). The ones that do will first need to be strengthened through training and nutrition (unless of course they need an “evolution stone,” which is fine, some people need a little external help sometimes too.) This means that to be the best version of your pokémon-self you can be, you must eat the proper food and train regularly. This message, it seems, got into me, and after enough exposure it clearly clicked in my head.

So, as mentioned, at the MINIMUM I cut out the foods I knew were not great for me. I still did not know how to cook (which makes a HUGE difference), but I was still making progress in a positive direction. Later, when I was getting ready for the Army, many years ago, I started taking meal plans a little more seriously. In addition to continuing my regular training.

Just like a pokémon, you need to be fairly consistent with your diet and exercise in order to grow stronger and healthier. Of course, as with pokémon, your training and “battling” needs to become a lifestyle. Doing something you hate will not be a happy process, which means it is likely to fail. While you may realize, logically and rationally, that you need to change your diet and exercise regime (which should be obvious if what you have been doing isn’t getting you what you want), it also needs to be enjoyable.

This is why even in pokémon you see them eating sweets sometimes, but usually they are eating fruits, vegetables, and “pokémon food” designed specifically for them. Make the new routine enjoyable, and you will be more likely to stick to it.

I think you get the point. If you want to be heathier and happier (in most cases a scientific connection), then you need to make smart dietary and physical choices, to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

So, channel your inner pokémon, whether it’s Pikachu, Magmar, or Articuno, and make the changes you need today.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

Yes, it’s another Pokémon related post. (It’s not likely to be the last.)

Pikachu’s electrifying personality (source)
Audio by Jonathan Fader

I have always had an unusually rational and explainable confidence (though it’s origin remains unknown): Just DO things. Now, I am not saying it came from Pokémon, but, I am not saying it did’t come from Pokémon. One thing is for sure; I have always stood out as someone a little different. Maybe it’s a bad case of cognitive dissonance or maybe it was my love for Pokémon. Who knows?!

One thing for sure though, having confidence in oneself, who you are and your abilities, can go a long way in life. It’s not for the benefit of other people, it’s for ourselves, and how we view ourselves internally.

In Pokémon, protaginist “Ash Ketchum” has an unusual characteristic; he never forces, or even encourages, his pokémon to evolve into their higher forms. In the most famous example, his pikachu was offered the chance to evolve into a Raichu early on, using an item called a “Thunder Stone.” Most trainers would jump at the chance, because isn’t the more evolved form stronger and, therefore, better? Well, Ash and, more importantly, Pikachu did not think so. (It should be considered, though, that this may have been a marketing-based plot decision, as Raichu isn’t as “cute” as Pikachu and might have hurt the series’ brand, considering Pikachu was, and still is, the face of the series.)

For whatever reason, Pikachu decided he did not want to change for the sake of others; he was comfortable with who he was. Later in the series it was the same case for Ash’s Bulbasaur. It was captured by other Bulbasaurs and taken to the secretive “evolution ceremony.” Ash’s Bulbasaur decided, despite all his peers evolving, not to evolve again; he, like Pikachu, was comfortable with who he was. As it turns out, they both developed into stronger versions of themselves internally, becoming strong leaders in their own rights, despite not evolving into more powerful creatures.

While at the time I did not think much of it, hindsight often allows us to see where we might have learned lessons that were not directly taught to us. In today’s world there is increased pressure to conform to the narrative of society or our peers. Similarly, society told Ash to evolve Pikachu and peers told Bulbasaur to evolve. In both cases they were confident and comfortable with who they were, which afforded them the self-assured mindset to become the best versions of themselves whether or not they later choose to evolve.

While you should always be the best version of yourself, that does not always mean the version other people want you to be. This DOES NOT mean you don’t ever have to change! It just means that how you view yourself is one of the most important aspects of personal happiness (or personal destruction): it will inform your confidence (or contribute to a lack thereof) and inspire (or deter) your ability to be comfortable with yourself, and therefore your ability to experience strong growth.

So long as who you choose to be, and how you see yourself, is not destructive, dangerous, or extremely disruptive to the health, safety, and well-being of others, then you should be who you want to be and you should let yourself be happy with it.

Of course, if you are not happy with what you see in the mirror, or in your thoughts and actions, then you always have the power to change into what you want. In other words, you can choose to “evolve,” as is common when most pokémon are ready to change; either because they want to for personal reasons, because they have decided it would be in the best interest of their team’s success. Regardless of the motivation, the change is a choice to take action.

So, whether you want to be something else, or you want to be what you are, if you view yourself in a positive light you will have a much fuller, happier life.

What are you waiting for? Channel the confidence of Pikachu today, and be the best version of yourself that you can; so that you too can electrify the world around you.

Written by: Jonathan Fader

This is the third part in a series titled Self-Defence is Not Just Physical.

Many interconnected factors contribute to a mental health breakdown. Defend yourself by taking action!
Audio by Jonathan Fader with additions

Out of all the topics covered in this series, this is the one I have the most formal education in. While my experience isn’t enough for me to claim to be an “expert,” it does provide me with insight on the topic of mental health. What I can say for certain is that in the area of mental health there is often a lot of “noise;” there are good studies and there are bad studies, and then there is everything in between.

One thing I learned early in the Psychology field is that, what is considered acceptable in a study isn’t necessarily appropriate to apply directly to the general population or to inform understandings across multiple cultures. I also learned that there are massive divides running through the world of psychology, as various schools of thought and areas of focus often do not get a long.

“…[T]here are also deep uncertainties in the field itself. Psychiatrists have no blood tests or brain scans to diagnose mental disorders. They have to make judgments, based on interviews and checklists of symptoms.” (Benedict Carey, “What’s Wrong With a Child? Psychiatrists Often Disagree,” The Washington Post, Nov. 11, 2006)

Ultimately, Psychology, while it is considered the science of the mind and behaviour, is not an exact science. The often referenced checklists of symptoms are typically based on the information provided in the much debated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)

More often than not, these complications make finding good advice for mental health difficult, especially if you are in the “thick brown soup” (so called by Safi Bahcall on the Tim Ferris Show) that can be a mental health episode.

So let’s forget any formal training or education I’ve have had, but rather focus on the fact that I have personally dealt with mental health issues; in the form of Clinical Depression, from both nature (family genetics) and nurture (learned behaviors and crappy adolescence) components. Of which I feel I have mostly cured myself, with little help or support from the few close people I had in my life (which makes it even harder). So trust me when I say I understand, even if you get the impression that I am insensitive to your mental health plight.

Throughout my life I have also had friends and acquaintances who have experienced various states of a variety of mental health issues, such as Severe Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Manic and Clinical Depression, PTSD, and much more. I have been exposed to such individuals simply by virtue of not living a sheltered life, and by recognizing that, perhaps, the saying “birds of a feather flock together” has some truth to it. For those who had both decent genetics and stable upbringings with good role models, in my experience, these people often struggle to deal with those who have mental health issues; often due to prevalent social stigma causing those with mental health issues to perhaps be naturally drawn (pushed?) to each other. This, of course, results in a history of rather interesting, albeit difficult, personal relations.

Merely two paragraphs ago I mentioned that I often come off as insensitive to those who have mental health issues, but, really it’s about my understanding of a simple fact:

If you, with all of the mental burdens you are feeling, want to get better, there is only one person who can truly help you get better…

You!

It’s a harsh reality to accept, especially if you are struggling. Medication (which I took for a few years and it did help me) or counselling (which I also dabbled with) will do nothing for you if you don’t do the work to change how you think and how you live your life. (Outside intervention may even be re-enforcing the way you think and feel.)

Much like addicts, the story we like to tell ourselves is that no one understands. Even when we meet other people with similar problems, if not identical, we still like to say things like; “But you don’t really understand,” “My situation is worse,” “You can change, I can’t.” A topic by the way recently discussed by Doctor Drew on the Podcast The Fighter and the Kid, so don’t just take it from me, take it from an addictions expert.

While, yes, there are extreme cases, most of the time you are no different than that other person experiencing the same thing. The cause or specifics may be different, but the feeling is the same. There is a reason after all, those people experiencing the same mental health problems often have very similar brain scans. Because, fundamentally, in your brain it’s the same problem.

This means that once you can get over yourself, and realize you want to get better, you are likely already halfway down the path to a happier life. The next step is getting off the couch and doing something about it.

Medication

I figured starting here is a good place since its probably one of the more controversial topics. Generally I operate on the “bell curve” model for most things. Some people who have mental health issues serious enough to need help may need to be on medication indefinitely, lets say 5-10%, some people may never need medication, lets also say 5-10% and then everyone else falls into some kind of spectrum (dependent on many factors).

Let’s start with something very important first. For most people, the first thing you do in a mental health episode/crisis is to contact a doctor, whether they be a General Practitioner (GP) or a walk-in clinic. Therefore, it is likely that the first person you will interact with only understands mental health in a general sense. Furthermore, they may not be able to consider the larger context of your life or specifics of your particular situation.

In general most GP’s and the like only have one tool: Medication. In my opinion, pills are often over-prescribed and should rarely be the first course of action. It is, however, the easy route, even though it is really not the best place to start. A reminder though; some people do require medication, even if its only for a short time. But, in general, long term use is not advised in most cases (again, in my opinion).

The reason I say this is a simple one: Sometimes the factors causing a mental illness or episode are very much environmental factors, such as a horrible job, terrible home life, a death in the family, or lack of social skills. Doctors rarely have the time to truly dive into your life to figure out if it’s a non-biological factor that is causing your distress. You may not even know! People like to lie to themselves about the situation they are in, and it can take weeks or months for people to open up and be honest.

Questions you should ask yourself are; “Can a find a different job,” “am I able to change my living conditions,” or “is there a family history of this issue” (even an undiagnosed one). This should always be the place to start.

Often this means deep and difficult discussions with yourself, which may result in requiring serious, and also difficult, life changes. This is why medication is often the route people take. Because it’s easier.

For the record, I was on Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) for about two years, and for me it was a great help because I finally started to understand what people were talking about when they said “just be happy.” My mind literally had no frame of reference, internally, for this notion, and I simply couldn’t understand. This is why, in my case, where there is clearly a family history, it was hard for me. Being on medication really helped me gain the basic framework from which to start building the internal/external skills to cope and change how my mind worked. But I knew being on SSRIs long term wasn’t great, as they do have drawbacks; I was lucky they only made me feel fatigued and robotic. Weirdly enough, the latter helped me socially, as I was “more likable” because I was less emotional or reactive. People liked the toned down version, but for me it really wasn’t a long term option, so I slowly weened myself off SSRIs after about 2 years (which was it’s own struggle).

Anyway, it can’t be overstated that a doctor whose first response is to give medication, without proper follow ups and a significant look into your life and context, in my opinion, should not be a doctor anymore; they are just being lazy and dishonest. For me, the decision to go on medication was only after I had done everything else (from therapy to moving to another country). Even then, it was only after a serious manic depressive episode that it occur to me that there was actually something seriously wrong.

So, should you go on medication? Which type should you go on if you do? For how long? Should you go on something meant for short term relief or a long term regime?

These are all good questions that really need to be deeply considered, with yourself, your doctor, and any consulting mental health professionals you have access to.

I generally believe that if you have not done anything to improve your situation, then you should try other strategies first. If after several life adjustments things still haven’t changed, then medication, even for a short time to get you moving, may simply be what your brain needed to rest and heal.

A word of warning: To my knowledge they don’t really have a good way of knowing which medication and at what dose to give to start people on. It’s often guesswork based on feedback from the patient. The thing is most people give very dishonest feed back, for whatever reason. I remember going on one type of SSRI at 5mg, nothing changed. Then 10. Nothing changed. My doctor said “let’s do 20mg and if it doesn’t work we will try a different type.” I casually asked the pharmacist how to know if it works. They said “If it’s working you will know.” The pharmacist was correct! For me, that particular brand, at 20mg, was like a ray of sunshine in the darkness. It immediately kicked in. Later, when I was going off the meds, I was only on 10mg, and eventually none. If you are honest, you will know if it is working or not. Do not just say it is if there is no real change.

Therapy

This may be a better place to start once you have identified that there is an issue. Here’s the thing, therapy, if not covered by medical insurance, can be very expensive indeed. One thing that drives me nuts is when mental health professionals try to tell a person who is broke and already struggling that they can find a way to afford counselling sessions, at $100 dollars an hour, at least once a week, because “it’s worth it.” While it may very well be, it might also be more of a financial burden than the individual can handle.

The other thing is, just like doctors or any other professional, there is a reason there is always a “best in the field.” Many therapists, whether they are a psychiatrist, private therapist, or public therapist, will be better at their job than others. This means that the chances of finding someone who is effective, who you connect with, and who you can afford, is very difficult.

However, especially if you don’t have a support network, someone is better than no one. What I will say is, don’t just stick with the first person who could see you. If you don’t click, you don’t click.

I would also caution that, in most cases, if you have to see them for more than 6 months or a year, other than maintenance checkups, they may just be taking your money. A decent therapist can often give you want you need in far less sessions than you think. That is, of course, if they are decent and they are not trying to take advantage of you.

For some, several sessions may be required at regular intervals at the beginning to assess and build a framework, others may only need one. It really depends.

I would like to stand up for therapists, though, and say that, often the reason things haven’t gotten better for a person regularly seeing a therapist is that the person is using the therapist as a crutch and hasn’t actually done anything to improve their life outside of therapy.

Remember, the responsibility for getting better is on you, not the therapist. They can only guide and advise, they are not supposed to tell you what to do. Which means that if they keep saying the same thing to you for years, the fault is on you. I know, people don’t like to take responsibility, even in normal times let alone mental health situations, but, sorry, it’s the truth

There is a reason, after all, that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), still tends to be the most effective type of therapy for treating a variety of mental health issues. As the onus is on you to do the work, on a consistent, daily basis, and re-shape how you think about the world and yourself.

So, pick your therapist wisely, and remember that you need to want to get better, no matter who you talk to.

Support Network

They say having a strong support network helps. That is, if you have one. Some people are lucky enough to have a strong group of supportive friends they built from high-school, or have strong family support on all levels. Though to be honest, if you have severe mental health problems there’s a good chance you did not have a very strong support network from the start. If you do, than that’s awesome, you have a leg up and I am very happy for you.

In my case though, I had few, very consistent, people in my life who did offer support. The reality is for me, they did not have the skills, knowledge, or time to really help me in a more meaningful way. I suspect that for many this is a familiar experience. This is why, no matter how hard it seems, it may be on you, and you alone, to get help and get better. (Notice a theme?)

The reason it can be difficult to have a strong support network is because those in your life who have their shit together more than you often are too busy with their own lives. Or they don’t have the energy to deal with what, to them, seems like a difficult friend.

I can say that for me, someone who has always struggled to have strong connections with other people (partially due to mental illness, but also the fact I am a strong-willed person at the best of times), the majority of the people I thought were my friends essentially bailed on me because I was too difficult to deal with. You can look at this a few ways:

  1. You are just too much – This may not be a popular thing to say, but dealing with people suffering from mental illness is tough. Unless those around you really have their shit together and have the right temperament, you may actually be just too much for them to deal with at that time. It’s very unfortunate, but it’s an all too common scenario. It’s not that they don’t care, they just can’t make you a priority in their life. It’s okay, everyone has their own lives. These are the people you should forgive, as it is more an indication of their life than yours.
  2. They were not very good friends in the first place – To be honest, though I admit I am a difficult person, I would say that this is the category into which the majority of the “friends” I had before my major episode fall. I say this because the vast majority of people didn’t even try. They just saw I was being difficult and bailed on me outright. If this is the case, then be happy that they are out of your life. They clearly didn’t care enough to ask if everything was alright when the signs are clear as day that it is not. Don’t feel bad, just know that when things get better you will find new friends and you will be happier for it.
  3. It really is your fault because you aren’t even trying to get better – This applies to those people who have an active support network who are always trying to help, yet years later nothing is better. There is a point, whether you realize it or not, that eventually people will give up on you. I am sorry, but you may be just too much, in general, and you aren’t taking responsibility. Either you may need to seek different professional help, or realize that, if you don’t change, everyone in your life who matters will be gone. If you don’t want to change so that you can be happier, then there is nothing anyone else can do for you. It is ultimately on you. They tried, you didn’t. After a long enough timeline, don’t be surprised when people walk away.

The trick is to know which category you fall into. If you have an amazing support network from the past, or a new one you have discovered, whether it be a new friend, a support group for your mental illness, or a therapist, then that is awesome. But, if not, do you fall into one of the three scenarios mentioned above, or is there another one? The truth is you probably won’t actually know until later, when your mind has calmed down and you can think clearly. It may even be years later that you finally it out. But know, though, it is easier with a support network. So make building or finding one a priority in your first steps. You can get better without one if you really want to, yes, it is a lot harder, but it can be done.

In a country like Canada there is little reason why you should not be able to find something, as there are many government funded resources and groups you can access. Even if they are not for you, they can often start you on a path to healing, one way or another.

Conclusion

Mental health it can be a difficult topic to talk about objectively, as there is so much emotion and ego involved. One thing to remember is that you are not alone. In this world there is someone else who is feeling the same as you are. This is actually, in a weird way, good news, because when enough people have the same issue it means there are resources and solutions available. You just have to start looking.

The first step is identifying that there is a problem, and which problem there is. Once you do that, you will be able to find the path that allows you to get better, so you can live a happier, more productive life.

I have met people who have had all sorts of mental health issues, some, at times, were quite serious, but they managed to get it sorted out so they too could be happier and healthier. Others struggle with the same problem for years and years because, despite being given the same advice from everyone around them, choose to stay in the shitty mental state they claim to want to move on from.

The latter probably do want to get better, but they have found all sorts of reasons not to.

The choice is always yours. I know that if you are reading this you want it to get better. You want the pain to go away or at least lessen. And, yes, it is pain, just like breaking a leg or bumping your head, but this one is not so simple to fix; it will require hard work and change.

This post is not meant as a comprehensive mental health guide, it obviously can’t be. Rather, it is meant to offer a perspective in thinking about mental health.

This series has been about the fact that self-defence is not just physical, which means I wanted you to consider other areas of your life that could take a little bit of self-defence. Our lives have become ever more complicated; more so that our nervous systems are adapted for.

If you are able to take care of yourself physically but not mentally, and your whole world seems chaotic and painful, then what good is physical self-defence if you still are struggling to see the light?

The answers are all interconnected. Whether the concern is physical, mental, digital, or financial, they are all aspects of your life. You need to live a balanced life, and seek to better yourself a little bit every day. Build one and it can build the others.

So what are you waiting for? Make your life happier, healthier, and better today, even if only a little bit.

By: Jonathan Fader

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot

For many of you reading, you may have never heard of this once famous poem. For others, you may remember it from the movie based on the comic books v for vendetta. Some of you will even know it’s origin. 

Guy Fawkes the once infamous traitor of the British Empire attempted to blow up Parliament in 1605 using about 2.5 tonnes of gun powder. For a time this was something worth remembering. Yet as times change it is fading into the memory of the past. For most of the world, this evil plot in British history is not very relevant, so forgetting it might not seem like a big deal. But what about events which not only affected the whole world but also changed it forever. Are these things worth forgetting too? 

lest-we-forget.pngYesterday was remembrance day and I ask did you remember or did you already forget. I worry that with each passing year and each additional death of the Veterans of the great wars (WWI & WW2) of the 20th century so to will the remembrance of November 11th. 

Recently a British Instagram star named Freddie Bently on the show Good Morning Britain said that he felt we no longer needed to learn about world war II because it might be too traumatic one such quote is as follows “I totally get that, but I don’t think it need to be put in such a way to young children mentally, to their mental health, that “‘this many people died for you,’” he said. “My God, it’s so intense.” He is basically inferring the new generation cannot handle or learn about the harsh realities of the past. The past which we often learn from to grow is more important now than ever yet so many are finding it to easy to forget.

How easy it is it seems for generations once, twice removed are now not only forgetting the reason from remembrance but want to erase it from the history books because it bothers them. With each new mind pushing in this direction because of progressivism the closer we may be to repeating the mistakes of old.

This same remembrance weekend I was away out of cell reception, and when I came back I found out that the news of the day was the hockey broadcasting legend Don Cherry had been fired for making racist remarks. Don, by the way, is a much older individual and has on occasion said things that even I think were pushing the line. But when I found out what he was fired for and why I was shocked. He said when referring to immigrants “You people … you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that,”

Heres the thing, while remembrance days or variations of it are western in nature the World Wars were global in nature including both the west, Asia and Africa. This includes many of the countries that immigrants to Canada often come from. As I Canadian and as I have written about in the past I have noticed fewer and fewer people wear poppies. It could be because there are more immigrants who don’t care because “it’s not their history” or because the younger generation doesn’t care about the past at all for reasons I cannot quite fathom. But what he said was in my opinion far from offensive. He is simply pointing out that immigrants don’t seem to care much about the culture of the country they are in. And while this does not apply to all immigrants of course, in my own personal observations as well as conversations I would say it does apply to many of them.

For those of you who have forgotten, or choose to ignore the realities of the past here is a video explaining it in more detail:

There are many more examples in the west, and Canada of the clear sign that the newer Canadians of all types are willingly choosing to forget or not learn the past, to ignore it and belittle it.

Remembrance day is the reminder of what great sorrow can happen when we let things get far out of hand. Yet modern politics and progressivism now use  Nazism and fascism (or their idea of it), the only thing most people seem to remember about WW2 as a means to scare those who would not agree. Yet they do not even understand what they shout when they scream nazi or fascist others that it is something bad. They probably don’t even know that Nazi’s and Fascism were not even part of the first World War but who knows what else such people believe. The same people who do this have forgotten the difference between the world-changing nature of the 2 great wars. Wars the were fought for the right reasons and confuse them with the wars of today which might seem like pointless wars indeed. Yet we must remember the sacrifices, the history, and the tragic losses. It is not about embracing war but about the tragedy associated with it, Should this not be in line with progressive ideology? or perhaps this ideology is simply about being as loud and obnoxious as possible rather than being about anything meaningful.

Without remembrance, we will only ever fade into the darkness without a light to guide. Without remembrance, we don’t comprehend how that light has created the path for the progress and positive lives we now live thanks to those wars.

Freddy Bentley and those who caved to online pressure to fire Mr. Cherry should be ashamed and we should all be saddened by the newest generations’ call to forget the past. For a war of such magnitude would be disastrous if the newer generation were ever forced to fight against evil. For those who have forgotten may have lost the strength of old needed to stand up and fight if true evil should ever rear it’s head again.

So I ask that you remember, remember the death, remember the suffering, remember the torture that it took for us to live in the wonderful world we live it. For it is through this remembrance we can strive to be better. Without it, the light that was found in the dark will be extinguished forever and we will once again wonder blind stumbling in the dark. 

So I say never again, I will always remember and so should you.

number one bullshit

You started Krav Maga, or a generic self-defense program. perhaps another martial arts style offering self-defense classes. Often they say it is subjective but really it’s easy to determine if a technique is on the better end of the spectrum or the less effective end.

Of course, it should be mentioned that everyone says they are the best or what they are teaching is the best because of well Ego and other factors. If this sounds familiar just know you can objectively determine if a technique is a general good or not and if it works for you in general or not.

This is a topic that can be found all over the internet, entire Instagram accounts are dedicated to asking if a technique is objectively realistic or not. Discounting the standard internet trolls and those who cannot ever be please there is a general consensus of good and bad techniques.

Recently I watched a video posted by a local Krav Maga school, that belongs to a considerably reputable organization. By all accounts, the instructor is quite legitimate with a military background and extensive martial arts training. Yet when I saw the video of the technique being posted I couldn’t believe my eyes at the ridiculous nature of the technique. I felt bad for the students for they were clearly being sold a false sense of security by someone seemingly legitimate. I don’t know if this technique was standard for the organization or just the instructor but I was shocked.

(I will not re-post it so as not to draw attention to that school or instructor or organization so you will just have to use your imagination.) I will, however, post this youtube video of similarly bad stuff.

The technique involves one person being held back by their wrists, while someone else choked them from the front. The technique involved the defended rotating their head out of the choke and then spinning into the person behind or something like that. I may have burned it from my memory slightly.

First off, if someone is holding you from behind the most likely scenario is that they will be beating you, not choking you. but hey never say never so I guess I can let that part slide. The issue is that objectively there was zero resistance from the attackers nor were they being aggressive. Additionally, the attackers were not much bigger than the defender. had even one of the attackers been aggressive with resistance there is not a chance in hell that technique would work 9 times out of 10. But hey never say never I guess. Still a shit technique and delusional but oh well.

If that was me in that scenario I would stick to principles of keeping it simple, be aggressive and use your most effective tools. Largely kicks, head buts and aggression.

Of course, I always ask my students in scenarios like that. HOW THE FUCK DID YOU GET THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE!!! You clearly failed to pay attention, practice avoidance or strike pre-emtively. Unless you are living in Mexico in some perpetual war against the cartel such scenarios are not as common as people would make you think. Either way several poor life choices happened in order to get into such a situation.

This begs the question of how as an uninformed student or potential student objectively asses a good technique. Here are some things to consider, this is not an exhaustive list just some ideas.

bell-curve

Most people are in the middle, whether we want to accept it or not. Thus this is what techniques and training should be aimed at. Working 80% of the time for 80% of the people.

  1. Will the technique work 80% of the time for 80% of the people most of the time? First, one thing that needs to be established is no one technique is 100% foolproof for everyone at every time. Different body times, capabilities and other factors always play in so nothing is 100% that is why aggression training is so important. I like to apply the bell curve model. There are 10% of people who probably should just avoid physical conflict and it won’t matter what technique they use. there is another 10% of people who are so athletically gifted they can rely on that alone much of the time. Meaning that we need to teach to the majority. So if a technique works for most students, most of the time with no pressure and with pressure then it is a better technique than others.
  2. Is the technique relatively easy to perform for the majority of people after a short amount of time? This does not mean master but means can it be done regularly and reasonably well within a few hours of practice. One way to know is if it relies on gross motor movement rather than fine motor movement. Take joint locks. Mechanically sound techniques that take a fair amount of training and skill to pull of much of the time even against mildly resisting opponents. A groin kick, for example, is very easy to learn and will work most of the time. After learning it, its simply a matter of practice to train your nervous system to perform it well under duress. If a technique is hard to pull off under duress or takes a long time to learn well then for basic self-defense purposes it is probably not a good technique.
  3. Will the technique work against someone bigger and stronger than you or work in with a set of other fluid techniques to overcome the size and strength advantage. First, I would like to point out there is a point where someone may be too big and strong to use the technique thus you must fall back on aggression and the will to survive because nothing is 100%. Going back to the joint locks, let’s say a wrist lock. On average if a person is much stronger and resisting it is a very difficult technique to pull off. Contrary a groin kick works 9 out of 10 times at least to cause a major disruption in the attacker for most people.
  4. Are you able to eventually get it to work on it’s own or in a sequence of moves under duress? If you never train the techniques with resistant then you are probably not training good Krav Maga or self-defense. Hitting pads is one thing trying the technique against different sized and strength people is another. So get practicing or go to another school if this isn’t happening. You may quickly find out which techniques work more and which work less.
  5. If and when the technique fails, are you able to fill in the blanks to survive? This is arguably the most important thing. As techniques don’t work all the time no matter how good they are the real key is you knowing what to do when failure occurs. If you are regularly and consistently unable to adapt, you are either not training hard enough or not training properly. This is sometimes a school thing, sometimes an instructor thing and sometimes a you thing. So figure out which it is and make the changes!

The last thing, the ego can be a hard thing to deal with. Especially when as instructors we like to teach the best thing and after all, we are here to help. Except if you never challenge your techniques or make changes accordingly you are only doing your students a disservice. I can say over the years I have probably changed the UTKM curriculum 4 or 5 times to work for the majority of students or fill in technical or training blanks. If you are only ever teaching the same thing that your instructor taught you, you must objectively asses are really doing the right thing or are you just selling a false sense of reality to your students.

If you are a student and love your school ask your self why are you there. If you are there because you like the community then by all means stay. But if you are there to learn to defend your self ask your self, are you really, objectively learning it or just being sold snake oil.

What is Krav Maga to you?

Posted: October 16, 2019 by urbantacticskravmaga in Krav Maga in General, Uncategorized
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A little while ago on the Joe Rogan Podcast, he did a wonderful thing. He further legitimized Krav Maga. He also brought up a great point. That Krav Maga will vary from place to place depending on the background of the instructor. Some focusing on kickboxing or boxing more. Some on wrestling or general grappling more. This is a good thing and this is a bad thing.

It means that yes, Krav Maga is Legitimate, but it really depends on whos teaching because it really can vary from place to place and organization to organization. There are many different philosophies, both in teaching and curriculum in the Krav Maga world. To the uninitiated, it is all the same but in many ways, it is not. This has lead to confusion for the average person as they have often decided what Krav Maga is before even attending a school or looking for one that suits them.

Sometimes, potential students come in and have come in with these pre-determined ideas. Some come in looking to get a good sweat in thinking it will be all action and no talk. Others come in thinking it’s going to be the most intense thing they have ever done, every time. Some come in expecting general self-defense and find it is to many contacts and too hard. It’s not entirely their fault as it can be difficult to do accurately research it online, and often many in the industry put a massive bias on what they think it should be. What we would put on them, is the idea that they have come in with expectations, or rather their cup is full. Thus preventing them from gaining the skills or knowledge they thought they saught out.

What is Krav Maga?

So what is Krav Maga to us? First and for most, Krav Maga is the Israeli approach to Self defense that when done correctly has proven its self to be very effective for the street.

No matter there are a few things that definitively makes Krav Maga:

  1. It should be simple and easy to learn (It will still take a lifetime to master)
  2. It should teach you above all else to be situationally aware and use critical thinking first for all self-defense scenarios (Without this, techniques and aggression may be useless if you don’t know how to use it.)
  3. It should use Aggression when techniques fail (Which they will)
  4. It should choose the most effective techniques for the majority of people the majority of the time (There is no one size fits all but majority is good enough)
  5. Techniques and strategies should change or be abandon as things change and are shown to be ineffective)
  6. It should not be a fitness class but should push you mentally and physically at least part of the time.
  7. It should focus on avoiding the ground, but teach you how to deal with it should you require it.

These are just some basic core ideas (for more see our Self Defense and Krav Maga Principles here) but are ones that are very universal in the Krav Maga world.

Types of Schools

There are many types of schools out there and no matter what our opinion of them you should find one that suits your needs and wants because something is better than nothing. Just remember, you may not be getting the best version or the most complete version of Krav Maga.

  • Military oriented – Often this is what people think of when they think of Krav Maga because this is often what is all over youtube. Hardcore, BOOT CAMP style works out just like in the military. Yes, Krav started in the Military and is used by the military but here’s the thing. Military application is different than civilians. For one, their primary weapon is often firearms and hand to hand combat is their last resort. For civilians, it is their first. These schools are awesome at building mental and physical toughness and grit which is a component of Krav Maga. But they often fail to develop good technique as they rely far too much on aggression. They are also often run by individuals who fail to understand that in the military you are working with physically capable individuals, while the average civilian may need to build their way up. While crazy often beats big, in the modern world there are cameras, courts, and judges in the eyes of the public. Good clean technique will be the difference between obvious self-defense and an assault charge.
  • Martial Arts oriented – These schools are started by individuals who have often spent years in a particular martial arts style. They then learn Krav Maga sometimes extensively and sometimes just a little. While traditional martial artists can do a phenomenal job running a Krav School often run them to much like a traditional style and fail to understand the fundamentals of Krav Maga. They may have a great technique in their students but often fail to develop their aggression and ability to function under duress. Krav Maga traditionally is not a martial art it is a self-defense system. Don’t get me wrong there are many great aspects of traditional martial arts that do well in Krav maga such as respect, discipline, Drilling and body conditioning. But there is often a lack of full-contact sparring or pressure drills which makes these no different than a regular martial arts school that fails to understand the difference between dojo and street. They also struggle to understand police or military application unless they are also in those fields.
  • Fitness Oriented – These schools often know how to market. A lot of people want to take self-defense to feel good about themselves. Which is a great thing and we are all for it. The thing is if all you ever do is hit pads and get a good sweat on then you may not actually be learning krav maga but rather something closer to the fad of tae bo. I have worked with students from these schools from time to time and very rarely have they sparred or actually been pushed mentally beyond their comfort zones. While you can certainly get in shape doing krav maga and you will, if that is the selling point of a school then it is a fitness class with a self-defense spin and nothing more.
  • Hybrid – In a modern world, this is what a good school should look like. A mix of developing people like a traditional martial arts school but while keeping to the principles and ideologies of Krav Maga. There should be a mix of explanation, and hard practice. Aggression training and theory. It should, like the originators of Krav Maga intended to adapt, change and be flexible teaching all aspects of Self Defense like MMA but with a street orientation. It should also include weapons training at an appropriate level as required for self-defense.

Ranking in Krav Maga

Ranking in a Krav Maga is often a highly contested area of Krav Maga. Some argue it is needed for developmental reasons, others argue there is no belts in the street so it shouldn’t matter. Some even choose to abandon belts and use a patch system but still have ranked. Either way, these are the three general types of ranking in Krav Maga. Either way, a concept that is hard for some to understand is that a belt or rank does not equal skill and is merely a measurement of achievement according to a certain set of standards.

Belts- This is the standard ranking in martial arts and was the original under Krav Maga. That is at least the Judo system. White, Yellow, Orange, Green, Blue, Brown, Black. From novice to expert. This system originally developed by Kano the created of modern Judo. Recognizing that in the civilian world far from the warrior cultures of old, a progressive structure was needed. Sometimes Krav schools use belt systems other than this, and it is usually because they were an already established school that did not want to change the system they already have.

Patches – Born out of the great Krav Maga split when in the 90s and oriented towards the military they are used by a few organizations such as KMG and IKMF. Like the belt system they have a structure and requirements, though it seems like there may be many more ranks than we think are necessary, but hey to each their own.

No Ranking – Other organizations have no ranking. They often recognize that belts and ranks do not equal skill and on the street, a black belt cannot stop a bullet. They are of course correct. However, sometimes they fail to understand that the average person requires rank and structure. Something about being human. Sometimes we wonder if they don’t like ranks because running a ranking system that maintains standards globally is very difficult.

Conclusion

While we may not agree with the approach or strategy of many other organizations or school what does matter is if you are getting what you want out if it. But more importantly, do you think you are gaining the skills, physically, mentally and technically to truly be able to defend yourself. If you have never trained with other Krav maga organizations then you may never know. Not all Krav Maga is made the same. What we do ask, is that you be respectful and go on with no expectations. We ourselves have trained with people or schools that just didn’t work for us. We have also had students that just were not the right fit for our school. This is normal but if you find a place that works for you then you may find out what Krav Maga really is and what it can do for you.

Kravmaga.jpg

A famous photo of Krav Maga training long ago in Israel