Posts Tagged ‘Martial Arts’

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Episode 50 -Blog Post Series – Self Defense is not just physical

Welcome back to UTKMs Warriors Den Podcast with host Jonathan Fader. This is the first of many Blog Post Series podcasts where whenever we write a series we will add it as a blogpost with additional commentarty. This series covers a variety of topics including, Digital Self Defense, Financial Self Defense and Mental Self Defense. This series as read and discussed by Jonathan Fader, UTKM Lead Instructor.

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

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

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

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

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

Before I move forward take a look at this:

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

My response is always, “Correct!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by: Jonathan Fader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POKÉMON!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Jonathan Fader

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

Pad holding

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

Pad holding

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

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

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

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

Safety

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

So here is my guide to holding Focus Mitts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the first of three sections expanding on the original piece titled, Self-defense is Not Just Physical.

As much as you may try to resist, myself included, the future of humanity is looking more and more digital. I am a member of the “bridge generation;” I was born before the wide spread use of the internet, but was also fortunate to have it in my home early. Though I am not a tech wiz, I am fairly comfortable with technology (to a degree). For some tasks I prefer the old ways, like taking notes by hand (who am I kidding? I won’t read them either way), for others I prefer the new ways, like listening to audio books rather than reading (It’s more efficient since I can’t read and drive, but I can listen and drive!)

No matter your preference, it is here and it is not going anywhere; so you need to adapt or proverbially die. While it is easy to simply think of self-defence as responding to a physical attack, don’t forget that there are many ways you need to protect yourself in the 21st century; which now includes our digital self.

While your data and information is more secure, there are alos more ways to attack it. Additionally, many companies, like Google or Apple, are selling your information to the highest bidder. Remember, their “free” services are not the real product, you are. The thought of which, as a human being who prefers some level of privacy, can be quite disturbing. So how do you protect yourself in the increasingly digital world?

First off, get educated. If you are one of those people who refuses to learn how to use technology, I am sorry, but you will find yourself in the dust as you become more and more reliant on those around you who do understand it. If you are a parent, this often means your children. Consider also that, trust me, if they know how to use technology better than you, there is very little you will be able to do to protect them from all the internet has to offer; they will find a path to it. When it comes to technology and how to use it, your kids may actually be smarter than you.

So now is the time Start learning!

When it comes to protecting your online data, something to remember is that criminals are always looking for new ways to steal from you. So, learning a few ways to protect yourself will help stop them, as cyber-criminals generally do not want to waste their time on difficult targets. Like on the street, predators attack the weak.

Passwords

There is a reason that passwords are no longer the only way to protect digital content. Most people choose garbage ones. If your password is a standard one that anyone might use, or is easy to guess by perusing your Facebook page, then you may find yourself getting hacked; especially if all your information is public.

Terrible passwords are still shockingly common, for example “password,” “123456,” or “QWERTY.” You are not clever, you are being lazy if these are what you are using. Also, using anything related to your birthday, your children, or your pet’s name can be very easy for hackers to figure out.

Modern standards recommend passwords that are comprised of long strings of randomly generated numbers and symbols. These are not only impossible to guess, they are also impossible to remember. Example: dtN6Vn-X@2yqGhe^

While these are very strong passwords, as it would take forever to decrypt one, you will likely rely on Google or Apple to remember them for you, making it unlikely you will remember it in an emergency.

Though not as strong as a random string, a “Passphrase” is a good option. This is a string of unconnected words, with both caps and lower case, maybe even 1 or 2 numbers or symbols added in, that are much easier to remember. Example: PurpleMonkeyHeart1(

No these are not passwords I use so don’t bother trying.

By being random and having unconnected words, passphrases make it much harder for even the best hacker to “brute force” through.

With that being said, if they really want to they can probably get in, that is why they started adding multi-factor authentication to most systems. The most common of these being two-factor authentication (2FA) or two-step verification, confirming you identity via a code sent to your e-mail or phone number. Though, as I recently found out, there are scams that can even get around this!

The best two-step verification is actually to have a verification program on your phone that randomly generates a verification code when you log in, which changes every minute or so. These are very, very, very difficult to get around, but, if you lose the device it is on you may end up getting locked out in the end (it happened with a lot of crypto-currency accounts that required such security).

No matter what password you use, just make sure you don’t use the same one for everything, that you change them periodically, and that you ensure they are strong and something you can remember with out help.

IP Protection

Before looking at Internet Protocol (IP) protection, let’s talk about what an IP is.

An IP is essentially your digital address. Every device connected to the internet has one.

They look like this 45.85.91.20

While it’s a bit more complicated than that, for the sake of this article let’s keep it to that.

Why should you protect your IP? Easy, it is another way to help prevent people easily getting into your computer and data. This includes both malicious hackers, data-mining companies, and the government.

Where it once took high level tech, knowledge, and skills to mask your IP address, now you can purchase and set up what is called a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Essentially, a VPN sets up a second IP to mask your actual one. You can even set your false IP to indicate that you are in another country, making it hard for people to figure out where exactly you are. Yes, this includes the government. Generally, unlike the movies, most government agencies will have a hard time tracking you if you have a VPN, or multiple VPNs, set up. While eventually they could track you, it will take time and resources; which, in most cases, is not worth their time.

Outside of protecting yourself from “Big Brother” it really just makes it harder for hackers to break into your computer or network, encouraging them to seek easier prey.

Consider also, if you regularly use public wifi and do not have a VPN set up on your computer, phone, or tablet you may not be as protected as you think. Public networks, such as those at Starbucks, are easy targets for criminals looking to get into your computer. And trust me, you will not even know they are there in your device until it is to late.

So what are you waiting for? Mask your IP and protect your devices today!

Various Scams

Last but not least, Scammers. These are, generally, the main threats that you have to protect yourself from. Once someone is able to get into your system they can steal all your information. While there are numerous ongoing scams out there, I am only going to cover a few to give you an idea of how people can bypass security. From least sophisticated to most sophisticated:

Send me money…

These scams are as old as, well, people and society (I think). The only difference is now, instead of getting a person at the door or a physical mail, you will get an email. These scams are easy to spot if you know how to look, and they usually target vulnerable groups like the elderly and immigrants. (To accomplish this, they are often written with poor grammar, as the sub-par writing eliminates people who are too educated or discerning to be viable targets.)

Actually, as a martial arts gym I regularly get these.

An email that starts with “Dear Sir or Madam” is usually a red flag, as it’s probably someone who paid to get your email and does not actually know who you are.

Common approaches are people pretending to be long lost relatives in need of money because of financial hardship, or someone stuck in another country.

In general, the best way to deal with them, other than learning to spot them right away, is to start asking questions. If they cannot give you detailed answers without you giving them information first, it might just be a scam.

The example I am going to use is the one I usually have to deal with:

It’s typically someone asking for private lessons for 2-3 kids. They state that they will send a private driver with a (fake) cashier’s check for much more than the agreed amount, asking that reimburse them for the difference and give the cash to the driver. Usually they want cash, or if they say “give the credit card to the driver” it means they want to copy it.

The first time I got this I took it seriously, now any time someone asks for private lessons involving a private driver and kids, I usually just ignore it. Remember, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. Additionally, if it seems suspicious (and convoluted), it probably is.

Guard your information, particularly your credit card information, and never give money to someone who is supposed to pay you (that one should be a no-brainier)

Phishing Scams

What is a phising scam? Wikipedia says this:

Phishing is the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.[1][2] Typically carried out by email spoofing[3] or instant messaging,[4] it often directs users to enter personal information at a fake website which matches the look and feel of the legitimate site.[5]

Phishing is an example of social engineering techniques being used to deceive users. Users are often lured by communications purporting to be from trusted parties such as social web sitesauction sites, banks, online payment processors or IT administrators.[6]

These scams usually require you clicking on a link, and can come in email or text message form. These days they can even look like they are coming from a legitimate source, such as your phone provider or a Federal department.

In fact, this was the kind of scam used in the infamous Hillary Clinton emails scandal. While the focus was on her having a private server, the crucial fact was that intruders gained access because some fool clicked on a link disguised as an official-looking password reset. Except, the sucker victim never requested a password reset… but because it “looked legitimate” they clicked away.

Never click on a link you are not sure about, did not request, or is within a message containing spelling errors, incorrect logos, or odd URLS.

If you are not sure, always check online to find the appropriate contact information for the actual company or group involved, and double-check with them if it is legit or not.

By the way, these scams cause havoc for legitimate business entities as well, as real messages often get ignored because they appear fraudulent (eg. private lessons emails). When in doubt double-check and never click that link if you are not sure.

Though this type of scam is more sophisticated, as it requires actual computer and tech skills not just the gift of the gab like the previous one, it still requires the victim (you!) to actively do something for it to work.

Port Scams

This last one is the MOST sophisticated, as it is fairly recent and often by the time you have realized anything has happened all your money is gone, credit card is maxed out, Amazon and PayPal accounts racked up, and you are sitting there wondering why the hell the companies you were paying did nothing to stop it.

This is a scam that actually targets your cellphone information.

Remember how we said that many accounts now require a two-factor verification, which usually means sending a confirmation text to your phone for actions such as password resets? This scam targets that system.

It seems to have popped up in the last few years, but even with media coverage very little has been done about it; as what phone company wants to admit they have glaring holes in their client security.

How the Hackers get your phone and personal information, which often includes your email, I am not entirely sure. It is possible that they pay-off some low level employee at the phone companies (another reason why you should be nice to people), or perhaps they get one bit of your info and employ “social engineering” across a few services.

Once they acquire enough information they are able to contact the phone company and pretend to be you in order to “port” (transfer) your phone number over to another carrier on their device, which is most likely on a burner phone.

They will now receive all of the password reset texts.

Now all they have to do is go into your email, Amazon, PayPal, etc… follow the “forgot password” steps and, since they now receive the verification text, they change your password to one of their choosing and log into your accounts.

See, your phone carrier, email provider, Amazon, etc. just got duped and their entire sophisticated security network is now breached, and within less than 24 hours you are totally and utterly screwed. By the way, if you lose your email this will include any personal material you have stored there, such as x-rated photos or sensitive personal and work information.

Sometimes these hackers will even blackmail you, demanding money in exchange for not releasing this private material.

Insidious, I know.

You will now be on phone call after phone call, losing your sanity as every single person you call (usually low level, call-center people) probably don’t even know this is a real thing yet.

How do I know it is? It happened to someone very close to me!

So, no matter how good the security is, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Those pesky scammers and hackers will keep evolving, and they will find ways around the newest security. Be careful, and always, immediately follow up on any text or email that mentions your number being ported. Because if you get that, it probably is, and it will only take 10 minutes for them to do it.

How you can stop this? Call your phone provider and ask for port protection if its not already there. It means your number cannot be ported with out a lengthy process, which is too long for most scammers.

At this point I don’t know why this is not already automatic, but I suppose it means the phone companies would have to admit they are at risk, which they never do!

Conclusion

The best way to protect yourself is through education and due diligence. Avoiding technology because you do not like it or don’t understand it means you are actually an easy target. Don’t trust anything suspicious and follow up if you need to. Soon the world will be more digital than analog, and just like physical self-defence, you are responsible for yourself because no one else really cares, or if they do, you are the front-line and are able to react faster to stop potential data leaks or hacks. So, be educated, be proactive, and keep your wits about you.

This information may be slightly out of date. It was pulled on the date of writing this article.

Since my entire month of travel has been cancelled and I now have a bit more time on my hands, I thought I would discuss the global outbreak of SARS-CoV-2, the Coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease. The blog series I had recently started makes the point that self-defence is not just physical; there are often many other areas of life that require a bit of Critical thinking and self-defense strategy. Living in a pandemic is just such a scenario. I am definitely not a expert on diseases or epidemiology, but I can apply reasoning and critical thinking to know that, while the Coronavirus is definitely cause for concern, the global reaction is very much one of panic in the face of a lack of planning. But don’t just take my word for it, see the stats for yourself in this awesome info graphic (left).

Or, if you want a more in-depth explanation from an actual expert, listen to the Joe Rogan Experience, Episode #1439, with Michael Osterholm, an internationally recognized expert on infectious diseases and epidemiology.

Otherwise, I will attempt to sum up what he said:

  1. Yes, this new Coronavirus is concerning, but this is mainly due to the fact that it is such an easily transmittable viral strain compared to previous ones, like SARS or MERS. This is due to the fact that once you have it you are immediately able to transmit it to others. With previous Coronavirus strains you would not be able to transmit the virus until you already knew you were sick, 4-5 days in. This means that, for the current strain, SARS-CoV-2, you could have it, not know you are sick and transmit it.
  2. Unlike other strains or viral outbreaks children seem to be relatively unaffected by it. While they can contract the virus they are generally less likely to develop COVID-19. In Fact, Osterholm believes that closing schools is unnecessary and will do more harm than good, from both health and economic perspectives.
  3. The early claims about touching the face as the primary means of spreading the virus are not true. This strain is airborne, passed on by breath and breathing. As Osterholm states, trying to stop this strain outright is like trying to stop the wind. Unless you plan on being in a hazmat suit 24hrs a day, you can still contract the virus simply by breathing. His advice was to not panic and LIVE YOUR LIFE!
  4. This strain is essentially a REALLY BAD FLU for most sufferers. This means that, generally, the only people who need to worry are those past retirement age (55-65), those with compromised immune systems, or complicating heart or lung conditions. Essentially, the same people who would need to worry about getting any kind of flu.
  5. You should wash your hands regularly and practice good hygiene… you know, like you normally should…
  6. The best thing you can do, is eat healthy and be healthy. This includes continuing with exercise as normal. The healthier you are the better you can manage COVID-19, or any flu for that matter.
  7. DON’T PANIC! THIS IS NOT THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE! THERE IS A LOT OF MISINFORMATION AND BS OUT THERE! CHILL OUT!
  8. I am sure there is more, but it’s a long podcast, so listen to it yourself.

I hope you get the point here; while there is a legitimate concern as the World Health Organization (WHO) has now given it pandemic status, there is a lot of misinformation and fear-mongering out there. So stop panicking and STOP HOARDING TOILET PAPER, it won’t save your life for shit! (Get it? I am punny.)

A more up to date resource for Canada can be found here!

Facemasks and Respirators:

Way back in 2008 I completed my certificate in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS). One of the areas of study was knowing how to properly use respirators, for health and construction. WAY BACK THEN, I knew that the generic surgical masks do not protect you from airborne viruses, and yet people and governments still seem to believe they do. This is because they were only meant to stop water or vapor, from a cough or sneeze, from landing anywhere other than the mask; but, because they do not create a tight seal, air and the breath of others can still get through. N95/N99 masks are far better, as they are able to create a better seal and have a more advanced filtering ability. However, the issue with these as that movements can break the seal, meaning that, while they work great for particulates, viruses are very small and may still be able to get through the edges. This is why, if there was an epidemic of an actually deadly nature, you would want a proper respirator with a rubber seal and replaceable filter cartridges. I, myself, have these, just in case, though I generally do not plan on walking around the streets looking like Bane just because of COVID-19. Though I would absolutely do this for a more serious outbreak, because, again, these work. Of course, to be absolutely sure, you should go get your mask “fit tested” to ensure it fits properly on your face.

The Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020

For some strange reason people have decided that the most important thing in the world is toilet paper. When I have talked to my friends we all are scratching our heads as to why this, toilet paper, is the item people are hoarding in a pandemic. Not water, you know, the thing we need to live. Not food, also the thing we need to live, but rather a thing we have become accustomed to for comfort.

I thought I would take this time to remind people that before toilet paper people managed just fine. Its called water, a leaf, or washable cloths. Would I enjoy wiping my ass with a re-usable cloth that I need to wash? Not particularly. But, am I going to wake up 2 hours before Costco opens to wait in line for toilet paper? Absolutely Not! Or, assuming running water is still there, you can always get in the shower.

Seriously people, what is wrong with our priorities?!

Coming to Krav Maga Classes:

Given that the best defence for this virus is to stay healthy, if Krav Maga, or any martial art, is your primary means of exercise, then you should still come to class.

The only reason you should not come to class is:

  • You have cold/flu-like symptoms.
  • You are coughing or sneezing regularly.
  • You are feeling “sick” in general.
  • You are injured to the point of not to be able to train (though we still recommend you come and observe in this case).
  • You have traveled out of country recently.
  • You have tested positive for COVID-19 (Self Isolate!)

Aside from the last two, these are basically the same reasons you shouldn’t come to class under normal circumstances.

Coming to Class:

  • Wash your hands as soon as you come
  • Wipe down any equipment you used
  • Feel free to wear face masks in class

So, in summary; stay healthy, WASH YOUR HANDS (like normal), and come to class.

I hope this clears up any confusion and assuages fears that you might have. As for me, at least at this stage in the pandemic, the existence of this virus simply isn’t a good enough reason to not come to class (unless it mutates, then I might reconsider)

So stay calm and carry on. And, for the LOVE OF GOD, please stop panicking!

  Mental and digital attacks can be as harmful as physical ones. (©Photo: PIxabay)
Audio by Jonathan Fader with added content

Once upon a time, learning to defend yourself was a simple matter of fending off wolves and stopping physical violence from others. OK, not so simple, but still much more black and white than the kind of things we need to defend ourselves from in the 21st century. Where it was once only about the physical, now we need to consider many other factors.

Don’t get me wrong, physical self-defence is still very important, as it is so fundamental (and I have, after all, dedicated my life to teaching others to defend themselves from physical violence). Even though the physical aspect is what would be considered more my area of expertise, I am aware of, and often talk about, other aspects of life that require a kind of self-defence strategy (in addition to the knowledge and skill to deal with them).

I will be discussing three areas of interest that I think people often need help in understanding so that they can properly defend themselves. I will expand on each of these topics in subsequent posts.

These are;

  • Digital Self-defence
  • Financial Self-defence
  • Mental Health Self-defence

Digital Self-defence

Everything that was once pen and paper, to be found only in specific buildings now forgotten, called libraries, is now stored digitally on computers or in the cloud, accessible to anyone with enough skill or patience to trick the systems.

While we often think it’s mainly about having a strong password, many people still use Password01 or 123456 (terrible ideas!). Digital security is so much more complicated than that.

Do you know what a “phishing” scam is? They are very common, yet many people still fall prey to them. In fact, the famous “Hillary Clinton email hack” was traced to someone falling to such a scam (and should have known better); as case in which phishing changed the course of political history for all to see.

Or how about a “porting” scam, in which scammers transfer your phone number to another carrier so they can reset all of your passwords. So much for 2-step authentication.

It can be easy to fall prey to these if technology is not your thing. Best case scenario, you simply have to change a few passwords. Worse case scenario, you have your entire savings cleared out in seconds.

So have you done everything you need to do to preemptively protect your digital self?

Financial Self-defence

Did I mention you can have your savings wiped out if you fall prey to digital scams? That is to say, if you in fact have any savings in the first place.

More and more, especially in the younger generations, people are struggling to defend themselves financially. Either because they can’t manage to save any money or they are not sure what to do with what they have.

Investing can be scary, and preparing for your retirement is something that can be put off for a long time because you feel like you have forever until that day. However, the earlier you learn financial self-defence, and thus the earlier you save and invest, the better of you will be.

Yes, financial literacy is extremely lacking, and it is increasingly harder to manage things yourselves without, ironically, forking out loads of cash to pay an expert. The thing is, the more financially literate you are as soon as possible, the easier choices will be in the future. That is, unless you happen to start during a black swan event, like what’s been going on in the market recently. Then its just bad luck.

Either way, how financially prepared are you to deal with the inevitable ups and downs you will face throughout your life?

Mental Self-defence

This is a topic which I have discussed before, and for many it may in fact be the hardest thing to deal with. How you address it will also depend on where in the world you are when you read this; it may or may not be considered a culturally acceptable topic, or there may not be support readily available for mental health.
Additionally, mental health, realistically, is relatively new topic in its own right, and as a result there are many aspects we are still trying to figure out, which means finding meaningful and closer-to-correct answers can be difficult.

“Difficult” becoming “seemingly impossible” if you are in the middle of a specific mental health crisis. On this I will argue, like all self-defence, that, if you are able to, you are the one most responsible for regulating and rebuilding your mental health; even when you have strong support networks. If you don’t have a support network, then know that you are not alone in the world.

This topic is very sensitive and it is often connected to experiences related to physical self-defence. Or it may be connected to other considerations, such as genetics, family history, or particular non-violent events in your life. Either way, it is a complicated subject and requires a certain level of understanding and knowledge to truly delve into.

Yet day-to-day mental health and happiness may be more important than physical self-defence, assuming you are in a safe country. If you are somewhere that physical self-defence is still a big part of your daily life, then often your mind may be too preoccupied to even realize that you are suffering a mental health problem.

Just know, as with physical self-defence, there are training options for both preventative measures and coping mechanisms to deal with such issues.

Conclusions

One thing to remember, in this world that is increasingly more and more complicated, is the importance of understanding that everything is interconnected. Only focusing on one area of your self-defence really is only looking at one part of the picture. It can be hard to understand it all, but if you are oblivious to the workings of your life, your emotions, and the world around you, then it will be even more difficult to overcome hardships when you are blindsided by events that you could have done something to stop, had you been aware.

Remember, no matter what type of self-defence you are practicing, at the end of the day the only person who can really protect you, is you. Waiting for others to step up may often just mean disappointment, which means further conflict, both internally and externally, which means you may not feel like you have any power at all, which is the farthest thing from the truth.

So what are you going to do to improve your ability to defend yourself, physically, digitally, financially, or mentally?

Written by: Jonathan Fader

Have you ever heard of Goodhart’s Law? I had not until a few months ago, when I heard it explained on Tim Ferriss’ podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. The concept made such an impact on me that I made a note of it, something I rarely do.

Coincidentally, a colleague of mine posted the above graphic (from Sketchplanations) on their podcast’s Instagram page, BJJ Mental Models, and I decided to expand on this for my own students.

Goodhart’s law discusses the natural human tendancy to meet the standard being measured. As the graphic demonstrates, if you say you will be measuring (or perhaps paying a bonus on) the number of nails made, the subject will make as many nails as they possibly can with a given amount of material. Conversely, if you are measuring success by the weight of the nails, then it would be easier for the subject to meet the measure by making a few, very large nails. Focused on the measure, the subject has misunderstood that you actually wanted a specific type of nail.

This means that if you do not set clear expectations and standards then people will simply meet what they are being measured on, interpreting that measure as the abstract target for success. In one or both of the examples above, the results are unlikely to have been what the boss wanted.

For martial arts this law can be easy to see.

The people “making oddly sized nails” are called “belt chasers.” That is, a person who is simply seeking belts because they represent progression in the form of a tangible measurement system. Thus the “belt chaser” believes that simply receiving a belt is a measurement of their skill, and therefore they expect that they have achieved an understanding of concept and application by merely demonstrating the techniques required for that belt level.

The truth is, it is not always about the belts but rather an individual’s ability to improve and progress. Some people may take longer than others, especially when there are clear and specific standards in place.

My approach to belts and promotions is that, if a person is simply seeking the next rank but lacks the nuanced skill, I would hold them back; because they have failed to understand what is actually being measured. This often means they have met the minimums, performing the techniques, but have failed to show what is actually expected, conceptual understanding.

This individual may be distaught when they are held back, as they will say “I have met the minumums thus I deserve to be tested/promoted.” They are falling prey to Goodhart’s Law. They are focusing on what’s on paper, a list of techniques at this belt level, what is being measured, rather than what was actually expected of them to learn.

For Krav Maga, the goal is making people capable of defending themselves, and a belt on its own does not do that; you need the skill, the concepts, and the ability to apply both. In the world of Krav Maga, simply being a “belt factory” is far more catastrophic than for other styles, as our focus is specifically self defense and not sport in any way.

This means that if you are a school that would rather promote someone because they are belt chaser, and you want to keep them as a customer, rather than delaying until they are actually where they should be, then you will be doing your students a great disservice; they may not be able to defend themselves as well as they think they can.

So, if you are a belt chaser, stop and think about the fact that you may be failing to understand what is actually being measured. While the tests and belts are literally about measurements and standards, a good Krav Maga school (or any martial arts for that matter), while be looking for far more than just techniques before they consider someone ready for a test or promotion.

Consider this, might your school be assessing other qualities like:

  • Physical Skills improvement
  • Mental Strength
  • Verbal Skills
  • Social Skills
  • Dedication to the school or sport

While these may not seem like things that should be measured when it comes to Krav Maga or martial arts, the real goal is self improvement; physically, mentally, and spiritually.

If you simply seek the belt, then perhaps you are not in fact ready and you are falling into the black hole that is Goodhart’s Law.