the gift of fear


This is from an excellent book called “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin DeBecker, read it. Mr. DeBecker is a security expert who used to do threat assessment work for the US Government. His book deals with realistic assessment of your self-defense necessities and the statistical likelihood of being attacked. The book does not deal with unarmed combat or weapons as much as it does with assessing people and determining their intentions towards you.

Here are some of the “threat indicators” listed in Mr. DeBeckers book , they are primarily techniques used by predator type criminals to “set-up” their victims and/or gain compliance…good stuff.  

Forced Teaming

Forced teaming is an effective way to establish premature trust because a we’re-in-the-same-boat attitude is hard to rebuff without feeling rude. Sharing a predicament, like being stuck in a stalled elevator or arriving simultaneously at a just-closed store, will understandably move people around social boundaries. But forced teaming is not about coincidence; it is intentional and directed, and it is one of the most sophisticated manipulations. The detectable signal of forced teaming is the projection of a shared purpose or experience where none exists: “Both of us”; “We’re some team”; “How are we going to handle this?”; “Now we’ve done it, ” etc.

(for example, ive heard of an abduction-murder case where the victim came out to her car and it wouldnt start…the BG came up to help and after tinkering around under the hood “teamed up” with her under the “car fixing” guise…he then offered a ride to a garage and the rest I wont mention….the kicker is the BG disabled the car while she was in the store before hand)

Charm and Niceness

Charm is another overrated ability. Note that I called it an ability, not an inherent feature of one’s personality. charm is almost always a directed instrument, which, like rapport building, has motive. To charm as a verb, not a trait.

Too Many Details

When people are telling the truth, they don’t feel doubted, so they don’t feel the need for additional support in the form of details. When people lie, however, even if that they say sounds credible to you, it doesn’t sound credible to them, so they keep talking.

(see this a lot…BG’s run off at the mouth constantly when they are trying to get out of trouble…or get you into it.)  


Typecasting always involves a slight insult, and usually one that is easy to refute.

A man labels a woman in some slightly critical way, hoping she’ll feel compelled to prove that his opinion is not accurate. “You’re probably too snobbish to talk to the likes of me,” a man might say, and the woman will cast off the mantle of “snob” by talking to him. A man tells a woman, “You don’t look like someone who reads the newspaper,” and she sets out to prove that she is intelligent and well-informed.

Loan Sharking

The more traditional loan shark gladly lends one amount but cruelly collects much more. Likewise, the predatory criminal generously offers assistance but is always calculating the debt.

(“after all Ive gone through, the least you could do is, let me into your apartment…give me a hug…etc”)

The unsolicited promise

The unsolicited promise is one of the most reliable signals because it is nearly always of questionable motive. Promises are used to convince us of an intention, but they are not guarantees. A guarantee is a promise that offers some compensation if the speaker fails to deliver; he commits to make it all right again if things don’t go as he says they would. But promises offer no such collateral. They are the very hollowest instruments of speech, showing nothing more than the speaker’s desire to convince you of something.

(big one here…”Dont worry, Im not going to kill you or anything!”, “Let me in, Ill make a phone call and I promise Ill leave right away…Im not a criminal.” If it sounds like a strange thing to say, your radar should be going off.)

Discounting the word “No”

“No” is a word that must never be negotiated, because the person who chooses not to hear it is trying to control you.

In situations in which unsolicited offers of assistance are appropriate, such as approaches by a salesman or flight attendant, it is simply annoying if you have to decline three times. With a stranger, however, refusal to hear no can be an important survival signal, as with a suitor, a friend, a boyfriend, even a husband.

Declining to hear “no” is a signal that someone is either seeking control or refusing to relinquish it.

Now the important thing to keep in mind here, is context. Most of these strategies are used every day by people who make a living in sales… They are also used by guys trying to pick up girls. The context in which one or more of these strategies are used is what you should look for. Your intuition will usually discard some of these strategies if it expects them (sales clerks, politicians, etc.). It’s when they are used at inappropriate times that it will send a warning. The defense for all of these strategies boils down to a basic awareness of the situation (there is a thorough examination of the strategies and defenses in ‘The Gift of Fear’)… Here’s a couple of questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I need assistance
  • Do I feel comfortable with the situation
  • Is the approach (or offer) appropriate

These three questions are essentially you asking your intuition whether or not it thinks this is a safe situation.

words of wisdom from Theodore Roosevelt

President of the United States Theodore Roosev...
President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front. Deutsch: Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), Präsident der Vereinigten Staaten von 1901 bis 1909, Friedensnobelpreisträger des Jahres 1906. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All kinds of qualities go to make up character, for, emphatically, the term should include the positive no less than the negative virtues. If we say of a boy or a man, “He is of good character,” we mean that he does not do a great many things that are wrong, and we also mean that he does do a great many things which imply much effort of will and readiness to face what is disagreeable. He must not steal, he must not be intemperate, he must not be vicious in any way; he must not be mean or brutal; he must not bully the weak. In fact, he must refrain from whatever is evil. But besides refraining from evil, he must do good. He must be brave and energetic; he must be resolute and persevering. The Bible always inculcates the need of the positive no less than the negative virtues, although certain people who profess to teach Christianity are apt to dwell wholly on the negative. We are bidden not merely to be harmless as doves, but also as wise as serpents. It is very much easier to carry out the former part of the order than the latter; while, on the other hand, it is of much more importance for the good of mankind that our goodness should be accompanied by wisdom than that we should merely be harmless. If with the serpent wisdom we unite the serpent guile, terrible will be the damage we do; and if, with the best of intentions, we can only manage to deserve the epithet of “harmless,” it is hardly worth while to have lived in the world at all.

Perhaps there is no more important component of character than steadfast resolution. The boy who is going to make a great man, or is going to count in any way in after life, must make up his mind not merely to overcome a thousand obstacles, but to win in spite of a thousand repulses or defeats. He may be able to wrest success along the lines on which he originally started. He may have to try something entirely new. On the one hand, he must not be volatile and irresolute, and, on the other hand, he must not fear to try a new line because he has failed in another. Grant did well as a boy and well as a young man; then came a period of trouble and failure, and then the Civil War and his opportunity; and he grasped it, and rose until his name is among the greatest in our history. Young Lincoln, struggling against incalculable odds, worked his way up, trying one thing and another until he, too, struck out boldly into the turbulent torrent of our national life, at a time when only the boldest and wisest could so carry themselves as to win success and honor; and from the struggle he won both death and honor, and stands forevermore among the greatest of mankind.

-Theodore Roosevelt

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leadership at the point of the bayonet


Ten Principles for Success

Major Dick Winters Easy Company, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne Div. “The Band of Brothers”

  • Strive to be a leader of character, competence, and courage.
  • Lead from the front.  Say, “Follow me!” and then lead the way.
  • Stay in top physical shape, physical stamina is the root of mental toughness.
  • Develop your team.  If you know your people, are fair in setting realistic goals and expectations, and lead by example, you will develop teamwork.
  • Delegate responsibility to your subordinates and let them do their jobs.  You can’t do a good job if you don’t have a chance to use your imagination and creativity.
  • Anticipate problems and prepare to overcome obstacles.  Don’t wait until you get to the top of the ridge and then make up your mind.
  • Remain humble.  Don’t worry about who receives the credit.  Never let power or authority go to your head.
  • Take a moment of self-reflection.  Look at yourself in the mirror every night and ask yourself if you did your best.
  • True satisfaction comes from getting the job done.  They key to a successful leader is to earn respect not because of rank or position, but because you are a leader of character.
  • Hang Tough!Never, ever, give up.

From Beyond Band of Brothers, The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters, by Dick Winters and Col. Cole C. Kingseed. New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 2006. page 293.


River Danube
River Danube (Photo credit: Istvan)

I like to think of “fate” as us all floating in a river. All of our circumstances determine how strongly the current pulls us along. Our genetics, our upbringing, our parents decisions, the decisions of others that have an influence on us all push us downstream to whatever destination awaits us. As we get older its our own decisions that allow us to swim across the current so we can get out at a point more to our choosing. If along the way we push other people under, I would like to think that the shore we land on wont be too pleasant. But I do think we all have some element of self-determinism available to us. Those who feel like they are not making any headway just have to keep on swimming (swimming…swimming…just keep swimming…) perhaps your decisions/actions are only just doggie paddles when you need to start a nice strong breast stroke. One thing is certain though, if you just give up and let the current take you, you might as well put your head under the waves and take a deep breath.

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Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

becoming a man

Cover of "In Search of the Warrior Spirit...
Cover via Amazon

The author Richard Strozzi-Heckler wrote in “In Search of the Warrior Spirit“…

“How do we fulfill our spiritual yearnings in a society that places materialism as its highest good? What makes life so dreary that men cheered in the streets when WWI was declared? Perhaps the men in these small towns are really marching away from boredom and lack of meaning, and not so much toward war. During his visit George mused that ‘it may not be that war is so often vivid, but that peace is so often drab. The end of war may require the creation of a peace that is not only just, but vivid.”

Once I read that, it made me think about some of the choices I have made in my lifetime. First as a teenage boy when I started my first martial art class. A large part of doing so was for the “macho” factor. Another part was the “adventure” factor, doing something different, something to set me apart, something outside the drab everyday life. As a kid during the 80’s “ninja craze” a few of my buddies and I used to run amok in the neighborhood in black gi w/tabi searching for “adventure” (lucky we never got in trouble). Later in life I rock climbed, skydived, served in the military and eventually wound up in law enforcement. I would be lying to myself if I said that I made those decisions entirely to “serve my country” or “to help others”. Large portions of those decisions was that each of them wasn’t the “same old, same old”. They fulfilled some sort of masculine need that is tough to nail down. I think a large part of it has to do with our societies lack of “rite of passage” for boys into men.

In many primitive/tribal groups there are initiation ceremonies where boys go through some sort of rite-of-passage into manhood like hunts, vision quests, various risk taking events, etc. and they are then secure in their minds that they are deserving of being called a “man”. In our society such things seem to be more and more frowned upon as “sexist”, divisive and outright weird.

So what to we provide to our boys in our society? Not all that much. They find their “manhood” through various things like sports, gangs, fighting (bully/tough guy attitudes), military service, sex, careers, cars, emulating “gangstas”, parroting singers and celebs, rock climbing, skydiving, x-sports, skateboarding, surfing, martial arts…again, not that SOME of those routes are bad if they make you secure in your own skin and you are also doing right by others and for society. Many are also “active” means…you put yourself out there and experience life and learn from those experiences. Sometimes you fail, sometimes you get hurt, but if approached in the right mindset, you can learn something about yourself. But its all very haphazard and if not supervised you wind up with guys jumping off of hotel roofs into swimming pools, car surfing and criminality all in the name of “acting tough”.

Thinking about some of the young men (and older men) I have had to deal with in my career, it leads me to wonder how many of them had a “father figure” that taught them what it means to “be a man” in our society? Lots of gangsters seem to be doing what they do more as a way of “earning respect” and feeling part of a “brotherhood” than it is about making money. Perhaps this isn’t a “new thing” and is just part of moving from tribal to “civilized” society, but it makes me wonder what other types of alternatives there are out there for our young men. Compulsory military service? Compulsory public service?

dont be a sheep

The sheep from my friend Lalli
Image by eir@si via Flickr

Many people are sheep. When I was in college, I had a evening class in a large lecture hall. Every time I went there people would be standing outside the door waiting for the professor to show up, walk in and turn on the lights. One night I decided to try something. I walked right past everybody, went in, turned on the lights and sat down. Thats when I learned that 99% of leadership is “doing” and 1% “telling”. Everybody just followed me in. Its the “somebody else will do it” thing. The point? 9/11. I was thinking about how a few terrorists with box cutters could do what they did. Outnumbered as they were. The story I have heard is that people on cell phones were telling their loved ones that the flight crew was telling everybody to remain seated and stay calm. Granted, that was SOP at the time, but it illustrates the tendency humans have to “follow”. IMO much of it is because we give little thought to what we would do in these situations. I think it is either out of denial (that will never happen to me) or believing somebody else will take action. In that situation, if the BG’s had guns or explosives, I could see waiting. Contact weapons though…there was probably enough heavy objects in the overhead compartments alone to pummel those dirtbags to the deck just by throwing them.

I believe as martial artist, training for self defense, that techhnique is useless if the students mindset isnt propper. Somebody with no training, but a determination that they will never be forced into a truck at the hands of a killer. That they will die on the spot rather than be taken somewhere else to be tormented and killed. Is going to be more formidable than a black belt who hasnt made that conscious decision.

Stories of the Samurai are filled with such examples. The way of the Samurai was “to take hold of the long and short swords and die”. Now with that in mind, they trained daily because the goal was still to defeat the enemy. However they had already determined their mindset and that is what made them formidable warriors. Skill was secondary to mindset. Note I said secondary, not exclusive from. Skill followed close behind. Im not saying “forget about training if you have the right mindset” by any means. Just that training in any skill alone isnt going to do you any good if you are taken by suprise or are mentally unprepared to use those skills.

The best way to develop this “mindset” is to simply decide whats worth fighting for and how far you are willing to go to survive. Like the situation I mentioned before in regards to being forced into a vehicle. Dont become paranoid that these things are going to happen to you. Just decide what you are going to do. That way when the !!!! hits the fan the odds are better that you are going to act. This comes directly from LEO training. When I respond to a call I run through a general scenario in my head. How Im going to approach. If im going to wait for backup. Is this a “guns up” situation? What is the arrest plan going to be? Granted the way it turns out is never to plan, but the point isnt to make situations “fit” the plan. The point is to be ahead of the BG in the OODA game by having my “decide” list already narrowed down. That way I can hopefully Act faster than the BG can Orient on what Im doing. In your day to day life you can play this game too. “What am I going to do if a BG trys to hold up the store im in?” “What am I going to do if that guy on the corner approaches my car at this red light?” (did you leave enough space between the car ahead of you to pull around?) Play out a little scene in your head.

Last and probably most importantly, when the time comes to act, act. Better to be slow in the decision than halfhearted in the execution. And remember that “winning” is surviving, not beating your opponent. Do what you need to survive. If you can run, run. If this is a deadly force situation grab whatever can be used as a weapon. A pen, coffee mug, stapler, anything. I believe it was Musashi who (loosely) said “it is disgracefull do die with a weapon yet undrawn”. All this H2H stuff is for when you are caught totally unprepared and unable to grab anything. Start there as a base, but not as an end all be all.


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the examined life

thma tech

Sometimes I look back and think about the course of events and influences that lead me to where I am today. The occurrences that formed my opinions and personality. I believe it was Socrates that said “the unexamined life is not worth living”.

I grew up in a rural area of Western New York. The oldest and only boy of the family, I had two sisters and the closest male friend of mine, or any boy my age, lived 2-3 miles away. So I didnt grow up with the all American ideal of the boys playing football in the yard or meeting at the sandlot to play baseball. My days were filled -when not at school- with running around the woods, reading books, plinking cans with my .22 or shooting arrows up in the air and dodging them as they came down (my Mom never knew about that one), and some small game hunting when I was old enough. Consequently, I never got into team sports in school which kept me out of the “popular” cliques. I had good grades but not good enough to be a “geek/nerd”.

Somewhere around 8th grade I made friends with a kid named Paul. Our fathers went to high school together, we had common interests like the martial arts, Dungeons and Dragons and the military… we hit it off right away. This was the early 80’s and the ninja craze was in full swing. We had the full get-ups, boots, masks, the works. I was studying martial arts and we used to spar each other in the backyard. I used to spend the weekends at Pauls house down by the lake, or at a mutual friends house who held D&D parties. We used to crash in Pauls parents camper which was parked next to his house. In the middle of the night we used to go out on “missions”. Things I now chase kids down for. Nothing (too) illegal or damaging. We would meet other groups of kids in the woods and have padded sword and bow and arrow “wars”. We’d go crawling up to parties on the beach and swipe the reminants of a 6 pack from right next to a partier. Climb up on the roof of the high school or walk 2-3 miles to Evangola State Park in the winter…across frozen lake Erie and climb the cliffs near the park. Rappel off of abandoned railroad bridges, stage special operations strikes with our .22’s and homemade mannequin “terrorists”. Shooting over each other as we low crawled to position. Stupid, testosterone addled, teenage boy stuff. But as I say “every boy likes to fancy himself a Warrior…and inside every man there is still a boy running around wondering if he measures up”. In another blog post of mine about the “Suburban Warrior Syndorme” the author writes:

In Western culture, “how to be a hero” instruction has roots that go back to 12th century Norse sagas and ancient-Greek epic poems, points out University of Michigan Law School professor William Ian Miller, author of The Mystery of Courage. These legends taught both psychological and moral lessons, and pointed the way to bravery. “In Icelandic sagas, the character would say, ‘I have not yet done anything saga-like,'” Miller says. “This type of epic wasn’t just escape, but was designed to fantasize yourself into this action and this behavior.” These heroic narratives featured imperfect characters who accomplished great things, despite their flaws.

However, kids raised on Thor or Tolkien don’t predictably gravitate to modern-day “hero” jobs like policeman or firefighter. Nor can you ever guarantee who will act bravely in wartime, Miller says. Courage is learned by practicing it day by day-by speaking up when you get cut off in line, not by waiting until you come across a maiden tied to the railroad tracks. “You have to train yourself to be courageous,” Miller says. Taking small daily risks prepares us for unexpected tests of courage, and he worries that “the upper-middle-class disease of risk aversion”-meticulously organized playtimes, the rush to protect children from any potential conflict or harm-has deprived children of chances to test themselves.

I think that we, like many other boys, were just playing out that imperative thats imbedded in our Y chromosomes and flogged on by the aggressive and self-testing influence of testosterone. This is something that I believe is currently under assault in our country. Boys are routinely classified as ADD and drugged into submission, boys acting like boys are becoming viewed as threats and discipline is being doled out without understanding. I think that the more we force boys to bottle up whats inside them, the bigger problems we are going to have.

As strange as it seems to me now, I can say that there was a definate turning point in my life and that was when I went skydiving. After that, everything I used to dream about but never thought could happen suddenly came into the realm of possibility. As a “rite of passage” it can be a great tool for looking inside yourself and realizing what you can be capabile of. I was at the ideal point in my life too. My early 20’s. That stage between childhood and truly being an adult. Where you know that you have to get your life started but dont know what to do or how to do it. When you dream big about what you want to do but your fears tell you you are kidding yourself and to settle for the “sure thing”. Like the quote I posted above stated. The way to big accomplishments is by taking many consistant smaller steps. After skydiving it was like throwing a switch. I wasnt afraid of the risk anymore, I accepted the consequences and made some decisions. I went rockclimbing, joined the military, took the civil service exam and wound up in a job I enjoy and am advancing in it.

As we got older, Paul joined the Marines, became a martial arts instructor, an English teacher and got married and I went on my path of college, graduate school, military service, work, marriage, career change. Paul and I have stood up in each others weddings, are godfathers to each others kids, we wound up in the same Army National Guard unit and went to Bosnia together. He lives about a 1/4 mile away with his family and his son uses us as a second home.

So to tie all this together… I think that the circumstances of my life -growing up with little male group contact- and solo vs. team persuits resulted in my current interests. I run, hunt,climb/rappel (rarely these days), weightlift, practice martial arts, all solo stuff. I think that background, coupled with a lack of male group “testing” resulted in a tendency to have to “prove myself” to myself. The interest in fantasy roleplaying games and the fantasy warrior stuff my friend and I did being a manifestation of that. But, fortunately for me, my friend and I used this as a motivation for action in our lives. The catylist of which was my skydiving experience, which lead to a series of macho self validating decisions and put me where I am today. Some people never take the step from dreaming of what they want to be to making themselves into what they want to be. The translation is never perfect. Real life is never the same as fantasy and sometimes you fail or realize that you just arent going to be an Astronaut or Green Beret. But you can take satisfaction that you tried and will realize that the journey toward your goal has many branches just short of it, but you are way closer to than you would have been if you never took that first step.


The Samurai of feudal Japan revered the sword, known as the Katana, to an almost religious state. Swords were highly prized and took a long time to forge. The Samurai used to test a new sword to determine its cutting and handling abilities. It was known as “Tameshigiri” (“Test Cutting”). In more brutal days it was done on condemned prisoners or corpses. It evolved into rolled mats of bamboo soaked in water until they had the approximate density of human flesh. As you can see here these swords are SHARP!

unusual workouts



My good buddy Paul and myself decided to give the old “car push workout” a try. Pushing and pulling a vehicle in neutral across a parking lot is a great overall body workout and an intense cardio effort. Its part of the latest (even though old-old is new again) “tactical” workout trend that focuses of whats called GPP which stands for General Physical Preparation.

Similar to the CrossFit workout that ive blogged about before, the goal of GPP is overall conditioning that enables one to handle any sort of physical challenge that a soldier, cop, or person forced into a “fight or flight” situation may meet. You don’t focus on becoming the biggest, the strongest or the fastest. You focus on trying to have  an acceptable balance of each. Logic would tell you that if your goal is to become the strongest, than the amount of time or physical ability to train for speed or cardio endurance would be limited. And focusing on speed would then hamper your goal of superior strength.

Anyway, we took Paul’s SUV to the Church parking lot and took turns steering while the other pushed, than pulled the vehicle the length of the lot. Whew! I’m tellin ya I haven’t pushed myself to the point of not being able to walk in a long time. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna be hurting sore in a couple of days.