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Path of the Ronin:

A Training Guide for Modern Self-Defense

Kevin Secours, Copyright 2005

This manual may not be duplicated, in part or in whole, digitally, photographically electronically or through other means, without the express written permission of Kevin Secours.

This manual is intended for entertainment purposes only. Kevin Secours, the Dragon Mind Method, Integrated Fighting Systems and all of their representatives, waive any responsibilities for injuries or damages resulting from the use of the information contained in this book. The author urges the reader to remember that self-defense is a serious matter. No aspect of this book should be attempted without the supervision of an authorized instructor. Individuals maintain the

responsibility to investigate local and state definitions and regulations pertaining to excessive and reasonable force. Please consult a physician before attempting any of the exercises described in this book. When training, please take the appropriate safety precautions, including but not limited to the wearing of protective eye wear, mouth guards, protective cups, padding, helmets and the use of safe training weapons.

Use this information at your own risk.

This book is dedicated to the memory of Royal Secours. He was my father, my hero, and the greatest example of what a man could become and achieve. He died as he lived, a poet warrior in the humble service of a much higher cause. Your spirit lives on in all who were touched by your greatness. You will be missed.

True immortality begins first by living a life worth remembering.

Table of Contents
SECTION 1:........................................................................................................................................7 FINDING THE PATH .......................................................................................................................7 INTRODUCTION: ......................................................................................................................9 COMBAT RESPONSIBILITY: ..................................................................................................12
Exercise 1Go With The Flow: ................................................................................................... 15 Exercise 2Are You Ready For Change?: ................................................................................... 16

STRESS INNOCULATION: ......................................................................................................18

Exercise 3Understanding Stress Inoculation:............................................................................. 24

SECTION 2:......................................................................................................................................25 WARRIORS ARSENAL ................................................................................................................25 THE SCIENCE OF FEAR: .......................................................................................................27 WILD HORSES AND CHARIOTEERS:....................................................................................31 TRAINING OR TRAUMA: ........................................................................................................35 UNDERSTANDING COMBAT STRESS:..................................................................................39
Exercise 4Tasting Our Mortality:............................................................................................... 42

HOW WE LEARN: ....................................................................................................................43 THE DRAGONS MIND:.......................................................................................................45 COMPETITION VS. AMBUSH: ...............................................................................................48 SECTION 3:......................................................................................................................................53 YOUR ARSENAL ............................................................................................................................53 UNLEASHING YOUR MINDS POWER: ................................................................................55
Exercise 5Turning On Our Inner Movie Projectors: .................................................................. 56

MENTAL PERSPECTIVE:........................................................................................................59
Exercise 6Spectator or Participant: ............................................................................................ 59 Exercise 7Measuring Motivation: .............................................................................................. 60

Exercise 8The Power of Negation: ............................................................................................ 62 Exercise 9Self-Defense Movie:.................................................................................................. 64

FEAR INVENTORY: .................................................................................................................67

Exercise 10Self-Defense Situation Inventory: ........................................................................... 69 SAMPLE FEAR HIERARCHY:.................................................................................................. 70

PSYCHIC ARMOR: ..................................................................................................................74

Exercise 11Building Your Own Suit of Psychic Armor: ........................................................... 76 Exercise 12Identifying Unwanted Responses: ........................................................................... 77 Exercise 13Put On Your Armor:................................................................................................ 78 Exercise 14Experience Your Fears: ........................................................................................... 79

SURIVORS MINDSET:............................................................................................................80 SETTING OUR SIGHTS:..........................................................................................................86

Exercise 15Establishing Goals:.................................................................................................. 89

EMPOWERING YOUR OBJECTIVES: ....................................................................................90

Exercise 16Inventorize Your Powers:........................................................................................ 91

ALLOWING YOUR SELF TO SUCCEED:...............................................................................93

Exercise 17Goal Hierarchy: ....................................................................................................... 93

MEASURING YOUR GOALS: ..................................................................................................94

Exercise 18Experiencing the Goal:............................................................................................ 94

PAREIDOLIA: ..........................................................................................................................96

SECTION 4:....................................................................................................................................101 FORGING EXCELLENCE...........................................................................................................101 PLASTICITY: ..........................................................................................................................103 THINKING BEYOND TIME:..................................................................................................105
Exercise 19 Associative Linking Skills:................................................................................... 108 Exercise 20 Associative Linking Objects: ............................................................................... 109

BOUNDARY BASHING:.........................................................................................................110
Exercise 21 Bashing Checklist:................................................................................................ 112

GUIDED MASTERY:..............................................................................................................114
Exercise 22 Choosing Your Guides: ........................................................................................ 118

MOTOR PROGRAMMING SECRETS: ..................................................................................119 PROPRIOCEPTION:..............................................................................................................121

Exercise 23 Fingertip Accuracy:.............................................................................................. 122 Exercise 24 Target Practice: .................................................................................................... 123

EMOTIONAL CONTROL:......................................................................................................125
Exercise 25 Breath Control:..................................................................................................... 126 Exercise 26 Breath Control 2:.................................................................................................. 127

BREATH POWER:..................................................................................................................130
Exercise 27Test Your Breathing: ............................................................................................. 134

BEHAVIORAL CHANGE: ......................................................................................................136

Exercise 28 Weeding Out Perceptions:.................................................................................... 138

ANCHORING: ........................................................................................................................140
Exercise 29Creating Gesture Keys: ...................................................................................... 141

RELAXATION TRAINING:.....................................................................................................148
Exercise 30 Relaxation Realization: ........................................................................................ 152

SECTION 5:....................................................................................................................................153 ENTERING THE ARENA ............................................................................................................153 PRACTICAL TRAINING GUIDELINES: ...............................................................................154
Exercise 31 The Power of Slow:.............................................................................................. 158 Exercise 32Slow Motion Movie: ............................................................................................. 159

INTELLIGENT EXPOSURE:..................................................................................................161
Exercise 33Try Your Convictions in Court:............................................................................. 164 Exercise 34Let Go Of The Human Drama:.............................................................................. 166 Exercise 35Get into the water: ................................................................................................. 167

Exercise 36E.A.S.E. Survey: ................................................................................................... 174

ATTENTION RESOURCES: ...................................................................................................175 PRE-EMPTIVE ACTION:.......................................................................................................181 REVISITING SPINAL LOADING:..........................................................................................186 PERFORMANCE HYPNOSIS: ...............................................................................................192
Exercise 37Sight, Sound, Feel: ................................................................................................ 198 Exercise 38Rapid Self-Defense Induction: .............................................................................. 200

CREATING A SAFE TRAINING ENVIRONMENT: ...............................................................204

Exercise 39Assessing Your Training Environment: ................................................................ 206

Exercise 40Role-Playing Scenarios: ........................................................................................ 212

AVOIDING RELAPSES: .........................................................................................................215 POST COMBATIVE COPING SKILLS: .................................................................................218

Exercise 41Implementing Your After-Action Plan Today:...................................................... 221

SECTION 5:....................................................................................................................................223 CONCLUSION ...............................................................................................................................223 GODWORMS: ........................................................................................................................224


Before enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water.

After enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water.

Zen Proverb


The warrior paused. Alone on his quiet path, he stared into the wilderness before him, into the pocket of darkness in the trees, where the light of the noon day sun became lost in a worming tangle of branches. He had been traveling for more days now than even he could remember, the pain in his tired feet his only record of his toil. Even as the dirt and dust struggled to dull the sparkle that once danced on his armor, they could not steal his strength of spirit. Defiantly, he held his spear at his side, refusing to lean on it for even a moment, no matter how much his frayed body craved it. Below his elbow, the hilt of his sword rubbed gently on his arm and the touch brought him comfort and coolness to his breath. The sword brought his mind back to him self. He was a Ronina masterless warrior. His weapons and the hands that wielded them were his only allies. Affirming this brought him strength and all at once the darkness ahead seemed less ominous and a lightness returned to his body. He continued on his careful journey once more. Where it would lead him, he did not know.

We are all Roninmasterless warriors, free to choose our own path, to make our own decisions, to set our own limits and goals. Regardless of our religious beliefs, our commitments to family, or our professional obligations, ultimately, in our souls, it remains our choice alone to respect an ideology, to fight any fight, to submit, to continue surviving or to expire. Each of us has that choice, that one ultimate power.

In my first book Dragon Mind: The Psychological and Philosophical Foundations of Warriorhood, I combined a variety of historical sources on Warriorhood in a modern framework to identify the enduring call of the warrior that resounds within us all. I addressed the profound role of mortality, our fear of death and the effect that this carries on our lives and our warrior training. The response

from readers around the globe was overwhelming and with it came the realization that there was a distinct need for more concrete guidelines to help fellow practitioners, along their paths. In Path of the Ronin, I will seek to amend this lacking, by providing a detailed, step-by-step regimen for improving your self-defense skills. The market is already over-flowing with books and DVDs on physical conditioning and selfimprovement so the last thing that we need is another fad to throw onto the heap. In the hopes of making this work distinct from the masses, I pledge to you from the first page of this manual, that I will only provide you with tactics, drills, exercises and techniques that: I have personally used on myself and my students with great success; Are easy to integrate into our every day lives without requiring fanatic dedication or massive life-style changes. Few of us have the time to shave our heads, convert to an all berry and nut diet and retreat into the mountains to commune telepathically with squirrels; Will directly improve your ability to defend yourself and your loved ones. After all, this is why we are training. As I do this, I ask you to remember that ultimately, this is a work book. It will provide you with a lot of directions and insights based on my personal experience, but for it to be beneficial to you, you must do the work. You must commit to yourself to try these exercises with an open mind and in return, I will provide you with every shred of knowledge and every little trick that I use on myself to help you build and maintain your motivation. Remember, if you thought you already had all of the answers you would have just bought a mirror so you could watch yourself train all day long, but you didnt. You chose to pick up this book because you wanted more. You were looking for new ways to improve yourself, to make yourself better, to protect yourself, to keep your family safe and to strengthen your health and your commitment to the values that you cherish. Theres an old expression that I first learned in the sales game: If you always do what youve always done,

youre sure to get the same results that youve always gotten. Sounds simple, doesnt it? If you never change the path that you take, how can you get surprised if you keep ending up in the same place, right? This is why you chose to read this book, because you wanted more for yourself, because you believe that you deserve to have all of the information possible to make your own decisions, because youre looking for a different path to help you get where you want to go. All that I ask is that you enter into this path with me, with an open mind and an open heart and see what our combined experiences can bring to you. Once again, this work would not have been possible without the unending patience and support of my wife Najma, my guiding star and light in the darkness. This knowledge has been sifted through my many, many students past and present. Thank you all for sharing your enthusiasm, your questions, lots of laughter, and bucketfuls of sweat (and occasionally blood) along the way. You are all warriors. Lastly, my deepest and most humble thanks must go out to my teachersand there have been many. Thank you all for your generosity, your challenges and your honesty, most notably Roger Onada Sensei for salvaging me from the wilderness of my youth and teaching me what it meant to be a martial artist and to Grand Master Mikhail Ryabko and Master Vladimir Vasiliev for redefining my expectations of humanity as a whole. I regard you all as treasures. I hope that you enjoy the following pages. All mistakes are my own. Take from these experiences what you can. Training is truth.

_________________________ Kevin Secours,

Montreal, Canada July 2005


The warrior stood in the clearing, where the swaying sea of grass met with the smoldering belt of clouds on the new horizon. He drew his blade cleanly, cutting the air with a whisper, his eyes transfixed, his breathing seeping quietly from the deepest core of his body. With sudden energy, he darted forward, stabbing sharply at the air in fierce succession, every strike a complete expression of his skill. Like an ocean wave, his blade rose and fell, unhindered, free of malice or doubt. The resolution of his intent seemed to stop the hum of nature that surrounded him. Then, once awareness had returned to his mind and body, he slipped his sword carefully back into its sheath and slowly knelt amidst the tall grasses, thankful for the dawning day that was upon him.

Combat is the very essence of all life. Every day of our existence we fight to survive. We do battle with stress, age, fatigue and desires. We work to provide ourselves with shelter, food and comfort. We compete in our studies, in the workplace and even in our leisure activities. As individuals, were constantly striving to move forward and to find security and meaning in our time on this earth. This is why I say that we are born to be warriors. These battles, by their nature are unpredictable, a fluctuating fabric woven partly by our own intentions, partly by the resistance and intentions of those who would oppose us, tempered with fear, loss and pain and ultimately vetoed and trumped by the whim or master plan of Mother Nature herself. There are simply no guarantees in combat, no surefire solutions, no absolute certainties. Despite what many advertisers would have us believe, no one style, technique, or approach can ensure anyone supremacy on the battlefield, no matter what the challenge may be. If such a style did it exist, it would be easy to findit would be the style being used by the guards of the emperor of the universe and it would neutralize anyone who

fight against it, but I think we can all safely agree that no such supremacy exists. There is however one commonality in every fight, one certain truth that will be found in every conflict or struggle no matter where it is waged: that is that violence, by its nature, is unpredictable. Through the ages, warrior traditions have taken a mind-numbing variety of approaches to combat readiness. Some have tried to ritualize violence into something more controllable, something safer, often within a framework that fused religion, aesthetic concerns or cultural values with survival. In his Pulitzer Prize winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel, author Jared Diamond studied the pivotal importance of adaptability to change and innovation on a cultural level. One example he gives is of Japans refusal to adopt the use of guns. In 1543, two Portuguese adventurers armed with early rifles, brought the new technology to Japan. The Japanese were so impressed by the weapon that they began fabricating guns immediately and by 1600 they had so improved this new technology, that they had higher quality firearms and more of them than any other country in the world. Think about that for a moment. The countrys incredible interest in warfare stemmed from a very powerful warrior class in their society, the samurai. The problem was that at the base of the samurais way of life, was the sword. More than just a weapon, swords in Japan held a powerful value in social class distinction and stood as a symbol of Japanese national spirit and strength. Diamond notes:

Japanese warfare had previously involved single combats between samurai swordsmen, who stood in the open, made ritual speeches, and then took pride in fighting gracefully. Such behavior became lethal in the presence of peasant soldiers ungracefully blasting away with guns. In addition, guns were a foreign invention and grew to be despised, as did other things foreign in Japan after 1600.
So it was that the government intervened to restrict and eventually eliminate gun production. Incredibly, this ban lasted for over 200 years! Given

Japans geographic isolation, they were able to adhere to an antiquated social and combative structure, while the remainder of the world forged boldly ahead in the improvement of firearms. This ideological decree smashed face first into the reality of the outside world in 1853, when Commodore Perry, leading a heavily armed American fleet, convinced Japan of the need to resume gun manufacture to remain competitive with foreign forces that could no longer be held at bay. History is riddled with examples of the absolute power of adaptability. Eurasia, during the middle ages is an example of the reverse phenomenon that we can see in 17th century Japan. There, the Islamic scholars benefited from their geography, embracing innovations from India and China that were readily available to them. In addition, they inherited the knowledge of the ancient Greeks to the point where many of the Greek masterpieces known to us today are available to us only through Arabic copies. As Diamond notes, while Europe fumbled through its Dark Ages, Islamic societies in the Middle East were making innovations with windmill technology, creating trigonometry, advancing metallurgy and chemical engineering, and creating cutting edge irrigation methods. They had adopted paper and gunpowder and were at the absolute forefront of technical advancement until around the 1500s when a shift in ideologies and combined cultural forces caused a reversal of this great tide. Innovation and adaptability is the essence of survival. New technologies and knowledge must constantly be absorbed, integrated and maintained in order to thrive. For this very reason, many modern self-defense systems have strayed from or improved upon the traditional martial arts, creating hybrids that incorporate the latest combative strategies, advances in psychology, biomechanics, sports performance and a host of other factors. They understand that the world around us is constantly changing. As Heraclites said: You cant step into the same river

twice. The universe is constantly flowing.


Exercise 1Go With The Flow:

Imagine any single self-defense situation. The simpler the better. Something like a basic wrist grab or push. Visualize yourself resolving the situation in full detail. Once youve concluded the situation, run through the situation again in your head. Notice that even in your own visualizations, as you become more familiar with the situation, you will add details, embellishing your response, eventually changing your reaction. Now, try a movement in application. It could be a self-defense technique with a student or partner or a solo movement like a squat or a push-up. Although there is an intended technique that you want to do, notice the variations between each repetition. You will never perform the same push-up the same way twice or deliver two truly identical punches. The more variables you add to whatever you are doing, the more organic and original each repetition will naturally become. For example if you try throwing punches while walking backwards down a flight of stairs, you will see some massive differences in each rep.

Even this simple exercise reaffirms that combat is chaos. Im driving this nail in deep because its an important one. Regardless of your ideology or intent, no matter how youve prepared yourself, ultimately, every warrior needs to face the reality that violence carries with it an infinite number of variables. Since there can be no one way to predict how an enemy will attack, there can be no one technique or single method that can guarantee survival. As history has shown us, the key is to adapt. I will begin this manual with one simple belief: everyone reading these pages may have different beliefs and values, but we are all bound by one common, underlying goalwe are warriors who wish to better prepare ourselves for the reality of the stress and pressure of combat. This is why we are reading this book. Therefore, I would ask you to reaffirm this one simple truth:

Preparing for the stress of combat is your responsibility. No one will do it for you. There is help and support available to you during your preparation, but ultimately, the obligation to make this choice and to go forward, is yours alone. As we will see in the coming pages, not even our natural instincts can do this work for ussorry to burst any bubbles if some of you were counting on that.

Exercise 2Are You Ready For Change?:

Take a moment to ask yourself the following 3 questions. These are important, so please deeply consider each question one at a time and be sure of your answers before you continue: Do you believe it is possible to change your behavior and to improve your selfdefense skills? If so, would you like to improve your self-defense skills? If so, how soon would you like to experience these improvements?

If you answered anything other than: YES you believe it is possible to change your behavior and YES your would like to improve your self-defense skills and You are ready for these improvements SOON or NOW

then this manual may not be able to help you. First youll need to determine what your true objectives are and what motivates you to pursue self-defense training. On the flipside, if you deeply believe that its possible to improve yourself and to

change your behavior and youre ready to experience those changes now, then I will show you how your only limit will be your expectations. Lets begin your next evolution now.

Unless you do your best, the day will come when, tired and hungry, you will halt just short of the goal you were ordered to reach, and by halting you will make useless the efforts and deaths of thousands.
Gen. George S. Patton


The attack came suddenly. The bandits had waited for the cover of darkness and for sleep to come to the warriors weary body before they had slithered their malicious paths into the encampment where he lay. Perhaps it was the brief flicker of moonlight on their blades that alerted the warrior of their approach or the faint crackle of dry grass beneath their feet despite their best efforts at stealth. Perhaps it was simply their sinister intent that clashed with the serenity of the sleeping forest so blaringly. It did not matter now. Somehow, the warrior awoke, his eyes half-closed like a sleeping cat, his hand gripping the handle of his sword where it had rested during his sleep. Even before he moved, he could see the battle unfold before his minds eye. Every movement was resolute and pure in his thoughts. Then, as he had a thousand times before in practice, he sprang from the earth where he lay, rolling into the night like an ocean wave, crested with steel. The first bandits shriek shattered the heavy murmur of the forest and quiet creatures scattered in every direction from their slumbers. The second thief was cut down so utterly, his cry was deflated into a whisper before it could escape. Instantly, the warrior paused, breathing slowly to calm his racing heart, studying the darkness. There were no others. He cleaned the blood from his blade in careful ritual and replaced his weapon, listening as the silence returned to him.
Theres a popular expression in martial arts circles that promises: You will

fight the way you train. The intent of this sentiment is that if you dont train for a
certain scenario, you will not be ready for it. So, if you want to be ready for knife attacks, you need to train knife defense. If you want to know how to fight from the ground, you must practice fighting from the ground. You just need to do it. While in essence this is obviously true, in some ways, its an incomplete concept. Many people train for realistic scenarios in completely unrealistic ways. If I train to defend against gun attacks by stabbing a pencil in front of the hammer of

my attackers weapon (laugh all you wantI actually saw this in a martial arts magazine once) it doesnt matter how much I train this move, the simple reality is that my strategy is unlikely to work. This move is ridiculously precise, requires insanely fine motor skills which just wont be there during a crisis and is simply completely inefficient. Better to throw that pencil in your attackers face and duck behind a desk. I believe its more correct to say: You will fight HOW you train, not WHAT you train. You can train knife fighting techniques all day long, but if you adhere to traditional choreography and fixed drills that have little to do with the rabid lurches and haymaker swings of a street attackers bezerker rage, you are only training to become proficient at drills, not combat. Ive already noted that since there can be no one way to predict how your enemy might attack you, there can naturally be no one method or technique that can guarantee your survival. Thats why training must develop adaptability above all else, but before delving into adaptability training, we should also remember the reality of the environment that were training for. We will never be operating in a comfortable or convenient mental or physical state. Granted, we can learn how to improve our state, how to counter the effects of stress and strategies that will work even when were panicked, but ultimately, combat is chaos and it carries with it a massive psycho-physical burden. Encounters with violence trigger deep emotional responses that attack us at a primal level. These can include physical disorders and ailments and behavioral change. They can even penetrate into our spiritual cores and challenge our fundamental beliefs and core values. Bruce Lee wrote: Too much time is dedicated to the acquisition of

technique and too little to the preparation of the individual for participation. While
in Lees context, he was referring more to the need for physical conditioning over rote memorization, the same sentiment applies to psychological preparedness as well. Warrior training has always sought to prepare the individual for the psychological ramifications of violence, but through the ages, humankinds approaches have run wildly across a full spectrum of success and failure. Its

important to remember in this regard, that while war and violence has existed for millennia, more has been learned about the structure and the function of the human brain in the past 25 years than in the rest of human history combined. A 16th century samurai may have had a fantastic intuitive understanding of combat stress, but he did not know exactly how or why it was happening. What he couldnt understand simply, he explained through spiritual or divine forces. Today, we have an explanation for these effects and that monumental achievement has astounding implications for modern warrior preparation. Just because a self-defense method comes from a time and a place where people were at war, doesnt mean the art is the most efficient method for us today. We have evolved as a species since that point in time. We wouldnt blindly adhere to using antiquated clubs and spears in modern warfare, so why should we be any more allegiant to antiquated empty handed techniques and psychological preparation? If you think about this clearly for a moment, youll realize that we shouldnt. We need to adapt. Remember the example I gave earlier of the Japanese adhering to their sword culture despite the rise of firearms in the rest of the world. Because they were geographically isolated, they managed to stay fixed in their ways for almost 200 years, but eventually the tides of changed washed up on their shores and they had no choice. Either they adapted to the new technology or else they would be conquered. Similarly, we need to perform a house cleaning on the archaic ideas still attached to self-defense training and incorporate advances from many fields into our training method to help us get home alive. New insights into how humans learn, research into instincts and reflex, studies on the effects and motives of violence and the effects of harming our own species, have all contributed to reshaping the way cutting edge trainers prepare warriors for the reality of violence. One area of study that will be of crucial interest to us in this manual, is the science of improving performance under the effects of stressors, which is known as Stress Inoculation Training (SIT). Stress Inoculation is based on the modern technology of cognitive behavior modification pioneered by Donald Meichenbaum beginning most notably in 1977. The goal of this method is to help individuals cope with the aftermath of exposure to stress and to use that

process to prepare for and optimize performance when exposed to future stressors.

The Path of The Ronin is based on Meichenbaums 3-step approach to

Stress Inoculation. Our program will consist of: STEP 1EDUCATION: The first step in preparing for the stress of combat is to know what to expect. This begins with discussing and clarifying the causes and impact of stress to show the full role that stress plays on our performance. Well discuss the science of fear and discuss which reactions are potentially changeable and which are not. This understanding will help us reconceptualize threats as challenges to be overcome or avoided. Well also set our personal training objectives, breaking down global stressors into smaller bite size piece and set these objectives on a training timeline. STEP 2REHEARSAL: The second phase of SIT is our skills acquisition phase. This is where we will discuss the specific skill sets and coping skills that have been proven successful in application, including relaxation training, emotional control exercises, problem-solving strategies, methods for diverting attention, communication skills, and cognitive restructuring. A wide variety of solo exercises will be shared to help you create instant change in you. STEP 3APPLICATION: The final phase of effective Stress Inoculation Training is to apply your new understanding in a resistant and variable environment. This can include behavioral rehearsing, role-playing, modeling, visualization training and of course, practical experimentation with training partners. Well also discuss how to avoid behavioral relapses by identifying warning signs and high risk situations, and maintenance techniques to keep your skills honed. Stress Inoculation Training has enjoyed tremendous success in clinical therapy and has quickly carried its influence into a wide variety of related areas of

performance enhancement ranging from business management to sports. Although this is a modern label, consider for a moment the traditional symbol featured throughout this manual that represents our combative style, The Blade Wheel:

The Blade Wheel

Traditionally, this symbol was intended to represent the three essential components of correct martial training: Mind, Body and Spirit. These arent divisions of training that can be worked on separately or ignored altogether as many people do. Theyre 3 equally essential pillars of effective training that are tightly interconnected to form a whole. Throughout this manual, I will show you that while some advantage can be had from training a physical technique, that by harnessing your physical and spiritual attributes as well, you can gain infinitely more advantage. From a combative perspective, The Blade Wheel is always in motion. It represents continuous adaptability. By remaining in motion, it also maintains perfect balance between offensive and defensive action. As we stand at the mouth of the path of training that lay before us, The Blade Wheel can also be seen to represent our overall training method and stress inoculation:

Beginning with Mind, we see the emphasis on Education and on understanding why we do what we do. Progressing to Body, we Rehearse our actions and practice our new skills to grow our confidence. Culminating in Spirit, we apply these new skills and perform what weve learned. Through this process we strengthen and calm our spirit and learn to embrace the challenge. As with all interpretations of The Blade Wheel, these three components are not

steps that we pass though on our journey a single time, never to revisit them again.
Rather, they are returning phases of our continuing growth cycle. We will continually be revisiting each phase of the blade wheel throughout our journey and with each visit, bring new experiences and understanding to them that will strengthen us as individuals. With every performance, with every physical application and test of new skills, we will return to the Education phase renewed, our knowledge refined and enriched by our experimentation. Motivated and more focused in our objectives, we tweak our approach, adjust our goals and begin again. Throughout this manual, I will make my strongest effort to prove the supreme worth of this approach to you, by showing you results both immediate and long-term that will bring you the lasting change you deserve and desire, but before beginning, try this simple exercise on the following page.

Please see the exercise on the next page


Exercise 3Understanding Stress Inoculation:

Take a moment to consider the three stages of Stress Inoculation: Education, Rehearsal and Application: Do you believe that educating yourself and understanding why you are doing what you are doing will help you to recruit the full power of your brain? Does it make sense to you, that the more precisely and intelligently you practice something, the better you will be at that activity? Do you believe that the only way you can know for sure if you are able to do something is by trying to do it?



Only the educated are free.





Its better to mistake a stick for a snake, than a snake for a stick.
Dr. Joseph Ledoux

As weve already discussed, the first step to effective Stress Inoculation is Educationif were going to do something, we need to know WHY were doing it or else the full power of brains will never be 100% behind our actions. The first thing we need to remember and affirm is that we are designed to survive. Evolution has hard-wired each of us with our own personal protection system that we carry with us wherever we go. This includes two basic components: 1. The first is an early warning system that alerts us of danger; 2. The second is a self-defense autopilot that takes over when our conscious brains dont have the time to respond. The first system works on a cognitive basis. The second sub-system is an instinctive over-ride. Ultimately what determines which system will engage is our perception of any given threat. Dr. Joseph LeDoux of New York University says that the process of experiencing fear is like a circuit. First, our brain detects a threat through our combined senses and feeds the signal to the part of our brain known as the thalamusthe thalamus is like the bodys personal alarm system that helps us detect and avoid danger before it can harm us. Time permitting, the brain will create an image of the threat in our minds, compare the image to the archives of images already stored in our brain, and then interpret whether the body should regard the stimuli as a threat or not. Based on our previous experiences with similar images, the brain then sends out a response signal to the cortex. The cortex is like your bodys pilot. Its responsible for delegating actions to the various

body parts. This type of cognitive and rational reaction is what researchers call a High Road Brain Response.

High Road Response

Here we see an example of a High Road Brain Response. Our perception of a threat is routed through our visual thalamus and compared to our previous experiences. Based on our experience, our cortex then consciously decides on what action is best and transmits an action signal to the body.

Sometimes, however, threats can be so sudden and unexpected that theres just not enough time to consult the pilot. In these instances, when a threat is too urgent to be processed rationally, information is instantly rerouted from the thalamus to the portion of the brain known as the Amygdala. The Amygdala is like our emergency autopilot. It has the power to bypass rational thought and instantly takeover with a basic survival instinct commonly referred to as the startle/flinch response. This reflex includes instinctively pulling your hand away from a hot stove, jumping up after stubbing your toe or even blinking to protect the eyes from a camera flash. This protective subroutine is referred to as a Low Road Response. The most powerful and common Low Road Response is emotion. Emotion is an instinctive response thats designed to motivate and fuel self-preservation. While reason is slow and calculating, emotion is quick, impetuous and unhesitating. For this precise reason, Low Road Responses are an important safety net. In a crisis, they allow for the fastest possible reaction time. Hundreds of times every day, our bodies take the low road to sneeze harmful dust out of our

nostrils, to blink away bright light, and to flinch our body away from sharp edges. These reflexes are essential to our health and survival.

Low Road Response

In emergency situations, our brain automatically activates a Low Road Response. Here, the threat occurs so quickly that there is no time for conscious thought. Our amygdala takes over and sends an instinctive flinch response command into our nervous system.

Its hugely important to understand how this simple process works. Many modern self-defense systems have rebelled against traditional training methods specifically because of this function of the brain. They have turned to a more

scientific approach based on the startle-flinch response. Often, they brag about
being based on reflexes as if that fact alone makes their training somehow correct or more effective. The logic at work here is that since most crisis situations will automatically trigger a Low Road Response, the goal of training should be to condition these natural responses into triggers, using flinch responses as starting points for trained technique. In The Dragon Mind Method, I spoke of the need for working with reflexes. I used the analogy of a river crossing, saying that like a river, our reflexes have a currenta direction of flow. Every good Boy Scout knows that if you try to cross a river by opposing the waters flow, youll only end up exhausting yourself and probably drown. The reasonthe river is bigger and stronger than you are so in a competition of strength, it wins. Similarly, if we train in a manner that denies and opposes our natural instincts completely, we are doomed to ultimately fail, since

millions of years of evolution will take precedence over conscious intent formed in your brain during the course of your training. If instead you decide to cross a river simply by going with the flow then youll never end up getting to where youre headed and the current will just carry you completely off course and leave you down river. In the same way, if we simply decide that all reflexes are good, then we will be relegating control to every impulse and nervous twitch that we have and deprive ourselves of the incredible powers of our cognitive brains that have made us the dominant species that we are today. The secret, as is often the case, lies not in the extreme, but in the middle. Someone intending to cross a river should swim diagonally, moving with the flow of the current, but keeping his or her objectives keenly set on the opposite bank. While the river can take them slightly off their desired course, it can also help propel them across and once you get to the other side, you can easily readjust your course and end up where you wanted to be. In the exact same way, the intelligent self-defense practitioner must work with the current of their reflexes, identifying which are helpful and which are not and reinforcing those that work and steering those that do not. The simple fact is that our instincts arent necessarily our best response and in the next section, well discuss how to identify these different reflexes and how to give them their correct roles in self-defense training.



Fear is like fire. It can cook for you. It can heat your house. Or it can burn you down.
Cus DAmato, Boxing Trainer

In the previous section, we saw that the human brain fundamentally responds to fear in one of 2 simple ways: when time permits or when the brain is familiar with the threat stimuli, it will respond with a cognitive, rational response. When threats are sudden, terrifying, or new, our body is equipped with an emergency co-pilot that will take over with much quicker and more emotional flinch responses. While there is a popular movement in the self-defense world today towards basing all training on flinch responses, and while all training should acknowledge and work with reflexes the fact is, our reflexes are not always helpful. In his book Deep Survival, author Laurence Gonzales notes that becoming emotional or simply flinching doesnt always work for the individual. These responses:

work across a large number of trials to keep the species alive. The individual may live or die, but over a few million years, more mammals lived than died by letting emotions take over, and so emotion was selected.
Those same reflexes that we discussed in the previous section, that protect us hundreds of times a day like sneezing and blinking and flinching, can also knock us out of the frying pan and into the oven. For example, over time, our ancestors learned that sometimes, when confronted with a big enough predator, when the odds of surviving a fight were next to nothing, it could be effective to simply curl up into a ball and play dead. Many animals like opossums continue to use this same reflex today with great success. The reason it works is that there is an even stronger reflex in most predators to not eat dead prey and risk digesting rotten

meat. The problem is, in the modern environment, the sudden flash of headlights, the roar of an engine and the honking of a semis horn, can trigger the exact same response while were driving home at night on a dark stretch of country highway. When youre behind the wheel of a car, veering headlong towards an 18-wheeler, the same freezing reflex will likely get you killed. As I noted at the end of the previous section, the solution lies somewhere in the middle, between emotional reflex and stagnant cognition. Plato said that emotions are the motor of the soul. He equated them to wild horses and our minds to the role of a charioteer. The key to optimal performance he said was to ensure that our rational mind is leading and directing these emotions and baser instincts. Platos analogy brings up 2 essential points: First, it IS possible to consciously control our body. Gonzales notes that one of the greatest discoveries in neuroscience of the 20th century is that our body controls the brain as much as the brain controls the body. If you remember back to our section on Combat Responsibility, I asked you if you believed it was possible to change your behavior and to improve your selfdefense skills. This is the entire basis of all trainingthe modification of behavior. This is why you are reading this to begin with. Second, even if you lose control, its possible get a hold of the reins again. While researchers have shown that its easier to switch our self-defense automatic pilot on than it is to switch it off, our cortex can still identify when an emotional process is underway and edit or over-ride behavior. More importantly, as Gonzales notes, this ability can be improved and reinforced with training. Low Road Responses are not inevitable. Gonzales describes the value of staying in control. He notes: Survival is about being cool. Its about laughing with an attitude of

bold humility in the face of something terrifying.

By staying calm and in control, the full powers of our rational minds and life experiences are better able to guide our emotions. We are able to swim with the current of our reflexes to refer to our earlier analogy and to get to the other side. Calmness is the underlying key that determine ultimately who survives and who doesnt. Supporting this point, Gonzales cites research by Kenneth Hill which shows that one of the age groups that has among the highest survivor rates for individuals who are lost in the wild is children six years of age and under. I repeat: research has shown that children under the age of 6 are statistically more likely to survive being lost in the remote wilderness than professional athletes, experienced hikers or even trained soldiers. By comparison, children between the ages of 7-12, have one of the poorest survival rates. Whats the secret to this incredible survival riddle? How can these stats possibly be correct? The answer is astoundingly simple: The younger children follow their instincts at a cognitive level. If they are cold, they seek warmth. If they are tired, they rest. If they are thirsty they drink. Adults however, are more likely to battle these urges with reason and logic. Children ages 7-12 are in their peak development period with regards to learning the rules of adulthood. Theyre also the most divorced from their natural tendencies. First, this example shows us that cognition can overcome instinct. The training the 7-12 group is receiving makes them second-guess their natural instincts. As with the reverse case, cognition alone, just like instinct alone, is in itself no guarantee of survival. This example also shows us just how important staying calm and following your instincts is. Some degree of stress is always helpful, just as some degree of reflex will always be necessary. In physical conditioning the static stretching of a muscle like most of us were taught in school has proven to be less effective for increasing flexibility and muscle function than stretching that occurs while exerting stress in the form of contraction or load bearing simultaneously. A little bit of stress is helpful in conditioning the muscle. Too much will snap it. Similarly, in a survival situation, a little bit of emotion can be

a vital fuel if it is correctly balanced with rational direction. Too much can lead to panic and confusion. Consider the following photo that was taken at a baseball game when a players bat accidentally broke in half and flew into the crowd. Before any of us start to drown in our own hubris and begin believing that its possible to walk calmly through every situation in life and never get taken off guard, take a good look at the faces of these people. We all have this same frightened primate sleeping inside of us ready to soil his or her respective pants if the threat is sudden enough. In this instance, this flinch helped protect these people. Were it an actual baseball attack, wielded by an aggressor with intent, the same reflex would still be better than no reaction at all. However, if the option existed to functionalize that flinch, to use that shielding action, while evading or to enter inside the swings power-line, obviously this would be a far more favorable option. While we will always be subject to our flinch response at some level, there are many variables that we will explore in the following pages that will help us maximize our response times, remain cognitive rather than reflexive and stay in control of our actions.


In making preparations for struggle, it is not only necessary to consider how best to prevail, but also how best to handle the aftermath of struggle, how to safeguard the fruits of victory, and how to make the best of further opportunities that arise as a result of success.
Sun Tzu, The Art of War

In 1911, the Harvard physiologist Walter Cannon first discovered that when the brain perceives a threat, it sets off a warning alarm that resounds throughout the farthest reaches of our body and triggers a series of mini explosions in our glands. This process instantly dumps a mix of chemicals and hormones into our bloodstream that would make a junkie itch and a pharmacist envious, giving us extra strength and endurance to help us survive. Our vision narrows to help us avoid distractions and to focus on the threat. Our blood flow is rerouted from our extremities to reduce the risk of blood loss in case of injuries and channeled full force to our larger muscle groups. Secondary functions like digestion and sexual desire are shut down to help support the cause. Literally millions of nerve cells fire in a fraction of a second, turning our body into a survival machine. Since this reaction is intended to help the body to either run away or wage battle, Cannon named it The Fight or Flight Response. Like all reflexes, triggering the Fight or Flight Response is not necessarily the best reaction in every situation. There is already overwhelming empirical evidence that shows stress deteriorates human performance. The entire field of ergonomics is based on the very idea of maximizing human performance through increasing comfort and convenience. Military specialists in particular have dedicated tremendous attention to making controls in vehicles larger and more accessible to increase firing rates and to reduce response times. Weapons have been made easier to hold and load, equipment lighter to carry and clothing more

comfortable and accommodating. All of these changes have been made to help battle the effects of the fight or flight response. Evidence also shows that the accumulation of stress hormones in the body can also be extremely harmful to our organism over the long-term. Neil F. Neimark notes that over time, improperly metabolized stress hormones can lead to an array of nervous system disorders, ranging from headaches and high blood pressure to deficiencies in the immune system, allergies and even arthritis. He notes that a calm awareness is ultimately far more productive than hyper-vigilance over the long run of our existence. A host of modern physical educators like Moshe Feldenkrais, Milton Tragor, and F.M. Alexander have researched how every day our nervous system is constantly responding to stresses in our environment. These stresses trigger thousands of reflexes over and over again, which over time create habitual contractions within our body. These contractions can eventually lead to the deformation of our posture, chronic stiffness and body soreness. If not corrected, these contractions can reach a point where they can no longer be voluntarily relaxed. In fact, as our range of motion becomes more and more limited, and our capacities fall into disuse, the body suffers what Thomas Hanna calls Sensory Motor Amnesia. Simply put, our bodies forget what they are actually capable of doing. This in turn leads to our gradual surrender to the idea that we are incapable of performing certain actions and cognitively accepting that we are limited in our capacities. While these stresses will occur to some degree, no matter how we live our lives, we must be aware of them so that we can minimize them and remove their effects after they have occurred. Obviously, the more stressful your environment is, the more affected you will be. A wartime soldier is naturally more prone to the negative effects of stress than your average librarian. With this knowledge in mind, it is essential that we carefully address the method that we will use for our continued training. As we have seen, we have essentially 2 types of fear responses: High Road Response, which are cognitive, and Low Road Responses, which are our

automatic self-defense mechanism. One point that I would like to reiterate here is that the nature of our response is determined by our perception of the threat. In order for our safety mechanism to work, our Amygdala is always on the lookout for stimuli that look like something we should be afraid of. Our Amygdala is a paranoid little character locked away in a panic room at the base of our brain with a twitchy thumb resting on the alarm button. It lives by the motto: its better to be safe than

sorry. If you go to watch a horror movie, your conscious mind can try to analyze
how bad the acting is or make fun of the special effects, but every once in a while, the Amygdala will hit the switch when something jumps out on screen or the music blares suddenly, just in case. It doesnt distinguish between a real threat and a false alarm. This is why a horror movie can still frighten uswe know that the stimulus is imitated, but our brain will still alert us when a monster jumps out on screen. Going back to LeDoux, its better to mistake a stick for a snake, then viceversa. This stimulus will also still trigger a very real chemical reaction in our bodies. Through exactly the same process, all combat training induces some degree of chemical response within our body. The more intense and realistic the simulation is, the more potent the chemical dump will be in the body. With every full speed flinch response that you trigger, the body is flooded with adrenalin and a host of other natural chemicals. By repeatedly subjecting your nervous system to these effects, you absolutely run the risk of inflicting actual combat fatigue and stress disorders on your bodies just by training. Granted, we must face resistance in our training if we are to be effective and we will cover our approach for intelligent exposure training later in this manual. We need to know if what we are training actual works, otherwise, whats the point? Still, we must be aware of the way our body works. We must be careful not to train ourselves in a way that we become junkies addicted to the adrenal rush of training, or grunting apes, thirsty for violence. After all, what value is there in learning to protect the self if the method you are ultimately using deteriorates or damages the being you are seeking to protect?

Dont worry. We dont need to decide on how much force we need to use in our training or how much risk we are willing to take to prepare ourselves just yet. At this point, what really matters is that we understand even more deeply, the interconnectedness between mind and body. The training method that we ultimately choose to pursue, will not only have an effect on our self-defense skills in the street, but also on our overall survival quotient, influencing our daily health, our biomechanical efficiency, injuries and even our basic psychology and our outlook on life. In the coming pages, I will try to give you the facts you need to make the most informed decision possible.



The young woman pulled herself from the wreckage. For a moment, she teetered amidst the debris, her gaze transfixed on the hissing braid of mangled steel that once was her car. It had all happened so quickly, she still wasnt sure what had gone wrong. Still dizzy from the impact, she felt the hot bite of blood running into the corner of her eye, then suddenly her body grew taut. Where was her son? Frantically, she stumbled back towards the vehicle, her torn sandal slipping from her foot as she maimed herself on a field of shattered glass, screaming her childs name. She heard a murmur. Then, amidst the frenzy, she saw a single pale limb sneaking out from beneath the debris. She reached desperately for her son, tugging at his tiny arm, but he was horribly pinned to the asphalt. The woman gripped the sharp edges of the overturned car, then she squatted and leaned and pushed and pulled, grunting and screaming a cry that seemed to stir the heavens until finally the steel hulk began to yield. Its bladed maw creaking open for just an instant, as if to gasp for breath to continue the fight and in that delay, the young mother whisked her boy free.
Weve all heard this story before or a story just like it. A 90 pound woman lifts a burning car off of her newborn baby. There are many near mythic tales in the same vein: a father runs into a burning house to save his family. A man fights off a grizzly bear attack with his bear hands. A lost hiker with 2 broken legs drags himself 20 miles to safety on his belly. In every case were told that these are the mighty effects of adrenalin. Its true, our bodies are incredible machines, capable of producing amazing results in extreme circumstances. The difficulty is that in my years as a self-defense trainer, Ive encountered literally thousands of people who believe that in a crisis, their instincts will simply take over and make everything alright. If Ive met that many, I must assume that they are among a strong and quiet

majority. Even those among us who are not complete subscribers to this fantasy magazine may buy an issue every once in a while. This chapter is for you. Studies in the neurophysiology of violence have shown us that we have powerful complex inner mechanisms that do automatically engage themselves as we already discussed. These Low Road Responses can elicit fantastic results like the young mother lifting a 1 ton car mentioned earlier. The difficulty is that as we have seen, not all reflexes are good in every given situation. A self-defense scenario in particular carries with it a wide varieties of variables. These include: The nature of the enemy. Who are they? What are their capacities? What are their objectives? Physical exhaustion. Regardless of how good a shape we may be in, a lack of familiarity with the very real and likely effects of adrenalin can reduce us to easy prey. Injuries. Even the most skilled fighters can face overwhelming odds with the smallest of injuries. Simply breaking your pinky finger can reduce a boxers jab to dust or a judokas grabs and throws to a small awkward selection of moves. A cut over the eye can blind you and leave you in a world of utter confusion and fear. Mental exhaustion. Stress can over-stimulate some senses and muffle and funnel others. This can quickly lead to confusion and distraction. Concern for loved ones. Many individuals train for self-defense egotistically. They learn tactics, strategies and techniques for preserving their selves, without regard for others that might be with them at the time of attack. These individuals often assume that they can simply use the identical approach to help their loved ones but as any lifeguard can tell you, just because you know how to swim doesnt mean you can save someone else from drowning. The dynamics of personal protection change when others

that you care about are involved. This is the very basis of ransom and kidnapping. Bystanders. Innocent civilians can be all around you, limiting your technical repertoire. Legal Implications. In todays legal-minded world, the threat of judicial repercussions can be debilitating. In many cases, being justified may not be enough. The Trauma of Losing a Loved One. Defending a loved one is one thing. How would you react if you just saw your spouse or sibling or parent murdered in front of you? What effect would that one event have on your emotional control and your ability to intelligently defend yourself? The fact is, while combat stress can be empowering, its a double-edged sword. It can also blast you into the earth. The infinity of variables involved in violent encounters cloud judgment and wreak havoc on the bodyits what soldiers call The Fog of War. Every single situation will have different rules of engagement and different effects. These can include: EMOTIONAL RESPONSES: Fear, depression, anger PHYSICAL RESPONSES: Fatigue, illness, pain BEHAVIORAL RESPONSES: Apathy, performance inability SPIRITUAL RESPONSES: Challenges or threats to beliefs, ideologies or your world views.


Exercise 4Tasting Our Mortality:

Take a moment to recall a self-defense scenario that you have been involved in personally. It could be anything from an uncomfortable encroachment to an actual assault. Think of what affect the encounter had on you at that time emotionally, psychologically and physically. Did the event involve any effect innocent bystanders or loved ones? What affect do you think it may have had on the aggressor(s)? Do you still feel any lingering effects of that encounter today?


What lies beyond us and what lies before us are tiny matters when compared to what lies within us.
Ralph Waldo Emerson Weve already encountered quite a few essential ideas. Whether they are entirely new or familiar, its only natural that through association with one another, they will begin to take on new meaning and relevance and our brain can start to spin a little. What does this all mean? What should I remember? What is most important here? For this reason I would like to take a quick break to review a few points I introduced in Dragon Mind: 1. Go slowly. You mind learns through visuals. Much of this guide will be dedicated to improving your visualization skills, but you need not limit yourself to those drills alone. Visualize everything. See what youre doing. Dont just race through this book. Do the drills. Experience the information firsthand and make this the changing experience you deserve. Allow your brain to take mental snap shots of yourself along the way and see yourself succeeding. To quote Confucius: It does not

matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.

2. Trust yourself. Its normal to want to remember everythingand the good news is, your brain will! You have an awesome army of over 15 billion brain cells at your disposal that are busily working for you right this minute, no matter what you do. Theyre weaving together new connections, creating new pathways in your head, bringing new revelations to the forefront of your consciousness. The more motivated you are to learn, the more intensely you experience what you read and

visualize, the more deeply you will integrate this new knowledge. If this information matters to you, it will become a part of you. 3. Have Fun. Educational research has shown that learning occurs best through play, not through rote memorization. This is evident in the fact that we enjoy the greatest intensity of learning when we are young, during that time where are still adventurers, actively exploring our world in a kinesthetic way and physically interacting with our environment. As adults, we stray away from this approach, making learning more formalized and rigid. We impose the idea of memorizing on our brains, forcing it to ingrain specific actions or memorize movement or ideas, but this is not how our learning system is naturally designed to work. Even a casual study of animals, from tigers in the wild to your house cat, will show that they also naturally learn through play. Through mock fights with their parents and siblings and other games, animals develop and maintain their coordination and unlock their basic bodily capacities in relation to their environmentwhat Seitz calls their kinesthetic

intelligence. This is done safely, without injury or malice. In a very

literal sense, they discover their environment through manipulation and exploration. Before continuing form this page, realize that everything that you have experienced in this book so far is already a part of you. When the time comes to integrate this new knowledge, it will be ready for you. Your brain has the awesome power to make associations and connections that you never would have dreamed of and the best part about this is that the only thing you need to do is let this happen.


Beowulf donned his armour, indifferent to death; His war shirt, hand-fashioned and well-worked Would keep the bone-cage of his body safe So that his foes grip might not harm his heart. And on his head, his helmet shone, Fashioned ages past with the images of mighty boars So that no sword or battle-blade might bite into it.


In my first book, Dragonmind: The Psychological and Philosophical Foundations of Warriorhood, I introduced the traditional Oriental view of the dragon. Although this creature is regarded as having unrivaled power and ferocity, from this strength, it has learned not aggression or malice, but instead a love of all life, a quiet humility and an intrinsic understanding of all living things. I would like to reaffirm this point here: more power, motivation and inspiration can be drawn from a love of life and a desire to protect than can ever be matched by a desire to destroy or harm. This is the first law of warriorhood. We train not because we crave to harm another, but because we seek to protect the self. When this law is violated, not only will the contents of this book fail you, but the laws of the universe will oppose you as well. Building on this, it should be emphasized that the correct purpose of selfdefense training is survival, not competition. Competitions are artificial struggle. Some might argue that this is also true of self-defense training, in that it must consist of simulations and mock struggles, however I would counter that competitions include a host of other distractions. They add the distraction of rewards, appeal to ego and provoke conflict. These attributes are the very opposite of our goals of protecting and surviving. The best-case scenario in a competition setting is to end up surrounded by losers. Think about this. We naturally tend to only focus on the winner because thats where we want to be, but the fact is everyone else involved is left filled with disappointment or malice. If you lose, then

you are among the disappointed and malicious. Neither of these qualities attracts you to life or the values that truly matter. If instead you are training your selfdefense skills, even against resistant and superior training partners, you are instead seeking no other objective than the improvement of your survival skills. There are no prizes to blind the eye or distract the mind, no artificial rules or contexts. There is only the unbounded playing field of your spirit and the opposition of your personal fears and limitations. The mind of the warrior must be free of competition. It must be dedicated to the task of surviving. It must be ready to protect the self, ones ideals and ones friends and family. As General George Washington said:

To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.
We must reinforce our desire for harmony with a willingness to enforce it. It is precisely this power to choose that is the reason why we train: Only a warrior chooses pacifism; all others are condemned to it. Choosing not to fight when you have no desire or ability to fight is not pacifism. At best, its ignorance. At worst, it is cowardice. So before going forward, we should understand that the goal of this manual is to enlighten and to educate while improving our self-defense capacities. Like the dragon, we must balance the cultivation of offensive powers with the wisdom to wield those weapons. Otherwise there exists a very real danger of making ourselves hair-triggered or hyper-vigilant. If all we ever train is offensive tactics and we build those tactics on a foundation of fear, we do not free ourselves from the fear we were trying to conquerwe only eliminate options. When all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail and training so single-mindedly will only make us more aggressive and afraid. Rather than delivering us from violence, it will attract us to it.

We have already taken the first steps in building the correct mindset for self-defense by understanding the science and structure of our brains. This begins with clarifying the causes of stress and their impacts on our bodies and our performance as we have. We have also agreed to take responsibility for our personal protectionwe have accepted that is our duty to prepare the self and that no one will do this for us. As we will see later on, this independence is the key to the survivors mindset. Now, well take these skills further by continuing to broaden our understanding of what we can expect in a violent encounter, by developing our abilities, increasing our Skills Confidence and broadening our awareness of the full resources at our disposal to increase our Warrior Readiness. Like ancient warriors who prepared for battle by donning their armor and sharpening their weapons, we must ready every facet of our arsenal to optimize our natural skills.

First make yourself invincible and then await your opponents moment of vulnerability.
Sun Tzu, The Art of War



In this previous section, we touched briefly on the idea of competition being contrary to the goals of true self-defense training. I realize that this probably rubbed some readers the wrong way. Many of you reading this manual probably enjoy competition and believe that it offers a lot in terms of spiritual and physical preparation for your self-defense skills. In that regard, I do agree with you. Strength of spirit, the ability to fix objectives and the desire to overcome challenges are all attributes that can be cultivated in sport which can serve you on the street. In no way did I mean to imply that competition is without a purpose. Rather, I mean to say that competition is ultimately incongruent with survival. What do I mean by that? Consider the following: Every conflict can be funneled down into one of 2 categories: either it is a competition, or else it is an ambush. A competition implies that within the dynamic of a conflict you volunteer to match attributes. This can happen consciously, like when a boxer throws up their hands, or it can happen unconsciously, like when two people begin to grappling with muscle rather than technique, forcing muscle against muscle and forsaking the leverage and biomechanical understanding of their skills. An ambush implies that you are using every form of psychological and tactical advantage at your disposal. Ambushes occur from superior positions, usually come without warning and channel your strongest weapons towards your opponents weakest targets. This concept is something that is dealt with quite heavily in The Dragon Mind Video Series, so for a more detailed treatment I would recommend viewing those DVDs. Culturally, many of us have been raised to subscribe to the idea that fights follow certain rules of engagement. Despite what we may or may not say

consciously, we might have subconscious beliefs running through our system like spy ware. Some of us, when prodded enough, might realize and admit that they feel some tactics should be off limits and deemed dirty fighting:. A kick to the crotch, biting, perhaps spitting. Some of us might feel that pre-emptive striking is never justified. Hell, Ive met men who feel hitting with an open hand is feminine. It really all boils down to how many John Wayne movies you ingested as a child. We dealt with these issues in Dragon Mind so I wont be touching on them again. I will however state clearly that this manual is based on the supposition that all fighting, by its very nature, is dirty. It is messy, bloody, ugly and aggressive. It never looks as pretty as it does in the movies and while certain skills (like self-defense or martial arts training) can provide advantages, there simply are no guarantees in combat. Anyone can be beaten by anyone, anytime, anywhere. For this reason, we need any and every advantage thats available to us. If weve already established that were fighting for a just purpose, if were confident that were not diving headlong into vain competitions or malicious attacks, if we know were seeking to avoid violence whenever physically possible, then we should also accept that if we do decide we must retaliate, its because there is no other alternative and in retaliating, we must act resolutely. Consider the following example: An attacker catches you off guard sitting on a park bench. Hes jams a gun into the side of your head. Your attacker is not expressing any interest in your money. He is screaming insanely, blurting out sentences that make no sense and while you will make every effort to verbally de-escalate this madman, you have the distinct impression things are about to get physical any second. Which of the following 2 options seems more intelligent: 1. You feel anger welling up inside of you. How dare this guy just come up to you and put a gun to your head. What right does he have to take whatever he wants? You want to kill him, to crush his head against the park bench. There is no way youre going to let him get away with this. In an instant, you lurch for his gun with all of your aggression.


OR: 2. You immediately begin to talk to your aggressor, trying to engage him verbally to bring him back from the brink of his dementia and into a more rational state. As you feign submission, you meekly cower away slightly, pretending to breathe heavily, bringing your hands submissively closer to your head (and the barrel of his gun). Meanwhile, in the back of your mind, youre fully prepared to engage and you know that by having infiltrated your aggressors personal space and by having your hands just inches away from the barrel of the weapon, that you will be strategically in the best possible position to evade his line of fire and fight back should you have to. Although you will make every effort to verbally de-escalate this situation, you prepare your mind, thinking of how you may retaliate (a process well discuss later called Spinal Loading). Youre prepared to do whatever it takes. The first situation is an example of a competition response. By indulging your anger and letting your emotions get the better of you, you are volunteering to enter a Low Road Brain State. In your anger, you have kept your hands on your lap, doing nothing to improve your position from a strategic perspective. In fact, your anger will likely be manifested with physical symptoms and project a lack of cooperation to your aggressor that may make him attack you. Also, by settling to keep your hands on your lap, you are needlessly volunteering to engage in a test of speed between the speed of your static arm on your thigh with the speed of your aggressors ready trigger finger. Good luck finding anyone in Vegas who will take those odds. You need to move 2-3 feet from a dead stop and your attacker only needs to move his finger less than and inch. Does this seem like an intelligent competition to you? Youre volunteering to get slaughtered. The second situation is an example of an ambush response. By feigning a submissive posture, youre acting the way your aggressor expects you to act frightened. This indulges the sense of dominance that hes looking for and can lull him into a false sense of security (remember, if he felt powerful in his own right, he

wouldnt be carrying a gun). As a happy coincidence, youre also camouflaging your ability to fight back and invading his personal space, getting closer to the weapon. Every inch you take away between your hands and his gun means more chances of surviving that weapon. This also puts you closer to his face, giving you easier options for retaliatinghis face is like a control panel, filled with over-ride buttons for his nervous system. A jab to the eyes, smash to the nose or lips, or palm strike to the temple or throat can be fantastic ways to even the odds. Your street acting even allows you to position yourself better on the bench, making it easier to slip out of the line of fire and pin and control the weapon. All the while of course, you would be actively trying to use verbal de-escalation skills to bring your aggressor back into a rational state since speech is a meta-cognitive power. If he starts to think about answering you, he moves away from his aggressive reptilian brain mode and into a more logical psychological space. Competition always favors the larger, the faster, the stronger and the more experienced. In the case of a street attack, your aggressor may have many of these attributes in his or her favor. They will certainly have superior preparation since theyre the ones who choose the time and place of the attack. Theyll also probably have superior motivationthere is no way you will ever compete with someone who has nothing to lose, and you wouldnt want to. The whole reason youre training is because you have something to live for. Ambush tactics are the only way to settle the odds. If I teach you an ambush tactic today and you embrace it fully at a cognitive and physical level, youre just as entitled to use it as I would be. Ambush tactics are the great equalizer. They work for anyone, on anyone. Competitive training in sports is bound by rules. Often, these rules are designed to put practitioners into areas with limited options. Boxers cannot clinch (which would allow them to avoid harm), so they must continuously be broken apart by referees to keep things interesting. If I competed against the heavyweight wrestling champion of the world today, I wouldnt stand much of a chance in a throwing competition, but if I were on the street, unbounded by rules and I could set up my counter attack with acting and behavioral deception and use eye gouges and strikes to the throat, it would be a different story. In fact, I would go further to

say that the wrestler would likely have bad self-defense reflexes since his sportive training would take over while I would be totally not inclined to match brawn with him and would revert to cheap shots instantly. If you are training yourself 4 hours a day to compete a certain way, how easy do you think it will be for you to just switch that off in a real fight? Ill be the first to admit that it is possible to engage in sports and maintain a Zen-like awareness of the moment. Yes, some professionals do manage to compete for the sake of personal excellence and discount fame, awards, recognition or celebrity. Yes, some even compete in a deceptive and creative way that gravitates more towards the spirit of ambush tactics than true competition. From my experience however, these individuals are the rarest of exceptions. For the most part, I have witnessed and experienced the opposite: individuals who invest themselves in competitive pursuits tend to become consumed by the challenge. They so adopt the competitive mindset, that even when no formal obstacles exist, they create their own to be conquered. Whether in sport, business or life in general, these individuals more often than not volunteer for inefficiency. In the end, regardless of your perspective on sport and competition, I ask you simply to consider this distinction in your training. Regardless of your decision, rest assured that the basic training methods that follow will still work for you.

"There is no permanence. Do we build a house to stand forever, do we seal a contract to hold for all time? Do brothers divide an inheritance to keep forever, does the flood-time of rivers endure? All warriors understand this."
The Epic of Gilgamesh



There are two things that motivate people to success: Inspiration and desperation.
Anthony Robbins




All people dream, but not all equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible. T.E. Lawrence of Arabia

As we saw in the previous section, our Amygdala is a paranoid alarm system. It would rather be safe than sorry. As a tradeoff for giving us the fastest reaction speeds humanly possible, the Amygdala doesnt concern itself with distinguishing between a real threat and a false alarm. It simply responds to what it

perceives is a threat. It reminds me of a bouncer I used to train with who drank so

much coffee that he had no off button. Even when he was shopping for groceries, he would be eying the old woman in the next aisle, poised to eject her from the premises should she get out of hand. While the hyper-vigilance of the Amygdala does save us from harm hundreds of times a day through every blink, sneeze and twitch that we unthinkingly effect, weve seen it also has its drawbacks. This is why its so important to understand how the brain works in this respect so that we can better prepare ourselves for unwanted Low Road Brain Responses and also train ourselves to return to a High Road state. As we will see in this section, if we are aware of these simple internal mechanics, our brains can be maximized to help us in any endeavor. Think of your brain like a piece of technology. Like any piece of technology, if you dont know how it works, using can be dangerous and counter-productive. My 8th grade shop teacher could attest to that with more stories of severed fingers and spot-welded forearms than I care to remember. Even with the basic understanding that we already have from the first 50 pages of this manual, we are already in a position to begin unleashing more potential. Try this very simple exercise:


Exercise 5Turning On Our Inner Movie Projectors:

I want you to imagine a lemon. See the most perfect lemon your mind is capable of imaginingfirm, bright yellow, perfect. See yourself picking that lemon up with your hand. Feel the texture of the peel in your hand. How does it feel? Imagine placing that lemon on a cutting board in front of you. With your other hand, pick up a knife. Feel the knife handle in your hand. Now, gently, cut through the middle of the lemon with your knife. Feel the blade cut easily through the lemon, cleanly through to the other side. Hear the sound the cut makes as it slices through the lemon and gently taps against the cutting board on the other side. Now put the knife down and pick up one half of the lemon. The lemon is ripe and juicy, dripping slightly down your fingers. Imagine biting deeply into the lemon, biting through the fibers and the pulp and swallowing. How does your mouth feel? Chances are, youre salivating just a little more than you were when you started this exercise. Your mouth might even be puckering a little.

This simple starter visualization exercise is a very popular example of the modern school of psychology known as Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP. This name represents its belief that our nervous system (neuro) is deeply affected by the way in which our 5 senses communicate with the self (linguistic) and that through these senses we can in effect direct change to our behavior as easily as if you were changing software on a computer (programming). Simply put, what we think and feel affects how we act. This simple lemon exercise proves 2 essential principles to us firsthand: First, visualization can cause real physical change. In this instance, something as simple as this paragraph was enough to cause many of us to salivate. The more intensity we put into the visualization, the more senses we appeal to and the more often we employ the visualization, the deeper and more profound the effects will be.

Want proof? Flip back to the previous page and try the visualization a second time. Just because it is more familiar, your visualization will likely be more intense. If you add to this the goal of making your visualization more intense, of actively experiencing it, you will notice even more tangible physical changes; Second, change happens in an instant. This drill took less than a minute to cause your actual body chemistry to change. As Deepak Chopra noted in his 1986 book Quantum Healing, the body is constantly renewing itself. Modern biology tells us that we completely regenerate our stomach lining every 4 days. We shed and re-grow our entire suit of skin every 30 days. We grow a completely new liver every 6 weeks. Even our skeleton completely regenerates itself every three months. Overall, our body will completely change over 98% of its cells within the period of one year. As Chopra notes, every morning when we wake up, in truth, we are a different person. We choose to impose the same belief systems on our mechanisms, but we could just as easily not. This idea of immediate change is something that will be central to supercharging our training. We have all been conditioned to believe that change takes a long time or that it is a difficult process. Weve always been told: No pain.

No gain. Most of us have come to deeply believe this at some level of our being. If
its not hurting, its not working, or if its worth doing, it has to be difficult. The truth, however, is entirely the opposite. If pain really were the secret to change, we would all be seeking out more and more pain in our daily lives, not trying to avoid it and replace it with pleasure. The fact is, struggling without any sign of success isnt proof that youre on the right trackits evidence that youre doing something wrong. Remember the first rule of evolution: stick with what works and get rid of what doesnt. If you always keep driving down the same road, youll always end up at the same destination. The only way to end up someplace new is to change your route.

Change is constantly happening, all around us. It happens in the blink of an eye. Think about someone who has a deeply-rooted phobia or who is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In most cases, they were simply exposed to a single traumatic event or accident. That one moment which could have lave lasted mere seconds, can completely change who there are, affecting their posture, their stress levels, their immune system, their sleeping patterns, their diet and all of the nervous system. We are talking about a complete and utter change of the individualinstantly. Of course, the stimuli doesnt have to be traumatic for it to cause instant change. It just has to be profound and deeply experienced. As we will see in the coming sections, the more deeply we experience something, the more far-reaching and lasting the effects will be. This may be challenging to accept. For example if someone has tried to lose weight for years, experimenting with every diet and every exercise fad that came along and they still havent had lasting success, the last thing they want to hear is that theyve been doing it all wrong. The fact is that individual hasnt been doing anything wrong. Theyve been acting perfectly according to the information that they were given. They believed that those diets would work and they tried to follow them to the best of their abilities. We will always make the best choice available to us based on the information that weve been given. This changes however when we get newer and better information. Thats whats waiting in the next few pages. Its time to grow.


On the occasion of every incident that befalls you, Remember to turn to yourself and inquire what Power you have for turning it to use.
Epictetus In the previous section, we saw that it was possible to make a tangible, physical change just by directing the powers of our minds. In fact, each of us got to experience this power firsthand in the Lemon Drill. In this section, Ill show you two simple principles that will help you catapult your visualization skills to the next level and make your training even more effective, your results longer-lasting and your training times even shorter.

Exercise 6Spectator or Participant:

Have you ever seen an act of violence in your life? Think of any event youve personally witnessed. It can be anything from an argument all the way up to an actual fight. Imagine that you were watching that event unfold from a safe distance. If the encounter only involved bare hands, that might be the other side of the street. If it involved weapons, it might be from a distance, inside the safety of a building or behind some kind of protective obstacle. Allow yourself to be able to see the events unfold perfectly in every detail without risk or danger. How do you feel? Now imagine the exact same situation, but this time, see yourself actually involved in the situation. Imagine that youre close enough to feel the contact of your aggressor, to smell their breath, to feel the race of your pulse and the dump of stress chemicals in your body. How do you feel now?

Take a deep breath and let that stress leave your body. Look at anything in your immediate environment and remember where you are right now. Remind yourself that you are here, reading this book and safe from any harm. Did you notice a difference in the way that you felt in the first scenario where you were a spectator and the second scenario, when you were a participant? You may have noticed that in the second scenario, the effects of the situation were much more noticeable. You may have noticed stronger physical changes in your body. In NLP terms, firsthand visualization like this is referred to as Associated Visualization. The more detached, spectator variation is what is termed Dissociated Visualization. Both of these tools serve valuable roles in our continued training. If your goal is to get excited and motivated, the key is to involve yourself thoroughly in the visualization and to become a participant. Associated Visualization would be your better option in that case. If instead, your objective was to detach and mentally distance yourself from an experience, then your goal would be to step outside the actual effects of the event as a spectator using Dissociated Visualization. Literally, the distance you move something from your minds eye will affect the intensity of your experience.

Exercise 7Measuring Motivation:

Take a moment to visualize something that you find deeply motivating. It could be a hobby, a sport, an activity, your profession, your family. It could be something sensual, spiritualyou name it. Hold the vision of this activity or thing in your mind. Flesh it in all five of your senses. Take a deep breath. Look around you to return your brains awareness to the present. Now visualize something that you absolutely do NOT care about like a sheet of paper, a pencil or a paperclip. Any object will do. Take a deep breath. Look around you.

Think about how each of the two visualizations were different. The visualization about something you cared about was probably brighter and more vibrantly colored. It probably also seemed larger, closer to the minds eye and contained more detail. The second visualization about something much less important probably seemed pretty bland, almost surgical. It lacked any sense of emotion. As we proceed into the following section, these 2 simple principles will play pivotal roles in the full effectiveness of our continued visualization training: 1. Participate and involve yourself in visualizations when you require motivation and drive. 2. Distance yourself and detach yourself when you need safety from pain and discomfort. The more motivating your objective is, the more thoroughly your brain will cooperate with your visualization in helping you to achieve your goals.


Like fruit falling ripely from a tree, the particles of our body are constantly changing. If there is no harm and pain in this dissolution, why should we have any apprehension about the greatest change and final dissolution of all elements? For this change is according to Nature and nothing is evil which is according to Nature. Emperor Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations
In the last 2 sections, we saw that its possible to make a tangible, physical change in our bodies in seconds, just by thinking of something: we made ourselves salivate and pucker just by thinking of a lemon. We made ourselves feel involved by imagining we were a participant and we made ourselves feel safe and detached just by imagining we were a spectator. Again, all of these diverse experiences were crafted in seconds, just by directing your activities with your mind. By accessing this simple capacity, now well learn how to change habits instantly that you may have struggled with for years. Now that we have discussed some key ingredients that we should include in our visualization training, lets take a moment to note one component we can avoid. Try this simple exercise:

Exercise 8The Power of Negation:

Do NOT to think about a large black bear sitting beside you on the floor.

What just happened? If youre like most people, you probably just thought about a large black bear sitting beside you on the floor. Why did that happen? Because in order to NOT think of something, first you need to think of it. Read that sentence again to make sure it sinks in.


The fact is, most people use negative language all the time. And why wouldnt they? Its all around us. Just consider the language of advertising: Dont

wait another minute! This sale wont last! You cant afford not to have this! Were
constantly being assailed by negative impulses from every side. In short order, we begin to internalize these tendencies. Look at these seemingly innocent little phrases:

Dont worry. No problem. Dont think about it. Dont get so stressed.

The problem is the brain doesnt process negatives very well. Just a few seconds ago we saw that when I told you not to think of a large black bear sitting on the floor beside you, you did. Thats totally normallythats the way our brain works. In exactly the same way, the four phrases listed above make you think about worrying, problems, thinking and stress. Still not convinced? Lets say youre trying to cut back on your diet a little bit and youre trying to eat a little less before going to bed every night. If you tell yourself dont snack before you go to bed your brain needs to access the appropriate file in your memory archives in order to understand what you mean. So it runs through the first few images it has of you snacking before going to bed. Guess what happens? You in effect imbed the idea of snacking before going to bed, just as effectively as you implanted the image of a black bear sitting beside you. This is how our brain works. Once we accept understand this reality, then we can use this power to our full advantage. From this simple little black bear exercise, weve learned one of the fundamental principles of Neuro-Linguistic Programming: Dont think of what you dont want, think of what you do want. This may still seem like a very small detail, but this is a HUGE deal with MASSIVE ramifications. The thoughts you think are like a mental map of where youre going. If you think dont snack before going to

bed your map will lead you right to the fridge. If instead you think I will enjoy waking up tomorrow feeling refreshed, strong and in control of my body. I feel so happy already, guess what happens? Exactly. Youre far more likely to avoid
snacking. The fact is our brains are constantly engaged in an internal dialogue. The language that we use in our self-talk, the language that we actually think in, is very influential. As Buddha said: Words frame your world. How you think about something, will affect how you ultimately experience it. If you think youre going to quit during an intense push-up set, chances are, youll find some way to make that expectation a reality. This strategy will appear again later on when we discuss survivor mentalities, where our goal will be: Only think of what you CAN do. Try the following exercise. Its super important to go slowly. Read the first step and then pause to visualize it. Once youve created a thorough image in your mind, read ahead to the second step and so on. The more time you spend creating your mental images on each step, the stronger your results will be, so take your time and enjoy it.

Exercise 9Self-Defense Movie:

1. Imagine that you are watching a movie of a difficult self-defense scenario you have actually experienced. Even if you have survived a deeply threatening situation in your real life, only choose a context that is moderately challenging for this drill. It could be a situation where you felt threatened. Perhaps your personal space was encroached or someone made you feel victimized without actually attacking you in a physical manner. Watch the movie now, noticing every detail of this situation, including sounds and scents. Notice how you feel.
The Exercise Continues on the Next Page


2. Now, take a moment to think of a soundtrack from a movie that you enjoy. It should be something uplifting and positive, or light and bubbly, even comedic. Any piece of upbeat music will do. Just think of the music for a moment. 3. Like a movie composer, add the score to your film and re-watch the same movie with the soundtrack added. 4. How do you feel? Notice the difference in how you felt just experiencing the movie before and then after when you added your own soundtrack.

This simple little exercise shows you how easily you can reframe your perceptions, just but changing the language of a situation. In this case, weve replaced the ambient sounds of a difficult situation (which only serve to reinforce the difficulty) with an uplifting or comedic soundtrack. Music is a very simple

special effect that you can incorporate in your visualization that allows you to
replace the risk of negative self-talk with pure motivation and emotional power. I recently dislocated my knee during an intense training session. The pain over the first few days was particularly intense. To get through it, I went deep inside my body and visualized a small cellular space ship racing through my veins and muscles and connective tissue shooting little adhesive missiles that would staple my joint back together and melt into place. My little ship was firing with crazy rapid fire like a machine gun of energy. All the while, as I zipped in and out of the cavernous insides of my leg, I imagined Wagners Ride of the Valkyrie playing in my head. It would help totally get rid of the pain in minutes and helped me not only sleep well, but heal very quickly as well. I didnt even take a single day off teaching. In our section on Combat Responsibility, we saw that we are responsible for taking our own safety into our own hands. No one is going to do it for us. At this point, its important that we realize and accept that were also responsible for our own motivation. We are in charge of our outlook and perceptions. While we cant always control the situations that were in, we can always control our reactions to

them. To paraphrase Nietzsche, until we take responsibility for our own actions, we can never realize our full power.

The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives. William James, father of American psychology


Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds. Bob Marley, Redemption Song
Now that we have a few simple and easy-to-use guidelines for maximizing our brains incredible powers of visualization, were almost ready to begin setting our training objectives. Only one step remains: we need to consider whats motivating our goals. This manual is dedicated to improving your ability to protect yourself and your loved ones. At its core, that means that were discussing how to deal with the fear of loss and the stressors surrounding this idea of sudden, unwarranted violence. Many people approach self-defense training claiming that they simply want to learn how to protect themselves, but more often than not, they have more specific goals. They may have experienced or witnessed a particular event that triggered their motivation. They may have had something happen to a loved one or a friend that served as an abrupt wake-up call. All of us keep a running tab of experiences and observations through our lives that touch on the fears and stresses of being violated, coerced, or assailed. Honestly addressing these motivators is an integral component of effective self-defense preparation. Want an example of the dangers of not clearly identifying your motives? Consider this: There is a modern phenomenon on the rise among body builders which doctors are calling Reverse Anorexia. It basically involves a practitioner developing fantastic bulk and musculature, but still feeling fundamentally weak and timid. Research found gigantic men complaining about their ankles being too skinny or their necks looking wimpy despite being obviously enormous to every else. Why does this happen? Because their training objectives are unclear. These individuals (and this is certainly not true of all body builders) have convinced themselves that theyre training for the love of the art or because of their interest in health or maybe even because it makes them feel good, but in reality, theyre

motivated by a feeling of inferiority or insecurity. In itself, body building as a means of compensating for insecurity is not wrong or unhealthy. Studies have found many examples of well-adjusted practitioners who knew why they were getting into the sport and who healed themselves and gained self-confidence in doing it. Rather, it is the failure to honestly accept and admit your motives that is dangerous. Individuals, who deny their true motives, cannot clearly set honest goals. Naturally, without accurate goals, your training is unlikely to ever bring you to where you want to be. Think about it. If someone has horrible self-esteem and they start training, convincing themselves that they want to get bigger for other reasons, they are never honestly addressing their fundamental insecurity. Left unchecked, that same negative self-talk just keeps growing and growing, manifesting in harsh personal criticism like: My ankles are too skinny. In response, research found that these individuals simply trained harder, but remember, if it didnt work the first time, doing it harder is just going to give you the same results. In much the same way as self-defense practitioners, we need to avoid overlooking the true motives for our training; otherwise we run the risk of simply burying deeply-rooted insecurities and arming an underdeveloped operator with dangerous skills. Dont allow yourselves to accept the explanation: I just want to

be able to protect myself and my family. Dig deep. Why do you want this ability?
What drives you? Was there a specific act that triggered this desire? Is there something that reinforces it daily, that sleeps in the back of your consciousness? What do you enjoy about training daily? Often where we find pleasure will tell us a lot about what is actually driving us. By admitting to our motives (which in the case of self-defense training are often fear-based) we hone in with precision on exact goals and take the steps to guide our training with greater efficiency, but the first step is to deconstruct the global stressor of Violence that drive us, into smaller, bite-size components that we can more easily digest and address. As the old Environmentalist motto says: Think globally. Act locally.

Try the exercise on the following page


Exercise 10Self-Defense Situation Inventory:

Make a list of 10 to 20 self-defense situations. These should begin with a few slightly disturbing situations, like being intimidated in a safe public environment (perhaps a job interview or getting bad service in a restaurant). Self-defense begins with how you define your limits in the most mundane and common place scenarios. If you cant assert yourself on the telephone or with a sales clerk, dont think that you will suddenly have the necessary skills at knifepoint. Then accelerate slowly, adding situations that arouse more and more anxiety in you. IMPORTANT: Do not include unsuccessful or overwhelming fears like getting shot or stabbed. For this exercise, stick to situationsnot the results or the outcomes of the situations. At the extreme end, you might have a situation like waking up in your bed with an armed attacker sitting on your chest or being abducted at gun point. Include every relevant detail you can think of like the environment, the time of day, your physical conditioning at the time, your state of mind, etc. To begin, write these situations down on different pieces of paper, index cards or on a computer so that you can shuffle them around and change the order as new ideas arise. This list is what is commonly called a Fear Hierarchy.

Im stopping the exercise here, because for this exercise (and this book) to work, you need to take every step seriously. I recognize the desire to skim through the details and get to the end. We want the big finale, the next trickwe all want the secret formula. These are the secrets. Youre experiencing them right now. These techniques are so simple, we tend to ignore them in the regular rush of our day. Permit yourself the time right now to explore them. Remember, change can occur in an instant. You deserve the fullest possible maximization of your brain. You deserve to have the greatest chance to defend yourself and your loved ones. In the next section, well discuss how to activate this list into a powerful force for

motivation and show you how to use it to set objectives that will bring your skills to the next level. I have included a sample of what a fear inventory could look like to help you get your juices flowing:


1. Returning a wrong order at a restaurant. 2. Returning a defective product at a department store. 3. Having a stranger who is acting oddly sit beside you on a crowded rush hour bus-ride. 4. An important job interview. 5. Having someone harass you as you walk through the street in the daytime. 6. Have someone stand next to you at the bus stop. You get the feeling theyre checking you out to see if you would be an easy victim, trying to incrementally invade your boundaries. Cars are driving by on occasion and it is in the middle of the day, but you fear there is enough lag time between cars, for the stranger to attack you. 7. Complaining to your neighbor that they are playing their stereo too loud late at night and you have a big day tomorrow and need your rest. You have a history of poor relations with your neighbor and the characters that live next to you are intimidating and highly aggressive. Neighbors routinely call the police on them because theyre always getting into fights. 8. You are on vacation. Someone has misunderstood you because of a language barrier. They think you have insulted them and theyre starting to argue with you. Theyre not physical yet, but theyre close to getting there. On top of your desire to avoid a violent confrontation with them, you fear the legal ramifications in a strange country.

9. You have accidentally hit someones car and they are coming out of their car towards you. You had already gotten out of the car to check if there was damage and now you are nose to nose with them. Theyre furious. 10. You are walking home late at night. Somebody appears to be following you. Youve crossed the road arbitrarily twice to test them and both times they have crossed the street with you for no apparent reason. Your intuition is setting off alarm bells. Your pulse is racing. Your palms are dripping with sweat and its getting hard to think straight. Worst of all, now theyre getting closer. 11. Somebody has begun to harass a loved one. Theyre getting physical and invasive with that person despite your best effort to verbally discourage them. You feel violated and cannot take any more. From your position, you fear that your loved one may get hurt if you intervene. What action do you take? 12. Youre out at a bar and have accidentally bumped somebody. They are drunk and have taken it as an insult and theyve shoved you violently from behind, knocking you into a table and spilling drinks everywhere. The bouncers are nowhere to be seen. 13. A stranger has stopped you on the street late at night to ask you for your wallet. They dont appear to be armed, but they are agitated and looking nervously around for spectators or witnesses. No one else is present. 14. In the same situation, the offended individual has blindsided you with a sucker punch. You stumble away and can feel that you are bleeding. They are still yelling at you and appear to be escalating further but they have not followed up yet. 15. A stranger has broken into your house. You dont know if theyre alone, but you can see them moving throughout the hallways beyond your bedroom door. You dont know whether you should flee, wait and lie quietly, hoping they will leave you alone, or engage them directly. What do you do?

16. Somebody has stopped you on the street late at night. They have drawn a knife and are holding it a few feet in front of you demanding that you give them your wallet. 17. Somebody has mugged you at knife point. Theyve already taken your wallet, but they dont believe thats all the money that you have on you. Theyre shouting at you, calling you a liar, tearing at your pockets and pushing you into the brick wall behind you. They are insanely angry. Its apparent theyre mentally unstable. You fear they may also want something more and you feel they may intend to assault you sexually. 18. Somebody has struck you to the ground. You have no idea why, but before you can react, theyre mounted on top of your chest, raining punches down on your face. You shield desperately with your forearms and try to regain your focus but you can barely see and its difficult to think straight. 19. On your way home at night, a brawl from a bar spills out into the street in front of you without warning. Before you can get clear of the area, the group mistakes you for a participant and three men begin reigning strikes on you. Youre on your knees taking kicks to the face and body. 20. Youre withdrawing money from an automatic bank machine. Despite your best efforts, someone has snuck up on you and drawn a gun, pressing it to your temple. Theyre demanding you give them your money. You cant help but realize that your life could be extinguished within a second and youre afraid that theyll do something rash no matter what you decide to do. Take a second to notice how you feel. I didnt ask you to visualize these scenarios in any particular way, but whether or not you wanted to, your brain automatically does. Particularly because this list escalates, you may have noticed a steady increase in your stress levels, particularly in your breathing and your pulse. Notice how you feel right now. Now imagine if you had invested the full powers of your mind to completely experiencing these scenarios one at a time instead of running through it like a shopping list. Do you think you can have even intensified these feelings further? I bet that you could have.

Keep in mind, this is just one example of what a Hierarchy might look like. Everyones list will be different. Even within these 20 examples, everyone will have slightly different orders depending on their fears and their comfort levels. This was provided just to give you a rough idea of what a list could look like. Please put this book down now and prepare your Hierarchy before continuing.


Self-discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you dont control what you think, you cant control what you do. Napoleon Hill
She walked into my school not long after I opened my downtown location. The young lady who I will call Janet, attractive, athletican otherwise normal girl at first appearance. She asked some basic questions: Did I believe it was possible to train a woman her size to realistically defend herself? Of course I did. Then she asked me if I had any experience, any REAL experience, teaching and knowing women who had successfully defended themselves in real world encounters. I could see the complete intensity and honesty in her eyes and responded ABSOLUTELY. I began to share with her some stories of survivors that I knew. I discussed the importance of training and the many different facets about the courses I offered. She insisted that she only wanted to learn a few tricks to help her escape a violent encounter. She added that she knew too many people that had been attacked and she wanted to be able to handle herself. She didnt feel like she wanted to join a regular class, so we scheduled a private lesson and two days later, we started to work on simple breathing work and posture correction to prepare for contact. We worked on basic principles and discussed the importance of distance and defining and defending limits. Her eyes were registering everything that I said. There was no resistance to my suggestions. She was obviously learning quickly, but I could see her fighting back some tears at one point, so I asked her if she had any questions. Over the next 30 minutes, she recounted to me that she had been brutally raped and mutilated by a stranger earlier that year. I will not describe the nature of this attack. I respect Janet too much to sensationalize her ordeal even though it might serve to make a point to many readers. I will only say that even in

the darkest corners of my own mind, I could not imagine the anger, hatred or imbalance that could have motivated such an attack. It was right out of a horror movie. I tried to imagine what I would be going through had I survived the same violence that she had and I just couldnt seem to wrap my brain around it. There are times when the random violence and the hatred that seems to fill our world, feel like they are far beyond my comprehension. During these moments of doubt, sometimes I really even wonder what I can do as a teacher. This was one of the most memorable of these moments. I felt overwhelmed and I calmly urged her to seek out professional counseling, suggesting that maybe this was beyond the scope of self-defense training, but she was adamant. She said that just wasnt her style. She was a fighter through and through and she wanted to fight back, not analyze her problem. The responsibility was mine, now I just had to find a way to provide her with the help she needed in the guise of fighting techniques. Over the months, we approached her problem from many different angles, but the very backbone of her training was a simple visualization drill that Janet referred to as the Psychic Armor drill and forever in her honor, this name has stuck. Although this drill was something that I had used many times before, it was Janets experience that really showed me how this simple exercise and the process of cognitive restructuring that it nurtured, were an essential component of our natural healing processes. Try this exercise. Youll notice immediate, continuing and lasting change. The mechanisms behind The Psychic Armor drill were first developed back in 1980, by the researcher Joseph Wolpe. He developed a method of breaking the connections between stimuli and unwanted fear responses. This simple approach, often referred to as Desensitization or Counter-Conditioning, has proven to effectively replace fear responses with relaxation. Through a series of gradual drills, subjects incrementally visualize more and more stressful situations, until they are ready for the real threat. I would like to reiteratethis is a GRADUAL method. While many of the exercises I have already shown and that I will continue to show in this book are immediate (change occurs in an instant), the Psychic Armor drill is

an ongoing exercise that acts like a backbone to your overall training program. It does effect instant change, but in small baby-steps, one after the other like a row of small firecrackers igniting. This exercise has worked for me, my students and it worked for Janet. I hope you enjoy the same success. I dedicate this to Janet.

Exercise 11Building Your Own Suit of Psychic Armor:

To perform this process, make sure you have completed your Self Defense Situation Inventory from Exercise 8. Keep it close by. Begin by relaxing your body. Loosen your clothing. You can lie down on your back with your hands at your sides (palms upward) or sit comfortably, with your palms face down on your thighs. Keep your legs uncrossed and your feet planted. Close your eyes. If you have a preferred relaxation method, feel free to use it. A simple way to increase your relaxation is to pay attention to your breathing. Slowly inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Notice that your breathing will grow slower with every breath and that there is a natural pause between your inhale and exhale and your exhale and inhale. This controlled pause will grow slightly longer as you relax, allowing your breath to be processed on your inhale and ensuring that old breath is fully exhausted on your exhale. Well cover this in more detail later, but a few cleansing breaths will suffice for now. As you do this, visualize a circle of bright light on the floor around your body. The circle should completely surround your bodymake it any bright, healthy color that you feel drawn to. Feel the warmth of this circle embracing your body. Hear the energy humming and vibrating with power. You are safe within this circle. This is your Psychic Armor.


Exercise 12Identifying Unwanted Responses:

Once youve relaxed your body, imagine stepping OUTSIDE of the circle of energy on the ground and standing beside your Psychic Armor. I know this is a strange request, but in your minds eye, you can do this easily. As you stand beside that bright, colorful circle on the ground, imagine that a movie of yourself is playing in the distance. You can see it clearly and you can zoom in or out at will should you wish. If at any point you want to stop the movie, simply imagine hitting the pause or stop button on your movie projector. Imagine the movie is of the first self-defense situation listed on your hierarchy. Although this is a seemingly mild situation, notice how you are behaving in the movie. What scents is your character smelling? What sounds do you hear? Feel the textures and the emotions it creates in you. What negative emotional responses do you notice? These could include different degrees of fear, confusion, panic, anxiety, etc. As you watch the movie, notice how you look while experiencing these responses: How intense are your responses? What thoughts are you having? How are you behaving while youre experiencing these emotions? What are the consequences of your response? Allow the movie to play out in front of you in full detail, but do not allow the situation to come to a negative conclusion where you become injured. Simply see your reactions and feel where these responses may be directing the situation. Even though you are detached from what you are viewing, notice how your body feels as the viewer compared to the relaxation you were experiencing in the previous exercise.
This exercise continues on the next page


Exercise 13Put On Your Armor:

Now that youve acquired a thorough feeling of the negative emotional responses created by this situation, imagine stepping back inside that brightly colored circle of energy and light on the ground beside you and putting your suit of Psychic Armor back on. The very second you step back into the bright, warm glow of the armor, you notice that the hum of the armor muffles some of your movies noise and the energy fills you with a soothing vibration. You know that you cannot be hurt here and all of the feelings of relaxation you felt earlier instantly wash back over you. Continue to watch the movie from inside the safety of your armor. Now, zoom your camera in closer to the action. The closer you zoom into something with your mind, the more intensely you will experience it. If ever you zoom in too close, know that you can still always zoom back out slightly or hit the pause button, but since youre in your armor, you have nothing to fear. Once you feel calm and secure once more, slowly step back out of your armor again. Know that the circle of energy will always be one quick step away from you whenever you want it. Now that you are outside your armor, try to visualize the scene in your movie as vividly as possible. Include small visual details, sounds, smells, tastes. Every single situation can involve thousands of psychological connections that need to be broken. The more realistic your visualization, the more thoroughly you can confront and extinguish these fears. At your pace, alternate between stepping outside the circle and taking off your armor and then putting it back on, constantly rekindling the feeling of relaxation, until you are able to zoom right into the self-defense situation without negative emotion and you can experience the movie with calmness and skill. Now you have broken the attachment of your first step on your Fear Hierarchy.
This exercise continues on the next page


Exercise 14Experience Your Fears:

Once you have mastered your first fear on your Hierarchy, move ahead to the next step. You may only wish to experience one step per day or you may be tempted to do a few at a time depending on your goals, how intense the experiences are and the time available. The key is to work as slowly as you need to experience each fear fully and then to digest it psychologically afterwards. Remember that your brain is controlled by images and the more literal and vivid these images are, the more powerful their effect will be. Take your time on this drill.

Its important to remember that the Psychic Armor exercise can be used for any fear, any time. It is not necessary to limit it to your self-defense Fear Hierarchythis is just one way to break down the global stressor of Violence into smaller, bite-size pieces. You can also review your Hierarchy at any time and change it. This training can apply to any aspect of your life. The final step in Psychic Armor training is to confront the real thingto test your newfound skills in reality. While we will study this much more later on in our discussion of Intelligent Exposure, its important at this point to keep in mind, that there will be a lag time between visualized improvement and practical ability. Even after you successfully overcome a psychological fear through the Psychic Armor drill, you will still experience residual anxiety during practical encounters with similar fears. Your anxiety will be reduced, not eliminated. The goal of Psychic Armor training is to lessen your fear responses and negative emotions to a controllable level. Some degree of fear is natural, healthy and motivating. The goal is to be functional, not fearless.


A survivor builds up an account of commitment over a lifetime. The more he invests, the more he has when trouble comes. Laurence Gonzales
Weve already seen some of the essential to building a strong psychological foundation: We know that the mind processes positive thoughts and language more effectively than negative ones. In order to not think of something, first we need to think of it, which creates an internal conflict. From this notion, comes this basic idea: dont think about what you

dont want. Think about what you do want.

We have also reviewed the power of the Dragon Mind and learned that more power, motivation and inspiration can be drawn from a love of life and a desire to protect than can ever be matched by a desire to destroy or harm. And, weve begun to learn about the power of visualization, particularly the use of association with relaxation to overcome fears. This is just the beginning. Now well learn how to functionalize these ideas. One concept that we will deal with later in this manual is the concept of modeling or learning through the imitation of the actions of effective individuals. Weve all done this at many points in our life. Its what I like to call Subconscious Apprenticeship. We feel drawn to someone for certain values or attributesessentially they are successful at doing something that we want to become good at and by associating with them, we begin to internally imitate certain habits and actions. This can be obvious like it is in a student-teacher relationship, but more often its very subtle. For example, you may be learning to play guitar from someone, but overtime, you

gradually adopt certain expressions or gestures, vocabulary or habits that have nothing to do with guitar playing. You may have a friend who is very successful in business and although youre still in school yourself and studying a completely separate vocation, you begin to emulate the way he holds a glass or walks or holds his posture without even realizing it. This is an important part of associative learning that allows you to role-play the success of the individual you are admiring. As self-defense practitioners, we are ultimately seeking to be survivors. We should therefore have some clearer understanding of what attributes make a successful survivor. Survivors are all around us. They exist in our educational system, in the business world, even in the entertainment we choose. We can all think of actors and rock and roll stars that disappear after one hit and others who continually reinvent themselves and endure. There are professional athletes who last and those who do not. We have friends who persist and achieve their goals and those who always seem to quit and move onto something new. What common traits do all of these survivors have in common? What successful characteristics should we be looking to copy and include in our own habits? For one, studies have consistently shown that survivors have psychological toughness. When physical demands are made repeatedly on the human body, it develops greater strength. For example, humans need to be exposed to bacteria and disease in order to develop immunity to them. Similarly, we must also expose ourselves to psychological and emotional stresses in order to develop effective coping mechanisms. Already, in our visualization training, weve begun to expose our mind to the emotional components of self-defense. On its own, exposure is neutralneither advantageous nor harmful. Its how you respond to it that makes the difference. Stress can make you tougher, but it can also weaken you. Consider people who are hurried, competitive and aggressive by nature. These people, by their nature, tend to avoid challenges. They dont confront their fears and resolve them. They hurry on to the next obstacle, always looking for another way out like rats in a maze. They feel stress, but rather than experiencing it and resolving it, they use it to propel themselves

past it, trying to avoid it. Studies have shown that people who are hurried and frantic in their behavior are usually frail and weak at a microscopic level. They tend to have weaker immune systems, and consistently suffer from more illnesses and die younger. Why is it then that some people have a positive response to stress and grow stronger while others respond poorly and grow weaker? The answer is that it depends on their sense of control. People who operate in very demanding and responsible positions in life are required to develop healthy reactions to stress. This can only occur if they have a sense of control over their situation or at the very least a sense of confidence in their ability to cope. This is what I term Skills Confidence. Without a sense of control, we get in the habit of failing and acquire a reaction researchers call Learned Helplessness. Huda Akil at the University of Michigan Mental Health Research Institute showed in her research that all animals become stressed when theyre placed in a situation where they cant exert control over their environment. To quote motivational expert Frederick Herzberg said:

Idleness, indifference and laziness are healthy responses to absurd situations.

Remember, the brain is just machine. It will only do what you tell it to do. If you feed your brain absurd commands like insurmountable objectives and ask it to do things without giving it the skills or any apparent means of combating that stress, it will respond absurdlyit will simply not operate. If you expose someone to lots of responsibility without permitting them any power or freedom, you are guaranteed a useless response. Toughness is therefore developed by being repeatedly exposed to demanding situations while having the skills and confidence to successfully deal with those challenges. Weve already begun to increase our confidence in our ability to visualize and weve also proven to ourselves that visualization can create tangible physiological results in our body. Those two simple facts lay the groundwork for fantastic growth. As we continue to study this manual, we will grow

this Skills Confidence and extend it to every aspects of our training and in turn we will become more ready to handle harder and more stressful tests. While we will certainly continue to add specific techniques and tools to your repertoire through the coming pages to boost your Skills Confidence, at this point we can learn another essential lesson from the survivors mindset: you already have all the resources that you need to do everything that you will ever want to do. You dont need more than what you already have right this minute. You just need to maximize what youve already got. Everything that I will show you in the coming sections will help you restructure and focus your natural skills in a way that you can cognitively control them, but you already have the most essential skills sleeping inside as you read this. I will not be adding anything new to you. Just by changing your perspective on your potential, you learn a third valuable lesson shared by all survivorsthe ability to reconceptualize threats as challenges. Survivors dont dwell on what they cannot do, what is unavailable, or what they are lacking. They only focus on what they can do, what they will do, what they must do, accepting the harshest adversity with conviction, strength, resolve and humor. Once again, we return to the idea of taking Combat Responsibilitywe are the only ones who can get us what we need. Reframing our thoughts is about more than simply ignoring our problems. Its a way of creating instant chemical change in our minds and bodies. Richard Davidson, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at The University of Wisconsin-Madison, discovered that by simply activating the left prefrontal cortex (which is what occurs when were happy) we can inhibit the influence of the Amygdala and dampen the negative effects it would otherwise have on us. You read that rightbeing happy is one of the best ways to counter the paranoia of our Amygdalas and make them ease off the alarm switch. That means being happy is one of the best ways to maintain High Road Brain Responses. Davidson found that laughter in particular can send a quick chemical signal to the brain that will block the fear response produced by the Amygdala.

We can all be stricken by fear, but its what we do with this fear that will determine our survivability. Fear researcher Joseph Ledoux was among the first to note that the brain itself is not the logical machine that everyone makes it out to be. It is fundamentally organized to process emotions along with logic. In his words, fear occurs before you even know what youre afraid of. Again, thats the power of our hyper-paranoid Amygdala who would rather be safe than sorry. Knowing that those effects can be chemically moderated and countered by the cerebral cortex is an important motivation for us to develop our ability to view every experience with a positive outlook. Literally, there is power in positive thinking. Survivors also understand the importance of being stingy with their resources. Theyre constantly balancing the potential risks with possible rewards and like all good business people, they only choose to invest in opportunities that will bring them the greatest returns. Then, once the decision to invest is made, they act resolutely. This mentality ties in heavily with the idea of Combat Responsibility. By immediately accepting that this is your situation and that this is all that you have to work with, you begin to ration your resources like someone whos stranded on a desert island. You start to think about working smarter, not harder. As Gonzales notes, one of the hardest decisions a survivor makes is the decision to shut the hope of rescue out of their mind, discarding the world hes left behind and accepting the new one. Reaffirm your Combat Responsibility. Survivors teach us that exposure to stress can make us tougher providing we have the skills and confidence to deal with those challenges successfully. We can all be stricken by fear, but its what we do with that fear that will determine whether or not we survive. Reconceptualizing our fear and learning to see threats and problems as challenges to be overcome is the first step. Focusing on what you can do rather than what you cant is the next. Over time, evolve these skills and learn to greet challenges with a smile. Remember, laughter and happiness actually override the power of the Amygdala. Finally, be stingy with your resources and maximize what youve got. As Gonzales said, were always building up an account of commitment throughout our lives. The more we invest in that account, the more we will have in reserve when trouble comes along, but when it does come time to spend, dont splurge. We still always

want to make the best possible investment and get the biggest possible return. In purely combative terms, this is why we always focus on efficiency in our training, to condition ourselves to pace our energy expenditure, since we never know how much fighting we will have left to do.

Ultimately, survivors understand that life is by its nature a constant struggle, an attempt to gather some semblance of order out of the chaos of matter and energy of the universe around us. When the struggle ceases, we die. Sadly, some people will themselves to die by simply giving up. Laurence Gonzales said it best:

In the stages of dying, the last step is acceptance. In survival, it is total commitment. Survival is a simple test. Theres only one right answer, but cheating is allowed.



I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.
John Masefield

Many people hate the idea of setting objectives. We equate them with deadlines at work, New Years resolutions and failed diet plans. The very idea instantly seems to imply pressure and stress. When you consider how most of us regularly experience deadlines (at work, in school and when paying bills) this lack of affection is totally understandable, but in truth, objectives arent supposed to be about establishing goals that you cant achieve. Theyre about taking small steps, as slowly as you want to, and turning your dreams into reality. When you think about it, setting objectives and making an effort to achieve them is a natural process. From our earliest ancestors, we survived because we gave ourselves simple goals that helped us achieve that end: get food, find shelter, reproduce and protect ourselves from predators. As author Steven Covey notes, farmers are a good example of the natural process of setting goals. They realize the role of opportunitytheres a time to sow and a time to harvest that has nothing to do with their will or desire to do so. They set objectives, plan their actions and meet their deadlines; otherwise they will fail to yield the crops they need to survive. Covey notes, you cant cram on a farm. There are no short-cuts. There is a process that must be followed. In the end, you will only reap what you sow. Effective people understand that setting goals is the basis of efficient achievement. Most of us might not initially be inclined to approach the topic of selfdefense training with anything close to the urgency of a farmer planting his or her crops. A farmer knows that a mistake or a failure to achieve a projected goal can

mean a failure to survive both financially and literally. By comparison, its tempting to approach the idea of self-defense training as something far more recreational. Even if we accept and agree that there is a deep need to be able to protect ourselves, its easy to begin regarding our training as a leisure activity or hobby that we do every night after school or work. It can become just a workout like going to the gym, with the fringe benefit of helping you protect yourself. Gradually, what happens is that self-defense training at its best becomes more of a long-term investment or insurance policy rather than an urgent tool. In reality however, our self-defense goals are infinitely more urgent and relevant than a farmers sowing or harvesting schedules because while the farmer has a finite amount of time within a season to do his or her job, a warrior never knows how much time they have. Let me ask you: If you knew that you were going to enter into a fight to the death within the next 15 minutes, what would you do? Would you say good-bye to your loved ones? Would you make peace with your god or seek some spiritual or philosophical harmony before entering into that situation? After that was done, would you dedicate any time to planning, to thinking about how you would fight, to looking for or fashioning a weapon or programming your mind so that you would explode out of the gates and seize the surprise advantage, even if only a few seconds? If you think about this situation honestly, the answer is probably that you would do a blend of all of these things. This simple question was first posed to me years back when I began my study of Japanese sword fighting. My teacher made it clear to me that anytime you enter the world, whether you draw your sword or do not carry one, there is the very real risk that you may be cut down. Your spirit needs to be prepared. As daunting as this challenge may initially seem, the fact is, objectives dont take time, they make time. Thats not just some cheesy sounding clich. Its an easily provable fact. Objectives help us get our self-defense priorities straight so

that we can get the greatest possible advantage out of the least amount of training. After all, the entire point of training is to protect our loved ones and ourselves. The last thing we need is for training to take all of your time away from enjoying the life and loved ones that were seeking to protect. What good is a life-style that requires you to live in the training hall? By simply setting some clear goals, its possible to make the most of our time and balance training with even the busiest life-style as you will see. The next advantage of setting objectives is that you avoid the natural tendency to fall into ruts. Motivational guru Napoleon Hill was the first to emphasize that repetition is the mother of habit. The more you do something, the better you will become at doing it. Like any tool, however, repetition must be used correctly if its going to be helpful. Repetition reinforces all habits equallyboth the good and the bad. Without objectives, without knowing where we want to go, we run the risk of dwelling in our bad habits and falling into ruts and as Zig Ziglar said: A rut is a

grave with the ends kicked out of it.

We need to know where were going. We need to know what we wish to become. We need to know what we are doing today when we train and where were headed this month. We even need to have goals that are fantastic and huge and beyond our likely capacities, like world peace. Success-minded people arent afraid to dream big. As Robert Browning said: Ah, but mans reach should exceed

his grasp, or whats a heaven for? As we discussed in Dragonmind, we are goalseeking. We will become what we seek. Our goals are a big part of our psychological diet. If we feed our machine failure goals, we will become a failure machine. If we feed our machine success goals, we will become a success machine. If we feed our machine self-defense goals, we will become a self-defense machine. This congruency between thought and action is the essence and power of goal setting. You simply cannot consistently perform well if you are thinking negatively. You cant win if youre dwelling on defeat. Goal-setting is the polar opposite of problem-thinking. It returns to that basic idea of focusing on what can be done, rather than dwelling on what cannot. As Covey said, successful people starve their problems and feed their goals.


Your goals can carry you in one of 2 directions: They can either bring you closer to what you want from life, or; They can bring you further away from what you want to avoid. In life were always moving ourselves away from pain and towards pleasure. Remember, change doesnt have to be painful. If our efforts are constantly hurting us, it doesnt mean were working hardits a sign were doing something wrong.

Exercise 15Establishing Goals:

Answer the following questions on a piece of paper or in your journal: What are my self-defense goals? Write them down and for each of them answer the following: Whats important to me about this goal? Why do I value or treasure this goal? What meaning does this goal hold for me? Also, whats important to me in my self-defense training? This will often give you a different perspective on why youre training.



I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul. William Ernest Henley
The next step is to liven up our goals with a sense of importance, power and meaning. Its important to imbue our training with a sense of purpose that transcends just working out. A push-up is just a push-up if you allow it to be one, or it can just as easily be preparation for survival. Every repetition, every minute you hold correct form, you are battling against that inner voice that would have you quityou are literally pushing yourself up to your next performance level. As a teacher, I can always tell who will have poor resolve and give in easily in a stressful combat drill, just by watching how they conduct themselves in their physical conditioning. If you quit from muscular exhaustion or getting gassed from a run, what do you think will happen when you feel those same physiological effects within seconds from stress chemicals being dumped in your body during a crisis? If you cant find the motivation to continue when sit-ups are making your stomach burn, why would you think that in a crisis, you will be able to recover more easily from 2 strangers kick your guts out? Remember, we need to expose ourselves to stress if we ever intend to toughen up, but we need to do it in a way where we maintain a sense of control and confidence in our ability to handle it. This is why physical conditioning is so important. In conditioning, the only opponent you have is yourself. Once you can handle that slippery adversary, then you can more easily handle others. As Systema Grand Master Mikhail Ryabko said so poignantly: dont expect to control another until you can control yourself. Many people shy away from this kind of thinking because they dont think they can get there. They are afraid of failing, so they decide it will be easier to simply not try. Its important to remember that our goals can begin very simply. They can consist of the smallest commitments you can think of. Imagine taking a walk on an open plain. Just by turning one degree to your left, you have affected your course massively. The change may not seem significant right at that moment, but the longer you walk in that new direction, the further you will stray from your

starting point. We have this tremendous power sleeping inside of us that allows us to make such a change whenever we want to:

Exercise 16Inventorize Your Powers:

1. Take a moment to close your eyes and relax. Using the heightened powers of visualization you have already developed, go back in your memory to a time when you were a child. Remember how fast you were learning, how many new experiences you were having everyday, how every play session was filled with discovery. 2. Fast forward your memory tapes to the present. Think of how much you continue to learn every day of your lifethink of how much youve learned already just by reading this book. Even if you already knew every single piece of information contained in this manual, just by reading over them and viewing them all together, you have made unique associations, had original revelations and made important discoveries that have actually changed the physical structure of your brain and changed the way you will think from this moment forward and that will redefine who you will be. Think about this awesome power that exists inside you right now. 3. Begin to take inventory of all of the incredible powers that lie dormant in your body, just waiting to be empowered by you. The power of conscious thought, the ability to regenerate 98% of the cells in your body in just a single year, the incredible power to command 656 different muscles in your body with a single desire. Think of every facet of your mind, body and spirit that are waiting at your disposal to be commanded. 4. Form a single image. Merge the joy of your childhood wonder and your thirst for knowledge with the incredible accumulation of learning that you have amassed as an adult. Realize that you are entirely unique in this knowledge and unmatched. I subscribe to a very simple believe: If you can perceive something, you can believe in that something. If you can believe in something, you can achieve that thing. Perceive. Believe. Achieve. This is the true power of the many gifts that you

have. Anthony Robbins has a very simple test that he promotes in his training that he calls The Rocking Chair Test. He says that when youre old and looking back across the full spectrum of your life, you will be thinking one of two predominant sentiments. Either you will be thinking: I wish I had or youll be thinking: Im glad I

did. No one sits back in their twilight years thinking, I wish I had watched more TV
and wasted more time. I wish I had done less with my life and taken fewer risks. They either mourn or celebrate the adventures that they had and the challenges that they overcame. By keeping your objectives clearly in mind, you can make certain that whatever you do at any moment or in any situation, you are somehow contributing to the achievement of your overall success and taking one step closer to your destiny on The Path of The Ronin.

Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal. Friedrich Nietzsche



All that we are is the result of what we have thought.
The Dhammapada

As we begin to spice up our objectives, its important that we also give some attention to setting realistic goals. Just as we did with our Fear Hierarchy, its important to break down our global objectives into small, bite-size pieces. Baby steps are a great way to ensure success. Allow yourself to abandon the desire for perfection. Goal setting isnt about becoming perfect, its about getting something or going somewhere better than what you have or where you are.

Exercise 17Goal Hierarchy:

Make a list of all of your self-defense training goals from the smallest to the largest. It can be easier if you simply brainstorm them and then put them into order from smallest to largest later on. State your goals in a way that will make achieving them easier, breaking them down into smaller, comfortable steps and stating them in positive terms. State what you want: I want to be able to walk home at night alone without being afraid rather than stating what you do not want: I dont want to be afraid anymore. Its important to state your goals in a way that you can get them yourself, without needing to rely on the assistance of others. Instead of saying: I want to find a

teacher who will show me how to control my breathing when I get stressed, say: I will learn how to control my breathing when I am stressed. As Thoreau said: The man who goes out alone can start today, but he who travels with another must wait until the other is ready.



"Nothing is worth doing pointlessly." Emperor Marcus Aurelius
Another key to effective goal-setting is to make sure you can measure your goals. In school, we were usually given clear objectives for every assignment (with the exception of that one painting teacher I had in university who spoke in a blend of Czechoslovakian, grunting and furious sketching on the chalk board. The only English he knew was strong color. I still dont know what he meant). The rest of the time, though, we usually had a good idea of what we were supposed to do and in return for our efforts, our teacher would give us a grade and some feedback to let us know if we had reached that goal. I particularly enjoyed those scratch-andsniff stickers that looked like gingerbread men and smelled like cinnamon. Nothing said success like their little manic smiles and defiant spread-eagle gingerbread salutes to the world. In much the same way, we must give ourselves credit when we deserve it, to motivate us to continue towards success.

Exercise 18Experiencing the Goal:

1. Visit your first goal. Take the first goal from the Hierarchy youve completed in Exercise 14. Imagine that youve already achieved this goal. Whats different? How do you feel now that the goal has been reached? What changes have occurred physically, mentally and emotionally? Visualize these feelings thoroughly. 2. Visit the journey. Rewind the DVD of your journey a little bit. How do you look and feel while youre on the path towards succeeding and achieving this goal? What changes have already occurred during the journey? How is the journey along the path unfolding? Visualize this thoroughly.

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3. Visit the past. Now, rewind your memory back to where you are today. Notice how you are feeling right now. Notice the differences in your mind, body and spirit. Experience the present moment fully. 4. Repeat the journey. Starting off from where you are standing now, take a step off the path and imagine that you are standing beside it. Begin the journey again, but this time, stay off the path and walk alongside it. As you experience the same journey from the outside, what do you notice that appears different? What steps does the journey involve that you may not have noticed before? Does it look different at all from the outside? What new resources will you require to make this journey successful? Are there any adjustments that you need to make? Thoroughly experience being an objective, outside judge of your future course.

One of the main reasons people hate setting goals is because they always preoccupy themselves with the possibility of failure. We all know that the achievement of our goals would be fantastic, but often, the risk of failing offsets the potential reward. This is why its so important to enjoy the journey to the destination. We must allow ourselves to appreciate what we are trying to do for ourselves and the previous exercise is an excellent way to teach you how to experience the path itself and the values and rewards that it brings along the way. I recommend returning to this exercise often to help bolster your celebration of the process. Enjoy yourself. Youre doing something great.


So far, weve seen that its important to both set realistic goals and then to have some way to measure our success. Before leaving our introduction to objectives, Id like to briefly touch on a sensory phenomenon that applies to the process of self-assessment called pareidolia. Pareidolia is a sensory illusion that occurs when we look at a vague or obscure visual stimulus. Its the reflex that allowed an individual to recently sell a grilled cheese sandwich on E-bay that allegedly contained the image of the Virgin Mary. Its the same tendency that leads us to identify the shape of a man on the face of the moon and the shapes of animals in clouds in the sky. Many researchers feel that pareidolia provides us with a measurable psychological explanation for a large number of sensory delusions that may include UFOs, Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster and ghost sightings. Some psychologists even use this response to help them better understand a patient through procedures like the Rorschach Ink Blot test. Carl Sagan believes that pareidolia is an evolutionary trait. As infants, he proposes that we must quickly learn to recognize faces. Millions of years ago, infants who were unable to quickly develop the skill to identify faces and smile back, were less likely to win the hearts of their parents and less likely to get attention, get fed and ultimately to prosper. Over time, Sagan believes that this trait evolved in the basic programming of our species. Others believe that this reflex may stem from our search for meaning and familiarity on a greater level. The brain is image-driven. It is constantly comparing stimuli to its memory banks for impressions that are similar to what it is presently viewing. Its constantly making assumptions. Returning to Ledouxs research, this is why a simple twig can be mistaken for a snake and frighten our ancient Amygdala into action. How does the human tendency to find patterns and force unrelated facts into familiar context relate to setting objectives? Simply put, we will often see what we expect. Remember, our brain is more emotional than it is logical. Its a highly assumptive machine. Not only we will tend to see what we want to see when we

are looking with our eyes, we will even embellish our memories during our recollections. Consider a few examples: Cornell psychologist Thomas Gilovick studied the idea of winning

streaks by analyzing the performance of players on the

Philadelphia 76ers for an entire season. He found that there was absolutely no correlation between a players performance on a given shot and the results of a previous or subsequent shot. The fact is, just because youve scored 20 points in a game, does not mean that youre any more likely to score a point on your next attempt than you would be on the next day. As fans, coaches and players, we want to subscribe to the romantic idea that someone has tapped into some sort of winning streak, that they are somehow on a roll, that we are witnessing something special. We want to believe that such a streak of luck exists, because then maybe we are equally entitled to experience it ourselves, but statistically speaking, there is no proof that streaks exist. They are a distorted interpretation of unrelated events. Colin Camerer from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena performed a study on cabdrivers. He found that every cabby had a personal daily income target that they wanted to achieve. He found that universally, all of the cabbies he studied would work harder as the end of their day approached if they had not hit their objective and that they would continue to struggle in an attempt to get more fares and reach their quota. They would open a mental account at the beginning of their day and they simply did not want to close it in the red at the end. While this seems like a natural, normal and healthy instinct, he also found that there was no consistent relation between their working harder and their performance for that day. This is an unfortunate reality that many people working in business fail to understand as they push

themselves to exhaustion rather than just calling it a day and starting fresh the next morning. Heres an even more mundane example that may surprise you: If you flip a quarter 5 times and the first 4 times you flip it, it comes up heads, how much better will your odds be that the quarter will come up heads on your fifth flip? The answeryour odds arent any better. The chance is still the same: 50/50. Your previous flips have no bearing on the laws of the universe governing the probability of that flip. The universe will continue to do what it must according to its massive scheme of operation. It does not twist destiny for our convenience. Were the ones who are imposing the belief that we are lucky upon the hapless coin, but its all a matter of misinterpretation. I give these examples simply to further state the importance of setting objectives. By having our goals clearly defined, step-by-step, we are better able to gauge what we have actually done, instead of running with the assumption of what we think we have done. I worked as a sales director for over 10 years. During that time, I worked with dozens upon dozens of managers. Many of them would be experiencing tremendous success, but believed they were doing poorly and so they would put undo pressure on themselves and on their staff, leading to employee retention issue, morale decline, and poor customer satisfaction. Others were failing completely but were oblivious to this reality. Sales environment are supposed to be results-driven and goal-oriented yet too often they are driven by reflex and faulty assumptions rather than actual measurement. Another more common example is hiking through the woods. If you simply go by your instincts and try to memorize trees and the look of the path and your feel for where you are headed, you will likely get lost. As Laurence Gonzales says, the mind has a nasty habit of bending mental maps to convince itself that it is on the right path. You need objective goals like the

position of the sun and the moon or the use of a compass. In anything that you do, a lack of direction and a failure to celebrate your victories will only get you lost. Since most people are not used to setting goals in environments where they are expected to (or if they are they are not accurately measuring them) its not surprising that goal-setting is even more sorely lacking in self-defense training, a domain where goal setting is rarely even discussed or expected. If you have not experienced the previous goal-setting exercises to their fullest, go back to them now and give them some more attention. You deserve to start achieving your goals today.




One mind. Any weapon.

Hunter B. Armstrong



Those skilled at the unorthodox are as infinite as heaven and earth, as inexhaustible as the great rivers.

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Now that we have successfully laid the foundation for acquiring new skills, identified and begun to eliminate some of the fears that would attempt to stand in our way and begun to establish clear objectives for ourselves, its time to increase our Skills Confidence. In this module, well be introducing a number of powerful skill sets that will help us to achieve those goals quickly and with the greatest ease. Well return to some of the concepts that weve already touched upon, covering them in greater detail, beginning with the idea of adaptability. Our ability to adapt to changing circumstances, often referred to as plasticity, lies at the heart of survival. On a cultural level, I gave you examples of how a failure to adapt on a societal level can lead to cultural decline as with the empire of medieval Islam and similarly Ive shown you how a willingness to embrace chance and advances lay at the root of thriving, like Japan finally did in the 1800s by lifting its 200 year ban on firearms. I believe that its important to reaffirm this now that weve discussed goal setting. Yes, we must establish clear goals for ourselves, but we must also be able to balance these goals with the great goal of adaptability. As Laurence Gonzales notes: Purpose is a big part of

survival, but it must be accompanied by work. He reminds us that a plan is only as

good as our ability to think on our feet and work through snags. Plan the flight and

fly the plan. But dont fall in love with the plan.
Throughout history, military encounters have often been won or lost on the ability of the generals and the soldiers to modify their plan of attack. As individual warriors, we must learn from these many, many examples. Cognition is a powerful

mechanism for modulating emotional and physical responses. It allows us to switch from reaction to action states. It allows us to assert executive control on baser instincts and it most certainly allows us to adapt our baseline objectives. In the coming sections, Ill introduce a number of skills that will help us achieve this end goal of plasticity, including relaxation training, emotional control exercises, problem-solving strategies and additional methods for cognitive restructuring. We will begin with the idea of non-linear thinking.



"It is not man who is at the mercy of an external real' time -- it is time itself which is shaped by man." Larry Dossey
In this module, I would like to approach the topic of plasticity from a slightly different perspective. Throughout my teaching and training, I regularly encounter practitioners who are looking to improve their adaptability. Sometimes their goal applies to their responsiveness in a combative dynamic, or their bodily capacities from a biomechanical perspective. Other times they are seeking simply to improve their coping skills when under stress and they are using self-defense training as their vehicle. Plasticity is at some level a goal for both the casual and the diehard practitioner. The largest single opponent of this plasticity from my experience is what is commonly referred to as a limiting belief system. We all carry a psychological suitcase packed full of assumptions and labels that we believe define who we are. Some of us believe they are creative. Some feel they are athletic. Others feel they are untalented or clumsy. Some of us feel that were good at math. Others believe were not. Ultimately, all of these assumptions are based only on the experiences that weve had. Not being good at math does not mean that we are missing something geneticallyit probably just means that we have not been taught the subject in a way that appeals to our learning style. It means that the skill of math was not reinforced and encouraged in us in a way that made having it motivating to us. We always carry with us the ability to learn these skills, to adapt, to grow and to evolve, but if we subscribe to the belief that we somehow cannot acquire this skill, that we are for some reason unable to grow and learn and retain it, then no amount of teaching or training will improve this. For this reason, I believe that the first step to improving our adaptability is to begin the work of dissolving our limiting belief systems. Many people dont even realize what their limiting belief systems are. For example, ask yourself this very simple question:


Do you believe that the capacity to learn decreases as we age? I realize that this is a very simple question, but think about it for a minute before you answer definitely. Do you believe that it will get harder to learn things as we get older? Consider some of the factswe all know that we learn at an astounding rate as children. Our bodies grow inches every year. As children, we can increase our vocabulary by dozens of words in a single day. We make essential discoveries about how our bodies work and how we interact with the world every waking minute. Life is an adventure into discovery. Then consider the opposite. When we get old, we grow weaker, our bodies shrivel, our muscles atrophy and we slow down. Were not growing physically anymore, so naturally, whats happening to our brains? It must be deteriorating as well, right? As the old adage goes: You cant

teach an old dogs new tricks. Everyone knows this, right?

In fact, up until very recently, even scientists believed that the human brains capacity to grow began to slow down in the 60s and 70s and eventually it would stop completely. They were entirely wrong. In reality, the capacity to learn never stops growing. The human brain is a magnificent machine that is constantly adapting and modifying itself. Merely thinking about something changes our brain patterning. As weve seen, simply by visualizing something, we modify the structure of our brains. This affectation can be enormous like a placebo effect, where people will themselves to heal simply by taking a sugar pill that they believed was medicine. What are often classified as miracles may also involve much of this same process of self-healing. Just in the time that you read this sentence, your brain is different from what it was when you began it. Isnt that incredible when you really think about it? In fact, no one known to man has ever even coming close to maximizing the brains enormous powers. It is a work in progress. As Zig Ziglar says: Education is a process, not an event. Cutting edge research has shown that an individuals plasticity depends entirely on the richness of their personal life experiences. Studies have shown that rats grow additional brain cells just by being provided with toys, companions and

spacious living conditions. Modern treatments for conditions like Alzheimers disease are based on the same idea of stimulating the brain through multiple stimuli. What does this mean to us? If you believe that you are unable to learn, this limiting belief system alone will hinder, if not completely negate your ability to keep your brain on the grow. The brain is so powerful, it can will itself to stagnate, much like an individual with an illness or in an extreme situation, can will themselves to die and simply stop fighting. On the positive side, that same awesome power can be used to will ourselves to continue, to adapt to any circumstance and to accept that there is no foreseeable limit on our potential. Eliminating limiting belief systems is just the beginning however. We do not simply rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training. Belief is the foundation. It is the moon that lights the path for our journey, but we must still do the work of traveling that path. Believing is just the first step; we must engage that power. Heres one very simple idea that we can use to massively improve our brains power: Weve all had experience managing several different mental processes at the same time: we can drive a car, while thinking about what were going to have for dinner while remembering what we want to watch on TV tonight. We can drink water from a bottle while jogging and simultaneously think about a personal problem or a friend you have to call. Our brains are super computers. One thing we may not realize about these processes is that our brain functions without a sense of time. Granted, when something happens to us, we can remember it in relation to a timeline. We know that our 20th birthday memories came after our 5th birthday memories, but internally, when we are processing our thoughts, our brain does not process thoughts in a linear manner. If youre walking down the street and you see a building that reminds you of somewhere you visited last year on vacation, your brain doesnt need to sort through a years worth of memory to access that thought. The thought simply pops into your mind instantly and both your perception of the new building youre standing in front of and your vacation memory can coexist in your consciousness. In fact, research has shown that your memory of the previous building and your perception of the current building can each be influenced by each

other. You might actually see the current building in a different light and if asked to recall its appearance, your brain might make assumptions as both the vacation site and the current building fuse somewhat in your experience. Theres part of that pareidolia reflex kicking in again. In school, we were often taught to compartmentalize our knowledge by subject, but these divisions are artificial demarcations, like boundaries on a map. They are just tools that we use to simplify learning. In reality, the brain actually stores information much more like a scrapbook than it does like a journal or log. In fact, the brain is much more likely to sort experiences by subject matter and similarity than it is to ever organize thoughts by the date they were experienced. This is why one tiny, seemingly insignificant detail like the smell of a food can trigger a completely unrelated memory from another time and place. In his book Mozarts Brain and The Fighter Pilot, Dr. Richard Restak refers to this nonlinear method of thinking as mental montage. Restak notes that the brain is always freely associating thoughts and making new connections that improve our understanding. This is why brainstorming techniques are so effectivethey allow thoughts to co-exist outside of time and to cross-pollinate with one another. By learning to think outside of the context of a timeline and by learning to see coincidence, we strengthen our brains ability to eliminate chronological tendencies and allow events from different times of your life to coexist in our memory. This simple practice increases our ability to integrate knowledge, make fresh associations and exposes us to deeper levels of understanding.

Exercise 19 Associative Linking Skills:

The goal of this exercise is to expand your brains scope of association when thinking about self-defense skills. Think of a list of some of the skills that you already have that you would list on a resume if you were applying for a job today in your chosen profession.

Now think of how many different ways these same skills could apply to a selfdefense scenario. Be creative. Typing skills might be helpful in filling out your electronic journal after a self-defense encounter. This could in turn help you to learn about your performance and to reflect on the experience. It might also facilitate your online searches to educate yourself about self-defense before an encounter or make letter writing to different authors and instructors easier. Typing skills may also have developed better manual dexterity over the year which allow you to use your body more effectively. Get wacky and creative here. Challenge yourself to come up with some entirely fresh associations.

Exercise 20 Associative Linking Objects:

Take a look around your environment. Make an inventory of all of the different objects that you have immediately around you. Now think of how many different ways you could use each object to assist you in a self-defense situation. Be creative again. For example, a telephone can be used to call for help, the base can be thrown, the handset can be used like a club, the wire can be used to choke or to tie some one up to restrain someone, the phone can be placed on hands free after you dial 911 to record an encounter as it occurs, or the base and receiver can be thrown to tangle someones feet.

You are the architect of your own brain. You have the ability to consciously re-engineer it with every thought that you put into it. Your memory changes every time you access it. These two simple exercises outlined above are just a few examples of how you can increase your ability to freely associate existing knowledge in non-linear pathways that will open up whole new facets of creativity. I hope they bring you all of the benefits they have brought me.


Make it a point to do something every day that you dont want to do. Mark Twain
In 1584 in the village of Miyamoto, Shinmen Musashi No Kami Fukiware No Genshin was born. He was destined to become one of the greatest swordsman that Japan has ever seen. At the age of 13, Musashi won his first single duel, beating a local champion to death using only a wooden practice sword. By the age of 16, he began experimenting with wielding his sword with only one hand instead of the traditional 2-handed grip, leaving a hand free to wield a second blade. He would refine this innovative method throughout his life. Surviving war and dozens of duels with leading masters, Musashi became a symbol of unorthodox conduct. He refused to cut his hair, rarely bathed and never married, insulting the samurai tradition and unnerving opponents wherever he would face them. When students of a local sword master tried to lay in wait for Musashi at the site of their teachers duel, he discovered their plans in advance, killed their teacher, ambushed the mob and escaped. Eventually, Musashis skill evolved to the point where he chose to abandon the sword, using fence-posts, wooden training swords and folding fans against live blades in duels to the death. In one famous encounter, Musashi wielded only the oar from his boat. Both he and his attacker lunged for each others heads, but Musashi was more resolute and a mere instant quickerwhile his challenger managed to slice Musashis headband and draw blood on his forehead, Musashi crushed his attackers skull with the oar. Then, in 1634, claiming invincibility, he wrote Go Rin No Sho, The Book of Five Rings, his treatise on swordsmanship. Even in retirement, his proclamations would shock and infuriate. Musashi was an unconventional warrior. He defied conventional limitations by refusing to adhere to arbitrary boundaries. This same skill is identical to the founding principle used by Special Operations Units around the worldto act through unorthodox means in a highly agile and adaptive unit. Just as this strategy

continues to lead the way in the highest levels of modern warfare, it can also serve us as individuals in our self-defense training. In his book In Search of Excellence, author Tom Peters coined the term Boundary Bashing to refer to the simple idea of going above and beyond the regular call of duty. In a corporate setting, Peters suggestions included simply making a point of doing one thing everyday that is not a part of your job description. While this simple idea has served me well in business settings over the years, it had an even more profound effect on my combative training. We have already seen that the brain never stops growing. It will rise to the challenge of whatever objective we place before it and reflect back the richness and the texture of the reinforcements we expose it to in our environments. While the brain is an incredibly gifted machine with an enormous power to adapt, it is also incredibly lazy. Its prone to falling into ruts and it needs to continually be shocked and challenged. As a trainer and coach, Ive seen firsthand the absolute importance of shocking a students muscles and brains from time to time and varying their workout routine both to keep it interesting and to keep their body in a highly adaptive state. Boundary Bashing can occur simply in the way that you think. It can be as easy as reframing your basic perceptions regarding your personal training. In the following exercise, I have outlined some very simple ways that you can give your training a complete overhaul with very little effort. Ive only included the most popular methods that Ive used to increase your natural plasticity but with a little creativity, you will be able to adapt and modify these to fit any training goal.

Exercise continues on the next page...


Exercise 21 Bashing Checklist:

Make a list of at least 10 skill sets that you dont normally work on. These might be areas that you dont enjoy working on like sit-ups and push-ups or 20 minutes on a stationary bike. Commit yourself to doing one of these things today. Choose a skill set you used to work on but have neglected for some time, like a specific strike, a pattern of footwork, rolling, ground work, etc. Its natural for all training to have phases and from time to time, we need to shake the cage and break out of any ruts we have unknowingly fallen into. Remember, a rut is nothing but a grave with the ends kicked out of it. You dont want to stick around in one for too long. The next time you train combative technique, try to cover one basic element you have neglected for a while in your warm-up. It might simply be things that you have been meaning to get to. If you integrate this exercise with your montage thinking from Exercise 16, there might even be things that you dont initially see as having a direct relevance on your self-defense training that do with a little creative reframing. What is important is that you understand that negative habits anywhere in your lifestyle will impede your full achievement of plasticity. Once, while training a professional fighter, I remember his wife complaining that he was never washing the dishes or cleaning up around the house anymore. He argued that he simply didnt have the time now that his training was more intense. Not surprisingly, he extended the exact same habit of making excuses to his training as well and found logical excuses for why he couldnt work on the things that he coincidentally didnt enjoy working on. It was consistently these weaknesses, like his horrible diet, that cost him his matches. It might even be your point of view. The next time you address an issue pertaining to self-defense, play devils advocate. Question why you are training the way you are and see if there could be any weaknesses you hadnt noticed.

Boundary Bashing is a very simple way to help identify and eliminate limiting belief systems. In the end, changing your actions begins with changing your thoughts. Commit to yourself today that you will add the habit of periodically taking inventory of your training methods and brainstorming ways that you can challenge yourself and break down your own personal limits. Whether it be moving your hand positioning an inch further apart in a push-up, or counting less reps and moving more slowly. There is a time for every type of training in the intelligent warriors workout.


"Because a thing is difficult for you, do not suppose it is beyond mortal power. On the contrary, if anything is possible and proper for a man to do, assume that it must fall within your own capacity." Emperor Marcus Aurelius
I have been a student since I can remember. Early on, I had the great fortune of having two fantastic parents, a full network of grandparents and an older brother and sister who all took their roles as mentors very seriously and who shared openly and generously. Looking back, its no surprise that my life path led me to education. I also had the added blessing of having some of the greatest warriors as my direct brethren and gurus to mould me into who I am today. I owe all of these teachers everything that I have. From these countless experiences, I learned early on the unmatched value of apprenticeshipof having a direct teacher from whom you can learnover the more typical classroom dynamic. The master-apprentice relationship is sorely missing in todays educational systems. In North America, learning has been dissected and compartmentalized into specific divisions and success is measured only by the achievement of grade results. Students have become consumers who are marketed to and then processed through educational factories like fast-food. The individual experience and the careful measurement and assessment of true learning and retention has all but disappeared. While there have been tremendous advances in our understanding of the science of learning, particularly with regards to learning styles, much of this information has been misinterpreted in my opinion. As administrators search desperately for causes of the decline in students performances and with political correctness at its peak regarding disabilities, blame has been insanely misdirected. As Dr. John J. Donohue wrote in his article Modern Educational Theories and Traditional Japanese Martial Arts Training Methods, this leads to:

Little uniformity in the way these outcomes are expressed. This paves the way for a deterioration of standards, cloaked as sensitivity.
One of the very greatest advantages of most martial arts training halls, is that the instructor can usually do what theyre teaching. They can perform an action in front of you, so you can model your behavior after a live example. They give you immediate proof (to a degree) of what is possible. Observational learning is an important component in your self-defense education. Having access to the habits, the gestures, the behaviors and the attitudes of your teacher is often more helpful than the content of the specified lesson they are teaching. This process of modeling myself after my mentors allowed me to get a far fuller understanding of every concept they taught. While my teacher might be focusing on a particular mechanical aspect of a technique, subconsciously I was absorbing how he moved, his confidence, his rate of breathing. His simple presence was imprinting me with successful habits. One of the most significant concepts that Ive discovered through modeling in my training is that peak performance is something you must learn. No one, NO ONE, is born free of negative influences or hatched in a perfect environment. We all have limiting belief systems and many of them. We all have speed-bumps to overcome along the way. As humans, we are naturally drawn to the most exceptional examples in our speciesthe greatest musicians, the greatest athletes, masters of art, millionaire business tycoons. We are attracted to the magnificence of their greatness. The problem is that this admiration in itself can become a limiting belief system. Many, many people say: Wow, too bad I cant do

that! or I wish I could do even 1% of what that guy is doing! but hidden in this
rather innocent compliment is a seed of self-doubt. They are often widening the chasm between their own capabilities and their objectives to a point where it may become uncrossable. The fact is if one person can do something, anyone can learn to do it too. I want to stress this point and drill it deeply into your consciousness. If it can be

done, YOU can do it. There is a structure to achievement. There is a path that individual took to get where they are. If I train with a 90-year old Japanese Jujitsu master who was born in a family lineage that exposed him to an ancient art of Jujitsu from the age of 3, who later grew to serve in the military for 15 years, seeing action in 2 wars and then acting as a teacher of the martial arts for over 50 years, its tempting to say, wow, obviously I will never be able to do that, since I can never have the same incredible experiences and benefits that hes had. I often meet students that say: Wow, I

wish I had started the martial arts when I was young like you. Now I can never be as good as you. This assumption, while understandable, is a metric ton of total
crap. It is simply not true. We have to be careful about getting distracted by the cosmetic details of a mentors journey. While we are all products of our environment to some extent, just because youre not Japanese or because you havent gone to war, or because you werent born into a certain family, does not disallow you to achieve equal if not greater success. Look instead at the intrinsic path that was taken. What was truly done to achieve their level of skill? Stay survival minded hererather than thinking of what you cant do (Ill never be Japanese!) think of what you can do. What advantages do you have that your role-model didnt? For example, being alive in the 21st century, you have at your disposal infinitely better training equipment, better medicines to heal you, better nutrition and supplements to strengthen you, better dietary knowledge, advances in physiology and the science of training, advances in psychologymost of the content of this book that you have already read, was probably not available to your role model. These combined elements are an incredible gift. Think of how you can use what you have to get what you want even if it seems unreachable. Like the old TV show McGiver, we may only have a rubber bank, a used Q-Tip and a bottle of ear medicine for your cat, but by the end of the hour, we will make a working revolver out of them. This is one of the major advantages to modeling. Often, a teacher will teach what they believe is the essence of the lesson, but often, there is infinitely more

understanding to be gained from absorbing the entire experience. A master, may not even know what makes them a master. After all, perception is subjective remember pareidolia. Clouds arent actually forming the shapes of unicorns for your entertainment purposes. We are simply imposing our own beliefs on those clouds and seeing what we want to see. Only you truly understand what it is that attracts you to a teacher. Only you know exactly what it is that you are seeking to emulate. Throughout this manual, weve been trying to make these objectives more clear and precise to you so that you know exactly where you are headed. Trust yourself. Try everything. Pattern yourself after successful people that you admire and see which aspects of their personality and habits work for you and which do not. This process of Guided Mastery isnt limited to your formal teachers. When your mind is open, everyone around you becomes a teacher. This is why kung fu masters have styles inspire by the movements of animals and monks have revelations discovered in the movement of a blade of grass or the smile of a flower. Cognitive therapy has proven time and again that human beings can learn to overcome fears by observing others who are not experts. In fact, many studies show that learning occurs best by observing individuals who are closer to their own ability levels. If you are mortally afraid of defending against a knife, you will likely gain more insight by watching a student with 3 months experience demonstrate their skills than you will by watching a veteran of forty years. The veteran may inspire you to continue training, but your colleagues will likely teach you more about yourself. The reasonthe skill is closer to your own ability level and therefore easier for you to identify and digest. You may even identify mistakes that you do not make or that you have already corrected in yourself. This improves your existing Skills Confidence and makes you more impressionable to continued learning. When a superior practitioner performs their skills, you may not see what in effect they are doing and through that same reflex of pareidolia, you may impose your own beliefs and assume you are seeing what you want to see.

Exercise continues on the next page


Exercise 22 Choosing Your Guides:

Take a moment to think of people you know from teachers to colleagues who have skill sets or attributes that you would like to have. I recommend writing their names down in your journal along with an affirmative statement:

I would like to learn how to defend against knife attacks as well as John or I would like to improve my cardio like Peter did.
If one person can do something, anyone can learn to do it too, but in order to model that behavior successfully, you must admit to yourself that you want it. Often, our fear of failure makes us feel too shy to honestly admit our goals, but remember why you are training to improve your defensive skills in the first place and the many advantages this improved understanding and these added skills will bring to you and your loved ones. You deserve these skills. You have already honestly admitted what you want when you identified your training goals. Now continue along the path by identifying who you know that can help lead you to the achievement of these goals through the example that they set.



Be silent, for there is a great danger that you will immediately vomit up what you have not digested. Epictetus
As I noted in the previous section, when choosing to model your behavior after someone else during observational learning, its important to stay survivalminded and to always focus on what you can do instead of focusing on what you cant. In the example I gave of seeking to emulate your 90-year old Japanese Jujitsu master, this would mean forgetting about the obvious advantages he might have enjoyed (being born into a martial family, having wartime experience, having decades more experience than you, etc.) and focusing on all of the many advantages that you enjoy as a citizen of the 21st century. One of these, as we have already mentioned, is the simple fact that more has been learned about the function of the human brain and learning in the past 25 years than in the rest of human history combined. One such piece of modern knowledge that can place you in a position of tremendous advantage over traditionalists is the fact that when learning a new motor skill, you are actively engaging both your motor cortex and prefrontal cortex. Studies have shown that these brain sections will stay active for approximately the first 40 minutes after any new activity. During this time, the prefrontal cortex is busy, actively designing the action plan for future repetition of the skill, mapping out the pathways that the movements and actions require in your brain. Simultaneously, your motor cortex, like a good soldier, carries out the actions that you have requested it to do. Long after you have stopped performing the skill and finished your training session, the brain is still busy consolidating the new skill, building those pathways. Its also linking these new skills to existing skill sets, recruiting their help and making your future performance more efficient. Studies have shown this appears to take several hours in some cases. For this reason, research has shown that it is not advisable to try learning a second motor skill

during the first few hours after you have acquired the first. Simply speaking, your nervous system needs a few hours to digest. This means that if you have just learned a new knife defense principle and youve been working on applying it to a specific situation, working on certain technical movements that are still a bit awkward for you, it would be best to either end your training session, to review more familiar material after it, or to keep working on the new skill if you would like to maximize your skill retention level. From experience, I have seen that when teaching new skills, it is best to begin with a workout / warm-up that will prepare the student for the work they are about to do, to follow with some organic work where they are allowed to play and intuitively experiment, then to teach a new skill, rehearse it and let it sink in. In solo training, Ive found it can be helpful to slowly work on a new skill at the beginning of the day and then to review it briefly before going to bed. By this point, the pathways have been deeply cemented in my nervous system. By reviewing it just before going to bed, I reinforce those pathways and then allow them to deepen while I sleep. This is a very simple trick that has massively cut down my solo training time and boosted my results through the roof. Remember, learning is a process of chemical change. Give your brain the time it needs to digest what youve eaten.


This heart within me I can feel, and I judge that it exists. This world I can touch, and I likewise judge that it exists. There ends all my knowledge, and the rest is construction.
Albert Camus Another more physical aspect of training that connects with Guided Mastery and body memory is the idea of proprioception. While I discussed this briefly in Dragonmind, I would like to touch on this again here in a slightly different light. Usually, when we think of our senses we think of the obvious five senses that we were taught in school: sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. There is however another sensory system that may even exceed these in importance called proprioception. Proprioception is our bodys natural ability to sense how it is positioned in the world around it. This includes knowing how our legs are bent, knowing where our toes end when we extend our leg, knowing where our hip is when we reach into our pocket or knowing the length of your arm when you reach for a glass on the cupboard shelf. This ability comes from millions of tiny sensors that are woven into all our muscles, tendons and joints called proprioceptors or stretch receptors that send our brain information about how our body is positioned. This feedback tells the brain how much it needs to contract or relax a muscle to achieve a desired position or to execute an action. Working with these sensors is a network of fluid-based mechanisms in the inner ear called our vestibular system that helps the brain feel the pull of gravity so we can compensate for gravity and stay balanced when we walk. This is also why smacking someone in the ear disrupts the balance centers in the brain. Imagine how different life would be without proprioception. We would literally have to look everywhere we were going to know how much we needed to move. Taking a step backwards would be as labor-intensive as backing your car into a parking space. Reaching for a pen would be like steering a construction crane. If you wanted to wiggle your finger, you would need to look at it to be sure

that you were doing it. Every single action that we take for granted would need to be intentionally focused on. Imagine if you wanted to lift your gym back off the floor. Without proprioception, your body would have no idea how much the bag weighed. If you tried to lift the bag up and you saw that you were failing, you would need to try to force more but you wouldnt have any sense of how much harder you should force. If that bag were too heavy to move, you would pull until you tore a muscle. If the bag were ridiculously light and you pulled on it too hard, you wouldnt have an reflexive urge to stop pulling until you saw that you were falling backwardsand by then, it might be too late. Thankfully, most of us are unlikely to ever suffer from this type of disorder of the nervous system. If youre reading this now, you probably enjoy a normal degree of proprioception without realizing it. The goal of our next exercise is to increase our proprioception, which can only enhance our self-defense skills.

Exercise 23 Fingertip Accuracy:

Close your eyes and raise both of your arms to either side of your head like you are a tightrope walker. Keep the fingers of your left hand entirely still. With your right hand, quickly touch your nose. Then, immediately try to touch your left thumb with your right index finger. Repeat the entire process, touching your nose first, then each of the subsequent fingers on your left hand using your right index finger. Switch hands and use your left index finger to touch your nose, then each of the subsequent fingers on you right hand. Notice the differences between each hand and fingertip. Also notice, that the more you practiced this skill, the better you quickly become at it. This is a very simple drill that will help you increase your basic body awareness.


Exercise 24 Target Practice:

Draw and X on a sheet of paper. Hold a pen in your hand, high above your head, close your eyes, then draw to draw a dot on the paper as close to the X as possible without looking. Take a look at your results. Then, try doing it once with your eyes open and then repeat it again with your eyes closed. Repeat this, eyes open, then closed, a few times. Notice the changes in your results.

In both of these exercises, youre using your proprioceptors to help you judge where your body is positioned and to guide it to where you would like it to go. These two simple drills make us realize just how dependent we can become on visual cues. Naturally, while our goal here is to improve our proprioception, were not intending to rely on it as a stand-alone skill. Vision and proprioception enhance one another. In fact, in application, even in your training, by coming back to more accessible reference points (like your nose in the first exercise) and by opening your eyes to adjust your efforts in the second exercise, you will be able to massively accelerate your rate of improvement. Improved proprioception will have far-reaching effects on your skill sets. Improved bodily awareness leads to stronger posture, more efficient actions and heightened states of relaxation during action. In addition, since proprioception requires the brain to formulate a dynamic mental map of your body, it will even enhance your visualization skills. Athletes will usually enjoy higher states of proprioceptive awareness than average people, but with a little practice, you can effortlessly hone your own awareness to greater degrees. Some more combative exercises you might consider include: Working blind-folded


Practice squatting, rolling and moving through your room in the dark from memory. Your ability will be enhanced by alternating tries with the lights on to help make a more detailed and accurate mental map of your surrounding. Practice training in confined spaces. There is nothing quite like the immediate biofeedback of knocking your elbow into a wall or stubbing your toe to help you create an accurate three dimensional map of your environment very quickly. Practice handling a weapon with your eyes closed. Use a training weapon. You will need your fingers and toes later on in this book. Be creative. You have incredible potential just waiting to be unleashed in your body. All change beings with awareness. These simple drills will help get you started.


He who reigns within himself and rules his passions, desires, and fears is more than a king. John Milton

Beyond my daily teaching in our training center, I also regularly work on external contracts. One of my more recurrent contracts has been serving as the Defensive Tactics instructor for a local security guard agency. In this position, Ive enjoyed the chance to prepare students for the real possibility of imminent hostility while on the job while interacting with candidates from around the world and enjoying the diverse perspectives they bring from previous training in law enforcement and military backgrounds. Every one of these classes is a volatile blend: part cultural differences, part eagerness to impress, part desire to assert dominance, part preference for previous trainingall wrapped in a big ribbon of testosterone and a hunger for empirical proof that what is being taught will work. This can manifest in a lot of different ways. On a good day, it might just be a lot of insightful questions. Somewhat too often, it can be a sucker punch to the back of your head mid-lecture. It makes for an interesting experiment in personal readiness. Through these weekly trials, my own actions and the success of my students who assist me, I have learned some precious lessons about emotional control that I would like to share with you: Lesson #1Your Breathing Is The Puppet-Master of Your Mind: Weve already spoken a ton about the importance of High Road Responses and the full power of cognitive control. Weve also discussed the value of inducing and maintaining a relaxed physical and mental state. Through my teaching in this arena, one component in particular has stood out above all othersbreathing. I have seen gargantuan men, muscled like a sculpture made of popcorn, fall victim to their lack of lung control. In the same instant, Ive seen students, both veteran

and novice alike, cognitively control their breathing, just liked they practiced doing while walking, running, doing pushups and sparring, who can ride these giants into the earth like miniature monkey charioteers. I have seen malicious aggressors divulge their intent with heaving shoulders and Ive seen knowing students detect these aggression cues and subtly walk to the far side of the class with a smile, avoiding a potential conflict. Ive seen conditioned athletes struggle to restrain a 140 pound student and then witnessed that same small student masterfully control a much larger aggressor with relaxation and breath control. If you cant control your breathing, you cannot reliably control another individual.

Exercise 25 Breath Control:

Sitting or lying comfortably, inhale naturally through the nose, pacing the inhale to last for a count of three. Avoid over-inhaling or bloating the lungs. Hold the full lungs for an equal count of three. Take inventory of any tension that arises in your muscles and allow it to drip away. Exhale comfortably from the mouth for an equal count of three. Avoid over- forcing or making harsh wheezing noises from the throat. Exhales should be crisp and driven by the core of the body. They should be sharp and whistling rather than coarse and grating and ultimately become silent. Hold the lungs empty for a three count. Again, take inventory of your tension. I borrow this simple 4-step or Square Breathing set from the art of Russian Systema, which I still regard as the most sophisticated martial art Ive encountered for breathing (and so many other aspects of training). Similar methods, sometimes called Autogenic Breathing in North America have begun to emerge. Square Breathing places an equal emphasis on all four breathing phases, helping the practitioner to balance the cycles of their breathing. Too often, athletes are trained to force only on exhales, creating a habitual reliance on of their breathing cycle. Square Breathing will dissolve this reliance and create a more balance and powerful breath reflex.


Exercise 26 Breath Control 2:

Now its time to deform our square. Using the same principle as the previous drill, practice varying the counts of your breathing: Inhale for 3, hold for 1, exhale for 3, hold for 1. Repeat a few times. Inhale for 5, hold for 1, exhale for 1, hold for 1. Repeat a few times. Inhale for 1, hold for 3, exhale for 1, hold for 3. Repeat a few times. Any variation will teach you volumes about your capacities. One approach is to use a climbing scale, breathing 1,1,1,1 then 2,2,2,2 and so on up to 8 or 10 and then descending in reverse order. Also, while performing a physical exercise, it can be helpful to find your ideal breath pace. For example, when I jog, I like to maintain a count of square 3. Then as demands are placed on the body (like running uphill) I shorten the square to 1, then move towards regulating it by moving back to 2 then 3. Over long distances, I stretch my breath up to counts of 8 and then back down to 3 to exert cognitive control over my breathing to avoid getting bored and to distract myself from any negative thoughts of failure that might otherwise creep into my head. This very simple principle is at the heart of Russian Systema and there are countless more variations and details that this art can offer those who are interested. Begin with these fantastic exercises and see where they take you.

Lesson #2Accept Combat Responsibility: I have emphasized this point before, but this is something that has continually come up in both my training of security guards and regular students in general. Too often, students who encounter defeat, make excuses. They deny their combat responsibility. Accept that you are not invincible. We all have something to learn. Learn from your errors to avoid repeating them. A failure to accept your own responsibility for your own combative

readiness will only falsely insulate you from the reality of violence and place you at risk for defeat. This defeat will not only occur in a literal sense. It will also occur at an internal level. No matter how much you consciously try to deny your loss, your subconscious self will always ingest it. You cant lie to yourself. The only remedy for defeat is to constructively analyze what went wrong and to correct it, not to deny it. You need to know yourself and your limits. This is even more important if youre a teacher. Show your crew that youre able to integrate criticism and to pick yourself up when you fall down. Take responsibility. Lesson #3Be Congruent: Weve been talking a lot about know what you want in your training, setting your goals and measuring your progress. At a recent outdoor training seminar, I found myself mildly lost in the woodlands of Northern Ontario in the middle of the night with a group of people that were beginning to panic and argue among themselves. Although we had compasses and flashlights, the point of the exercise was to learn to use natural markers to help guide us so we were discouraged from using them except in the case of emergencies. Once we calmed down, orientated ourselves with the position of the moon and started moving forward, our bodies calmed down very quickly. Simply by being quiet, our ears adjusted to the silence and we could hear the footsteps of another group echoing and cracking a small distance ahead of us. In every aspect of our training, we need to know where were going. Without clear objectives, its natural to panic. Its important to understand why we do what we do in training and to deeply understand and accept the importance of every exercise. If were training in an art where part of the curriculum seems ridiculous or useless and we fail to address this issue, incongruence will create weakness and doubt in our psyche. This can lead to a loss of Skills Confidence in a real encounter. We must believe in what were doing and know why were doing it. When I teach security guards, many of the students have previous training. Some will ask solid questions about why we do some things differently from what they have been taught elsewhere. They will investigate both approaches and integrate those aspects that work best for themthis ties in with our previous point.

If you know what youre goals are youre not going to play around. Youre going to get what you need without shame or regret. The difficulty is that most simply blurt out that they were taught another way. Rather than measure the pros and cons of both approaches they close their mind. The problem is that this closure does not come from a confidence in their existing technique, but rather an egotistical refusal to try absorbing something new. As a result, when their existing skills are put to the test, they invariably fail because the skills they have settled for are rarely the best that are availablethey are simply the first skills theyve been taught. Even if the skills were good and well intended, theyre often misinterpreted by rigid thinking and the essence has been lost. Congruence ultimately means being honest with yourself. If youre genuinely interested in learning to protect yourselves and your loved ones, why wouldnt you take the opportunity to learn absolutely everything that you possibly can to make yourself stronger? Ego is inconsistent with a true concern for your survival. Ego is a symptom of someone who still hasnt taken a full inventory of what they have to lose. Its unresolved. If you find yourself submitting to ego in any of its forms, feeling malice, or indulging in aggression or a desire to inflict harm on the other rather than a drive to protect yourself, go back to the beginning and reconfirm your training goal. Lesson #4Be Skilled: If youre not skilled, know that youre not and get skilled, now. There is no replacement for ability. There is no shortcut to training. Although we often prefer the get-fit-quick hype of the marketing world, the reality is that we must do the work. Few things will contribute to our sense of despair and fear like uncertainty in our skills. When these feelings arrive, honestly integrate them into your objectives and set a timetable for their correction. Use the full power of your mind through visualization and planning to guide your physical training and give yourself the fastest possible results. Dont play. Get what you need.


Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each. Henry David Thoreau
In the previous section I revealed a very simple breathing method that I refer to as square breathing. The first time I encountered this method, I looked at it with the hubris of 18 years of Oriental martial arts training and thought: yep, I

already know that. Pretty basic stuff. After seeing people all around me with much
less experience consistently outperform me, I started to give it a second thought. This breathing method is so simple and yet so fantastic, that its one of the first things that I teach people when they start training with me. Every time someone has adopted it fully, theyve felt the same incredible power and results. Now I mentioned that I learned this method via the art of Russian Systema, but its not limited to this practice alone. In fact, the technique is also used in a famous Russian clinical health approach named The Buteyko Method and in the hopes of giving you some substantial proof of just what this simple approach can do, Id like to share Buteykos story with you. Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko was born near the city of Kiev, Russia in 1923. He began his studies in respiratory sciences in 1946 at the First Medical Institute of Moscow. Here, Buteyko dedicated hundreds of hours to monitoring the breathing patterns of terminally ill patients prior to death which led to his uncanny ability to predict the precise time of death of patients, often to the minute. What he found was that each patients breath rate increased as their condition deteriorated and as they approached death. During his time in university, he was diagnosed with malignant hypertension, a fatal form of blood pressure that reduced his life expectancy to less than 12 months. Under the guidance of his tutors Buteyko researched his illness in depth although it seemed that there was very little that he could do to reverse it.


6 years later, after majoring in clinical therapy, Buteyko began to wonder whether the cause of his condition, which although it still had not killed him was worsening, might be his deep breathing. He checked this by reducing his breathing. Within minutes his headache, the pain in his right kidney and his heartache ceased. To confirm his discovery, he took five deep breaths and the pain returned. He again reversed his deep breathing and the pain disappeared. Little did he know it at the time, but this moment of revelation would not only save his life but also direct the course of it as well. In my opinion, this was one of the most significant medical discoveries of the 20th century: He would establish that breathing alone could be both the cause and the cure for a number of leading diseases. By 1952, other researchers (Holden, Priestly, Henderson, De Costa, Werigo, and Bohr) presented data that confirmed Buteyko's thesis: exhaling carbon dioxide by deep breathing resulted in spasms that decreased oxygen supplies to vital organs. This deficiency reflexively triggered deeper breathing to compensate, worsening the cycle. Despite this precedence, the medical establishment scoffed at Buteykos claims, insisting that he provide substantial proof. In response, he launched a clinical trial consisting of 200 people, randomly including both sick and healthy subjects. In 1960 he revealed his findings that confirmed there was a correlation between the depth of breathing, carbon dioxide levels in the body and a subjects state of health, but still, many of his colleagues were resistant to his outlandish claim that breathing alone could be such a powerful medicine. It challenged the foundation of their training and ideologies and threatened the business of medicine. Buteyko asserted that over-breathing (hyperventilation) was the root of most health problems. Simply put, when we breathe in more air than the body needs, we become strained and eventually ill. The standard volume of air for a healthy adult is about six liters of air per minute. Buteyko showed that people with asthma breathe a volume of ten to twenty litres per minute between attacks and over twenty during an attack. It wasnt that they werent getting enough air, as it

was often believed, but rather that they were unable to process it because the lungs were already full. This causes a loss of carbon dioxide from the lungs, which is essential for normal bodily function. When too much is lost, the body naturally narrows its airways through inflammation, constricting the smooth muscle tissue and increasing mucus secretion. When an asthma patient takes an inhaler to counter that effect, Buteyko argued that they were in fact fighting their bodys natural defense mechanisms. Buteykos solution began with becoming aware of correct and incorrect breathing. As with our training, his first step is cognitive acceptance. We need to understand why we are doing what we are doing if we intend to create lasting change. Since his findings showed that most people suffered from overbreathing, particularly through the mouth, he promoted nasal inhalation as a method of controlling the intake of air in sufficient amounts. He promoted simple breathing exercises like square breathing, to correct breathing volumes and to balance the four natural breath phases (inhale, filled, exhaled, empty). The 2 interim phases (filled and empty), he argued, must be cultivated into longer controlled pauses to allow the body to correctly cycle air. Finally, he advocated lifestyle changes to assist with this, most notably, some form of regular practice to maintain correct breathing patterns. Undaunted, Buteyko continued his research. By 1967, over 1,000 asthma patients and other respiratory disorders had recovered from their conditions using his methods. Still, the establishment would not accept his findings. Finally, in April 1980, following exhaustive trials in Leningrad by the Soviets Ministry of Science and Technology, the Buteyko Method was officially acknowledged by the government to have a 100 percent success rate. In 1983, the USSR Committee on Inventions and Discoveries formally acknowledged Buteyko's discovery by issuing a patent entitled "The Method of Treatment of Hypocapnia", (Authors certificate No. 1067640 issued on September 15th, 1983). Interestingly, the date of the discovery listed in the document was backdated to January 29th, 1962. His discovery was officially recognized twenty years after it had been made.


Over two hundred medical professionals teach this therapy at present from centers located in major towns throughout Russia. Buteyko wrote over fifty scientific publications detailing the relationship between respiration and carbon dioxide and his colleagues wrote at least five Ph.D. dissertations based on his findings. The basis of the Buteyko Breathing Method detailing the relationship between carbon dioxide and breath holding-time now forms part of medical curriculum at many Universities around the world. On May 2nd, 2003, Buteyko died following complications from a car accident at the age of 80, but the legacy of his research lives on. Buteykos evidence doesnt just conflict with traditional medical views. In many ways, it conflicts with the teachings of Oriental health practices and martial arts as well. Much of the reason may stem from the fact that much of the martial traditions being taught today have been diluted and altered over generations. Consider yogic pranayam or full breathing, which is widely taught. This asserts that shallow breathing and a lack of oxygen is the cause of most illnessesthe complete opposite of Buteykos teachings. The solution in most yogic practices is deeper breathing. Practical evidence dictates to the contrary however. Military research (Lewis T., 1916; Wilson and Caroll, 1919) established that chronic fatigue and exhaustion among soldiers during the first World War was not caused by a

lack of full breathing, but rather by what they termed reaction breathing, including
hyperventilation and over-breathing. Yet another example of the Fight-or-Flight syndrome left unchecked by cognitive control. Again, not all reflexes are good. There is no evidence that increased breathing in ill patients improves oxygen saturation. In fact, Buteyko proved that even with shallow breathers, simple exercises involving extreme breath holding, could improve their blood oxygen levels to no less than 92%--a respectable and near optimal degree. Consider the following: an average human breathes 16-18 times per minute. By simply performing a square breath, beginning by inhaling for a count of 1, holding for a count of 1, exhaling for 1 and holding empty for 1, and then continuing by climbing by one count every breath (2-2-2-2, 3-3-3-3,4-4-4-4, etc.)

until you reach square-8, you will have achieved a point where you are taking only 2 breaths per minute. You will have improved your breathing by 9 times in just 90 seconds. I would note that even then you would not be inhaling deeply, but rather sipping the air, inhaling slowly and taking in only the very little that you need to function optimally. Over-breathing will only serve to add tension to the body. From there, if you maintain that count for just a few cycles and then gradually decrease the square rate, stepping back (7-7-7-7, 6-6-6-6, 5-5-5-5, etc.), until returning to 1, you willl have cleansed and normalized your body function in a simple, direct and easily measurable process, without mysticism or confusion. Even in many ancient chi kung and yoga texts, they refer to master level breathing as appearing to breathe without breathing. Can you think of a simpler way to achieve state than Square Breathing?

Exercise 27Test Your Breathing:

To find out if you over-breathe, perform this simple test called the Controlled Pause. You will need a watch or clock with a second hand. 1. Breathe in gently for two seconds; 2. Exhale gently for three seconds; 3. Hold your breath, pinching the nose after exhaling; 4. Hold your breath until you feel the first urges to breathe in; 5. Count the seconds that you held your breath for. If your Pause lasts less than 10 seconds, you have serious health problems. If you can hold it for less than 25 seconds, your health probably requires attention. Holds between 30-40 seconds are average. Above 60 are excellent. Log your performance in your journal and try integrating a few minutes a square breathing into your day for one week, then re-test your breathing. You will be astonished by how much progress you have made in just 7 days.


As the physician Claude Lum noted, hyperventilation presents a collection

of bizarre and often apparently unrelated symptoms, which may affect any part of the body, any organ and any system. Buteyko was treating over 100 different
conditions at his clinic just through the power of breathing. There are many influencers affecting our breathing. As we said earlier, our perception of what constitutes good breathing is the foundation. If we have the wrong goals, obviously we can never reach our destination. Beyond this however, temperature, diet, lack of exercise or sleep, pollution, chemicals and illness also play important roles. I share the story of Buteyko not as an endorsement of any one method or clinical approach, but rather as proof of both the resistance that exists to this simple concept and evidence of the enormous potential that is waiting for you to claim.


"Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; for the soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts. Soak it then in such trains of thoughts as, for example: Where life is possible at all, a right life is possible."
Emperor Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations

Throughout this manual, I have been reinforcing the idea that change, although often thought of as a difficult and time-consuming process, is actually natural and instantaneous. Even in the very process of creating something new, some aspect of that thing has already fallen into decay or ceased to be. The universe is based on a continual cycle of change. Ive also introduced a variety of tactics and strategies for directing the process of change on a behavioral level, giving you some proven methods for creating real and lasting change in the way that you think and act today. Now that weve had the chance to digest some of the previous concepts, Id like to add a few more tools to our box. One idea that weve already touched on that I would like to nail down here is the concept of faulty perceptions. We all suffer from misperceptions: In our discussion of Montage Thinking, we noted that the brain learns through associationits constantly trying to interconnect existing knowledge and through these relationships, ideas are able to cross-pollinate with one another and to grow into new concepts. In the section on Pareidolia, we discussed our tendency to find familiarity in everything that we look at. This same reflex that motivates us to find faces in the moon and wild animals in the shapes of clouds, can also distort our assessment of our own progress and cause us to overlook weaknesses. This is why its

recommended to never proof-read your own writingyour eye will naturally gravitate towards the familiar and fill in the blanks. Your brain will read what it wants to read, not whats actually there. For these reasons, its extremely important that we validate our perceptions. All of the measures Ive discussed, like filming your training and watching it back or journal writing, create a snap shot of your training. By looking back at them even one day later, youll often get an entirely new perspective on things. Its also important to recruit the help of others. We may not be aware were making a harmful assumption, but by having help to spot oversights, we can usually learn to identify our negative tendencies much more quickly. These can include: Exaggeration or Distortion in our memory; Denying Accountabilitylaying blame on others; Lack of Clear Directiona failure to have concrete goals; Redundant ActionsIf you dont assess your performance on occasion, you will find yourself wasting time. Ruts arise from a lack of adequate measurement and evaluation; Pessimismbeing problem-minded instead of solution-minded. Its important to be aware of our perceptual tendencies. In 1991, Martin Seligman performed research on people with optimistic and pessimistic explanatory styles. He found that individuals who automatically tended to view circumstances in positive and solution-oriented details enjoyed more success at work and at school and even had better levels of general health. The good news is that this behavior is changeable. By becoming aware of our negative perceptual tendencies and setting clear objectives in our self-defense training and our daily

lives, we can gradually replace negative habits with positive one over time and enjoy far reaching ramifications in our lives. Consider the following exercise:

Exercise 28 Weeding Out Perceptions:

Take a list of some of the following phrases:

I hope I dont panic during my interview. I hope I didnt fail my exam. I hope I dont have to work late tonight. I hope I dont get sick on my vacation. I hope it doesnt rain this weekend.
Ask yourself honestlyhave you ever used phrases like this in your thinking or your speech? If not, how would you edit these expressions to more closely match the way you think and speak? Add whatever expressions, swearing, or phrases that would make this language more closely match your own. Although it may seem harmless at first glance, the language shown above reinforces negativity. In the first example, rather than hoping that we dont panic It would be far more positive to say: I hope I do well in my interview. Here the emphasis is on doing well rather than panicking. Remember, in order to not think of something, your brain needs to think of it first. You have nothing to gain by reinforcing panic in your brain. Better yet, rather than hoping, it would be even more powerful to say: Ive prepared myself for this. I am a great candidate and

today I will show these people just what I can do.

Language also tells us a lot about our habits. Hoping you passed an exam is naturally more positive than hoping you didnt fail, but studying and preparing as much as possible before hand is even more important than hoping. As Thomas

Edison said, the harder you work, the luckier you become. Proper preparation will make you less prone to worrying after the fact when theres no longer anything you can do. A big part of behavioral change is understanding what you can and cannot change. Similarly, rather than worrying about working late, its far better to think: I

need to pick up my pace so I can get home on time tonight. Here your language
is affecting your entire goal for the afternoon and the intensity of your work. You are taking responsibility for the outcome of your day. Going one step further, hoping that you dont get sick or hoping that it doesnt rain are irrational concerns. Granted, everyone wants to have the best possible conditions for themselves, but weather is beyond our control. Hoping wont change this reality. The very same instincts we need to maximize our chances of survival in a crisis begin with thinking instead: I am going to make this the best weekend that it can be no matter what

the weather is. Im looking forward to this weekend.

I realize that this may sound a bit extreme, but even the largest tree starts with the smallest seed. Words frame our world. They both reflect and reinforce the way our brain is working. By studying our language we can catch negative habits in the act and intercept these tendencies before they can grow into something damaging. The key is to not get overwhelmed with this idea. Simply become aware of your habits and little by little, notice when youre acting in a slightly negative manner. This sensitivity is the foundation for change. Through awareness, you can slowly erode these tendencies and replace them with more positive language and habits.


Excellence is achieved by the mastery of fundamentals. Vince Lombardi
In Dragonmind, I introduced a concept called Gesture Keys. This is the process of linking an action or posture with a desired emotional state and reinforcing that association through repetition. Eventually, the action alone can trigger an immediate recall of the emotional state. A very common example of this I mentioned is the use of mudras or hand and finger postures in yogic meditation. By aligning the middle finger to the thumb during meditation during relaxation, eventually the hand posture becomes equated to the relaxation state and acts like a shortcut icon on a computer desktop that you simply click on to bring up a file. A few essential principals to consider when conditioning Gesture Keys are: Congruence: Make the gesture or action that you choose consistent with the state that you are trying to associate it with. A yogic mudra for example is a very relaxed hand posture that uses the gentle touch of the middle finger to the thumb to help focus the mind. This matches the emotional state its trying to cultivate. Similarly, many Zen traditions cup one hand inside the other on the lap while meditating, using the hands as receptacles for breath and energy and using the roundness created in the arms as a center of focus. More combative traditions use fists and sharper finger positions to cultivate more aggressive focuses. Horseback riders might condition themselves to associate holding the reins with heightened focus. A basketball player might associate the hand positioning before a free throw with the same emotion. Its also possible to condition yourself to associate an environment with a state (for example, the arena with relaxation) but overall, Ive found more success in linking to gestures and postures since these are fully within your control and your environment is not.

Consistency: Be consistent in your reinforcement. Once youve chosen a gesture or posture always associate it with the same emotion to avoid confusing your reflexes. Calmness: Relaxation is the foundation of suggestibility. Use effective breathing and relaxation to heighten your readiness before beginning your association.

Exercise 29Creating Gesture Keys:

In this exercise, well reinforce a relaxed emotional response with a gesture. Following these principles, this exercise can be customized to fit any need. Begin in a comfortable seated or lying position. Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths. Acquire the hand posture that you want to associate with relaxation. Try to select something simple enough to replicate anywhere. Realize that this gesture will only trigger a heightened relaxation state when you will it to. Accidentally employing it throughout your day will not have this effect without your active intention. Practice reading through this script out loud and go as slowly as possible. Keep a steady and even pace, growing slower and more relaxed in your pacing as you go. Also imbue the tone of your words to match their emotion: When you read the word up, use the same light and upward lilt in your tone. When you read the word down drag out the pronunciation of the word. When you read the words warmer and heavier, use a deep and comforting tone in your voice. If you can, read this script into a tape recorder and replay the instructions for yourself so you can close your eyes and submit to your directions. If you dont have a tape recorder, practice the script a few times and follow your heart to lead yourself in this manner so that you can keep your eyes closed as your relax.

Beginning with your toes, deeply visualize your body relaxing, feeling the toes of your feet becoming warmer and heavier. Feel the relaxation filling your feet with comfortable, protective warmth and notice that your feet are growing heavier and more solid. Feel your toes gently falling to either side as your feet relax and grow warmer and heavier. As you continue to breathe naturally, feel the warmth spreading up to and through your ankles, filling the muscles and the bones of the lower leg, filling the calves and shins with warmth and security and feel all of your lower legs and your feet slowly growing warmer and heavier and sinking comfortably into the ground beneath you. Your breathing now growing calmer and more relaxed, feel the warmth spreading

up to and through your knees, through the joints of your knees, filling the bones
and tissue there, up into the thighs, into the bones of the thighs and the muscles in the tops and the bottoms and the sides of your thighs. Feel all of your thighs growing suddenly warmer and heavier. And as your breathing continues to grow deeper and your body continues to grow heavier, feel the warmth spreading up through your hips, into you lower stomach, into the muscles of your buttocks, filling your stomach with healing warmth and energy. As your breathing grows even calmer and more relaxed now, feel the warmth spreading up into your torso, up into you lower back and your kidneys, as your torso grows warmer and heavier. Feel the warmth spreading into the muscles of your stomach, into your solar plexus and up into each and every rib, filling you with a feeling of security and healing. Feel the warmth now spreading into your spine, into the very core of your spine, spreading up all of your back, through the shoulders and the armpits, filling your body with a feeling of total relaxation. And, as your breathing grows slower still, even calmer and more relaxed than before, feel the warmth spreading into the muscles of your chest, filling your sternum and your lungs and your heart with a total feeling of warmth and happiness.
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For a moment now, allow your eyes to open if theyre closed. Without moving or losing any of the relaxation that youre feeling, pick any single point in the space above you, on the ceiling or beyond in the sky. With all of your focus, stare at the very center of that point, maintaining a thorough feeling of warmth and heaviness in your body. As you continue to stare at the center of that point, try not to allow your eyes to blink, staring at the very center of that center, keeping your breathing natural and relaxed. You may notice that your eyes begin to burn slightly or to grow tired, but you do not allow yourself to blink, staring always at the very center of that point. And now, as your eyes begin to burn slightly, allow them to close once more, closing your eyes and relaxing even deeper. Feel a deep warmth filling your eyes and know that although you maintain the power to open your eyes at any time, that its more comfortable and restful for you to keep them closed. Breathing even more deeply now, your eyes comfortably and restfully closed, feel your torso now growing warmer and heavier. As your body relaxes even further, inhale health and healing into the body and exhale warmth and heaviness into both arms, filling the bones of the upper arms and the muscles, the biceps and the triceps of both arms, filling the very core of the arms with total warmth. Feel the warmth spreading down to and through both elbows, filling the joints of the elbow with warmth and heaviness. Your breathing now filling all of your body, exhaling that feeling of strength and security down into both forearms, into the tops and the bottoms and the sides of both forearms. Your arms are growing warmer and heavier. Feel the warmth spreading down now to and through both wrists, filling the joints and the tissue of both wrists with total healing warmth and as your breathing grows even slower and your pulse grows even calmer, feel the warmth spreading down into both hands, relaxing the palms of both hands and each and every finger with complete and total relaxation. Your arms and body now are deeply relaxed, completely unified, warm and heavy. In your minds eye, trace the warmth from your hands, back up through your arms,

up through your forearms and elbows and your upper arms, back
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up through your shoulders and into the base of your neck and throat. Feel all of the warmth collecting there in your throat, filling your throat with healing energy. And feel the warmth spreading up through your throat and the sides and back of your neck, up through the underside of your throat and the bone of your jaw. Feel your lower jaw grow warmer and heavier, a deep feeling of healing and awareness filling your gums and each and every tooth. Feel the warmth spreading into your tongue, relaxing your tongue, deep into the pit of your throat, your breathing now completely relaxed and natural. Feel the muscles in your lips and the area around your nostrils and nose relax, spreading deeply into your cheeks and face. And allow the energy to move into the area around your eyes, relaxing the brow and the eyelids, relaxing the very orbs of the eyes themselves and feel the eyes becoming heavier and sinking comfortably into the skull. Inhale a cooling breath in through your nose, and exhale deeply into your forehead, through the skin and muscles and bone of the forehead, the warmth spreading down into the temples and the ears, and the hairline. Your head now growing warmer and heavier, feel the energy filling your scalp, moving into the root of each and every hair, wrapping around the skull and connecting together on the back of your head and neck. And taking a deep cleansing breath, feel an awareness filling every corner of your body. Inhaling strength and health, exhaling weakness and injury. Inhale purity and calmness, exhaling toxins and confusion. Inhaling goodness and happiness, exhaling evil and sadness. Inhaling peace, exhaling peace. In your final moment of relaxation, know that this state of being is always sleeping inside of you. Since you have been able to achieve this state once, you will always be able to remember this state, wherever you are, in any situation and in any environment. Every time you choose to revisit this state, your energy will be stronger and more fulfilling. Keeping your eyes closed now, visualize a point fixed in space before you. With all of your focus, concentrate on the very center of that point, staring at the very center of that point and breathing calmly and naturally, slowly allow your eyes to reopen and to adjust to the light and the color.
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Even after your first session, this simple induction will begin to closely associate your chosen gesture key with heightened relaxation. From experience, I have found that there are 3 components that will determine the effectiveness of your conditioning: 1. FrequencyHow often you reinforce the behavior 2. IntensityHow vividly you visualize your relaxation process 3. DurationThe length of your relaxation training I have seen that many students place most if not all of their emphasis on the third componentduration. They think: If I cant commit at least a half hour to

relaxation, then theres no point in bothering. In actual fact, Ive found that the
frequency of your training is far more essential. My students have consistently achieved better results with 6 five-minute sessions in a week than with a single 30minute session. One chronically stressed student even committed himself to 1minute breathing sessions as often as possible during his day. Committing to at least 1 minute a day, he admitted to performing 3-5 every day, without fail, leading to a massive improvement in his degree of relaxation within only 10 days of practice. His entire demeanor enjoyed a noticeable change. Next, Ive seen that the intensity of the relaxation sessions is also more important than the length. 5 solid minutes of deep visualization, where the practitioner goes deeply inside themselves, with vibrant color, soundtracks and special effects, creating an inner movie of their relaxation, carries life-changing potential whereas distracted half-hearted visualization will yield little if any result. In fact, the Duration of the relaxation or visualization training has consistently proven to be the least relevant factor. I was once religiously devoted to long sessions of Zen meditation every morning and evening and while much advantage was had from this practice at that time in my life, the rigidity of the habit eventually began to detract from the organic, free-flowing adaptability that I was seeking and respecting in every other aspect of my training. While I still do find a

benefit and need for occasional long sessions of seated meditation, Im not sure how much of this is just sentimental habit. Overall, Ive found that briefer periods of 5-10 minutes with one or two 1-minute follow-up sessions throughout the day, have been infinitely more effective. I have used the same approach with many students as well and have seen massive results with comparatively less effort. Also, this approach is far more achievable and students have consistently shown more motivation to perform it than they have more traditional meditation. Ultimately, because consistency and intensity are so important, its more effective to decrease the duration of your training to make repetition and active involvement easier and more motivating. If you can get an instant pick-me-up out of 90 seconds of deep breathing and visualization, youre much more likely to be motivated to practice than if you are were only getting twice the relaxation in 20 minutes of practice. Moreover, if you never have the time to practice 20-minute sessions, your practice is unlikely to ever take off. Keep things in bite-size pieces. The process of anchoring emotions to actions or postures is known as Associated Physiology. Its important to realize that this is nothing mystical. In fact, its occurring all around us, all the time. When I train Jujitsu and I put my uniform and belt on, theres an automatic physiological change that occurs based on more than 20 years of repetition that associates the uniform with a degree of formality and preparedness. Similarly, when I kneel, I inadvertently trigger an immediate state of relaxation from decades of Zen meditation practice. We get results like this from sights, sounds, smells and memories. This can even happen in a negative manner. For example, if you train for years in an unrealistic environment, either within a heavily regulated context or with little to no contact, you could easily cultivate a sense of calmness and security when using a fixed stance. A stance might work well in a kick boxing dynamic for example, but only serve to expose your wrists and get you cut in a knife fight. If all you do is practice kickboxing, even though the stance may be tactically weak for self-defense, expose vital parts, telegraph intent and limit mobility, it will in effect become a gesture key. Successful use in the ring over time will associate the physiology of the stance with security

and in a street setting, you will likely revert to your kickboxing training without thinking (no matter how much they are getting pummeled or cut). On this topic, I once saw footage of a series of fights between a Kyokushin Karate school and a Drunken Kung Fu school. In every fight, the Kyokushin fighters destroyed the drunken practitioners, but no matter how unable the kung fu fighters were to attack and no matter how many shots they took to the face, they adhered to their stumbling footwork and unconventional stances. Some might see this as conviction and belief in their style, but in actual fact, they had trained their tactics for so long against compliant practitioners of the same style that they were unprepared for reality. When they were finally faced with resistance, the gesture keys they had accidentally programmed into their nervous system were so strong that even injury and pain were not enough to break it. This is in no way a promotion of Kyokushin or a slander towards Drunken Kung Fu, simply an example of how we are constantly creating Gesture Keys and proof of how powerful they are. Anchoring emotional states with Gesture Keys has been a key component of my training for over a decade. In traditional Jujitsu training I was taught 9 essential keys which I have modified and adapted through my practice. I have seen massive results even in non-martialists who have applied the skill to preparing for university exams, job interviews and blind dates. This simple technique works and works well. I strongly urge you to integrate it into your practice today. In the following section, we will delve more deeply into some additional concepts that can aid you in your relaxation training and help you improve your health and deepen the quality of your visualization.


That the yielding conquers the resistant and the soft conquers the hard is a fact known by all yet utilized by none. Arthur Waley
In 1960, at Harvard University, cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson began conducting detailed research into relaxation and the human body. His theory was that stress had a direct correlation to blood pressure and overall health. Looking back on this today, its easy to dismiss this theory as being self-evident, but, at the time, Harvards Board of Directors insisted that Dr. Benson stop his controversial study immediately, on the grounds that it was unscientific and wholly unfounded. Think about this for a minute: Less than 50 years ago, our worlds leading minds were refuting any correlation between stress and human health. Once again, we see just how many advantages we have in our basic understanding of the world around us as 21st century warriors. Id be willing to wager that every single person reading this book considers the role of stress in their own personal health plan and daily conduct and understands firsthand the negative impact stress can have on our well-being. Luckily, Benson continued his research privately. He went on to discover that the human bodys natural state is relaxationwhat he dubbed The Relaxation Response. Stress, he argued, is the exception to our natural state. It is largely a byproduct of our survival instinct known as the Fight or Flight response. When confronted with a threat, our ancient ancestors developed the Low Road Response to either fight for their lives or else to run away when the odds were deemed too great. While this simple response system served us well in our days of hunting Mastodons, as we evolved into our modern environments, it became a little obsolete. The stress of traffic, boardroom meetings, paying bills and deadlines all trigger the same stress responses that fighting for physical survival did in our ancestors. The difficulty is that our capacity to release that pent up stress has changed. We can no sooner punch our boss in the face (at least not legally) than we can run screaming from the site of our next big presentation. The end result:

were constantly dumping a potion of survival chemicals into our bloodstream but not using them up. This leads to a cumulative build up of stress-related illness. So this brings us to the challenge of returning to our natural states. How do we relax? This question seems to be the perpetual byline on newspapers and TV show ticker tapes. Everyone is promoting one simple tactic or strategy that will make all the difference. At the end of the day though, there are basically 2 ways of approaching this problem: Since relaxation, as Benson displayed, is our natural state and stress is an exception within our state, we can either seek to eliminate stressors or else increase our capacities to cope with them. As well see later on in our discussion of Intelligent Exposure, perhaps the most important consideration for the modern self-defense practitioner will be the method that they choose to train themselves with. The way that we train our bodies can trigger as many stress responses as a real crisis and poison us with our natural responses. At this juncture however, well deal with some of the more universal stressfighting strategies that will apply not only to our self-defense training but to our life as a whole as well. Since many of them have already been covered in our previous sections, I will provide a quick review as a refresher: Embrace the power of language: Practice replacing negative selftalk with positive affirmations. Think of what you can do and express your goals as positive statements of what you will accomplish. Exchange fear for familiarity: Through the process of

desensitization, learn to grow more comfortable with your fears and stressors and replace your responses with healthier relaxation responses. Your Psychic Armor drill is a great way to achieve this. Know where youre going: Just like a traveler would be stressed by wandering without a map or a compass, you will become more stressed if youre not sure where your training path is taking you. Set yourself short, mid and long-term objectives and determine how you will evaluate your success so you know when you get there.

Celebrate the small stuff: Every goal is a journey of a thousand steps. Celebrate every victory, no matter how small. Catch yourself doing something right every day and appreciate the improvements youve made and the awesome potential you have to grow. Increase your Skills Confidence: Familiarity beats fear. The more comfortable you are with a situation or skill set, the less ability it will have to inflict stress on you. Identify the skills that you need and practice them intelligently. Be a boundary basher: Since skills bring confidence, the more skills you have, the more confident youll be. Dont limit yourself in your training. Try to improve or train one area of your repertoire every day that you wouldnt otherwise have covered. Exercise: Functionalize your nervous energy. Drop down and do a few push-ups, take a walkdo anything to direct your energy. Even focused, deep breathing can make a massive difference. Make education a habit: Knowledge is a natural stress antidote. Feed your curiosity. Read, write, reflect and think. Use the montage thinking drills to increase your brains natural associative powers. Study your personal Stress History: Take an inventory of your fears like we prescribed in our Fear Hierarchy exercises to help you identify past traumas and the seeds of limiting belief systems. Make psychological toughness your goal: With training, youll begin to identify harmful thinking patterns and negative self-talk. In itself this is a huge roadblock to success if left untreated. Make a conscious effort to slowly erode these misperceptions and reinforce your efforts by modeling the behavior of successful survivors, by challenging irrational beliefs and by eliminating wrong beliefs. Make a conscious shift from problem-thinking to goal-thinking.

Act as if: Give yourself a minute every day to act as if you had already achieved the goals youre seeking. Allowing yourself to indulge and to experience your goals helps remind you why theyre important to you. If you can perceive it, youre entitled to achieve it. Learn to love Good Stress: Some degree of stress is both healthy and necessary. Hans Seyle believed that meeting challenges as you might when performing a slow and mindful set of push-ups or running a long-distance or lifting a heavy weight, produces the feeling of a positive adrenal rush that can help us fuel our motivation. We need to learn to embrace challenges and the health and energy that they bring and to invite them into our training. As Buddha said: One learns to endure, by enduring. We still need to leave the beach and hit the surf if we intend to learn how to swim. The key, as always, is to moderate this with our intelligence. We will talk about this more in our section on Intelligent Exposure. Be conscious of your diet. Ingesting less caffeine, less refined sugars, and alcohol and increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains are simple measures we can always benefit from. Hopefully some of these ideas are becoming more and more familiar to you by now. Naturally, you shouldnt expect yourself to incorporate all of these strategies. Simply choose the ones that speak to you the loudest and try adding them into the mix. Anything that you do will help and the more often and the more intensely you practice these aspects, the more benefits you will reap. As Dr. Benson established, relaxation is an inducible physiological state. We each have the power to consciously cultivate it. Typically, we think of relaxing through traditional methods like meditation, yoga, qigong, or a host of practices. Along with the various skill sets and attributes outlined above, you have all the info you need to make a detailed map of your personal path to relaxation. The key is to understand that ultimately, relaxation can only be achieved in a self-defense scenario through the process of Stress Inoculation. Continue to slowly expose yourself to and grow more familiar with the various stressors involved in a self-

defense dynamic. Theres a big difference between relaxing during a meditation retreat in the mountains and relaxing in order to remain cognitive during combat. Through this process, youll learn to identify tension sooner and avoid situations that cause it while increasing your coping skills should tension arise. In the end, remember that relaxation is not something that we achieve or acquire. Its a state that we permit our self to return to.

Exercise 30 Relaxation Realization:

Make a brief list, in no particular order, of all of the different strategies and techniques that you use to consciously increase your state of relaxation. For example, avoiding caffeine, getting plenty of sleep during hectic periods of your life, exercise, meditation, etc. List your activities as an affirmative sentence: I

avoid coffee when Im feeling stressed.

Having read this chapter, make a sub-list of any activities that you now realize were unconsciously contributing to your state of relaxation. Depending on your situation, these can include diet, sleeping patterns, outlook on life, etc. Try to be as specific as you can, listing your sentence as a realization: I realize that I

improve my state of relaxation every time that I read before I go to bed since this will help me clear my mind.
This simple inventory will help you reinforce your good habits as subconscious objectives for the future without putting additional pressures on you.



The soul should use times of security to prepare for harsh circumstances. Lucius Annaeus Seneca



Harvest reveals the seeds sown.
Farmers Proverb And so we come to it at last; the third and final stage of our Stress Inoculation processthe application of our skills. I would like to preface the entirety of this section, by revisiting an earlier quote by sales trainer Zig Ziglar: Education is a process. Not an event. I say this now only to reinforce the reality that while we have arrived at the third phase in our journey, the journey is cyclical like The Blade Wheel. We are never done with any aspect of it. We must be continually revisiting, remembering and honing these skills, making new associations and integrating them in fresh and exciting ways. Secondly, I would like to note that while this is the application phase, we will still revisit and expand upon aspects of our training that weve already introduced. Tools like visualization are obviously beneficial during the Rehearsal Stage of our inoculation, but given the fact that our brains respond to our perceptions and given the reality that simply by thinking thoughts we can re-engineer the very structure of our minds, skill sets like visualization training can also be categorized and used in our Application Stage as well. Well begin this module with a discussion of a topic that we touched on earlier in this manual and in Dragonmind as wellthe idea of slow training. Weve seen that learning is a process of chemical change that includes the literal rewiring of our brains and the restructuring of our body chemistry. Learning literally changes who we are, not only

from an ideological perspective, but at a measurable physical level as well. Weve seen that the brain and nervous system takes time to digest new information. Studies have shown that after learning a new motor skill, your prefrontal cortex takes a few hours (depending on the difficulty of the skill) to fully build a neural map of the activity learned. The more carefully youve learned the action and the more details you absorb about it, the stronger the integration of this skill will be. We learned that we are visual creatures. All of our senses create mental images. When we hear a sound, our mind searches through its memory banks to relate that sound to an image of something that has sounded similar to it in the past. Every boogey man or monster that we could envision is in some way a conglomerate of things that we have seen throughout our lives. As we saw during our discussion of proprioception, we even have a 6th sense sleeping in our muscles that is a composite image formed by all of the sensory feedback of our joints, tendons and muscles that allows us to maintain a mental image of our bodys position and its relative position in any environment. We have also seen that our brain has 2 fundamental reflex modes: High Road Responses which are cognitive and include your full spectrum of knowledge and Low Road Responses which are reflexive, somewhat paranoid and living by the doctrine that its better to be safe than sorry. When we review all of these factors together, we begin to recognize the overwhelming importance of taking things slowly. The learning of any activity benefits from a slower pace. By learning skills one at a time, in bite-size pieces, then grouping learned skills sets together (also known as chunking) we improve

our ability to mentally digest new information. Our brain is constantly snapping photos of every new experience. The slower that information is moving past us, the more detailed and less blurry those mental photos will be. These skills take on an even greater meaning when we consider them in relation to learning self-defense skills. Personal protection touches on primal instincts. It involves our basest fears and deepest desires. As such, it carries with it the enormous potential to induce tension and fear. As weve already seen in Dr. Bensons work, our bodys natural state is what he termed the relaxation response. We are designed to be at peace. Stress interferes with our natural state and while some degree of stress can be good for us, motivating us and inoculating us into more resistant beings, it must be cognitively understood and willfully accepted for it to feel manageable. Every single action, thought and experience can either add fear to our body, or else take it away. Like a good sculptor, our goal must be to continually strip away at the inessentials, to chip away at the excess marble and to free the inner image that is sleeping insidein our case, our self-defense objective. As I asked you before, if you knew that you would enter into a life-or-death fight within the next 15 minutes, would you invest any of that time to preparing yourself for combat? After youve said good bye to your loved ones, made peace with your god and exhausted any hope of escaping, would you consider even dedicating 10 seconds to your strategies and to visualizing what you were about to do? I personally would. Thankfully, were not faced with this decision. We do not have a pre-set amount of time before we will have to use our skills, but that threat, while indefinite, in reality can come at any moment. I believe that the protection of the self and of our loved ones is hugely important. We cannot afford to waste any time in our training. When we accept just how precious our time is and that we have to make the most of it, when we understand that tension and stress are a roadblock in the way of our efficiency, then we clearly realize that by slowing down the pace of our physical training, we are in truth speeding up our training progress. If I seem like I am dwelling this point its because every single day of my training, I see how much, both novices and veterans alike, struggle with overcoming their fears. I also see just how easily they can relapse into the habit of

frightened haste, depriving themselves of their full potential. Something as simple as permitting your breathing to become nervous will lead to a deterioration of your skill. As your body interprets stimuli as a threat, you begin breathing deeper and faster to increase your blood oxygen level as part of your basic Fight-or-Flight response. Rapid breathing in turn triggers your brain to respond as if there was an emergency. This deepens the imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood and in turn causes more panic, triggering even more rapid breathing. Its a vicious and sudden cycle. We need to deeply accept at a cognitive level that some degree of strength and muscle is necessary. We must maintain some amount of tension to avoid just collapsing into a heap of shapeless Jell-O on the floor. Rather, what we seek to avoid is forcing needlessly, straining, resisting our own efforts and becoming locked in a futile struggle. Trying to win an encounter through superior brutish force ultimately means that youre subscribing to a competition mindset, not an ambush mindset and as weve seen before, competition will always favor the larger, stronger, faster, more motivated and experienced individual. Moreover, subscribing to your tension will only add more violence to the world. It solves nothing. Adding aggression to an already hostile situation is like waking up to find your house burning down and deciding to douse yourself in gasoline. In her book The Power to Win, Laura Boynton King discusses the applications of visualization and Neuro Linguistic Programming to horse back riding. She describes the identical problem with tension in relation to equestrian events. King notes that no matter how much a rider has trained or how much they have prepared, if they have not addressed the role of tension and trained themselves to induce relaxation, they will become too tense on the reins. In turn, the horse will feel this tension and take its cue from the rider, ultimately performing slowly. In his book The Gift of Fear, Gavin DeBecker discusses a similar phenomenon. He describes a client of his who claims they decided not to buy a house because their dog seemed to have a bad feeling about the agent. In reality, DeBecker notes, the dog has no understanding of the dynamics involved in closing a real estate deal. Rather, it was the dogs owner who had subconsciously

absorbed cues from the agent (their disrespectful nature, an overly expensive car, etc.). They in turn made an internal decision that they didnt trust the Agent and unknowingly projected these feelings to their dog. Since your pet is both highly intuitive and conditioned to take orders from you, they faithfully mirror back what youre feeling. When you add to this the reflex of pareidolia, the desire to see what we want in meaningless shapes and patterns, the pet owner ends up seeing the justification for their intuition and attributing their own natural instincts to their dog. Similarly, many of the experienced bouncers who I train with stress the absolute importance of staying calm even during the most aggressive encounter. In the words of one of my students: If you put a little too much force into a single

bounce, it may be enough to spark a small riot or to trigger repercussions and revenge further on down the line. Nothing positive can be gained by adding
violence or aggression to an already explosive situation. In his article Combatives: Which Cage Do You Fight In?, combatives expert Ken Good notes: that the best in every field from boxers and wrestlers to combat shooters, snipers and racecar drivers are all calm and relatively relaxed. Why then, he asks: do

some folks that teach combatives encourage stiff, ballistic movements and hyperaggressive mindset when all of these other ranges require a different approach/human operating system to function at an optimal level?

Exercise 31 The Power of Slow:

Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Imagine that you can see your body through the eyes of a flying video camera. This magical camera can float steadily in the air beside you and move at your whim to any position, giving you a clear view of your body in profile, from above, or from the ground. Play with your camera for a moment and see how your body looks from different angles.
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Turn your volume up on your camera and hear how the sounds change as you change angles. By zooming in on a sound you can make it louder and more distinct. By zooming out, you can hear more of your environment equally. See yourself training any solo exercise that you know. This could be stretching, calisthenics, rolling, shadow boxingwhatever you wish, as long as its a solo drill. Film your actions with your magic camera, moving it anywhere that gives you the best angle and zooming in to crop the image and focus on all of the important details. Now hit the Slow Motion button and keep watching. What details do you notice? What sounds do you hear? Now imagine that youre training any self-defense scenario that you like with a partner. This could be ground fighting, weapon defense, escapes from holds, verbal de-escalationwhatever you choose. Using your magic camera, pick the best angle and zoom in. Now hit the Slow Motion button again. Digest every nuance of every action. What do you notice?

Exercise 32Slow Motion Movie:

Watch any videos or DVDs that you have in slow motion. If you have any footage of yourself performing self-defense work, this is ideal, although any self-defense instructional footage will do. Even footage of athletes performing any activity or dancers or gymnasts can be effective. What do you notice about these movements? What strengths can you identify that you would like to emulate? What weaknesses do you observe? Do you share any attributes with the people depicted? If the footage is of you, can you identify any weaknesses in yourself that you hadnt noticed. Have you improved since the footage was filmed?

As we enter into the domain of physical training, I would urge you to continually monitor your level of exertion and control and be cautious about adding excess stress to your training. In the majority of your training, slow it down, take a few steps back and try to see the bigger picture. A happy byproduct of this attitude is that you will likely encounter far fewer injuries while training and reduce lost training time. From time to time, reaffirm the simple fact that you cant expect yourself to consistently perform in a manner that is inconsistent with your training. You will fight the way you train. If you allow yourself to constantly indulge Low Road Responses, you are incrementally poisoning your body with stress chemicals and making yourself hair-triggered. Our minds are what distinguish us from every other animal on the planet. Without them, we would never have become the dominant species that we are today. What possible logic can there be in forsaking our greatest weapon in our training or an actual self-defense situation for that matter?

Courage is resistance to and mastery of fear Not the absence of fear.

Mark Twain


A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca There are 2 fundamental approaches to overcoming fear: First, we can learn to replace our fear responses with relaxation responses through visualization training as we do in our Psychic Armor Drill. Second, we can replace our fear with familiarity through repeated exposure to it. When I coach students, I often refer to the Seneca quote above, using the analogy that training isnt about adding new skills so much as it is about refining existing ones and stripping away bad habits. Were squeezing a lump of coal into a diamond, but for this to happen means that there has to be a lot of pressure. The manner in which we apply that pressure is naturally very important. As weve already noted, we do not want to add more fear to our being than were ultimately taking away and turn our training into trauma. Too often, Ive seen good people, with honest intentions who are absolutely deserving of improved defensive abilities, walk away from the path of Warriorhood because of a bad training experience involving an insensitive partner or an overly-aggressive instructor. Proponents of contact-oriented training often scoff at soft or internal arts for their lack of reality and resistance. Advocates of softer arts criticize the sheer brutality of hard styles. In the end, I believe that neither of them are correct in their polarization. Both hard and soft are branches of the same tree that must exist in careful counter-balancethis is nothing newits the very premise of yin and yang and is supposed to be the foundation of all martial training.

Were training to defend our lives in combat. This process must involve combat. As Bruce Lee wrote: you cant learn to swim standing on the beach. How we get into the water will make a difference though. Just diving in can be too shocking and dangerous to be helpful. Getting dunked in by someone else can also be traumatic. We must make the conscious decision, taking the Combat Responsibility to improve ourselves and go forward with intention to face our fears, and one step at a time, overcome them. In the following paragraphs, I will outline a few simple guidelines that can help you intelligently and comfortably introduce the idea of Fear Exposure in your training. My approach can be remembered through the acronym E.A.S.E. (Exposure, Analysis, Support, Evasion). The idea behind exposure training is not so much that you replace the fear you feel as you might with the Psychic Armor Drill. Instead, the goal is to actively experience your fears, in small digestible pieces, to let them run their course, triggering their full effects in your mind and body. Gradually, through repeated exposures, your tolerance level for this fear grows and your fear responses shrink. Returning to an earlier phrase, the best antidote for fear is familiarity. Many people prefer the less physical approach used in the Psychic Armor Drill. Its easy to become content with the psychological preparation alone, but visualization training, while essential, is not enough on its own. Its only one of 3 blades on our wheel. Remember the foundation of Stress Inoculation: Education, Rehearsal and Application. Yes, we must understand why we are doing what were doing. Yes, we must rehearse these skills slowly enough for learning and understanding to occur at a neurological level, but in the end, this learning will only become functionalized by putting it to the test so that you can gauge your progress, adjust your course and return to the path. Remember, walking on the path of the Ronin is not about aimless wandering. You need to have a destination and you need to refer to your map and your compass from time to time. There are 2 fundamental types of exposure: Self-Exposure, which I will teach you how to perform today and;

Assisted Exposure, which requires the involvement of a coach or an instructor. The goal of this module is teach you how to direct your own self-exposure training. Studies performed in 1992 (Al-Kubaisy, Marks, Logsdail and Marks) found that the presence of a therapist during exposure training ultimately added very little to the effectiveness of the conditioning. This means that right this very minute, youre in the perfect position to get the full advantages of this method just by reading this section. You are most effective on your own. This is the power of the Ronin. Exposure is based on the idea that illogical thoughts create anxiety. Before an individual actually experiences a situation, their brain can produce anxiety and self-defeating thoughts about that situation. Most of us have some area in our lives where were prone to think in terms of expressions like: I cant do it or what if it

doesnt work? What if I fail? Even the most motivated individual carries with them
deeply rooted fears of failure and limiting belief systems in some area of their lives, whether or not they even realize it. Once were in the thick of a situation, we actively tell ourselves, Im doing this wrongly. Whats the point? Then after everything is said and done, we dwell on how stupid we looked or how poorly we performed and deeply plant the seeds for future failures. As weve already seen, its impossible to consistently perform in a manner that is inconsistent with the way that we are thinking and trained. Just how easy is it to create a limiting belief system? Studies have shown that simply by standing beside someone and insulting them while they worked out on an exercise bicycle that it was possible to decrease their cardiovascular performance. The old childrens rhyme, sticks and stone may break my bones but names will never hurt me, appears to be quite far from the actual truth. If we hear something enough, we can easily begin to believe that its true and eventually, our actions will reflect this. The goal of exposure training is to break this cycle with firsthand experience by permitting the subject to experience success and control in the face of a threat. One essential ingredient in exposure training is to challenge and overcome irrational ideas. These can be unrealistic expectations that you have. For example,

a friend of mine recently admitted that he didnt want to go on vacation because he was scared of a terrorist attack. Despite all of the media hype surrounding recent events worldwide, were still statistically far more likely to die on any given day in or around our home than we are flying to a foreign country. Another example of an irrational idea is when someone says: Id like to lose weight but Ive tried

everything and nothing works or worse still I wasnt able to make anything work!
The fact is, past failures only show what has not appealed to you. If you hated Shakespeare in school, its not because you dont relate to universal human themes or because you genetically lack the ability to be good in English. Its because the subject was not presented to you in a manner that motivated you to learn it. In the same way, if youve never succeeded in losing weight in the past, its because you were never provided with the support tools to make the necessary lifestyle changes Remember, we all carry the enormous superpower to effect change in an instant, to wake up and decide: things will be different now. We just need the right key to unlock those powers.

Exercise 33Try Your Convictions in Court:

Make a list of every obstacle that could stand in the way of you achieving your selfdefense goals. This could be your work, your schedule, family obligations, health, your weight, smoking, etc. Write these objections down with plenty of space between them to add in notes later on. Once youve listed your objections, its time to play Devils Advocate. Imagine that you were going to prosecute yourself in court. How could you poke holes in your own defense? With all of your focus and creativity, are you able to break apart your own excuses? For example:
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Defense / Excuse: I cant start training until gain some weight. Im too small. Fact: The entire purpose of self-defense training is to learn how to defend what youve already got. Techniques should be based on efficiency, not power. Yes, size does make a differencethats basic physics, but if you remember our orientation is with ambush tactics rather than competition tactics, if you seek to detect danger sooner, avoid it whenever possible and use any means necessary to win, no amount of size will be a limitation. In fact, if your body is meant to gain mass, there could be no better way to do it than by pursuing a physical training regimen in your self-defense training. Your life is too important. Why would you wait to start learning how to protect it for any reason? Thats like saying: I have

enough money to make a down payment on my car insurance so that Im protected when I drive around today, but I think Ill wait until I have enough money to pay for it entirely and risk getting into an accident until them. That type of thinking just
doesnt make sense. Want some proof? Consider Morihei Ueshiba. At only 5 1 tall, he served bravely in the Russo-Japanese war and was an instructor for Japans military elite. After acquiring advanced skills in the art of Jujitsu, he went on to create his own method of fighting, which he named Aikido. Even at the age of 80 he was able to handle challengers with little force. When asked if he was ever afraid of losing his strength, he replied: Why should I be? I dont use it. The world around us is full of successful examples if we look for them. Be exhaustive and ruthless. Deconstruct every excuse you can think of that could stand in the way of your training. This simple exercise will help you more deeply understand many of the limiting belief systems that would otherwise block your path.

Now that weve identified our limiting beliefs and dissected them in the court of our mind, its time to let them go. My original Tai Chi teacher was fond of making us hold postures for long periods of time. These would be extremely grueling on the body and even more taxing on the mind. Often, the only thought you could

think of was quitting. As she walked among the rows of students, she would always repeat: Let go of the human drama, making the point that we choose to focus on the pain. Although we cant control our circumstances, we can control our responses to it and rather than focusing on our responses, the temptation was to wrongly fixate on the ludicrousness of the situation: I dont need to be doing this I would tell myself. This is ridiculous. What possible advantage could this bring

me? But I knew that the advantage was self-control and so I persisted and taught
myself to focus on my bodys capacities, on my objectives, not the pain. In the following exercise, we use the incredible power of visualization to confront and eliminate our limitations. People just like you have used this exercise to eliminate problems that include illness and injury. Visualization and positive thinking are an unbeatable combination. Just imagine what they can do for you.

Exercise 34Let Go Of The Human Drama:

Imagine that youre standing on the deck of a large boat. All around you, enormous chains stretch from the deck of the ship and deep into the ocean below. These chains are attached to huge anchors. Each chain labeled with one of your limiting beliefs: Smoking, Weight, Workload, Family Obligations, Fatigue, etc. Visualize each of these labels in detail. See exactly where the chains are on the deck of the ship. How do they look? Feel the sun and wind on your face? Allow your body to fill with a feeling of strength and health. In your hands, you hold a large set of chain cutters. One by one, imagine walking up to each chain, opening the mouth of the chain cutters, sliding them around the chains, and snapping the chains easily with a focused squeeze of the cutters. Feel the deep clanking of the chains as they fall into the ocean and hear the splash of the water below. As you cut each chain, feel your boat lurch forward, growing stronger as the resistance fades, one chain at a time. Once youve cut the final chain, feel the boat slowly and strongly pull forward, away from the anchors and watch it sail off into the horizon.

Now that weve done a little preparatory exposure work, its time to confront our actual fears. For the following exercise, the Fear Hierarchy that we created earlier on in exercise 10 will come in handy, or if you prefer, you can choose any other fear that comes to mind.

Exercise 35Get into the water:

In this exercise, well combine the principles of slow training with exposure. To begin, select any fear that you have in relation to self-defense training. For the sake of this example, I use a fear many students have initiallythe fear of being touched or grabbed by the throat. First, slowly become more familiar with the extent of your fear. In the case of a throat fear, you could have a partner gently touch you around the area. Exactly at what point do you begin to feel anxiety? Against a fear of a knife, you could have a partner slowly approach with a training knife and notice what distance or actions trigger your anxiety. In the case of a fear of falling, you could practice rolling around like a child on your back, gradually sitting up and rolling back, then squatting to different heights and rolling to determine when your anxiety appears. Take a break. Close your eyes and visualize your fear. Using the Psychic Armor Drill can be particularly effective here to prepare yourself. Next, experience the fear more deeply. In the case of a throat fear, have your partner grab you with medium speed and contact for a fixed amount of time. You might set 5 seconds as your limit. Have your partner stop exactly at the 5-second mark and move far away from you to avoid heightening your anxiety. By knowing the anxiety will end at a pre-determined point in time. It will become easier to psychologically volunteer for the anxiety. Once the grab is removed, regain control of your emotions, normalize your breathing and take the time you need to mentally decompress.
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Once youve completed this cycle, repeat it. Alternate between slow and medium speed exposure, upping the stakes a little every time. In the slow phase, although you would be touching softly, try to get a little closer to your partner, encroaching them more every time. Then take a break and visualize using your Psychic Armor Drill or any variation of it. Then go back to faster and rougher contact. Each time, you can up the length or intensity of the contact (within safe limits). This drill should be repeated a few times in succession to permit a learning curve and then should be revisited over a number of training sessions. Ive had the most success ending the exercise with successful visualization rather than physical contact. This allows you to seal the experience positively in your minds eye. Only in your mind are you permitted to be perfect. Exposure Training is a necessary component of self-defense preparation. Cognitive therapists have shown that simple exposure is effective in treating specific phobias. For example, computer-assisted treatment programs exist on the market today that can help travelers with their fear of flying. Viewers are gradually exposed to frightening videos scenes that begin with boarding the plane, take off and flight and eventually include turbulence and related stressors. Simply by watching these scenarios unfold, subjects have been successful in reducing their fears to a functional level. Approximately 70-90% of all patients have become able to fly in less than 10 computer-assisted sessions. Similar technology exists for overcoming the fear of heights, public speaking, spiders and related phobias. In fact, virtual reality treatment centers are on the rise throughout North America and Europe. While some will argue that its possible to prepare for a successful selfdefense encounter through psychological conditioning alone, I absolutely believe and insist that there is a level of bodily readiness, or neuromuscular facilitation and familiarity that can only come from practicing the movements. I dont believe that its necessary to be brutal in our physical exposure. We never want to risk serious injury since that runs contrary to our goal of self-protection. I would however say that we must replicate reality within safe limits, to the greatest degree possible.

Throughout history, exposure training has been used to toughen warriors in virtually every part of the world. Native American warriors would smoke badgers from their layers and force young men to kill them with their bare feet to build confidence as part of their right of manhood. Spartan children received a rigorous 12-year military education beginning at the age of 7 called Agoge, that included wearing meager clothing, living on the barest dietary essentials, sleeping on beds of reeds and being forced to march extreme distances in the heat and the cold. Young samurai faced similar ordeals. Zulu warriors would whip their bodies with thorny reeds to condition themselves against the flinch response and the pain of British musket-fire. They learned that a musket shot would rarely kill them immediately, so they trained themselves to bear the pain and continue charging to finish the British soldiers before they could reload. Roman rulers would exchange their sons with their enemies both to serve as insurance against the breaking of treaties and to school their heirs in the ways of their enemies. In fact, it was through serving as such a political hostage that Attila the Hun learned the political and social weaknesses in the Roman Empire. He would later capitalize on these weaknesses when he invaded the empire. In preparing ourselves for the rigors of modern self-defense, we must create a training environment that permits us to gradually and safely encounter our fears in actual application. No one is so scarred, frail or timid that they cannot learn to realistically defend themselves. Remember, if its possible for someone to do something, its possible for you to learn how they did it and to repeat those actions. Mastery is not a birthright. Its an unending process available to everyone who wants it. There are no lost causes or hopeless casessimply differing degrees of unfamiliarity with ones own biological being. Once we learn how to operate our mind, body and spirit to full advantage these fears will not only fade, but they will make way for an overwhelming feeling of connectedness with all things. In the following sections, we will discuss how to ensure the sustainable and safe use of exposure training.


In fighting and in everyday life you should be determined though calm. Meet the situation without tenseness yet not recklessly, your spirit settled yet unbiased. An elevated spirit is weak and a low spirit is weak. Do not let the enemy see your spirit.
Miyamoto Musashi

Exposure, the conscious and intentional experience of fear inducing stimuli, is only the first step in my approach. Three other components are closely related to its success: Analysis, Support and Evasion. While the repeated experience of frightening situations will improve our tolerance and coping skills, its important that we take the necessary time to reflect on our experiences and to analyze our responses. Remember, repetition may be the mother of habit, but it reinforces all skills equally, both the good and the bad. Analysis can occur in 2 primary ways: 1. Active Analysis: This is performed within the context of live training. Remember, learning is a process of chemical change. For this change to occur takes time. If you only work fast and hard all the time, you are not giving your nervous system the time to learn and you will only reinforce what you already know. If you do what youve always done, youll always get the same results youve always gotten. Active Analysis can only occur through slow training. Its important to remember that when I use the term slow Im not referring to something universal. Slowness is both individual and scalable. The more you practice something correctly, the more familiar it becomes and the more effortlessly you can perform it with ease. Whats important is that you move below your Flinch Threshold. You learn by training at a speed that doesnt trigger debilitating Low Road Fear Responses. By doing this, you erode your fears, release your full potential and become more comfortable with the combat stimuli, allowing you to safely increase speeds without fear or flinching. By following this

path, in short order what once seemed frighteningly fast, will become more comfortable. This is the basis of stress inoculation. 2. Post Analysis: This is analysis that occurs after your training experienceits like your own personal de-briefing. Its important to distance yourself from the Exposure session and allow your body to decompress. I strongly recommend using your preferred relaxation technique to eliminate residual tension and then to relive the experience in your visualization. I have experimented with filming exposure sessions but have found that if the initial sessions are awkward or less than overwhelmingly successful, reviewing them immediately with students can often make them feel disappointed with their performance and only serve to reinforce a negative self-imageno one likes to see themselves failing and depending on how vulnerable their mental state is at the time, the results can be disastrous. Visualization, by comparison, is subjective. The brain can will itself to improve its recollection of even the greatest failure and to reframe it as a positive learning experience. Not only will relaxing before your visualization session deepen the effectiveness of your visualization, it will also help to further dissipate the stress chemicals that youve accumulated. In your visualization, analyze every aspect of your performance:

What improvements did you notice? What natural or intuitive skills did you employ? What areas can you establish as objectives for future improvement? What do you feel were the causes of any problem areas you experienced? What can you do to strengthen these areas?

If you do decide to video tape your training sessions, its important to film a little bit of everything: sensitivity drills, stretching, solo training, even conditioning. This will allow your brain to get a more complete image of yourself succeeding. By doing this, even if youre overwhelmed in the exposure phase of your training or if youre unsatisfied with your overall performance, by seeing yourself in slow training, performing first in a more controlled environment and then in more resistant ones, youll be more able to catch yourself doing something right and to see a progression of skill. Youll be more likely to celebrate even the smallest victories, to feel proud of your achievements and feel more motivated to continue. If youre prone to self-doubt, just watching yourself struggle in a contact-oriented full speed drill will likely only depress you further, but by watching highlights of your entire training experience, it will be easier to see the smaller faults and areas that need to be improved within a more positive context. Remember, every aspect of training relates to every other aspect of training. The faults you make in exposure training against a resistant opponent are predicted in every phase of your training. For example, if you waste energy and try to muscle your way through a knife defense drill, I would bet that you also use too much force to get through a set of push-ups. If you lose correct posture, close your eyes and turn away from a punch at full speed, you probably also show subtle traces of this habit at slow speed as well. Spot your mistakes sooner and process them in bite-size pieces. Its much easier to correct your habits in the earlier training phases when theres time to think and digest than in a full speed re-enactment. The end benefit of this type of thinking is that you begin to adopt your training as a lifestyle. We already know that its unrealistic to expect ourselves to consistently perform in a manner thats inconsistent with the way that we think. By approaching our training with a holistic mindset, we begin to deeply understand and apply this principle. If I forget to breathe when I undo my seat belt and get out of my car, why should I be surprised if I forget to breathe when Im doing a sit-up or throwing a finger jab? After all, Ive trained myself to not breathe. If I train a child to defend their self and emphasize the importance of defining and defending their limits, but then ruffle their hair at the end of class when its obvious that this annoys them and makes them feel violated at some level, how can I be surprised if their self-defense skills dont work if they ultimately get attacked? Ive conditioned them

to submit to my bullying and invaded their borders right after I taught them and destroyed anything we might have gained in training that day. Training is a continuous process. We must define and defend our limits in every aspect of our lives if were to do this in the street, because in truth, each of these experiences are self-defense situations. We must move with grace, correct form, breathing and relaxation as in every facet of our life if we ever hope to maintain this state in a crisis, otherwise were training ourselves to fail. If the forces of gravity can make your posture submit to slumping and weakness, the forces of aggression and malice in this world will be more than enough to make your spirit slump and submit as well. Life is training. A final way to analyze your performance is to ask for constructive feedback from your peers, training partners and instructors. During my years of schooling in the fine arts, I learned the profound importance of the value of critique. This is a particularly powerful tool because it combines both analysis and support. In its true spirit, critique is intended to separate something into components and to help make decisions. It is meant to be positive and affirmative. Get in the habit of encouraging feedback from others, particularly your training partners. Share your feelings and emotions after training with someone. Once you get this habit started, youll notice that others will become eager to participate in it with you. Youll also become better at quickly processing these criticisms and notice immediate improvement in your performance. In the end, every professional athlete, every successful entrepreneur, every great artist, understands that simply doing their chosen activity is not enough. They must reflect on what they have done. Like a traveler on a path, walking energetically in one direction is not enough. We must stop to check our compass and map to make sure that were on the right path. If youre serious about improving your self-defense skills and getting the most out of your training, take the time to analyze your performance. Beyond the analysis provided by your training partners, friends and family, this network can also play an important role in support. Recognizing whom you can turn to before entering into exposure training can be helpful. Were all capable of being overwhelmed by training, intimidated, frightened or discouraged. Having

someone to talk to is like a safety net under your tightrope. module on Post Combative Coping Skills. The final step to easing yourself into exposure training is evasion. Although this may sound contradictory at first, its important to know your limits and to give yourself the time to absorb, integrate and to prepare yourself psychologically. If exposure training is made too brutal too early, youll only deepen the weaknesses youre trying to overcome. In the process of learning, its important to allow yourself to fail, to accept mistakes and to learn from them. If something gets too intense, take a break. Come back to it when youre ready. In the end, these are only basic guidelines. As the old Neuro-Linguistic Programming motto touts, this is the map, not the territory. For these principles to work for you, they must be applied. Stress Inoculation Training, particularly in its most literal form as Exposure, recognizes that stress is transitional. We must constantly adapt to it. We will discuss

additional measures we can take to support our Exposure Training in our coming

Exercise 36E.A.S.E. Survey:

In your journal or meditation, answer the following 4 questions: 1. What situation or stimuli will you expose yourself to next in your training? 2. What measures will you take to analyze your experience? 3. What methods for support do you have at your disposal? 4. How can you evade your fears if they become too strong?


When I dont know who I am, I serve you. When I know who I am, I am you.
Ram Dass Before continuing, Id like to cover one last point on the topic of practical training. Weve seen that learning is a chemical process and for that process to occur takes time. Our goal is to improve ourselves and to erode our fears, so we must begin training any new skill set slowly, at a pace that does not trigger our instinctive fear responses (for learning to occur, training must operate below our Flinch Threshold). This training tool is intended to help us get into the zone, to enjoy an intuitive flow state where conscious thought can be abandoned for natural action. This is only one pillar in our foundation however. Remember, The Blade Wheel. Effective stress inoculation must include: 1. Educationunderstand why were doing what were doing; 2. Rehearsalthe slow, progressive accumulation of Skills Confidence; 3. Applicationtesting technique against resistant forces. Flow training resides in the domain of the rehearsal phase of training and while it does constitute the bulk of our work (because its safer and because learning takes time to occur) its not the end goal. Practical application is our end objective. We want to make sure what were doing actually works. This being said, we naturally want to make sure that our Flow Training is leading up to Application Training and not in any way planting the seeds of tendencies that will harm our progress. Flow Training should make us better. Application Training should show us how much better. The first mistake most people make when flow training is that they move too fast, too soon. They move above their Flinch Threshold, as weve already discussed. The next key to consider in successful Flow Training is that it must respect the laws of an actual encounter.


What do I mean by this? First, you must respect the laws of physics. In a real situation, despite what the movies may lead you to believe, there are only so many ways that a person is likely to attack. Stress simplifies movements to one or two steps and generally erodes them to larger, gross motor movements. This is why air force engineers around the world are continually redesigning cockpits, to make controls simpler to use, weapons easier to engage and steering more accessible, so that even when a pilot is in the depth of panic, they have enough motor control to get the job done. This is the reality of aggression that has affected warriors throughout history. It will do the same to you if you relinquish your relaxation response. Its how were made. When someone attacks you in your Flow Training, use realistic trajectories. Dont weave your punch around in 15 different directions before hitting. In a real situation, if youre loaded with stress chemicals, you will swing like an ape. You cant effectively generate power and steer with fantastic precision in the midst of a bloody fray. Secondly, move at matching speeds. In Flow Training, if your partner is stabbing you at 5 miles per hour, dont respond at 30. No one is 6 times faster than another human in real life unless that other human is on horse tranquilizers, shackled and underwater. If you train with disproportionate speed, youre ingraining a false sense of success. You must match your partners speed. Even if you get cut, look sloppy and feel strange, match their speed. I covered both of these points in Dragon Mind but mention them here to prepare you for the addition of a third consideration, which is maintaining realistic focus. Dr. David Chen, the Director of the Motor Behavior Lab at Cal State University notes that every human has a very finite amount of attention that we can give to any given situation. He terms this our Attention Resources. The PGA golfer Mark Blakemore gives a very good example of how Attention Resources can affect physical performance. He notes that many golfers have fantastic practice swings, but then choke when they get in front of the ball. Why? Because in the practice swing, most of the work is occurring in their head. As I noted in our discussion of visualization, in our heads, were entitled to be perfect. If our visualization training

isnt realistic enough, the moment you get into the actual situation, youll meet resistance you hadnt banked on. For example, I could have the most passionate and vivid visualization possible, but if I spend my days visualizing myself responding to armed attackers by flying around the alley way shooting heat beams from my nostrils, the visualization isnt helping me prepare for a realistic encounter. Blakemore also notes that the added concerns for accuracy and power in the case of the golf swing also rob the player of the pure joy of the movement and the good biomechanics that they had during the practice swing. As Lao Tzu wrote:

If the archer shoots for a gold prize, he is blinded by the sparkle. If he shoots for bronze, he is distracted. If he shoots for the sake of the attempt, he has all of his skill.
How does this relate to Flow Training? As I noted above, one of the dangers in Flow Training is that you move at asymmetrical speedsyou move much faster than your training partner does when in real life, the difference is speed will be measured in only fractions of a second. While its difficult enough to monitor and regulate our physical speed during training, its impossible to regulate our mental speeds. Your brain only has one processing speed. It has evolved to move as quickly as possible. As weve seen, if our brain determines that theres not enough time to make a rational, High Road Response, it will automatically switch to autopilot and produce a Low Road Response just in case. Its always trying to get the job done quickly. You cant slow this speed down when you Flow Train. As a result, it can be tempting to over-think movements and contemplate complex variations and subtleties to your movements that you simply would not have the time to process against an attack at real speed. This point is important so I will reiterate it. If you practice defense against a straight knife stab, in Flow Training, that attack might take 2 full seconds. Plus. Youre ready for it so you respond easily. In real life, that same attack might only take 0.3 seconds and because it catches you by surprise, it shaves off even more of your reaction time. In Flow Training, you might have evaded the strike, trapped the arm and begun to effect some type of complex wristlock. It feels successful within that context, but at real speed this response will be impossible. It doesnt matter how well you know the movement or even how well trained your nervous system is. You could be trained

to play Mozarts serenade in C minor on a Kazoo and Penny Whistle out of alternating nostrils and you could have invested so much time into developing this skill set that you can do it flawlessly, without even a moments thought, but if you try to do it when someone is attacking you with a knife a full speed, you wont even have the time to gasp out your first note. Skills Confidence is essential, but your window of opportunity when responding is limited by the context of reality. In the example of a sudden knife attack, you simply wont have time to bring those skills to bear. So, if our mental processing speed is uncontrollable and there is no way to slow it down to match the physical speed of our attacker, what can we do to keep our flow training effective and beneficial? First, as with all stress inoculation, cognitively accept the reality that we have limited Attention Resources. Test this for yourself in training. Get diced up by the training blade. Try every trick youve written down on your Etch-a-Sketch and then shake it up and write down some new ones. You cant beat nature. You must keep things simple. Simplify your objectives. Remember, your goal is to survive and to protect the self. Your objective is not to harm the other, look fantastic or to experiment with new techniques when your life is on the line. Do not fixate on complex techniquesthrow them away. Keep your Combat Objectives simple. In a real fight, you will not be able to think about protecting a loved one, applying a 23 move combination against a machete and decide what youre going to make for dinner all at the same time. Its hard enough just trying to not freak out and reach for the blade like 5 year-old opening a birthday present. Instead, when Flow Training against a knife, you might simply focus on keeping maximum distance between you and your attacker. This might be done by evasive footwork and throwing any obstacle you can find in his way. If you have the presence of mind, you might pick up one of those objects and use it as a weapon. That simple goal alone would be more than difficult in a real situation. If you cant maintain your distance, then the goal must be to enter resolutely and to get yourself into the Rear Diagonal Flank (RDF for all you Dragonminders) where you can more easily control the aggressor. Your goal is not to stand your ground and stop the blade with intricate blocks.

There is no reason to try to catch the wrist or to twist the arm up in some convoluted way. By trying to impose these types of complex objectives on such a volatile situation, youre volunteering to get cut. Instead, keep it simple and enter, enter, enter. Miyamoto Musashi expresses this idea beautifully in his masterwork A Book of Five Rings:

To aim for the enemys unguarded moment is completely defensive, and undesirable at close quarters with the enemywhenever you cross swords with an enemy, you must not think of cutting him either strongly or weakly; just think of cutting and killing him.
This is a classic example of clear combat objectives and maximizing your Attention Resources. You must practice simple skill sets with clear objectives. Returning to pro golfer Mark Blakemore the difference between a highly skilled player and an average one is that a highly skilled player can pay attention to all of the relevant details at the same time. Theyve achieved powerful levels of Skills Confidence in each attribute, which allows them to subjugate these functions to subconscious control. As Dr. Chen notes, the more confident and familiar you get with a skill, the less of your brains resources you need to pay attention to them. Riding a bike or driving a car are common examples of this level of automatic skill. Many selfdefense practitioners are in a rush to get goodan understandable emotion given that our survival hangs in the balance. As a result, they try to work on all their skills as once. As the Steppenwolf lyric goes, they fire all their guns at once and explode into space. The problem is that they lack the Attention Resources to do this. Theyre running a program on a computer that isnt strong enough to play it. The resultit crashes. Its important to realize, unfocused training isnt less effectiveits noneffective. If you always try to train on everything you will never get good at anything. Too often, students excuse sloppiness saying, theyre just trying something new or just playing around. Im all for trying new stuff out and making training funthats the whole point. Just have an objective. Remember what youre

training to do. Sure, try a jump spinning kick against a gun attack once. Its fun. Then once youve done it and seen that it doesnt work, get that insane notion out of your system and get down to work. If you allow yourself to perpetually exist in a constant stupor without clear goals, you will fall into a rutremember your Ziglar: a rut aint nothing but a grave with the ends kicked out. They can get as comfortable as Calypsos island after a while. A master becomes a master because they break their skills apart and work them, one at a time. Thats how you get good at anything. This truth is so simple that we forget it. Theres an old expression that my grandfather used to say: sometimes you need to slow down in order to speed up. Take this to heart. By adding a cognitive awareness of your Attention Resources to your flow training, I guarantee you a massive simplification in responses that will increase reaction times and repay you in volumes.


Lets run through a quick checklist of some of the essential concepts weve already covered: Every fight is either a competition or an ambush. Competition always favors the stronger, more experienced, larger, faster and more prepared. Ambushing can even any odds. We are fighting to defend ourselves and our loved ones. Our goal is safety and survival. What matters is that we get there, not how we get there. Not all reflexes are good. Reflexes have been developed over thousands of years to serve the greater species, not the individual. Our brain chooses between 2 paths: If there is time to stay metacognitive and rational, it will permit a High Road Response. If theres no time, a reflexive Low Road Response will over-ride our rational control. Training can modify behavior. With practice, its possible to learn how to identify the onset of Low Road Responses, to improve your chances of avoiding their onset and to recover to a High Road State. These combined elements bring us to a topic that is somewhat touchy in the martial artsthe idea of pre-emptive action. I have already covered this in depth in previous work and outlined the justification for this behavior in our discussion of Ambush and Competition mindset, so I will simply clarify 2 points as a matter of review:

1. If you have clearly defined your limits and pre-identified what you are and are not willing to tolerate in a self-defense scenario, you must be willing to defend those limits when theyre crossed. A fence is only as strong as your willingness to defend it. 2. When we speak of pre-emptive action, we are in fact talking about acting after your aggressor has crossed a pre-defined limit but before they have fully enacted their assault. Your attacker has signaled their intention to attack and as such have technically acted against you. Within the letter of the law, assault is the manifest intent to do harm. Battery is the enactment of that harm. When we act preemptively, we are seeking to interrupt the performance gap between the aggressors intent and their action. Regardless of your chosen style or method of training, pre-emptive striking is something that I strongly recommend you integrate at all levels, from basic drills, visualization training, and physical application. In this section I will outline some essential principals that have been helpful for me in this respect. First, we must learn to read our attackers. We are all subject to our nervous system and a wide array of reflexes that have been hardwired into it through millennia of evolution. On the following page I have included a basic chart of reactions that occur in the body and the biological reasons for their occurrence. These are natural tells that often reveal your aggressors true intent. While they are not necessarily all going to occur together, any one of them can be enough to set off your warning bells and help act preemptively. Study this list well and begin including it in your training today. As most of these are already instinctive triggers in our natural animal make-up, you will notice a very quick learning curve with just a little practice.


Eyes Narrow

Designed to protect the eyes from harm.

Eyes Look Away From Aggressor is ready to act and concerned about You Then Back At You witnesses. Aggressor is considering targets. This can vary from Eyes Look At Another looking at your hands to gauge your readiness for a Part of You Then Back sucker punch, or looking at breasts or genitals while considering a sexual assault. Lips Recede Blank Stare Jaw Line Lowers Becomes Non-Verbal Face Grows Paler Aggressors face is becoming tense and rigid in a subconscious preparation for violence. Aggressors forebrain is subjugating control to their reptilian brain and entering a Low Road state. Aggressor is reflexively protecting their throat. Aggressor is entering a Low Road brain state. Blood is being diverted from extremities and towards major muscle groups as part of Fight-or-Flight syndrome to prepare for violence. Another symptom of the Fight-or-Flight, caused by the rapid acceleration in heart rate and the release of stress chemicals like adrenalin and cortisol into the blood stream. Caused by control shifting from the meta-cognitive forebrain to the reptilian hindbrain. The increased blood-flow to the back of the neck creates tension in the nape and shoulders. Caused by an increase in breathing rates as part of the Fight-or-Flight syndrome. A very obvious sign of aggression. As a Low Road state engages, motor functions deteriorate and intent becomes more obvious. As Low Road brain states take over and verbal skills erode, pronounced gestures and actions become more prominent. Another symptom of gross motor movements taking over, as the aggressors intent to lunge and attack begins to manifest as a teetering or swaying of the body.


Shoulders Round Shoulders Heave

Fists Tighten

Hands Point Or Poke

Body Begins To Sway

When the concept of aggression cues is first introduced, many students naturally respond with skepticism. They argue: In a real crisis, things will happen

so quickly, I wont have enough time to run through a checklist. Thats true. You
wont. An assault can happen in the blink of an eye. More often than not however, there are preceding factors. While its tempting to think that someone simply

snaps, in truth, this is rarely the case. Attacks seldom happen without reason or
warning. As Gavin DeBecker notes in his book A Gift of Fear, aggression is the product of a process and while it is easier to deny our Combat Responsibility and to allow ourselves to remain blind to this process, that process is there nevertheless. As weve seen, the essence of the Survivors mindset vs. the victims mindset is that the survivor is solution-oriented whereas the victim is problemoriented. A survivor sees things as challenges. They will take Combat Responsibility for their personal preparation rather than allowing themselves to believe that theres nothing they can do. At the outset of this manual I asked you if you believed that it was possible to change your behavior, to make yourself better through conscious intent. This belief in the power to change, in the capacity to cognitively direct the tides of our own evolutionary reflexes, is the heart of all training. Why go to school if you cant learn? Why try if you cant succeed? Weve already seen that its possible to control our pulse rate, our stress level, the function of our immune systems and even the structure of our brain, just by thinking. These physiological changes can be guided by intentionas they are in our relaxation trainingor automatically when we become stressed by a traffic jam. We already know that the switch from High Road to Low Road brain states creates physiological symptoms. When our brain changes, our body changes. All that were doing now, is training our eye to identify these symptoms. Another important detail to understand about aggression cues is that identifying them is largely instinctive. You dont need to consciously run through a checklist. Every animal is naturally equipped with intuitionwith an inborn defense mechanism. The main difference between humans and even the common house

cat is that we often misuse our powers of reasoning, to negate this evolutionary gift. We over-think things. Returning to Gavin DeBecker, his research of assaults and stalking for decades has consistently shown that most attacks are preceded by warning signs and when people ignore these signs, they get in trouble. When they trust their gut, they are invariably right. You will never find a deer in the wild double-guessing himself, thinking: Maybe thats not really a hunter up ahead in the

trees. Sure that looks like neon orange and plaid, but what if Im wrong and I react for nothing? Then Ill just look stupid. Nah, Ill just walk on through it. Im sure its nothing. Animals always trust their instincts. We need to train ourselves to do the
same. Our knowledge of aggression cues is already programmed into us. The only reason that were actively deconstructing these cues and explaining why they occur is to help reawaken instincts that are already inside of us. Aggression cues are also a key ingredient in the achievement of mastery. So often students train to be stronger and faster. These two sensational attributes have a sirens allure to them, but they are the very smallest part of the equation. Seeing threats sooner and responding preemptively is the real key to speed and power. By being in the best possible position, you will maximize your response time and intercept aggression before it can gain momentum. By striking preemptively you will not only infiltrate your aggressors physicalityyou will invade their mind as well. Returning to Musashi:

Speed is not part of the true Way of strategy. Speed implies that things seem fast or slow, according to whether or not they are in rhythm. Whatever the Way, the master of strategy does not appear fast.



The strong individualcan smile in the face of the most terrible thought: meaningless, aimless existence recurring eternallyhe has the strength to recognizeand to live with the recognitionthat the world is valueless in itself and that all values are human ones. He creates himself by fashioning his own values; he has the pride to live by the values he wills.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Throughout this manual we have been experimenting with the awesome power of visualization as a tool for unlocking the full potential of our minds. Weve seen how visualization can create physical responses in our bodies and create lasting changes, effectively ingraining our long-term memory. Numerous studies, including recent research by Roure et al, found that visualization training could help build a psychophysical framework that could be instantly reproduced without conscious thought within the context of actual practice. Their research found that if you visualize skill improvement enough, eventually, the physical results will manifest without consciously referring to your visualization. In this section, however, I would like to divert our attention to the use of these same skills to enhance our short-term memory and to discuss the role of visualization during a crisis rather than as a training tool. In Dragon Mind, I introduced the idea of short-term or working memory. This memory is extremely limited, effectively holding new information in the spinal cord for periods ranging from 30 seconds to a few minutes. Information stored in the spine is extremely susceptible to rapid decay however and it must be actively reinforced if its to be retained over the medium to long-term. information is retained. An individuals attention level during the period also plays a big role in determining how long new

Often, when we think of visualization training, we assume that its something that we use solely from the comfort of our own homes or perhaps within the training hall, but the powers of visualization can also be applied within the context of an actual crisis. As warrior-monk Suzuki Shosan noted, the vigilance of the samurai must be superior to that of the monk, because the monk only meditates in the monastery, but the samurai must be able to meditate even within the context of battle. The idea at work is that through conscious thought, we can summon positive memories or images from our brain and download them into our spinal cords where active actions are stored. Since our brain is so image-driven, viewing these images affects our physiological state. Its also important to remember that our brain doesnt think chronologicallyremember our chapter on montage thinking? Distant and recent memories can co-exist with future goalsits precisely the associations between these new images that leads to new learning. Many researchers refer to this idea of acting as if something were already achieved as future memoryyoure remembering what hasnt happened yet and experiencing that memory just as thoroughly as a real memory. We see ourselves doing what we are about to do. Most of us already do this to some degree but without conscious intervention, we may be surprised to realize that we could be reaffirming negative actions rather than positive ones. Consider the following: If you were running to catch an elevator as the doors were closing, would you be more likely to see yourself sliding cleanly through the narrow opening or would you imagine the doors closing on you and prepare yourself for that mild impact just in case? If youre writing an exam in school, are you more likely to visualize yourself receiving the paper back from your professor with an excellent grade marked on it while you are writing it, or would you be wondering about whether or not you just answered the question wrongly? If you saw someone that your were attracted to and would like to date are you generally shy and more likely to assume that you would get rejected because theyre out of your league or would you

be the type of person who would rehearse exactly what you were about to say as you walked over to them no matter how good looking they are? If you were shooting a desperate free throw in the final seconds of a basketball game that could win the championship for your team, are you more likely to squint your eyes and hope for the best or will you visualize a clear arcing path like a rainbow of energy leading your ball straight into the net? If you found yourself in an argument with someone and you were trying your very best to verbally de-escalate the situation, do you honestly feel that you would be concentrating on thinking positive thoughts and not allowing the fight to occur or would you be actively preparing your mind to act, visualizing how you could preemptively strike if the aggressor crossed your limits just in case? The simple reality is that all of us are prone to preprogramming our actions with negative influences at some point. As weve seen, we all have limiting belief systems in some area of our lives and since all aspects of our lives affect all other aspects of our lives, we may be surprised when one of these weaknesses creeps into our training and hinders us. Remember, optimal performance is something that must be learned. While I was always the type of person who would visualize my free throws going in, I also used to be the type of person who saw themselves getting answers wrong on an exam rather than getting them right. I would secondguess myself, often to the point of changing the answers I had first written down. Even people who are positive and incredibly affirmative in every aspect of their life will likely have some weak spot in their psychological make-up. We need to address the entirety of ourselves in our training and to spot our weaknesses wherever they exist. Sports psychologists in particular have tried to understand the exact mechanics that cause mental imagery to be so effective. Early theories maintained that imagery rehearsal fully duplicated the actual motor patterns that would be

required in a physical action. In other words, the mind does exactly what it would regardless of whether or not the body is involved. Others believe that because there is no physical resistance to the learning, that the learning is purer. When we deal with the idea of Spinal Loading, were in effect activating our nervous system without triggering our bodies yet. Our intentions become like runners in the starting block, primed and ready for action, just waiting for the sound of the starting pistol. Anyone who has ever raced competitively knows the profound importance of this type of short-term memory loading. Because theres no physical resistance during Spinal Loading (as with all visualization), were entitled to be perfect in our own minds, although this is not necessarily the objective. Its enough to be successful. One particular example of spinal loading Ive used extensively with great success occurs during knife defense training. A common failure in knife defense is for defenders to retreat. This usually causes the attacker to chase them with more momentum and faster and faster strikes. The instinct to enter into a persons space, of passing the most deadly range of the weapon and controlling an attacker is usually overpowered by their own fear of getting cut. From experience, we found that simply repeating the physical action of entering, regardless of how often we did it, had little to no success in improving the students success rates since they still fundamentally feared the cut. By comparison, by having the student load their spine with the image of entering successfully, accepting they would probably be cut, and of resolutely continuing through the attackers efforts and ending the encounter, my students have had massive increases in performance success. We refer to this reflex of entering despite injury the reflex of continuance and Spinal Loading is by far the most powerful tool for training this reflex that I seen yet. This is a classic example of being successful (of entering) and not necessarily being perfect (still getting cut). Dr. Robert Nideffer has noted that with athletes in particular, even when the power of visualization is understood and accepted, that the difficulty remains in

deciding how to design an optimal visualization program. He notes that visualization can be used to achieve 3 distinct goals: 1. Learning a new skill. Having a clear image of a new skill provides extra information between your mind and body, strengthening the connection and deepening the learning retention; 2. Maintaining a skill. As we mentioned above, visualization is particularly effective for increasing Skills Confidence because it can be done without the risk of additional stress on the individuals body; 3. Improving an existing skill. Since stress, exhaustion, ego and the fear of failure are not factors in visualization training like they are with physical performance, the practitioner can avoid distraction and only focus on seeing themselves succeed. Early on in this manual, we discussed the power that we each carry when visualizing to either view something from a distance or to zoom in like a movie director. We saw that the closer we zoom in, the more vivid and involved the experience will be. If an event becomes too intense, we can simply zoom out and lessen the psychological stress. We also noted that for visualization to be optimally effective, it should be deeply experienced using all five senses. Dont simply watch yourself succeed as a spectatorfeel yourself succeed, the pain in your muscles, the sweat on your brow, the burning in your lungsin the case of our knife defense example, even the cut of the blade on your skin. Nideffer refers to this difference as internal visualization which is deeply experienced and external visualization which is simply watched. He goes further to say that while external visualization can work for acquiring new skills, to maintain and improve skills, we need to use internal mental rehearsalswe must feel our practice. How do we do this? How do we feel our visualizations more fully? The good news is you already know how to do this. Just by reading this book to this point, youve already encountered all of the tools that youll need to bring your visualization skills from the training hall or the bedroom, to the battlefield. To begin

with, the many visualization exercises that weve already experienced are designed to strengthen our visualization muscles and they should be revisited regularly to improve our skills. They are the basic steps. In our section on Relaxation Training, weve already seen some simple tricks for rapidly inducing heightened states of relaxation like square breathing and since we know that relaxation makes us more suggestible to visualization, you bet that this will come in handy here. Most importantly, in our section on Anchoring, weve all experienced a very simple script that led us systematically through our bodies and into a heightened state of relaxation. This easy script, which youve already experienced, included two of the leading technologies in creating instantly heightened performance states and successful spinal loads and you probably didnt even know it. The first device is made use of is known as Progressive Muscle Relaxation or (PMR). You may have read about this awesome technique in magazine ads and wondered what it was. Now you knowthe simple and calculated relaxation of the body and as simple as it sounds, its awesomely powerful if its down correctly. Revisit that section is you want a quick refresher. The second technology it made use of is called Autogenics. From the Greek root autos for self and genous for produced, this word was first coined by Dr. Johannes Schultz in 1932 to refer to the process our script outlined of teaching yourself to intentionally create a feeling of warmth and heaviness throughout the body, leading to a profound state of physical relaxation, bodily health, and mental peace. Now its time to take this searchlight of knowledge that we already have bubbling in our heads and funnel it down to a sharp laser beam that will bring our skills up to the next level and help us summon the full power of visualization in an instant on the battlefield.


When many people think of hypnosis they conjure up images of magical powers. Invariably, these involve some Svengali look-a-like with a demonic Vandyke beard waving a pocket watch in front of a candle. Weve all been poisoned by this cartoon of a hypnotist as someone who controls helpless innocents into acting against their will. The fact is, hypnosis can not condition someone to kill in response to the stroke of midnight on their grandfather clock. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hypnosis is simply an altered state of consciousness. The word trance conjures up too many voodoo mystical connotations. Think instead of the phrase

in the zone. When Michael Jordon was in his prime, whipping off free-throws like
he was flicking dishwater off his hand, he was in the zone. When Muhammad Ali fought Floyd Patterson and didnt throw a single punch in the first round evading everything Patterson could throw, he was in the zone. When youre driving home, steering a ton of metal and plastic effortlessly through speeding traffic without active thought, you are in the zone. This is hypnosisthe ability of the individual to block out all distractions and stayed relaxed and while its true that this state can be achieved with the help of a clinical hypnotist, it can also be very effectively selfinduced. If you revisit many of the concepts already covered in this manual, youll realize that you already have many of the tools required to hypnotize yourself into a state of relaxed, peak performance. While these skills are a vital part of our precombat preparation, we must also understand how we can access them more rapidly, even within the context of a crisis when we will need them the most. As I noted in the previous section, the warrior-monk Suzuki Shosan noted, the vigilance of the samurai must be superior to that of the monk, because the monk only meditates in the monastery, but the samurai must be able to meditate even within the context of battle. Weve already learned ways to improve our meditation in the

private security of our everyday lives under optimal conditions. Now lets take these skills from the bedroom to the battlefield. Dr. Keith A. Wilson created a tool for just this dynamic. He called it Performance Hypnosis. Unlike conventional clinical hypnosis, Performance Hypnosis was created to help athletes get into the zone by blocking out distractions within the context of an active state. As Wilson points out, even those athletes who have experienced being in the zone, rarely know what they did to achieve it which makes it harder for them to reproduce the effects on demand. Simply having your coach scream: Relax! Perform better! obviously isnt going to do the trick. The good news is that your ability to get into the zone quickly, when the pressures on, begins with being able to achieve that same state under ideal conditions. Return to our section on anchoring and the script contained at the end of our discussion. This includes all of the basic tools youll need to both achieve a heightened state of self-control and improved relaxation. Near the end of the script, youll notice, the conditioning says:

Because you have been able to achieve this state once, you will always be able to remember this state, wherever you are, in any situation or environment. Every time you choose to revisit this state, your energy will be stronger and more fulfilling and total relaxation will arise more quickly and easily.
The groundwork for this chapter was already planted right there for you, conditioning you to access your self-hypnotic state faster and more easily every time. Remember, Autogenics (self-control) gets easier every time you do it. The next concept that we will add to our psychological arsenal is known as Fractionation. Fractionation is the hypnotic principle which states that if a subject is absorbed in a heightened trance state and they are interrupted but then allowed to return to their absorbed state, then their trance state will be deepened. You read that correctly. In Hypnosis, distraction can actually help deepen your focus. Want

to hear even better news? The seeds for this principle were also already planted in your Anchoring Script. If you go back to the middle of that script, the following reinforcement appeared:

For a moment now, allow your eyes to reopen if they are closed. Without moving or losing any of the relaxation that you are feeling, pick any single point in the space above you, on the ceiling or beyond in the sky. With all of your focus, stare at the very center of that point, maintaining a thorough feeling of warmth and heaviness in your body. As you continue to stare at the center of that point, try not to allow your eyes to blink, staring at the very center of that center, keeping your breathing natural and relaxed. You may notice that your eyes begin to burn slightly or to grow tired, but do not allow yourself to blink, staring always at the very center of that point. And now, as you eyes begin to burn slightly more, allow them to close once more, closing your eyes and relaxing even deeper. Feel a deep warmth filling your eyes and know that although you maintain the power to open your eyes at any time that it is far more comfortable to choose to keep them closed.
This simple little segue in your self-hypnosis script is a great example of Fractionation. On a physical level, it allows the subject to indulge any nervous energy they may have. One of the most common ways this manifests is in twitching and the desire to open the eyes. By going with this desire and feeding into it, exaggerating it, the subject is able to return to their absorbed state more fully, minus one less distraction. Another common way that I regularly use Fractionation is when Im meditating. If I have to maintain some concern for time, I will program my meditation to respond to an alarm going off or the sound of employees returning to work outside their stations. If I have to meditate in a noisy environment, like next to a construction sight, I will teach myself to go inside the loudest sound and find a calming core. For example, I could allow myself to focus on the negative staccato

repetition of a jack-hammer (dug-dug-dug-dug-dug-dug-dug) and probably drive myself into nervous overload, or I can go to the very core of that sound and hear a constant monotone hum (daaaaaaaaaaaaaaa). With a little practice, a jackhammer can become as calming as a Tibetan monk chanting. Similarly, if I have to get a job done in an environment that smells horribly (maybe the underside of my grappling partners arm pit), I can allow myself to indulge my repulsion and aggravate myself and lose focus, or I can focus on finding the sweet baseline fragrance in the stench. With a little practice, you can find a pleasant center in even the most repulsive odors. On a meditation retreat, I was once performing a long period of seated meditation in the woods. The mosquitoes were horrible and tearing at my skin and Im prone to really swelling up from bites so it was easy to get distracted. Then, for some reason I decided to convince myself that with each bite, the mosquitoes were actually carrying away small pieces of my stress and very soon, I didnt even notice them biting me. Familiarity always conquers fear. These are just some examples of how Ive use Fractionation, where distractions can actually be used to increase focus and bolster your Survivors mindset. You may already be thinking of the enormous ramifications this can have on the self-defense practitioner. Since distractions will happen in a personal protection dynamic, wouldnt it be fantastic if there were a way to make these distractions actually work for us and increase our focus? Sounds like a superpower I know, but its actually a very simple hypnotic principle that youve already experienced with the eye exercise in the script above. Now we just have to apply this skill in the arena. The first and most important step to making this leap is to cognitively accept that distractions can serve a positive purpose. A sucker-punch can knock you outno one is invinciblebut if you do manage to stumble away from it, you can either let that punch become the first in a downward spiral leading to your defeat, or else you can use that hit as a wake-up call, regain your senses, modify your tactics and use your response to the punch to convince your attacker that you are more hurt than you actually, are luring him into an ambush. In fact, as you

pretended to be more injured than you were, you would actually be spinal loading and getting ready to explode. At any point that youre given a moments pause, you can cognitively access the programming of your training in your nervous system. This is not some esoteric psychological concept. Its very possible. Consider the common example of a boxer. When a boxer gets a staggering blow to the head they have a few choices. They can maintain their strategy and try to hang in there but will likely get annihilated. They can show weakness, cover and volunteer for destruction. They can also lean on the ropes and cover up and bait their opponent to waste energy hitting their blocksthe infamous rope-a-dope. They could circle outside their attackers lead hand, out range their opponents power and make them chase them. They could also clinch to get inside and negate the likelihood of continued power punches and regain their focus. The first two are natural responses. The last three are trained tactics that allow the boxer to regain cognitive control of their bodily system, to regulate their breathing, to return to their strategies and to rest while their senses normalize. Good boxers use these tricks all the time, over and over in every match. This same concept is essential in a self-defense dynamic and it becomes even more awesome when we consider the tools that we already have in our arsenal: 1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) 2. Autogenic Visualization 3. Autogenic Breathing 4. Gesture Keys 5. Spinal Loading We know that the more we practice progressively relaxing our muscles, the more deeply we are able to feel our bodies. Like we saw with our proprioception training (our ability to sense our bodies in relationship to our environments), just a little bit of training can massively boost our awareness of our own bodies. We know that from our visualization training that the same is true with our minds ability to produce mental images. The more vividly we practice visualization, the more

powerful our inner movie projectors become. Then we have skills like Autogenic breathing that work instantly to relax the body and bring heart rates under control. If you get in the habit of using this technique when you are stressed or need to recover from a burst of fatigue in your workout, you will be laying the groundwork for using it in a self-defense dynamic. Next, we have Gesture Keys. These act as a bridge between our PMR and Visualization trance states. This is not a new idea. Yogis and monks and martial artists have been using it for thousands of years, but like so many great things, because it is so simple, its easy to take it for granted. Finally, we have Spinal Loading. This simple skill allows us to supercharge the first four skills into one pre-combative package. Now we add to this powerhouse list the fact that being knocked out of our trance zone state is nothing to worry about and in fact entitles us to deepen our state of focus and we start to realize just how powerful this hypnotic skill will be for our personal performance. Just like indulging our desire to open our eyes during meditation can dissipate nervous energy and deepen our trance once we return to it, a punch to the head can actually be conditioned into a trigger that helps us get over the fear of getting hit and increase our resolve. The key to Fractionation as with any skill is our degree of Skills Confidence. We must train the skill until we consciously believe in its power. We need to know that these skills work and repeatedly experience this success. The Anchoring Script weve been discussing is very important here. It teaches us that its possible to consciously command our body to relax. It shows us that we can rationally produce an Autogenic effectwe can make our body feel warmer and heavier just by thinking about it. This is an awesome power when you stop and think about it. Weve already seen that we can create real, tangible, physical change just by thinking and weve begun to experiment with Gesture Keys, which is actually a form of post-hypnotic suggestion. Now that we have the basic cognitive skills in place, the only thing left is to grow our Skills Confidence. Practice the skills weve described throughout this manual, funneling them down into the functional application of immediate combat application. Dr. Robert Nideffer notes that every athlete fundamentally faces 2

types of distractions: external distractions presented by our environment which can distract from our objectives and internal distractions like our self-talk which can detract from our desired automatic responses. By practicing quick inductions of Performance Hypnosis, we minimize the effects of these distractions. Below, I have included a great basic Hypnosis Drill that will help you test and strengthen the skills youll need to make Performance Hypnosis effective. Invest a few minutes in practicing this drill to see the massive effects it can have on your focus.

Exercise 37Sight, Sound, Feel:

Begin by sitting comfortably with your feet solidly planted on the floor and your hands on your lap, palms down. Look freely around the room and analyze your environment. Close your eyes and take a deep, cleansing breath. To bring focus to our mind we will move backwards through 3 sensations: Sight, Sound and Feeling (what we feel kinesthetically, not emotionally). Begin by thinking of 5 sights that you could see in the room and visualize them as clearly as possible in your minds eye, keeping your eyes closed. Say to yourself: I

can see and run through your list of 5 distinct things. Keep your eyes closed.
Next, think of 5 sounds that you can hear in your environment. This can include anything: air conditioning, traffic, your own breathing, your pulse in your ears, the ticking of a clock, voices, music, etc. If you get stuck and you find yourself coming back to the same sound twice, you may repeat the noise in you inventory, but try your best to have 5 distinct sounds.
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Next, think of 5 sensations that you can feel: warmth behind my eyes, my breath in my throat, my collar on the back of my neck, my shirt when I breathe, the chair beneath me, my thighs beneath my hands, the floor beneath my feet, my pants bunching behind my bent knees. Anything will do, but list 5 distinct sensations. When you feel complete, return to sight in your minds eye, but this time, recount 4 things that you can visualize. It doesnt have to be the same 4 things and you dont have to remember them in the same order. Simply think of the first 4 thing that pops into your mind and visualize it fully, then continue. Do the same with 4 things you can hear, then 4 things you can feel. Repeat this process, moving through 3-3-3, 2-2-2 and 1-1-and 1. This is a very standard hypnotic exercise. Again, the order of your memory or the repetition of specific items is less important that the actual detailed progression from 5-1. As an added bonus, you can try speaking aloud as you inventorize your thoughts. The sound of your own voice can add hypnotic influence. This exercise is primarily intended to help build focus. Focus is like a muscleit needs to be conditioned and the more that it is, the stronger it will get. As a happy benefit, it also provides you with progressive relaxation without you being consciously aware of it. Sometimes, we get so stressed, that the idea of trying to relax only serves to stress us more. If youre feeling internal resistance to the Progressive Muscle Relaxation used in our Anchoring Script, you might want to get your brain accustomed to this work with the 5-1 drill first. This simple little exercise will take your awareness from a broad beam to a narrow laser of focus and help give you a taste of being in the zone. In the next exercise, well build on this same idea of Regressive Sensory Focus in the actual context of self defense training and build the power of our mind/body connections even further. The next building block will start to give you powerful results immediately.


Exercise 38Rapid Self-Defense Induction:

Begin by sitting comfortably with your feet solidly planted on the floor and your hands on your lap, palm down. Look freely around the room and analyze your environment. Close your eyes and take a deep, cleansing breath. Immediately, you will notice that your body and mind will remember your previous induction to relaxed states and you will be able to recall a higher state of relaxation much more quickly now. Visualize the sight of a self-defense scenario. Simply allow your minds eye to roam through the environment, seeing the physical details of the situation: the time of day, the lighting, and the surroundingsis it urban or rural? How much space do you have? How many people are around you? How many aggressors can you see? What do they look like? Create the most detailed physical image you can imagine. Continue visualizing until you have a full image in your head. Next, focus on the sounds in your environment. Be as detailed as possible. List everything: traffic, crowds, music, industrial nose, your breathing, your aggressors movement, the sound of their voiceabsolutely everything you can think of and focus in on each one, one at a time to create a running soundtrack in your mind. Finally, focus on the physical sensations of the situation. Notice how your clothing feels on youthe weight of it, the texture? Is it hot, cold, humid? Are you wet? Are you carrying parcels? How do they feel? If youre physically engaging the attacker, feel the reality? Are your teeth grinding or chipping? Is your skin getting cut or scraped? Are your muscles throbbing? Are you lungs burning with exertion? Are you being struck, cut, etc? Now that youve created a powerful sensory experience of this self-defense scenario, slowly count backwards from 10. Treat the experience as if it were happening, using present tense language: I see my attacker coming closer. I

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him breathing heavily. I see him reaching for a weapon. With every count,

list one skill that you have been cultivating and how this skill will serve you and help you improve your performance during this situation. For example: 10 Although my aggressor is large and powerful, I have been strengthening my resolve throughout this manual. I am committed to one goal onlymy personal survival. My mind is adapting quickly to the goals I am feeding it and by focusing on survival, I become a survival machine. I know what I must do. 9 I have established my limits and I know what I am willing to do to defend them. My aggressor approaches and Im doing everything that I can, systematically, to maintain my distance but I know that a fence is only as strong as my willingness to defend it. Im prepared to act. 8 Once, I would have only feared the obvious size and strength of my attacker as he approached, but now I realize the difference between ambush and competition tactics. I will not fall into the trap of matching size, strength or motive with him. He is larger and more prepared than I am. I am ready to use any psychological means necessary to catch him by complete surprise. 7 I understand the reality of combat stress. I am prepared for both High Road and Low Road responses in my brain and as my body switches into the Fight-or-

Flight mode, I am not surprised.

6 I switch to a few seconds of square breathing to bring my pulse back under control. Even after the first few repetitions, my body responds and I begin to feel the familiar effects that I have already enjoyed in my training. 5 I understand aggression cues and I realize that while my attacker is trying to lie to me with his words, promising me that he doesnt want to hurt me, that his words cant hide his intent. His actions cant lie and I can already see that he has
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to a Low Road Response and that he has become non-verbal. He is

going to attack me. 4 I bring my hands up into a submissive stance as he draws near and trigger the Gesture Key I have associated with this action. Just by bringing my hands up, I feel calmer, more readyweaponized. 3 I load my spine. I replace any thoughts of fear or panic with the active intent to attack. Even before I move, I see myself lunging at my aggressor in my minds eye. I give my aggressor one last verbal command. With a strong and certain voice, I order him to stay back, shooting the last of the stale, nervous breath from my lungs and focusing my mind like a laser. 2 I relax. I understand the full power of optimal performance that is waiting beneath the surface to be unleashed. My breath is warm like fire. I can see my aggressor second-guessing his decision to engage. 1 I am ready. This is exactly as I had imagined it would be. I am prepared for this and I attack before he can realize what is happening, slicing through him like a blade wheel.

This exercise combines the basic Focus Funneling skills that we covered in the first drill with a far more combative application. We are literally visualizing ourselves visualizing. The most relevant aspect of this section is that you understand the power of hypnosis on your training. If the word hypnosis is still giving you hang-ups (which is ironic when you consider this would only be occurring if the media itself had hypnotized you into associating that word with false perceptions) change the term to Self-Induced Focus. In my Zen practice, terms like diamond-mind or one-point mind were often used to describe the exact same state. Give it whatever label you want. Truth cannot be labeled, pigeon-holed or copywritedonly experienced.

Understand that focus is like a muscleit needs to be conditioned. The more you use it, the stronger and faster it will become. If you have ever had a certain familiar feeling just from putting on your martial arts uniform, visiting your childhood home, eating a certain food or watching a certain movie, these are all forms of hypnotic anchors that triggered associated memories and induced a trance state. The world is constantly hypnotizing us. We are highly suggestible creatures. Learn to see this truth in the world around you and take this moment to harness the incredible power of your minds and become the confident pilot of your body that you were meant to be.



Before leaving this topic, I would like to expand on one final point. In the previous section we discussed the importance of exposure training in your selfdefense preparation but in conducting this stress inoculation in an intelligent, safe and responsible way that will erode more fear than it adds. We mentioned that this must include operating at a speed that is below your Flinch Threshold and that this speed is relative, unique to the individuals fears and therefore always changing. As a stress becomes more familiar, you can process it more quickly and easily without harm or fear. In this section, Id like to go a little further into the importance of creating a successful training environment. I do not believe that we are all created equally. Before you get up in arms, and hit the politically incorrect alarm button, let me explain. I do not believe that we are all born with identical advantages. Someone born with a terminal illness on the far side of the world in utter poverty is simply not given the same advantages that I have been given as a middle-class North American. Returning to Jared Diamonds book Guns, Germs and Steel, its precisely the simplest factors like geography and timing that can affect an entire cultures success. The same is certainly true on a much smaller level for individuals as well. We are however all equally entitled to succeed. We all deserve the same rights and freedoms as family sharing this same small corner of space. To do this, means making the most of what weve got and influencing ourselves towards success. This must begin with our environment. No matter what our natural training environment may look like, there are ways of making it better. Take a moment to reaffirm one simple truth: in self-defense terms, reality intends to harm you but training should seek to heal you. The goal of an aggressor in an actual encounter is to hurt you or to take what you have. This is obvious to us all. The goal of training is to prepare us for this encounter to the best of our abilities and to maximize our chances of surviving. As weve already established, there can be no logic in pursuing a training method that harms the very self that its seeking to protect. One easy way to know that this is occurring is to ask yourself: do you

fear your training? If you do, something is very wrong. Its normal to fear the realitya fear of being attacked or of having our loved ones harmed is one of the greatest motivating factors in self-defense preparation. It does not make sense however to fear the training. As humans, we will naturally seek to avoid what we fear. If we fear training, we will avoid it. If we avoid it, we cannot improve. Training must give back to us. It must take fear away, not add it. I am reiterating this only because I know how conditioned many of us have been to the contrary. Ive met too many people with good intentions who hurt their partners and stagnate, plateau and quit before theyve even glimpsed what real training is and experienced the true advantages and joy of it. Throughout this manual, youve already learned the essential truths that you will need to forge a successful training environment. All you need to do is to apply the same rules you would apply to yourself to the world around you. In our visualization, we seek to focus on the positive and to eliminate the negative. The same should be true of the environment. Make your environment pleasant and keep it clean. Respect it. Fill your walls with motivational images and quotes. Make it a temple dedicated to growth. Ive seen too many schools that try to frighten their students into training. They shroud their walls with fearful logos and images like renaissance churches festooned with gargoyles, trying to frighten the masses into obedience. One school I visited had police photos of stabbing victims permanently on display. I recognize the importance of understanding the reality of the threat before you. I also understand that a student can be motivated to train harder and more realistically by such an image, but indiscriminately exposing the masses to this type of shock regardless of their level or experience, is counter-productive. Its random exposure training and it will scare more than it will motivate. For someone who is already teetering on fear-debilitation, this will just send them over the edge. Training should heal. It should provide a safe and comfortable environment that promotes relaxation and learning. It is preparation, not deterioration. Ive seen similar schools that refuse to use training weapons, protective equipment or mats on their floors. Their goal is to emulate reality with concrete and live blades. Again, while advantage can be had from all types of training, and while you should

experiment with varying intensities and different stimuli and environments, remember that at the end of the day, the purpose of training is your safe preparation. Nothing that you do can fully replicate actual combat aside from actual combat. Even if 2 students did agree to fight to the death for the sake of training, the context would still be artificial. There is rarely consent on the street. Preparation for these psychological realities, for the desperate motives of the aggressor, for the emotional context, the aggression cues and the dynamics of deescalation, do not come from stabbing each other with real blades. They come from a holistic and balanced curriculum that is constantly under analysis and open to change. The point of training is to protect your humanity and harmony, not to sacrifice it. Ive trained with some of the greatest Jujitsu masters on the planet today men who are feared for their skills in the world of full contact competition. Yet how do all of these true masters train? Softly, slowly, and safely. They roll with their partners the great majority of their time and only revert to competition-intensity 1020% of their total training time. The simple reason is that training slowly is better than not training at all and if you always go fast, you will get injured.

Exercise 39Assessing Your Training Environment:

In your training journal or on a sheet of paper: Inventorize the components of your training environment. What equipment do you regularly use? Why do you use this equipment? Is it due to cost and availability? Would it be advantageous to have different equipment and if so what steps would you need to take to get this equipment?
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Will this become an objective for you? Is the equipment prescribed (by a teacher, colleague or industry professional) and if so, have their assertions shown proven results? If using a certain exercise, or specific equipment is supposed to give you a certain result, have you tested and measured the results and seen proof of their utility? Inventorize the people who are involved in your environment. See your path to your goal and place them in the order that you need these people along that way. Are there any people that you will need to eliminate or add? How will you go about doing this? How will your training affect these people? How are you preparing to compensate for this effect? (for example, if training to reach your goals means being away from your spouse or family, how are you prepared to express and justify this absence to them and then how will you compensate for it? How will achieving your goals benefit them? How will you let them know this?

Weve all heard the old clich that no one is an island. Theres a lot of truth in this. Taking a few moments to asses your training environment is one of the simplest and easiest steps you can take and it can translate into enormous amounts of time saved. In the end, may make the difference in surviving violence.


I have an existential map. It has You are Here written all over it.
Steven Wright, Comedian Throughout this manual, weve discussed the importance of setting goals. Weve seen that goals and the measurement of achievement are essential if a training program is to be truly efficient. Weve also seen that the main difference between someone who is survival-minded and someone who is a victim, is that the survivor sees challenges that must be overcome and establishes objectives, whereas the victim see problems and reinforces defeat. Ive also expressed the role of goals and their assessment using the analogy of walking along a path and using the stars, our map and our handy compass to guide us home. Every time that we revisit our goals, we are refining the mental map that our training has created for us. In times of trouble, when a crisis arises and we feel lost by the onset of Low Road Brain Responses, we can frantically pull out this map and get ourselves back on course. This is how our brain works. When it sees something, in order for it to understand it and process the stimuli in a rational manner, it will flip through its archives of experiences and memories for something that looks similar, just like you might look at a map to find a matching landmark. If your map is really poorly drawn and there is absolutely nothing on it that matches what youre seeing, you will probably abandon it. The key to making a map useful is to make it match the territory as closely as possible. So what is the territory of self-defense? What is the all-important lay of the land that we must ensure is translated into our programming? To put it simply, it is chaos. Violence is unpredictable. As William S. Lind wrote: war is the province

of chance. You cannot predict the outcome of a war just by counting up the stuff on either side and seeing who has more. Such metrics leave out strategy and stratagem, pre-emption and trickery, generalship and luck. For too long, many
martial artists have been guilty of trying to do just thatreduce combat to

something static, ritualized, and stylized. Unfortunately, no matter how many black belts that I may have or new techniques I may learn, these are no guarantee that I will survive against someone with none. As I noted in Dragon Mind, there have been justifications for this more traditional approach to martial training that include the need to conceal knowledge from governments or other social classes, cultural and religious ideals, even the desire to standardize knowledge and facilitate the transfer of knowledge. Regardless of the original intent however, theres no need for such measures in our modern environment. As we said in the outset of this manual, the secret to survival is adaptability. So how do we cultivate this state of transcendent toughness, that resilient mind of the survivor that will take any challenge and turn it into an opportunity? Again the answer is training. Skills Confidence is our trump card. In the RockPaper-Scissors game of training, Familiarity beats Fear. The more thoroughly we can experience our map and understand what its telling us and the more closely that map replicates reality, the more likely we are to stay calm and avoid getting lost in the emotion of the crisis. This is one of the reasons that visualization training is so effective. It adds color and form to our map that is often sorely absent in traditional static training where partners throw robotic choreography at each other, responding with a set technique. In our minds eye we can bite and gouge and tear and bleed without danger or injury. Were free to embrace the fullness of that experience and to prepare ourselves for it. How then do we bring the benefits of visualization training into reality without maiming ourselves? The solution is role-playing. No matter how much force, speed and intensity you incorporate into your training, it will still ultimately be lacking any congruence with reality if it remains within a traditional framework. If I train insane amounts of contact all day long but do so only in the context of 2 practitioners squaring off in prepared stances, Im missing the biggest part of the picture. That type of traditional training gives me the chance to test some mechanical reactions, but theres no context, no understanding of human behavior, no psychological subtext. By comparison, if we create scenarios in our training, specific contexts with differing rules of engagement, we can trick our brains into

believing were in a non-conventional environment and slowly and gradual, as with all of our training, inoculate ourselves against the stress of reality. So what does role-playing mean? 2 traditional karate men stand in the middle of their dojo, one of them shouts: Hey punk, give me your wallet! and the other one says: No please, dont hurt me! and then drives a full force thrust kick to the bladder? Hardly, but at least its a start. Role-playing means trying to incorporate as many of the variables that youre likely to incorporate in a real scenario. Here are just a few items to consider: Different environments. Weve spoken about the need for a safe training environment and this has not changed, but from time to time, its important to vary that setting. Practice outdoors, in nature, on asphalt, in parking lots, in daytime, at nighttime, in differing seasons. Every variation brings a thousand minute differences that force you to adapt and in the end, adaptability is our ultimate goal. Pay attention to pre-combative context. Dont just have your partner pick up a training knife from the equipment wall and then start attacking you. Vary it. Have them stalk you, eye you up and down, case you for a mugging or a rape. Have them interview you with their eyes and invade your range. The only way youll become familiar with the effects of space invasion is by training it. In my day, Ive seen more than a few black belts crumble simply by having a bully stare them down. The reason? They never trained for this in the dojo; they were a black belt in their kicking skill, but an absolute white belt when it came to basic human psychology. Teach yourself to look for aggression cues. Combat is a rapid fire succession of decisions. As John Boyd states so precisely, whoever makes those decisions faster wins. Get verbal. One variable that will probably be present in a real encounter that you simply will not encounter in the dojo is verbal

intimidation. Have your attacker talk and ask questions, maybe shout or issue orders. Practice empathizing with them and reiterating their instructions. So many people feel awkward doing this, even embarrassed. I dont want to practice talking. Im here to

fight. I understand this resistance. Weve been poisoned by one

too many kung fu flick. We expect ourselves to come up with something better than just words, but until youve trained yourself to get past that inhibition, you cant possibly understand just how incredibly powerful words are. Ive seen physically proficient technicians become entirely intimidated in role-playing by a little shouting and swearing. Talk Back. Practice engaging your aggressor. Even if you didnt have an ounce of training, if you seriously engage in scenario training involving verbal interaction with a variety of partners, you will learn massive amounts about controlling an aggressor with your words alone. When training law enforcement officers, I spend a significant amount of time just working on their Command Presencetheir ability to stand, walk, position themselves, gesture, ask questions, listen and give commands. It is the one skill they will use every day of their job. Use training tools that replicate the real thing. Obviously, you dont want to start dicing each other up with live blades, but try to use metal training knives or at the least paint your wooden knife with silver spray paint. If you train in traditional uniforms, vary it from time to time and practice with street clothes on so that you can adjust to the differences. Role-playing is an enormous topic. A full treatment would exceed the dynamics of this book. Still its important to understand how closely linked it is to your visualization training program. When you visualize, youre role-playing in your head. Physical role-playing is a natural and necessary extension of that skill. The

only difficulty is that when we experience the same situations in the real world, there are other variables at play. Our environment is no longer under our control. Added to this, many of us are shy or awkward role-playing for the first few tries, a problem made all the worse if partners dont take the work seriously. This brings us back to the need for a good training environment. Make sure that everyone involved has taken a value inventory and understands their goals and motives. If you keep the real risks clearly in the balance, its much easier to see role-playing as the indispensable tool that it is. The more you practice it, the more addictive it will become.

Exercise 40Role-Playing Scenarios:

If youre not accustomed to role-playing and you dont have the benefit of a competent instructor to lead your through different situational dynamics, one simple drill you can do also is to brainstorm a variety of situations and to write them down. This can include items from your Fear Hierarchy. Things like: getting into an argument in a bar, being faced with an aggressor after a car accident, being mistaken for someone whos stolen another mans girlfriend, being held up at knife point. Put as many ideas down as you can and throw them into a bag. With a partner, take turns drawing scenarios out of the bag. I find it helpful to read the situation outline and to take 1 minute to close your eyes, breathe deeply and visualize your motivation for the character youre about to play. Then get into it. Even within the context of a safe training environment like your basement, even if you and your partner are nervous and giggle through parts, you are laying the groundwork for more effective responses and improving your mental self-defense map.
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One simple distinction you can make is between what is commonly called symmetrical and asymmetrical training. Simply put, begin in an asymmetrical context, with both you and your partner playing roles, with one person playing the street attacker and the other playing the self-defense practitioner. Establish the pretext that once the self-defense practitioner begins to retaliate that the street attacker must submit to the mock attacks and respond as if they were actually being stopped and injured by the counter-attack. This increases the defenders confidence and allows them to not only see themselves in a successful defensive scenario but also to get a feel for it as well. Remember, as relaxed as the context may seem, the switch from visualization training to more realistic scenarios like this can trick the brain and trigger some heavy survival chemical releases. Its very common to feel flustered, to panic and to use too much power your first few times so be careful. Asymmetrical training allows you to acclimatize yourself to the behavioral elements that you will likely face in a real encounter. Then, once youve become comfortable with asymmetrical encounters, progress to symmetrical encounters. Here, things are equal. Street Attackers resist your attacks, they can deceive, use strategies of their own and even sucker punch. Group encounters bring this up even one more notch since now you have 2 or more independent resistant minds working against you. If you take the action into a different environment like woodlands or outside on the cement, the stakes go up even further. Just practicing verbal de-escalation, without making any physical contact, can be intimidating in an alley way or outdoors at night. In the end, youre the navigator and captain of your vessel. You make the maps and follow them. Role-playing can be as fun or intense as you want to make it. From our earliest experiences as children learning fire drills, weve be conditioned to understand this power. Maximize this simple device and bring youll be amazed the effect it will have on your training.

Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There

are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.
Ralph Waldo Emerson


Capitalism can be hard on our self-images. With someone trying to sell us something in every waking moment of our day, its only natural for our better judgment to fall prey to the pressure once in a while. The problem is, when the snake-oil salesman is paid and their promises fade away, the buyer is often left with a feeling of personal failure and self-blame. Look at the fitness and diet industry in North America. Everyone is promising the newest thing, the latest secret, the get fit, thin and beautiful overnight magic pill, but the cold hard reality is that this is just marketing feeding on the psycho-emotional weaknesses of the buyer. These consumers are left weakened by the failure of the promise, not strengthened by it and too often they direct the blame back onto themselves and think that it was their fault the diet didnt work, or their fault the exercise equipment didnt sculpt them into a Greek god. In light of this, Id like to spend a few minutes talking about the reality of relapses. This manual is a blueprint for personal excellence. Its not some sudden or new concoction. Rather, its a clear map of the continuing evolution of the most effective stress inoculation techniques that Ive encountered. Every day of my life, I apply what is written in these pages. Ive said many times throughout this manual that change is not something laborious. It occurs all around us, all the time, in the blink of an eye. Change occurs in an instant. Right this minute, you have the power to decide to be completely different as a person, to change your hobbies, your interests, your circle of friends, the way you dress, the books you read and the food you eat. Just as sure as those bananas you left out on your kitchen counter this morning will get brown and speckly by the end of the day, just like your overdue bills keep growing with interest, just like you will get more and more hungry every second until you eat, everything is in a constant state of change. The only reason that accessing this instant switch is difficult for many of us is that we convince ourselves that there must be more involved. Our egos just dont want to accept that change could be so easy. If it is, what excuse do we have for not making changes?

You will have highs and lows in your training just like you will in every other aspect of your life. Everything occurs in cycles. Once more, revert to the formula. Understand that these cycles are a natural part of the ebb and flow of training. Accept this cognitively in the education phase. Then rehearse ways of maintaining consistency and bouncing back. You already have all the tools youll need for this. Setting and measuring your objectives are key here. You need to refer to your map and compass to stay on course. Begin by making sure that your objectives are achievable. If theyre unrealistic, youre increasing the chance of failure. Take baby steps instead of giant leaps. Make sure you know how to identify when youve achieved your goals and allow yourself to feel satisfaction when you do, no matter how small. Celebrate even the smallest victory. You deserve it. Make your goals specific and express them as positive statements. I will

improve my cardio vascular capacities until I can jog for 20 minutes with comfortable breath control within 4 weeks.
Indulge in the pleasure of achievement along the way. Live the value of goal. Act as if youve already experienced what you seek so the feeling can help you stay motivated. I feel healthier and stronger by being able to

maintain my jogging pace. I feel my stress levels are much lower, my thinking is much clearereven my posture is better. I look forward to waking up every morning to push myself a little further.
Allow yourself to stumble. Understand that you will have relapses of your old habits, but that theyre exceptions and not a return to negative tendencies. By experiencing them, you can choose to renew your resolve and deepen your commitment to move even farther away from them. You already have all the tools that you need. Keep it simple. Set your goals and check to make sure that youre on course from time to time. I know Ive been harping on the importance of keeping a journal all along but heres yet

another fantastic reason to do it. Setting goals and knowing where youre going is essential, but journals allow you to keep track of where youve been. They help you identify trends and avoid repeating them again in the future. Youre worth keeping track of. No matter how casual your journal entries may be, set aside a book for your thoughts and keep it within sight. It doesnt matter what you write, it just matters that you write.



Truth lies within ourselves: it takes no rise from outward things, whatever you may believe. There is an inmost center in us all, where truth abides in fullness and to Know rather consists in opening out a way whence the imprisoned splendor may escape than in effecting entry for light supposed to be without.
Robert Browning Earlier, in our discussion of exposure training, we briefly touched on the role of support. In this chapter, I would like to expand upon this, not only in exposure training but also following an actual violent encounter. In many martial arts and self-defense systems, the importance of coping with the stress following a trauma is over-looked. While there are certain natural safeguards that are present in the inherent spirituality and meditative practices of most traditional arts, these are often considered more in terms of their role to combat the stresses of modern life, rather than as the healing forces that they can be for the warrior following trauma. Modern psychology, particularly in its application by military forces around the world, have turned their attention increasingly to the problem of healing their soldiers psyches and much of what will be dealt with in this section, finds its origins in their research. The first component of a healthy After-Action program is that we must expect a healthy response. Its important to understand that there are positive actions that an individual can take to deal with combat stress. To return to the words of Dr. Maxwell Maltz, we are goal-oriented machines and we will perform according to the objectives that we feed ourselves. If we feed ourselves survival goals, we will become survival machines. We truly are what we eat and in the following pages well be laying out some guidelines for a healthy psychological diet. In my previous book Dragonmind, I discussed the importance of defining your self-defense values before encountering violence. We cant wait to

contemplate our moral limitations or the legal implications of self-defense until were at knifepoint. We must define our limits in advance. Similarly, we should prepare our individual After-Action Process in advance. We need to give serious thought to how we will heal ourselves following a violent trauma should it occur and we need to reinforce this habit every time that we encounter violence or stress in our day-to-day training. The next pillar in our foundation is Combat Responsibility. As weve already discussed, we must accept that the responsibility to prepare ourselves for the reality of self-defense are our own. No one else can be expected to bail us out. We are our own backups. From Combat Responsibility comes Combat Readiness. While we will likely never be satisfied with our skill levels, we do need to feel that we have done all that we can in the time that weve had. It is vital to feel switched on. Without accepting responsibility, were likely to blame others for our plight. Without readiness, were likely to blame ourselves. Skills Confidence and clear objectives are essential to creating a sense that we are a work in progress, that were traveling our intended path. There is no better antidote for remorse than having the ability to handle stress quickly and resolutely. These foundation attributes are essential for removing guilt and doubt. Third, we must maintain a sense of Mission Conviction. Having objectives, as we have seen, is an important component of achieving our desired results in any pursuit. In self-defense training however, when the stakes can involve life and death, we must do more than simply have objectives. We must deeply believe in what these objectives are. We begin to realize that all of the tools weve already discussed, while essential in maintaining motivation and inspiring action, also hold an equally essential role in our post combat dynamic. Fourth, we need to develop and maintain a Stress Management Plan. In our section on Relaxation, we saw that there are a number of tools that we can choose from here. The key is to find the ones that are right for us. Here are some of my personal picks from my coping toolbox:

Good Breathing. Practice this as often as you can. Make it a habit that you carry with you through trauma and out the other side. Its the core of healthy living. Visualization Training. It will come as no surprise that Im a big believer in visualization. All of the power it holds for preparation can equally be directed to post combat healing. The Psychic Armor Drill is one great example of this. Share Your Experiences. The first key to unit cohesion in the military is to share your stories with one another, to feel normal, to belong. Connect with your humanity. Give your psyche the company it craves. Journal Writing. Ive promoted journal writing throughout this manual and its miraculous powers with regards to healing are no exception. If you are serious about your training, integrate this practice. Make Your Health a Hobby. Rather than fixating on diets or fads or setting strict objectives for your lifestyle, find joy in being alive. Be mindful of what you eat and make a caring effort to steer yourself back onto course when you veer off. Sleeping, eating, exercise and some regular religious, spiritual or meditative practice are self-evident ingredients to health. We all know they work. We fail to employ them only when we put too much pressure on ourselves to do so. If we remember what were seeking to defend and we create the habit of taking a few minutes a day to remind ourselves of what matters, the rest will fall into place. Remember, change happens in an instant. It doesnt need to be painful. Seek Help. When youre in over your head, ask your colleagues, instructors or a professional for help. Remember, peak performance is not something youre born with. Everybody needs to work at achieving it.

Exercise continues on the next page


Exercise 41Implementing Your After-Action Plan Today:

In your journal, brainstorm a list of all of the coping tools in your personal toolbox. After having read some of those listed in this section, are there any skills that you have that you were unaware of that were helping you cope? Is there anything you could do to strengthen their role in your personal preparation for stress? Are there any areas where you are lacking? What actions will you take to strengthen these areas? Make an inventory / to-do list of the skills you have and the ones you want. Beside each of them, make a note about what you will do to make these skills even stronger and set yourself a time-limit if possible for when you can realistically achieve these goals. Having a clear set of goals and a sense of mission conviction in your selfdefense training is essential to your ability to cope with the reality of violence. Take the time you deserve to outline the actions youre prepared to take in the event of surviving a traumatic event whether in training or on the street and implement that plan today. Again, staying survival-minded and focusing on solutions instead of problems lies at the heart of this strategy. Accidents happen all the time, but they dont have to happen to you. Be prepared.




Ones destination is never a place but rather

a new way of looking at things.

Henry Miller


If we watch men of other schools discussing theory, and concentrating on techniques with the hands, even though they seem skillful to watch, they have not the slightest true spirit.
Miyamoto Musashi

At the outset of this manual, I pledged to you that I would teach you every shred of knowledge that I could muster that had worked for me personally and my students over the years in our self-defense training. In return, I only asked you to understand that in order to take this path with me as fellow warriors that you must accept Combat Responsibilitythat is, you must take the initiative to get what you need in your training. Without accepting that you are the master of your selfdefense training, without agreeing that no one can make you great except you, your optimal performance will always be just beyond your reach. Throughout these pages, weve delved into the three key components of Stress Inoculation trainingthe three prongs of The Blade Wheel. They are as Dr. Donald Meichenbaum first named them: Education, Rehearsal and Application. In education, we studied the importance of knowing why we do what we do above all else and the importance of cognition. Reason is the charioteer of our emotions, passions and reflexes. We studied the science of fear, learning the structure of the brain and the effects of High Road and Low Road Brain responses. We learned that reflexes are not always the best response; they are simply those responses that have evolved over many millennia as being statistically the most efficient for the species, not necessarily for the individual. While some degree of reflex will always be present, and while that safety net can be a good and helpful thing if properly understood, its possible to cognitively steer our brain, to control these reflexes and overcome them when their imposition is less helpful and through this we can access higher states of efficiency in our training than we ever imagined. Through all of this, we saw that the ultimate goal of our efforts is training and not

trauma. Our goal must be to strengthen the self that we are seeking to protect, not to harm or destroy it in the process. Our realistic understanding of combat stress also affected us from a strategic perspective. We learned the importance of adopting an ambush mindset over a competition mindset, recognizing that competition seeks unwisely to match attributes with an aggressor. Aggressors will usually have the advantage of superior motive and preparation. We never want to be as desperate or reckless as the street attacker. Were trying to protect ourselvesall of our self, mentally, physically and spiritually. We do not want to volunteer to be infected by the aggression and violence of a random act. Through this understanding, we reframed the way that we look at survival, taking inventory of our fears and addressing them through an assortment of exercises like our Psychic Armor Drill, stepping outside of past traumas and re-experiencing future ones on our journey from victim to survivor. In the rehearsal phase, we learned that one of our very strongest tools in our efforts to forge our personal excellence is our ability to set goals. If this manual has reinforced anything, I would hope that its the overwhelming importance of establishing achievable goals and systems of measurement for those efforts. Regardless of what you do, goal-setting will improve your performance. Consider yet more proof: Salvatore Maddi and Suzanna Kobasa performed a study in 1984 on the mental toughness of business executives. Guess what they found out?

Hardy people, robust survivors who were successful not only in their endeavors
but more importantly who were highly resistant to stress, were committed to their work. They had a powerful mission sense and a feeling of control over what they were doing. They strove to overcome challenges. This should be very familiar territory for you now: they had objectives, they enjoyed skills confidence and they were survival-minded. Not only were these people among the most successful in their fields, the study also found that they were also among the least likely to get sick. Again we see how all of the skills detailed in this manual are deeply interrelated.

Among some of the objectives that Ive shared with you is the goal of plasticityof being adaptive to change. Since violence is a chaos state, the only logical response to its flux is mental and neurological creativity and agility. In preparing our minds, Ive shown you the value of montage thinking, of boundary bashing and of modeling ourselves after successful examples. If its possible for someone to achieve something, its possible for us to learn how they did it and then to use those same strategies for ourselves. We also saw that change occurs in an instant. This can be a harder truth to internalize, but thankfully its occurring all around us, every second of the day. Its an unstoppable aspect of existence that we should reaffirm constantly. Some of the tools that Ive had incredible results with in my own teaching to access the power of instant change are Gesture Keys, relaxation training and vivid visualization techniques. Finally, in the domain of application and physical preparation, we really saw one over-riding physical principle: regardless of your style or ideologies, regardless of your moral convictions, your view of necessary force or the role of pre-emptive action, we saw that we must give ourselves the time to learn. Learning is chemical process, not a one-time event. Let it happen. Move slowly enough to allow your brain to take mental snap-shots of what youre doing and to see yourself succeeding. If you work below your Flinch Threshold, you will erode your fears. All of your training, from mental preparation like Spinal Loading, Performance Hypnosis and visualization, to physical exposure and role-playing ultimately should begin at a digestible pace, chunked into small, bite-size pieces. When visualizing, if youre moving too quickly, hit pause, rewind, or zoom out. In physical practice, if youre moving too fast, step back, take a few cleansing breaths, work out the kinks and ask you partner to slow things down. The point is to constantly make ourselves better, not to reinforce bad habits. As we stand on the end of this path and the beginning of the next, I would like to remind you that this book is not written in stone. With so many new tools and options to choose from, its natural to feel overwhelmed. How will I integrate all of these changes and make them work for me, you might wonder? The simple reality is that you wont. This has been a history of the path that I have taken, and while I

do believe it offers a blueprint for your own success, I also believe that can only occur if this manual is approached as a recipe book and not a bible. Pick and choose, modify, adapt. Take from it what you can. The Ronin begins and ends in the self. Self-defense training springs from the motivation to protect the self and our loved ones and from this genuine concern, it travels along a path riddled with our own personal limitations. While much of what is conventionally associated with this training is physical, it is only the very smallest part of the path. In reality, its the inner self, the mental preparedness and cognitive experiences that are the delivery mechanisms that will ultimately define our success. Our physical tools are merely bullets that rely upon a gun to be fired and I believe that this book provides you with a wide variety of successful tools for improving your psychological delivery mechanisms. As you go from this manual and into your world of training, I would like to reiterate an earlier caution. That is, many self-defense practitioners subscribe to negative psychological conditioning (both consciously and unconsciously). Rather than finding their motivation in a love for themselves and their families and friends, they emphasize instead a hatred for their imagined enemy. As Ive said many times before, the goal of correct self-defense training is to protect the self and not to harm the other. This fundamental ideology is the key to our method. Many practitioners fuel themselves with their fear of violence, indulging it, inflating it, rather than working to diminish it. They sensationalize the dangers in their environment with all the skill of a tabloid journalist and whip themselves up into a self-propagandized frenzy. Rather than analyzing the stressors gnawing at their internal wiring and deconstructing them with understanding, they make themselves hyper-vigilant, hair-triggered and ultimately traumatize themselves worse than they probably would have had they actually survived violence. The end result is a selfimposed alienation from the world that they live in. They sacrifice the joy of living for the promise of security. Where is the sense in this? Sadly, much of the world has become poisoned by paranoia since 9-11. We are all huddling in our bomb-shelters, profiling our neighbors and fearing all things. Now more than ever, we need to redirect our energies beyond simply existing and

surviving and return to the fullness of living, loving and authentically experiencing the gift of our existence. I come back to Marcus Aurelius:

How ridiculous it is to not flee from ones own wickedness, which is possible, and yet endeavor to flee from anothers wickedness which is not.
Over the years Ive seen my share of martial arts and self-defense schools. Many readily plunge with relish into a culture of hyperbolic violence with grotesque logos and aggressive terminologies. They blow the possibility of violence entirely out of proportion and try to desensitize practitioners to the reality of harming and pump up their fears in much the same way that military practices have conditioned soldiers for centuries. While this method is fast and effective, its a shortcut with a huge cost. Granted, not all modern self-defense systems are created equally. There are those among the flinch-response schools who temper their arsenal with profound responsibility and psychological sensitivity, but for every emotionally balanced practitioner of these quick-fix styles out there, I have met five wired, testosterone monkeys who would readily try to spoon out someones eyes or crush their throat just for looking at them the wrong way. I urge you to return to the precept known as Occams Razorthe simplest explanation tends to be the right one. If a style is claiming they teach modern tactics, but they still adhere to antiquated teaching methods, ask yourself if this is consistent? Does this really make sense to you? If a modern self-defense school is claiming that they advocate early detection and avoidance and detailed deescalation tactics but then they start flame wars with every other style they can name on every internet forum that they haunt and conduct themselves like warmongers, use your common sense. If it looks like a caveman, walks like a caveman and smells like a caveman, why are you surprised if its dragging a club? Everyone can make promises, but the proof is in the way you behave and conduct yourself. Dieticians have long warned us that we are what we eat. As you stand on the verge of your next great evolution, ask yourself this: what are you feeding your mind and your spirit? Of what is your psychological diet composed?

I believe that self-defense training hinges on the most essential principles of existencesurvival, freedom and the protection of our most cherished ideals and moral values. If we cant imbue this all-important pursuit of our greatest values with more importance than simple combat tactics and tricks, then what will we give importance to? What could matter more than this? Self-defense must be about more than just finding the shortest short cut. There are some paths that simply must be traveled. The path of the Ronin is one such path. It is precisely the journey that allows an individual to discover what Aurelius termed true delightthat is to do the things that we are made for and to achieve our fullest potentials. I understand that the process of survival isnt all touchy-feel warm-fuzzies and gumdrop rainbows. Ive dedicated enough years to studying it and encountered enough violence and survivors of aggression to evaporate any delusions that would deny the darker side of humanity. Still, I cant allow myself to indulge my fears and become the very monster that were seeking to avoid. In The Power of Intention, Dr. Wayne Dyer says that we must:

Be the peace youre seeking from otherssee the light in others, and treat them as if that is all you see.
For many survivors, there scarcely seems to be any light in their aggressors or in the world as a whole. What possible responsibility should any of us have towards anyone who would willfully steal, rape, harm or kill us? I would respond that the responsibility is not towards the aggressor, but rather towards the self. Nothing occurs in a vacuum. All things relate to all things. In defending ourselves, even in the most justified and necessary circumstances, the initial act of violence sends shockwaves through all aspects of our being like a cast stone sends ripples through a pond. Violence will affect us psychologically. Granted, we must be careful not to become impotent with overcontemplation. After all, in the end, violence isnt about whos right, its about whos left. Survival is a job that only pays you for your results. Its far better to be paranoid and alive than a trusting corpse, but what if it isnt and either-or

situation. What if it is possible to prepare ourselves in a manner that can both optimize our survival potential while minimizing the risk of emotional and psychological harm? Wouldnt that be the most powerful alternative? I believe that this is precisely the alternative that I have laid out in these pages. This manual is a blueprint for the responsible acquisition of power, a balance between ferocious capabilities and compassionate wisdomthe Dragon Mind. I realize that those styles offering short-cuts and quick-fixes can be tempting with their Sirens call, promising mythical power in minimal time, but I strongly encourage you to experiment with them intelligently. You must take Combat Responsibility and be the judge for yourself. You will likely discover that most of these quick-fix styles are just as much martial junk food as the beltfactories and strip mall McDojos that they themselves criticize so heavily. There is a place inside each of us, untouched by fear or ego where only authentic response resides. It is a place of unimaginable power and joy and confidence, where reason and emotion exist in total balance. This is the domain of your true self. This is your zone, your flow state. Go there to decide where your next path will take you. While some flinch-based systems may be faster paths to short-term satisfaction and provide a feeling of confidence, ultimately, they can only be sustained over the long term if they bring you to a flow state, a level of higher consciousness that transcends the desire to destroy. In the end, if you truly understand the power of flow training, you will realize that it is in no way a slow alternative. Change occurs in an instant. In many cases, there can be no faster alternative than slowing down to allow change to simply happen. Training is the domain of the conscious mind. It is a vessel to be steered. The clearer our sense of direction, the more quickly we will arrive at our destination and slow training allows us to maintain sight of our destination rather than getting confused by the havoc and to travel without injury or pause. As Confucius said, its not how quickly you travel, but rather that you keep walking that matters. In closing, I would like to touch on something that was very much at the core of my first book Dragonmind and which remains the central pillar of my

philosophydeath awareness and humility. In his masterpiece The Denial of Death, Nobel Prize winner Ernest Becker proposed that we are both worms, in that we are mortal and bound by the decay of flesh, and gods, in that we wield the power of meta-cognition and the supreme power to create and to forge our destinies. For these reasons, he dubs all humans Godworms. As I outlined in Dragonmind, this delicate balance between understanding and accepting the frailty of our own existence and embracing the autonomy and power that we possess is the true secret to human achievement. In taking Combat Responsibility, we are in a greater sense embracing our roles as Godworms, as finite creators of our own destinies. We are launching that positive avalanche of proactive steps that will lead to our own optimal achievement. We are doing more than simply jump-starting our self-defense training. We are affirming our very mortality and connecting with humanity as a whole, realizing that we are bound by the same conditions of the flesh, driven by the same desires, taunted by the same aspirations. Predator and prey alike, we are all kindred. It is only the decisions that we make along the path that decide our final destiny. By embracing this truth as warriors, we begin the work of eroding our greatest fearour fear of alienation from all humanity. Aggressors are not different from us, not somehow monstrous and unlike us. We have within us, every weakness and temptation that they do. It is precisely because we do not indulge these weakness that we are warriors. By understanding these temptations, not by denying them, we become better able to predict and control aggression both external and internal and through this process, we can learn to find familiarity and tolerance in the world around us, no matter how bleak it may appear to others. In doing so, we may free ourselves from the shackles of panic, malice and hatred that would otherwise rule us and unleash a limitless state of natural, creative, being. I will you all peace and success on your path. Training is truth.