Sie sind auf Seite 1von 233


PPaatthh ooff tthhee RRoonniinn::

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.”

touched by your greatness. You will be missed. “True immortality begins first by living a life


Table of Contents









Exercise 1—Go With The Flow:


Exercise 2—Are You Ready For Change?:



Exercise 3—Understanding Stress Inoculation:















Exercise 4—Tasting Our Mortality:














Exercise 5—Turning On Our Inner Movie Projectors:




Exercise 6—Spectator or Participant:


Exercise 7—Measuring Motivation:




Exercise 8—The Power of Negation:


Exercise 9—Self-Defense Movie:




Exercise 10—Self-Defense Situation Inventory:






Exercise 11—Building Your Own Suit of Psychic Armor:


Exercise 12—Identifying Unwanted Responses:


Exercise 13—Put On Your Armor:


Exercise 14—Experience Your Fears:






Exercise 15—Establishing Goals:


Exercise 16—Inventorize Your Powers:


Exercise 17—Goal Hierarchy:


Exercise 18—Experiencing the Goal:

















Exercise 19— Associative Linking Skills:


Exercise 20— Associative Linking Objects:



Exercise 21— Bashing Checklist:


Exercise 22— Choosing Your Guides:









Exercise 23— Fingertip Accuracy:


Exercise 24— Target Practice:




Exercise 25— Breath Control:


Exercise 26— Breath Control 2:



Exercise 27—Test Your Breathing:


Exercise 28— Weeding Out Perceptions:


Exercise 29—Creating “Gesture Keys”:


Exercise 30— Relaxation Realization:















Exercise 31— The Power of Slow:


Exercise 32—Slow Motion Movie:




Exercise 33—Try Your Convictions in Court:


Exercise 34—Let Go Of The Human Drama:


Exercise 35—Get into the water:



Exercise 36—E.A.S.E. Survey:











Exercise 37—Sight, Sound, Feel:


Exercise 38—Rapid Self-Defense Induction:



Exercise 39—Assessing Your Training Environment:


Exercise 40—Role-Playing Scenarios:









Exercise 41—Implementing Your After-Action Plan Today:










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 Ronin—a 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 Ronin—masterless 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 DVD’s on physical conditioning and self- improvement 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 didn’t. 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. There’s an old expression that I first learned in the sales game: If you always do what you’ve always done,


you’re sure to get the same results that you’ve always gotten. Sounds simple, doesn’t 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 you’re 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 teachers—and 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

are my own. Take from these experiences what you can. Training is truth. Kevin Secours, Montreal,



“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, we’re 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 find—it 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 it’s 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 Japan’s 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 country’s 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 samurai’s 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


Japan’s 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 17 th 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 gun- powder and were at the absolute forefront of technical advancement until around the 1500’s 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 can’t step into the same river twice.” The universe is constantly flowing.


Exercise 1—Go 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 you’ve 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. I’m driving this nail in deep because it’s an important one. Regardless of your ideology or intent, no matter how you’ve 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 goal—we 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 us—sorry to burst any bubbles if some of you were counting on that.

Exercise 2—Are 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 self- defense 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 you’ll 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 it’s possible to improve yourself and to


change your behavior and you’re ready to experience those changes now, then I will show you how your only limit will be your expectations. Let’s 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—

ordered to reach, and by halting you will make useless the efforts and deaths of thousands.”



“The attack came suddenly. The bandits had waited for the cover of darkness and for sleep to come to the warrior’s 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 mind’s 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 bandit’s 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.”

There’s 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 don’t 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, it’s 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 attacker’s weapon (laugh all you want—I actually saw this in a martial arts magazine once) it doesn’t 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 won’t 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 it’s 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 attacker’s bezerker rage, you are only training to become proficient at drills, not combat. I’ve 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. That’s why training must develop adaptability above all else, but before delving into adaptability training, we should also remember the reality of the environment that we’re 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 we’re 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 Lee’s 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, humankind’s approaches have run wildly across a full spectrum of success and failure. It’s


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 16 th 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 couldn’t 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, doesn’t mean the art is the most efficient method for us today. We have evolved as a species since that point in time. We wouldn’t 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, you’ll realize that we shouldn’t. 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














The Path of The Ronin is based on Meichenbaum’s 3-step approach to Stress Inoculation. Our program will consist of:

STEP 1—EDUCATION: 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. We’ll 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. We’ll also set our personal training objectives, breaking down “global stressors” into smaller bite size piece and set these objectives on a training timeline.

STEP 2—REHEARSAL: 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 3—APPLICATION: 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. We’ll 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:

that represents our combative style, The Blade Wheel : “The Blade Wheel” Traditionally, this symbol was

“The Blade Wheel”

Traditionally, this symbol was intended to represent the three essential components of correct martial training: Mind, Body and Spirit. These aren’t “divisions” of training that can be worked on separately or ignored altogether as many people do. They’re 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 we’ve 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 3—Understanding 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?

▶ Do you believe that the only way you can know for sure if you are




“Only the educated are free.”





“It’s better to mistake a stick for a snake, than a snake for a stick.”

—Dr. Joseph Ledoux—

As we’ve already discussed, the first step to effective Stress Inoculation is Education—if we’re going to do something, we need to know WHY we’re 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 don’t 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 thalamus—the thalamus is like the body’s 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 body’s pilot. It’s 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.

is what researchers call a High Road Brain Response. High Road Response Here we see an

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 there’s 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 that’s 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.

These reflexes are essential to our health and survival. Low Road Response In emergency situations, our

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.

It’s 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 “current”—a direction of flow. Every good Boy Scout knows that if you try to cross a river by opposing the water’s flow, you’ll only end up exhausting yourself and probably drown. The reason—the 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 you’ll never end up getting to where you’re 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 aren’t necessarily our best response and in the next section, we’ll discuss how to identify these different reflexes and how to give them their correct roles in self-defense training.

discuss how to identify these different reflexes and how to give them their correct roles in



“Fear is like fire. It can cook for you. It can heat your house. Or it can burn you down.” —Cus D’Amato, 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 doesn’t 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 semi’s horn, can trigger the exact same response while we’re driving home at night on a dark stretch of country highway. When you’re 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. Plato’s 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 20 th 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 self- defense skills. This is the entire basis of all training—the modification of behavior. This is why you are reading this to begin with.

Second, even if you lose control, it’s possible get a hold of the reins again. While researchers have shown that it’s 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. It’s 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 doesn’t.

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. What’s 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. They’re 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 player’s 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 it’s 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.

his or her respective pants if the threat is sudden enough. In this instance, this flinch

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 swing’s 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.

that will help us maximize our response times, remain cognitive rather than reflexive and stay in



“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: “it’s 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 doesn’t distinguish between a real threat and a false alarm. This is why a horror movie can still frighten us—we know that the stimulus is imitated, but our brain will still alert us when a monster jumps out on screen. Going back to LeDoux, it’s better to mistake a stick for a snake, then vice- versa. 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, what’s 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?


Don’t worry. We don’t 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.

on life. In the coming pages, I will try to give you the facts you need



“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 wasn’t 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 child’s 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. It’s 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.

We’ve 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 we’re told that these are the mighty effects of adrenalin. It’s 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, I’ve encountered literally thousands of people who believe that in a crisis, their “instincts” will simply take over and make everything alright. If I’ve 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 boxer’s jab to dust or a judoka’s 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 doesn’t 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 today’s 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, it’s 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 body—it’s 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 4—Tasting 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.


of what

affect the





psychologically and physically.

at that



▶ 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?

you think it may have had on the aggressor (s)? ▶ Do you still feel any



“What lies beyond us and what lies before us are tiny matters when compared to what lies within us.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson—

We’ve already encountered quite a few essential ideas. Whether they are entirely new or familiar, it’s 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 you’re doing. Don’t 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. It’s normal to want to remember everything—and 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. They’re 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 environment—what 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.

you never would have dreamed of and the best part about this is tha t the



“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 foe’s 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.”











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 self- defense 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 that’s 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 self- defense 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.

It must be dedicated

to the task of surviving. It must be ready to protect the self, one’s ideals and one’s friends and family. As General George Washington said:

The mind of the warrior must be free of competition.

“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, it’s 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 conquer—we 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 protection—we 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 survivor’s mindset. Now, we’ll 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 opponent’s moment of vulnerability.”

—Sun Tzu, The Art of War—

make yourself invincible and then await your opponent’s moment of vulnerability.” —Sun Tzu, The Art of



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 opponent’s 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 DVD’s.

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, I’ve 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 won’t 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 that’s available to us. If we’ve already established that we’re fighting for a just purpose, if we’re confident that we’re not diving headlong into vain competitions or malicious attacks, if we know we’re seeking to avoid violence whenever physically possible, then we should also accept that if we do decide we must retaliate, it’s 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. He’s 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 you’re going to let him get away with this. In an instant, you lurch for his gun with all of your aggression.



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, you’re fully prepared to engage and you know that by having infiltrated your aggressor’s 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 we’ll discuss later called Spinal Loading). You’re 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 aggressor’s 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 ½ and inch. Does this seem like an intelligent competition to you? You’re volunteering to get slaughtered.

The second situation is an example of an ambush response. By feigning a submissive posture, you’re acting the way your aggressor expects you to act— frightened. This indulges the sense of dominance that he’s looking for and can lull him into a false sense of security (remember, if he felt powerful in his own right, he


wouldn’t be carrying a gun). As a happy coincidence, you’re 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 retaliating—his 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 they’re the ones who choose the time and place of the attack. They’ll also probably have superior motivation—there is no way you will ever compete with someone who has nothing to lose, and you wouldn’t want to. The whole reason you’re 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, you’re 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 wouldn’t 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?

I’ll 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—

to keep forever, does the flood-time of rivers endure? All warriors understand this." —The Epic of




“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 doesn’t 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, we’ve seen it also has its drawbacks. This is why it’s 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 don’t know how it works, using can be dangerous and counter-productive. My 8 th 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 5—Turning On Our Inner Movie Projectors:

I want you to imagine a lemon. See the most perfect lemon your mind is capable of imagining—firm, 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, you’re 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. We’ve always been told: “No pain. No gain.” Most of us have come to deeply believe this at some level of our being. If it’s not hurting, it’s not working, or if it’s 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 isn’t proof that you’re on the right track—it’s evidence that you’re doing something wrong. Remember the first rule of evolution: stick with what works and get rid of what doesn’t. If you always keep driving down the same road, you’ll 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 individual—instantly.

Of course, the stimuli doesn’t 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 haven’t had lasting success, the last thing they want to hear is that they’ve been doing it all wrong. The fact is that individual hasn’t been doing anything wrong. They’ve 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 we’ve been given. This changes however when we get newer and better information. That’s what’s waiting in the next few pages. It’s time to grow.

however when we get newer and better information. That’s what’s waiting in the next few pages.



“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.”


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, I’ll 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 6—Spectator or Participant:

Have you ever seen an act of violence in your life? Think of any event you’ve 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 you’re 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 mind’s eye will

affect the intensity of your experience.

Exercise 7—Measuring 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, spiritual—you 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 brain’s 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 mind’s 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.

objective is, the more thoroughly your brain will cooperate with your visualization in helping you to



“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 it’s 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 we’ll 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, let’s take a moment to note one component we can avoid.

Try this simple exercise:

Exercise 8—The Power of Negation:

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

What just happened? If you’re 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 wouldn’t they? It’s all around us. Just consider the language of advertising: “Don’t

wait another minute! This sale won’t last! You can’t afford not to have this!” We’re

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:

“Don’t worry.”

“No problem.”

“Don’t think about it.”

“Don’t get so stressed.”

The problem is the brain doesn’t 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. That’s totally normally—that’s 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? Let’s say you’re trying to cut back on your diet a little bit and you’re trying to eat a little less before going to bed every night. If you tell yourself “don’t 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, we’ve learned one of the fundamental principles of Neuro-Linguistic Programming: Don’t think of what you don’t 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 you’re going. If you think “don’t 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. You’re 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 you’re going to quit during an intense push-up set, chances are, you’ll 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. It’s super important to go slowly. Read the first step and then pause to visualize it. Once you’ve 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 9—Self-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, we’ve 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 Wagner’s 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 didn’t 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, it’s important that we realize and accept that we’re also responsible for our own motivation. We are in charge of our outlook and perceptions. While we can’t always control the situations that we’re 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—

of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” — William James, father of



“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 brain’s incredible powers of visualization, we’re almost ready to begin setting our training objectives. Only one step remains: we need to consider what’s motivating our goals. This manual is dedicated to improving your ability to protect yourself and your loved ones. At its core, that means that we’re 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 they’re 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, they’re


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 didn’t 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. Don’t 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 10—Self-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 can’t assert yourself on the telephone or with a sales clerk, don’t 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 situations—not 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”.

I’m 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 trick—we all want the secret formula. These are the secrets. You’re 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, we’ll 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 they’re 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 they’re 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 they’re starting to argue with you. They’re not physical yet, but they’re 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 someone’s 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. They’re furious.

10. You are walking home late at night. Somebody appears to be following you. You’ve 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 it’s getting hard to think straight. Worst of all, now they’re getting closer.

11. Somebody has begun to harass a loved one. They’re 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. You’re out at a bar and have accidentally bumped somebody. They are drunk and have taken it as an insult and they’ve 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 don’t 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 don’t know if they’re alone, but you can see them moving throughout the hallways beyond your bedroom door. You don’t 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. They’ve already taken your wallet, but they don’t believe that’s all the money that you have on you. They’re shouting at you, calling you a liar, tearing at your pockets and pushing you into the brick wall behind you. They are insanely angry. It’s apparent they’re 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, they’re 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 it’s 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. You’re on your knees taking kicks to the face and body.

20. You’re 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. They’re demanding you give them your money. You can’t help but realize that your life could be extinguished within a second and you’re afraid that they’ll do something rash no matter what you decide to do.

Take a second to notice how you feel. I didn’t 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. Everyone’s 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.

a rough idea of what a list could look like. Please put this book down now



“Self-discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don’t control what you think, you can’t 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, athletic—an 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 didn’t 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 couldn’t 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 wasn’t 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 Janet’s 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. You’ll 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 reiterate—this 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 11—Building 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. We’ll 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 body—make 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 12—Identifying Unwanted Responses:

Once you’ve 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 mind’s 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 you’re 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 13—Put On Your Armor:

Now that you’ve 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 movie’s 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 you’re 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 14—Experience 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.

It’s 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 Hierarchy—this 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 thing—to test your newfound skills in reality. While we will study this much more later on in our discussion of Intelligent Exposure, it’s 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 controllable level. Some degree of fear is natural, healthy and motivating. The goal is to



“A survivor builds up an account of commitment over a lifetime. The more he invests, the more he has when trouble comes.”

Laurence Gonzales—

We’ve 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: don’t think about what you don’t 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, we’ve begun to learn about the power of visualization, particularly the use of association with relaxation to overcome fears.

This is just the beginning. Now we’ll 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. We’ve all done this at many points in our life. It’s what I like to call “Subconscious Apprenticeship”. We feel drawn to someone for certain values or attributes—essentially 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 it’s 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 you’re 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, we’ve begun to expose our mind to the emotional components of self-defense.

On it’s own, exposure is neutral—neither advantageous nor harmful. It’s 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 don’t 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 they’re placed in a situation where they can’t 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 absurdly—it 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. We’ve already begun to increase our confidence in our ability to visualize and we’ve 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 survivor’s mindset: you already have all the resources that you need to do everything that you will ever want to do. You don’t need more than what you already have right this minute. You just need to maximize what you’ve 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 survivors—the ability to reconceptualize threats as challenges. Survivors don’t 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 Responsibility—we are the only ones who can get us what we need.

Reframing our thoughts is about more than simply ignoring our problems. It’s 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 we’re happy) we can inhibit the influence of the Amygdala and dampen the negative effects it would otherwise have on us. You read that right—being 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 it’s 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 you’re afraid of. Again, that’s 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. They’re 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 who’s 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 he’s 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 it’s 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 can’t 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 you’ve got. As Gonzales said, we’re 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, don’t 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. There’s only one right answer, but cheating is allowed”.

survival, it is total commitment. Survival is a simple test. There’s only one right answer, but



“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 Year’s 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 aren’t supposed to be about establishing goals that you can’t achieve. They’re 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 opportunity—there’s 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 can’t 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 self- defense 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, it’s 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, it’s 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 farmer’s 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 don’t take time, they make time. That’s not just some cheesy sounding cliché. It’s 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 we’re seeking to protect. What good is a life-style that requires you to live in the training hall? By simply setting some clear goals, it’s 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 it’s going to be helpful. Repetition reinforces all habits equally—both 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 we’re going. We need to know what we wish to become. We need to know what we are doing today when we train and where we’re 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 aren’t afraid to dream big. As Robert Browning said: “Ah, but man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” As we discussed in Dragonmind, we are goal- seeking. 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 can’t win if you’re 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 we’re always moving ourselves away from pain and towards pleasure. Remember, change doesn’t have to be painful. If our efforts are constantly hurting us, it doesn’t mean we’re working hard—it’s a sign we’re doing something wrong.

Exercise 15—Establishing 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:

What’s important to me about this goal?

Why do I value or treasure this goal?

What meaning does this goal hold for me?

Also, what’s important to me in my self-defense training? This will often give you a different perspective on why you’re training.