Monday, December 31, 2007

Taking Stock

I've never been one for New Year's resolutions. Not that I don't have a lot of room for improvement -- I obviously do. It's just that the idea of New Year's resolutions doesn't motivate me.

Nevertheless, this time (the 7th & 8th Days of Christmas) is good for taking stock. I want to do an inventory of my own warrior readiness. Perhaps you'll join me.

Warrior Fitness

How fit am I compared to this time last year? Better, but still not where I want to be. My body composition has improved -- a lot more muscle under the "fat suit". Also, Laura noticed last week that I was wearing a shirt which I used to have a hard time keeping buttoned around the middle. The change is subtle, and it has been so gradual that people who see me from week to week have not even noticed.

Over the past three years or so, my endurance has gone from extremely poor to poor and now to fair. My general condition really deteriorated during the year I spent chained to my desk writing, but if I take the intensity of my workouts up another notch, I think I'll be satisfactory or better in another year. That's still not where I want to be, but I'm not 50 anymore, and as long as I'm improving, I won't complain.

What about you? Are you moving in the fitness direction you want? If not, make just one small change in the right direction. Make it tiny, but make it a change you can live with for the rest of your life.

Warrior Techniques

I have a lot of techniques that I've picked up from my martial arts training. But do I have three techniques that I've developed and honed to a level of mastery? I've really worked on striking with my knees. I can generate power & speed, and I have practiced the technique straight ahead and to either side.

I haven't worked as hard on my palm heel strike. I've done some slow motion practice (which is one method of developing speed, believe it or not). I think I'll concentrate on generating power and on using it from various positions, including seated.

I love the judo chop. It's fast & powerful, and it's most versatile. I think I'll duct tape some padding to our oak tree to practice this technique a few times every day. A little extra padding would allow me to also use it to practice the palm heel strike without hurting my shoulders.

Do you have three good, versatile techniques you could use in a violent encounter? If so, how about adding a fourth? If not, why don't you start by learning one or two and practicing them?

Warrior Body Skills

I have just started working on some balance drills from the AttackProof book and video. My balance has always been poor, and now I'm finally doing something about it. It took me several practice sessions just to do the Ninja Walk and Vacuum Walk the wrong way. Now I have to work on improving to the point where I'm doing them correctly.

Maybe your balance is acceptable (even great), but you may have other body skills that need sharpening. Do you need to work on agility, coordination, timing?

Warrior Weapons Skills

I need to spend more time dry firing both handgun and long gun. At this time, my knife skills are not what they ought to be. My training with a blade was good, but rudimentary and too short. I am thinking about one knife fighting system which utilizes a technique that looks just like one of my favorite empty hand strikes. Perhaps I'll get a hold of some of their training materials this year. In learning to use a knife, I also hope to learn how to better defend against one.

How are your weapons skills? Is this the moment where you decide that you will become master of one type of weapon? Or if you've already reached that level of competence with one, how about adding another type to your repertoire (e.g., if you're a rifleman, become an archer or a knife fighter)?

Scenario Based Training

Maybe this will be the year I find a dedicated practice partner. It's a matter of prayer. I'd like someone with whom I could practice spontaneous reaction drills and do some scenario based training to aid in adrenaline stress conditioning.

Et Cetera

There are other areas where you can take stock, like Warrior Philosophy, Warrior Mindset and Warrior Strategy, but you get the idea. I've tried to be brutally honest about where I need to improve as a warrior, How about you? I'd like to see some comments on your own inventory and steps you've taken or are about to take to improve in just one specific area. Your comment might be just the spark some fellow Christian Martialist needs take his own training program to the next level.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

WWII Combatives

During WWII, W.E. Fairbairn taught British, Canadian & US elite troops some of the most simple, efficient and brutal combat methods. I have tried to capture and pass on this wisdom in my book 12 US Military Combat Techniques That Could Save Your Life.

Here is a link to some rare wartime footage of Fairbairn's training camp in Scotland:
Fairbairn's Unarmed Combat Training

Here is a video clip of Fairbairn teaching at an OSS training camp Note the Lone Ranger masks worn to protect the identities of the participantants. The OSS was the forerunner of the CIA. Here's the clip:
Fairbairn Trains OSS

Here's another link to a WWII era US Marine bayonet training film. It illustrates the principle that unarmed skills transfer to the use of weapons:
Bayonet Fighting

Friday, December 28, 2007

Warrior Fitness -- Posture, 5

The gentle curve of your lower back allows your center of gravity to rest above your legs. Without it, maintaining your balance would be a constant ordeal. You would have the same problem as dogs & other animals trained to stand in an upright position, for whom it is neither easy nor comfortable nor natural.

The curves of your upper back and neck keep the head and thorax positioned above your center of gravity. Over time, however, you have probably let your head sink down "into" your neck, turning that gentle curve into an acute angle. It was to this problem that Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869-1955) directed his attention.

The Alexander Technique (as I understand it) seems to focus its efforts on these vertebrae with the idea that if you correct bad habits in this region, corrections in the lower spine will follow. While I only endorse Mr. Alexander's ideas reservedly, I think the upper spine is a good place to start, and I will borrow one of the techniques associated with his system.

Stand or sit comfortably with your back unsupported. Now, visualize a strong steel wire or cable attached to the center of the top of your head. Let it pull your head straight upward as you relax your back and shoulders. This upward pull will restore the gentle curve to your cervical vertebrae that God designed them to have.

Shoulders should hang loosely, and you should not think of this posture as a rigid one that you must maintain at all costs. It is simply the home position from which your spine departs according to the demands of mobility, and to which it returns at rest.

I wish I could tell you that I have mastered this technique, and that it has become a habit, but I have not yet reached that place. When my back is sore or tired, though, I often recognize my poor posture and correct it with this visualization. It usually brings immediate relief.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Controlling Adrenaline Stress: The Battle Cry, 2

Continued from "Controlling Adrenaline Stress: The Battle Cry"

The battle cry is THE traditional means of controlling and channelling adrenaline stress. Through history, warriors who knew nothing of adrenaline -- but a lot about stress -- adopted a common technique to help them master and use their adrenaline rush in battle. We call it a battle cry. The battle cry is a decisive, purposeful, aggressive action.
  • Decisive -- a battle cry has the psychological effect of strengthening your resolve by letting every level of your being know that you have made a choice and commitment to fight rather than to freeze or to cower;
  • Purposeful -- a battle cry bristles with purpose, and its very presence focuses all of your energies to the end of absolute conquest of the foe;
  • Aggressive -- a battle cry is fueled by adrenaline, and by its very nature, feeds the aggressive mindset you need in battle;
  • Action -- a battle cry is an action in and of itself, which mobilizes you to further action.
The battle cry has another, more curious aspect: in many, it transforms fear into something that can only be described as the joy of battle. As a bonus, it often demoralizes and confuses the adversary. The "rebel yell" and the "Apache war whoop" are just two examples. These battle cries channeled adrenaline stress to increase the warriors' own ferocity while, at the same time, making their enemies' stress self-defeating.

Ferocity that is fueled by adrenaline and supported by a battle cry can occasionally be so daunting to an adversary that he retreats before actual engagement. This may frustrate you because, after you'd done everything you could to avoid a violent encounter, you finally decided it was necessary and opened the flood gates. Now the enemy is gone, and you have nowhere to direct the torrent. It's tough on your system (I know!), but it's better than what you risk in an actual violent encounter.

Oh yes . . . and happy Stevenmas (2nd day of Christmas) or the "Feast of Steven" as it's called in Good King Wenceslaus (a Stevenmas Carol).

Monday, December 24, 2007

Controlling Adrenaline Stress: The Battle Cry

No doubt you've seen the use of the battle cry for controlling adrenaline stress portrayed on the screen. I'm talking about those movies about battles of old, where both sides are lined up against each other? Then, as one side advances, a few warriors begin to emit a sound that spreads through the ranks. As the sound grows, so does their momentum, until they come like thunder upon the opposing force.

What you see in scenes like these is an age-old method used to bring adrenaline stress under control and to make it work for the warrior rather than against him. Like the startle response, your experience with adrenaline is based upon physiological realities.

Also like the startle response, your adrenaline rush happens automatically. But unlike the startle response, you can learn to exercise control over it. Experience and breath control, for example, will allow you to determine, to a remarkable degree, the intensity and duration of your adrenaline rush -- the less intense, the longer you can make it last.

Studies conducted by the US military have shown that too much adrenaline can immobilize you (sometimes described as frozen with fear). It can give you tunnel vision, cause you to repeat ineffectual moves in a behavioral loop, or make you just plain freeze on the spot. When an experienced orc sees the signs of your adrenaline stress, he may count on your having just such responses. At that time, you need a technique to channel your adrenaline into solving the problem at hand.

More about that in Controlling Adrenaline Stess: The Battle Cry, 2.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Best Self Defense System, 5

Most fights last from 2-4 seconds. If you're dealing with multiple attackers, and you're good enough to fight your way out of the situation, it may last several seconds. That's all. All your training, all your preparation and all your forethought come down to a moment of truth measured in mere seconds.

Among the grim realities associated with that brief span are the adrenaline rush and the sheer chaos of the moment. I've already discussed the need for adrenaline stress conditioning in a previous post (and I hope to write more about it). Adrenaline will help you deal with the chaos of the moment, but you also need to train for it.

When I speak of training to deal with the chaos of combat, I refer to what takes place after that split-second startle response. The startle response is spontaneous, and you should train so that what follows is as well.

Spontaneity is the ability to react appropriately to your adversary's unexpected & unrehearsed (by you) moves. There is no time to run through a mental catalogue of techniques and select one that is appropriate to the moment. Your actions need to be extemporaneous, and they need to be right.

Here is where I feel a lack in my own personal self defense. My previous training stopped short of giving me that spontaneity. Goshin Ryu Jujitsu puts a heavy stress on learning many techniques. Before my training was cut short, I began to see that the techniques were tied together by certain underlying principles. It dawned on me that I was supposed to internalize these principles so that in the right moment, the right technique would just flow out.

I believe that approach would have worked, but my training was cut short. In the intervening years I have not found a practice partner who would stick with the training, so I never completed the internalization process. In fact, the one drawback of this approach is that it takes a long time before it clicks, and you become truly spontaneous.

Since then, I have discovered another approach. It is used by two systems that I know of, and -- to a certain degree -- by individual instructors, like Keith Pascal. One of the systems is the Russian martial art, Systema. The other is Guided Chaos.

Both systems teach and train principles, but they also train students to respond to unchoreographed attacks right from the beginning. One of the methods used by both is slow motion sparring. An advantage of slow motion sparring is that you can practice moves that might seriously injure a practice partner at full speed.

I own some of the Systema videos, and, while I found them enlightening, they were of limited training value without a partner. The Guided Chaos material has some training material aimed at those training solo. I bought their book Attackproof some time ago, and more recently obtained their conditioning video. While I do not expect these to entirely ready me for the exchanges of combat, the drills are designed to lead to balance, body unity, sensitivity, looseness and economy of motion.

These are all building blocks of spontaneity in combat. I plan to work on these until I can find a committed training partner. I will let you know how I am progressing in future posts.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Warrior Fitness -- Posture, 4

The backbone of balance and mobility is the . . . uh . . . backbone. Your spine is a marvel of engineering and a testimony to the great wisdom of Him who designed it. And, contrary to a lot of evolutionary propaganda, back problems do not stem from the fact that humans walk upright.

The spine is designed to carry you in an upright position. As just one example, God designed the human woman's spine with a wedge-shaped vertebra in the lower back which neither men nor apes have. This, in conjunction with pelvic design, helps a pregnant woman adjust her center of gravity to keep her balance. This is fulfills a specific need for creatures who walk upright, and monkeys don't have this structure because they don't need it.

(Sadly the humanistic community can look at this marvel and still see evolution rather than God as its origin.)

The major cause of back pain is that humans don't know and/or don't care how God designed the spine and what He intended it to do. Cultural conditioning and lack of discipline, have contributed to the way we mistreat our backs. Ignorance ("What's wrong with the way I lift?"), pride ("It's not too heavy for ME."), emotional stress and cumulative minor traumas finish the job.

For that reason, you must repent of ignoring your Designer and begin to cooperate with His structural design for your back.

P.S. In a previous post, I mentioned signing up for the "12 Days of Fitness". Here's a link to an audio presentation from that promotional that will teach you something about the structure of the back, benefits of good posture, and some of the muscles that need to be strengthened.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Warrior Fitness -- Posture, 3

Bill Henry once told me that when he first started training in martial arts, a fellow-beginner talked about using the horse stance in a fight. (You can imagine the horse stance if you think of a man straddling a large horse with high stirrups -- now take away the horse.) Bill told him, "I don't think that stance is meant to be actually used in fights."

As you've already guessed, the inevitable happened. The student got into a fight and assumed the horse stance, which left his groin wide open. His opponent took the free shot and kicked him there. Lesson learned -- painfully.

The horse stance builds strong leg muscles, but it also puts stress on the knee joints. If you want to build your leg muscles, do half squats. If you want a stable base for self defense, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. One foot may be slightly forward.

This is how both Western and Eastern boxers stand. Moreover, they don't practice stances, they practice footwork. In order to achieve agility with your feet, however, you need balance and mobility. Strange as it may seem, these don't come primarily from the feet and legs. They originate higher up.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Warrior Fitness -- Posture, 2

When I trained in Shito Ryu karate, I had to learn about 12 different highly stylized stances. They had the appearance of formal poses, and we drilled them at just about every training session. The funny thing is, though, that even the advanced students did not assume those stances when they were sparring.

Bill Henry, my jujitsu instructor, took a more utilitarian view toward stances. For general sparring, he liked a half-back stance because it provided a stable platform for punching & kicking, yet it allowed mobility as well. In our grappling, throwing and joint-locking, our footwork was natural and not posed.

Good posture and a natural stance provide the best platform from which to mount either defensive or offensive maneuvers. That's because good posture gives you good balance and naturally free movement. Power, speed & fluidity of motion are all originate from posture and natural movement.

Martial arts schools would better prepare their students for self defense if they would teach and drill their students in good posture rather than in the stylized poses that they call stances. This raises the question of what constitutes good, natural posture. The short answer is that it is the body position that cooperates with the structural design of the human body. And that's a topic for another post.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas Fun

In the Nativity season, we celebrate the coming of our great and mighty, just and merciful King. We never taught our children to believe in Santa Claus, although we never did mind if they had fun with the idea, and certainly did not want him to displace Jesus as the focus of our celebration.

That said, the whole Santa Claus idea can be fun, especially when dressed up in an imaginative poem like the one sent to me by my barber. It's a takeoff on Clement Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas". I thought the kind of people who read my stuff might also enjoy this:

Twas the night before Christmas, cold, dark and
foreboding,
As I sat at the work bench, quite busy reloading.
The empties
from autumn were polished so clear
For primers and powder, and bullets from=20
Speer

And Hornady's soft-points, and Nosler's Partitions
All sat in their boxes, right next to the press
With dies from Pacific, and RCBS

When all of a sudden there came such a jolt,
I grabbed for my Mossberg, and whipped out my Colt.
As I spilled Hodgdon's powder all over the shelf
I scrambled for cover, just to pro-tect myself

From up on the rooftop, came hoofbeats and snorting
Like the noise out of L'il Rock, from
Clinton's cavorting!
I eased off the safety, to press-check my auto
With 230-hardball, I'd knock 'em all blotto

Were these rogue federal agents, sent by Schumer and Reno?
Or a staggering Ted Kennedy, in bad need of Beano?
My question was answered with a knock, and some sneezing,
"It's Santa, you moron, lemme in there, I'm freezing!"

I flipped off the dead-bolt and threw the door wide,
To find St. Nick a'shivvering, Rudolph by his side
He eyeballed my Springfield, with a nod of approval
"You're all set," he said, "for dirtball removal."

"But this is no raid, we're not here to harm you
Or persecute, prosecute or even disarm you"
Instead, said dear Santa, he needed to borrow
My .357, 'till day after tomorrow

"It's okay," he assured me, with a hint of frustration.
"I'm enrolled in the National Rifle Association"
He showed me his card, 'twas a Life Member rating
"I've had this since me and the missus were dating!"

"And you see, Dave ol' buddy, I've gotten real nervous
"Since Feinstein was elected, with a promise to serve us
"So henceforth as I'm out there, my presents a'stackin'
"I want to assure you, I'm legally packin'

"And my gift for you this year, should give you a hoot
"I've told the Supreme Court to give Brady the boot!
"Now, Rudy and I must be on our way"
He said, as he climbed back on the seat of his sleigh

With the reins in his hand, and my Smith in his pocket
He jingled the sleighbells and was off like a rocket
With a pair of speedloaders, and ammo to spare
I knew he'd be safe, he was loaded for bear

As he faded from view, I could still hear him calling
"From D.C., where 'P.C.' is already falling
"To bad guys in L.A., Detroit and Atlanta
"I'm licensed to carry. Don't be messin' with Santa!"
(To my barber: thanks, bro. Keep your powder dry, and well . . . you know.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Best Self Defense System, 4

If you've stayed with me in this series of posts, you may recognize that I have made significant progress in putting together a comprehensive system of self defense that meets the criteria I laid down in the first article. Now, let's take a look at some of the areas that are incomplete, or that (I feel) could use some improvement.

Levels of Force:

Not all violence is life-threatening. Some perverse people just want to hurt you but not necessarily kill you. This doesn't mean that their attempts to rob you of your dignity and peace of mind cannot escalate into a threat to life and limb, but you must not assume they will. If you gouge an eye or use lethal force because someone is bullying you, you've stepped over an ethical line (and a legal one).

Nevertheless, the man or woman who is physically harassed in one way or another needs to deal with the problem before it does get more serious. And the first level of force includes the verbal response (although your physical attitude is also part of this force level). I have several books that treat the subject of verbal conflict, but the most readable, most practical and most easily adapted to a Christian worldview that I've found is George J. Thompson's Verbal Judo.

Thompson combines his skills and life experience as English professor, police officer and martial artist to produce a field-tested set of methods for gaining the cooperation of of those who may otherwise become a physical threat. This will probably work at least 50% of the time, and it will place the legal burden squarely on the harasser, since you did your best to defuse (not diffuse, please) the situation. In the cases that fail, you must have some non-lethal defensive methods in your arsenal.

Your lowest level of physical force should include tactical responses to being grabbed, joint locks for immobilization and compliance, and -- the almost universally neglected -- compliance holds that work by taking a person's balance rather than by causing pain. Usually, to apply these techniques you need to use very mild strikes as diversions.

Farther up the force continuum, you can apply the gross motor striking methods already discussed above. You also would want to supplement this with training in strikes that will render a person unconscious (knockout blows) and how to choke a person into a semi-conscious state without killing him. Finally, there are the methods that will cause serious physical harm or death.

That completes the overview of the force continuum from verbal to lethal. I have studied the verbal level, and my time training in Goshin Ryu jujitsu has provided me with a catalog of joint locks, compliance techniques and chokes. And I know the basic gross motor striking skills well enough to teach them. Some of the most lethal techniques I picked up from a book as youngster -- they ain't rocket science. I used the rear naked choke (with my clothes on) a couple of times that I shouldn't have, and only God's Providence protected my opponents (and me) from potentially serious consequences.

I should say that over the past nine years I have not had a motivated practice partner to train with on a regular basis. I really need an interested, motivated male who would like to learn self defense in the context of Christian Martialism. This would help to keep my performance and teaching skills honed.

In my next post on The Best Self Defense System, I want to discuss the one big hole in my own personal defense system, and how I hope to plug the gap.

This series is concluded in "The Best Self Defense System, 5"

Friday, December 14, 2007

Warrior Fitness -- Posture

Since we've been walking regularly, I've notice my posture more. I've noticed because of the effects that bad posture has had on my body. Specifically, the muscles of my lower back get painfully tight when I walk up a grade.

I've studied & written about posture before, and so now I am just putting some of my own preaching into practice. I imagine a wire attached to the middle of the top of my head (like a marionette). It pulls my head straight upward as I relax my shoulders and let them hang comfortably. This aligns my cervical spine and my upper back.

Then I tighten my glutes (fanny muscles). This rotates my pelvis back to its proper position and aligns my sacrum & lower back. It's requires a little concentration, but it does help relieve the pressure on my lower back. (Besides the posture improvement, I'm also doing exercises to strengthen the core muscles.)

If you want to try this, it may help to do it standing still before you try it while walking. In another post, I'll discuss the martial application of posture.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Proposed Changes

Well, as I mentioned in the previous post, I received a suggestion from JL. I've also received a single comment. Since, excluding my immediate family, I could probably count the regular readers of this blog on the fingers of one hand (with fingers left over), I guess that's a pretty good response.

I think the idea of shorter posts has merit for those who are interested but have limited time or commitment. Brief articles may draw them into a deeper interest and commitment. Still, I started writing this for hard core Christian Martialists, not knowing if, besides me and my barber, any others were out there. I found a few, which leads me to believe that there are more.

Therefore, here's what I'd like to do: make short posts 2-3 times per week (mostly 3x), and write a longer article at least once a week (but no more than twice) to satisfy my pedantic proclivities.

Compromises made in the interest of fairness generally are perceived as unfair by everyone. Nevertheless, I'm going to try out this compromise.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Changes?

I received an email from JL suggesting that I might actually increase readership by making my articles shorter & posting only 3 or 4 times per week. This will encourage those with limited reading time to become regular readers of this blog. I'd like to poll you to find out what you think about this.

To encourage discussion among readers, I'm going to ask you to use the comments feature below rather than to email me privately. You may post anonymously. If you're paranoid about using comments, go ahead and email me, but if you do, you're depriving others of your considered thoughts on the matter.

Tactical Training

Even daily exercise can provide an opportunity for tactical training. We often encounter our neighbor's German shepherd on our morning walks. Since she had puppies, she has become more protective of her territory. This morning, the dog approached a little more closely than before. As we passed it, I told Laura & Merrianna to move up ahead of me. That was a tactical decision.

I wanted the advantage of knowing just where the people I had to protect were in relation to the threat. I hope you can see from this example that tactical thinking isn't rocket science; it's just common sense applied to threat response. You may think that this is something you've never had to do, but if you've ever tried to practice defensive driving, you've had to train yourself to think tactically.

You can find an illustration of the need for sound tactical training in Sunday's shooting at New Hope Church. According to news reports, Matthew Murray hated Christians, and his tactics reveal that he planned to kill as many as he could. Some say Jeanne Assam may have saved more than a hundred people by shooting him.

At an entrance on one side of the church, Murray lobbed a smoke grenade. Then he drove his car to the opposite end of the church and entered. He was practicing a tactical diversion. People would naturally move away from the smoke (perceived threat) toward the opposite side of the building -- toward the place Murray planned to ambush them.

The church's security plan was also tactical. Among their volunteer security force, from what I can gather, they had one individual trained and armed. (The whole concept of using unarmed security in a situation like this is a subject for another rant/post) She was stationed at the center of the sanctuary. From here she could respond to a threat coming from any direction. That's a tactical decision.

In every violent encounter, you will find tactics used. Planned tactics, extemporaneous tactics, good tactics, bad tactics, but in the the end each fight demonstrates the outworking of two tactical approaches. There are other factors in a violent encounter, but tactics are inescapable.

Out of this tragedy, I hope that you will not only see the importance of self tactical training, but that you will accept the challenge to begin the practice of tactical thinking in your daily life.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Jael's Daughter

When Barak refused to go to battle unless the prophetess Deborah accompanied him, he was told that the victory would be given to a woman (Judges 4). That woman was Jael who nailed Sisera's head to the ground with a tent peg. The prophetess honored her in a victory song (Judges 5).

Jeanne Assam could be a daughter of Jael. Where were the men armed and ready to defend the flock from the assassin? No matter, for Jeanne Assam was there, was armed and, in her own words, "took him down."

CNN has a page with a number of video clips on the shootings, including the statement by Miss Assam. I doubt that much more news will come out about this incident. There is already a good story profiling Matthew Murray, the shooter, & his connection to Youth With A Mission.

If I write any more on the story, it will probably be observations regarding tactics and the psychology of violence.

Church Shootings Update

I watched one news report that referred to the security officer who killed the attacker as she. Also, here is a comment from the waronguns blog:

The pastor told a group of news reporters, as reported on Fox News this morning, that the woman who stopped the murderer was a member of the church, with a concealed carry permit, using her own personal firearm, serving as an unpaid volunteer.

I pray that she is a believer, that she is handling it well, and that the media & public will treat her well. Especially when the news gurus start painting the murderer she stopped as a pathetic victim.

Of Shootings and Sheepdogs

You have, no doubt, seen or heard about the murder of three people and the wounding of several others in yesterday's attacks on a Youth With A Mission training center and New Life Church in Colorado. In two articles that I've read, the shooter at the first attack was described as wearing a "skull cap" or a "beanie". I'm sure further reports will indicate if there is religious significance to this headgear.

Kudos to the security guard at New Life Church who stopped the killing spree by killing the attacker. I don't know if he is a Christian, but I pray for him as he deals with the aftermath of yesterday's tragedy (perhaps a better word for it is travesty). I hope he gets the right kind of counseling, because he'll have to deal with both the praise and the criticism, and as private security, he won't have the same support network as the police.

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle elicited this incredible criticism in its comments section:

The article mentioned that, at the New Life megachurch, the gunman "...was confronted by an armed church security guard, who shot and killed him." For mercy's sake, what sort "church" needs armed security guards ?! I'm a regular church-goer in a mainline denomination, and I find that to be almost as disturbing as the shooting itself.

What sort of church needs security? The sort where a gunman walks up and starts killing people. And if this blind ideologue thinks her church is immune because it's in a mainline denomination that spouts humanist, antinomian garbage, she should think again. This variety of gunman could strike at any institution he perceives as offensive -- even the milquetoast variety peopled by little old ladies of both sexes.

If you want to understand something about the New Life Church/Columbine/postal rage shootings, you might want to pick up a copy of Dan Korem's Rage of the Random Actor. The author used to be known as a Christian illusionist and sleight-of-hand artist, but now has a reputation in the law enforcement community (including the FBI) as the one who developed the profile for this kind of shooter. It's a different profile from the mugger/rapist/holdup artist.

The title of Korem's book may mislead some, because "random actor" does not mean that the violence or its target is random. The randomness refers to the radical nonconformity common to those who commit such acts. The very essence of the book is to lay out a profile to identify potential "random actors" and to lead them to change. As a bonus, Rage of the Random Actor does not attempt to hide the author's Christian beliefs and convictions.

This book would serve as an upper level text in the Christian Martialist's study of violent behavior. It would also give great insight for Christian counselors to identify and help those unhappy people who have the potential to become shooters. In this day of religious terrorism and anti-Christian sentiment, an ounce of prevention may not be worth a squad of armed guards, but it may help.

Well, it's unlikely that your church or mine is going to hire armed security officers anytime soon. Does that leave your church vulnerable and undefended? If your answer is, "Yes," you need to find your church a sheepdog . . . or become one.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Psalm 91

Psalm 91 is a song that seems good to sing on the eve of battle. I can see and hear God's warriors singing this on the march that takes them toward the enemy's camp.

To me, the sonorous melody and insistent -- almost ponderous -- LM rhythm of Old 100th ("The Doxology") in combination with these words evokes a mental image of an advancing band of men not to be trifled with.

 1  The man who once has found abode
Within the secret place of God,
Shall with Almighty God abide,
And in his shadow safely hide.

2 I of the Lord my God will say,
He is my refuge and my stay;
To him for safety I will flee;
My God, in him my trust shall be.

3 He shall with all protecting care
Preserve thee from the fowler's snare;
When fearful plagues around prevail,
No fatal stroke shall thee assail.

4 His outspread pinions shall thee hide;
Beneath his wings shalt thou confide;
His faithfulness shall ever be
A shield and buckler unto thee.

5 No nightly terrors shall alarm,
No deadly shaft by day shall harm,
Nor pestilence that walks by night,
Nor plagues that waste in noon-day light.

6 A thousand at thy side shall lie,
At thy right hand ten thousand die
But thou unharmed, secure, shalt see
What wicked men's reward shall be.

7 Because thy trust is God alone,
Thy dwelling-place the Highest One,
No evil shall upon thee come,
Nor plague approach thy guarded home.

8 O'er thee his angels he commands,
To bear thee safely in their hands;
To keep thee in thy ways each one,
Nor dash thy foot against a stone.

9 Thy foot shall crush the adder's head,
On lions and on dragons tread;
And since on me he set his love,
I Will his constant Savior prove.

10 Because to him my name is dear,
I'll him exalt above all fear.
To me he'll lift his earnest cry,
And I will answer from on high.

11 I will be near when troubles press;
I'll save him, and with honors bless;
With life he satisfied shall be,
And my salvation he shall see.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Best Self Defense System, 3

By now I hope you're eagerly awaiting (or at least mildly interested in) the answer to the question, "How close has he come to discovering or synthesizing 'The Best Defense System'?" The answer is that I think I'm a lot closer now than I was a year ago, and I was a lot closer a year ago than I was nine years ago. That, of course does not give you the explicit answer that you were expecting, so let's move on the specifics.

Biblical Philosophy and Worldview as applied to self defense:

Biblical philosophy and worldview topics have been my life's study. I have even written a book (still a work in progress, although published) that articulates a Methodology based on the Reformed presuppositional epistemology as enunciated by Cornelius Van Til . . . and made comprehensible to those who think in English by Greg Bahnsen.

It has been a delight to combine my calling as a sheepdog with my calling as a theologue. (It would feel it presumptuous to call myself a theologian.) I have tried to analyze the root issues of self defense from a Biblically theological perspective, and I think have been sufficiently successful to say that I can teach self defense issues within the context of a truly Christian worldview.

Mindset and Psychology:

I have made a study of the psychology of violent people and the psychology of victims of violence. This is an unsettling and depressing area of study, but some Christian has to do it, Bible in hand, so that we can know what to expect from an assailant as well as from ourselves. A thorough understanding the anatomy of violence can help you avoid 95% of potentially violent situations and better equip you to deal with the other 5%.

For example, there are certain "pre-incident indicators of violence" that Gavin DeBecker lists in The Gift of Fear. A student of self defense needs to know these, because forewarned is fore-armed. In addition, when confronted by imminent violence, many people try to find refuge in denial. There are practical training measures that can help to erase this self-destructive mechanism. I believe that I have a grasp of this and other issues that will elevate my approach to self-defense way above the average.

Adrenaline Stress Conditioning:

To protect yourself adequately, you must make your adrenaline surge serve you rather than master you. I am aware of the breath-control technique as taught in Col. Dave Grossman's On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace and by many martial artists. There are other training factors covered in On Combat and in books like Real Fighting by Peyton Quinn, a pioneer in the field of adrenaline stress conditioning.

Utilization of the Startle Reflex:

Most martial arts still teach as though the Startle Response either does not exist or can be extinguished with sufficient practice. Even if it were possible, it would not be wise. You can check my posts on this topic to judge whether my views on this reflex have viable self defense applications.

Use of Methods that are Simple, Effective and Based on Gross Motor Skills:

Under stress, the first thing that goes is fine control of the muscles. A burst of adrenaline trades off complex motor skills in favor of speed and strength. For that reason, the core of The Best Self Defense system should consist of methods based on gross motor skills. Those are the skills incorporated into the WWII systems of Fairbairn, Applegate, Nelson, Perrigard, Underwood and others. Those are the skills I have isolated and included in my book, 12 US Military Combat Techniques That Could Save Your Life. They are simple, direct, relatively easy to learn and brutally effective. Nothing fancy, just the efficient, biomechanical application of force.

There are more criteria to consider in my quest for The Best Self Defense System, but I've rambled on enough for today. I will have to continue this topic in another post. Suffice it to say that I have not succeeded in finding and/or incorporating into my own personal self defense system every factor necessary to meet my criteria -- not yet, anyway. Maybe next time we'll talk about what's lacking & how close I am to attaining my goals.

Continued in "The Best Self Defense System, 4".

The Best Self Defense System, 2

In yesterday's post, I laid out my criteria for "The Best Self Defense System". In case you're wondering, I left out a mention of firearms, because they constitute a whole parallel mode of training which would include close-combat handgun, mid & longer range handgun, tactical shotgun and rifle (iron-sights-range & optical-sights-range). As you can see, firearms training requires a separate system of its own.

I focus on unarmed close quarters combat (CQC) because it is primary. My jujitsu instructor, Mr. Henry, once told me, "First, learn to use your hands, because if someone is no good with his hands, he won't be any good with a weapon, either." I believe this applies to sticks and knives, AND to a certain degree, to close-combat handgunning as well.

Mindset issues like alertness and aggressiveness carry over from open hand to firearm usage, too. Not only that, but psychological techniques for controlling adrenaline stress and overcoming denial, for example, would also transfer from unarmed to armed conflict.

I also insist on the necessity for good CQC training for another reason: many -- although by no means all -- firearms training focuses on the mechanics of developing shooting skills rather than on preparing for the actual shooting confrontation. While marksmanship is foundational, it takes more than a good range score to prevail in a shootout.

Then, too, a firearm is a lethal weapon. Thus, even if you only wound your attacker -- or even if you just shoot the ground at his feet, the courts count that as the use of lethal force. Most potentially violent situations require less-than-lethal force. So, while the weight of your favorite revolver or pistol in the small of your back can be a great comfort on a dark night, you need a much broader spectrum of force to satisfy both the civil courts and Biblical ethical standards.

Finally, I want to tell you about an experience that has happened to many martial artists, including me. In conversation it comes up that you train in a martial art. Someone listening in pipes up with a remark like, "I don't need jujitsu, all I need is my .38," or, "You can't karate chop a slug from a .45."

Then you say, "Oh, wow! Show me your .45 (or .38, or Glock, or whatever). Where is it?

And he replies, "At home (or, in my car, or . . . etc.)." Sadly, this little exchange goes right over a lot of these guys' heads. But the fact remains, you do not have a firearm on your person every moment of every day. And if it's just out of reach at the wrong moment, it might as well be a mile away.

Therefore, I assert the necessity for every Christian Martialist to develop competence in both unarmed and armed self defense.

To be continued in "The Best Self Defense System, 3".

Friday, December 7, 2007

"The Best Self Defense System"

It is as common for people new to the martial arts to ask which one is best as it is for seasoned martial artists to argue the same question. I originally became interested in the martial arts as a means of self defense. As a youngster who craved the power to stop beatings by bigger, older boys, I collected martial arts and self defense ads from magazines.

I daydreamed over promises to turn my "body into a killing machine in 24 hours." Many years later, when I enrolled in a traditional karate school, reality intruded itself upon fantasy. A lot of what you find in the martial arts realm can be adapted and applied to self defense, but the real purpose of the Eastern arts is to serve as a vehicle for teaching the principles and discipline of Buddhism.

Some Westerners and a few -- like Bruce Lee -- from the East have tried to separate out the fighting principles from their traditional context, with varying degrees of success. I just find most of them lacking in one way or another. Don't get me wrong, here, because I wouldn't want to go mano a mano with many of those practitioners. It's just that their systems don't meet my criteria for "the best".

Here are my criteria for The Best Self Defense System:
  • You can assimilate it into a Christian Worldview, and I'm not talking about just inserting a few Bible verses into the training sessions, or sewing a (yech!) "Smile, Jesus Loves You" patch on the uniforms -- I'm talking about a fundamental interpretation of everything that's done in terms of Scripture, including theonomic ethics & a Book-of-Psalms mindset;
  • You work with, rather than against, normal human reflexes and instincts;
  • You learn levels of force from mild control to lethal;
  • You depend on gross motor skills that can be performed under adrenaline stress conditions;
  • You learn to control adrenaline & operate under conditions of stress;
  • Women or elderly can use it effectively against larger, stronger attackers;
  • You can learn to use it, even if you're not athletic;
  • You train realistically, including the kind of clothing/footwear you would likely be wearing during an attack (not canvas pajamas & bare feet);
  • You use the same skill set for empty hand and for edged & impact weapons;
  • You train for the chaotic realities of combat and not the "if he does that, you do this" teaching you find in most martial arts;
  • You can acquire a practical level of competence in weeks or months, rather than years;
  • You need only occasional practice to retain skill level (although the true Christian Martialist will practice often to hone his craft);
  • Oh, yes, -- and it must REALLY WORK.
There . . . that's not asking too much, is it? Perhaps I should take a little inventory of what I have found so far, in my quest for The Best Self Defense System. Maybe I'll do that in the next post, DV.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

More Warrior Fitness

I want to share with you one little part of my personal program for warrior fitness. This is both a calisthenic and a practice drill. It comes from the book Arwrology: All Out Hand-to-Hand Fighting by Gordon E. Perrigard, M.D. It's called "Knee Blow Psycho Physical Calisthenics".

First, the physical part (pp. 39-40):

Stand at attention and stretch your arms straight out in front of you.

Suddenly bring your left knee as high as you can toward your left hand. Then step forward and down with your left foot.

Then bring your right knee high as you can and with all the force you can muster. Bring it up towards your right hand.

Then step forward with your right leg. Then left knee blow, left step forward, right knee blow, right step forward, left knee blow, and so on.

I do this in my bedroom, so there's not much room to step forward. I also found that if I try to hold my hands straight out, I will unconsciously cheat by bringing my arms down to meet my knees, so I clamp my elbows to my side with my forearms straight to the front. This allows for a good slap of my knee against the forearm, which lets me gauge how much snap I'm putting into the action.

If your obliques are weak or flabby, you'll feel it in your midsection until you firm up. But, as I said, this is a training drill as well as a calisthenic. That's where the psychological part comes in (p. 41):

Every time you strike your knees up, think of giving mighty knee blows up at your enemy's stomach or crotch. And in actual fighting, keep your knees driving into your opponent at every opportunity.

Perrigard was a Canadian physician who wrote Arwrology as a manual for military and civilians during WWII. He combined his medical expertise, including his understanding of physiology and biomechanics with his interest in jiujitsu to craft a combat system similar to that of W.E. Fairbairn. The advantage to Perrigard's work is that, if you're looking for a complete self-instructional system of close quarters combat (fitness, drills, techniques, etc.), you'll find it packaged between the covers of Arwrology. I'm not saying that there aren't some aspects of the program that couldn't benefit from more recent developments, but I'm saying that it's a complete system in itself that has a lot proven and effective components.

Warrior Fitness

Thanksgiving delivered us right into Advent, which means the holidays are upon us, and warrior fitness becomes a concern. Warriors are renowned for their prowess at the table. Eating and drinking are are simple pleasures of life -- gifts from God -- well savored by those who live in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Nevertheless, I am concerned about my own fitness as a warrior in these coming days. Normally, I limit my white flour & refined sugar intake to one day a week, but I do make occasional exceptions, and the week from Nativity (Christmas to the prevailing culture) to New Year's day is the big one. If I'm going to celebrate the birth of my King, I'm going to do it heartily. That's why it's so important for me to continue my exercise program through the holy-days (holidays to the prevailing culture).

I have put together a good strength & fitness program for myself, which I have developed slowly over more than a year. I make changes and additions slowly and deliberately, and my program has begun to make some measurable changes in me over the past two or three months. I don't want to lose that, so it's important that I stay motivated over the next few weeks.

I'm on the email list of two or three fitness gurus, and I think I found a potential motivator in an email I received this morning. It invited me to sign up for a "Twelve Days of Fitness giveaway" starting December 10th. For 12 days, you get email links to PDF, audio & video downloads from an army of fitness pros.

Of course, it's a marketing strategy to expose you to their fitness information products, but there's no need to buy. And if they start sending me unsolicited emails, I'll just flag them as spam. My main reason for receiving these is not to alter or replace my present warrior fitness program (which is working well for me).

I'm doing this for exposure to a mindset that will encourage me to persevere. I also hope to see some new ideas & techniques that I might selectively use to add to or vary my routine. If you're interested in finding a little extra motivation to warrior fitness, you might want to check out this link to "The Twelve Days of Fitness".

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

FBI Report

An FBI report entitled Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation’s Law Enforcement Officers reveals some sobering facts about violent criminals in America. The 5-year study reveals that the typical violent predators (orcs) may have a skill set and a mindset superior to many, if not most law enforcement officers.

Although the FBI will not release the report to the general public, you may view a synopsis of one chapter at the Force Science News (all quotes are from this article). The synopsis tells about the level of weapons training among orcs:

Nearly 40% of the offenders had some type of formal firearms training, primarily from the military. More than 80% “regularly practiced with handguns, averaging 23 practice sessions a year,” the study reports, usually in informal settings like trash dumps, rural woods, back yards and “street corners in known drug-trafficking areas.”

By way of contrast, the article points out, "victim officers in the study averaged just 14 hours of sidearm training and 2.5 qualifications per year. " The article makes the point that the officers did not die because they were "outgunned" as the media like to assert. The average orc does not select a weapon on any other criterion than what's available.

The study indicates that orcs outdistance officers in actual combat experience, as well:

More than 40% of the offenders had been involved in actual shooting confrontations before they feloniously assaulted an officer. Ten of these “street combat veterans,” all from “inner-city, drug-trafficking environments,” had taken part in 5 or more “criminal firefight experiences” in their lifetime.

One reported that he was 14 when he was first shot on the street, “about 18 before a cop shot me.” Another said getting shot was a pivotal experience “because I made up my mind no one was gonna shoot me again.”

Again in contrast, only 8 of the 50 LEO victims had participated in a prior shooting; 1 had been involved in 2 previously, another in 3. Seven of the 8 had killed offenders.

Orcs tend to prefer instinctive point-shooting to actual sight alignment in a gunfight, and the FBI report indicates that it works for them.

More often than the officers they attacked, offenders delivered at least some rounds on target in their encounters. Nearly 70% of assailants were successful in that regard with handguns, compared to about 40% of the victim officers, the study found.

My final quote from the Force Science News summary of the FBI report gives you an idea of the violent predators' mindset compared to that of the officers they shot.

Thirty-six of the 50 officers in the study had “experienced hazardous situations where they had the legal authority” to use deadly force “but chose not to shoot.” They averaged 4 such prior incidents before the encounters that the researchers investigated. “It appeared clear that none of these officers were willing to use deadly force against an offender if other options were available,” the researchers concluded.

The offenders were of a different mind-set entirely. In fact, Davis said the study team “did not realize how cold blooded the younger generation of offender is. They have been exposed to killing after killing, they fully expect to get killed and they don’t hesitate to shoot anybody, including a police officer. They can go from riding down the street saying what a beautiful day it is to killing in the next instant.”

So, righteous warrior, how's your skill set coming along? How about your mindset? I hope you feel motivated. I know I do.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Startle Response, 3

In my first "Startle Response" post, I mentioned a couple of instructors who claim to incorporate the Startle Response into their self-defense programs. One of them is Tony Blauer of Tactical Systems. I got the idea of checking to see if I could find any clips of him on youtube, and I'm glad I did.

I cannot vouch for his whole system, but what I saw was right on target. It comes from a seminar for police officers. I must warn you, however, that the clips contain scatological and other vulgarisms. Minor children reading this blog should have a parent preview the videos beforehand. You can click to see the video on Startle Response here. The video on pre-contact cues follows that one, and it expands & illustrates the concept (same caveats apply).

These videos are just a small part of a complete system. If the rest is this good, I'd say, "Go for it." But I haven't seen the rest of Tony Blauer's system, so I'll have to settle for a cautiously optimistic, tentative & limited approval of the Tactical Systems approach.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Final Update on Mrs Smid

I received word that, with help from the Swiss embassy, Mrs. Het Smid is safely back in South Africa.

Startle Response, 2

As I look back at my first "Startle Response" post, I realize that I was trying to cover too much ground in too little space. Maybe I'll write a booklet on the topic, so I can take the time and space to expand & explain. In the meantime, I will try to illustrate the usefulness of the Startle Response with a personal example.

I worked for 9 years as a security officer in a medical facility in another state. At that time, the Emergency Room (ER) staff followed the practice of calling security to the scene whenever the police brought someone in for treatment. One night, I received a call to the ER, as I had many times before.

Two officers had brought the subject, a white male of probably 35-40 yrs, in for treatment of minor injuries sustained in the scuffle when he resisted arrest. One officer was in the exam room with the subject, while the other was off chatting with some nurses. I stationed myself just outside the exam room door, facing the officer & his prisoner.

We carried no firearms, but we did have the Monadnock PR-24 side handle baton, and we took annual certification classes in its use. I had slipped mine out of the ring and had it in my right hand with the long extended portion snugly against the ulnar side of my forearm. The baton was hidden from the prisoner's view by the door frame.

The prisoner sat on an exam table while the officer half-sat half-leaned on another small table in the room. Near the exam table sat a heavy stool, used by physicians. It was made of steel & oak, and it weighed between thirty and forty pounds.

Experience has taught me that I'm the kind of person to whom folks take either an immediate liking or disliking. Evidently, this prisoner fell into the "disliking" category. He sat quietly on the exam table for several minutes, watching, biding his time, and then he sprang into action.

In one smooth move, he came off the exam table, snatched up the stool and brought the edge of its inch-and-a-half oak seat straight down toward my head. It made a dull "thok" sound as it impacted against my baton. I'd had no time to think; both arms were "just there" raised above my head, the protected right arm absorbing the shock, the left hand grasping the stool to gain control of the improvised weapon.

What saved my skull from being crushed like an eggshell? Was it the reflexive startle response? Yes, partly. Was it training? Yes, partly. Was it mindset? Again, yes, partly. (Was it Providence? Yes, entirely!)

Mindset kept me from being lulled, like the police officer, into a complacent state of mind. He did not move from his position until after I was trying to wrest control of the stool from the subject. I won't fault him -- it happens to the best of us (and some of the best die because of it).

Reflex supplied the immediate response of the initial movement. My arms came up convulsively and involuntarily. Then training took over as I continued to bring up my arms and blocked the blow.

Thus, the Startle Response does not form the whole of one's self-defense preparation. It is, however, the cornerstone for everything that comes after it.
I will give you a link to a free video resource in Startle Response, 3

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Psalm 2

I love Psalm 2. There's no hint of the namby-pamby begging that passes for evangelism today. None of the please-come-to-Jesus-because-He'll-feel-so-bad-if-you-don't kind of pleading that you hear from some preachers. The conclusion of this Psalm is clear and uncompromising: acknowledge God's Anointed (Christ) as your King or be broken in pieces.

(It is not our assignment to break them, but to warn them of that doom should they persist in their rebellion.) Moreover, the Christian Martialist must never forget that he serves under the discipline and at the good pleasure of his King. I like to sing this Psalm to the tune St. Anne (Our God, Our Help in Ages Past).

   1  Why rage the heathen? and vain things
why do the people mind?
2 Kings of the earth do set themselves,
and princes are combined,
      To plot against the Lord, and his
Anointed, saying thus,
3 Let us asunder break their bands,
and cast their cords from us.
   4  He that in heaven sits shall laugh;
the Lord shall scorn them all.
5 Then shall he speak to them in wrath,
in rage he vex them shall.
   6  Yet, notwithstanding, I have him
to be my King appointed;
And over Zion, my holy hill,
I have him King anointed.
   7  The sure decree I will declare:
The Lord hath said to me,
Thou art mine only Son; this day
I have begotten thee.
   8  Ask of me, and for heritage
the heathen I'll make thine;
And, for possession, I to thee
will give earth's utmost line.
   9  Thou shalt, as with a weighty rod
of iron, break them all;
And, as a potter's shard, thou shalt
them dash in pieces small.
  10  Now therefore, kings, be wise; be taught,
ye judges of the earth:
11 Serve God in fear, and see that ye
join trembling with your mirth.
  12  Kiss ye the Son, lest in his ire
ye perish from the way,
If once his wrath begin to burn:
blessed all that on him stay.

Het Smid Update

I received an email from RC with this news about Mrs Het Smid:

Mrs. Smid is in an South African Embassy. They planned to have her on a plane at 6PM our time tonight and out of Sudan. Mrs. Smid should be in another East African country by the time school opens tomorrow.
Please continue to pray for her safety.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Startle Response

Startle Response: "BOO! Scared ya; hahahahahaha. . . ." You're most likely to hear that from bratty little folk who want to take control over other people by making them jump. No doubt you've had it done to you, and (admit it) you've probably done it to someone else at some time or other.

That little jump or start (as in, "You gave me a start,") is called the startle response. It causes the eyes to blink and the arm and leg muscles to contract convulsively. It happens very quickly (e.g., eyeblink response in 21-75 milliseconds).

Repeated exposure to startling stimuli can even train you to anticipate the startle response. On the shooting range, we call it flinch.

You can learn to consciously eliminate a flinch because the flinch itself is a learned response. And there are those who claim to have overcome the startle response, but there is some controversy over whether that is really possible, since it is a reflex, and also since a small percentage of the population have a very weak or even no startle response to begin with.

Until recently, researchers associated startle response only with loud noises or visual stimuli such as sudden movements toward the face. A 2001 study at the University of Toronto, however, demonstrated "that startle is best evoked when noises are combined with tactile stimuli . . . ." This led to the conclusion: ". . . that the primary role of the startle reflex is to defend the body against strong impact stimuli, not noises."

Therefore, the startle response has a key role to play in self defense. Rather than try to extinguish this response that's hardwired into us from before birth, we need to ask how we can understand it and cooperate with it in our defense training. Let's begin by taking a look at the startle response at its fullest expression.

When fully startled, you will go into a partial crouch (leg contractions), bring the head down (rounding the back & protecting the vital organs) and bring your hands up to the sides of your face (hands protect the head & elbows protect vital organs). This is your base for self protection, and it's automatic.

In self defense training, it is best to practice a ready stance very close to that of the startle response. With hands open, raise them -- palms facing away from you -- to chest level. Elbows should be against the ribs. This is a position someone might naturally assume when trying to calm an angry, aggressive person. I can hear him saying, "Okay, okay, can't we just talk about it?"

This position readies you to go into the defensive Startle Response Posture (SRP). Your body is almost there, but not quite. This will shorten your response time. (As an aside, some combat pistol trainers acknowledge the SRP and teach their students to fire from the "combat crouch" posititon.)

When you deem it necessary to assume a ready stance, we may conclude that you are in a situation of perceived danger. This means that you will already have some level of adrenaline coursing in your veins. That's good because, as one study found, ". . . threatening situations or fearful experiences have a powerful augmenting influence on the startle response." Your automatic response will not only be quicker, but the adrenaline will enable you to launch your counterattack directly from the SRP with ferocity.

Rather than try to resist or extinguish the startle response, I believe it will be much more productive to train yourself to launch palm heel strikes, judo chops, elbows and low kicks from the SRP. This is something that most martial arts and self defense programs do not teach. I do, however, own a 2-video set of a self defense system that actually begins every move from the startle response.

I might tweak the final product a little here or there, but overall, it's better than a lot of what passes for self defense training. It's called "Self Defense by the Numbers." It was produced by Century Martial Arts, but it's no longer available." It probably never caught on because it was based in real-world simplicity with no bells, whistles or flashy techniques. You may be able to find old VHS copies on eBay.

There are a couple of other systems that build on the startle reflex, and although they have good reputations, I have never really examined their products, so I won't mention them here.

Bottom line: train the basics & integrate them into the SRP.
I will continue this discussion in Startle Response, 2

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Sheep Threatened

I received an email from RC this morning about a sheep threatened. It's a matter for prayer, and I think it's appropriate for this venue, because the Christian Martialist does not ultimately wrestle against flesh and blood.

It concerns a sister in Christ from South Africa, "who was simply taking up an opportunity to make some extra money and live out her life as a Christian—teaching in a Muslim school—and that in the Sudan." She is Mrs. Het Smid, and here is her story:

Recently, Mrs. Smid took a job teaching at a school in the Sudan. While instructing the children in what to do after they finished their recess time, she inadvertently stepped on a prayer rug.

Now, the children are instructed to pray at this time also but forgot. So they hastily took their prayer rugs to a location where they were not normally located. Mrs. Smid did not realize this and when she looked for them to call them back to class; she stepped on one of the rugs.

At that moment, an Imam saw her standing on the rug. He was furious. He told her that there was already one teacher in prison and that she would be next to go to prison. (You may know that a teacher from England was recently sent to prison for allowing her class to vote on a name for a teddy bear. The name was Mohammad. This happened in a different school in the Sudan.)

In Mrs. Smid's case, the principal (who did not show much respect for her from the time she arrived), actually stood up for her and explained the matter to the Imam.

For the moment, the problem has passed and Mrs. Smid is in the clear. That is call for praise. But knowing the volatility of such situations, continued prayer is requested.

Mrs. Smid is planning on returning home to South Africa at Christmas. She is not planning on returning to the Sudan.

If you have a moment to pray for her, it would be appreciated.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rearing Faithful Warriors

I grew up with WWII (that's World War 2, not World War 11 as one elementary teacher was overheard saying to her class at a museum). Actually, I was a postwar baby, but my dad had been in the war, as had the fathers of many of my friends & classmates. Therefore, I grew up with WWII.

I saw Stalag 17 at the drive-in theater with my folks, and To Hell and Back at the movie theater. On Sunday afternoons, we watched Victory at Sea and documentaries using newsreel footage about the rise and fall of Hitler and Mussolini. We also watched the TV series Combat and every war movie that came on television.

There was a balance in it all, too. My dad never glorified war, because he had been in it. And the documentaries showed the horrors of bodies stacked like cordwood, of Japanese soldiers burying Chinese civilians alive, of Mussolini hanging dead by his feet in the public square. This helped to temper with reality the exhilarating sense of adventure boys feel when doing imaginary battle against evil forces.

But, battle we did. And military surplus items helped to fire our imaginations. One Christmas my brother and I found gas masks among our gifts. Then there were the army canteens & web belts. I could only gaze with covetous eyes upon the bayonets & dummy grenades owned by guys I knew. Yes, I grew up with WWII.

That war is pretty much confined to the history books and the minds of ill-informed public school teachers, now. (World War 11? Good Grief!) Therefore, you can imagine how it piqued my nostalgia when I found out that the home-education supplier Vision Forum has some neat military surplus items being marketed for boys to play with.

As a youngster, I would have prized one of the WWII style tin-pot helmets. I can picture a Christian Martialist stenciling a Celtic cross on one of these to remind his son whose soldier he is. The site also has ammo belts, canteens, dummy pineapple grenades, a DVD of Gary Cooper's Sergeant York, and more.

Thanks to Vision Forum for making these and other adventuresome items available to young Christian Martialists-in-the-making. May we rear faithful warriors in part by encouraging the kind of play that stirs their imaginations to engage the forces of evil in righteous battle.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Revolutionary War Vets?

I think I just discovered that Project Appleseed (see my post, "Rifle Shooting Techniques") exists under the broader umbrella of the Revolutionary War Veterans Association. The RWVA also has an arm called Liberty's Price. (Thanks to DLR for sending me the updated links.)

It seems that the organization has recently undergone growing pains and a crisis regarding its overall purpose. (The details may be buried in forum posts somewhere on the site[s].) Nevertheless, as far as I can gather from a short perusal, the RWVA looks back to the days of the minutemen, when virtually every American had the skills of a rifleman. Its purpose seems to be to encourage today's Americans to, once again, become riflemen.

The Project Appleseed arm pursues this mission by holding Appleseed shooting events in which aspiring riflemen seek to achieve an "expert" ranking. The course consists of firing at a man-size target at 500 yds. from the standing, sitting and prone positions.

The Liberty's Price branch of the movement describes its mission as follows:

Liberty's Price is a meeting ground that will focus on broader areas of rifle and pistol training and related skills, other areas of interest relating to preserving Liberty, and politcal [sic]activism. Liberty's Price is not associated with any specific group, but will strive to support and assist all who work to preserve Liberty.

I encourage the Christian Martialist to learn all he can from such organizations and to get the training he needs wherever he can lawfully and legitimately find it. Also, enjoy the fellowship of people who unapologetically pursue the mastery of firearms. But in doing so, remember that a non-Christian, inclusive organization will interpret our heritage as Christians and as Americans differently than we do. And, although our agenda may agree at many points with theirs,we will ultimately have to diverge in order to remain faithful to our calling.

In the RWVA you will find many good neighbors. Love thy neighbor (and let him know you serve Christ, the King). You will also find some brothers. Love the brotherhood (and share with him your vision and mission). Participate joyfully, but let your participation be an extension of your calling, rather than a distraction from it.

. . . oh, wait a minute. I never really spelled out the vision/mission/calling part, did I? Hmmmm. Could this be fodder for another post?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Adrenaline Stress

Adrenaline stress can be your most potent natural ally or your biggest hindrance in a crisis. Last night I was reminded of the significance of the adrenaline rush -- both of mine and that of the police officer who was prepared to gun me down.

I was on my way home from work. It was a little foggy, and I was holding my speed about 5mph under the limit. I saw the police car parked in the center lane and figured no problem, as my speed was reasonable for the conditions.

The cruiser pulled out behind me, though, and about 3/4 of a mile later, he turned on his blue & white lights. Mild adrenaline stress (for both of us?) I braked and pulled over, took out my driver's license and made sure my hands were on the wheel, in plain sight (this is both a courtesy to the officer and a self-preservation measure).

"Good evening, sir."
"Good evening, officer."
"South Carolina law requires that your license tag be illuminated and visible from 50 feet. Did you know your tag light is out?"
"No, I didn't."
"May I see your vehicle information?" My registration & insurance card were in the glove box.
"Officer, I want you to know that there is a firearm in my glove compartment."
"What kind . . . uh, do you have a concealed carry permit?"
"No, I do not." (South Carolina law allows any citizen -- other than convicted felons -- to carry a loaded firearm in the glove box of his/her vehicle.) He indicated that I should retrieve my registration & insurance card, and I did so slowly and deliberately.

"Please step out of the vehicle and go to the rear." Who dropped that cold icicle down my collar? I can feel it the length of my spine. Adrenaline stress! I'm about to be cuffed and hauled to the county lockup.
"Officer, has South Carolina law changed with regard to . . . ?"
"No sir. You are allowed to carry a weapon in your car. This is just for officer safety." Relief. Then, I realized that my registration was not with my insurance information. It must still be in the glove box. The deputy says it's okay; he'll just run my plate number.

I stand in the cruiser's headlights. The adrenaline has nowhere to go, other than to my nerves. Then I look up, and I see the deputy's backup. He's standing in the darkness on the passenger-side of the police car. His sidearm is drawn, and in the dark his posture reminds me of a cat ready to spring. Adrenaline stress (this time for both of us, I'm sure).

I want to look casual, so I slip my right hand in my pocket. Wrong move! Now I remove it slowly and let it hang, empty and open at my side. I'm in the headlights, so I know the backup deputy with the gun sees me looking at him. What's going through his mind? The other deputy returns with a written warning & suggests I see about getting the lights fixed. (I repaired the broken wires right after our walk, this morning.)

Surprisingly, I had no trouble getting to sleep after I got home. I evidently had had enough control to keep adrenaline dump small, and the subsequent stress minimal. As I reflected on it this morning, though, I realized that a tag light out could mean a stolen vehicle. Here's an officer who doesn't know me from Adam's off ox, and he radios for backup: "Possible stolen vehicle, firearm involved."

Put that together with the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in the upstate in recent years, and you've got an officer under adrenaline stress, with weapon drawn ready to shoot someone . . . to kill someone -- and that someone was me. The officers acted like the professionals they are, and I acted with due deference and an understanding of the potential violence that these men have chosen to live with day after day.

The ability to react with control under stress requires both technique and experience (practice). Adrenaline stress management is as important to the Christian Martialist as it is to any police officer or member of the armed forces. That's why, D.V., you'll see more about in posts to come.

I do wonder, though, if either officer was constipated this morning.

Combat Fitness

I have put off writing about combat fitness because I'm not a very good example, but this was not always so. Shortly after we moved to South Carolina, I was taking an evening stroll down a not-very-well-lit street in Easley, SC, when a black dude standing on a porch with some Latinos called out to me to wait up. I was hesitant and on my guard when he approached. As we walked, I kept a half step behind and to his right while he explained what was going on.

It seems that he & the Latinos had a disagreement about his interest in a certain Mexican female. He said they were about to carve him up, when he saw me coming and told them, "He's my bodyguard." Well, that was nine years ago, and I don't think my physique would impress (let alone intimidate) anyone, today. But I've been working on it by slowly building a combat fitness program that will get me back in shape.

For over a year I've been doing an exercise that not only firms the obliques, but also provides a cardio boost, not unlike that from a short sprint. Then, about three months ago, I started doing some exercises from the book Pushing Yourself to Power by John E. Peterson. The workouts require no equipment, and they really do build muscle.

In addition, when I began working the afternoon shift, Laura & I started walking each morning before breakfast. We are gradually adding to the distance. Finally, I've added a couple of isometric exercises that I do twice a week.

One isometric I do is a half-squat braced against the wall. Perhaps I'll give a more detailed description at another time. I also do an isometric pull-up routine that has helped me with upper body strength. There's a video by John E. Peterson on youtube that demonstrates how they are done (Don't tell anyone, but I don't hold the positions for a full minute -- not yet, anyway). I don't have a pull-up bar, but I do have an extension ladder, and if I lean it against the side of our porch, I can move the base farther out or closer in to adjust the rungs to the proper height.

Each time I've added another phase to my combat fitness regimen, I've felt the difference physically. The strategy I've found most helpful is to take "baby steps". That is, to add one small element at a time -- something I feel comfortable about doing for the rest of my life.

But, in the final analysis, we all need to recognize that combat fitness comprises just one aspect of the Christian Martialist's preparation. For bodily exercise profiteth [a] little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. (I Timothy 4:8)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Psalm 144

Psalm 144 is one of my favorites. I picture David looking across the field the night before a great battle. In 24 hours, the battlefield will be littered with corpses, will smell of blood and will echo with the moans of the dying.

First, he blesses the God who has equipped him as a warrior. Then, he muses over the disgust God must have with those whose sinful hearts create the horror of war. What is man that thou art mindful of him? Then he calls upon God to come and miraculously defeat the enemy, to deliver David from the carnage and death of just this one battle.

Then, finally, he remembers why he fights. It is to preserve and protect the sons and daughters of the covenant, that they may live and flourish and prosper in the land given to them by the covenant Lord. And, finally, David ends, as he began, with a word of blessing.

Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD.

This song is for all the sheepdogs out there who follow Christ. I like to sing it to Azmon (usually, the C.M tune setting for "O, for a Thousand Tongues")
   1  Blest be the Lord my strength, that doth
instruct my hands to fight;
The Lord that doth my fingers frame
to battle by his might.
   2  He is my hope, my fort, and tow'r,
deliverer and shield;
In him I trust, my people he
subdues to me to yield.
   3  O Lord, what thing is man, that him
thou dost so highly prize!
Or son of man, that upon him
thou thinkest in such wise!
   4  Man is but like to vanity,
so pass his days to end,
As fleeting shade. Bow down, O Lord,
the heav'ns, and thence descend;
   5  The mountains touch, and they shall smoke,
cast forth thy lightning's flame,
And scatter them; thy arrows shoot,
consume them with the same.
   6  Send down thy hand from heav'n above,
O Lord, deliver me;
Take me from waters great, from hand
of strangers set me free;
   7  Whose subtle mouth of vanity
with flatt'ring words doth treat,
And their right-hand is a right-hand
of falsehood and deceit.
   8  A new song will I sing to thee,
O God the Lord most high,
And on a ten-stringed lute also
praise thee most joyfully.
   9  E'en he it is that only gives
deliverance to kings;
Unto his servant David help
from hurtful sword he brings;
  10  From strangers' hand me save and shield,
whose mouth talks vanity,
And their right-hand is a right-hand
of guile and subtlety.
  11  That so our sons may be as plants
which growing youth doth rear,
Our daughters as carved corner-stones,
like to a palace fair;
  12  Our garners full and plenty may
of sundry sorts be found;
Our sheep bring thousands, in our streets
ten thousand may abound:
   13  Our oxen be to labor strong,
that none may us invade;
No goings out there be, nor cries
within our streets be made.
  14  The people happy are that with
such blessings great are storm;
Yea, blessed all the people are,
whose God is God the Lord.

Rifle Shooting Techniques

My first interest in firearms involves rifles and rifle shooting techniques. Handguns are much more practical for personal defense in terms of both portability and concealability. Still, I have this love affair with shoulder-fired weapons -- not in any way close to the love I have for my wife, mind you (although on some occasions when she spent the night away, I have slept with my M-1 Garand in the bed beside me).

My barber (who reads this 'blog) is devoted to handguns. His devotion as a pistolero far outstrips my puny affection for rifle shooting techniques. He practices constantly. In fact, he is the only person I've known (or even HEARD of) who actually sprained his trigger finger through excessive dry-firing of a handgun. Then, in the weeks the trigger finger of his strong hand was immobilized, he used it as an opportunity to perfect his weak-hand technique. Now, that's devotion.

Shoulder-fired weapons have their place, though, and who knows what turmoil may lie ahead? That's why I was pleased when "DLR" (a reader of Warskyl) sent me links to a couple of forum sites that major in rifle shooting techniques. One site seems to be down now (temporarily, I hope). The other is called Project Appleseed.

Here is a description of Project Appleseed from the site itself:

[T]he Appleseed program is designed to introduce basic skills to the not ready for prime time shooter who aspires to be a rifleman. These basic skills are well know to many of you. The six steps to firing the shot, correct positions, NPOA, windage calulations to name a few. The Appleseed is a great way for the would be shooter to get started on the right foot. The folks who had the vision and the energy to put the Appleseed together hoped that Appleseed would be the first step in the development of a competent field shooter. Appleseed is the begining [sic] not the end of this process.

If you're at all interested in becoming proficient at rifle shooting techniques, I recommend you browse Project Appleseed.