The Brussels terrorist attacks and what comes next for Belgium

I woke up this morning and as always checked the latest news. Turned out this was the day I knew would eventually come. The numbers so far after three explosions at Brussels airport in Zaventem and the metro station of Maalbeek:

30+ people killed

90+ injured.

These numbers will rise in the following hours and days.

I’ll write some more about this in a bit, but first this:

In November 2015, I wrote this article about the Paris Terrorist attacks and their connection to Belgium. It’s long, but I suggest you read it first to understand what I write next.

After I wrote this, I received a lot of negative feedback.

I was told I was a racist.

I was told I exaggerated.

I was told I was a coward.

At the end of that article, I commented on what I thought would happen next. Let’s look at those points now:

The Brussels terrorist attacks what comes next for Belgium

The bombing at Maalbeek metro station.

  • The polarization of our society will accelerate. This happens at an accelerating pace. An increasing number of people who always believed in peaceful coexistence in a multicultural society are abandoning that belief. Instead, they now state both in private and publicly that it’s time to “clean house.” The “us vs. them” mindset is growing rapidly. At the same time, the reports are coming in of Muslim youth in the high schools of Brussels and Antwerp cheering and celebrating the attacks. The rift in our society is now wider and deeper than ever.
  • Demagogues, from the left, right and center, will get more attention than they deserve, their non-solutions as well. We’ve had months of nonsense from our politicians. Self-evident actions that should be taken are derided as “Nazi tactics” and the opposition goes out of its way to paint the government as incompetent. Truth be told, they aren’t always wrong, but the point is that there is no unified political front to handle the issues. Instead, they launch soundbites in the media to get some airtime.
  • The media once again go out of their way to obscure the facts. The level of media coverage has become even more deplorable than before the Paris attacks. We are inundated with good news shows about how things aren’t that bad in Molenbeek and we really shouldn’t worry too much. Dissenting opinions are either not invited to share their views or they are ridiculed and marginalized.
  • The political will to change is not present. This is only partly true. Some parties want to take far-reaching action, but the coalition government isn’t unified in that approach. Obviously, the opposition shoots down everything the government proposes. But most of all, because of the dysfunctional way Belgium is organized, the Brussels government can block or ignore policy that comes from the Federal level. They have made their intentions clear on that front: they do not see the need for important changes…
  • The Prime Minister announced his plans yesterday and the erosion of privacy has already started. There have already been some legal changes re. police procedures and more are on the way. After the attacks of today, this process will accelerate and we’ll soon wake up in a very different country.
  • We’ve entered the next phase of an asymmetric war that has been raging for decades, but most people chose to ignore it or thought it wasn’t relevant here. Paris was a rude wake up call for them. I believe there is worse to come. I wish I would have gotten that wrong. There’s blood in the streets and corpses on the ground. For many people, they will only now understand that safety is an illusion. It never existed and never will. That includes our lives here in Brussels, Belgium  and everywhere else in the world.

I wish I was wrong when I wrote that list after Paris happened, but I don’t think I am. I am not going to spend hours looking up all the links to articles and videos that prove everything I wrote in the above bullet list. If you want them, Google is your friend.

 

What now?

I expect things will get worse. Some thoughts:

  • The rest of Europe. We’ve had the Paris attacks and now Brussels. I expect bombings and attacks to succeed in other EU countries in the near future. Belgium is now at alert level 4, which gives our police forces and government more leeway in going after terrorist. France is still in a state of emergency and has the same leeway now. This makes it harder for terrorists to execute their missions, but not impossible, not by far. However, other EU countries aren’t at the highest alert levels, so terrorists have more freedom of movement there. It also makes sense for them to attack as many countries as possible to achieve their goals.
  • The Syrian war will change. Belgian Airforce already does raids on Syrian IS targets, soon our government will have to decide whether to do more of these. Other governments will have to ask themselves the same question. Increasingly, IS is striking in the homelands of the coalition that is lined up against them. Public opinion in these countries will pressure politicians to act. In the end, that can only lead to an escalation of hostilities and boots on the ground, which also means body bags returning home. We’ll see if our societies are ready for that too…
  • The Belgian economy will bleed. Our government has a multi-billion Euro deficit this year and our economy is fragile, to put it mildly. Today’s bombings deal out a hard blow to our tourist industry (a key component of our economy) and will have consequences in many other sectors. This combined with the negative outlook for both the EU and world economy doesn’t bode well for the future.
  • Belgian society will become even more divided. When I look online and on social media, I see a lot of outrage, which is to be expected. But I also see a huge increase in people who publicly voice their mind on what they perceive to be the root of the problem. For Belgium, this is unheard of and it indicates the tipping point in public opinion I’ve slowly seen building in the last few years. More next.
  • People will push back. Our modern society doesn’t handle fear well, but it also increasingly refuses to be manipulated. As I explained in my other article, the debate about multiculturalism was sabotaged for decades and we were told to not be “scared, white racists.” The problems were left to fester and now we have the current state of affairs, culminating in today’s attacks. The media will find it increasingly difficult to sell the message of “it’s your fault” to the local Belgian population. The people will demand action and the politicians who fail to deliver it will be remembered in next elections. If the people don’t see rapid change (which they won’t, because that’s not how societal change works), they will take matters in their own hands in all kinds of ways. The hardening of out society that started a few years ago will deepen. As a result, our society will become even more divided, the Muslim population will close ranks to protect itself, and then we have a vicious cycle that only leads to more violence and terror.

There’s more, but I’ve delivered enough bad news already.

The Brussels terrorist attacks what comes next for Belgium

EMTs trying to save lives after the bombing in Brussels.

Conclusion

The future is bleak and we Belgians are now entering the next phase of asymmetric warfare I mentioned in the previous article.  Our society will change rapidly and not for the better. There will be more blood and violence as people come to understand that you cannot negotiate with those who want to kill you. But stopping that from happening has far-reaching, lasting consequences for our society and people do not understand just what that means. Nor will they feel comfortable with what our government and law enforcement will have to do to protect us to the best of its limited abilities. We are entering “breaking a few eggs to make an omelette” territory and this should scare everybody who has half a brain.

The end is also nowhere in sight. We will be struggling with terrorists on our home turf for a very long time. I don’t expect this to be over in the near future and each new incident will spark even more changes in our society. Given the way news, true or false, spreads instantly by going viral, the potential for civil unrest and violence is huge. It’s safest to assume this will become the new normal and prepare accordingly.

All that said, life will go on.

I will still get up each day and go to work, spend time with my kids and loved ones and live my life as I always have.

Illegitimi non carborundum.

Not now, not ever.

The Brussels terrorist attacks what comes next for Belgium

My sentiments on the matter…

 

The best self-defense tip you need to know

A few years ago I wrote an article titled 8 self-defense tips for men. It covers several tips that help you avoid violence and live your life in safety. One of them, number six, is very simple:

Leave!

Violence is chaos in action. It is unpredictable and changes constantly.

This means several things:

  • Things can seem calm, even as if nothing will come of it, until it explodes into violence.
  • Fights start and stop constantly. Sometimes the fight is over right away. Other times it seems over and then suddenly flares up again when you least expect it.
  • There is no time limit. Some fights take seconds, others take five, ten minutes or even longer until it is over. You never know upfront what it’ll be.
  • Violence moves around. What starts at a specific spot doesn’t necessarily stay there. You might be several feet away and feel safe until all of a sudden the combatants plow into you and you have to fight to defend yourself.
  • Being an innocent bystander doesn’t make you immune to being attacked. In the chaos of the fight, you might be mistaken for somebody else. Or somebody might feel like getting a free shot in and sucker punch you, just because they think they can get away with it. Or the fighters bump into you, you try to push them off and they drag you into the fight. If you are near a fight, you are always at risk.
  • Just because the fight is over, doesn’t mean you’re safe. In particular those who lose the fight tend to go to extreme measures to “get even.” If they hurt you in the process, they don’t really care about that at that point.

When you tell somebody all this in casual conversation, they usually agree with you. But when a fight breaks out, they rush toward it to stare at it, laugh and joke, whip out their cellphone to record it (preferably being a complete idiot by shouting “Worldstar!”) and forget all about the reasons why they shouldn’t.

Humans like to watch extreme situations unfold, regardless what they are. It’s probably in our DNA in some way, because you see this behavior consistently all over the world. It doesn’t matter if it’s a car crash, a beached whale or a fight, people will watch it.

Even if it puts them at risk.

But as humans, we can also learn from our mistakes and change. All it takes is the willingness to do so and some information. The latter is usually the first step you need, because if you don’t understand the dangers involved, why would you change your behavior? So let’s look at a few examples of how violence actually works and how dangerous it is to watch it from close by.

 

Chaos in action.

Notice how the fight is in one place and then suddenly it moves around to another. People who are just watching all of a sudden find themselves in the middle of the brawl. Also pay attention to the people who walk in between the combatants and then just stand there, a few feet away. Most of all, notice how easy it is to get sucker punched and consider that once you are knocked out, you are at the mercy of the mob.

 

Start-stop-start.

It takes a long time for this fight to break out, but eventually it does. Once it’s on, it keeps going for a long time, seemingly calming down and then starting up again. There is no way to predict when it kicks off or when it starts up again. If you are close by, you risk getting dragged into it.

 

You can get crippled.

Watch until the end. The driver crushes several people and the only reason they don’t die is because he doesn’t back up and try again. Seems unreasonable? Notice how his child is taken out of the car after he drives into those people. Hardly somebody in a normal mindset… If he does it once, it is best to assume he will try again. But in case this example doesn’t convince you, try this one, NSFW.

We don’t see what happens before, but to say the situation is explosive is putting it mildly.  As stated above, people will go to extremes to get even, especially if they lose the fight. They won’t see you as an innocent victim of their “revenge”, but merely as an object that stands in their way. One they will go through if needed. So if you can’t get away during the fight, leave right after it’s done because the fight is only truly over when the participants decide it is. Your opinion on it doesn’t matter.

 

You can die.

NSFW

Look at how these men just stand there, despite the knives being clearly visible, despite seeing the attacker stab people. They just stand there and then get stabbed themselves.

We don’t know why the guy started attacking those men, but after he goes after the first victim, it should have been clear to the others that they don’t want to be anywhere near him. As you can see, they take no action and then it is too late.

 

Conclusion

In the vast majority of the situations you might find yourself in, the best self-defense tip is to leave. Just get out of there right away, no matter how much your subconscious mind wants you to stay and watch. The risks are simply too great.

If you do stay, or if you feel you must get involved, know that you are gambling with your life. There is no way of knowing just how far things will escalate and if you will survive. If you are OK with those risks, then that is a personal choice, but do so as a conscious decision and not because of being fueled on adrenaline and itching for a fight. As you engage, remember that you accept those risks, whatever comes next.

Which is why I repeat: in the vast majority of the situations, just leave.

Video review: The Fighting Footwork of Kuntao and Silat by Bob Orlando

It’s been a while since I did a video review, so here’s another one: The Fighting Footwork of Kuntao and Silat by Bob Orlando. I’m going to try something new from now on and do the review in video form instead of writing it all out. It’s easier for me and allows you to listen to the review any time, any place instead of having to read everything on my blog here.

That said, here’s my video review:

Resources:

A sample of the videos:

Bob Orlando’s website.

His videos:

His books:

Extra:

 

The evolution of combat sports

Just recently, I watched the fight between one of my favorite boxers, Roy Jones Jr. and his opponent, Enzo Maccarinelli, which got me thinking about the evolution of combat sports. I always liked Jones a lot. In his prime, he was a master of the ring, dancing around his opponents as he pleased. Both his offense and defense was impressive but most of all, he seemed to land punches at will. He was arrogant and a showboat, but he had the skills to back it up so people didn’t mind as much as he always tried to give viewers a great show.

Here are some highlights of him at his best:

This video doesn’t do him justice though. Watch some of his full fight videos to get a better idea of just how impressive he was.

Then watch this video of his last fight…

Roy is still a great boxer, much better than most people who ever stepped into a boxing ring. But at almost 47 years old, he is becoming a shadow of his former self. When you watch his last few fights, you’ll see he is almost flat-footed compared to how he moved in his prime. He still hits fast and hard, but that’s not enough anymore against those younger opponents.

There are two points I want to make about this: [Read more…]

What am I up to in 2016?

First of all, a happy New Year to all of you. May the best of 2015 be the worst of 2016.

Second, I usually do a recap and look to the future at the beginning of the year, so here goes…

2015 was a difficult year for me. Lots of business stuff going on but mostly, I had to focus on my rehab after my surgery. That took way more time and energy than I had anticipated because my injuries were much worse than expected. Both my surgeon and physical therapist gravely underestimated them. In short, I walked around with increasingly more dislocated ankles for several years. It’s taken daily rehab sessions to both activate atrophied muscles, reinvigorate my connective tissue, realign my body and work on correct proprioception, all at once. Progress has been steady, but it’s also been slow. E.g.: it’s been a year and two months since my surgery and it’s only been a week or two since I have a bounce in my step again.

The good part about all that work is that I’m finally coming closer to the point where I can train normally again. Unless something breaks (fingers crossed…) I should be back to 100% in a month or so.

The bad part of all that rehab is that it left me with precious little time for much else. Then there was my professional life (of which I haven’t talked much here) that got crazy hectic. Some background on this:

  • I’m a self-employed personal trainer/consultant/coach. I teach martial arts, self-defense and conditioning to private clients but also small groups. This used to be my main job, but other activities have started to take up more of my time these last few years.
  • I do business seminars and workshops teaching companies how to apply the lessons from martial arts to their professional environment. That business has been growing steadily over the years and got a big boost in 2015.
  • I’m a Master Trainer with Technogym and do workshops and training sessions for both their physical products and Cloud software solution. They also kept me busier than ever.
  • In the last few years, I was approached numerous times by C-level executives for coaching them through difficult professional situations, helping them with stress management and more. This has gradually developed into another business that is getting more and more traction.

There’s all that and also having two kids, who I very much like to spend time with as much as possible… Whatever time I have left goes to other projects like blogging and writing, which wasn’t all that much last year.

From the looks of it, 2016 is going to be a critical year and I will probably have to make some choices on a professional level, because I can’t do everything, nor can I be in two places at once. That’s a first-world problem, so I’m not complaining. Whatever comes next, it’s going to be good and I’m looking forward to taking on new professional challenges.

There’s another upside to all the rehab I’ve been doing: I feel so much better now than last year and have a lot more energy than before the surgery. I finally feel confident that I can be more productive again and finish all those projects I had lined up before I got sick. That, plus some new ones. Here are some of the things I have planned so far:

up to

  • The next two books are “The Leg Kick” and “Boxing for Self-Defense” The first one is about 80% done right now, but still needs a lot of work in post-production as there will be a free video-course that comes with it. The second is in the planning phase.
  • Other books in varying stages of production are
    • Essential Self-defense Tips for Men to Avoid Violence”
      The title says it all basically: practical tips for men on how to avoid violence. In each chapter I explain one tip in detail and then give some useful tools to implement them in your daily life. The book isn’t about how to knock somebody out, it’s about avoiding having to throw that punch in the first place. I write about fundamental issues you need to understand and apply, instead of giving general tips. My goal is that you’ll be able to apply the information right away. As of this writing, the book is about 50% done.
    • Knife Defense Book
      This book only has a working title. I started a few years ago, but it’s been hell working on that one and I got so fed up with it I put it away for a while. It was either that or pulling my hair out in frustration. In hindsight, that was the best decision because I now have a better take on the material and some new ideas.
    • The Warrior’s Body
      After the Knife Defense book , I’ll start writing the sequel to The Fighter’s Body. I’ve been collecting studies and data for years, figuring I’d eventually write it. I’m looking forward to sharing all that in the book. The focus of this book is the “older” martial artist, meaning 40 and older. What is it like to train at age 40, 50 and older? How do you stay in shape, healthy, manage injuries, etc. But I’ll also cover what to avoid in your twenties so you don’t wreck your body by the time you’re 40.
      I’m psyched about this book. It’ll be a lot of fun and I hope it will be valuable to young and old.
  • One of the new things I’m going to do for all these books is give you access to free resources. You’ll be able to see videos of my interviews with experts, additional material, tools to use in your own training and much more. Technology has finally come to the point where I can deliver an “enhanced” book that doesn’t stop after you read the last page. So I plan to make the most of it and give you every last drop of information I can think of.
  • I just wrote my publisher a proposal for two more instructional videos (tentative titles):
    • Combat Sanshou: Basic Self-Defense. This project fits in the whole of the Combat Sanshou series as an entry point for the absolute beginner: basic techniques against the most common attacks. It’s actually a system within the system and integrates well with the already available material. It’s also broad enough to be interesting to people of other arts and systems as the pedagogical approach is an integral part of making it effective. In short: it’s what I teach clients who come to me with zero knowledge and want the quickest possible results.
    • Fightstoppers: End it Now! This is a collection of techniques/moves with the purpose of ending the fight before it really starts. They’re similar to what you can see here. Most of them are entries and set ups or short combinations that target vital targets and weak spots of the human anatomy. I’ve been getting lots of requests for this kind of stuff ever since that original video and have been preparing a catalog of such moves ever since.
  • I’m still looking into it but a podcast and live streaming events are also on my list. The main hurdles have been technical, but I’m closing in on a few solution’s for those. We’ll see what happens and if I can free up the time to do this on a regular basis.
  • I published my military thriller short story a few weeks ago and it’s done very well since then. Turns out a lot of you liked that fight scene… If time permits and I can come up with a good plot, I might write a full novel for those characters. That said, I have a few other short stories in the urban fantasy/horror genre I need to get out of my system, so those might come first. All in all, these aren’t priorities for me. I write fiction to take my mind off the non-fiction writing. It helps prepare me for the next martial arts or self-defense project if I can do something completely different for a few weeks. We’ll see.
  • If you want to make sure you stay informed, sign up here on my notification list (don’t forget to click on the link in the confirmation mail you receive) and you will get an email whenever I publish something new.

As you can see, I’ll be busy in 2016.

I better stop writing this update then and get to it…