Charlottesville and what comes next

I didn’t watch the news yesterday evening so I only found out about what happened in Charlottesville this morning. I did some checking, saw what some of my friends were saying and decided to post this article. It’s from the Patreon Newsletter I wrote in March. I edited it slightly for clarity and added a few things.

Here goes:

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Violence in Modern Society

For the last few years I’ve posted videos and articles, mostly on my blog and Facebook page, that weren’t about self-defense per se but more about trends in our modern, Western societies. Some of the feedback I got was along the lines of “What the hell are you talking about?” so I thought it might not be a bad idea for me to explain myself a bit. Here goes.

The last twenty years have seen many changes in not only the entire world, but in particular in Western societies and most notably in the US. I will focus on the latter, but have seen similar things happen in the EU where I live. I think it’s a universal trend as opposed to an isolated one. The picture is complex and I need to put several pieces of the puzzle on the table before it makes sense.

One piece of that puzzle is terrorism:

  • First and foremost, 9/11 happened some fifteen years ago and it changed the world as well as the American government, its policies and its society.
  • France and Belgium had their own 9/11 these last few years with the Paris and Brussels attacks.
  • Germany had numerous attacks in the Summer of 2016. Though there were less casualties in total, the frequency was higher and the attacks perhaps more brutal (though we can argue about that.)
  • The UK also had its share of terrorist attacks, with again, relatively speaking less victims but in a more personal (and therefor more frighting) manner.
  • Since then, numerous terrorist attacks have been thwarted in several EU countries. This information rarely makes the news and when it does, it is routinely ignored by the media because it scares the readers and viewers.

A second piece is the rise of social media and alternative media channels:

  • Facebook and Twitter became dominant platforms. They offer instant, worldwide communication via text, audio and video. This has positive and negative consequences, which I won’t go into here. The point is that news, fake or otherwise, goes global in an instant and can be seen by anybody with an internet connection, be they rich or poor, smart or stupid, etc. This is unprecedented in human history.
  • Any message can go viral, regardless of significance or time frame. For instance, one man live-Tweeted the raid on Osama Bin Laden. Only afterwards did he realize the significance of what he tweeted. Another example is the live video broadcast on Facebook of the torture of a young man. This led to arrests and a debate on racism, violence and society in general.
  • An argument can be made that humans have not yet figured out how to handle this flood of information and disinformation. We also don’t know how things will evolve in the future, but these issues are unlikely to go away.

The third piece is the advent of extreme positions in academia and lobby groups, in particular since the latest US elections: [Read more…]

Teenager shot by police at Reno high school: Lessons to learn

I just got sent this link to a video of a teenager shot by the police at a Reno high school:

You can view another angle here.
What seems to be known so far.
The predictable response here.

What is likely to happen now:

  • There will be the usual outcry along the lines of “Why did he shoot him, the kid only had a knife?” from those with no understanding of the dynamics involved in such an encounter.
  • Then there will be some more outrage as the journalists, pundits and professional rabble-rousers do their thing.
  • In the end, nothing will change and it’ll be waiting for the next incident.

In the mean time, I suggest focusing on the lessons we can learn from this. There are several things to take away form this video:

  • Disarming somebody with a knife without hurting him is not easy, nor is there a guaranteed technique you can use to pull it off. What’s more, a knife represents lethal force. Such a threat is typically responded to with lethal force, such as a firearm. Why? Because when you don’t and things go wrong, they can go wrong in catastrophic fashion (fast forward to 7min15 for the attack):

  • If the officer didn’t stop the kid and went down himself like the officers in the previous video did, the kid could have slaughtered several of students who were standing there. It’s the officer’s duty to avoid that, along with not dying himself. So if you brandish a knife and threaten others with it, act erratic and refuse to drop it when ordered, you should expect a definite response from law enforcement.
  • For those who don’t understand this, here are some realities about violence, about knife vs. gun and also this article. As an overall strategy, when faced with a knife and you have the option: run. Run for your life. Which brings us to the next point.
  • Look at the other students. They refuse to leave and even come closer as soon as the kid is no longer looking right at them or moving in their direction. There is no way to emphasize enough how monumentally stupid this is… If you have kids, teach them to flee when an event like this happens. I teach this to my children and repeat the lesson regularly: being an innocent bystander doesn’t make you safe. On the contrary, you can become a victim in an instant or become collateral damage when law enforcement takes action. Here’s an article with many examples. Here’s a video that shows exactly how fast bystanders can become victims, even when they think the fight is over…
Teenager shot by police at Reno high school - Lessons to learn

Teenager threatening with a knife in Reno high school

Early reports claim the kid was bullied and lashed out like this to protect himself. I have no idea if this is true, the investigation is ongoing and should reveal more. If true, is this enough to give him a pass on pulling a knife like that? That discussion is beyond the point of this article. The point is to learn from this incident and avoid becoming a victim.

Good luck and stay safe.

Germany and weapons for self-defense

It took longer than I thought, but here it is:
Expect more of this around the EU soon and in the short term, it is anything but a good thing. For more background, read my articles on the Paris terrorist attacks and the Brussels terrorist attacks first. They are long, but they give you the information you need to understand the factors at play here in Europe. These are radically different from those in the US.
Germany and weapons for self-defense

Frauke Petry wants all Germans to have weapons for self-defense


Some thoughts.
  • I am not against civilian weapon carry. Self-defense is a basic human right and weapons are tools for that. My issues aren’t with the principle, but with the execution.
  • I talked to one of my German students two days ago and he confirmed that Germans are arming themselves. I’ll bet a sizeable amount of money that if we could get the numbers, aside of the 50% increase in small firearms licenses, a multiple of that number of people are carrying (legal or otherwise) non-firearm weapons.
  • People are scared and it’s not unreasonable for them to be so. They now realize they are on their own and safety is something they also have to provide for themselves. They can’t only rely on the police for that. Scared people + weapons = bad combination. Scared people who never used weapons before and who live in a country where owning a weapon has been frowned upon and made difficult for decades + weapons = even worse combination.
  • The previous does not mean those people shouldn’t be allowed to carry effective tools for self-defense. My point is that I don’t hear Frau Petry mention anything about training or responsible use. The only thing you hear is “we want you to have a weapon so you can defend yourself.” She doesn’t add “and we’ll fund training and awareness campaigns so you know how to use your weapons and not be a danger to others or yourself.” That’s neglecting a critical safety factor when people who are scared, untrained and unaccustomed to living in a weapons culture suddenly all arm themselves. You can expect a shitload of problems as a result, including more blood in the streets.
  • For my US friends: don’t bring up the 2nd amendment. It is at this stage irrelevant to this discussion in EU countries. If you think any EU country will quickly change its constitution in that regard, you are sadly uninformed or delusional. Nothing shy of a post-civil war context would do that, and even then.

Germany and weapons for self-defense

For my German readers, I would suggest the following:

  • Read up on what self-defense actually means. Start with reading this book and then read this one. Then read both books again. If self-defense and weapons are new to you, the information in those books will fill you in on critical aspects you need to know before getting a weapon. You’ll learn what is important vs. what is Hollywood nonsense.
  • It’s not just about weapons. True self-defense requires a layered approach and lethal force is only one layer, hopefully the one you need the least often. It needs to be there, but you need to work just as hard on all those other layers as you will need them more often. They also prevent the situation from escalating to lethal force being necessary, which is equally important. Again, read the previous two books to learn more about this.
  • Get good training and keep it up. A weapon does not do magic tricks. It doesn’t make you invincible, nor does it make the bad guy go “Poof!” and disappear. Like any tool, you need to learn how to use it first and then keep on practicing. Find good training in your area and then keep up regular practice. That gives you the skill necessary to use your weapon should you need it, but keeps that skill alive over time. If there is no good training near you, spend money and travel until you can get it. You are making the choice to carry the tools that give you power over life and death. If that isn’t serious enough for you to get the training you need, then you have no business carrying that weapon.
  • Be smart and stay cool. If you strap on a weapon every time you go outside, do all you can to not get in a situation where you need to use it. Yes, it gives you more options to defend yourself, but that comes at a price. Using deadly force is not like in the movies and the consequences are not only for you, but also your family as well as the family of the person you killed. Those consequences also never go away, ever. So as much as possible, stay out of trouble. Especially if you are already scared. Read this article for some information on that.
  • Germany is changing, change with it. Like I said, there is the spectacular increase in legally owned weapons, but there will also be a huge increase in people carrying illegally or weapons that masquerade as tools. This means your society is changing into a weapons culture at an accelerated rate and you need to adapt to that. For instance: whenever you are in an argument with somebody, whenever there is a conflict, the odds are good the other person is armed. People are emotional, irrational beings, they don’t think clearly when they are emotional. An emotional person with a weapon who is upset with you and you escalating the argument is not a good thing, especially if you are armed too. So adapt your behavior along with the society you now suddenly find yourself in. Heinlein’s quote is relevant here:

An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.

Stay safe and good luck.

UPDATE

I received some comments on my Facebook page re. the nature of the “small firearms license” in Germany. Apparently it wasn’t clear in the text above and I fixed the one sentence where I think the misunderstanding started. So here’s what I meant:

I am well aware that the license is for blank guns and pepper spray as opposed to firearms.

I am well aware of the strict German gun laws.

I’m not talking about the kind of weapons people are picking up. I’m talking about the fact that massive numbers of German citizens are picking up weapons in a very short time frame. That, combined with the fact that a populist politician is calling for people to carry firearms. These two points together are what this article is about.

The Dallas police shooting and what the future holds

What happened in Dallas is not the first time LEOs were targeted and certainly not the last. But it is one of the most impressive incidents in the way it was apparently planned and then executed so effectively. IMHO, Dallas will be later seen as a tipping point for many changes, in society and law enforcement as well, that will only become apparent later on. These changes will not be positive. In many ways, the escalation towards a breakdown of the system is already picking up speed. Two points I want to highlight about this:

 

1) Ignorant opinions and worldwide broadcasting at everybody’s fingertips.

Before even the facts are in, Twitter, Facebook and the rest of the internet explode with everybody having an opinion on what happened in Dallas, regardless of it being based on facts or relevant experience/knowledge. This goes viral and both misinformation and disinformation spreads like wildfire. The problem is that people act upon this mis(dis)information. When they do so in sufficient numbers, you get protests that get out of control and riots. A society cannot function when there is constant and increasing civil unrest and riots. There will be a reaction from the authorities. If that us deemed lacking by the majority of people who aren’t activists and don’t riot, but are on the receiving end of the property and personal damage of such actions, things will get interesting. IOW, there will be a response, sooner or later.
The second part of this point is that people no longer recognize how strong the influence of mass-media is. E.g.: The Nazi’s (and eventually the Allies) understood that well, as perhaps one of the first in history. It’s worth studying their propaganda machine and comparing it to what you see nowadays from activists.
Most of all, go read reactions to Dallas on social media. There is an impressive number of “Fuck the pigs” and “they got it coming” and “now whites know how it feels.” No matter how you slice it, that’s hate speech and it is not innocent or without consequence.
E.g.: from a discussion I had with Marc MacYoung
 
Worth watching, in the light of that Antifa video. This is where it leads to.
The key segments are visiting the church, the prisoners and then the dinner party at the end. The talk of reconciliation goes smoothly until the woman starts voicing her opinion. Notice how the men cautiously respond then.
The other point is the statement that the people aren’t ready for democracy. That a dictator is better for the current situation…
BTW, I was in the Army then and vividly remembered when our commando troopers were slaughtered and mutilated. General Dallaire knew full well what was going on. He let it happen. He refused to send help. This still isn’t forgotten over here.
 
Now look up Radio Mille Collines… 
This was about 25 years ago, before the internet and social media: media used effectively to spread mis- and disinformation to whip an entire population into a frenzy.
100 days later, at least 500.00 people were slaughtered
That’s the power of media manipulation.
Now consider that radio is a very old and (by today’s standards) ineffective medium. The internet and in particular social media are so much more effective, there is no comparison…
Does this mean we need to abolish free speech? No.
It means speech is not necessarily innocent or without consequence. If you think writing “kill the police!” is justified, understand that you’re contributing to an escalation that leads to only one thing: bloodshed and lots of it.
Which leads me to the next point…
 

2) Broken societies suck for everybody.

In 1993, during the Russian Constitutional Crisis, I was in Moscow for a competition. By that time, the Soviet system had already been broken for a while and the consequences were felt by the population. Some experiences from that trip:
  • We stayed at what was once a fancy hotel. When I went to the bathroom and flipped on the light, dozens of cockroaches ran for cover.
  • Breakfast at the hotel was a green egg, bread that had bite marks from small animals in it and portions were very small. I saw cats walking in and out of the kitchen more than once.
  • The hotel staff had made it very clear that we shouldn’t go out at night, because we would not return alive.
  • On our daily bus ride to the stadium, each time I saw a crowd of several hundred people gathered at an open space. When I asked our translator what was going on, this was his explanation:
It’s a trading fair. You show up with whatever you can find and spare (a plastic bag, half a shoe, a piece of metal, etc.) and try to trade up until you have something you need, can use or can actually sell.
This is one example of what you can experience in a broken society: food scarcity, only basic medical services, limited or no public services and much more.
There was no civil war in Russia at that time. But there were many, many problems that turned daily life into a struggle for survival the likes recent generations in Western democracies have no clue about. The Rwandan massacre is at the other end of that scale: attempting to slaughter an entire ethnic group.
My point is that the dynamics at work to create such events are now so much easier to manipulate than ever before in human history.
Yet very few activists seem to consider the potentially negative consequences of their actions.
In those that do, I’ve seen an alarming rise of “The means justify the end” rhetoric. What they fail to understand, having never seen the consequences of a breakdown in society, is how it affects not just the “enemy”, but everybody else too. That includes innocent people and their own family and friends.
Because there will be a reaction.
In the US, it will be most likely two-part:
– The government will respond. It cannot let instability go on for too long or it loses legitimacy and power. Read this for an example of what happened not too long after I left Moscow, when the government, civilians and the military clashed… For a fictional example, I highly recommend The Siege. When the terrorist attacks here in Brussels happened, in part, this became a realty for us. Like Bruce Willis says in the movie: the military is not a scalpel, it’s an axe.
– Non-activist citizens will respond. Do a count of all the riots that happened in the last five years in the US. Then try to do an estimate of the property damage that resulted from that, bystanders getting injured, medical bills following, etc. One riot influences the lives of hundreds of people who have nothing to do with it. Multiply that number by the amount of riots…
In a difficult economy, imagine the consequences for all those people who were already having difficulty making ends meet. They are pissed off and increasingly ready to take action to defend themselves, their property and way of life. Though they often don’t publicly state their intentions, they are actively preparing to meet violence with violence by getting weapons, organizing, stocking up on supplies, etc. This is no longer limited to the prepper community, it has spread widely into the civilian population.
That is just one example. There are many, many more.
Actions have consequences. Whether you like it or not.

The Dallas police shooting and what the future holds

Conclusion

This article isn’t about police brutality, racism, slavery or anything else. Those are not the issues to bring up in this particular discussion. In essence, I’m writing about cause and effect. You can trace it back to slavery or European history if you want, that’s still not the point.
The point is:
What do we do now?
There is a clear path to a breakdown of society. Some people, with or without realizing it, are choosing to take it.
I would suggest choosing another path and acting accordingly.
Or you might one day find yourself very much in need of self-defense skills that go way beyond anything you have considered ever before.

How to learn self-defense from video footage

With cellphones and cameras so prevalent nowadays, a large number of altercations and fights are captured on video. This footage is often shared online, it goes viral and everybody and their brother have an opinion on it. That’s fine, of course, but so what? Having an opinion isn’t difficult and not particularly useful. A more interesting approach is to look for ways you can learn from that footage and improve your self-defense skills. I mentioned this in passing in my previous webcast, but wanted to expand on it a bit more, hence this article.

Learning, by definition, means you search for information and knowledge you don’t currently have. That means keeping an open mind and is in direct conflict with holding on to your opinion and only looking for information to confirm it. The first step of the learning process is to start with the right mindset:

Check your bias before you begin.

We all have a bias, one way or the other. We all have filters the information in the video has to pass through. Be cognizant of them and try to remain objective. Focus on learning, not on confirming your moral or political beliefs, which technique you think is perfect for self-defense and which one sucks, etc. Instead, look at the elements as they present themselves as opposed to how you would want them to be. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time.

This can be hard, as we live in an age where having an opinion is valued more than having an informed opinion. But it can be done if your desire to make progress in your training is bigger than your ego. In this article, I’ll give you some tools to use for that goal. View them as filters through which you pass the information in the video, so you can distill information out of it.

Let’s start with the first one, context.

Learn self-defense from video footage

Context

Context means the circumstances surrounding the event, the facts and factors that influence how it happened and how it is perceived. Think of when you say “you took my words out of context” when somebody distorts your words to fit their agenda. The exact same thing applies when you watch footage of a fight.

There is always a context, so your first step is:

Try to figure out what it is.

Some questions to ask:

  • What happened beforehand?
  • What happened afterwards?
  • Who else was involved?
  • Where did it happen?
  • Who made this video?
  • Etc.

Sometimes you can’t find out all those things. Be cautious then and assume your conclusions will be of limited accuracy, at best. When I review such footage, I generally write the caveat “I wasn’t there and neither were you.” That’s a reminder that we often only have limited or even faulty information to work with.  Only an idiot claims his conclusions are absolute truth when working with information he isn’t 100% sure about…

Another contextual issue is one of presentation.

In today’s world of click-bait articles and videos, presentation is often used to create a narrative or promote an agenda. This makes it harder to learn something because the presentation distorts the facts and sets you up to come to specific conclusions. Some points on this:

  • Is the video edited or not? Creative editing can easily force you to come to a conclusion that is 100% false.
  • Disregard the title of the video and the text written along with it. Look at the video first  and only then read additional information. That way it can’t influence you beforehand.
  • Disregard opinions of and comments by others. Make up your own mind before letting somebody else do it for you.
  • Disregard commentary by bystanders and others in the footage. They might also be biased and as you lack context for them as well, look only at the facts as you see them.
  • Now, watch the video, think it through and form a preliminary opinion.
  • Then and only then, look at all that information you previously ignored to check for elements you might have missed.

This sounds like a lot of work, but it isn’t. It’s mostly tuning out those other sources first and only then allowing them back in. If you think I’m exaggerating, read this and remember how the narrative that Zimmerman was a racist gun-toting lunatic was established so quickly early on. If I recall correctly, NBC settled the lawsuit out of court…

Also read this and watch both videos in order. Then go read the comments on my blog and on Youtube. Notice how many people fail to follow the instructions to get more context and how many argue about everything except the point I was making. If you want to learn self-defense, setting your ego aside is a good first step…

 

Legal

The title of this article is “How to learn self-defense from video footage.” Self-defense is not the same thing as fighting, street-fighting, dueling or beating somebody up. Self-defense is defined by the laws of your country and state. These can and will vary wildly. What is valid in San Francisco, California might not be so in Brussels, Belgium. The only way to know what the laws say where you are is to study them. [Read more…]