Podcast episode 34: Pentjak Silat and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for Self-Defense

Last June,  I did a special Q&A month on Patreon. I didn’t get to all the questions, so I am working my way through them in various places, including in this podcast. Carlos asked me about the effectiveness of Pentjak Silat and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for self-defense. In this episode, I try to give a nuanced opinion on both these arts.


The links mentioned in the episode:

  • 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu:


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Rape aXe, effective or not?

This just popped up in my social media feed:

I have mixed feelings. I’m not arguing for or against the use of the Rape-aXe, but will list some thoughts that came to mind. This is by no means a definitive list, just some initial thoughts:
  • Rapists can burn for all I care. You rape a woman, whatever horrors fall upon you are well deserved IMO. Over the years, I’ve trained numerous women who were sexually abused or raped, so they could have more tools at their disposal to avoid a repeat of those horrors. Many of them never fully recover, so I have zero sympathy for the perpetrators of these foul crimes.
  • I’d be interested in how the law sees this in different countries. Self-defense laws vary wildly but proportionality is often a part of them. In most cases, I don’t think you can mutilate on purpose. I wonder what defense lawyers have to say about this.
  • I can see where in some places, this could be a useful deterrent. There are places on earth where rape is such a part of daily life, prevention simply doesn’t cut it. So in that context, I can understand how this is a last-ditch attempt at stopping the problem.
  • I don’t like last-ditch efforts much. One of the biggest problems in the self-defense world is the focus on the actual physical fighting techniques over all the steps you can take beforehand to avoid the conflict. Doesn’t matter if it’s male or female self-defense: prevention, avoidance, and de-escalation are in the vast majority of cases easier and more effective than actual fighting. If it gets to the point where it goes physical, things are pretty bleak already. Which is why I believe a focus on prevention is just as important, if not more so than learning to fight. For more information, I did a podcast episode specifically on self-defense tips for young women.
  • Re. the previous point: humans like easy, one-stop-shop solutions. This kind of thing fits perfectly in that dynamic. I’m afraid too many women will think “This is perfect and all I need!” to then neglect all the steps that lead up to rape, steps during which you can often still act decisively to avoid it. The result might then be an increased risk of rape. This is similar to men who think strapping on a weapon is all they need to defend themselves. Weapons, and IMO this Rape aXe is a weapon, are not magic wands; they don’t make a problem go away by simply having it.
  • There is this notion, especially with women, that hurting a man’s genitals is a surefire solution to stop him in his tracks. It is false. Some men drop at the slightest bit of pain, others don’t notice it. Some men are fine at first and the pain kicks in later, others become enraged. I’m not even taking drugs and alcohol into account… The sick bastards who like to rape women are unlikely to all fall in the “drop right away” category. The ones who don’t, what’s to stop them from seeing red and beating up or killing the woman for maiming them? The explanation the manufacturers of this device gave about this issue was very much misleading IMO…
    The analogy for men is hitting softly: in some cases, it triggers the attacker to take the violence to a whole new level. As stated above, there are no easy solutions.
  • Rapists are vile and despicable excuses for a human being, but they are not necessarily stupid. Let’s assume the Rape aXe becomes commonly used: it’s not like they won’t know about it. What’s to stop them from changing their MO to start with knocking the woman out or beating her senseless first, then check for the device, remove it and rape her anyway? Which brings me back to my point about last-ditch solutions. They aren’t useless, but people tend to overly rely on them as a magic talisman.
  • Any tool that is used can also be abused. All the folks who want to ban all guns because they are used for killing as well as self-defense; the same applies here. What is to stop a woman from punishing a partner with this device for his screwing around with other women? Doesn’t happen? In Thailand, men might beg to differ…  What about false rape accusations? What is to stop a woman from using this device and then claiming rape. This is an uncomfortable reality for many women to accept, but some of them act in such a way. Some examples here. Now I know abusus non tollit usum and that isn’t my point. My point is that if you accept that there is a discussion about the misuse of firearms and other weapons, you must accept it about this device too. And at the very least talk about it. That doesn’t mean the Rape aXe needs to be banned, only that the use of it is more complex than the simplistic solutions we humans like to have. Case in point: is the manufacturer liable for misuse? What does their insurance say? How about your liability where you live? How many legal precedents are there? Has a rapist every sued one of his victims for using this device? What was the outcome? All answers to which the company has very few answers, yet they are pertinent to your future should you use their product…

I’m sure there are more points to bring up, but I’ll leave it at that. I read the FAQ on their website and felt the answers they provided to some of these points were either a dodge or very much misleading.



I don’t have a definitive answer on how effective using the Rape aXe would be in keeping women safe from rape. I’m not questioning the effectiveness of the device itself, obviously (though I am curious to know how many, if any, human test subjects they used to field test the product before making all those definitive claims about it…) But there are many factors involved in defending yourself, regardless if you’re a man or a woman. That means there are many nuances to the discussion which are often neglected. The only advice I would give to women considering its use is this:

Think it through carefully.

Weigh the pro’s and con’s and make an informed decision based on your specific situation and individual needs.

Merchandise is now available

It took a while to figure it out, but I finally settled on a logo for the site and merchandise and the shop just opened to the public. You can see it all here.  I did a test run for myself first and then made a limited-offer, custom mug for my Founding Fifty Patrons. It seemed to all go pretty smoothly, so I feel confident Teespring will deliver all goods correctly and in a timely fashion.

Here’s what’s printed on everything, front and back:


Some background if you don’t know already: [Read more…]

The realization that changed my martial arts and self-defense training forever

A long time ago, I had a paradigm shift that changed my martial arts and self-defense training forever. To explain this correctly, I need to give you a little bit of background information:

Many years ago, I started reading the Discworld series by the late Terry Pratchett. Though these books take place in a fantasy world, the stories they tell are deeply rooted in our own. If you haven’t read them, go ahead and give them a try. They’re tons of fun. Here’s the reason why I bring this up:

Mr. Pratchett wrote a series of accompanying books called “Science of the Discworld“. These alternate a story set in the Discworld universe with chapters explaining how science works. In one of these books, he mentions “emergent dynamic systems” and “complex systems“. These concepts are hard to explain quickly, but I’ll post some resources at the end if you want more in-depth information.

For a layman’s explanation, you can view it like this:

Complex systems examine how the multiple components of a system interact with each other and cause the system to behave a certain way, but also how the system interacts and forms relationships with its environment.

The “emergent” part means that complex systems and patterns are formed out of relatively simple interactions.

When you combine these two, it means you can look at a system and create laws and theories of what you see happening and these may be true. However, you cannot recreate an outcome from these laws and theories alone. The specific elements involved and their interactions can give rise to radically new dynamics and behavior, completely unpredictable from previous occurrences. Or put differently, new patterns (and therefor laws and rules) become apparent as the system keeps going, instead of sticking to the previously established rules.

My paradigm shift was viewing fighting and violence as an emergent dynamic system.

Picture a MMA or boxing match: you know the rules and allowed techniques upfront, you know the strengths and weaknesses of both fighters, along with their past performances. You can even do a statistical analysis of all these factors. Despite all that, you can never predict with 100% accuracy who the winner will be, because differences in seemingly insignificant elements or unexpected developments can alter the outcome completely: [Read more…]