The rules of Combat

I was recently asked to give some advice to a young, new martial artist.  I thought awhile as to what I could give as training advice that would carry though out a person’s life time as a student of martial arts.  There is no definitive right and wrong in training”.   Ok, so what do I mean by that?  It seems to be a universal habit of martial art teachers to teach something and make the assumption that what they do is correct and what other styles and people do is wrong.  That, style X won’t work, that stuff is bull crap.  However if you ask style X they will say style Y won’t work and that it is crap.  If you have been around long enough you will see the trend that many teachers think that what they do is great and everyone else is subpar. So a self reflecting person would then ask, what is the truth?

Of course there is right and wrong. I am not naive enough to think that learning  self defense against an attacker wielding a banana is credible.  That being said, there is debate among credible arts as to what is “REAL” and what isn’t.  How can anyone debate what is real?  I mean real is real.  It should be self evident. Shouldn’t it?   Well no. At the inception of an art is a foundational philosophy.  This philosophy has a presupposition of a rule set.  The philosophy gives rise to a narrative of what combat looks like (its reality) and narrative conditions the methods of training.  If these abstract concepts align and are working in unison then the combat methodology works, its functional. Of course the opposite is true as well.  When something is missing, the art is unbalanced at best, to completely dysfunctional at worst.

I often hear “There are no rules in a street fight”.  That’s not true.  The biggest rules are the rules of physics.  You can’t jump 100 feet in the air or fight from the tree tops like a B- rate Chinese kung-fu movie.  So the first rule set is Newtonian physics that apply to all other rule sets.  The rest of the rule sets are applicable to the circumstance on the individual level. They are interconnected to the narrative in a somewhat circular fashion.  At a baseline level we all know there are rules for sports and every sport will have its own particular rules.  Rules are based on intent.   A judo match has a different intent then a boxing match.  Judo Aims to throw and Boxing aims to punch in an effort to outperform the other to achieve a win.  Then there is the bar room fight. What is the aim of it?  This is a manifestation of very old primate dominance behavior.  For the most part it is all about puffing up the chest, making loud noises and using physical violence to make the other primate submit to prove ones dominance.  The rules here are based in biology and are subconscious.  Its conspecific aggression and it is very different than predator behavior which has the aim of killing the other.  We see predator behavior during war.  Soldiers don’t waste time yelling insults at each other. The objective is to remove the other from the battle field. In doing so there are “rules of engagement”.  For police there are rules called department policies.  Civilian, law enforcement and military all have a different rule set that is part and parcel to a reality of that segment of society.  The society has bestowed upon the segment group of individuals an authoritative power which corresponds to the acceptable level of violence which is embedded in a rule set.  It’s important to understand that the rules where there first!  They are really old, perhaps millions of years old.  They are encoded in our DNA.  As a species our innate behaviors manifested these rules before we could articulate them.  Our societies grew out of these rules and later we codified them.

We can categorize these rule sets by the authoritative power. In its most simplistic form we can group them as civilian, law enforcement and military.  Each one inhabits its own reality.  What holds true in one reality does not hold true in another reality.  We can subdivide these 3 groups down to sub segments and again each one will have its own version of reality.  A functional combative art will grow out of the reality it is designed to be applied in and the individual will create a narrative in their mind to describe that reality.  Now there are also arts that were created outside of any reality. They were designed abstractly.  Unfortunately this is the bulk of the martial arts today and if they were not originally created in the abstract then due to the original “reality” going extinct the art was repurposed to fit another.  These types of arts hold a false narrative in comparison to the reality.  To tie this back to where I started, remember the training methods of an art are conditioned by the narrative.  What we often see today is a miss match of training and narrative and/ or an instructor trying to apply one narrative to a methodology of another reality.

Does technique X work, depends on whose reality  and rule set you’re applying it to.



Rape, A Profile of a Crime

Let me start by stating that my favored sources on this topic are Roy Hazzelwood of the FBI, behavioral study unit (retired) and Dr. A. Nicholas Groth, psychologist and former director of forensic mental health associates.  Roy’s FBI definitions are based on Dr. Groths findings.  These are two of the most respected names on the topic.  They are authorities on the subject of sexual deviance crimes, rape and profiling.

There are two general types of rape:

A… where the attacker is known to the victim like “date rape”

B.. where the attacker and victim are strangers to each other.

Type A is where most rapes occur however virtually no self-defense class or system addresses this issue


Type B is the common boogie man that most self-defense info is aimed at (with little or no thought behind who this criminal really is).  This attacker is always a serial rapist even if it might happen to be his first attempt.  As a matter of self-defense it should be assumed that a serial rapist almost always has the capability to be a serial killer as well.

We will address this second type, to dispel any propagated myths that readers may have been led to believe.  Then address the much more difficult issues in another post.


This is Roy Hazelwood’s answer when questioned on women’s self defense;

“There’s a danger in providing advice for women if a rapist confronts them. I won’t give advice on that, because you’re dealing with three unknown variables:

You don’t know where this assault is going to take place and you would give different advice for location A as opposed to location B.

You don’t know the type of rapist she’s going to be confronted by. Is she going to be confronted by a power-assurance rapist whose fantasy is to have a consensual sexual relationship and if he uses physical violence, it corrupts his fantasy? Or is she going to be confronted by the sexual sadist who enjoys the suffering of his victims? There’s a world of difference.

You don’t know the strengths and weaknesses of all the women in your audience. In an audience of fifty, you’ve got fifty different personalities. So how do you give one piece of advice that’s appropriate for fifty different women?”


In general serial rapists have a motive and a fantasy. Everything revolves around these two things.  It is the rapists attempt to play or live out this fantasy.  The fantasy conditions the behavior.   The rapists “MO” or modus operandi  depends on the intelligence and experience of the rapist.  An “MO” will change over time but the fantasy will remain the same.

It is a mistake to make self-defense statements like “rapists look for long pony tails for control and clothing that allows easy access”.  In reality they have a fantasy and the victim will fit into this individual’s ideal victim profile.  No two rapists will have the same fantasy.  Some attackers may be angry at their mothers so they will pick a victim that reminds them somehow of their mother.  Some attackers may feel bitter and angry at women in general and may look to take revenge on the entire gender. With this knowledge in mind, preventative actions like hair style or dress cannot be logically advised.

Serial criminals can be divided into two categories “UNORGANIZED and ORGANIZED”.  Some rapists tends to start out as an unorganized attacker with no defined planning and  over time may develop into an organized attacker who plans and thinks out his crime well in advance. However some will start as organized and get even better at committing their crimes as time goes on.  The longer the rapists has thought about his fantasy before committing the act the more detailed the act will be.

An unorganized rapist tends to be more impulsive and leave more to chance and therefore might be easier to dissuade using self-defense skills and is more apt to leave behind clues for law enforcement.  However as an unorganized crime it is harder for law enforcement to recognize as a serial offender.

A well thought out  detail oriented “organized” criminal will be much harder to escape from since he will have prepared for an abduction, bringing things like duct tape, rope, ect.  From a self-defense perspective your best chance for escape is in the first moments of the attack.  In many cases the attacker will want to bring the victim from the initial contact location “crime scene #1” to second location “crime scene #2”.  If the attacker is able to get the victim to crime scene #2 the chances of survival diminish.


The major factor to consider is the classification of the rapist.

The major categories of rapists are:

  • Power-reassurance: This is what law enforcement calls the “gentleman rapist.” He has a complex fantasy of a consensual relationship with a woman.
  • Power-assertive: This is the individual who believes that he is entitled to do whatever he wants to women. They’re to be used for his gratification. His fantasies are minimal.
  • Anger-retaliatory: This person assaults because he’s motivated by anger and he’s getting even with women for real or imagined wrongs. He has almost no fantasy. He simply strikes.
  • Anger-excitation: The attacker is a sexual sadist. He’s punishing women because he believes them to be evil and powerful, so he’s trying to take away that power. He has deep and complex fantasies.
  • Opportunistic: The attacker is there to commit another crime like robbery or burglary. The victim is there and he simply seizes the opportunity. He’s frequently under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If he starts robbing and raping repeatedly, he gets classified into one of the major categories.
  • Gang rape: This involves three or more offenders and you always have a leader and  often a reluctant participant. These are extremely violent, and what you find is that they’re playing for each other’s approval. It gets into a pack mentality and can be horrendous.



The most dangerous is the Anger-excitation or sexual sadist.  This is also were most self-defense advise falls apart.  The sexual sadist is less concerned about the actual rape and more interested in the suffering of his victim.  If the victim fights back and is unable to escape this only fuels his enjoyment and his fantasy.  HE DOES NOT CARE if the defender wets or soils their pants or force themselves to throw up as many suggest doing.  If the victim fights his control he will very quickly escalate the violence to horrendous levels.

If the defender bites him or bends his fingers back to defend themselves this will not dissuade him but will fuel his aggression and give him more reason to PUNISH his victim. This is the type of criminal that will literally cut your fingers off for doing so. Think, Annie in the movie Misery  where she breaks his feet with a sledge-hammer for trying to escape.  Without a doubt in this case you are fighting for your life.

Sometimes it will be better to comply until escape is possible to avoid bodily injury.  But often psychologically waiting one second turns to many minutes and any opportunity or hope for escape will be lost.

As we have shown, in most cases any advise quickly disappears and leaves the defender at the mercy of a monster.  The true solution lies in skills.  Training allows the defender to gain skills that can be applied across situations and allows the defender to make quick decisions that apply to their very specific situation.  While it should not be thought that having skills will prevail in all situations it does give the defender a much better percentage of survival.

The Lust Murderer

FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin   April 1980

The Lust Murderer

By Robert R. Hazelwood and John E. Douglas

Special Agents, Behavioral Science Unit FBI Academy.  

On August 29, 1975, the nude, mutilated body of a 25-year-old mother of two was found near Columbia, S.C. Both breasts had been removed, the reproductive system had been displaced, numerous cut and stab wounds were evidenced by the body, and there was indication of anthropophagy.

This was the scene of a lust murder, one of the most heinous crimes committed by man. While not a common occurrence, it is one which frightens and arouses the public as does no other crime.

Of primary concern are those factors which differentiate the lust murder from the more common sadistic homicide, physical evidence present at the scene which may assist in determining the responsible individual and possible personality characteristics of the murderer. It is not the authors’ contention that the material presented is applicable to all such crimes or their perpetrators, but rather that the majority of the crimes and offenders involved will exhibit the characteristics set forth. The data presented here have not been quantified (at the time of this writing), but are based upon the authors’ examination of case reports, interviews with investigative personnel, and a careful review of the literature. Minor variations of the terms used may occur, depending on the source of reference.

It is the authors’ contention that the lust murder is unique and is distinguished from the sadistic homicide by the involvement of a mutilating attack or displacement of the breasts, rectum, or genitals. Further, while there are always exceptions, basically two types of individuals commit the lust murder. These individuals will be labeled as the Organized Nonsocial and the Disorganized Asocial personalities.

The Organized Nonsocial

The organized nonsocial (nonsocial) lust murderer exhibits complete indifference to the interests and welfare of society and displays an irresponsible and self-centered attitude. While disliking people in general, he does not avoid them. Instead, he is capable of displaying an amiable facade for as long as it takes to manipulate people toward his own personal goal. He is a methodical and cunning individual, as demonstrated in the perpetration of his crime. He is fully cognizant of the criminality of his act and its impact on society, and it is for this reason that he commits the crime. He generally lives some distance from the crime scene and will cruise, seeking a victim. Dr. Robert P. Brittain, author of “The Sadistic Murderer,” has stated, “They (sadistic murderers) are excited by cruelty, whether in books or in films, in fact or fantasy.”

The Disorganized Asocial

The disorganized asocial (asocial) lust murderer exhibits primary characteristics of societal aversion. This individual prefers his own company to that of others and would be typified as a loner. He experiences difficulty in negotiating interpersonal relationships and consequently feels rejected and lonely. He lacks the cunning of the nonsocial type and commits the crime in a more frenzied and less methodical manner. The crime is likely to be committed in close proximity to his residence or place of employment, where he feels secure and more at ease.

The Crime

The lust murder is premeditated in the obsessive fantasies of the perpetrator. Yet, the killer may act on the “spur-of-the-moment” when the opportunity presents itself. That is to say, the murderer has precisely planned the crime in his fantasies, but has not consciously decided to act out those fantasies until the moment of the crime. Consequently, the victim is typically unknown to the killer, a fact borne out by the cases studied by the authors. The location of the victim’s body may be indicative of the type of murderer involved. Typically, the asocial type leaves the body at the scene of death, and while the location is not open to the casual observer, there has been no attempt to conceal the body. Conversely, the nonsocial type commits the crime in a secluded or isolated location and may later transport it to an area where it is likely to be found.

While there may be no conscious intent to be arrested, the nonsocial type wants the excitement derived from the publicity about the body’s discovery and its impact on the victim’s community. The lust murder is committed in a brutally sadistic manner. While the victim may be either male or female, the crime is predominantly heterosexual and intraracial in nature. The victim’s body exhibits gross mutilation and/or displacement of the breasts, rectum, or genitals and may have been subjected to excessive stabbing or slashing with a sharp instrument. The victim’s death typically occurs shortly following abduction or attack, and the mutilation that takes place follows death. Dr. J. Paul de River notes in his book, Crime and the Sexual Psychopath:

“The lust murderer, usually, after killing his victim, tortures, cuts, maims or slashes the victim in the regions on or about the genitalia, rectum, breast in the female, and about the neck, throat and buttocks, as usually these parts contain strong sexual significance to him, and serve as sexual stimulus.”

If, however, there is physical or medical evidence indicating the victim was subjected to torture or mutilation prior to death, this factor indicates that the perpetrator was the nonsocial rather than the asocial type.

Seldom will the lust murderer use a firearm to kill, for he experiences too little psychosexual gratification with such an impersonal weapon. Most frequently, death results from strangulation, blunt force, or the use of a pointed, sharp instrument. The asocial type is more prone to use a weapon of opportunity and may leave it at the scene, while the nonsocial type may carry the murder weapon with him and take it when departing the scene. Therefore, the murderer’s choice of weapon and its proximity to the scene can be greatly significant to the investigation.

Dr. de River comments that the instrument itself may be symbolic to the murderer and he may place it in a position near the victim. This is a form of pride and exhibitionistic behavior and can be sexually gratifying to him.  The investigator may find that the victim has been bitten on the breasts, buttocks, neck, abdomen, thighs, or genitals, as these body areas have sexual associations. Limb or breast amputation, or in some instances total dissection, may have taken place.

The lust murder is premeditated in the obsessive fantasies of the perpetrator.”

Dissection of the victim’s body, when committed by the nonsocial type, may be an attempt to hinder the identification of the victim. The asocial individual approaches his victim in much the same way as an inquisitive child with a new toy. He involves himself in an exploratory examination of the sexually significant parts of the body in an attempt to determine how they function and appear beneath the surface.

Occasionally, it will be noted that the murderer has smeared the victim’s blood on himself, the victim, or the surface on which the body rests. This activity is more frequently associated with the asocial type and relates to the uncontrollable frenzy of the attack.

Penis penetration of the victim is not to be expected from the asocial individual, but is predominantly associated with the nonsocial type, even to the extent of “necrophilia.”  These activities on the nonsocial’s part reflect his desire to outrage society and call attention to his total disdain for societal acceptance. The asocial type more commonly inserts foreign objects into the body orifices in a probing and curiosity-motivated, yet brutal, manner. Evidence of ejaculation may be found on or near the victim or her clothing.

Frequently, the murderer will take a “souvenir,” normally an object or article of clothing belonging to the victim, but occasionally it may be a more personal reminder of the encounter. A finger, a lock of hair, or a part of the body with sexual association. The souvenir is taken to enable the murderer to relive the scene in later fantasies. The killer here is acting out his fantasy, and complete possession of the victim is part of that fantasy. As previously mentioned, the perpetrator may commit an anthropophagic act and such an act is indicative of asocial involvement.

Finally, the scene itself will exhibit much less physical evidence when the murderer is the nonsocial type. As stated, the individual categorized as the nonsocial type is very cunning and more methodical than the asocial type, who commits a more frenzied assault. It is interesting to note, however, that both types may be compelled to return to the scene, albeit for different reasons. While the asocial type may return to engage in further mutilation or to relive the experience, the nonsocial type returns to determine if the body has been discovered and to check on the progress of the investigation. Instances have occurred when the nonsocial type changed the body’s location to insure its discovery.

Of interest is the almost obsessive desire of the nonsocial type to assess the police investigation, even to the extent of frequenting police “hangouts” to eavesdrop on discussions of unsolved crimes, or in some manner, inserting himself into the investigation. In one case, the murderer returned to the scene after it had been examined by police laboratory technicians and deposited articles of clothing worn by the victim on the day she died. In both of two other cases, the killer visited the cemetery site of the victim and left articles belonging to the victim on her grave. It is as though he were involved in a “game” with the authorities. Such actions appear to further his “will to power” or desire to control.

Portrait of the Lust Murderer

What set of circumstances create the individual who becomes the lust murderer? The authors do not possess the expertise to explain the multiple and complex casual factors associated with the psychological development of the individual who commits such a heinous crime. But, it is generally accepted that the foundation of the personality is formed within the first few years of life. While extreme stress, frequent narcotic use, or alcohol abuse can cause personality disorganization in later life, it is the early years that are critical to the personality structure and development.

Seldom does the lust murderer come from an environment of love and understanding. It is more likely that he was an abused or neglected child who experienced a great deal of conflict in his early life and was unable to develop and use adequate coping devices (Le. defense mechanisms). Had he been able to do so, he would have withstood the stresses placed on him and developed normally in early childhood. It must be emphasized that many individuals are raised in environments not conducive to healthy psychological development, yet they become productive citizens. These stresses, frustrations, and subsequent anxieties, along with the inability to cope with them, may lead the individual to withdraw from the society which he perceives as hostile and threatening.

Through this internalization process, he becomes secluded and isolated from others and may eventually select suicide as an alternative to a life of loneliness and frustration. The authors have designated this reaction to life as disorganized asocial. This type possesses a poor self-image and secretly rejects the society which he feels rejects him. Family and associates would describe him a nice, quiet person who keeps to himself, but who never quite realized his potential. During adolescence, he may have engaged in voyeuristic activities or the theft of feminine clothing. Such activities serve as a substitute for his inability to approach women sexually in a mature and confident manner.

The individual designated by the authors as the organized nonsocial type harbors similar feelings of hostility, but elects not to withdraw and internalize his hostility. Rather, he overtly expresses it through aggressive and seemingly senseless acts against society. Typically, he begins to demonstrate his hostility as he passes through puberty and into adolescence. He would be described as a troublemaker and a manipulator of people, concerned only for himself. He experiences difficulties with family, friends,

“The lust murder is committed in a brutally sadistic manner.”

and “authority figures” through antisocial acts which may include homicide. Thomas Strentz and Conrad Hassel, in the June 1978 issue of Journal of Police Science and Administration, wrote of a youth who had first murdered at the age of 15 and was committed to a mental institution. After his release he murdered and dismembered eight women.  It is the nonsocial’s aim to get even with society and inflict pain and punishment upon others.

The Role of Fantasy

As noted, the lust murder is premeditated in obsessive fantasies experienced by both the asocial and nonsocial murderers. Fantasy provides them an avenue of escape from a world of hate and rejection.  Dr. James J. Reinhardt in his book, Sex Perversions and Sex Crimes, has written:

“A study of these cases almost invariably reveals a long struggle against what Reik calls the ‘forward thrust.’ By fantasy the murderer attempts to wall himself in against the fatal act, while at the same time gratifying the compulsive psychic demands in the development and use of fantasy. These sadistic [fantasies] seem always to have preceded the brutal act of lust murder. These fantasies take all sorts of grotesque and cruel forms. The pervert, on this level of degeneracy, may resort to pornographic pictures, grotesque and cruel literary episodes, out of which he weaves fantasies. On these, his imagination dwells until he loses all contact with reality, only to find himself suddenly impelled to carry his fantasies into the world of actuality. This is done, apparently, by drawing human objects into the fantasy.”

James Russell Odom, tried and convicted with James Clayton Lawson for the brutal lust murder described at the beginning of this article, stated that while he and Lawson were at a mental institution, they would express their fantasies about women:

“(Odom) raping them and Lawson mutilating them . . . (we had fantasized so much that at times I didn’t know what was real”

If he acts out the fantasy (commits the crime), his goal will be to destroy the victim and thereby become the sole possessor. James Lawson (mentioned above) is quoted as saying:

“Then I cut her throat so she would not scream. . . . at this time I wanted to cut her body so she would not look like a person and destroy her so she would not exist. I began to cut on her body. I remember cutting her breasts off. After this, all I remember is that I kept cutting on her body.”

The victim may represent something he desires sexually, but is unable to approach. Lawson speaks again, “I did not rape the girl. I only wanted to destroy her.”

Rarely encountered is the asocial type who is capable of normal heterosexual relationships. He may desire such relationships, but he also fears them. Dr. Reinhardt, on an interview with a famous lust murderer, wrote:

” … He at first denied ever attempting any sex play with girls. Two days later with one of his rare shows of emotion he said, looking much ashamed, that twice, later correcting himself to eight times, he had touched girls ‘on the breasts’ and then pressed ‘on the leg.’ Always having done this, he would immediately burst into tears and ‘be upset and unable to sleep’.”

The Psychological Profile

A psychological profile is an educated attempt to provide investigative agencies with specific information as to the type of individual who committed a certain crime. It must be clearly stated at the outset that what can be done in this area is limited, and prescribed investigative procedures should not be suspended, altered, or replaced by receipt of a profile. Rather, the material provided should be considered and employed as another investigative tool. The process is an art and not a science, and while it may be applicable to many types of investigations, its use is restricted primarily to crimes of violence or potential violence. When prepared by the FBI, the profile may include the perpetrator’s age, race, sex, socioeconomic and marital status, educational level, arrest history, location of residence in relation to the scene, and certain personality traits.

A profile is based on characteristic patterns or factors of uniqueness that distinguish certain individuals from the general population. In the case of lust murder, clues to those factors of uniqueness are found on the victim’s body and at the scene and would include the amount and location of mutilation involved, type of weapon used, cause of death, and the position of the body. The profiler is searching for clues which indicate the probable personality configuration of the responsible individual.

“The location of the victim’s body may be indicative of the type of murderer involved.”

In preparing the profile, it is preferable to have access to the scene prior to its disturbance. In most instances, this is impossible. In lieu of being at the scene, the profiler must be provided investigative reports, autopsy protocols, detailed photographs of the body, scene, and surrounding area, as well as a map depicting the victim’s last known location in relation to its present location and any known information pertaining to the victim and her activities. There are violent crimes in which there is an absence of uniqueness; therefore, it is not possible to provide a profile. However, this is not likely to occur in the case of a lust murder.


While not a common occurrence, the lust murder frightens and arouses the public as does no other crime. The lust murder involves the death and subsequent mutilating attack of the breasts, rectum, and genital areas of the victim. The crime is typically heterosexual and intraracial in nature and is committed by one of two types of individuals: The disorganized asocial personality, or the organized nonsocial personality.

The organized nonsocial type feels rejection by and hatred for the society in which he lives. His hostile feelings are manifested overtly, and the lust murder is the final expression of the hatred he feels. The disorganized asocial type also feels rejection and hatred for his world, but withdraws and internalizes his feelings, living within a world of fantasy until he acts out that fantasy with his victim.

While commonalities exist in the commission of the lust murder, there are certain factors which may indicate the personality type involved. These factors include the location of the body, evidence of torture or mutilation having occurred prior to death, smearing of the victim’s blood, evidence of penis penetration or anthropophagy, and the availability of physical evidence at the scene.

The crime is premeditated in the obsessive fantasies experienced by both the asocial and the nonsocial type” yet it is a crime of opportunity, one in which the victim is not usually known to the murderer.

The use of psychological profiling in such crimes may be of assistance in determining the personality type involved. It is a search for clues indicating the probable personality configuration of the responsible individual(s). It is a useful tool, but must not alter, suspend, or replace prescribed investigative procedures.



STONY BROOK, N.Y., January 20, 2015

 Our existence depends on a bit of evolutionary genius aptly nicknamed “fight or flight.”  But where in our brain does the alarm first go off, and what other parts of the brain are mobilized to express fear and remember to avoid danger in the future?

These are questions that a team of scientists led by Associate Professor Bo Li and post doctorate fellow Mario Penzo at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), and Stony Brook University’s Jason Tucciarone have begun to answer in a paper to be published January 19 in Nature, titled “The paraventricular thalamus controls a central amygdala fear circuit.” Using mouse models, the researchers have identified a novel life-preserving circuit that is responsible for recognizing and remembering threats, as well as activating the brain to respond to danger.

“This research enriches our understanding of brain anatomy and normal functioning in fear memory,” says co-author Jason Tucciarone, an MD/PhD student in Stony Brook’s Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) and the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior. “It also may provide clues to faulty processing of threats that can lead to anxiety, phobias and, perhaps, post-traumatic stress disorder.”

The research team looked first at the thalamus, the part of the brain known as the “switchboard.”  In particular, they focused on the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus (PVT), “an area that is readily activated by both physical and psychological stressors,” according to the authors.

As part of their experiment, the researchers used mild foot shocks to simulate danger. They also genetically altered mice to study the role specific parts of the circuit play in protecting the mice from “danger.”

First, they confirmed that the PVT was indeed highly sensitive to threats. They then looked at the neurons in the posterior PVT (pPVT) that were communicating with the lateral division of the central amygdala (CeL), where neuroscientists say is a site of fear memories.

Through a series of experiments that suppressed communications coming from these neurons, they found that the pPVT plays an important role in conditioning the mice to fear certain situations and to remember those fears. They also demonstrated that this knowledge was “hard wired” into the neuronal synapses.

But what chemical messenger do the pPVT neurons send off to deliver this information to their cousins in the CeL? The researchers hypothesized that the messenger might be brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein known to regulate synaptic functions.

To test this hypothesis, the researchers created mice without the gene to produce BDNF or without a BDNF receptor. Both kinds of mice exhibited an impaired ability to recognize danger, even after being conditioned to do so. The researchers also tested the effect of BDNF on mice that had not been genetically altered by infusing their brains with BDNF, causing a “robust” response to danger.

The communications transmitted by BDNF produced in pPVT neurons and picked up by CeL receptors, the researchers concluded, “facilitate not only the formation of stable fear memories but also the expression of fear responses.”

This research was supported by grants from National Institutes of Health, the Dana Foundation, the National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders, the Louis Feil Trust, the Stanley Family Foundation, and a Harvey L. Karp 27 Discovery Award.

Cognitive Dissonance and the Scotoma of Violence

It’s important for me to understand violence, what real attacks look like and how they occur.  In todays society everything is recorded and for us studying violence this is beneficial.  While watching video footage, something I find interesting are the people and bystanders who walk past a violent encounter as its occurring. They seem to not recognize what is happening.  I have seen gun and knife attacks and while the chaos is happening a few feet away the bystander will continue to stand in the bank teller line waiting for their turn.  This also happens with the victim who will visually see the man in the black hoodie enter the room with his face covered, draw a gun from his waist band and the victim will sit still and not respond.  The problem is that the brain is experiencing a cognitive dissonance.

For our usage; cognitive dissonance is the mental stress experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs or ideas; when confronted with new information that contradicts one of the beliefs. In order to relive the dissonance the brain will ignore one in favor of the more desirable ideas.

This means that the normal expected experience of reality (standing in line at the bank) is in opposition and contrast of being a victim of a robbery.  The robbery is not supposed to be happening, thus the person has two versions of reality being shared at that moment and it will take the brain some time to sort out the truth of the situation. Unfortunately these few moments of confusion are the most important in terms of self protection.  In our scenario the victim might have seen the assailant walk in the bank wearing a black hoodie but mentally there was a Scotoma, a visual blind spot.  The assailant was within the victim’s field of vision but the brain decided to filter that information out of consciousness. The brain receives an overwhelming amount of information, most of which is filtered out of one’s consciousness. Imagine remembering the numbers on every single automobile license plate while driving to work.  With that much data coming in it wouldn’t take long to reach a breaking point of insanity. In order to function, the mind has a filter to keep out unimportant information. While our victim visually sees the robber the brain filtered out the information because it did not match with the expected reality of the situation and the information was deemed unnecessary. There was a dissonance or conflicting information and the data was removed.  Often even as more confirmation is received the person simply doesn’t want to believe what is happening.   They say” ignorance is bliss” but in a violent encounter ignorance can cost you your life.  The sooner you can recognize a threat the more time you have to respond.  Within a violent event time line the closer to the initiation point your reaction is the more effective it is.  If someone was clairvoyant and knew the bank robbery was going to happen the most effective response would be to stay at home. However the next best response would be to see the assailant and make an exit out of the vicinity at that point of event initiation.  In most cases the longer you wait the more danger you are in. As self protectors and protectors of others like our family we need to train to recognize threats and react to them as quickly as possible.

The Emotional Component

(For this discussion, I would like to remind readers that as an overall principal, Combatives are not designed for or generally used for the typical bar room fight or “Establishing Dominance” type confrontation.    Civilian Combatives are more suited for “assault response” and life threatening situations.)

For every combative system there are underlying philosophies and principals.  The techniques and martial attributes are the physical expression of the systems underlying beliefs and concepts.  The single most important philosophy within the Kerberos system is the belief that any system does not exist in a vacuum on its own without the human component, it is executed by human beings and as humans we are susceptible to our own fears and frailties.

Ardant  DuPicq wrote

“Battle is the final objective of armies and man is the fundamental instrument in battle. Nothing can wisely be prescribed in an army—its personnel, organization, discipline and tactics, things which are connected like the fingers of a hand—without exact knowledge of the fundamental instrument, man, and his state of mind, his morale, at the instant of combat.

It often happens that those who discuss war, taking the weapon for the starting point, assume unhesitatingly that the man called to serve it will always use it as contemplated and ordered by the regulations. But such a being, throwing off his variable nature to become an impassive pawn, an abstract unit in the combinations of battle, is a creature born of the musings of the library, and not a real man. Man is flesh and blood; he is body and soul. And, strong as the soul often is, it cannot dominate the body to the point where there will not be a revolt of the flesh and mental perturbation in the face of destruction.”


It must be understood that under the stress of life and death combat, that man is a complex creature and that there are variables that need to be taken into account for an efficient combative system.  There is a common failure within many systems and styles of martial arts, it’s called PEACE.  Training often occurs in a safe space with soft mats, friends as opponents and the idea of having to engage in actual combat is a fleeting far off possibility. Within the training halls four walls of safety, over time the realities of violence are forgotten.

A persons actions are in direct relationship to his emotional state of being and his morale at the time of engagement. The Kerberos combative system recognizes this.  The system has three “Tactical engagement modes”.   These TEM’s are labeled ALPHA, BETA and GAMMA.  Each mode encompasses a combative behavior, a spatial sphere of time and distance and a corresponding emotional state.   Alpha is an aggressive, linear, forward moving type of behavior and would typically correspond with an aggressive emotion like anger.  Beta is more passive. It’s a dynamic evading type of behavior to keep distance while still being engaged. the emotional state would be that of fear and caution.  Gamma is typified by ground fighting and wrestling for a dominant position. It could be either aggressive or neutral depending on the situation.  What is important to note is that the individuals emotions will naturally dictate their response, therefore the system must be designed to accommodate for this.  A martial art that dictates that the person should move forward and attack will fail if the person’s heart is telling them to run or keep distance. There are also times when a person’s anger and willingness to engage will override a more passive art and that martial art will be forgotten and tossed aside in the heat of battle.

While the individual’s emotions are shown on the surface, there are biophysical responses that happen within the body when under the stress of combat.  Tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, loss of fine motor skills and coordination, these factors have a large impact on one’s ability to perform.  An efficient combative system incorporates good training habits and specifically designed components to manage these adrenal effects.  Scanning, drills are designed with an assailant or multiple assailants. The student is taught to scan the area before and after the engagement as well as being aware of backdrop. The use of drills that require the head and neck to scan the area is repeated until it becomes a habit. This habit will reduce the tunnel vision effect.  Training drills must always account for “friends, family and sympathizers”. Reality has shown us that if you focus on one assailant, an accomplice or someone else we were not aware of always tends to blind side us.

As the adrenal system forces our heart rate up we lose our fine motor skills.  It’s important to have a focus on gross motor actions rather than fine motor skills that will degrade under stress.  It’s easier for gross motor actions to become hardwired through repetition so that these actions become automated responses. They are more reliable and more effective.

Nothing in combat can ever be guaranteed but a well thought out system can improve the possibility of success.  An awareness of the effects of adrenaline being dumped into the body’s system can help prepare an individual so that when these effects take over they are not a surprise and nothing to be feared.

Combatives and Brain Function


Kerberos Combatives training starts with a belief that,

Philosophy gives rise to an inner narrative on what fighting is.  Narrative conditions the way you train and what that training involves.  Your training ultimately creates your reality.

Standard martial arts like karate, Judo or Taekwondo are skill based arts.  Meaning 90% of the student’s time will be focused on martial skills. The goal of a martial style is to make the student proficient in the curriculum of that particular style and not on preparing them for actual combat.  The  martial art student will work for years to perfect the particular skill set used in that particular style, like basic punching, kicking or things like wrist controls or grappling and often movements called a form or “kata”. A kata is a solo routine that mimics fighting moves in a dance like fashion.  The underlying concept of kata is that the skills used in mastery of the actions in the form will transfer over to actual fighting skill in real life.  However upon studying how the brain learns and works, we can understand that this does not work as well as once thought.   The brain works by creating small pathways that transfer electrical information. This neural net is like tiny highways that carry information. The more the pathway is used the thicker and stronger the path becomes, thus the information can travel quicker and the brain can more easily find the information it needs. The problem arises when the actions and pathways that are reinforced do not match or resemble actual combat. The brain will have difficulty finding the correct responses under the stress and confusion of combat.  The goal of Combatives it to make a student better equipped for a violent encounter from day one.  Aquainting the student with emotional stress by simulating scenarios that reflect actual self defense situations against a role playing partner or partners.  The student can practice martial skill and train the brain to recognize those situations and apply the correct responses while being familiar with the stress component of combat.

It has been known for a long time by violence professionals that the more choices the brain has to navigate through the longer the reaction time.  In standard martial arts there can be hundreds of hand and kicking strikes.  This slows reaction time.  Combatives will teach a small set of versatile strikes that makes up a “tool box” that the practitioner can rely upon under stress and in chaotic situations. During a violent encounter the body will dump adrenaline and other chemicals into the bodies system.  This has both positive and negative effects.  The most evident is that fine motor skills are hampered due to the shutting off of the energy supply for these muscle groups and sends that energy to the larger muscles for an increase in gross motor skills.  under this adrenal influence you will find it difficult if not impossible to thread a needle or put a key in a lock (should also be noted that you may find it difficult to navigate your cell phone to call 911) but the positive is the added strength in things like running as well as the vasoconstriction that will reduce blood loss if you are cut from a knife.  There are many effects on the body and mind from the adrenaline caused by stress and fear and these effects must be taken into consideration and applied to training.  Many standard martial arts simply do not address this issue. Any good martial art or Combatives program will acknowledge the physiological effects and aftermath of stress and violence.



What is combatives part 1.


Combatives started with the training of the United States military. sometimes called Close Quarter Combat (CQC ) , it was developed to train soldiers for hand to hand fighting. the goal was to have a reliable and easily taught system.  combatives were largely developed by Britain’s William E. Fairbairn and  Eric A. Sykes. Also known for their eponymous Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife, Fairbairn and Sykes had worked in the British Armed Forces and helped teach the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP) quick, effective, and simple techniques for fighting with or without weapons in melee situations. Fairbairn had been in hundreds of confrontations during his time in Shanghai.  He had spent some time learning Chinese martial art moves as well as boxing and wrestling. After adding some Savate, Yoshin Ryu jujustsu and Judo to his studies he created his own system of fighting.  His method was different from previous concepts in that Fairbairn emphasised the necessity of forgetting any idea of gentlemanly conduct or fighting fair: “Get tough, get down in the gutter, win at all costs… I teach what is called ‘Gutter Fighting.’ There’s no fair play, no rules except one: kill or be killed,”.

Traditional Asian Martial arts are culturally tied to concepts of Spirituality, Buddhism or Shintoism and cultivating peace and harmony. Asian martial arts are viewed as a method of self development as well as self defense.  Combatives separates the techniques from the cultural elements and focuses on the practicality and effectiveness of combative behavior.


In 2001, Matt Larsen, then a Sergeant First Class, established the United States Army Combatives School at Fort Benning.  Larsens martial arts backround started when he was stationed overseas in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan with the Marine detachment at Naval Air Facility Atsugi. During this time Larsen began training in judo, Shotokan karate, and traditional boxing. He continued his training in martial arts when he was transferred to Okinawa with the 3rd Battalion 5th Marine Regiment. He trained in Shōbayashi Shōrin-ryū with Eizo Shimabukuro and continued his judo training. He also trained Sayoc Kali in the Philippines.  He utilized his martial arts training, having also attained black belts in several disciplines including Brazilian Jiu-jitsu under Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti and Russian Sambo, and merged them into a single, effective fighting style which became the military MACP program. Students are taught techniques from the 2002 and 2009 versions of FM 3-25.150 (Combatives), written by Larsen. The aim of the regimen is to teach soldiers how to train rather than attempting to give them the perfect techniques for any given situation. The main idea is that all real ability is developed after the initial training and only if training becomes routine. The initial techniques are simply a learning metaphor useful for teaching more important concepts, such as dominating an opponent with superior body position during ground grappling or how to control someone during clinch fighting. They are taught as small, easily repeatable drills, in which practitioners could learn multiple related techniques rapidly. For example, Drill One teaches several techniques: escaping blows, maintaining the mount, escaping the mount, maintaining the guard, passing the guard, assuming side control, maintaining side control, preventing and assuming the mount. The drill can be completed in less than a minute and can be done repeatedly with varying levels of resistance to maximize training benefits.


Combatives and martial arts both continue to evolve.  Today, combatives programs are taught not only within the military but are also popular with civilians.  while the program content may be different for the general public than what is taught to branches of the service, the basics and the philosophy that underlies the training is the same.

The defining element is that civilian combatives are devoid of the more common Asian flavor or sport oriented backdrop.  It is a bare bones effective methodology of human combative behavior.  Asian martial arts were the initial inspiration and seeds sown to develop western combatives,  but today’s combative training are simple, effective and devastating.  Perhaps they are more in line with where the Asian martial arts themselves originated.