left of bang

left of bang

The term “left of bang” is a meme (a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme), the presence of which is increasing, given the heavy focus on American militarization.  

It was recently used by the four-star Army Ranger who had recently assumed command of U.S. Special Operations Command.  

The focus for the term is on tactical operations of that nature, which will be touched upon briefly by reference to the book, but I will also explore its use by civilians in the more mundane worlds and moments, especially those potentially violent. And I’ll take a look at how it might have been a factor in some recents news events. I’ll wonder out loud why it doesn’t have a role in the larger worlds of strategy, foreign policy, and culture. And then I’ll examine how it might be of value to you and your family as you encounter an emergency threat to your household.

The general explained to an attentive and fawning press recently that getting “left of bang” involved a transition away from reactive thinking to one of proactive thinking, or getting into “a ready position to deal with new threats in their early stages”

The term undoubtedly arises from the threats in Afghanistan and Iraq from IED’s and other combat encounters.  The new applications being sought are in the development of technological applications by IT wizards in the rear echelons of the military-industrial world.

What follows is a lot of reading. Hopefully, you can return to it in chunks as you attend to the rest of your life. 

“Chell” out with some background music and dive in.

There are obvious references and uses of this line of thinking in martial arts and self-defense, law enforcement, as well as in business strategic planning.  

While I have not read the book, my immediate reaction is that this is nothing more than bottled water in old wine skins. The concepts are old, despite what the generals say.

“Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life” by Patrick Van Horne, Jason Riley, Shawn Coyne (Editor), Steven Pressfield (Goodreads Author) (Introduction)

“At a time when we must adapt to the changing character of conflict, this is a serious book on a serious issue that can give us the edge we need.” 

—General James Mattis, USMC, Ret. 

“Left of Bang offers a crisp lesson in survival in which Van Horne and Riley affirm a compelling truth: It’s better to detect sinister intentions early than respond to violent actions late. Left of Bang helps readers avoid the bang.” 

—Gavin de Becker, bestselling author if The Gift of Fear 

“Left of Bang is a highly important and innovative book that offers a substantial contribution to answering the challenge of Fourth Generation war (4GW).” 

—William S. Lind, author of Maneuver Warfare Handbook 

“Like Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Left of Bang isn’t just for the military. It’s a must read for anyone who has ever had a gut feeling that something’s not quite right…be it walking down the street, sitting in a corporate boardroom, or even entering an empty home.” 

— Steven Pressfield, bestselling author of The Lion’s Gate, The Warrior Ethos and Gates of Fire 

“An amazing book! Applying the lessons learned during the longest war in American history, and building on seminal works like The Gift of Fear and On Combat, this book provides a framework of knowledge that will bring military, law enforcement, and individual citizens to new levels of survival mindset and performance in life-and-death situations. Left of Bang is an instant classic.” 

–Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman, U.S. Army Ret., author of On Combat and On Killing 




Ed Hinman says 

Besides reinforcing many of the observation and detection techniques explained in Gift of Fear and Just 2 Seconds, Van Horne and Riley add some new concepts and terms to push our Moment of Recognition (i.e. identifying Pre-incident indicators of violence or PINs) to the left of the assassin’s bang.

When it comes to detecting PINs, the authors introduce two new terms, “baseline” and “anomaly.”

• Baseline.  Establishing a baseline is digesting all that’s normal in our environment.  (Normal is relative of course, as normal behavior at a funeral is different than normal behavior at a rock concert.)

• Anomaly.  Once the baseline is established for that particular environment, observed behaviors that seem out of place within that environment are labeled anomalies.  “Whenever there are things in our environment that do not happen but should, or do happen but shouldn’t, we have an anomaly.”

Note: For our purposes, anomalies and PINs can be interpreted as the same.

The book gains traction with me when Van Horn and Riley explain that a PIN (or anomaly) can be classified under one of six behavioral domains.  By understanding and considering each behavioral domain, it becomes even easier to find PINs that might otherwise be hidden.

The Six Possible Domains for a PIN:

1 Kinesics involves body language. Non-verbal expressions, postures, and gestures that communicate someone’s current emotions and possibly their future intentions.  (Kinesiology is studying the body’s motion.)

◦Anomaly (or PIN): Everyone in the crowd is smiling, except a man with clinched fists who stares at you and then back at your protectee.

2 Biometrics involves the uncontrollable and automatic biological responses of the human body to stress.

◦Anomaly (or PIN): That same man is sweating on an otherwise mild day.

3 Proxemics involves groups of people and the interpersonal distance, or proximity, between groups and individuals.

◦Anomaly (or PIN): Other people in the crowd seem to be distancing themselves from this man.

4 Geographics involves reading the relationship between people and their environment, or geography, enabling us to identify who is familiar and who is unfamiliar with an area.

◦Anomaly (or PIN): The man doesn’t appear acquainted with the social customs of the crowd; he appears uncomfortable with all that’s going on around him.

5 Iconography involves symbols, or icons, that communicate an individual’s beliefs and affiliations.

◦Anomaly (or PIN): He is wearing numerous religious symbols that differ from the typical members of the crowd.

6 Atmospherics involves the collective mood and behaviors, or the atmosphere, of a situation or place.

◦Anomaly (or PIN): The energy of people in his immediate vicinity differs from the rest of the crowd; people around him seem a bit uneasy or nervous.

I encourage all protectors to remember that Suspects Exist Everywhere (SEE) and to observe crowds, vendors, visitors, and others while considering each behavioral domain.  In doing so, it will become even easier to find PINs that might otherwise be hidden.  And when we do spot a PIN, and then another, and then another, it’s time to take action.

Taking Action.  After confirming multiple PINs on an individual, I advocate taking these three steps. (Only move to the succeeding step if you deem it necessary.)

1. Report the individual to other agents and onsite security.

2. Question the individual and look for additional PINs throughout your conversation; for example, ask to see the contents of his backpack.

3. Detain the individual (if necessary) or ask him to leave (if necessary), using law enforcement and/or additional security (if necessary).  Also ask for his name and take his picture.

Note: Sometimes just one PIN — depending on the situation — is enough to incite your immediate actions.  Again, always use your judgment and experience, and seek the input of other security professionals on site to help govern your actions.

(For more information on the protection philosophies outlined in Left of Bang visit www.cp-journal.com/blog)


The US Army offers “Advanced Situational Awareness Training”, which includes “instruction in human behavior pattern recognition and analysis” to prepare soldiers to apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills in order to anticipate an event before it happens.

I’m guessing there are a large number of people in the alternative media currently involved in the development and use of similar skills and approaches in order to detect false flag attacks before they occur. 

“It’s better to detect sinister intentions early than respond to violent actions late.”

“Patrick Van Horne and Jason Riley, co-authors of Left of Bang, are former active-duty Marine Corps officers and instructors who helped enhance and evolve the Combat Hunter training program at the Marines Corps’ Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, VA. Their specialty, and the focus of the book, is “how to read the human terrain through an increased understanding of human behavior” across all cultural lines.”  The book “encourages you to “thin-slice” a situation. That is to pick up on telltale patterns and assess a suspect’s intentions “with just a thin slice of information,” sometimes no more than one important cue snagged “with just seconds of observation.”

“Perfect decisions are not always possible, they concede, but “more than 100 scientific studies have demonstrated that people can make incredibly accurate intuitive judgments with just a little” input.

The final 50 pages of the book are devoted to how you “put it all together” to make decisions most likely to be valid and take action so that “bang” never occurs…..”


Need a short visual lesson? Watch that segment of  The Assignment where the character played by Aidan Quinnn is trained in an old prison in Quebec. Want to bring it closer to your home, to your life? Go here: modernsurvivalblog.com/5-drills-for-situational-awareness, the source of the featured image above. Take a clue from that picture which shows the individual in a “situational awareness bubble” and get your attention away from the cell phones, androids, and other absoptive distractions in your culture and surroundings until you are seated in a secure environment.

This important piece of reading, besides being deeply instructive in a parallel way, introduces the concept of mindfulness, discussed in depth in my e-book “Summon The Magic” over at BoyDownTheLane, and notes one of its chief sources (aside from an orientation to Buddhism), Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer. 

There is more intense follow-up material here. 

And here is a good introductory lesson on iconography. (See the item on tattoo recognition below.)

This article, written for law enforcement officers, is an extension of the same thinking. What I like about this is that it specifically zooms right in on the concept of attention, another essential tenet in “Summon The Magic”.  And it seems to be a good simplification or reduction (the essence of) some of the concepts taught to LEO’s from the OODA loop.  There’s a discussion about decision-making research, the four pillars of observable behavior, and the “Baseline + Anomaly = Decision” template.

The four pillars, and behavioral analysis, are explained here and here. 


Additional Resources

A Situational Awareness Webinar

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yO8FA8x21k  [one hour]







Dave Maass from EFF says, “Right now, NIST researchers are working with the FBI to develop tattoo recognition technology that police can use to learn as much as possible about people through their tattoos. But an EFF investigation has found that these experiments exploit inmates, with little regard for the research’s implications for privacy, free expression, religious freedom, and the right to associate. And so far, researchers have avoided ethical oversight while doing it.” “NIST’s research involved profiling people based on their religious tattoos, exploited prisoners, and handed private data to third parties. And they did all that without going through the proper review process”


What struck me as I read some of this material was how closely it was analogous to some of the concepts I’d read about in reading about the discipline of aikido, concepts such as metsuke  (“… metsuke opens the door to the next level of understanding. Metsuke creates a sense of concentration, of being “in the moment” … that sense of immediacy and mindfulness is fundamental to the effectiveness of the techniques that we learn…”). 

Another term that emerges from within the martial arts is that of zanshin, “the continued state of spirit, mental alertness and physical readiness to meet the situation”. Note how many teach the maintenance of that kind of mental alertness throughout the entire day.




“There’s a gun in your face. You have three options. Pick one. Time’s up.”



Time, Space & Mind: The Three Dimensions of the Reactionary Gap

By Jeff Brooks

To strike your opponent successfully you need to enter through a gap in his defenses. If your opponent’s defenses are sound, you cannot enter and you cannot strike them. There are a variety of ways to enter. You can crush the defenses. You can deceive your opponent into misplacing his defense and so take advantage of an opportunity where he is exposed. You can perceive a weakness in your opponent’s posture or awareness, or both.

In medieval Japanese budo these openings in the opponent’s defenses, these opportunities to strike, were called “suki.”

The idea of suki has been discussed at length in several famous books on Japanese swordsmanship. The classic medieval Japanese text, published in modern times as one of the essays in “The Unfettered Mind,” was actually a letter written by Zen monk Takuan Soho addressed to Yagyu Munenori, sword master to the family of the Shogun, the military dictator of Japan at that time.

Takuan was a very influential person, abbot of one of the chief Zen temples in Japan. He was equivalent in influence to a Pope in medieval Europe. He was a retainer of the military government. He addressed his comments to the senior instructor in the most prestigious military art in the highly militarized world of his time.

His comments were ostensibly a discourse on swordsmanship, but can easily be read as advice in Zen practice, using swordsmanship as a metaphor. In his letter he applies Zen insights and theory to the practice of swordsmanship. Takuan did not practice swordsmanship himself. He may have been motivated by a desire to persuade the leaders of his nation of the practical utility of Zen in the life of the samurai.

Takuan talks about avoiding “suki” by means of the “mind abiding nowhere.” This is an application of the theory underlying the Zen practice of “samadhi” – the cultivation of mental stability and clarity in seated Zen meditation – to the practice of combat with swords.

D.T. Suzuki, one of the leading importers of Zen to the west in the early 20th century, cites Takuan’s letter and analyzes it, in his famous book from the 1950’s “Zen in Japanese Culture.” Suzuki was a scholar, trained in western philosophy, but also in the practice and theory of Japanese Zen.

Both Takuan and Suzuki emphasize the identity of the mind that is completely free to respond unhindered to the demands of the moment with the mind that is immovable – not deflected by either stimulation or impulse.

Both Takuan and Suzuki seem to take for granted that a suki arises as a result of a mental flaw – a gap in attention or alertness. As acute as their observations are, this presumption is one-sided, probably due to the fact that these two commentators were not martial practitioners and had a psychological bias to their analytical approach.

I have seen less-experienced fighters go to the other interpretive extreme. In a sparring match or a confrontation, these individuals look for a physical “gap” in the defenses of the opponent. Waiting for a physical gap to open up, their fleeting opportunity is lost. They lose initiative and fall into a reactive mode in which they respond to their opponent’s initiative and lose any advantage they may have had.

Their analytical prejudice is physical – they neglect other aspects of combative engagement.

Today in martial arts and police combative training we work with the same set of phenomena as medieval Japanese martial artists did. The opportunity to take advantage of a suki or gap in an opponent’s defense, and at the same time avoid a window of vulnerability to open in our own defenses, arises in three dimensions of experience simultaneously: time, space and mind.

The dimension of mind has several aspects. One aspect is alertness. This is a cultivated ability to maintain a clear and stable focus on the matter at hand, without being distracted by parts of reality such as the opponent’s body, elements of the environment or by one’s own thoughts, emotions and impulses. This ability is developed. You have to practice stability and clarity under pressure, just as you have to practice physical technique, to increase your strength, speed, endurance, balance, focus, etc.

Another aspect of the dimension of mind, however, is not trained but inherent. Although it can be modified slightly it cannot be eliminated. So if we are aware of it, and know how to use it, we can take advantage of this flaw in our opponent’s ability to respond to our attack. This aspect of mind is called the “reactionary gap.”

An unanticipated arms length attack is almost impossible to stop. That is why as a police officer you are taught not to permit a subject within your “reactionary gap.” The reactionary gap can be described in space – as a distance of six feet from an empty hand opponent, let’s say, or it can be described in time, 300 to 500 milliseconds for a normal person, to perceive an opponent’s motion, interpret it and respond to it.

A major league baseball player has a reaction time of about 100 to 150 milliseconds, much faster than an average person, but still slow enough for a skilled pitcher to get a well-thrown breaking ball past him.

A famous test of the reactionary gap in armed encounters is called the Tueller Principle. The idea came out of a court case in which an officer shot a knife-wielding subject at what seemed to the jury to be a great distance. Upon testing the by defense, it was shown that a knife-wielding subject could close the distance on an officer with a holstered gun and kill the officer before that officer could draw his gun, from a distance of 21 feet or greater. And that was an average subject and an average officer. Given a subject who is a fast runner, or an officer whose attention is divided or is slower in drawing his firearm, that reactionary gap can open to 30 or 40 feet or more.

The effectiveness of any response to threat stimulus will depend on the sharpness of the attention of the responder, but also upon the mental habit of responding to attacks, and the physical skills that will permit the body to perform accurately, with strength, skill and speed, under pressure.

We will respond, successfully or otherwise, in the dimensions of time, space and mind.

When old books describe becoming “one with the opponent” they are not recommending that you become the same as that person, indistinguishable from him or with the same objectives or methods as him.

The injunction in that poetic phrase is to close the gap between your mind and his mind, between your body and his body. With practice you can intuit how quickly he can respond… you can sense positions in which you can close the distance to him and execute a technique in an unexpected way… you can feel when you can enter his reactionary gap without opening up one of your own.

This does depend on taking the initiative, courageously engaging without doubts and scruples. But it does not mean plunging heedlessly in, needlessly jeopardizing your position, like a kamikaze on a desperation mission.

I worked with a group of new trainees who were asked, on the first day of training, to take one of their instructors to the ground. The instructor was highly skilled. Although they did not have the concept of “finding a gap” it was evident that the trainees could not find a gap in their instructor’s defense. One by one they lunged at the knees or hips of the instructor, with a mixed martial arts type of approach. Each one failed to achieve his objective.

Over the course of the training their skill did increase and they were able to take command of the confrontation, even when faced off with some highly awesome instructors. And one of the things these trainees learned which allowed them to be effective was to never abandon control of the situation, plunging in while neglecting the qualities of the moment, without an objective for each action, without regard to the outcome of the encounter.

The body has to be trained and skillful. The mind has to be stable and strong. The will must be resilient – neither impetuous nor hesitant. That way we can assure that we will perceive and exploit the suki in our opponent’s defenses without opening any gap in our own.

Sun Tzu (the famous Chinese philosopher) does not use the medieval Japanese terminology, nor does he fall prey to either extreme of strategic analysis – too much emphasis on the psychological or too much emphasis on the physical. But he does, throughout his classic book “The Art of War”, address this very issue: how best to recognize and exploit the weak points in your opponent’s defenses, while avoiding exposing your own.



Submitted by Brandon Smith of Alt-Market blog

Physical strength, endurance, flexibility, adaptability, and mental discipline are all attributes of a true survivor.  Unfortunately, they are also attributes that are often neglected by the average survivalist.  The popular assumption is that if you have sizable food storage and can shoot straight, you are ready to rock-and-roll.  Reality has some harsh lessons for those with this mindset.  The first and most important weapon in any prepper’s arsenal is his own body; strong, healthy, and well taken care of.  If a person’s body is left to decay, no amount of gear is going to save them in the middle of a crisis situation…

Hand-to-hand combat training is sometimes treated with cynicism amongst preppers who have spent all their lives enraptured in the world of firearms.  The common retort is “Why use my hands when I have my Glock…?”  Indeed.  Why should we?  Perhaps because one day we may not have a weapon in our possession during a dangerous circumstance.  Should a survivalist simply give up because he loses his gun or he runs out of ammunition?  I think not.

The concept of survival in the midst of collapse and calamity is not necessarily dependent on having all the right tools at all the right times.  Sometimes, you have to improvise, and the only tools you can always count on are your hands, and your (hopefully well oiled and attuned) brain.  Martial Arts training hones and refines these assets to perfection, and also teaches the mind to deal with the stresses and fears associated with combat.  In fact, 95% of success in martial arts revolves around learning to accept the idea of someone trying to kill you, so that you can move past the terror of the scenario and deal with it calmly and logically.  Adrenaline, tunnel vision, and unchecked emotion are the true enemies in any fight.  We defeat ourselves long before our assailants ever touch us.

Another concept within martial arts that I find fascinating is the philosophy of Bushido, which is often mistaken as a brand of Eastern religion.  Instead, it is a kind of warrior’s code; a way of dealing with adversity in one’s life.  Struggling with obstacles whether self created, or created by others, requires balance and the ability to take control of the problem and apply one’s own terms instead of the terms other people try to set for you.  It is about leading the battle, instead of being led, while staying true to your conscience.  In the end, we should feel no need to prove anything to anyone but ourselves.  Traditional martial arts still contain elements of Bushido within their methodology, and I believe such practitioners are some of the few people left in the world who operate on a legitimate warrior’s code; something we desperately need in our culture today.

I have studied multiple forms of martial arts for over 26 years, and have found many methods that would work well for the worst survival situations, and plenty that would be utterly useless.  When I started my training classes for Liberty Movement individuals and families in Northwest Montana, my idea was to combine all the strategies that I felt were intuitive, easy to learn, and quick to utilize.  My goal was to help students to become physically capable of self defense within a very short period of time, without running slapdash over important factors like mental strength and intelligent application.  I feel that the program has done very well so far.  The following is a list of styles that I use in my curriculum…

Shotokan Karate: Shotokan is a Japanese martial art using movements derived from defense methods common in Okinawa and streamlined for easier application.  At first glance, Shotokan seems stiff and impractical, but this is not the case.  Shotokan training is extremely intense, and the sparring matches can be brutal.  Deep stances and sharp strikes train the body to hold ground even against a larger opponent.  Shotokan practitioners can take physical damage unlike any other style I have seen beyond perhaps Thai Kickboxing.  As the student advances, the stiffness disappears, and their strikes become coldly logical and precise, almost like a killer robot…….no….seriously.  Shotokan is a perfect foundation art for beginners in self defense.  If they can handle this style, they can handle anything…

Thai Kickboxing: Thai is world famous for its fast devastating steamroller type strikes and the ability of its practitioners to take a hit and keep on going.  For a crisis situation, it is imperative that the survivalist be capable of absorbing and moving past the pain of a fight.  In the street, it may be a matter of life and death, or it may be a drunken adolescent brawl.  In a SHTF scenario, it will ALWAYS be a matter of life and death.  There is no such thing as a hand to hand fighter who can avoid every attack and come out unscathed.  Plan on getting hit.  With the heavy arm to leg blocks of Thai Kickboxing that act as a kind of self made brick wall, along with devastating leg sweeps and knee breaks, this artform is perfect for the dangerous possibilities of collapse.

Western Boxing: It’s not an Eastern martial art, but Western boxing teaches incredible punching power.  Eastern martial arts focus on speed in order to inflict damage, but the bottom line is that Western boxers hit harder because they assert more body weight behind their punches; I have seen it, I have felt it, and I have dealt it.  Of course, it is more important to learn speed and timing before learning to hit hard.  The most powerful punches in the world are useless if all they do is sweep the air.  Western boxing is an incomplete fighting system, but a fantastic addition to the survival martial artist’s repertoire.

Jiu Jitsu: Jiu Jitsu is a grappling martial art from Japan, though you wouldn’t know it by the way the Brazilians have commercialized and franchised it.  Jiu Jitsu is indeed the flavor of the decade for self defense, and though I feel it has been way overhyped, it is an incredibly effective style for ground situations.  That said, let’s be clear; Jiu Jitsu is actually a very limited fighting style, especially when you’re not in a cage and you are confronted with more than one attacker.  Survivalists should learn grappling techniques so that they know how to defend against takedowns and return to their feet.  In a real combat situation, you NEVER try to go to the ground on purpose.  Multiple opponents will decimate you within seconds while you are trying to put a choke hold on the guy in front of you.  Add a knife into the picture, and purposely jumping into close quarters with the intent to “grapple” will be a death sentence.  Successful fighters will always combine Jiu Jitsu with other artforms in order to round out their abilities.

Hapkido: Hapkido in my view is the perfect antithesis to Jiu Jitsu and any other grappling art for that matter.  It should be at the top of every survivalist’s list of fighting methods.  Hapkido focuses on joint locks, joint breaks, using centrifugal force, pressure points, eye gouges, throat attacks, etc.  Generally, it is very difficult for someone to grapple with you if you break their fingers, wrists, hyperextend their knee caps, or crush their wind pipe.  One twisted wrist could put a dedicated grappler or wrestler completely out of commission, which is why you never see these methods used in the UFC.  The fights would be over quickly, and the sport’s flavor would be lost.  Knowing how to counter grappling using grappling is fine, but knowing how to utterly disable a grappler is better.  As a survivalist, it is important to learn both.

Eskrima / Kali: Filipino in origin, Eskrima and Kali revolve around stick and knife training, and some of the deadliest blade wielding martial artists on Earth are known to originate from these styles.  The point of practicing the Filipino arts is not only to learn to attack with edged weapons, but also to defend against them.  Knowing how armed assailants, trained and untrained, will move to harm you gives you a distinct edge.  Understanding the motion of a knife strike allows the defender to create or close distance effectively, while timing arm and wrist locks to reduce cuts and control the knife hand before serious damage to your body is done.

Taekwondo: A Korean style, Taekwondo has received a bad rap over the past few years as an “ineffective” martial art, but usually this criticism comes from people who have never actually practiced it.  Like Jiu Jitsu, it is a style limited to a very particular range of attacks and scenarios.  Taekwondo focuses on kicks to the extreme.  Sport Taekwondo is not a practical measure of the style’s use, and this is where its tainted reputation comes from.  The truth is, Taekwondo has the fastest and in many cases the most devastating kicks in the world.  The use of kicks depends on the mastery of the fighter.  If he is fast, and precise, then his strikes will make his opponents feel like they’ve just been hit by an oversized utility van.  If he is slow, and unfocused, he will be tackled to the ground like a rag doll and pummeled in an embarrassing manner.  That said, one well placed kick can crush ribs, crack skulls, and knock an opponent into dreamland before he ever knew what hit him.

Jeet Kune Do: Created by the venerable Bruce Lee, Jeet Kune Do’s philosophy is to adopt what works, and set the rest aside.  It is essentially a combination of the short range tactics of Wing Chun combined with the long range tactics of Japanese and Korean styles.  Jeet Kune Do’s goal is to be a truly complete martial art, and so far, it has proven itself in this regard.  If you can only practice one style of self defense, this should be it.  Some people attribute the adaptation methodology in self defense to MMA, but really, it was Bruce Lee that pioneered the idea of studying multiple styles and modernizing martial arts.  Because of his efforts, the offensive and defensive capabilities of Jeet Kune Do are astounding, and perfect for the survivalist delving into the world of hand-to-hand.

Ninjitsu: When I was a kid back in the 80’s, the ninja was the greatest thing since sliced bread.  I think the allure of it was its simple mythology; if you could learn martial arts, and get your hands on a black mask, you could be a superhero.  No need for radioactive spiders or genetic mutation.  You were a man – in a mask – with badass fists of fury, and that’s it.  Of course, the portrayal of ninjitsu has become so cartoonish that people today scarcely believe it is an actual martial art.  In fact, it is, and a very deadly one.  The brilliance of ninjitsu really dwells in its “think outside the box” mentality.  There is a sort of cleverness and unpredictability to it that makes it so dangerous.  Ninja’s in feudal Japan were assassins, but they were also the guerilla fighters of their age.  The combat methods of ninjitsu revolve around surprise, and misdirection, which are factors that always work in the survivalist’s favor.

There is no way around it.  The Martial Arts make a survivalist better at his job, which is to thrive in the very worst possible conditions.  It’s not just about fighting; it is also about developing a fighting spirit.  Beyond the utility of self defense, as survivalists we must strengthen our inner world as much as our outer shells.  It takes time, and patience, and a willingness to struggle.  Any person who masters a martial art has not only shown a dedication to his own physical prowess, but he has also proven he has a mental toughness that will carry him through any catastrophe.  That kind of toughness is a rare commodity in America today, and when found, should be greatly valued and encouraged, especially by the Liberty Movement.



“… Atemi [are] often used to briefly break an opponent’s balance (see kuzushi) or resolve. This is the predominant usage of atemi in aikido. A painful but non-fatal blow to an area such as the eyes, face, or some vulnerable part of the abdomen can open the way for a more damaging technique, such as a throw or joint lock. Even if the blow does not land, the opponent can be distracted, and may instinctively contort their body (e.g., jerking their head back from a face strike) in such a way that they lose their balance…..”

Atemi have high value in giving you that moment of distraction or inattention/inability on the part of your attacker with which to pivot to an escape, secure something with which to ward off attack or otherwise defend yourself, or activate some method of alarm. 

Many people are uncomfortable with being armed with a weapon, but keeping your wits and your footing in any case is vital.  Aikido is a discpline in which you practice movement (“it’s a lot like dancing” ), and superior tactical and strategic movement in tight quarters can give you just enough advantage to reach for your pepper spray, your police whistle, or whatever you have pre-planned to have on hand. 

See http://modernsurvivalblog.com/security/4-simple-self-defense-techniques/.


“… It may seem onerous to prepare yourself and your family to respond to violence, but not doing so is also a form of preparation. Failing to prepare is, generally speaking, preparing very well to do the wrong thing. Although most of us are good at recognizing danger, our instincts often lead us to behave in ways that increase our chances of being injured or killed once a threat emerges.  Why can’t civilized people like ourselves simply rely on the police? Well, look around you: Do you see a cop? Unless you happen to be a police officer yourself, or are married to one, you are very unlikely to be attacked in the presence of law enforcement. The role of the police is to respond in the aftermath of a crime and, with a little luck, to catch the person who committed it. If you are ever targeted by a violent predator, whether you and your family are injured or killed will depend on what you do in the first moments of the encounter. When it comes to survival, therefore, you are on your own. Once you escape and are in a safe place, by all means call the police. But dialing 911 when an intruder has broken into your home is not a reliable strategy for self-defense.[2]….”

https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-truth-about-violence [very very good] 


… when suddenly, a man on the bus gets up, walks over to an 80-year-old woman and delivers a swift kick to her face.


I can’t help but think of Nadeau’s famous story about his encounter on a crowded Tokyo subway.





lingering vigilance, total immersion




How do we deal effectively with an aggressive person?

As a set protocol we can use the acronym ‘SOFTEN’ refereed to by Gordon (2011):

S – smile with discretion, nonverbally let the person know you care about them and that you are not becoming angry.

O – open body positioning, showing that your are truthful towards the person.

F – forward body lean, shows you are interested in what they are saying.

T- territory, do  not forget the rules of personal space and proxemics.

E- eye contact, proper eye contact is a sign of truthfulness and submission.

N – nod attentively, to show the person you are paying attention.



When confronted by any attack or problematic incoming energy, the aikidoist doesn’t strike, push back, pull, or dodge, but rather enters and blends. That is, he or she moves toward the incoming energy and then, at the last instant, slightly off the line of attack, turning so as to look momentarily at the situation from the attacker’s viewpoint. From this position, many possibilities exist, including a good chance of reconciliation. Nadeau told us that the very essence of aikido is contained in the simplest blending move. He also told us that the blend could be used to good effect verbally as well as physically. He insisted, in fact, that everything he taught us could be applied to every aspect of our lives. “What you do with aikido off the mat,” he said one day, “is really more important than what you do with it on the mat….. for the aikidoist, the best stories involve practitioners who have prevented the outbreak of violence or stopped violence already under way.

Moving from center while paying attention to both the goal and the path to the goal, thus staying in the present moment, produces a feeling of flow and ease that translates into seemingly effortless power. Those people acting as obstacles are often startled. To experience truly centered power sometimes takes their breath away. In aikido, the word power doesn’t denote power over others.

The remedy is clear. Don’t deny the reality of the problem. Continue to deal with it. But do so from a calm, relaxed center that represents the true strength of the organization. Blend where it’s advisable to do so. Extend from the organization’s strong center through or past the attacker, toward the possibility of a positive outcome.”

George Leonard




The Stream



Steven Pressfield speaks of the triad of interacting selves as

“victim, perpetrator, rescuer”:



Having read the book “Deep Survival” by Laurance Gonzalez, I recognized after the fact how some of the concepts he talks about in the book saved my life when I recognized that I was walking into a situation that, to put it simply and delicately, might not have ended well at all. I extracted myself just in time. 





“… Entering and blending is an aspect of mindful communication that is designed to help people break out of habitual reactions to threatening, emotional, or stressful interaction and instead blend with the other’s energy in a way that reduces the conflict and does no harm to you or the other. 

Entering and blending involves four steps:

Align– Put yourself in the other person’s shoes, practicing mindful listening and asking for clarification if necessary,  as in “I want to understand your point of view better. Tell me more about what’s going on.” 

Agree– Find areas you can agree on , as you begin to look in same direction, as in “If I were treated that way, I’d be angry to”, or “I am also disappointed about this situation”, speaking only for yourself.

Redirect– Team up with the other person and work together to find a way to resolve the situation, as in “We’re both disappointed about the situation. What can we do to make it better?”

Resolve– Explore what might be a mutually agreeable compromise, or just agreeing to disagree, as for example, “If I ate out less, could we get a housekeeper so we could spend more time together?”

Entering and blending also presupposes that you are mindful of your own internal state, to begin with. Giving yourself the space to notice first, rather than reacting immediately. This requires practice, and compassion for oneself:

One way to notice if you’re reacting is by paying attention to your body. If anything is stiff or tense, you’re probably reacting to your own discomfort and trying to avoid or ignore it. Use these physical sensations as a cue to acknowledge whatever thoughts and feelings are there, and bring yourself to the present by tuning in to the breath as it rises and falls. As you become centered and present, you make space to respond mindfully and with greater flexibility and creativity, rather than mindlessly reacting. As always, be patient and compassionate with yourself. 

Entering and blending, the high road to conflict resolution.

(All quotes from A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction WorkbookBob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein’s new book))




“… The Aikido philosophy for handling conflict is not responding back directly, but deflecting the energy of the attack and then redirecting it in a more desired way. … I once read Aikido described as body surfing – real body surfing: You connect physically with the person and ride them down to the mat…. Aikido makes you look at your impatience, your arrogance, your meanness, cruelty, clumsiness, cowardice – all those qualities in yourself that you may need to look at. It will show you bravery and compassion, love, joy, and sweetness, and it will showyou those qualities in other people. (Dobson, 1993, p. 16)….”



Preparation is a major component in everything we do.  It is a critical element in my e-book “Summon The Magic”.  Moriehi Ueshiba, the founder of aikido and the individual revered by many as O Sensei, says in his book “The Art of Peace” that our preparations should be well established as rituals so that, when under pressure, as each item of the progression is completed, it triggers the next item and in so doing sets forth a mental/physical performance algorithm that boosts confidence and provides organization to one’s response to crisis or incoming energy.


We live in an increasingly confrontational world and some of that confrontation becomes violent. Whether it’s road rage, or witnessing a verbal argument in a public place, or actually being involved in acts of ongoing crime like robberies, car-jackings and the like, or simply passively reading about them or viewing their videos that have gone viral, every day you will be provided with a fresh scenario for your own thoughtful review: what would you do? 

“You” does not have to be a street tough, a former GI, a martial artist, someone carrying a weapon….  

The people I most want to reach with this blog entry is the unthinking housewife doing errands, the elder out and about in the world, et alia. 

As has been pointed out, you do not know what you will do unless you’ve pre-thought, taken some training, or done some reading. This doesn’t suggest that you arm yourself; that choice is yours. 

But here are several scenarios for you to think about when wondering if you and we are “left of boom”. 

The first ostensibly involves a child and a gorilla, but when you re-visit this scenario I want you to think about the parents, the zoo staff, and the bystanders/onloookers.  What might each of these done better to be “left of boom”?


The second involves our foreign policy/military current situation via a vis China and especially Russia.  “Left of boom”, as we have seen,  focuses on tactical scenarios.  But what about strategic scenarios?

https://www.rt.com/op-edge/344623-elections-us-war-obama-/ [John Pilger]

https://theintercept.com/2016/05/27/senator-scolds-obama-for-preaching-nuclear-temperance-from-a-bar-stool/ [Senator Markey]



Finally, in an application and scenario that is familiar to me but may not be to you, there is the topic of situational awareness in response to emergency

Situation Awareness

As you flip through the slides in this pdf-encapsulated slide show, take the lessons and focus off the fire crew and put them on your family: apply them to what may happen and how you and your family can react effectively if, heaven forbid, some disastrous event should be befall you. 

There’s a huge world out there that is devoted to SHTF and prepper mentalities and, like the issue of being armed, go there if it suits you.

I think you are better prepared if you take care of effective communications, pre-stage some essential tools and supplies, and once in a while re-enact your own household drill with your mate, your kids and others. One major point that you must consider is that, in dynamic situations, things change. Your perception, your thinking, and your decision-making must keep pace

As the slide show indicates, there may be others with you whose “presence of mind” may also be tasked. Be sure you have and have regularly practiced an effective rapid method for checking in with one another.  Check your attitudes (slide #13).

Be aware of fatigue as time moves on and the stress of the situation does not abate.

Best wishes; see you on the next go-round.

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