How does an understanding of Controlled Human Aggression aid the modern martial arts instructor in his ability to teach his students the vital survival skills they need? By categorizing for him where his students are coming from and where they are desiring to go. By giving him a nomenclature with which to describe to his students the techniques necessary for survival.

Lets look at our 12 different aggression categories (from part 1) and explore how we can use them in today’s world.

The term “passive camouflage may not sound very aggressive, but I consider any act done to increase your chances of survival more aggressive then the alternative; which is to do nothing. Passive camouflage can be defined as camouflage designed to make you less likely to be noticed by a predator.
DRILL: Don’t look like you are worth robbing. This is practiced every day in New York City by people who pocket their visible jewelry before leaving home or work, and by keeping a few dollars separate from their main supply so that they wont have to pull out their wallets when making a quick purchase at a convenience store.

Wasps, bees and sea snakes use bright visible colors as an “advertisement” for the fact that they are carrying venom. Humans often do this, but in different ways. An outlaw biker in leather with his gang’s colors is sending out the signal that he is a V.D.P. (Very Dangerous Person). When I was in my late teens and early twenties my mother used to joke that the reason I was never mugged while visiting friends in tough areas of New York was because I dressed like a mugger. Armed with enough sharp and pointy objects to outfit a Seal Team, I was trying to send the same signal as the biker. However, as I got older and went into law enforcement I began to question the usefulness of overt "warning colors” for humans.  Dressing in warning colors may decrease your chances of coming under the unwanted attention of muggers but it will also increase your chances of coming under the unwanted attention of law enforcement. Another type of warning colors mode of dress I consider unwise is to wear a martial arts T-shirt, jacket, patch, etc out on the street. Why give up the element of surprise if attacked? Why set yourself up to loose the lawsuit that might follow if you are sued after an altercation?

3. ACTIVE CAMOUFLAGE: (A.K.A. Phy-Ops and Self-Defense)
In nature, active camouflage is used by such species as a harmless fly that has the coloring of a wasp or by a tasty caterpillar that has the coloring of a poisonous species. For the human version of active camouflage try the exercise I suggest to my students: Stand at a safe distance outside your local police precinct or courthouse one day and play “spot the plain clothes cop.” This game entails looking for common denominators in appearance among plain clothes and/or off duty police officers. At one time in New York, we used to joke that the multi-pocket vest, crew cut and neatly trimmed mustache was the official “uniform” for the off-duty officer. A non-law enforcement friend who has always dressed in a similar manner has often received a polite “Hello Officer” from street toughs while walking through urban areas. I tell my students that even in hot weather they should dress in a manner so that the bad guys can not tell that they are unarmed (Now with over half the states in the U.S. issuing full carry permits for concealed handguns this is becoming less and less of an issue. Many of my students are wearing vests, baggy sweatshirts, jackets or CCW bags because they really are armed). It is more than just the way you dress though, Police, even off duty, have an air about them. They walk down the street with confidence and will look people in the eye if approached (especially if that person looks threatening, the opposite of the avoidance of eye contact most victims of violent crime use). A predator will look on a plain clothes off duty cop's lack of fear and decide that there must be a reason for it and let him pass. I am not suggesting that you walk around town pretending to be a cop, but you can dress and carry yourself in a way that would suggest to a felon that you might possibly be “the law.”

Remember, a predator is looking to take out the weakest member of the herd, not the strongest.
Imagine a serial rapist whose M.O. begins with his approaching a woman loading packages into her car. His intent is to get close so he can tell her he has a knife, shove her into the car, drive her into a deserted area, rape and murder her. He sees a women in shorts and a T-shirt loading her car. He approaches her with a smile and the line, "Hi, Miss, need some help with those bags?” If she quietly says “No, that's okay” and goes back to packing the car he will continue walking towards her. If she timidly glances at him out of the corner of her eye but says nothing, or only protests his presence mildly, he will see her as an easy target.

Now imagine a second scenario (from a true story) in which another woman is also dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, but this time is also wearing a fanny pack with the bag to the front. When the stranger asks if she needs help she says firmly “No thanks” while turning to look at him and putting the cart between them. If he continues his approach she responds by putting her bags down and facing him. She raises her left hand in a halt signal and says in a loud firm voice, “NO THANK YOU SIR, I DON'T NEED YOUR HELP.”  As she is saying this her right hand rests near the zipper of her fanny pack and her right foot moves back to place her into a position that could easily turn into a shooting stance. Several signals tell this wolf that the woman he first thought was a sheep is now making the sounds and movements of a guard dog. Her body language suggests to the rapist that she is armed. Her firm voice tells him she is confident in her ability to defend herself. The “SIR” tells him she is a cop, because civilians don’t address strangers they are suspicious of in that way, while officers in today’s litigious society have been trained to do just that. She hasn't shown her teeth yet, but like most predators it makes more sense to him to move to easier prey rather than find out if she really can bite. Even if you don’t carry a handgun you can still benefit if many of your fellow citizens do carry one and criminals don’t have an easy way of telling the armed from the unarmed.

Third scenario: One of my students told me this story in the 1990s. He gets off work in Midtown Manhattan and is bringing his elderly aunt some groceries in Harlem (a rough part of NYC back then). He is dressed in a suit and tie, has a short haircut and is in his late forties at the time. As he enters her apartment building he notes that the alcove that holds the building mail boxes is lit by a bare light bulb hanging by a wire from the ceiling. He goes up the stairs, visits with his aunt and then leaves the apartment. As he walks down the stairs, he notices that the light is off in the mail alcove. He grew up in this neighborhood and knew that there were two possibilities: either one of the building's tenants had taken the bulb to replace one that had burned out in their apartment, or a mugger had unscrewed the bulb and was hiding in the dark, looking to rob a tenant.  He takes a tactical flashlight out of his pocket, shines it into the alcove and finds a drug addict standing there.

"Can I help you sir?" He says in a loud voice.

"No officer, I'm leaving," says the mugger and exits the building. Note, my student was not a police officer, never used the word "police" or anything like it when he spoke to the bad guy and never showed anything that could be mistaken for a badge. He just used a commanding voice, acted with confidence, shined a bright light in the bad guy's face and said the words that bad guys are used to hearing from cops.

Forth scenario: A fellow Court Officer I worked with in the 1990s told me this story. He was standing at a bus stop, reading a book while waiting for the bus after work. He heard a commotion coming from the next bus stop and saw a group of young guys rob one of the people standing there, while the others waiting for the bus scattered. Once they got what they wanted, the young toughs started heading towards the officer's bus stop. Those at that stop all ran off except for the officer. Now I should say, this officer was not a large man and was in his fifties at the time. As the toughs approached the officer continued to read his book, annoyed that he might have to miss his bus if the toughs decided to try something similar with him. He had a five shot .38 on his hip, but he really did not want to use it and all the paperwork that this would entail. As the toughs made their way towards the bus stop they saw all the bus patrons run off, except one, short, thin, middle aged man reading a book. This must have set off warning bells in their heads, because they stopped several yards away before the leader called out, "Hey old man, give us your money!" The officer glanced up at them, then went back to reading his book. "Hey old man, you heard me, give it up." The officer looked up again, an annoyed expression on his face and then went back to reading his book. "Hey old man, you think you're bad, you ain't bad. We're coming back here and we'll take care of your ass." They said this while backing up and walking off. After a few steps they decided a faster retreat was better and began to run off instead. And the officer went back to reading his book until the bus came. Note: the officer was dressed in regular clothes, he never displayed a badge or said he was an officer. Yet he acted in a way that set off alarm signals in the bad guys and they decided that a "strategic retreat" was a very good idea at that moment.

DRILL: Dress and act to keep the bad guys guessing.

4. DECOY: Remember the lizard dropping his tail to cover his escape? Here is the New York City version: Carry a few dollar bills in a cheap money clip. When mugged, drop the money clip, back up a step, turn and run. The mugger now has the choice of picking up the money he knows is right before him, or chasing a possibly penniless victim and attracting attention to himself.

There are often times when “flight” is a more practical option than “fight.” When escape means simply moving away from your attacker your course of action may be obvious. But what do you do when the only exit is behind your attacker? If you cant get around him, your best escape path may be to escape through him. The Marines have a technique for surviving an ambush that teaches this.
When ambushed along a road and taking fire from the front, the most obvious escape routes are often not a real option. If you stay still you are dead. If you go to the right or left you will hit the mines the ambushers have laid. Meanwhile, the reserve group of attackers are coming up quickly from behind. When faced with this situation the Marines charge the ambush, charging to the front and firing as they go. They will take casualties doing this, but they have found that they will take less casualties with this option than going where the enemy who prepared the ambush expected them to go. Ambushers rely on the human instinct when attacked to either run away or attempt a defense in a stationary position. However, the fight or flight instinct cuts both ways if the ambusher is counterattacked.  If, at the very first moment of his attack (especially before he has built up any foreword momentum), you aggressively counterattack, his instinct will be to stop and brace himself against your attack. If you continue charging past him towards your escape route he may not react quickly enough to catch you. If you wound him sufficiently as you pass, he may not muster up the will to chase you. If he does chase you, you have bought yourself a little more time to get away from the ambush zone favorable to him, and into an area favorable to you.

Another point to keep in mind is that the primitive part of our brain (the part we fall back on under the stress of a fight) thinks in short bursts. Humans tend to form a short battle plan (“charge foreword, left hand grabs, right punches”) then hit the go button.  Do the unexpected and your opponent may have to reset mentally before he can hit the go button again. Remember, getting out of an attackers chosen ambush zone is imperative whether in warfare or surviving an armed assault by a criminal.

Former head of the FBI’s Criminal Profiling Program, John Douglas, in his several books on serial killers and rapists, emphasizes in the strongest possible terms the vital necessity of not allowing a criminal to take you from “Crime Scene One” to “Crime Scene Two.” Crime Scene One is where the criminal first shows his criminal intent (displays a weapon, grabs his victim, etc) . Crime Scene Two may be an alley, a park, the freezer of the bar being robbed or simply on your knees if you have been standing. The common denominator of all these “Crime Scene Two” locations is they are where the more severe of the two crimes will be committed. It may be where police later find your dead body. Therefore, use “Flight” aggression to defeat your attackers plan of taking you from a place of your choosing to place of his.

DRILL: Practice charging through your opponent. You will be surprised how hard it is to stop a determined person from escaping an area (even someone you can normally defeat in regular sparring). Therefore, add a break and run component as the finisher to your self-defense drills. And by “run” I mean literally that. If you don’t train to run after you deliver a defensive technique then you wont run in real life. Mark a "doorway" with tape on the floor and have your students execute a technique and run through the "door."

Within various individual animal species different types of aggression may be required for each gender. A rational study of the subject will reveal that there are basic behavioral differences between the male and female of every mammalian species on this planet. This may lead to different stimuli being required for each gender to bring out an aggressive response. Depending on the species, one gender may be tasked with protecting the group while the other gender may be responsible for guarding the young.  In some species there is an instinct to protect only one's own offspring, while in others the whole group protects the group's young. When anthropologists speak of primitive humans as hunter-gatherers they are speaking specifically about the adult males being the hunters and the females and children being the gatherers. Anthropologists tell us that the first hominids appeared about 4.4 million years ago. Homo sapiens first appeared about 100,000 years ago. The first walled town (Jericho) was founded around 8,000 B.C. Women received the right to vote in the U.S. in 1920 and in Switzerland in 1971. Therefore, until very, very recently in human history, it was the males of our species who hunted and went off to war and the females who stayed close to home and raised the children. It was necessary for the survival of the species for human males to be physically aggressive, just as it was necessary for the survival of the species for human females to care for the young and the infirm. These remnant instincts from our primitive days can complicate matters for the modern martial arts instructor.

Self-defense instructors often encounter a student who is on the low end of the human aggression bell curve. These students often appear to have a low self-protection instinct. It is common for instructors to find that the majority of those who fall into this category are women. An instructor ignoring the physical, behavioral and cultural differences between the genders in self-defense training because of, at the one extreme, political correctness, or at the other, because of an instructor's dismissing a woman’s chances of being able to successfully defend herself against a man, does a serious and unnecessary disservice to his female students. While human females, on average, tend to be smaller, with less upper body strength and are normally less aggressive then the males of the species, that does not mean they are helpless. I tell my students ‘If a caveman could successfully defend himself against a cave bear that was ten times his body weight armed with nothing more than a sharpened piece of rock tied to a stick, then a modern woman can successfully defend herself against a modern male criminal who is only twice her body weight with nothing more than a sharpened piece of steel.”

Sometimes the problem is not so much that women don’t want to defend themselves as much as they have a hard time imagining themselves harming another. I have found that very often when a person is on the low end of the bell curve in aggression, that same person will be on the high end of the curve when it comes to compassion. Physical aggression in females can be brought out if one understands that many women require a different trigger to raise their aggression levels up to what is required in a self-defense situation then do most men. The trigger that seems to work when all else fails can be called the “Mother with Cubs” instinct. If you ask a woman on the low end of the aggression curve what she would do if a stranger attacked her, you may see a look of fear in her eyes. If the same woman has children, ask her what she would do if a stranger attacked one of her kids and she will get a look in her eyes that reminds you of an angry momma bear. Getting the necessary aggression to come out might just be a matter of finding the right trigger.

I tell the women who need that extra push to imagine that they are not only defending themselves, but their children as well. If the woman has no children have her imagine that her future children are being attacked. If this doesn’t work, then temporarily give her some children. Have her lead the children’s class in their warm-up exercises. Let her get to know them. Then ask her to imagine someone coming into the school and trying to harm one of the children. If the image of a child won’t work as a trigger for a particular woman, try a parent, boyfriend or husband: the principle is the same. Here is an important point. Once a low aggression person has crossed the threshold of where they can see themselves aggressively attacking another human being in defense of someone else, if is just a snort step for them to believe themselves capable of doing the same in their own defense.

DRILL:The student pictures the person they feel protective instincts for standing behind them awhile they practice self defense techniques. Having the instructor say “If he gets through you, he gets to them” or “do you want your child to grow up without a mother?, etc. sometimes works as a trigger for the low aggression student.

In many species of mammals only the strongest, most dominant male gets to mate. With rights however, comes responsibilities. If the dominant male is the only one to mate, he is also the first and sometimes only male, to defend the herd against predators. Human males also have this instinct to protect their mates and young.  I try to bring this instinct out before sparring through what I call warm-up imagery .

DRILL. This drill is recommended for use only with advanced students: I mark off a “doorway” with tape on the floor and place one student before the doorway, telling him to imagine that his family is on the other side of the door and he has to stop an attacker from entering. I tell the other student to imagine the opposite: that the man in the doorway is one of two burglars who has entered his  home and that the second burglar is beyond the doorway. I tell him that he can hear the second burglar attacking his family and the way to his family is through the first burglar. This drill not only works on the techniques of either stopping or getting past an opponent, but really brings out a high level of determination in most men.

Felines, birds of prey and humans can be classified as Sight Hunters, as opposed to wolves and sharks which are Scent Hunters. Sight Hunters use three types of tunnel vision while hunting. These hunters use "Filtering Tunnel Vision" to filter out distracting shapes when searching for prey. Since vision is our sharpest sense, human hunters learn to key in on certain visual clues while searching for an animal. Just a small, glossy eye or a single horizontal line in a predominately vertical forest may be enough for a human hunter to spot his prey. “Chase Tunnel Vision” is used while chasing down prey. It seems to be an instinctive trait in most predatory animals. Just watch enough police car chase videos and you will see this instinct in action as the police drivers almost inevitably follow, move for move, every turn the bad guys make, even to the point of going the same way around an obstacle that they could have easily gone around on the opposite side. Finally, hunters use “Aiming Tunnel Vision” to aim a projective weapon like a spear, arrow or bullet through distractions like foliage and into their target.

DRILL: The ability to recognize a certain shape, even if seen peripherally, and the ability to aim accurately, are the types of tunnel vision most applicable to the martial artist. The martial art exercise that uses the visual searching skills of a hunter is to play “Spot the Weapon.” You can put a toy handgun or training knife in a corner of your workout area. At the beginning of class have your students close their eyes and name all the weapons in view. You will be surprised at how seemingly obvious an object can be and still have it go unnoticed by the untrained eye. Start the drill with a small knife palmed in your hand or wear the toy handgun under your uniform and see how long it takes for your students to notice. You want them trained to look for weapons when someone approaches them on the street. Aiming tunnel vision is used by most martial arts. It is often called “focus” and is used when concentrating on a strike. In Pekiti-Tirsia, we would start practicing this by tying a knot at the end of a sting and practice striking just the knot with the very tip of our sticks.

9.  The WARRIOR:
When engaged against multiple opponents, you need to use Warrior Aggression to keep aware of your surroundings and keep the bigger picture in mind. Your goal is not to simply win an individual fight but to win the war. Your goal is to take an opponent out of the fight, in as short a time as possible, with minimal exposure to yourself from his friends. I’ve seen several good fighters taken out by opponent number two because they were spending to much time pummeling opponent number one while he lay disabled on the ground.

DRILL: Here is a drill to help prevent the wrong kind of tunnel vision from occurring (the kind that gets cops on the evening news and calls to their chiefs from the Feds). I use it frequently in my law enforcement classes. Bad guy attacks. Good guy defends for between 3 and 10 seconds. Bad guy falls to the ground. Good guy gets to nearest cover or gets back against a wall (or in a crowded martial arts class, backs up a step) and looks around for more bad guys. Multiple opponent sparring will also help to cure you of bad tunnel vision. Just don’t jump into the deep end of the pool to learn how to swim, do plenty of basic, non-contact  multiple opponent footwork drills before you get into multiple opponent full contact sparring.

In my teens I studied four styles of Penchak Silat. Two of these styles focused on Duelist Aggression. The idea being that if you were challenged to a duel in these styles, while it would be a fight in which the loser would be severely injured or killed, it would be a fight with certain rules: You would agree on certain weapons or the absence of weapons before hand and you would have to deal with only one opponent at a time. This parallels many accounts of duels you find in both Asian and Western literature. In my view there are two major distinctions between a duelist and a hunter. First, unlike the hunter, the duelist does not need to chase down or ambush an opponent, and second, generally the duelists will agree to a set of rules (however minor) beforehand.

Many of the empty hand dueling techniques I learned in Penchak went deeply into taking a lock into the counter,  recounter and tertiary counter level. We worked on some amazing locks that would disable three different joints on an opponent simultaneously. The lock flow drills, with their counters and recounters became like a chess game and I feel that such long strings of counters and recounters develops the same “mental muscles” as a good game of chess. The problem with these techniques though was you were so tangled up with an opponent that is was not easy to quickly disengage should a second opponent appear.  I think most ground grapplng falls into this category, so one must choose where and when you engage in "Duelist Aggression” carefully.

Most of the material I teach that uses Live Capture involves law enforcement officers (LEOs).
What makes things interesting of course is that the good guys and the bad guys are not playing by the same set of rules. While the LEO's focus is on taking control of an offender with as little  damage to the offender or LEO as possible, the offender’s focus is purely on escape and he will do whatever he has to, to succeed at that escape. The majority of the techniques here involve bringing the offender to the ground or pinning him against a wall and applying an arm lock to gain control in order to apply handcuffs.

In my job as a court officer I have been in a great many “multiple opponent situations” in which I was one of the multiple opponents working to handcuff a bad guy. I can tell you from experience that once someone is brought to the ground by multiple opponents, the odds of that single opponent escaping is very, very, very low.

DRILL: Emphasis on takedowns in which the opponent lands facedown. My favorite lock for live capture is the straight arm bar takedown to a bent arm bar, which allows me to cuff the offender.

12. SPORT:
Most ancient sports evolved as a way to safely hone skills needed for hunting or war. While that is not true of every sport today, even something as unwarlike as ping-pong does improve your reaction time or some other skill needed for ancient warfare. I would say that the defining difference between sport and combat is, of course in sport’s emphasis on safety. One can engage in an action that is designed to severally injure or kill an opponent and that would be training for combat. Take the same action, modify the tools, add safety equipment and rules that encourage a spirit of sportsmanship and it becomes a sport. For example: Even though you are engaging in actions that would be considered felonious assault if done in the street, boxing is a sport. No matter how much blood is spilt in a Mixed Martial Arts fight, because there is a referee, because certain techniques are not allowed, and most importantly, because you can tap out, the MMA fights you see on TV are a sport.  Drills for sports are very specific to that sport and are designed to fit inside the “universe” of that sport. For instance, an Olympic fencer need not train to defend against an opponent’s left hook and pro-boxers don’t bother to learn counters to a judo player’s hip throw.

DRILLS: A martial artist should decide if he is training for sport or for combat. If training for tournaments you must focus only on those techniques which are allowed in the tournament. To a certain extent you can train for both; tournaments and combat defensively but not offensively. What I mean by this is while a pro-boxer won’t spend his valuable training time practicing kicking techniques, he can still keep his legs in a position that lowers his own vulnerability to low kicks. While punches to the face are not scored in many Tae Kwon Do tournaments, kicks to the face are. A Tae Kwon Do tournament player can still keep his hands up to defend his head while in punching range. 

Many Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) tournaments now allow grappling. A FMA tournament fighter should keep in mind that getting hit with a rattan training stick in armor is very different than getting hit without armor with a hard ironwood fighting stick (and obviously far different than getting cut by a sword) and not voluntarily take a sacrifice hit on the way in to a grappling move. A practitioner of Filipino martial arts in a tournament, while he knows he will be fighting a single opponent with no concealed weapons, should still concentrate mainly on those ground techniques that allow a quick escape if you see a second opponent, as well as those that guard against the pulling of a concealed weapon.


You should now understand that you have many tools in your mental tool box labeled Controlled Human Aggression, and while each tool has its value, each is best used at its own specific time.

Train hard,
Tuhon Bill McGrath
Pekiti-Tirsia International

Copyright 1999 William R. McGrath
(originally published in the Winter 1999 PTI Newsletter)