How is your Safety Barometer?

While we can’t plan for everything or avoid all possibly hazardous situations, a good ‘Safety Barometer’ can keep you (and those in your charge) safe with a little practice and not too much work. Detailed below are the elements to developing your own self defense barometer and skill set.

First, be attentive to your surroundings. If something seems ‘off’, take a moment to identify what it is. Is it a person? Is something in the environment out of place? Is it something that is usually there, not? Is a door open that should be closed? Are all the lights working, etc? This process is called the OODA loop. The OODA loop has been used by civilians and military alike for decades to observe, evaluate and change a situation to effect the safest outcome in a potentially violent encounter. The acronym stands for Observe – Orient – Decide – Act. The moment you observe something wrong, orient on what it is, decide what to do and do it. The process is fluid and requires constant reassessment until you feel you are safe.

For example, while you are walking down the street, you observe that you have an uncomfortable sense that something is not right. You orient on your environment and the people within it. You see someone who makes you uncomfortable. You can’t see anything specifically identifying the person as a threat, but you orient on your discomfort. You decide to put more distance between you and the person and change directions. You have affected all 4 stages of the OODA loop. You are not done, however. As you change direction, you notice he has also changed direction and begins to follow you. You now check for all avenues of escape, choose the one moving you towards the most other people and move toward it. He turns and walks away. Whether you can articulate a reason or not, your discomfort indicates a need to evaluate and change your environment. The old adage “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure” is dead on in the self defense realm. The best self defense skill you can develop is to not be in a situation that can turn to a violent encounter.

Violence prevention, for the most part, hinges on a few small things that are easy to do:

First, develop your awareness and OODA loop skills.

Second, learn and practice a ‘self defense’ mode and attitude. This mode should include: how you walk, how you use your awareness, voice and posture to convey that not only are you paying attention to everything in your environment, but that you will fight to defend yourself. It should not be one of bluster, bravado or aggression. A calm, determined attitude and athletic stance will convey your ‘power’ and determination.

Third, de-select yourself from a potential attackers ‘Victim Selection List’. This also is fairly easy to do unless you have a stalker or a personal connection with a violent person. If you are in this category, you need to address that problem IMMEDIATELY. Utilize the police, victim advocates, a shelter and all other appropriate professionals.

To be on a bad guy’s ‘Possible Victim’ list he/she first needs to notice you. To avoid being noticed, don't present the look of being a ‘profitable’ target. Easily removable belongings of value such as a purse should be held close to your body. Blending with your environment is always a good idea. A bikini at a black tie event, for example, will draw attention to you. If you also have on expensive jewelry with that bikini and appear intoxicated, you are putting forward the message, “Look at me, I have money and I can’t defend myself”… a siren song to a predator! An outrageous example, yes, but the idea behind it is clear.

If no one chooses you as a victim, you have accomplished your self defense goals in the easiest possible manner! To summarize, don’t get chosen, change your environment immediately upon sensing a threat and convey the impression that you are a ‘hard target’: you’ll be a lot of work for little to no gain. Awareness, avoidance, attitude and action are all essential elements to a functional ‘Safety Barometer’!

Have fun learning great skills that will keep you safe!

I wrote this article in 2010. In the interest of being current, I’ve added the following:

While you are developing your Safety Barometer, consider adding the following two areas of skill development: physical (sometimes referred to a “Hard Skills”) and medical or first aid skills.

Learning how to notice (and use) an AED Automated External Defibrillator and a tourniquet are the two easiest and most important medical or first aid skills to add. A basic ‘combat casualty care’ class will teach how to handle massive bleeding, airway and lung issues. Taught to military and law enforcement, there are classes available to civilians. Think of it as taking a First Aid class that is suited to todays climate that includes active shooters and terrorism. There are tons of great books to read on each of the areas detailed in this overview article. I've chosen two to feature: Steve Tarani's PreFense and Left of Bang by Patrick Van Horne and Jason Riley. Both are easy to read, simplify complex information well and go into fascinating detail on awareness and the elements that can keep you safe.

Self defense physical skills will be covered in the next article/post. From verbal de-escalation to firearms and everything in between, self defense skills are out there to learn! *

Diana Rathborne
Basic Truths of Martial Arts Training

Basic Truths of Martial Arts Trainign

A few lists of universal etiquette, personal development and martial arts training realisms

Working and/or working out in a gym is always interesting. There are lots of different people sharing the same environment over long periods of time. A martial arts school is an even more interesting place to be… especially for a woman. For the female martial arts instructor it can be even more so.

I walked in the door of Rick Faye’s school, the Minnesota Kali Group, with no martial arts background and no contact experience. Most of the girls that I know didn’t grow up fighting with their friends or schoolmates at recess or after school. Most didn’t watch boxing or martial arts movies. As a result, like many women, I had no frame of reference for information I was learning. For the information to make sense to me I had to make it really simple and really logical. I have been lucky enough to learn from great martial artists such as Sifu Rick Faye, Guro Dan Inosanto, Grandmaster Chai Sirisute, Sensei Erik Paulson, Professors Machado, Guro Rick Young, Sifu Phil Norman and many, many others. Below are some tidbits that I’ve gleaned from my instructors, training partners, classmates and students on a few of the basics of interpersonal dynamics and personal development as they apply inside the gym, and possibly outside of it as well.

——— Martial arts realisms——

  1. Where the head goes the body will follow……a pony tail, hooded sweatshirt and jewelry all make a great handle.
  2. If your head isn’t working–neither are you: protect your head at all times.
  3. Never trust your holder.
  4. Never trust your kicker.
  5. Keep your eyes open–just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not going to hit you.
  6. Keep your mouth shut. Biting your tongue is not just a metaphor.
  7. There’s nothing about eye poke that doesn’t work.
  8. Every time you get hit, learn something. Especially if the person who hit you is you.
  9. Size matters. So does attitude, intensity and ingenuity.
  10. The stronger you are, the harder you will hit. Always work on the big 3: speed, strength and endurance.
  11. Hydration: sweat is good. More sweat is better. Water is your friend.
  12. Don’t judge someone’s ability by their appearance.

————–For the advanced students and instructors————–

  1. Everyone walks in the door of a martial arts school for reasons of self improvement. People stay for a vast array of reasons. Some one else’s reason may not be the same as yours.
  2. The more women in your classes, the more men you’ll have in your classes and the more people you can impact with the art.
  3. Help out the beginners, they are the future of the art.
  4. Don’t hit the beginners. While it is fun and easy…they are the future of your art.
  5. Don’t hit on the beginners. Wait at least a couple weeks (kidding). They may need the training more than you need a date.
  6. Don’t let your students/instructors stare at the beginning women students. (No matter what they are wearing.)
  7. Don’t partner up your new good looking students with known lecherous students.
  8. Don’t partner up your new small students with really big students or students training for a fight. They’ll leave feeling beaten and most often won’t come back.
  9. Men new to grappling are just as freaked out by having to grapple with a woman as new women are by having a to grapple with a man.
  10. If you have new women in class, keep the grappling to a bare minimum (unless it’s a grappling class) and train the triangle choke from the guard on another day.
  11. Breathe: Green, grey, splotchy and ash white are not the coloring you are aiming for. If you see these colors in your training partner, or your students, make them slow down (before they pass out, keel over or throw up)
  12. Be nice to the really weird people. You may be some one else’s really weird person.


  1. Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene: soap, tooth paste & deodorant are essentials to training.
  2. If someone says you smell, you probably do. And not just on the day they mention it.
  3. If you inadvertently hit your partner in the groin—-get out of range and keep moving till they aren’t mad any more.
  4. Scratching your partner is a bad thing (trim your nails and wash under them).
  5. Bleeding on someone else is bad form. Cover your blisters, etc, before you start training.
  6. Wear underwear…..please! Going commando may be comfortable for you but the view certainly isn’t for those around you.
  7. Running shorts are not good for grappling–your personal parts will not stay enclosed in the clothing.
  8. A halter top is not good for grappling or Thai boxing….see above.
  9. Don’t squish your partner in grappling just because you can.
  10. Storage of sweaty clothes in the trunk of your car should make them ineligible for the next training session: in a moist, dark environment they grow their own special odors.
  11. Wash your hand wraps and throw your gloves away when they smell.
  12. Don’t make anyone else wash your blood off of the heavy bag, floor, Thai pads, focus mitts, mat, etc.

——– Life lessons———

  1. The term ‘Princess’ is A) gender neutral B) does not mean you will look good wearing a crown and sitting on a throne. Expanding your comfort zone is a benefit of the training. It is not an evil plot on the part of your teacher or training partner to see how you look when you are uncomfortable.
  2. Don’t quit unless you are injured and don’t let anyone else cause you to quit.
  3. Don’t quit because you are frustrated — find a different aspect of the art or your motion to focus on and develop.
  4. Anything you set your mind to do, you can do.
  5. Each of us gets a different and unique body, which has different and unique attributes. Just because you want someone else’s attributes doesn’t mean you’re going to get them. It’s your job to develop the ones you were given.
  6. Don’t compare yourself to those around you–you’ll either be way better or way worse in your analysis. Neither of which is true and neither has any bearing on your own development.
  7. You can learn from any one if you keep an open mind. The answers will come from a variety of people, styles, systems and cultures.
  8. Your way is not necessarily the best way and is definitely not the only way.
  9. You will change through the training. Make sure it is in a positive direction.
  10. Unless you absolutely have to (or have chosen to in a sanctioned format)–don’t hit anyone outside of the gym.
  11. Anyone can do this art if they put their mind and their body into it. Don’t quit, don’t whine, leave your ego at the door and get to work.
  12. The body talks–let how you move speak for you. Regardless of your body and the package you got, you have to establish your own credibility. Once this is done, move on, its done. Everyone has this same hurdle to overcome — too skinny, too heavy, too weak, the wrong gender, too old, from a different ethnic/cultural background, physical, mental or learning disabled, too big, too small, too tall, too short, the list goes on. Don’t let your issues get in the way, they are irrelevant to everyone but you.
  13. Have fun: this is a great way to keep learning and developing!

We all are going to move differently, think differently and impact others differently. That is the beauty of JKD. As men and women in the martial arts we are all part of a wonderful experience that encompasses self defense, health, fitness, physical, mental and spiritual development, cultural enrichment as well as social, intellectual and spiritual growth. We have the tremendous opportunity to improve ourselves and those around us both in and out of the martial arts environment. The people we come in contact with all enhance this experience and make us and our art better for it.

Thanks for reading and I’m going to end with a standard quote from Sifu Rick Faye, “Train Hard and Have Fun”.

*<i>This is an article I wrote February 3rd of 2003, a month shy of 15 years ago.  My experiences as a student and instructor under Rick Faye are highlighted by the passage of time, the many lessons learned and especially by the loss yesterday of his wife, Marla. Marla was my chiropractor and a kind, loving, fit, generous and gentle soul who's influence on Rick and the Kali Group was always present, positive and understated.  Her loss will be felt by all, even those who did not know her.  The article is up on the Minnesota Kali Group's  website as well which you can find [Here][1]</i>*

Diana Rathborne
On hosting a Crisis & Tactical Medical Skills Workshop... ('cause I really want to take it!)
From Wikipedia's page on battlefield medicine. Illustration from 1517 by Hans Wechtlin. Lots o' weapons in this guy.

From Wikipedia's page on battlefield medicine. Illustration from 1517 by Hans Wechtlin. Lots o' weapons in this guy.

Over 10 years ago I was presenting training at a law enforcement conference and observed part of a TEMS (Tactical Emergency Medical Services) class. Since that time I’ve wanted to take a class that combined being armed with life saving skills. (It seems like a no-brainer.) In the many years since, horrible events involving mass casualties have become an all too common occurrence and has heightened my desire to learn some basic skills in case I end up somewhere when really bad things happen.

Two years ago, the spirit moved me to act on my desire to become proficient in the use of a pistol and at least somewhat functional with a rifle. My interest was driven in part because it is fun, in part because I wasn’t very good at it, and in part because I train people who are armed for work. I wanted to have a better understanding of what carrying that equipment involved so that I could be a better trainer. Since the timing was right, I loaded up my car, and off I went to learn the way of the gun. What an experience! I got to learn from amazing trainers who put their all into training me.

As a result of the opportunities I’ve had to meet and train with instructors in the law enforcement, military and security fields, I occasionally get to trade training for teaching. One of these opportunities landed me at Don Gulla’s Arrestling group’s annual Officer Safety Conference in Richland, Washington.

The training was amazing: there was training with SIRT pistols, real pistols and rifles, firearms proficiency and retention, force on force, simunition and a medical/tourniquet section. Finally! I got to learn a little bit of this type of first aid. What I learned: a) wow - tourniquets hurt! b) its probably the easiest and most important piece of equipment one can carry. When I got home, I promptly bought a few tourniquets and a training tourniquet. One went in my car, one in the range bag and one in my purse. Part of my interest was for the people around me to know it for themselves and, to be completely honest, for me, if the need arose. The Minnesota Kali Group got to ‘benefit’ from my new interest as I made everyone who was with in arms reach for more than 10 minutes learn how to put it on, practice with the trainer and let me practice on them.

When it comes to self defense, it is better to have the power and not need it than to need it and not have it.
— Kevin B. Shearer

I got to go to that same conference the next year and learn the tourniquet material again. The students, instructors and staff of the Mn Kali Group got harassed by me again to let me practice on them. About a year after this second class, I was asked to fill in the extra space in a pistol training for executive protection specialists. It was a great class except that at the end of the class, one of my fellow students shot himself in the leg. He was fine, a bit embarrassed, but fine. Needless to say, I replaced my tourniquet that I left at the range that day with a quickness. (No, I did not put it on him. I just got it to the person who did.) I was very glad his injury was minor and that I had the equipment, the training and knew exactly where in my range bag I kept it. I was especially excited that I didn’t cry, puke or otherwise shut down.

Some of the supplies for the December 3 class have arrived!

Some of the supplies for the December 3 class have arrived!

Since the tourniquet only addresses one of the top 3 causes of preventable combat deaths, I really want to learn the rest of the skills. With each new horrible mass casualty event, I feel the urge to learn more ‘just in case’. If I could help save someone’s life because of a little knowledge, it would be so much better than not knowing what to do. As I’ve looked around, crisis or tactical medical skills classes are generally only available to military, law enforcement, emergency responders, security and, you guessed it, to preppers.* I haven’t been able to find any for ‘regular’ people. Case in point, I was not able to find a photo for the flier that didn't have men and women in either military, law enforcement or CERT (Civilian Emergency Response Team) uniforms, hence the cartoon from the Red Cross’s site.

Luckily, I have recently been able to ‘persuade’ one of my badass friends transitioning out of the military to teach the curriculum. Since he has used the skills during his many deployments and has taught it to many hundred ROTC cadets, he’s got both the skills and the ability to teach them. Seems like another no-brainer to me.

My friends come from both camps: people who carry a pistol regularly and those who think that firearms come directly from Satan. I’d still like them (and me) to know how to prevent the preventable deaths. While I am sure some of my non martial arts friends think I have slipped to the dark side of doomsday prepping and conspiracy theories, I still want them to know how to care for themselves, their families and others if the situation calls for it. Also, I am really excited to take the class. (Shameless plug: If you are interested in attending, here’s the link:

Join us for a 3 hour workshop to learn these skills. Location: Bills Gun Shop in Robbinsdale.&nbsp; To reserve a space, contact Diana or follow the link to the Event page and reserve online!&nbsp;

Join us for a 3 hour workshop to learn these skills. Location: Bills Gun Shop in Robbinsdale.  To reserve a space, contact Diana or follow the link to the Event page and reserve online! 

  • No offense meant to the preppers. (Some of my best friends really are preppers.) But I'm worried that my camouflage wardrobe is lacking and, to be completely honest, I’m a bit scared of you all.
Diana Rathborne