Very Interesting Article

Check out this month's (March 2003) issue of DISCOVER magazine.

There is an article on fear and the brain, and how the whole physiological process of what Tony calls "biological fear" actually works.

I found some obvious validation for some of the PDR/TCMS material, and a little extrapolation can lead to seeing how the S.P.E.A.R. system can be considered a conditioned response through training. (Moving TOWARDS danger is not unlike the rat in the experiments that had to walk - instead of just freeze - in order to get the tone to shut off).

I just thought I'd give a heads up, as I found it to be quite interesting.

Check it out!!


Good to hear from you dude...thanks for the heads up.

Robb Finlayson, PDR Team


Good to hear from you! Glad you pointed out the article I'll take a peek at it.

Just to update you as well, we're well into a rewrite of the original Physiology of Survival article on the SPEAR System. There are some tremendous new studies in the neurophysiological realm that continue to bolster support of Tony's empirical research.

Here's an excerpt:


Dr. LeDoux's statement, "The amygdala works automatically, without 'you' having to get involved in the act," is made even more compelling from work conducted by scientists at the University of Iowa. In this study, researchers measured the speed of the brain's response to unpleasant or potentially threatening images. What they discovered was that on average the firing rates of the neurons was .12 seconds. As principal investigator Ralph Adolphs, Ph.D. states, this "is very fast and probably prior to the patient consciously 'seeing' the image. The findings are consistent with the idea that the brain evolved systems that can respond extremely rapidly to potentially dangerous or threatening kinds of stimuli." In other words, the results of this study indicate the protective mechanisms of the brain initiated actions prior to the conscious mind "seeing" the threat! As a survival "default program", neuroscience researcher Jorge Armony states, "It makes perfect sense – you can't stop and think about certain things, you have to react."
This study which details the brain's ability to initiate protective reflexes prior to a threat registering as a conscious thought, not only verifies Dr. LeDoux's statements, but also holds tremendous implications in establishing Blauer's basic concepts concerning the flinch response and sudden ambush moments.

Hopefully, we'll get the full revision up and running in the very near future. The message in all of this continues to be that the SPEAR System is EXACTLY as advertised:

"Behaviorally-inspired - Genetically-Wired"


Eric you beat me to it....

My reply approaches this from a different angle...

Quick POV reframe re Adam's post:

Adam you wrote: "a little extrapolation can lead to seeing how the S.P.E.A.R. system can be considered a conditioned response through training. (Moving TOWARDS danger..."

1. The system cannot be looked at this way, though phases of it can, of course. In reality only the tactical evolutions can be considered this (conditioned) and the 'tactical' elements represent only a 1/3 of the totality of the 'physical' system.

I will reframe, digress using another martial artists folly and then circle back around:

2. Respecting the startle/flinch from the genetic perspective is what the research is all about. Messing with that is like arguing with Mother Nature.... that's why so many martial art systems FAIL TO LIVE UP TO THEIR PURPORTED EFFECTIVENESS (as evidenced in MMA matches and in street confrontations). That observable fact, that reality, still eludes most people.

When the fighting isn't 'codified', when the combatants DON'T agree to the exact RULES OF ENGAGEMENT (as in ancient duels and organized battle) then behavior rules.... we can extrapolate...but we cannot change behavior at its root level, we can improve behavior, we can create triggers, but the core, the primal core is always retained.

People still don't respect this.... the 'folly': there's a system out there trying to capitalize on the startle/flinch phenomena, but erroneously chooses a 'reverse' spin our our research... their students are told they can create the startle/flinch in their opponent and then annihilate them with a secret Wazzoo move while they're, no, this represents a gross misunderstanding of what the 'physiological withdrawal reflex' is all about, how blindingly fast it is, and when & how it is activated and why it works... (On a tactical note, ironically for that process to theoretically work, you would need to a: Only sucker punch someone pure startle flinch doesn't work if two trained fighters are actively engaged. And b: the sucker would need to be telegraphed a bit - as a non-telegraphic move would leave no time for a in essence, you'd need to throw a flawed sucker punch to start this process :-)

I digress...

The SPEAR System works because of its root relationship with fear, danger and the human body's desire to survive...our research is built around those hard-wired directives and the training evolutions built using the organic energy and motion created by what the body wants to do prior to any training.... therein lies the simplicity and ingenuity of the SPEAR method.

Dr. Cobb recently reworked the PHYSIOLOGY OF SURVIVAL article to include several new connections from the research world. This new document will be available to our PDR team, SPEAR certified police trainers. The original article is available in PDF format on our website in the RESEARCH ARCHIVES directory. (PDR & SPEAR instructors read the footnote following this list)

Next post will contain references with a footnote.


Here are the references that reflect the work Dr. Cobb used to revamp the PHYSIOLOGY article. This work was conducted as part of a formal request from professional National Training bodies initiating implementation of our SPEAR System research at state and other levels. (2 pages, serendipitous footnote at end) - T.


1) Armony JL & Dolan RJ. (2002). Modulation Of Spatial Attention By Fear-Conditioned Stimuli: An Event-Related FMRI Study. Neuropsychologia, in press.

2) Armony JL & LeDoux JE. (2000) How Danger Is Encoded: Towards A Systems, Cellular, And Computational Understanding Of Cognitive-Emotional Interactions. In M.S. Gazzaniga (Ed.), The New Cognitive Neurosciences, 2nd Ed. (pp. 1067-1079). Cambridge: MIT Press.

3) Armony JL, Servan-Schreiber D, Cohen JD, & LeDoux JE. (1997) Computational Modeling Of Emotion: Explorations Through The Anatomy And Physiology Of Fear Conditioning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 1: 28-34.

4) Blumenthal TD, Flaten MA. (1994) Selective Effects of Attentional Direction on the Startle Reflex at Different Stages of Processing, Psychology, 22(4), 338-346.

5) Blumenthal TD, Schicatano EJ, Chapman JG, Norris CM, Ergenzinger ER. (1996) Prepulse Effects on Magnitude Estimation of Startle-Elicting Stimuli and Startle Responses, Perception & Psychophysics, 58(1), 73-80.

6) Davis M. (1992) The Role of the Amygdala in Fear and Anxiety. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 15, 353-375.

7) Dawson ME, Schell AM, & Böhmelt A. (Eds.) (1999). Startle Modification: Implications For Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, And Clinical Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

8) Dawson ME, Schell AM, Swerdlow NR, & Filion DL (1997). Cognitive, Clinical, And Neurological Implications Of Startle Modification. In P.J. Lang, R.F. Simons, & M.T. Balaban (Eds.), Attention And Orienting: Sensory And Motivational Processes (pp. 257-279). Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.

9) Gullone E. (2000). The Development Of Normal Fear: A Century Of Research. Clinical Psychology Review. 20 (4), 429-451.

10) Hamm AO, Cuthbert BN, Globisch J, & Vaitl D. (1997). Fear And The Startle Reflex: Blink Modulation And Autonomic Response Patterns In Animal And Mutilation Fearful Subjects. Psychophysiology, 34, 97-107.

Continued next page...

11) Hamm AO & Vaitl D. (1996). Affective Learning: Awareness And Aversion. Psychophysiology, 33, 698-710.

12) Kaviani H, Wilson GD, Checkley SA, Kumari V, & Gray JA. Modulation Of The Human Acoustic Startle Reflex By Pleasant And Unpleasant Odors. Institute of Psychiatry, University of London, De Crespigny Park, London, UK.

13) Kawasaki H, Adolphs R, Kaufman O, Damasio H, Damasio AR, Granner M, Bakken H, Hori T, Howard MA. (2001) Single-Neuron Responses To Emotional Visual Stimuli Recorded In Human Ventral Prefrontal Cortex. Nature Neuroscience 4, 15 - 16 Brief Communication

14) Kiernan MJ, Westbrook RF, & Cranney J. (1995). Immediate Shock, Passive Avoidance, And Potentiated Startle: Implications For The Unconditioned Response To Shock. Animal Learning & Behavior, 23, 22-30.

15) Lane SJ, Ornitz EM, & Guthrie D. (1991). Modulatory Influence Of Continuous Tone, Tone Offset, And Tone Onset On The Human Acoustic Startle Response. Psychophysiology, 28(5), 579-587.

16) LeDoux, J.E. (1994) Emotion, Memory and the Brain. Scientific American, 270, 38.

17) Li L., Steidl S., Yeomans J.S. (2001) Contributions Of The Vestibular Nucleus And Vestibulospinal Tract To The Startle Reflex. Neuroscience, 106, 811-821.

18) Li L and Yeomans JS. (1999) Summation Between Acoustic And Trigeminal Stimuli Evoking Startle. Neuroscience, 90, 139-152.

19) Nieuwenhuijzen PHJA, Schillings AM, Van Galen GP, & Duysens JEJ. Modulation of the Startle Response During Human Gait. Journal of Neurophysiology, 84 (1), 65-74.

20) Paschall, Gayla Y. and Davis, Michael. (2002) Olfactory-Mediated Fear-Potentiated Startle. Behavioral Neuroscience, Vol. 116, No. 1, 4?12.

21) Poore, LH & Jordan, WP. (1992) Modulation Of The Early And Late Components Of EMG Startle Activity In The Rat. St. Mary's College of Maryland [Poster presentation at Society for Neuroscience meetings].

22) Steidl S, Li L., and Yeomans JS. (2001) Startle Attenuation By Conditioned Brain-Stimulation Reward. Behavioral Neuroscience, 115, 710-717.

23) Vuilleumier P, Armony JL, Driver J, & Dolan RJ. (2001). Effects Of Attention And Emotion On Face Processing In The Human Brain: An Event-Related FMRI Study. Neuron, 30: 829-841.

24) Weimann Ted. (2000) Warrior Speed. Hartford: Turtle Press.

25) Yaniv D, Schafe GE, LeDoux JE, Richter-Levin G. (2001) A Gradient Of Plasticity In The Amygdala Revealed By Cortical And Subcortical Stimulation, In Vivo. Neuroscience, 106(3):613-20.

26) Yeomans J.S., Li L., Scott B.W., and Frankland P.W. (2002) Tactical, Acoustic And Vestibular Systems Sum To Elicit The Startle Reflex. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 26, 1-11.


What should be noted for those on the PDR team and the SPEAR System trainers is that none of the new research has altered any of our explanations, evolutions or training paradigms....


What does that mean? Well irony of intuition!! The SPEAR System was born observing instinctual behavior (Sucker Punch drill 1988), it was respected (didn?t try to 'muscle' the reactive responses) by intuition and then tracked and matured by scientific exploration (intelligence) and has evolved ever since....

Hence, TCMS' Three I's


Tony Blauer

*Use of force law prohibits retaliatory self-defense unless implicated in a National Defense strategy, force must parallel danger is the benchmark for citizens, martial artists are citizens, we are not 'goons', we are humans learning to live honestly but respectful of the dangers we face...if I have described you, please be careful of deceptive tactics spawned by principles without legal foundation or a shred of evidence to support the rationale for a muscle-memory sequence. Stay safe, train safe. Tony

Absolutely Brilliant

Pat Berter