"My old and very good friend, Jack Dempsey, has a saying which he has proved time and again in the ring. 'The best defense is a good offense.'"
Let's do a word association exercise. I'll say a word, and then you say the first word that pops into your mind. Ready?
So let's see how you did. Most people will respond with FALSE, GOOD, DOWN, DEVIL, UNDER, TOP, STUPID, CAT, HOT, and DEFEND.
We tend to think like this, in opposites. Dualities. Love/hate. Eat-this-not-that. The Beatles contributed to this way of thinking in their song Hello Goodbye: "You say yes, I say no, You say stop, and I say go go go."
It even bleeds over into our martial arts methods. When our opponent does a punch, we do a block. When the attacker grabs our wrist, we try to escape from the hold.
But there have been a few geniuses who have noticed this duality and tried to change things. Bruce Lee for example. He was one of the first proponents of directness and simplicity in combat, and he thoroughly articulated the concept of interception. Here's one of his great quotes about his fighting philosophy:
"There is no mystery about my style. My movements are simple, direct and non-classical. The extraordinary part of it lies in its simplicity. There is nothing artificial about it.
I always believe that the easy way is the right way."
Instead of merely teaching a rigid "you-do-this-when-he-does-that" methodology, he taught the concept of freedom, expression and fluid movement. Freed from classical, over-stylized, fancy-for-fancy's-sake techniques, Lee focused on quickness and efficient movement, with such concepts as stop-hits and a strong offense as a good defense.
But before JKD there was fencing, and long before it was a competitive sport, fencing was a martial art and an effective method of combat. In fencing the concept of "stop-hit" has been around a long time. "The simple stop hit," says fencing master Walter Green, "is probably the most frequently used of fencing's counteroffensive actions. At the most basic level it simply tries to beat the opponent's attack in speed or timing."
So JKD has interception. And so does fencing. You may not think much about it, but boxing also has interception techniques as well. Johnny N, over at ExpertBoxing.com, recommends the outside hook, the right cross, and the right hand blast to the body as counters to the attacker's right hand. Just as the other guy should be landing his shot, you land your own with superior timing.
Let's don't forget that wrestling also has interception techniques, and they've been around a lot longer than any modern fighting method. Shooting in for a single or double leg takedown is the epitome of interception, and a good wrestler can shoot in the blink of an eye.
I'm also very impressed with the fighting concepts of Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) which primarily focus on edged weapon and impact weapon skills. When an attacker slashes with his weapon, the FMA practitioners know that a counter slash (sometimes demonstrated as a mere block) against the attacker's wrist, arm or hand can be devastating. Their gunting, or limb destruction, techniques, where punches and elbows land against incoming forearms, hands and biceps, are extremely painful.
Muay Thai has cut kicks which attack the attacker, Wing Chun teaches simultaneous blocking and hitting, and many if not most martial arts methods have interception techniques in their curricula.
Some instructors teach interception techniques; however, they often reserve these for so-called "advanced" classes. They believe that the call-and-response of blocking versus striking is a "basic" concept that beginners need to learn first. The problem I have with that is that early skills often form the foundation for skills which come later. Once those early, foundational patterns become fixed in the mind of the practitioner, it becomes difficult to dislodge or supersede them.
Why not teach interception skills early? Why not let these superior skills form the basis of a effective fighting style?
"Move like a beam of light, fly like lightning, strike like thunder, whirl in circles around a stable center."
"When Takeshita Sensei was a Grand Chamberlain he was told by the Emperor to arrange for aikido to be shown to him, so he went to the Ueshiba dojo. Ueshiba Sensei answered, 'I can't show false techniques to the Emperor. Basically in aikido, the opponent is killed with a single blow. It's false if the attacker is thrown, leisurely stands up, and attacks again. On the other hand, I can't go around killing my students.' He refused the invitation in this way, but when Takeshita Sensei told this to the Emperor, he said, 'I don't care if it's a lie. Show me the lie!'"
I confess. I love to watch.
And you know what I really love to watch? Aikido! It's just so beautiful, graceful and stylistic. In fact it's downright ethereal. Ethereal: I had to look it up. As it turns out it's a perfect description: "extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world".
That's the problem. Aikido is just too perfect for this world.
Okay, okay...I know what you're gonna say. "Steven Seagal made it work. Steven Seagal could HURT people with his aikido skills!" That's what you were gonna say, right?
Well, it's true. Seagal's aikido looked menacing. He was fast and ferocious. The takedowns looked vicious, and his joint locks looked painful.
But that was the movies. The bad guys were stunt guys. The fights were pre-arranged and highly choreographed.
I'm not saying that Seagal couldn't make some of those moves work in a real fight. He is a big man, and in his prime he was one hell of a technician.
I am also not saying that a dedicated, committed, well-trained aikidoist couldn't defend himself or herself in a physical altercation. If you've read the book Angry White Pyjamas, you'll remember that aikido was the basis for the rather brutal martial arts methods used by Tokyo's riot police. So, there's gotta be SOMETHING there.
I attended aikido classes back in the late 70s, and I was thrown around quite a bit during randori (free-style practice) sessions. In fact, I was thrown around effortlessly. One of my training partners, the sensei's daughter, was one of those who made it look so easy.
But here's the deal. In some of those same randori sessions I watched from the sidelines as some big, local judoka dropped by, and the beauty and the grace suddenly went out the window. When the experienced judo guys got a good grip on the aikido guys, more often than not the movements became less about finesse and more about physical strength. Sometimes the aikido practitioners would evade or do a cool move on the judo guys, but more often than not the judo techniques had too much force and usually defeated the ethereal aikido.
That was not a scientific observation by any means. I didn't see enough of it to state unequivocally that judo is superior to aikido. However, anecdotally speaking, I did come away with a firm impression that if I was a bad guy with menacing intent, I'd rather be attacking an aikido student than a judo student.
In the blog "White Belt for Life", the author writes: "Perhaps this is why most non-Aikido martial artists see Aikido demonstrations as being fake. Because they are fake! Because aikidoka are not supposed to fight like the way they demonstrate. The techniques that are shown are meant to be drills to teach the body how to move correctly without thinking about it."
So, while a part of me acknowledges that a skilled practitioner might be able to handle himself or herself in a basic self-defense situation, I nevertheless think that all that tossing about is rather absurd. The level of cooperation that allows the defender to easily defeat 2, 3, or a half dozen attackers is not even close to reality. The uke, or willing attacker, if he has genuine tumbling skills and impeccable timing, can make the defender look god like.
My issue then isn't whether it works for basic self defense. My gripe is that in a multiple opponent attack these skills don't work like they're shown in demonstrations. Aikido practitioners believe they have an edge. Many believe in the mystical power of "ki." Many of them believe that it is a force beyond normal physics and that it can give them a greater strength than muscles and tendons alone. Some actually believe that they have a spiritual awareness, like a Spidey sense that tingles when an attacker is near. This magical thinking could actually influence a practitioner and lead to a false confidence.
As a method of learning graceful and agile movement and dynamic balance, as a means of learning active mobility and evasion, as a style that develops an ability to blend one's defensive effort with the aggressive force of an attacker, and as an art that leads to self development, I think that aikido is amazing. The practitioners whom I've met seem to be kind, ego-free individuals. They train with little regard for competition and the ceaseless struggle for becoming number one. I admire their inner calm and their budo spirit. I also am impressed with their desire for non-violence and their commitment to a peaceful art.
So while I have some pet peeves about aikido and the silliness of weaving in and out of a crowd of attackers totally focused on karate chopping a defender's head (it often appears to be the only attack they know), I nevertheless admire their art.
I have read some of the works of George Leonard, one of the founders of the human potential movement and a notable aikido instructor. I like this quote and its truly hopeful philosophy: "There is a human striving for self-transcendence. It's part of what makes us human. With all of our flaws we want to go a little bit further than we've gone before and maybe even further than anyone else has gone before."
Last week the Office for National Statistics in the UK published its latest Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW). This regular publication does not normally merit much public comment in the media unless a politician seizes upon it to argue that crime is continuing to fall, but the July 16 2015 release made the headlines because of an apparent increase in offences involving sharp weapons.
First Knife Crime Rise in four years proclaimed the BBC.
The Daily Mail let us know that Dramatic rise in knife crime is down to a fall in stop and search, says Met chief Hogan-Howe
Knife crime in England and Wales up for first time in four years cried the Guardian.
The question I’ve been asked is that with this frightening increase in knife crime, should we change our training to focus more on edged weapon awareness and blade defences?
Actually that’s not true, no-one’s asked me if they should do more edged weapon awareness, they just want blade defences.
Have their been more recorded offences involving edged weapons? Yes. According to the CSEW
“In the year ending March 2015, the police recorded 26,370 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument, a 2% increase compared with the previous year (25,974, Table 9a). This is the first year in which these figures have increased since 2010/11 (the earliest period for which data are directly comparable).”
However, before we panic we should bear in mind two things. Firstly the low numbers involved mean that they are susceptible to high percentage changes. The CSEW itself notes that
“For some offence types, such as rape and sexual assault, the relatively low number of offences, that involve the use of a knife or sharp instrument means the volume of these offences are subject to apparent large percentage changes, and should be interpreted with caution. For example, in the year ending March 2015, the number of sexual assaults involving a knife or sharp instrument increased by 28% (an additional 28 offences compared to the 101 recorded in the previous year) and the number of rapes involving knife or sharp instrument increased by 21% (an additional 55 offences compared to the 267 recorded in the previous year).”
Secondly, although we have yet to get fully comparable data, the evidence from hospital admission data indicates that this rise in use has not been mirrored with a rise in injuries. The CSEW records that
“An additional source of information about incidents involving knives and sharp instruments is provided by provisional National Health Service (NHS) hospital admission statistics5. Admissions for assault with a sharp instrument peaked at 5,720 in 2006/07. Admissions have declined since that year; the latest data available, for the year ending March 2014, showed that there were 3,654 admissions, a 5% decrease on the previous year. Admissions for assault with a sharp instrument in 2013/14 were the lowest since 2002/03.”
Knife crime is up, slightly. Deaths from blade usage is down. So have the general populace of England and Wales suddenly become better at defending themselves against knives? No. Defending against a knife is not easy. Training to defend against a knife can have validity, but it is not a simple process as I explained in 2008 here.
If a person intends to use a knife, as opposed to using it as an effective tool for coercion and intimidation in robbery or sexual assault, the odds are you won’t even see it as these two training scenarios illustrate here.
If we need to do anything ‘new’ as a result of this year’s fresh statistics it is to improve our behaviour. Prevention is better than cure. Some events are so random that they cannot be avoided, but good awareness and good behaviour go a long way to avoiding becoming a crime statistic. As Gichin Funakoshi wrote in his 20 precepts
When you leave home, think that you have numerous opponents waiting for you. It is your behaviour that invites trouble from them.
Self defence discussions can be minefields. Everyone has an opinion and no-one likes criticism of an art or a training methodology in which they have invested a lot of time. It is easy for both new and experienced practitioners alike to be bombarded with opinions if they venture online, and it is also very easy for the unwary to be bamboozled with ‘facts’ that may seem to support a particular stance but are actually being used without a critical eye to their original context.
The context of presented information is vital if we are to use it effectively. In my work on self defence over the years I have processed and accumulated a lot of information: government or academic led reports or studies into violent crime; books by psychologists and anthropologists; texts by security specialists, law enforcement officers, military personnel, bouncers and martial artists; amateur mobile videos and security footage of real events; anecdotes from friends who have personal experience due to professional roles; and personal experience of events when I was younger and stupid enough to frequent places where trouble was likely to occur, or I was dealing with potential events in a professional capacity. A lot of the information and knowledge that I’ve gathered is useful, but not all of it is directly applicable to personal self defence for non professional contexts, even when it is accurate and comes from reputable sources.
When data is presented as a basis for a particular approach, especially a self defence approach, the context of the data is critical for assessing its viability to the context in which the end user wishes to be effective.
It is easy to fall prey to false logic when presented with data. An example might be “A law enforcement officer / bouncer has lots of experience defending themselves or managing aggressive or potentially aggressive situations therefore what they say is definitely right/of use to me.” Actually no. The information may be very useful, but you need to employ a number of critical filters to it because there will be shared elements of past/potential experience and very different paradigms as well.
What do I mean by this?
A LEO or doorman is likely to have had to apply physical or de-escalation skills under pressure and under adrenaline. There is a point of commonality if you are trying to learn from their experience for the purpose of personal (not professional) self defence. However, how a professional behaves under adrenaline may be different to how an inexperienced person behaves under adrenaline due to familiarity both with how their body feels under its influence and familiarity with the trigger situation. In similar vein a professional may through virtue of their experience have very different thresholds for adrenaline triggers.
An LEO or doorman is likely to have had to apply verbal skills to de-escalate a situation or deter violence, or physical skills to defend themselves and/or restrain another person/or persons. There will be elements commonality between their experiences and approaches to those appropriate for personal self defence, but there are caveats:
- The professional will be there under a different mental framework: they are there to do a job, they have generally arrived on the scene specifically to prevent an aggressive or violent incident or to manage the same – that creates a different mental field of play with different pressures and permissions to a person that is engaging verbal or physical tactics who has not planned on being involved or has not necessarily ‘consented’ to being involved.
- The intended outcomes are likely to be different between the professional and non professional with one defending where needed but usually trying to move to control rather than escape, whereas the other is more likely to be trying to defend themselves (or others) to escape rather than control.
- The professional is more likely to be anticipating back up compared to the non professional, a state of mind which will affect physical behaviours. Depending on the environment (and their role) they may have more or less anticipation of non professional intervention either for or against them as a result.
- The professional is more likely to be engaged by someone because of their job which may in turn affect the nature and intensity of the attack and will definitely effect the dynamics of the crucial attempted de-escalation phase and any initial moments of physical violence..
Context is crucial. The professional and non professional may both be dealing with an aggressive person, but the mental and physical framework can be very different. There are lessons to learn, but experience in one does not fully equate to experience in the other.
One example of the need for a critical approach to data is the figure that has been banded about over the years in varying percentages that 95% of ‘street fights’ go to the ground. This figure was seen as a justification for training in groundwork and a vindication of arts that had a strong ground game. Now there is no doubt that groundwork is a useful skill for self defence in case you end up on the ground, and it is also a great form of physical exercise, but that figure (and its variations) had a context which was often omitted. The 95% actually referred to the percentage of attempted arrests made by the LAPD in 1988 which fitted one of five scenarios in each of which going to the ground while attempting restraint was often one of the final actions (between 35% and 46% depending on the scenario). The report concluded that in 62% of the attempted arrests made by the LAPD in that year where the subject resisted the officer ended up restraining or handcuffing the subject on the ground. That’s a very important context. While there are times when self defence may end up in restraint, it is not normally the primary aim of most self defence, and the aim of those officers (to restrain against resistance but harm as little as possible) was a key factor in the recorded outcomes.
Our analysis and interpretation of reports or information relating to real violent events is not the only area where we can be prone to blindness, bias or favouritism. There are physical self defence lessons to be learned from watching any type of martial arts competitive event, or engaging in any martial arts training, but we do need to employ our critical faculties and understand the different contexts of each event and tactic and assess how that in turn impacts what we see and what we can usefully extract for our own training aims.
"Oh, he's broken," Rob replied, "but he's broken our way."
My world is full of beautiful but imperfect and even broken people. Rephrase. They are perfect, but they are perfect at being themselves, not perfect compared to some imaginary, objective outside benchmark. They are perfect, not flawless
People are amazing to me. One friend is tough, brilliant, hilarious... but the toughness in a product of nurture not nature. He survived an amazingly brutal early life. And it has left some deep insecurities, including places where his wit and intelligence are unavailable to him. People who hear him on these subjects say, "How can you be friends with..." It's easy.
Since leaving the SO, a fair number of the newer friends I've made have been former criminals. They have the criminal mannerisms and speech patterns that set my teeth on edge. But who they were is not who they are, and when people are working that hard to change their lives, it works for me to marvel at the possibility of redemption. And it would be cowardly and counter-productive if you were to find a bad man you were unable to take down when he was a bad man and try to take him out after he had become better and safer.
Experienced bad-asses with self-destructive streaks annoy me, but several are fast friends. Two of the people I most trust to watch my back are full-blown sociopaths. Almost all of the best teachers I've had had some very deep insecurities. Too many of the most innovative people in this field have never become successful because of stupid pride. I like them as they are, flaws, warts and all.
And all of them have blindspots. So do I, of course, but I can't see mine.
Some background. Personal information. Feel free to skip it. Something very profound has shifted internally over the winter. Last year there was a lot of travel, a lot of teaching, and I was getting really burned out on people. Simply hating the whole world. Didn't want to talk or interact. Just wanted to find my cave in the desert and walk away from it. But I have obligations (mortgage and a wife I love dearly who really likes living in a house.)
And so, this year, even more traveling and teaching. But I'm not burning out. I'm loving it. I'm coming home rested and only slightly irritable (people in airports wandering aimlessly like zombies still make me irritable, but not nearly as much.) So something shifted, and I think the host nailed it.
Even before leaving the SO and the team and eventually Iraq, I was pretty heavily burned out. I was good enough at what I did that it took immense discipline to work to get better. I'd never realized how much fear (especially of failure or letting down the team) had motivated me. When the adrenal glands started to burn out, so did the motivation. I went to Iraq because I was looking for fear. Decided to go into business for myself, giving up financial security, because I was looking for fear. I feel like I want to define fear here, because I'm pretty sure I'm not using it in the normal sense. But I can't. It's just that I do best in conditions of danger + uncertainty. Those are the times when I feel like I am really me. The only times.
End of background for now.
Three things immediately popped to mind when asked about current passions: InFighting, Teaching Methodology and Power Dynamics. And there's an element of fear to each of them.
- InFighting is the thing I love best about martial arts. It's not self-defense, because it's not about prevention or escape. It's about maximizing internal integration and your ability to play with complexity. It's a blast. The fear element? This knee injury could or should have been a career ender. We all have expiration dates, and those come up quicker the more you push the envelope. I want to play more with what I love-- and get the information out-- while I'm still capable of enjoying it. That's the current physical challenge. As well as rehab and reconditioning a body that I let stay too injured for too long.
- Teaching Methodology. This is the intellectual challenge. SD is a unique skill with unique problems. The only good way (modeling with experienced people under real conditions) to translate these kind of skills from training to application is simply not available for civilians. So how well and how fast can it be taught?
- Power Dynamics. Started as something simple, trying to hammer out the good and bad power relationships in a martial arts or self-defense class. But it got a lot bigger, and a lot of what I'm seeing, on a societal level is pretty disturbing.
Some background. It's well known in the Gun Rights movement that almost all recent active shooter events have occurred in places where citizens weren't supposed to carry guns. John Lott (economist, researcher says, "With a single exception, every multiple-victim public shooting in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed since at least 1950 has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry their own firearms."
It's true, and it makes sense. Posting "No Weapons Allowed" signs obviously only works for people who obey signs. Murderers are generally not worried about "Keep off the Grass" signs. The idea that rules control behavior is not just naivety. It is superstition.
Anyway, Greg has a special interest in active shooters. When the shooter's diaries were released, Greg ran with it. And, though the shooting once again happened in a place where a sign told citizens they were not allowed to pack heat, Greg writes, "Although the killer did take security into account (by choosing the movie theater over the airport) there was no evidence (as some experts have postulated) that the killer chose this specific movie theater because it was the only one in the area that banned the lawful concealed carry of firearms. In fact, there is no evidence in his diary that he even considered the possibility of being shot by a lawfully armed citizen or an off-duty police officer watching the movie.
Though the message won’t be well-accepted by this audience, gun control did not appear to be a factor in the target selection for this massacre. The presence or absence of armed citizens wasn’t considered in this specific killing."
Okay, get this. We have an event that fits the narrative ("Spree killers choose places where civilians are unarmed.") Something that anyone with an opinion and any less integrity would have used...and instead Greg admonishes on our ethics: "It’s important not to let our personal feelings or hunches replace the facts in cases like these. In the ever-present debate against the anti-gunners, we have the facts on our side. We must stick to the truth and the facts we know so that we retain credibility in the debate."
If I could change one thing in our national debates, it would be to set this as the standard. Truth over emotion, what you want to believe limited by what the evidence shows. There is no reason to lie when the facts are on your side.
This is my wish for the politics in America. My fear, of course, is that emotion will silence reason and we will have those that feel will exterminate those that think. For the common good, of course.
Thanks, Greg. For Greg's Full article, http://www.activeresponsetraining.net/an-active-killers-diary
There are a bunch of different mindsets. Written about it a little before. And people at different levels of experience don't gather or process information the same. There are trained mindsets, which are ways you learn to think; and there are core mindsets which are deeper parts of your nature. Maybe.
Any of these might be accessed in a force situation, and all of them will work differently for different people and in different circumstances.
Some of the Core MindSets:
Fighter. Unfortunately, this is the mindset almost all men have as the ideal. It is about "winning" but it is also about letting others, especially the opponent, know that you have won and he has lost. It is a show of strength, conditioning, courage and skill. Operative word is "show." Over millennia, the traits essential to the fighter's mindset are the traits that would impress a female chimpanzee looking for a mate. That sounds dismissive. Sorry. There are a lot of good things that come with this mindset-- toughness, endurance, courage, pain tolerance, the ability to think on your feet, others. Those are good traits and there is no downside in training to develop them. But for the two primary goals (my primary, anyway) disabling quickly and safely or escaping, this mindset lends itself to very bad strategy and judgment calls. In my ideal world, for instance, the bad guy should be down and in cuffs without ever knowing quite how it happened.
Survivor. Just as the Fighter is obsessed with "winning", the Survivor is obsessed with "not losing". In non-violent life these are the people who are so afraid to make a mistake, they generally do nothing. In martial arts, instructors create this personality type (so maybe it should go under "Trained") by constantly correcting. When your students are more afraid of doing something wrong than eager to do something right, they fall into this category. I don't like it, but I see reasons why other people might think it's important. In force professions and situations, I didn't know a lot of these. Rephrase-- I knew them, but they always gravitated to desk jobs and safe posts, so I never considered them to be part of the profession.
Hunter. The Hunter gets the job done with maximum efficiency and minimum personal risk. Snipers are the iconic hunters, but all good pros work from this mindset. The team didn't take risks. Putting the bad guy down was never a contest. If it turned into anything approaching a fight, my tactics sucked or my ego got involved. Hunting mindset is alien to most people in our culture today because they've never hunted or slaughtered. But once they get reintroduced, the world shifts.
Hunting mindset is easy when you have distance and time on your side. Officers responding to a call. Slaughtering day at the farm. Actually hunting, like a deer. It is harder but still accessible in close quarters and even from surprise-- in the fighting mindset you tend to forget things like throat spears, rabbit punches and ear slaps. In the hunting mindset, those are the first things you see.
In the fighting mindset, it is in some way noble to engage with equal weapons or no weapons at all. To the hunter's mindset, this is choosing to be unprepared. Not noble, just stupid.
Predator. Exactly the same as hunter. Just different words for a different model.
"Warrior." I've already written what I think of people who need the label here. In it's current usage, the "Warrior Mindset" seems to be little more than an attempt to grab some reflected glory. I'm not a warrior. I was a soldier long ago, but I was never activated. I know who I am and what I've done and have no need to steal a label that was earned by others.
The proper warrior mindset, the real thing, has layers and levels. At one level, you must have the humility to follow orders. If you have to deliberate about whether the order you follow is worthy, or think that you're so much smarter than the source of your orders that you should have choices... there's no time for that. Arrogant people die and get others killed. At other levels, there is a definite hunter's mindset. And sometimes, you just endure.
The myth that people want-- that you train in a certain way or follow a certain tradition or wear certain clothes and you enter a brotherhood of secret knowledge is just...childish.
Mama Bear. Mac showed me this one, once. He was sparring with K and she was definitely in the survivor mindset, not trying to take Mac out, just trying not to get beaten too badly. Mac suddenly threatened her daughter. K went apeshit. Mac's good and he was nearly twice K's size, and for the next thirty seconds he was completely on the defensive until I called it.
It's not a gender thing, necessarily. Everyone should have something so precious to themselves that they will cast away all caution, go completely offensive, give no thought to self protection at all... And that can be a huge advantage. Ferocity is one of the factors, and protection of others is inborn in all of us. But it is buried deep. And I don't think this is just buried by social conditioning. It's a high risk strategy. Going apeshit on the tiger will buy the kids time to get up the tree, but it's still a tiger.
Scholar. Not sure if this is a trained one or inborn. And I think you can be in scholar mode simultaneously with some of the others. There are parts I couldn't access before a significant accumulation of experience. The scholar goes into a force situation to learn. Early stages, most of the scholars' work is in debriefing, writing the reports. Not everyone does it, analyzing each event to figure out what worked, what failed, and why. But the scholar core improves you over time. After experience, at higher levels, I would deliberately experiment in a force situation. That's rare, most professionals stick with what works because it is risky to do otherwise. The two experiments I remember was a breathing exercise for in the middle of the altercation suggested by George, and Mac's suggestion, "Next time you have a fight in Reception, thank the guy afterwards. See what happens."
Hopeless. Not sure what to call this one. There comes a time when you know you aren't getting out alive anyway, you have nothing to lose, there is no way to survive and your brain shifts. You don't think about winning, you don't think about not losing, because death is a foregone conclusion. And something clicks and you decide to leave a mark. To leave so much forensic evidence, there is no way the threat will escape. To make this the worse day of his life. To cause as much pain and damage and horror as you can in the limited time you have left. This is hitting rock bottom and embracing rock bottom.
And it is one of the most powerful survivor mindsets there is. Very few people want to pay the price to stay engaged with a victim who has touched this level, the full-blown lizard brain.
Technician. This is a meat problem I have the skills to solve. Very impersonal. I used this more sparring than in real force incidents.
Workman. "This is my job." This is an odd one, because sometimes it gives people permission to access something like the Technician or the Hunter. I've also been bouncing around some thoughts with MR: Having an identity as a bouncer or LEO or CO allows some people to engage with far less monkey brain. Especially if you have a tendency towards the fighter's mindset (and almost all young men do and most of these professions are recruited from the pool of young men) the workman mindset, when achieved, allows you to take the ego out of it. To be efficient, to not take things personally.
There are probably tons more. These are the things that come to my head right now.
They all work, for various people and to varying degrees. There are some I prefer. Anyone can access almost any of them. The physical act of breaking another person is not hard. The mindsets are the ways one becomes willing.
Interesting to note that two of the people debating in the comments continued separately on their blogs. Men and women are different. A lot of that is biological, a lot of that is social conditioning. And a lot is psychology created in the interaction of biology and social expectations. It doesn’t serve anybody to pretend it is not true. It also doesn’t serve anybody to pretend that it means very much.Different just means that, given the same problem, you will have different tools to solve it. Viva diversité. But if the problem must be solved, you will find a way. That’s what humans do, we adapt.Do men and women have different fighter/warrior/killer instincts? Sort of. Maybe. My experience actually says no. Sort of. One of the questions I ask in some seminars is how many of the participants have ever had to fight a women for real. Few hands go up and they are almost always street cops or bouncers. Then I ask if they ever want to repeat the experience, and they go a little pale and shake their heads. It seems that it takes a lot more to get a woman to cross the line into physical force, but when she does, she has no internalized rules.So that’s two differences, I guess. Generally, women are more reluctant to fight than men. And when they do, men tend to focus on the abstract, bullshit social construct of “winning” and women are just there to hurt you. That’s what makes them so dangerous that experienced people pale a little at the memory… but grin when they remember the college kid who took a stance and bragged he was a black belt.But not that much of a difference, because (and this may be my generation whining about “kids these days”) even most men will not engage under even extreme provocation. The biggest coward I ever worked with was a male, former marine, over six feet tall. And the most fearless was a 5’2” single mom.Are women more reluctant to engage? Sure. If you take any group that, on average, has less muscle density and is smaller, being eager to engage would not be a sign of intelligence. Smart people avoid damage, and hands-on conflict always has the risk of damage. And any conflict with someone who is likely to lose with words and likely to win with fists has inherent risks. So, yeah, just like a small country or the smallest boy in the red neck school a woman (on average) will avoid confrontation. Not because of her gender but because of her intelligence. And it doesn’t take above average intelligence, either.And when you are the smallest in a conflict, there are three ways to win that I know of. Technical superiority is the trained option. If you are superb, you can give up a lot in the weight, strength and age departments. But you have to be really good and, more importantly, you have to be really good at exactly the kind of fight that you’re in.The second is ferocity. Or crazy. Everyone has little internal lines they won’t cross. Even when death is in the air, almost everyone holds back to some extent. There is always a balance between trying to win and trying not to lose and those are incompatible strategies and incompatible worldviews. It’s not always the answer, but if you are willing to go all-in and the threat is not, the threat has a tendency to leave. I think that is why things like nose strikes and groin strikes have been so successful for Leonnie’s WSD students and so dismally unsuccessful in jail fights. The disparity between what the threat expected and what they got became the signal to disengage.The third is clarity. And clarity doesn’t hurt ferocity and is integral to technical skill. All fighting, anything with an athletic component, is all about efficiency. Efficiency is removing any unnecessary motion whatsoever. Clarity is the mental equivalent. It is knowing yourself-- what you are willing to do and not; why you are fighting and that it is worth all it will cost. It is knowing your goal and your strategy. Not some vague “I want to win this fight” but “Get to the door.”And it’s not a hyperfocus on a single goal. It is clarity also to recognize when the first choice is no longer an option. That allows you to switch. Effective adaptability is predicated on clarity.
The physical self defence and karate tactics I teach are predominantly close range. While I do teach some longer range approaches, my emphasis on tactile strategies reflects the reality that even when space is available, the majority of non consensual violent confrontations begin, proceed and end at close range regardless of any training to maintain distance.
As a general rule the close proximity of what I teach results in having between one to four tactile points of contact on a person at any given time during a drill. To begin with this can be unnerving for students (even experienced cross-training black belts) who are used to learning by watching a drill and relying on visual cues at longer ranges to function in alive training.
Your eyes can deceive you, don’t trust them.
Unlike Obi-Wan Kenobi I’m not advocating that you let go your conscious self and act on instinct.
That comes later.
What I do suggest to my students is that once they are in tactile contact their eyes are not the optimum source of information, particularly if they are manipulating the other person’s posture (or preventing the other person from manipulating their posture) while looking to strike to control, or control to strike. Once in contact with another person, especially if we are touching both above and below the centre of gravity, we receive tactile information on the success of our actions and the other person’s intentions through our skin far quicker and with greater accuracy than our eyes (even when wearing clothing). This information hovers on the edge of our consciousness. If we don’t pay attention to it or cannot recognise it, then we don’t benefit from it and our skill development suffers as a result.
This is where in training we should give our eyes a rest, shut them, and concentrate on what we are feeling. Working with the eyes shut focuses the mind on the tactile cues that we often ignore, leading quickly to greater skill development and enhanced reaction time.
The benefits of ‘blind’ training are not just limited to the tactile arena. I have found that asking students to shield against haymaker attacks to the head with their eyes shut corrects all the little gaps that had been pointed out previously (and ignored) in sighted training. The more vulnerable feeling student automatically adjusts arms and posture to maximise protection to the head rather than watching for the punch and relying on their identification of telegraphs and reaction time to protect them.
The more training you do with your eyes shut the more attuned you become to both your position and posture and that of the other person. This results in faster responses to movement and unconsciously adopting more appropriate posture. Freed from trying to focus on stimuli that the body can read better, the eyes become more attuned to identifying information that is of use.
The more proficient you are at reading visual and tactile cues, the more appropriate and unconscious your reactions and pre-emptions will seem. To an external observer such ‘instinctive’ responses and sustained success may seem like luck.
In my experience there’s no such thing as luck.
Philosophy. Nothing about survival or self-protection or self-defense or whatever you want to call it is difficult or unnatural. This is exactly the problem we were evolved to solve. Not being a victim is part of our deepest wiring. Mind, body and spirit have all the tools. This is not about forging warriors, this is about rehabilitating predators.
I can corroborate that eight ways from Sunday, as my dad used to say. Talk to any cop or bouncer who has ever had to fight an untrained woman for real and ask if they want to repeat the experience. Read Strong on Defense and look at what the survivors did and the mindset they tapped into.
That's for me. But the students have to hear it too, and further, they have to be told a really ugly truth: Almost all of society is set up to perpetually brainwash them so that they never remember their own power.
The physical part isn't hard. It's breaking that damn social conditioning. Seriously, have you ever seen anyone keep fighting after a cupped-hand slap to the ear? And how long does it take to master that? I've heard of one who kept going after a throat chop. Other strikes are far less reliable, but there is a solid core of 'A' techniques. And even if there wasn't, there are these handy things called "tools". Breaking people is not hard. Our ancestors solved that problem before they were even human.
Rephrase. It's not physically hard. But the social conditioning gets in the way. Almost every officer I've debriefed who got hurt knew exactly what he needed to do, but somehow couldn't make himself act. And that's not even taking into account fear, surprise, or the fact that the bad guy will do his best to psychologically control the victims so they don't fight back.
That is the hard part.
Understanding that most teaching methods work the wrong parts of the brain. Memory, rote, names and labels and techniques mean jack shit in chaos. Technique-based training is the easiest-- for the teacher. And for administrators who need "measurable." But it is possibly the worst possible way to teach people about chaos. Teaching, training, conditioning and play. Four ways to get things into a student's mind and body. Each has a time and place, but each is also useless in other areas.
(And that might be a nice article-- designing drills. Knowing the purpose; knowing which of the four methods are appropriate; checking for pollution e.g. thinking you're using operant conditioning but critiquing turns it into training; and means testing to see if it worked.)
Understanding the problem, obviously. If you don't know attacks, you can't teach SD. Just like you can't teach medicine if you don't know disease and injury. Want to know one of my red flags? If someone shows me what they do and it's clearly based on sparring timing, distance and orientation, then they're just fantasizing.
The partners need training as well. The attacks have to be attacks. You have to be able to project the physical and emotional intensity of grabbing a woman by the throat and slamming her into the wall. Those are the physics she must learn to deal with. That is a taste of the emotional environment in which she will have to deal with those physics. You have a responsibility to be a good bad guy for your partner.
And training tip of the week (or subtle student manipulation, if you want to look at it like that): "You must give your partners good attacks. I know that you're good people and it's hard for you. But if you attack them weak, or slow, or gently, you are literally endangering their lives. Do you want your partner to get hurt because you were so self-conscious you couldn't help her prepare?"
What's subtle about it? The reps of acting ferocious combined with the idea that you are being ferocious for the benefit of someone else will likely also make it easier to slip the leash if you need to for real.
Clear goals. Martial artists try to adapt martial arts to self-defense and usually think of the physical part as just fighting very hard. And fighting has almost nothing to do with it.
Avoidance is best, obviously. Not being chosen as a target, not being isolated if you do get chosen, not allowing yourself to be psychologically controlled. If it goes hands on, well... who would you take out? And how? Shoving down an old lady on a walker and going through her purse? Slamming a drunk tourist's head into the pipe above the urinal? There's almost nothing in the "fight" paradigm for the kinds of attacks that happen. It's a qualitatively different problem. Using the medicine analogy, it's like using a four-week antibiotics regimen for a severed femoral artery. Pre-hospital trauma care is a different skill than fighting disease.
If you know the problem, you can clarify the goals. When it must go hands on, the only sensible options are escape, disable, or control-- and control pretty much only applies to people who have a duty to act and take people into custody. The body mechanics, as well as the mindsets, are very dissimilar between those three. And all are different from fighting. And, for martial artists, that's the second biggest challenge. For most people, the big challenge is getting them to slip the leash and go hands on at all. For martial artists, it's fighting their urge to stand and fight. To get to their preferred distance and orientation and have a duel.
Clarifying the goal, working the body mechanics of escape, for instance, makes the skills pretty easy to get down. But the emotional, social and mental parts are still hard.
Everybody does it. I've done it. You've probably done it too. Even if you haven't done it yourself, you've probably seen it done.
You know what I'm talking about...the dreaded martial arts self defense demonstration.
In case you've just emerged from your hermit's cave and don't have a clue what I'm talking about, I'll describe it for you:
One guy, let's call him "Our Hero", stands facing 2 or more bad guys. The bad guys move in usually with a single a punch, a solitary kick, or an exaggerated grab. In Aikido, 9 times out of 10, it's a karate chop.
Our hero then responds with the three P's: poise, power and precision.
The bad guys usually just stand there like a statue, getting pommeled and beaten until finally the coup de grâce finishes them off. Sometimes they will move in one at a time, but occasionally they'll enter en masse and our hero has to add some balletic turns and spins.
All of this is done in a school auditorium or at a strip mall.
These demonstrations are pre-planned, pre-arranged, and highly choreographed. When we watch pro wrestling we always complain about the lack of realism, calling it fake, but when we watch a self defense demo doing essentially the same durned thing we respond with applause.
Let me just say, I hate this crap. It is unrealistic. It doesn't show the necessity of running and moving. It doesn't bring in the necessary elements of cheating and dirty fighting. Bad guys don't wait their turn. The attack is probably not even going to be coming from the front, or what I call the Full Monty (full frontal attack). Bad guys don't follow our rules and are not interested in etiquette or fair play. Attacks are ambushes. Attacks are sucker punches. Attacks have the element of surprise. Attacks give the tactical advantage to the bad guys. They are unexpected, unprovoked, and unwarranted.
The neat, precise self defense demo may be beautiful to watch, but that's sort of my point...real world violence is anything but. It's ugly. It's messy. It's noisy. It's bloody, chaotic and sweaty.
It's the CSI dissection, done in a clean, germ-free science lab. It's all too sterile.
Watch a real fight, and you'll see what I'm talking about.
My recommendation? Forget these types of demos. Don't include them in your curriculum. Don't even encourage them in your belt/rank testing. Forget rote memory. Let go of the concept of precision. Don't worry about how it looks--focus on whether it works. Do what more and more people are doing, heck, what Bruce Lee recommended way back in the 60s...put on lots and lots of padding and safety equipment and make it real.
Embrace the chaos.
Wes sent me a box of incredibly foul tasting Chinese herbs. No way to tell if they're helping for sure (I'd have to get the same injury again and not take the herbs and compare healing rates) but the PT says he's having trouble keeping up with my progress.
Weird thing with each new exercise-- it takes a moment of concentration the first time I do anything. Like a leg curl. There's a specific place in the back of my knee I had to remind how to move. Or maybe the zombie parts (doc said there was too much damage to replace with my own parts, so I had to use pieces of dead people) needed to get used to taking orders again. Once it was activated, no further problem.
The new repairs are fragile. I'm not supposed to test them. Not even supposed to ride a real bike for another three weeks or try to jog for three more months. That's frustrating, but it makes sense. And the bad things about knees is that you only really find the limits by breaking them. I guess that goes for a lot of things.
Near injury today-- The good leg slipped on the stairs and I reflexively kept myself from falling, by taking all of my falling weight on the bad knee. No pops or snaps or wet ripping noises, but the knee is letting me know it's not happy.
And the surgery is forcing me to rethink some things. Things I've put off thinking about.
Humans have expiration dates. Sometimes I feel like I'm well past mine. But there's some information I want to see spread while I'm still capable of demonstrating it (and can have fun brawling with the people who get it down.) The infighting stuff, mostly. Then the focus will have to switch to mental stuff-- commo, awareness, teaching...
I'm not useless, yet.
On the plus side, I'm getting a lot of writing done. The first draft of "Concepts" is finally finished and out to first readers.
Some stuff coming up that's exciting. Bad time to be injured, but the second iteration of the CRGI Instructor Development Course will be presented in London, Ontario next weekend. A class purely on how to teach emergency skills to adults.
And May 16-24 a 40-hour core dump in Edmonton, Alberta. It's something I've been wanting to do for awhile.
Information on both of those is here:
And in June, I'll be team teaching with Tony Blauer. It will be the first time we've met in person. The Convergent Evolution seminar. Some information is here: