This whole line of thought got launched because Dr. Tammy Yard-McCracken started a dialogue about power dynamics in teaching-- and the can of worms got a whole lot bigger than either of us expected. I really don't know where that project is going. It could be a book or a class or something unexpected. But so far, just in the questions, the collaboration looks promising.
Power isn't an endstate. There are no weak or strong people, just people at different places on a given continuum. And power is not linear. I am stronger than K, but she is smarter and more artistic than I am. R has more money, but J has more skills. Q can access a deep level of viciousness, but W can access an equally deep level of empathy. Power is not a scale but a net of ever-interconnecting methods of affecting the world. And in each strand of the net, you have attributes and skills that both affect the strength.
But in the end, it is about ability to affect the world and, at least equally and maybe more: an ability to have choice in how much the world affects you.
And so when I say "strong" or "weak" in this case, it has nothing to do with where you are on this scale. It has everything to do with which direction you are moving in. Because you are either getting better, or you are getting worse. If you don't get stronger, you will stagnate and get weaker. You can't rest on this. And that "can't' isn't meant as an admonition, but as a simple statement of fact.
If you are getting better, you are strong. Maybe not as strong as you want or you could be. Certainly not the strongest in the world. But the very act of seeking to be better, to be able to affect the world more, is strength.
And, conversely, if you are not striving to be better, you have accepted entropy and you are weak. Doesn't matter if you have the genetics to be a world power lifter. Doesn't matter if you inherited wealth and political power. Doesn't matter what you tell yourself so that you can sleep at night. If you aren't striving to be better you are, by my definition weak. Sorry.
And there's another dynamic here, because power is only a small part of it. You are already powerful. You have a brain bigger than our ancient ancestors. If you have a decent diet you are likely much bigger. You have better communication skills. You have access to information your ancestors could never dream. And your ancestors conquered the world. With half of your gifts, with nothing much beyond rudimentary communication skills and opposable thumbs, your ancestors became the apex predator of this planet. Do you get that? You are fucking mighty.
That is your birthright. That is who you are. And no animal naturally weakens itself. Tigers never starve themselves to look better to other tigers. Snakes don't slither over coals to show their bravery.
So the second dimension is not just power, but comfort with power. If you have a working brain and a decent amount of mobility, anyone on this planet could assassinate anyone else. I may be stronger than K, but she is comfortable enough with the strength and skill that she has that she has no doubt she could make me pay. People who are comfortable with power have to be respected.
There's a huge amount here that Tammy and I are slowly working on-- the ethical element, toxic relationships to power, whether power can be given or must be taken-- a ton of stuff. But I think the bones lie in these two things:
Power is about growth or stagnation.
Comfort with power is required to use it.
The blog is my place for thinking out loud. That was easier when it was the anonymous meanderings of some random jail guard poking at internal stuff. The biggest mystery and challenge in my life right now is the business end. I want to get good at it because I hate being bad at anything. And I must do it without compromising my principles. So far, no problem.
This will be kind of random. I may not publish it (I already have several posts written that I'll never publish-- some too dark, some too personal). I may take each paragraph and expand it into a post. I don't know yet.
In this discussion, there is a cross-over to another project I'm working on. We have all been systematically lied to. There is a belief that is so common it is considered axiomatic, but I believe it started as a deliberate lie with a deliberate purpose:
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."-- Lord Acton (titled, landed, seat in parliament...)
What better way to keep good people powerless than to tell them they will become bad people if they gain power? And it has the effect of a self-fulfilling prophecy because once the edict is taken to heart, only people who are already bad seek power. So we see corrupt people in positions of power and assume that the power made them that way.
It's a lie. A systematic lie woven into the fabric of society for the express purpose of keeping good people from ever being strong enough to challenge those in power. If you believe this (and I did for years, an assumption so deep I never even considered challenging it) you have been brainwashed. And the brainwashing has made you a servant to your enemy.
This is coming up in the discussion. Mac made a comment on the last post that earning a living and getting good enough to teach are both full time endeavors, and that made it hard to do both. The math doesn't work for that. You have to make a living anyway, why does a career at the Sheriff's Office not make it just as hard to do both? When we have arguments we can show to be mathematically false, what are we really arguing for? I think we are driven to preserve our own brainwashing.
And, aside-- I do need to make a living, and I really only had two marketable skills when I came back from Iraq. But money is not how I keep score. I started teaching JJ because there was no one nearby who could play the games I wanted to play at the level I wanted to play them. I was creating my own playmates. My current goal: Weak people annoy me. They whine and complain and play bullshit little political games (and the loud blustery ones, whatever they tell themselves, are in the weak camp as well.) If I can't find enough strong people, it's up to me to make them. And that's probably more than you wanted to know about my inner motivations.
I'm doing everything wrong and it's working.
No advertising. Only social media is FB and that's still a personal page. I don't send out e-mail blasts. For that matter, I just have a few regional e-mail lists and people have to ask to be put on it. I don't list the agencies or special groups I've worked for. For the first three years I charged for a whole weekend what a few others in this field charge per person for a weekend. (Not quite true anymore-- it would be for the cost of about two people.) And there are very few openings left on my schedule this year, and it was almost full before I even opened it...
That implies there are some universal principles that work, that go deeper than just common business wisdom. Not sure what they are, but I have a pretty good idea what works for me.
Training in the martial arts can be a serious business.
- Physical Fitness
- Personal Discipline
- Improved Concentration
- Self Defence
Listing the most common reasons why adults and children join or study a martial art, they all appear to be serious. Despite all the rewards that they bring, training in the martial arts can be difficult, demanding, frustrating and even painful. The rewards themselves are bestowed so incrementally that they are often unnoticed by the practitioner and this can have a detrimental effect on motivation.
The crux of the matter is that if we aren’t enjoying the training then it is hard to stay motivated to continue. The destination will not be reached if the route isn’t travelled, and the act of travelling itself has to be fun. It really is the journey and not the destination that is important.
Skill development requires repetition. It’s easy for that to become routine and boring and I am sure that like many other instructors I have lost students in the past because I failed to utilise enough variety to disguise that repetition in ways that maintained the sense of excitement and fun.
We expect training to stretch us, to be demanding, to be tiring. Even when it is all those things we should also normally expect to leave training with a smile on our face, but not the smile of someone who feels pleased through the self -denial of a diet or having eaten something ‘healthy’ rather than a treat they wanted. We should leave with the smile of a person that has had fun, because no matter how worthy the ‘end goals’ it is the enjoyment of a class that will draw us back to each new lesson and ensure our progress.
There are many different approaches that can help to keep each lesson fresh and fun:
- training at different speeds
- trying different combinations
- setting different challenges
- playing stimulus games to improve tactile, visual or auditory response time
- applying techniques in different ways
- pairing with different people
- mixing up the order of the class
- identifying and reinforcing strengths.
There are many reasons why I train and teach, there are SMART goals that I have set myself and my students, but the thing that draws me to each class is that I want to enjoy myself and have fun.
The destination keeps changing, but I’m here for the fun of the journey.
It offends me that there are some extraordinary martial arts masters (and master is a word I do not use lightly) who, in their old age, are living in poverty or on the edge. Pioneers in bringing thriving traditional systems to the states or Europe, people who started the entire Reality-Based Self defense movement. And they're living in shitholes, not even surviving on a pension because they were too busy following their passion to create a pension in the first place. It offends me. Maybe you know some of the people I'm talking about, maybe you don't, and maybe you know a few I've never met. But whether you know it or not, no matter what your lineage is, there is probably someone living in a crappy trailer park that you owe a huge debt to.
Part of what bothers me is that in many cases, it was preventable. It shouldn't have happened. A tragedy is when the flaws in the hero of a story spawn an inevitable demise. So it is here, and in almost all cases, the flaw was pride. And I'm subject to it just as much and in exactly the same way.
If you came up through the traditional Japanese arts as I did, you were probably pounded with the antipathy between the samurai class and the merchant class. Are you from that culture or that era? Hell no. But you probably absorbed the ethic that "fighters are above money." It will be compounded if you were raised poor in America, since one of the mechanisms society applies to keep people poor and powerless is to tell them the lies that only bad people make money and that power corrupts. (What better way to keep good people powerless than to tell them that gaining power will turn them into bad people?)
Caught in this belief, many of the best fighters and teachers deliberately work to be failures at the business side to preserve an ethic designed to keep them weak. In doing so, they serve their own enemies and ensure their own defeat.
Fighters are one thing. When you are ready to become a teacher you should be at least a step beyond that. You must be, at minimum, a strategist. Would any good strategist deliberately refuse to learn the way a new battlefield works? Would a good swordsman faced with guns not learn about guns? He would only refuse if he was stupid, or too proud.
And that's the first reframe, and probably the most critical. Use the pride: If the merchants are a lower class, are you going to lose at their game? Hell no. But in order to win, you have to learn the new rules. So what are you? A mere fighter who can't see beyond a single opponent? Or a true strategist?
All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days"from the musical Cats
A friend of mine recently called, and it wasn't long before we started reminiscing about some of our training days back when the world was much younger.
On most Saturday mornings for a several years in the 70s my friends and I would get together and fight. When it was warm we would go to Shelby Park in East Nashville, and if the weather was bad we would train at the gym at Two Rivers Baptist Church just across the river in Donelson.
Everybody fought, mostly full contact.
Some days we would box. Other days we would kickbox. The rules would change from week to week, or even during the same training session. We might allow clinching and grappling, or we might include leg kicks. Sometimes we would just wrestle or do a form of sloppy judo. We might limit the techniques that could be used, so that one guy could only use his hands, while other could only kick. Most of the time our rounds lasted 3 minutes. But we sometimes went long, maybe 5 minutes or so. Other times we would do 1 minute rounds or even 30 second rounds. Breaks might last a minute, but usually we only rested for 15 to 30 seconds between rounds. Occasionally we would add rules that made us do active resting, so it was not uncommon to do jumping jacks or push ups or crunches between rounds.
We made up scenario training that we thought was fun, but was actually fairly cutting edge and ahead of its time. For example "Freshman" fighting was where one guy stayed in the middle and fought fresh, rested opponents every minute or so. We also would put one guy in a corner and have him fight his way out against two or three others who were intent on keeping him wedged in.
We did "Ring of Fire" where one guy was in the middle of a circle and attackers would move in one by one at a signal unbeknownst to the victim. We also did "You and Whose Army" where a guy would have to face a line of attackers who came in like the bull on the old Schlitz Malt Liquor ads.
In all of the rounds, hundreds of rounds, countless rounds that we fought we had one special rule: If someone trips, slips and falls, the fight did not stop. In fact, the fighting merely intensified. This, to us, simulated a real street fight where there were no rules and no refs.
Near the end of every training session we would usually do some weapons work. This might be stick fighting, knife fighting with knives made from wood, staff fighting or sword fighting using bokken we bought from an import shop at 100 Oaks Mall. Sometimes we would go stick versus knife, or staff versus stick.
We always finished with specific self-defense scenario training that focused on realistic attacks. We hated prearranged, choreographed training, but we did design certain standard attack/response scenarios that we believed were likely to occur. We figured we needed to sear these techniques into our brains and bodies so that they became automatic responses. We did not really know the term "muscle memory," but we understood the concept and capitalized on the process.
Our training gear was limited. This was due to two factors: We were poor, and we were stupid. We usually had boxing gloves, and most of us were able to get shin guards from a local sporting goods store that was located in downtown Nashville near the high school where I had attended, Hume Fogg Technical.
We bought lacrosse gloves which we used for weapons training, and some of us had football padding. We usually had at least two sets of head gear, wiping out the other guys sweat, but even without the safety gear we fought anyway.
What I loved was the fact that although we trained hard we rarely got mad at each other. We shook hands before and after each match up. We respected each other and gave good, objective feedback at the end of each training session. In fact, we might even interrupt a match if we saw something particular noteworthy. If someone brought in something new that they stole from a book, or if someone stumbled on a cool, effective technique, we would all work on that skill and troubleshoot how to incorporate it into various scenarios.
Training indoors was good, but what we really dug was fighting outside. At Shelby Park there were flat areas, uneven woodsy areas, and plenty of hills. I remember one session where we fought on the side of a particularly steep hill. It was exhausting but really a ton of fun. There was a Cedar log clubhouse in the park back in those days, and if there was no church or family picnic going on, we would go inside and fight on the stairs or in the tight confines of the corners of the rooms.
We were lucky. We rarely got hurt. Sure, we had bloody noses and busted lips. Sometimes a jammed finger or badly bruised thighs or sharp, painful shin impact. But we would just follow standard coaching procedure and "walk it off." It was not uncommon to see somebody with a cone of tissue stuffed into a bleeding nostril.
Of all the training I've done over almost five decades of martial arts and combatives training, I must say these were my favorite training experiences.
I miss getting up and driving to go over and get my buddies.
I miss warming up and stretching and doing a little roadwork to loosen the muscles.
I miss the camaraderie and the joking and the playful teasing when we screwed up. I miss touching gloves before the violence started.
I miss stealing ice from the church kitchen to make a compress for a sprained elbow. I miss insisting on two guys shaking hands when things were starting to get heated up and tempers were starting to get out of control.
I miss coming home with a nice mouse on my cheek or the beginnings of a black eye.
I do not really miss getting kicked in the nuts or getting hit on the knuckle with stick.
If doing is learning, then I learned a LOT. Of all of the great seminars I've participated in, with some of the world's leading instructors, I must say that I probably learned more from just fighting with my pals.
Then Charles Lampshire writes this: "So today I've been thrown down the stairs, had my head knelt upon, a simultaneous wrist, finger and shoulder lock used whilst slamming me into a table, been punched in the balls, had my nose smashed with several elbows, had a scrap in a ladies toilet and even been fish hooked on a sticky dance floor. What a fantastic day! Can't wait to see what Rory Miller has cooked up for us tomorrow."
That's awesome, by the way, Charles. Thanks. But it's the essential quandary. People who like the idea of rolling around on a sticky dance floor gouging, fish hooking and biting are going to show up. And they have fun. But people who think that is fun don't really need the training much. The ones who most need it are the people who will read that description, shudder and say, "I could never do that." And of course they could do that. And if they tried it, they would find it valuable and fun.
But it's hard to explain. "This time we have an office we are allowed to demolish in the environmental part, so expect to get thrown through the dry wall. But it will be fun and safe."
For most people fun/safe and heads slammed into tables don't go into the same categories. Of course nothing is perfectly safe. Including doing nothing.
This is another one I don't have an answer for. Word of mouth, maybe.
Winding up a month in the UK heading home this afternoon.
Maryland and Oakland coming up this month.
Erik Kondo, a friend and one of the CRGI team wrote a draft article about becoming a skilled conflict manager. Everything he wrote was absolutely true, but everything could also be distorted or even used against you, if you only relied on the surface interpretations. I offered to do a riff on Erik's article. Still working on it.
But wait, there's more. We did the first CRGI IDC (Instructor Development Course) in Sheffield over the last two days. It was about the methods of principles-based teaching. In one segment, the attendees created a list of difficult students and brainstormed solutions. They did good on the list and the solutions. But the answers were largely one-dimensional. You see behavior X. How do you stop behavior X?
And that led into yet another discussion of depth of game.
Because you can easily add another dimension to what you see that gives another dimension for solutions. Things happen in time, people change over time. This behavior didn't arise full blown, it escalated. And it could, possibly, be solved immediately-- probably with specific consequences-- or the behavior can be altered over time with different consequences.
And you can add the dimension of mental depth as well. Where is this behavior coming from? What are the reasons? If you teach a non-contact system (though I can't think why anyone would) and a student keeps making excessive contact, he might be an ass who needs to be taught a lesson. Or he might be a kid going through a growth spurt. Or a vet who is blind in one eye. Or a former victim who lashes out under stress. And that's another avenue to fix things.
And there is the solution dimension. Stopping the behavior is only one outcome or one piece of the potential outcome. How will your tactics change if you set your goal not to stop the behavior but to make a great student? In a cop class, you always have the disgruntled guy who was ordered to attend training. Most instructors have some kind of tactic to stop the spread of his or her verbal poison. Since ConCom, my goal has been to get them on my side before lunch.
Last example. We talked about Priniciples a lot in the IDC, as you would expect from a class on Principles-Based teaching. One of the principles I used as an example was structure. Many people, if they can distinguish structure from stiffness in the first place, think of using structure to conserve striking force "Hitting with bone."
And that's good and valid. But it's deeper than that. I think any true principle you can dive into as deep as you want to go. In under a minute, I demonstrated power, unbalancing, bone slaving, void defense, vectors along bones versus angled against, disruption... all just structure. And I completely forgot using bone to rest and resist in grappling or structuring as a defense to joint locks. And as cool as all that is, I know I'm barely scratching the surface.
My game could be much deeper.
And he was not calming down. He kept darting glances over my shoulder, and there was no way I was going to look. You don't make direct eye contact with excited mentals (it can be read as challenge or threat and adrenaline rises) but you give them full attention (read as respect). And if you glance away at the wrong time you can get badly hurt.
What was going on was that one of the rookies decided to ignore my instructions to stay out of sight. When dealing with potentially bad situations, you want the best back-up you can get, but when talking down an EDP (Emotionally Disturbed Person-- you know it's tactically important because we have a TLA (Three Letter Acronym) for it) if they see the backup they know that you're scared, and fear is contagious and their adrenaline rises.
So, despite specific instructions to stay out of sight, the kid (who was big enough to be imposing) was hanging right off my shoulder. Why? Because he wanted to see why I was so successful at dealing with EDPs. He wanted to see what I did first-hand.
This is a big teaching quandary for me. And research problem. The best way to learn real skills for high-risk, high-speed problems is to model them. You can learn theory in the classroom and you can practice the motions in the dojo, but real world applications are complex on many levels. Just talking to someone isn't a mere exchange of words, there are social, emotional, intellectual and status implications of the tiniest interaction. Being with someone who is skilled at handling problems and watching them handle those problems and maybe helping and definitely asking questions later is where the important stuff happens. It's the safest way for the stuff you learn in class to become a real skill you can apply.
But there are a handful of skills that are hard to model, because the skill is so hard to apply without the emotional protection of privacy. Imagine trying to reassure a mother whose child has just died but start with, "Do you mind if I film this?"
Intersection, here. There are certain things, maybe everything but thinking about it, all the high-risk stuff, where the processing is more important than the event. Something terrible happens to you and it's terrible... but how you process it, how you come to think about it and understand it will make the difference between an incident you soon forget, one that makes you stronger, or one that continues to victimize you mentally for the rest of your life.
And helping someone process a big event is one of those skills that generally requires some privacy. "Let's go for a walk" as you wave the other people who want to help back. Absolute best thing for the primary, but as that rookie pointed out long ago, it denies the ability to learn by modeling.
I don't have a good answer for this one. The best stuff I have for talking people down is in "Talking Them Through." But teaching the skill, modeling... I don't have a solution for that. And it's one of the skills that can be badly bungled-- with horrible long-term consequences.
How many times have you heard someone remark
“That won’t work!”
about a particular tactic or training method?
Here are my top ten reasons why your tactics or training methods won’t work:
- You’re too close!
- You’re too far away!
- The angle of entry/application is wrong.
- This technique relies on a particular attack.
- You’re not unbalancing them enough.
- You’re unbalancing them too much.
- You’re training it too fast (for your skill level).
- You’re training too slow (to be effective).
- There’s no resistance.
- There’s too much resistance!
(11. Because (insert name here) said that (insert advice taken out of context here).)
When it comes to looking at training and tactics, everyone’s got an opinion. Criticism can be a great tool when applied correctly, but before we indulge in its use, we should look at whether we understand what is being done and why. Different training methods and tactics exist because different problems create different solutions. There is no single perfect solution for every problem. (with the possible exception of Chuck Norris)
So before we armchair criticise something from a different system, we should perhaps ask ourselves whether we’ve really understood what it is they’re trying to achieve. I’ll hold my hands up and admit that in the past I’ve criticised something because it didn’t fit the context of my approach, without acknowledging that it was designed for something else. It’s not something of which I’m proud. Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make ours any brighter.
Criticising my own training is a different matter. When it comes to examining why your own training or tactics aren’t working, the list of ten above is a good check-list for why we might not be getting the results we want.
Train safely, criticise yourself regularly, and frame your solutions to the criticism positively using SMART approaches.
Written in 2004, this article was first published by Traditional Karate Magazine in the UK in August 2005 as part of my ‘Practical Techniques’ series.
There are many different elements that can combine to make a martial arts technique ‘practical’. Here ‘practical technique’ is defined as something that you would be able to use to defend yourself in a genuine time of need rather than in a sports competition. This is not to say that the techniques that serve well in martial art competitions are unsuitable for the street (since many are very effective), but rather to recognise that the two environments differ. Each short article in this series will look at a training principle that forms the roots of practical technique.
Habitual Acts of Violence
One of the most important factors that all martial arts training aimed at practical self- defence should address is its relevance to the habitual acts of violence (HAOV) common to its locale. The value of having acquired an excellent defence against all the front kicks that your training partners in the dojo attempt to connect with you is diminished by the fact that it is a form of attack you are unlikely to have to defend yourself against in a bar or on the street. Even in this martial arts film-fueled age, most people don’t use effective kicks until their victim is already lying prone on the ground.
The term HAOV is a commonly used derivative of a term introduced by Patrick McCarthy, HAPV – habitual acts of physical violence. Both terms are interchangeable but I prefer the use of HAOV since it accommodates certain actions that many would not regard as physical violence such as pre-fight physical posturing and verbal threats.
If our martial arts training is to have any validity from a self defence perspective then it must address the HAOV that we are likely to face in a conflict situation. It is important here to address the real situation and not the media and film induced perceptions. While it is possible to gain a reasonable idea of pre-fight patterns in your locale by reading the brief assault descriptions (and police appeals for witnesses) in your local newspapers, the best sources overall are probably the statistics compiled by the Home Office. These are usually available through the easy access of the Internet.
A study made by Mike Maguire and Hilary Nettleton, (Home Office Research Study 265 – March 2003), Reducing alcohol-related violence and disorder – an evaluation of the ‘TASC’ project, contains information of direct relevance to all those who would address their training to the threat of alcohol related crime.
Location of incidents leading to hospital visits:
40% of all incidents occurred inside Licensed premises, a further 20% took place just outside. Only 24% of the incidents recorded took place elsewhere in the street.
Assaults: Type of violence Used:
The majority of attacks (46%) involved punches or kicks, while pushes accounted for 12%. Despite the majority of incidents taking place inside, only 10% involved the use of a bottle or a glass. These figures are slightly misleading since they refer to the end product of the event. The statistics do not show whether attacks involving punches and kicks were preceded by pushes. It is likely that punches tended to follow pushes while kicks tended to follow attacks that had already displaced the victim to the ground. According to the British Crime Survey (see below) punching or slapping occurred in 64% of incidents between strangers, grabbing/pushing in 43% (note the overlap percentage) and kicking in 24%. Incidentally these statistics suggest that you are more likely to be kicked by acquaintances (30% versus 24%) than strangers.
Sites of injuries sustained:
The majority of injuries sustained by casualties were to the Face/Neck/Head/Teeth (73%), while only 11% of injuries were to the Arms/Legs/Hands and only 3% to the Trunk.
The Home Office Online report (2003) by Tracey Budd into Alcohol related assault and the findings of the British Crime Survey offers further insights by providing useful information into the nature of attackers.
Alcohol-related incidents are more likely to involve multiple offenders than other incidents. Almost half of alcohol-related assaults between strangers involved more than one attacker. 38% of the incidents between acquaintances involved more than one person (In the 1999 survey detailed by Tracey Budd’s report into alcohol related assault 51% involved one offender, 17% two, 12% three, 21% four or more). The majority of alcohol related assaults involve men. In the case of incidents involving strangers, 90% were men only, 5% involved women and 5% a mixed group. The majority of stranger related incidents concerned men aged 16-24 whereas incidents involving acquaintances were more likely to occur in the over 25 group. Approximately one third of alcohol related assaults involved someone the victim considered as a friend.
One element that we have to contend with from a self-defence viewpoint is a confrontation where physical assault is the by-product, rather than perhaps the sole intent, of an attack. The statistics above were taken from alcohol related assaults, but according to Budd’s report these only account for 52% of all assaults. It is possible to gain further awareness of HAOV by studying available data on robberies such as that compiled by Jonathan Smith for the Home Office Research Study 254 (January 2003) into Personal Robbery.
Robberies are more likely to occur at night, although the likelihood of being robbed varies according to the age and sex of the victim. An example of this is that the elderly and young children are more likely to be targeted during the day, since they tend to be ‘available’ more at those times. According to the statistics compiled by Smith, approximately half of all robberies occurred between 1800 and 0200 hours and half of all personal robberies took place at the weekend.
The nature of the Robbery:
In a quarter of all cases (both men and women) the victim was physically attacked prior to any demands or robbery. Men were more likely to be confronted with a demand as the first point of contact than women (41% versus 25%), while women in turn were more likely to be subject to snatch attacks (37% versus 6%). Men were more likely than women to be engaged in conversation first as a con tactic to establish their vulnerability to robbery.
The Location of the Robbery:
We all know areas we believe to be vulnerable and thus try to avoid. This tendency is not unknown to criminals. 50% of all robberies took place in the street against only 2% in subways, 4% in parks and 5% on footpaths.
In 2001, in an article published in the Journal of the Shotokan Research Society International, R. J. Nash presented data that had been gathered from a Home Office study group formed to investigate violence within modern society, based upon evidence taken from Europe and the United Kingdom. This article listed, in frequency order, the most common pattern of attacks that were made on both men and women. These lists are reproduced here by the kind permission of Jeff Nash and the editor of the Journal of the Shotokan Research Society International, Bob McMahon.
Male on Male, Close Quarters:
- One person pushes, hands to chest, which is normally followed by the pushee striking first, to the head.
- A swinging punch to the head.
- A front clothing grab, one handed, followed by punch to the head.
- A front clothing grab, two hands, followed by a head butt.
- A front clothing grab, two hands, followed by a knee to the groin.
- A bottle, glass, or ashtray to the head.
- A lashing kick to groin/lower legs.
- A broken bottle/glass jabbed to face.
- A slash with knife, most commonly a 3 to 4″ lockblade knife or kitchen utility knife. (Apart from muggings, sexual assaults and gang violence, the hunting/combat type knife is seldom used)
- A grappling style head lock.
Only one occasion of a well known boxer, caught on night club cctv, opening the conflict with a hook punch to the body.
Offences against the person, male on female:
This data was gathered from interviews with victims and offenders and from statements. Data only covers robbery/sexual methodology and changes relative to first contact with victim ie., venue/ night/day etc.
Domestic violence is not covered as this is a specific subject of its’ own.
- The victim was approached from the rear/side/front, a threat was made with a weapon, and then the weapon was hidden. Then the victim’s right upper arm was held by the attacker’s left hand and the victim was led away.
- A silent or rushing approach was made from the victim’s rear, and then a rear neck/head lock applied and the victim dragged away.
- The same approach as in #2, with a rear waist grab. The victim was carried/dragged away, normally into bushes/alley etc.
- The victim was pinned to a wall with a throat grab with the attacker’s left hand. A weapon-shown threat was made, and then the weapon hidden, and the victim led away.
- The victim was approached from rear/ front/side. The attacker grabbed the victim’s hair with his left hand, and then she was dragged away.
The Most Common Wrist Grips, Male On Female:
- The attacker’s left hand, thumb uppermost, gripping the victim’s raised right wrist. The attacker threatens/ gesticulates with his right hand.
- With the victim’s right arm down, the attacker grips the victim’s right upper arm with his left hand and her right wrist with his right hand.
- The victim raises both arms, with both of her wrists gripped. The attacker’s hands are vertical with the attacker’s thumbs uppermost.
- With the victim’s arms down, the attacker grabs both upper arms.
- With the victim’s right arm down, the attacker’s left hand grabs just below the right elbow, and his right hand grabs her wrist.
These studies are by no means exhaustive and I would recommend that anyone interested in this subject engage in further research of their own. What these studies can do is provide us with important information as to the nature of the attacks that we are likely to face. The techniques we choose to drill should be aimed at countering HAOV:
We should train predominantly to fight an attacker under the influence of alcohol. We must therefore expect a higher pain threshold and select techniques accordingly.
We should consider that attacks are as likely to occur in the confines of indoor spaces as outside and thus not rely on defences that require large leg movements.
We should train to expect 70% of the strikes to be aimed at head height.
We should expect to be grabbed or pushed prior to a physical blow.
We should expect to be attacked by a man in his physical prime.
We should expect a 50% likelihood of being engaged by more than one assailant. Training in percussive techniques should take priority over locks. If your health allows – practice running.
This August 2005 Traditional Karate Magazine article was a condensed version of a chapter in my first book: Heian Flow System: effective karate kata bunkai. The information presented related to research on violent crime conducted between 1999 and 2004. I first heard of the HAPV and HAOV terms while reading Bill Burgar’s work on Gojushiho (Five Years: One Kata) and meeting and training with Bill and Rick Clark. Before that I had focused on researching violent crime and not used an acronym. There are a number of different terms in use in the martial arts and professional confrontation management communities to describe aggressive and violent behaviour patterns. The memorable term ‘Monkey Dance’, coined by Rory Miller, is now commonly used to describe pre- fight behaviours (where humans have much in common with other primates). Some use the term PIA (Primary Initiation Attack) to describe the initial means of physical assault. I prefer the more widely used HAOV since it highlights the inclusion of certain actions that many would not regard as physical violence such as pre-fight physical posturing and verbal threats (what I might call Primate Posturing and Rory Miller calls Monkey Dancing). These are the point where avoidance training, the acknowledgement of flinch responses when caught ‘off-guard’ and your own personal protection strategies should come into play – before any physical violence begins. I continue to use HAOV as in my experience it is now the most common term for the subject matter in the international Anglophone martial arts community. The term HAV is a recognised abbreviation for a medical condition, a form of aircraft and a form of media among other things. HAPV is normally associated with Hamster Polyoma Virus. As a result HAOV is useful for disambiguation.
I’ve been continuing to collate and analyse information since the above article was written, and I may publish that at a future date as it has guided my training and teaching. In the meantime I hope this old data (still statistically on par with modern percentages) on crime in England and Wales is of interest.
It’s not what you think…
When I say ‘bend over and take it’ I’m envisaging the difference between form and function in combative posture.
In many of my application pictures there is a noticeable difference between my posture in paired work and that in the solo form of the kata.
As karateka gain experience they learn that stances naturally adjust according to need, and as a result they may become longer, higher or deeper as circumstances dictate. Different applications or variables will cause shifts between what we recognise as stances, so while a form might illustrate a movement in a front stance or a cat stance, circumstances may dictate something more akin to a rooted stance, a back stance or a straddle stance.
Eagle eyed readers of my blog or my books might have noticed that invariably, when I am in tactile contact with a training partner, or following through, I never hold my back at a right angle to the ground. This is not accidental ‘bad posture’ nor is it the result of an injury. Often this is the case when the level of tactile contact shown in the photo is minimal, because at the start of the movement a fair degree of weight was actively driving against me.
No matter how good your stance or footwork is, having a straight back while resisting physical force from another person is biomechanically unsound.
The greater the level of force you are resisting, the more necessary it is to brace appropriately to take the load properly without placing undue stress in the small of the back, or compromising your balance, and in general the greater the angle of back (and depth of stance and thus angle of shin) required.
There is a difference between lifting an object and exerting or resisting force along other planes of movement.
You may be able to push a car with a straight back once you have got it moving, but to initiate the push the optimum position is to lean forward. You would not see a rugby scrum lock together bolt upright.
So, if you are engaging in force on force close quarter karate against resisting training partners I offer this small piece of advice:
bend over and take it.
Realistically, this feels like a new area. Most teaching methods are traditional, in the sense that they were handed down instead of purpose built. Most are centered around a school paradigm, with a high status instructor and low status students. And most assume that a problem is a problem, that in some way getting skilled at force is like getting skilled at math or engineering or medicine. But there aren't a lot of fields where you have to make quick, accurate decisions with partial information under an adrenaline dump. And in those fields, the most important part of instruction doesn't necessarily come in the class or at the academy-- things are set up very carefully to ensure that the first real encounters don't happen alone. Officers get an FTO. Paramedics work with a partner. Soldiers get assigned to a squad. Civilian self-defense doesn't have the modeling aspect that is so important to adjusting from training to application.
And I don't know the answer either. I have a collection of really important pieces. But a collection of pieces, as a writing project, looks like a mess.
The things I want to cover:
- The problem, as outlined above-- training for high stakes, low information, low margin of error rapidly evolving situations.
- Time in emergencies. Discretionary time, time distortion, stuff like that.
- Evaluating sources. Why social sciences are mistrusted in professional violence fields.
- Qualities of effective emergency techniques
- Teaching, training, conditioning and play. Definitions, values and drawbacks. This one is definitely the heart of the matter
- Scenario training
- Experience thresholds that rewire your brain and pitfalls and values of teaching from the different thresholds and how to handle teaching to people of different experience levels than your own.
- Dogma and it's effects. Tribalism versus truth
- Teaching adults/adult learning theory
- Big section on teaching professionals including designing lesson plans to standard, evaluation, getting lesson plans approved, required paperwork, coming in as an outsider...
- Testing effectiveness, evaluating "best practices"
- Related, the relationship between rules, policy and sympathetic magic. Ritualization of bureaucracy
- Working in the political reality (finding the line between effectiveness and policy and law; that the rules for how to teach are written around current models, not effectiveness)
- Bad student profiles and trouble shooting
- Designing short and long-term curricula
- Integrating skills (e.g. often, for police, DTs, handgun, baton, OC and Taser are taught in separate classes as separate skills.)
- Ethics and judgment under survival pressure
- Training and writing policy for Black Swan events
- Teaching homogenous versus diverse groups; diversity/homogeneity on different scales
- Related to above, possibly some advice for people who have never worked in certain environments. Some things that seem like attacks are actually tests, for instance.
- Explicit power dynamics
- Glitch hunting and countering social conditioning
- Managing a career as an instructor
- Questions, unknowns and twilight zone experiences for some of the sections.
But the first rule of writing is to finish the damn thing. I can organize when the pieces are all done.
ADVENTURES IN SELF-DECEPTION
"Don't stop believing."Journey
"People are crazier than anybody."Ron Goin
I was chatting online not to long ago with a guy who believes in Reiki. And not just any old Reiki mind you. No, this guy believes in "remote" Reiki.
Just to catch you up, Reiki is this type of new age-y "therapy" in which a Reiki practitioner (often called a "master") moves his or her hands near the client's body to manipulate "energy fields". No physical contact is made. It's all done in the air, inches away from the skin. Reiki practitioners claim to be able to help with all kinds of health problems from basic relaxation all the way up to treating disease and injury.
But in "remote" Reiki, they go the extra mile, literally--they claim that they can send energy manipulation across time and space.
Let's say, for example, that you have a torn rotator cuff, but you live in, oh I dunno, let's say Siberia. Well, a remote Reiki master could wave his hands in his rumpus room in Des Moines, and soon these vibrations will travel miles and miles, cross different time zones, and suddenly you'll have full range of motion.
So, in my online chat I said something like, "Surely you must be joking, you don't really believe that, do you?" half expecting the guy to say "Yes I do, and don't call me Shirley."
Instead the guy said he didn't just believe it, he KNEW it. He even put "KNEW" in upper case.
He knows it works. No evidence is needed, at least no evidence that would meet the modern definition of the word. No double blind testing. No statistics. No peer-reviewed analysis. He just knows. Excuse me, he KNOWS.
In another conversation I had with a religious person, a guy told me something similar. "Prayer works; prayer actually changes things," he said with absolute conviction. "I KNOW it works. I've personally experienced the benefits of prayer."
(Note: He didn't put "know" in upper case, 'cause he was talking, but he said it more emphatically than the rest of the conversation, so that counts).
He told me that he no longer craved alcohol and cigarettes, and that he now goes to church regularly and reads scripture daily. I said something like, "But that doesn't really prove anything. Lots of people just go cold turkey and give up stuff all the time, and tons of people make conscious decisions to change their lives--and stop doing terrible things. They head to the gym. They go on diets. They stop smoking. They quit wearing those hideous hipster hats."
He was not swayed. He had dropped anchor, and it was holding fast. He sincerely believed the bumper sticker that reads, "God said it, I believe it, that settles it!"
This "knowledge", this faith, this act of believing with no evidence whatsoever, is an odd thing.
David Schneider of Rice University said, "Huge numbers of our beliefs seem so grounded in reality or so much a part of our culture that it seems silly to question them and an empty academic exercise to seek their sources. On the other hand, most of us, at least when we are being thoughtful, recognize that other of our beliefs may have fragile contact indeed with any known larger reality. Furthermore people hold anomalous beliefs with as much conviction as we hold our unproblematic beliefs, and they often turn the tables on us by suggesting that we are the people who are out of touch with reality."
So, somebody believes some weird thing like ghosts, or alien abductions, or Sasquatch, or mind control via chemtrails, but when we question it, WE end up being the weird ones.
As readers of my blog know, I have said one or two (or 17) critical things about the martial arts; i.e., pressure point knockouts and chi manipulation. I routinely suggest to my nuttier friends to IX-NAY on the I-CHAY.
Most turn a deaf ear to my suggestions. It's like they have a hearing problem that even a Reiki master couldn't heal.
So here's the deal. We, you and me, us, all have weird beliefs. Mark Twain knew this. He wrote, "When even the brightest mind in our world has been trained up from childhood in a superstition of any kind, it will never be possible for that mind, in its maturity, to examine sincerely, dispassionately, and conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance which shall seem to cast a doubt upon the validity of that superstition. I doubt if I could do it myself."
Fortunately, training in critical thinking and the rational process of inquiry can have an impact and begin to overcome some of the mental obstacles of superstition,
belief in the paranormal, and a whole host of personal biases.
My own journey from faith-based acceptance to factual-based thinking took many years. After years of ignorance I made a commitment to familiarize myself with the science I should have learned in school, and I read hundreds of books and articles. Slowly the dimmer switch brought light to my cob-web covered, dusty attic of a brain. I now no longer recognize the person I once was, and I find that the style of thinking about the world that I used to have is foreign and laughably embarrassing.
In his contribution to Edge's 2012 Annual Question, Nathan Myhrvold wrote about what he thinks of his favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation--the scientific method: "Stories about different aspects of the world can be questioned skeptically, and tested with observations and experiments. If a story survives the tests then provisionally at least one can accept it as something more than a mere story; it is a theory that has real explanatory power. It will never be more than a provisional explanation—we can never let down our skeptical guard—but these provisional explanations can be very useful. We call this process of making and vetting stories the scientific method."
As Carl Sagan once said, "You can get into a habit of thought in which you enjoy making fun of all those other people who don't see things as clearly as you do. We have to guard carefully against it."
Lawrence Kane called this morning. Last summer, we shot a video tie-in to the Scaling Force book. David Silver at YMAA is working on the magic post production stuff and just sent us the rough cut. Lawrence wasn't able to fly out for the filming, so seeing the rough cut was his first exposure to the physical stuff filmed. And he wants to move a piece right up front. And that would open a whole can of worms.
"Scaling Force" was Lawrence's brain child. Force/violence is a big issue, and appropriate responses to force or threatened force range from doing nothing (sometimes just being a witness makes bad people stop) all the way up to deadly force. Lawrence noticed that most martial arts concentrate at only one or two of the appropriate levels of response. Boxing really doesn't have good tools for taking the keys from your favorite drunken uncle at a New Years party.
It's easy to read the book as legalese-- "deadly force" and "self-defense", just to give two examples, are legal terms. The actual goal was to get people unfamiliar with the context a little exposure to the different possible levels. Low levels of force, like presence and verbal, are very idiosyncratic. High pitched and low pitched voices can't be used in the same way. Both can work, but not always in the same instances or using the same phrases. Physical people present differently than sedentary people.
And high levels of force are only appropriate in very bad situations. The essence of self-defense is that things are going bad. You are behind the curve. The threat is bigger and stronger and/or armed and/or crazy and/or multiple. You are surprised and almost certainly off balance with minimal room to run or maneuver, no time to evaluate and plan, with compromised structure and likely injured before you knew it was on. If you are working in your weight class with good lighting, footing, room, some time, equal numbers and equal weapons, it's a mutual fight, not self-defense.
Anyway, towards the end of the video, we demonstrate fighting out of a crowd. It's not really fighting, and you have to be careful with language here. It's a lot closer to swimming. If I try to fight a mass of people, I'll get overwhelmed. But you can move through them. It's just that the body mechanics of fighting are very close to the opposite of what you need here.
Lawrence thought it was cool and unique and should be near the front of the video. I'm cool with that. Really the whole marketing and capturing attention and drama is all a little above my paygrade. But it does open a can of worms. And here's the can of worms.
Justified and justifiable are not always the same thing. In 1992, the Oregonian surveyed Portland Police officers. One of the details: In the four years before the survey, 86% said they could have fired with full legal justification but chose not to. There are some implications of that-- for every 28 shootings, officers bet their lives they could find another way about 900 times. And were largely successful except, of course, dead officers don't get to fill out surveys.
So first hurdle, because something is justifiable doesn't mean you couldn't find another way. My personal definition, Justifiable means I could convince a jury, Justified means I can convince myself there was no other way out. Prudent means it would be stupid to go in at a lower level.
The thing with fighting out of a crowd is that it shows another level. Getting pounded by eight people is a huge disparity of force. Unless they are all kindergardeners or geriatrics in walkers, it's not hard to justify deadly force. In general, higher levels force are quicker, easier and more effective than lower levels. You might win an argument with words (verbal), but you will certainly win it with a shotgun. Shotguns also tend to trump other hand to hand skills. Where it can take years to get good enough to fight a boxer, it takes hours or less to get good enough to shoot one. Higher levels of force-- quicker, easier, more certain. But the higher level of force, the more it takes to justify it.
But sometimes the higher level of force can be completely justified, completely prudent, but not the smart thing to do. Like fighting out of a crowd. I'm decent at close quarters stuff. That's my range and I know how to deliver power there. Know how to use one guy as a meat shield against the others. No hesitation on going for the quick finishers. Even have some favorite power generations that are completely non-static. Feet don't even need to be touching the ground. But in that mass, with all of those variables, with any kinetic energy I deliver changing the physics of my motion, things will go wrong. Someone who goes down might tangle my legs. A push or strike on my part might make me a static target for just an instant.
Hence the swim and it works.
People like rules of thumb. And rules of thumb work reliably enough to, well, become rules of thumb. "High levels of force are faster, safer and more effective than lower levels" is a good rule of thumb. But like all of them, it has a failure point. A situation where something else becomes true. Or truer.
Fast forward to a short conversation with Edwin yesterday. From the Golden Move standard (each motion should protect you, damage the threat, better your position and worsen his) given that sometimes you just can't get all four, or all four aren't prudent, how do you prioritize?
You can't give a quick rule for that. Goals, parameters and environment change. Sometimes it's so important to finish things quickly that it's worth taking damage to do so. (And, less academic, you're probably going to take some damage anyway, so suck it up, Buttercup. But that said taking damage unnecessarily is, by definition, unnecessary. Smart people don't do it.) Sometimes, fighting out of a shitty position is more important than ending the threat. Better to do both, but if you're with a bad guy in a burning, collapsing building and damage to him will cost you even a second, improve your position.
Maybe justified and justifiable can be subsumed under smart. Do the smart thing. If it's not justifiable and you either can't live with yourself or you go to prison... hmmm, maybe it wasn't all that smart? Justifying--articulation-- then becomes the skill. Do the smartest thing you're capable of, but practice explaining why it was the best available option.
And maybe, in the end, smart is the wrong word too. Maybe just necessary.
(David even sent the embed link below. No idea if it will work.)
Corollary to that, the way you teach must have a purpose as well. How you teach must serve the purpose of teaching. This is about getting stuff into your student's heads, not showing what is in yours. This is about what your students can do after the class, not what you did a decade ago,
I recently watched a very well known instructor. He told a lot of war stories. To hear him tell it, he had participated at levels of violence you can only imagine, no matter who you are. And all of his experiences were special. You could say, "I've tried X and it worked about 20% of the time" and he would cut in with some graphic story implying that you had never done it as right, as hard, as harrowing as he had. You've struck testicles with no effect? Well, he'd eaten them and by gawd that always worked, son!
By the end of the weekend, the students were visibly uncomfortable whenever this instructor stepped up to teach. Telling outrageous stories to a point might validate you. But after a certain point, it becomes easy to disbelieve.
Years ago, Marc MacYoung (I don't remember the exact quote) wrote about a someone asking him why he laughed when a friend was maimed. He said something to the point of, 'You can laugh or you can cry, but if you cry you'll never stop.' The humanity in that phrase struck me. I've been to too many funerals. I laugh, and I would tell my rookies, "You can take the job seriously or yourself seriously, but never both at the same time." You have to be laughing at something. Always. Because the other direction is madness.
I don't tell a lot of war stories when I teach. The point of the class is what the students can do at the end of it, not what I did in the past. But I tell a few, specific ones for specific reasons. And almost all of them are about failure. Where things didn't work. What I learned.
My war stories are all about what I learned. And the subtext is clear: I'm just an ordinary, average guy who has been in some weird places. You can be better than me. Hell, I expect and demand that you surpass me. Otherwise you are insulting my teaching ability.
To the other instructor, his war stories were an ego fest. "I'm cool. You could never possible understand or exceed me. Therefor you must listen like children, not like the adults that you are. Bow in awe."
One of the things from Violence Dynamics in Minnesota. The drop step is everywhere.
Not going to go into too much detail on what the drop step is. You can read that here.
Just the basic Dempsey drop step generates enormous power. But it also increases speed. Gravity is faster than you. And, if you can let the drop happen instead of make it happen, it's untelegraphed. Gravity doesn't flinch. It increases your range. It allows you to make powerful strikes (fast and untelegraphed) to your rear flank. And that's just the basic drop step.
Drop steps can be loaded or natural. A natural drop step, you just lift a foot and start to fall. A loaded drop step you shift weight towards the foot you intend to lift so the CoG is farther from the (single foot) base that will remain. And there are dramatic ways to load a drop step. Look at the way a pitcher raises his center of gravity and extends the natural stride length to maximize speed in a throw.
In martial terms, baseball pitchers use a crane stance to load power into a front stance. Good body mechanics are universal.
The sutemi-waza, judo's sacrifice throws, are another variation. And they work almost always-- provided there is no telegraph. Once you clinch up with someone, you can choose to see yourself as a bipedal greature with a base and a center of gravity in a contest with a different bipedal creature who also has a center of gravity. Or you can choose to see the entirety as a four-legged creature with a shared center of gravity. And you have absolute control over two of the legs. Removing your two legs puts the CoG well outside the base instantly. Too fast for the opponent to read and recover. Again, all assuming there is no telegraph and you truly drop. You can't do a controlled lie-down.
Sosuishitsu-ryu has a body mechanic for power I haven't seen elsewhere, but at its root it is a loaded drop step for that four-footed animal. Trying to describe in words: You are locked up with uke, either in a tight clinch or a joint lock (do NOT try this at home with locks. Some of the koryu were very good at preventing uke from doing a proper breakfall and a few of the kata have uke landing on locked joints, including the neck. Really, really dangerous. Not something you want to experiment with without expert supervision.) Anyway, with that tight grip, you are one animal. Tori throws his left foot up as if he is doing a spinning crescent kick, turning to his left and throws the crescent kick coming all the way down to his left knee, spinning 180 degrees with uke attached. It's brutal. And there's a variation which takes the spin to 360. It is also very hard on your knees over the years.
On the ground, you can get wicked speed in some spins by creating spaces and falling into them. One we used in Minnesota was for weapon retention while face down. Bad guy is on your back going for your holstered gun. Not going into the mechanics of the technique here, but creating a space and falling into it correctly usually whips the bad guy off of you, even if there is a big size disparity. And crushes certain precious small bones, which is a bonus.
But the drop step is everywhere. Experienced people don't split wood with just their arms. With every swing they raise their center of gravity and let it fall.
That's another thing. Gravity never gets tired.
If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
Isaac Newton, 1676.
Isaac Newton was not the first man to recognize that while he had achieved much, he owed it to those who had gone before him. In 1159 John of Salisbury wrote that
Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to [puny] dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.
Today Isaac Newton is recognized as a great figure for his work in furthering our understanding of the laws of physics. His work paved the way for further research, discovery and refinement in diverse fields by other great scientists such as Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, some of which is known to (and partially understood) by laymen. The basic elements of Newton’s work are commonly taught in schools to children, and we owe a debt of gratitude not just to him but to the huge numbers of nameless teachers that have themselves gone no further for the majority of their academic careers, but stand teaching in his shadow and the shadow of his successors, creating the environment where others may climb on the shoulders of the giants, or grow to be giants themselves – whether standing on their own or on another’s shoulders.
There is nothing wrong with studying the work of Newton. It is a building block for later scientific research.
There does come a point however where studying Newton’s work becomes less a study of physics, and less about improving your knowledge of physics, than it becomes an exercise in historical research: a worthwhile and rewarding endeavour, but one of a different nature.
The world of Karate is filled with giants. It is an honour to stand in their shadow and teach what we believe they taught.
Those that do this perpetuate and further the art; they create an environment where others may grow to become giants or benefit from re-treading the steps of others. In some respects they are like the modern physics teachers in schools who give a good grounding in physics.
Both in the present and the past these karateka have created the environment where others can choose to follow the footsteps in the sand, and become great karateka teaching approximately the same material they learned, or stand on the shoulders of others.
Those karateka who choose to move on, to stand on the shoulders of others (to explore and develop other ideas gained through introspection or cross training), gain a different perspective. Through those differing perspectives and different pedagogies new karate styles have been born throughout the last century and will continue to be born in the future. This happens not because of an egotistical desire to create something new, but the very natural desire to pass on a personal perspective based on the lessons learned: it is why there is so much diversity not only in karate but in the martial arts as a whole. Those that have cross-trained know that the finer principles or ‘in depth study secrets’ of some arts are the bread and butter basics of others, taught immediately to beginners.
I am not saying that all those who have begun to teach new karate styles in the last century or more are giants, nor am I saying that those upon whom they built their study were giants: many of them are or were simply good karateka. They see differently because they stand on the shoulders of those that went before, rather than walk in the same footsteps. Like Einstein and Hawking they have the opportunity to go in a different direction because of the groundwork laid for them.
Karate is comprised of many different styles. My perspective is that different does not necessarily mean better, nor does it mean worse.
For me the descriptors of old, modern, classical, Okinawan, Japanese, western, practical or traditional do not equate to higher or lower standards, or greater or lesser worth.
Whatever our chosen karate discipline we may not all be giants, but we can all choose where we stand and what we wish to study, and we can all become better karateka.
The beginning of the new year is a time when many of us set ourselves a list of targets. Among this list many people include a series of goals relating to their health and fitness. These are worthy endeavours, but ones that can fall prey to the pitfalls of inadequate planning.
Most new year’s resolutions fail not because a lack of resolve, but because of an inadequately prepared recognition and reward strategy to support the path that must be taken to achieve the target.
The health and fitness targets we set ourselves depend very much on the problem we believe that we are trying to solve.
The most important thing is that we understand precisely what we are trying to do, so that we can break each target down into clearly defined steps that we can visualise ourselves reaching.
We may not be able to see all the steps required, which is why a review, reassessment and fresh step setting process should by part of the plan. The first steps should be realistic and easily achievable.
Our targets should always be SMART, that is: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Rewarding and Time limited.
Specific: We must make clear and unambiguous statements about what it is we are going to achieve.
Measurable: There must be some way to determine when the target has been met. We therefore make a statement that describes how we will measure success or failure of the objective.
Achievable: It must be possible to reach the target. It is important to understand in advance whether or not the target is achievable. It is important to remember, however, that many tasks when first approached seem insurmountable, so it is important to be optimistic and to take on a challenge.
Rewarding: The target should bring sufficient reward that it is worth undertaking. There is always a cost / benefit ratio to consider. It is always important to consider what the cost and benefit will be before initiating a task.
Time limited: There should be a clear time frame set out for when the objective will be met. Many things of worth are not achieved quickly and it is important to approach tasks consistently rather than sporadically. Breaking the task down into sub-tasks and estimating time frames is essential if we are to understand the cost of the task.
I have a plan for the new year. It builds on the successes of the years beforehand and takes valuable lessons from the failures of the past.
My smart steps are in place – are yours?
Because most people have so little experience with violence, they go into violent professions with no idea of what a “normal” response is. The keyboard warriors who teach that every potentially violent encounter is a life threatening situation and must be dealt with using maximum force and the clueless protesters who can’t imagine why any “unarmed child” would ever have to be shot, show the breathtaking range and depth of ignorance on this subject. There are many ways to be stupid. Or, to put it slightly more gently, if ignorance of violence is a hole, there is a universe of fantasy possibilities to fill that hole-- fantasies ranging from visualizing world peace to nuke them all and let god sort them out.But fantasies don't actually fill holes anymore than they stop bleeding.So rookies have no idea of what normal is-- and there are many ways to be successful in violence professions. Most aren’t skilled martial artists, but some make that work. Some use size and strength, some don’t. Some rely on tools and weapons as a first option, some as a last resort. And there are a lot of ways to come to an understanding or a philosophy of force.From Bruce Lee’s “Emotional content” to a sniper’s “The only thing you should feel is recoil.” There are completely incompatible concepts that work. Or “You must draw on your rage” to my “I don’t have the emotional energy to be angry all the time. Besides, when I’m angry I fight stupid.”There may be a thousand stupid unworkable option for every good option, but there are a fair number of good options, too. And okay options. And passable options. And it's more global. It's not just a matter of what physical response is optimal in a specific situation (as if that answer would be the same for different sizes and personalities). At one level it's who you will be. Runners, Fighters and Talkers all successfully solve problems.Again, this threshold rewires your brain. You can access your training, and it becomes less difficult the more experience you have.
And more, talking about modeling:
In the professional fields, rookies will model their mentors and cohorts. The first few encounters are very important to molding one’s fighting personality (See VAWGfor more on that). If those first encounters happen in the company of mature, controlled professionals, the rookie will tend to become a good professional. If the rookie is working with hesitant and timid people, she will become hesitant and timid. If she works with aggressive people who use excessive force, she will become aggressive and uncontrolled. If she works with an individual or group that believes in only one option (e.g. talking, hand to hand, baton, gun…) she will be like the proverbial kid with a hammer seeing the world composed of nails.
So farewell 2014… At first glance it has not been a good year.
On New Year’s Eve 2013 I cancelled my plans to go out because of a sore throat. A week later, while training with a visiting guest from Argentina, I felt tired, sloppy and without focus.
A few days later still I was admitted to hospital with an unshakeable fever and swollen throat for the first of what would become several unplanned stays over the course of the year.
The initial diagnosis was epiglottitis and lingual tonsillitis. The treatment: two months of rest and a long course of antibiotics.
I’m not used to taking a long time away from training.
When my kidneys first failed I was still attending two 2 hour Aikido classes a week alongside personal karate training while my blood creatinine levels were so high that the renal registrar was astonished to see me walk into hospital for a pre dialysis operation. I carried on training with a temporary haemodialysis catheter hanging from my chest that was plugged directly into my subclavian vein. When that was removed I continued to train with a peritoneal dialysis catheter sticking out the side of my abdomen (actually I wouldn’t recommend that for an art as rough as Aikido – the catheter moved in my abdomen so much it took a three hour long operation to remove and judging by the clean up and investigation required it had probably perforated my intestines at some point in time). After both my renal transplants I have been on the training floor within 5 weeks of the operation.
The months dragged by. An attempt to return to training and teaching at the end of the ‘recovery period’ brought another fever and another stay in hospital. After another break, and making the decision to fully resume all my training and teaching to correct severe training flaws creeping in among my students, the pattern repeated itself and I found myself back in hospital only a week before a planned biopsy of the swollen tissue.
The good news was the biopsy was clear. The PET scans were clear.
The bad news was that my throat was still swollen, still painful, and only continual antibiotics would keep the fevers (and swelling so extreme it would require hospitalisation) at bay.
It was time to press on with teaching and training until I could schedule an operation to remove the offending infected tissue with minimal impact on my classes and my students.
All this medical attention has had some positive effects.
The attempts to rid my body of this (probable viral) infection in my throat has resulted in a sustainable experimental lower immunosuppressant regime which is better for my overall health as well as the transplant’s longevity, and my red blood cell count has increased, leading to increased energy and more sustainable aerobic activity.
Taking a step back has been useful both for me as a martial artist and as a teacher.
In terms of my own training it has helped me see what aspects were deeply ingrained and what I needed to work on more.
That has given a clarity to my personal training goals that I have not enjoyed since my last transplant in 2005. As a teacher, looking at my students, my absence made it obvious which elements of my syllabus they had actually absorbed, and where their understanding was merely superficial: like a dance routine or script learned purely for a performance and discarded thereafter. That revelation, with its mix of good and bad news, has led to a degree of introspection of my pedagogy, and a resulting shake up that I know will be beneficial for my students.
This may read like a litany of future successes snatched from the jaws of failure, but that is the nature of progress.
We don’t progress unless we try, and if we don’t try hard enough we won’t experience mistakes and failures.
The important thing is to move on from those failures and remember the lessons they taught you. There is a limited amount of times you can try the same approach before you have to accept that it hasn’t worked, it isn’t going to work, that it is not the right tool for the job or you are trying to change something that cannot be changed, or improve something that is already reached the extent of its limitations.
The year HAS had its share of positive changes…
A new personal dojo has given me a better space in which to train at home and the ability to hang a heavy bag, which I look forward to using to refine elements of my striking skills and improve my kicks (which are definitely weaker than they used to be). Although my two personal forms are designed to be drilled in very limited space the new dojo has also given me the ability to train older forms without continuous changes of position and I’ve already used it to film a short little video.
2014 has also been the year that I’ve finally begun publishing my new series of books on the Pinan / Heian kata, with two books released this year in both paperback and ebook formats.
My last book was written in 2004 and released in 2007 and this new series reflects the changes in the drills that I prefer to teach for the kata, and a wish to share more information in more manageable packages. One of the biggest issues with books is getting the quality of the pictures right to convey the information to the reader, and there’s a big difference between what looks good online, what looks good on a home printer, and what is the right quality for a printing press. It has taken a lot of time and work to come up with a format that I was happy to see published and met the recommendations of my peers.
At this point in time the response to the first two books in the series (covering the first three Pinan / Heian forms) has been very positive and I intend to release the final two books in 2015.
Another big change this year was my decision to open a club where Shotokan karateka could train in addition to my DART karate clubs.
There is a lot of good Shotokan near me, but I wanted to offer a kata based syllabus to students with the kumite consisting of bunkai and the kihon based predominantly around impact and balance training. I didn’t want my new Shotokan clubs to be divisive and I recognised that I would be teaching quite a different syllabus to other local karateka, so I decided to make the club open to any karateka to train by arrangement in addition to their regular training without need to grade with me or leave their current association. So far the club has attracted some great karateka and it’s been a real pleasure to teach the classes.
Going back into full training while tired and ill is an interesting experience. In the late 90s and at the turn of the century I was privileged to train for a week each August for a few summers with the late great Aikidoka Pierre Chassang. Chatting with Pierre (in my poor French) in the canteen or watching him walk about away from training he seemed like a normal small old man shuffling about in a tracksuit.
However, as soon as Pierre stepped onto the mats he grew, seeming to straighten up and draw energy from the ground and the people around him.
I am not the martial artist that Pierre was, but I felt the same when I returned to training after my transplants and this year each time I have stepped tired onto the training area I have felt that same energy, growth and motivation.
This week I’m going under a general anaesthetic yet again to have a lot of swollen tissue cut away from the base of my tongue deep in my throat. The surgeon has promised me at least two weeks of pain. A perfect martial artist’s Christmas and New Year?
I’ll let you know. :)